Friday, November 23, 2012

Big Ten Basketball - Making up for Bad Big Ten Football

I don't know if it has been the lackluster season that the Big Ten just endured - what with the underperforming Michigan teams, the Penn State and Ohio State bowl bans, and the rise one - but I am really looking forward to the NCAA basketball season.

It was quite a shock for me to see Michigan ranked fifth in the nation at the start of the season. They shared the Big Ten regular season title, but ended their 2011-2012 season so badly - with a first round upset by Ohio - that my expectations were low. But apparently my expectations were the only low ones around. With the crop of new freshmen and the loss of only two seniors, the national peoples have high hopes for this team.

I was able to watch their two games this week in the NIT Season Tip-Off, and I am now impressed. On Wednesday they struggled a bit against Pittsburgh, but their defense was fun to watch. They played man-to-man and a 2-3 zone, and it actually looked like they had a defensive scheme. Today against Kansas State it was all about their Offense. Junior Tim Hardaway Jr. scored 23 points, and I was visibly "ooh!"ing at multiple three-point shots taken by a variety of guards. They were definitely in control the entire game.

But it's not only Michigan that has the potential to have a solid season in the Big Ten. The number one team in the nation is Indiana, back in title contention after multiple subpar seasons. Currently above Michigan is Ohio State, which means that the Michigan-OSU basketball game could have more ramifications than the football game being played tomorrow.

And don't forget about Michigan State, who bounced back from a season-opening loss in Germany (which may finally get Tom Izzo and Mike Hollis to finally stop scheduling all these gimicky games) to win their next two games. Minnesota and Wisconsin also have potential to return to the rankings and challenge the conference.

The upcoming ACC-Big Ten Challenge will be a huge test for the Big Ten, and conference play will be a battle. But it has to be a lot more enjoyable than what we watched on Saturdays in the fall.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Big What?

Fourteen? And we're still going to call the conference the Big Ten?

After rumors persisted over the weekend, Maryland has voted - and approved - to leave the ACC and join the Big Ten conference in 2014. Rutgers is also talking to join the Big Ten as well.

There was eighteen years between teams joining the Big Ten conference - Penn State in 1993 and Nebraska in 2011. Now there's only three. Is this how it's going to be? Teams jumping into the Big Ten like it's the Big East conference?

I remember being pretty excited about the idea of Nebraska joining the Big Ten conference. My mouth was watering at the prospect of Michigan-Nebraska football games. Nebraska fit the mold of a Big Ten team: Midwestern, tough-as-nails, grass-fed beefy guys.

When I heard about Maryland and Rutgers, I was a surprised, and not thrilled. Neither team is impressive, and the only championship of late was Maryland's basketball championship back in 2002. Neither is a team you'd think of first when it came to "elite college teams." If anything, both are very regional teams - known to other universities in the East.

We'll see how this lineup turns out in the long run. But I return to my original question: after only changing the logo and adding a championship game and divisions, will the Big Ten be forced to scrap all of that because the number of teams keeps going farther and farther away from ten? Will this conference eventually be known as Big Ten-Squared? (That's a lot of schools.)

Thursday, November 15, 2012

It's Called "Valuable" For A Reason

Hey everybody! Miguel Cabrera won the MVP!

For all of the hype and hoopla over whether Mike Trout was going to unseat Cabrera due to his dynamic June, July, and August, the end result was a little...lacking.

22 first place votes to just 6? Is this the battle of the old fogey sportswriters against the Internet stat masters? If this vote had been 10 years in the future, would we be talking about the result being far different?

Well, it doesn't matter. Cabrera won.

Whenever an MVP debate surfaces, I always ask myself, "It's called the Most Valuable Player." What exactly does that mean? Well, it means that the player has the ability to lift his manager, teammates, and city up to the caliber that is expected of them. That can be through offense, defense, and being the leader in the clubhouse.

When it comes to stats, each side will find the numbers to support their man. Yes, Cabrera won the Triple Crown. Yes, Trout won the battle for Wins Above Replacement. But what matters most to me is that in the long run, the Tigers were able to conquer the teams in their division and win the crown, while the Angels - even with the likes of Trout - couldn't beat two other teams in their division, and Trout's numbers declined when September hit - the most crucial part of the season.

To be completely honest - and I don't like doing this often - but I'm inclined to state that Trout will fade into the shadows come next season. Eventually, we may even laugh at this debate between a potential Hall of Famer and a "one-hit wonder." There are lots of players in Major League Baseball who can be solid hitters and fielders for a few months at a time - but only the most solid players can step up and make a long-lasting impact.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

When Our Outlet Fails Us

You unwrap the new video game.

You turn on the sporting event.

You go see the movie.

You tinker around in the garage.

We do these things because they relieve us from reality. On a day where work, home, family, or friends disappoints us, we have that optional list of things that keep us from thinking about reality for a while.

Some people call it their "outlet."

But what happens when the thing that causes us to jettison out of reality abruptly crashes to the ground? Or - even worse, slowly sinks into oblivion. What happens then?

I am asking myself that question tonight, on a night where my outlet - sports - failed me. Michigan couldn't score a touchdown in a 23-9 loss to Nebraska, and the Detroit Tigers couldn't score a run in a 2-0 loss to the San Francisco Giants. My night ended with a bad taste in my mouth, when it could have just ended on a good, relaxing note simply by ignoring both games.

Instead, I listened to the Tigers game on the radio (I refuse to listen to Joe Buck and Tim McCarver on principle), and had the Michigan game on mute on my TV. After a very nice day sleeping in, grocery shopping, exercising, and cleaning, I wanted to end it by cheering on my sports teams.

Instead, my sports teams decided not to show up. At least, that's how it felt.

So what am I to do? What are any of us to do? Michigan lost control of the Legends division with the loss. The Tigers are on the brink of being swept in the World Series. After following the teams passionately for the past few months, it feels like ignoring them would be to go cold turkey on them.

You get to the part of the video game that you can't figure out.

Your team keeps losing.

Your movie was lousy.

Your tinkering is just breaking things instead of fixing them.

These are the things that are supposed to relax us, and instead they infuriate us! We may even get more stressed over our hobbies than we do over our regular lives! Why do we do this?

I'll tell you why: because the payoff is just that sweet.

You do these things hoping that we can see everything just like we have in our heads:

You win the video game.

Your team wins the championship.

You have seen the best movie of all time.

You created the greatest machine ever made.

We keep going back because we hope that, someday, those "outlets" will reap the finest rewards.

We will go to another Michigan game.

We will turn on the television or radio tonight to see what happens in Game 4.

And next season, we'll be back again. They can crush our souls, take our money, and stomp on our hopes and dreams, but we'll always come back. We'll come back more passionate than ever. We'll call into radio shows, check out the websites, buy the merchandise, and drive our friends and family crazy. We may take a vacation from our outlet to clear our heads, but we'll return. We know that someday, we will be lifted into a feeling of euphoria - a feeling that no one can take away from us.

And we will celebrate in triumph knowing that we were there all along - through the thick and the thin.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Let's Get This Thing Started!

