Tuesday, March 24, 2015

2014/15 Season Awards

A Boston Blickbild Exclusive

Now that the season has ended, it's time to give out our end of season awards. Our intrepid research team has compiled lots of statistics and kept meticulous records to make sure that our information is accurate. Our winners won't get crystal globes or an animal, but they will get plenty of international recognition. Without further ado, let's present our end of season awards for the 2014/15 season

Best Artistic Impression. We thought that this one would go to Patrick Kueng for his beautiful save in which he lands on one foot in Beaver Creek after misjudging a compression (see this video). He earned a score of 17.5 points out of 10, which broke Felix Neureuther's record of 17 points last season in Levi. We thought that this would be an unbreakable record. But just as Marcel Hirscher came from behind in Meribel to win the slalom globe, Julien Lizeroux waited until the last race in finals to earn this award with a record mark of 20 points out of 10 (see this video). He earned originality bonus points for catapulting out the start house to a perfect forward roll to straddling the first gate. Nobody had ever done that move before. He also got a difficulty bonus for keeping his skis on during the somersault and another bonus for doing a move that will be named after him.  Benjamin Raich and Forerunner #3, both in the Vail world championship slalom race, earned the third most artistry points. They had 14.2 points, Benni for his straddle of a slalom pole to a 360 degree turn and slalom Forerunner #3 (we know his real name, but everyone knows him as Forerunner #3) for coming out of both skis and skiing down on his boots, turning, and coming to a controlled stop with beautiful arm position.

Most Disappointing Races. It was a tie between the Kitzbuehel downhill and the Meribel women's Super-G races. Kitzbuehel was celebrating the 75th anniversary of the legendary Hahnenkamm downhill race and the movie "Streif: One Hell of a Ride." Needless to say, the real race this season was nothing like the movie. Because of a patch of fog that refused to leave (even worse than the later Bansko Fog Vortex), the race started about 3 gates before the finish line. It was even shorter than a slalom run and took less time than Usain Bolt takes to run 100 meters. If you blinked your eyes, you missed it. The Meribel course was flatter than a pancake and  something that a beginner could do after a week of lessons. OK, the beginner may have to traverse from side to side instead of going straight down, but he could still make it down without a problem. The women's Super-G was also very short, about that of  a typical giant slalom run, and was more like a straight tuck and glide course rather than one which required a modicum of technical ability. So much for Super-G being super giant slalom and more for it being a short course downhill.

Best At Proving the Naysayers Wrong. The Austrian men's speed team gets this one. After the Austrian men netted zero medals in downhill at the Vail world championships, the ski blogosphere was lit up with almost everyone saying that the Austrian men were washed up and were no threat to win any subsequent races. Some ski bloggers even said that the Austrian speed team would be spending a lot of time in the salt mines instead of being able to go on a spring holiday. But in Saalbach the Austrians swept the podium in the downhill and then they repeated that feat a week later in Garmisch. While order has been restored to the ski racing world with the Austrian men back on top, the salt miners are also happy that the ski racers won't be taking their jobs.

Best Excuse For Not Winning. Lindsey Vonn wins this one hands down. Her Comeback From the Brink of Death Season also included new and different excuses from her usual ones about fog, wind, unsafe conditions, and belly aches. Her public relations people have been very busy crafting creative excuses for when she did not win a race. Ms. Vonn had three excuses which all tied for the season's best and most original. The first was that she only got one course inspection for the Super-G race in Val d'Isere. Our intrepid research team scrambled to find information about the number of course inspections that racers normally get and the answer was one. The only explanation is that she is a slow learner and requires at least a week to train at a venue to get a proper advantage over her competitors. Excuse number two was that the downhill course in St. Moritz was too easy. It was a very simple course, especially in the first section, where it was so flat the racers needed cross country skis before switching to their downhill ones. If it really was so easy, she would have won the race skiing backward on one ski while blindfolded.  The last excuse was that the snow at the downhill race in Vail was different that how it was in training. She never explained exactly how it was different, so again our intrepid research team did the work that nobody else dared to do. Our researchers found out that the snow on race day was a different shade of white than it was in training. Ms. Vonn evidently has very sensitive vision and can detect subtle differences in shades of white that mere mortals cannot.

