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Saturday, August 26, 2021

Someone at the New York Times is really pushing pool as the next hip pasttime for the urban sophisticato.

Last week, there was a feature on the no-pockets three-cushion variant of the game. And now, bottle pool, with its elaborate scoring system, is presented as an upscale niche pursuit.

In the first leg, you can score three ways: by sinking object balls pool-style, earning 1 point for yellow and 2 points for red; by caroming the cue ball off both object balls billiards-style for 1 point; or by caroming the cue ball off an object ball and knocking over the bottle for 5 points. The trick is to score 25 points and only 25 points. If you “go over” (say, by knocking over the bottle after already amassing 21 points), you have to restart the first leg and work your way back up to 25.

The goal in the second leg is to score two billiards points. But if you unintentionally sink an object ball without making a billiard on the shot, you lose your turn. In the final leg, you have to make an intentional “scratch” in which the cue ball caroms off the yellow object ball and disappears into a called pocket.

For someone who never advanced beyond cutthroat and 9-ball — despite at one point having a roommate who was a veritable pool shark — this is all way beyong my tolerance for stick-and-cue entertainment. Beside, the cardinal rule I learned about drink containers during a pool game: Keep those beer bottles off the table!

by Costa Tsiokos, Sat 08/26/2006 04:04:40 PM
Category: New Yorkin', Other Sports, Publishing
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Tuesday, June 20, 2021

When I devised the “Other Sports” subcategory for this blog, I never imagined that I’d be slotting mountain unicycling, or “MUni”, into it.

But if there’s a sport more “other” than this one, I’d like to see it.

Bonus points if Buddhist monks are involved.

by Costa Tsiokos, Tue 06/20/2006 11:55:06 PM
Category: Other Sports
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Wednesday, May 31, 2021

Yes, that’s one awkward-assed headline I concocted, above. But it’s the best I can do, because the headline writer for today’s Los Angeles Times article about religious surfboarders doing their conversion thing on the beaches of Hawaii hit a homerun with his hed:

ONWARD CHRISTIAN SURFERS

Solid gold, baby. I love me a good pun-based hed, and that it takes a church hymnal as etymological base makes it even sweeter. This may be the best headline I’ve run across so far in 2006.

There seems to be a mini-meme on surfing running through the media lately. In addition to a feature on the improbable surf scene in England’s Newquay coast, I personally indulged in a whimsical anecdote about Mark Twain’s young-reporter experience as a wave-rider. Must be the summer breezes.

by Costa Tsiokos, Wed 05/31/2006 05:56:23 PM
Category: Other Sports, Society, Wordsmithing
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Saturday, May 06, 2021

Through the weeks of build-up over today’s Kentucky Derby, I’ve heard favorite Brother Derek’s name repeated ad nauseum.

The name “Brother Derek” intrigued me. You can go bats trying to figure out how most of the kooky names for racehorses (and racing dogs) get concocted, but this one was special.

Turns out Derek is the namesake of a Mormon missionary, currently serving in Armenia. So I assume a win today would go far in proselytizing for the Latter-Day Saints.

That doesn’t satisfy my intrigue, however. Because I can’t hear the name “Brother Derek” and not mentally tack on an “X” to that.

Yes, this year’s Run for the Roses brings to my mind Brand Nubian’s “Concerto in X Minor”, sung by “the brother Derek X”. Who’s going by the moniker “Sadat X” these days, when he’s not pulling guns on people.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sat 05/06/2021 02:22:10 PM
Category: Other Sports, Pop Culture
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Sunday, April 02, 2021

Just in case World Series of Poker doesn’t satisfy your faux-sports programming fix, ESPN is bringing forth coverage of two more tabletop gaming experiences:

Oldschool dominoes matches, here and abroad:

Hourlong domino shows now run on Tuesday nights at 10 on the network’s Spanish-language sports channel ESPN Deportes. Hoping it will be popular with English-speaking viewers, network officials plan to show similar programming on ESPN2 starting in June.