On Thursday, the prospect of playing the National League champion felt completely manageable. 

On Friday, it got cloudy. 

On Sunday, it got scary.

And on Monday, it got scarier.

Now I don’t know what to think anymore. 

On one hand, the Tigers have dominant pitching and the Triple Crown winner.

On the other hand, the Giants are riding the most giant wave of momentum there can be, with their aces and shortstop taking them off the cusp of elimination…again…and into the World Series with just a day’s rest. 

The Tigers will be forced to go against the trend - in the three times where one LCS champion has swept and the other one won in seven, the one that went the distance won the World Series. Including 2006.

I want to believe that the writers and analysts will pick the Giants to win on the basis of which they can’t be eliminated. They’re like the John McClane of baseball right now. The problem is, the media isn’t. They are declaring that while the Giants are scary, the Tigers look like the team that will win. But they always mention that the Giants are a threatening team right now and could pull an “upset.” 

So try to help me with this…when the media declares that the Tigers are the favorites, yet say that the Giants are going to win, doesn’t that mean the Giants are the favorites? They pick the Giants without actually picking them, and it’s to prove that when the Giants do win, the media can pull out the “I knew it all along” card.

I know that baseball is built on momentum, but let’s remember the regular season here: the Giants finished with a 94-68 record and won the NL West, a division that also had the upstart Arizona Diamondbacks and the well-paid Los Angeles Dodgers. The Tigers went 88-74 and came into the playoffs with the lowest wins of any division-winning team in the postseason. Why do people have to favor us?

I want to fly under the radar. It is entirely possible – it’s happened to opponents of championship favorites all the time. I keep hoping to hear more pro-Giant talk, but I don’t! 

If the Tigers are going to win this series, they are going to have to win in five or less. I have very little hope that the Tigers could go to San Francisco for Games 6 and 7 and pull off a win.

So here’s to you, Justin Verlander. As the starter in Game 1, he has the ability to squash the Giant momentum. At this time, this game is the biggest of his career. He’s thrown for a Game 1 World Series before, and didn’t look that great. He’s thrown for a do-or-die series clincher, and he threw a complete game gem. He’s thrown against one of the biggest payrolls in baseball, and while he didn’t look bad, he was a little shaky, especially in the end.

Verlander needs to do just enough to stop the offensive luck of the Giants, while the defense behind him has to stay sharp, unlike how the Cardinals closed out the NLCS. 

We could look at the other starters in upcoming games, but I’ll just dissect one game at a time. Tomorrow is huge – it will show us if the Tigers took the layoff well, or if the Giants are tired, or if the Tigers already wrapped up the season, or if the Giants will just keep rolling. 

I think I will feel much better after just one game. I can stop listening to the speculation and finally have some inkling of what’s going to happen in this series.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Celebration Time is Over.

So here we are again. Back to another World Series, six years after we experienced an eerily similar situation. Survived an ALDS, swept the ALCS...and a little under one week before the first World Series game.

I remember having a week of glee, of giddiness. The Tigers are going to the World Series! Just the fact that they were going was enough to make the city of Detroit beside itself with joy. The team had just endured over a decade of bottom-of-the-barrel failures, including the infamous 2003 season that saw them nearly break the record for most losses in a season. So the fact that 2006 brought so much joy in the first two postseason series was enough to lift the spirits of the city (and the fans all over) for another few years.

The Tigers were finally relevant again. Comerica Park wasn't a sellout for just Opening Day anymore. The summer once again revolved around the Tigers. I printed out the Tigers' season schedule so I could keep track of where they were (and what time they were playing). Going downtown for a game was an event.

But do you really remember the 2006 World Series? I sure don't. I remember watching the first game and feeling down, then watching the second game and still feeling down because Kenny Rodgers got caught with pine tar on his hand (even though the Tigers won that game). I don't even think I tuned in for the final three games at all. I simply heard the Cardinals won, sighed, and went on with life.

All this postseason, I have been determined NOT to be content with just going to the World Series. Whenever I think about it, I just utter one phrase:

I want to win the World Series!

What the Tigers did in the past week has been nothing short of amazing. No one really gave the Tigers too much of a chance against the Yankees, fresh off the best regular season record in the American League, an Eastern Division championship, and a solid drubbing of the Baltimore Orioles in game 5 of the ALDS. Plus, they opened the ALCS in New York, while Detroit had to take two flights in two days: one from Oakland to Detroit, and another from Detroit to New York.

But that was just the ALCS. What we need to figure out is that there is more. The team celebrated with the fans, and gave all the credit to all the right people, and said all the right things. But there's still more to come! The Tigers have only become the champion of one league.

I think the team has realized that there is more to strive for. Jim Leyland said as much in his postgame interview with Matt Weiner of TBS. He mentioned that they wouldn't be sitting on their butts like they had to last time they had a week-long break between series. Justin Verlander was talking about Game 1 of the World Series...after Game 3 of the ALCS. Veterans of the 2006 squad - which I just realized are few - will tell teammates that the ALCS is great and all, but it can be better.

Compare this ALCS to a Red-Wings/Avalanche series in that rivalry's heyday (between 1995 and 2005). The two teams couldn't meet in the Stanley Cup Final - the highest playoff series where they could compete against each other was the Western Conference Finals. But the Red Wings knew full well that the momentum had to keep going after the exhausting, yet exhilarating defeat of Colorado. There was more to play for.

The Tigers need to remind the fans of that.

I want to win the World Series!

Getting to a World Series is a huge accomplishment. There are so many teams in Major League Baseball that haven't sniffed a World Series in 20, 30, 40, maybe even 50 years (or more!) - which are long periods of time in fan years. The Tigers have done it for the second time in six years. Wouldn't it just be fair to celebrate the accomplishment, even if they lose?

NO! NONONO!! Getting there isn't acceptable anymore. This team has had a solid core for quite a few years. Who's the ace? Justin Verlander. Who's the slugger? Miguel Cabrera. Who have climbed the ranks to be valuable assets? Alex Avila and Austin Jackson. More than that, much of the front office and managerial staff has stuck around, aside from some minor shakeups. In a few more years, some of those players and coaches might be gone. The Tigers may have to start from scratch - have a few subpar years - the fans might waver and even leave. The time to strike is now. Solid pitching has held up the Tigers - solid pitching that not many teams have. Take advantage of the amazing talent on this team and WIN.

I want to win the World Series!

The St. Louis Cardinals are up 3-1 in their series, with Game 5 in St. Louis. Our opponent in 2006 was St. Louis. (We lost.) Our opponent in the 1968 World Series was St. Louis. (We won.) Our opponent in 1935 was St. Louis! (We lost.) If there was ever a National League team who had a lot of history against an American League team (and didn't share a city), it might be St. Louis and Detroit. It is a classic series, and it might happen again.

St. Louis played Detroit in interleague play in June (I should know - I was there.) Detroit fans know what St. Louis has done to us in the past, and they don't like it.

Detroit has less experience with San Francisco, but the mere fact that we'd have to do one or two more West Coast trips is fear enough. But their lineup and pitching is also something to fear.

