Adam Reger | Freelance Writer

Pittsburgh-based freelance writer

Category: Sports

Marathon Update

Tomorrow will mark one month to the Philadelphia Marathon. This past Sunday, I completed a 16-mile run and felt surprisingly, almost weirdly, good afterwards. (I usually feel zonked out, a bit nauseated, and go to bed pretty early after these runs. Only some mild zonked-outness occurred this time.)

Pretty soon, I am going to transition into carbo-loading most of the time, as well as officially banning beer from my diet. (Circumstances have happily conspired to keep me from drinking more than one or two per week.) On the whole, I’m happy with my progress and feel good about the race in Philly. I am also upbeat about the fact that it probably won’t rain the entire time, as it did during the Pittsburgh Marathon.

One point of concern has been a lack of training to go faster for longer. I’m following this Runner’s World plan, which in fairness is for beginners. If you look along the “Tuesday” column, where most of the shorter runs are, you’ll notice that a lot of attention is given to increasing your “TUT”—that is, “total uphill time.” I think that aspect of the training has helped, but I worry that it’s beside the point for a course as flat as Philly’s, and that I may have been better served by doing tempo runs—i.e., doing some or all of a run at a faster-than-comfortable pace. There are some of those on the schedule I’m following (marked “AI”—“aerobic intervals”), but I wish there were more.

Obviously, it’s on me to take it up a notch or jump up to a non-beginner marathon plan. In that vein, I plan, during my nine-mile Thursday run tomorrow, to try doing intervals of three miles at marathon pace, with a brief jogging intermission between each.

I have the uneasy feeling that I am entering into the dangerous and seductive next level of running; that it is not as difficult to finish a marathon as it is to improve one’s time; and that, in general, doing a long run is not the important thing so much as keeping your motor going, pumping your arms and challenging yourself to keep the pace up. I am comforting myself that these are lifelong-struggle types of issues, not to be resolved in the next month.

And anyway I am confident of improving upon my first marathon time, four hours and fourteen seconds. My primary goal is to crack four hours. How feasible that goal is will probably be answered, in part, by how much tomorrow’s run kicks my ass.

Shifting Loyalties; or, Imperfect Revenge Storylines in Eagles vs. Redskins

In various sports media this week, I’ve seen the suggestion a few times that when former Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb returns to Philadelphia this Sunday, fans there will boo him. I suspect, and certainly I hope, that this will prove an absurdly pessimistic view of Philly sports fans (whose reputation for sourness is deserved, overstated, and in a perverse way a kind of badge of honor which they are constantly trying to justify by bad behavior). Few Philadelphians would really argue that McNabb helped usher in a decade of success for the Eagles, and is empirically the best quarterback the franchise has ever had. He rarely got them over the NFC Championship-game hump, true enough, and never won the big one, but the Eagles won far more games because of McNabb than he lost for them. Indeed, thinking about the offensive weapons the Eagles have now, versus their receiving corps during the 2002 and 2003 seasons, it’s a wonder McNabb got the team as far as he did with James Thrash, Todd Pinkston, and Freddie Mitchell catching balls. (Remember that before McNabb went south to D.C., Thrash did—and on a Redskins team that consistently finished behind the Eagles in the standings and, especially, in offensive statistics, he couldn’t hold on to a receiver spot and was relegated to the special teams.)

And yet, my loyalties on Sunday will be clear and firm. I will be thrilled to see Trent Cole and/or Brandon Graham (or the thrilling new addition Darryl Tapp) bury McNabb, or Asante Samuel step in front of a pass. (Or it would be swell if Nate Allen, whom the Eagles drafted with the second-round pick they got from Washington in the McNabb trade, intercepted McNabb.) I worry about what Washington tight end Chris Cooley might do, covered by the Eagles’ suspect linebacking unit (although Cooley is on my fantasy football team, so you might say my loyalties are divided in this area). But on the whole I am confident, and looking forward to the game for the reasons I usually do: I expect a decisive and satisfying Eagles win.

