Thursday, August 28, 2008

"Uh-huh. Soviet boycott. U.S. unopposed in most events. How does this affect our giveaway?" "You personally stand to lose $44 million..."

Shuk and Kyle Recap the Summer Olympics

Mark: Kyle talked about the Beijing Games on his blog, and I've talked about it on my blog, but now, in this post, we BOTH talk about the the SAME TIME! This is the same kind of logic that leads to movies like Rush Hour being made, but, without further adieu....

Kyle: Alright, I'm too self-conscious to start this, so you'll have to...

Mark: Ok, it begins......... So, the Olympics. Good thing we're writing this before people completely forget about them and move onto a) NFL season, b) MLB pennant races, c) Democratic convention, d) Labor Day parties.....and then pretend I named 89 other things before getting to the FedEx Cup.

Kyle: I know this is strictly about the Olympics, but, quickly: a) I'm just getting into Hard Knocks (great show! How have I missed the first seven seasons?); b) I don't want to talk about this; c) was it me or did Hillary's endorsement of Obama not really contain an endorsement...or talk about Obama? Maybe they could make self-aggrandizing speeches a demonstration sport in 2012.

Mark: At least she ripped on McCain for a while, which basically has the same effect. Seriously, there is no more overblown media storyline than "Will Hillary's supporters vote for Obama?" Of course they will! They're not idiots. They're not going to vote against a guy who agrees with 90% of their platform for a guy who agrees with 20% of their platform.

Kyle: They will on Thursday (because it'll be a catatrophe otherwise), but in November? Who the hell knows? They may just be stupid enough to do something that illogical (some of them, at least). Incidentally, how horrible was Hil's "sisterhood of the traveling pantsuit" line? I considered performing a makeshift lobotomy on myself after hearing it...

Alright, now, let's FOCUS. How were the Olympics for you? How many hours of coverage did you end up watching? Don't you miss them just a little bit?

Mark: I actually watched more of these Games than I have of any Olympics since Salt Lake City. That's what happens when you're marginally employed and keep weird sleeping habits.

Kyle: For all the talk about the time zone issues--or was that just me?--it kind of worked out perfectly. Live stuff in the a.m., replays of important stuff at night. Plus the whole 12 hour thing made the math super-easy, which is always appreciated.

Mark: Yeah, as much as people complained about certain networks (i.e. NBC) not showing live coverage, it was nice to see an important event in primetime rather than, say, LIVE skeet shooting or something.

Kyle: I'm in the same boat, btw, except replace "Salt Lake" with "Atlanta." I must've watched at least 100 hours, which is impressive/troubling, since I was on honeymoon for the first eight days of the games.

Kyle: I have a theory that NBC should just put up "LIVE" all the time. The idea being that people, ultimately, really don't care if it's not live, so long as no one tells them.

Mark: You'll make a great lawyer, Kyle.

Kyle: I'm putting that on my CV.

Mark: Now, Kyle and I have arranged a few talking points to help arrange this conversation. It's like a presidential debate --- I call Jim Lehrer!

Kyle: I'm Tim Rus--...never mind.

Mark: Let's just assume you meant Tim Russ from Star Trek: Voyager.

Kyle: Nice

Mark: (He played Tuvok, btw...I'm single, ladies)

Kyle: lol

Kyle: Carrie says that that guy was basically Voyager's Spock. I can live with that.

Mark: Oh man, Carrie's a closet Trekkie? Awesome.

Mark: So, anyway, point #1......who was the Olympics' MVP?

Kyle: Well, I think it pretty obviously comes down to one of two people: Michael Phelps or Usain Bolt. Stop me if you disagree.

Kyle: (Man, I'm horrible at staying on topic, but: we went to a wedding last Saturday and, for the kissing game, you had to answer Star Trek trivia (for the groom) or Star Wars trivia (for the bride)...and it was impossible. Though the dozens of vodka and sodas probably didn't help things.)

