Get to the screening room – Movie Club is in session! Film Buff Fran is back to discuss the 2005 documentary “Murderball,” which follows the USA Wheelchair Rugby team from the 2002 World Championships to the 2004 Paralympics in Athens. Along the way, we meet the rowdy and loveable cast of characters who surprise us with their foul mouths and win us over with their love of the game.
Our next movie will be “I, Tonya,” a look at the 1994 saga of US figure skaters Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan, in which Harding’s ex-husband physically attacked Kerrigan in an attempt to get rid of the competition for the 1994 Winter Olympics in Lillehammer. Look for this discussion closer to the end of the year.
In our look back at the 1996 Summer Games in Atlanta, Jill’s got the story of the modern pentathlon event, which for the first time was held on one day. Hear about the ups and downs in competition, including this spectacular finish. Plus, you won’t believe who managed the US team.
We’re currently voting on what historical Games we’ll focus on in 2022. We’ll be doing a Winter Games, and options will be:
- Salt Lake City 2002
- Albertville 1992
- Sapporo 1972
- Oslo 1952
- Lake Placid 1932
Vote in our Facebook Group by Oct. 12. If you’re not on FB, you can email us at flamealivepod @ gmail.com or text us at 208-FLAME-IT.
In our update from Team Keep the Flame Alive, we hear from TKFLASTANIS:
In our Beijing 2022 update, the organizing committee has announced its (mainland China only) spectator policy and how it will have a bubble surrounding the participants. Team Canada has a new outfitter. And China might not get an automatic entry into the men’s ice hockey tournament.
Until next week, thank you, and keep the flame alive!
Please note: We make efforts to ensure accuracy of this transcript, but it is machine-generated and may contain errors. The record of note is the audio file.
Episode 207 – Flim Club Fran on Murderball
Jill: [00:00:00] Hello fans of TKFLASTAN and welcome to another episode of Keep the Flame Alive, the podcast for fans of the Olympics and Paralympics. I am your host, Jill Jaracz joined as always by my lovely co-host Alison Brown. Alison, hello!
Alison: I want to hit somebody
Jill: And that is different from what other day?
Alison: I want to knock them over.
Jill: You have been dying to try wheelchair rugby ever since Tokyo.
Alison: I really have. And it’s so funny because I’m the kind of person who- I will go the widest circle, not to have like bump into someone. I will be very aware of that. And here I am wanting to try a sport that involves crashing into them.
Jill: How has your behavior been at the grocery store with your cart lately?
Alison: They haven’t been letting me into the grocery store actually in my family. I think they’re a little concerned about it. I just thought of this now that you mentioned it, but other people have been going to the store. So I think they’re seeing some crashing tendencies coming up that they never saw before.
Alison: So I guess there is some concern about my behavior of late.
Jill: So we’re keeping you away from the grocery cart. Okay. That’s good. Good to know.
Alison: They are letting me drive though. So I don’t know what that’s about.
Jill: Well, at least you get a week to experience wheelchair rugby again in movie form because we have Film Club Fran on to talk about Murderball.
Jill: But before we get to that, we would like to. Introduce our [00:02:00] patron of the week and give them a shout out today. We have a silver metal patron, Cynthia Rachol, who has been a great patron over the last year or so. And we are thrilled that she is part of the Patreon family of support. If you too would like to get a shout out, check out our Patreon page. It’s Patreon.com/flamealivepod.
Jill: Oh, right. it is movie club week, which means we have Film Buff Fran to talk about the documentary Murderball on the sport of wheelchair rugby. Take a listen.
Jill: Fran, welcome back. We are talking about Murderball this Movie Club. What do you got for us?
Fran: So Murderball is a movie that came out in 2005 and it tells the story in documentary fashion about the sport murderball which was changed. The name was changed to. Wheelchair rugby. Just because as they say in the film, it’s hard to promote when the name of your sport is called murderball, which I thought was smart on their behalf, and it kind of chronicles the sport of wheelchair rugby. It showcased the 2004 Paralympic wheelchair rugby team. And it really gave us an insight into the players and, how they felt and, did their backstories I liked it. I think it was a great film.
Jill: I enjoyed it too. I did not realize how much language and adult content. I really did not realize that.
Fran: And it was like, oh my goodness. Do these ladies know about the cursing in this movie?
Jill: No, we did not! All I remembered was Murderball, fantastic, Roger Ebert loved it. That’s what I remembered. And it was exciting.
Alison: We forgot about the R rating because it is in fact, if you’re familiar, for our American listeners, it is rated R and it is almost solely for the [00:04:00] language. There was one scene where they discuss adult relationships, shall we say, but there’s nothing graphic about that conversation really.
Alison: Nothing that would have gotten an R rating, but the language, my goodness.
Fran: Yes. That was a change from what we’ve had in the past. But I think what was so compelling was getting to know the people on the team. And hearing their stories and you really start to root for them because you really you start to like them, even though I think one of the friends of one of the team players.
Fran: I was saying that this one character in particular was kind of a jerk, and they said, well, don’t blame it on him becoming a quadriplegic. He was a jerk before that.
Jill: I loved that.
Alison: That was in reference to Mark Zupan and two of his high school friends were having that conversation because the movie does take them to the 10 year class reunion.
Alison: And they were like, oh no, he was a jerk before, which was, I thought, fantastic. And I’m glad you mentioned that because what I liked so much about this film is it is not the inspirational story.
Fran: No, well it is, but it’s not.
