I've been holding back a lot of venom on the world of NASCAR, but after this weekend I simply have to let it out. I guess Jimmie Johnson is winning his third straight championship or something, because ESPN just won't shut up about the guy. The culmination of all this hoopla came when I saw the network's NASCAR guys saying that Johnson's third straight championship puts him in the same class as Tiger Woods and Roger Federer as far as dominant athletic accomplishment is concerned. Now I've already commented on the whole "world's best athlete thing" and the feats of both Eldrich and Rog, but the comments about Johnson have honestly put me over the edge.

This stuff honestly baffles me. There are many things that get lumped into the world of sports without really warranting it, existing more as competition than as an according-to-Hoyle sport. I define a sport as athletic competition that defines clear-cut winners and losers without the help of a judge. There are several athletic competitions that use judges, and to varying degrees the argument could be made that they qualify as a sport. Gymnastics for example, requires so much athleticism that it is the closest you can be to a sport without actually being one. The grace, stamina, strength and agility that make gymnastics as grueling a competition as it is are pretty much beyond the shadow of a doubt, but the fact that a judge decides who wins disqualifies it as a sport in my book. The same can be said for skateboarding, figure skating and diving, along with a handful of other competitions that need judges to decide a winner.

I know what you're probably thinking, that by that criteria, bowling and poker are sports. Wrong. The other thing that makes a sport a sport is a test of physical aptitude. While bowling is a game that requires a lot of skill, the more or less athletic you are has pretty much nothing to do with how good you are. The same goes for poker, albeit to an even lesser extent. Sorry, but if you can be a total fucking slob and still compete, I can't very well consider your competition a sporting event. At least bowlers have to physically throw a bowling ball every frame, with poker not even coming close to being a sport considering that all you do is sit there and play cards. As far as I'm concerned these are the two easy distinctions: competitions that have judges, and competitions that require no physical ability.

There are of course, exceptions that perfectly extol the fine line that exists between sport and competition, and for me they are horse racing and auto racing. If you concede that the only auto racing that can garner more than a handful of people to watch it is NASCAR, then it is NASCAR and horse racing that bring us to this impasse. Horse racing features nothing but athletes, the problem is they are not human. Horses like Secretariat can be considered great athletes as far as I'm concerned, and the jockeys that ride horses are performing a difficult athletic feat as well. That being said, I think that horse racing, with its clearly defined winners and losers and athletic prowess on display, is in fact a sport. The world of NASCAR on the other hand, has no business in this conversation. I've heard so many arguments that drivers are athletes, that it takes a lot of endurance to what they do, that being in the position they're in at the speeds they race at for 3 or more hours is about as athletic as you can get.

Well I'm not fucking buying it. Similar to poker players but closer to jockeys, NASCAR drivers still aren't athletes and thus lose any shot their races have at being considered an athletic competition. Making left hand turns and trying not to crash not only make for some of the most boring television that can possibly be endured, but pressing pedals and using a steering wheel don't require any amount of athletic ability. Bowlers do more when they throw the ball at the pins ladies and gentlemen. The only thing that NASCAR has going for it is the fact that there is a clear cut winner; it's the guy whose mechanics build the fastest car. That's who wins these races folks, the guy with the best mechanics and crew members. If the best drivers were the ones that won all of the races, they could drive until they were sixty and continue to dominate NASCAR indefinitely. Wait, how old are some of these assholes anyway?

Now the fact that NASCAR is not a sport is what got me talking about it initially, but I'd also like to inform you about the other things that suck about this godawful American tradition. I mean I suppose it was inevitable that when you live in a country that invents so many things and has enhanced the experience of being alive as much as Americans, we were bound to slip up at some point. They can't all be the light bulb and rock 'n roll folks, we were destined to release our version of the Edsel (shit, we invented that too!) and I contend that it is the pointless burning of gasoline that is NASCAR racing.

Oil prices going through the roof? Too bad, you'll have to continue to not only watch with utter helplessness as gas rates go up and down like a 13 year old's penis, but also witness rednecks burn fuel like it's rainwater so less important rednecks have something to get drunk to on the weekends. Seriously, I think one of the reasons NASCAR is enjoyed by so many people is because it's one of the few things on TV you can watch while absolutely shit-faced and not really miss anything. If you've had too many beers and turned your vision into a broken Viewmaster, you can still assume that what you're seeing is cars going around in a big circle. And don't worry, if you're so full of beer that your back teeth are floating and really have to go to the bathroom, you're not going to miss a game-winning home run or a 98 yard touchdown run, you'll just miss a car doing exactly what it was when you left. You know, being driven in a circle, the same thing it's going to do for the rest of the race.

"I watch it for the crashes!", some redneck in Nowheresville shouts. That's great. You're the same guy that is let down by America's Funniest Home Videos if someone doesn't take a wiffle-ball bat to the groin. Watching a competition to see people fuck up would be like watching the Superbowl for the fumbles. How exhilarating! And how do you select your favorite driver? I like Ohio State and the Detroit Tigers because I grew up close enough to both to go watch them live. I doubt that Johnny McRedneck gives a shit where the driver is from, but more likely picked his favorite driver because he got into a fight after one of the races, brilliantly punching a guy wearing a helmet that is designed to withstand a crash at over 100 miles per hour.

Not only that, but NASCAR is the acme of consumer culture, turning the car and the driver's uniform into the advertising industry's version of a punk kid's leather jacket. If I buy an OSU shirt, that's the only thing I'm proclaiming, that I'm a fan of the Buckeyes. A Dale Earnhardt Jr. fan is trying to show Junior some love, but ends up being a billboard for the National Guard. Wait, I guess that's another way to select your favorite driver. If you like Coors Light, Jack Daniels, Skoal or stuff that Dupont makes, you can be a fan of the guy who drives that car. Be careful though, if another company can make a more expensive whore out of your favorite driver, he will jump ship. Before you know it, your National Guard jacket and hat could be turning into an ad for Scott's fertilizer. Then again, maybe you're cool with that.

