Saturday, August 23

Any time I'm asked about me favorite movies, the top two on the list are always High Noon, a classic Western with Gary Cooper and Grace Kelly, and Chariots of Fire, the story of Eric Liddell and Harold Abrahams in the 1924 Paris Olympics.

On today's Olympic broadcast, Mary Carillo did a really good piece on Eric Liddell that included interviews with his daughter and others who knew him. If you don't know the story, Liddell was the son of Scottish missionaries to China. He won an Olympic gold medal in the 400 meters (47.6 seconds) after refusing to compete in the 100 meters heats (his intended event) because they were held on a Sunday. Liddell later returned to China to serve as a missionary, where he died. In fact, there is a monument in his honor in China - a pretty amazing thing for a Scottish missionary. If you can find the video online, it would be worth your time to watch it.

The first Olympic gold medalist born in China? Eric Liddell.

Friday, August 22

Let me just offer my opinion that, regardless of the publicity that Michael Phelps received, Usain Bolt is the outstanding performer at the Beijing Olympics:

* Three events
* Three gold medals
* Three world records

I know that Phelps won eight gold medals and set several world records, but Bolt also did what had never been done and was more dominating in doing it. Plus, no one had got within .30 of a second of that 200 meter record since it was set in 1996.

Bolt is the champion.


Part of the sadness of the US failures in the men's sprints at the Olympics is that the two athletes in the midst of it all are former Razorbacks and men that I know. Both Tyson Gay and Wallace Spearmon are humble and personable individuals who represent Arkansas and the US well. It hurts to see the frustrations they have faced in the 100 meters, 200 meters, and 4x100 relay. Here is an article from NY Times on Wallace's disqualification.


One of the realities, and frustrations, of the current state of US athletics is the competitiveness (and often pettiness) of shoe and apparel companies. At the Olympic Trials, we couldn't wear our usual uniform. We had to wear new shirts with the Nike logo because they were sponsors (and we were in their home territory). Some of you will remember the fiasco of past Olympics where certain athletes would cover the logo's on their USA uniforms because they were paid by a competitor. The latest incident: Carl Lewis refused to make a comment on Usain Bolt's performance because Lewis is on contract with Nike and Bolt is sponsored by Puma.

************ has some free music downloads if you are interested. There are over 3,000 free songs, though most you won't have any interest in. But there are selections by Benny Goodman, Mahalia Jackson, and Billie Holliday!

Wednesday, August 20

Though we are moved by and celebrate those who accomplish so much at the Olympic Games - Michael Phelps, Nastia Liukin, Shawn Johnson, and the rest - I am also moved by those who work so hard but come up short:

* Alicia Sacramone of the US Women's Gymnastics team, who fell on her last two events of the team finals and then finished fourth in the vault final.

* Four years ago, in Athens, Matt Emmons was leading the pistol shooting competition when, on this last shot, he aimed and hit the wrong target. This year he was again leading going into his last shot. But instead of shooting at the wrong target, somehow his gun went off before the was finished aiming and he again lost.

* Sanya Richards in the track and field 400 meters, who has been the best runner in the world for the past four years and yet finished third.

* Lolo Jones, whom I have watched run many times when she was at LSU and has been the best 100 meter hurdler in the world this year. You may have heard her story on the broadcasts - growing up homeless and living in the basement of a church and then in foster homes. She had dominated the preliminary rounds at the Olympics and was leading the final until she hit the ninth of the ten hurdles and fell back to seventh place. How could you not feel for her when you saw the look of agony on her face as she knelt on the track.

* And, finally, our friend Wallace Spearmon. Born and raised in Fayetteville and the son of a former Razorback All-American. To finish third in the men's 200 meters and then have the medal taken from you must be worse than not winning one at all.

NBC could do a great segment on the heartbreak of the Olympics.


As big a star as Michael Phelps has been, in my mind (and maybe it's because I'm a track and field fan) Usain Bolt has been just as incredible. His easy wins in both the 100 and 200 meter dashes - both in world record times - were incredible. In the 200 meters, he broke a record that many thought wouldn't be broken for another 20 years (no one had gotten within .30 seconds of it) and beat the rest of the field by over a half a second. Most track athletes don't reach their prime until their late 20's. Bolt is just 21.


