Archive: sports

Hiking the Three-Peak Challenge: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Pain

3 peak

There’s an outside shot I’ll need a second knee surgery because of a series of hikes that will amount to nothing more than a blog post. This is all because my favorite outdoors retail store, Adventure 16, offered a couple raffle tickets if you summited the three tallest mountains in Southern California. I enjoy hiking and am notoriously cheap, so in the name of the chance to win free gear, I talked my buddy Jeremy into a series of three murderous day hikes that we now regret.

 

The challenge consists of hiking San Gorgonio near Big Bear, San Jacinto near Palm Springs, and San Antonio near the Azusa senior center, in either three months, three weeks, three days or, for a handful of psychopaths, 24 hours. Seriously, a couple of masochists start hiking before dawn and do all three in a day. We put the three hikes on the calendar over the span of June, July and August so that we would have something to say on Fridays when coworkers asked us about our weekends.

 

The thing I like about hiking is that it’s a discernible goal that’s easy to quantify. If you get to the top of the mountain, you win. If you don’t, you lose. That’s much simpler than most goals that involve nebulous measures like happiness and wealth and living life to its fullest and accomplishments and accolades. Not with hiking. If you get to the top you achieve your goal. Also, it costs nothing. Compared to hockey gear, you pretty much just have to walk uphill for a really long time.

 

I didn’t even have a good emotional hurdle to overcome, along the lines of Wild and Into The Wild. Those books were so popular because they weren’t really about hiking. They were about something else that was being worked through while the main character was on a trail. I would’ve loved to have had a mental block, or an emotional breakthrough on my drive through San Bernardino County, but the strongest emotional pull I felt was when we pulled into the West Covina In-N-Out. And that Into The Wild dude was kind of an idiot. I mean he walked into Alaska and died, that’s pretty much the book. Spoiler alert.

 

We knocked the best hike out of the way first, because apparently we didn’t want anything to look forward to on this stupid adventure. Mount San Jacinto was the most spectacular of the bunch, which would’ve been a lot more enjoyable were it not for the blood seeping through our socks. When you drive from L.A. to Palm Springs, it towers to the south of the 10 freeway. It can be hiked as a 10-mile trail from the Palm Springs tramway, 15-20 miles from a few trails starting in the town of Idyllwild, or the Skyline Trail (also known as Cactus to Clouds), which, at 36 miles at 10,000 feet uphill, is the highest vertically-climbing hike in America. We did not do that one.

 

We split the difference and picked the Devil’s Slide Trail from Humber Park in Idyllwild. This presented us with a 16-mile trek from a really nice town where we would’ve been better off spending the day. Idyllwild was a low-key Big Bear without the bling shops. The route took us along the Pacific Crest Trail for a few miles, a view of Palm Desert and Joshua Tree, and brief spells of flat terrain shaded with summer camp pine trees. For around three minutes out of our eight-hour adventure, it was paradise. The final mile was a grueling, rocky climb to the second-tallest mountain in Southern California.

 

On a clear day, you can see the ocean, Mount Whitney and even the curvature of the Earth from the summit of Mount San Jacinto. On the day we were hiking we could clearly discern the Morongo Casino. But views aside, our first hike was done which meant, unfortunately, we had to continue with the other two. If only one of us had broken our legs then we would’ve had the excuse we needed to quit.

 

Mount Baldy was the steepest and most fun (I use the word fun very loosely) of the three. Clocking in at 10.6 miles, Baldy starts at a packed parking lot and climbs straight uphill in a way that makes you question your life choices. The summit overlooks a huge bowl with a half-dozen peaks and a ski resort that global warming is putting out of business. The misery of hiking down a gravel ski trail is alleviated by the bar you encounter at the seven-mile mark. We snapped some photos of the lame zip line, questionable ski lift and battle of the beers before crossing the second hike off the list.

 

The three-peak challenge culminates in the final, worst, most unpleasant, brutal trek of the three: the 19 miles up the tallest mountain in Southern California, Mount San Gorgonio. In the same way I remember middle school bullies, I have nothing nice to say about this hike. There’s nothing redeeming and there’s no sense of accomplishment to justify the horrible pain this hike causes. The bottom of the trail and top of the mountain have vertical climbs determined to force your tibia to pierce through your kneecap. The trail spends most of its time in a forested valley so you don’t get any views. When it does become awe-inspiring, you’re already suffering from altitude sickness and sunstroke so you’re imagining all sorts of random stuff. You’re not sure if you have a great view of the endless high desert or if there are Pokemon everywhere.

