Who Dat?

Back in the 80s, long before the X-Games existed, Tom Haig traveled the world as an extreme athlete. He visited more than 50 countries as an international high diver, doing multiple somersault tricks from over 90 feet.

That life came crashing down one Sunday morning in 1996. While training on his mountain bike, he smashed into the grill of a truck and became paralyzed from the waist down. But less than a year later he completed a 100-mile ride on a hand-cycle and traveled by himself to Europe and the Middle East.

Since then he has continued to travel the world as a consultant, writer and video producer. He spent six months launching a Tibetan radio station in the Himalayas and shot documentary shorts on disability in Bangladesh, France, Albania, Ghana and most recently Nepal.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Sh*t Keeps Breaking!

Sorry for the short picture-less post, but the latest in my list of things that has broken since I left home is now my computer. I could sit at work and write for an hour a day, but that's really not what these computers are for. So I'll just jot down the list of things that have broken since I left Corvallis. Hopefully, I'll be back up with a slew of posts as soon as my computer gets fixed:

  • Front bike tire (flat on mile 19 of the Portland Marathon)
  • Car (desastrous strike by Bambi in Montana)
  • GPS plug in. (just stopped charging when I needed it most - in Charlottesville, a town with no straight roads)
  • Ipod to radio plug in (actually never worked that well to begin with)
  • Plastic shower chair (that one was pretty funny. I transferred into it and the legs spread like a dog on ice)
  • Voltage transformer (blew a fuse first time it got plugged in at the Pema Thang in Dharamsala. Second fuse has been solid)
  • Wheelchair handle (and my right elbow after I fell six steps!)
  • Chinese heater (!!@#%%%&%$$%ing piece of crap!)
  • Left calf (burned on that !!@#%%%&%$$%ing piece of crap!)
  • Portable sound board (luckily it was just the power cord, not the board)
  • Cell phone wall adapter (smelled something electrical burning...)
  • Lost bearing on left wheel (replaced by a joint US-India operation - Thanks Dan, John and Ron!)
  • Guitar pickup (fixed now, but one day it just all fell apart)
  • Front wheel on chair (snapped off on a bumpy ride between McLeod Ganj and Bhagsu - road has since been asphalted)
  • Front wheel on chair (had it welded; worked for two weeks; broke off on a similarly rough road)
  • Transformer US to India adapter (fried ten minutes before our first open mic - luckily very easy to replace in Dsala)
  • Computer (still hoping it's just the power cord)

So it hasn't been the cleanest of trips so far. I think it's my fault for claiming that my trip to Turkey last June was a 'perfect trip'. Never again. Those travel gods have VERY long memories!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

90.4 Tashi Delek Cranks it Up!

Everyone told me things would start to take off at 90.4 Tashi Delek FM, but for my tastes, things were taking too long. When I arrived in mid-December the town was beginning to hibernate for winter. Only the hardiest ex-pats stayed in town and most of the TCV students and faculty had returned home for winter break.

It was a good time to take stock at our situation, but I wasn’t convinced it was time to sit back and do nothing. There were still plenty of people in town and plenty of stories to cover. Unfortunately there was nobody there to cover them. Our station manager Kalsang and I were a two man crew which left nobody really to go out and get interviews and stories. And the times I did make a contact, they too, were in vacation mode and didn’t really want to come up to the station and talk business.

Tenzin Lhoksam, the director of the Tibetan Institute of Performing Arts, was our only interview in January.

January was completely dead with us only spinning Tibetan tunes and me reading a two-minute news summary on the hour. No new content was created except for a couple of commercial scripts. February seemed even more desperate than that. Dharamsala was hit with a winter storm followed by Losar, or Tibetan New Year. At one point I didn’t even go to the station for two weeks. I was wondering what I was actually doing here.

But after the Losar break we had a meeting with our three reporters, our Director Phuntsok and Kalsang. We talked about our lack of initiative and how I felt like we were wandering in the desert. But we also formulated a plan to get back on track. The TCV students were on their way back in as well as the faculty which would make for interesting interview subjects.