Most Haunted by the Stone of Doom. That award goes to Ted Ligety, whose hopes for wins in both Soelden and Kranjska Gora were derailed by the Naughty Ninja Stone of Doom. We first reported about the stone just after the season-opening race in Soelden. Even though most of Ted's countrymen can't find Slovenia on a map, the stone managed to find its way to Kranjska Gora. It hid on the course and ambushed Ted just when he least expected it. The Naughty Stone was also in Vail, where it used its super Ninja powers to prevent Lindsey Vonn from winning a medal in the world championship downhill race. It was so stealthy that Lindsey didn't even feel anything as she ran over it. Now that is a real Ninja stone! There were rumours that the Naughty Ninja Stone was really on the course in Beaver Creek to get Ted one more time but it got confused about the race calendar. We will send a team of our intrepid researchers to find the stone and ask it if it meant to get Ted or Lindsey in Vail. 

Top Witch Doctor. Grandma Jansrud. Yes, this is a surprise because she is technically not a witch doctor. She is a Norwegian grandmother. All season it was very close between Germany's Dr. Mabongo and France's Dr. Djibuku. The lead kept changing with each race and it was going to come down to finals for who would be the season's top witch doctor. But in the last few races of the season the Norwegian men came on strong. At first it was attributed to the new Norwegian team witch doctor, Dr. Mwafume. But it turned out that Norway's secret weapon, as usual, was Grandma Jansrud's ojlmsfjaegger. It is no coincidence that Henrik Kristoffersen was inconsistent and Kjetil Jansrud went into a slump when Grandma Jansrud was in the hospital and the team had to rely on (horror of horrors!) store-bought ojlmsfjaegger. Once Grandma Jansrud was fully fit again, she went back to supplying the team with its favorite birthday treat and the Norwegian men were back on the podium again. It is rumored that Drs. Mabongo and Djibuku have asked Grandma Jansrud for her ojlmsfjaegger recipe. 

There you have it...we will have to wait until the end of next season for more awards. And that concludes another Boston Blickbild exclusive story. 

The Boston Blickbild. Our motto is: We get the award for Best Ski Racing Parody Site

The Boston Blickbild is on Facebook. If you enjoy our unique perspective on World Cup Alpine skiing, please like us on Facebook. We are also on Twitter as bostonblickbild. 

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Speed Globes 2015

A Boston Blickbild Exclusive

The end of the World Cup season is fast approaching. It's time to figure out who will win the Crystal Globes. In the speed disciplines Kjetil Jansrud has clinched the Super-G globe, but the other three globes are still up for grabs. Here to help our readers make sense of the globe races is our Special Analyst, who is really one of our intrepid researchers. As you can see, the people on our research team wear many hats. The Special Analyst is a different researcher than our Answer Man. Without further ado, let's find out what our Special Analyst has to say.

