Archive for August, 2008

24
Aug
08

My Twenty-Eight Point, Thirty Five Hundred Word Post-Olympic Breakdown

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last two weeks, you’ve seen some of the Olympics and marveled at the athletecism involved in international sport.  And let’s be honest, you’ve also probably marveled at how in the hell Bob Costas could possibly seem to know so much about the Romanian women’s handball team.  (“It’s a special day for goal keeper Ludmila Paslaru, because not only has her team taken a six point lead over the Czechs, but it’s also the five year anniversary of her first date with her now husband, Serban.  They enjoyed a lovely candlelit dinner at a quaint Italian restaurant.  She had the manicotti, he had the pesto ravioli and a bowl of minestrone, and they shared the tiramisu.”)

Admittedly, I am an Olympics nut, and as should be assumed, I am a rabid, crazy fan of the good ol’ stars and stripes.  Honestly, I’ve probably watched as much television in the last two weeks as I did in the past year.  If there are countries competing, I’m watching, no matter the sport.  So in case you’re interested, here’s my take on some of what happened during the games of the 29th Olympiad:

1. Let’s just get this right out of the way: Michael Phelps is a badass.  ’nuff said.

2. Usain Bolt is also a badass, but he’s a cocky badass.  Like Phelps, he’s without peer, but does he need to shove it in people’s faces?  Just run your race, dude.

3. I caught small glimpses of the Opening Ceremonies at the ESPN Zone in Downtown Denver, where one particular face among all the international glitz and glamour was greeted with a rousing chorus of boos from the passionate sports fans every time it appeared on screen.  That face happened to belong to George W. Bush.  I wonder if, on the other side of the globe, Chinese citizens started booing when they see Ma Ying-jeou, the current face of the human-rights-denying communist government in China.  I kind of doubt it.  I’m not about to make any excuses for President Bush, but he is just a man, and no matter what it is you do, his job is harder than yours.  The fact that we have the freedom to boo him is a privilege I think we often take for granted.

4. And speaking of the opening ceremonies, I would think it totally awesome if at some point ‘choreographed drumming’ becomes an Olympic sport.  Even if China wins gold (as they likely would) it’d still be pretty sweet.

5. I read somewhere that basketball is growing so fast in China that the country has 300 million basketball fans, or in more understandable terms, China has the same number of basketball fans as the United States has people.  That being said, it must have been terribly disappointing for all those fans when the United States took their team to school early on in the games.  After a miserable showing at the Athens games, the US team finally got its shit together and started throwing it down on its way to a gold medal, which was good to see.  Watching the Americans completely dominate China (and every other team that crossed its path) was the ultimate ego boost for an American.  For the longest time I always thought it was ironic when an American team would win the NBA finals and proclaim themselves “world champs” despite the fact they did not play a team from anywhere else in the world.  After the reemergence of American basketball, I’m willing to cut them some slack.

6. If there was one thing about NBC’s coverage of the Olympics that pissed me off, it’s the ridiculous questions that are asked of the athletes after they’d medal in their various events.  Here’s what I’m talking about:

NBC SPORTS COMMENTATOR: And another world record for the Americans!  Let’s now go pool/field/court/floor-side with our token mildly attractive female reporter who, despite the suffrage movement in the US, we still won’t let in the booth, and for good reason.

CHESTY MCGEE: Thanks guys… My sensible blazer and I are here with [ATHLETE], who just had an incredible performance in [SPORT].  Tell us exactly what you did to break that record.

–Hold the phone here for a second.  Let’s rewind and look at the question our high-heeled, rosy-cheeked reporter just asked: Tell us what you did to break the record. Can you imagine if an athlete actually answered with what was really going through their head, rather than the empty fluff of sports clichés they typically use?

ATHLETE: “How’d I do it?  Well, gosh. I had a PowerBar and some Gatorade about an hour ago and… Sheesh, how do you think I did it, woman??  Obviously I’m just better than everyone else out there.  Seemingly you guys already knew that when your network named me the clear-cut favorite before the event even started.  Training and genetics, that’s how I did it.  Although I can at least understand how you’d ask the question, considering that in my profession, it takes more than a well-paid makeup artist, a set of bleached teeth, and a decent rack to succeed.  Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to celebrate with people who actually understand my sport.”