In summation, not only do I hate the fact that NASCAR is considered a sport, but I hate everything it stands for. I think of the handful of people that read this blog, I may have offended a few. If you can challenge any of my assertions I welcome the argument, until then we'll all be on pins and needles until the Daytona 500, which kicks off the NASCAR season and is like playing the Superbowl in week one of the NFL. Incredible.



I mentioned previously that I would begin this post where the last left off, talking some pro hoops. The NBA season is around 10 games old depending on your team's schedule and already intriguing story lines have begun to emerge. If you remember my season wrap up after the Celtics victory in the finals (which I will quote shortly), I said that the Celts and Lakers would continue to dominate this season, with an edge going to LA considering they would see the return of Andrew Bynum. While that has proven true and it wasn't a tough prediction to make, what I said about another team, the Atlanta Hawks, has me swelling with pride at this early stage of the regular season. The Hawks just suffered their first loss of the season the other night to the defending champion Celtics, and that was on a buzzer beater by Paul Pierce at the end of regulation. The Hawks are doing what I thought they would do this year, entering the conversation about the class of the Eastern Conference. Here's what I said about them last June as I discussed Boston's run to the championship:
"Yes, the Celtics had trouble with a less than worthy Atlanta team, but in their defense the Hawks came together as a unit in that series, with Mike Bibby providing the glue to a youthful structure that boasts some of the best and brightest that the NBA will see in the coming years. Joe Johnson and Josh Smith are a terrific tandem and Bibby and a bit more inside help will have that team poised to replace the Cleveland Cavaliers as the third best team in the East over the next couple of seasons."
Well, Al Horford is emerging as that inside help I was speaking of and Bibby is only playing better with an entire summer's worth of training camp and pre-season action under his belt. The Hawks might be the third best team in the East right now. I think it's a little early to start ranking teams but they have to be in the same ballpark as Detroit, Orlando and Cleveland. The Celtics are still the team to be in the East, but the surging Hawks will continue to impress, mark my words. They're no early-season phenomenon and if they are graced with some immunity to the injury bug will be vying for a 2, 3 or 4 seed come playoff time.

The NBA's other early season hot topic has to be the trade that the Nuggets and the Pistons made, which sent Chauncey B-B-B-Billups to his home town of Denver and landed Allen "We're talking about practice?" Iverson in Detroit. I'm not sure how I feel about this trade for the Pistons right now, but the Nuggets will definitely benefit from Mr. Big Shot's leadership, defense and toughness. The Enver Nuggets (get it? They don't play "D" in that city!) already lost Marcus Camby, the only player on the team that even attempted to guard anybody, so inserting the strong and defensively solid Billups can only help that team. Throw in the fact that Chauncey didn't get the name Mr. Big Shot for nothing and he seemingly never misses a free throw and you'll see why the Denver faithful might not be missing the Answer for very long.

As for Mr. Iverson's new digs in Detroit, I'm not so sure about this one. The Pistons are a team that has dominated in the Eastern Conference because of defense and a spread-the-wealth mentality on offense, so I'm not quite sure how AI is going to fit in within that system. Iverson has never been a shut-down type of defender and while he is one of the greatest scorers the game has ever seen, I'm not sure the amount of shots he is going to take is going to help the Pistons as much as they think. I might be committing a foolish sin here, questioning Joe Dumars' decision making when it comes to personnel, but for some reason this deal has the conspiracy theorist in me working overtime.

Bear with me here. I don't think the Pistons think they can honestly get over the hump and challenge Boston for the Eastern crown in the here and now. I think what Joe D is thinking is that the Big Three in Boston have around two or three quality seasons left together, and then the East is going to start evening out again. That being said, a certain number 23 in Cleveland will be a free-agent after the 2010 season. So if you can hang on to Allen Iverson, Richard Hamilton and Tayshaun Prince for a couple of years, pair them with rising stars like Rodney Stuckey and Jason Maxiell and then add LeBron effing James to the mix, you have a team that could beat the stuffing out of any other squad that dared lace up their sneakers. Even if the Pistons lose a couple of the pieces I just mentioned (notice I didn't throw Rasheed Wallace into that mix, because I think he's definitely leaving soon), LeBron and AI together would be unstoppable on their own. That of course is contigent on an aging Iverson sticking around, but this writer has much confidence in Lebron James healing any persisting injuries or lack of passion that Iverson may have at that point. I would almost take the Pistons 4 on 5 against half the Association if AI and King James were together.

I'm such a huge fan of the pro game when it comes to basketball and the early part of this season has not disappointed whatsoever. Can't wait to keep talking about the NBA in the weeks and months to come. So long for now, I have to make it home in time for the Celtics/Nuggets tip.



My oh my, it has been so long since I put fingers to keys! I just finished up an exhausting run at my job, which ended with the election and has now left me with the kind of free time that is required to write this blog. It’s wonderful to have some time to get back to doing things that make me happy, but I am sad to leave a job that was both fulfilling and rewarding. It ended with wins and losses, with the main race that my organization was working on between Bruce Lunsford and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell not coming out the way we wanted, but the historic presidential race coming out exactly as it should (dood will have to change that number to 08!) . I could write page after page of text about how amazing I felt watching the election coverage on Tuesday night, but it could not do the feeling inside my heart justice. That man almost brought me to tears too many times during his victory address to the teeming masses in Grant Park, and his historic win in this election will have ramifications that none of us can possibly understand. With that out of the way, let’s talk sports for chrissakes!

I haven’t posted in so long that the World Series has wrapped up, the NBA season has begun, the college football season is almost over and the NFL season has reached its halfway mark. My lack of posts over the past months have left me in a situation where I’ll spend a bit of time on each of those topics, with more to come over the coming weeks and days (hopefully) about the seasons that continue to dominate my TV viewing and online sports news consumption.


