Tuesday, February 28, 2006

I promise that what follows will be the last you will hear on the topic of the Olympic Games. I think it is safe to say that there is a certain degree of sadness and malaise present now that they are over, we find ourselves with nothing to watch on TV, nothing to unite us as a country and the same dull sports as before. My opinions on the first are likely well-known and a recapitulation thereof would be a waste of time, energy and sleep. Concerning the third, the raw energy and hunger that are so lauded in our amateur athletes are in fact ever-present. These people don't simply congregate in television studios and ski chalets waiting for their quadrennial opportunity. The Olympic spirit, about as meaningless of a word as 'concept', 'post-modern' or 'society', is defined among other things as the beauty of amateur sport: sport for the sake of sport.

If that quality is at all attractive, not only is it present year-round, but it is easier to find than its counterpart in professional sports. Sport for the sake of sport is present in a game of tag or street hockey, in a track meet featuring 60-something competitors hustling around faster than most of my friends, in a bike ride to the other side of town, in CIS or NCAA competition. This is nice, but does not have a very high degree of gravity, certainly not that of the nationalism experienced, willingly or otherwise, in watching the Maple Leaf raised.

The state of affairs is not such that Canada, or any country for that matter, is united by the victory of a hockey team or a skier. While such a victory does serve that function, save perhaps the Jessica Spano crowd, I would argue that the swell of pride experienced is a sort of tapping into a unity that exists regardless. It is ridiculous to suggest that there is nothing to celebrate about this country save hockey, beer and other cultural artifacts. Canada, experienced to the fullest as a cohesive community, exists perpetually in the same way as Canada exists physically. The successes of Canada in which we can share a similar unity are both glamourous and unglamourous, both culturally specific and generic. What water cooler conversation about Cindy Klassen signifies is an engagement with our shared experience. This engagement can be an interaction with a stranger, participation in a civic event or with the apparatus of the state, traveling around the country and, yes, simply believing that we share an experience by virtue of being Canadians.

Monday, February 27, 2006

I am unable to write anything cogent because I am preoccupied with removing the stench of yesterday's indoor two-mile race from the essence of my being. I think I ran a slightly faster time than septogenarian phenom Ed Whitlock, who was in the middle of three heats (I was in the third) but I think I ran the slowest race I have ever run on that track. It was also the most casual approach to a race I have ever taken, I've never before treated a race as a "workout". There were a number of things going against me yesterday circumstantially. I will not list them because I don't think they would have done much to mitigate my performance, and it would defeat the point of not making excuses. I ran very poorly because I simply wasn't trained to run at two-mile pace.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

The 2006 Winter Olympics have been quite heartening for Canadians, punctuated by the resounding success of the hockey team, undefeated and outscoring opponents 46-2. I say that they are heartening because the winter sports, all contested over some sort of frozen surface, are the ones of which Canada takes some form of ownership. The fairweather counterpart to these games seems to be a neverending streak of Americans, Russians and Chinese celebrating their prowess at sports, or maybe celebrating the muscular state apparatus that allows them to excel at their various sports.

Not all medals, I would say, are created equal to a given country. A medal for hockey in Finland is not the same as a medal in the javelin or whatever the cherished pursuit of the Finns, and the same is true in hockey-crazed Canada, though I'm hard-pressed to name a javelin-thrower from either country. Seeing the Canadians (you expected me to say "Canadian women", didn't you?) celebrate on ice after a commanding victory over Sweden in the gold medal game was quite special. It is the same way in which I see the aforementioned Americans, Russians and Chinese celebrate anything, the Kenyans and Ethiopians celebrate victory on the track, and Japanese on the judo mat.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

There is a fixation on superlatives in Western culture, a borderline fetish that manifests itself in speech and other forms of communication regardless of the topic. It is representative of an inability to convey the significance of an idea or action, itself representative of a stunted vocabulary and capacity to use the English language. It is not enough that George Bush is a bad president, but for NOW magazine and hardline Democrats, he is in fact the worst president ever, no doubt the result of some complex algorithm that computes the relative merits of the likes of Chester Arthur, Millard Fillmore, Grover Cleveland and Henry Harrison into a single number, likely two-digit, so that the resultant metric can be likened to a percentage. It is not enough that a given wide receiver is fast, but he has to be the fastest of the more than one thousand players in the league. It is not enough that some the pilot of a bobsleigh duo is good at being a pilot, but she must, without qualification, possess the best hand-eye co-ordination of everyone in the competition. That Thai restaurant down the street is the now best restaurant ever, deserving more than the usual nine thumbs up because a pretty good restaurant doesn't seem to cut it anymore.