Even for all of the work that China has done, and for all the effort they have made to improve their image, the nature of China's totalitarian government still shows through. Of course, there was their move in the Opening Ceremonies to have a "cute" girl lip sync the song rather than have the "uglier" (and more talented) girl sing.

Here is an article from the New York Times on their move to "re-educate" two elderly women whose homes were taken to build the Olympic development.

For all of the difficulties our country faces, we are so blessed to have the freedoms that we enjoy and often take for granted.

Saturday, August 16

The track and field portion of the Olympics haven't started off too well for most of the Razorback participants:

  • Nicole Teeter dropped out of the 800 meters after just a few steps (illness/injury)
  • Deena Kastor dropped out of the marathon after just a few minutes (injury)
  • Tyson Gay didn't advance to the finals in the 100 meters
  • Allistair Cragg didn't advance out of the first round of the 1,500 meters (but he was using it as a warm-up for his main event - the 5,000 meters)
  • Amy Yoder Begley finished 26th in the 10,000 meters (though she wasn't expected to be a leader in the event)
  • The good news is that April Steiner-Bennett advanced to the finals in the pole vault


Did you see Usain Bolt of Jamaica run the men's 100 meters? His quarter-final win was pretty impressive: a 9.92 while he was jogging down the track, looking around. Then, in the finals (though it hasn't been shown on TV yet), he broke his own world record of 9.72 by running a 9.69. As a 6'5", 21 year old his potential in huge and his best distances are going to be the 200 and 400 meters.

OK, I just watched the 100 meter final. Now that was incredible! If he hadn't started celebrating with 15 or 20 meters to go, who knows how fast he would have run. Wow.


As one who works with college students, I found this editorial in the Wall Street Journal interesting. Any thoughts on it?

Thursday, August 14

A quick post with some Olympic ramblings ...

The Olympics have taken over the TV at the Armstrong house, which is fine. You can find us watching every night. Of course, the "real" Olympics start tomorrow with the beginning of the track and field competition. Though I've enjoyed watching those sports that I only watch every four years - swimming, volleyball, men's gymnastics, etc. - I'm ready for the "main event" to get started. Of course, my excitement about it has grown as I've had the chance to meet and work with more and more of the athletes who compete on that stage from a variety of countries. It will be fun to watch them.

One question that someone may have an answer to: what is the difference between swimming and track and field that allow an athlete like Michael Phelps to be able to set two world records within a couple of hours? One of the Razorback track coaches brought this question up but we didn't have a definitive answer. No track athlete could do the things he is doing. I don't think it is because they are less talented or aren't in as good of condition. There must be something in the nature of the sports. A track athlete couldn't run through 17 rounds of competition over 10 days and still be competitive. Tyson Gay pulled a hamstring on his sixth round at the Olympic Trials. Angelo Taylor qualified for the Olympics in the 400 meter hurdles, but 30 minutes later couldn't finish the 400 meter dash. I don't know if it is the way lactic acid is built up or dispersed, if it is the water, if it is the lack of "pounding", etc. Anyone have some wisdom on this?

One last Olympic issue before I quit. There has been some discussion on athletes from one country competing for another. There are US citizens competing for other countries in a number of sports, including track and field. These athletes didn't make the US team but found ways to compete for other nations - family heritage, playing professionally in other countries, etc. Are these athletes traitors to the US? Should they have said "no" to the chance to compete in the Olympics? One of these is a "friend" of mine. Jangy Addy was an All-American decathlete at Tennessee and is a great young man. He finished sixth at the US Trials, but because his parents were from Liberia he is able to compete for them. In fact, he carried the Liberian flag in the Opening Ceremonies.