Starting with the World Series, I couldn’t be happier that the Red Sox and Yankees were kept out of the fall classic and two teams that had their own unique story lines got to lock horns in October. The Devil Rays reminded me in many ways of the Detroit Tigers of 2006, who rose from not just mediocrity but total ineptitude to get to the World Series after years of basement dwelling. The Rays’ turn around was truly incredible and I think the same thing that cost the Tigers in their series against the Cardinals ended up costing the Rays against the champion Phillies. The Phillies pitching showed up, while the Rays’ young arms just didn’t have enough to get the job done. You can say what you want about the Rays’ lack of offensive potency in the Series, but the fact is that playoff series are won on the mound for the most part, and their young arms, like the Tigers’ in ’06, came up a little short under the pressure and spotlight of the World Series. Cole Hamels was particularly brilliant for the Phillies, and it was great to see a city so starved for a championship finally bring one home. Congrats to the Phils and don’t worry Rays fans, your future is brighter than nearly any other team in baseball.


The college football season is nearing its end, with only a few weeks to go of complete BCS freakouts and unending argument about who the two best teams are. My predictions in the post preceding this one didn’t hold up at all, as I thought either the Ohio State Buckeyes or the USC Trojans would run the table and end up in the National Title game. The Trojans put a hurting on my Bucks that I am still recovering from and the Trojans suffered yet another unexpected (can we even say that any more?) defeat to Oregon State. The two teams left the door wide open for SEC, Big 12 and Big 10 teams to step into the National Title race, with the BCS currently sending Texas Tech and Alabama to the big game if the season ended tomorrow. There is so much football left to be played and so much great competition has already occurred that I’m almost willing to say that this November might trump last November’s insanity as far as ranking shake-ups go. Texas Tech and Alabama have some tough games ahead, with Florida, Oklahoma and USC among others licking their chops to move back up to the coveted top two spots in the BCS. The teams at the top of the rankings are going to continue to knock each other up and down the polls, but at this point I believe that Texas Tech and Florida are the two best teams I’ve watched play football this season. Take a look at the BCS rankings and tell me that anyone has a snowball’s chance in hell of predicting how this whole mess is going to pan out:





Texas Tech


















Penn State



Boise State





Somehow, Texas is looking alright at No. 3, even after that amazing game they lost to Texas Tech. Texas Tech has to play No. 5 Oklahoma in two weeks, and even if they win that game will have to most likely face-off against Missouri in the Big 12 title game. Alabama will probably win out until their SEC Championship game, which will be played against No. 4 Florida. This means that 4 out of the current top 5 teams are facing a game they could lose in the coming weeks. I don't know how you even begin to reshuffle the rankings after those games are played. Do you give Texas another shot, considering they lost to Texas Tech but beat Oklahoma? Is USC's fate already sealed, even though they only lost one game and have proven as dominate as any other team since their stumble against Oregon State? And what about the unbeaten Utah Utes or the Mac-Daddy's of the MAC, Ball State? Don't get me started...

The BCS is one of the most fascinating messes in all of sports and while a playoff system has been requested by coaches and players both former and current (along with our President Elect), the NCAA seems completely content to go through this bullshit every year. They make so much money from the Bowl system and the level of controversy only heightens the attention the sport receives this time of the year season in and season out. The only series of events that would clearly decide an obvious No. 1 and No. 2 would be if Texas Tech and Alabama win out. That doesn't seem likely according to most prognosticators, but the way the college football season is going, like last year, I wouldn't be surprised by anything. I do think Texas Tech can go in to Norman and beat Oklahoma and then handle Missouri in the Big 12 title game, while I'm less inclined to believe that Alabama can deal with the Gators in the SEC championship. So, if you want a prediction, I'll say Florida v. Texas Tech for the title. A shot in the dark, but predictions in college football are never anything more.


As for the NFL, jeez-o-petes! Nobody's pre-season predictions about how this year would pan out have proven close to correct, from the implosion of the Cowboys to Tom Brady’s knee to the rise of the Vince Young-less Tennessee Titans. While I've previously pontificated on the inanity of ESPN's constant updates and unending bickering on its programs, the NFL coverage is truly impossible to tolerate at this point. If I hear one more knucklehead on that network retract a prediction or contradict himself about how the season will ultimately pan out I'm going to go all Mike Singletary and do something dangerous in Bristol. They went on for weeks about how the NFC East would produce three playoff teams, when in the end it could only be one. Everyone on that network kept proclaiming the Eagles the second best team in the division, even while they can't seem to beat any other team in the division. Not to mention how they count out the Colts and Pats, and then a week later proclaim that the two former powerhouses of the AFC are back and ready to pounce on this season's proven winners like the Steelers and Titans.

For weeks they disregarded the surprising play of teams in the NFC South, which like the NFC East, has the potential to send only one team to the playoffs or an amazing three. I don't see any difference between the two divisional races quite frankly. You've got your dominate team in each, (the Panthers and Giants respectively) then the rest of the conference, which will clamor for positioning and probably come down to tie-breaker rules that will make your head spin off your shoulders. I don't see why the Cowboys, Redskins and Eagles are so much better than the Falcons, Buccaneers and Saints. If you take a look at the teams' overall and divisional records, you'll see that they enjoy the same level of parity as playoff races throughout football.

The truth is that parity has left the NFL a virtual crap-shoot with each new season and sitting at a fancy desk on a set in Bristol doesn't mean you have any idea of how things are going to turn out. Just shut-up, analyze some film and give me more highlights ESPN, because the NFL is probably the toughest nut to crack in all of sports when it comes to predictions. Even tougher than college football, which as I have just explained is a complete mess every year.

