Sunday, August 31, 2008

Kicking Off

Football is back! Actual football where they keep score and the records count and everything! Shit damn yes fucking Hell Ya!

In this case, its College Football, which is kicking off its season and football season at large this fine weekend. Sweet lord its finally here!

Sadly, College football on opening weekend is about 50% tease, 35% bleech and a meager 15% good. For months we prepare, learning the best teams, best players, best storylines. Who's a Heisman favorite? What program is gonna turn it around? What coaches are on the hotseat? We read blogs and websites and media guides and preseason magazines and watch TV previews and think and scheme and anticipate. And when kickoff weekend finally gets here we are rewarded with....

Oklahoma 57, Chattanooga 2.


Not to sound too much like Greggggggg Easterbrook here, *shudder*, but its a damn shame that so many of these early games consist of Powerhouse U beating the tar out of some Directional school. I understand why this happens, as College Football is all about wins and money, the former leading to the latter. But still, watching # 1 Georgia battle against mighty Georgia Southern or Penn State perform their annual early season mugging, this time at the expense of Coastal Carolina (now with football for 5 whole years!) is kinda deflating. The worst thing about all this is when they do those "Player of the Week" nominee commercials on ESPN and they show some five star recruit at a big school tearing through a defense which wouldn't challenge some High School teams. This is supposed to be impressive?

Happily, its not all bad. There were some legitimate games this weekend, including some conference games in the Pac-10 which were fun to watch. Kudos to Alabama/Clemson, USC/Virginia, Illinois/Missouri, Kentucky/Louisville, UCLA/Tenn and all the other big schools which challenged themselves with non-cupcake games out of conference. In addition, there were non-BCS teams which challenged (and in some cases beat!) BCS schools, including ECU, Bowling Green, Arkansas State and Utah. Congrats to the (sorta) little guys.

The game of the weekend (so far) was either ECU vs. Va Tech or Missouri vs. Illinois. I kinda figured ECU had a shot at the upset but wasn't bold enough to call it. While it certainly qualifies as an upset, to say it was totally surprising would be wrong I think. ECU is a good football team and Va Tech is good but not great. The fighting Zooks gave it a good effort but Missouri was too much to handle.

The biggest dissapointment was Clemson. Good God did Alabama kick the crap out of them. It was 34 to 10, and it wasn't even that close. Clemson came in ranked #9 (exhbit 3284343324 as to why preseason rankings are stupid) and was manhandled in every aspect of the game. Clemson has some good running backs, who were completely shut down by the Tide. Their passing game sucks too much to make up for this, and Alabama ran over them when they were on offense. The most shocking thing was time of possession, which Alabama won 41:13 to 18:47!!!!

Sadly, now everyone will be jerking off Nick Saban and Alabama for a while. I grant that they are a good team. Bad teams do not dominate BCS teams like that. How good are they? I don't know, you don't know, and anyone who says they know is a liar. Some fans will be stupid enough to claim that Alabama is great because they just mugged the #9 team in the land. Of course, #9 teams in the land do not get mugged like that on national television. Maybe Clemson really is a rank worthy team, but damned if they looked like it last night. Alabama probably deserves to be ranked fairly high, but to claim anything based on last weeks polls is ludicrious.

Mark my words, however, this is going to happen. I'm looking at Alabama's schedule and its safe to say they should win their next 3 games. Then they play at current #1 Georgia. By that game they should be 4-0, as should Georgia, and their will be whining all over Tuscaloosa as to why they aren't ranked # 1 or # 2 in the land. Georgia will still be number 1 most likely, though at the rate they are losing starters to injury they may be starting the Yell Leaders on offense by that point in the year. If Bama wins (god forbid) or even plays it close Between the Hedges, they will get more insufferable. A win and they'll probably get to 6-0 before a tough opening stretch.

By that time the noise will be deafening, and there will be plenty of bitching about OSU, USC, Florida, Oklahoma and other schools being ranked ahead of them and denying them their holy birthright of being the the BCS title game. Tide fans will curse the polls, the BCS, McCain, Obama, Putin and the Martians for this horrible injustice. Never mind that the Season is only half over and they have a bear of closing schedule. Never mind that if they really are so good they'll win out, including winning the SEC title game, and go straight to the Big Game. Then, after all this bitching, Bama will spit the bit in at least 2 remaining games, end up in a mid to low level bowl game, and the world will be in order again. If they lose to Georgia but not horribly they will hold that "moral victory" and waive it around all year, like a lamprey stuck on the Great White Shark that is Georgia. As long as Georgia wins they will claim that they are just as good because they almost beat them at Georgia. Maybe this is true (probably not), but it will be the most important loss in history.

I don't mean to pick on Tide fans (maybe a little) but I know how this works. I'll say this now, to all fans of all teams: calm down people. You're team is slighted by West Coast/East Coast/Anti Hick/Pro Redneck bias in the national media? Tough. Get to the end of the year undefeated and we'll talk. Until then, being 5-0 means exactly squat.

In closing, I have a bad feeling about the UCLA/Tennessee game tomorrow. UCLA is down to QB number.... hell I don't even know. Their defense and receivers are decent but their O-line is all new. Not Brand New as in straight out of the showroom, "new" as in I just picked it up at Salvation Army because they were nice enough to take my dad's old suit collection in trade. Good luck Bruins, you'll need it.

The Qualifications Quandary

In light of the recent selection of Gov Palin to be McCain's VP, a lot is being said by both sides about what qualifies someone to be POTUS. For months Obama has been criticised as unready, underexperienced and unqualified. Now McCain has picked a VP, a positions whose only requirement is that the occupant be qualified to be President, and selected a lady who is, at best, as qualified as Obama and probably less so.

Republicans have claimed that Palin's meager experience is more "qualifying" than Obama because she was an executive and he was only in the legislature. Of course, McCain has no executive experience either.

So what really makes someone qualified to be President of the United States?

First there is the obvious constitutional qualifications: A person must be at least 35 and a natural born citizen who has not already served two terms as President, or two terms plus less than half of another President's term. All four candidates meet this requirement, as do my parents, grandparents, Lou Holtz, Don Rickles, Julia Roberts and Michael Jackson.

But these little qualifications aren't really what we are talking about. What makes someone "readly to lead" or qualified to answer that 3 AM phone call?

I think we need to preface this by saying their are two different standards here: qualified to be President, and qualified to be a GOOD President. Many, Many, Many people are qualifed to be President. Its not really that hard. The President does not just sit in a secret room all day pressing buttons which keep the world spinning, knowing that one false move will send us into recession or cause fire to rain from the sky. This is the most managed, advised, scripted and assisted position in the entire world.

The President has advisors coming out of his ears, nose and ass. Legislative advisors, political advisors, policy advisors, the Vice President, the Congress, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, religious advisors, his old college roommate who he once made out with while drunk but then they never talked about it because they are so not gay and they were totally wasted, brah. If the President wants something done, he doesn't just do it. He calls in a team of advisors, they advise, and he selects from a handful of relevent options. If he wants a law passed, his adivsors meet with the leaders of the House and Senate to prepare a bill. It goes through legislative limbo for months, and eventually it (maybe) comes back to his desk where he signs or vetos it.