“We think it will be the next cool thing,” said Lino Garcia, the general manager of ESPN Deportes. “We’re connecting with the best places dominoes is played, so naturally we’re going to start in uptown Manhattan and the Bronx, the places where it really happens.”

Mr. Garcia said he hopes to repeat the success the network has had with poker — its World Series of Poker is its highest-rated regular series. Like poker, domino games offer plenty of suspense and drama at the table, with clever decision-making and reading the strategies of other players all pivotal to winning. The network will also televise the world championships next year from the Dominican Republic.

And celebrity chess games:

This spring, the game may make a bigger splash with the public. Following on the heels of television’s “Celebrity Poker” and “Dancing With the Stars,” ESPN has signed a deal to produce a televised celebrity chess tournament featuring Woody Harrelson, Wesley Snipes and others. “This is a charity tournament, but we hope to grow televised chess with sponsors and prize money,” said Giovanni James, who is producing the show with Penny Marshall.

Sure to follow: Tiddlywinks action on ESPN2!

And of course, much to the chagrin of this hockey fan, I’m sure all these damnable shows will outdo the ratings for NHL games on OLN

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 04/02/2021 04:52:44 PM
Category: Other Sports, TV
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Thursday, March 09, 2021

Not that MetroStars was such a hot name, but if I were a soccer fan, I’d prefer that to New York Red Bulls. The manufacturer of the supercharged sugar water bought the MLS New York franchise today and shamelessly rebranded the organization “Red Bull New York”.

In light of this, I think we can drop the “Major” from Major League Soccer. If this isn’t the mark of minor-leaguedom, I don’t know what is.

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 03/09/2021 10:23:08 PM
Category: New Yorkin', Other Sports
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Wednesday, March 08, 2021

I think I’ve found the next primetime event for the X Games:

Kite-flying.

That would be kite-flying as practiced on the Indian subcontinent, where aerial duels involve “fighter kites” that are tethered by taut, razor-like strings coated with crushed glass or metal.

Death from the skies! Actually, often literally:

Every year, Pakistani media report dozens of deaths and injuries caused by kite flying, mainly of children and motorcyclists whose throats are sometimes cut by metal or glass-coated string.

“It is a matter of concern that a healthy sport is being turned into a game of death,” the official APP news agency quoted Punjab Chief Minister Pervez Elahi as saying Tuesday.

Elahi said a crackdown had been launched against the sale of sharp kite string and threatened a permanent ban on kite-flying if deaths continued.

“Action under the Anti-Terrorism Act would be taken in case of deaths due to … dangerous kite-flying string,” he was quoted as saying.

This actually provides an explanation to a long-ago strange new item out of Afghanistan, when it was still under Taliban rule. The government banned all kite-flying, and that edict was reported in the West without what must have been this regional context.

Now, it makes sense. But at the time, it was presented as just another irrational action by an ultra-extreme, backward regime. It did lead to a funny quip by Jerry Seinfeld, when he heard about the kite-flying ban:

“What are they afraid of? That someone might discover electricity?”

by Costa Tsiokos, Wed 03/08/2021 02:20:00 PM
Category: Comedy, Other Sports
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Thursday, February 23, 2021

eat your wheaties
During my trashing of Bode Miller, I noted that the biggest tragedy lay in the marketing angle: A fundamental dearth of star power for Team USA, in all sports. (I would cite Men’s Hockey, since you’d assume NHL players would bring their own aura of celebrity with them, medal or no medal… But I’ll defer on that rant.)

That lack hasn’t gone unnoticed on Madison Avenue. Advertisers are cringing at the lack of anyone on whom to hitch a wagon, and are declaring Torino to be the weakest Olympics to come down the pike in years.

There were high hopes for Sasha Cohen:

Salvaging positive spin has been largely left to Cohen. She is leading the competition entering the women’s figure skating long program Thursday and could rise above her American teammates in marketing appeal by winning the gold medal. She replaced Michelle Kwan as the face of figure skating after Kwan withdrew with an injury shortly after arriving here.