Whoever is on the mound in Game 1, Detroit has time to prepare. The Tigers can watch film, stay conditioned, maybe throw some virtual games to keep the arm in shape in order to be ready.

We as fans need to get ready too. Don't spend too much time celebrating this pennant win. Feel free to celebrate the season in two weeks. But right now the "three million Detroit fans" have to get mentally prepared for a World Series that has the potential of having a lot of low-scoring games with role players getting a chance to shine. We can't be hungover come October 27. They need us to come out with intensity - towels waving, cheering reaching unsafe decibels, and encouraging our boys to the win. If we choose to sit in our chairs with our hands under our butts, the team will reflect the discouragement or frustration. We don't want to act like New Yorkers now, do we?

We have gotten commendations today for being great fans. The Tigers organization has been commended today for its family atmosphere and positive attitudes - something the media must have noticed due to the contrasting atmosphere of the opposing team's locker room. Keep it going.

I want to win the World Series!

The season is far from over. The Tigers are getting ready for their toughest series yet. Don't buy the American League Championship shirts and hats. Delete the Game 4 clincher from your DVRs. It's time to focus. Watch the final game(s) of the NLCS, do your research, and get ready to cheer hard for your Detroit Tigers. The will to win is vital.

I want to win the World Series!

Just keep saying that to yourself. Beating the Yankees in the ALCS is great, but for a fan born after 1984, I need to see for myself that a World Series celebration is the biggest and best celebration of all.

Now let's say it together:

I want to win the World Series!!

Monday, October 15, 2012

A National Mystery

Amidst the media crisis that is the Yankees, there only seems to be three markets that remember that there is another Championship Series going on in baseball right now: San Fransisco, St. Louis, and the MLB Network.

I have been prone to dismissing the National League Championship Series, simply because my Tigers aren't in that league, and barely plays any of the teams in that league. Such dismissal happened back in 2006, when I was wrapped up completely in the Tigers' improbable World Series run. That was a big mistake - the St. Louis Cardinals kept cruising after a 7-game series with the New York Mets and beat Detroit in five games. I forgot that not every team was going to roll over for the Tigers in that postseason.

I barely heard much of anything about the NLCS this morning as I prepared for work. Actually, I barely heard anything about the ALCS, either. Any baseball news was all about instant replay and how Joe Girardi - who three years ago was insistent that it not be used (I'm not even kidding - USA Today dug up a good quote from the ALDS in 2009) - was adamant that it be instituted as soon as possible.

Unfortunately, there was more instant replay controversy in the NLCS tonight, when Jon Jay made a spectacular catch in right field and Allen Craig caught Gregor Blanco at first base on a tag...and none of the umps saw the tag. It wouldn't have ended the inning, but it did allow the Giants to score two more runs in that inning. This isn't going away.

I am making an effort to watch more of this NLCS because whoever the NL champion plays in the World Series (please let it be Tigers...), I want to be prepared and have a good idea what kind of Series I'm going to watch.

Initially, I had a feeling that St. Louis was the more dangerous team. The Cardinals, going back to last year, have a team where you never know from where the runs are going to come. Between David Freese and Daniel Descalso, who have the ability to fly under the radar till the postseason, their entire lineup is dangerous (I did get the opportunity to see this team in person in June, when they were in Detroit). Meanwhile, San Fransisco lost Melky Cabrera in the summertime due to his doping suspension, but that didn't deter the Giants from crushing a formidable division with pitching that was both outstanding (Matt Cain's perfect game) to middling (Tim Lincecum's below-average season), and surrounding them with reliable offensive juggernauts like Buster Posey, Angel Pagan, and Pablo Sandoval. Game 1 didn't deter my opinion at all.

Game 2 was a different story. After a questionable slide into second base by Matt Holliday into Marco Scutaro, the Giants were energized and pounded Cardinals' pitcher Chris Carpenter, while Giants' pitcher Ryan Vogelsong continued his solid pitching in the playoffs, only allowing one run.

But if there's any team that would easily halt a momentum swing, it's the Cardinals. Washington tried so hard to drive the Cards away in each game, trying to put a streak together, and the Cardinals would not let it happen. A lot of times a game is decided on streaks. And when a team has the ability to stop a streak, it is admirable...and scary.

Make sure to pay attention on the other Championship series, which can display just as much drama and momentum shifts than the ALCS...and with far less media overload.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Which Team Does Derek Jeter's Injury Hurt More? (I'm Serious!)

In the top of the 12th inning in tonight's game, Derek Jeter was going for a routine grounder to short that went to his left side. But he didn't get up. He ended up fracturing his left ankle, and his manager is reporting that Jeter is out for the rest of the postseason.

Tigers fans might initially say, "Yess!!" Jeter is gone! We don't have to face him in the lineup! The gold-glove infield has a hole in it!

But take a step back. Teams that lose their captain usually rally very well. They get behind the team. They regroup and strike back with a force previously unseen. And the Yankees aren't a sub-.500 team who might just collapse and give up the rest of the series. These guys won the Eastern Division and fought back to win a series against an upstart Orioles team. They aren't just going to roll over.

I could easily see Alex Rodriguez suddenly be inspired to hit again...if Joe Girardi even puts him in the lineup in this series.

But then again, the Tigers did not give up this game, like they could have. They brought in young pitching to fight through the extra innings, and Delmon Young continued his Yankee-killing ways. The Yankees are losing the one bat in the starting lineup that actually showed up for the ALDS, regardless of lingering leg injuries.

I want to see how this game shapes up tomorrow. Tomorrow's game is huge, to gauge how the Yankees bounce back from the loss of Jeter and how the Tigers bounce back from a closer implosion. The three million Tigers fans out there, wherever you are, keep a positive outlook tomorrow. I think the Tigers are capable of taking tomorrow's game, but they can't let Jeter's injury spark the Yankees. They've got to stomp on that spark until it is completely out. That is most definitely sure.

Oh - and Anibal Sanchez has to pitch a complete game. But that's just a given.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Baseball...It Prevents Us From Going Crazy

You may think that the title of this blog is a little off. After all, the four series that took place this week all went to five games. A fan of any of the eight teams might be feeling a little crazy right now! Between the team that lost two games at home but managed to win all three games on the road (in a row!) to the teams that kept going into extra innings, to the team that just had to win one on the road...and it took them three tries and an inconceivable performance by their ace to do it.

But could you imagine a fall season without baseball? It has happened before - but that was eighteen years ago, in 1994. Sportscenter was just beginning to become the regular hangout for people when they woke up in the morning. ESPN2 was still the place for skateboarding shows and men lifting tractor tires.

Our normal lives kept the human race from going nuts. But in the days of 24-hour sports networks, Internet blogs (like this one!), and the constant barrage of social media, baseball is the only thing that is keeping the nation from overloading

If we didn't have baseball right now, the only thing out there is football. High school football, college football, the NFL, fantasy football, Monday Night Football, Sunday Night Football, football commercials, football behind-the-scenes, football analysis, analysis of the football analysis, year-round speculation of football plots, and the Super Bowl. The NHL is locked out and all its players moved to Europe and Asia to play the game. All that the NBA does right now is argue with each other. That sport doesn't become relevant till Christmas.

