What I Don’t Like About the Olympics

14 08 2008

Are the Olympics a good thing?  Yes, of course.

Do I enjoy watching the world’s best athletes compete from the comfort of my own home? Giddy up.

Have Laura and I been watching them almost non-stop the past week? You bet.

Are there moments that make me want change the channel to the ever present Jon & Kate Plus 8 episodes on TLC? Every night.

So far, Laura and I can’t seem to get enough Olympic action at the Water Cube.  There is something about swimming that draws you in.  Phelps is a big draw.  It also helps that the United States seems to get two out of three medals in almost every event.  The moving green line indicating world record pace adds another dimension to each race as well.

Then there is good old Bella Caroli giving his insights to Bob Costas each night.  Caroli is like that great uncle who is just old enough to not care about what he says and is slightly racist.  You can feel the tension on set whenever he starts talking about how the Chinese women’s team is still wearing underoos.

But this is about what I don’t like:

  • Diving: There are multiple things I don’t like about this one thing.  First of all, I can’t tell the difference between a good and bad dive. Then there are the curiously small swim suits the men wear.  Finally, the constant showering after each dive.  You would think there is radioactive waste in that pool.
  • Enough Volleyball Already: I think 50% of the coverage on NBC involves volleyball. I have also noticed that every beach volleyball player wears a number on their jersey/bra.  That number is always either 1 or 2.
  • Presidential Campaign Commercials:  I thought living in the reddest of red states made me immune from having to sit through thirty seconds of political idolatry.
  • “Syncro” Diving: All the same reasons, except double.
  • More Sports: Swimming and Gymnastics are great and all, but what about all the other events that are going on.  How ’bout some badminton highlights?

Olympic Fever

11 08 2008

Since Friday night, when the television has been on it has been tuned to an NBC channel covering the Olympics.  I have always enjoyed watching the Olympics, but this year I have to admit it has gone a bit overboard.  Even Laura has gotten in on the action, flipping between volleyball matches and swimming in order to maximize our sportage.

The biggest reason we have been avid views was the opening ceremonies.  Anyone who saw it has to admit it was pretty cool.  Although Laura’s comment that a dictatorial communist regime can force its people to do anything no matter the cost was pretty entertaining as well.  In order to celebrate the opening ceremonies, Laura brought home fried won tons and spring rolls while I whipped up my signature stir-fry.  Nothing like a mega dose of MSG to get a night off to a good start.

Favorite Olympic Things so far:

  • Direct TV’s interactive menu with detailed event listing and medal count
  • NBC’s online video.  I can pick four different events to watch at once in addition to my television!  I am pretty sure it is impossible to enjoy that much sport at once, but I like the fact that I could enjoy it.
  • Men’s 400m Freestyle Relay.  I almost felt sorry for the French. Almost.  If you missed this one, you have to find the video online and watch it.
  • Just watched the Men’s Team Gymnastics, and I hate to admit it. . .but it was pretty intense. The USA surprised everyone and got a hard earned bronze.

Tour of France for Dummies

10 07 2008

*This was posted originally about a year ago, but has been getting hits from search engines again with the tour starting.  I thought I would edit it a bit and repost it.

I am willing to admit that most people who are going to read this post could really care less about what is going in the Tour right now (especially after last year’s fiasco with doping). I, however, have looked forward to watching it all summer. The great thing about watching the Tour is that it is really five or six races in one. Also each stage of the race is different, showcasing the different talents and specialties of cycling.

The are flat stages where a small group tries to breakaway from the peleton. These usually end with the breakaway being caught and the sprinters fighting their way to the finish line at about 35 mph. Then there are the mountain stages where the elite climbers leave the peleton behind and fight for control of the overall lead. There are also time trials. These are shorter and riders do it individually against the clock. They can’t draft off the riders so it is sometimes called the “race of truth.”

Here are all the different races going on each day:

  1. Stage: Each day’s race is incredibly important to most riders. Many riders hope to win one of these stages during their entire career. With 189 riders each day, it is hard to pick who is going to be the first across the line. Each day’s ride can be as long as 150 miles.
  2. Yellow Jersey: General Classification or “GC.” This is the person who has the best cumulative time over all the stages of the race. In some cases the person wearing yellow does not even come close to winning a stage.
  3. Green Jersey: Points. Every stage has a certain amount of points spread out along the race route. The first three people to pass through these “sprints” get points. The finish line is worth the most points each day. The riders going for green need to always finish the race as close to first as possible.
  4. Polka Dot Jersey: King of the Mountains. The first few riders to cross the summit of each climb earn points too. These are similar to the green jersey points. The longer and steeper the climb, the more points it is worth.
  5. White Jersey: Best Young Rider. This is very similar to the yellow jersey, but only riders 25 or younger are eligible.
  6. Overall Team: The team with the combined best overall time gets a distinction as well.

It is important to note that having one of the jerseys for even one day during the race is the dream of most riders. Even if they don’t finish with the jersey on their shoulders, they will fight to have it for a single day.

