Tuesday, June 29, 2010

World Cup & NASCAR: If you ain't cheating, you ain't trying

Sometimes the difference in winning is what you can get away with....

They say soccer is a gentleman's sport played by thugs. I was thinking about that adage this weekend while ESPN was recaping the much celebrated "hand-of-god" goal by Argentina's Diego Maradona in the 1986 World Cup. It reminded me of another adage, this one from NASCAR, “If you’re not cheating, you’re not trying.”

I can’t think of any other two sports where cheating is so openly considered part of the game -- and sometimes celebrated.

The blatant phantom soccer injuries are one thing, but I’m wondering whether we’ll see any type of repeat of the famous hand-ball goal that helped Argentina win the 1986 tournament.

The goal has been long celebrated in Argentina. Arguably the world's greatest player ever, Maradona, now Argentina's coach, himself called the goal divine intervention.

NASCAR crew chief Chad Knaus didn't claim divine intervention when he was caught fiddling with the aerodynamics of the No. 48 car. Just about everyone else in racing however seemed to shrug their shoulders as if to say, "That's racin."

Bending the rules has been part of NASCAR since its beginnings. Crew chiefs have tweaked tricked up stock cars and used nitrous oxide gas for extra horsepower. The sports roots date back to a time when bootleggers were trying to outrun the law.

One of those former bootleggers, racing legend Junior Johnson, told a reporter in Florida a few years ago that “Anybody who runs legal is gonna run behind…. It's not cheating…It's being competitive."

Of course, soccer and NASCAR are far from the only sports that have been permeated by cheating.

Think about all those Tour de France riders needing blood transfusions, pill popping track athletes, and steroid injecting baseball players. The NFL busted New England Patriots coach Bill Belicheck for videotaping the New York Jets defensive signals.

Still, I'd say, the practice is not as openly accepted as on the soccer pitch and racetrack.

In this year's World Cup, one of the likeliest candidates to pull off a hand of god goal would be Argentina's current star player, Lionel Messi. Often touted as the best player of his generation, Messi shares many traits with his coach. They both played internationally for Barcelona, wore No. 10 for the Argentina national team, and can dance with a soccer ball like few others on the pitch. And Messi even already has his own hand ball goal scored in a critical game while playing for Barcelona.

Messi has long struggled to get out from under his coach's shadow. And, in this tournament where the expectation is to win at any cost, he has yet to score a goal with his feet.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

"Strange" election gives residents in Hispanic community 6 votes

"What happened to - one man, one vote?"

A friend mentioned this story of a New York City suburb that gave residents six votes in a Port Chester election. Odd, but apparently true.

Yes, voters could give all six votes to one candidate. And that’s exactly what some did.

Resident Arthur Furano flipped the lever six times for his favorite candidate, according to the Associated Press.

It’s the first election for village trustees since since 2006, when the federal government alleged the existing election system discriminated against Hispanics. No Latino had ever been elected to any of the six trustee seats despite the village being nearly half Latino.

Federal Judge Stephen Robinson said that violated the Voting Rights Act, and he approved a remedy suggested by village officials: a system called cumulative voting, in which residents get six votes each to apportion as they wish among the candidates, according to the Associated Press.

Even Furano admitted it was strange.

"I'm not sure I liked it,” he said. “All my life, I've heard, 'one man, one vote.'"

Monday, June 14, 2010

N.C. relief worker tells of pain and inspiration in Haiti

"I have been told not to care so much…But the day I ignore blatant child neglect and abuse I will know that I have failed as a human being."

Lauren Falduti, 23, joined a Charlotte relief team on their latest trip to Haiti to help with earthquake relief.

Members of the Haitian Heritage & Friends of Haiti will be in northern Haiti for two weeks. They delivered an ambulance and more than 41,000 pounds of supplies to the devastated nation still reeling from the Jan. 12 earthquake.

Falduti emailed me this weekend about working in the pediatrics unit at the Justinien Hospital in Cap-Haitien, Haiti. She and another relief worker from Atlanta have worked together to try and save the life of an abandoned little boy who they believe has cerebral palsy. He was receiving very little care until Falduti took it upon herself to help him.

Here are excerpts from her message:
"There is one patient in particular who has stolen my heart. He was abandoned in the street and brought to Justinien where he has been laying in a crib for 2 weeks. We think he has cerebral palsy and are guessing he is between 6-10 years old. Because he was abandoned and is unable to speak, we have no idea what his name is, so I named him Michael after the archangel.