Then good weather arrived allowing me much more freedom to roam McLeod Ganj at night. Along with the weather came Tibetan Uprising Day bringing with it the entire hierarchy of Tibetan activists. After meeting nobody for three months, I met just about everybody I’d had email contact with in less than a week.

Tenzin Choeden is our ace female reporter.

The energy in town was palpable and it carried over to our three reporters. They hadn’t been making calls or following up on projects since I’d arrived, but suddenly they all started kicking into gear. The ad copy that lay dormant for six weeks got recorded. Interviews were done and script copy was written. The computer geeks from Delhi who said since I arrived they would come up to Dharamsala to configure our sound board finally came up.

The TDFM team at work in the recording studio.

I found an anonymous donor to pay for station polo shirts, stickers and event banners. And, best of all, we held our first promo event, Dharamsala Live (see previous post). So after some very frustrating months both professionally and personally (the leg wound is 70% covered now!), things are really taking off. Today we’re broadcasting our first home-spun radio program, the recorded sessions from our Dharamsala Live event. Our student broadcasters have even gone live on air and are contributing to our first feature story on the history of the TCV.

Chimi Tenzing is hard at work recording a history of the Tibetan Childrens Village.

So it may have taken three frustrating months to get going, but 90.4 Tashi Delek FM is on the rise!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Dharamsala LIVE!

After three months in Dharamsala, I finally got enough momentum going to initiate 90.4 Tashi Delek FM’s first ‘Dharamsala Live’ program. The concept was pretty simple. I had to round up the best musicians in town and get them to show up on a Satruday night to play a bunch of original songs. Effecting this plan was a bit more difficult.
When I first arrived I held the misconception that Dharamsala was as happening a town as it was when I was here in 2000. What I didn’t realize was the social scene all but shuts down from December to March. When the weather gets cold people go home at sundown. All but a few restaurants shut down and the steets become deadly silent. Weekends are no different from weekdays. You could hold pistol shooting contests down the Bhagsu Road on a Saturday night in January.

On top of that I burned my leg badly and the risk of infection was so great, I had to limit my motion to only going to the radio station and returning to my room at the Akosh Deep Hotel. I was afraid to turn over at night because putting even a little pressure on the wound could lead to a trip to the Kangra Hospital. I gave up the idea of hosting any kind of event until my fortunes and the night life of Dharamsala returned.

Three weeks ago with the Dalai Lama’s Spring Teachings and Tibetan Uprising Day on the horizon, the town started to come alive. The sunsets got later and night time temps went from 30 degrees to 50. The shops and restaurants kept their doors open later and the streets of McLeod Ganj filled with the eclectic mix of Indians, Tibetans and Westerners from all over the globe. My leg wound was close to healing and was no longer in any danger of infection.

In the dead of winter this usually signaled everyone to go home.

So it was time to kick start the 90.4 Tashi Delek promo campaign. When I first got to town I’d spoken to Nick, the owner of Nick’s Italian Kitchen, about hosting the open mic. He said it was fine with him, but when the months passed without me mentioning it, he though it was a dead deal. But when I rolled in for breakfast last Saturday and asked him if he was ready to actually do it, he nodded  but assumed nothing would come of it. When I got back to the Akosh Deep I opened up my copy of Quark and designed a four-to-the-page handout announcing the event and telling people we would record the music and play it back on the radio. (The original plan was to broadcast it live, but we need a remote system that runs about $1000 to make that happen).

The next order of business was fixing the mini-sound board that had zapped out a few weeks ago. Phuntsok, the director of the radio station, knew an electrician in Lower Dharamsala so he ran the box down the hill and a few days later it came back in perfect working order.

