Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Climb Every Mountain

I am both intrigued and concerned about young people taking on extreme sports challenges. In our last posting, we wrote about children who attempted to break the solo-unassisted around-the-world sail. When 16-year old Abby Sunderland’s small craft was adrift without a mast in the Indian Ocean, the public debate on whether we should allow our children to take on such dangerous exploits was turned up a few notches.
Copyright 2010, publisher of fine books on sports.

Jordan Romero

The ongoing saga of Jordan Romero is another page in the debate. On May 22, 2010, the 13-year Californian reached the summit of Mount Everest with his dad, his step-mom, and three Nepalese sherpas. Everest was just one stop on the boy’s long journey to climb the highest peak on each of the seven continents that he began as a ten year old. Pretty incredible stuff in my book.

According the Romero’s web site http://www.jordanromero.com, Everest is the seventh peak in his bid to climb the highest summits in each continent--he says there are eight peaks in all. An expedition to scale the 4,897-high Vinson Massif in Antarctica is planned for December.

Unlike the very young solo round-the-world sailors, Jordan was not alone in his climbing adventure, which to my way of thinking puts his exploits into a whole different category. Jordan was always surrounded by a team of adults leading the way and monitoring his physical condition at every stage of the climb. However, his exploits are not without controversy and I think the debate is important.

Climbing Controversy

Part of the controversy surrounding young climbers is that high altitude climbing may be more dangerous to the young. There are other criticisms as well. David Hillebrandt, medical advisor to the British Mountaineering Council, is not a fan of Romero’s exploits and believes that the boy could not be mature enough for such an ascent. He also suggests that some of these ascents are not true sportsman's adventures(my words). Hildebrandt points out that without years of training and experience, some climbers are essentially being winched up mountains using ropes put in the place by the sherpas.

Only His Sherpas Know for Sure

We don't know of course, how much help Jordan received making the climb. I guess you might say only his Sherpas know for sure. However, this being Jordan's seventh mountain, I suspect he has some pretty special skills for age 13. But no doubt we’ll learn much more about Jordan’s efforts in the coming months.

Only Those with Valid Drivers License May Climb

China (Tibet) and Nepal both have ascents to Mount Everest. The China Tibet Mountaineering Association (CTMA) regulates climbing activities in Tibet and recently said climbers applying for a permit to attempt the Everest summit or any other Himalayan ranges must be at least 18. Nepal restricts climbing to age 16 and above. There is a reported loophole in that CTMA said climbers outside the age limitations would be considered with proof that they were fit for such a climb, but the limit regardless would be 16 years old and above. At least for now that is.

About the Boy

Like sailing records, climbing records also involve a commercial aspect to them. After all, Sears is still selling Edmund Hillary tents. Romero has made the rounds on TV and has a kids book coming out this summer on his quest, The Boy Who Conquered Everest: The Jordan Romero Story with co-author Katherine Blanc, to be published by Balboa Press http://www.balboapress.com. But Jordan is also involved in Team Duke, John Wayne’s Cancer Foundation http://www.teamduke.org. For his schoolmates, he started a program called 7 Summits Youth Challenge to actively encourage kids to improve their fitness with diet and exercise. A young man with Disney-star looks, Jordan lives in Big Bear Lake, which boasts southern California’s largest recreational lake and a high altitude that gives the area plenty of snow in the winter for skiing and other winter sports. It’s a great place for an adventurous kid to grow up.

Jordan on Jordan

In the winter I would prefer to spend every waking moment on the slopes, practicing new tricks on my twin tips (skis) in the freestyle park. In the summer I mix it up a bit. I like to spend time, running, kayaking, mountain biking, downhilling, bmx, wakeboarding,cliff jumping into the lake, and rock climbing. I’m on the cross country running team at my school. Give me a new action sport and I’ll give it a try. Me and my friends, we live for sports and the outdoors.

There are certainly plenty of glory-hungry star wannabees around these days, but I am personally impressed with the approach taken by Jordan and his folks. He may be 13, but he is already connected to good causes and he likes to hang with his peeps as much as anything. There is no sin in pursuing your dreams even if they may lead to celebrity. At least that's what we believe at Sporting Chance Press. Kids need adventurous role models, especially ones who plan their exploits carefully with competitent adults. I don't know much about mountain climbing, but his "team" seems to be very good at planning and they are with him every step of the way.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Young Adventurers Sail On

From Lindbergh’s solo flight across the Atlantic to Hillary’s climb of Mount Everest, record-breaking adventures have captivated us. Those who set them are often celebrities for life. And it seems that each time we think there are no more record-breaking adventures to be made, someone comes up with a new twist.

At Sporting Chance Press we believe that inspiring stories of sacrifice and achievement motivate us to reach our own potential. But extreme adventures need more scrutiny.

