Monday, July 30, 2012

Gymnastics gone wrong

Wow. Very strange things were happening in the world of men's gymnastics over in London. The American squad qualified #1 and might have thought they were a cinch to win a medal -- if not the gold, in the team competition. What they seemed to overlook was the Chinese male gymnasts have been clearly superior to the rest of the world in every competition over the last decade or so.

Sure enough, when it got down to the nitty-gritty, the Chinese performed almost flawlessly. In the meantime, the Americans were choking like a chihuahua on a chicken bone. They were stumbling, bumbling, falling off, falling down, and eventually fell out of competition for a medal. It didn't look like Team USA, but more like Team Spazz. I've seen freshly caught perch flopping around on the ice of a frozen lake perform more graceful routines.

On an unexpected high note, the host British team captured silver medals. Few expected them to fare nearly that well, but they turned in a grand performance and absolutely earned it. Ukraine would round out the podium with the bronzes.

But wait a minute. Japan, which had finished 4th, lodged a protest. They claimed one of their gymnasts had been scored wrong and demanded a review.

Now it's no big secret that Japan and China have been bitter rivals for centuries, not only in sports, but in everything else as well. It might fairly be said they hate each other, from the lowliest peasants to Emperors, Premiers, and Prime Ministers. Also, there's no love lost between Japan and the various entities of the former Soviet Union.

Surprisingly, officials huddled up and actually viewed replays of the Japanese gymnast's performance in question. Boos rained down from the audience in attendance, and likely from TV viewers around the world. Lo and behold, they not only changed it, but dramatically.

While the Chinese had an insurmountable lead for the gold, Japan suddenly leapfrogged from 4th to 2nd. The Brits saw their silver medals turn into bronze and Ukraine got bumped out entirely.

Yes, the British team was dignified about it, as one would expect of them, but after they've had time to reflect, it might just be that some resentment will creep in. Yet, at least they got medals, which was somewhat of an upset in the first place. On the other hand, the Ukrainians appeared stunned but, to their credit, showed the discipline to stoically march off the floor. However, yours truly has a hunch that it won't be long before they begin to stew over the whole turn of events, as well. First they have medals, and then they're stripped of them, all because of some judgment call that happened much earlier which the Japanese contingent managed to have reversed in their favor? Something is very wrong with this picture.

Then again, as we all know, the Japanese have always been known to be open, honest, fair, honorable, and most certainly trustworthy in all manners of things.

Here's what they don't seem to understand---

While they may have maneuvered themselves into silver medals, once again, they lost a lot of face in the process. The whole world was watching and stands in disapproval. In the end, they lose.

The X rated Olympics

While it might well provide for some very interesting viewing if porn stars were to stage their own version of the Olympics featuring various, ahem, disciplines, an XXX-rated Olympiad probably isn't going to happen any time soon.

We'll have to settle for the current version. Yet it's advertised as the XXX Olympics. Yeah, I know, that means it's the 30th modern version and has nothing to do with the other XXX rating mentioned above.

Still, it doesn't seem right. If it's the 30th, why not just call it that? Seems simple enough. The Daytona 500 recently celebrated their 50th year but they didn't call it the L race. After 100 years of making motorcycles, Harley-Davidson didn't refer to it as C day, although to be fair, if one wants to purchase a new Harley, normally somewhere between CC and CCC C-notes are required. What am I saying? C what-- sorry, see what I mean about getting caught up in this stuff?

When it comes to birthdays, anniversaries, reunions, and the like, nobody ever refers to them in Roman numerals. Ever heard of wishing a child a happy VIII birthday? A husband giving his wife something special to celebrate XXV years of being married? Being invited back to join your former classmates XX years after you graduated? Of course not.

Going back to the Olympics, this raises another question. Why are they referred to with Roman numerals? Most everyone acknowledges the ancient Greeks provided the genesis of the Olympic games. They were also fierce rivals with the Romans back then. So just where and when did it come to be that Roman numerals took over? They did nothing more to deserve that honor than they did to put those same numerals on the likes of grandfather clocks. What's up with that?

They've even taken over numbering the Super Bowls in the NFL. How did that happen? The Romans have never known squat about NFL football, much less ever fielded a team, and they probably couldn't care less. But somehow we've come to accept their ancient numbering system when it comes to the most important football game of the year. Huh?

Ah well, maybe it's just meant to be. But I still think the idea of a truly XXX rated Olympics is interesting. What would we get if they combined porn stars, the balance beam, the rings, the uneven bars, a pole-vaulting pole, a few hurdles, the floor exercise, and put it all to rap music? I don't know either -- but it would be way more interesting than skeet shooting or race-walking.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

The Detroit Lions. Lack of institutional control

Given the whole Penn State disaster, the phrase "lack of institutional control" has certainly been prominent in the news lately. It's hardly the first time, though. A few decades ago Southern Methodist University's football program got slapped with the "death penalty" after repeated infractions, which the NCAA deemed to be a total LOIC. USC got hammered in the wake of the Reggie Bush affair, the U of Mich got zapped for some shady dealings when the Fab 5 was there, and Miami ran amok not long ago. There's other examples in the past, and there will no doubt be more examples in the future. It's like whack-a mole. No many how many you clobber, another one's bound to pop up.

But LOIC has always been associated with college sports, not the pros. Perhaps it's time to apply the same standards to them as well.

Certainly there have been some teams in the past whose players weren't exactly model citizens. How about the Portland "Jail Blazers" a while back in the NBA?  The Cincinnati Bengals of the NFL went through a period where nobody seemed to know what a player was going to get arrested for next, but it was going to be something. The late Al Davis even took pride in assembling a team of mavericks, renegades, and wildmen when he owned the Oakland Raiders. However, there was no LOIC in that situation. Davis WAS the institution and ran it with an iron fist -- so that technically doesn't count.

And now we have the Detroit Lions. They've featured a stomper in a nationally televised Thanksgiving game. The same man would go on to trash his automobile with a couple of mysterious ladies aboard that seem to have magically vanished, and subsequently have a not so good episode with the cops. Cheap shot personal fouls by his teammates had the refs running out of flags to throw.

They have others that can't seem to stop driving while drunk, and/or getting busted with weed. Recently, there were allegations of an assault that involved a player brandishing a weapon, as in pointing a gun at somebody. Good grief, even head coach Jim Schwartz himself went berserk on the field last year after the opposing coach had merely clapped him on the back following the game. So what if the Lions lost at home? It happens to the best of teams once in a while, but that's no excuse for the guy in charge of the players to wig-out and embarrass not only himself, but his team and his city -- again on national TV. Don't think the players didn't notice this. Of course they did. Head coaches are supposed to show leadership in the right way, so the team will hopefully follow their example. So what message was sent to the players with his outburst? If it's OK for him to throw any matter of professionalism out the window -- then it must be OK for us as well. It should be no great surprise that carried over into some of their personal lives.

The Detroit Lions are currently the poster children of the professional version of "lack of institutional control".

The NCAA recently slapped Penn State with an arbitrary fine of $60 million for LOIC. PSU lost scholarships, had wins vacated, are not eligible to play in the post-season for 4 years, and even the "death penalty" for a year or two was considered, but ultimately not imposed.

So why shouldn't the pros be held to the same standard? What if commissioners in pro leagues had the same power as the NCAA has over universities?

If Roger Goodell levied a $60 million fine against the Lions, that wouldn't be such a big deal in the world of the Ford family, the multi-billionaires that own them. But if that was, say, $600 million, it might prompt even old William Clay Ford himself to snap out of his reverie and pay attention.

Take away a few high draft picks and the front office would certainly sit up and take notice. Vacating wins wouldn't matter, because up until last year they didn't have very many to speak of anyway. Maybe while they're at it, they could expunge the entire Matt Millen era and that 0-16 season, but I digress.

If the Lions, as an NFL franchise, can't get their players under control, both on and off the field, perhaps more drastic measures are called for. Consider the post-season ban on Penn State. What if the same penalty was handed down to the Lions? It doesn't matter what their regular-season record is -- even if it's 16-0 -- no playoff games for the next 4 years. Imagine.