I imagine that if ESPN or the NFL Network had the chance, they would spend 24 hours straight dissecting the logo color of the Dallas Cowboys.

The only thing that is stopping us from this madness? Baseball.

Because of baseball, we have another outlet for our sports fandom. Anyone will tell you that if you spend your whole life doing just one thing, it will drive you mad. You need to add that second (or third or fourth or so on) hobby to relieve the stress and work another part of your brain.

So thank you, baseball, for providing sports fans with an alternative choice of sports programming. It prevents me from having to read an article at the end of October about Aaron Rodgers' fifth word in his eighth interview of the day implying that his wide receiver's route in the eighteenth play of the fourth game of the season caused him to develop a pinky tic that may or may not prevent him from throwing a slant route pass against AFC teams with right-handed defensive backs who went to an SEC East (not West!) university.

Because when we do see an article like that, we can just flip to baseball instead.

Thank goodness.

A few other baseball playoff, oops, I mean Postseason oddities. The word "Postseason." In any official MLB promotional materials, they will never say playoffs. It  has to be "Postseason." And this from the only  league that doesn't have a's Spring Training.

I wonder how long the Yankee's champagne bath lasted tonight. They probably have to be at the ballpark around 2pm tomorrow to prepare for that evening's game against the Detroit Tigers. Or maybe they did what they should do after a simple ALDS win...congratulate each other, take a shower, and go home! What's up with the constant locker room celebrations? I can understand celebrating a berth in the playoffs Postseason, but does beating the fifth-best (second-best Wild Card) team warrant the plastic over the lockers and the coolers full of horrible alcohol to waste?

I seem to remember the 1995 Detroit Red Wings celebrating the Western Conference championship like they'd won the Stanley Cup. Then they got swept in the Finals Final by New Jersey and vowed never to celebrate that stupid trophy ever again. And they still don't celebrate it! Why can't teams take a cue - don't celebrate the little steps like you've won the championship. Win the championship, then celebrate!

With the 2-3-2 NBA Finals-like setup of the ALCS this year, it is crucial for Detroit to get one of those first two games in Yankee Stadium. The Yankees have just played three straight games against a formidable Orioles team who gave everything they had. They showered each other in liquor for a while tonight (for some reason - see above). And now they've got two games on Saturday and Sunday against Detroit. This is the perfect time for Detroit to take advantage of that exhaustion - and the fact that the Yankee's lineup is depending on second-tier replacements to win games for them while their starters hit below the Mendoza line.

I don't make predictions - I pray. Dear Lord, let the Tigers win in five. And thank you for preventing me from having to listen to Joe Buck for another week or two. Amen.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

9.79* Reflection

If ESPN is doing one thing right, it has to be their 30 for 30 documentary film series. 30 films on 30 different subjects by 30 different directors. Each documentary that I have watched has been very compelling and informative, and I highly recommend watching them when you can.

Tonight's doc featured the eight athletes who participated in the 100m final at the Seoul Olympics in 1988. This was the race that featured Ben Johnson's unprecedented demolishing of the world record and subsequent gold medal. It also brought on the most thorough and media-scrutinized doping scandal in the days following, also featuring Johnson.

The 30 for 30 film interviewed all eight athletes, and each of them got into the sport in their own way. But each of them (except Johnson, who has already admitted to doping) talked about training "clean," even though half of them had been implicated in doping either in 1988 or following.

It was a little disheartening, as an Olympics fan, to see how blatant the cheating had been in the track and field circles. I'm sure that even now, athletes in every sport are taking something to try to get better. More athletes take them because they don't want to get left behind...the doping athletes are winning, while the "clean" athletes can't get ahead.

There was also tons of finger pointing. Carl Lewis, who was awarded the gold medal in the days after the race, kept to the high ground while looking down on Johnson. Johnson was equally critical of Lewis, claiming that one of Lewis' friends, Andre Jackson, spiked his beer before he took the test, and had done it many times before.

Considering I was very young when this all took place originally, this was a very new story to me. I had known about Johnson being stripped of his gold medal, but didn't know the whole story. I don't think anyone really "knows" the whole story, unfortunately. Even now, twenty-four years later, facts are shady.

And that will remain with any athlete that competes. We'll hail them for their accomplishments, and then feel wronged when we find out they were cheating. In third grade Reading basals that I use, there is a story about the Olympics. One of the supplemental stories is about how wonderful Marion Jones is as a track athlete. Do I teach my students that this story is false? That Jones actually was caught cheating and stripped of her medals? Or do I allow them to watch a documentary twenty years from now on Jones, and have them learn the whole story in the same manner I did?

It's all in the perspective. And this documentary, although excellently and thoroughly produced, still allows the viewer to make their own opinion about how they are going to take the information given. Do they shun the sports and athletes they love - or do they choose to hide it and move on?

What will you do?

Monday, October 8, 2012

Educate, Don't Condemnate

The Kansas City Chiefs fans are getting a lot of flack today for how they reacted to their own quarterback's injury. When Matt Cassel went down with a possible head injury, the KC fans cheered the injury instead of showing the normal respect shown to a player on either the home or visiting side.

These may have been the same Kansas City fans who, earlier in the week, came out in droves to cheer on Detroit Tigers third baseman Miguel Cabrera as he accomplished the Triple Crown. What makes the two of them different?

I believe that it all depends on how you teach. People were keenly aware of the magnitude of Cabrera's accomplishment - and instead of booing an opposing player, they cheered the accomplishment.

On the other hand, Chiefs fans were expressing frustration in a way that may have been inappropriate - especially if Cassel's injury had been worse. But they didn't know how bad the injury was. And maybe - unfortunately - it was because these fans hadn't been educated over how to act when a player goes down with a serious injury.

When you take your children to a game (from any sport) do you set a good example? Do you show your support to players with big accomplishments? Or do you boo mercilessly even if it's your player? Have you taught them how to act when they are playing their pee-wee sport? Have you taken some time this morning, while watching the KC slamming on Sportscenter, to talk to your kids or coworkers over how they should have reacted?

I've heard people say that they have "the right" because of how much their tickets cost, or how much time they've invested in the team. And I kind of think that's stupid. Let's keep our sane heads and not put us up on a pedestal because we made a choice to pay money to watch a bunch of men play a sport. If you're going to pay the money, the least you can do is show you deserve to be there, cheering your players and the sport. Earn the chance to watch and cheer. Educate those around you the proper way to watch and cheer. Let's bring back some civility to watching and cheering the sport that you love.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

MLB Postseason...A Whole Other Animal

You always hear that the postseason of any sport is the "second season." All the work over the long regular season has subsided, and a new method of playing the game has to be implemented.

But let's face it: baseball is waaaay different from any other sport.

When the NBA or NHL seasons begin, it's hard to tell that the regular season has ended until a few weeks into the playoffs. The NFL has a one-and-done playoff method that keeps the desperation of the end of the regular season at full tilt even as the playoffs begin.

But when it comes to baseball, the regular season and the playoffs are so different that you can't help but notice the contrast. The game is the same between the foul lines, but the energy can't be more diverse.