If Cohen can protect the lead she earned in the short program and become the third consecutive American to win the Olympic women’s singles, marketers agree she will be the enduring face of these Games.

“The big names have fallen by the wayside,” Bob Dorfman, the executive creative director for Pickett Advertising, said Wednesday in a telephone interview from San Francisco. “Now it’s Sasha Cohen’s game to win or lose. If she wins a gold, she’ll be golden with the marketers. If she wins silver or bronze, it will be seen as a bit of a disappointment.”

Cohen stumbled to a silver, so I guess disappointment rules.

Actually, I’m not sure why Cohen isn’t better regarded. She was already a big name in figure skating before these Olympics; she certainly has enough endorsement deals already to prove her marketability. I’m betting she emerges as the most-endorsable figure from these Games.

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 02/23/2006 08:48:00 PM
Category: Advert./Mktg., Other Sports
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Monday, February 20, 2021

gimme an 'o'!
I cannot tell you how much it saddens me that the throngs in Turin aren’t taking to American-style cheerleaders at the Olympic venues.

I think the problem is wardrobe-based:

“Considering they don’t have cheerleaders in Europe, you have to give them credit for getting out there,” she said. “They’re not like the Dallas Cowboy cheerleaders — they’re fully clothed.”

Exactly — if they were to show a little more skin like their NFL counterparts, I think the crowd would warm up to them.

In fact, here’s a brainstorm: Since the infamous bathroom-slogging Carolina Panthers cheerleaders are presumably blackballed in the States… I say they take their spirit-fingers act to Europe. Just because their talents are unappreciated in their own country…

Perhaps the Torino organizers should have used the Tampa Bay Lightning’s Ice Girls as their model. I know they’re popular, and those shovels they carry while skating at the Forum give them at least a ceremonial on-ice duty. Plus, as you can see, the naming-rights possibilities are huge.

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 02/20/2006 02:02:15 PM
Category: Football, Hockey, Other Sports
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Sunday, February 19, 2021

not miller time
With his performance in Turin devolving into John Daly-esque sideshow farce, I’m going to declare Bode Miller to be the Olympic equivalent of NFL running back Ricky Williams.

This anecdote says it all:

At lunch in Manhattan a month later, Miller insisted he was serious about his potential Olympic boycott.

“Everyone wants to be rich and famous, but most don’t like it when they get it,” Miller said. “And I’m one of those people. The rich part is O.K., but the famous I can do without.”

In other words, he’ll take the money, but he doesn’t feel like performing up to it. Say what you will about the Terrell Owenses of the world, but at least they show up for work.

Asked if he would not be calling more attention to himself by staying away from the Olympics, Miller paused to sign an autograph for a waiter, then answered: “I could fade away. No problem.”

Three days later, he signed a two-year endorsement deal with Nike. Among other things, the company agreed to set up a Web site, joinbode.com, that contained Miller’s pontifications on things like the excesses of youth sports and his distrust of authority.

Miller then spent the summer, by his own admission, playing golf and drinking beer. He worked out — he has a self-designed regimen that includes pushing an old one-ton paving vehicle up the hills near his home in Franconia, N.H. — but it is not clear how often. Miller kept reporters at arm’s length for months, then showed up for the opening of the World Cup circuit overweight by about 10 pounds at 222.

It’s not often that I feel sorry for mega-corporations, but my sympathies are with Nike and NBC. They were both pretty much forced to rely upon Miller, a capricious brat, to be their marketable poster boy for Team USA. They bet on a losing horse, and are both suffering (especially NBC, whose broadcasts surprisingly are getting trounced by “American Idol” and the like) as a result.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 02/19/2006 05:30:46 PM
Category: Other Sports
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Saturday, February 11, 2021

single-file
NBC’s Torino Tracker blog muses on the single-athlete Olympics representations:

This year, there are one-man contingents from Albania, Bermuda, Cyprus, Ethiopa, Virgin Islands, Kenya, Madagascar, Portugal and San Marino (Dan Marino if you’re typing quickly). The cynic in me wonders if the Olympic Committees in these nations coerced an athlete into participating so they could take a paid vacation to Italy for three weeks.

