Friday, February 26, 2010
"It sucks to win silver." That's what American forward Natalie Darwitz told Joe Micheletti on MSNBC, minutes after Team USA lost the women's ice hockey gold medal to Canada last night, 2-0. As I heard those words, I was instantly compelled to flip back to NBC's Olympic coverage, just to catch a glimpse of what was happening there. Anything would be better than sour grapes.|
The two goals scored in the game were as many as either team had given up all tournament. These longtime rivals were clearly the class of the field. I just wish Team USA had stayed classy to the end.
After Finland received its bronze medals, Team USA players, several of them fighting back tears, accepted their silvers as a chant of "USA! USA!" filled Canada Hockey Place. It may have started with American fans. Who knows? What was readily apparent, though, was that this vastly partisan Canadian crowd had enthusiastically joined in.
The medal-winning teams were lined up at ice level during the entire ceremony, but on the sportsmanship podium, Canada stood taller still.
UPDATE: Uh O Canada.
Turns out, once the cameras went dark and the stands at Canada Hockey Place cleared, the gold medalists returned to the ice in full regalia to smoke cigars and drink beer and champagne. According to an Associated Press report, one player even tried to drive the ice resurfacing machine.
"In terms of the actual celebration, it's not exactly something uncommon in Canada," Steve Keough, a spokesperson for the Canadian Olympic Committe told the AP.
Not uncommon, but perhaps illegal. Marie-Philip Poulin, the 18-year-old phenom who scored both of Team Canada's goals against the United States, was witnessed holding a beer. The legal drinking age in British Columbia is 19.
"I don't think it's a good promotion of sport values," Gilbert Felli, the International Olympic Committee's executive director of the Olympic Games, said of the celebration. "If they celebrate in the changing room, that's one thing, but not in public. We will investigate what happened."
Monday, February 22, 2010
Spectacular, If Not Miraculous
The Americans were handily out shot. They relied on spectacular
goaltending. They got some bounces. And, facing intense pressure late,
they held on to pull off the upset.|
I'm not recounting the Miracle on Ice, the U.S. Olympic hockey team's
improbable 4-3 victory over the vaunted Soviets in Lake Placid 30 years
ago today. I'm talking about Team USA's win over Canada last night in
Vancouver. The score of the two games would have been identical, too,
if not for a late empty-net goal by the current Americans.
This was not David versus Goliath, or freedom versus communism. It was
not amateurs who had bonded over a six-month exhibition schedule such
that they could sneak up and surprise a government-run hockey
juggernaut. Such Olympic story lines are history. Sadly.
We were once taught to hate the Russians and everything they stood for,
but who can build up any sustained venom for Canada? And, for that
matter, can opposing players who will rejoin the same NHL team, perhaps
even the same line, in less than two weeks compete against each other
like there's no tomorrow?
In a word, yes. Last night's game was hockey played at the highest
level — an NHL all-star game with meaning, end-to-end action that you
hated to see end.
These are the fourth Winter Games in which NHL hockey players have been
welcomed, a paradigm shift that has always bothered me. For individual
sports such as alpine skiing and figure skating, the Olympics still
represent the pinnacle of an athlete's career. Shaun White has his own
video game, but nowhere are his otherworldly snowboarding skills better
displayed than at the Games. "The Olympics are pretty heavy," a
breathless White told NBC's cameras after his first half-pipe run last
Wednesday. (Then, with the gold medal already secured, White used his
second run to push the envelope further, uncorking an unprecedented
Double McTwist 1260.)
I don't get that heavy feeling from men's ice hockey anymore. The NHL
schedule breaks only long enough for a few Olympic practices and a
fortnight of international competition before the Stanley Cup pursuit
The victory by the United States last night was its first over Canada
in Olympic play since 1960 (Canada beat the U.S. in 2002's gold medal
game), and it gave American college hockey some North American
breeding-ground bragging rights over Canadian junior hockey. Only five
players on the current Team USA roster were born in 1980, but no small
part of their statement last night was written 30 years ago.
It truly was something to behold. But it was no miracle.
Stop, Or My First Baseman Will Shoot
Major League Baseball says its rules banning weapons from clubhouses was in place last year, but the implementation this month of the Weapon-Free Workplace Policy will ensure that all clubhouses carry signs — similar to the anti-gambling signs that worked so well in the Pete Rose case — that prohibit anyone working for the league to possess deadly weapons. The league defines "deadly weapon," in a spectacular example of legalese, as "any instrument or device designed primarily for use in inflicting death or injury to a human or animal or is capable of inflicting death or injury if used in the manner it was designed." An MLB spokesman confirmed the policy bans firearms, explosives, daggers, metal knuckles (do people still use those?), switchblades (or those?) and knives with blades exceeding 5 inches, and then declined further comment.|
My second-favorite word in the whole definitive mess is "primarily." This allows ballplayers to carry all sorts of implements that the FAA has already deemed dangerous, from box cutters to nail clippers — not to mention knives of up to 5 inches in length.