I know we are "at war" or whatever, but rarely does the President manage the day to day affairs of any conflict. He tells the Generals to kick some ass and they do it. The mythical 3 AM phone calls which the President has to know how to handle or the world may end and puppies will die? Bullshit. You wake him (or her) up, he comes down to the war room in his PJs, and the Joint Chiefs tell him what's up and give him a few options which have already been thought out by a hundred strategists and analysts, he picks one, gets a glass of water and goes back to bed. Similarly, if he's negotiating with another nation he doesn't just waltz in like he's browsing for new blouses at a Macy's sale. Every detail, every handshake, every flashbulb is pre-arranged by a legion of underlings, and all the real negotion takes place by diplomats in seperate sessions.

The rest of his job is all soft stuff, photo ops with girl scouts and guys who raised 50 grand for cancer research by juggling flaming chainsaws with one hand. Smoozing with political donors and taking vacations. Throw in a few State of the Union Addresses and you've got yourself an Administration.

Obama can do this job. So can McCain, Biden, Palin, and your great aunt Jenny. Hell, W has done this job for 8 years! He's not the learning impaired chimp we all want to make him out to be, but he's not exactly the brightest blouse in the Macy's sale. Being President is not that hard.

Being a GOOD president is. Actually, no, being a Good President isn't that hard either, but does take more than just being President.

The difference between a President and a Good President is that a Good President can pick good people to be his advisors and to represent him. He can filter through all the bad information being thrown at him and select the best policy possible. He is curious, not afraid to change his mind or consider new facts, and not overly dependent on yes men or party loyalists. A good president may appoint someone loyal to him to represent him, but only if that person is also qualified for the job.

To me, this is what kills W as a President. His whole Administration is full of Yes men, extreme partisans, and manipulators which he is either too dumb or too narrow minded not to be swayed by. When he and his crew decided "Baghdad or Bust" it was their way or the highway, and no amount of sound counsel was going to derail that trainwreck. Dissenters are dimissed or ignored, no matter how good their advice or their qualifications. Changing your mind is an unforgiveable weakness to this Administration, no matter how wrong you continue to be. And don't you dare think ten, five or even three steps down the road to the implications of your chosen policy or even hint at suggesting that something could possibly not got as planned. Everything is going to go exactly as we think it is, despite the fact that any sane person knows this is almost impossible. Thank God we had JFK and not W calling the shots during the Cuban Missile Crisis.

Looking back, its amazing how much tunnel vision and dedication to cause was needed by W and his crew in order to pull off the flaming disaster which is the Iraq War. I'm cynical enough to expect politicians to lie, cheat and steal. I'm even cynical enough to basically expect them to screw up a lot and not really do anything worthwhile. But damn was this one bad fuckup, and it shows the difference between someone qualified to be President and someone qualified to be a Good President. With a GP this doesn't happen.

Similarly, W has appointed a rogues gallery of idiots, partisans, meatheads to represent him in important positions based not on their actual qualifications but on their loyalty to him and the agenda at hand. Granted, all Presidents do this to some extent, as the diplomatic corp is full of Ambassadors whose biggest qualifications is the check they wrote during the campaign season. But in some positions it actually matters if the person is able to do the job. Brownie is the biggest example of this. He was utterly unqualified to be the Head of FEMA and whats worse is that he apparently never even tried to learn his job. This is unacceptable, and the mark of a bad president.

I think all four of the candidates are better than W (not exactly the highest hurdle), and I think all four have the qualifications and character to be good presidents. All are smart, tough and genuinely care about this nation. I think all would appoint good people to advise and represent them. And I think they are all open minded enough to see alternatives and not dismiss advice that contradicts their chosen dogma. If McCain, Obama, Biden or Palin had been President instead of Bush I don't think there is an Iraq war. Sure there would have been a push for it, but I think they would have been smart enough to avoid all the bad thinking which went in it. Only time will tell, but I think its time we put this whole "ready to lead" thing to bed.

It needs its rest for when the hotline rings at 3 AM.

The Palin Pick

We're gonna get political here. Those with sensibilities should go re-read my Olympics posts or maybe the Hamburger throwdown.

John McCain threw a big curveball into the campaign with his selection of Sarah Palin as his VP running mate. Obviously its gotten a lot of media attention, which is just what he needed after Barack and Co brought the house down in Denver. Thing about curveballs is that they can work both ways. A good breaking pitch can freeze a hitter, buckle his knees, change his eye level and generally shift the advantage to the pitcher. A bad one, however, can hang up as the fattest possible hitters pitch and be promptly deposited in the bleachers. What kind of curveball McCain has thrown is yet to be seen.

First, the woman herself. Sarah Palin seems like a fine All-American lady. She's governor of a state, albeit one with less people than 16 American cities, and one where oil revenues keep things pretty simple budget wise. Still, she's obviously liked by the People of Alaska, which is a good endorsement. What remains to be seen is just how the media vetting process will play out. If Palin comes off as the charming "Hockey Mom", which the McCain campaign is no doubt hoping she will, it can help the ticket. If, on the other hand, she comes off as a woman out of her league in National politics or if her ultra conservative ideology is put front and center, then it may spell the end for McCain 08.

There's been a lot of talk about "qualifications" to be President in this election. This is nothing new in politics, but in the last 72 hours things have really hit a frenzy. For months Republicans have claimed that Barack Obama was "unqualified" or "unready" to be President based on his experience. In addition, Obama's VP vetting was also subject to scrutiny based on the "qualifications" of certain candidates. Karl Rove said on tv that Tim Kaine would be unqualified to be President because he had "only" 3 years experience as a state governor.

In light of all this, it seems suprising that the McCain campaign would nominate a VP candiate who has less experience than Obama, Kaine or any other Presidential or Vice Presidential candidate in memory. Wait, not suprising. I meant perfectly apt, since this is the kind of bullshit I've come to expect from the Republican Party. It's almost comical how often they switch positions on different issues. In 2000 Al Gore's experience was bad while W's inexperience was a blessing. Now its experience which is to be treasured and inexperience which should be condemmed. Unless of course your VP has no experience, in which case you're just pulling shit out of your ass. Granted, this new experience fetish may be the result of a disaterous Presidency at the hands of W, but I doubt it considering how much they love that guy despite his incompetance.

John Kerry was a war hero, and as such deserved horrible lies to be told about his service because he hates America. Now that the Republicans have a war hero on their ticket, woe to he who would even think of not genuflecting before his visage. Kerry was a waffling flip flopper because he dared to change his mind when new facts came to light. When Bush, McCain or any Republican changes their positions, they are showing bold leadership. And on and on and on and on and on.

Of course, when the Obama campaign, rightly, pointed out this contradiction on the importance of experience, the Right was oh so quick to accuse THEM of being the real hypocrites. Let me lay it out for you with a poorly done mathematical proof:

X= amount of experience necessary to be qualified to be President
Y= Obama's experience
Z= Palin's experience

John McCain says for months that X>Y. Obama no qualified.
John McCain picks a VP with experience Z.
This means that he believes Z>=X.
Its clear that Y>=Z.
So Y>=Z, Z>=X, Y<X.
Obama points out that this is mathematically impossible
Republicans throw a shitfit and claim that Obama is using elitist "math" skills which the common American cannot relate to.
Also, the word for Algebra comes from the Middle East, so its clear that Obama is a secret muslim Mathlete who hates America.
The Universe Implodes. QED.