Taking an international junket on, literally, someone else’s sweat? Not so far-fetched, really.

And I wonder if San Marino did tap Dan Marino to be its Winter Games rep… Would the throngs of Sammarinese heartily cheer, “LACES OUT, DAN!” at whatever event the ex-Dolphin competed in?

by Costa Tsiokos, Sat 02/11/2021 10:44:09 AM
Category: Other Sports
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that's the way, uh huh uh huh
I caught a bit of the Torino Games Opening Ceremony last night, including the first half of the Parade of Nations.

What was with the choice of American disco songs for the athletes’ march? They seemingly played all the standards: Donna Summer, KC and the Sunshine Band, even pre-”Thriller” Michael Jackson. I love disco, but it seemed an odd choice for the occasion. Was this the 2006 Olympics, or the 1976 Games?

by Costa Tsiokos, Sat 02/11/2021 09:43:42 AM
Category: Other Sports, Pop Culture
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Saturday, January 21, 2021

tv star
When “The Daly Planet” was announced, I predicted it would be a monster hit.

Well, the review is in, and it looks like neither John Daly nor The Golf Channel know how to work the reality TV angle:

What Daly needs for a successful reality show - even if it isn’t what Daly needs to maintain his sanity and career - is a crazy, camera-hogging family, an obnoxious agent, maybe a Tin Cup-like performance in a big event.

But this is the Golf Channel, not Bravo. If Daly has any of these to offer fans of reality TV, the producers didn’t let us see it. But in this episode, there wasn’t much to offer golf fans either.

Like I said before: Too bad Daly’s not still drinking. It would beat watching him try to launch golfballs over Niagara Falls.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sat 01/21/2006 09:37:25 AM
Category: Other Sports, Reality Check
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Sunday, January 08, 2021

Should NASCAR ever expand to Italy, it may run up against some brand confusion. Nascar Studios is a Web advertising and marketing design shop based in Naples.

I’m hoping Nascar someday gets the Formula 1 account. I’d love to see F1’s website sporting the legend, “designed by Nascar”.

Since I don’t speak or read Italian, I can’t discern much about the company. From their Web portfolio, I can see they’re typical of design shops all over the globe in going overboard on Flash. In the case of Harmont & Blaine (home of the designer weiner dog), it makes for a bloated, practically unusable site.

On the plus side, they do maintain a blog. Again, it’s in Italian, so I can’t read it. But it appears to be updated frequently, which is always a good sign.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 01/08/2021 08:34:21 PM
Category: Advert./Mktg., Other Sports
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Thursday, December 22, 2021

tomato, tomahtoSo, are the 2006 Winter Games the Turin Olympics, or the Torino Olympics?

I wonder how much this is throwing the average American. I’ve seen and heard both names used in various marketing and news pieces, and the contrast is noticable. I’m willing to bet some people are starting to wonder if there aren’t two host cities for this year. I doubt that “Torino” would even have surfaced if the official logo, pictured here, hadn’t incorporated it.

I think the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation hit upon the ideal solution:

…CBC journalists were told to refer to the Olympics in Turin (the place) as the Torino Games (the event). Torino 2006 athletes, in other words, will compete in Turin. The compromise means that both words will appear in our coverage, which may lead to a new sport at the Olympics: wrestling matches between writers and copy editors over which term is correct in any given context.

Very wishy-washy, but comprehensive. Somewhat savvy in these marketing-conscious times, too. Reminds me of the infamous Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim ploy.

If us English-speakers insist on butchering the host city’s name, we should at least bone up on Italian terms for the Olympic events. Maybe some transference will occur — I rather like the idea of “bobsledding” being truncated to the Italianized “bob”.

