Wednesday, November 26, 2014

BOOK REVIEW: ‘Man Versus Ball: One Ordinary Guy and His Extraordinary Sports Adventures,’ by Jon Hart

At one point in Man Versus Ball, Jon Hart’s editor, frustrated by the author’s shenanigans, calls him “the George Costanza of journalism.” But really, he is the opposite of the bumbling Seinfeld character (save for being really funny). Rather than try to cut corners and take the lazy way out, Hart goes out of his way – often way way out of his way – to make his life as difficult as possible by diving head-first into whatever whacked-out sports-associated role he can find. 

I was surprised at how much I learned from Hart’s book. He introduces us to the cutthroat and surprisingly fascinating world of soda and hot dog vending at Yankee Stadium, takes us behind the scenes of pro tennis after qualifying to become a “ball person” at the U.S. Open, he shows us how amateur football players hammer their bodies to hell for no pay and rarely any glory, and he joins the National In-line Basketball League (which, yes, is basketball played on inline skates), a sport I didn't even know existed.

Among his many adventures, Hart essentially becomes a series of different real-life characters. He races up the Empire State Building as a stair climber, puts in a painful stint as a professional wrestler nicknamed Johnny Love, a Venice Beach party guy. After training with the top mascot guru in the business, Hart lands a role as a hockey mascot, dressed in a neon pink gorilla suit.

As “The Joggler,” I know all about running along the fringes of so-called real sports. After all, I did star in an award-winning documentary with the tagline, “Fame. Fortune. Usually neither.” The thing is, it’s not about all of that. What I've learned in my time as a marathon joggler is that it’s about doing the best you can, whether you’re running a marathon while juggling, dunking basketballs on inline skates or jumping around dressed as a pink gorilla. I was slightly disappointed that the book didn’t include any joggling, but will wait patiently for Hart’s sequel, Man Versus Juggling Balls.

Man Versus Ball is a raucous rollick along the frayed fringes of the sports world, where I think Hart finds more real-ness than you typically encounter in the major professional sports. “It’s not about superstars or championship teams,” Hart writes, but along the way, he does find plenty of superstars in their own way – all unheralded misfits, in one way or another, himself included. 

Find Man Versus Ball on Amazon HERE.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

"Marathon Juggler? That's a Thing?"

Since the launch of the Fairfleld Inn and Suites #StayAmazing TV commercial, I keep reading on Twitter: "Marathon juggler? That's a thing?" That was actually my reaction in 2005. I had set the Guinness record for the "fastest marathon whilst juggling three objects" as a charity stunt, but quickly discovered that there was a worldwide community of competitive and recreational jogglers out there, who had being doing this for decades. 'This is really a thing?' I thought to myself at the time.

Fast-forward almost 10 years and here I am setting the new half-marathon joggling Guinness World Record at the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon. If you look down the list of joggling records, there are no easy ones, and the 1:20:40 half-marathon was no exception. A huge thank-you to everyone who donated to People to People Canada. Our team raised nearly $40,000 for AIDS orphans in Ethiopia.

The race's live YouTube coverage picked me up at about the 16km mark and did a full colour commentary of the joggling record attempt as if it were a real sport. A thing! It cracks me up to no end hearing Tim Hutchings, probably the best running commentator in the business, narrating my joggling, along with 2:28 marathoner Krista DuChene and Canadian Running editor-in-chief Michael Doyle.

It actually hurts my brain just to watch that footage again, because it's really quite astonishingly painful to run at a 3:50/km (6:09/mile) pace while trying to keep that cascade spinning around and not dropping a ball. So yeah, I can vouch for marathon juggling (and half-marathon, 10km, etc.) being a thing. It's absurd, funny and painful, but most definitely a thing.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Joggling in TV Commercial for Fairfield Inn and Suites

More on this soon, but I appeared in my first TV commercial. It's for Fairfield Inn and Suites by Marriott and it's amazing – as in, #StayAmazing amazing.