Alison: But it’s certainly not the traditional everything clean and nice and rise above. This is a bunch of crass, foul-mouthed, obnoxious rugby players working really hard, busting their butts, beatin’ on each other to achieve a goal. Not always being so nice,
Fran: But you know, it was really endearing was that, through all this exterior, gruffness really what I feel like they just all just wanted to be treated like a normal person. And that came across in a lot of the interviews. They were like, I just want to be treated like a normal human being, and not some, you see me in a wheelchair or you see me without hands or [00:06:00] you see me limited and you already can, you already paint me as a different person than you
Jill: Exactly. I just watched it before we taped. So I watched it post Paralympics and post experiencing wheelchair rugby, full games and the whole tournament. And I wonder if this is a movie that is — Of course it predates these Games. It’s, we’re talking about 2002, 2004 and the 2004 Paralympics and the 2002 World Championships.
Jill: But everybody, you heard their story of how they got to be in a wheelchair and what made them a quadriplegic. And Alison and I have talked on, I think we’ve talked about this on the show, but how we want to talk about the sports. And yes, there’s an aspect of, part of a Paralympian’s story is that there’s a reason that they are in the Paralympics, but there was so much of this movie focused on the quadriplegic aspect.
Jill: And I wanted more sport. I wanted to see more drills. I wanted to see more of the game and it was really weird to me, especially with the story of Keith Cavill, who was the motocross kid. The time with him throughout the story was spent, having, learning about how he’s he got injured and you follow him then through rehab, and then you see him learning about wheelchair rugby at an info session. And then he gets excited about it. And to me, that’s an interesting story and probably something that was told backwards. I thought the filmmakers maybe had seen him at this info session because they were following and they said, oh, this is an interesting kid who’s really into rugby. Like motocross was his life and he’s not going back to motocross, but maybe wheelchair rugby will be [00:08:00] his thing, but we spent so much time on his story, and then they went and followed him for a while and I thought, oh, Where does his story pay off?
Jill: And it doesn’t necessarily pay off for me in the movie. I thought, wow, this is a movie that’s just under 90 minutes long. And it doesn’t show a lot of the sport. The stories are great of the men involved, but I really missed out on the sport.
Alison: I thought they included Keith story as a reflection of what the current players probably went through.
Alison: Oh, they were reframing it to say, okay, here’s where Mark Zupan and Hogsett and Bob Lujano are all now. They’re all on the team. They’ve all reached this goal, but here’s where they were 10 years ago, because many of them had their accidents 10 plus years prior to the start of the documentary.
Alison: So that’s where I thought that fit in to say, you see where they are now. Here’s where they probably were at some other points.
Jill: That makes sense.
Alison: And then when Keith gets introduced to wheelchair rugby, all of them said I was introduced to wheelchair rugby in some particular way, usually an info session or a demonstration.
Alison: And then you see that light go on and Keith’s eyes saying, huh? I can still be an athlete.
Fran: Yeah, I liked, I like learning about the sport too, Jill. I looked online after I watched the movie cause I did want to learn more and I wasn’t able to catch any of the sport during the Paralympics, the Tokyo games, because I just, unfortunately I missed it and
Alison: An arrow through my heart!
Jill: Well, you can watch it again together.
Fran: I know I could catch it. I could relive it, but so then I looked online and I was just researching the sport and I found it very fascinating when they did talk about the sport and they talked about how many players are allowed on the field at one time and how they determine who’s on the field because they actually rate each player [00:10:00] depending on their level of disability. And they can only have a certain amount of points on the field at the same time. So you can’t just have all of your. Quote, unquote, most able players on the field at the same time, you have to only have a certain number of points on the field at once.
Fran: So it keeps it more level, which I thought was very interesting. But I agree with you, Jill, I would have liked to have seen more what is the strategy? Like, how do you win it, wheelchair rugby? There’s, how do you train? Because we saw a little montages of the training, but not really.
Fran: I think maybe what the film was really wanting to capture was the essence of these people, who are these people behind this kind of very brutal sport, you know, where they just callously throw their bodies around where their bodies have already been, thrown around, who would do that?
Fran: Who are these people? And I think that maybe is why they kind of lent more towards the personal stories versus the game itself. But I agree. I would’ve liked to see more the game.
Jill: There was that traditional arc of, it’s we want to introduce the sport of wheelchair rugby to the masses because it’s a really cool sport.
Jill: Then you have to put it in the, the construct of oh, We’re starting with a world championship and we can find this Canada /USA rivalry. And then we can culminate this at the Paralympics in 2004 and see what happens. And I don’t think those two things worked very well together and, and maybe that sounds a little harsher than, I mean it, but they just didn’t those two elements of storytelling were kind of in parallel, but they didn’t seem to intersect. Well, of course you can say parallel lines don’t intersect, Jill, but but it, does that make sense? Sorry! It’s true!. I know.
Fran: I think that they had such large personalities that [00:12:00] I think that really took the story over because there was, like you said before, Alison, there was Mark Zupan, who basically he’s the thread through the whole documentary. And he actually ends up being the captain of the USA wheelchair rugby team. And he becomes basically their biggest spokesman. And, they also had the larger than life, character of Joe. I’m going to murder his last name.
Alison: I think he pronounced it “sores.”
Fran: Soares. Who was a very accomplished wheelchair rugby.
Fran: Paralympian prior to the 2004 Olympics, but unfortunately, everybody gets older, so his skill on the field, he didn’t make the squad. And so, as a retaliation for not making the team, he defected to Canada and became Canada’s coach.
Fran: And that really affected the team, the USA team. They really felt that as a bitter betrayal, how could he go? And basically he just told Canada how the USA plays wheelchair rugby. And, ultimately you could argue that that is what allowed them to defeat the United States in in the Paralympics.
Alison: Clearly they were trying to set up. The Joe versus Mark, good versus evil kind of parallel. And it worked to an extent because Joe is just an awful person. He bullied his kid.
Fran: That poor child.
Alison: He bullied his wife. He was horrible to everyone around him. He has a heart attack and somehow finds Jesus when he has a heart attack. And I’m kinda like, no, he was still an awful person after the heart attack.
Jill: Well. It’s funny because when I was watching and Joe is screaming at his players or screaming on the sidelines. And I thought he is going to have a heart attack or aneurysm. And then literally the next scene was his heart [00:14:00] attack.