 

You know when a dog is out for a long walk on a hot day and then before it gets home it just quits? Like it finds a spot in the shade on the sidewalk and lays down and that’s that? Right, so that’s our knees. With three miles remaining, we were limping like seniors using our hiking poles as walking canes as we took one ginger step at a time down the endless trail with the parking lot feeling like it was getting further away with each step. Until finally we descended with scores of hikers passing us along the way and finally we could proclaim that we never have to hike again.

 

The most insulting part was sitting in the car afterwards. After logging over 40,000 steps in a day, my fitness watch sensed that I was immobile for more than an hour and ordered me to, “Move!” Our enormous physical challenge amounted to topping the 29th-tallest summit in California, which barely fits on a bumper sticker. There was no emotional breakthrough, no real sense of accomplishment and nothing but pain to show for it (although the In-N-Out was nice). And I have a pretty solid hunch that I’m going to come up empty handed on the raffle.

 

I’ll never understand why people do iron mans and tough mudders, which is that race where you electrocute yourself for fun. But I guess there’s something good about setting goals and accomplishing them. It gives you a challenge to anticipate, it makes you push yourself, gives you something to do on the weekend, and you can conquer office small talk on Monday. You might even win a prize or two for your efforts. But the important thing to do before setting out on any endeavors is to make sure that the goals are easy. Because you actually have to work for the hard ones and there’s nothing fun about that.

 

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I Volunteer With Inner-City Kids Because It’s The Only Place I Can Talk About Soccer

Why I "give back" to my community.

This Spring wrapped another fantastic semester volunteering with the Young Storytellers Foundation. YSF is a charity organization in Los Angeles where failing actors, writers and musicians work with inner-city kids in screenwriting. Over the course of ten weeks, students develop a five-page script. At the end of the semester, their work is performed by actors in front of the entire school. It’s a rewarding, challenging and fun program for students and mentors. It’s also the only place in L.A. where I can have in-depth conversations about soccer.

 

I look forward to my weekly-YSF session with glee. I come prepared with my notebook, laptop and updated scoreboard from La Liga. I have to keep my soccer fanaticism a secret all week, but when I volunteer with kids in L.A. I can finally have a meaningful debate over Lionel Messi being better than Cristiano Ronaldo.

 

No one at work appreciates my opinions on Manchester United’s recent match with Everton. But if Chicharito has a good game and I’m volunteering with kids in L.A.? Oh man, it’s on! We go to war over the Mexican National Team. Whether Dos Santos will rediscover his game in time for the next round of World Cup qualifying. If Ochoa is the best keeper in Mexico. The best games of Rafa Marquez. These things make me sound like I’m from another planet when I talk about them at work. But with your average 8-year-old in Los Angeles? It’s my ticket to the clubhouse.

 

It’s important to volunteer with your spare time. It helps enhance your local community and allows you to connect with new groups of people. That said, I volunteer for the entirely selfish reason of fighting about match-fixing in Italian football.

 

The only other place to engage such a conversation is the Internet, but I’ll get crushed in debates with those losers. The kids I volunteer with aren’t allowed to have smart phones at school and I come prepared. Little Pablo might say something like, “My favorite player on Barcelona is Pique.” And then, bam, I destroy him with a statistical analysis of Pique’s recent performance. “Oh yeah? Well he conceded five corner kicks and picked up a yellow card against Valencia. Is he your favorite player now?”

 

The joke is on me when Pablo comes back with, “Considering he lead Barcelona to back-to-back La Liga titles and manned the back-line in the World Cup and Euros, yeah, he’s pretty good.”

 

It’s only around the kids during my volunteer sessions that it’s perfectly normal to have my walls covered in English Premier League posters. When I wear soccer jerseys to work, I get a lecture. When I wear them to YSF, I get a high-five. When I show-off my face paint at work, I’m called retarded. At school, I compare my war paint to the young writers. My girlfriend keeps telling me to grow up, but my buddies at school consider me the coolest guy to pretend to be in fifth grade.