If  THAT happened, I flat-out guarantee, one way or the other, all this amoral behavior both on and off the field would STOP. They would find a way. And isn't that the point?

As for the death penalty? No need. The Green Bay Packers will likely see to that in the foreseeable future.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Opening ceremonies of the Olympics

I love the Olympics -- not only the actual competition in the events themselves, but the passion, patriotism, and pageantry from all over the world that go along with the whole package. I could hardly wait until the flame was lit in London.

Yet the opening ceremonies of this particular Olympiad seemed to be straight out of the Twilight Zone. Some very strange things were on display.

Women suffragists marching with picket signs advocating their right to vote?

Galley slaves toiling away at their oars?

Blacksmiths standing over flaming forges?

A crew of guys pounding railroad spikes?

Red coats and tea-partiers from the Revolutionary War?  Pilgrims?

And what were all those guys in dark suits, long sideburns, and Abraham Lincoln top hats about anyway?

A couple of James Bond type dudes parachuting out of a helicopter?

Queen Lizzie the Deuce waddling front and center, while the Union Jack was hoisted and a throng of adoring little kids sang a song of praise to her?

Florence Nightingale style beds, complete with fake children patients and IV drips being wheeled around helter-skelter by nurses and orderlies? Did they even have IV drips back in FloNight's day?

JK Rowling quoting from one of her Harry Potter books? Wait, now her characters are coming to life. They're everywhere.

Peter Pan and Mary Poppins showed up.

Holy cow, it's a miracle. All those sick kids have jumped out of their beds and are dancing. Wow. Forget Obamacare, whatever they're doing over there in England seems to have amazing results.

Here comes an orchestra featuring a piano player that can only play one note -- over and over. The crowd goes wild. I knew the Brits liked their music, but this is ridiculous.

Speaking of which, we were treated to a brief guitar riff from Eric Clapton, snippets of The Who, The Beatles, and The Stones. They say Sir Paul McCartney is waiting in the wings. I can barely contain my excitement over what he might do.

This is quite an extravaganza. There's only one thing I don't understand.

I always thought the Olympics were supposed to be about sports. Silly me.

Still, the McCartney thing is a tough call. As certainly one of the most prolific song writers of the last half century, the man should be treated with the respect he is due. How then, to do the right thing when he takes the stage at the opening ceremonies? Hmm. I think I have it. What could be fairer than holding the man to the same words he penned himself long ago in a classic song?

Dear Paul. This is the Olympics -- not the Ed Sullivan show, the Hollywood Bowl, or even Abbey Road. Yesterday came suddenly indeed.


Comparing Justin Verlander to a meatloaf

No doubt about it, Justin Verlander's a terrific pitcher. Most would likely rank him in the top 3, if not better, in all of major league baseball. As the reigning American League Cy Young award winner and MVP, when JV's got his good "stuff" he can be virtually unhittable.

Who's the best pitcher ever? Roger Clemens? Nolan Ryan? Bob Gibson? Warren Spahn? Cy Young himself? Nobody can say for sure. It's like debating who was the most beautiful woman of all time. Everybody can throw out their choice, but there's really no definitive answer.

Yet even the best of the best are going to have their bad days. Depending on a few variables, even the people we have put on a pedestal will occasionally come across in such a manner that prompts us to say, "Damn, that was ugly".

Same with the pitchers. Verlander's cruising along this year with a record of 11-6. Over his career, he's 118-62. Basically that means he wins about 2 out of 3. That percentage might not be so hot in big time tennis, or team USA Olympic basketball, but in major league baseball it's pretty darn good.

But there's going to be days. To much fanfare, Verlander was the American League's starting pitcher in this year's All Star game. He got hammered for 5 runs and didn't make it out of the first inning. JV would later say, "That wasn't me". Hogwash. It was exactly him. Perhaps JV just thought he could take the mound, start throwing 100 MPH fastballs, and expect the opposing batters to fall like dominoes. What he seemed to have overlooked was those "other" guys swinging the bats weren't National League All-Stars because of their looks. They can hit or they wouldn't be there. Some say good pitching beats good hitting, but that's not always true. A lot of it is luck. If the batters are hitting the ball right at defenders the pitcher looks good. If they're hitting it "where they ain't", that same pitcher probably isn't going to last very long in the game.

The thing with Verlander is, it appears he's become so accustomed to being successful that he looks befuddled when everything doesn't go according to plan. On the rare occasion he gets lit up by the opposing batters hitting rockets all over the park, Verlander gets this look in his eyes like the Klingons just landed in right field and, oh my, what do I do now?

It happened to him earlier tonight against the Cleveland Indians. JV was cruising along with a lead and threw a high fastball that was deposited into the right-centerfield bleachers for a home run. It happens. On the very next pitch to the very next batter, he threw the same pitch in the same place with the same result. Gone. Verlander had that look about him like -- this isn't supposed to be happening. Maybe not, but if a major league hitter is looking for a particular pitch in a particular area of the strike zone, and he gets it, sometimes those balls have a way of becoming souvenirs for the fans while the hitter trots around the bases.

Can't remember for sure who said it, but a big time hitter once remarked, "It really doesn't matter if a guy's throwing 90, 95, 100, or whatever. If he thinks he can just blow a fastball by us all game long, he won't be around very long. We'll adjust our timing, speed it up, and be all over it. The good pitchers are the ones that keep you guessing with different pitches and different speeds in different locations".

Verlander has all that, of course, but sometimes Tiger fans seem to think whenever he takes the mound it's an automatic win. It's not. He's really good, but certainly not unbeatable. Let's not forget, the other guys swinging the bats know a thing or two about hitting or they wouldn't be major leaguers. What's the difference between a pop-up and a home run? Maybe half an inch, depending on how the bat strikes the ball.

Verlander could very well go on to become a Hall-of Famer, or he could crash and burn in the next few years, even assuming he stays healthy, never a given. Nobody knows.

But in the meantime, perhaps Meatloaf sang it best back in the day ---

Two out of three ain't bad.



Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The Detroit Tigers. Russian roulette anyone?

Major league baseball is a funny game. On any given day, the team with the worst record can beat the team with the best record and nobody thinks of it as a huge upset. It happens all the time. Over the course of a very long season, normally the teams with the most talent eventually rise to the top. It averages out, no pun intended.

The Tigers are a hard team to get a handle on. When they're playing well, as they have of late, they're certainly capable of beating anybody. Yet, if a couple hitters go into mysterious slumps, and/or the pitching staff starts throwing too many balls where the opposing hitters' happen to be swinging, they could just as easily go on a losing streak. Beat the best one day, lose to the worst the next. You never know. Maybe that's part of the fascination of baseball.

As this is written, the Tigers have 65 games remaining in the 2012 regular season, and they're currently tied with the Chicago White Sox atop the AL Central Division. In other words, over the course of 97 games, Detroit and Chicago have battled to a draw. A lot can happen in 65 games. The Tigers could run away with the division like they did last year, or they could get cold while other teams get hot and -- who knows?

Once the post-season starts, it's a crap shoot. Every team is pretty good or they wouldn't be there. Weird things can happen in short playoff series'. The Tigers were certainly underdogs against the Yankees last year and they not only defeated the Bronx Bombers, but came within a whisker of knocking off the Texas Rangers who, on paper, were also a clearly superior club. In turn, the Rangers should have rolled over the St. Louis Cardinals in the World Series, who had barely made the playoffs to start with. We know what happened. A team gets hot at the right time, or catches a lucky break here and there, and you never know. It's a funny game.

Could the Tigers win the World Series this year? Sure, they have a shot, just like a lot of other teams. Thing is, they have to make the playoffs first, and this no lock.

Winning their division would certainly qualify them for post-season play, but if they don't, and fall back into the wild-card race, things might get a little dicey. Presently, the LA Angels are one game ahead of the Tigers, and the Oakland A's a half game ahead. The Baltimore Orioles trail them by one game and the Tampa Bay Rays by two. Let's not forget about the Cleveland Indians, who have had the Tigers number so far this year, winning 6 out of 7. They're only 3 back, hardly out of it.