Fran: But how did they get into the– they were in the ER, they were in the operating room.
Fran: Did they do the, how are they allowed in there? That was crazy.
Alison: Well, if they were following him, they just follow him and they get the release, it’s better to ask forgiveness, then try and get permission. So I think they just filmed it. Wow. And then dealt with the consequences later would be my guess. And when you’re in an ER, I would assume it can be so chaotic that, and you also don’t know exactly when those things were filmed, you know, was he being transferred. Was he recuperating? Right. A man looking sick in a hospital bed could have been two weeks later for all we know. All right. Can we talk about his sisters for a second?
Fran: His sisters? Oh my goodness.
Alison: Joe’s sisters. I want them to come to my house. We’re going to have some tea. We’re going to dunk some cookies. We’re going to talk smack about everybody.
Fran: See, I didn’t focus on his sisters. I might’ve been still shellshocked from the the whole montage about the sexual relations, because I literally thought that they were going to continue with that storyline and get into much more detail than I was really needing
Alison: To be fair, I thought it was brilliant that they included it because it really set this documentary apart from all the really annoying feel, good montages that NBC continues to do during the Paralympics. These are men in their twenties. We have all known men in their twenties
Alison: who are single. And what are they thinking about? They’re thinking about girls and how am I going to get girls. I mean, come on, let’s be serious here. And I’m glad that they included it and the boys said horrible [00:16:00] crass things and really inappropriate. And I loved that scene. Even though, I was cringing the whole time.
Fran: Well, it’s very interesting though, because as they, as some of the boys pointed out, they said a lot of these women.
Fran: Love that whole mothering complex. And that’s really fascinating cause you don’t really think about that, but to be drawn to someone who constantly needs help, you know, you have to have that kind of, hyper nurturing kind of mentality that you want to just help somebody or fix somebody or, always be there and have someone need you.
Fran: And those were the women that they attracted.
Alison: And then they also talked about the wheelchair sort of being a fetish, something I never would have considered or thought about, but it’s like, of course it makes perfect sense if they’re talking about it. I did read an interview with Mark Zupan after this.
Alison: And they had done a screening of this film that his mother was at and he was horrified.
Fran: Yeah. He might’ve wanted to warn her just a wee bit about what she was going to hear.
Alison: Speaking of Mark Zupan. He is the same Mark Zupan who did the announcing of wheelchair rugby in Tokyo. Jill and I talked about him a lot during the Paralympics comparing his style of announcing with the OBS announcers. And I was saying to Jill earlier, I watched the film in two chunks. And in between the two chunks, I realized it was the same person.
Alison: And I was having a very hard time reconciling the Mark doing the announcing and this very crass, very foul mouth, 20 -something brash, obnoxious kid.
Alison: One of the things that I talked about during the Paralympics with Mark was, he got very upset with Team USA when they would do [00:18:00] certain things.
Alison: He was coach, big brother, dad.
Alison: And of course now it’s 16 17, 18 years later than the events and the movie, you know that he’s in his twenties now he’s well into his forties. He’s married. He has kids. He’s a very different person. And that actually made me more interested in the film because I said, oh, this is, this must be like watching old home movies for him.
Alison: And the one through line that was clear is how much he loves the sport.
Fran: Oh, obviously.
Alison: And the fact that he became the captain of that team and then knowing that, and then thinking back to the way he did the announcing made so much sense.
Fran: But it was weird that they had that trope in there where they had, oh, Team Canada was the big, you know, opponent that they had to be.
Fran: They had a comeback from behind and, they had a beat them bad and they had the big, bad coach that defected from the United States. So it had all those classic oh, we got to beat them and it’s us against them. But then I did some research moving forward cause it made me think, oh, well, the United States had been the undisputed winner of the gold medal since the wheelchair rugby was allowed into the Paralympics and then they lost in 2004 to Canada. And then when they went to Beijing in 2008, they actually were the gold medal champions again. And then I looked into the more recent games, and they have not been at the top of the podium. They fell from grace.
Fran: It’s interesting. I mean, this year they did really well. And came in in silver, but cause I was looking at, cause I wanted to see like how the names progress, like did these guys still continue on with the squad? And it’s really neat how, like you said, like Mark Zupan, took on that role, where he graduated [00:20:00] up the ranks and became like that figurehead, that father figure that spokesperson, and that’s really nice to see because you could tell he really loves the sport.
Alison: Yeah. I love how, at the end of 2004, they just put the line on the screen. Oh, by the way, New Zealand won the gold.
Jill: Oh yeah. Listener Manu wrote in about that. That was his one beef was that the whole, the destiny of the USA, Canada final. That’s what you’re building up to. And I would agree like, when they got to the Paralympics and they did, oh, the USA beat all of these teams to get to this point.
Jill: And I didn’t, part of me was like what did they do in round robin play? What was pool play and how was Can-? And then they get to Canada and well, this is such an important storyline. What was Canada’s journey to that point? And what round were we in? Cause I thought for a second, that was the gold medal game.
Fran: It made it seem like it.
Alison: I was so confused.
Jill: Yeah. I think that was like the semi-finals.
Fran: Yes, it was.
Jill: Then they had to go on and win again. And then that’s what Manu said. The, you set up this big USA, Canada battle, and then, oh, by the way, New Zealand.
Fran: But, you know what? It was just desserts for Joe, that he came in second place because you just didn’t want them to win. You were so mad that he did what he did and he made those choices. You know, I felt happy for the Canadians ’cause they did a great job and they worked really hard. You know, unfortunately, you know, he’s the guy you just love to hate and he didn’t really have any redeeming qualities, at the end. They try to make him seem like a better guy by, you know, making room on his mantle for his son’s music trophies, which I thought was, step in the right direction. He just came across as such a jerky character that you know, you don’t really, you don’t really like him.