We have some asinine fixation on being, similarly without qualification, living in times that offer us the best and the worst of everything. Our football teams are the best, our quarterbacks the best at making the hot reads, our leaders the worst ever, our poor the poorest and most beleaguered ever, and so on. The shortage of cranial capacity is not limited to Jim Nantz, your local NBC news team or the Trotskyist on the street corner. Ironically, the complexity that is the product of a seemingly inexhaustible suppply of information does not lend itself to the development of subtle, nuanced views that concede shortcomings. Instead, they have led to gross simplification and absurd reductionism. The result can be the markedly polarized rhetoric of the recent Canadian federal election. Two parties, more or less similar in their positions, were both guaranteed to lead the country down a path that would culminate in a promptly delivered apocalypse. Indeed, Stephen Harper in eight weeks went from being a lackaidaisical, impersonal leader to Ross Perot, Hitler and the Antichrist all rolled into one.

These superlatives are an attempt to superimpose meaning on a world that has grown immensely in its scope, to the point where a large fluff of celebrity culture and bad indie rock surrounds a kernel of intelligibility and meaning. It is as though we must shout in order to be heard in a cacophony of communication not unlike a university debate on the Middle East. A proverbial town hall full of shouting analysts is the result, the real points concerning bad presidents and good quarterbacks lost in an attempt to make the story told the greatest one ever, the points the greatest points ever made by anyone.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Let us cool things down by a notch or two. I fear that I have written a post that is far too interesting below this one, so I will temper it with some ruminations on running. Unlike so many that run and discuss it over the Internet, particularly those that opt to dedicate blogs specifically to running, I don't run to lose weight, relieve stress, spend time by myself, learn life lessons or anything of the sort. Originally, I began running six years ago, in what is a little-known fact, with Danny by joining the cross country team, since we had nothing else to do in terms of an extracurricular activity. Danny spoke of some guy he knew by the name of Riyaad who was reputedly quite fast, having done something or other at some middle school track meet, and hoped that he too would join the team (even lesser-known fact: Riyaad was briefly a jumper in high schol).

Running, even when I could feebly stagger five kilometres wearing shorts that came below my knee in 27 or 28 minutes (27:54 was my fastest time in grade 9), was about competing. That goal remains to this day, though I no longer run races to avoid last place. I concede that I run because I enjoy it, but reductionist attempts at running are false. Running is not about this or that, it can not be reduced into some incomprehensible aphorism or heuristic, it is a sport in the same way as basketball or soccer are sports. I run because I want to be as good of a runner as I can be, whether that means running fast times or placing high in competitive races on the track, the roads or over cross country.

All sorts of things have come from running. In running long races and long runs, I have found an acute focus (though it comes and goes) and I have found that time slows and I relax when under pressure. I have become an environmentalist, come to know more about my body and myself than I ever could have imagined, and been to places both near and far that I would have never seen, that others have never seen and likely never will. I have found an outlet for self-expression that, though I can not articulate it, manifests itself in the ebb and flow of a race, in the ferocity of running hog-wild through busy streets and empty river valleys on a brilliantly sunny day, in gently loping along on a short, easy jog on a cold, dark street with no lights.

All of these, as great as they are, do not represent the reasons that I run, and certainly not what running is about. Competitive running is a desire to run as fast as I can. Doing so successfully, as I have done in the last three races I have run, as I did when I managed to go to OFSAA, is a reward that outweighs every long tempo on a magnificent day and every long run where it seemed like my springy stride would carry me forever at a comfortable four-and-a-half minutes per kilometre. In that sense, I run for the same reason gamers game, gamblers gamble, fashionistas fashion and rockers rock: to do it as well as possible, because it is fun to do so, or even try to do so.
TheStar.com - U of T paper defends publication of cartoon: "A student newspaper at the University of Toronto will not be pressured into pulling a cartoon from their website of the Prophet Muhammad and Jesus kissing despite demands from the Students' Administrative Council and the Muslim Students' Association, its editor says.
'The cartoon is a sort of Canadian statement on religious tolerance,' said Nick Ragaz, managing editor of The Strand, the student newspaper of Victoria University at U of T. 'This is not an act of hate,' he said. 'It's controversial, yes, but it's no attack,' said Ragaz.

