Sunday, August 31, 2008

Action-Reaction: August 31, 2008

Yesterday was a big day in the world of sports. The college football season continued its kickoff. Seven hundred four NFL players lost their jobs or shots at a job. Baseball is entering the stretch run. The NBA and NHL are chillin'.

Action: Many, many players lost their jobs yesterday. Some notables: Cincinnati Bengals Rudi Johnson and Willie Anderson, Atlanta Falcon Joey Harrington, Philadelphia Eagle Jerome McDougle, San Francisco 49er Ashley Lelie, Tennessee Titan Roydell Williams, and Baltimore Raven Gary Stills.
Reaction: It seems like most of the cuts are former high-round picks that were trying to get a fresh start with a new team, such as Harrington or Lelie, and just couldn't cut it. The day where the NFL teams trim their rosters down to the minimum has become symbolic for wasted talent, lack of maturity, and horrible development. Johnson and Anderson will most likely catch on with new teams, but the others are more up in the air.

Action: Jacksonville Jaguars star running back Fred Taylor and former star wide receiver Jimmy Smith were both arrested in separate incidents within five hours of each other.
Reaction: This really has to suck for the Jaguars organization. The two faces of their franchise and two likeable members of their franchise could become a black eye for them. Smith was charged with DUI and possession of marijuana while Taylor was charged with disorderly conduct. According to Black and Teal, it does not seem like Taylor was involved in any illegal activity.

Action: Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Chad Johnson has changed his name to Chad Ocho Cinco.
Reaction: Honestly, the only reaction I have to this is hysterical laughter. This story is so ridiculous that it's just funny. Johnson, er, Ocho Cinco, is a good wide receiver and a great personality. He probably isn't the exact type of guy that Marvin Lewis wants in the locker room, but the guy has a personality and likes to have fun. Which is cool with me.

Action: The New York Yankees lose to the Toronto Blue Jays 7-6 and drop to 11.5 games back of the Tampa Bay Rays in the AL East.
Reaction: I'm not going to call the Yankees dead. Yet. But I will say the division is done. The Yankees, barring a major, and I mean major, miracle, they're out of the division race, which will come down to the Boston Red Sox and Rays. However, they are seven games out of the wild-card behind Boston, so if the BoSox stumble, the Yanks could be in there. But if not, expect another flurry of offseason moves from the Steinbrenners.

Action: San Antonio Spurs guard Manu Ginobili will need surgery to repair a torn ligament in his left ankle.
Reaction: A lot of rag on Ginobili for being soft and for being a flopper. However, after seeing him play through his injury at the Olympics, he deserves to be looked at in a whole new way. He played through an obviously painful injury and helped lead his country to a bronze medal. He deserves some credit for this.

Action: The Alabama Crimson Tide dismantled the Clemson Tigers, 34-10.
Reaction: This is going to lead to more talk of SEC dominance. I have always been hesitant to delve into this subject, as I'm a firm believer in the "any given Sunday" philosophy, and I don't think the SEC will always win, but they proved to me last night that they are the class of the nation. The ACC's best could not compete with the SEC's fifth or sixth. So yeah.

Action: In the game I really wanted to watch last night, the Missouri Tigers held off the Illinois Fighting Illini for a 52-42 victory.
Reaction: This was the game of the year so far in the NCAA. Mizzou was up 31-13 at halftime, but let the Illini back into it. It took great plays by Jeremy Maclin and the defense for Missouri to pull this one out. Unfortunately, Maclin sprained his ankle, an injury that could severely hamper the Tigers. Both of these young teams are on the rise and should be forces to be reckoned with later this fall.

Action: Michigan loses their opener at home to Utah, 25-23.
Reaction: New coach Rich Rodriguez is in for a long year.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Welcome to the Feminine World of Volleyball

I have to admit, I love watching volleyball. I used to want to play volleyball until I realized that running was my calling and that I didn't have enough reckless abandon to throw myself all over a hardwood floor like some of these volleyball players do. But still, watching the volleyball games in this Olympics has been a lot of fun, watching Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh frolic in the sand along with Todd Rogers and Phil Dalhauser. Indoor volleyball has been just as good, such as Tuesday's match between the USA and Italy, where the Americans won in a thrilling five sets.

But still, there's something really bothering me about volleyball. The hugging. After every. Single. Point. It's rather obnoxious. A high-five, fist bump, or slap on the back would be acceptable, but hugging after every single point whether you get the point or not? Overkill.

As one of my friends described it: "It's like, 'Hug, touch butts, arms around each other, don't touch butts this time, grabs heads, etc.' This is ridiculous."

I agree. We might as well tell the USA Men's Basketball team to hug and have a team meeting at the free throw line after every free throw, made or missed. I'm sure we all would love to see LeBron James and Chris Paul doing that 50 times a game. It's repetitive. Give them a high-five. Give them words of encouragement. Don't have a meeting every 20 seconds.

This brings me to another point. A lot of Olympians feel they must have their best manners to impress the Chinese. Not so for Martin Laciga. Now that man was a breathe of fresh air. He was little over the top with his antics and the commentators spent too much time harping on them, but I enjoyed them. Today most athletes are scared to yell at their teammates because of the bruising of egos and internal strife between in teams. When people go at each other on a baseball team or a basketball team, the team is regarded as being in chaos. Not so with the team of Laciga and Jan Schnider.