BB: Let's start with the ladies and the downhill globe. Lindsey Vonn leads Anna Fenninger by 35 points. What does Anna have to do to win the globe?
SA: If Anna wins and Lindsey is 3rd or worse, then she wins the globe. But Tina Maze also has a mathematical chance of taking the globe if she wins and Anna and Lindsey both fail to finish.
BB: What are the odds of Tina taking the downhill globe?
SA: About the same as the moon being in the seventh house, Jupiter aligning with Mars, peace guiding the planets, and love steering the stars. It does look like Tina has a solid third place. But the real battle is for the 4th place tin medal. With Vicky Rebensburg out with an injury, the competition for 4th place is between Lara Gut (260 points), Elisabeth Goergl (257 points), Elena Fanchini (246 points), and Tina Weirather (243 points).
BB: Come on! Do the fans really care about who ends up in 4th place when the two leaders are very close? The 4th place finisher doesn't get to be up on the award stand.
SA: Everyone has a soft spot for the tin medalist. If Lindsey ends up winning the downhill globe again, the fans will yawn and say, "Ho-hum, she got another one." But they will feel sorry for the one who came so close to the podium yet so far. Lara, Lizz, Elena, or Tina W. will be the ones competing for the "won our hearts award."
BB: Now for the women's Super-G globe, which is very close. The lead kept changing between Anna and Lindsey. Who will end up with it?
SA: Lindsey could have the advantage because he trainer will set the Super-G course in Meribel. I'm sure that Famous Ski Blogger George N. would agree. But if the course is too easy, Anna could have the advantage.
BB: Wouldn't it be a US conspiracy if Lindsey won with her trainer setting the course?
SA: Technically yes. But there is the revenge factor for all of those Austrians and Slovenians who did multiple course settings this season. This is the USA's only chance to set a Super-G course and they intend to make the most of it. 
BB: What about third place?
SA: It looks like Tina Maze has that locked up, though either Lara Gut and Cornelia Huetter could sneak in there if Tina fails to finish and they finish first or second.
BB: What happens if Anna and Lindsey are tied?
SA: Then it goes to our tie breakers. (see this story) This year the language on the spelling test is Hmong. Neither Anna nor Lindsey knew this until they took the test. That way they couldn't have cheated on the test by trying to study for it.
BB: Did they also have to write using Hmong characters or were they allowed to write a transliterated version with the Latin alphabet?
SA: Of course they had to use the Hmong alphabet. How else would the test graders know if the words have been spelled correctly? But they got a special paper with the Hmong alphabet on it to help them. Our test graders are native speakers.
BB: Good point. What about when the test is in Klingon? There are no native speakers of Klingon on Earth. 
SA: There are enough nerds who attend Star Trek conventions who qualify as near-native Klingon speakers.
BB: Let's move on to the men now. Hannes Reichelt is only 20 points behind Kjetil Jansrud in the downhill standings. Did they also have to take their language test in Hmong?
SA: Yes, the men and women get the same language on their tests each season.
BB: Do the men and women take their language tests at the same time to prevent cheating?
SA: Yes. They are in different locations when they take their tests, but Test Day is the same for both the men and women. To prevent cheating, their phones, iPads, and laptops are also confiscated until they finish the test. The tests are strictly done with pencil and paper. Everyone also sits at a separate desk to prevent cheating.
BB: It looks like Kjetil Jansrud and Hannes Reichelt will be the top two downhillers, though we don't yet know in which order. 
SA: Right. But the interesting battle will be the competition for 3rd place. Dominik Paris (386 points), Matthias Mayer (368 points), and Guillermo Fayed (344 points) all have a good chance of getting into 3rd position in Meribel. Dominik has a mathematical chance of 2nd place, but Hannes has to really screw up big time and Dominik must win for that to happen. The odds of that happening are about the same as a meteor hitting Meribel on race day.
BB: Now for the last globe, the men's Super-G, which Kjetil Jansrud has already wrapped up.
SA: Right. It also looks like Dominik Paris has second place, though if he messes up and Matthias Mayer wins, then Mayer could take second place. Both Hannes Reichelt and Vincent Kriechmayr have a mathematical chance of taking third place, but the odds of that are about the same as a Vail awards announcer being able to find Liechtenstein on a map.
BB: Now let's say that something happens to Kjetil Jansrud and he dies. Would he still get the globe posthumously, or would Dominik Paris get it?
SA: What a morbid question! Why do you want Kjetil to die?
BB: I'm the one asking the questions here, not you. But to answer your question, of course I don't want Kjetil to die. He is a very nice guy and has a great sense of humor. It's a hypothetical question that none of the others have dared to ask. At the Blickbild we ask the questions that everyone else is afraid to ask.
SA: I would imagine that one of his heirs would get the globe for him.
BB: Would it really make a difference if Dominik got the globe instead? After all, Kjetil will be dead and he wouldn't know if he or Dominik got it.
SA: This is getting absurd, even by the Blickbild's low journalistic standards. Yes, Kjetil would still get the globe because he earned the most Super-G points. Dominik would get the 2nd place medal.
BB: Who would then make ojlmsfjaegger* for the Norwegian team if Kjetil dies? Would his grandmother carry on making them?
SA: We would have to ask her. She might want to do it to keep his memory alive with Team Norway. But Kjetil is going to live to collect his globe.
BB: Of course he will. This is a hypothetical situation that could happen to another racer in the future. If Grandma Jansrud is too grief stricken to carry on making ojlmsfjaegger for the team, who would make them?
SA: I suppose that the athletes and trainers would ask their wives, mothers, grandmothers, or other female relatives to supply the team with ojlmsfjaegger. There may even be a call spread through all of Norway for its women to do their patriotic duty and make ojlmsfjaegger for the racers.
BB: It's reassuring to know that the Attacking Vikings will have their favorite birthday treat no matter what happens to its racers. Well, it looks like we are just about out of time. I want to thank you for this interview and your insight into the speed discipline globe races. And that concludes another Boston Blickbild exclusive interview.

