Although I probably should be watching baseball, I find myself oddly enthralled by the Olympics. Ichiro’s chops as a Yankee? Nah, I think I’ll watch some women’s badminton instead. Fister putting a brief stop to the Tiger’s road woes? Hm, I guess I’m going to go for some ping-pong (table tennis, if you want to be stuffy about it). Rivalry weekend in America? Nope, women’s skeet shooting.
I’m not saying I’d want to watch these games all the time. I love women’s gymnastics as much as the next guy but I can only take so much of it. But at the same time, there’s something special about the Olympics. For instance, yesterday I was watching a British dude named Paul Drinkhall advance to the third round in men’s table tennis.
First of all, his name is “Drinkhall.” How awesome is that? That’s like a German guy named “Biergarten.” Or an American named “Applebees.” Second, this dude has little or no muscle tone, pasty white skin, horrible shorts and an equally terrible haircut but he’s an Olympic athlete. That, my friends, is badass. Badass in the same way as David Wells and his Churchillian physique somehow destroying opposing batters.
I freely admit that a lot of it is the novelty. It’s hard for the 162-game slog of baseball to compete with the instant gratification of a Moroccan/Uzbek flyweight boxing match. And once the new “Dream Team” really get’s going, baseball is going to find it tough going. I guess it’s kind of like the guy who has always sworn that he’d never leave his frumpy but faithful wife but somehow finds himself behind the wheel of a convertible with his 24-year old secretary. Sure, it’s cheating but really, what were you supposed to do? Odds like those don’t come up everyday.
So, I’d like to say that this was just a weekend thing and tomorrow I’ll be back to MLB. But we all know I’m lying. Can you blame me though? I mean, seriously, synchronized diving!!!
Happy “Health-Care-Less” Friday!
(Image courtesy of BuzzFeed)
That was a lame attempt at fake excitement for an entire world of sports I could care less about it. At least I know I’m not alone. In fact, a very tiny minority of US Americans actually know anything about ice dancing, mogul jumping and figure skater beating (see Tonya Harding meets Nancy Kerrigan circa 1994).
Even NBC has a pretty good idea that the next two weeks are gonna just plain suck, which is why whoever inked Bob Costas to lead that whole Olympic thing ought to get a raise.
You have heard me rave about Costas before, so I won’t bore you with any more bromantic praises for my mental doppelganger (at least, not now anyway); but I would like to present just one example of why Bob Costas is the bomb.
We all saw Costas buzz McGwire and stick handle Dubya, but have you ever seen him prod a foreigner towards the Dark Side? Then you will enjoy this:
Ichiro is, of course, hilarious in this clip, but Costas’ body blasting reaction at the 25-second mark is just priceless.
And you know I’m right so don’t hate me.
Word on the street is that the NFL is seriously discussing holding the Super Bowl in London sometime in the near future. Now, this should probably be taken with a grain of salt since the commissioner apparently has no knowledge of these negotiations. However, to be fair, the amount of stuff that Goodell doesn’t know could fill a couple oceans.
It just goes to show how global sports have become, though, even sports that we consider inherently American. The World Baseball Classic illustrated this a couple months ago and the coverage of Olympic basketball last summer outshone everything except Michael Phelps.
But if you ever had any doubts about the true worldwide saturation of sports, perhaps this will change your mind:
Yep, “Stick a fork in them, the run is over.” I couldn’t have said it better myself.
-Video via Deadspin
After scoring a devastating own goal during the 1994 World Cup, Andrés Escobar returned home and found out the hard way that leaving drug lords on the wrong side of a huge gambling debt does not help your own life expectancy. As if to add insult to injury, the killer supposedly yelled “Goooooooooooooooooooool” after each one of the twelve shots. Of course, this is right around the corner from where a disputed soccer match led to an all-out war so I guess we shouldn’t be too surprised.
The Chinese Olympic Baseball Team
No team likes to be showed up on its own turf and it didn’t help when the US team used a couple hard-nosed plays to take it to the Chinese team. However, even though throwing high and tight is a time-honored part of the game, beaning someone is not something you usually expect to see in the Olympics. Thanks China. It’s not like you already won more gold medals than us anyway, Sheesh.
Hm, maybe the prize should actually go to Castro and his clan for their ability to blame the yanquis for every Cuban misstep since 1959. Now, if it were the Yankees he blamed instead, I could get behind that.
Every media outlet has been full of Olympic coverage for the past few months. We watched as French surrender-monkeys and dentally deficient Britons tried to tackle, steal or otherwise snuff the Olympic flame during its journey to the Bird’s Nest and then we saw the Chinese defy gravity to set the torch alight and begin the games.