It's simple people: if Palin is qualifed (and she may well be), then so is Obama. If you attack Obama and call him unqualified, then McCain has just selected a VP who is not qualified. One way or the other, something has to give.

The sad thing about this is that I like McCain and Palin. I don't agree with all their policies, but I like them as people and respect their accomplishments. But they're part of the Machine now, and as such I have to root against them on principle. Back as a sophomore in high school, when the rest of my classmates were interested in normal stuff like girls and getting high, I was an avid supporter of Senator McCain's first run for President. This dirty campaign run by W in the Primary, for which he was rewarded by the Republicans with their nomination, was my first big realization that the Republican Party was a den of vipers. Make no mistake, I have no great love for the Democratic Party, but from that campaign in 2000 forward nothing has emerged to shake my belief that the Republican party is a ruthless, power hungry, incompetent, hypocritical gang of liars, assholes and thieves.

They've messed up my country, they've poisoned a man I once admired greatly, and now they're poised to do the same with Governor Palin.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Barackin the House

Barack Obama rocked the house last night. A big goddamn house at that: Invesco field, home of the NFL's Denver Broncos. The place was packed with what looked like 80-90 thousand cheering people. There was oceans of confetti, fireworks, an awesome stage, a full muscial lineup featuring Stevie Wonder and Cheryl Crow, and apparently even a wedding proposal prior to his speech. The whole scene was a bit surreal but a lot of fun to watch.

It wasn't the greatest speech ever given or even Barack's best speech ever, but it was damn good, especially at the end when he forcefully took on Republican attacks against him and sent the message that he's not going down quietly like Kerry, Gore and so many Democratic candidates in the past. Its going to be an interesting campaign, as I think McCain and Obama genuinely like and respect each other but they're gonna be at each other's throats for the next 2 months. We'll see what happens.

Happy Birthday John McCain!

Happy Birthday to the Senator from Arizona. He's 72 today, and what birthday gift does ever 72 year old American want? A vice-presidential running mate!

Senator McCain will apparently be announcing his VP pick today on his birthday. Personally I would have gone with a Wii, or maybe a trip to Six Flags, but to each his own. Have a happy birthday Senator.

FYI: today is also Michael Jackson's birthday. His 50th birthday. Blows my mind.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The Charger Dress Rehearsal

The Bolts were back in business last night, downing the Seahawks 18-17 in the 3rd preseason game. This is generally considered the "important" preseason game, as the starters for both teams play about 3 quarters of the game. Some thoughts:

The O-line is looking pretty good. Sproles ran all over the Hawks, which is saying something because he needs a good hole to run through in order to make big gains. Rivers was not sacked once and had plenty of time to throw, which he usually took advantage of.

Speaking of Sproles, I can only hope he continues his high level of play during the season. He's been great running, catching, and he even layed out a blitzing backer yesterday with a great block. Go little man!

Rivers is back from knee surgery 100%, and he's still a big goofy hick. Dude has chicken legs, a funky throwing motion, and does a little hop step after releasing the ball. He threw a few balls which he shouldn't have, but overall he was good. His numbers were ok, but his mobility in the pocket was what really impressed me. With Gates, LT, and the full O-line this could be a great year for him.

Thank God for Tony Kornheiser's hernia, which kept him out of the booth last night.

Please, god, send him another in 4 weeks, so he won't be back for the Jets at Chargers on MNF. Brett Farve+ESPN+TK = shoot me.

All the recievers were looking good, especially Jackson. But VJ, you gotta score on a deep ball like that!

Speaking of scoring, Hester has to get better at the goal line plunge. It would seem to be his specialty, and maybe he was having a bad night, but he's gotta be more productive when they take out Sproles and hand it to him. On the same thought: Norv, stop with the overload on the goal line. Spread them out and those short runs get a lot easier.

Statistically Volek had a night to forget, but he did take care of business in the end. He blew a wide open Chandler with a terrible overthrow, and then came back and threw the prettiest fade route imaginable to Floyd on the 2 pt conversion.

Special teams looked solid as always, and I think its clear that Mark Jones has only a few days left with the Chargers.

Defense... I got a question... HOW YA'LL FEEL?!?!!?

Whats that? You feel like tackling is for chumps? And that run defense is overrated. And that third string QBS without their top 2 recievers should be able to hang 200 yards on you in just 3 series? Interesting.

The Defense has to play better and tackle better, and they know it. Weddle did his best Marlon McCree imitation yesterday on that long pass where he failed to wrap up properly. Tackling was terrible for most of the game, and it has to get better or Carolina is gonna come to the Q and run it down their throats. Larry Johson, the Raiders, the Broncos, all these teams are run first, so we better be able to stop it.

Coverage was pretty good, and Jammer looked especially strong all around. Only two turnovers, and both came late. Of course, all this defensive criticism comes with a few huge caveats.

First, the defense was plain vanilla all night, with few blitzes and little variety. Second, Jamal Williams wisely sat out. Finally, Merriman was not playing either.

On the Merriman situation, I'm not sure what to say. I'm a Charger fan and a Shawne Merriman fan, so I'd like to have my cake and eat it too, but I doubt its going to happen. I believe that Shawne wants to play with every fiber of his being, but I would also understand if he took the safe route and shut it down right now in favor of full blown surgery. A big injury could cost him $20-60 million dollars when it comes time for his big payday contract in two years. That't nothing to sneeze at, especially when that may be the last contract he ever signs. At the same time I feel the Chargers have a two year window to win the Super Bowl, and losing Shawne for 1 of those two years would be a huge blow.

I heard something about a middle ground, where Shawne could get a minor surgery but would be able to play later in this season. If this is possible thats what I vote for. We can manage without Shawne for 4-8 weeks, and then add him back at closer to full strength for a stretch and playoff run. This really would be having the cake and eating it, and I hope its possible and becomes a reality.

Just one more preseason game before the season starts. Time to start planning for Carolina.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Grey Dawn in the Land of the Dragon

This whole Olympic thing has been mostly fun. Some great drama, some stupid drama, a lot of medals and happy stories and fake little girls lip synching. China certainly looked good, a modern nation on the cusp of being a superpower. Last night, I even asked a chinese national friend of mine if, upon his return to China, he planned to become a party member, to which he answered in the affirmative. It wasn't a political question, I was just curious, and overall I'd say that these Olympics have made me soften my views on China and its future.

Then I saw this. The Chinese Government has sentenced two 70 year old women to a year of "re-education by labor" for having the audacity to apply for a lawful protest permit. Let me explain: Chinese authorities, anticipating protests and such as part of the Olympics, decided to head things off before they could get out of hand and declared that protesting could be legal if the protesters applied for a proper permit and limited their activities to designated areas. So that's what these evil old ladies did, they lawfully applied for a permit. They didn't protest at all, permit or no, they merely applied, and in response to this application they have be sentenced, without trial, to a year of hard labor. Which I think we all agree makes perfect sense.