Oy. This thing is getting long enough as is, so I’ll save the NBA chat for another post. It’s lovely to be back at the keyboard and posting to the Hip, and I hope my inactive streak doesn’t last another two months like the last one did. Cheers.



I mentioned in my very first post on this blog that the reason I started writing it in the first place was to vent much of the analysis and thoughts that I have concerning sports. I started blogging because I left behind a group of friends and family in Toledo that I used to share my love of sports with and that to a large extent, that experience has been limited here in Louisville. Never is the impetus for this blog more prevalent then at the onset of the college football season, where I am no longer surrounded by Ohio State and Michigan fans that are always ready with their opinion and armed with arguments about the upcoming season. And so this post will focus mainly on my thoughts and predictions about this year's college football season, saving the NFL for a post that should follow post haste. Get it? I kill me.

Being an Ohio State fan is simultaneously a truly fortunate and nerve-racking situation. The fact that the Buckeyes are among the best teams in the country year in and year out makes being a fan exciting and fulfilling. I, along with the rest of Buckeye fandom, am not subjected to very many disappointing seasons as far as their win/loss total is concerned, but rather strained by the fact that anything less than a National Title is a disappointment. Ohio State is coming into this season having been to and lost the last two National Championship games, which is rewarding and worrisome. There are a lot worse places to end your season than in that game, but losing twice in a row and being ranked in the top 3 in most polls only makes this writer think of the Buffalo Bills of the 1990s. The Bills made it to three consecutive Super Bowls, only to lose all three in dramatic and embarrassing fashions alike. I don't want the Buckeyes to become to college football what the Bills are to the NFL, a story of what could have been.

The Buckeyes losses in consecutive BCS National Championship games to SEC opponents has left a sour taste in the land of college football for fans of the program and fans of the game. As OSU fans, we are left to think what might have been if Teddy Ginn hadn't broken his foot on the first play of the game against Flordia, or if the Buckeyes had looked like anything more than a shadow of themselves in last year's game against LSU. The rest of the nation is left wondering why Ohio State keeps ending up in the game, only to disappoint and lose to SEC foes each time. The national media and a majority of fans that support other teams and conferences have used the last two years to call in to question the strength of OSU and the Big Ten Conference for that matter, and it has only bolstered the SEC's reputation as the premiere football conference in the NCAA. I feel like the criticism of OSU and the subsequent backlash against our legitimacy is a bit unwarranted, while the dominance of the SEC has given them an earned reputation as the cream of the crop.

Year in and year out, I have to agree that the SEC is the best football conference in the country, and going undefeated when your schedule inlcudes some combination of LSU, Florida, Tennessee, Auburn and Georgia is a daunting task to say the least. I don't think that should take away from what Ohio State has accomplished though. The gold standard in college football is going undefeated. Not losing a game and being in a major conference is as sure a ticket into the National Championship game as you can get. Last year's season of upsets and unexpected teams at the top of the rankings did a little to shake that up, but the fact remains that winning all of your games is an impressive feat, especially given the amount of parity that exists in the game these days. Ten years ago, can you imagine Appalachian State beating Michigan in the Big House or South Florida, Missouri and Kansas being in the conversation of who's the best team in the country? Probably not. The game has changed but its standards and wacky way of selecting the teams that end up in the final game of the year have remained the same, with an undefeated season being the end-all of conversations about at least one of the teams that play for the championship.

I'm not sure that any team has a chance at going undefeated this year, but I'm sorry to say SEC fans, the two teams that have the best shot are not surprisingly not in your conference. USC and Ohio State don't have to play nearly as many quality football teams in order to go undefeated, and the only reason you'll be lucky enough to clear one of them out of the way is that they play each other in two weeks. The Buckeyes are the best team in the Big Ten hands down (despite their recent hiccup against Ohio University) and while they may not go undefeated through their conference schedule, they have a better shot than No. 1 Georgia, Flordia and LSU. USC is in the same boat as the Buckeyes. They are the class of the Pac-10 and if they go undefeated or only suffer one loss, it will be for the same reason as the Buckeyes. So to all the haters who are upset that OSU could appear in its third consecutive National Championship game, take it up with the NCAA, who still refuses to seriously consider a playoff system. If the Buckeyes or USC go undefeated they will be playing in the last game of the season and the simple fact is that one of them probably will run the table.

All of that being said, I have a few quick observations after the first two weeks of action:
  • ECU is for real folks. You don't get wins over Virginia Tech and West Virginia in consecutive weeks and not have a talented squad. Quarterback Patrick Pinkney had two very impressive performances in each of the team's first two games and while many a West Virginia fan might be blaming the coaching staff and the departure of Rich Rodriguez on the team's lack of offensive potency against the Pirates, the simple fact may be that the Pirates defense is damn good.
  • Ohio State's struggles against Ohio University tell us nothing about what will happen in the OSU/USC game this weekend. Lou Holtz and Mark May of ESPN got into it about this very fact shortly after the country watched the Buckeyes stumble against their less-than-worthy opponent and while Holtz agreed with me, true to form May ripped Ohio State a new buckeye. Any Ohio State fan will tell you that May has it in for the Bucks in the worst way and could not stop talking about how the SC running backs are salivating to run against the Buckeyes. Really? They're stoked about facing perhaps the country's most dominant defense, one that allowed less than 13 points per game last year and led the country in rushing yards against? Give me a break. The game will be what it is and has nothing to do with OSU's performance over the weekend. Just ask Beanie Wells.
  • Michigan is in the middle of a big old rebuilding process. A lot of people are high on Utah this year, but for them to come in to the Big House and hand Michigan their second consecutive home loss to open a season is an unsettling omen for Wolverines fans. I'm not trying to be biased here, because OSU went through the same sort of struggles in Tressel's first season as head coach. I'm just saying that until Rich Rod has the recruits and athletes to run his heralded spread option, Michigan will wade in mediocrity.
  • The college football season is just a thing of beauty. After watching games all day last Saturday I was still on the edge of my seat watching the end of the South Florida/Central Florida game, which came down to an overtime decision in favor of the Bulls after they almost won it on a field goal attempt that would've prevented overtime in the first place. When two teams that far away from me can put me on the edge of my seat, with nothing invested in the game but a love for college football, I know that there is no other form of competition that will ever be closer to my heart.
Sorry, got kind of sappy on you at the end there. Sports is serious stuff, even if it is just a bunch of games in the end. I'll be back shortly with my NFL notes, making a bunch of wild predictions after watching only the first week of action.