'We will not be pulling the issues from the stands or withdrawing the cartoon from our website,' said Ragaz, who has received a demand from the Students' Administrative Council (SAC) to do so. 'We hope, and this is our intention in publishing the cartoon, to provoke reasoned considerate debate and dialogue about these issues both on campus and, I guess now, off campus,' said Ragaz
."

Let me make clear that Mr. Ragaz and The Strand have the right to publish what they did. What their cartoon depicted, however offensive it might be to Muslims and Christians, was not hateful, violent or anything of the sort, save egregiously offensive and hurtful, and intentionally so. There exist no laws against offending others, and in my opinion, there should not. However, it is perplexing at best and an outright lie on the part of The Strand to claim any edifying attribute to these cartoons. The honest answer, I'm sure, is that Mr. Ragaz felt like being an irreverent cock, aiming to flip the proverbial bird to the orthodoxy in publishing the cartoon. In a liberal democracy, that is his prerogative and it should remain so. Others are free to, at best, protest as loudly as they can. Nontheless, it is an outright lie to claim that the cartoons serve any instrumental purpose other than as an exercise in liberty.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

I promise I'll have something interesting to write about soon enough. In the meantime, the new rankings are presented below. Congratulations to The Sash on making it to the top, and then abruptly quitting a la Barry Sanders. Big gains were also seen for The Mad, who vaults over Riyaad into what is still a distant third.

1. Sasha - 12.1
2. Andrew - 11.9
3. Madison - 5.45
4. Riyaad - 5.15
5. Jessica - 4.40
6. Casey - 3.18
7. Jenna - 2.06
8. Maddie - 1.86
9. Christy - 1.71
10. JP - 1.45

The bottom three is pretty stagnant, but look for these young upstarts to make the rankings more fluid pretty soon. Maybe it's time for a new set of rankings?

11. Azim
13. Bedir
14. Leslie
18. Shan
20. Kevin

Look for Bedir to crack that top ten pretty soon, maybe as soon as the next edition.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

I ran my first workout in almost three weeks yesterday, a 20-minute tempo under the bright lights of the University of Toronto's Athletic Centre due to the sloppy footing outside. It was a heartening experience. I am pleased to report that this blue 200-metre track may well rival training camps in Iten, Kenya and elsewhere for distance-running prowess. I was too lazy and unconcerned to count the 225-metre laps I was clicking off in the outside lane, perpetually off-balance given the turns. I was an odd spectacle to erstwhile training partners, accustomed to intervals, who looked on waiting for the inevitable recovery jog. As a result, this was the largest audience for a run I have had since I led five or six laps of a five-man 3,000 on my 18th birthday. My very controlled last lap, the same speed as the last 4 or 5, was 51 seconds, meaning I finished at just over 6:00/mile pace (6:10 overall).

However, I was humbled as during both my warm-up and cool-down, run at a leisurely 7:30 pace, there was no shortage of girls and guys effortlessly jogging by me like I was standing still. Those that were particularly ambitious sometimes ran from one corner of the lap to the other, though most were conservative in running the bulk of a straightaway, no more than 80 metres. Knowing that it is verging on psychosis to, without warning, launch into a feebly slow sprint masquerading as a jog that lasts for no more than 20 seconds, I'm sure that there is method to this madness. If even half of these people would consider entering a road race or the meet taking place right now at the same track, I am positive that there would be a genuine explosion in the number of engineering students and Lululemon patrons running 5ks in the 15:00 and 17:00 range respectively.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Looking too closely into things like this only serves to drive visitors I may have, but I'm very curious as to why someone in Joisey is interested in my running exploits.
I was randomly selected by the University of Toronto to complete a survey regarding my health and related questions, such as my perception of the health of my peers and so forth. One question asks if I drove after drinking alcohol, with the possible responses, aside from yes and no, being "not applicable, don't drive" and "not applicable, don't drink." I think I'm a dream come true for these people.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