Recently, new extremely dangerous record-breaking exploits have been set by children. This trend is unsettling and some have suggested that parents that permit, if not promote such attempts, should face criminal charges. Regardless of whether we see these attempts as a positive test of mettle or a form of child abuse, they will continue because they are a global phenomenon.

Sailing records have been targeted by several teenage adventurers recently, although the World Sailing Speed Record Council (WSSRC) has discontinued its endorsement of the age based records. The Council’s absence from such endorsements may leave a void in rigorous sanctioning of such attempts, but it hasn’t stopped the exploits.

The Sunderland family of California includes at least two very adventurous children: In 2009, Zac Sunderland became the youngest person to sail solo around the world last year at the age of 17. His sister, 16-year-old Abby, followed in her big brother’s footsteps this year, but her journey ended when her mast broke in rough weather in the southern Indian Ocean on June 10. Thankfully, the Australian Maritime Safety Authority speedily coordinated her rescue effort and spotted her from the air. She was found 2,000 miles off the Australian coast about half way between Australia and Africa. Abby was picked up by a French fishing boat Ile De La Reunion two days later--a full 20 hours after her family lost contact with her. Abby's de-masted "Wild-Eyes" shown below.

Abby’s exploits followed in the media. Every aspect of her journey has been scrutinized strategically and technically. Her parents have come under tremendous criticism.

Abby was sailing in the southern Indian Ocean in the winter when the weather conditions are most treacherous. Abby views herself as a sailor and is upbeat about her attempt and is quick to defend it:
Any sailor that goes out to the water knows that being hit by a rogue wave is a risk, no matter where you are...You can't eliminate risk, you can do a lot to minimize it but it's always there.

Once pulled from the Ocean, Abby was in for a long voyage to the French territory of Reunion near Mauritius off eastern Africa. Abby's record-breaking attempt at an unassisted solo sail around the world had actually run aground in April when she and her support team decided to stop in Capetown to repair her main autopilot, a critical piece of equipment that had died. But Abby went on determinedly with her trip until her mast was broken. From start to finish, Abby, like most 21st Century adventurers was blogging along the way. Whether you look at Abby’s trip as a dangerous stunt, a misguided adventure or a noble endeavor, most will find at least some of her postings compelling reading at http://soloround.blogspot.com/. A book may follow.

Australian Effort

A number of other young sailors have attempted the round the world solo sail recently. Three months before Abby set sail, in October of 2009, sixteen year old Jessica Watson of Australia set out on her around the world sail in the Pink Lady and arrived home in Sidney Harbor on May 15, 2010 just three days before her 17th birthday--a little over three weeks prior to Abby’s mast catastrophe. Jessica is a national hero in Australia.

There is of course a commercial aspect of these adventures. Jessica is said to be under contract to Rupert Murdoch for her exclusive story in his newspapers. Her book called True Spirit: The Aussie Girl who Took on the World should be out this summer. Jessica Watson merchandise and trip details can be found at her website http://www.jessicawatson.com.au/. A documentary is in the works. Some sailing experts say that Miss Watson did not sail far enough above the equator to qualify as a round the world journey, but that has not seemed to dim the enthusiasm for her effort.

England’s Youngest Sailing Superstar

Even if Abby had been successful, she would not have broken her brother Zac Sunderland’s record. Zac’s record had all ready been surpassed by 17 year-old Michael Perham who hails from outside London. Perham completed his voyage just six weeks after Zac’s trip. Perham has authored a book about his experiences, Sailing the Dream, released in March 2010. Find out what Michael is up to these days at www.challengemike.com.

Younger Still – The Dutch

The quest for the youngest around the world unassisted sail record parallels some of the early efforts of competing European nations to be the first to discover parts of the new world! As Abby Sunderland was sailing to Africa after her ordeal at sea, Laura Dekker a young Dutch sailor was fighting in court to make a run for glory from the Netherlands. After nixing her attempt last year when Dekker was just 13 years old, a Dutch court extended the ban on 14-year-old Laura Dekker this year. She is still hoping to get clearance for her attempt to beat Australian Jessica Watson’s record.

Certainly commercial rewards and national pride are entering into the picture and may further cloud the debate on whether these very young adventurers ought to be allowed to risk their lives. As long as all these young people and their would-be rescuers have made it back alive, these exercises have a fantastic feel, but if risk turns to tragedy, it will be very painful for everyone involved along with the millions who follow such adventures from all over the world and want to see these kids succeed. Reading just a bit of what goes on in these small boats in the ocean is proof enough for me that these young sailors are especially courageous.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Of Merkle's Critics and Gangster Movies

I am one of those context kind of guys. People who know me will tell you that I get really annoyed at people (including myself at times) who make judgments about people and events out of context. I suppose that's what really attracted me to Mike Cameron's book, Public Bonehead, Private Hero - See www.sportingchancepress.com. Cameron scripted his book like a drama. American history in the Progressive Era - Teddy Roosevelt, the Model T, the great race and much more... Baseball magic--the Pennant races are being watched with meteoric enthusiasm. The teams fight on -- the crowds riot, real life takes a back seat to the entertaining metaphor of baseball.