The fact that this year's Olympic games are held in China should not detract from the athletes on display and their many accomplishments, but if you have even an iota of a social conscience, the 2008 games may rub you the wrong way from their onset. Personally, it's distracting for me to see a country with a long history of human rights abuses become the center of the sporting world and the focus of endless coverage on the NBC family of networks. China's most recent support for the Sudanese government's atrocities in the Darfur region are only the latest chapter in the how-to book the country has written on alienating the international community and disregarding the rights of human beings (Tiananmen Square anyone?). I never thought that Beijing should be given the games in the first place, but when you add rampant pollution and intense levels of secrecy to their less than stellar history of violence and oppression, I think that it becomes obvious that this year's games are not only about sport and athletic competition, but also about the world's uneasy realization that China is on the rise both economically and politically.

The most recent issue of Adbusters explores the rise of China in the global socio-economic structure in great detail, examining a country that is setting itself up to usurp the United States as the world's true superpower. Whether or not the Chinese will succeed in their aims to dominate the global conversation on a variety of topics is still up for debate, with their pollution and food resource problems limiting the impact of an economy that refuses to slow down. The aforementioned Adbusters helps point out the many problems that the Chinese government has helped create in its struggle for global supremacy and points to a country that is trying to create a figurative wall around itself to stand alongside the Great one made of stone and mortar. Just because cyclists are now free to win medals on a ride atop the wall that used to insulate the country from its enemies does not take away from the fact that the Chinese government is an oppressive regime that is redefining what autonomy means. These factors have turned China into an an unnerving backdrop for the Olympics, where world leaders gathered in the games' first few days to see the up and comer that could threaten their old-world ideas about who's on top globally. I don't like to use Adbusters as source material for my opinions as it has a tendency to exaggerate and infuriate when it could educate and enlighten, but hearing some of the world's leading intellectuals' thoughts on China re-aligned my view of the Olympic games and the country as a whole. A book on China's rise is on my reading list for the summer and until I know more I'll stop preaching and move on to what the Olympics are really all about: athletic competition.

Any conversation about this year's games must start with Michael Phelps, who set the Olympic record for medals in one games with an incredible 8. The fact that Phelps won 8 medals is in itself an amazing accomplishment, but the amount of drama in some of the finishes and the world-record breaking pace at which he won several races made him the dominant story without question. Phelps is a specimen of a human being and the world may never see a single athlete dominate an Olympic games like he did in Beijing this year. This guy's a once-in-a-generation type of talent in the pool and deserves all praises for his golden summer at this year's games. Where I start to get uneasy is when people start talking about him as the greatest athlete in the world. While 8 gold medals and a dominant performance at the biggest stage in sport will get you into the conversation about the world's greatest athlete, I can't believe the amount of chatter I've heard that he is hands down the owner of that title. Maybe I'm just too Americanized for this debate, but I could never call a swimmer the world's greatest athlete, the same way I could never give Tiger Woods that title because he is a golfer.

Granted, swimming is more athletic than golf (you can't swim and smoke a cigar at the same time for example) and though Tiger is probably the world's greatest competitor, Roger Federer has more of a claim to the title than Phelps or Woods combined. He's dominant in his sport and his sport is a physically grueling task. I think that I agree with former U.S. Olympian Bruce Jenner, who claimed to great controversy that Phelps could never be considered the greatest Olympian because all he does is swim. Jenner was saying that the decathlon is the best measure of an athlete, with running, jumping, throwing etc. indicating a more complete and impressive body of work. Phelps, Woods and Federer are the most dominant athletes in their particular sport and I don't take that away from them, but you can't tell me that they're better athletes than Kobe Bryant, Terrell Owens or even this year's gold medal winner in the decathlon, Bryan Clay. Maybe I'm being too hard on Phelps because he's become such a dominant headline in this year's games, but it could also have to do with the fact that he went to Michigan, which can sully even the nicest guy's allure for this writer. Anyways, there are other things from this year's games to be talked about, so I'll borrow a bit from Peter King and do some quick hits on things "I think I think".

  • The USA Men's basketball took home the gold this year, living up to their media-created moniker, The Redeem Team. After frankly getting embarrassed in Athens four years ago, the new and improved men's hoopers ran through their preliminary contests with ease on the way to the gold medal game against Spain. The game itself was surprisingly close considering that the teams' first meeting ended in a 30 point victory for the U.S. The gold medal game was a contest with NBA playoff type excitement and while the U.S. won by 11, the final score defied how gritty of a performance the Spanish men put on. It was great to see how honestly excited the entire U.S. team was and the world's greatest player Kobe Bryant proved once again that he is one of the sport's all-time great clutch athletes. Kobe had his hand in 15 consecutive points down a critical stretch in the fourth quarter, either assisting or scoring to help the team seal a victory.
  • Usain Bolt's performance on the track was awe-inspiring. It mirrored Phelps' dominance in the pool and his size compared to the other runners just adds to the fact that you can't take your eyes off of him when he's running. He's got a beautiful stride and graceful balance that left everybody else in the dust in the 100 and 200 meters and set world and Olympic records in the process.
  • The whole controversy over the age of the female Chinese gymnasts is very disconcerting. I alluded to the Chinese penchant for secrecy at the beginning of this post and for that reason I was not at all surprised when the young athletes were suspected of being a little too young. I mean seriously, gymnasts have a way of hiding their age because of their size and physiques, but those girls looked fresh off of the monkey bars, not the uneven bars. You have to be at least 16 to compete in the events, and it's now coming to light that a couple of the Chinese "women" are only 14. I don't even know if I buy that quite frankly.
  • The opening and closing ceremonies at this year's games were simply breathtaking, leaving the planners for the 2012 games in London with a lot to think about. I can't see them topping the amazing level of precision and aesthetic beauty in the Chinese ceremonies, which were nothing short of incredible. A friend of mine told me via text message that she was crying as she watched the opening ceremonies because of their sheer beauty, which pretty much speaks for itself. Maybe you shouldn't have hosted the games in the first place China, but you sure know how to put on a damn good show, so kudos on that at least.