Alison: And he clearly continued to be a jerk. Canada fired him in 2008, so he goes to Germany. Germany keeps them for a couple of years, then Germany fires him. And they don’t just, part ways [00:22:00] or his contract ends. No, everybody keeps firing this guy and it’s like, how many teams does he have to go through before people stop hiring him?
Jill: And the thing with his son, there was a one scene where he has to get on a plane and come home and and the son is like, oh, can you get home sooner and come to my concert? And I almost felt that was manufactured.
Alison: Oh, yeah,
Jill: I really felt like that was manufactured. And just, let’s heighten this a little bit more for the storyline and then let’s – well and it was, I felt really bad for his kid and that gave me a lot more sympathy for the kid, but we already knew Joe was a jerk from the way he acted on the rugby court, so why add in his. Problem. I call them problems at home, maybe Joe doesn’t. But why do we add in the situation at home and keep building that in many different directions? Instead of talking about the sport, more showing the athletes, doing their thing a little bit more. We got to see his Providence home. When they showed Providence, Rhode Island I went oh, of course! There we go.
Fran: Well, and then they also brought in that huge dynamic with Mark Zupan and his friend from high school. Was it high school friend? who actually was the driver of the truck that Mark was in when he had his accident that made him a quadriplegic and they, detailed their relationship afterwards and how, Mark reached out to him and he really didn’t Want to be part of his life, but then they eventually came together and then Mark invited him to go to Athens with the team in 2004 for the Paralympic games there.
Fran: And, you know, he seemed like he was such an integral friend and, just a supporter and that, that was a neat story, but like you said, Jill it would have been nice to have that time spent more on the game.
Jill: And I [00:24:00] felt that was also manufactured. Like, Oh, let me invite you to come to the Paralympics and watch me it’s as a mending fences thing.
Fran: And that was really weird.
Jill: Yeah. It just felt weird. My little spidey sense went off on that.
Alison: I think some of what you’re sensing is the MTV production of this.
Jill: Yes. Much of, we’re in still the height of reality shows on MTV, your “Real World,”,
Fran: or how to have some drama.
Alison: I mean, MTV was a producer of this.
Alison: And they had a series at this same time frame. I think it was called “Real Life”. It was not “The Real world.” This was a separate documentary where they would say, I’m a stripper, I’m a quadriplegic, I’m an, and so that they would follow different people with whatever they were trying to tell the story of, and this movie is very much in that vein.
Alison: So those things that you’re saying, let’s manipulate this poor middle-school kid and his terrible relationship with a dad, let’s manipulate this alcoholic who caused his best friend to paralyzed for the rest of his life and work their stories.
Alison: And so I agree with you, Jill, it felt very manufactured and uncomfortable and would probably not be done if the movie was made now. But did you feel when you’re talking about the sport, talking about it being, 15, almost 20 years ago, it felt like I was watching the wild west of wheelchair rugby, having just watched it in Tokyo, it is a very developed sport. There is complex strategies. There are specialists, there is very high-tech equipment, then it was like, smash and dash,
Jill: It reminded me very much of earlier roller derby, like roller derby when I was still a fan. And it wasn’t very old at the time. That very Wild West quality to it because when we even talked on the Paralympic recaps, [00:26:00] how we weren’t getting the murderball effect, where there wasn’t a whole bunch of smashing until what USA/ Australia.
Jill: I can’t remember, the one game before the US went into almost the knockout rounds.
Jill: Right, I was going to say it was the first game of elimination. Yeah. It was so physical. And then they were, they looked a little tired the next time, but everything is so finessed now.
Fran: It’s really interesting is, and they brought this out at the end of the movie is when they would go to these rehab facilities and talk to these kind of new.
Fran: Paraplegics that are just starting to deal with the limitations and what am I going to do with my life and how am I going to get out my aggression. And, And it was really fascinating how they went in there and they were like, Hey, there’s a sport and it’s called wheelchair rugby. And you can kick the daylights out of people you know, you could do something physical and feel like that pro sports person that you were before, and it was really interesting how they would market to like ex Marines and ex Navy, and these guys that were in fantastic shape and used to discipline and doing an amazing job. And it was interesting. I wonder how, that marketing to those specific groups, especially like ex-military, you know, really develop the sport into more of a fine tune. Like the nuances that you see today compared to before, when it was just like these scruffy guys who were ticked off at the world, that they were in a wheelchair and they wanted to get their aggression out.
Jill: It’s funny that you bring that up because when I was watching the bit where Mark Zupan was at Walter Reed and they show a woman in that and I texted Alison and I said, wait a second. Is that Melissa Stockwell? Because Melissa Stockwell is a Paralympic triathlete. And. And you found out, Alison, that she was there.
Alison: [00:28:00] First, I texted Jill back franctically, thinking. I think it was her. And I couldn’t find any detail that says that is in fact her, though, Melissa Stockwell was at Walter Reed at that time that that scene would have been shot.
Alison: And she was, as we know, from reading about her and seeing her in this Paralympics, she was very athletic. She was exposed to para sport while she was at Walter Reed. So we’re going to make the jump that Melissa Stockwell makes an appearance in Murderball.
Fran: Wow, that’s neat.
Alison: But I did love that scene very much because I thought it showed such a different side to those guys. You know, it was Mark Zupan and Scott Hogsett who were so gruff and so up-.
Alison: -Aggressively verbal when speaking about Joe, for example, and yet they were so gentle with these guys in a way, like there was this one moment where clearly a very young guy, maybe 18, 19, who was in his wheelchair and they give him the ball and he says, I really can’t throw the ball that far.
Alison: And Mark Zupan says to him, You will. We all started like this. Go ahead.
Fran: Encouraging him, very encouraging.
Alison: But not in a condescending way. It’s really natural. Yeah. This is hard. You are going through something really hard and you can do it.