Like the old children's party game, when the music stops in October, there's not going to be enough chairs for everybody. Some of them are going to be on the outside looking in and wondering what happened.

If the Tigers win their division, they'll basically make the quarter-finals of the World Series tournament. They would have a ticket to the show. Anything can happen. However, if they fall back into the wild-card race, it's no guarantee they will even qualify. Would any Tiger fan like to see their team in a one game "win or go home" playoff if Justin Verlander isn't available to pitch it?  Even if Verlander was on the mound -- it's like Russian roulette. The odds are heavily in your favor, but do you really want to put that gun to your head and pull the trigger? I don't think so.

65 more to go. We'll see. It's a funny game.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Penn State. The NCAA gets it all wrong

There are those that would say certain individuals, politicians, cultures, some countries, and even entire religions are woefully behind the times. Yet all of them would appear to be millions of years ahead of the NCAA, which seems stuck in the Jurassic Period. Only a dinosaur would have a thick enough skull, and be brazen, or perhaps obtuse enough to have ignored the public clamor for a Division 1 college football playoff over the last couple decades.

These are the same people that just levied heavy penalties against Penn State for the whole sordid Jerry Sandusky child abuse calamity. Let's look at what they did.

The NCAA zapped Penn State with a $60 million fine. 4 years at $15 million a year, such monies to be given to some sort of child abuse fund in the future. Some have argued that because Penn State is endowed with roughly $2 billion, a measly $60 million isn't enough. While those people lash out in their short-sighted, indignant fury of vengeance, they miss the point. In T-Rex fashion, the NCAA just gobbled up the authority of civil courts. There can be little doubt many civil suits will be filed on behalf of Sandusky's "victims" over the years in the near future. Determining damages and picking a suitable monetary award for compensation is the purview of such courts -- not the NCAA. They had no business here. It was wrong.

The NCAA vacated all Penn State's football victories from 1998, supposedly when Sandusky committed his first offense, through 2011, just last year when the story exploded. Nothing was said about Penn State's losses over that same time frame. Do they stay on the record? Regardless, no argument has been raised that the football team somehow had an unfair advantage over those years while they were compiling their record. It's not like they had a few pros on the teams or they were all on steroids. They won (and lost) those games fair and square, and it had nothing to do with the current scandal. So why take away their record? What's next? Will the NCAA loot the trophy case at Penn State, sell all the goodies off to Pawn Stars, and go buy themselves new suits? I wouldn't put it past them. This is wrong.

Another sanction handed down by the NCAA is a 4 year post-season ban. No potential conference championship games, no bowls, etc. This not only unfairly penalizes the current innocent football players on the team, but reaches all the way down to the high school level. What about the prep stars that have dreamed and worked their whole life to play at Penn State, only to now discover they will never get the opportunity to play in a bowl game, much aspire to a national championship? How fair is that to THEM? It's not, and it's wrong.

The NCAA has further decreed that Penn State will lose 10 football scholarships a year over this period. On the surface, that would seem to be a minor matter. Then again, that's 10 innocent kids a year that would otherwise have had a "full-ride" scholarship being denied, certainly through no fault of their own.  Why should they get caught up in collateral damage? It's wrong.

Joe Paterno's record over those same years is going to be expunged as well. This is not only wrong -- it's stupid. Regardless of the current allegations against him, unproven as yet, I dare say, can any sane person question that he was the head coach of the teams that compiled that record? The NCAA can erase it on paper, but everybody will always know JoPa won more games than any other major college football coach. What should that have to do with Sandusky anyway? Nothing.

And here's the ultimate T-Rex arrogance and ignorance from the NCAA-----

They announced that after all criminal proceedings against anybody involved in the Penn State scandal were exhausted -- the NCAA reserved the right to punish them further. That goes beyond wrong, stupid, and enters the world of delusional. Let's look at some facts.

Joe Paterno's dead. Jerry Sandusky is never getting out of prison, at least alive. Graham Spanier, the ousted former president of Penn State, has claimed he had no knowledge of what was going on. So far, no one has disputed this. Ex-athletic director Tim Curley and ex-VP Gary Schultz of financial affairs in the Penn State football program currently find themselves under indictment and awaiting trial on charges of perjury in front of a grand jury, and being complicit with the whole sorry mess over the years.

Maybe they cut a plea bargain and maybe they go to trial. But what happens if they're acquitted? Nobody seems to have considered this possibility. The 5 main players will have all been accounted for. One dead, one in prison, one untouchable, and the other two found innocent in a court of law. What then?

Even if Curley and Schultz are found guilty, what can the NCAA possibly think it can do if and when they complete their "debt to society"? They certainly can't imprison them. Likewise, as private citizens, the NCAA would have no power to reach out and get into their wallets or other assets. Perhaps they could give them a lifetime ban from ever getting another job at any school under the NCAA umbrella. Yours truly isn't entirely sure even that would hold up under legal scrutiny if Curley, Schultz, and their legal representatives opted to pursue it.

In the end, it's like Murphy's Law. Everything the NCAA could have done wrong -- they did wrong.
They should have stayed out of it. It was never their business to start with.

No one knows, to a degree of absolute certainly, why the dinosaurs became extinct. Perhaps a meteor strike. Maybe it's time for the NCAA to suffer the same fate and pass into obsolescense. Surely, another wiser and more up-to-date system can be arranged to oversee college athletics.

Regardless of who it is and what form it takes, it can't possibly be any worse than the current clowns in charge.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Great Britain. Sports hub

Great Britain's doing very well in the sports world these days. Even descendants in some of their former colonial territories are making news. I'll get back to that.

The biggest sporting spectacular of them all -- the Olympic games -- will start in a few days in London. Heathrow airport has seen thousands of planes land lately, bringing athletes, coaches, support crews, and fans from all over the world. Money will flow like water in jolly old England, as will umpteen million pints in pubs.

In what seems to be perfect timing, Bradley Wiggins, the newly crowned champion of the Tour de France, should be arriving home shortly as well. Not only is Wiggins the first Briton to win the Tour, but his teammate and countryman Christopher Froome placed second. Just about the time that party dies down, the Olympics will fire up. Sports are bloody well peachy in England right about now.

No, they still can't seem to get a native son to win their beloved Wimbledon tennis championship. The trifecta of Roger Federer (Swiss), Novak Djokovic (Czech) and that pesky Spaniard Rafael Nadal appear to have a three-headed monopoly on that tournament. Scotsman Andy Murray just can't seem to get over the hump. Alas.

The British Open just concluded and, while a Brit didn't win it, a few hand-me-down colonials sure drew a lot of attention. American Tiger Woods self-destructed in the final round to the tune of a 73. He'll likely be mumbling on his way back to the New World. That paled in comparison to Adam Scott, an Aussie. Scott was cruising along with a comfortable lead and it appeared there was no way he could lose the tournament. But he did. In the ultimate melt-down, he bogeyed the last 4 holes. He's in for a very long plane ride returning to the outback.

From seemingly out of nowhere, South African Ernie Els made a few birdies on the back nine and, presto, the Big Easy is the new champ.

Els is one of those rare guys that everybody likes. It's almost impossible not to. Easy-going, friendly to one and all, soft-spoken, and humble, Els is not only the consummate professional, but a truly all-around good guy. A nicer and more deserving man could not have won the tournament.

So everybody get naked and -- no -- that's not quite right. Sorry. Hats off to Great Britain and it's former colonies. Turn out the lights at Royal Lytham and St. Anne's, party hearty with Wiggins and Froome, and fire up the Olympic torch. Let the games begin. Besides, I really, REALLY don't want to see the Queen naked. Brrr.

Yes, things are jolly good across the pond these days.

Cheerio and ta-ta.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Tiger Woods and the British Open

Well, let's see. Tiger shot a 3-under 67 on Thursday. 3 strokes back. Not bad. He followed that up with another 67 on Friday. 4 strokes back. Respectable. Today, he carded an even par 70, 5 strokes back. Losing ground.

The big question becomes -- which Tiger will show up on Sunday? Will it be the Eldrick of old that might light it up with a 63 or 64, storming past the field on the way to the championship? Or will it be the Tiger that folds like he did in the US Open a while back, perhaps balooning to a 74 or 75 as the young guns steadily pass him by?

