Saturday, July 12, 2014

From Le Tour to World Team Tennis

Red solo cups and cake in July, that must mean...
Federal City on a hot summer Fourth of July day.

The Nations Capitol really gets into Independence Day.
A long afternoon grilling and games gave way to watching
the fireworks show atop the roof of a row house with about
6o others.

The view from the Gannett Media - USA Today campus in
Virginia where I work when not tracking down stories on foot.
It's an incredible building to work from, but getting out here
is a challenge. I ride my bike the 40 miles roundtrip, and it
doesn't take much longer than it would on the Metro.

My favorite stories this week centered around tennis. I even
had a phone interview with Billie Jean King, then met her
again two days later at a tennis match on the George
Washington U campus. Martina Hingis put on a clinic in
how to play while I was there.

A couple stories from last week if you're interested:

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Five Pictures, Five Stories

El Salvador fans heading to the Redskins Stadium here in
the District of Columbia for a pre-WC friendly with Spain
With the beginning of this summer I began a new adventure - working as a journalist for USA Today. For pretty much every day for over a decade I read the sports section at USA Today. Now I'm behind the scenes, finding story angles and tracking down sources. My first published article both digital and online was tracking down the best soccer cities in the USA. The title: Where is Soccer City, USA?

After some soccer articles and a couple tennis articles, I headed out to the Congressional Country Club to help cover the National PGA Tour Tournament in Bethesda, Maryland. I guess this neighborhood is where the old-money horse aficionados of the DC Metro homesteaded. Rolling out here the first time my colleague Reid Cherner pointed out a house. It once was the home of Mike Tyson. Go figure. Anyways, the press corps was abuzz because Tiger Woods announced his return to the PGA Tour after three months away to rehab from back surgery.

My first article took a bend on the normal Tiger is back narrative. I told it more through the eyes of one of golf's best players, the Englishman Justin Rose. I thought Rose was the man to beat. Man, he made me look good. Vegas, I hear you calling. You can read my article here: Justin Rose ready for Tiger Woods

I made it back out to the Tournament for the final round on Sunday. I wanted to follow Erik Compton, a double heart transplant survivor who two weeks ago finished second in the U.S. Open on Pinehurst No.2. In my article I say Erik Compton is the best story in golf.  And I got to watch Justin Rose come behind, take the lead, put a ball in the water on 18, then win in a playoff. Good stuff in the rolling hills of Bethesda.

Sandwiched amongst the two country club days, I got an assignment to cover the NASCAR driver Jimmie Johnson heading to the White House to visit with President Obama. I didn't know I'd ever walk through the doors of 1600 Pennsylvania again after my last Olympic team Presidential visit! Working behind the scenes, its pretty easy to pick up on who the stand-up guys in sports are. I bet you'll pick up on what I think about Jimmie Johnson if you read Obama calls Jimmie Johnson the 'Michael Jordan of NASCAR.'

Between all this excitement I also got to attend the Associated Press Sports Editors convention in Crystal City, Virginia. Here we could take courses from the best in the business of sportswriting, all trying to learn from each other. The highlights were John McCain dropping by for a few words, and the course on what sport sections are innovating and trying to do to better cover the NFL. With the League dominating coverage a few bright minds are out there trying to innovate and better bring stories that people want to hear.

This week I've been working on a little insider's guide to the Tour de France, and writing a little copy on sabermetrics in soccer. When interviewing cyclists, so many said I had to talk to the Dutch rider Marianne Vos. She's an Olympic road champion and a three-discipline world champion in road, cyclocross, and velodrome cycling. Her competitors also hold her in the upmost regard. You can hear from Marianne and more in Four Can't Miss Stages at the Tour de France.

I hope you get to enjoy Independence Day. To the best Fourth yet.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Happy Father's Day, Pops!

From watching fireworks in the park

To taking me to the ball game, both to practice and play or to dream

For helping me find my own wave to ride, even when the ocean was a thousand miles away

You always encouraged me chase the white buffalo, wherever that may lead

I might be across the country now, in the other Washington

But sometimes its the simplest of saying that carry the biggest meaning: Happy Father's Day Pops!

Friday, May 30, 2014

#howibean: Pacific Northwest Edition

The classic L.L. Bean tote (with custom ITA logo, no less)
filledwith shirts for Mr. Haberberger's 6th graders at Orchard.
Outside of the competition arena, perhaps the coolest part of being an Olympian comes in the opportunity and influence you have on the up-and-coming generation. It's for this reason, I have been plenty proud to be a part of In The Arena for the past seven years. Following an Olympiad like Sochi, I feel the power of positive influence is doubly enhanced.

Taking in the final spectacle before turning the Games over to the Paralympians.
During this time, In The Arena has grown in strength, influence, and numbers. During this time, plenty of companies have wanted to join in. But only L.L. Bean and the vision of ITA have met in perfect harmony. I couldn't be happier. I know L.L. Bean from my early days, packing up the groceries in the classic red-handled tote bags. Almost 30 years later, my mom still puts those tote bags to good use.

I've picked up a couple of my own, and have been sporting them as I have visit schools, ski clubs, Boys & Girls Clubs, and YMCA's, from Astoria, Oregon to the Wenatchee Valley, to Winthrop, Washington all throughout May this year.  Now that the calendar turns to June, I've done a little accounting: nine schools in four school districts; two states, two ski teams, two community events. Looking back, I probably could have snuck in a couple more, but I'm proud to say it's been my most productive month ever as a community mentor. It's been a very nice bonus to have L.L. Bean along for the ride.