That's it for my Olympic observations, stay tuned for a post about my obsession with college football and the anticipation that is boiling over in my blood to watch this year's Ohio State Buckeyes.




Well, the Brett Favre saga has finally come to what appears to be an end. The speculation as to what would happen to Favre after his un-retirement has been the dominant sports story for seemingly the past few years, when in reality he has only usurped all other headlines for around a month or so. The Green Bay Packers decided not to take the face of their franchise back, instead opting to deal the legendary QB to the New York Jets and pin their own hopes on the arm of the young Aaron Rodgers. I explored my distain for this story in the previous post (scroll down if you’re in to that sort of thing) and while I am happy that the Favre/Green Bay limbo is finally through, the end result has not changed my opinion on Favre, the Packers or the media.

Favre still comes out of this looking narcissistic and egomaniacal, and the Packers still look level headed and have their sights set firmly on the future. The media attention paid to this story is warranted to a degree, because I can’t remember a more compelling off-season hysteria like this in pro football in my lifetime. While ESPN has nauseated me with its blanketing, make that tarp-like coverage of the whole ordeal, the fact that the Packers shunned their hall-of-fame QB because of their need to move forward and because of his attitude is still rather surprising. The NFL, more than any other sport, is a business first meritocracy. If you’re the best at your position, you’re the one that plays there, bottom line. The only exceptions to this rule in the past have been when players put themselves too far ahead of the team’s best interests, as in the case of guys like Keyshawn Johnson and Terrell Owens, who both made early exits from the Bucs and Eagles respectively for attempting to poison the locker room to a cataclysmic degree.

It seems that the only logical assertion to be made in the Favre situation is that his return to Green Bay would have harmed the team’s chances in the upcoming season. Not because he isn’t the best man for the job, which he clearly is, but because his attitude and the level of attention he was garnering would have been horrible for a young and upcoming squad like the Packers. In my mind, that’s the decision the front office and coaching personnel in Green Bay made: “We love you Brett, but you’re going to do us harm if we let you come back”. It’s almost like that old boyfriend or girlfriend who wants you to forgive them after an infidelity and no matter how much you think it would be bad for you, you think about doing it. If the Packers were me and Favre were a girl, they would have folded like a bad hand in poker and taken him back, but they showed a level of professionalism and resolve that could go down in NFL history as one of the best decisions ever made.

Why do I think so? Because Favre is on the last three years of his career at best, with a more likely timetable of two more quality years in the NFL. Then his body will finally give out and no matter how much he wants the attention, he will have to at long end remain retired. Therefore the Packers were able to move on more quickly, keep Aaron Rodgers (who will end up being a damn good NFL quarterback, mark my words) and avoid a media circus throughout training camp and on into the regular season. Not only that, but they avoided sending Favre where he wanted to go, the Pack’s division rival Minnesota Vikings and instead sent him to the AFC. The Jets being outside their conference, Green Bay won’t even meet New York for two more seasons, by which time Brett might already be riding off into the sunset.

Now on to the New York Bretts…er…Jets. In the interest of full disclosure, I stole that from some guy on ESPN because I love a good play on words. Anyhow, they’ve made a move that might just get them back in the playoffs and should at least make for some entertaining football now that Favre and the Jets will meet Tom Brady and the Patriots two times a season. They simultaneously released their starting QB Chad Pennington, a Marshall grad who has run into both arm strength and injury problems during his tenure as a Jet. He was getting a run for his money from back-up Kellen Clemens this past year, and will most likely fair better with the team that recently signed him, the Miami Dolphins. I heard a talking head on ESPN call Pennington “flat out bad” and I really feel like that is an unfair assessment of Chad’s ability. The guy hasn’t been able to avoid injuries during the better part of his career and it’s not like he had a Pro Bowl squad surrounding him at any point. Favre will find that inheriting the QB position in New York is a daunting task, not only because of the fact that the city is a media tempest, but because that team just isn’t ready for prime-time at this point. I thought that Pennington would end up in either the role Favre was after as the Vikings signal caller, or put both Kyle Orton and Rex Grossman to shame in a three way battle for the Bears’ QB spot, but he ended up in Miami where Bill Parcels is running the show. Parcells drafted Pennington when he was the head coach in New York and since he’s now the behind the scenes shot caller in Miami, it's not at all surprising Chad is a Dolphin. It follows Bill's trend of bringing in “Parcells guys” when he switches venues and will help a team that is in dire need of some stability at the quarterback position. So the Favre drama is put at (somewhat) of an arm’s length (for now).


