Hungary’s Horse Hopes

“Failure is the most often heard expression in Hungary today — failure, mistake, pessimism. When even a horse is able to make a miracle from nowhere, it’s a sign of hope that we can get out from the desperate situation we are now in.”

That’s Victor Orban, leader of Hungary’s Fidesz Party, talking about Overdose, the race horse that’s captured the beleagured Hungarian imagination. Overdose’s owner purchased him as an afterthought–for the meager price of $3,500–and despite being, in his trainer’s words “short” and “kind of ugly,” the horse has since gone on to win 12 races in 12 starts. In the process he’s come to be known as the “Hungarian Seabiscuit.” For a country facing a particularly grim economic future, Overdose has become a galvanizing force:

There is a clear patriotic tilt to the horse’s reception. He rode out Sunday with an honor guard of six flag-bearing riders dressed as Hussars, the famous Hungarian light cavalry, as tens of thousands screamed.

“For us Hungarians, it’s a big deal,” said Livia Nagy, 23, one of the thousands who came out for the race. “Overdose is something we can be proud of.”

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Morning Money Quotes

European soccer–still plagued by racism

Juventus have been ordered to play a home game behind closed doors after their fans racially abused Inter Milan striker Mario Balotelli at the weekend.

The 18-year-old scored Inter’s goal in the 1-1 Serie A draw and was taunted by sections of the Juve crowd in Turin.

The Italy under-21 international was born in Palermo, Sicily, but is of Ghanaian descent.

Are Indians more interested in national elections or the IPL cricket tournament in South Africa?

P.Chidambaram announced on March 23 that elections were more important than cricket, the 64-year-old Congress leader could have been speaking for television audiences. At least that is what viewership figures for the first IPL weekend (over April 18 and 19) suggest.

Data released by viewership rating companies indicates more people watched the developments in the political arena than cricket on the first two days of the Indian Premier League (IPL).

The AP provides background on Andy Kennedy, the U. of Mississippi men’s hoops coach who recently pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct:

The 41-year-old coach was arrested last December when Mississippi was in Cincinnati for a game against Louisville as part of the SEC/Big East Invitational. Cab driver Mohamed Moctar Ould Jiddou said Kennedy punched him in the face and called him a terrorist after he told the coach he couldn’t fit him and four others into his cab.

Kennedy is still embroiled in civil lawsuits with the driver and a valet who says he saw the confrontation and supported the cab driver.

Chinese martial-arts star/actor Jackie Chan on freedom:

“I’m not sure if it is good to have freedom or not. I’m really confused now. If you are too free, you are like the way Hong Kong is now. It’s very chaotic. Taiwan is also chaotic. I’m gradually beginning to feel that we Chinese need to be controlled. If we are not being controlled, we’ll just do what we want.”

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Olympic Bid Update

News from the four finalists angling to host the 2016 Summer Olympics:

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Boondoggle in the Bronx

Neil DeMause nicely sums up why the new Yankee Stadium is nothing to celebrate:

“The Yankees deal actually manages to be both the largest team expense on a stadium in history, and the largest public expense on a stadium in history, somewhere in the neighborhood of $1 billion. The city gets no part of the new revenues the Yankees will reap from the stadium; the jobs created are virtually all part-time, and largely cannibalized from other stores and restaurants in the surrounding area; Bronx residents lost their only large neighborhood park [until the old Yankee stadium is demolished and replaced by a park], for at least five years; and fans got more expensive seats with a lousier view of the field. All this, so that the Yankees wouldn’t move out of New York – something that was never going to happen anyway, since the entire value of the Yankees franchise is wrapped up in where they play. I’d call that a pretty lousy deal.”

He’s absolutely right. Normally, I’m indifferent toward the Yankees, but the way they’ve comported themselves during the approval and construction process has turned me into a bit of a hater. I certainly shed no tears over the fact that they’re having trouble putting butts in some of the more grossly overpriced seats in the new ballpark (HT: Shysterball).

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Morning Money Quotes

The NYT‘s Harvey Araton on recently retired NFL broadcaster John Madden:

Admittedly, no laws are broken by the failure to use a platform for social good, but Jordan and Woods over the years have been called out for never speaking out, risking their corporate appeal. Why only athletes? Why not men like Madden?

For comparison’s sake, can yous imagine Bob Costas — who at the national level is as much the voice of baseball as Madden has been football’s — achieving his level of deserved respect by commenting almost exclusively about what happens between the white lines?

Jennifer Duffy on the fundraising shortfalls of baseball Hall of Famer and Kentucky Senator Jim Bunning:

“When your challenger raises more money than an incumbent in a quarter, it’s evidence that Bunning does not have a lot of support and he does not have the money to run the kind of race that he needs. He either tries to have a significantly better second quarter or he gives long, hard thought as to whether he really wants to run again.”

The Straits Times on the latest Chinese athlete to enter the political arena:

Table tennis legend Deng Yaping, a four-time Olympic gold medallist, has been appointed deputy secretary of Beijing’s arm of the Chinese Communist Youth League, according to the Xinhua news agency.

Mansoor Kahn on the decision to move 2011 World Cup cricket matches out of a destabilized Pakistan:

“This is very sad news for us. For both cricket fans and proud Pakistanis, this is bad. This is also very bad for the country’s image. It’s frustrating; Pakistanis are mad about cricket and want to be part of every moment of the game as it’s going on. This is just so disappointing.”

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Friday Musical Interlude

Because I don’t blog on weekends, the Decemberists …

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The Humiliation of Taiwan

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When you see Taiwan competing in international events like the Olympics or the World Baseball Classic, you’ll notice it goes by the moniker “Chinese Taipei” and its athletes stand for the Chinese national anthem. This isn’t by choice, as “Uncle Popov” reminds us in an excellent piece at the Bleacher Report.

Depending on whom you ask, Taiwan is either a free country, part of an archipelago called the Republic of China (distinct from the People’s Republic of China), the rightful rulers of mainland China (a fairly wacky stance), a client state of China, or the rightful inheritance of the People’s Republic. Obviously, China believes–illegitimately–that it has claim to Taiwan, and because China is more powerful and wields more influence, that’s the global consensus today.

Indeed, most of the world doesn’t recognize Taiwanese sovereignty, and international sports governing bodies–never known for their testicular fortitude when it comes to standing up to the People’s Republic–almost always follow suit. That’s led to some controversy and resistance.

For example, leading up to the inaugural World Baseball Classic in 2006, then U.S. Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-CO) blasted MLB for bowing to Chinese pressure and forcing the Taiwanese to compete under the “Chinese Taipei” name, which they’re known by in IOC and even World Trade Organization circles. Tancredo’s efforts, of course, came to grief.

As petty as it sounds, any change in WBC or Olympic policy would be seen by the Chinese as an international incident. Over here? Hell, the governor of Texas can daydream about high treason, and we don’t sweat it too much.

Anyhow, things aren’t likely to change. It would be nice, though, if at the very least journalists and commentators covering these events would make a point of saying/writing “Taiwan” loudly and proudly at every chance.

Baby steps, as they say.

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