7. Strike that.  There was more than one thing I didn’t like about NBC’s coverage.  Second on the list was the nightly “Let’s Send Mary Carillo Out To Do Something Cultural And Then Report On It, All The While Pretending That China Is A Fascinating Culture In No Way Involved With Human Rights Violations” segment.  If you missed it, typically Carillo would go out and meet with children’s gymnast trainers or kung-fu fighting monks, all the while smiling big and communicating how absolutely magical each and every experience she had was.  This, of course, was all in accordance with China’s “Make China Look Like A Friendly Nation–Or Else” plan.  Now, you may protest, but at no point while interviewing four-year-old gymnasts did she mention that those kids had been voluntarily surrendered by their parents into a mean, Communist, gold-medal producing machine that fails to give those kids a life or education outside of gymnastics.  Rather, it was “Boy, aren’t you cute!” and “Golly, you sure are flexible!”

8. Can anybody tell me why golf isn’t an Olympic sport?  It was at the 1900 and 1904 games, so why did we decide to get rid of it?  It’s international, it’s competitive, and it’s popular the world ’round.  Currently, the logic of the IOC states that this and this are more legitimate sports than golf.  Anyway, I know he’s injured now, but still, there’s a certain ring to the words ‘U.S. Olympian Tiger Woods’, don’t you think?

9. Synchronized Swimming is, no matter what anybody says, ridiculous.  Yes, I will admit that those women are incredibly strong, incredibly athletic, and incredibly talented, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a ludicrous way to exercise those talents.  Having that much ability and using it to become a synchronized swimmer is like being a billionaire, and using all your money to build up the world’s largest collection of troll dolls.  It’s just a really weird way to use what resources you’ve got, that’s all.

Same thing goes for rhythmic gymnastics.  Minus the ‘strong and athletic’ part.

10. Is it just me, or are fewer and fewer American gold medalists singing along to the National Anthem these days?  I feel like just a couple Olympics ago everyone was singing along.  Are these athletes just self-conscious being on TV?  Overcome by emotion?  Do they not know the words?  I’ll tell you right now: when I win an Olympic gold medal (and I will, just as soon as the IOC recognizes Cranium as an Olympic sport…) I’m singin’.

11. Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh have won over 100 beach volleyball matches in a row.  That’s beyond dominant.  I’d imagine after that many one-sided matches, it’d start to get boring, winning so much.  I give it another fifty or so matches before they each decide to grab a fifth of Jack about an hour before a match, swig it down, and try to win one drunk.  Three to two odds says they still take it in straight sets.

12. There has been controversy that a few of the female Chinese gymnasts were under 16, the qualifying age for the Olympic games.  Shortly after the New York Times first broke this story, the always trustworthy Chinese government quickly produced passports for the controversial gymnasts claiming they were all of age.  This despite the Chinese coach last year referring to one of his athletes as “the 13-year-old uneven bar gymnast.”  Now, I haven’t taken a math class in a while, but last I checked, thirteen plus one does not equal the girl in the middle of this picture being old enough to drive a car.  I’m not trying to be a poor sport when I say it’s one thing when your team gets beat, but it’s another thing when you get beat by a country whose government flat-out lied so that it could put itself in position to beat you.  I’m not sayin’, I’m just sayin’.

13. Update: After writing the last point earlier on in the games, there was development that the IOC has asked for more proof that the Chinese gymnasts are of age.  And who did they ask?  Why, the Chinese government, of course.  Because there’s no possible way they could provide fake passports and fake birth certificates… not from a government as reliable as the Chinese one.  Sadly, I think that as Americans we’re just going to have to buck it up on this one.  Just because you’re a government official doesn’t mean you have to be honest, but according to the IOC, it apparently does mean you’re trustworthy.

14. Bela Karolyi, already possessing the most famous mustache in international sports, now is notorious for being the most ridiculously outrageous and unintentionally hilarious gymnastics fan ever.  Occasionally NBC would show clips of Karolyi’s ‘enthusiastic’ (read: seizure-like) cheering on of the gymnasts from inside the studio, next to an overwhelmed, clearly surprised, and possibly frightened Bob Costas.  If NBC knew what was good for them, come this fall we’d be seeing “NBC Presents Bela Karolyi Watching Gymnastics” on the primetime lineup.  I know I’d watch.

