Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Olympic Thoughts Day Three

I watched a lot of day time coverage yesterday and managed to stay off Twitter, ESPN, and any source that may show results for prime time.  However, I ended up at Third Base, because well it was Monday and thus my prime time viewing was affected. 

1.   Women's volleyball was extremely fun to watch and I feel it could quickly become more popular than basketball for girl's if it hasn't already.  Some of those girls are crazy athletic.  Granted, the USA vs Brazil match was the best of the best but I still managed to watch from start to finish which is something I've never done before when it comes to volleyball.  There is a lot more strategy to the game than when I play at Volley's that is for sure.  I plan on watching their matches as much as possible going forward.  Destinee Hooker is an absolute stud.  Too bad her name sucks.

2.  While watching volleyball I couldn't help but think "why is women's basketball so boring?"  The solution to this problem dawned on me.  Lower the hoop!  Women's volleyball is played at a lower net level and makes for a more entertaining game.  Lower the hoop and let the girls dunk and attack the rim and women's basketball becomes a whole different beast.

3.  Speaking of women's basketball the USA had a close call against Angola yesterday.  I know what you are thinking.  Angola is powerhouse and you've probably been to a few of their games right?  In reality the USA won by 52 points.  Not much drama right?  The point spread just happened to be 54 points.  How do they know!?  Luckily for my friend he took Angola.  No word yet on if he is taking Tunisia tonight at +55.

4.  I like this Missy Franklin girl.  She is extremely humble and may very well be the face of USA swimming after the Olympics if she hasn't already.  She reportedly turned down endorsement deals worth as much as 150,000 dollars so she could maintain her amateur status and compete for her high school and future college team.  That is pretty cool although I wonder if her and her parent's tune will change when there is a zero or two added to that figure.  If she takes the money good for her, she will do good things with it.

5.  Lochte may have felt like it was his time now but 4th place really?  If you are going to talk a big game make it to the podium.  This proves how impressive Phelps was in 2008.  I've mentioned it before, I'm Team Phelps all the way and every medal he gets this Olympics I find to be extremely impressive.  What I like is that he is helping some of the younger swimmers such as Missy Franklin out with strategy when there are multiple races in a night.  On a side note though, who decided that swimming was prime time material?  Its been that way, I get that but when did it start?  Instead of some of the fluff they show, replay some archery or badminton.  Its not like they are waiting for the next heat in swimming, its tape-delayed for goodness sake!  With that being said NBC has done a pretty good job with its coverage across the different channels.  I'm not sure where they find these people but their on-air talent has been pretty good.

Note:  The men's gymnastics team doesn't get any coverage from me due to their lack of even showing up last night.  SMH

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Olympic Thoughts Day Two

Today I had a self-imposed Twitter ban for the day as I watched live coverage (and the Cubs game) while refusing to obtain the results that would be shown in prime-time.  That worked really well until I switched to ESPNU and all of sudden the resulted scrolled across the bottom line.  Damn you ESPN!  The coverage tonight was pure drama, yet I unfortunately knew the results going in.  Anyway, here are my 5 rings for today's events.

1) Why does the IOC seem to always mess something up when it comes to gymnastics or figure skating?  WHY, WHY, WHY is each team only allowed two competitors in the all-around?  Jordyn Wieber was the favorite coming into the Olympics to win the all-around competition and now she won't get a shot.  Yes, she had control of the situation but shouldn't the final consist of the top 24 all-around gymnasts?  Its very possible USA could have the top three but we will never know.

2) More gymnastics here.  How awkward is the gymnastics competition intrasquad?  The hugs are clearly fake and although they want to qualify as a team they can't help but root against their teammates so they can advance.  Maybe with the qualifying rounds out of the way they will be able to just go out and compete.  I could see myself becoming a big fan of Wieber if she comes out and proves her ability in the team all-around.  She gets the early award for the most impressive interview so far.  As the defending international champion and someone who has been training for four years, her dreams were crushed because of one misstep.  Many professional athletes that are idolized these days don't handle adversity in interviews the way she did.  Kudos to her.

3) In the current state of technology you find out any relevant and many times irrelevant information instantaneously.  Yet, for once many around the world are trying to avoid it.  Shouldn't it be easy to go a mere 12 hours without finding out what happened on a different continent?  Surprisingly its very difficult, and unfortunately takes the drama out of prime-time coverage.  The worst part is many of the big events are only in qualifying stages and when they get to the latter stages it will be that much more difficult.

4) Women's sand volleyball in London isn't as fun to watch.  Hint: it has nothing to do with the competition and everything to do with the wardrobe.  Can't we get them a little Iowa heat over there??

