Please No More ’92 v. ’08 Basketball Comparisons

August 25, 2008

USA

Some time in the past few weeks, you’ve all thought to yourself, is this ’08 basketball team really good enough to earn the gold medal? You’ve all thought about the Greece game in ’06, the Argentina game in ’04, and the fiasco at the ’02 World Championships.

Now that USA basketball has returned gold stateside, please don’t try to compare them to the ’92 Dream Team (and while we’re at it, enough with the ‘Redeem Team’ too). When the US won gold in Sydney with the likes of Kevin Garnett and Vince Carter, did anyone make comparisons? Were there even comparisons of the ’96 team with Reggie Miller, Charles Barkley and Grant Hill?

There is absolutely no contest as to which was the better team. I’m not going to even indulge you with an argument because I don’t think there is one to make for the ’08 team at all (but if you really want to know, look here for more or less what I think).

These kind of arguments are the worst part about the 24/7 news cycle. There is never enough to talk about (even though ESPN tries so hard) with the results of games so there have to be made up questions of who’s better to fill the space. This is certainly not the first example and won’t be the last. But the whole thing just makes me depressed about sports coverage. What happened to the days when people saw games and wrote interesting, thoughtful stories about them? Isn’t the gold medal enough for this team? If they were truly all about redemption, why do they need to be compared to the ’92 team (which interestingly enough was also all about redemption after the bronze in ’88)? See, just talking about it drags me into it…Enough already.


That’s All Folks

August 24, 2008

Closing Ceremonies

With the US basketball team defeating Spain 118-107 in the gold medal game, the 2008 summer Olympics are done. The closing ceremonies have already happened, though they will be on tv at 7 EST.

Overall this has to rank as a very good Olympics. I know there are people who don’t want to hear anything about the games and just want to bitch about human rights, Communism and the environment, and that’s fine. Now that the games are over, go right ahead. But the quality of competition in Beijing was great. The swimming events captured this nation probably unlike any other games. There are certainly questions about the legitimacy of some of the swimming records but then again everyone had the same suits and swam in the same pool. There was (and maybe still is) controversy in gymnastics, an unbelievable showing by the Jamaican track team, most notably triple world record breaker Usain Bolt, there was the tragedy-triumph story with the US men’s volleyball team after the coach’s father-in-law was murdered, and dozens of other stories that for once weren’t focused mostly on sob stories of rough backgrounds or overcoming the odds.

The greatest swimming performance of all-time and quite possibly the greatest sprinting performance of all-time wrapped into a week’s time is pretty tough to beat, even if we had to watch a lot of them twelve hours later than they happened.

Now that the games are over this country will fall back into it’s obsession with football, with college starting this coming week. Baseball will pennant races are heating up and amazingly, basketball is only two months away. I’ll be glad to spend time watching (and writing about) these sports on a more frequent basis, but it really was great to have the Olympics come through again. Let’s hope the games in 2012 can measure up.


This is Amazing

August 23, 2008

CubanA Cuban taekwondo athlete was banned for life from his sport and had his name permanently and immediately erased from record books after giving the referee a roundhouse to the face after disagreeing with a ruling. John McEnroe is one thing, this is wholly another.


This Was Coming Eventually

August 22, 2008

In what has been a pretty quiet Olympics along the doping front, a medalist has been stripped for the first time. Heptathlon silver medalist Lyudmila Blonska tested positive for an anabolic steroid and will likely now be banned for life. She had already served a two-year ban from 2003-2005 for doping.

It’s pretty amazing that there haven’t been more cases of this in Beijing. Usually there are at least a handful of doping allegations and sometimes major major cases. Maybe the athletes are legitimately moving away from doping as a way to improve performance, especially in events such as swimming where the technology of the pools and suits has increased production to never-before believable levels. There are also fewer and fewer Soviet-controlled or -inspired regimes out there that are willing to institute widespread doping regimens for their athletes.