If there is nothing else on television over the next few weeks, and you are curious (and you have cable) watch a stage of the Tour. There are two “American” teams in the tour this year, and they are off to a great start with stage wins and multiple jerseys: Garmin-Chipotle and Columbia.  I don’t think an American will win the tour this year, but Kim Kirchen (Luxemburg) of Team Columbia currently holds both the Green and Yellow Jersey.  Check it out, you might get hooked, and then I will have someone to talk to about it.

Fantasy Tour de France

6 07 2008

For those of you who are interested, there is a new way to watch your favorite cycling competition.  It had to come sooner or later, and finally we have Fantasy Cycling Challenge.  You can now create a roster of tour riders and track their progress during the next three weeks.  You are given a salary, and must create a roster for each stage of the race.

Don’t worry, you have until July 9th before the points start to count.  The next few stages are practice.

How to Treat Your Sports Addiction

26 03 2008

I have been ruminating on the subject of this post for a while now. Laura can attest that I have a love/hate relationship with my television whenever there is a sporting event on. I can’t wait to watch some games, and then find myself unable to enjoy them because my team is performing so badly. My wise wife sees this as complete insanity and is always willing to put ONE of our copies of Pride and Prejudice in the DVD instead of the game. The sad thing is I have turned control of the remote over to her when the game becomes too much to handle.

The worst example of my sports enthusiasm run amok would be my inability to watch the Mavericks play for the last two seasons. Ever since the Mavs blew their 3-0 lead in the finals to the Heat, I can’t get onboard with the NBA at all (some might call that a blessing). After the Heat won their championship, I refused to watch ESPN for about a week just so I wouldn’t hear anyone talk about it. My only consolation was that none of my friends or co-workers were from Miami.

Much of this came to a head a few months ago when I found myself shocked at the Patriot’s defeat in the Super Bowl. I realized how much I really wanted to see them win. At the same time I witnessed the shear joy of my friend, Andrew, as his team came out of nowhere in the playoffs to win it all. The problem with fan-dom is the vast differences between the highs and lows of cheering on your team. If only there was a way to even things out, to take the edge off winning or losing.

After a while the answer hit me: gambling! All you have to do is put a price tag on the joy you would feel if your team wins, and wager that amount against your team. Now, let me point out that this strategy might not work for some people. I am competitive enough as it is, and the idea of loosing money on top of a game has always been unsavory. Even a $5 buy-in poker game makes me uneasy, so the thought of a $5 side bet on UCLA to beat Texas A&M the other night would have evened my anxiety pretty well. I don’t think I would have had to stand up in front of the television once.

When I announced this plan to our Easter dinner hosts and fellow guests as a conversation starter, I felt pleased with my cleverness. It seemed like a well-reasoned and thought-out solution to my problem. I don’t know the exact chain of thought that brought me from the Easter Sermon to how sinful my cleaver new plan was, but it happened as I drove home that afternoon.

Putting the ethical question of gambling aside (which would make a good post), using money to make you feel better is pretty hard to defend morally. And placing my happiness in the outcome of a game is as big an idol as any golden calf. So rather than dull the effects of one sin with more sin, I guess I need to focus on what should be my hope and happiness in this life. So much for good ideas, or bad ones.

IronHead Triathalon

9 03 2008

Yesterday Laura completed her first Triathlon with her Dad.  I have some good pictures of it, but our fancy new camera doesn’t know how to connect to my Mac.  We will have to wait until we get home to sync with Laura’s PC.

Laura hit her goal, finishing in 1hr. 43 min.  If you want to check out her times and stats from the run click here.

Past and Future of American Pro Cycling

5 02 2008

Even though many of you don’t consider cycling a sport and spend almost no time thinking about it, I apologize. I have to throw out my one cycling related post for the winter season.

Tour Winner Alberto ContadorI have known for about a year that the Discovery Chanel had decided not to continue sponsoring the team at the end of the ’07 season. This is pretty normal. Teams go through different sponsors all the time. Before Discovery Chanel, the team was associated with The U.S. Postal Service. Before that it was Motorola. What shocked me was that a few months ago I learned that the team itself was going to break up. Riders were all going to different teams; coaches and managers were either retiring or going to work for other organizations.

In spite of the amazing year the team had last year, they will not be around again. It is like the Patriots deciding to disband after this season because they didn’t win the Super Bowl. The difference is a Discovery rider WON the Yellow Jersey, another rider came in third, they WON the team classification, and White Jersey–and that was just at the Tour de France. A Discovery rider also won the Tour of California, Georgia, Missouri, Paris-Nice, Belgium, and Austria. Not to mention the National Road Race champion of The United States, Belgium and Russia were on the team too. They were without doubt the most dominate professional team in any sport, and it wasn’t enough.

The reason, of course, is that American companies see professional cycling as the equivalent of radioactive waste. After all the drug scandals of the past two years, not a single business is willing to risk having their name associated with doping.

picture-2.pngThere one small beacon of light though for American cycling: Team Slipstream. Not only do they have a cool argyle look going for them, but have committed themselves (as a team and individually) to dope-free racing. They have picked up some pretty notable riders in the off season, and there is a good chance they will get invitations to the big Tours this summer.

If you want a good read, here is a great article about Team Slipstream and how they are trying to change the sport. It is on ESPN.com, a “real” sports magazine by the way.