15. And speaking of US gymnastics, it seems pretty obvious, but even though I get older and older with each passing Olympic Games, the female gymnasts are still teenagers, and really tiny teenagers at that.  Nastia Liukin and Shaun Johnson, sitting on a couch as they were interviewed by Bob Costas after going one-two in the individual all-around, looked like they were a bowl of popcorn and a Hannah Montana DVD away from a slumber party, especially considering Shaun’s feet were dangling cheerily off the edge of the couch, not quite long enough to reach the ground.  They’re just so doggone cute, and all you want to do is pinch those wosy wittle cheeks… then you remember that these are world-class athletes, and they’re more athletic than you will ever be in your entire life.  It’s humbling.

16. Gymnastics again?  Sure, why not?  Those American girls who ended up with medals– either in teams, individual all-around, or individual events, can feel even better about their achievements considering they were not only competing against their opponents from other countries, but against judges who couldn’t get their act together and score something fairly.  Freakin’ ridiculous.

17. Sports like diving are also, as it were, ridiculous.  Let me explain.  In no other sport will someone jump off a thirty-foot platform, acrobatically and precisely flip and twist forty-seven times through the air (sometimes synchronized with a partner) and land vertically hands first into a pool of water, making a grapefruit-sized splash, only to have the announcer say something like “Ooooh, HUUUUUUUGE mistake there!  See how his knees were bent at about a three degree angle during that second to last twist?  That’s an OUTRAGEOUS error.  I don’t think he’s going to be able to come back from that one…”

Same thing goes for gymnastics.  Unless you’re Chinese.

18. You may or may not have caught reports on the fake fireworks or the lip-syncing that went on during the Opening Ceremony.  Seems to me like the one guy who’s calling all the shots in China might be compensating for something.  What kind of a country fakes things to make itself look better?  If you ask me, it’s only a matter of time before Chinese people start putting implants in their breasts, sucking fat out of their bodies, and using chemical creams to make themselves look tan.  Just disgraceful.

19. Nothing ruins the power and mystique of countries coming together in the name of competition, sportsmanship, and celebration of culture like the following phrase, set to the brassy, pounding sounds of John Williams’ “Olympic Fanfare”:

‘…bum ba da dum ba da dum ba da dum ba da…’

“The games of the Twenty-Ninth Olympiad on NBC are brought to you by… Walt Disney Pictures’ Beverly Hills Chihuahua!!  This September, the dogs will have their day!  Ay Chihuahua!”

Somewhere, Jesse Owens is weeping.

20. Anybody besides me think it the least bit humorous (as opposed to patriotic) that Georgia’s men’s beach volleyball consists of two guys who intentionally nicknamed themselves “Geor” and “Gia” so they’d show up on the scoreboard as “Geor/Gia”?  That’s like Rodgers and Dalhausser nicknaming themselves “Unitedsta” and “Tesofamerica”.

21. Again, I might sound like a poor sport, (I’d rather refer to it as a ‘prideful American’) but I think the way the medals in various sports are given favors countries like China in the overall medal count.  Sports in which the Americans are dominant- basketball, softball, beach volleyball- only award one medal.  Sports in which the Chinese are dominant, like diving, weightlifting, and shooting- those sports offer dozens of medals for dozens of variations.  If weightlifting was organized like basketball, there would be one medal awarded to whoever could lift the most weight regardless of class, weight, hair color, or whatever, and China wouldn’t stomp the US in the final gold medal count.  Inversely, if basketball was organized like weightlifting, there’d be a medal for full-court basketball, half-court basketball, one-on-one, two-on-two, three-on-three, free throw shooting, and three point shooting, and the United States would likely win all of them, making for a much closer gold medal count.  Unfair?  Maybe, maybe not.

22. Now, it’s time for ‘Andy’s Single Most Disappointing Moment In US Olympic History’. These are the words that US Olympic Pole Vault Coach Rick Suhr spoke to his trainee, Jenn Stuczynski, after she took silver in the women’s pole vault:

It’s the same old same old, you’re losing takeoff at the big heights. Whaddaya gonna do? Gotta learn to keep takeoff. You got caught at that meat grinder. I did not – and I told 10 people – I didn’t wanna be caught in a meat grinder between 65 and 80. You had to, though. You weren’t on, your warmup didn’t go well. You were at 55. You got caught up in that meat grinder. Whaddaya gonna do? Whaddaya gonna do? Didn’t have the legs. Her legs are fresh. Hey, it’s a silver medal. Not bad for someone that’s been pole vaulting for four years.”