Jill: Like that you’re part of our community.
Fran: Kind to be part of something. That’s great. Again, you don’t have to just, sit and look at four walls, and that’s what I felt like. I, you know, when you were talking about the motocross person at the beginning. And they kept going back to him and I’m like, oh, is he going to become like this integral member of our Paralympic wheelchair rugby team? And then it just fizzled out. I actually Googled him afterwards just to see if he made the team. And I, he, I don’t think he ever did anything.
Alison: No, it seems like he’s got his own [00:30:00] private life. He’s got a landscaping business. He’s doing something else entirely, which is great.
Fran: Just fine. But it was just such an interesting, I thought, oh wow, you’re going to see this kid, you know, unfortunately have this accident. And then, but the you’re going to see him develop into this integral part of the team. And then it went nowhere.
Jill: Yeah. Yeah. And I think that was one of, one of the elements that didn’t quite work for me. At the time. If I watched this back in the day, I would have a much different reaction to it a much more–.
Jill: And I’m not trying to be Negative Nelly here cause I’ve really enjoyed the movie, but I think I would have enjoyed it more, have been taken up more with it and especially being more around the age of the players, then when it came out, then I am now looking back at it. When Alison, talking crass during the game, Honestly, the unsportsmanlike behavior when they’re doing that whole good game, good game.
Jill: I could not believe how rude they were to each other. And sportsmanship, what happened? They’re so mean!
Fran: Out the window.
Alison: But did you see when they were doing this bit about the world championship, there was a little haka?
Jill: I did. That was the one thing of New Zealand we saw.
Jill: I liked at the world championship when the US lost and they showed a little bit of the medal ceremony and got in close enough to hear what the presenter was telling them when they got their medals. And it was just, it was nice. This is not the end of the world. You know you’ll win again. And that was really nice.
Fran: And also too, I wanted to just insert the fact that wheelchair rugby is actually for both men and women. And I don’t know if they necessarily brought that out. In the documentary or if I read it afterwards, but it’s actually for both, it’s a unisex sports. So, even [00:32:00] though in the movie, there were no female players on the squad that they they followed, but Canada had a woman on their team at one point, I don’t know about our current American team. Was there a woman on the team?
Alison: There was not a woman, but as we discussed during Paralympics, Team GB had a woman. So a lot of gold medal for the first time. And Team Japan. So for the first time in Paralympic history, there were two women on the medal stand.
Fran: Wow. That’s great. Yeah.
Jill: But I do think this is one of those sports that started out for men and then slowly was like, oh, we can get women in here too. And I think just, I don’t want to say it’s a numbers game because I don’t know how many people, you’re looking for very specific type of person who wants to play the sport.
Alison: I also think it is the development of the sport. So when we’re looking at 2004, it is really, as we said, Crash and burn, just killing each other as much as possible.
Alison: And now we see so much more ball handling so much more finesse, so much higher skill level that you’re not just looking for brute force and you know, a battering ram of a player. You want someone who can do all those little things. So you get a basketball player. A female basketball player who all of a sudden finds herself in a wheelchair. She can ball handle, there’s no tomorrow. And that’s going to be very attractive now with the way wheelchair rugby is going. Not that a woman can’t battering ram you, if she wants.
Fran: Well, I thought it was interesting that they specifically said, I think I read afterwards that, the appeal of the wheelchair rugby was that you can, you could still play it if you were more severely quadriplegic.
Fran: Whereas the wheelchair basketball required still some some more finesse in your manipulation. So you still had to have, I think, better hand control, whereas with the rugby, [00:34:00] you don’t need to hands, to play it. And I thought that was really interesting as the difference may be why some folks would steer more towards the rugby versus more towards a traditional sport, like basketball like that, you know, everybody played growing up.
Alison: And how fantastic was that moment? When that little boy asks Bob Lujano , how do you eat your pizza, with no hands?
Alison: Because he had lost his forearm and hands and he says, oh, well, you can eat it with your elbows. And that whole exchange was the kid really wanted to know. He wasn’t trying to be obnoxious. He’s, I love pizza and I would hate not to be able to not eat pizza. And I would hate for you not to be able to eat pizza.
Jill: And I think this movie does a good job of answering those questions that everybody has, but doesn’t want to ask for fear that they’ll, they don’t want to be offensive, but they do it does it in a good way.
Jill: And it breaks down those barriers so that we don’t necessarily always have to go back to that well in the future of this is how we tell a Paralympian story.
Alison: 15, 16 years later, this movie still holds up. Yes. Breaking barriers still needs to be seen because so much of what we saw during the Paralympics is framing these athletes in this hero, inspirational. This is why we talk so much of ” We the 15,” and this is like the first draft of that. Where it’s, No, we’re normal guys who love to play sports and we happen to have these disabilities. So I loved it. I loved it. I love when they’re swearing at each other and –,
Fran: it was just very refreshing because it did feel, even though Jill said, you know, some of it was orchestrated when the men were talking, it felt very honest.
Fran: When Mark was talking hockey, [00:36:00] talking with other players, like you could feel the realness of who these people were and are, versus, the fake stuff that you see. Like you said, with NBC glamming, everything up, and that was really neat to witness.
Fran: And you’re like, Hey, they’re just regular Joe schmoes, and, rotten things happened and they found a way to move on and they found this kind of really quirky, amazing sport to, to do and to fulfill, a part of them that was missing.
Alison: So in a surprise to absolutely no one who listened to any of our Paralympic coverage, this has only increased my love for wheelchair rugby.
Alison: I would like a Murderball 2: The Chuck Aoki Story.
Alison: Let’s get on that MTV.
Jill: Oh, excellent. Anything, any final thoughts, Fran?
Fran: No, I was just pleasantly surprised by this movie. I, like I said, I thought it was fresh and I like the style of it and I liked learning about the players, but like you said, Jill, little more, Murderball little more into the depths of the game would have been the icing on the cake.