My favorite, though, is the inclusion of the phrase, "an animal." I'm guessing here, but I'm assuming that this is intended to ward off a potential Michael Vick-style clubhouse scandal.
The Minnesota Metrohome
Evan Lysacek didn't perform in his gold-medal-winning free skate, or that the relationship between Lysacek and gymnast Nastia Liukin is so hot and heavy that if you google Lysacek looking for news of his gold medal, you get a hundred stories about his main squeeze instead (ah, America).
I know I'm supposed to care about the quad that |
Anyway, I don't. Instead, as I look out on the wintry landscape, I've been thinking about Target Field, the Minnesota Twins' stadium that'll open this April. An entire generation of Twin Cities fans has grown up watching baseball played indoors, in an impossibly loud barn with a roof that regularly interfered with balls in play and a backdrop brought to you by Hefty®. Everything I've read about the history of Minnesota baseball suggests that fans there will love baseball played in its traditional form. And they'll have an easier time of it at Target Field than they ever had at Metropolitan Stadium. The field will be natural grass over a drainage and heating system that should protect the grass plants from damage during the long winter. The canopy over the seating bowl will be the largest in the Major Leagues, radiant heaters will line the main concourse from foul pole to foul pole, and concessions stands in the windy upper deck will be enclosed and feature standing room for fans hoping to warm their toes while they eat.
On the other hand, without the home-field advantage the Metrodome afforded, the Twins will probably never win the World Series again. But what do I care? I live in Wisconsin.
Friday, February 12, 2010
Mariah Carey = Olympic Gold?
wonders how the torch-lighting will comply with fire codes and if there will be “an unprecedented ‘second cauldron’ somewhere outside BC Place for crowds to enjoy and TV crews to use as a backdrop for live shots.” Meanwhile, the folks over at NBC.com are asking if skier Lindsey Vonn — a favorite to win three gold medals for the United States — will even be able to compete after injuring her right shin when it was forced violently against her ski boot during a training run in Austria last week.
The Winter Olympics officially get under way today in Vancouver at the BC Place — site of the first-ever indoor opening ceremonies. ESPN.com’s Bonnie D. Ford |
These are good questions, I admit. But what’s eating at me right now is whether U.S. figure skater Evan Lysacek, the reigning men’s world champion and silver medalist at the 2010 U.S. Figure Skating Championships, really believes what he recently said about AT&T’s new playlist for Olympians (available via iTunes and AT&T wireless devices): “As we prepare to compete in Vancouver, the ‘Team USA Soundtrack’ will help motivate us to perform at our very best.”
That’s right, a collection of 12 new songs from the likes of Mariah Carey, Three Doors Down, Train, Puddle of Mudd and Hoobastank — has-been artists who maybe could have filled a playlist for the 2002 Winter Games — “will offer inspirational songs for Team USA, sports and music fans across the country.” Just ignore the fact that another contributing band is called The All-American Rejects.
Here’s hoping that his fellow U.S. competitors don’t agree with Lysacek and instead opt to listen to whatever puts them in the competitive zone. Swimmer Michael Phelps won an unprecedented eight gold medals in the 2008 Summer Olympics listening to rappers Jay-Z, Young Jeezy and Eminem. And FitBottomedGirls.com reports that some female Winter Olympians will get fired up during these next two weeks listening to the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Beyonce and, of course, Coldplay.
Monday, February 08, 2010
Eight Is Enough
One member of the New Orleans Saints who you may have seen in the
waning seconds of Super Bowl XLIV, but probably didn't recognize, was
Scott Shanle. The linebacker was closing in on Indianapolis
Colts wide receiver Reggie Wayne, who dropped Peyton Manning’s final
pass of the game and sealed New Orleans' first-ever Super Bowl
victory. Steve Borer certainly recognized Shanle, though — and he
called me this morning to make sure I knew who he was, too. |
Borer, assistant vice principal and activities director at Seward (Neb.) High School, spent 18 years coaching eight-man football
and has compiled books on the subject. He watched Shanle, a seven-year
NFL veteran out of the University of Nebraska, play running back and
defensive back for St. Edward (Neb.) High School’s eight-man team while
earning All-State and Player of the Year honors. Believe it or not, Borer says Shanle is
the third eight-man player out of Nebraska to wear a Super Bowl ring. The other two? Shanle's little brother, Andrew — who also played for St. Edward and was on the practice squad for New York Giants team that won Super Bowl XLII — and Randy Rasmussen, a starting right guard for the New York Jets in Super Bowl III.