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 12/22/2005 08:43:01 PM
Category: Other Sports
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Saturday, November 26, 2021

If you can play water polo without the horses, then I guess it stands to reason that you can play underwater hockey without the ice:

Teams consist of six players in the pool at one time — three forwards, three defensive backs. There is no goalie to protect the 10-foot-wide goal. A coated lead puck is passed and shot with foot-long wooden sticks held in gloved hands. Unlike hockey, physical contact is frowned upon. There are two 15-minute halves.

Players wear snorkels, fins, diving masks and protective water polo caps. Like hockey, it’s important to learn how to pass and control the puck. Unlike hockey, taking a breath figures into the game.

“When you run out of air, you know it,” said Anthony Hemingway, a junior on Roger Bacon’s team. “You get the gagging feeling. But when you’re close to the goal, you’re like, ‘Do I want to score a goal or breathe?’ Most of the time I say, ‘Score.’”

No goalies? No kick-saves that are beauties? I’m not sure I can condone this as a form of hockey. Maybe they should go back to the former name for this exercise: “Octopush”.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sat 11/26/2005 05:53:23 PM
Category: Hockey, Other Sports
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From “In The Groove”, a NASCAR-licensed Harlequin romance novel set to be released during January’s Daytona 500:

Tires cried out in protest, their screech loud and long. Sarah looked left just in time to see the front end of a silver car coming toward her. She leapt. The car kept coming. She went airborne, then landed, rolling up the hood of a car.

It took a moment to realize she’d come to a stop.

She opened her eyes. Her head - still attached to her body, miraculously enough - had come to rest against something hard and cool. A windshield, she realized. Her cheek and the front of her body pressed against the glass.

Oh, great.

She was now a human bug. How appropriate.

Lance Cooper saw cleavage - that was it - a large valley of flesh where moments before there had only been open road.

What the - ?

The above excerpt from the St. Pete Times says that “In The Groove” was going to be the first title to be produced as part of the NASCAR-Harlequin partnership. However, a glide through Harlequin’s library yielded already-published “Dangerous Curves”, written by Pamela Britton — who’s also writing “Groove”. The starting flag has already dropped, apparently.

And I thought last year’s NASCAR Ballet represented a loss of focus for stock-car racing…

by Costa Tsiokos, Sat 11/26/2005 05:02:46 PM
Category: Other Sports, Publishing
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Sunday, November 20, 2021

showtime
Hoping to capture a buzz akin to that of “The Osbournes” or “American Chopper”, The Golf Channel will be showing a reality series starring golf bad-boy John Daly, dubbed “The Daly Planet”, starting January 18th.

Does this have “monster hit” written all over it, or what? Daly, the PGA’s anti-Tiger Woods, could use a jolt after fading out over the last couple of years. And, like many other niche outlets, The Golf Channel could use programming that appeals beyond its core audience. Daly’s predictable antics should fit the bill nicely. (Too bad he’s not still drinking…)

I was unaware of Daly’s role as movie inspiration — prior to the fact:

Daly’s life has seemed the stuff of fiction before. At a 1998 tournament, Daly shot an 18 on one hole, hitting shot after shot into a water hazard, an effort virtually mimicked by Kevin Costner’s character in the 1996 movie “Tin Cup.” In the movie, Costner plays a regular guy — a driving range owner — who has a chance to win the U.S. Open before stubbornly hitting balls repeatedly into a pond.

“I still say they made that movie after me,” Daly said at the time.

I guess his audition in ‘98 has finally paid off. Then again, his whole career could be construed as a reality TV audition.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 11/20/2005 12:03:16 PM
Category: Movies, Other Sports, Reality Check
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Friday, September 30, 2021

News from the lightweight division undercard for the big Tarver-Jones III boxing match at the St. Pete Times Forum:

[Almazbek] Raiymkulov has been known by his nickname, Kid Diamond, since turning pro in 2001, but said he was now going by Dr. Evil.

Both of Raiymkulov’s parents are doctors, and evil has a meaner ring to it than Kid Diamond, presumably.

