Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Maybe he meant Polonium?

Poor Plushenko.

If I were him I'd hire a food taster going forward.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Winter Olympics: Standing on your head.

If you didn't watch last night's USA/Canada hockey tie you possibly missed one of the better moments of the 2010 Vancouver Olympics. Not only was Team USA supposedly outmanned by the skilled Canucks, but they also had the disadvantage of facing a Canadian crowd that was as amped for this game as any hockey game that I've seen. Despite the talent and the crowd however, the US found a way to prevail leaving many to wonder how.

Watching the game I was impressed by two different factors, both involving the goalies and how they were attacked by the respective offenses.

Martin Brodeur: Brodeur is one of the greatest net-minders in recent NHL history. This result doesn't change that fact one iota. What the US did to him last night however, might lead to a change in how other teams (excluding Germany, who has no offense to speak of) attack him in the future. The US game plan was obvious from the start, attack Brodeur when he wanders out of the goal-mouth and make his life generally uncomfortable. Brodeur is a goalie who likes to be proactive and wander out to grab the puck. By putting pressure on him the US team forced Brodeur to make a decision quicker than he wanted to. In many cases those decisions were sub-par.

Ryan Miller: Here's all you need to know about how good Ryan Miller was last night: In the final two minutes of the game, he faced 13 shots on goal. None of them got past him. The old hockey adage is that a goalie playing well is "standing on his head". Miller was upside down all evening. Of the three goals scored by the Canadians, only one (the last one) could even partially be attributed to Miller. The first two goals were defensive breakdowns where Canadian players were allowed to crash the goal on the weak side unmarked, the remaining goal was one of those flukey, slow goals that you see from time to time. In a word, Miller was awesome. The US will need for him to continue to be so if they want to medal.

Other items of note:

Congrats to Bode Miller for finally getting his gold medal.

Ovechkin's hit on Jagr changed momentum and propelled Russia to victory. In the classic myopic Olympic tradition, you can't find video of it anywhere on the Internet. (There is no worse sporting organization than the IOC in terms of incompetence.)

Speaking of Olympic Committee incompetence. The people in charge are fools.

This just in: the German's can slide.

Why Ice Dancing sucks.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Winter Olympics: Domination

Consider this:

One:In three half-pipe runs last night Shaun White's scores would have been good enough to win the Gold, Silver & Bronze Medals.

Qualification run: 45.8
Finals Run One: 46.8
Finals Run Two: 48.4

Silver Medal score: 45.0

They should have awarded him a second medal just because.

Two: Linday Vonn raced the Downhill on one leg, and still one by over 1/2 a second.

Lindsay Vonn: 1:44.19
Julia Mancuso: 1:44.75

She's also the only female skier on the pro circuit strong enough to handle men's skis, which gives her a distinct advantage.

Any way you look at it the above two performances are amazing.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Winter Olympics: Why I Watch

Four years ago a young American competitor, Lindsay Jacobellis, was leading the world in the finals of Snowboard Cross until she tried to pull a Method Air off the next to last jump and crashed.

"What was she thinking?1?" Asked incredulous fans and announcers, many of whom haven't seriously given thought to competitive sports since sometime around the Ford administration, if not before that. Then Jacobellis stood up in front of all of the cameras and went to all of the interviews and basically said: "Yup, I flubbed it." Then she laughed a little bit and went on her way.

The above is not news. If you've paid even the slightest bit of attention you know this. Fast Forward 4 years.....

Last night a veteran Olympic competitor from American came off of the momentum section, just outside the starting gate, in the Semi-finals of Snowboard Cross and....

Was disqualified because her board veered 6 inches off course, running through a boundary flag and ending Jacobellis' dreams of redemption. There would be no Gold medal in these games, no silver either. Jacobellis would be left with the image of her Olympic glory fading away after a heard fight for hole shot position in a sport that's as rough n' tumble as they get.

In short: Jacobellis got beat. As opposed to 4 years ago when she lost. There's no shame in getting beat, and that's very important to remember.

After being DQ'd in the semi-finals that could have been the end of the Jacobellis story, but it wasn't. In Snowboard Cross they run a "B" final so that the standings can show the top 8 finishers for each contest. This is typically done for World Cup Series points etc. After crashing out of the semi-finals and watching four years of pining for retribution come up empty.....

Jacobellis won the "B" final.

Lindsay Jacobellis will never read this blog, so she'll never know that the wife & I were proud of her when she came back and won, truth be told she doesn't care. (I wouldn't) That being said, it's stories like that which keep me tuned into the Olympics every evening, waiting for the "next" chance at redemption.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Winter Olympics recap: Weekend One

One thing about being down with the stomach flu, there's plenty of time to watch television. Since I am, unabashedly, an Olympics nut here are my thoughts on what transpired over the first weekend. (Some of this will be competition related)

Opening Ceremonies: Let's get this out of the way: Shut-up Matt Lauer. Just STFU. We're not in Beijing and, while the opening ceremony there was great, that doesn't mean you can start off the broadcast by immediately dooming the Canucks to the trash-bin of history. You sanctimonious prick. I suppose Canada could take people from their homes and have them practice 24/7 on one routine for a year, I supposed they could have decided to irresponsibly spend hundreds of Millions on some Democratic-socialist show of force. Fortunately, for us, they decided to stop all of that and celebrate their heritage. Yes, they had a technical error, but that didn't take away from the beauty of the ceremony, nor did it add any thing to the one from Beijing.