I had mentally prepared a lengthy invective imploring the general population, particularly students at the University of Toronto, to speak meaningfully instead of offering empty generalities and non-statements predicated upon non-observations, non-arguments and expressed through non-sensical blathering, couched in one too many qualifiers and modifiers. However, I am at the moment several stories high with rage after literally running the gamut of running stores in the city of Toronto, population 2.5 million, and coming up with precisely five models of racing flats available for sale. The esteemed chain of New Balance stores, committed to helping "serious runners gain an edge" according to their catalogue (featuring about four pages of walking shoes for one page of spikes and flats), carries not a single racing shoe. Moreover, they carry an eye-popping variety of casual and walking shoes.

Once again, it appears that it is far more practical to be some leviathan or vacuous floozie undertaking a nominal regime (the term being applied loosely) of fitness than to be any sort of competitive athlete. Our protagonist, of course, is of the apocryphal sort known as "fourth-rate", not that it excuses this appalling lack of service. After all, that could've been a genuinely competitive runner in there looking for shoes that were neither a men's 7 nor a men's 13.

Monday, February 13, 2006

In a weaker moment, or rather a stronger one depending on how you look at it, I agreed to write a long, interesting entry for Madison and the venerable Courtney Finan, who read my blog in the company of the equally venerable and quite esteemed Ms. Gorski. However, I unfortunately don't have a lot to say, so while I think of something to say, I will solicit comments and visitors (in that order) with respect to my Fakejournal, whose address will remain a mystery to my less-privileged readers.

Well, let us begin with the events of this afternoon, for I know that Madison and Courtney are both aware of one Krista Mackie, a dirty blonde who womans the deli counter at the A&P at the Bramalea City Centre, though not on this particular day. Now that I've taken far too many liberties with the personal life of another stranger, I can delve into the circumstances, unfortunate, tragic and excruciating, that brought me from the comfort of west-end Toronto to the sprawling parking lots and quarter-begging transients of Brampton.

The closest thing we have to a family activity outside of our home is the purchase and subsequent return or exchange of eletronics: desktops, laptops, MP3 players, speakers, cell phones and anything else the Creator endows upon us at reduced price, interest-free for six months on approved credit with a Best Buy card [editor's note: Best Buy is your one-stop destination for all consumer electronics; for more information, visit Best Buy at http://www.bestbuy.com]. As a result, it was no surprise to me when, within minutes of arriving for a visit, we drive off to Brampton to return the latest gadget.

On this particular occasion, we drove twenty minutes to a mall to exchange a toaster for a coffeemaker, the two options for a complimentary gift as part of the cell phone package my brother had chosen. The mixture of an antiquated wedding gift, perhaps a now forever-dated conception of the process by which material possessions are acquired by young adults, and the fetid process that is the sale of electronics at places like The Source was the source of commentary that did not go unnoticed by our protagonist.

At any rate, we shall now move swiftly to our main event lest this blog become another sorry compendium of daily minutae, invoice-format details of latent alcohlism, moralizing derived from mass cultural experiences and the like. My brother, the same one who purchased the phone and came out to the mall to exchange the two household items (for our parents, not for himself), works for the University of Waterloo in what I imagine is a rather plum position, for he is not only afforded the opportunity to engage in the sort of activities that ensue, but seems to be able to go on an inordinately high number of coffee breaks. Ms. van West, an MSN stalwart, is familiar with him, the two of them being Trekkies, not to mention avid fans of Gilmore Girls (the former moreso than the latter).

One of my brother's co-workers, in some act of telekinesis or another word that is itself the combination of two Greek words (psychokinesis etc.) with whom I enjoy a vague familiarity as part of my studies in Greek philosophy (no questions, comments or incoherent editorializing, metaphilosophical or otherwise, please), has managed to twist a spoon. I should note that although the image below may not fully support my claims to this end, this spoon is quite credibly twisted, not bent. From what my brother told me, he was asked to hold the spoon in his hands while his co-worker rubbed his hands, somehow twisting the spoon. I took it for granted that the spoon was already not twisted prior to this experiment, although my brother did once, while about 4 or 5 years old, make it to school without wearing pants. Sorry Adnan.