Take the crowd. For a normal Major League Baseball game in the middle of June, you'd normally find several groups of people present: regular season ticket holders who follow their team all year, groups who have purchased tickets with an interest in the team, groups who are celebrating something, families taking their children, and twenty-somethings who like to hang out and drink.

However, the crowd at a playoff game in October is hugely different. Most of the crowd understands the importance of the game. Very few small children are present because dads and moms are only buying a couple of tickets. There are probably more fans from the opposing team who want to see their team in the playoffs. The crowd tends to follow the game a lot more closely than a game in July. Home runs are cheered louder. Mistakes are jeered with bloodthirsty intensity.

Another big difference is the dress code. When I attended a Tigers game in June, the weather was 95 degrees - everyone was in shorts and short-sleeved shirts or tank tops. Tonight's game 1 against Oakland probably started in the 40s, and coats and hoodies were the primary clothing choice. Hats and gloves were also required.

A game that starts at 7:05pm in June won't be under the lights until 9 - or maybe even 10, depending on where you are in the time zone. But a game in October will already be under the lights at 7:05! The sun, when an afternoon game is held, hits the field differently than the summer afternoon games. Ice cream bars and frozen lemonade are replaced with honey roasted peanuts and hot chocolate.

All of these differences help to make the atmosphere of an MLB playoff game so unique - unique from the MLB regular season and unique from other playoff seasons -  and so much fun to watch. Whether you are present at the game (I highly recommend it if the opportunity arises) or watching on TV, the excitement is absorbed by everyone. You really feel like the whole world is watching, and that your day is glorious or excruciating depending on how your team did the night before.

I hope that you take the time to enjoy the MLB playoffs this season, no matter if your team is in it or not. I'm sure you'll be able to absorb the intensity and excitement of a baseball postseason battle.

Monday, August 13, 2012

I Am So Sad. Winter Olympics, Please Come Quickly!

The Main Blurb

Blahblah Closing Ceremony blahblah basketball game blahblah DID YOU SEE THAT VOLLEYBALL GOLD MEDAL MATCH? I really hope you didn’t just tune in for the basketball game and then delete the rest of the recording. Because that was a brilliant gold medal volleyball match played by the Russians.

To get you up to speed, the Russian men’s team was playing Brazil in the match. Brazil, whose women’s team had already won gold the day before, quickly went up two sets to none. As a matter of fact, Brazil had Gold Medal Match Point twice! But the Russians wouldn’t quit. Their coach changed up all of their positions, and the Brazilians weren’t prepared for that.

Russia made it a late set, but won the third set. Now they were down two sets to one. Brazil just had to win the fourth set and they’d be champions. Did they do it? No! They lost the fourth set! Giant player Dmitriy Muserskiy – who could be the younger brother of Noah Emmerich – was crushing the ball, and the one-named Brazilians (one of which – Murilo – is a cross between Alan Tudyk and Josh Hutcherson) couldn’t handle it.

The fifth set is a shorter set – they only play to 15. And even then, the Brazilians were crushed. They couldn’t do anything. The Russians – who had already come back from match point in round-robin play against the Americans to win – knew how to play the match, and they conquered. I was really in awe of that match – it was probably the best volleyball I saw all Olympics!

Mini Blurbs
I did watch the entire US-Spain basketball game, and at the end I really didn’t know who was going to win it! I fully believe that the US may not win the gold medal next time around.

I also watched the entire marathon. I was disappointed that Mebrahtom Keflezighi, who had been a silver medalist in 2004 for the US, placed in a distant fourth place. The other two Americans dropped out. Don’t they condition themselves to run in those conditions? They’re marathoners, aren’t they? I could have ran the marathon and dropped out after a few miles!

I got to see some team rhythmic gymnastics, and there were some high flying equipment going around! One of the teams laid out the three ribbons, put them through a hoop, and the gymnast kicked the hoop into the air, causing the three ribbons to fly up…into the hands of the three gymnasts who knew exactly where the ends were going to land! Unbelievable!

Instead of Where’s Kobe? The past couple of days it’s been Where’s Becks? On Friday David Beckham was spotted watching BMX, and on Saturday he was at the Olympic Stadium for the men’s 5000m and at the Aquatics Centre for diving. And in other celebrity news, Arnold Schwarzenegger was at the gold medal baskeball game today. Why? Beats me!

Small side note: I purchased the Opening Ceremony music on iTunes, and the entire second disc is the music that was played when the athletes marched into the stadium that night. It’s 1 hour and 20 minutes of awesome remixed music. I could see myself walking into the Olympic Stadium with that kind of music. Usually I am turned off to that kind of music (“club” music), but I like this mix. I think you should check it out! If I ever need to pull an all-nighter (kind of what I’m doing right now trying to finish this blog!), I will put on that disc to keep me awake. And it will make me think of the Olympics, which is always great.

I did enjoy the Closing Ceremonies this evening. There was lots of variety, and I liked all the British music they chose. The Brazilian contingency was a little odd, but it always is a little jarring to have a bright culture like that thrust upon you after two weeks of Brit culture. I remember feeling that way during the Closing Ceremony in Beijing. When the Brits did their little thing, it was a culture-180 in a very short amount of time.

Did you know Prince Harry’s formal title is HRH Prince Henry of Wales? Because I sure didn’t! It was cool to see him as the leading royal figure in the Closing Ceremony. But I’ve always been a Prince Harry kind of gal, so...

And how about Boris Johnson? The London mayor was caught by the camera really boogieing to The Spice Girls during the Closing Ceremony. He’s quite a character, that one. (To be fair, who wasn't boogieing to The Spice Girls? The girl group of my grade school years!)

So the Olympic Anthem was sung once again, and the Olympic flag was taken down. That always chokes me up. But then they had to play “The John Dunbar Theme” from Dances with Wolves as the flame was extinguished. And I was a royal mess, because that single trumpet melody gets to me anyway, and in these special circumstances I was a goner. Ugh, it’s always so sad to see that flame go out. Britain chose to use a phoenix and ballerinas and precede the actual dousing of the torch with large fanfare. Personally, my favorite extinguishing of the flame was in 2010, when all they did was have Neil Young sing “Long May You Run” with his guitar and his harmonica and the flame just went out. Very simple, and very effective. Though this was effective, too. I was crying, so whatever they did worked.

Of course, then NBC had to ruin my tear-fest and barely had Bob Costas wrap things up before launching into one of their terrible new shows, “Animal Practice.” I wasn’t expecting that, so I never got to see The Who perform (one of my favorite bands) and see the actual ending of the Olympics. And way long ago I remember NBC doing some really great closing montages to the song “Titans Spirit” from Remember the Titans. But nothing here! They blew it AGAIN – I remember complaining in 2010 when they did the same thing. Don’t they ever learn?

I really hope that NBC can brush up its coverage and show a more worldly coverage next time around. They are so American-driven most of the time that we miss out on so much. If you can, watch BBC or Canadian television for your Olympics. I wish that I could.

Summer Blurb: The End

And just like that, two weeks have ended. The hype is done – now we celebrate the athletes that actually came out and won their events.