I wonder what the Doctor’s getting paid for his fight with Nate Campbell tomorrow? Oh, of course: “ONE MILL-I-ON DOLLARS!”

by Costa Tsiokos, Fri 09/30/2005 02:22:24 PM
Category: Movies, Other Sports
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Sunday, September 25, 2021

qualifyingGotta throw some shine on my paycheck source, Florida Trend, this month, because of Mike Vogel’s cover story on International Speedway Corp.’s push to take NASCAR into Seattle and New York City — the final frontiers for stock car racing.

How bad does ISC want a track built on Staten Island? In exchange for entry into the number one media market — and the sponsorship gravy that flows from that — it’s willing to turn the big-league sports stadium game upside-down by paying its own way, and then some:

If the company can get into New York, says [William Blair & Co. analyst Bob] Simonson, “there will be a halo effect that will be phenomenal.” An example: Sponsors entertaining customers and clients at a Cup race in the rural South might well have to lodge their guests in a moderate hotel chain a long bus ride from the race. In New York, the sponsors could lock up rooms at the Waldorf, host a dinner at a fine restaurant and treat their guests to the race and other New York amenities. NASCAR and International Speedway also hope New York will bring new business sectors, such as financial services, into the sponsorship fold.

One measure of the company’s hunger for New York is that it isn’t asking for special government financing, just approval. The potential payoff to the sport and the $100-million land cost have made winning over [New York City Councilman James] Oddo and his constituents imperative. Aside from lobbyists and other experts, [ISC president Lesa] France Kennedy has hired Gameday Management Group, an Orlando company that engineers moving people in and out of events like the Olympics, to devise a way to get most of the fans to Staten Island without their cars. The plan depends on requiring 80% of spectators, when purchasing tickets, to commit to coming to the race by bus or ferry.

Not that the oft-suffering borough is playing along — yet:

“Deeply flawed,” Oddo says of the traffic plan. “The world hasn’t seen that many people moved by small boats since Dunkirk.” He says two other council members representing Staten Island are just as skeptical, and he can’t envision the project being approved over the objections of the local representatives. Says Oddo: “If this is the final plan, it’s dead on arrival.”

Regardless, France Kennedy is optimistic that gearheads will be New York stylin’ by 2010.

Of course, just getting a track built among the bright lights of the big city won’t guarantee market acceptance. Remember the lack of sufficient Windy City buzz for this year’s Chicagoland race, which NASCAR brass took as a shortcoming in getting ingrained into the national sports scene. But it’s better to have a place at the table and therefore a chance, rather than being absent.

There’s lots of supplemental information in the article, including ISC’s revenue breakdown comparison between 2000 and 2004 (TV revenues doubled in that time, from $164.3 million to $334.9 million) and how the broadcast money gets divvied up between ISC, NASCAR, non-ISC tracks and the race teams/drivers.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 09/25/2005 10:07:09 PM
Category: Other Sports, SportsBiz
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Saturday, August 27, 2021

Plenty of people have climbed Tanzania’s Mount Kilimanjaro. But not many of them were blind. Sam Atwood and Craig Kiser are, and are setting out next week to climb the African peak, their latest climbing escapade.

It’s interesting how you approach climbing without the benefit of sight:

For sighted climbers, going down a mountain is usually easier than going up. The opposite is true for blind climbers, Kiser says. “When you’re going up, you can put your foot up and try several rocks. When you’re going down, you put your foot down and you’re committed.”

I also liked this anecdote:

Dealing with bias and misconceptions is part of their job. “It’s less about prejudice than about people loving us to death, thinking we can’t do anything for ourselves,” Kiser says.

“I was having dinner in a restaurant once with my wife, and the waiter says to her, “Is he b-l-i-n-d?’

“And my wife says, “Yes, but he’s not s-t-u-p-i-d.’ “

Atwood and Kiser plan to chronicle their trek, via podcasts (I’d rather they type it out, but I’m sure conditions may call for different means), on a State of Florida Department of Blind Services-hosted webpage.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sat 08/27/2005 04:32:21 PM
Category: Other Sports
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