Now I had get people to show up. This called for me running all over town with my guitar, playing songs and giving the handouts to anyone who stopped. If it were as simple as rolling out my door and playing to passers-by it wouldn’t have been much of an effort. But I live about a mile away from the main drag in McLeod and there is a steep quarter mile hill between Bhagsu and McLeod. On the nights where I was really tired I just played outside the Akosh Deep which has a decent amount of local traffic. But to get to the ex-pat crowd I had to hump the hill over to McLeod. I bought a soft-shell case for my guitar that acts like a back pack, and made my way to the drum shop and chai stands. The cool thing about McLeod is nobody is in a hurry so almost anyone will stop and listen to a tune, provided you’re not horrible. In the space of a few nights I’d gotten rid of all my flyers, but still had only confirmed one other guitar player.

Promo's hard work but it's got to be done!
When Saturday rolled around I slept in then played a long set in front of the Akosh Deep to catch the wave of tourists who flock to Bhagsu on the weekends to take a dip in the town’s healing spa. At 5:00 I showered, packed my guitar, loaded my laptop into my back pack and did a gear check. I put on my new 90.4 Tashi Delek Polo shirt and started the assault on the Bhagsu Road hill.

Rolling up the hill with the guitar is one thing, but hauling up it with a laptop and a bag of recording gear is another. I made it 70 percent to the top then, for the first time, accepted the offer of a push. It wasn’t that I didn’t think I could make it. I was sweating like a nose tackle during summer workouts which is not the best look for an MC.

Recording studio on wheels.

Once past the top of the hill, I dropped the long winding section into McLeod Ganj in a wheelie, careful not to let my one remaining caster wheel hit the mine-field of potholes (oh yeah, I forgot to say I’ve been on three wheels for two weeks now). I finally made it to Nick’s where I came upon a very surprised Nick who wasn’t sure if I would actually show.

It was a gorgeous night so Nick’s outdoor patio was hopping, but his inside dinning room was empty. I unloaded all my gear and set up the mixing board, microphones and lap tops. I did a short sound check and noticed the room was still empty with only 15 minutes to show time.

Mercifully a Belgian guitar player walked in holding one of the flyers he said he got from a friend. Then a couple of people I recruited from the Khana Nirvana (see last Wed. post), strolled in and sat at a table. At seven bells there were only seven people at Nick’s. Nick told me to just start playing and people would come in. I'd prepared a speech talking about the radio station and the TCV, but I’d envisioned speaking to a crowd, not a table.

I flipped on the recorder, welcomed the sparsely populated room, then blasted into some of my new material. I’d anticipated the first night wouldn’t be well attended, but considering the effort I’d made, I was hoping for better than just a couple of tables.

An empty room is a scary sight for an event promoter.

Then a Tibetan guitar player showed up. Ten minutes later an Australian violin player arrived with her ukulele-playing cohort. By the time I finished my four-tune set there was actually a murmur developing in the room. I handed the floor off to the Belgian player then rolled over to the door to find a half dozen people standing outside on the road listening. I told them to get their asses inside and by the time the Belgian was done I actually had a crowd.

The Bhagsu Road Ramblers (they'd just met the night before).

Then a Nepalese flautist arrived and a couple of drummers. By 8:00 the place was packed which actually became problematic for the purposes of recording. Instead of a room of people listening to music it just became a Saturday night bar scene – albeit with no alcohol. Two monks came in and took over the table next to the microphones and proceeded to talk so loudly that their voices were picked up louder than the flute.

A TCT Student even got into the act.

Ram is a local Nepalese flute legend.

But these were problems of affluence. I can try to get something to amplify the acts, but not having a crowd would have been disastrous. The best part was that people were laughing, cheering and singing along when they knew the song. Just an hour earlier I was afraid I was going to leave with my head tucked between my arsecheeks. But this was nothing of the sort. It was an actual happening.

Anu from Kana Nirvana crushed with an a cappella song against terrorism.

After all the acts played, I thanked everyone for coming then said the floor was up for open jamming. All the musicians stayed and a few shyer ones who had just been listening, came up and joined in. We played a half dozen cover tunes letting everyone on the floor take long solos.