Can you believe we just spent two whole weeks talking completely about sports? I pretty much ignored every other news story going on and maintained my blissful ignorance. Sports is really the glue that keeps us all together. It brings in nations from every corner of the world, and for a brief moment we can set aside our political and cultural differences and just play sports together.  Sports! Occasionally revered way too much, but sometimes just the right thing to set us all back in our place.

As a matter of fact, the Olympics have really soured me on a few things here in the States. Take football, for example. Every year the football hype train comes earlier and earlier. I can’t find any magazines that talk about the Olympics, but I can find fifteen fantasy football magazines. Not just football magazines – FANTASY football magazines! Preseason games that get ratings equal to that of normal games. Media covering football camp like it’s the Super Bowl. (I’m talking about you, ESPN.) Every busted thumb gets fifteen minutes in Sportscenter. Can’t we wait for the real season to start before we all start freaking out? It’s probably the Olympics-buzz in me, but I am really sick of it.

So as I turn from gleeful Olympics lover to pessimist American sports hater, I guess that means I need to step back and take a break for a little bit. I need to get my bearings again, so I can return to normal American sports and not feel so lethargic about them. But I can strive to keep the good Olympics buzz going, because the Winter Olympics are only 18 months away!!

The Winter Blurb: Countdown to Sochi 2014

Can you believe it? In a year-and-a-half, we can return to this Blurb page and get our daily fix of the Olympics again! NBC already was talking about it today, and for once I was excited that they were! Think about it: figure skating, hockey, skiing, curling, and twelve – yes, twelve! – new events! Snowboarding and extreme skiing are adding new events, which can only be a good thing! Plus, SCOTT HAMILTON!!! Because let’s face it: Rowdy Gaines and Tim Daggett are just Scott Hamilton wannabes.

Put it on your calendar, folks: The Blurb will reconvene on Friday, February 7, 2014 to celebrate the opening of the Winter Olympics! Only 542 days, 19 hours, 41 minutes, and 44 seconds!!!

Thank you so much for reading the past couple of weeks. I have gotten so much traffic from my Olympics posts, and hopefully I can keep posting weekly so you can come back for a different perspective on sports... and other stuff!

Sunday, August 12, 2012

A Diving Final that Deserved its Primetime Spot

The Main Blurb
Diving is Chinese. The Chinese are diving. When you watch diving, you hear about the latest Chinese phenom. And more than likely, that Chinese phenom takes the gold medal. There are eight diving events. In Beijing, the Chinese delegation won seven of those golds. The only non-Chinese gold was won by Australian Matt Mitcham in the men’s 10m platform, the Olympics’ final diving event.

This Olympics was slightly different. The Chinese dominated in the golds again, but before the 10m platform, another non-Chinese Olympian took gold. Ilya Zakharov of Russia won the men’s 3m springboard with a huge amount of difficult dives.

And – finally! – in the diving Olympics, the divers to watch in the 10m platform were not Chinese. Well, there was one Chinese diver in contention – Qin Bo. But the other two divers in the spotlight – Great Britain’s Tom Daley and USA’s David Boudia – were able to step up and make this final the most exciting final in diving that I’d seen.

As I mentioned yesterday, diving was usually the opening hour of NBC’s primetime coverage. I don’t really know why; it usually had the same result: we’d watch the Americans do decent dives, miss the final or place low in the rankings, and see a Chinese person take the gold. I felt that there were so many other events that they could have shown in that first hour instead of diving. Do that many people in America care that much about diving? Is it like the gymnastics of water events that I just don’t know about?

I was glad to see that tonight’s diving event actually was interesting. Entering the final round of dives, the top three divers (who I’ve already mentioned) were only separated by less than two tenths of a point. Scoring in diving almost seems as confusing as scoring in the decathlon, but I trusted the judges tonight that they knew how to do it.

Tom Daley came first. Tom Daley, Team GB’s sweetheart. He was in the lead entering the sixth round. But because his dive had a lesser degree of difficulty, his score would total less than Qin’s or Boudia’s dive totals.

Boudia came next. He was favored to be the States’ greatest bet for a medal in diving (before the Americans took silver in women’s synchro springboard and bronze in men’s synchro springboard), and the fact that he was diving so well this evening was just Boudia living up to the expectations. His final dive was superb.

Qin Bo was last, with a lot to live up to. He needed to have the perfect dive in order to win the gold. Unfortunately for him, his dive came up just short. He passed Daley but couldn’t beat Boudia, who took the first diving gold for the States since 2000 and the first in the men’s platform since 1988! The top three divers were separated by three tenths of a point. Incredible.

I’m really hoping that American diving can improve just as much as in all the diving events and challenge the Chinese in every event. We did pretty well this time around (especially tonight), and hopefully we can carry the success onward to 2016.

Speaking of improvements…

The Blurb’s Presentations of American Athletes that Need to Step Up Next Time Around (TBPAANSUNTA, for short)
-          All men’s team events. This includes water polo, volleyball, beach volleyball, and why don’t we throw in handball and field hockey, too. Hopefully the basketball team will deliver tomorrow.

-          Men’s gymnastics, which could technically be included as a team event. But they do compete individually too. I’m especially looking for improvements in the rings and parallel bars (which no American male qualified in their event finals) and the POMMEL HORSE. Never have I seen such shoddy pommeling before!

-          Women’s volleyball. Now, I know that they got a medal, but it was another silver after letting a one-set lead slip away tonight against Brazil. It’s going to be even tougher next time, because the Olympics are in Brazil.

-          Boxing. One gold medal? Really?

-          Men’s 400 meter running. I’ve explained this one already.

-          All distance running – especially the ladies. (They’ve got the sprinting thing down.)

-          Chevy Malibu commercials (not athletes, but “That’s hippy talk!” is really getting on my nerves)

-          Lesser-Known-In-America events, like table tennis and badminton. And I really think we can train them really well here!

-          Throwing field events, like javelin and hammer throw and discus and shot put.

-          Synchronized Swimming and Rhythmic Gymnastics…maybe we’ll just concede those.

-          BMX! For a country that hosts the X Games and seems to have lots of teenagers on tiny bikes, we should really make a better appearance at this than what we did.

Mini Blurbs
Where was Kobe Bryant today? Well, first he was being interviewed by Ryan Seacrest – apparently there were others besides me that realized how many events he had attended as a spectator. And he gave a great interview about it. He was curious about how other athletes prepare for their events, and he was honored to be present at so many American victories, because he knew they were all a team together as Team USA and they were all bringing their best forward to honor their country. (Well said, sir. Please tell that to Mark Cuban.) Then he was watching the US ladies beat France in basketball. (They made it close at the half, but pulled away to win by 36.)

Alyson Felix is incredible. One DAY after winning gold in the women’s 4x100m relay, she ran in the 4x400m relay and helped them win gold! Outstanding!

I watched mountain cycling today and assumed it was new to the Olympics, because I hadn’t heard of it before. But apparently it’s been contested since 1996! Biking on stones? Too much for me.