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Andy Reid is John Maynard Keynes

At least, so says Jim Cramer, according to this Philadelphia Eagles.com piece by Dave Spadaro. Cramer, the lunatic who has kept a fairly low profile (relatively low, anyway, since he is still doing the same show and performing the same ridiculous antics, with sound effects, screaming, push-ups, props, etc.) since being demolished by Jon Stewart some months back, is apparently a huge Eagles fan. Who knew? I didn’t.

Here’s the relevant selection of the article, quoting an e-mail Cramer wrote re: Reid’s decision to start back-up Michael Vick over future-of-the-franchise Kevin Kolb (who played poorly in one half of football before going out with a concussion):

“Cramer in an email to me: ‘Here’s the logic. All great investors follow the logic of Keynes. What happened is that Keynes, the greatest economist in history, had made a mistaken call and he changed his mind about it. He was being hectored about it and he said to the questioner, “When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, sir?”

“‘It is the watchword of Mad Money. It must be the watchword of an NFL coach if he wants to win. IF he doesn’t, well, fine!'”

So there you have it. Just like the bailout, this Eagles season will serve as some kind of definitive test of Keynes’ economic theories (except that people will find reason to dispute the results, whichever way they may go; even in the case of the Eagles’ record, if the Washington Redskins do better, there’s that; short of winning the Super Bowl, there will be wiggle room for sports talking heads to second-guess all of Reid’s decisions).

As a bonus, here is a rap video in which Keynes and one of his ideological nemeses, Friedrich Hayek, square off. It is actually pretty informative.

I am minimally famous, Part II

A few weeks ago I was elated to have won the trivia contest of Slate‘s “Hang up and Listen” podcast. Well, everyone: I did it again.

What’s more, I got some pretty good props, again, from the panelists. My name got spelled out, albeit in support of the same incorrect pronunciation, and they called attention to the fact that I’d won a few weeks prior. (The really satisfying part was when the moderator, Slate editor Josh Levine, cited “HuaL”‘s reigning trivia champ, Carmen Tse, and said that he was probably hearing footsteps. It’s far too soon for me to say any such thing, but I appreciate the suggestion.)

Most gratifying, they gave me a shout-out by correcting the record: as I asserted at the time, I am not a furry. Mike Pesca said that I was beating up a furry in my Facebook photo, which is loosely true (I am ripping the detachable tail off a furry dressed as a gecko). But still. The vindication is sweet, so sweet.

Oh, and here was the trivia question: “During the first half of the 1980s, in major league baseball two players were in the top 10 repeatedly in a major offensive category. These two players have the same name (first and last), with only two letters being different.”

I’m paraphrasing; it was a somewhat confusingly worded question, and I got quite turned around in what it meant that two letters were different (e.g., “If I take all the letters in ‘Tony Armas,’ is that within two letters of ‘Mike Schmidt’?”). But after sifting through lots and lots of baseball stats for the years 1980–1985, what I came up with was this: in steals, Willie Wilson of the Kansas City Royals and William “Mookie” Wilson of the Chicago Cubs showed up on the same list at least once. (They may also have shown up on the triples list, but that seems less of a “major” offensive category.)

A friend asked, after the first trivia win, if I was going to try to be a repeat champ. I said I didn’t think so, that that Dustin Hoffman-themed question seemed like a one-off and, really, the only kind of trivia question I was likely to get. Winning this time has opened the possibility that I can compete when the questions are weird, and more conducive to someone getting obsessed with the question and pursuing it for an hour or two at a time than someone just having lots of sports knowledge. If there are any more of those, maybe I’ve got a chance at future wins.

Nyjer Morgan and the unwritten rules of baseball

On Sports Illustrated‘s website there’s an interesting article about Nyjer Morgan, the Washington Nationals outfielder who’s gotten in a bunch of incidents in the last week or so. The facts of the case are interesting enough in themselves (and I’ve heard that the brawl Morgan incited is pretty lively, although I am too squeamish about that stuff to have clicked through yet; after replays of football players getting injured, watching athletes brawl is one of my least favorite elements of televised sports).