Kyle: OK, I say it's Phelps...and it's probably not all that close. 8 golds, 7 world records, 2 amazingly memorable finishes--that's a lifetime for most Olympians.

Mark: It's hard to argue, yeah. Too bad his middle name wasn't Vincent, then he could literally do the RVD points-to-self taunt by saying 'M-V-P'........Ok, so I just went to Wikipedia to check out Phelps' entry. Turns out his middle name is Fred. So instead of being MVP, he ends up sharing two-thirds of his name with a crazy racist.

Mark: That said, Bolt's story is pretty amazing. A guy that size, representing a whole new generation of sprinter, breaking two world records (one of which was thought to be unbreakable, the other he broke basically while in second gear), and he just only took up the 100m within the last year.

Mark: And good lord, you were right there in Jamaica in the midst of all of this going on! Was it a veritable Boltamania down there?

Kyle: According to SI, he'd been begging his coach for months to run the 100 and his coach basically said, I'll let you run the 100 as soon as you break the Jamaican record in the 200, which he promptly did. I find this amusing because it makes Bolt seem like he was 9 at the time. Now it'd probably go down more like "I'm Usain Fucking Bolt and I'll run the 10,000 if I feel like it."

Kyle: I've been asked about the Bolt buzz when we were down there and, frankly, it was non-existent. He broke the world record in the 100 our last day there and I didn't hear a single person mention it. Of course, it was an all-inclusive resort, and I imagine much of the staff spends most of the day trying not to cry, but still...

Kyle: Also: three world records if you count the 4x100, which, in itself, appeared untouchable.

Mark: Whatever happened to the days when Canada just poached Jamaica's best sprinters and they all ran for us? Ah, the past.

Kyle: Good times! We were like the Yankees (to the Carribbean's Expos) in the track world. We should definitely go back to that.

Kyle: So, then, are you planting yourself in Bolt's camp...or just playing devil's advocate here?

Mark: No, overall, you've gotta say these Games were all Phelps, all the time. Almost annoyingly so.

Kyle: Wasn't it satisfying to see the entirely-too-smug Mark Spitz put in his place?

Mark: Poor Spitz. Sad day for a fellow Mark. It was bad enough that he couldn't come back from Munich and be all "Pretty rad Olympics, eh?" since everyone was still broken up about the murdered Israeli athletes.

Kyle: That's a fair point re: Spitz. I don't even know: did they do the whole ticker tape parade when he got back...or did everyone sort of pretend that the Games didn't happen? All I know is he retired--at 22!--before the year was out. I also think his ridiculous mustache hurt his marketability just a bit.

Mark: I couldn't disagree more. We need more goofy moustaches in sport. Just look at Giambi this summer --- he started a fever. Sports fans love mustaches, end of story. How else do you think Sal Fasano keeps getting on major league rosters?

Kyle: Hmmm...true. I may need to re-think that. I just find his "Spitz '72 vs. Phelps '08" answer ("well, you really can't compare eras, so who knows?") to be totally disingenuous. He's obviously better than you, why not just admit it and move on? There are Marinos and there are Aarons in this world, and Spitz is definitely a Marino...except with hardware.

Mark: Spitz has got a point, though. That's always my answer when my brother pulls the 'athletes today are better than any old-time athlete' card. Marino is another athlete who would've been more highly regarded if he had a mustache.

Kyle: lol...given that he grew up in Pittsburgh, it's actually fairly astounding that he didn't sport a stache....or work in a gay steel mill.

Mark: But anyway, we'll save this debate for a future team-up about facial hair.

Kyle: Looking forward to it!

Mark: Ok, topic #2........Canadian MVP?

Kyle: [crickets chirping]. I'd say Simon Whitfield.

Mark: I'd vote for Carol Huynh, just because she was the one who finally broke through and won some hardware. But really, you could pick anyone. Nobody really stood out for Canada in the Games.