Hope Solo Vindicated

August 21, 2008

SoloAfter idiot coach Greg Ryan benched Hope Solo after a perfect run to the finals against Brazil, the US was destroyed by Brazil in last year’s World Cup, 4-0. She was then thrown off the team for saying afterwards that she would’ve saved the goals that replacement Briana Scurry gave up.

Well apparently that was correct. Posting a clean sheet today, Solo carried the US team to victory in the gold medal match over Brazil, 1-0. Carli Lloyd’s goal in overtime gave the Americans the surprising victory over the heavily-favored Brazilians.

Hopefully (no pun intended) people, and her teammates especially, will shut up about what happened last year and admit that she was and is the better keeper for this team.


Double Drop – US Out in 4×100 Relays

August 21, 2008

Another disaster in these Beijing games for the USA track teams as both the men and women dropped their respective batons in their 4×100 meter relays this morning. In each race, the exchange between the third and anchor legs crashed to the track and prevented the teams from advancing to the finals.


World’s Fastest Man, Heavyweight Champ?

August 21, 2008

An interesting debate this morning on the radio about what title you’d like to have above any other, in the world of sports. The two big ones in comparison were world’s fastest man or boxing heavyweight champ. There were other choices like NBA champion (are you kidding?), Super Bowl MVP (still nowhere close and you have to wear those dopey t-shirts and give the even dumber Disney World phrase) or Heisman Trophy winner (not bad, but not on par with the international sports).

Honestly I’d have to go with world’s fastest man. Heavyweight champ would be cool and everything but you’d have to be a heavyweight to begin with, which I’m not that interested in, and you’d have to have your head beaten for a living. World’s fastest man, while it might not last more than a year, would be a terrific title (though as Deadspin pointed out yesterday, no white man has ever crossed the ten second barrier) because it is legitimately referencing the entire world. When you win the NBA Finals and they say world champion, that’s not exactly true. Same even with boxing, with all the different classifications and even the fact that it’s just the world champion of the heavyweight division. Doesn’t even count featherweights, middleweights, bantamweights or whatever other weight divisions exist.

World’s fastest man is definitive, everyone knows what it means and you probably had to be involved in one of the major events (Olympics, World Championships, Olympic Trials, etc) to be going that fast.


Bolt or Johnson?

August 20, 2008

Bolt

As I think everyone who reads this blog (at least on a regular basis) is too young to remember Carl Lewis’ double at the ’84 games, I’m going to use ignore him for the sake of argument.

Which was more impressive:

Usain Bolt breaking the world record in the 100 (9.69, previous was 9.72 in 2008 ) and breaking the world record in the 200 (19.30, previous was 19.32 in 1996) for double gold in Beijing?

Michael Johnson breaking the world record in the 200 (19.32, previous was 19.66 in 1996) and 400 (43.44) for double gold in Atlanta?


19.30!

August 20, 2008

Bolt

Usain Bolt has broken the twelve-year old world record in the 200m, adding to his destruction of the 100m world record over the weekend. I think we have a new entry for one of the great sprinters of all-time. Unbelievable!


A Bolt Double (or even Treble)?

August 19, 2008

BoltHaving cruised to victory in his 200m semifinal, Usain Bolt is looking like a good bet to win the first 100m/200m double since Carl Lewis in 1984. And with the ueber-fast Jamaican track team this year, he might have a good shot at the 4x100m relay as well. Considering Bolt has yet to actually run a race all the way through, the chances of someone beating him are pretty slim. What if he breaks Michael Johnson’s twelve-year old 200 record of 19.32? He would have to enter the discussion as one of the great sprinters of all-time. We’ll have to wait and see.


Explain This to Me

August 18, 2008

The USA basketball team has been lauded up one side and down the next for buying into the national team system created by Jerry Colangelo and Mike Krzyzewski. Why is that noteworthy? This reminds me of the old Onion article “Ray Allen Lauded for Being Decent Human Being.” That obviously is a joke, but apparently USA basketball is not.

