Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Winter Olympics

So, we have reached the "dead-zone" of athletics. The Super Bowl is over, and many look fondly towards early August when they can waste another day drafting a fantasy team.

Others are waiting for those great long weekends in March when the King of College Hoops will be crowned.

Some have spent the down time during the sports calendar watching the Olympics. I have decided to review some things I have noticed, both good and bad in my four days of watching the Olympics.

Let's start with the things I have not liked about the Olympics:

1) Too many recorded events.
As someone who spends a lot (read: too much) time on my computer, it is nearly impossible to avoid results all day. I have enough things to worry about during my day, I don't need to consciously avoid the news also. This past weekend I was fortunate enough to avoid results and I really enjoyed watching a lot of the events I was able to see (more on that later).

2) Judges
I just do not get it. Simply put. Think of all the "experts" we watch dissect some of our favorite sports. They constantly have differing views, whether the debate is about a call a coach makes, the way a player handles him/herself under pressure, or even who the best player is. They argue and debate, and no one really has a sure-fire answer.
Yet, here we are watching some sports that have people handing out numbers to determine who the best is. Figure Skating and Gymnastics are the headliners in this. Skating got so bad they had to re-do the scoring system because one judge had screwed a Canadian couple out of a gold medal. What happened? The Figure Skating couple received a gold after someone else went back and judged what the first (cough, French, cough) judge had mis-judged. Take a moment and read that again, maybe even copy and paste it so it can stand alone and you can totally let it settle in.

The judges liked Alexandre Bilodeau more than the others...

On the moguls this weekend judges were asked to rank the air and the trick that a person does as they fly down the hill.
Some of these events seem more like performances than competition. Athletes trying to impress another person rather than just beating a fellow competitor.

3) Exclusivity
My world was rocked on Friday night while watching the Opening Ceremonies. I do not think I realized how truly small the Winter Olympics are. 84 nations are competing. Take a moment and guess how many of the 84 countries have ever won a medal, just won medal, any color. Ready for the answer? Here it is... 46. Meaning 38 countries have never won a medal. That's astounding. I believe 14 countries have one athlete competing. The Summer Olympics had 204 countries competing in the 2008 games.
I understand that a lot of the sports played in the winter games are very exclusive. There are something like 4 luge tracks in North America, and I believe one just closed in Lake Placid. The feel of the Winter Olympics is different. I am not as crazy about that feel. I am still waiting for that moment when someone really unexpected wins a medal. Not someone from Sweden who is okay at their sport, but someone who is truly an outcast in the Winter Games. Maybe another Jamaican Bobsled team? That would be nice.

Alright, here are the good things so far about the Olympics:
1) Nationalism
There is nothing better than rooting for your country, or rooting against another country. Is there anything else I need to say? The best sporting events in the world are based on nationalism: World Cup, Olympics, and The Ryder Cup come to mind. Some things that don't come to mind: Davis Cup and America's Cup.
Within our country professional sports are trying to play off the whole nationalism theme. Red Sox Nation comes to mind. It creates a feeling of belonging and ownership. Nationalism is the best part of the Olympics.

Nothing like having a nation cheer you on...

2) Dick Button
The two-time Figure Skating Gold Medalist (1948 and 1952) is commentating. He is hilarious. Watch him and more importantly, watch his shoes.
3) Timing
It is nice to have something to bridge the gap between the Super Bowl and March Madness. When you boil it down, most of it is exciting.
4) They do things I cannot imagine doing.
I can go to a track and run a mile. I cannot do it that fast but I can do it. I can jump into a pit of sand. I can hit a jump shot with someone guarding me. I can sprint 100 meters. I can flail around in a pool for 100 meters.
However, as friends can attest, I cannot make it down a hill on skiis. I cannot strap on a pair of skates and jump up and not fall on my ass. I can barely cross-country ski, any little hill and my knees are shaking. I have no desire to try snowboarding. These things are foriegn to me. And I am pretty amazed at how good these people are at them. Watching the downhill event on Monday night was shocking. They go SO fast, and seem on the brink of losing control, yet they never do. It is pretty awe-inspiring.

Whoa, Whoa, Whoa.... slow down!

All-in-all, the Winter Olympics are very entertaining. I know I will find myself watching something every night. Learning about some random person I have never heard of before. I will laugh at Dick Button and I will cringe when they play some uber-sappy feature about an athlete. But for every cringe there will be 2-3 moments that make me extremely impressed and inspired. It does not mean my knees still won't shake when I strap on skiis, it will just mean I will know that others can do it, so I might as well give it a try to.

And ultimately, isn't that what sports is about? Inspiring us to try things and driving us to be better than we were the day before. I would say in some way the Winter Olympics manage to do that for me. Even if they aren't always live....


It seems a bit ridiculous for Hockey Team to be running the score up like this doesn't it?
Canada and US Women's teams rout opponesnts...

Apparently John Wall of Kentucky Basketball has created a dance that is sweeping the nation...then check this ESPN feature on it.

Heartbreak kid Lindsey Jacobellis leaves without a medal...

Jim Leyland will have to kick his smoking habit if he wants to manage in Detriot...

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Super Sadness.

This past Sunday watching the Super Bowl made me sad. It was a feeling I have not had as a sports fan in a long time, if ever. Sure I have been mad, frustrated, upset, angry, happy, euphoric, elated, and ecstatic. But I don't think I have ever felt sad.

I remember feeling this...

Where did this sadness come from? After thinking about it I think it came from a place in me that is realizing that last decade is over and a new decade is beginning. A part of me that realized that a place like New Orleans, a place that needed a good story got one. People in Boston do not need good stories anymore, and frankly, we have not had a good story in a while. Now I know that there are people possibly reading this who are thinking, "what an ass. He has all these teams to root for and he is complaining." I am NOT complaining, I am not complaining at all. I am just sad, and here is why:

The city of Boston is on a downturn.
The Celts are old and falling apart. They cannot hold a lead against any decent teams.
The Patriots are getting older and really have not changed much since their run of good fortune. They have been static, change is needed and it does not seem likely.
The Bruins are still only playing hockey...
The Red Sox are in a weird period right now. I have no idea what to expect from them. They could win 83 games and only score 100 runs. Defensively they are outstanding, but it does not seem like they will be true contenders.

I just love this picture..

Last decade was a blessing as a Boston sports fan. This next decade started with me feeling sad, I felt sad because I watched New Orleans and for the first time as a sports fan I longed for what they had. I longed for a parade, I longed for championship game. I longed to root for the underdog. I longed for those things because only recently I had them, and now looking into the future, for the first time in a while, I am not feeling so confident that anything will be coming my way.

Here's hoping I am totally wrong in feeling sad...

Skiing Babe Lindsey Vonn might not compete in Olympics...yikes.

Strong words about Rasheed Wallace and his ineffective play on C's...

Nothing like a good soccer sex scandal inside the English National Team...

Henry handball ref going to World Cup while Ireland watches... Is FIFA just making a point by sending this guy? A sick part of me hopes a big team gets screwed in this tournament so things will actually be re-evaluated...