The Boston Blickbild. Our motto is: Are we really being absurd because we ask what others think about asking but are too scared to?

The Boston Blickbild is on Facebook. If you enjoy our unique perspective on World Cup Alpine skiing, please like us on Facebook. We are also on Twitter as bostonblickbild.

* Ojlmsfjaegger are cubes of pickled reindeer heart in a special smoked salmon and chocolate sauce. They are eaten on birthdays in Norway. 

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Even More Questions and Answers

A Boston Blickbild Exclusive

Every day we get lots of letters, e-mails, and tweets from our loyal fans. We consider it our duty to answer all of the questions that our readers send us. This time we have two people to help answer your questions. The first is our Answer Man, who is really one of our intrepid researchers. The second is the Famous Ski Blogger known as George N. Some of you may be thinking, "Hey wait a minute! I thought you would never interview him again!" (see this story) But we believe in second chances and we will give him another opportunity. If he flubs up again, then he'll never darken our door. Anyway, let's find out what our readers have been asking us. 

BB: Our first question...what did Marcel Hirscher eat for breakfast before the GS race in Garmisch?
Answer Man: He ate the normal Austrian breakfast of rolls, some meat, cheese, and fruit.
George N: He should have eaten a proper American breakfast of eggs, bacon, sausage, pancakes, and toast.
Answer Man: If he had that for breakfast, he would have lost by 3.28 seconds.
George N: Then Ted Ligety would have won the race. He is Mr. GS after all and he doesn't eat any of that funny foreign food for breakfast.
Answer Man: Uh...Ted was 4th, with Felix Neureuther and Benni Raich ahead of him. Felix and Benni also eat a typical European breakfast.
George N: They really need to start eating American style breakfasts. Ted eats them and he has been the best in GS for the past five years.

BB: Next question...Is the Austrian men's speed team really washed up?
George N: If you look at the results from the Vail World Championship downhill race, there were no Austrians on the podium. The older racers are obviously past their prime and the younger ones still need more experience. They showed in Vail that they are really no threat to win races.
Answer Man: Not at all. So they didn't get into the medals in Vail. But in Saalbach and Garmisch the Austrians swept the podium. In Saalbach there were 5 Austrians in the top 10 and in Garmisch six. But some old school traditionalists could say that the Austrian speed team is washed up because they didn't sweep  the first 10 places.
George N: Saalbach and Garmisch are anomalies. The Austrians had an unfair home snow advantage in Saalbach and also in Garmisch. Garmisch is on the Austrian border.
Answer Man: They may have had home advantage, but they still needed to perform on race day, which they did. The short answer is that Austria is still as strong as ever in the men's speed events, even if they didn't sweep all of the top 10 places.

BB: Question three is a two part question. Was the Super-G course for the Alpine combined race in Bansko really unsafe? What is the difference between Bansko being unsafe and Lake Louise in 2012 being perfectly safe?
George N: Of course Bansko was unsafe. Lindsey said so and she is always right because she is the world's best skier.
Answer Man: The FIS jury declared it safe, so therefore it was. The FIS is always right. Kathrin Zettel did her Super-G run in identical conditions as Lindsey and she had no complaints.
George N: As to Lake Louise, it was perfectly safe because the right racer won.
Answer Man: Lake Louise was just as bad, if not worse, than Bansko with the fog, delays, and even Lara Gut being yellow flagged because of the fog. Lindsey didn't seem to complain about Lake Louise being unsafe.
George N:  If it were unsafe, she would have said something. But she didn't. So there!