Jill: And I think we’re keeping on the crash train for our final selection of 2021.
Fran: Is that I, Tonya? Yeah, I am so excited. I have not watched it purposely because I knew we were going to do it on movie club. So stay tuned. Let’s see about this one. .
Jill: Well, Fran, thank you as always for stopping by and for picking this one. It’s been a fun ride and we’re always glad to have you on the show.
Fran: Thank you both. Til next time.
Jill: Thank you so much, Fran. Our last movie of the year will be I Tonya and we will have that movie club closer to the end of the year. Very excited about that one.
Alison: I have not seen that movie ever. This will be fresh eyes. [00:38:00] I’m excited.
Jill: That sound means it’s time for our historical moment. And this year we are focusing on Atlanta 1996, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary. And it’s my turn for a story. Because one of the things that– scandals, I guess you could say from Tokyo 2020 was the modern pentathlon horse punching scandal and how modern pentathlon is working on a new fix.
Jill: So I wanted to look into how was the competition in 1996? Let me just tell you it was nuts
Alison: Did it involve anyone punching a horse?
Jill: No, but horses of course were a factor.
Alison: It was a horse, of course?
Jill: Yes. Okay. So at the time in 1996 the sport was governed by the Union Internationale Pentathlon Moderne because biathlon and modern pentathlon were organized by the same governing body.
Jill: Yes! Until 1998, I had not known this and it was the only international Federation that was multi-sport. So it was two separate sports. And then in 98, biathlon broke away because they were able to function on their own. I know!
Alison: Two great sports that taste great together! Well, if you think about it, modern pentathlon and biathlon have military origins.
Alison: So I can see why they would have developed a governing body together, but that it stayed unified into 98. That’s surprising.
Jill: But anyway, Atlanta was last Games where modern pentathlon was men’s only, and this was the first time there was no team competition.
Jill: This was also the first Olympics where, you know, again, modern pentathlon, seeing the writing on the wall for it, sport and inclusion into the Olympic program. First time it was a one day event.
Jill: As we go into Paris, 2024, we see it’s going to be like an hour and a [00:40:00] half long. The first time they went to one day, like about 13 hours long.
Jill: Just the look you give me is priceless. Sometimes I think we should do video so everyone could see these looks we give each other. Anyway, competition takes place on day 11. This is the same day that Centennial Park reopened after the bombing. So there are a lot of people around. Competition is in three different venues. So shooting and fencing are both in the World Congress Building a big convention center hall type situation. Shooting starts at seven in the morning. Philipp Waeffler from Switzerland is almost perfect with his shooting. He gets 185 points out of 200, and then we never really hear from him again in the competition.
Jill: Then fencing starts at 8:30 and fencing in modern pentathlon is a one minute/ one touch- the first person to get to one touch. And they’ve got to fence, everybody in the competition. So they’re fencing 31 bouts cause there’s 32 men, and this takes three hours. There was a tie at for this round for winning, and one of those people was Aleksandr Parygin from Kazakhstan and he tied for first he 21 wins. He takes the overall lead in the competition. And then according to the Atlanta Official Report, everyone piles into air conditioned buses. And they go over to the Georgia Tech Aquatics Center for the swimming.
Jill: So now we have swimming, which starts at one o’clock. So we’ve had a little bit of time. They do 300 meters. And there’s roughly, I think four heats of eight people each. If you had tickets to synchronized swimming, which was just ahead of this event, you got to stay and watch modern pentathlon. So that’s cool.
Jill: And then, although he did not win the event, now the overall lead is going to Italy’s Cesare Toraldo. So we have three [00:42:00] different events, three different overall leaders, and it’s time to go to our last venue, which is the Georgia International Horse Park. 33 miles away.
Alison: They’re really breaking up the story of pentathlon, which is how these people are supposed to be able to get a message through everything. They can’t even get to the venues easily.
Jill: Yeah. And then I’m glad you said that because as we remember, there were horrible transportation situations in Atlanta for these Games. And they had special buses for the competitors that had they had like locker rooms and they could eat and drink and everything. And they so of course the Official Report said, oh, these, everybody’s relaxed and refreshed by the time they get there. Spectators different story, because they could not get to the horse park.
Jill: Apparently they could take a bus too. They couldn’t get to the horse park cause that got blocked off. There were no shuttle buses for many kinds of parking. So they got dumped off five miles away and they had to walk. I know! And then when they get there, it’s blazing hot cause it’s Atlanta in the summer and there’s no shade and they have sold they’ve actually for the whole event, they said they had 10,000 tickets sold.
Jill: It was really a good selling ticket, which was good for the sport and trying to stay on the program. But there’s no shade for anybody, including competitors, except for one oak tree. So all the competitors are standing under this oak tree while they wait to ride their horses.
Alison: So when I was in high school, there was something called the smoking tree, which is exactly what it sounds like, where it was the only place on campus that you were allowed to smoke. So I have a feeling that this oak tree had that same effect.
Jill: So we get to the riding. It’s a computer draw. And like it is today. Athletes got 20 minutes to know their horses and like in Tokyo, the horses had to ride twice. So competition [00:44:00] starts at 5:15. We started at seven in the morning. It’s now five 15. They’ve got two events to go Toraldo, our Italian leader, he is on a horse named Kirby. He does well enough to stay in the overall lead.
Jill: Unfortunately for Alex Johnson of Australia. He also had Kirby and Kirby wasn’t having any of it. He did not want to jump. He crashed into one, jump through Johnson over his head. Johnson gets back on the horse. He bashes into the second jump and Johnson bounces off the ground. Kirby finally runs off the course by himself while officials are getting Johnson up and pointing he’s woozy. At this point, they’re pointing him in the right direction to go.
Jill: And clearly
Alison: this was before we had concussion protocol.
Jill: Very much so. So clearly this second ride of the horse has been a problem for a really long time.
