Month: August 2004 (Page 1 of 3)

Olympic Wrap Up, Part Two

The US team beat this year’s goal of 100 medals but there was still room for concern. Some medals that should have been locks were either missed or not the preferred color. The first week of the competition, NBC had a poll question on what you want most from the US team. The most medals, good sportsmanship, or no hint of scandal. Something generic like that. In my world, I want a combination. I want the most medals possible, since we have the best combination of population, athletic training for kids, and financial backing. However, I don’t want domination to come at the cost of ‘roid ravaged athletes. Also, I want athletes who perform with honor, style, and class. I want them to win and lose gracefully. I can’t say I was terribly disappointed this year in any of those areas.
With the 2008 games being held in Beijing, you know the Chinese “sports medicine” machine is already working on ways to ensure they can dominate every sport in four years. In terms of simple population, the Chinese should be our biggest threat in the medal count, so if they pass us, I’m not worried. What worries me is we’re being beat down by smaller challenges, making it easier for China to catch us. Here’s my threat scale, and how I think we can deal with them.
Russia: Under the old Soviet sports machine, they routinely beat us. Losing all the former republics has eaten into their medal count, but it’s still impressive. Despite their lack of funding (at least compared to the bad old days) they had an excellent performance in Athens. Still a formidable, if weakening, opponent.

Germany: What happened here? West Germany used to have pretty insane medal numbers per their population. East Germany, of course, was the cheatingest pack of cheaters the games has ever seen. Unification, even with clean athletes, should have created a juggernaut. I think Germans are too busy trying to convince the rest of Europe they don’t ever intend to invade again, and thus have lost some of their killer instinct. No threat.

Jamaica: Our biggest threat on the track as they’re legitimate challengers in every sprint event. Ben Johnson and Donovan Bailey were native Jamaicans, proving how deep the threat is. The population is less than three million. It’s an island in the Caribbean. We’ve got a Republican in the White House. The answer is obvious: invade!!! Bring back the days of gunboat diplomacy, this time in the name of track and field dominance rather than United Fruit! We’ve done it before, we can do it again.

Australia: Truly my biggest concern. They’ve become our equals in the pool. They out-medaled us 6-0 in diving. They challenged our women’s basketball, soccer, and softball teams. They played for the baseball gold medal while our team didn’t even make the games. Their performance on the track had gotten much better, are the leaders in the triathlon, and impressed in beach volleyball. Yet you can’t hate the Aussies. With almost 20 million fun loving people, not to mention a powerful military, they’re too big and strong to invade. Anheiser-Busch is the largest brewer of beer in the world, though. Aussies love beer. Rather than make more shitty commercials, perhaps the geniuses in St. Louis can come up with a plan of inebriating the entire island just before the ’08 games to free up about 40 medals.

As sports changes, what should we expect for overall US performance? Here’s my plan:
1- We should dominate all sprint events in every sport. We’re Americans. We do everything fast. There’s no excuse for losing a sprint whether it’s to close a business deal, cure cancer, or win a foot race.
2- Anything involving guns or archery equipment should be a clean sweep. I saw Bowling for Columbine; I know we shoot things better than any other nation.
3- Any sport we invented or perfected, we should be playing for the gold medal every four years. That means basketball, volleyball (indoor and beach), baseball, and softball are ours. Any sports that are featured at 75% of high schools we should be in medal contention for. That includes all field events, wrestling, soccer, all swimming events not included in the sprints, tennis, and so on.
4- Any strange sport that can only be played professionally in Europe we should not concern ourselves with. Team handball will always be the ultimate example of this. Let the Euros too soft to play Continental hoops satisfy themselves here.