This room was much warmer than the one I rolled into an hour earlier.

I was in the middle of singing Folsom Prison Blues when Nick walked over and handed me a note. It read: Closing Time 10 minutes. Normally he sends his workers home around 8:00 but it was coming up on 9:30 and they weren’t expecting to be there that late. We could have kept going for hours, but having someone tell us to shut up was probably the more sane idea. We finished up with a rousing rendition of 'All Along the Watchtower' then they all dispersed into the night. I was the last one to leave but before I rolled out I gave myself a private fist pump. 15 years ago, if you would have told me I would be organizing and emceeing a bunch of musicians in a small Himalayan town, I would have laughed you out of the building.

I packed up my gear, but left the recording equipment at Nicks. The Bhagsu Road is really dark at night and I didn’t need the extra baggage. By the time I got back to the Akosh Deep I was again a sweaty mess. I grabbed a beer from the liquor stall next door then washed up and crawled into bed. When I woke this morning the bottle was open, but still full.

Friday, March 19, 2010

TCV Spring Fete

Photo Friday

Last Saturday the Tibetan Children's Village (operators of 90.4 Tashi Delek FM) held their annual Spring Fete. It's a typical school festival with games, food and music. It's amazing how these things are the same all over the world. So here's some of the action - school fair Tibetan style!

The inflatable slide was a big hit (for a huge profit too!)

That's not trash - those are the remnants of a MASSIVE water baloon fight!


Too bad there wasn't a wrestling contest!

The baseball pitch was the hardest game on the grounds.

Best T-shirt at the Fete (Clones are People Two).

The clothes swap & sale was perfect for a boarding school.

As you can tell by the dented cans, this game was toooo easy.


These massive tents only come out a few times a year, but they're really useful when the get out of the box.


Yup - Hannah is a global phenomenon.

Tibetan Roulette

No you din'nt!

The TCV houses most of its students - like these three.

The path to knowledge... (gag!)

When you're this far from the Ocean a Coke bottle will do.

Toss the ring - win some TP!

Best Dressed!

A Tibetanmullet!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Kana Nirvana – the Handicapped Mt. Everest.

                                                                                                                             In 2000 this sign read:
                                                                                                                                  Kana Nirvana
Ten years ago when I was rolling the monsoon-soaked mud bogs of McLeod Ganj, my sister-in-law, Zoe, organized an open mic night at Tea O’Clock, a coffee shop just off the main bus stop. She called it ‘Poetry across the Planet’ and explained to the owners, Tenzin and Namgyal, that she hoped to get some local talent up there reading homespun poetry and open verse. Of course, singer-songwriters would be welcome to air their craft as well.

It was a great idea except for one thing: Tenzin owned a couple of amps and a few microphones. As soon as the first guitar player plugged in, music completely dominated Poetry Across the Planet. Zoe attracted a crowd of about a dozen for the first night but six weeks later when I made my final appearance, both the upper and lower floors of Tea O’Clock were packed and a crowd big enough to stop traffic hung outside the door as the electric music could be heard from anywhere in McLeod Ganj.

More and more musicians heard the loud music and showed up with gear. After everyone played a four-tune set it was open jam time and there were a half-dozen rotating musicians who formed the core of the new house band, The Himalayan Avalanche Orchestra. At that point my chops weren’t nearly as nice as some of the better guitar players in town, so I got to strum along on my acoustic while the HAO ripped into a number of didgeridoo-inspired rhythm pieces.

Even though nobody could hear me, I was in the group and I was actually stopped on the streets of McLeod by a hot Israeli chick saying, “Hey – you’re that guitar player – I really love what you guys do.”