Then the tragedy. Young handsome youth--Merkle-- finds himself in the wrong place at the wrong time. He follows the lead of countless others as he runs the bases and turns off the field at the end of the game. But in this one game, the end never really comes. The umpire calls him out for not advancing to second and tagging the base, citing a rule that simply was not enforced before. The gas bomb that is the Muckraking press of 1908 explodes. From the stinky cloud comes the message: Merkle is a Bonehead forever more.

In Public Bonehead, Private Hero Cameron does what other writers have not done. He not only follows the drama of the season and the game, but follows the shattered aftermath of the game. Not a pretty story, but certainly one that is not without redemption. But even after Cameron's book and several other publications about Merkle's actions examined in the context of the time, most stories on Merkle continue to point the finger of blame on the unfortunate man.

People, many who should know better, still want to judge Merkle out of context. After Merkle was called out for not touching second as the winning run scored from home, any base runner in baseball would be guilty of a base-running error because the application of the rule was publicized repeatedly. But when Merkle ran the bases that day in 1908, it simply had not been ruled that way. He was doing what was done in his time. Judging Merkle as if he was running the bases like base runners are taught today, is judging out of context. Why is it so difficult to understand?

It's a little like watching an old gangster moving from the 1930s when the bad guys head over to the kill a rival mobster having just roughed up one of his underlings to find out where he is at. If the Merkle critics were in the audience, they would probably be screaming at the underling to pull out his cell phone and give his boss a heads up. They just don't get context.

Maddie Takes the Ice Gets Excellent Review

It's always good to get compliments on your work; this is especially true in publishing. We were thrilled this past week when Jo Ann Schneider Farris, Managing Editor of About.com Guide to Figure Skating gave Nicolette House's Maddie Takes the Ice Five-Stars in her review:

Maddie Takes the Ice is one of the most accurate and "true to life" fictional books about competitive figure skating. It not only will inspire, but will also give those interested in the sport some insight on what it takes to be a competitive figure skater. ..

Jo Ann’s site, About.com Guide to Figure Skating, is full of great information on figure skating and it was truly an honor for us to have such kind words from her. Jo Ann won a Silver Medal in Ice Dancing at the United States National Figure Skating Championships and is a US Figure Skating Double Gold Medalist. She coaches, writes and lives figure skating – her motto is “happy skating.” For Jo Ann’s complete review of Maddie Takes the Ice go to: (About.com Review). See www.sportingchancepress.com for ordering information on Maddie Takes the Ice.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Thorne Talks Baseball to Kishwaukee Kiwanis

J. D. Thorne gave his 10 Commandments of Baseball presentation at the June 23rd Kishwaukee Kiwanis (http://kishkiwanis.org/) meeting yesterday at the Hopkins Park Terrace Room in Dekalb, Illinois. Kiwanis International is described as a “global organization of volunteers dedicated to changing the world one child and one community at a time. Members develop youth as leaders, build playgrounds and raise funds for pediatric research. They help shelter the homeless, feed the hungry, mentor the disadvantaged and care for the sick. Working together, members achieve what one person cannot accomplish alone. And along the way, club members share friendship and laughter.” (Shown above is Kishwaukee Kiwanis Park Playground)

At his Kiwanis presentation, J. D. spoke about how the baseball commandments have become part and parcel of good youth programs and can also be useful life principles as well. Application of baseball mantras like “run them all out,” “do not quit,” and “hustle” can help everyone improve their game in not only sports but life. The baseball principles were briefly noted in J.D.’s presentation and then illustrated with stories from baseball past that are funny, yet poignant. The presentation is based on Thorne’s book, The 10 Commandments of Baseball (see www.sportingchancepress.com).

At Sporting Chance Press, our authors have shared friendship and laughter with the “salt of the earth” folks who make community service a keystone in their lives. J. D. Thorne is a frequent and favorite speaker at service organization meetings along with many other venues. These programs and the volunteers who manage them are inspirational. Attending these service organization meetings has given us a glimpse into the good work these groups do all over the country.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Book Signing in Columbus

Nicolette House will be signing her new book Maddie Takes the Ice at Cover to Cover bookstore in Columbus, Ohio on Saturday June 19, 2010 beginning at 11a.m. Maddie Takes the Ice is a middle grade novel about a young figure skater who struggles mightily with nerves as she nears a regional championship competition. For more on the book see www.sportingchancepress.com.

Cover to Cover bookstore is a kid-friendly bookstore devoted exclusively to children’s books. Owner Sally Oddi and her staff pride themselves in their knowledge of children’s literature from the latest young adult offerings to preschool classics and everything in between. Cover to Cover is at 3560 North High Street just two and half (2 1/2) blocks north of East North Broadway on the east side of the street.