This was the first night I really noticed the Olympic mascot out on the track. Apparently he’s been pretty visible, but I saw him cheering on the 5000m runners near the long jump pit.

Czech Republic Gold Medal Watch: Another one today! David Svoboda took gold in the modern pentathlon, which consists of fencing, swimming, showjumping, running, and shooting. (It’s celebrating its 100th anniversary in the Olympic games, created by the founder of the modern Olympics, Pierre de Coubertin.)

Today’s roundup is a little wonky, since I was catching up on a few events from yesterday as well: synchronized swimming, rhythmic gymnastics, wrestling, canoe, kayak, running events, javelin, high jump, hammer throw, BMX, mountain cycling, diving, volleyball, basketball, open water swimming.

Tomorrow is the last day of the Olympics. I have to admit that I am exhausted, and I only have one person to blame: me, for making myself watch so many sports in so little time. But it's been awesome, and I thank you in advance for making this Blurb series so successful! 

Saturday, August 11, 2012

WARNING: Obligatory "Girls Rule" Article Ahead

The Main Blurb
It’s Ladies’ Night!

I got to watch the women’s 4x100m relay live this afternoon, and then again tonight. Wow – what a race! After watching the baton drop from their hands back in Beijing, it was refreshing to see their handoffs so crisp and clean.

One of my fears coming into these Olympics was that China was going to take the medals count again, like they did back in 2008. Technically we haven’t led a medals count and the gold medal count at the end of two weeks since 2004 in Athens. Germany won total medals in 2006, China won the most gold medals in 2008, and Canada and Germany finished ahead of the US in golds in 2010. It looks like by the end of the night Sunday we will be in the lead again. Most of it, actually, is thanks to the ladies. Out of 41 gold medals, 27 of them have been won by women.

In team events, the women have done far better than the men. Soccer won gold, water polo won gold, and volleyball plays tomorrow for gold. Water polo and volleyball didn’t make it to the medal round, and soccer didn’t even qualify for the Olympics this year!

In gymnastics, the men only won one gold for the United States: Danell Lleyva’s bronze medal in the all-around competition. Put that up against the gymnastics women, who won 5: team gold, Gabby Douglas all-around gold, Aly Raisman floor exercise gold, Raisman bronze, and McKayla Maroney silver. They also managed to hoodwink the media into forgetting that the University of Michigan men’s basketball team of the late 1980s-early 1990s was called “The Fab Five” years before these gymnasts. But they were much more willing to take on the nickname “Fierce Five” instead. At least it wasn’t “Fantastic Five.” Then I would have a problem.

Then there are the lesser known ladies that won. Shooter Kim Rhode won gold once again, medaling in her fifth straight Olympics. On the other end, 17 year-old Claressa Shields took gold in boxing. Jenn Shur won a title in pole vault – no American man cleared the first height in their pole vaulting final.

Plus, Alyson Felix and the ladies’ relay team just proved that it is possible to beat a Jamaican sprint team. Which American man can say the same? (As of right now, before the men’s 4x100m relay tomorrow.)

Don’t forget the swimmers – Missy Franklin, Dana Vollmer, Rebecca Soni, Allison Schmitt, and Katie Ledecky all won golds for the US.

I hope that the men are able to take this “subpar” showing as a way to spur them on for Sochi and Rio’s competitions. And I hope that the ladies are able to ride the wave to many more medals to come.

Mini Blurbs
Sochi alert! Winter Olympics Blurb favorite Evan Lysacek made an appearance at “The Today Show” this morning to announce that he will in fact be competing against Evgeni Plushenko in men’s figure skating in 2014. The fangirl in me shouts “Whee!” while the journalist in me goes, “You’re going to be creamed.”

Sign the Olympics are winding down: documentaries at the beginning of primetime coverage; Jimmy Fallon doing "thank-you notes" at the end of primetime coverage. 

We got a wrestling gold! Jordan Burroughs took the gold in the 74kg weight class, and even though he played for Nebraska in college, I’ll forgive him for that.

Has there been a more disappointing Olympic sport than BMX cycling for the Americans? It’s one of those “ignorant American” sports, I suppose, when we think we’re the best at it, and then we watch it and realize that there are soooo many other countries that are better than us. Our best doesn’t even make it onto the medal stand.

I was talking to a friend today about the Olympics coverage, and she said we were missing the evening coverage, and I told her, “Don’t worry; they open up with something relatively boring – like diving.” Sure enough, we turn on the TV and diving is on!

We used to be so dominant in the 400m runs. Now the Bahamas is beating us. Between injuries and the other countries getting better at that distance, I am no longer confident in the middle distance runners. Let’s get back on track! (Get it?)

NBC Daytime Olympic coverage ended today with a closing montage of great moments. I couldn’t believe they were wrapping it up already! We still have two more days! Don’t cut this celebration short, NBC!

Czech Republic Gold Medal Watch: None today.

Today’s roundup: I had the fitness center all to myself today, so I put one TV on NBC, one TV on MSNBC, and one TV on NBC Sports Network. Those three alone allowed me to watch basketball, wrestling, rhythmic gymnastics, and soccer. You can add synchronized swimming, hammer throw, pole vault, running events, and handball to that total.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

A+B-the square root of pi(x+1504) = gold medal!

The Main Blurb
What is up with the decathlon? People say it’s the event that finds the world’s best athlete. To me, it’s the athlete that is adequate at the most events – maybe the “most well-rounded” athlete. If you put up the decathletes against the premier athletes in each of those ten events, they would be blown out of the water. But since decathletes can do all of them pretty well – and in two days! – they are very much appreciated.

This isn’t a railing on why the media hypes the decathlon – I really think the decathlon doesn’t get enough coverage during the Olympics. There are just a few details about it that confuse me.

The points system kind of reminds me of Around the Horn, a show on ESPN where four sports writers talk about sports. The crazy thing is, the host (Tony Reali, look him up) gives the writers points. It usually is supposed to be for a good point the writer made, but sometimes the points are given and taken away for no real reason. Actually, the motto of the show used to be “Where everything is made up and the points don’t matter!”

So it seems to be with the decathlon. Win the 100m sprint? One thousand points for you! Only throw the shot put 40 feet when everyone else is over 50? Only three hundred ninety-six points for you! You could crawl the mile and finish dead last, but you’ll win by four hundred points! Eat the wrong kind of energy bar and we’ll deduct two thousand points!

Okay, enough joking around. Believe it or not, the points system are determined by a mathematical formula! Here they are:

Points = INT(A(BP)C) is for track events.

Points = INT(A(PB)C) is for field events.

There’s a few more details about the points system, but too much math makes my brain hurt. I’ll trust that those keeping decathlon score know what they’re doing, and that these athletes are really good at all those things.

As for the term “world’s greatest athlete,” King Gustav V of Sweden told Jim Thorpe “You, sir, are the world’s greatest athlete,” way back in 1912. I do believe that quote (Jim Thorpe was an incredible athlete), but I don’t think it carries over to each decathlete, especially since the points system allows decathletes to play it safe in certain events. But I will concede that these guys are really, really, reallyreally talented and amazing at an insane amount of events.