Finally, some clean up of the Games’ roster is in order. I propose the following eliminations:
1- Race walking. Walking is a fine way for regular people to maintain fitness and lose weight. Not everyone is interested in running, or perhaps they have physical problems that prohibit moving faster than 12:00/mile pace. That’s fine; I applaud people who make an effort to keep themselves in shape. But walking should not be an Olympic sport. These are finely tuned athletes. They need to move their asses or stay home. This seems like another sport made up for people who aren’t quite good enough to make the cut in a real event.
2- Trampoline. See above and last week’s comments.
3- Rhythmic gymnastics. Arguably the dumbest sport ever. There’s actually a team event now, and one part of it is called “Hoops and Balls”. That’s right, Hoops and balls. Why don’t we make Jacks an Olympic sport while we’re at it? How can a sport in which five girls run different directions be scored fairly? They can’t even judge one guy on a high bar correctly, there’s no way they can tell whether five tiny girls from Siberia are in synch.
4- Baseball. Any sport only played at a world-class level in half a dozen countries doesn’t deserve inclusion. Thankfully, it sounds like the IOC may be eliminating baseball for the ’08 games. Get the World Cup in place so we can watch Pedro pitch to Barry and forget about trying this in the Olympics ever again. I really don’t need to see the Dutch and Italians booting the ball around the infield while the US is sitting at home.
5- Boxing. It was once one of the Games’ glamour events. Now, outside Cuba, no one really cares. A nice way to further isolate Fidel and his cronies. As Roy Jones, Jr will testify, the scoring is even worse than in professional boxing.

Synchronized swimming was on the list, but the rather striking faux-lesbian imagery that’s been added to the program has forced me to change my tune.

 

Be Careful What You Wish For

Remember how I was lamenting the fact our child wouldn’t fall asleep at night? Well, we’ve certainly got that problem solved. The girl slept something like 12 of 15 hours between late evening last night and late morning today. It was brilliant. The downside is the kid refuses to go down from early afternoon through the evening now. She takes a few catnaps here and there, but for the most part, she’s awake endlessly.
There are two problems with that. First, she’s only five weeks old, so there’s only so much either she or we can do to keep her entertained during her awake time. Her bouncy seat and swing only interest her for about five minutes at a time. We can read to her, but other than indirect benefits, it doesn’t do much to soothe her. Second, as the time since her last good sleep increases, her mood darkens. We’re pretty much resigned to about a three-hour window of crying, fussing, and aborted attempts to put her down. She’ll fall asleep on one of us, we’ll wait until she’s been out 10-15 minutes, gently put her in her pack ‘n play, and within five minutes she’s awake and yelling. While it’s much better that she does this during the day and evening than overnight, it’s still quite frustrating since nothing calms her down.

Gail made an excellent point regarding the US women at the Olympics, and I was greatly remiss for not acknowledging their accomplishments. Despite my general dislike for softball, I think it’s a good Olympic sport. Perhaps it is just because we kick serious ass. Or maybe it’s the fact that we have the best players in the world, and we know we’ll see them play in the games, unlike either men’s basketball or baseball (for different reasons, obviously).

Another point I forgot to make was the large number of athletes from all countries sporting Livestrong bracelets during the games. I wondered, are all these people really interested in Lance Armstrong’s foundation, or did Nike just dump a few buckets at the Olympic Village for anyone to take? Regardless, I suppose it’s a good thing that people wore them no matter why they took them.

 

Olympic Wrap Up, Part One

Another Olympiad has come to an end, meaning I no longer have 19 hours of guaranteed watchable TV each day. It’s also a time to reflect on what happened over the past two weeks, and what needs to be changed for the future. This is part one, part two will be posted manana.

To the world’s horror, what we feared most happened Sunday. The renegade Irish priest who has been holding the world hostage these past three years struck again. It’s sad when our worst fears come true.