What, exactly, were these old ladies intending to protest? The brutal occupation of Tibet? The Chinese dealings with the genocide in Darfur? The elimination of MSG from the nations takeout menus? Nothing so tame and mild. These aged anarchists were seeking proper compensation for the confiscation and destruction of their homes, which apparently happened as part of the 40 billion dollar construction project China undertook in order to host the Olympics. These ladies have apparently tried for 6 years with no luck to have their complaints answered, and they decided things were so desperate that they were attempting to protest their treatment.

Think about that. How many protests in history have ever actually worked, especially in authoritarian nations like China? How many protests of 2 old ladies have ever accomplished anything? But these two old ladies were so desperate they decided their only hope was to stand around and hold signs or something. And the authorities apparently decided that was too fucking dangerous, and so they're shipping these old broads off to break rocks or sew wallets or whatever they do to "re-educate" such demon spawn. Good luck, China, these gals look really fucking dangerous.

Fuck you, Chinese Government.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008


My humble blog just got what I think is our fist international hit, with a visitor all the way from Athens, Greece by way of Google. On behalf of my countryman, welcome to America('s Internet)! Ouzo all around to celebrate. OPA!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Phelps in Perspective

Michael Phelps has finished his monumental task: 8 events, 17 races, 8 gold medals. Plus a bunch of World Records to boot. I doubt anyone would have predicted it, but our media, especially our sports media, has gone a bit off the deep end in their description of Phelps and his accomplishment. I know, I know, the sports media is generally soooooo calm and rational about their judgements, so why is this any different? Ok, I now admit its really hard to type in sarcasm.

Jemele Hill of is not my favorite writer (or anyone else's), and her latest piece isn't helping. Her slobber job over the 8 golds is an affront to sports, logic, and the English language. Any lawyer who used this kind of logic in a legal brief would be disbarred on the spot. She flat out dismisses the accomplishments of MJ, Gretzky, Lance, Tiger, Carl Lewis, Jim Thorpe, Emmitt Smith, Tom Brady, and pretty much every other athlete who ever lived or will ever live in favor as inferior to what Phelps has done. I don't even mind her opinion, but the reasoning employed is just asinine. MJ is inferior because he never "pushed his body to the limit"? Gretsky's 20 million points suck because he played for 20 years? Earth to Jamele: that's still a million points a year!

She's been the worst in terms of reaction, but lots of others have chimed in calling this the greatest athletic accomplishment ever or even going so far as to call Phelps the greatest Athlete ever. The former has merit as a debatable point, the latter is just bonkers.

Without trying to take anything away from Phelps, I think we would do well to temper the hyperbole just a tad. Consider a few things:

1) Mark Spitz, the previous "most medal winning guy" in swimming, was 7 for 7 with 7 world records in 1972, and that's only because he wasn't afforded the opportunity to win an 8th. So its a little wrong to say that Phelps totally surpasses Spitz. Both maxed out the available opportunities. Who knows, maybe in 20 years the IOC will allow swimmers to swim more than 8 races, and then someone will probably surpass Phelps's total of 8. Plus Spitz did it while sporting a totally pimping mustache. Think about that: swimming is a sport where the competitors shave everything, including their freaking eyebrows sometimes, in order to reduce drag in the water, and Spitz bitch slapped all comers with a freaking pushbroom on his upper lip.

2) 3 of the 8 Golds were won as part of a relay team, and the fact that Phelps is American had as much to do with his winning those as anything. In 2 of the 3 races, the US had never lost in the Olympics. Never. Not once. Ever. Think about that, let it sink in. In the other event, the US had won all but 2 Gold Medals, and it was by the combined efforts of all four Americans, including the fastest 100 meter split in swimming history (46 seconds!) that they were able to secure that gold. Not to mention the fact that the "B" team swam the qualifying heats, saving the starters for the finals. All I'm saying is that, if everything about Phelps were the same but he happened to be Canadian, than he'd probably win those 5 individual golds and hope for another medal or two in relays. Nothing would change about Phelps or his performance, but he would have won "only" 5 golds instead of 8. Plus he'd be a dirty Canuck.

3) Phelps had basically two times as many medal opportunities as a similar track and field athlete might have had. Let me explain: Phelps is not quite a sprinter in the pool, as he did not swim either the 50 or 100 freestyle. He's not a long haul guy, as he swam over 200 meters only once. In track terms, I'd compare him to Michael Johnson, who in 1996 won the 200, 400 and 4X400 gold medals, all while setting records. The comparison is pretty close I think. The difference is that guys like Johnson have only one way to medal at any given distance: run fast. Really, really fast. By contrast, swimmers can medal multiple times for the same distance. Phelps medaled three times at 200 meters individually, and again as part of a relay. He medaled at 100 meters individually and twice as part of a relay. The point is that there's simply more chances to medal for an outstanding swimmer than there is for an outstanding track and field athlete, and certainly more than an athlete in any other Summer Sport.

So please, celebrate Michael Phelps. He's done a great thing, something for the ages. He's a shoo-in for AP Male Athlete of the Year and SI Sportsman of the year, and rightfully so. Eons from now, when aliens are digging through our ruins, I hope they find plenty of Wheaties boxes with his visage on the front, which will prove to them just how awesome humans were (especially Americans!). But praise him responsibly, and resist the urge to tear down other great athletes while doing so.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Stick it!

Take that you Chinese Cheaters! Our home grown American girls just took Gold and Silver in the Women's all around. What's that? The gold medalist was born in Moscow? Lies I say! Dirty Commie Lies!

Congrats to our gold Medalist, Nastia Luikin. For a lot of the competition last night she looked seriously pissed off. I'm not sure if she thought she was getting jobbed by the judges (she was) or if that's just her game face, but as soon as that gold medal was slipped around her neck there was nothing but smiles and a few tears. Nastia was great all around, but her beam routine was freaking phenomenal. She becomes only the third American to take the all around gold Medal. Check out her spine, apparently made out of a Slinky.

Congrats are also due to our silver medalist, Shawn Johnson. She may have a name like a boy, but that's only because she can kick the ass of any guy who gives her shit. Shawn was great as well, especially her floor routine. She was the last to finish on floor, and she needed to score a 15.4 on floor to secure the silver, which is no small task. She nailed it, and Wheaties boxes across America are gonna be awfully crowded for the next few months with both her and Nastia smiling on the front.

Finally, just so I don't seem like a total jingoist, I wanna congratulate the Men's all around Gold Medalist, Yang Wei. Watching both the Men's team and the individual all around, its clear he's the best male gymnast in the world. I only wish Paul Hamm had been there to be part of it, but given Wei's performance I doubt it would have made a difference.