 

We’re midway through World Cup qualifying, with the grand tournament slated for next summer. It’s important to have these debates any way you can and I’m lucky enough to find classrooms full of children who validate my opinions. Next time you volunteer, I recommend you too try and find ways for your time to give back to you.

Do We Really Need the Riot Fence For the Women’s World Cup?

As one of a small collection of die-hard American soccer fans, I strongly support the U.S. Women’s National Team in pursuit of the Women’s World Cup trophy. I remember Brandi Chastain sending in the tournament-winning goal in ’99 and followed their early oust in the ’03 and ’07 tournaments. But those riot fences behind the goals. Really?

Don’t get me wrong, I am all for an equal tournament for the female players as the men. And soccer fans should be just as passionate for their country regardless the gender of the competitors. But doesn’t it seem a wee bit excessive to have the women’s tournament surrounded by a forty-foot tall barbed wire-topped barrier used to stop thousands of violent maniacs lighting fires in the stands?

What kind of rioters are we expecting for the Ivory Coast versus Sweden Women’s World Cup match after all? A bunch of Swedish lesbian biker chick women’s soccer fans ready to tear the place apart if their blonde beauties fall in the group stage? Won’t these behemoths be able to scale the fence on their own accord?

Maybe it’s to keep out the thousands of young girls who are there to support their role models. A zombie virus could break out, thus turning these children into an army of crazy undead monsters hell-bent on eating women’s soccer star brains. Protection would then be warranted.

There are riots in Greece right now over the austerity measures. Tens of thousands of Greek youths are striking because they don’t want their retirement age to be raised to the ripe old age of fifty-five, or whatever their dream deal is. Maybe they want to go to Germany (not sure how since the Greece airport employees are kicking back on the beach right now during their strike), and go ape-shit crazy at a women’s soccer match. Read more

Americans Saying America is The Best Country is The Same As Loud, Fat Sports Fans Saying Their Home Team is The Best

Many people are quick to label America the best country in the world, and there was something about this grand proclamation that struck a cord that I finally placed. It is exactly when loser fans of high-spending winning teams say that their team is the best in the world, yet the fans themselves have never done anything in their lives but cheer on real winners.

America might be the Yankees, Celtics and Steelers, but Americans are the fans of the Yankees, Celtics and Steelers. A bunch of loud and overweight chest-thumping losers who failed to live up to the potential of top players on the field. Instead, we question the decisions of leaders and pick fights with rivals. Read more

Football Was Better Back When Doctors Thought Concussions Were Just a Case of the Head Dizzies

It seems like every NFL team this season has been devastated by injuries. Games are long enough without trainers insisting that players stay down after a hit until they remember what team they play for. Linebackers are getting bigger and the repositioning of the ref from behind the defensive line has opened up the field to more spine-crushing helmet-first hits that we all love until someone gets hurt and we have endure more commercials. The solution doesn’t lie in better pads, more restrictions on hits or harsher penalties. The real answer would be to take science and medicine a few steps backwards and go back to the days when no one knew what a concussion was.

If there’s anyone that needs to be taken off their high horse, it’s got to be doctors. Who are they to determine that football players who get hit in the head need time to recover? Certainly not football fans. Didn’t they ever read Blink by Malcolm Gladwell? This book proves over and over again that the more time your brain has to process things, the worse it will perform. We need to get back to the days when an injured quarterback would have to get up after a punishing hit and simply let his animal instincts take over.

All sports on a whole, but definitely football in particular, were much more enjoyable when doctors thought concussions were just a case of the “Head dizzies,” “Skull leaks” or “Brain Ouches.”

What is a little rest going to solve anyway? If Drew Brees had his face implanted on the turf and it killed a few brain cells, what difference is it going to make whether he sits for a few plays rather than a few games? I have fantasy points to worry about, and I’m not about to let them go to waste because he’s whining about a little headache. Hey, Doctors of America, it’s called Tylenol.

The babying of football players has dangerous implications of weakening football fans, which exposes us to terrorism and immigrants somehow. We want the hits to be more violent and we want the players to get bigger and stronger. We want helmet-to-helmet contact that echoes in the away team’s stadium. The only way we’re going to get there is to go back into denial that there is no such thing as long-lasting brain damage.