One final bit on the US men’s basketball team before I drop it. The bronze medal game had something for everyone. Uninspired play by the US through much of the first three quarters, highlighting one last time all the areas those of us who have been critical of for the tournament. In the fourth quarter, the light finally went on, they began playing stifling defense, concentrated on truly sharing the ball rather than seeing who could throw the best behind-the-back pass, and lo and behold, three pointers started dropping. Larry Brown finally found a lineup that worked in Marbury, Iverson, Odom, Marion, and Duncan and the US cruised to the win. Any hope for the future was destroyed when David Stern mentioned Vince Carter as a player who could have helped this year’s squad. Vince Carter?!?!? Another overrated “athlete” who couldn’t hit a clutch jumper if the fate of the world relied on it? Oh, but VC is marketable, so the commish had to push his name.
Also, regarding Jason Whitlock’s assertion that criticism of this year’s team was based on racism, who are the four players most often mentioned as guys who could have helped this team? Ray Allen, Michael Redd, Rip Hamilton, and Tayshaun Prince. Brothers all around. I know Jason’s assertion was based more on style of play criticism, but add two of the four shooters named above, Duncan can get loose inside, we can force the zones to guard the perimeter, and the slashers can actually find room to operate. Gold medal, team racial balance not altered in any way.

I give NBC a B+ for its coverage this year. The use of their various cable outlets to show as much action as possible was a tremendous move, rewarding the interested viewer. They’ve come a long way since their Triple Cast concept in 1992. However, far too many interesting events were still condensed into a neat 10-minute package that showed who won the gold and how the key US performers fared. I realize they’re focusing on the big US picture, but why not use the USA Network to show every second of non-prime track and field events? You can still share a five-minute summary in prime time to split up the 157 hours of gymnastics, and those of us who would like to see the entire long jump event get satisfaction.
Another quibble is how NBC treated taped events as live. In a US volleyball game that ended 12 hours earlier, and NBC missed points during commercial breaks as if the action was live. If you’ve got 12 hours to edit and plan, you can do better than to have the game be tied at 22 after a commercial when the US was up 21-19 before the commercial.
There were plenty of clunkers on the mic for NBC, the worst absolutely had to be the guy doing the interviews at the track and field stadium. After the first night, couldn’t they have sent an intern down to write some decent questions for him? Or put Bob Costas in his earpiece with some questions that made sense? It’s a tough job, but I think NBC did pretty well this time around.

 

Like Sands Through The Hourglass, These Are The Emails Of Our Lives

Friday is my final day of gainful employment. After that, I’ll be a deadbeat dad doing my best to drag the economy down. I think my lack of purchases at the Apple store alone will bring the economy to a screeching halt.
This evening, I worked through a ton of my old e-mails on my work account. Unfortunately, due to a laptop mishap, I was only able to read them, not forward them out for permanent documentation here at home. It was really something reading through over six years of accumulated e-mails. I found pictures of many of your kids looking much younger than they look today, reminders of happy hours and road trips past, and most importantly, folders full of e-mails from the 80s Trivia List and ER List. I shudder to think what those days would have been like if I had access to blogging software back then. I don’t know if our lengthy discussions that seemed to make every Friday fly by would have been worse with the option of getting around e-mail, or if it would have better since each response wouldn’t flood your inbox. Good times, though, very good times.
I’d love to see the stats of how much e-mail I sent and received from my work address over the course of my employment. Scratch that, I never want to know because future employers may get access to the figures and use them against me. “So, it says here you sent 450 e-mails in Friday, April 17, 1999. What’s up with that?” How do I explain I had a two-part trivia question, a cliff-hanger ER episode, was trying to figure out plans for lunch, plans for the weekend, and was flirting with three women in HR and make me seem like someone they should hire? I really need to find someone in our associate systems department, give them a wad of cash, and have them purge all my records from the system. That’s possible, right?
By the way, more fun gifts from our friends at Google and Blogger. Under each post, next to the comments link, you’ll now find a small e-mail icon. Click it and you can send a link to your favorite posts to other people or to your home address for future reference. Blogger keeps getting better and better. They’re pushing Nike and Apple for my favorite consumer goods provider, and I don’t even have to pay for this!