5) In my latest conspiracy theory is it possible Lochte blew the relay on purpose?  How does he blow that lead?  Is his rivalry with Phelps really intense enough that he would sacrifice a gold medal for himself just so Phelps wouldn't get one?  I am on Team Phelps and although I don't think Lochte would do such a thing I find myself pulling for Phelps who is participating in his FOURTH Olympics.

And the next viral Olympic video....funny stuff!

Olympic Thoughts Day One

The Olympics are underway and I am already hooked.  Sports that I wouldn't think to watch are now interesting.  It is a buffet of sports served all day long.  There is just enough of everything and not too much of anything.  My "5 Ring" thoughts for the first day of London 2012.

1) Archery was the first event I watched thoroughly and it just happened to be the first medal for the United States.  After their stunning upset of Korea in the semi-finals they had an intense match for the gold medal against Italy.  It was great entertainment as it literally came down to the last arrow.  So far it has been my favorite event to watch and I look forward to the individual men's tournament coming up in the next few days.

2) Handball is fun to watch and looks fun to play.  Everyone else played it in physical education class in high school I guess.  I don't remember playing it, but there is a good chance I did.  A mix of soccer, basketball and lacrosse it is rather entertaining to watch.

3) Badminton doesn't look like badminton at the Olympic level.  It looks more like tennis on a smaller court, making for better action.  Fun to watch.

4) Sand volleyball requires an incredible amount of athleticism and endurance.  Its very impressive to watch.  I'm guessing they didn't train at Volley's.

5) I'm not a big fan of soccer, tennis, or even basketball as Olympic sports.  They are already international sports.  I can't bring myself to watch any of them.  Soccer has the World Cup and other tournaments, tennis is basically Wimbledon II and all of the best basketball players already play in the NBA, however it is fun to watch the collection of talent together on one team.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Penn State Down But Not Out

There are many reactions to the sanctions dealt Penn State's way.  I feel Penn State got what it deserved, yet I still question whether it was the NCAA's role to hand out the sanctions.  It is certainly an unprecedented, extremely unfortunate situation.  I wish Penn State would have talked more with the NCAA and self-imposed their sanctions.  For most programs these sanctions would be the "death" of the program.  Many are declaring the death of Penn State football for at least 10 years, another example of sports hyperbole's going too far.  I mean, has anyone or anything been DEAD for 10 years only to come back to life?  It would be easy to look at the sanctions and immediately laugh at Bill O'Briens belief they can survive the next four years.  Here is why and how I think they can make it through.

1)  Penn State players have the ability to transfer without penalty and play right away.  Complete disadvantage right?  Think Remember the Titans.  Every player that is on the roster going forward wants to be at Penn State and is, in a popular football catch phrase, "All In".  Every player has a free pass to leave.  You want bowl gifts? Leave.  You feel your playing time is unjust?  Leave.  You don't want to be associated with Penn State?  Leave.  However, come that first practice of fall camp every single player will be able to look at their teammates knowing that they are committed to the team and restoring the image of Penn State. 

2)  Bill O'Brien.  To be honest I wasn't sure what to think of the guy when he first got hired.  After listening to him speak I have some respect for him as a coach and leader of young athletes.  He almost has a Rhoads like charisma in which he fumbles over words and doesn't appear to be a used-car salesmen.  He also has the ability to relate to the players.  He took the job when it appeared no one else wanted it.  As a player I can respect that.

3) Non-conference scheduling will be crucial.  No longer will Penn State be playing the Alabama's of the world.  Bring in the no names and get the W's.  When the Big Ten moves to a nine-game conference schedule they should still be entering league play at 3-0.

4) No bowl games?  No problem.  This point somewhat contradicts my previous thought, but follow along.  Look at USC.  What do they do when they can't go to a bowl game?  Go to Hawaii and play the Rainbow Warriors.  Is there really a better place to travel for a meaningless bowl game?  Better yet, schedule it at the end of the season!  Treat that game as your bowl game.  A reward to the players who stuck it out.

5) Penn State football is like a cult.  Ultimately, why they got where they did.  However, going forward I think they very well could be their biggest help.  BOB kept saying 108,000 fans during his interview with Rece Davis.  He also pointed out unless you are in the NCG its a hell of a lot more fun to play in front of 108,000 fans screaming for you than some bowl game.  Will the fans continue to show up?  I think they could become even more nuts for Penn State.

6) Penn State is in a division with the likes of Illinois, Indiana and Purdue.  Sure Ohio State, also on sanctions, will be back and they will have to compete with Wisconsin as well.  However, stay better than the bottom three and get your non-conference wins and Penn State my friends is bowl eligible.

7) Project 2016.  Make a bowl game in the first year "back".  Red-shirt the incoming recruiting class. Sell them and the future classes on hard work and proving Penn State will be back on the national scene immediately.  Seems catchy, and for some reason do-able.