But what the author of the piece, Jason Turbow, focuses in on is Morgan’s repeated flaunting of baseball’s “Code”: the unwritten rules that governs how players comport themselves. This kind of stuff is, in general, fascinating to me, and I also find it interesting the way these sorts of insights are creeping more and more into public view. There is so much more information now, so many more media outlets, it seems increasingly difficult for there to be anything left “behind the scenes.” (I am thinking generally about reality shows where things are produced, “Behind the Music”-type programming, document and information leaks, etc.)

On its surface this seems like a negative development, that the joy of these illusions is vanishing. But maybe it’s more complicated. I’m wondering, for instance, whether anyone really keeps all these unwritten rules in his or her mind. It seems to be in the nature of unwritten rules—or, calling back my 10th grade social studies class, folkways and mores—that they’re embedded somewhere deeper than mere software, that we basically don’t think of them. And in any case, it’s an outside, authorial presence that is calling our attention to the rules; it’s not Morgan or any other player who is pointing to the nebulous framework of rules, and when they do so it’s situation-specific, not some calculated effort to pull back the curtain. As an example, see Dallas Braden calling out Alex Rodriguez, earlier this season, for jogging back across the pitcher’s mound after a foul ball.

As a sidenote, Morgan started his career as a Pittsburgh Pirate. I’m curious to see whether there’ll be a local media report about the Pirates shipping him out for just this kind of insanity; going from the Pirates to the also-dirt-cheap Nationals, it doesn’t make sense to assume he went the way of Freddy Sanchez, Jason Bay, etc., etc., and got bought up for more money.

More Sports (Pan-Pennsylvanian Edition)

Two sports-related posts within a single (sports-related) post!

As a kind of follow-up to this post, on the woeful Pittsburgh Pirates, some recent stuff in the news about the team and, especially, the reasons for its awfulness:

A Slate article asking the question, “Should the Pirates Spend Money to Win Ballgames?” and looking at the ins and outs of how they’d even go about doing that. Fascinating tidbit:

“Sabermetricians . . . have figured out ways to determine how much an individual player’s performance contributes to his team’s victories. Correlating those performance metrics to actual market prices for free agents shows that it costs management something like $5 million to purchase each additional win. (For example, by signing a $10-million-quality free agent, a team might improve its record by two games.)”

It does present more of an obvious dilemma for the Pirates’ ownership, as well as casting attention back on the greater disparities among large- and small-market teams within MLB.

Then again, if you’re feeling overly sympathetic, you might look back to the revelations that provided the impetus for the Slate article: leaked financial documents showing that the Pirates, among several other teams (most egregiously the Florida Marlins), made bank despite being among the worst-performing teams.

Moving over to football, I should say by way of preface that there’s only one professional team whose doings I give a fig about: the Philadelphia Eagles. The much-maligned, long-suffering, beleaguered Eagles.

Yet also the perennially in-contention Eagles. It’s true that, at this time of year, hope springs eternal for all 32 teams. Hope seems to be springing a bit too forcefully for the Eagles, by my estimation of their chances this year. Having dealt Donovan McNabb in favor of back-up and heir apparent Kevin Kolb, they’ve been tabbed by many to go through a rebuilding phase this year. I mostly agree with that: I have them finishing in the 8-8 or 9-7 range, and think it’s more likely they’ll finish a game or two below that than above it. And to that I say: That’s life. It’s rare that any team can rebuild on the fly, and still maintain—in spite of what I’ve just said—the chance to surprise people and remain a playoff contender.

That said, I’ve been cheered by reports like this ESPN profile and this Peter King column item that say Kevin Kolb is the real deal. I love that he’s getting this kind of praise, and that by all accounts it’s coming from inside the locker room. But I’ve periodically felt the need to throw cold water on myself, because buying into this sort of sports reportage feels like a shortcut to some kind of jinx: there’ve been so, so many big-money rookies and (as with Kolb, third-year) heirs apparent who’ve been similarly pumped up and anointed, only to fail dramatically or quietly, but in the end to fail, and to slump away into obscurity. Philadelphia, certainly, has had no shortage: Shawn Bradley and Mike Mamula are the first names that come to mind.