 

Random Olympic Notes

Forget beach volleyball, all the men out there should have been watching women’s field hockey for the last two weeks. I watched the second half of the gold medal match between Germany and the Netherlands last night and was very impressed by the Dutch team. Then again, went aren’t Dutch women impressive? Less skin than on the beach, to be sure, but for the most part these looked like regular hot girls you’d see at happy hour. Their uniforms could probably be worn out to bars, in fact. It’s really a stupid game, though, so it’s a good thing there was plenty of eye candy. From what I gathered, a bunch of women run around hunched over for an hour. If they’re lucky enough to gain possession of the ball, they wind up and send a wicked pass towards a teammate that is 50 yards away. The poor receiver, only having a stunted hockey stick to control the ball, usually either loses the pass out of bounds, or pops it straight up in the air. I’m really not sure how three goals were scored yesterday, as it doesn’t seem possible to possess the ball long enough.

Something else that cracked me up about field hockey was the massive amount of support for the Dutch team. There were literally thousands of orange-clad fans acting wacky as Dutch fans are wont to do. When the Germans pulled off the massive upset of the two time defending gold medalists, these people looked like me after a KU loss in March. They sat in the stands in stunned silence, with either looks of complete disgust or utter shock. I had no idea field hockey had such devoted fans. Maybe the team nudes up if they win and that’s why the fans were so bummed.

A final note regarding beach volleyball wear, I’ve not watched an AVP match in a long time, but I recall in the mid-90s the men generally played without shirts. Not sure why they’re required to wear them in the Olympics if the women are required to wear bikini bottoms. I’m all for making the female viewers happy if that means I still get to see bikini action.

My favorite name of the Olympics? Australian diver Loudy Tourky. She was born in Israel, which explains why her name isn’t something more traditional of Aussies. It nicely straddles the line between difficult to pronounce, approaching near ridiculousness in appearance, yet retaining a cheery quality at the same time. It makes me think of Thanksgiving.

As if we didn’t know that US television is the strongest force in the Olympics already, we have this year’s uniforms as further proof. I’ve not seen every nation’s jersey, but I’ve yet to see a nation that did not have its name spelled with the Latin alphabet. None of the Slavic nations use Cyrillic letters (Russia vs. whatever it would look like in Russian). None of the Asian nations use their form of writing. None of the Arabic nations have Arabic writing as the prominent feature on their jerseys. Most notably, while Greece’s uniforms say Hellas, it is not spelled in Greek letters. Kind of strange, don’t you think?
The one notable exception is Germany, that historic bastion of respect for other cultures. On many of their uniforms below Deutschland is the Greek spelling of Germany. So bravo to the Germans, I guess.

I keep seeing these commercials for “The All New G6” which feature a snippet from the Clash’s “Should I Stay or Should I Go?” and must admit I’m intrigued. The Clash have licensed the use of their music in ads several times over the years (notably for Levis in the UK in 1991 and for Jaguar two years ago) but interesting that a song that’s been licensed before is being used again. I check the website, hoping this is some cool new European sports car that will revolutionize the auto industry. Nope, it’s a freaking Pontiac; what appears to be the replacement for the Sunfire. Very disappointing.

 

Olympic Pet Peeve

If nothing else comes out of the US men’s basketball team’s loss to Argentina on Friday, at least we can hope that NBC and all the other media lemmings will drop the label Dream Team from future US national teams. I know David Stern makes calls to them before each tournament reminding them to use the term, but it’s ridiculous to continue to use it.
The term was coined for the 1992 team, which truly was a Dream Team. It was the first team to be comprised of almost entirely NBA players. It featured three of the best players in the history of the game. They were supported by a roster that included no less than seven other members of the NBA’s 50 greatest players list. Other than Larry Bird and Magic Johnson, the roster was full of players that were at the peaks of their respective games. And then there was Michael Jordan, unequalled in any era. Never again will there be a comparable confluence of history, ability, accomplishment, and moment.
It was dumb to call the 1996 team a Dream Team. Once again, the team was made up of some of the best players in the NBA, but the overall talent level came nowhere near 1992’s. It was asinine to call the 2000 Olympic or 2002 World Championship teams Dreams. It’s criminal to label this year’s team with that moniker.
What’s worse is the label now appears to be gender neutral, and the women’s team is automatically called the Dream Team. Now don’t get me wrong, the women are probably a better collection of the best talent our country can offer, and have been performing in a manner that at least puts them in the ballpark for that name. But quick, how many players off the team can you name? Maybe you got Lisa Leslie. I had no idea Sheryl Swoopes was on the team until today. Regardless, they ain’t exactly Jordan, Magic, and Bird, are they? Besides, if there ever truly was a women’s Dream Team, it was in 1984 when Pat Summit coached a team lead by Cheryl Miller and Lynette Woodard, the two greatest players the women’s game has ever seen.
So please, NBC and NBA, put your massive marketing budgets to good use and come up with some other clever way of referring to our national basketball teams.