BB: Our next question also relates to Bansko. Was there a special Bulgarian fog monster who set out to ruin the races there?
George N: There was something that was making the fog stay and causing the first two races to be cancelled. I will go with fog monster. Something certainly made Lindsey lose her way in the fog in the Super-G part of the Alpine combined race. Maybe she was temporarily abducted by a fog monster.
Answer Man: There is no such thing as a fog monster. Ski racing is an outdoor sport and fog happens. But there really are Yetis and Oetzi the Iceman has been known to come to life. The most reasonable explanation for not being able to see either Kathrin Zettel or Lindsey during their Super-G runs in the combined race was that they were temporarily sucked into a vortex. Kathrin lost less time in the fog because she is smaller and lighter than Lindsey. The vortex monsters were able to push Kathrin out more easily.
George N: Hold on there! You said that there are no such things as fog monsters, but that Kathrin and Lindsey got sucked into a vortex with monsters. I never heard of vortex monsters before.
Answer Man: You never  heard of vortex monsters? I suppose you also believe that Freedonia is a real country.
BB: Let's move on to our next question. 

BB: Question number five. What is your opinion of racers who only do one run of a super-combination or Alpine combination race?
George N: I have no problem with it because it gives the athlete an extra training run. Some of the racers are, shall we say, slower learners and need more time to get familiar with a course. They require more than the alloted one course inspection that the FIS gives them.
Answer Man: If a racer gets injured or becomes ill in the first run, or if there is a situation like Kitzbuehel with big delays, then he has a good excuse not to do the second run. But otherwise it shows a distinct lack of commitment, which can hinder a racer getting a good job in the future. Who wants a ski instructor who commits to teaching an all-day class but then decides not to teach the afternoon session? Or what about a father who takes his kid to a football match and leaves at halftime? If I were a supervisor, I would not want an employee who only works for the first half of his shift. If the Blickbild had to choose between two former racers for a job, we would take the one who did both runs in a combined race.

BB: Given Austria's success without a team witch doctor, are other teams starting to fire their witch doctors?
Answer Man: That is a rumor. So far no witch doctors have been fired, though Norway was close to firing Dr. Mwafume because of the team's numerous injuries this season. It looks like German witch doctor Dr. Mabongo and France's Dr. Djibuku will stay on for at least one more season.
George N: Like Austria, the US doesn't have a team witch doctor. We don't believe in voodoo or having foreigners on the team.
Answer Man: What about all of the Austrian trainers and former Swiss trainer Abplanalp?
George N: In order to be the best, we must have the best trainers. That's why our team has foreign trainers. But once we develop our own, then those foreign ones will be gone.

BB: Now for our last question. Will Vinnie "The Shark" Razzovelli be fired by Red Bull because he failed to prevent the Stone of Doom  (see this story) from coming to Vail?
Answer Man: No. In fact, Vinnie had nothing to do with the camouflaged Stone of Doom that Lindsey Vonn ran over in the downhill race. He was given the day off on downhill race day. I don't think that anyone could have prevented that naughty Ninja stone from coming onto the course. It was so stealthy that day that Lindsey could neither see nor feel it.
George N: He should be fired! First he failed to protect Lindsey from a knee injury in Schladming, then he took the day off instead of inspecting the Vail downhill course for that stone. I say shoot him in the kneecaps!
Answer Man: Vinnie was not even the head of security for Vail. If anyone should be fired, it would be the security chief. Vinnie may not have been able to compete in Vail along with the rest of the Freedonians, but he did a good job confiscating voodoo dolls from fans. In fact, he got a commendation for his work in Vail. As you recall, Vinnie was also absolved of any wrongdoing in Schladming.
George N: Vinnie was in an asylum for the criminally insane. Yet he is allowed near a race course. Something is definitely wrong.
Answer Man: He was cured of his temporary insanity, unlike some other people here.
George N: Yeah, it takes one to know one.
Answer Man: I think someone has stopped taking his medication.
George N: I don't take medication. I would not be allowed to write my blogs if I were on medication.
BB: Whoa! You're supposed to be answering our readers' questions, not attacking each other. You should be ashamed of yourselves! (short pause) Well, it looks like we are just about out of time and questions. I want to thank both of you for answering our readers' questions. And that concludes another Boston Blickbild exclusive story.

The Boston Blickbild. Our motto is: The Answer Man is right. We will only hire former racers who didn't skip out on the second run of a combined race.

The Boston Blickbild is on Facebook. If you enjoy our unique perspective on World Cup Alpine skiing, please like us on Facebook. We are also on Twitter as bostonblickbild.