A note to NBC: you FAIL! Given the 12 hour time difference between New York and China, I understand that we east coasters had to wait till 1 AM to see this thing wrap up. But then I heard that the West Coast had to wait till 1 AM also for video, at which point the results were known for 3 hours and I doubt if anyone stayed up to watch. Who exactly is making the programing decisions over there? You spend billions to broadcast these games, and then you screw up the coverage so royally it boggles the mind. You lose big points for execution and will be left off the medal stand. Maybe you can redeem yourself in four years after a long road back full of adversity. But I doubt it.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Chinese Pixies and Shiny Things

There's been an increased rumbling in the sports press about the fact that the Chinese "women's" gymnastics team seems to be a tad under the mandatory age Olympic gymnastics age limit of 16. By seems, I mean is. In fact, one of the girls was reported by the Chinese press just 6 months ago to have been only 13. I know the Chinese culture is full of ancient knowledge and magic, but unless they have crazy potions made from turtle spleen and yak antler which will age a girl 3 years in 3 months, I'm calling bullhocky, which I believe is a Chinese delicacy made from parts of a cow you don't wanna know about. The point is, its clearly impossible for this girl to be 16.

First, a note. Personally, I don't think there ought to be any age limit for Olympic competition, either minimum or maximum. If you're the best in the world at something you deserve a shot to prove it fairly, no matter your age. That's supposed to be the point of these games (at least in theory), to let competition win out.

But rules are rules, and clearly the Chinese have broken some. So what's gonna happen?


You might think the proper thing is for the IOC to enforce the rules as specified and DQ the Chinese women's team. Sure, that's the "right" thing to do, but it aint gonna happen. Anyone who thinks it will happen is under the delusion that this is a sporting event. It's not. This is a coronation, a coming out party for the Chinese people and the Chinese Communist Party. Hell, they went all the way to the Politburo to decide that the little girl who was to sing at the opening ceremony wasn't cute enough to represent the nation on NBC. Try to take this medal from them and there will be hell to pay.

This medal is their shiny prize, the thing they can hold up to their nation and say "Look at us! Our people were able to do this! We're as good as those other snooty nations, we beat them at their own game! All those homes we bulldozed to build these venues, all the protesters we squashed, all the things we've done and continue to do, it was all for THIS!"

Not that there's a big chance the IOC would dare enforce its own rules. This is an organization which has long been accused of being corrupt and ineffectual, often for good reason. You expect them to take away the coveted grand prize from a nation which has moved heaven and earth (a lot of damn earth, to be truthful) in order to roll out the red carpet for the Olympics?

So let's drop it and move on. In a month no one will care, and in a year no one will even remember. Let's just enjoy the rest of the games (go Kobe!) and get back to the real important stuff: Football!!! Cause there's never any cheating in that noblest of sports.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Tweaking the Classics

As I mentioned previously, the Olympics are here again. For a few weeks every four years we get an orgy of sport and pseudo sports. Some, like basketball and soccer, are common and familiar. Some, like swimming and track and field, are common sports but not much covered outside of Olympic years. And a lot are uncommon and largely unacknowledged by the masses, at least beyond the level of temporary curiosity. A lot of Olympic "sports" are outdated or just pointless in my opinion, but never fear, I'm hear to jazz things up! Olympic Makeover!

I'm going to examine a handful of (ahem) "sports" for which a person may win a coveted gold medal. Then I'm going to mock them, and suggest how they might be made better. Let's begin.

1) Air Rifle. This is a sport in the Olympics. Think about that. Its a freaking BB gun, and they get medals for it. I guess that Ralphie didn't just want a Red Ryder BB gun to shoot stuff, but because he was an aspiring Olympian. I used to play with pellet guns and airsoft rifles in the backyard, and there's nothing athletic about it. If you want a medal for shooting something, that thing better be able to kill someone at 50 yards.

My suggestion: Blowguns. Works for native tribes all over the world, and unlike a BB gun that stuff will kill you good. Of course, since this is a sport where the poor nations of the world actually have an advantage, don't count on it being added to the program any time soon.

2) Racewalking. This is just plain stupid. For those unfamiliar, racewalking is where they have a race but everyone has to walk or be DQed. Its been in the Olympic program since 1906. This makes no sense to me. The purpose of the Olympics, and athletics in general, has always been to increase physical prowess, and there has always been a military undertone to the whole affair. Soldiers need to be strong and fast in order to make it in war. If you walk while the rest of your platoon is running, then congratulations: you get to go home early! In a box.

Apparently lots of people "love" this "sport", so it gets to stay. Of course, most people who consider walking a strenuous activity are the seniors who go to the mall early in the morning before all the stores open and then have a Cinnabun for breakfast. So maybe walking should have an age limit on it to regain its legitimacy. No one under 55 is allowed to compete. Of course China seems to think that 11 is the new 16, so no doubt the Chinese would sneak in a few 30 year olds whose passports "prove" their real age.

Suggestion: Pogo stick races. If we're gonna have goofy sports, let's at least make it fun.

3) Modern Pentathlon. Speaking of Military origins, this is a event designed to create the perfect soldier. In 1892. There are five mini events in this sport: pistol shooting, fencing, running, show jumping, and swimming. It was created as a test of all the skills a good Cavalry officer needed at the time, though they left out the part where the competitors must grow an awesome mustache (check the photos, old timey soldiers were rocking the facial hair). That's all well and good, but war has changed a lot since then, and I think we need to put the "modern" back in modern pentathlon.

Suggestion: Update the events to be relevant to today's soldier. M16 target practice (substitute AK-47 as appropriate to your nation). Grenade toss. Running, but in full battle gear with pack. Driving a jeep over an obstacle course. And finally, keep the swimming, but you have to keep your weapon dry. I'm debating whether barbed wire should be included in the course.

Here's hoping a few of these modest suggestions catch on. Who knows, maybe at the 2056 game in Khazakstan, we'll all be glued to our televisions as a robotic Bob Costas tells us about a young athlete's heroic struggle against adversity which culminated in a pogo stick Gold. And then we'll go back to bemoaning USA basketball, still searching for its first gold medal since 2000.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The Thrill of Puberty, The Agony of NBC

The Summer Olympics are here, meaning its time for my once in four years obsession with swimming and gymnastics. I'm not alone in this fleeting interest in these sports. Along with this once in two blue moons interest in the Olympics comes a lot of thoughts about the games, especially this year, given the (ahem) controversial nature of the Games being hosted by China. I'm struggling to come up with a coherent or consistent opinion about the games, so I thought I'd just write down some of my thoughts and see if they can make a thought collage:

  • Cheers to NBC for showing a lot of events live here on the East Coast.

  • Double Jeers to NBC for tape delaying those same events on the West Coast, despite the fact that its primetime or almost primetime there when they are being broadcast here in the East. I heard that the Men's 4X100 Freestyle Relay was not only tape delayed on the WC, but it didn't air till around 1130 PM. For shame NBC, that's weak.

  • I understand why Phelps is the big story of the games: he's young, American and an ass kicking machine. The whole Phelps angle of the coverage has been pushed to the limit of tolerance, as I expected it would, and yet I almost think it could have gone further, and I'm thankful that it hasn't yet.

  • Phelps just won career gold medal number 10, making him the gold medalingst athlete in Olympic history. This is great, a fantastic accomplishment. But I can't help but feel that different sports ought to grade on a curve. As a swimmer, Phelps has a ton of opportunities for gold, given the 4 strokes plus the relays and medleys. Imagine if Carl Lewis, who has nine gold medals in track and field, were given twice as many opportunities to medal based on different ways of running. I'm betting he would have taken more than just 9 medals.