It was ridiculously dangerous to my ego and I strutted around town as if I was Townshend in Soho. Zoe’s great idea turned me into a Rock and Roll tool. But there was a positive outcome too. I started writing my own material, something I still do when my brain is either settled or frazzled enough to take to the task. With a half-dozen new tunes in my satchel I looked for other places in town to play and everyone told me to go to Kana Nirvana on the Temple Road for their Monday-Night singer-songwriter showcase. I was more than game for it until I asked my brother Dan if it was a hard place to get to. Dan had been dragging me up a tight set of stepsto the performance area at Tea O’Clock for more than a month. He said there’s no way I was getting up to Kana Nirvana. It was straight up three stories with a wretched open-sewer moat separating the bottom step from the street. I’d relied on both Dan and Zoe for so much stuff that I didn’t push it. The Saturday nights a Tea O’Clock were damn fine nights as it was.

Fast forward to last week and I found myself in a bind. I’d told everyone at 90.4 Tashi Delek I was organizing an open mic at Nick’s Italian Kitchen, a ground-floor restaurant with plenty of space. I spoke with the owner, Nick, and he loved the idea. I made up some flyers and added in the big kicker: ‘All songs will be recorded for playback on 90.4 Tashi Delek the week after the performance!’

As long as the performer plays original material we can put it on the air. There’s just one problem: I only know one other guitar player. That meant I needed to find more players which meant I need to go play a set at Kana Nirvana. I’d been playing at a local drum store (actually just a tarp on the road covering some drums, flutes and didgeridoos) with the sales guy, Nuri, on and off for a few weeks and asked him if he could get me up to Kana Nirvana. Nuri’s the nicest guy in the world and he said it would be no problem.

In 2000 I hung out at the Bhagsu Chai stand. Now I hang at Nuri's drum stand.

Having never actually seen the venue, I just assumed it was something we could handle with four hefty dudes. Nuri had to close his store down which meant hauling his inventory to his dad’s place somewhere in the labyrinth behind the Bhagsu road. I watched over the goods and played a set to warm up while he took armloads of instruments down the hill.
Luckily a few friends passed by and I asked them if they could help drag my ass up the stairs to Kana Nirvana. I could see hesitation in their eyes, but the people in this town are just too damn nice. Before long I led a posse down the main market in McLeod and down the hill towards the main temple. But as we got closer, I noticed that for one reason or another, I was down to three people when we got to Kana Nirvana.

And there was great reason for the defection. Below me was the nasty moat and rising above, like Sagamartha herself, were the steps to Kana Nirvana. They were both narrow and steep with the only aid being a solid hand rail guarding a nasty fall to the open lot next door. In order to cross the moat I had to get out of my chair and drag myself across a flimsy piece of press-board that couldn’t even hold my weight. Two guys lifted my ass across and the board was only there to keep my legs from dropping into the filth.

It's hard to tell, but this moat is two feet wide and 18 inches deep. Not leapable in the old Quickie Wheelchair.

Uri, one of the drummers, took my chair and ran it up the 30+ steps to coffee house. Then Jack from Chicago and Ravi from town each grabbed one of my legs as I hoisted myself up towards the top, one pull at a time with the aid of the rail. It took a while to get some rhythm, but once we got it going, we knocked off the first 20 steps without a break. The last ten, however, were even steeper, there was a turn, and there was no more hand rail.

It might be the Stairway to Heaven but it felt like Hell getting up there.

At this point I was surprised I was still wearing pants and my shoes were still on. I tied everything really tight at the bottom but that rarely makes up for not having an ass or a viable Achilles tendon. But, once we got close, we had more than enough helpers to go the rest of the way. Four sturdy horsemen hauled me up the final leg and flopped me in my awaiting chair. The only casualty was Nuri who lagged behind and put his foot through the flimsy board that we left across the moat. He gashed the hell out of his shin and got a toxic soaker for his effort.

