Sunday, August 24, 2008

Olympics Round-up

Feeling Jipped: Turns out coaches don't receive medals at the Olympics. Which I guess I can kind of understand for the more individual sports, like track & field or swimming, but for team sports the rule isn't exactly ... well-thought out. Mike Krzyzewski deserves a fair amount of credit for Team USA winning gold in men's basketball, and he deserves his own gold medal to go along with it. The team put each of its medals around his neck, which made for a nice moment, but the fact remains: the likes of Coach K and men's volleyball coach Hugh McCutcheon deserve medals for their teams' achievements.

Like Lightning: If Michael Phelps was the king of the first week in Beijing, Jamaican track star Usain Bolt was king of the second week. The only man to sweep the 100- and 200-meter dash with world record time -- and winning the 4x100-meter relay in world-record time as an oh-by-the-way -- Bolt showed a flair and exuberance not seen in track & field for some time. Say what you want about his attitude (and plenty have), but Bolt is a magnificent athlete.

Back on Track: Reports of Team USA's track & field demise were greatly exaggerated. Yes, both relay teams dropped the baton in the 4x100 and there were probably a few events with no medals where there should've been, but between a sweep of the 4x400 relays, a sweep of the podium in the men's 400 meters and Bryan Clay's gold in the decathlon, it wasn't all bad for the Red, White and Blue at the Bird's Nest.

Just a Number: Do we really expect the controversy surrounding the age of the Chinese women's gymnastics party to be resolved? As traditionally tight-lipped as China's government is, I don't see it being forthcoming with the IOC. Minimum age is 16, and five of China's six gymnasts were suspected of being below that limit. On the off chance it was proven, China would've been stripped of its medals -- including team gold. But as careful and protective of information as China is, I don't see this being resolved any time soon, if at all.

Long Time Gone: Angel Matos of Cuba might never be an Olympian again, and it's just what he deserves. After being disqualified in his bronze-medal taekwondo match, Matos deliberately kicked a referee in the face. The World Taekwondo Federation recommended Matos and his coach be banned for life, calling what he did "an insult to the Olympic vision." I happen to agree.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Random Thoughts

Aquaman: The more I watch Michael Phelps, the more I'm convinced I'm watching history. Already the most decorated Olympian in history with 11 gold medals, Phelps is only three gold medals away from breaking Mark Spitz's record of seven golds won in one Olympic Games. And after Phelps was bailed out by a late charge from Jason Lezak Monday night in the 4x100 freestyle relay, it was clear he was destined to leave China with eight gold medals around his neck.

I.D., Please?: I'm not sure which is more suspicious: how young the Chinese girls gymnastics team looked, or the amazingly high scores both Chinese squads received, even after subpar perfornances. I realize the host nation put a lot into their teams winning gold (which both the boys and the girls did), but I can't shake the feeling of ick I get when seeing it. The minimum age to compete in the Olympics is 16, and if all of China's girls are 16, then I'm faxing my resume to tomorrow.

Bronze Age: Considering the situation, the American men should be proud to come away with the team bronze in gymnastics. Before Beijing, no one on that team had any Olympic experience, and the team was without the Brothers Hamm -- Paul and Morgan. To scrap for a bronze against the superior Chinese and Japanese teams is a true testament of grit, teamwork and the embodiment of the Olympic spirit.

Redemption: I'm not on board with Team USA's quest for gold on the basketball court. The women winning the gold is as much a foregone conclusion as the softball team winning gold, and I just can't get on board with the men. It's not because it's an NBA All-Star roster, and it's not because I can't spell the coach's last name without Google; when I watch the Olympics, I want to see sports I don't normally get to see. We're barely a month and a half removed from the NBA Finals; I could stand a break from basketball.

Dear NBC: Would it kill you to show everything live on the West Coast? I'm tired of hearing people in California griping about not seeing Michael Phelps make history, when those of us on the East Coast saw it as it happened. Who cares if it's only 5 p.m. out there? Show it live.

No Hype, Please: It never fails. I can't stand the hype leading up to the Olympics, and I vow to not watch a minute of it. I even pass on the opening ceremonies, no matter how spiffy they look. But once the games actually start, I'm hooked. The drama and the competition are unlike anything else seen in sports -- I just wish I didn't have to swim through months of hype and hyperbole to get to it.

Madden Curse: After watching the Brett Favre saga drag on all summer, I'm willing to bet Electronic Arts will have a hard time finding a cover athlete for Madden NFL 2010. It's one thing for a guy to be on the cover and get hurt, or even wind up in jail on dogfighting charges; it's another entirely to show up on the cover and get traded to the New York Jets. Then again, Terrell Owens showed up in an Eagles jersey on the cover of the last NFL-licensed game not named Madden, and look how that turned out.

