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Friday, July 27, 2007

Always the Bridesmaid, Never the Bride

Remember how I said that there was some crash-and-burn going on yesterday? Well it continued in a deadlier way over today's much bigger fences. The poor Salvadorian horse, trying his best in spite of carrying a grown man on his teeth, jumped his jockey out of the tack on the last fence, and stepped on him as he fell off at the finish line. I am actually surprised it was the morning's only exit on a stretcher (the rider is apparently fine) - the potential for even worse was definitely there. One Ecuadorian rider, AFTER being eliminated at number seven, and coming closer to falling off with each refusal, decided he wasn't leaving until he finished the job…so he galloped at the jump a third time and fell off into it, trashing it and holding up the show while crew put it back together. My prediction about the Peruvian horse was accurate after all. He refused out at number one.

At the opposite end of the scoreboard, there was real edge-of-your-seat excitement as Brazil, Mexico, USA worked on beating each other and Canada. Laura Chapot rode with her reins well on the wrong side of long (like my mom used to say, long enough to hang both of you), but her horse Little Big Man is a hero. One of the Brazilians had those funky new open sided stirrups yesterday and did most of the course with one or neither attached to his feet. Today? Bright, shiny fully-enclosing stirrups! It helped him go clear today and put Brazil just a teeny weeny lead over Canada: 1.05 points.

Jill's first ride had us swallowing our tongues, but she got 'er done. Which was good because Mac had a poopy three rails. Eric had another cheap rail (!) same as yesterday - at a fence that didn't cause any problems even for some of the nightmare watch-with-one-eye-closed pairs. Then good old Captain Canada cruised around with his stylin' horse, and we were still in the race.

I told you it would be a nailbiter! Things got more hand-wringing in the second round as Brazil did some top class work and Canada had a couple of unlucky rails they couldn't afford. Team Canada, bridesmaids again, but at least for once it was to someone other than the US. In round two Eric pulled his pants up but both Jill and Ian left their flies open and caught a rail. They are still in the top three, and Eric climbed up to sixth, so maybe more shiny objects will come Canada's way on Sunday.

Apparently Bruce Springsteen bought Todd Minikus' horse Pavarotti a few weeks ago, with the agreement that Todd could do the Pan Ams with it. The Boss might be tearing up that cheque, after the horse ran out at the first jump yesterday and ate some sand today at the water jump. The horse wanted to quit before the water, but Todd would have none of it, so the horse went from an impossible spot, landed in the water and tripped on the way out. Todd flew off, but the horse managed to bounce its head off the sand and not completely bail.

If I'm not satisfying your hunger for sporty details, check out the USEF's press releases, where the indisputable facts are not quite the same as those in my releases, the jumps are much more than mere jumps and the horses go clear-and-clean in a virtual landslide of adjectival excess., follow the links to the Pan Am Games.

Out of respect for the sensitivities of my new friend Leonardo (see below) I will refrain from outlining Fear Factor Brazil for today, but I promise to give it to you on Sunday.

Sorry, but I'm just not Sorry

A communicative gentleman by the name of Leonardo, a Brazilian who lives in that warm and fuzzy city known as New York, NY, has posted a response to my blogs. If you would like to read it, simply click on the word 'comments' at the bottom of Blog 9. Most of his harangue is beneath the dignity of a response, particularly since he both misquotes me and takes my words out of context with the same enthusiasm that his countrymen have been booing Pan Am competitors from other countries. But I do feel the urge to clarify that the goal of my blog is not to promote tourism, nor to be an ambassador - for Brazil, Canada, or any other country - nor to bore people with stories of how nice everything is. You see Leonardo, it's the bad stuff that makes good reading. I encourage you to pick up the writings of Paul Theroux, Tim Cahill or any other travel writer who both entertains and gives an honest assessment of his experience of a place or culture. Honesty isn't always pretty, and the stories that people most like to hear are not often those where everything went swimmingly.

So, dear Leonardo, I would like to respond only to your most aggressive line, the one in which you wrongly accuse me of claiming that Canada is superior to Brazil (how on earth could I say that when we can't Samba, we definitely don't have the physiques of the average Brazilian specimen, and we certainly haven't a clue how to have fun the way Brazilians do?) and ask me what you incorrectly call a rhetorical question (a rhetorical question is one in which no answer is expected). Here is my answer:

Call me crazy, but I would venture to surmise that maybe, just maybe Brazil exceeds Canada in the medal count for these reasons among others: Brazil's population is more than six times that of Canada, historically host countries do better proportionate to their averages in other years, and Brazil has the largest number of athletes at these Pan Am Games.

Oh and just one more thing Leonardo. We are having a wonderful time, and I have not had a single unpleasant experience with a Brazilian person. Unless I count you.

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