Actually, before we get to the picture, I should probably confess that my brother is, unlike me, a stern pragmatist and has no patience for the ridiculous number of clauses, sidebars and multisyllabic quackeries I churn out in each entry, meaning that he didn't read this far.



There we are.

As I have done previously, I will now open up the comment box to all pundits, swamis, muftis, sha-people (maybe the sort that woman deli counters part-time), and, yes, even laypeople. Offer me a coherent explanation of how this spoon could have been twisted, and you will be entered in a contest to win an trip for two (or more) to Rancho Relaxo courtesy of management at the popular College Street bar and restaurant. Simply comment with your answer to the solution, and then tune into Global between 8 and 9 pm on Saturday night to see if your name gets mentioned. If your name gets mentioned on Global, visit www.iaaf.org and click on 'Development' and enter the confirmation code you see on Global for your chance to win. Win with Global, the International Association of Athletics Federations and And with your help, I'll get that chicken.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

I will be doing the first one, probably on Monday. I don't think the second one is possible living in downtown Toronto. You may freely expect a photographic log of the enterprising fruits of my toonie.

Living Life on Life's Terms: Hunger and Human Rights: An Educational Challenge: "Below are three possible “Challenges” that will bring home the connections between land, hunger, poverty and the globalization of the food industry. Choose one or more of the following three challenges and try them for 5-7 days anytime in February.

I will be doing options 1 and 3. I'm going to start next week and I'll incorporate daily updates into my blog posts. If you want to participate, please update us using the comments section of the blog or send me a summary email.

1. Boston on $2/day
Challenge yourself to eat on $2/day for a week. The idea for this challenge is to look at how poverty and hunger are related. This amount does not include transportation, labor, rent, gas, electricity or any other inputs needed. You must use $2/ day (not $14 in one lump sum). Keep track of what types of foods you eat. Track whether or not the quality of food you eat changes drastically. Nearly 3 billion people live on less than $2/day including expenses for heat, housing, etc. That is almost half the world’s population. This widely used figure has been adjusted for purchasing power parity (PPP).

2. Eat Locally
A big concern is the globalization of the food industry and a lack of information on where food is from, produced and what’s in it. Challenge yourself to eat only locally produced food for a week. Keep a log and answer some of the following questions:

What foods you are able to eat?
Is the quality of the food that is available comparable to food that is not locally produced?
How much does it cost in comparison to what you would normally spend?
Where do you have to go to purchase local food?
Are you forced to travel a longer distance?
Is there a farm near that sells local products?
How far do you have to travel to get to a local farm that produces and sells food?
Does buying locally produced food affect planning of meals and time?

3. The Global “Foodshed”

Challenge: Like water flows through a watershed, our food flows from producer to consumer. How far does your food have to travel to get to your table? Keep a daily food log tracking the country of origin of every item you eat for a week.

What is the food item?
What is the city and country of origin of the food item?
What company makes the food item?
List the ingredients of the food item and write down any ingredients that are unfamiliar to you.
Will this be easy? Probably not. Will it be fun? Possibly. Will it be an interesting experience? No doubt!"

Saturday, February 11, 2006

On the surface, The Manchurian Candidate is an engaging amalgamation of The Pelican Brief and Courage Under Fire. Let's face it, it's just Denzel Washington, having served as a commanding officer in the Gulf War, trying to get to the bottom of a cover-up orchestrated by powerful corporate interests who are apparently a couple of handguns and henchmen short of omnipotent, and will stop at nothing, I repeat, absolutely nothing, to achieve their deadly corporate goals.

However, given that it is 3:10 in the morning and I have been lauded repeatedly for the astute observations I have made in recent posts, perhaps it would be prudent to examine carefully, but not too loquaciously, the epistemological considerations at work in this film that I rented for 99 cents from the convenience store down the street.

A conspiracy theory, real or fake, is very enticing for obvious reasons, the same ones that drive us to the cold side of the pillow. It is also very nice to possess knowledge of a conspiracy because not all knowledge is created equal in its social import. There is, for example, a difference between knowing that no left-handed pitcher has won more games than Warren Spahn, the population of Canada is 31 million, and the office of the Prime Minister is still beholden, privately, to the family of nineteenth-century merchant Joseph Bloor. The first example is one of knowledge that is obscure but of no import, the second is of knowledge that is common and of some import, and the third is hardly common and of great import. It is nice to have knowledge of the third sort because it is insider knowledge and makes one feel smarter and more powerful than they really are.