I don’t expect failure from Kolb. It’s just that, on the hype versus realistic-attainable-results spectrum, I don’t want to raise my hopes quite so high, at least not yet.

With that said . . .

E-A-G-L-E-S Eagles!!

Onward and upward for the Pittsburgh Pirates

Last night baseball’s worst team, the Pittsburgh Pirates, lost to the Florida Marlins 4-2. They’ve lost many times this year, but this one was notable because it was their 81st loss of the year, ensuring that the 2010 campaign will not be a winning season; and that, almost certainly, this will be their 18th straight season with a losing record. (They could still end up at 81 and 81 on the year, but a 40-something-game winning streak seems beyond them right now.) To go all Mindset List, a Pittsburgh-based student entering college later this month could not remember a winning Pirates campaign in his or her lifetime.

Next up for the Pirates is trying to avoid a 100-loss season. You’d think that would be no big deal, but, though the franchise has done it a number of times, during the current dynasty of poor teams (in the monetary and athletic senses both) it’s only happened in 2001 (and that was with exactly 100 losses, no more). Last year, they finished at 99, with a make-up game against the Atlanta Braves being mercifully waved off. It looks like a lock, and like they could even demolish the franchise record of 113 losses. But who knows? With something to play for, maybe they’ll come through.

I am minimally famous

. . . for having won last week’s “Hang up and Listen” (a sports-themed podcast done by Slate writers and editors) trivia contest. I was all aflutter over it late last week, after posting (what I and others believed to be) the correct answer on the HuaL Facebook page. I simmered down over the weekend, but felt a surge of pride and embarrassment at just now hearing my name read out on the podcast. I briefly considered writing to prompt them on the pronunciation of my name (which is Reger as in beggar; unfortunately I haven’t been able to think of a better illustrative rhyme) but didn’t and am glad, because although they got it wrong (Reger as in eager) I find I don’t mind so much.

For posterity, here’s the trivia question: “What do Sparky Anderson, Shawn Kemp, and Dick McGuire have in common?”

My winning answer: “All have nicknames that are Dustin Hoffman character names: ‘Captain Hook’ (Anderson), ‘Reign [Rain] Man’ (Kemp), and ‘Mumbles’ [from Dick Tracy–nice] (McGuire).”

Josh Levin, Slate‘s sports editor and host of the podcast, rightly complimented Mike Pesca, the trivia guru, for an inventive and difficult question. Pesca said that he thought this was his favorite question so far, and I definitely agree.

Update: Perhaps I spoke too soon in my fawning, appreciative remarks about the shout-out I received during the podcast: during the end (or “Cocktail Chatter” or, in this one, “Riggins’s Rigs”) segment, Pesca mentions being impressed by my getting the trivia answer (good), then checking out my Facebook page (worrying), and concludes that I am a furrie (bad, very bad).

He uses this to springboard into a funny, non-Adam-related bit, but still. Let me correct the record right now. Thinking I am a furrie is understandable, given that my photo has me at Anthrocon, grasping the detachable tail of a giant gecko. But readers will note that I am dressed as an ordinary citizen, and for good reason: I am one. To reiterate: I AM NOT A FURRIE.

Thank you for your time.

Later Update: It occurred to me that Mike Pesca’s explanation of how he came up with this trivia question is noteworthy for an extra reason, which is that, by apparent coincidence, he came to the topic of Dustin Hoffman character names a week before the man’s birthday. More synchronicitously, this meant that the podcast appeared the day after Hoffman’s birthday (which is August 8). I saw that while running down the answer: I came to Dustin Hoffman’s Wikipedia page to confirm the names of his characters, and noticed the birth date. “Clever, clever Mr. Pesca,” I thought at the time. Apparently, though, it was mostly dumb luck. Go figure.