  • As I mentioned in an earlier post, I don't think that any event requiring "judges" to determine the outcome should qualify as a pure sport. Worst of all of these is diving, especially "synchronized" diving. What a bullshit event.

  • Men's gymnastics leaves me inspired, women's gymnastics leaves me kinda creeped out. Both are exciting to watch, but I think that women's has a lot of issues which detract from the enjoyment. The big thing of course is the borderline abuse that these girls (and most of them are just girls, especially the "16" year olds China is trotting out) go through in order to make it this far. Granted, I'm sure they all enjoy what they do a lot, or at least they are good at faking it. But still, its creepy. Girls in China and other nations are taken from their families at a young age to go into gymnastics training, and that's what they do with their lives. And these are the ones who make it this far. For every one you see, there are probably 100 who were chewed up and spit out by the national olympic medal machine. It's all so they can perform for mere moments at the Olympics in the hope of winning fleeting glory. And the glory isn't really even for them, its for their Country, and what really does it mean? A few highly trained athletes from your nation beat a few other highly trained athletes from other nations in a weird pseudo-sport. Granted we in American do pretty much the exact same thing, though with less overt state support.

  • Ok, so men's gymnastics probably has the same stuff going on, right? Well that's true, but now its my turn to be sexist. Male gymnasts get to go through puberty. In fact, they better, or they'll never have the muscle needed to make it. The women, on the other hand, often make "sacrifices" that go beyond getting up at 5 AM to hit the gym. No, not all female gymasts are worse for the experience. I know a few who loved it very much and I'd be happy to have a daughter of mine pursue gymnastics at a less than super intense level. But when it gets to this Olympic level of intensity, things can go too far. Frankly, it seems to me that if your chosen athletic activity may alter your very body chemistry in an unnatural way, then maybe we're missing the purpose of physical fitness.

  • Another problem I have with Women's Gymnastics is the sexist overtones. This is supposed to be sport. Gymnastics was designed to train the body and as a display of physical skill. When the men do it, its all about the sport, when the women do it they have to be athletic and feminine at the same time. They wear shiny outfits with sequins. The are expected to dance and have music in their floor routine. Their beam routines have all these little bits of flair which are required but have nothing to do with athleticism. Jesus, they're doing back flips on the beam! Its like the hardest thing in the world, do they really have to look girly while they do it?

  • One of the gymnastics announcers says a lot of stupid things. Whoever he is, he's the second male on the broadcast who clearly knows a lot about gymnastics but squat about being a good announcer. Yesterday during the men's broadcast, the Chinese team faltered a few times. After each of these mess ups they other Chinese gymnasts performed well. So the guy kept saying something like "That's better than if they had all performed perfectly". Um, no. This is a sport where points count. If 2 people do well and 1 messes up, then they are worse off than if all 3 had done well.

  • Kobe and Lebron better bring home gold. I mean it, if not a medal than they better break into the Forbidden City and steal some gold stuff.

  • Natalie Coughlin is my favorite swimmer and probably my favorite Olympic athlete. She's cute, bubbly, a CA girl and she loves to EAT! I know all swimmers eat alot (Phelps consumes something like 8000 calories a day to keep his energy up), but this girl is a real foodie who loves to cook. Also she hasn't posed nude in some lame magazine like FHM, as so many other female Olympians have. She's a classy girl who's saving that for Playboy. Plus she doesn't support PETA like Amanda Beard. Natalie already has a gold medal in the zig zag backstroke, and hopefully she'll grab a few more before she's done.

That's all I got for now, maybe more Olympic thoughts later. Go get um, strange people from the same country I was born in! Boo to strange people from countries I was not born in!

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Pow! Kitz! Zorp!

Ah, superheroes. They've given us so much. So many nerd fantasies, fufilled in ink and imagination. Scores of bad movies (and a few good), cartoon series, and the campiest English speaking TV show in history. NANANANANANANANA BATMAN!!!!

The Metropolitan Museum of Art is having a special exhibition entitled "Superheroes: Fashion and Fantasy". I love going down to the Met (its free!), so I took a walk through Central Park on a beautiful day to check it out.

The exhibit was a combo of good and bad. At the beginning is a row of classic comics, featuring the origin comics for superheros including Batman, Spiderman, the Hulk and the Punisher. The crown jewel of the Collection is the issue of Action Comics No. 1 from 1938, which features the first appearance of Superman and is regarded as one of the great collectibles, not just for comic lovers but in the world of pop culture memorabilia.

Its clear that the Met decided simply showing comic book art and memorabilia was beneath them and their standards, so they had to "art" things up a bit. To do this, they included some crazy fashion designs were were apparently "inspired" by comics. Basically they have a series of "themed" displays which each feature an authentic superhero outfit from the movies or TV, surrounded by 4-6 crazy fashion designs which have no practical, aesthetic or artistic value.

For example, one area had "The Armored Body". The centerpiece was the actual Iron Man suit from the recent movie, which was cool. Surround it was a bunch of eccentric "fashion" featuring half suits of armor and frills and god knows what else. Fashion is not my department, and certainly not "high" fashion which is often so weird and impractical. I couldn't help but laugh at the thought of a rail thin supermodel walking down the runway in Milan in a bogus suit of half armor.

The authentic outfits in the exhibit were Iron Man, Michelle Pfieffer's Catwoman suit, Christian Bale's Batman Suit, Chris Reeves's Superman get up, Toby McGuire's Spiderman suit, Lynda Carter's Wonder Woman get up, and the Mystique outfit from X-Men. These, plus the comics, are worth going to see. The rest ranges from silly to ridiculous, but I realize that the curators were probably horrified at the idea of just having authentic, interesting comic book props there and I'm sure they felt alot better with the real "art" there to compensate.

Another, better exhibit at the Met has items crafted from "hardstones" and collected from the Palaces of Europe. Go see it. It blew my mind how awesome some of that stuff is. Its good to be the king.

Burning dem Boys!

Last night my beloved Chargers played the Cowboys in the preseason opener, coming away with a 31-17 victory. Sweet, we covered the spread! Granted the victory means bupkis, but still its always nice to end up on top on the scoreboard. And yes, I did stay up till 1 AM ET to watch the whole thing. Don't judge me, this is my team, and I so rarely get to see them play. You probably have some sick fetishes of your own. Some observations from the game:

Jacob Hester was the star of the night, and he looked good running the ball and blocking. A couple really good runs, a couple TDs, and at least one play where he trucked a linebacker who had him lined up for a tackle. All in all a nice debut. LT was right when he said that it doesn't matter how slow, small or white he is, Hester is a player. He's a wise man, that LT.

Marcus Thomas, the Bolts 5th round pick, had a decent night as well. Its hard to judge too much because he played the 4th quarter, where it was 2nd and 3rd string against 2nd and 3rd string, and the offense wasn't that hard to figure out at that point: dive up the middle, dive up the middle, pass attempt, repeat. But I liked the fact that he was always moving forward. If he ran straight into a pile, he pushed it forward. If there was a little crease, he dove forward for a few extra yards. If you went to tackle him high, forget about it. Either tackle him low or you better bring some friends to help you out.