Nobody knows. Yet, there are 2 things that we can be reasonably sure about.

First, Tiger may be "back", but his days of intimidating the rest of the field are likely over. Many players no longer fear him because they know he's beatable. The red shirt and black pants on Sunday no longer carry the aura of invincibility they once did. As younger hot-shot players continue to emerge from all over the globe, they're developing the same cold-hearted mentality that Woods once had. They're good, and they know it. All they have to do is play up to their abilities, and they'll be in the hunt. It's not about beating Tiger, it's about conquering the golf course.

Secondly, no matter what happens with Eldrick on Sunday, be it a 63 or a 75, one thing is a virtual certainty. We will be force-fed Tiger highlights over and over and over again. This I can understand if he goes out, overcomes his current 5 stroke deficit, and storms his way to the championship. No doubt, the conversation would again return to Tiger inevitably passing Jack Nicklaus' record of winning 18 "majors".

But if he goes out and bumbles his way around into a tie for, say, 20th, then just why, pray tell, should we be force-fed the same highlights, or perhaps low-lights, of Woods' performance?

We shouldn't, but we will, while the networks and scribes continue to fawn all over him, in the meantime giving minimal coverage to the golfers that were superior to him in this particular tournament.

The conversation will become whether Woods will EVER win another major, and perhaps justifiably so. It's been a few years already.

Yes, Tiger is a black man in a predominantly white man's sport that has done extremely well over the years, perhaps a rarity like a white man being an Olympic champion in the 100 meter dash. Colors shouldn't matter. May the best man win.

Again, hard telling how Woods will perform in the final round of the British Open. If he wins -- by all means, bring on the highlights. If he crashes and burns, is it too much to ask to keep those same highlights down to 2 or 3 replays instead of a few hundred?

Replays of highlights are supposed to be about winners -- not who has the most fans.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Penn State. The next chapter

While the NCAA handing down the "death penalty" to the Penn State football program for a year or two might serve as a punishment as well as help in the overall healing process, it would also unfairly penalize the current innocent football players. It's worth as a deterrent is negligible. It is unlikely any future pedophiles would take heed of such past sanctions.

Here's the rub. The NCAA is charged with the oversight of such things as recruiting violations and the improper (not illegal) transfer of money or other goodies to the student athletes. Many, including myself, think they don't do a very good job of even that. Do we really want the NCAA to appoint itself judge, jury, and executioner when it comes to matters of legality, much less morality? I don't think so. The NCAA has its rules and regulations but they are not a court of law, nor should they hold sway over how different people interpret moral issues. The NCAA needs to butt-out of this one. It's not their business.

Whether or not the statue of Joe Paterno comes down and his name is taken off the library are minor matters. Both were merely symbolic acts when they occurred, and both will be merely symbolic acts if and when they go away. Besides, I doubt it's of much importance to JoPa right now.

Many have said the Louis Freeh report confirms their suspicions. Actually, it does no such thing. Freeh and his minions did a lot of investigative work, then wrote a report. In it, they expressed their opinion of what happened. To draw conclusions from this is wrong. Confirmation can only be achieved when all available evidence is presented in a court of law, witnesses examined and cross examined and a jury has rendered its verdict. How soon we forget the George Mitchell report involving steroids in baseball, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, and even the OJ murder trial. Just because people from a prosecutorial point of view make allegations, or even convince the court of public opinion of guilt, doesn't necessarily mean everything they allege is true. Sometimes the charges will stick and sometimes they won't. Agree or disagree as you will, but what the jury says is the only thing that matters.

Regarding Paterno personally, everyone certainly has the right to their opinion of him, but it's doubtful we'll ever know for sure just what and how much he knew, and when. People in some positions, such as teachers, are required by law to report suspected child abuse. Most are not. Even if Paterno suspected something bad was going on, there's a huge difference as to whether he chose to not investigate further, perhaps tipping off the cops, and whether he actively participated in a cover-up allowing a pedophile to continue his atrocities. One is a moral decision and the other a very serious felony.

JoPa himself said, "with the benefit of hindsight, I wish I had done more". Many interpret this statement as an admission of guilt, but that's not necessarily so either. People can hypothesize all they want but the reality is we don't know what he meant by "more", and we likely never will.

In the end, I fail to see how smearing the name of a dead man, who obviously can't defend himself, accomplishes anything positive.

Monday, July 16, 2012

The Tour de France vs American sports

While America no doubt has a vast array of sports for it's various fans, it really doesn't offer anything close to the Tour de France.

One reason might be security. It would be a logistical nightmare. In Europe, where the Tour travels, basically there isn't any security. It's pretty much on the honor system. Thousands of fans line the roads the cyclists travel and they can literally reach out and touch the riders as they pass by -- and sometimes do. There's really nothing to keep an evil doer or wacko from doing harm to the riders. Sure, motorcycle riding gendarmes or cops guide the Tour through the streets, but their job is to ensure a clear path for the riders -- not monitoring the crowds. I'm not so sure the honor system would work as well in America. We seem to have lunatics running around everywhere with mayhem on their minds. It would take hundreds, if not thousands of cops to provide security while monitoring the crowds along the roads.

In the last stage of this year's tour some person or persons unknown threw tacks or small nails across the road. This caused over 30 flat tires, or punctures, as they say across the pond. Tour officials have asked the police to investigate the matter. It wouldn't go down like that in America. Can you imagine if somebody threw nails on the track at the Daytona or Indy 500s? Race officials wouldn't have to request anything. Everybody from the local cops to the FBI to Homeland Security would be swarming like locusts until they caught the perpetrator. In Europe they brush it off as just an unfortunate occurrence, and move on. In America, it might be considered an act of terrorism. Before the prosecutors got done, those same small nails might get elevated to a weapon of mass destruction, and the legal proceedings could drag on for years.

On the Tour, there are certain unwritten rules of etiquette. One is not to capitalize on a competitor's misfortune. When Cadel Evans, the defending champ, was amongst the first to get a flat tire, leader Bradley Wiggins urged his fellow riders to slow down until Evans could catch up after his bike was repaired.

American sports seem to be just the opposite. They not only capitalize on the misfortune of others -- sometimes they intentionally cause it. Witness NASCAR drivers routinely putting a competitor into the wall, then racing away. Can you imagine the Green Bay Packers leading the Detroit Lions by 4 touchdowns, then letting the Lions catch back up because their starting QB got injured? Not likely to happen. The epitome might have been the New Orleans Saints' "bounty system". Not only did they capitalize on opponents' misfortune, they allegedly paid people to inflict it.

The Tour went through it's fair share of "doping" issues over the years. Everything from steroids to illegal blood transfusions were popping up. In America, we certainly had our own steroid issue in baseball, and there's little doubt athletes from different sports have used various substances to enhance their play over the years as well. Let's call that a push.

Chemicals aside, the Tour has a certain degree of honor about it. In America, with the exception of golf, athletes get away with whatever they can. Baseball, football, basketball, hockey, you name it, and the players will not only try to cheat, but sometimes even argue with the officials when they get caught red-handed.

Nope, there's no honor, much less etiquette.

Conditioning? With the possible exception of marathon runners, America offers no athletes in any sport that can come close to the endurance levels the Tour cyclists possess. At that, marathons are only run once with the top competitors finishing in a little over 2 hours. Conversely, Tour riders are routinely on their bikes for hours day after day for 3 weeks. While marathoners might have slight up and downgrades over their 26 mile course, it pales in comparison to some of the steep climbs the riders face in the Alps and the Pyrenees, not to mention the danger of whizzing down a mountainside at high rates of speed on a bicycle.

America has athletes with big beer bellies that make millions. They're called "linemen". You won't find an ounce of fat on a Tour rider and they never seem to know how much they're going to get paid, if anything.

Yes, I love American sports, but the Tour?

That's just something special.

Friday, July 13, 2012

The US Olympic Team. Made in China?

At least their uniforms are, and that is just ridiculous. I have but one question -- what in the hell is going on here?

