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Travelling as a sport
Posted by: Henry Budgett
Posted on: Thursday 1st November 2007


Tags  Baseball  |  Boston  |  Red Sox


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Travel apparently, or so they say, broadens the mind... Or, as one more observant individual put it, travel broadens the backside! And, having just come back from the land of conspicuous excess, I've been privileged to see an awful lot of broadened backsides that haven't done that much travelling! Indeed, in the case of one couple we met, so broad as to prevent virtually any travelling at all...

Given the choice, I prefer my overseas trips to be pretty short - it's not that I'm hankering for what's at home but rather that I find I get bored pretty easily and so a four-day trip to Boston is an ideal time away to have a bit of fun, not do anything triathlon-related and get a bit of a different perspective on things. I'm pretty familiar with the place - this was my fifth trip there in a dozen years - and, compared to a lot of the US cities that I've been to, it's nice enough that I'll take the family along and be sure that they'll have a good time as well.

Sport, US-style

For those that follow American sports you'll possibly be aware that this season Boston got into the World Series at baseball and the first night we were there stuffed the Colorado Rockies 10-1 at the Fenway. The following night the town was on a high and the Red Soxs won again to lead the series by two to nothing. On the Saturday night the teams had moved to mile-high Denver to play three games there and the Sox won the first two of them to take the series with a whitewash. Now, to be perfectly frank, American sports aren't my bag. I'd agree that baseball is more interesting than basketball but, having frozen nearly to death one night watching a game of American football that took two hours to get to and lasted for over four, pretty much nothing is ever going to get me to watch another game of that!

So, why the sudden interest in baseball? The reason is not because of the game itself, but the people playing and watching. Baseball players are pretty chunky - I guess they need a fair amount of mass to hit that ball effectively and, like sprinters, tend to be a bit more muscular than, say, distance runners. The supporters too seem to be a bit more on the bulky side but that's probably a) because of all the extra clothing they need to survive an evening sitting on the bleachers and b) because of all the beer, soda and snack foods that they'll consume! However, you could compare them to rugby players and supporters in that respect and at least the game doesn't get bogged down in tedious 'plays' and the folk watching seem to be there for a good time rather than a fight.

Boston really is a sports mecca; there's the baseball, football, ice hockey, basketball, sailing and, of course, the Boston Marathon which is celebrated by a nice piece of pavement mosaic down at the finish near Copley Square. There are loads of sports shops too but here you'll be in for a bit of a disappointment because most seem to be offering less choice that you'll find here in the UK. The Bill Rodgers running shop in Quincy Market is stuffed with running gear, to be sure, but is seems to be stuck in a time warp and hardly reflects what today's triathlete might be looking for. In City Sports, a much larger store, we did bump into another English tourist buying a Garmin Forerunner with the intention of slipping it back into the UK under the Customs radar but the amount of information he got from the staff to inform his purchase made a shopping trip to Dixons look like a personal appointment with a technology guru! And, even in this well-stocked store, triathlon was a minority sport that you had to hunt to find with just a few items of Zoot and Craft kit on display.

To be honest, sports shops in the US are pretty much always a disappointment and seem to be trying to cater for everything from hunting and shooting to replica baseball kit. In many ways they remind me of Millets, which sounds a bit odd but there's that same, slightly unfocussed feeling about them. In all the trips to the US that I've made over the years I can only think of a handful of sports shops that I've found which came anywhere close to the specialist outlets we have here in the UK; R&A and SBR Sports in New York and Nytro in California - there must be others but I think they do most of their triathlon shopping online!

Boston is also a walking city; it's really compact and actually very pleasant to stroll around the different neighbourhoods. And, being triathletes, we did a lot of walking over the days we were in town. Compared to some US cities where the police will virtually arrest you on the spot for using your legs, Boston positively encourages you to get out and get around; the historical Freedom Trail is marked out through the city with a red paved or painted line for a couple of miles of educational exercise and there are other well established walking and running routes. Of course, there are distractions along the way...

Regular readers will know that we like coffee so having no less than 31 Starbucks outlets, many with WiFi and free iTunes downloads, was a distinct distraction. However, while 31 might be a good enough number for Starbucks (and enough flavours for Baskin Robins...) it pales into insignificance compared to the 100+ outlets that Dunkin' Donuts have around the place. Did you know that DD serves more coffee than any other retail outlet in the USA? One, hopefully not entirely serious, suggestion made for their widespread distribution throughout the entire state was that it ensured the police force was evenly spread out...

That ain't gonna happen...

And, as you would expect, with such a seriously high carb, fat and caffeine intake some of the results are not pretty. As we were walking back to our hotel on the Cambridge side, perhaps a 15-minute stroll, we made a turning to discover two ladies looking at a map. One was actually sitting down on one of those folding 'walking stick' seats, the other leaning on her. Both were, to be polite, morbidly obese. The seated one looked at us, figured we knew where we were going and asked, "How far to the Science Museum?".

"Less than a mile," we replied. "It's straight down that street."

"A mile," said the standing one. "That ain't gonna happen!"

And there, dear reader, lies the heart of the problem and our new catch phrase. For unless people are prepared to make just a little effort to change things; be it diet, exercise regime, the elimination of drafting in age group triathlon, a willingness to volunteer at events or practically anything else that requires the start of a new existence then, in the words of our large acquaintances, it just isn't going to happen.

So, make 2008 the year you decide that something is going to happen and start taking your first steps towards that goal. After all, Dunkin' Donuts may serve more coffee than anybody else but that doesn't mean you have to drink it...

 

 
Have Your Say
Re: Travelling as a sport
Posted by triman
Posted at 16:01:01 13th Nov 2007
Reply to this

Henry, theres a but in my comment, its not the one you sit on though!

I'd agree with your general observation on sports shops in big cities here in the US. There are though far more specialist sports shops in major American cities than there are in the UK. The sports "outfitters" ie gun/hunting/fishing shops have been broadening out in the past few year, while the "teenage" sports shops having also been moving towards adventure sports. Remember, the population is so large, you can make a lot of money selling mediocre stuff.

But, even in Manhattan you can find genuinely specialist stores. Tri shops, swimming shops, running shops and of course bike shops. So thats the key, when planning a trip to the US, find the specialist stores rather than the sports stores.

Here in Austin we have 3x Tri specific shops, while they are good for high end bike gear, and wetsuits, they are not the best places to get swim and run gear, and for "regular" bike stuff, the numerous bike stores inc. Bicycle Sports are much better.