There are two paradoxical properties of this third sort of knowledge, and of all conspiracy theories in general. Conspiracy theories are generally, I would say by definition, lacking in empirical proof or even proof of any sort that can be verified through ordinary means. This, however, can be attributed to some clandestine impetus toward silence, such as the ownership of media outlets and their vested interests, death threats to witnesses and potential whistleblowers, and so forth. The proof that does exist for a more mainstream explanation is rejected as being either erroneous or outright fabricated. However, the same skeptical apparatus that demands that we reject the mainstream explanation is not to be applied to the conspiracy theory, which somehow is The Real Deal.

In other words, we are asked to suspend our belief of knowledge with respect to a given claim on the grounds that we simply do not know, for a variety of reasons that can most often be attributed to a very powerful villain or a conflict of interest on the part of mainstream media outlets. The extraordinary standard to which we subject our ordinary claim can not be applied to the conspiracy, which is usually the product of connecting a few isolated data points, the proverbial loose ends of an intensely complex event that may have lasted years. Leaving aside the perplexing contradiction by which most facts considered to be ordinary knowledge are rejected save those that support a taxing claim (ie, most things CNN says are false, except for this, this and this), the more relevant question to ask would be: if indeed we can not claim to know that the world is as it appears, how can it be that the world is as you say it is?

The corrosive effects of skeptical scrutiny must be applied consistently in all cases. Given that a theory asking us to make tremendous twists and leaps is, in philosophical terms, no different in its claims (A is B because of the following reasons), it is reasonable to reply to these claims with an almost-sarcastic "how do you know that you know and that I don't know?" and maybe even to follow that up with a "how do you know that you know you know?" and so forth. There are numerous reasons, sociological and psychological, as to why it is nice to believe that, for example, it was the Russians who captured Saddam Hussein and not the Americans, most of which might go something along the lines of "I've got the world figured out, yes sir" or the more familiar "I know something you don't know". These are largely immaterial to the issue, save the motivational origins of such claims.

More important is the ability of such competing claims to offer an explanation for the vast tracts of contradictory evidence that do not rely on emotional appeals, political considerations, specious arguments, or worst of all, idle speculation ("Okay, if you had a gun and you wanted to..."). If no such proof is available, or if the claim itself cannot be proven either way, a reality that is perplexingly enough sometimes the linchpin of a claim, then the claim requiring less acrobatics of the mind wins.
TheStar.com - Power plant gets green light: "The agency that monitors the province's power system has warned the city risks rolling blackouts unless 500 megawatts of power are built in the city by 2010 and energy conservation is maximized.

Residents and the mayor have raised concerns that construction of a new plant on the city's portlands will eat up valuable waterfront property
."

Uh, been down to the waterfront lately? There's no shortage of property, as valuable as it may be. The abandoned Hearn plant you see in the article is, as I'm fond of mentioning, one of the tallest buildings in the country and was briefly the tallest. I trust that its menacing smokestack is not what stalls development in the area. If there is to be a new plant built for the people of Toronto, it should be in the city, not somewhere in the suburbs where we can forget that we use power.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Inspired by Duncan, here is a second round of vitriol, but this will unfortunately not be palatable to Ms. Fisher. In an interview published in Runner's World, former 49ers great Roger Craig said that "Boston is definitely the Super Bowl of all marathons." The term itself is thrown around far too much, much like Boston is reputedly the Mecca of runners, but a man like Roger Craig surely ought to know better. Craig won three Super Bowls with the 49ers during the Joe Montana era, and of course recorded the famous double-double season in which he both ran for 1,000 yards and caught 92 passes worth more than 1,000 yards.

The Boston Marathon is similar to the San Francisco 49ers in many ways. Both were once at the peak of their respective sports and endeavours. The 49ers were long the best franchise in professional football, winning five Super Bowls, thirteen division titles, and making sixteen playoff appearances in an eighteen-year span beginning with the 1981 season and lasting through 1998.