 

 

The Crying Game

Last night, after four or five straight nights of good sleep and what appeared to be a nighttime routine, we decided to let M. cry. If you’re not a parent, you don’t understand all the conflicting advice out there about how to handle a crying newborn. Some people say you should comfort them immediately until they reach 2-3 months. Others say, if you’ve feed and changed them already, let the little buggers cry. They’ll fall asleep eventually and all will be well. As we’ve passed both the four-week mark, we decided to try out the Let Them Cry technique last night.

We laid an already fussy baby down in her crib, comforted her for a few minutes, and then went back downstairs. Before we could even get the monitor on, she was shrieking. We set about emptying the dishwasher and cleaning our dinner dishes, emptying the dehumidifier, taking the trash to the garage, anything to keep us occupied. Yet the crying continued. Our goal was to make it 15 minutes. We only lasted ten. When I went upstairs, M. had kicked her way out of her blanket and was soaking wet not from a poorly fastened diaper, but from sweat. Which of course means S. took her to the guest bedroom and slept with her in that bed until it was time for her next feeding. We did get her down for three hours in the middle of the night, but after her 6:00 AM bottle, it was back to the big girl bed with mom. As soon as they lay down, S. said M. was out. I swear, these kids are smarter than they want you to think.

A couple other Olympic moments from my wife. Naturally, she loved it when Kerri Walsh smacked Misty May on the ass after they won the women’s beach volleyball gold medal. However, I think she enjoyed it for different reasons than why us men enjoyed that moment. I bet that video was being passed all over corporate e-mail servers yesterday. The enthusiasm those two showed was fantastic. I read somewhere that the governing body for beach volleyball mandates that the players wear those skimpy bikini bottoms. Not that I’m complaining, but aren’t there a lot of sand issues when you wear something like that and go diving around the beach?

Before the women’s 400-meter final Tuesday, NBC had a feature on Mexico’s Ana Guevara. When they showed Senora Guevara up close and we heard her voice, S. exclaimed, “Someone give her a chromosome test!” If you don’t know what that means, or haven’t seen the Mexican Silver medalist, let’s just say she’s a little manly. I enjoy the medical commentary immensely.

I think we’ve got our next FloJo. Allyson Felix won the silver in the 200-meter final last night. She’s 18, mega talented, seems to be pretty mature for her age (she’s already turned pro but is attending USC), and is just beautiful. She needs to double up with the 100 for Beijing and she’ll be the next great US runner.

This Is How We Do It!

Baby in bed: 11:00 PM (In her own bed too, not in the Pack ‘n Play)
Mom and Dad in bed shortly after
First feeding: 3:30 AM
Second feeding: 6:30 AM
Baby wakes up: 9:45 AM

I’ve just jinxed it by sharing, I’m sure, but this was the best night since M’s first week.

Memo To Paul Hamm

Props to Stace and Dale for sending out the link to the SI blog.

It seems our occasional French correspondent, Madam LeRiche, has beat me to something I was working on. I had crafted a lengthy announcement Paul Hamm should make each time he%92s asked about the scoring controversy. It was closely worded to Jeff%92s, although I did not include the option of giving up his gold medal. Rather, I left him open to whatever options the international gymnastics federation thought most appropriate for resolving the crisis in a manner that was fair to all competitors.