At last I’d made it to the sacred confines of Kana Nirvana – only to discover there was only one other guitar player. All that work just to score one player – and he didn’t even want to play. WTF! But the place eventually filled up mostly with westerners on short stays. I got to give them my spiel about coming to the open mic at Nic’s Italian as well as tell them about 90.4 Tashi Delek. I was hoping to find myself in a room full of eager players, and instead landed in a bunch of drummers. Don’t get me wrong – it was a really cool scene – just not worth the effort we all put in to get me there.

These cats kicked out a hell of a rhythm for the Scarlet-Fire!

But the good part about being the only guitar player is that I had a full house to myself. I played a short set then let the drummers and a novice dig player take the floor. Ten minutes later there were no more takers and a nice robust crowd. I pulled out my bag of tricks and played for over an hour with the help of a fantastic rhythm section.

Set went something like this:

Help Me Along *
Kalsang *
Bhagsunag *
LordTake Me Back to Portland*

Drum/Didgeridoo Set

Dear Prudence (Beatles request)
Scarlet-Fire (couldn’t resist w/the drummers)
I Can See Clearly Now
Dog (written by my dog Sydney)*
Let it Rain
Johnny B. Goode

Encore (they actually asked for one – then again they were stoned, it was Monday night and everything else was closed):

Somebody Tell Me Why I Can’t Get on a Roll *

So in the end it turned out to be a great night and hopefully I got a lot of people to come over to Nick’s on Saturday. The trip down the stairs was much easier as six people took turns and bumped me down each stair. It took a chariot carry to get me over the moat (cracked wood w/blood stain still floating), but soon enough I was humping it up the Bhagsu road back to my crib.

Now I just have to find a half-dozen players for Saturday night!

*My tunes: http://www.thcommunications.com/fun/fork/

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Top Ten Jocks of the Decade

I hope it doesn’t bother you all that I’m going to get a bit jocky over the next three weeks. It’s just that this is March Madness and, aside from the glorious three weeks that constitute the Tour de France and the month of October when real baseball is played, this is my favorite time of the year. Don’t worry, I’ve got plenty of good India pics coming for Photo Friday, but sports is what got me into this mess so for a couple of posts I’m going to give it its due.

But we’ll start outside of basketball and move into a conversation I had in McLeod at my local cricket hangout (Indian fast food place that shows cricket matches on a 17” screen). Star Sports (ESPN Asia partner) was showing the annual Laureus Global Sports awards show. It’s the international equivalent of the ESPY’s so it’s rare that an American Football player gets anything – but everyone else is up for grabs.

They gave their male athlete of the year to Usain Bolt and female athlete to Russian Pole Vaulter (who just missed the podium in back to back World Championships) Yelena Isinbayeva. Then the panel of experts had a discussion (no official awards) as to their athletes of the decade. Lots of names went up and no consensus was made. At the Indian place in McLeod their list consisted of 25 cricket players, Bolt and Michael Phelps.

My list went like this:

1) Tiger Woods - Let’s get serious here. Golf is a crap shoot. It’s not a matter of a great athlete pushing harder, or doing their best. You have to be awesome all the time. Golf is the hardest sport in the world in terms of consistency and this guy has aced the field (nah, I ain’t goin’ there…). Sure golfers are a bunch of stuck up rich boys and even Tiger couldn’t change that. There hasn’t been a ‘Tiger Woods Factor’ bringing minorities to the tour, but that’s not his fault. He rewrote the book in the most difficult test of athletic precision.

2) Roger Federer - If tennis was as unpredictable as golf, Federer would be number one on this list. But it’s not. If you’re good, you’re going to kick everyone’s ass. And that’s what Federer has done. With at least five more majors to go (dude’s only 27-years-old) he’s just started rewriting the record books. I remember when Doctor J stopped attacking the rim and started shooting jump shots in his late 20’s and early 30’s. He was still the best player in the game and that’s where Federer is going now.