Although the passing of the torch always seems to provoke strong emotions, these emotions tend to play out differently depending on the setting. When Jesse Owens overcame the Fuhrer’s supposedly invincible Aryan champions at the 1936 Berlin Olympics, he tried to defuse the situation by saying that Hitler had shown him respect. Michael Phelps managed to show a touch of class this year as he overcame Mark Spitz’s decades old record.
But sometimes the old guard is reluctant to let the torch out of their grasp. When the Yankees had the Red Sox in a 3-0 stranglehold during the 2004 ALCS, it seemed that the old guys had a little life left in them. But they should have realized that they had used up all the gas in the tank during the previous year’s ALCS. The Yankees may have won that 2003 series but in reality, Pedro Martinez body-slamming Don Zimmer was emblematic of the rivalry’s not too distant future. And in 2004 they proved it by fighting back to win the ALCS and then the World Series.
A similar fight broke out during the primary season as the junior senator from Illinois took on the Clinton juggernaut. And when the dust finally settled at the Democratic National Convention last night, it was obvious that the party the Clinton’s created was now firmly in the hands of Sen. Obama. Sure, there were a few last grasps for the torch (Hillary’s non-concession speech back in June for example) but the look on former President Clinton’s face during Sen. Clinton’s speech Wednesday night told the whole story.
So, how does one pass the torch gracefully and not get burned in the process? Well, you could take a lesson from Ted Kennedy (2008 Ted Kennedy, not 1980 Ted Kennedy)
Or you could look to Richard Nixon who so graciously handed off to Gerald Ford in 1974. However, I suggest avoiding the example of the 1997 and 2003 Florida Marlins. Or Jay Mariotti. Burning bridges and fire sales are tacky even in the best of times.
Earlier this week, Jamaican Usain Bolt proved to the sporting world that indeed speed sells. With MLB’s recent crackdown on PEDs subsequently limiting the homerun game, is it possible that baseball will start to see an increase of importance on the running game or have we already seen the last of players like Rickey Henderson, Vince Coleman and Lou Brock?
Running is a much more complicated process than it was when we played tag in kindergarten. As our good friend Sen. Obama has shown us time and again, it is not without its pitfalls. And as Chinese hurdler, Liu Xiang, showed us, it is not without its pain.
But there are some people who just make it look easy. Michael Johnson, Carl Lewis, Usain Bolt. All of them make sprinting look as simple as hitting a home run looks for Manny Ramirez. Maybe they’re genetic freaks (or just straight up freaks as in the case of Manny), but there’s no denying they have a talent that 99.9% of the world just doesn’t have. It’s not so much what they do or how they do it but the fact that they can go out and replicate the feat on a consistent basis that sets them apart.
However, running does play an important role in the great American pastime. As much as I hate to have to think about it, much less mention it, one of the reasons that Cardinals beat the Tigers in the 2006 World Series was because the Cardinals had a running game that always put them in a position to score while the Tigers relied on brute strength that seemed to escape them when they needed it most. So, in that respect, I would argue that the question is moot in and of itself.
The running game has always been important for clubs that can’t afford to go out and buy sluggers. Now, the question is if the decrease in power will start to affect the Yankees, Tigers and Red Sox of the world. Again, I’d have to say that successful teams have usually found a way to combine the two elements.
Look at the Oakland A’s of late 80’s. Although they had the two most prolific juicers outside of Sammy Sosa on one team, they also had Rickey Henderson, Mr. “Rickey’s the Best” himself. And Canseco, although he could pound the ball, also did quite well for himself on the basepaths.
However, thoughts of Mr. Canseco and his ill-begotten physique bring me to another important point. Speed and doping aren’t always mutually exclusive. In fact, sometimes they’re regular kissing cousins as the the pride of Canada, Ben Johnson, can attest to. The crackdown on PEDs in MLB might lead to a general and overall slowing down of the game from the way it is played today. Remember, it wasn’t just the the Barry Bonds of the world who were looking for that little extra. It was also the Roger Clemens. And who knows how that might have also played into the speed game.
So, I think the answer to your question is that we have not seen the end of an era and that players who have great legs and a great jump will continue to be sought after. The thing that you have to take into account, though, is that you can’t steal a base or try for the hit-and-run unless you have someone on base in the first place. That was Rickey’s true talent, his ability to get himself in scoring position. And if you want to take it full-circle, it’s also the talent Mr. Obama has shown to this point in getting himself nominated. However, now we have to wait and see if he can find a way to bring it home just like Mr. Bolt.