I have nothing against #82 Mark Jones, brought in as a free agent to return punts, but we need to cut him at the end of camp. All he does is return punts, and we already have Sproles and Cro to do that and they are higher on the depth chart at the returner position. Sorry Jones, but roster spots are too precious to give you one. I'm sure another team will be glad to have you.

Rivers looked OK, not great but not bad. You have to consider of course that he was lacking his pro bowl RB, Pro Bowl TE, Pro Bowl Left tackle, and his favorite outside target in Vincent Jackson. His knee is obviously fine, and his goofy throwing motion is just as goofy as ever.

We relied a lot on PI penalties on deep passes. Granted they were legit, and had they not happened the Chargers may have completed the passes anyway, but I never like having to rely on the zebras to make the right call.

Antoine Cason had a decent game for a rookie. The Cowboys were picking on him a little bit but he never backed down and made some plays. One thing I didn't like was a swing pass where he had the first shot at the runner but was flatfooted and wiffed on the tackle, the result being a big play. Needs Improvement, Antoine.

Anthony Waters was beastly at times. One play he filled hard against the run, pursued the running back who was heading the opposite direction, and made the tackle from the backside. He looked like he was full step faster than everyone else.

Sproles is as fun to watch as ever. My favorite moment of the night was when they ran my favorite Charger play, the play action misdirection back to an RB screen. My biggest joy as a Charger fan is seeing this play develop, seeing for a split second that the running back, usually LT, is in position with two lineman clearing the way in front of him. This time it was Sproles who was getting the pass, and Sproles in the open field is a thing of beauty, as he zipped by defenders for a huge gain which set up a TD.

The Chargers Kickoff Coverage unit is going to kill someone. In the NFL Preseason most guys on kickoff coverage are trying to secure their roster spots, so they go balls out trying to make a big hit on special teams. The Chargers are no exception, and they were flying around full speed going for the big hit. One kickoff was especially cool, where someone, I think Brandon Siler, leaped full speed onto the ball carrier, who was already being tackled by a teammate. Its total reckless abandon from those guys, and its awesome.

Nate the Great looked like it. He had only one attempt but he hit a 53 yarder without breaking a sweat. Looked like it would have been good from 60. Clearly his leg is healed and his leg is stronger than ever.

Sadly, no sign of Jessica Simpson or Double J. Maybe they were hitting the town together behind My Boy Romo's back. Scandal!

That's all for now, next game is Saturday at St. Louis, 8PM et. Go Bolts!

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Da Da Da Daaaaaa!!!! Da Da Da Da Daaaaaaa!!!!


Well, not really. Its preseason football, which is basically like watching 1/4 of a real football game, except that no one cares about anything except not getting hurt.

Fun Fact: You can gamble on pre-season football. And since its offered, I can only assume that people actually do it. Think about this for a moment:

Football itself is a wildly unpredictable game, where it takes only seconds for the score to swing one way or the other. Even under ideal conditions, where all the players are known and playing for keeps, its hard enough to predict which side will cover a given point spread. Now take away all the players you know about, replace them with a bunch of guys you never heard of before and never will hear from again, and try and predict which side will win or cover the spread. Sound like fun? Would you care to bet hard earned money on the outcome?

If you answered yes, you're a degenerate gambler and should seek help before you hurt yourself or the ones you love. Or maybe just yourself, cause anyone foolish enough to love you has it coming.

I love football. Love love love it. How much, you ask? Enough to Sopcast a preseason game between two teams I don't give a damn about just so I can see a few series. That's like being so hungry you'll break into a supermarket and eat raw ground beef right off the shelf. Which, of course, will probably bring you a lot of pain in one way or another. In my case, the metaphorical food poisoning comes courtesy of one Tony Kornheiser, the "funny" announcer for ESPNs Monday Night Football. I love TK on PTI, but dammit someone get him out of the football booth. He blabs, drones, mutters, bores, chits, chats and generally irritates me and 99% of other football fans. No, make that 100%.

Despite sucking hard last year, Kornheiser was rehired to share the booth with Mike and Jaws. Why? Probably because he's supposed to appeal to the "average" fan. ESPN, listen to me:


TK in the box is part corporate shill, part bad comedian, and all annoying as hell. He makes football worse to watch, a crime so heinous that any right thinking Supreme Court would find that it falls under the category of Treason. Since the Court is too busy upholding civil rights, I am forced to take matters into my own hands, and so I'm issuing a bounty: a shiny Sixpence to the person who removes, permanently, TK from the announcing Booth. And an extra shilling if its done prior to the start of the regular season. Huzzah!

This should be fun...

J - E - T - S! JETS JETS JETS!!!!

That's right, Brett Favre is a Jet. Personally I don't care one way or another about the Jets, though I do root for them when they play the Pats (but really, who doesn't?). And the episode of Sesame Street with Coach Mangini and his players as guest stars was highly educational. It was brought to you by the number 4, which was the number of games the Jets happened to win last year.

But now there's a new number 4 for the Jets to proudly tout, with their acquisition of Hall of Fame QB Brett Favre. Will he sell a lot of tickets and jerseys? You bet your ass. Are the Jets playoff bound with him at the helm? Er... well they aren't technically eliminated yet. Will they regret giving up what's sure to be a mid-to-high first round draft pick for the rights to pay Favre a buttload of money to throw crazy, heartbreaking interceptions? Don't be silly, the Jets suck at drafting and would have wasted that pick anyway.

The person I really wonder about in all this is Eli Manning. For years the New York media has (rightly) ripped on Elisha. There's no media environment like it in the world, and if you're a sports star in this city (technically in Jersey, but whatever) you better deliver or they'll toast you and use you for smores.

So if I'm Elisha (shudder), I have to wonder how this will play out:

1) I finally get a reprieve from criticism for about 4 minutes, as the media has a new target to go after


2) Things get even worse, as now I have to share a city with a beloved Hall of Fame QB, who will get sucked off constantly by the fans, local media, national media, and probably a few of my Giants teammates for good measure.

Either way, football in New York just got a lot more interesting. Not better, mind you, but more interesting.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Must serve Nachos and Beer

The Olympics are starting in two days. Given the multitude of crazy things which the IOC deems worthy of giving out medals for, I got to wondering about that oldest of athletic questions:

What is a sport? What isn't?

This "debate" has raged for as long as I can remember. The word "sport" has a special meaning in our culture. We are a sports obsessed society, and so for something to be considered a sport is a badge of honor, a legitimization of hitting a ball with a stick or beating the tar out of a fellow human being. This argument usually has macho undertones, because "sports" are for tough guys and non sports are for little sissy girly men and Europeans.

Putting aside that heavy intellectual argument for a moment, I've heard a lot of answers to this question. Its not a sport until someone gets hit. Its not a sport unless there is defense. It is a sport if its physically hard to do. Its not a sport if girls are playing. Its only a sport if they serve Nachos and beer at the stadium. I've decided to chime in with my two cents on the subject.