Kyle: Is she the wrestler? If so, that's not a bad choice. The reason I say Whitfield is that he won gold eight years ago, but no one seemed to be talking about him this year. Then, the CBC announcers totally write him off during the run, at which point he miraculously runs everyone down. Admittedly, this would be more clear cut had he not been passed right at the end.

Mark: That's also notable because I think it was the only time in the whole Olympics that a CBC announcer actually didn't think a Canadian had a shot.

Kyle: lol, good call. Van Koeverden seemed poised to be the guy, but then he beefed his first race. Damn you, flag-bearer curse!

Mark: I didn't know about that curse until I saw a feature on it after the Games. That's downright shocking. Maybe we should try to avoid it in Vancouver by letting....I dunno, Stephen Harper carry the flag.

Kyle: I like it! Or a polar bear. Then we'll be known as "the team no one wants to fuck with."

Mark: Eric Lamaze was the only Canadian to win more than one medal but.....yeah, equestrian isn't a sport.

Kyle: Hehe...I was just about to say: I suppose you could make a case for the cokehead (aka "Josh Hamilton on a horse"), but then we'd have to recognize the event as legit.

Mark: You know the standard joke of 'They should give the horses medals!' I actually believe that --- they SHOULD give the horses medals. In a world where Barbaro, Cigar, Secretariat, etc. become household names, a medal-winning horse would be box office gold. We could train it to carry the flag in its mouth, alongside your DHARMA-trained polar bear.

Kyle: Hmmm, wouldn't the horse just eat the medal? Maybe more hay is a more equitable solution...btw, can you name any of the Canadian horses? I assume there was more than one (as opposed to just wearing one right down).

Mark: Lamaze's was named Hickstead, I remember that.

Kyle: Impressive. Unless you're just making that up...

Mark: One horse was named Special Ed, which just made me laugh out loud. It would've been great if Ian Millar had been riding the same horse for all these years. He just shows up in Beijing with his beat-up old nag.

Kyle: lol. I'm picturing a U-shaped horse.

Mark: "This is my horse, Uey Lewis. We'll win a medal yet!" "Sure, Ian, whatever you say. Now, go stop your horse from trying to break its own leg."

Kyle: Sticking with Millar, do you think he should come back in 2012? I figure if a senior citizen medals, they have to discontinue the event immediately.

Mark: Absolutely bring him back. It took him this long to win one....he's finally on a roll. Canada needs all the medals it can get

Kyle: Tough Olympics for us. Objectively, we went on a real tear near the end, yet everyone still seems kind of dazed from our first week failures. Also: despite having only about 10 million more people than us, the Ukraine beat the piss out of us in the medal count.

Mark: Well, the Ukraine is strong. And really, Canada was only guilty of bad pacing. If we had won just a medal a day, everyone would've been calling this the best Games ever.

Kyle: Well, we won roughly 3,000 medals in Los Angeles [editor's note: 44, actually] but it may not count, due to the Soviet boycott.

(Also, speaking of Dharma--we were too!--have you noticed how eerily similar the Bay's Olympic logo is to the Dharma octagon? I bought a travel coffee mug for that very reason.)

Mark: Hmmm, is the Bay's president actually Marvin Candle?

Kyle: Maybe he can tell us how we'll do in 2038...

(btw, I'm incredibly jealous you discovered the LOST countdown timer first.)

Mark: Well, I also wasn't on a honeymoon. Ok, topic #3...most interesting subplot. It's not exactly sports-related, but the whole 'IOC and NBC are tacitly ignoring China's human rights violations' thing never got old. Shawn Johnson and Nastia Liukin obviously hated each other.

Kyle: lol...but they're roommates! Roomates always get along!

Kyle: NBC's coverage was both inexcusable and totally predictable on this front. This is why I was so irritated when China got the games over Toronto. This whole "well, getting the games will encourage China to be less flagrant with their HR violations and/or the rest of the world will learn about their HR issues" is (and always has been) a bunch of bullshit. Once it's showtime, everything is always going to be whitewashed. Like, you can't have Mary Carillo going to an acupuncturist, followed immediately by an expose on, say, the Great Firewall. It just doesn't work.