Millions on top of more millions are donated and spent on the Olympic team. Consider all the sports and/or events involved. Further consider all the top-flight sporting equipment that is provided as the athletes train. Javelins, basketballs, pole vaulting sticks -- you name it -- is Grade A. Throw in 5-star training facilities. Add plane fares, bus rides, motels, meals, on and on, and the total cost of financing the Olympic team might be enough to cure world hunger for a few years. Whatever it is -- it's a lot.

Then some genius decides to save a few bucks, while slapping the collective nation in the face, by outsourcing the manufacture of the teams' uniforms to China? This is an outrage.

Justifiably coming under attack for such a bone-headed blunder, the US Olympic Committee defended itself by saying they commissioned world famous Ralph Lauren to design the uniforms. This from a USOC spokesman named Pat Sandusky, who denied any wrong doing. Hmm. Somebody named Sandusky claiming nothing is amiss. Somehow that sounds familiar.

Idle thought. Just how much of Lauren's stuff is made in China anyway? Maybe those people paying big bucks for his outfits should start checking the fine print on the labels.

Who knows what else might have happened over the years that was never noticed?

One of America's proudest moments was when Team USA beat the might Soviet Red Army team in ice hockey on American soil back in 1980. It was called the "miracle on ice". They would go on to win their gold medals. Fast forward 12 years to 1992, the year of the original Dream Team in basketball. All those professional superstars were proud to wear the uniforms of the USA while representing their country. They would romp to their own gold medals.

Were either of those squads wearing uniforms made in China? How about all the others in between and since? Again, who knows?

While we're on the subject, maybe all the Olympic athletes over the last few decades should look closely at the back of their medals. Wouldn't it be something if they were made in China too?

Perhaps the Senate should hold special hearings on these matters. Turn an army of federal prosecutors loose to beat the bushes for culprits at tax payer expense. Lord knows, they've done dumber things. See Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds, etc.

Then again, the current Olympic uniforms being made in China accomplished some extraordinary.

When it came to light, neither the Democrats nor Republicans liked it one bit. Does that mean they actually, gasp, agreed on something?

Amazing. Maybe we should do this more often.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

The Tour de France

Almost half way through this year/s Tour de France, surprisingly, or maybe not, Great Britain's Bradley Wiggins is in the lead. As such, he's worn the yellow jersey for a few days now, and has built up almost a 2 minute lead over those deemed "contenders" for the long haul. Two minutes isn't exactly insurmounatable, but Wiggins, protected by his Team Sky, has showed no signs of faltering.

It would be pretty cool for a Brit to win it. Coming on the tails of their famed Wimbledon tennis tournament, our friends across the pond could likely use a little cheering up. After all, they haven't had a countryman win Wimbledon since about the time Queen Liz 2 was in her royal diapers. When she was a baby, that is. Ahem. Maybe Wiggins bringing home the Tour de France championship would get them to raise their spirits -- in more ways than one. Pip, pip, and down the hatch, mate.

But it seems like there's no end to controversy when it comes to the Tour de France. Even trivial matters get blown out of proportion. Like Roseanne Roseannadanna used to say -- it's always something.

A current rider gets arrested over some sort of doping probe. Yawn. Another team hears allegations over improper use of a controlled substance in LAST year's Tour.  Zzzzz. The Inquisition of Lance Armstrong drags on and on. Please.

Yet, just when you think you've heard it all, something even more stupid pops up.

After the completion of the 10th stage, which Wiggins didn't even win, but maintained his lead, an Italian rider named Vincenzo Nibali complained Wiggins was being disrespectful. As they crossed the finish line, Nibaldi said, "Wiggins looked at me at the finish and I really did not like the way he did it".

Which raises the question -- just how IS a guy supposed to look after riding a bike for 130 miles up and down mountains? My guess would be he looked tired. Is he not allowed to smile, frown, pout, or god forbid, stick his tongue out? This is a big deal?

Nibaldi went on to say Wiggins "also gestured with his hand in an unpleasant way".

In America, there's pretty much only one hand gesture that is disrespectful. While there's countless variations in how it's presented, everybody knows about "the bird", and the 2 word phrase it translates to.

Yours truly has never been to Italy, but I once heard the Italians have many hand gestures to convey different not-so-complimentary messages. Perhaps Wiggins unwittingly flashed one of them. If one wipes the sweat off one's brow, could that translate to "your mama's a plow horse"? If one scratches his neck, could that translate to "your sister has fleas"? Beats me.

Besides, Nibaldi is a highly trained professional athlete. As such, looks, hand gestures, or even taunts and/or trash talking by competitors, or spectators for that matter, should not warrant him getting his linguini in an uproar.

Tally ho, Brad.

Oh yeah. Here's a bird for you, Vince. Linguini's overrated anyway.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

The All Star game. Highs and lows

Tony LaRussa is definitely on a roll. The long time manager retired shortly after his St. Louis Cardinals won the World Series last year. Nothing like going out on top. Being in the World Series affords the skippers of both teams the honor of managing the following year's All Star squads. LaRussa came out of retirement for one day and got to watch his NL team throw an 8-0 shutout, and pretty much put a beat-down on the ALers. Now he can go back out to pasture and start counting down the days until he gets inducted into the baseball Hall of Fame. He's a lock. Does it get any better than that? High. Very high.

On the other end of the spectrum were the players representing the Detroit Tigers. Justin Verlander was the starting pitcher. As the reigning AL MVP and Cy Young award winner, Verlander has a reputation of being not only dominant, but intimidating while on the mound. Evidently, the National League hitters didn't get the memo. They treated JV like -- well -- JV, as in junior varsity. The NL hitters lit him up like a pinball machine, beat him like the proverbial red-headed stepchild -- and all that.

The Tiger hitters? Prince Fielder went 0-2, and Miguel Cabrera grounded into a double play. In 3 times at bat, they made 4 outs. Low. Very low.

Yet, never fear. All is not lost for Detroit's beloved puddy-tats. They get to return to the friendly confines of the AL Central, widely considered to be the worst division in major league baseball. Over the long haul, against such lesser competition -- they'll probably fare well. The Tigers could even make the post-season and, after that, it's a crap shoot. They had no business knocking off the Yankees last year in the playoffs, anymore than St. Louis had defeating a clearly superior Texas Rangers team in the World Series. But it happened.

So here's to Tony LaRussa. He gets to ride off into the sunset like Roy Rogers on Trigger. Happy trails.

The Tigers have some work to do. If Verlander, Fielder, Cabrera, and the rest of their team somehow can't even manage to win the pitiful AL Central division, perhaps they should be in westerns as well.

Following down the same trails -- with a major-league sized pooper scooper.

Somebody's gotta do it.

The 2012 Home Run Derby

Yours truly watched some, but not all, of the Home Run Derby preceding this year's All-Star game. I could only take so much of the screaming going on.

No, not by the fans, and certainly not by the players, but by the announcer. That would be Chris (they don't call him Boomer for nothing) Berman of ESPN. He was calling the shots, no pun intended, during the home run contest. I understand announcers doing their best to hype whatever action is happening, but this guy is way over the top. Anything that can remotely be construed as a semi-highlight seems to send Berman into some sort of orgasmic state. There's getting into sports, but this is ridiculous.

Up come the batters for the contest. Crack. The baseball soars. "It's a MOON shot", roared Berman. The ball went 402 feet. In a lot of major league baseball stadiums, that would be nothing more than a long out.

Crack. "Back, back, back, back, back" screamed the Boomer with his signature line. The only people that were going back were the kids in the outfield trying to catch it. The ball landed on the warning track.

Crack. "Oh, Oh, OH -- it's GONE"

That one checked in at 390+ feet. Hardly the stuff of legend.

Crack. Holy cow, look at THAT one, he said in awe. It went 356 feet, barely making it into the stands. 356 feet is supposed to be impressive? I used to play in slow pitch leagues where the big boppers could hit SOFTBALLS further than that.

Crack. He got ALL OF IT.  It was estimated at about 400. Funny how it seemed to land pretty close to the one that was judged 356. Go figure.