Dude, your girl is now the second best pole vaulter on the planet, and the girl who beat her is not only known as the best female pole-vaulter of all time, but she had to break the world record twice to do it.  And if my calculations are correct, the relative Olympic medal count between the two of you is Stuczynski: 1, Suhr: 0.  Unless I somehow missed it when you took gold in the 200-meter Being A Dick Competition. I don’t care what your motivation is, what your ‘coaching style’ is, or what message you’re trying to convey.  If need be, you save that sort of stuff for once you’re back training again.  The only–I repeat, only correct response a coach can give to winning a silver medal is: “Congratulations.”  As in, “Congratulations Rick Suhr, you’re an enormous douche.”

23. On the flip side of the coin, I’ve never seen anyone as happy to win a medal as Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh, and they already had one.  I can honestly say, though, that no Olympian I saw interviewed over the course of the games had as much overwhelming, contagious joy as those two did, both in their courtside interview after the gold medal match, and the next night when they were interviewed in studio by Bob Costas.  Hugs all over the place, and stuff like this… She uses her gold medal to pretend she’s a pirate? Honestly, is there any way you couldn’t be happy for these two?

24. Seriously, let’s be real here.  Why the hell is ping-pong an Olympic sport?  Is this just to give even more gold medals to the Chinese?  Being good at ping-pong doesn’t make you an athlete, it makes you the cool kid at the rec center, and that’s not deserving of a gold medal in my opinion.  If ping-pong is an Olympic sport, odds are there are a lot of really good foosball players out there that, every four years, get reminded that their sport isn’t legitimate.  What’s that?  Foosball isn’t a sport?  Yeah, well neither is ping-pong.

25. I’ve always felt the summer Olympics are split into two halves: the half dominated by swimming, and the half dominated by track and field.  And perhaps it’s just me, but I’m always less interested in the track and field half.  I think it’s because the Summer Olympics are so frontloaded–there’s preliminaries and games in all sorts of sports during the first week of the games, and by the time that second week hits, games like volleyball, basketball, and softball are essentially over, so there’s nothing left but track and field, and you end up watching people stand around waiting to race, rather than watching gymnastics or diving or water polo and then cutting to the race right before it starts, like they do with swimming.  Or maybe it’s just because Michael Phelps isn’t a runner.

26. For all the claims by NBC sports commentors that the decathlon is the greatest test of athleticism the Olympics has (a claim I tend to agree with) they sure do glaze over the event.  Gold medalist Bryan Clay (an APU grad, what what!) is, in my opinion, more dominant in his event than Michael Phelps or Usain Bolt are in theirs, (the point differential between the 2nd and 3rd place finishers in the decathalon was 24 points; Bryan Clay won by 240 even after essentially phoning in the final event) yet when we see the decathlon on TV, we’re only shown pre-recorded attempts from a select few of the competitors.  Every single time Phelps got his toes wet, NBC was there, showing it live.  There’s far less respect for the incredible test that of strength, speed, and endurance that is the decathlon, and here’s my hypothesis why: Bryan Clay is just a normal guy, and he doesn’t have a ‘televisable’ personality like Phelps or Bolt (Bolt also has the cool, oddly appropriate last name going for him).  Clay’s just a husband and a dad, and apparently that doesn’t quite capture the nation’s attention like a certain swimmer who plays Guitar Hero and eats fourteen cheeseburgers a day.

27. And finally, how ’bout a shout out for US team sports?  Gold in men’s and women’s basketball, men’s and women’s beach volleyball, men’s indoor volleyball, women’s soccer, even women’s doubles tennis.  Add to that silvers in women’s team gymnastics, men’s and women’s team fencing, men’s and women’s water polo, softball, and women’s indoor volleyball, and bronzes in men’s team gymnastics, men’s doubles tennis, men’s rowing and baseball.  China may have beat us out in the overall gold medal count (which, if you ask me, is the one that matters), and we may have faltered in a few places we shouldn’t have, but there’s some level of victory, some warm feeling within the truth that no one in the world makes a better team than the United States of America.  God bless the freakin’ US of A.

