Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Olympic Thoughts 7/31/2012

The thrill of victory, the agony of defeat.  Is that not what we expect out of the Olympics?  That's what American gymnast Jordyn Wieber experienced the past couple of days.

After being shut out of the individual all-around competition despite having the fourth best score, with her teammates, she attained Olympic gold.  She was a big part of the gold medal-winning United States gymnastics team.  Being the consummate world class athlete she is, she put personal disappointment behind her to put in a solid performance for Team USA.

American swimmer Michael Phelps became the most decorated athlete in Olympic history, capturing his 19th medal after Team USA won the 800 meter freestyle relay that he anchored.  Phelps has a good chance to increase his medal count in the next few days.

Jo Willfred Tsonga and Milos Raonic put on quite a show in men's tennis, being a part of the longest match in Olympic history with Tsonga coming out on top 25-23 in the third set.  Unfortunately, Tsonga must take to the court again tomorrow.  History has not been kind to players coming off of a marathon match in their subsequent matches.  However, since this was only best of three as opposed to best of five that is played in the Grand Slam events, the total time on court is not unmanageable.

On a tennis side note, Roger Federer, Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova are all still alive in the quest for the Golden Slam.  Read more on that here.

Here's looking forward to more drama tomorrow.  And in the days to come.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Olympics Thoughts 7/29/2012

The Olympic experience provides drama everyday.  Today was no exception.

The men's 4 X 100 freestyle in swimming saw the team from France track down America's Ryan Lochte in the final leg to attain gold.  Did the Americans make a mistake?  I leave it the one of my favorite sports writes, Jennifer Floyd Engel, to provide the details here.

In women's gymnastics, Jordyn Wieber, the reigning all-around champion, was eliminated from that competition in the 2012 Olympics.  It's not that she wasn't good.  She was.  But only two gymnasts from each country can compete in the all-around finals.  Wieber was fourth best among the competitors.  She was third best for the United States.

Those are the rules.  Sometimes rules punish unfairly.  In this case, definitely.  It does not matter to me whether the slight came to a U.S. competitor or Russion, or Romanian or Chinese or any other country.  When the reigning world champion and fourth best in the competition is left out because of some arbitrary rule, that is injustice.

This is meant in no way to slight the excellent performances of Gabby Douglas and Aly Raisman, the two Americans who outscored Wieber, but a condemnation of the system.

If the Olympics are supposed to be competition between the best of the elite, why eliminate one of the best because they happen to be from the same country as other great performers?

Saturday, July 28, 2012

NBC Olympics Coverage Fail

Yep, it's only one day after the opening ceremonies of the 2012 Olympics and already NBC has a major gaffe.  Specifically not airing the finals of the men's 400 meter individual medley live.  On a weekend afternoon.  On the first full day of the Olympiad.  Really.

I fully understand that NBC wants to protect its primetime coverage.  But airing one of the most anticipated aquatic races live would have had minimal effect on viewership.  Many that were available to view it live, streamed it, as I did.

We don't live in the 70's or 80's or even the 90's when a network could control what you saw and when.  Or control the dispersement of results.  In the age of Twitter and facebook, I knew well before the race began that NBC would not be airing it live.  I made alternative arrangements, as I'm sure many others did.

There is definitely a place for primetime coverage of an event of this magnitude, but let's not pretend that the content can be manipulated.  And yes, it should be much, much more than just a highlight show, as there are many people who were not available to view an event live and want to see all the buildup and subsequent interviews following a major race/performance.  But don't do this at the expense of those who are able to view the event live.

NBC, if this was your beta test, it failed miserably.

Lochte - Phelps Showdown

The much anticipated 400 meter individual medley in swimming at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London was set to be a showdown by the best at this event.  Americans Michael Phelps (arguably the greatest swimmer ever) and Ryan Lochte.

This showdown turned into more of a no show.  OK, that's really too harsh.  These are the best swimmers in the world right now.  But for Phelps, something was missing.  Give credit to Lochte.  He was on world record pace for 7/8 of the race.

Phelps came into the final barely qualifying in the eighth (of eight) slot.  Still, this is Michael Phelps.  Everybody expected him to be able to flip the switch come the final.  But the switch never flipped.

Phelps finished out of the medals, a disappointing fourth place behind Lochte, Brazilian Thiago Pereira (silver) and Japan's Kosuke Hagino (bronze).

Phelps was in trouble after the first 100 meters of the race, the butterfly which is his specialty.  He was in first place coming out of the butterfly, but not by nearly enough.  After that, Lochte just took over the final 300 meters.  It wasn't even close.

Phelps still has a chance for 6 more Olympics medals to add to his collection of 16 (14 gold).  But he is no longer the most dominant swimmer in the pool.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Women's Track & Field

OK, men, admit it.  This is one of the reasons we like track & field:  very well toned and athletic bodies clad scantily.  Same can be said for beach volleyball.  Love the following track clip.  She must have an internal iPod implanted.  Just enjoy.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The Golden Slam

Roger Federer, Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova all have a chance to complete the career golden slam at the London Olympics.  I wrote a little bit about their respective chances here.

