Sunday, August 10, 2008

Random Thoughts From A Sports Filled Day

Some thoughts after a day full of intense sports watching

-I still insist that the U.S. Men’s Basketball team looks vulnerable. Yes, they had success against China, but did you see the game? China stayed in the game in the first half by raining threes, and by all accounts, the shooters on this Chinese team are nothing out of the ordinary. Sure they cooled off because of a lack of depth, which was obviously coming, but what happens when they take on the sharpshooters from Argentina, Italy, Spain, and Greece? I still think that the U.S. will likely end up winning gold, but I’m not convinced they do so unblemished, and I would be very concerned if the U.S. matches up against one of the aforementioned teams in the title game.

-I am absolutely loving having the Olympics back in my life. I’ve never paid as much attention to the Games as I have in these past few days, but I was riveted by last night’s live swimming marathon that included Michael Phelps’ domination in the 400 IM and a number of other American medals (though it was somewhat upsetting to see no other Americans take home the gold). My only complaint? As always with the Olympics and with NBC, they just run too many human interest puff pieces. For instance, I was watching some of the men’s gymnastics last night (hey, I had to throw the girlfriend a bone, and the stuff is mildly entertaining if only for the sheer wow factor of some of the stuff they pull off) and I could see on the large video screen that there were multiple events taking place at the same time (for instance they showed the majority of the rings but I could see guys on the pommel horse that they never televised) and instead of showing us all of these events in a tape delay loop sort of thing, they cut to a ton of commercials, kept a Michael Phelps countdown going, ran puff pieces on the Americans AND even showed a piece on some Chinese gymnast that they had to subtitle! Who in NBC’s market wants to watch an interest piece that A) is about any foreigner and B) has subtitles? That seemed crazy to me. Anyway, here’s hoping things get a little better as the games go along.

-Here’s one thing that I could do without: The constant shots of President Bush whenever he’s in attendance. Look, I do my best to keep politics out of this blog, but why celebrate the attendance of one of the least popular leaders in the history of our nation? Hey George, we appreciate the show of support, but how about you head back to D.C. and try to salvage what’s left of your Presidency over the next few months. Thanks.

-Dwight Howard is an absolute beast that I honestly don’t think anyone in this tournament can stop. The problem is, the U.S. isn’t giving him nearly enough touches inside. You had to see the deer in the headlights look in the eyes of the Chinese team to fully appreciate how good this guy is. He’s faster, stronger, and infinitely more terrifying then anyone else in this tournament.

-I know Dwyane Wade is wildly effective at what he does, but is there anything that makes basketball less watchable then when D-Wade goes into one of his “Hey I’m going to drive to the rim repeatedly, flop off of a big guy and heave up a hideous shot at the rim so that I can draw a foul” spells? I mean, is it any wonder why it’s increasingly difficult for the NBA to appeal to the casual fan? Crap like that makes me want to puke.

-Well, so much for my claim that Byron Leftwich may not want to be a Steeler because of the potentially short-term nature of the job. Of course, I forgot to discount the fact that Leftwich likely was holding up a “Will take snaps for food” sign on the streets of Jacksonville prior to the Steelers calling him. Let’s just hope they keep Leftwich and Casey Hampton away from each other on the off-chance that one challenges the other to an eating contest.

-See what I mean about the PGA Championship? After a Sunday that featured more NFL Preseason stories and games, the U.S.-China men’s basketball game, the Michael Phelps stories, the coverage of the other Olympic Events, and local baseball coverage, the PGA Championship was basically an afterthought.

-That said, for those true fans who watched the thing, there’s no denying that it was quite the exciting finish. I keep thinking one of these days Sergio Garcia is going to come through in a major, but after missing out on yet another chance, I’m beginning to wonder if he isn’t this generation’s Colin Montgomerie.

-I caught an interview with Neal Huntington on the Pirates pre-game show, and some of the highlights of the interview were as follows: He made it sound as if it were a certainty that Tom Gorzelanny will be back up with the Pirates before the end of the season; He also made it pretty clear that Jason Davis may make just this one start for the Pirates today, and that, if not Gorzo, then Ross Ohlendorf could supplant Davis next week; Also on Ohlendorf, Huntington claimed that the Pirates had Ohlendorf’s fastball up around 97-98 MPH last week in Indianapolis, which I find a little hard to believe, but would be wonderful if it were true; When asked by King about the potential of having as many as “10 pitchers competing for starting roles” next spring, Huntington made clear yet again that he was disappointed they were not able to acquire a true potential ace at the deadline, but also pointed out that this will be about double the number of starters the team had coming into this year, and that they will not be forced to stick with anyone who was struggling just because they had no other options (a clear shot at Snell and Gorzo). Just out of curiosity, I took a stab at naming the 10 starters King referred to and here’s what I had: Snell, Gorzelanny, Paul Maholm (who should have a spot locked up), Zach Duke, Ross Ohlendorf, Phil Dumatrait, Daniel McCutchen, Jeff Karstens, and… well I’m not sure who the other two are that King mentioned. Maybe Jimmy Barthmaier and Ty Taubenheim? The Notorious JVB? Jason Davis? Useless Herrera? Let’s just call it 8 guys to be safe here Robby. Huntington also talked about the glut of 3B and made clear that the team still thinks Neil Walker has a long way to go before he is major league ready, but that they still view him as a definite top prospect. What was alarming, though, was that, when referring to Pedro Alvarez, he prefaced his statements with a big old IF, as in IF we sign Pedro Alvarez, and IF we are able to come to a deal. I’m not sure if that really means anything, but it’s still a little jarring to here with just 5 days to go until the deadline.

-Not one, but two little league caliber defensive plays by the Bucs in their game today. In the bottom of the third inning of today’s game, the Pirates threw the ball around the infield like a bunch of little leaguers in a downright embarrassing display. Doumit and Davis collided on a bunt attempt by Jamie Moyer, and then when Davis picked it up, he hurled it past the first baseman Doug Mietnkiewicz, who then grabbed the overthrow and whipped it to second base, only to have it deflect off of Moyer while he was standing on the bag, and then go into the outfield and the decrepit Jamie Moyer then limped to third base, and scored moments later on a sacrifice fly, wheelchair and all. Ugh, I had to change the channel after that one. Then, in the bottom of the fifth inning, Brandon Moss ventured over to the foul line, bobbled a fly that appeared as though it would have gone down in foul territory, but Moss dropped it and it fell into fair territory so the ump incorrectly ruled it a fair ball and then Moss, who didn’t realize that he had a potential force out at second, took his time getting the ball back into the infield and missed this other potential out.

-A cute ball girl for the Phillies misses an easy foul grounder in the 4th and is promptly booed. Nothing quite like being a Philly fan, is there?

-Davis’ shocking quality start today now makes 5 in a row quality starts for our hometown PBC, and, despite the bullpen’s untimely collapse, this club continues to show some signs of life after that dismantling at the trade deadline.

-I’m looking forward to what should be an excellent finale to today’s sporting festivities with the Men’s Swimming 400 Freestyle Relay. World Records have been falling left and right in this pool thus far this week, and I think we could be in for another toppling tonight, and let’s just hope it falls in favor of the Red, White, and Blue. Until tomorrow, folks, enjoy the Olympic spirit

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