3) Michael Phelps - I grew up in a swimming family and, after one season of chlorine poisoning, hated the sport so much I became a diver. I play in a rock band where everyone except the drummer is a swimmer. Let me tell you from personal experience – these cats are not normal. This is the worst most horrible sport in the world. Aside from the fitness thing, swimming is like putting chalk in your teeth and writing your name on the board 100 times. It’s just awful. It’s unwatchable unless you’ve got a horse in the race. My horse is Michael Phelps and I seriously don’t know how anyone can give the guy a ration over taking a bong hit. Please Michael, take many more.

4) Lance Armstrong - Now we’re getting into the ugly 00’s discussion on steroids. Lance was a doper. There’s no question. In French grand jury testimony his teammate Frankie Andreu (as well as Andreu’s wife) testified that in the hospital room, Lance told the doctor he’d done every performance-enhancing drug in the book. And because he’d all of them he was on his death bed. I follow cycling religiously and I know what kind of rider he was during that period. He was a one-day specialist, way too big to be a Tour de France winner. There’s no way he took those needles while he was the 7-time champ. Those are clean wins. As will, hopefully be the 8th, Mr Contador!

5) Shawn White - I just watched this guy win his second gold medal at the age of 23. Isn’t this guy 40 or something? From the age of four, Shawn White has taken me into a sport that didn’t exist when I was growing up. I was one of those short, flippy-twisty dudes so if this sport would have been around when I was a kid, I would have spent my youth on a ski hill instead of a swimming pool (OK, I didn’t have that kind of jack, but you get where I’m going).

6) Kobe Bryant - I met this cat in 1999 after he’d been voted into the starting lineup of the NBA All-Star game while he was the 6th Man on the Lakers. On the eve of the All-Star game, Adidas flew the 19-year-old on a private jet to the Atlanta Super Show (a sports industry trade show) to do a product presentation for his new shoe. In a crowd full of industry big wigs, he sold his shoe better than the 50 professional salesmen sitting in front of him. And then he went on to be a better clutch shooter than Jordan (last decade’s top athlete).

7) Serena Williams - This woman is a hyper athlete who’s only nemesis is boredom. She’s won half her grand slams ten pounds overweight so when she’s in shape nobody can touch her. It’s a shame she didn’t pick up soccer because she’d be as dominant as any woman out there if she did.

8) Albert Pujols - I’m still on the doping bandwagon. Pujols took a few weeks off in 2006 for an ‘abdominal strain’ which, for a young guy, is precisely the result of doing steroids. I’m pretty sure he, like A-Rod, Manny, McGuire, Bonds, Nomah, Sosa – the list is too long, was a doper. But I also think that episode, as well as his god-given talent, made him give up the spike and just rake. He stands above all the rest and it’s not just because of his physical makeup. This guy is the most complete hitter since Ted Williams.

9) Peyton Manning - Only one football player on this list and I’m sure that’s because football is the ultimate team sport. It’s not a team sport, it’s an organizational sport. You need a coach and a dozen great players to win a title. Dan Marino may have been the best QB in the history of the league and all he’s got for it is a piss-yellow jacket. Peyton’s four MVP’s get him on the list, but more than that, the fact that he’s his own offensive coordinator keeps him here.

10) Shaquille O’Neal – He’s a bit like Serena in the fact that he’s dominated a major global sport while being out of shape for much of it. There’s only about three months out of the year that really interest him, but he’s been the biggest force in the game when those three months come around. Sure he’s got a big body, but so did Kareem and Kareem took care of himself (lungs aside…). If he were a bit more coachable (free throws, conditioning) he could (read: should) be on the top of this list.

Honorable Mention

Tim Duncan - Again, as much as I don’t watch anything but the last ten minutes of an NBA game, I have to admit, I always stop the clicker when I see Tim Duncan. Every time I watch him, no matter if it’s the first quarter of a pre-season game or the waning minutes of the NBA Finals, he’s beating his opponents. He’s the most skilled, unspectacular player in sports history and he’s got four rings to prove it. If only he’d been an Oakland Rader: Just Win Baby. That’s all he does

Guo – Just Google her. I’m sure there are other Olympians out there, who have dominated, but she’s the best diver since Louganis and she goes on my list.