 I think we are going to see more players stay than anyone thinks.  I will stress I do not approve of anything Penn State did in the past and I don't like their fan base attitude throughout the whole ordeal yet I find myself pulling for the players and Bill O'Brien.  These 18-23 year olds have a free ticket out of town.  An easy way out so to speak.  Those that stay, and those that come this next year knowing they aren't competing for post-season play I will root for.  Am I rooting for Penn State?  No.  I am rooting for the young players that chose to stick to their commitment through incredible adversity.  If Bill O'Brien sells his message and parlays the "us against the world" mentality into momentum Penn State football will be back, maybe as soon as 2016. 

Friday, July 13, 2012

NBA's Straight From HS Drama

The Dwight Howard drama, and the Rockets' unfortunate feeding of it, got me thinking about something.  What do Howard, LeBron James, and Kobe Bryant have in common?  They're very good, sure, but they've also held the teams that drafted them hostage.  And they all came straight out of high school.

The requirement of one year of college has helped the play of the NBA, and it's also helped in another way - less drama.  Howard has been screwing with the Magic for a year, and if they can't work something out with the Rockets, it'll drag into a second season.  LeBron was constantly bemoaning the collection of talent around him and ultimately left his team in one of the most self absorbed displays in sports history.  The Lakers are constantly trying to keep Kobe happy and nothing is good enough.  Or his fault.  They had to move an in-his-prime, HOF player Shaquille O'Neal because him and Kobe didn't get along.  For these guys, it's about the ME not the TEAM.

Compare this to Kevin Durant, one of the most understated superstars sports has seen in awhile, quietly signing an extension with the small market Thunder.  Or the equally quiet 2011 MVP winner Derrick Rose.  Blake Griffin signed an extension with the perennial doormat Clippers without expressing a desire to explore other possibilities.  The display of respect and class both teams had after the Spurs-Thunder series was moving.  The Spurs are an old team - this year probably being their last, best shot at winning a title, and they could have been bitter.  The Thunder are one of the NBA's youngest teams, and showboating or gloating wouldn't have been unexpected.  When the whistle blew, both teams embraced each other in respect of a truly excellent series of basketball.  All of the Spurs either played college ball or professionally overseas.  Same with OKC, save Kendrick Perkins (who isn't always the most stable).

The college experience seems to help these young, rich, famous athletes stay grounded.  But why?  I'd argue it's a couple of things.  First, a different location takes anyone out of their comfort zone.  Second, even if a freshman shows up and is the best player for the team, they still have to compete against and ultimately with seniors who may have been there for 4 years already.  Lastly, for the first time in their lives, their incredible, individual talents don't necessarily equate to team success.

Let's take Kevin Durant for an example.  Durant is from the Washington D.C. area and then went to college at the University of Texas.  I don't know what his life was like in DC, or where he lived but I know this - Austin, Texas is unlike anywhere else in the country.  It's preppy and laid back, hippie and expensive, high tech and old.  Really an odd, odd confluence of people and attitudes.  Completely different from either the city or suburbs in which he grew up.  Different situations are uncomfortable at first, require work to truly fit in, and are ultimately character building.

Durant showed up at UT as a top 2 recruit.  Perhaps this isn't the best example, because he was immediately the #1 on a team of freshmen and sophomores... or perhaps it is.  Durant was the consensus best player in college basketball, his numbers got better during the Big XII season, and it still wasn't enough.  UT finished third in the regular season standings, didn't win the conference tournament, and got bounced in the second round of the NCAAs.  Not a spectacular season for the team, but it's exactly where he found himself with the Sonics/Thunder.  Great player on a terrible, young team.  But they are growing up together and learning to win together.  He could have left and had his pick of cities, but chose to stay in the midwest.

Maybe Kevin Durant is an anomaly.  Maybe he never wanted the bright lights.  But his best friend is Michael Beasley, who has had a rocky road through the pros.  There are contradictions to my theory, sure. Like Carmelo Anthony, similarly a one-and-done player but also a pain in the ass.  There are plenty of players that went to college and cause problems but I can't think of one straight from high school player that is the consummate professional.  Amare Stoudemire might come closest, but he still has his ups and downs.  Lamar Odom is a train wreck.  Andrew Bynum is talent unrealized, and a player I hope the Rockets do NOT get. I guess Tyson Chandler has been pretty quiet bouncing around the league, but that's my only example of the converse.

The one year of college rule is the best thing David Stern has done for the NBA.  Teams have a better way to evaluate talent and fans know the players.  It is a win-win.  It's effect on the college game isn't quite so easy, but I'd say it's been positive too.  The level of play in the pros raises every year, and so does the professionalism.  Better skill and less whining makes the NBA more appealing and more profitable.