It should not be a big deal that the players on the national team would be interested in actually practicing together and spending time preparing for their games. This should be expected and it is what every other team in the world does every year. Can we please stop giving these guys congratulations for doing what’s expected of them?


Another Reason America Sucks Sometimes

August 17, 2008

Due to an embargo on goods or services from Iran dating to 1995, NBA teams are being forbidden to talk with Iranian basketball star Hamed Ehadadi. Ehadadi is 7’2″ and has done quite well in these Olympics, but cannot make the move to the NBA because of ridiculous bureaucratic sanctions.

There have been occasions where foreign players have struggled to gain entry in European countries in order to play soccer. These instances often are based on work permit issues and not country-wide embargoes. In this case, Ehadadi wants to play in the league and there is interest in his services, despite his reputation as a ‘project’ player. If he were from any other country, there would be absolutely nothing to stop teams from at least talking with his agent.

The goal of the embargo was originally to keep US companies from buying Iranian oil in hopes that other countries would follow and cause severe economic woes on Iran. Though that never really worked out, this embargo is still in place, even though the government has completely changed in the past thirteen years. An exception to this law has to be out there because it’s ridiculous for the NBA, or any sports league, to be denied access to players because of our governments’ dislike for the government of another country.


Lucky Eights

August 17, 2008

PhelpsThere aren’t all that many moments, sporting or otherwise, where you can legitimately tell your kids you remember seeing it and it’ll actually mean something. For people of our generation, those events have been extremely few and far between. Obviously there is 9/11. Maybe there will be the first black president elected this year. The Berlin Wall came down in 1989, but I was only in first grade and only kind of remember that. The most famous buzzer-beaters of my lifetime have not really occurred during the NCAA finals but earlier in the tournament (ie, Bryce Drew, Tyus Edney, Christian Laettner). But last night, when Jason Lezak held on to beat the Australians in the 400 Medley Relay, giving Michael Phelps his eighth gold medal in Beijing, that is an event that I think I will actually always remember.

What’s amazing about winning those eight golds is that it is in this age of extreme electronic timing, instant replay and sensored walls. I don’t know if Mark Spitz had any really close calls like the two Phelps had this time around but if there were, there was always the chance that the judges/officials could give someone the benefit of the doubt, even if the results were somewhat dubious. No chance for that now, Phelps had to actually win every race and be subject to the most closely analyzed observation ever.

It made me start thinking about how we learn about such things. Of course in today’s day of the internet it’s a little different I guess, but when I was a kid I knew about Bob Beamon, Mark Spitz, Bruce Jenner and all the great American Olympians of my dad’s generation because he told me about them. I know that I will one day tell my kids about Michael Phelps (as well as Carl Lewis, Michael Johnson, and others) and hopefully that’ll leave an imprint in their minds about how great the Olympics really can be. They certainly aren’t what they used to be and every four years they get more commercial and less about actual sporting achievement. But there really is still a place for that great name that spans the decades.


Bolt in 9.69!

August 16, 2008

Bolt

Usain Bolt crushed the world record in the 100m today, winning gold in an unbelievable 9.69 seconds. Bolt is the first man to cross the 9.70 benchmark. Richard Thompson of Trinidad and Tobago took the silver with a 9.89 time and American Walter Dix took bronze at 9.91.

Asafa Powell dropped back to fifth and as previously mentioned, American Tyson Gay didn’t even make the final, making the race less of a spectacle than expected. Bolt’s amazing time blew everyone away, winning by .2 seconds.


Olympic Final Four Set

August 16, 2008

With Argentina and Nigeria coming through later this morning, the semifinals of the Olympic tournament are set:

Brazil v. Argentina
Belgium v. Nigeria

Nigeria were the 1996 winners of this tournament while obviously Argentina and Brazil bring big time squads to the semifinals. Only Belgium, surprise winners over Italy today, are a real shock for making it this far.

Argentina did not look especially good against Holland today, though Messi was terrific when he needed to be, giving the South American side the goals needed to advance.