Do the Everest 14.5!


by Lee Gruenfeld

"When I use a word, it means just what I

choose it to mean, neither more nor less."

                               — Humpty Dumpty

There was a great headline last week: Ironman Winner Nearly Loses At Finish Line On Account Of Gloating. Great story, too, but what really got my attention was that the event at hand wasn’t a full Ironman; it was a 70.3. This was the first time I’d ever heard the word “Ironman” used to describe a 70.3 race without “70.3” next to it. Which got me thinking about the headline: Was this guy really an Ironman winner? Come to think of it, was this event an Ironman at all? It was certainly an Ironman 70.3, but what’s that? We used to call it a half Ironman, but a half Ironman isn’t an Ironman at all, is it, any more than half a marathon is anything other than a 13.1-mile race, kind of like the Marathon 0.5 I did this morning. Did you hear Mike Reilly yelling, “You are an Ironman!” at the end of your 70.3? No, because you’re not, which is what makes Ironman Ironman.

And yet, as Humpty Dumpty observed, when you own the brand, you get to call things whatever you want, and they mean whatever you declare them to mean, which is why the ubiquitous 2-1/2” x 3-1/2” piece of lumber is called a 3x4, supplement manufacturers get to make outrageous medical claims so long as they print “No medical claims made” at the bottom of their ads, the AT&T Wireless “unlimited” data plan is limited to 5 gb per month, and the “Patriot Act” has about as much to do with patriotism as egg plants do with eggs. I once pleaded a speeding ticket down to “failure to keep to the right,” which meant that the court, the police, my lawyer, the D.A. and I all conspired to swear to a lie while under oath, which turns out be perfectly legal. Why? “Because,” as my lawyer explained to me, “if everybody agrees, then that’s the way it happened, which makes it the truth.” I’m not making this up. The Illinois legislature once even voted to make the value of pi exactly 3.0, which certainly would have made my ninth-grade geometry class a whole lot easier but, I don't know, somehow just doesn't feel right, knowmsayin'?

The possibilities, needless to say, are endless, if you just have enough imagination. Herewith, some ideas for new sporting events:

The Everest 14.5: Summiting the world’s highest peak is just too hard. That’s why only 700 people have tried and a quarter of them died. So instead of doing all 29,000 feet, just do half. That way you get to say, “I climbed Everest!” which happens to be 100% true. You just didn’t climb all the way to the top. If people jump to the wrong conclusion, how is that your problem as long as you were honest?

The 100m Sprint 50: Let’s be clear about this: It is the Olympic 100m sprint, in every possible way, except that it’s only 50m long. Starting blocks are the same, finish line is the same (only closer), and it’s held in the same stadium as its venerable forebear, the 100m Sprint 100.

The Around the World Solo Sail 180: The “Big One” covers a full 360 degrees of longitude. The 180, which, make no mistake, is still an around the world race, covers 180 degrees. Otherwise, the rules are exactly the same, including only one person in the boat and no outside assistance, and you’re still out on the take-no-prisoners oceans in uncertain, oftentimes dangerous conditions. You get to say, “I sailed around the world!” and who could argue, considering that you indeed ended up on the other side? I‘m just saying.

The Daytona 500 250: When you get around to it, the Daytona 500 is one of the most environmentally hostile events in the world, second only to Bill Cody’s legendary buffalo massacres or Sean Parker’s wedding. Forty-three cars, 500 miles each, fuel consumption measured in yards per gallon, four tire changes per car…you do the math. The sustainable thing to do is cut the race in half without sacrificing the class and character of “doing Daytona” along with all the requisite tailgate parties and wet t-shirt contests.

More ideas later:

- The Western States 50

- NCAA Sweet Eight

- The NBA “Triple Single” title

…but right now I’m headed to Baskin-Robbins 15.5 Flavors for a single scoop of Rocky.


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