What Paul really needs to do is shut up for awhile. His statement yesterday that a review of the South Korean%92s performance showed at least one deduction that was missed was totally inappropriate. He needs to let his coach, the US gymnastics federation, and the USOC make these statements. I understand he%92s trying to get the point across that reviewing performances after the fact will open a pandora%92s box of lunacy, but by him pointing out flaws in his competitors%92 routines, it makes him come across like a sore winner.

So from now on, Paul, smile, thank the media for their interest, express your concern over the issues in scoring events consistently and fairly in international competitions, say you believe your performance was worthy of the gold medal, and leave it at that.

 

Oh Poop (Babies And Olympics)

For starters, your weekly baby poop story. M. had an epic blast Monday night. She had been backed up for about 12 hours, to the point where she was even spitting up a little bit after eating, which she’s never done before (our theory being she was too full to digest anything). We took her for a walk and joked that all the bouncing of the stroller would really loosen her up. We got home, I sat down with her in front of the TV, and sure enough, she starts unloading. It seemed like any normal baby crap at first. Then she started to seem really warm. I turned her around, and the back of her outfit was covered. I’m talking about prodigious amounts of poop. Biblical quantities of bowel movement. Extravagant volumes of excrement. So much, in fact, that we decided just to dump her into the tub for her second bath of the day rather than even attempt a wipe-only clean up. The whole time this was going on, I was thinking of a couple of my KC friends who are due with their first child later this year. Thinking of a couple KC cats being in this same situation made me laugh uncontrollably. Cheers, fellas!

We got some take out from a noodle place Monday night, and they threw in some chopsticks. I’m always excited about what is printed on the packaging of Asian foods, and these did not disappoint. Below is exactly what it said, punctuation and capitalization have not been changed.

Welcome to Chinese Restaurant
please try your Nice Chinese Food with Chopsticks
the traditional and typical of Chinese glorious history.
and cultural.

I don’t even know what the message is supposed to be there. But it made me laugh. We received an alphabet abacus as a gift for M. that was made in China. We unpacked it, started to pit it together, and then we noticed the alphabet went A-B-C-B… I wondered if the same poor laborer who was knocking back about a nickel a day was responsible for each of these items.

How about all the drama at the Olympic gymnastic meet? I’m not sure what I love more, Svetty playing the role of the ugly American, of Paul Hamm being called an ugly American for not really doing anything wrong. The ten minute whistle/boo-fest last night was surreal. Those Greeks sure are persistent! Props to Paul Hamm for nailing his routine after having to stand around and wait for the officials to take control of the situation. But his routine was the third best of the night. As my man Tim Daggett said, “Look at more the landing, please!”
My friends who attended the University of Missouri in the early 90s (specifically 1990) might argue, but I’m not sure you hold a competitor accountable for an officiating error. I think Hamm could have been a little less indignant that someone would suggest he wasn’t completely deserving of the gold medal, but it was more of a whine than steadfast opposition to the proposition. He should have just kept his mouth shut. Throughout the week, the officiating at the gymnastics venue has been wildly erratic lending support to the argument the Olympics suck because they rely on judging in so many events.
I’ve always thought the idea of taking medals away after the fact, or awarding a second medal is a little odd. Let’s say they did give the Korean gymnast a co-gold. Will that match the experience of winning it in front of 12,000 people and a TV audience? When Carl Lewis was awarded the gold medal in 1988 after Ben Johnson was disqualified, was it the same thrill as if he had actually beaten Johnson on the track? But maybe I’m getting it all wrong and the medal itself is what’s important, not the moment of actually winning it. I won a blue ribbon in the 50 yard dash in 1st grade, but don’t really recall what the sensation of winning it felt like, nor do I recall how it felt to have the blue ribbon taken away when it was discovered I had drank too much Kool Aid before the race, giving me an unfair advantage over the other competitors.

 

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