I would say that Laciga's way of, say, explaining Schinder's mistakes was not productive, but it was better than watching them touch each other's butts. It had a negative effect on the team and that was evidenced by their loss to Rogers and Dalhausser. But still, it was great to see someone of Laciga's intensity still out in the sport. His incessant yelling has had a negative effect on his career, but, hell, it was entertaining.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Action-Reaction: August 17, 2008

This is the first edition of Action-Reaction in forever, but I need to get my blogging groove back and I decided this would be the best way possible. A lot has been going on lately and I'll try to get you all up to date and I'll try not to focus entirely on the Olympics.

Action: Michael Phelps wins his record-breaking eighth gold medal of the Games.
Reaction: See Someone Get Me a Dictionary! and someone has to give credit to his relay teams. Without them, none of this happens.

Action: Usain Bolt dominates the men's 100-meter final for a world record and gold medal for Jamaica.
Reaction: See Someone Get Me a Dictionary! again.

Action: Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Chad Johnson injured his left shoulder against the Detroit Lions in preseason action.
Reaction: Is this some karma for Ocho Cinco's offseason antics? Probably not, but with Rudi Johnson and T.J. Houshmandzadeh both injured, Johnson needs to get back as soon as possible and put racing Phelps out of his head.

Action: The Philadelphia 76ers resigned star player Andre Iguodala to a six-year, $80-million dollar contract.
Reaction: With the addition of Elton Brand also in the offseason, the 76ers are looking to hopefully win now.

Action: Georgia is #1 in the preseason polls for NCAA Football.
Reactions: The Dawgs better enjoy it because being in the SEC, they won't be there for long.

Action: Carl Edwards holds off Kyle Busch for a win at Michigan.
Reaction: The Chase for the Cup is looking to be a great duel between Edwards and Busch, two of my favorite drivers on the circuit. I'm all for it. Go get 'em boys.

Action: New New York Jets quarterback Brett Favre threw his first touchdown pass in a preseason game.
Reaction: Well whoopdy-freaking-doo. Go change your underwear ESPN.

Someone Get Me a Dictionary!

I can't find enough words to describe what I just saw. No joke. In one hour, I saw two of the greatest feats in Olympic history. First, I saw local swimmer Michael Phelps break Mark Spitz's 36-year old record of seven gold medals in an Olympics with the US victory in the 400-meter medley relay to give him his record breaking eighth. Then, I saw Usain Bolt set a world record in the 100-meter dash finals with a 9.69(!). I have to say, this was one of the most amazing nights in sports I have ever seen.

First, I'll start with Phelps. I'm willing to admit that my patriotism had been lacking in these Olympic Games, as the first race I saw Phelps swim was Friday night's 200-meter butterfly final in which he out-touched Milorad Cavic by .01 of a second, truly amazing. Laying down on a couch, a jumped up for an enthusiastic fist pump after that one. That race, as everyone knows, gave Phelps his seventh gold medal. Tonights performance, again amazing, gave him the eighth. I can tell my kids I saw Olympic history. I've already got Saturday's issue of The Baltimore Sun saved for posterity and I will do the same Sunday.

I'll admit, I was getting pretty tired of the nonstop Phelps coverage. Being in the Baltimore area, I bore the brunt of it, as he is all over local news and everything. After his spread in Sports Illustrated, I am not sure how many more times I can see him in a Speedo or wearing minimal clothing. I was also tired of Bob Costas referring every single story he possibly could back to Phelps as well. I'm not sure how Costas still has his job either, with his many faux pas this Olympics such as calling traditional African clothing "costumes" during the Opening Ceremonies. That ranks up there with Katie Couric referring to a spinning model of a Greek building during the 2004 Opening Ceremonies in Athens as "the Wicked Witch's house in The Wizard of Oz." Seriously people. Let's show some sensitivity. It's no wonder Americans have a bad name. But I digress. My hat goes off to Michael Phelps, the greatest American Olympian.

On to the second, more exciting part of the night, in my opinion. Bolt stepped to the line, totally relaxed. His countryman and rival, Asafa Powell, stepped up looking nervous, to me at least, while Americans Walter Dix and Doc Patton looked confident. At the gun, Bolt had some trouble getting out of the blocks, as he usually does, but quickly stepped it up, dusting the field. With about 30 meters left, it was won, and his premature celebration began. As Bolt came through, 9.68 flashed up on the screen, before being amended officially to 9.69. Bolt didn't stop at the line either. He started on his victory lap and went all the way around the stadium after seeing his mother.

Bolt's time of 9.69 wasn't the most shocking part of his race either; his margin of victory was just as shocking. Who knows what would have happened if he had not let up? Could have seen 9.59 as NBC commentator Ato Bolden thought? He beat Trinidad and Tobago's Richard Thompson by .20 seconds, which is astounding for track and field. Thompson's celebration was just as entertaining as Bolt's, as Thompson essentially celebrated like he won the gold. Dix surprised all, coming in third to net the bronze. Powell finished a disappointing fifth.

My beef with this race is the lack of emphasis NBC put on track and field this year. This event had happened twelve hours before they showed it in America. Therefore, I already knew the storylines. I knew that American Tyson Gay lost out in the semifinals. I knew that Bolt won and set a world record. The only thing I didn't know was how he did it. I received a text message from a friend that told me not to look online for the results, but nonetheless, I saw the headlines online. Still, I stayed up to watch, and I was not disappointed. NBC was all over swimming this year, which I don't blame them for, as Phelps is once in a generation, but some respect has to be given to the runners.

Despite my frequent beefs with NBC, tonight was an amazing night in sport history, one that I will never forget and one that I will make sure my kids hear all about as they grow up.

Dix said it best about Bolt:

"That guy can run."