Lots of balls by different batters were hit in the 420-430 range. People like the Boomer would have us believe these are "monster" shots. They're not. We've been dumbed down. At the old Tiger Stadium, the centerfield wall was 440 feet away from home plate. A ball hit 420-430 in that direction would not result in a home run, and might well be caught for just another out. For that matter, before the old Yankee Stadium was reconfigured, it was a whopping 465 feet to the left-center field wall. Yet there were times when batters hit balls over that wall, notably Mickey Mantle.

Finally, in this year's HRD, Prince Fielder upped the ante. He hit one 448, then 454, then two "bombs" of 476. Unsubstantiated rumors have it that the Boomer had to be given a Valium IV drip so he didn't spontaneously combust.

Most of us think 476 feet is a very long way to hit a baseball these days. But is it?

Back in the 1960's the Detroit Tigers had a chubby first baseman named Norm Cash. Cash hit a few home runs over the rightfield roof in Tiger Stadium that landed on the street outside. They were estimated to have travelled somewhere around 525 feet. In 1971, Reggie Jackson hit a ball in the same Tiger Stadium that crashed into the lights, far above the right-center field roof. How far would that one have gone? Certainly father than any of Cash's blasts. Given current technology, it seems odd that no one has gone back to review that home run, and digitally recreate it using all the tools available to computer geeks these days. It would be interesting to know just far that ball "would" have travelled.

So let's do a reality check. For the most part, today's major league players are more highly conditioned than those of a few decades ago. Their bats have been fine-tuned to their own specific needs far more so than they were in years past. Most people assume even the baseballs themselves have been wound tighter, or "juiced", to fly further. Even in the steroid era, the musclebound monsters that were crashing all those home runs never seemed to hit one further than 500 feet.

Now we have Prince Fielder in the Home Run Derby contest unleashing his mighty coiled up swing, from toes to nose, with all his muscle power in sync making perfect contact for maximum distance to drive a baseball.

And the best he could do is still 50 feet short of what portly Stormin' Norman Cash did a few times back in the 60's? Huh?

Mickey Mantle is generally given credit for the longest home run ever -- some 585 feet. These days the most "Cannonizing, Godzilla, King Kong, T-Rex" blasts don't come within 100 feet of it. Doesn't that seem strange?

On a positive note, I'm grateful Chris Berman wasn't behind the microphone when the Mick hit that particular home run. It's scary to think about what the Boomer might have said or done witnessing such a thing. Remember, Valium wasn't around back then, much less Tasers if he went absolutely berserk.

Guess we'd have had to wait until Walter Cronkite told us about it.

And that's just the way it was.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Retiring Jackie Robinson's #42. Justifiable?

As every baseball historian, and most current fans know, Jackie Robinson was the first to break the "color barrier" in major league baseball. That happened way back in 1947 when a guy named Harry Truman was occupying the White House. At that time, saying it was a very controversial decision by the then Brooklyn Dodgers to do such a thing would be a gross understatement.

It raised a firestorm in many circles. Segregation was rampant in America. The KKK still held much sway, particularly in the south. "Jim Crow" laws were the norm, and it would be another 17 years until the historic Civil Rights Act, first pioneered by President Kennedy, would finally be signed into law by his successor, Lyndon Johnson, in 1964.

In baseball itself, few would doubt that Robinson endured a lot of taunts and jeering when he was first allowed to play in the major leagues. Not only from the fans, at home and especially on the road, but the players themselves. Opponents are one thing, but it's likely some of his own teammates gave him a hard time. Such is the way it was back then.

Yet his breakthrough eventually morphed into much more. Look around at the major leagues. From front offices, to managers, coaches, players, trainers and scouts -- people of "color" are making new inroads every day. Latino players abound on seemingly every major league team's roster -- probably because they're really good. Several Japanese players have been welcomed into the major leagues, complete with a translator on their team's payroll, because they can't speak any English. It would appear MLB has done it's fair share in not only allowing, but promoting diversity in the last few decades.

Jackie Robinson played for 10 years in the major leagues, the last being 1956. Over the course of that decade, he was certainly a terrific player. With a career batting average over .300, he could field, throw, and had great speed on the base paths. About the only thing he didn't do was hit a lot of home runs.

In 1972, 16 years later, the LA Dodgers decided to retire his number 42. On the very same day, they also retired the numbers of Sandy Koufax and Roy Campanella, who had both come and gone long after Robinson's heyday. Jackie was never afforded his "own" day, but had to "share". It should also be noted that in June of 1972, when this happened, Robinson was gravely ill with heart disease complicated by diabetes. He would die a scant few months later at the age of 53.

Regardless, the LA Dodgers did it the way they saw fit at that time, and we all know Jackie Robinson will forever be enshrined in baseball's Hall of Fame. Whether his career statistics were Cooperstown worthy is debatable, but it's pretty much universally accepted that he belongs there, if only for being the pioneer that would eventually radically change the make-up of the game.

But something very strange happened. In 1997, 41 years after Robinson had played his last game, and 25 years since his number had been retired by the Dodgers, and died shortly thereafter -- it was decided that every major league team would retire Robinson's # 42. No other player -- ever -- will be allowed to wear that number. 

And that's just wrong for a few reasons.

First, consider when Robinson played. Jackie spent his whole career with the Brooklyn Dodgers. They didn't move to LA until after he had retired. During his era, the other 7 teams of the National League consisted of the Philadelphia Phillies, Cincinnati Reds, St. Louis Cardinals, Pittsburgh Pirates, Chicago Cubs, Boston/Milwaukee Braves, and the NY/San Fran Giants. Like all sports leagues, every team wanted to beat the others. Despite the racial tensions that Robinson's presence created, he was just one player. During that time -- and to this day -- certain intense team rivalries exist. Back then, the Brooklyn Dodgers and the NY Giants had a regular family feud going on. With or without Robinson's presence, from owners down to batboys, they would have still hated each other. Think Michigan-Ohio State, Yankees-Red Sox, Hatfields and McCoys, Oprah and Dave, Charles Barkley and golf swing coaches. Some things just aren't meant to work out.

So why, pray tell, when their job was to beat the Dodgers every time they played -- should the above mentioned teams have to retire Jackie Robinson's number?

And how about the American League teams? Back in Jackie's day, television was in it's infancy. No dishes, no internet, not even ESPN. While fans of AL teams had no doubt heard of Robinson, it's likely most of them never even saw him play. So why should all the American League teams have to retire his number as well, when he never even played in that league?

What's more ridiculous is certain teams that came into existence, through "expansion", even though it was many years after Robinson died, have to keep his number 42 off-limits as well for their current and future players. Their fans couldn't care less about what Robinson did back in the 40's and 50's. They're rooting for their home teams, and hoping some of their own might go on to terrific careers, maybe even Hall of Famers someday, so they can retire THEIR numbers.

Regardless of what Jackie Robinson endured and accomplished during his major league career, his number 42 should NOT have been force-fed down every other team's throat as to "retiring" it forever after.

It's just wrong.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

More dumb idle thoughts

Kurt Busch won a Nationwide Series race at Daytona. On the one hand, he's a terrific race car driver, but on the other sometimes I think he blew a head gasket in real life a long time ago.

Serena Williams will likely win another Wimbledon championship. She seems to be the only female American player that's competitive at the world-class level these days. In the meantime, the Russians are churning out young guns like they do bottles of Stoly. On the men's side, the Americans don't seem to have anybody remotely competitive at that level.

Roger Federer and Andy Murray will meet in the men's finals. Who to root for? The Swiss native already has a boatload of titles, but he's a nice guy. Conversely, wouldn't it be great to finally see a Brit win such a coveted championship in his own country? They'd go crazy. I think Federer will win handily, by here's rooting for Murray. Do it for the queen, the princes and princesses, the dukes and duchesses, the lords, dames, earls, viscounts, and whatever other titles are still in effect across the pond. If he can pull it off, old Lizzie the Deuce would no doubt confer knighthood upon him. Perhaps she could dub him Sir Racketman, while Sir Rocketman, Elton John, provided the background music. That would be such a jolly good time.