Shameless self-promotion over.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Ichiro to the Yankees

The Seattle Mariners sent Japanese icon Ichiro Suzuki to the New York Yankees for a couple of pitching prospects.

Ichiro is a "name".  Generating plenty of headlines.  Right now he's just another guy.  Nothing special.  Gone are the days of getting 200+ hits per year, of igniting an offense and of even hitting over .300.

It's a good move for the M's.  They're going nowhere this year and need young players.  Hopefully, some pan out.  Nothing lost as Ichirio is in the last year of a contract and negotiations would not be pleasant for either the Mariners or Ichiro.

For the Yankees?  The get a serviceable player for their depleted outfield.  Maybe a change of scenery will spark Ichiro.  Maybe not.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Bartolo Colon - MLB or Beer League Pitcher?

OK, in reality, that title is not fair.  Colon has made quite a good living pitching in MLB and has done so for many years.

But after watching him pitch recently for the Oakland Athletics, wearing the yellow uniform tops, the visual really leads you to think weekend softball beer leagues.  Judge for yourselves.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Nadal Pulls Out of London Olympics

Admittedly, I'm not a Rafael Nadal fan.  I'm totally a Roger Federer guy.  Disclaimer being made, I'm disappointed Nadal has pulled out of the Olympics.

I totally respect Nadal and am quite amazed at the level of tennis he plays.  It's always more fun to have a foil for your own personal favorite.

Some have said that this opens the door for Federer.  With recent results on grass - namely Fed's Wimbledon win and Nadal's second round exit - I think Fed had already opened his own door.  Lest we forget, there is still Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray, David Ferrer and Juan Martin Del Potro looming out there.  And we haven't even touched on the format yet.

With all matches being best of three before the final, strange things can happen.  Really, how many times have you seen one of the great players fall behind two sets to love or two sets to one only to come back and win in five?  I would not be surprised to see many surprises.

With all that being said, the Olympic tennis should be entertaining, and fun to watch.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Penn State

Really, I don't want to delve too deep into the Jerry Sandusky/Joe Paterno/Penn State ordeal.  There have been millions of words written by people far more knowledgeable than me.

However, with all that has gone on, I cannot ignore it completely.

I will just say, be careful who you put up on a pedestal.  Be careful who you put your trust in.  Be careful who you hold up as role models.  Find colleagues, relatives, people in your circle of friends, people you know to admire.  Football players and coaches, professional athletes of all ilk, are not role models.  Just ask Charles Barkley.  Sure, some really are, but don't put your trust in someone just because they are famous and appear to be good people.  Your real heroes and role models are in your own neighborhood and community.

That is all.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

MLB All Star Game / Home Run Derby

Now that the MLB All Star game has come and gone, along with the Home Run Derby as a precursor, it's time to get back to baseball that counts.

But before we do that, let's take a moment to reflect on the midsummer classic.  Many people say that baseball's annual midweek respite featuring the game's best players is the best among professional sports' All Star games.  Maybe this is true, maybe not.  For me, I would agree. Maybe it's because the MLB All Star game plays more like a real game than any of the others.  When it all comes down to it, it's batter vs. pitcher.

However, because it's most like a regular season game, games like the one played Tuesday, make for lousy viewing.  After giving up five runs in the top of the first, the AL was pretty much done.  No drama.  No excitement.  Therefore, I watched very little of it past that first inning.

Speaking of All Star festivities, the Home Run Derby has become excruciatingly long.  Really, three hours worth of glorified batting practice.  I caught all of about 90 seconds.  More than enough.  I guess for some it is exciting.  I'm just not one of them.

Finally, it's time to end this silly notion of the game actually meaning anything.  Stop the World Series home field advantage tie-in starting immediately.  Bud Selig, I'm talking to you.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Wimbledon Title Number 7 for Federer

Roger Federer captured his 7th Wimbledon title, tying Pete Sampras, defeating Andy Murray in four entertaining sets.

Murray, playing in his first Wimbledon final, was great.  Great wasn't enough today against Fed, who was not only great, but artistic, graceful and crafty.

You have to feel for Murray though.  In his emotional post-match interview he showed how much this meant to him,  teared up and won over many new fans.

In what has been described as the "golden age" in men's tennis, the only thing detractors can come up with is that behind the Big Three, there is no depth.  As SI.com's Bruce Jenkins wrote here, "Sometimes, I suppose, people just run out of things to say."  Indeed.

This, his 17th major career title, may very well be Federer's last.  But I would not count him out.  His rumored demise has been greatly exaggerated.

Next up, the 2012 London Olympics, where the tennis competition will also be held on the historic grounds of Wimbledon.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Get Yourself to the Park.........The Ballpark, That Is

A self-proclaimed cedar-hacker from Arkansas with a southern drawl and a dry wit so sharp it will cut you in half before you even feel the pain.

A grandmother, a teacher, choir member and darn good cook.

A home-grown-smoking, home-brew-swilling, aging hippie bespectacled looking at life through rose-colored prescription lenses.