Luge: It was the big story over the weekend, and it's generated much debate over the safety of 'pushing the envelope' in the Olympic Games. What's often missed by the proponents of mediocrity (i.e. doughy sports writers with non-jock complex) is that it wasn't the pushing of the envelope that caused the problem, it was shoddy safety work around turn 16. Yes, the course was hard and fast, but Olympic courses are SUPPOSED to be hard & fast. Sadly, had the wall that was built 24 hours too-late been in place during the training runs none of this would have ever happened. Push the envelope organizers, but don't, for one second, take safety for granted. If I want to see a bunch of middling athletes perform at less than optimal levels I'll head over to the Downtown Y to watch the Houston Media basketball league.

Women's Moguls: Nice story of redemption for Hannah Kearney. This is why we watch the Olympics, to see elite athletes perform at their peak during times of intense stress. Citius, Altius, Fortius after all. Hannah Kearney was all three. Someone in this event that should have some x-over appeal is Sandra Barkey, (soon to be Happy) She's a free-spirit with a solid work ethic and her joy at winning the Bronze medal was infectious. If some events, and the money derived from them, make you cynical, it's events like moguls that remind us why we watch.

Nordic Combined: America is shut out no longer, thanks to a great ride by Johnny Spillane. Watching the race I was worried about the eventual champion Lamy-Chappius, who obviously had the better equipment and was the strongest skier, but when Spillane made his move I thought he might just be able to hold on for Gold. He didn't, but his silver-medal winning performance (and the fact that the delay of the Alpine events put it on television) should be a boost to a sport that's traditionally flown under the radar in the US.

Short-track speed skating: Apollo Anton Ohno is fast, and the S. Koreans are a bunch of whiny cheaters. That is all.

Speed skating: At every International sporting event, no matter where it's held or how it's attended, no single group of fans are going to have more fun than the orange-clad Dutch. It was the same thing when Sven Kramer won the 5000m on Saturday. Great stuff. (Note to the American team: If you're going to compete, then COMPETE dammit.

Figure Skating: Forgive me if I'm less than impressed with the so-called glamour event in the Winter Olympics. It's not that I don't appreciate skating, having a wife with a BFA in Dance and a little sister who danced for the Houston Ballet Academy and the Houston Met I certainly get it, as a matter of fact I grew up around dance, and skating is nothing more than dancing on ice. The problem that I have is with the judging and NBC's terrible commenting team of Tom Hammond, Sandra Bezic and Scott Hamilton. Bezic is in love with all things Chinese and Russian, Hamilton (who, to be fair, is an island of sanity in an insane competition) has been so thoroughly cowed by the skating powers that be he's incapable of finding his true voice and Hammond is quite possibly the worst play-by-play man in the business not named Joe Buck. When the 2nd Russian team BOTH fall on their side-by-side jumps, have sequence issues on their spins, and generally skate a terrible performance, only to be placed 5 points higher than an American team that skated their hearts out, something is terribly wrong.

Figure skating is a competition that's not even a true sport. It's a popularity contest judged by a political organization who pre-determines the winners based on media buzz and personal relationships. It's ALWAYS been that way. In 2002 when the Candian team Jaime Sale and David Pelletier carped about the scores given to Russian team of Berezhnaya and Sikharulidze, causing the Olympics to name them "co-champions" the result wasn't more open, transparent judging, it was the implementation of a judging system that's even weaker than the one in place previously, where personal accountability is less than zero, and where, last night, the judges placed the Chinese duo Shen and Zhao first, and then slotted everyone in after them into the pre-determined positions.

THAT's why the Russian team can survive a fall and end up in third place, and why the Canadian team finds themselves outside of medal contention despite a superior performance. They system is broken and ice-skating competitions (sorry, it's too subjective to be a true 'sport') is suffering for it.

All in all, the first weekend of the Olympics gave us just about what we expected. Some memorable moments, some heroes, some zeros and terrible judging in figure skating. Unfortunately, it also gave us something we didn't expect, and didn't want to see....The tragic death of a young athlete.

For now, the envelope will continue to be pushed. Here's hoping that the safety envelope is pushed as well....to new heights.

Monday, February 08, 2010

The NFL Championship Game: Post Mortem

It's Monday after the biggest American sporting event of the year...and God Hates Indiana.

I know this because I saw it on the news last night & I heard it at work this morning. You see, God answered the prayers of New Orleans fans, but chose to ignore the please of Colts fans.

The result?