On the other side of that coin are those athletes who weren't born in the US but not compete for the US as naturalized citizens. None of the three men running the 1500 meters for the US were born here (and there are some US born middle-distance guys who aren't too happy about that). Leo Manzano moved here with his family from Mexico when he was four. There wasn't much he could do about that. And Lopez Lomong was one of the "lost boys of Sudan" - orphaned and kidnapped, who finally found himself in a US foster home, then a US citizen, and now on the US Olympic team. That is a pretty sweet story. And then there is Bernard Lagat. Lagat won medals in the two previous Olympics for Kenya. Now he is a US citizen and running for the US. Let's just say there are a lot of cynical folks who wonder about his motivation for leaving home and coming here.

Here is an interesting editorial on the subject - just to get you thinking about it. Let me say, though, that I don't agree with the author in many of his points.

Saturday, August 9

August is here and the new school year is around the corner. As with most in campus ministry, we are busy preparing for the arrival of a few thousand new students and the return of those who are coming back. Final programming plans, publicity, social activities, etc. are all coming together. Preliminary plans for mission trips in the fall, spring, and summer are being made. And our staff is making regular trips to Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport to pick up newly arriving international students. It is a busy and exciting time and it will stay busy and hectic until at least the end of September. Then we will start thinking about slowing down a little.

Here is some interesting information regarding college students for you ...

The intro to an article from the New York Times:

"Many people associate property crime and other delinquent behaviors with low social status and a lack of education. But new research has identified a surprising risk factor for bad behavior — college. Men who attend college are more likely to commit property crimes during their college years than their non-college-attending peers, according to research to be presented at the annual meeting of the American Sociological Association in Boston this weekend."

Some other items from the Ivy Jungle Report:

Inconsistent Religion: Although the US is one of the most religious nations in the world, a survey by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life shows many believe things which contradict their stated faith. 70% of those who claim religious affiliation believe multiple religions can lead to salvation and 68% believe in multiple interpretations of their own religion. 57% of self-identified evangelicals believe multiple religions can lead to salvation. 21% of self-identified atheists believe that some kind of God exists. 80% of respondents believe in moral standards of right and wrong, but only 29% claim their religious teachings help them determine those standards. A copy of the report can be read at ( June 23, 2008)

Emerging Adulthood: Sociologists have remarked that being 35 today is much like being 35 in previous generations: career, family, marriage are part of most lives. However, being 25 today has changed significantly. In 1970 only 21% of 25 year olds had never been married. In 2005, that was true of 60% of 25 year olds. When asked what marked entering "adulthood," 96% of young adults identified having a full-time job. Less than half said being married. Jeffery Arnett, author of Emerging Adulthood: The Winding Road from Late Teens through Twenties has remarked on the very amorphous definition of entering adulthood. For most it meant "accepting responsibility for the consequences of one's actions." Often, parents are discouraging their young adult children from getting married to soon. Rather they encourage establishing a career and finishing graduate school before taking such a "destabilizing" step. Young adulthoods often enter a path of serial monogamy, living with partner after partner before marriage. 65% of young adults cohabitated at least once prior to marriage. However, research shows that those living with a boyfriend or girlfriend live lives much more similar to singles than to married couples. (UnMarried, Still Children in Touchstone June 2008 p. 15-18)


I hope you got to see the Opening Ceremony for the Olympic Games. It was spectacular! Even better, I didn't get to watch it live, so I DVR'd it and watched the whole thing in a little more than an hour.

I am a big fan of the Olympics and I'll be posting thoughts and interesting things I find online about them. To get you started, here is one from the Washington Post about Olympic athletes and religious expression.

Tuesday, August 5

Odds and ends for your enlightenment ...

With the 2008 Olympic Games beginning on Friday, here are a couple of interesting web sites to get you prepared.

The first is Sports Illustrated's pictorial list of 24 track and field athletes to watch for at the games. Two of them are former Razorbacks.

The second is a series of short video interviews from the New York Times featuring eight gold medal winners from previous years from various sports. It is good.

And take time to watch Chariots of Fire over the next few days.


You have probably heard about "six degrees of separation" - or the theory that everyone in the world is separated by just six relationships from everyone else, or at least from Kevin Bacon. Now there is research that indicated that this might very well be true!


I have only heard from one who is interested in the "one hundred push up challenge" - and he had already started it. If you want to do it, let me know!