Similarly, the Boston Marathon was long the pre-eminent road race in the world, enjoying a heyday during the 1970s and 1980s that would attract greats such as Robert de Castella, Ron Hill, Gelindo Bordin, (Canadian) Jerome Drayton in addition to household names in Bill Rodgers, Alberto Salazar and Dick Beardsley. Even as late as 1998, Moses Tanui, world champion over 10,000 metres and still the eighth-fastest man over 42.195 kilometres, won the race.

However, if Boston was the pre-eminent marathon at one time, today it is anything but. As far as the Association of Road Racing Statisticians is concerned, the 2005 edition was not even the most competitive road race in the state of Massachusetts. The rankings are somewhat skewed based on my rudimentary understanding of the algorithm that produces them in that races over rarely-contested differences will always be more competitive.

Now this is not by any means a long invective intended to castigate the cadre of elite North American road racers, a sort of ragtag barnstorming cast of impoverished East Africans that I tend to romanticize far too much, for their perceived sloth at the race. Rather, to come full circle, the Boston Marathon is hardly the Super Bowl of marathons, maybe a contest between a pair of 8-7 teams fighting for a wild card spot.

Rather, let us focus on the plain truth: the world's best marathoners still come by the dozen to a marathon in the middle of April, but this one is located in London. For the last two springs, Dave Bedford and the London Marathon have collected a men's field so good that it is almost absurd. The aggregate competition is indeed so great that it threatens to negate itself, paradoxically, when speaking of a fast time. This year's field includes Haile Gebrselassie, Paul Tergat, Stefano Baldini, Jaouad Gharib, Evans Rutto, Felix Limo and former world record holder Khalid Khannouchi, an inspiration to his fellow scrabbling immigrants with a penchant for long-distance running. By comparison, we can expect only one big name at the Boston Marathon, and that is Meb Keflezighi, the Olympic silver medallist at the distance. It will likely be filled out by other Americans and East Africans capable of running 2:10 or faster, but it would be a disservice to the gentlemen at London to claim that this race offers anything near the level of competition.

I have now established two obvious truths in excruciating detail: London has a lot of big names, Boston does not. Where the vitriol comes in is in explaining Roger Craig's claim that Boston is the Super Bowl of marathons. Boston is best-known for its qualifying standards, 3:10 for open men, that offer an imposing challenge to many recreational runners. In the bizarre world of running mass culture, and yes, there is such a thing, Boston is the equivalent of the dream amongst American competitive runners to make the Olympic Marathon Trials by achieving its exponentially stiffer standard of 2:22. There is no equivalent in Canada, though I will offer that my own dream is to qualify for the national championships in both the half marathon and marathon, and run in the cross country championships (an open race). Boston today is but a name, acting as little more than an achievement that is attainable by a bunch of guys in good shape, much like a 20-minute 5k or the 5-minute mile. To call it anything more is to waver between delusion and outright lying.

Running 3:10 or 3:05 (or the Bostonian equivalent for gender and age), while far beyond the reach of the average marathoner, who comes in at well over 4 hours, does not, however, turn a race into the Super Bowl of marathons, but maybe the Super Bowl party of marathons. There is a tension found in the appeal of Boston within running culture; Boston is revered as a road race for its stringent qualifying standards, challenging course and the history of big names, but it carries an appeal mostly to those for whom qualifying is a significant achievement or pipe dream. In other words, the race is propped up by the new face of running in North America, the slow and the wealthy, who must contrive a sort of People's Super Bowl, the Everyman Championships if you will, to transpose onto themselves the greatness seen elsewhere. In our meritocracy, it is not only enough for those with merit to succeed, but those with even an iota of merit must also receive attention. This is why we differentiate between a 23-year old and a 28-year old at road races, this is why we give awards simply for finishing, and this is why we have draw prizes.

To many of those running Boston, particularly at the front of the pack, it is a highly competitive road race steeped in tradition, but not The Race. The Super Bowl of marathons, insofar as there is such a thing, would either be at the World Championship and Olympics, or at London, Chicago and the other fast, flat courses that attract the stars of the sport. To fully appreciate the hollow, melodramatic appeal of Boston, consider whether or not the players in Sunday's Super Bowl thought that there was probably another game they could be playing in, one of greater significance, if they were good enough.