This year’s pennant races stirred up a little bit of a bugaboo for me, which is the outright buying and selling of talent down the playoff stretch. This rampant selling off and adding on of players is not only a problem in baseball, but in the national pastime it seems to be an all-out bidding war every year when the trade deadline comes around. Not only that, but this year especially big-name talent is moving around from team to team as pennant races tighten up and the run for playoff positioning begins in earnest. It’s a strange phenomenon when losing teams simply give up on guys that could be the core of their future success to dump salaries or acquire even more young prospects which they will eventually probably deal in coming years at the trade deadline. Multiple unproven prospects for proven ability is usually the exchange in a lot of sports, not just baseball, but it just seems like many teams just won’t sit and wait for guys to pan out anymore. Manny Ramirez, Mark Teixeira, Ken Griffey Jr. and Adam Dunn (the latter both being Cincinnati Reds’ players) all switched squads, and their proven ability sent a lot of no-name minor leaguers and lesser known utility players to new teams in the swap. Not only that, but we should be ready for more to come as baseball’s waiver wire heats up. Gary Sheffield of the Tigers just hit the waiver wire after he moaned about a lack of playing time and will probably end up as yet another hired gun on a team trying to make the playoffs or win the whole she-bang.

I understand that baseball is a business at its core and entertainment is always its aim, but winning at the cost of your future has become the move du-jour among any team within a mile of making the playoffs these days. I’m afraid when I tell my children about the guys I grew up watching like Alan Trammell and “Sweet” Lou Whitaker of the Detroit Tigers, who stayed with the club for their entire careers, the story will become as alien to them as legends my dad and uncles told me of the glory days of their baseball. The game changes at lightning speed nowadays and I’m just afraid that the lack of team loyalty, which has for so long been blamed on money-hungry ball players, will actually be eradicated by winning obsessed owners and team presidents, who will stop at nothing to claim victory now. This win yesterday mentality is going to end up poisoning sports for a lot of guys and gals my age as we get older and the generation behind us is probably going to understand free-agency and the waiver wire better than I understand the actual ins and outs of the game of baseball. It used to be that owners were all about money and the players were all about the game. Then the Black Sox Scandal proved that the players were also all about the money, just like the owners they were railing against. Then the players’ salaries inflated to such breathtaking amounts that owners cried foul at their greed. Now the bottom line might as well be chalked onto the field alongside the bases, where cash is the only language both sides seem to speak anymore. I might be getting a bit jaded, but then again I might be witnessing the last throws of a battle between baseball and football for the American sports fan’s soul. Football, the intense and brutal meritocracy of sport, is built for this type of money-grubbing and win-now bullshit. I never thought my precious baseball was set on such an untoward path, but I now see even football players and owners as comparative bastions of loyalty and pride. Oh, me.

I hope to post again soon, so stay tuned for a few thoughts on the Olympics, both sporty and political.



Summer can sometimes get a bum rap in the world of sports. By the end of June, basketball and hockey have both lapsed into their off-seasons, leaving the average viewer or fan down to baseball, tennis and golf. Compared to football, basketball and hockey (which are all three built on mostly break-neck action) we’re talking about the most stereotypically slow and unexciting games of the sporting world. That being said, this summer’s early months have been full of some wonderful moments and contests, proving the stereotype wrong in spades and keeping this sports fan’s plate more than full.


The baseball season has always been a big deal for me, with the Detroit Tigers being the only team I live and die for other than the Ohio State Buckeyes. As a result, baseball and summer are never a let down for me, though I’d be lying if said I didn’t spend a good deal of the summer anticipating the next season of Buckeye football in the fall. This year’s baseball season has been full of big surprises and competitive pennant races across the board, some of which I’ve already explored a bit in previous posts. The exclamation point on the first half of the season came a couple of weeks back when the American and National leagues met in the mid-summer classic, the All Star Game. The game has taken on a bit more weight and relevance since it became the deciding factor in home field advantage for the World Series, and this year’s contest was only further energized by being the last to be played in Yankee Stadium.

Joe Buck, Fox’s play-by-play announcer, called the soon-to-be-abandoned Yankee Stadium the American equivalent of the Coliseum in Rome. While I may not put the “house that Ruth built” in quite that high of regard, it is an incredible place that has seen some amazing moments both inside and outside of baseball during the course of its existence. Last night the old ball park saw another classic played within its historic confines, a 15 inning affair that ended up being the longest in All Star Game record. The game started while I was at work and I was disappointed when I came home that though the game was knotted at 2-2, it was already the 8th inning. For my sake, the game proceeded to take a thrilling set of turns and momentum shifts, with each half-inning thereafter full of runners ready to score the game winner, only to be thwarted by a mix of great defense, questionable calls and some truly impressive pitching.

While the All Star Game is an exhibitory affair, both leagues are obviously interested in a win because of both pride and the prize of home field advantage in the World Series. It can sometimes make for an uneasy mix of decisions for each team’s manager, because while each wants to play all of the players selected to appear in the game, exceptions must be made when it comes to banged up players or pitchers on short rest. Situations like last night’s game, where the contest happens to stretch into extra innings, create a series of tough decisions to be made. In extras, both teams’ benches are stretched thin in both position players and pitchers, which led to the game’s first ever tie a few years back in 2002. Both teams were out of pitchers and because of substitution rules, the game either had to end in a tie or have the final pitchers for each squad throw until the contest ended. Since the best pitchers from all of the MLB teams are throwing, no manager wants to see his guy go any longer than necessary.

It’s why so much talk was focused around AL manager Terry Francona leaving Scott Kazmir of the Tampa Bay Rays on the bench for as long as he did. Francona’s Boston Red Sox are right in the middle of a division race with the surging Rays, and he obviously didn’t want to hear from anybody about inserting Kazmir, using up the young pitching stud’s arm on short rest. Not to mention the fact the MLB season returns to play just two days after the All Star Game, providing even more incentive to keep the kid on the bench and let his arm rest for the beginning of the second half. In the end, Kazmir ended up pitching and the game trudged on into the 15th inning, when somewhat anti-climactically it ended on a sacrifice fly by the Texas Rangers’ Michael Young. The sacrifice plated the Minnesota Twins’ Justin Morneau and ended a truly riveting All Star Game that seemed to refuse to conclude. Kazmir got the win, which was the AL’s 12th consecutive victory in the All Star Game, and the disastrous possibility of another tie in the mid-summer classic was averted. Phew. All in all a wonderful evening that was a baseball fan’s baseball game.


