[Warning, this post will be largely about sport(s), a subject I am even less qualified than usual to discuss, and so is mostly an excuse to brag about my having seen the fastest man in the world live — along with 80,000 other spectators, and post some of the pictures I was lucky enough to take.]
I’ve been in Britain for more than a decade, but this summer I managed to rediscover my North American roots in the form of Baseball, courtesy of ESPN America, which shows a game or two every evening (often on delay from the previous night). Baseball is the ideal relaxed television sport — it doesn’t require rapt attention, and most of the action fits well into a single screen. Moreover, it’s well-suited to British summers, as the nightly broadcast of the BBC Proms makes an excellent soundtrack.
But a few weeks ago I was in the Bay Area, visiting Julian Borrill and my other colleagues at Lawrence Berkeley Lab’s Computational Cosmology Center, and we took a night off to visit the stadium formerly known as the Oakland Coliseum to watch the hometown Oakland A’s take on the Toronto Blue Jays (having lived in both the Bay Area and Toronto, this was an excellent matchup). We got to see the A’s new pitching phenom, Dan Strailey, just called up from the minors: he had the win until Toronto scored three runs to tie at the top of the 9th inning, forcing both teams and thousands of spectators to endure a long, cold night of extra innings. But the A’s dug it out in the end, finishing up after 15 innings. We were down near the field, close enough to heckle the players — and some of our seat mates were quite vociferous in their taunts.
Since coming back, like the rest of the world, I’ve managed to spend the last few weeks mildly obsessed with the Olympics. But for me, “coming back” was back to London, and so I got to see some part of the games. We here have spent much of the last seven years getting more and more cynical, expecting chaotic and clogged travel, fascist security, and generally no fun. By now, we all know that isn’t what happened. Instead, we got Michael Phelps, world records, Mo Farah’s smile, and a great Great British (not English, not Welsh, not Scottish, not Northern Irish) team that even made a foreigner like me feel a bit proud to live here (of course, I have the advantage of also being American so could spread my support around). The BBC coverage concentrated on the British team, of course, but had the hometown advantage of live action, unlike the ridiculously delayed NBC coverage (but Bob Costas is a better anchor than Gary Lineker).
I got very lucky indeed in the ticket lottery and made it over to the Olympic Stadium to see David Rudisha’s 800m world record and Usain Bolt’s blazing 200m win, not to mention the decathlon (no longer quite as valorised as in the days of Bruce Jenner) and the silly-looking but incredibly difficult triple jump.
I also ambled over to a couple of free events, the men’s 10K Swim in the murky Serpentine, across the road from Imperial in Hyde Park, and the perhaps slightly less gruelling marathon, finishing off the games on Sunday. (More olympic pictures here.)
And it’s not over. This weekend I’m off to Lord’s Cricket Ground to see England against South Africa in a test, those many-day long matches that make a 15-inning baseball game seem short. Next come the Paralympic Games, and then, in October, finally, I may get to participate, and not just watch: if I recover from my injuries I’ll be running in the Royal Parks Half Marathon and Run to the Beat — a full marathon spread out over 3 weeks — in October. Wish me — and my achilles tendon — luck.