Jill: I’m not sure if Toraldo got him first or if Johnson got him first and they settled Kirby down in between, but Kirby was not doing this course twice. Poor Alex Johnson finishes last in the competition. So now we still have Toraldo in the lead at the run, which starts at 7:00 PM and is 4,000 meters, and it’s run around the horse park.
Alison: Oh, run around the horse park? They’re not going back to the stadium?
Alison: They’re running around the horse park? What kind of, I mean, I was about to say what kind of dog and pony show is this, but clearly it’s an interesting pony show.
Jill: Funny because they have, and they had this at Tokyo too still. They have a lane marked that you have to run this course. And it’s like taped lane on both sides. And this, I think was a little, I saw a little bit of video and they had maybe a banner size thing that was along the whole course. So they know where to go because they’ve got to fit 4,000 meters in this place.
Jill: And so you’re running, not necessarily in circles, but also like serpentine and windy and things like that to get the full distance in. [00:46:00] So, the run is like it is today where the leader starts and everyone else chases them. Toraldo’s in the lead.
Jill: He fades part way through the run. And Eduard Zenovka from Russia, who won the bronze in Barcelona, he takes the lead, and who’s trying to stay in the middle is our fencing leader, Aleksandr Parygin. And he is running his little heart out. And of course we have this as the first time Kazakhstan is in the Games because this is post Soviet Union dissolution.
Jill: And he’s wearing this plain white running shirt tank top thing, but there’s like, piece of fabric that says Kazakhstan and it looks like it’s pinned onto him somehow because it’s flapping and the way that barely fits across his chest, because the word is so long.
Jill: He gets to be like with a hundred meters to go, he just cannot pass Zenovka. And he just throws his hands up like, I can’t deal with this anymore. That must have done something to him because he suddenly got a burst of energy and kicked it into gear.. Zenovka is fading and he’s trying to get to be the first of the finish line and he stumbles and falls.
Alison: Oh no!
Jill: So Parygin won. Zenovka, he struggled to get up, but he did. And he got across the line. Won silver because the third place was far enough behind him. So it was a very dramatic finish. Very exciting finish, one would say and good for the sport to stay in the Games
Jill: But the fun facts don’t end there. I know you probably can’t. Maybe you can guess. Who might have been the manager of the US squad?
Alison: I’m afraid to ask.
Jill: Dolph Lundgren.
Jill: Dolph Lundgren was in this movie called Pentathlon, which if we ever go from a movie club that is based on real events to a movie club that is got [00:48:00] Olympic as part of the deal, we might put this movie on the list. He plays —
Alison: and most famous for being in which Rocky? 4?
Jill: One of the rocky movies. But, and he’s also did you know, he was a Fulbright scholar at MIT. This guy!
Alison: I don’t even know how to answer that though. I have to say he has held up very well. He’s still a good looking man.
Jill: So, Pentathlon is the story of an East German Olympic gold medalist in modern pentathlon, who is on the run from an abusive coach. And the only reason I know I’m sure we stumbled across it on deep cable over the summer sometime because I said, The only reason I know this, Ben, is because you were watching it.
Jill: He’s like, I was? And we tried to pull it up on demand and we couldn’t find it anymore. So this may have just been something by chance. Cause it’s just sounds like the wackiest story because who makes a movie about a pentathlete modern pentathlete, right?
Alison: Wow. So somehow US modern pentathlon. Made him there. Did hehave managerial duties?
Jill: He trained with the team while he was training for this movie. So that’s how he got in. He really liked modern pentathlon, became a huge supporter of it and is kind of like, especially in order to keep it on the program, pretty visible guy. If he’s putting his weight behind modern pentathlon, it helps. So he basically, it was honorarial, but basically he had to make sure everybody got to where they were going on time, give them some support. He got to walk in the opening ceremonies apparently. And now we want to, I want to go back to the opening ceremonies and see if you see him in–
Alison: Well, he’s very tall. So he would be easy to spot. And he was very blonde.
Jill: Yes. Yes. So there was just one us competitor, Michael Gostigian, and he finished 16th overall. But not bad. And the U S is not considered to be a powerhouse in this sport. And [00:50:00] Dolph Lundgren before Tokyo gave a shout out to our own TKFLASTANI, Samantha Schultz, which you can find on Facebook, I’ll send you that link and we can put it out.
Alison: I want to find out now from Sam, if in fact there has been any contact with Dolph Lundgren. What a fantastic, that’s a great story. I clearly do not remember these Olympics, as clearly as I thought I did.
Jill: We are currently voting on what our historical games will be for 2022. And next year we’ll be looking at a Winter Games. So your options will be Salt lake city, 2002, Albertville 1992, Sapporo 1972, Oslo 1952 or Lake Placid 1932 and to note, only 2002 and 92 had Paralympics at those games. So you can vote on our Facebook group, or if you’re not on Facebook, you can email us your choice at firstname.lastname@example.org Vote by October 12th, and we will announce the winner on our October 14th show.
Alison: Welcome to TKFLASTAN.
Jill: It’s time to check in with our Team Keep the Flame Alive. These are former guests of the show. First up, Next Olympic Hopeful, Leah Fair finished third at the US Skeleton Push Championships this week in Lake Placid, New York, which is exciting because we haven’t really heard much from her.
Jill: So it’s nice to see she’s still with it.
Alison: And this I got from Instagram, Ginny Thrasher and her boyfriend Connor announced their engagement this weekend. And I want to say very nice job on the ring.
Jill: Shiva Keshavan represented India at the International Luge Federation International Congress. The goal being to confirm the country’s development plans and get a junior team on the international circuit with an eye toward [00:52:00] having participants in the Milan Cortina 2026 Olympics. I think that’s exciting because that means that India is working on this. So we may not see them here at Beijing 2022, which is a bummer, but. I understand that development of winter sports in India has been a long, tough, like Himalayan size road to climb.