…When I met him I truly believe he had given up all hope of survival- he was catatonic and unresponsive. I thought he was in a vegetative state. Imagine having no one love you or hold you as a child- it is utterly heartbreaking.”

... For the past couple of days I have been feeding my sweet Michael and have told the head of pediatrics about him. Luckily the head Dr. ordered the nurses to feed him, but they still only seem to feed and diaper him when I am there to make pressure them to do so. It is still a daily struggle to get them to change his sheets and the other day after I left the hospital he had diarrhea and was forced to sleep on his soiled sheets all night.

Two days ago I was at the end of my rope! I was told Michael had begun to run a fever and immediately began to cry. I wanted to scream… I felt so hopeless. I felt God's righteous anger at the abuse of His precious child welling up inside of me.

… I have been told not to care so much. I have been told to separate myself from Michael. But the day I ignore blatant child neglect and abuse I will know that I have failed as a human being. Ignoring Michael would be enabling the abuse, and I refuse to do such a thing.

… I am attaching a photo of Michael and I listening to my Ipod yesterday. I held him and rocked him while I sang him the song "For Good" from the soundtrack of the Broadway play, WICKED. At the very moment when I sang the words "Because I knew you, I have been changed for good," my darling Michael looked me in the eyes and smiled! I love this child SO MUCH!"

Monday, June 7, 2010

Charlotte team returns to Haiti

A Charlotte team of relief workers returned to Haiti this weekend to deliver an ambulance and more than 41,000 pounds of supplies to the devastated nation still reeling from the Jan. 12 earthquake.

With support from Myers Park United Methodist Church and Presbytery Church of Charlotte, five members of the Haitian Heritage & Friends of Haiti team returned to the northern region of the country. The doctor, physical therapist, EMT, and project manager left on Friday. They will return June 19.

“The need is still there,” said Sabine Guerrier, who is leading the group.

(This is one of two groups that I followed during my second trip to Haiti in February. You can read more of our coverage on their work here.)

In addition to delivering the ambulance and supplies, Guerrier said the team will also provide medical training to about 15 local doctors and nurses, operate a mobile clinic, which will travel to nearby villages to provide medical care and deliver other supplies.

Guerrier said the team is also working with federal representatives and a local mayor to receive approximately 10 acres of donated land, which will be used to build housing and a rehabilitation clinic.

The team purchased the used ambulance this spring with more than 200,000 miles for $3,000 at a city of Charlotte auction.

It was serviced and repainted before being driven to Miami last month where it was loaded onto a cargo ship for delivery to Haiti.

Guerrier said the ambulance will be donated to Justinien University Hospital, a public hospital in Cap-Haitien, Haiti. The struggling hospital does not have an ambulance.

"What a bliss," Dr. Jean Gracia, medical director of Justinien University Hospital, wrote in a letter to the team and city of Charlotte. "... My staff and the patients are very grateful and lucky to have organizations like yours thinking about their well-being when they are most vulnerable."

Photo: Fort Mill paramedic Thomas Hall(right) drove the ambulance to Miami where it was loaded onto a cargo ship headed for Haiti.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

NC faith leaders meet on immigration

State clergy will meet in Charlotte tomorrow to discuss the theological and practical sides of the immigration debate.

Seeking to encourage constructive dialogue, clergy members are expected to discuss the controversial Arizona immigration law and how they relate with local enforcement efforts such as Mecklenburg County’s 287g program.

Chris Liu-Beers with the NC Council of Churches, which is sponsoring the event, says faith communities are at their best when they address controversial issues head-on in a thoughtful and respectful way.

“Congregations are on the front lines of the immigration debate – offering English courses, meals, job training, and pastoral care to people facing very challenging situations,” he said.

“From Hostility to Hospitality: Immigration and People of Faith” is part of a statewide clergy breakfast series on immigration.

The breakfast will take place Thursday morning, June 3, at Myers Park Baptist Church on Queens Road from 8:30-10:00am. Speakers include Rev. Steve Shoemaker of Myers Park Baptist Church and Lori Fernald Khamala with American Friends Service Committee.

“As people of faith, we are united in the belief that every person is a child of God and that we are called to offer hospitality to our neighbors,” Liu-Beers said.