Ray Allen, formerly of the Boston Celtics, just jumped to the Miami Heat. Allen's the most prolific 3-point shooter in the history of the NBA. If you thought they were good before, consider -- besides having freakish talents like Lebron James and Dwyane Wade that can not only shoot the lights out themselves, but drive the ball to the basket, often resulting in easy layups, dunks or fouls -- now they can kick it out to a 3 point sniper. If their team chemistry comes together with Allen -- the Heat, recently crowned NBA champs, just went from the "best" to "scary"

To my knowledge, no Detroit Lion players have been arrested in the last couple weeks. Damn. Just when things were getting interesting, they go back into their old boring mode.

Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson both failed to make the cut at the current PGA tournament. According to the stat monsters, it's the first time that's happened since Phil was 23, and Eldrick was still an amateur. To all of which I say -- who cares? They weren't good enough this week. So why do we have to watch replays of them? Shouldn't we be shown replays of the other guys that obviously played better and are still in contention? Sometimes I think ESPN stands for Eldrick's Sports Network.

Steve Nash, formerly of the Phoenix Suns, just signed on with the Los Angeles Lakers. Nash is known for a lot of things. He's been the NBA MVP, is a terrific ball handler, and can shoot with the best of them when the opportunity presents itself. But mostly he's known for distributing the ball to his teammates. Kobe Bryant is happy to have Nash on board, and that makes sense. Nash will likely get Kobe the ball even more. Some call Kobe the Black Mamba. I think of him as the Black Hole once he gets the basketball. It goes in, but never comes back out.

The Tour de France is in full swing, and the persecutors are STILL after Lance Armstrong for supposedly doping many years ago, even though he passed each and every drug test over his entire career?


Friday, July 6, 2012

The hot dog eating contest

Once again, Nathan's Coney Island, in Brooklyn, NY, held their annual 4th of July hot dog eating contest. Certainly valid arguments could be made regarding gluttony, world hunger, and obesity in America. It's also unlikely many health professionals, much less vegetarians, would approve of such a spectacle. I'm going to skip past all that PC stuff and look at it from a fun point of view.

The rules seem to be simple enough. Whoever eats the most hot dogs and accompanying buns in the 10 minute time limit -- wins. Also, any contestant that suffers a "reversal of fortune" during the contest is disqualified.

To no one's great surprise, Joey Chestnut, the 5-time reigning champion, won yet again. He downed 68 dogs and buns in 10 minutes to equal his record. Just for a second, try to imagine what a pile of 68 hot dogs in their buns would look like. No human should be able to eat that amount of food in a week, let alone 10 minutes. It's not like Chestnut is some Godzilla -sized man. He stands a little over 6 feet, weighs about 210 (before the contest) and is somewhat muscular. Just an average looking guy.

When the contest began, his first 10 hot dogs and buns were gone in about one minute. Though he consumes them 2 at a time, that still averages out to one dog and bun every 6 seconds. Do not try this at home, unless you're very close to the porcelain receptacle. Chances are -- you'll be getting an up close look at it in a few minutes.

Perhaps the best way to describe how Joey Chestnut eats hot dogs and buns is to think of a wood-chipper. You know, that big machine that tree trimmers have that they feed branches and foliage into as fast as they can, and the little bitty chips come shooting out the other end. It's like that. I don't want to know what comes shooting out of Joey Chestnut's other end a few hours after the contest, but I dare say it's going to be somewhat painful and involve several flushes.

I'm not sure if this is covered somewhere in the fine print of Title IX, but ladies were allowed to compete as well. They have their own contest within the overall event. The winner? One Sonya Thomas, a 45 year old lady that stands 5' 5", and weighs about 100 pounds. She's downright skinny. But she pounded down 45 dogs and buns in 10 minutes. Incredible.

People like Chestnut and Thomas aren't exactly household names, and other than their home towns, San Jose, and Alexandria, VA, respectively, it's unlikely most folks around the country would recognize them if they "bumped into them on the street".

They could have some fun if they wanted to, and so could we if the TV cameras were rolling. How about if they pretended to be a couple, and walked into a coney joint somewhere else in America that featured an all-you-can-eat for $10 special?

After plopping down their 20 bucks, they would appear to be harmless enough to the waitress or proprietor. Just an average guy with a skinny wife.

Perhaps Joey might say to the server, "We're very hungry, but prefer our hot dogs plain. No chili, no mustard, no onions, just the dogs and buns. And two tall glasses of water. Could we have 6 to start with please?" That would seem like a reasonable order.

But when the dogs came, the wood-chippers fired up, all 6 were gone before the server could even turn around, and they requested 10 more -- things might get interesting. Remember, Joey ate 68 and Sonya ate 45, in 10 minutes. 113 dogs and buns. At the coney joint, they could easily pound down 10 more, and 10 more, and 10 more. When they got up to a combined 70 or 80, and still wanted more, having only paid 20 bucks in the first place -- it would be hilarious to see the reactions on the faces of other patrons, the server, and the cook. The owner would have been contacted informing them of a state of emergency in their restaurant. Imagine what he/she would hear from their panicked staff. No, it's not a bomb threat, and not a robbery. Everybody's just fine. It's not even the health department here again inspecting us. But you won't believe how much the couple at table 4 are eating. You need to get here and see for yourself, ASAP.

Yep, that could be a fun scenario. I hope they do it someday and the cameras are rolling.

In the meantime, here's a tip. If you ever meet Joey or Sonya, and ask them to lunch so you can get further acquainted?

Go Dutch. Trust me.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Parise and Suter shun Detroit

Zach Parise and Ryan Suter, the two most coveted free agents in this year's NHL merry-go-round, are both heading to play for the Minnesota Wild. Close friends for several years, it had been rumored that they had made an agreement between them to eventually sign with the same team.

Detroit Red Wings' management and their hockey fans are no doubt disappointed, and maybe even surprised they got passed over. After all, Detroit calls itself "Hockeytown", is a mecca of the sport steeped in tradition, and everybody that gets a chance will jump at the opportunity to wear the "winged wheel", right? Maybe not. Here's a few reasons and why they don't hold up under scrutiny.

Detroiters can boast of being an "original 6" franchise. Actually, that doesn't matter at all. Does anybody really think a modern day NHL player gives a rat's behind about what happened over a half century ago? I think not.

The Red Wings have an owner who's not afraid to spend a bunch of money for good players in his commitment to winning. Maybe so, but the Wings have the same salary cap as every other team. The Wings went out and spent a few million to sign a few prospects and yet another back-up goalie, of all things. Don't think this was lost on Parise and Suter, much less their agents.

The Wings have a winning tradition. Guess what? Tradition doesn't matter either. That was then, and this is now. There's a difference. Besides, Detroit hockey fans might want to consider something else. Despite such talents as Datsyuk and Zetterberg, their team hasn't been remotely close to being Stanley Cup worthy since Stevie Y retired. All the rest is just hype. They're not that good.

The Wings have a rabid fan base. Indeed they do, but that's relative as well. There are many other venues around the league where fans are every bit as supportive of their team -- if not moreso.

Speaking of venues, even many of the Detroit faithful have begrudgingly admitted the Red Wings' Joe Louis Arena is quickly reaching the point of becoming more of a liability than an asset. Like many other venues in professional sports over the last few decades -- what was once regarded as a jewel -- is now considered to be obsolete and in need of replacement. With the exception of such hallowed places such as the Cubs' Wrigley Field, the Bosox' Fenway Park, and of course Madison Square Garden, time and expectations from players march on. For anyone who would doubt that -- I would offer that even the old Yankee Stadium, which probably had more history and tradition than any other venue in the world -- was recently demolished for a new updated version.

Last, but certainly not least, is the city of Detroit itself. To my knowledge, not a single pro athlete playing for any Detroit team actually lives within the city limits. And why would they want to? There's a reason so many businesses have closed up shop and moved elsewhere, along with the thousands of citizens that could afford to escape to the suburbs.

Get outside the Fox district and a small stretch along the Detroit river, and what do you really have? A vast crime-ridden wasteland. Abandoned buildings. Once nice houses now in shambles, being inhabited by homeless people, crack heads, or worse. Political corruption and a school system that might well be the worst in the nation. Throw in daily murders, rapes, robberies, muggings, assaults, home invasions, and carjackings. Add a liberal portion of ignorance, poverty, guns, gangs, drugs, stir well, bring to a boil, and let simmer for a few decades. This is what Detroit has become.