…But I still think my discus technique is better than gold medalist Ashton Eaton’s.

Mini Blurbs
Get this: Manteo Mitchell ran the heat of the 4x400m relay on a broken leg. He ran. On a broken leg. For 400 meters. He could have pulled up, like the Jamaican relay runner did in the same heat, and the quest for gold would be over. But he kept going. He ran the leg in 46 seconds! And he kept the Americans in the relay final! Thank you, Manteo Mitchell, for avoiding the pain and helping your teammates with your persistence. That was truly gutsy.

I was working in my classroom today, and I had my laptop and two classroom computers on, all with Olympic coverage. At one moment I had women’s water polo gold medal match on one screen, women’s soccer gold medal match on another, and track evening activities on a third. It was pure bliss.

Within five minutes, the US soccer ladies won gold, the US water polo ladies won gold, and Ashton Eaton won gold in the decathlon. Wow! And I got to see all of them!

Women’s volleyball continued to dominate as it swept a difficult South Korean team in the semifinals. This was the second time in the Olympics they had to play South Korea – I was glad they were able to escape. Next up: Brazil in the gold medal match. Brazil was the team that beat them in 2008 in the gold medal match.

BMX cycling is NUTS. Eight cyclists on a track at the same time? NUTS. One quarterfinal showed a crash that involved every cyclist on the track! All eight of them wiped out!

It was pointed out to me today that Europe will be shut out of the medals in soccer this year! The USA, Japan, and Canada took medals in the women’s round, and the four finalists in the men’s round are Brazil, Mexico, South Korea, and Japan.

Turns out that boxing may have a glimmer of hope after all…for the women! Clarissa Shields (from Flint, Michigan!) who is only 17 years old, took gold today. She was the only American to get on the top of the podium in boxing.

Track and field had a couple more double-medals today. Ashton Eaton and Trey Hardee in the decathlon went 1-2, and Christian Taylor and Will Claye went 1-2 in triple jump – the strangest, awesomest field event ever! You literally have to hop, skip, and jump to the dirt. Gold is only a hop, skip, and a jump away!

Tomorrow is nothing but finals and relay heats at Olympic Stadium. Qualifying is over – now it’s time for medals!

I watched some rhythmic gymnastics today. I poo-poohed it yesterday, but that’s before I watched it. I can totally agree that it’s an Olympic sport – maybe a little more than synchronized swimming. Trying to keep track of the ball or hoop or whatever they’re using is an event in and of itself. One girl bounced the hoop off her stomach and sent it in a perfect arc in the air. How long did she practice that? Two hours of bouncing a hoop off your stomach? Another girl threw a ball into the air and she caught it…with her thighs…behind her! Good grief!!

I keep forgetting to add this, but you should look at the athlete pictures on the NBCOlympics website, and then go to the site and see the athlete pictures there. The pictures on the site are hilarious! It’s like someone caught them walking down the hall, pulled out a picture, and snapped it without telling them to smile. I think these might be the credential pictures (where they’re told not to smile), but even the picture quality makes me think Instagram or cell phone. If you’re up for a good laugh, make sure to check out swimmer’s pictures.

Czech Republic Gold Medal Watch: We got another one!! Barbora Spotakova won gold in women’s javelin throw.

Tonight’s roundup: volleyball, taekwondo, wrestling, soccer, water polo, decathlon, javelin throw, triple jump, running events, boxing, flatwater canoe, flatwater kayak, BMX cycling, diving, rhythmic gymnastics, open water swimming, synchronized swimming!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Track and Field Madness!

The Main Blurb
Track is awesome. I wish I could be at the Olympic Stadium this week to watch it. I am enjoying the evening feed online, because it is bouncing everywhere! Take tonight: I was able to watch it in my classroom in its entirety – from 11am till it was done. I saw decathlon high jump, decathlon 400m, men’s 110m hurdle semifinals and finals, women’s 200m, women’s 400m hurdles, men’s 200m semifinals, women’s long jump, men’s javelin throw, and the men’s 800m semifinal! Boom! We’re on the track! Boom! We’re watching long jump! Boom! We’re back on the track for the first semifinal! Boom! We’re watching javelin! Boom! There’s another semifinal on the track! Boom! There’s that Chariots of Fire music signaling another medal ceremony! Boom! There’s that really cute mini remote-controlled Mini Cooper fetching the field items like hammer throw and shots!

You really miss out on that when watching the NBC TV coverage. They make you watch one event at a time, take frequent breaks, and doesn’t allow the track meet to flow. Then they put qualifying rounds of field events on late night and only show a few participants that factor in the medals!

The announcers are also great. I don’t know who they are, but they are able to let the event unfold and don’t try to be impressive. They just give us the events and keep us in the loop.

It helped that tonight the Americans really took care of the medals. Two in women’s long jump, two in men’s 110m hurdles, two in 200m, and one in women’s 100m hurdles! And if that isn’t enough, Ashton Eaton and Trey Hardee had a fabulous first day of decathlon events and are currently 1-2.

Be sure to watch tomorrow (preferably live, if possible) as the decathlon finishes up. Tonight and tomorrow are the largest days on the track – because of the five additional decathlon events, plus qualifying, semifinals, finals, and even the first round of relay events! It makes it really hard to fit in other important events as they’re aired – like the women’s water polo and women’s soccer gold medal matches tomorrow. But I’ll make do. I just realized my two classroom computers can air the Olympics online coverage, so now I have THREE computers with which to watch events!  It can’t get any better.

Mini Blurbs
New Event Alert! Qualifying in the BMX cycling was today. Individual time trials – the real fun starts tomorrow with eight bikers on the track. It’s snowboard cross with wheels. Awesome.

New Event Alert! Rhythmic gymnastics start on Thursday! …wait – you don’t care? Okay.

I am so proud of Alyson Felix for finally getting her individual gold medal. I just wish she could have had more flashy socks. If you watch her in the Olympic Trials, her socks were bright green. Someone get her some stars and stripes! Erik Kynard, get on that for her relays!

I was pulling for Kessy/Ross to win gold today, but it wasn’t meant to be. I just hope they can improve even more and crush the competition in Rio.

Man, those American male teams were disappointing. Men’s volleyball was swept in the quarterfinals, and men’s water polo was beat as well. At least men’s basketball is dominating – and I finally got to watch the game! I do believe what everyone’s been saying: it’s a woman’s Olympics. But it’s the men (track, gymnastics, and swimming especially) that are being the better sports. You can be dominant and be nice, ladies! (But the basketball guys need to shape up. Low blows? Really? Are we in grade school again?)

Kobe Bryant scored six three-pointers in the second half of the USA's win over Australia in basektball and finished with 20 points. He definitely made his presence known today!

Czech Republic Gold Medal Watch: Zuzana Hejnova got…bronze in the 400 hurdles. But I kind of called it that she would medal.

Today’s roundup - Because I had two computer screens going today, I was really reveling in the Games: taekwondo, sailing, water polo, volleyball, long jump, javelin, decathlon, running events, BMX cycling (both men’s and women’s), basketball, beach volleyball, equestrian jumping, diving! Woot!