How hard can this be? We already have textbooks saying that evolution is a myth and most Americans still believe that the entire world was created by an invisible man in the sky. Is it that much of a leap of the imagination to believe that getting your head driven into the turf compresses your spine like an accordion to make brain waves travel faster?

Sure you can make the argument that a higher number of concussions decreases players’ life spans, but do you honestly think that any of these guys want to live past the age of fifty? More concussions equals more hot chicks, as everyone who has ever seen a movie with jocks knows, so where’s that statistic? Why would any of these running backs want to live until they’re seventy, when every single bone, muscle and joint creaks with excruciating pain? On the other hand, we can spread the word that concussions are a myth and these guys can go back to playing all the football we love until they can’t walk anymore. They’ll sire a few more future starting linesman, then continue entertaining the masses as the jolly retarded guy with a half-working brain, then pass away peacefully at the ripe age of thirty-six.

In fact, that could be a new segment on those boring panel NFL preview and highlights shows. Instead of just analyzing the same game over and over and getting the same rote predictions, why not bring on a retired player who has suffered between forty and fifty “concussions” and just let him talk for a half hour. I’m sure it will be much more amusing than any commentary Shannon Sharpe can provide. The NFL Network could fill a majority of its programming by simply filming people who have taken many shots to the head. This is what I like to call a pension.

Football is supposed to be a violent sport and we need to stop letting doctors getting in the way. If our favorite sport is going to return to its glory days of brutes running haphazardly through mud and snow then that’s where our understanding of brain matter must return as well.

Mount Baldy Hike

Mount San Antonio (better known as Mount Baldy) at 10,068 feet is the highest point in Los Angeles County and the third-tallest mountain in Southern California. Pretty easy to find, with well-marked trails, take the 210 to Mount Baldy Road and keep going up. There are three trails to the top, and we took the best-marked, most popular and easiest, which was around 13 miles round trip. You can also cut the first half out of the way by taking the ski lift, which only makes people with unnecessary pride bitter.

Is Ronaldo’s Bastard Son Eligible For the U.S. National Team?

With the exciting news that Cristiano Ronaldo knocked up an American hottie (one of our best exports) and is now trying to play it off as a cover-up/surrogate situation, the United States national team might have finally turned a corner in international soccer. This is the break that Sunil Gulati and Bob Bradley have needed for decades, we could finally have our superstar to get us into the World Cup semifinals and now we just need some clever diplomacy to make sure this bastard son plays for the U.S.A.

Thanks to Ronaldo’s wayward cock, which has apparently veered and bent its way into an American woman like a hovering Jubalani off a free kick, the United States has uncovered the prospect of its dreams. Is there any way that whatever shady agreement between Ronaldo and this mystery woman that gives him sole custody can still land the son with an American passport?

Technically speaking if your mother is American, then you qualify for citizenship and the inalienable right to become an obnoxious tourist who asks locals in Paris where the nearest McDonalds is located. I don’t really see why it should be an issue when you consider how every other country find loopholes to load their rosters with superstars. I don’t think there is a single player on the French national team that has actually ever been to France. If the World Cup allows for nationals of former colonies to play for their colonizers, then a baby-momma situation seems completely by the books.

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Basically is there a way that a soccer superstar can pay off a girl that got liquored up and seduced into pregnancy by a GQ coverboy to give up custody while having the state department intervene on the negotiations? Why can’t we use this as Scott Boras’ chance to repay his debt to the country that lets him ruin every other sport by letting him save soccer? There is no reason that this can’t be included as an addendum to the contract between Ronaldo and the mother of future soccer Michael Jordan.

The most important question seems to be why this little twist wasn’t involved in Nike’s Write The Future ad. Maybe it’s on the director’s cut after Ronaldo unveils his statue in downtown Lisbon and guest stars on the Simpsons. He misses the free kick (vaguely reminiscent of every single game he played in during the 2010 World Cup), drinks his sorrows away and sleeps with the first pretty American he sees. She gets knocked up, he’s got Tiger Woods’ exemplary Write the Future looming over his head and adopts the kid to save face. The ad continues on with the pains of fatherhood, having to wake up at five A.M. to feed the brat when he needs his eight hours before Real Madrid training camp. He craps out in two years and finds himself on Fox Football Phone-In on Saturdays at 11 at night.

