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Match Play is a golf/suspense novel. Dust of Autumn is a bloody one set in upstate New York. Prairie View is set in South Dakota, with a final scene atop Rattlesnake Butte. Life in the Arbor is a children's book about Rollie Rabbit and his friends (on about a fourth grade level). The Black Widow involves an elaborate extortion scheme. Doggy-Dog World is my memoir. And ES3 is a description of my method for examining English sentence structure.
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My newest novel, Happy Valley, can be found here.

Tuesday, August 9

Rio, Day 4

How’s that for a joyous jump? Kelley O’Hara, member of the U.S. women’s soccer team, looks like she could probably slam dunk one in the NBA. Her leap epitomizes what the Olympic Games are all about, the joy of competing, the joy of winning, the joy of simply being there. I said it four years ago and now I’ll have to say it again: the spirit of the Games would be better served by paying more attention to individual and team successes than on national medal counts. The U.S. teams are great, but we don’t need to rub the rest of the world’s noses in it by making such a big deal of the accumulated golds, silvers, and bronzes.

The first two days of competition gave us some exciting moments—the men’s cycling involving a four-man sprint to the finish, all three medals decided in the last 100 meters; almost an identical conclusion to the women’s cycling, with American Mara Abbott being passed by three cyclists in the last 100 meters. The cycling also gave us a few horrific spills on the downhill sections, especially that of Annemiek Van Vleuten’s fall to the unforgiving pavement after leading the field by a wide margin with less than nine kilometers to go. But despite the exciting finishes and dangerous spills, most of the race coverage was too repetitive, too many views of men’s and women’s pumping legs, too much of those disconcerting cars and motorcycles zooming in and around the bikers. Wouldn’t their omnipresence bother the hell out of the competitors? I can only imagine how wooden their legs must be after that many hours on a bike, how painfully sore their butts must be.

The rest of the coverage, especially during the day, is pretty much confined to preliminaries, sorting out the haves from the have-nots, with finals one or two nights later. Two nights ago we saw Michael Phelps win his 19th gold when he and three teammates won the 400 freestyle relay. And Katie Ledecki won the 400 freestyle in world record time. The U.S. men’s volleyball team got swept by Canada. U.S. men’s and women’s basketball teams have had really lopsided wins in their early games. My problem, and probably the problem for most viewers, is that there are so many sports that are almost totally unfamiliar to me, or at least on professional levels—rugby, field hockey, archery, men’s and women’s water polo, table tennis, equestrian, synchronized diving, synchronized swimming, fencing, kayaking and canoeing, and a few other I can’t think of. Unless you or someone you know is involved in such sports, you don’t pay much attention to them unless you’re a rabid, junky sports fan. Most of the viewers (at least in the U.S.) are more interested in the swimming, gymnastics, men’s and women’s basketball, men’s and women’s soccer, tennis, and of course, golf, back in the Games after over a hundred years (last in 1904). The rest sort of flash by every four years only to fade out of sight in the interim.

By and large, Rio has done itself proud with these Games. But I’m still aware of the poverty and filth just west of the lovely beaches and high-rises. They represent the national dichotomy in Brazil—the haves and the have-nots—and after these Games are over and the visitors have gone home to their cleaner, more prosperous nations, Rio will have to confront its economic and political problems.

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