Saints 31 Colts 17

Enjoy your inevitable eternity in Hell Indy fan. At least until next season.

Some thoughts:

In hindsight, Indy should have ran the ball more - Of course, I can't prove what I said during the game so you'll have to take my word for it, but after the first Joseph Addai TD I said (out loud even) that Addai and Donald Brown could potentially take this team on their backs and carry them to victory. Oh sure, I understand that Peyton Manning is one of the best QB's of all time and that your passing game is what, for the most part, got you there but, when something is working as well as the Colts up-the-middle ground game was last night, why use it so seldom?

Sean Peyton > Jim Caldwell - I'm sure there have been worse coaching match-ups, but I'm not sure when. Too many times this season Caldwell has seemed like the care-taker we all assume him to be. Out shined by the bright lights of all that offensive talent, is the fact that Tony Dungy was a pretty salty in-game coach. Yes, his record on challenges were terrible, but his skill making adjustments was never given the credit it deserved. Caldwell didn't seem to make any adjustments and S. Peyton did, all game long.

As predicted: Halftime sucked - Note to the NFL: Next year, at halftime, if George Clinton and the Parliament Funkadelic aren't performing. We riot. No more rickety old bands who haven't had a hit during many viewers lifetimes. Quit programming to the baby-boom generation while you're marketing to their children. Wanna make the halftime show relevant again? Jay-Z and the P-funk all-stars. Jay-Z is smart enough to self edit.

The Local angle - Despite what you're going to hear over the next few weeks on talk radio and in the media, please listen to this next bit and take it to heart. In no way does the Saints winning this Super Bowl portend anything positive (or negative) for the Texans. Thank you, that is all. If you find yourself suffering from Irrational Texans Derangement Syndrome after reading a Richard Justice column, a John McClain blog post or listening to Vendermeer on 610M, please feel free to come back and re-read the above affirmation as a reality check.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

The NFL Championship Game: Predictions

Since this is a sports blog, and today is the biggest event in US sports....

Indy 37 New Orleans 34

I hope. Because that means we had an exciting game that came down (close) to the end and both offenses were firing on all cylinders.

Indy has the better overall offense, a better QB and a better defense (even without Dwight Freeney). New Orleans has better fans, hotter players love interest and a Nation of fans behind them.

CBS carrying the game means that the announce team is going to be better than Fox, but the production quality will be worse.

I'm fully expecting the commercials to suck.

On a bright note: It's a beautiful day in Houston for grilling. Get yours done before the game starts.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Sports Shorts (02/04/10)

Hey, it's almost time for the Stupid Bowl!

Uche Nwaneri doesn't heart Tim Tebow. As a quarterback, which doesn't mean that the Jags shouldn't draft him, as an H-back. (Funny aside: Uche dissing Jacksonville fans for poor attendance and then knocking the idea of drafting a player who will boost said attendance immediately.)

Texas wins the mythical Big XII recruiting title. UT-Austin fans will take what titles they can get. (Good class for aTm, Mizzou, OU and Okie State. What the HELL has happened to Colorado?)

Michigan focuses on defense...Wise move.

Bowden leaves, FSU recruiting stays the same. All those stars are impressive, but they're mainly concentrated in the skill positions. What FSU needs are linemen.

Proof anyone can recruit at USC. The question is: Can Lane Kiffen stay sufficiently out of his assistants' way during the season?

Urban finally beats Alabama this year. Good showing by Auburn as well. (Dammit Georgia, get with it!)

Houston finishes strong. Very strong. Especially when you consider they were in the running for several 4 star players this year. (That's improvement) Not a good class for Rice, regardless of spin.

Pacquio's loss is Mosley's gain. The fan's gain as well, this should be an outstanding fight.

Never too early to start thinking of Kentucky Derby favorites. Or unfortunate non-favorites.

This is still wrong. That is all.

If you're a Rugby fan: It's Six Nations Cup time. Go Scotland.

Monday, February 01, 2010

The Point at which I stopped watching the Pro Bowl....

"ESPN welcomes you to...."

That's an exaggeration, a slight exaggeration. In truth, I reached for the remote control on a 3rd and 7 during the NFC's first drive. Mario Williams (of the Houston Texans) had Aaron Rodgers in his cross-hairs and.......

....walked right by him.

I'm not suggesting that Mediocre Mario light-up Rodgers as if it's the first half of the one game he's decided to really show up for in the regular season but, he could have at least made physical contact. Just wrap him up and drag him down, two-below him, grab his towel and wave it around like flag football or something.

I also don't blame the players for mailing it in. The idea of going all out in a game that doesn't matter is stupid. Why risk a career-threatening injury for that, under the new structure, is played in front of a bunch of lower-corporate ladder folks who weren't high enough up the food chain to score tickets to the real game?

The best thing for the NFL to do is name the team, give each winner a voucher for a round-trip ticket to Hawaii, and then require that they show up to some grand banquet where all of the season awards are handed out.

That would at least be worth watching.