I was particularly stoked that I was able to join forces with fellow ITA'er Brian Gregg and visit the skiers from the north country in the Methow Valley. Flash, Laura, and Leslie were very positive influences on my early days skiing, and it was great to see the excitement such a small community has for nordic skiing. It's not hard to understand how a valley with 1916 residents produced three-point-five Olympians in Sochi.  

A small collection of the US ladies' infamous storm-trooper
white L.L. Bean boots. Made in Maine, lifetime warranty.
I rock a pair of these as well, only in a more-muted brown.
Go William Go. A kindergartener from Astor Elementary
attacks the post-Opening Ceremony skills session with
some serious skill. No wonder Landon Donovan got
 left off the 2014 World Cup Team.

To the best of times.
       And those that will be.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014


One of the best ancillary benefits of chasing the ski racing dream comes in travelling. Living a little like a gypsy might not always be peaches-and-cream, but it is the perfect way to meet new friends and old, and to broadens one's perspective. Come springtime, I try to take these memories from the races and the road, and pass what I can onto the schools and classes I visit. With this in mind, here is a little intro video I put together to help share in the stories. Put to Johnny Cash's rendition of I've Been Everywhere, of course.

Sunday, April 13, 2014


My last day in the Nation's Capitol was jammed packed. I got up early and got in a run into the Georgetown neighborhood, along the Potomac River, then through the National Mall in Washington DC. Once I got back, it was soon time to head to the USA Today / Gannet Media offices across the river in Virginia. As I was coming from DC, the managing editor of the sports page picked me up right outside my hotel. I couldn't almost believe it, and made for a great way to learn a little bit more about the communication industry. From the managing editor and her team; from the most read section of the most read paper in America, no less.

While at USA Today, I got to shadow reporters as they had their daily meetings about when they expected to write and add articles to their online offerings. Most of the time, though, the conversations centered over what articles, graphics, and images would make the print edition. Between meetings, different journalists would take me aside, and show me what they were working on. Filing open records requests, investigative journalism, determining online layout, editorial decisions, designing for digital readership today and tomorrow were all areas I got to go and peak behind the curtain. Many thanks for Roxanne Scott, Mary Byrne, and many others at USA Today. 

After DC, I headed for Arizona. My grandparents are snowbirds, calling the Twin Cities of Minnesota their home during the summer months, and Arizona their refuge when the cold weather, snow and ice hit their home state. My favorite time of the day in Arizona are the evenings. During the day, the heat just hits you so hard, but the nights are just about perfect. When the sun starts setting, I always head out and do something, be it running a few miles, hitting a bucket of balls, or catch up with friends I haven't seen for far too long on the telephone.

The last day in Arizona, I was helping my Grandma out with some of the ins-and-outs of the digital world. We came along some old photos. Here's one of my favorites, from the late 1950s at Clear Lake, Minnesota.  

To Hab's 6th Grade Class at Orchard Elementary, I'm getting closer to my return! To the best of times, and those that will be.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Life on the Nation's Capitol

So much about sports is the hard stuff, the hours spent running and roller skiing, the tiredness that seeps into the body from all the training, or the feelings of disappointment that can linger when one does not fully reach their potential in a competition. Fortunately, the Team USA visit to the White House is not like this. At all. The US Olympic Committee really takes care of the returning Olympians. I got flown in to the nation's capitol from Zurich, picked up at the airport, and ushered to a Hilton on the Virginia side of Washington D.C.

The first day in the Nation's Capitol, I was whisked away to Capitol Hill. It was fascinating to see the U.S. Congress in action.  While so many times it might not seem like the political system doesn't feel like it's working, I can tell you Senators Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Amy Kobluchar (D-Minn.) were operating at some of the highest levels I've seen in business or politics.

The Hill just hummed with the energy of efficiency and purpose. And what looked like the just about all the young, hungry, over-worked, under-paid interns in America. A peak into a different world, for sure.

Who knew walking the Senate halls I'd run into the moose.  Also interesting, every Capitol Hill member I met not-so-subtlety mentioned that on the close of the business week in DC they were on a plane back to their home constituents. Every week.

Another cool point of mention is how both Team USA and the Olympic movement is the respect of opportunities given to Paralympians. The Olympic movement prescribes to the Greek (and not English) meaning to the prefix para:  "at or to one side, beside, side by side." When you think about it, this is a refrain of the most beautiful quality. 

On April 7th, NBC will play the "Best of US" television special we filmed while on the White House visit. If you tune in, you'll get to hear Paralympian downhiller Mark Bathum (pictured above) give an acceptance speech that should send shivers up your spine. I know it did mine.

For an American writer, I think the most revered recognition of your work would be to have your book in the Presidential library. Every book in there was written by an American, with the exception of the Qiran and the Bible. Maybe it was mostly the setting, but the book I most wanted to pick up off the shelves was one titled "The Making of an American." How can you not but wonder how you'd measure up? 

 I can think of no better ending to this large helping of patriotic words and images than to play for you a little video I put together for Mr. Haberberger's class following the conclusion of the Sochi Games:

                     "Never curb your enthusiasm. Put the whole of yourself into it." -Percy Cerutty

To the best of times. And those that will be. -Torin