Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Andy Roddick Beat Me With a Frying Pan by Todd Gallagher

cover of Andy Roddick Beat Me With a Frying Pan by Todd Gallagher
I like sports, and I also like to theorize how certain things affect sports. For example, what if you could get a really obese guy as a goalie? He would fill the net opening, and make it impossible to get the puck in the net. Well, Todd Gallagher, a Pittsburgher and writer for ESPN, took the questions that fans had and put them to the test. He documented the results in his book Andy Roddick Beat Me With a Frying Pan. I wasn't interested in every question that Gallagher looked at, but there were a few that really caught my attention.

The first question I caught my eye was the Olympic swimmer doing the doggie paddle and being the average person. Well, whenever Gallagher approached an athlete, I noticed that the athlete would accept the challenge, and then start to practice with the restriction, such as doing the doggie paddle. Josh Davis was the Olympic swimmer, and he was able to easily beat Gallagher with a doggie paddle. In fact, Davis was even turning around to root Gallagher on. After losing that match, Gallagher wasn't done with Olympic athletes. He knew someone who had been discussing for years what it would take for the average person to beat an Olympic sprinter (100 meters). For this bout, Maurice (Mo) Green agreed to race against a person who would complete part of the run on a moving walkway. Gallagher found the moving walkway at LAX, and Mo was not pleased with the average Joe getting a 35 meter head start, but agreed to a 31 meter head start. So that means that the average Joe only had to run 69 meters to Mo's 100. With the first race, Mo almost caught the average Joe, even with the 31 meter head start and 35 meter moving walk way. But Mo asked for a second attempt. He learned from that first try, and Mo won the second match. The thing that was most impressive was the Mo quickly figured out, within minutes, what handicap would allow the average Joe to have a competitive chance.

Gallagher also looked at women competing against men in sports. As an example, the USA women's Olympic soccer team can beat 14-year-old boys. However, when the boys hit 15 or 16, the women have a much harder time being competitive. When it comes to strength and athletic ability, men had the edge. That doesn't mean that a couch potato can beat a woman athletic, but men in the sport dominate women. During Wimbledon, Andy Murray said that he would play Serena Williams. Williams first response was that she wouldn't even win a point. There was a ton of talk about it, but in 1998, Karsten Braasch, a German tennis player ranked around 200, easily beat both Williams sisters. Of course, at 31, even with her recent results, which makes me wonder about performance enhancement, Andy Murray would easily trounce Serena Williams unless we apply some of the handicaps that Gallagher puts on athletes in Andy Roddick Beat Me With a Frying Pan. Maybe Serene would be able to use the doubles lanes, and Murray would get one serve per game to Williams four. But what would the result of that match mean to me? That Williams had no chance to beat Murray one on one. It is what it is.

To answer the statement in the title, Andy Roddick did play with a frying pan against Todd Gallagher using a regular tennis racket. Gallagher did manage to win the match, but even he wondered if Roddick had had a chance to practice more with the frying pan, if the result would be the same. Roddick did practice a bit before the match, as Gallagher found out, but it wasn't enough to give Roddick the winning edge.

If you love sports, and you love playing the game, "what would it take to beat..", you'll love this book. I could imagine a follow-up book with even more questions and situations where the average person can have a chance at beating a professional/skilled athlete.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney

cover of Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney
I like to read in general, and I love to read kids books when I need a good spot of relaxation. As I was scanning the shelves of the library, I saw Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney. Of course, everyone has heard of the book, and how insanely popular it it. Well, I had not had a chance to read it, and in fact, never considered reading. However, I picked up the book; and when I saw that the book was all in Comic Sans typeface with drawings galore, I figured I needed to give it a try. I'm glad that I did because the book was very enjoyable.

Kinney started the story as an online daily entry. The book is in the same format. Greg Heffley, the "author" of the diary entries, writes about his entry and first year of middle school. For those who don't know, middle school is the the time between grade school and high school, usually around grades seven and eight. Greg is just trying to fit in. As he says at the start, usually the fastest boy would get the girl in grade school. In middle school, things become more difficult, and it's not easy to be the fastest or smartest. Greg's best friend is Rowley Jefferson, and they have various adventures muddling through the confusing world of average adolescence. Greg has an older brother, Rodrick, who is really into music and picking on Greg. Greg also has a much younger brother, Manny, who is spoiled rotten by the parents, and who embarrasses Greg by calling him Bubby.

I read through the book in an afternoon. Kinney has a great way with telling funny stories and really connecting to the average child who wants to fit in with the others, but doesn't know how he can do it. I laughed out loud throughout the book, and I found myself rooting for Greg, even when he wasn't the nicest, most responsible kid. I know that I, for one, can't wait to read more of Greg's adventures, and I already put a request in for the second book in the series: Rodrick Rules.