A giggling, screeching teenage girl with a mouth full of metal and rubber bands, hair in pigtails and ever-present flip flops.

A singer in a rock band in his favorite vintage AC/DC tee shirt with the sleeves cut out.

A slick, big-city banker sporting designer sunglasses and what hasn't been discarded of a three-piece suit.

A housewife in a sundress, floppy hat and dark glasses, sporting the latest fashion in nail polish on her recently pedicured toes.

An ex Army medic turned firefighter with a penchant for attracting psycho-babes and an affinity for spicy foods.

A father, dressed in khaki shorts and his team tee shirt explaining the intricacies of the double steal to a kid with an oversized baseball cap slurping ice cream out of a miniature replica helmet.

What do all of these people have in common? Why, they're all baseball fans, of course. Nothing I have seen in the course of everyday life brings together a more diverse cast of characters than a baseball game on a lazy summer evening.

I attended my first professional baseball game at the old Arlington Stadium with my uncle to see the Texas Rangers take on the hated New York Yankees in a double header, long before the days of the day/night variety. Being a baseball fan already, I was hooked on experiencing the game in person.

Not everyone is there for the same reason. There are the die-hards, the casuals, the socializers, the partyers and those that just want to get out and enjoy the weather. But, by and large, everyone is there to have a good time. There are always those contrarians, those who look to start or get into trouble, but they are the minority.

Everybody is your friend at a baseball game. Sitting out in the blistering Texas sun and need some sunscreen? The girl across the aisle will be happy to share some of hers. Going back to your seat after a brief rain delay and don't want to sit in a puddle? The guy two rows up is loaning his towel out to whoever needs it.

We could all take some life lessons from the camaraderie shown by a large group of strangers held together by nothing more than a rooting interest in the laundry worn by this year's roving band of gloved, bat wielding mercenaries.

The pace of baseball lends itself to this kind of relaxed revelry. It is not adrenaline induced pummeling of an opponent. It is not non-stop, up and down a court, sometimes lumbering, sometimes in bursts. Baseball is leisurely paced, perfect for getting to know one's neighbors. Perfect for summer.

After competing in the rat race at a breakneck pace, taxiing kids from one activity to another and fighting ever-increasing traffic; baseball provides a welcome three to three and half hour respite from all the hustle and bustle of everyday life.

I'll take that any day of the week.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Erin Andrews IS the Story.........I Guess

Okay, never been a big Erin Andrews fan personally.  Never had anything against her either.  Apparently her moving from ESPN to Fox Sports has brought forth a sports media armageddon of sorts.  Tom Hoffarth of the Los Angeles Daily News wasted many words and quite a bit of bandwidth to basically say "she's inept and irrelevant".  If you have a few minutes of your life that you never want back, read here.

Part of the premise is that the journalist (term used loosely in this situation) should not be the story.  Mr. Hoffarth proceeds to make her the story.  In his defense, he admits to this bit of hypocrisy.  Methinks someone may just be a little butthurt for some (unknown to me) reason.

Wimbledon Avoids Auditory Assault

With Victoria Azarenka's ouster at the hands of Serena Williams, the WTA's two most agregious shriekers have been vanquished from Saturday's Centre Court finale.  Although Serena can get loud from time to time, it's not the same high-pitched auditory hell that a Sharapova or Azarenka (and heaven-forbid, both, under the roof) match can put viewers through.

Sometimes it's the small things we're thankful for.

MLB All Star Whiners.........Stop It

OK, with everything that requires a selection of some sort, someone is going to get snubbed.  The selection of the MLB All Star teams is no exception.  Some complaints have merit, but really, all the whining is quite unbecoming.

Hey, it's a popularity contest for the most part - especially the fan vote.  Mets GM Sandy Alderson, really?  Here are the details.  Totally uncalled for complaining of David Wright not being voted in by fans.  He was named to the team.  Here's your cheese, Mr. Alderson.

And then the sad case of A.J. Pierzynski of the White Sox.  Was passed over by the fans, the players and the manager.  Three time loser at the candy store.  Dude, maybe its you.

Sure, in a perfect world, the best players would get chosen each year, but it's fan driven.  We vote for who we want to see.  Get over it.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

The Roof at Centre Court

The folks at Wimbledon do a lot of things right.  But when it comes to the decision of when to close the roof.........What gives?

There was no reason for the first match of the day at Centre Court to be delayed 45 minutes while they closed the roof.  Ya know, if it looks like rain, or is raining, close the damned thing already.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Wimbledon's Manic Monday

What has been dubbed as "Manic Monday" at Wimbledon, in which all players, both men and women, are on court for the round of 16, does not disappoint.

The first huge upset of the tournament on the women's side (of course Rafa getting bounced in the 2nd round was the story of the men's tournament) occurred early on Court 1 when Sabine "Boom Boom" Lisicki knocked off pre-tournament favorite and world number one Maria Sharapova in straight sets.

The upside of this is that one of the WTA's loudest shriekers (Sharapova) is gone.


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