Mark: Speaking of Nastia, she and Norm Macdonald were guests on Leno last night. I was secretly hoping for a replay of the legendary Norm/Courtney Thorne-Smith incident from Conan.

Kyle: I missed that. Did he hit on CTS or publicly shame her?

Mark: Oh man, see if you can find it on YouTube (editor's note: Found it!) It probably didn't help that CTS was there promoting her new movie co-starring Carrot Top.

Kyle: I think you know that I side with Lukin in any sort of gymnast feud (do you agree that she looks a bit like Kristen Bell?), but I kind of got the impression that they respected each other (even liked each other) but would smash the other person in the face if that's what it took to get the gold.

Mark: I'd look up their pictures, but don't want to ruin Kristen Bell for myself. I don't find female gymnasts attractive at all --- first of all, they're too young. Second of all, they're too tiny. Third of all, they're vaguely creepy.

Kyle: I don't disagree with ANY of those points, although I'd suggest that their remarkably well-adjusted for girls that fling themselves at/onto/across apparatuses (apparati?) for twelve hours a day.

Mark: Can we start a band called the Apparatuses?

Kyle: Yes. Yes we can. I call lead singer!

Mark: Dang! Ok, I call....keyboards?! Crap.

Kyle [on what as the best subplot of the Games]: Personally, I'd probably vote for the shaky gymnastics scoring here, which I found utterly fascinating. Or Rogge inexplicably going after Bolt. What a fool.

Mark: Ooh, I have more on the Rogge/Bolt thing, but that's for later. Yeah, the scoring all-around was shaky at best. Boxing, wrestling, judo, least Shawn Johnson didn't kick a judge in the face.

Kyle: Question: if that happened, would Bush have pulled a Castro and used the whole "the judge was totally asking for it" defense? That would be hilarious.

Kyle: I can't believe that something as crooked as Olympic boxing is still a recognized event. That Roy Jones Jr. screwjob ending happened TWENTY years ago and the system is still messed up? Why not just get it over with and bring in the WWE?

Mark: I'd watch Olympic pro wrestling. Judges could score based on appearance of realism versus how hurt the other guy actually is, showmanship, coolness of moves, etc.

Kyle: Actually, that would be sweet. Undertaker's routines would have a start value of 1.5...versus 7.5 for one of the Hardys.

Mark: lol "Ohhh, Undertaker's in a Hell in a Cell match, Jim. He's really raising his difficulty value to start with." And if Bob Costas was amused by Bela, he'd go nuts over Jerry Lawler.

Kyle: Totally. I'm completely behind this idea now.

Mark: Canada could've kicked ass in this event over the years. Bret Hart, Owen Hart, the Rougeau brothers, Chris Jericho, Chris Benoit....oh wait....

Kyle: YIKES. Of course, the whole "Spanish announcing table getting smashed" gag probably wouldn't work...

Mark: It could still work. Guys could just get slammed through the Spanish, French, Botswanan, Ugandan, Indian, Chinese, etc. announce tables

Kyle: Look, Mark, the Ugandans need that table to live, ok?

Mark: They could live with it if it meant a gold medal for Kamala, the Ugandan giant. Who I think was actually from Memphis, but still.

Ok, point four.....most overblown story. This was where I was going to bring up Rogge and Bolt.

Kyle: Go for it.

Mark: Basically it's horseshit, as you said in so many words in your own Olympic post. The fact that he was still able to set a record while 'coasting,' is actually more impressive, in my view.

Kyle: Totally. I mean, part of me did want him to run hard and go into the 9.5s, but I can hardly blame him for celebrating the way he did. And: I have no idea where Rogge got the idea that Bolt cruised in the 200. If you watch the tape, he runs hard the whole time.

Mark: Apparently he was running into a headwind....which makes the record even more mind-blowing. He broke an unbeatable record INTO THE WIND. btw, Michael Johnson = Nick Faldo. He was great on commentary. Wasn't Johnson supposed to be a sullen jerk back in the day?