Write the future, Ronaldo. And, thanks to a hot American who was too drunk to remember that sex without a condom is a leading cause of pregnancy, he has written the future for American soccer. And it looks grand.

How Have Serbians Preserved An Entire Ethnicity of People Who All Look Drunk?

I know the obvious answer to this question is that they are, in fact, all drunk, but it seems pretty impressive that an entire Eastern European nation that has existed for millennia can manage to be filled with an entire population of citizens who all appear as though they’ve been drinking at Sonny McClane’s since noon.

Every time the World Cup offers a close up on any of their players or fans, you could switch any of them out with a bad Jim Bruer impression. I’ve been left trying to figure out the evolutionary advantage of having an entire group of people with glossed-over droopy eyes, long faces, hollow cheeks and not much of a sense of humor. Yet an eagerness to murder you at the first slight of their proud culture.

Seriously, this is a country

Could it have anything to do with the fact that the entire country is populated with nearly identical last names? To get a Serbian name, it seems like you could just add the letters, “ic” to the end of your name. Starting with the Lakers’ Sasha Vujacic, the members of the Serbian soccer team include: Jovanovic, Zigic, Ivanovic, Pantelic, Kuzmanovic, Obravic and Subotic.

As a side note, it’s worth noting that none of these are my favorite World Cup name of the tournament. There is a player on the South African squad whose surname is Tshabalala, but when the announcer says it, it sounds like he’s saying, “Shamalama.” I don’t know how to express my disappointment that his full name is not Shamalama Ding Dong. There is, however, a sweeper named Kim Dong-Jin on the South Korean squad, but this – like the South Korean defense – just doesn’t get the job done.

Anyway, back to the Serbs. And I should preface this by mentioning that my experience with Serbs are as follows: hazy knowledge about the start of World War I involving Franz Ferdinand; something bad when down there in the 1990s and it involved other countries; some Serbian guy with bad body odor (as opposed to good body odor: Axe body spray) in a Milan youth hostel.

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They seem like a deeply religious group of people who follow a sect of Catholicism that no one has ever heard of, and one that advocates murdering all thy neighbors. This is why I can’t figure out how Serbians were involved in ethnic cleansing in the 90s. Doesn’t your ethnicity have to be sort of “clean” before you can try and wipe your local minorities from the map?

Germany’s ethnic cleansing was at least based on them being fit, tall, blond and blue-eyed and they wanted to get rid of ugly and unfit Jews. But the Serbs? How can they claim genetic superiority when they all look like the middle-story on Cops. It’s pretty depressing when someone with an unpronounceable name who looks like he’ll be stuck at a traffic stop to sing the alphabet backwards while touching his nose is accusing you of being genetically inferior. Could it be that I have never witnessed an actual Serbian woman? This would explain the short temper, but fail to explain the breeding.

So to the Sasha Vujacic’s and Nemanja Vidic’s of the world, continue making your country proud. And when Man U or the Lakers win, or you’re playing for your home country, raise a drink to celebrate. No one can tell whether you are drunk either way, so enjoy.

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7 Worst 2010 World Cup Jerseys

7. United States


Hooray, we won a beauty pageant. Oh, wait, our entire back line is recovering from crippling injuries and we’re stuck with a jersey with a white-on-white sash on the front. The
USA jersey
is a poor throwback to the 1950 England win, but maybe these will distract the Brits.

6. Portugal


The
Portugal
kit looks like a cartoon that has just seen a hot girl and its tongue rolled out of its mouth.

5. Japan


Four of the five worst jerseys have a bizarre faded image within the jersey which is never a good look (see Mexico’s Aztec jerseys). Not one of the heavy favorites, at least Japan will continue their country’s trend of perplexing fashion choices.

4. Italy


This is a prime lesson of why you never mess with a classic. What is that thing in the background? A person? The Italy jersey looks like crop circles around where the nipples would be, like the Val Kilmer Batman.

3. South Korea


What could have been a classy and straight-forward red jersey (isn’t their neighbor to the north all about the reds?) is vertigo-inducing with those downward faded stripes. These jerseys look like a magic eye.

2. Uruguay


Are those sparklers going off on the jersey? Mini fireworks? A metaphor of their team going bust in the first round?

1. Slovenia


Thanks to
Slovenia
, Charlie Brown goes to the World Cup.

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