Usain Bolt – He happened too late in the decade to be a 10-year phenomenon. But sheeyaaah.

Haile Gebrselassie – Lots of his best moments were in the 90’s but he was pretty much unbeatable in the 00’s. Should have made his mark in the marathon to be considered the ‘best distance runner’ of all time.

Tony Hawk – Shawn White owes everything to this cat. But Hawk was not competing against the same caliber of freaks White is beating.

Pudge Rodriguez – Pudge is the best baseball player I’ve ever seen. And yeah, I’ve seen Pujols play too. Defensively, Pudge has denied as many runs as Hank Aaron scored. The only thing that keeps him out of the top ten is that I’m a catcher and, just like Guo, my journalistic non-bias puts him in the honorable mention category.

Brett Favre… Jesus, I just can’t talk about it.

Zendine Zedane. I’ve had the absolute privilege to watch this magician play twice in World Cup games. He’s the combination of Kobe, Duncan and Pudge. For six years the French won everything. Amazing skills; amazing athleticism; complete competitor. But the head-butt… Dude, it was the World Cup Final, not the film version of M*A*S*H (Spear Chucker Jones).

Lebron. Win something! (yeah, the Gold Medal does count…)

Sachin Tendulkar. The guy has rewritten the batting record books like Favre did the NFL passing records. It’s a different game now, but it was really cool to see his last couple swats when he broke the ODI 200 run mark. He’s not in my top because none of you know what the hell that means. C’mon America! Cricket is LIFE!!

Boxers: Greatest athletes; dumb foks – ALL OF THEM!

Michael Schumacker? Drivers may be athletes, but it’s not their athleticism that gets them wins. It’s balls and a good car.

OK, who am I leaving out? No Hockey players (Gretzky screwed that pooch – maybe Crosby at some point?), no handicapped athletes or long distance runners (none of them have dominated) and no race car drivers, poker players or female pool players (yeah, I watch them bend over the table). Rock climbers? Paddlers? Tell Me!

(Coming soon – Weirdest All-Time Athletes!)

p.s. anyone who wants in on the NCAA pool can email me at tomhaig@hotmail.com.

Friday, March 12, 2010

More Tibetan Uprising Day Pics!

It's been a while since I've done Photo Friday, mostly because I've been unable to post on Fridays. But it's back with a special edition:

Tibetan Uprising Day II

(For pics from HHDL's talk go to www.dalailama.com/gallery/)

TCV Students early in the march.

A motorcyclist ready to brave the Library Road.

A plea to the Chinese to release the Panchen Lama, the world youngest political prisoner. Click here for more information.

The 'Middle Way' is promoted by HHDL, but possibly a little to soft a message for this crowd.

TCV Students at the Main Temple waiting to march.

Nuns are leading the charge for Tibetan Womens Rights. At the same time as the march the Kalon Tripa was hosting a conference on Empowering Tibetan Women.

Natasha is a long-time Dharamsala Expat. His Holiness went right from his seat to bless her child.

Speaks for itself.

This banner is right outside the offices of the Government in Exile. India has been incredibly generous in hosting HHDL and the Govt. in Exile - even  though China has threatened and terrorized its citizens.

What was that driver thinking??

Hard to believe this is an open 2-way road here.

A little lost - but eventually everyone finds their way to the rally.

Young Monks (anyone need a name for a rock band?)

If you take a bike on the way down - it's MUCH easier than walking back up (If you have any brakes left).

Getting closer to Kotwali.

If you drive you don't have to carry the power source for your speakers.

A steep section off the top of McLeod.

I was planning on camping out here but I couldn't hold my chair still!

Coolest flag on earth.

The stage for the rally was right next to a main artery in Lower Dharamsala. Did they reroute traffic?

A flat section in Lower Dharamsala not far from the Cricket Stadium - which would have been a better venue.

Yup. Still in the Himalayas.