"People say, 'Oh, well, it's just eight-man football.' Yeah, it is,”
Borer once told me, defending the smaller-roster game. “But it's still
blocking, running and tackling, and those kids are out there getting a
chance to participate in a great all-American game."
And maybe even win
a Super Bowl.
Thursday, February 04, 2010
Outside the Lines
Background checks, while highly recommended, may not be enough to ensure you know who's coaching your youth sports programs. Ongoing supervision also is a must.
For proof, look no further than 31-year-old Eric J. Humphrey, a bar owner who also coached a Pop Warner football team in Buffalo, N.Y. Last season, that team (with players between the ages of 11 and 15) was good enough to come within one win of advancing to the national championships at Disney’s Wide World of Sports. But that on-the-field success is overshadowed by reported off-the-field behavior: While his players practiced, Humphrey allegedly was dealing cocaine in a nearby parking lot. In fact, he apparently was the leader of a drug ring busted earlier this week by federal officials. "He held himself out to be a pillar of the community while he was selling cocaine," Charles H. Tomaszewski, the agent in charge of the Buffalo office of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, told The Buffalo News. "I find that to be unconscionable."
Drug agents seized a pound of powdered cocaine, 4.5 ounces of crack cocaine and 21 kilo-sized cocaine wrappers from a "stash house" said to be operated by the coach. And Humphrey’s bar, Good Life Sports Bar & Grill, is alleged to have been purchased with drug dollars, The News reported.
Humphrey and four co-defendants have pleaded not guilty to drug-conspiracy charges in federal court. That’s no surprise. What is startling, though, is that not one parent or Pop Warner administrator ever noticed this guy conducting business when he should have been coaching their kids.
Wednesday, February 03, 2010
deployment of Tasers to control unruly sports crowds.
A massive brawl during halftime of the boys' basketball game played at
Monessen (Pa.) High School last Friday has once again drawn attention
to the |
According to local media reports, several individuals were stunned into
submission during what law enforcement officials termed a "borderline
riot." The fight involving dozens of students and adults was believed
to have started as a hallway argument between girls' basketball players
representing Monessen and visiting Washington High, which had faced off
in the first game of that day's double-header. (Spectators had been subjected to a metal detector upon their arrival.)
The growing melee
spilled into the gym, and it took local and state police 40 minutes to
clear the capacity crowd. Ultimately, the game's second half was played
in front of empty stands, and Washington emerged with a runaway 71-52
victory. But just how to score the ensuing Taser debate is less clear.
Reaction in the blogosphere both questioned and defended not only the
need for Taser deployment in extreme crowd control situations but the
very necessity of high school sports.
Monessen coach Joe Salvino, at least, knew his team's place within the
chaos. "We saw the police on the floor and they told us to stay in the
corner," Salvino told the Observer-Reporter of Washington. "They were using Tasers and they didn't want to electrocute us."
Whether aftershocks in the form of police brutality allegations persist
remains to be seen as the storyline continues to unfold.
Eighteen-year-old Chancey Roilton of Washington, who was tasered during
the brawl and later cited for disorderly conduct, was arrested today by
state police on drug charges. Meanwhile, video
of Monessen sophomore Mario Tarver being tasered was still making the
Internet rounds. "One of the first things he said was that he hates
police, and that's not how I raised him," Bylly Tarver, Mario's father,
told Pittsburgh ABC affiliate WTAE.
"But situations like that, that strain relationships between police and
the community, from one bad officer, can have a long-term effect. So, I
have to go through the process of making sure he understands that it's
not everybody. That's not a reflection of all officers."
Tuesday, February 02, 2010
A Grounded Goal
Congratulations are in order to Chris Calcaterra, sports facilities manager for the 145-acre, 16-field Peoria (Ariz.) Sports Complex,
a city-owned entity that hosts spring training for Major League
Baseball's Seattle Mariners and San Diego Padres. He recently took over
as president of the Sports Turf Managers Association for one year with
the goal of enhancing the industry's image — especially in the eyes of
“Our employers need to understand the jobs that we
do,” says Calcaterra, who I interviewed a few years ago about one of
those jobs, preseason turf preparation.
“We are working on tools and resources to help our members with their
communication skills and their technical skills, so that they are more
visible and credible in their employers’ eyes.”
We wish Calcaterra well.