J-E-T-S, Brett Brett Brett!: Last thing on Brett Favre, I promise -- the New York Jets will make the playoffs this year. They won't win the AFC East -- hello, the New England Patriots still live there -- but between Favre and all the Jets' other offseason acquisitions, the Jets are shaping up nicely for a wild card spot.

No. 1 on Paper: Since being named preseason No. 1, the University of Georgia football team has been attacked by injury bugs and police blotters. Which makes me wonder ... when did the team land on the cover of Madden?

Simmer Down, Washington: While I realize sixth-round pick Colt Brennan has played well in two preseason games for the Redskins, so far, let's dial down the hype a little. His numbers were nice, and he looked sharp, but remember: he's doing this in the second half of preseason games, against guys who probably won't be in the NFL in a month. If he does this Sept. 4 against a Giants defense that won the Super Bowl last year, then I'll get excited.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

The World's Biggest Flip-Flop

Anyone who thinks Barack Obama is the world's biggest flip-flop needs to look at Ted Thompson and the Green Bay Packers. All summer, Thompson has been steadfast in anointing Aaron Rodgers as the starting quarterback, refusing to give retired legend Brett Favre anything he wanted.

Rather than allow Favre to return and compete for the starting job, rather than trade Favre, rather than release Favre when he asked, Thompson did nothing. It was reminiscent of how our parents taught us how to deal with bullies in school: Ignore them, and eventually, they'll go away.

Only that never worked on bullies. And it didn't work on Favre.

The NFL will reinstate Favre on Monday, which is when the Packer great will return to Packers training camp. Green Bay management, which in recent weeks also had to deal with the holdout of running back Ryan Grant, did an about-face in offering Favre the chance to compete with Rodgers for the starting job.

C'mon, does anyone really think Rodgers can win this competition? Barring an injury to Favre, the starting job appears to have his name written all over it. Again.

Is this a PR move for the Packers, a chance to save some face after what has been a tumultuous and ill-handled summer? Yes, and it shows the Packers as an organization can't be trusted. Favre did force their hand, but in the future, when the Packers' front office says it's going to do something, I'll have a hard time believing them.

For the Packers, it was about Thompson's pride and ego. He wanted Rodgers -- his first draft pick as Green Bay's general manager -- to get the nod to validate himself. It didn't seem to matter which quarterback gave the Packers a better chance to win, it was all about what Thompson wanted.

As for the quarterback who gives Green Bay the best chance to win? Well, Rodgers wasn't the one who threw for over 4,100 yards in leading the Packers to a 13-3 record and within one game of the Super Bowl.

Favre made a mistake retiring when he did; even he admits that. But the best in their game reserve the right to leave on their own terms -- and that includes returning if they happen to change their minds. Favre is one of the game's best, and he deserves the chance to come back should he choose.

That the Packers did everything they could to make him stay away -- including an insulting $20 million "stay away" offer -- shows just what matters to the front office in Green Bay.

And apparently, winning football games isn't on that agenda.

Long Time Coming

Art Monk had to wait eight years to get into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

What was another four minutes?

When Monk was introduced Saturday night at the Pro Football Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony in Canton, Ohio, the decidedly Redskins crowd gave him a four-minute standing ovation. All the years, all the controversy, were washed away as a sea of burgundy and gold showered Monk with deserved love.

That Monk joined former teammate Darrell Green in Canton enshrinement -- and the Redskins beat the Colts 30-16 Sunday night in the Hall of Fame Game -- made the weekend even more special for Washington, D.C. sports fans. The weekend was so special, in fact, the Washington Nationals swept the Cincinnati Reds to end a nine-game losing streak.

But D.C. is, and one might argue always has been, a Redskins town. And on Saturday, so was Canton. This isn't the time to argue that Monk should've been in sooner -- even though he held nearly every significant NFL receiving record before Jerry Rice -- for the argument is now pointless. Why argue Monk's worthiness when he stood next to a bust of himself, wearing a gold jersey?

That it took Monk eight years doesn't matter. That he is finally a Hall of Famer does.

Ir's almost unfair to think of Green as an afterthought, considering his emotional, 25-minute speech and the fact that he was a first-ballot selection. But Green, the Redskins' franchise leader in interceptions and once known as the Fastest Man in the NFL, had nothing on sentimental favorite Monk.

How beloved is Monk? Over the past few days, I've heard Dallas Cowboy fans praising him and saying he deserved to be enshrined sooner. And when Cowboy fans start talking nice about the Redskins -- you can guarantee no Redskin fans made nice last year when Michael Irvin was inducted -- you know the guy's special.

Monk was that guy. And Saturday was a special day for a special team and a special player.