Alison: And Tom Scott has been inducted into the Jesuit Dallas Sports Hall of Fame.
Jill: So we have some news that just came in from the IOC, along with the Beijing 2022 Committee, lots of policies enacted for the Games. So, everybody who is going to be well, if you’re vaccinated, this is okay news for you. If you’re not vaccinated, this is going to be a tough one. If you are fully vaccinated, this is all athletes and Games participants, you get into this closed loop management system that they talk about a little bit throughout this announcement. If you are not vaccinated, when you get to Beijing, you will have to quarantine for 21 days. Can you imagine, especially when they were having all those quarantine issues about athletes who had no room in their hotels
Alison: So they had no food and they were not given any daylight or air outside. And it was a bit like being held in prison. So this 21 day quarantine could be very interesting.
Jill: Especially tougher on a winter athlete, I would think, since everything you do is dependent on your environment.
Alison: Well, then you can’t train right for the three weeks before the Olympics. They’re basically saying all the athletes have to be vaccinated
Jill: Pretty much, but if you are an athlete who can provide a justified medical exemption, they will consider your case.
Jill: Which, theUSOPC also announced that it’s going to require [00:54:00] everybody from the US who is involved with the Games and going to Beijing. to have vaccines as well. And then other countries over the last week, we’ve seen several countries have said, we’re not going to mandate it, but now, I wonder if people will change their tune and I, and they do wonder if there’s going to be athletes who will give some pushback or staffs who will give pushback, but if you don’t, can’t prove you have a very good reason, here’s three extra weeks in Beijing in quarantine for you. Weigh that.
Alison: So do you think there’s a possibility of anti-vax podium protest?
Jill: That’s an interesting point.
Alison: I’m not trying to give anybody any ideas.
Jill: That’s very interesting. Well, we’ll see. We’ll see what people think.
Jill: So there’s going to be a big closed loop management system for everyone. And this is mostly for people who are involved with games, but basically once you get there until you leave you’re going to be in game-related venues for training, competitions and work. You’ll have a dedicated transport system and that’s all you get to do. You get to go to your venues, you get to train, you get to do whatever work you’re there and you take whatever transport they provide with you to go.
Alison: You’re here you stay. We no let you out.
Jill: That’s true. Spectators, no overseas spectators. Tickets sold exclusively to spectators residing in China’s mainland, which is also a big deal and who meet the requirements of the COVID-19 countermeasures. So those are under discussion and development. The details of ticketing are under discussion and development, but basically nobody from outside of China is going to get to go to the Games. So this is the second Games in a row with no international spectators, unless there happened to be some ex-pats living in China,
Jill: and [00:56:00] there will be possibly some sneaky American press who wander into a venue because you’re allowed to do that and might share a little.
Alison: Well, it will be nice if Chinese spectators can go because we have seen so many events with no spectators and it’s rough.
Jill: It will be nice. I think it will be crowded. And I think it’s of interest to the Chinese people, and the country wants to grow winter sport. In China. So, that does not, that’s a country that does not have a big tradition of winter sports, but they’ve been building these venues and trying to develop something. And I think this will help build interest in the citizens.
Alison: So, you know what? China does not have a history of?
Alison: And this is apparently going to be a bit of a problem.
Jill: Right? Because the International Ice Hockey Federation president talked with Agencie France Presse and said that even though we all know that the host country gets a bye into every event because they are the host nation, China’s men’s hockey team might not be invited to the tournament.
Alison: We talked a couple of weeks ago about the NHL players being allowed to play. That’s going to be every single country in the tournament is going to have NHL players except for China.
Jill: And they’re currently ranked 32nd in the world rankings for on the men’s side, the women’s team’s more competitive. And that’s not really what we’re talking about. We’re talking about the men’s. The president of the Federation said, yeah, having a team be beat 15 to nothing is not good [00:58:00] for anyone. It’s not good for the sport. It’s not good for the losing country, which would be China in this case. Audiences, and spectators get bored, and they just don’t want to see that happen. Especially when you’re trying to get interest in ice hockey in your country. You don’t want to see your country’s team look bad.
Alison: And to be honest, how many countries have a national men’s hockey team? Being 32nd is pretty low. I don’t know how many countries are ranked, but I can’t imagine it’s more than 50.
Jill: so the, IIHF has 55 countries ranked in men’s ice hockey, but that does mean that China’s on the bottom half of that list. And when you’re talking about a tournament, that’s only going to have a dozen teams at most. That’s not a great thing to have such disparity in the play.
Alison: This is problematic.
Jill: The IHF, we’ll be making that decision in a couple of weeks. So we will keep an eye on that.
Alison: Just a note on that, the Chinese women’s team is in the top 20, so that’s why it’s not an issue.
Jill: Yeah. That makes perfect sense.
Jill: And then finally, Hey Team Canada has a new outfitter.
Alison: It’s Lululemon!
Jill: Very exciting for the Canadians. They are going to be the exclusive outfitter of Team Canada through 2028. They’ve already released some gear under the deal and more will come out at the end of October,
Alison: So Team Canada can look like yoga moms everywhere. I’ll make you a chai tea.
Jill: If you go to the Lululemon site, Team Canada collection only available in Canada. And that’s messaged to the US shoppers.
Alison: That’s quite a message to the U S shoppers.
Jill: And on that note, that is going to do it for this week. Let us know what you thought of Murderball.
Alison: Email [01:00:00] email@example.com. Call or text us at (208) 352-6348. That’s 2 0 8. Flame it We’re flame alive pod on Twitter and Insta and Keep the Flame Alive Podcast Group on Facebook.
Jill: Next week we are going to have on our friend Harry Blutstein to talk about his new book on the Mexico City 1968 Olympics, just about time for the anniversary. And in the meantime, thank you so much for listening and until next time, keep the flame alive.