So somebody please tell me -- unless the money was just obscene -- why would any highly prized free agent want to come to Detroit?

I have no idea how much the Red Wings offered Parise and Suter, or what their contracts with the Minnesota Wild will be worth. But I do know one thing.

While the city of St. Paul might not rank up there with Detroit as far as name recognition in the NHL goes -- it's a helluva lot better city to be in.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Penn State. Stop the madness

How much is enough? Where and when will it stop? Since the sordid revelations began coming out of Penn State, consider what has happened. Legendary and beloved head coach Joe Paterno got fired, and died a couple months later. The university President was ousted, and the culprit, one Jerry Sandusky, has been tried, convicted, and will likely spend the rest of his life in prison.

Though it may sound cold, the young men that were victimized will either get past the trauma they experienced, and go on to live fruitful lives -- or they won't.  Other than counseling, there's little to be done about that now. Some people are mentally and psychologically stronger than others. That's just human nature.

Now, Penn State's athletic director, Tim Curley, currently on "leave", and retired vice president Gary Schultz await trial on charges of not properly reporting child abuse, and lying to a grand jury. It's all about who knew what and when, and how they passed that information on, either legally or morally. It's also over a decade old. Is putting them on trial the best thing to do? Depends how you look at it.

In the name of justice -- if they broke laws -- they should be held accountable. Yet, possibly a much more important point, which has gone largely unnoticed, should be considered. What exactly will those trials accomplish?  Sure, if convicted, Curley and Schultz might head off to jail, but likely not for very long.

It will also be splashed all over the media as it unfolds. Contrary to what many may think, Jerry Sandusky wasn't the most important person in this mess. He's history. It was, and is, the kids that were victimized. Those young men are in their 20's now, and I dare say being reminded over and over again, through various proceedings, about what happened to them -- isn't exactly helpful as they strive to get on with their lives. As the media and authorities continue their witch-hunt in the name of stories or justice -- it seems they've totally ignored what effects their actions might have on the people that should matter most. Or they don't care.

Lastly, there's the matter of probing through Joe Paterno's emails over a decade ago. What did he know? Who did he tell? The man's dead. Does it really matter now, or do they plan to dig him up and put him on trial too? All this nonsense is accomplishing is smearing the name and legacy of a very good man, and a sports icon, who obviously can't defend himself.

Rooting out every last detail in the name of "closure" is one thing. Making several young men constantly relive their worst nightmare while doing so is quite another.

If anybody deserves closure -- it's THEM.

This whole thing has gone on long enough.

For the kids' sake -- can we please stop this madness?

Monday, July 2, 2012

Spicing up Olympic gymnastics

No doubt about it. The things Olympic gymnasts can do are incredible. But it could be better. Here's a few ideas on how to make it way more interesting.

The lady's "balance beam" would seem to require the utmost in concentration. It's only 4 inhes wide and those girls are doing all manner of twists, jumps and cartwheels on it. The crowd in attendance and TV cameras don't seem to faze them. It's like they're immune to pressure. After all, what's the worst that can happen? They fall off the beam and land on a foot of padding. Big deal. Want to spice it up? Get rid of the padding and put a foot deep pond swarming with hungry snapping crocodiles underneath the beam. THAT would be pressure. And can you imagine the TV ratings?

In this day and age of supposed equality, why do the opposite sexes still have different routines to compete in anyway? Boys do this, but girls don't. Girls do that, but boys don't. Why not swap a few things around and have a little fun with it? It would be interesting to see what the men could do on the balance beam. Walking a 4 inch straight line doesn't sound so tough. Unless, of course, the man is a member of the Detroit Lions that got pulled over by the cops and was given a field sobriety test.

Consider the "rings". Only the men participate. It used to be quite a feat for one of them to hold the "iron cross" position for a few seconds. Now they all make it look routine. Why not put the ladies up there and see what they can do? Show me a girl that can hold the "iron cross" while smiling and not flinching, and I'll show you not only a gold medal winner, but a future attorney that will make millions representing women in divorce cases. See "hungry snapping crocodiles" mentioned above.

The Olympics has the "pommel horse" backwards too. The equivalent ladies' event has them getting a running head start, jumping on a mini-trampoline, then bouncing off the horse, and doing spins and flips trying to "stick" a perfect landing. Meanwhile, the men mount a different sort of "horse", with a couple of handles. They proceed to go back and forth across the horse twirling around and flipping their legs every which way. Why not switch the two events? Sure, it might be boring to watch the men do what the women do now, but putting the women on the pommel horse to "walk" back and forth with their hands, while constantly gyrating their legs, might accomplish something far more significant than any athletic contest. It could cause a sexual revolution as millions of young couples experimented with such moves in the privacy of their own bedrooms. Studies have shown Americans are getting more obese every day, and what better way to get in shape?

Why do men compete on a single high bar, while women compete on two "uneven" bars? That seems dumb. Why not combine the two? Make it one higher bar and two lower bars, one to each side, for both sexes. Or two high bars with a low one in the middle. Either way, the routines would get more interesting.

The "floor exercise"? Every Olympics the padding seems to get thicker. Nowadays that mat has more bounce then an unpopular President starting a war in an election year. These Olympian boys and girls are supposed to be the best, so why not hold them to that standard? Forget all that padding. One word. Concrete. Street dancers do the same thing all the time -- so the Olympians should have no problem.

While entertaining as is, this could all be so much more interesting if the people in charge used their imagination.

On a personal note -- heal up quickly from your surgery Randy -- but while you're recuperating remember what I said about the "horse". LOL

Sunday, July 1, 2012

The U.S. Olympic men's swimming trials

American swimmers Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte are putting on quite a show. They've dominated the field in every event they've entered. It should come as no surprise, considering Phelps has already won 14 Olympic gold medals, and Lochte holds a world record or two himself. The announcers often refer to them as the best two swimmers in the world.

Maybe they are. Then again, nobody knows that for sure until the actual Olympic events take place. It seems to me there's a lot of countries around the world that will be sending the best of their own swimmers, and maybe some of THEIR announcers are referring to THEM as the best in the world. We'll all know when they get it on in London in a few weeks.

Americans shouldn't forget that just because Phelps, Lochte, and Co. dominated the last Olympics -- that was 4 years ago. A lot can happen in that time. Detroit Lion fans would know about that. 4 years ago, their team racked up the only 0-16 season in NFL history. They were a laughingstock. Now, those same fans dare to mention the Lions making it to the Super Bowl. Teams go up and teams go down, sometimes drastically. Previously unheard of athletes can suddenly emerge and become super-stars.

There might be some 14 year old kid somewhere hacking away on public golf courses, that will eventually surpass everything Tiger Woods has accomplished. You never know. And so it could be in men's Olympic swimming this year. Maybe there's a few guys from other countries that Americans never heard of before, that will show up to trounce Phelps and Lochte in the pool. Again, you never know. I dare say those guys, whoever they are, have been training like maniacs too.

Remember the "Miracle on Ice" back in 1980, when a bunch of American college kids defeated the mighty Soviet Red Army squad? Looking at it from the other side, that would have been akin to the original Dream Team of NBA stars (Bird, Magic, Jordan, etc., whose smallest margin of victory was a whopping 32 points) getting knocked off in the Olympics by, say, Lithuania. Neither had a snowflake's chance in hell of happening. But one did.

Just a thought -- Phelps is entered in 8 Olympic events. Just for fun, let's assume he wins gold medals in 4 of them, a very real possibility, running his record total to 18. That would be the exact same number the above mentioned Tiger Woods is fixated on, regarding winning golf "majors".

I hope he tweets Eldrick and says, "I'll consider having lunch with you when you match my number. Perhaps we could get in a quick 9 holes, then go for a dip in an Olympic sized swimming pool. Seems fair. BTW, I'm not a very good golfer, but I hope your swimming capabilities at least go beyond hot tubs".