While I’m a bit late in commenting on the All Star Game, I’m very late in commenting on the Wimbledon final. The match between Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal was some of the best tennis I have ever seen, an opinion that was backed up by John McEnroe as he watched from the pressbox at the All England Club. Federer is the Tiger Woods of tennis and especially on grass has been the best player in the world for what seems like an eternity. He had previously won the last five Wimbledon championships and if he had won this year’s final, would have stood alone as the only player to win 6 straight. That would have put him ahead of legendary players like Pete Sampras and Bjorn Borg, who have already cemented their legacy in the sport. Federer will still probably achieve the title of “greatest of all time” by the end of his career, but the young Spaniard Nadal spoiled his attempt at history in the final match of the tournament. Finally besting Federer on grass, Rafa only made his mark on the tennis map grow larger on a rainy Sunday in London.

The kid has been the only player in the world that seems like he can actually give Federer fits on the court, and his match with the world’s greatest at Wimbledon proved that fact once again. The match was interrupted on more than one occasion by rain delays, which in my opinion only added to its drama and edge-of-your-seat allure. The rain delays seemed to re-energize both players and allowed them both to look fresh all the way down to the final game of the final set. While Nadal took a commanding two-set lead before the first delay, I think even a casual tennis fan knew that Roger was going to come back and make a match of it. It’s the same way you know that Michael Jordan or Tiger Woods or any other dominant athlete will simply not go down without the world’s biggest fight. Federer continually bested Nadal in a series of dramatic tie-breakers and evened the match at two sets a piece. Lucky for Nadal, the rules at Wimbledon made the final set a marathon event, with no tie-breaker to end the match, giving us more of what had already been one of the greatest matches ever played. Nadal finally bested Federer 9-7 in the deciding set and handled himself with a lovely balance of humility and excitement in victory.

His address to the crowd (after playfully climbing into the stands to embrace his family and honor Spanish royalty in attendance) gave more than a tip of the hat to Federer, glowingly lauding Roger on an amazing match and giving him the respect the best player in the world deserves. Federer’s comments after the match were equally respectful, though you could see the crack of sheer disappointment in his exasperated smile at the press conference. The rivalry that is brewing between these two players is exactly what men’s tennis has lacked for so many years, ironically because Federer has been simply unbeatable for so long. Now he finds himself in the middle of a power struggle in the sport, and while the two men are a bit too congenial with one and other for a Connors/McEnroe type war that was so electrifying for the sport in the past, it should help revitalize tennis and make for great viewing down the road.


One of my first few posts on this-a-here blog was all about my aversion to the level of coverage that Roger Clemens received during his congressional questioning about his steroid use. At the time I thought my feelings toward Roger may have had something to do with my disgust with the publicity he was receiving from ESPN (who I have also loosed my venom upon for their “journalism” in a previous post), but now I realize that the sports media juggernaut can inspire the same level of scorn when it comes to an athlete I truly admire, Brett Favre. The network has been simply relentless in their coverage of Favre’s un-retirement, with the crawl at the bottom of the screen addressing his situation with the same frequency as the day’s baseball, tennis and WNBA scores. In between what I feel to be pertinent information, like who won the Tiger’s game that night, I’m also inundated with the latest comments from Favre or the Green Bay Packers or a reporter who happened to hear a rumor about the whole situation.

I don’t need constant updates on this whole saga, because like I said about the Clemens case, it simply doesn’t deserve this level of attention. Favre and the Packers are going to sort this whole situation out shortly, and until then I don’t need to hear about every phone call or text message the guy sent to a Vikings offensive coordinator or if Aaron Rodgers (Favre’s heir-apparent in Green Bay) cracked a smile when Justin Timberlake was making jokes about the situation on the ESPY’s. I realize that the guy is among the sport’s greatest of all time, but if he decides to come back as a Packer or a member of any other team, just let me know when that happens. I simply can’t take ESPN’s dependence on rumor and innuendo to create a story when that air-time could be devoted to more baseball highlights and analysis or actual developments in the NFL off-season outside of Favre’s situation.

Like I said, I do like Favre quite a bit and the level of attention he is receiving is not quite as bad as the whole Roger Clemens debacle. Still, Favre’s sudden change of heart about playing football again was released to the media in slippery ways that for me, indicate that Favre not only misses the competition of the NFL, but the limelight it creates as well. I don’t think he’s a preening sports diva like Terrell Owens or Manny Ramirez, but he had to know that telling former teammates he was “getting the itch” to play again and making contact with other teams’ coaching staffs was going to end up in the press. He has put an undo amount of pressure on the Packers organization, whose rabid fanbase is foaming at the mouth for Favre’s return, and slighted Aaron Rodgers to a more than necessary degree as he tries to step into Brett’s former role. Rodgers, who was a college phenom at California and has waited patiently for three years behind Favre, already had a hard row to hoe when Favre retired and left him the keys to Lambeau Field. Now Rodgers must answer questions about whether or not Favre is going to come back and steal the job he has been waiting for and be distracted throughout training camp by an NFL legend who not only casts a shadow over his position, but has now begun peering over his shoulder at the playbook.

What Favre is doing is unfair to the Packers, Rodgers, and the fans in Green Bay, who now have split-allegiances on what is the only community-owned franchise in American sports. I wish Rodgers nothing but the best of luck, because in the end I think Favre will end up with another team and the Packers will move on with their young QB and have a great season. Favre has pulled an uglier version of Michael Jordan’s return to basketball with the Washington Wizards, which was ill-conceived but at least not detrimental to an organization, a young player and a legion of devoted fans.