First, a huge disclaimer: Personally, I think the whole Sport/not a sport debate is the biggest, stupidest waste of time in the entire domain of sports debates. That's saying an awful lot, based on what I know about sporting debates. Frankly, its doesn't matter one iota whether your chosen activity is labeled a "sport" or not. It doesn't change the activity one bit, doesn't make it more or less popular, challenging, or less valid. Lets face it: all sports, all entertainment, pretty much 99% of human existence is totally meaningless, no matter what labels we put on it. Whatever you call them (Sports, games, activities, competitions, etc) they exist to entertain us, and if you happen to enjoy playing or watching one then bully for you. I don't think NASCAR qualifies as sport, yet tens of millions enjoy it, so salut to them. On the other hand, lots of people think golf isn't a sport, but hundreds of millions (myself included) love to play and watch it.

Whew! Now that I got all the rationality out of the way, time for some good old fashioned judgment and hypocrisy. What is a "sport"? To me, the answer is not clear cut, but there are guidelines which help to determine "sportiness".

1) A sport must involve physical activity with at least a mild level of exertion
2) The outcome of the match or game must rely upon how well the competitors do that activity.
3) The majority of the exertion must be made by the competitors.
4) The outcome must not rely entirely on subjective judgement of judges or referees.

From these 4 principles I believe we can determine which activities deserve that most hallowed (and stupidly meaningless) title of "sport". But what do they mean?

1) This seems obvious. The "mild level of exertion" was added to disqualify video game players from claiming what they do is sport. Sure they can probably make a case, but screw em. Its not a sport if you can play it from a Lazy Boy Recliner.

2) Basically, this means that physical skill must matter in sport. Two people run a race, one runs faster, and is thus the winner. The grey area I see here is for people who (wrongly) claim that Poker is a sport. Sure there are little physical skills which may help or hurt a player's chance of winning, specifically how they handle the cards and whether or not they control their "tells". But really, these are such a small part of the game today. In theory (and practice) poker can be played by proxy, usually through a computer, meaning that these physical skills can be eliminated from the game.

3) Cycling = Sport. NASCAR = Not a Sport. The difference is clear. In cycling the competitor supplies the momentum, the energy which determines how fast or slow they go. In car racing the energy is supplied by Exxon Mobile. NASCAR fans love to claim that racing should qualify as a sport because of how physically hard it is. No argument here about the physical difficulty, but unless they start racing with Fred Flintstone style cars it won't be sport to me.

4) This is, in my mind, perhaps the most important criteria between sport and non-sport. Basically, it means that there needs to be a way to tell who wins without waiting 5 minutes to see what scores a panel of judges doles out. For race style sports this is easy: first one to the finish wins (barring DQ). For ball style sports this is also easy: Most runs, points, goals or fewest strokes wins (see what I did there to sneak in golf?).

Granted, no sport can be completely objective. Even the simplest race can come down to subjective determinations for disqualification. And even activities which are judged are supposedly done so on the basis of well layed out rules and regulations. But in my mind, its all a matter of degree. An umpire may call balls and strikes, but he doesn't solely determine the outcome of the game. In contrast, the judges at a gymnastic competition are the whole determinant of who wins.

Its this last criteria which is probably the most controversial, as it disqualifies activities like gymnastics, figure skating and synchronized swimming. Given that the average 10 year old figure skater is more of an athlete than I'll ever be, and the average 12 year old female gymnast could probably kick my ass around the block, where do I get off saying what they do isn't a sport? Cause this is my blog, that's why. Seriously though, I think these things are in a grey area between sport and non-sport. Gymnastics may be won based on judging, but it isn't the same as a beauty pageant or American Idol. There are (supposedly) clear guidelines that the judges must follow when giving out points. So I make this concession to these types of activties, that they should qualify as psuedo-sports, more than mere games but less than pure sport. I need a new word for this category. Gorts? Spomes?

What about something like boxing or MMA? Boxing outcomes are often determined by judges, yes? This is true, however the judges are the last resort and are a compromise to protect the fighters. Back in the day, boxing matches used to last until one competitor keeled over. Maybe it took 10 rounds, or maybe 60. They finally figured out that this wasn't very healthy for the boxers or the sport, and they decided to put a limit on the number of rounds to be fought. Judges also award points which are (usually) pretty easy to figure out: win the round, get the point. And most boxing matches either end before the judges come into play or are so one-sided that the outcome is not really in doubt. So I think boxing falls just inside the dividing line between sport and non-sport.

Whatever the case, this is just my (meaningless) definition. If you don't mind, my nacho and beer supply is running low. Time for the 100 yard waddle back to the concession stand. On your mark, get set, GO!

Monday, August 4, 2008

Happy Birthday Barack!

On this Monday, August 4th, I want to wish a Happy Birthday to Presidential Candidate Barack Hussein Obama. Fist bumps all around.

Wish it was my birthday. I'd ask for Barack's new pimped out plane. Check out the interior:

Look at all that legroom! I bet he doesn't even have to pay to check bags. Lucky SOB.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

The Dark Knight

Last night I finally saw The Dark Knight. Given the enormous hype surrounding the movie I was pumped all year to go see it, but life got in the way and I had to wait a whole 2 weeks to take it in. I'm kind of cheating, because I never actually watched Batman Begins. Whatever, its a comic book movie; its not like the plot is going to be that complicated. Plus I've seen every episode of the campy 1960s Batman TV series, so I got a pretty good idea of who's who in the Batman universe. Sadly, there was no sign of Julie Newmar in her classic catwoman getup.


After seeing the movie, the only word that comes to mind is INTENSE!!! Not intense. INTENSE!!! You have to capitalize the word just to come close describing how incredibly heavy and dark this film is. It never lets up. This movie is 150 minutes of violence, action, depravity and horror.

Did I like The Dark Knight? Yes, of course, totally and in all ways. Did I love it? Eh. I think its certainly a good movie, and a superior comic book movie, but somehow it still felt a little empty. Maybe since I'm not really a comic fanboy I can't connect to the story on a deeper level. Or maybe I was just so damn exhausted after watching it that I was a little shell shocked and so unable to really judge it properly. Whatever the case, I do recommend it, but I warn you to prepare your mind to be put through the ringer.

Anyone who goes to the movies knows that your choice of film affects your choice of preview trailers you will be exposed to. In this case I was assaulted by ads for at least 5 scifi/action films. Only Quantum of Solace, the new 007 film, interests me. The rest were bad to forgettable, but the very worst was a preview for a remake of the 1951 classic The Day the Earth Stood Still, starring... I can't even say it. Ok... here goes: Keanu Reeves. Yes, that's right, one of the all time classics is being remade with Neo as the lead. Granted, the original movie had the Robot Gort as a main character, so it could be that Reeves is the new Gort, which is perfect casting given Reeves's acting ability.

<-Gort Knows Kung Fu!->

The original TDTESS had a timely and powerful message about the dangers of Nuclear War. I can only hope this remake will send a powerful message about the dangers of defiling classic movies in order to squeeze a few lousy box office dollars from the movie going public. But its probably some stupid thing about global warming or the dangers of checking your email every 8 minutes. Too late for some of us.