28. And here, in no particular order, to wrap it all up, are my top eight Olympic moments from Beijing, the moments that years from now, when I think back on these games, I will remember:

1. Michael Phelps takes the 100m butterfly by .01 second. Simply unbelievable.

2. Jason Lezak turns on the afterburners to take the men’s 4x100m free relay in the last 25 meters.

3. USA downs China in men’s basketball.

4. Bryan Clay, Olympic gold medalist.

5. Nastia Liukin and Shaun Johnson go 1-2 in women’s all around gymnastics.

6. Usain Bolt sets world records in the 100m and 200m while barely breaking a sweat.

7. US men’s volleyball takes gold after Hugh McCutcheon’s tragic loss early on in the games.

8. Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh kick sand in the face of any who are foolish enough to face them, and take the gold in the rain.

…And with that, we’ll see you in Vancouver.

13
Aug
08

Dear Mr. Package Man:

To the smug little UPS driver who just delivered me a package at noon-thirty on a Wednesday, this is what I should have said to you when you asked whether or not you woke me:

“No, sir, you did NOT wake me.  It is, as I’m sure you know, 12:30pm, and I am not a hobo, for goodness sakes.  Sure, I answered the door without a shirt on.  Sure, I had a gnarly case of bed head.  And sure, I was wearing pajama bottoms, (and don’t start judging me there, either.  I wear pajamas occasionally.  They’re comfortable, and it’s a choice.  So back off.  I’m still a man, and don’t you forget it.  Leave it to a guy wearing shit-brown knee-high socks and short shorts to give me advice on style…) but you most certainly did not wake me.  Why, then, do I look as I do at this point in the day?  Unshaven, slovenly, crust still hanging on to the corners of my eyes?  Perhaps I just haven’t showered yet. That’s an important word, yet, because it implies that yes, I will be showering today, so there’s your answer to that question.  In fact, you’re lucky I decided to eat my grilled-cheese sandwich before showering, otherwise, it’s quite possible I could have been in the shower at the exact moment you knocked on my door, thus leaving it unanswered and leaving you to trudge up my stairs for me to sign your little electronic pad tomorrow.  I saved you a trip, bud, you should be thanking me, so you can do us all a favor and wipe that pretty little smile right off your face.

What was it I was doing all morning?  How could hygeine have escaped me until midday, you ask?  Well, a great portion of it, I was reading.  Ever hear of books?  Or are you just a big truck driver man who drives trucks all day?  No time for high-fallootin’ readin’, eh Mr. Truck Driver Man?  Yeah, I thought so.  Literature.  Try it sometime.  And you know what?  I was cleaning, too.  Not all of us have such prestigious high-level jobs in box delivery, we can’t all afford to pay immigrants to clean our homes for us.  Some of us have to do it ourselves.  Vacuuming, dusting… let me know if you ever want a lesson, I’ll be happy to help you out, Mr. “I’m-Too-Busy-To-Clean-My-Own-House.” And what kind of person showers before cleaning their house, huh?  Ever think of that?  I’ll tell you what kind– the same kind of person who smells like Pine Sol when they go to work, that’s who.  I’m all about conservation here at my apartment, I’ll shower once, thank you very much.

What’s that?  Work?  Why yes, I work.  In fact, I work later today.  That’s right… I work in the evenings occasionally.  A package delivery specialist such as yourself may not understand the concept of evening shifts, but it happens sometimes.  Deal with it.  Like I said before, you of all people should be thankful I’m available at this point in the day.

So thank you sir, for your diligent package delivery, your cheery disposition, your ‘kind pleasantries’.  Maybe next time, we’ll just keep it professional: here’s your box, see you later.  Let’s leave the small talk for when we get home to our wives, our home-cooked meals and our dinner tables, what do you think of that?  And don’t start thinking this is all because I’m embarrassed I came to the door like I did.  I laugh in the face of embarrassment.  Ha HA!  Like that.  So don’t start thinking you’re Mr. Smarty-Shorts, you didn’t figure anything out.

Let’s just cut to the chase here, okay?  Like I said before: no, you did not wake me.  And yes, I will sign for it, thank you very much.  Have yourself a nice little day.

05
Aug
08

Three Snap Judgements on Today’s Favre Developments

1. Brett Favre, as we have always known, is human, and humans have feelings.  If he says he doesn’t want to play for the Packers, it’s because he’s been scorned by a team whose recent glory he created practically by himself, not because he doesn’t want to be a Packer.

2. Mike McCarthy has been put in a tough spot, and has done the best he can with what he’s been given.  We all have had jobs where our boss tells us to do something we don’t want to do.  Few of us, however, have had to take that something in front of the entire country and pretend it’s what we want to do.

3. Ted Thompson is a grade-A, world-class douche.