Kyle: You're totally right: he was informative without being pedantic and was completely gracious when his record was eclipsed. Maybe we got too caught up in the whole 150m debacle...

Mark: Clearly Bolt and Phelps need a 150m half-swimming, half-running challenge to decide the world's greatest athlete.

Kyle: If you could somehow work a horse into that equation, I'm totally sold.

Mark: Let me get my drawing board....What was your most overblown story?

Kyle: I've talked about this elsewhere--on the blog, to Carrie, random people on the street, etc.-- but the whole "the Chinese gymnasts are younger than they're represented to me" strikes me as the sourest of sour grapes. Even Sergio Garcia would be embarrassed to make this point. And if I here one more American (the same country, you'll recall, where it's most famous female sprinter is now in jail, in part, for lying about her steroid use) cite the precedent of "rules are rules," I'm going to flip out. I firmly believe this never would've come up had that American (Schiamone?) not fallen off the beam, costing the U.S. the team title in the process.

Mark: Truth. Why complain about the alleged age gap when there's plenty of (valid) possible complaints about the judging?

Kyle: Agreed. My OTHER most overblown story is basically everything surrounding the opening ceremony.

1. it was OBVIOUS the girl was lip-synching from the get-go.

2. Aside from the fact that the "ugly" 7-year old was replaced by the "cuter" 9-year old fifteen minutes before they took the stage--which is lamentable--how is this casting decision any different than every single Hollywood movie featuring children? I could do without the "how could they?" outrage.

3. So some (most?) of the fireworks were staged...big fucking deal. We weren't actually there watching them, so why on earth would that matter? They could've been produced by ILM for all I care.

Mark: I was far more offended by the closing ceremonies. Jimmy Page playing a 'family friendly' version of Whole Lotta Love? Ye gods.

Kyle: More to the point, how does Leona Lewis manage to big time Jimmy Fucking Page? It's my understanding that she balked at the "every inch of my love" line.

Mark: The line doesn't NECESSARILY imply penis. Well, it does, but it's a metaphor!

Kyle: ...for a penis

Mark: This never would've happened if Jimmy Page had been alive. Also from the opening ceremonies, I was curious to see what other scandals would break. Like, did the Chinese replace Rogge with, say, Daniel Day-Lewis?

Kyle: Full disclosure: I watched approximately 11 seconds of the closing ceremonies.

Mark: Ok, next point....what was the breakthrough event of these Games.

Kyle: Hmmm...

Mark: Your subtitle on this was 'is there even going to be one this year?'

Kyle: I really don't think there was. If forced (you're forcing me, right?) I'd have to go with BMX racing, if only for the wipeouts, the fact that they went with Mario Kart-esque circuit scoring, and the fact that every time it was on, I exclaimed "I can't believe this ISN'T the X-Games!" (As noted, I wanted it to be table tennis, but, alas, no.) Kyle: Maybe (maybe) the free swim, but it happened way too early in the games. In defense of the inclusion of the question, in Olympics past, there have been breakout sports (beach v-ball in Atlanta, snowboard cross in SLC, etc.)

Mark: I can't even think of one. It seemed like this was the 'let's shoot for guaranteed ratings' for NBC after 2006's ratings were bested by American Idol and some other regular programming. Gymnastics, swimming, track...those were the meat and potatoes events, so by god did we ever get a lot of them.

Kyle: Yeah, I agree. Those three events (throw in beach and indoor v-ball, too) amounted to probably 90%+ of NBC's coverage.

Mark: CBC branched out a bit more, but there weren't really any sports that really stepped up and grabbed people's attention. I was hoping for badminton, frankly.

Kyle: TOO FAST. It practically gave me vertigo.

Mark: That's why I loved it. It was like ping pong on steroids, except without the threat of someone running groin-first into the table corner.

I was hoping for more coverage of the shooting events. Not because I'm an ardent fan, but because I inexplicably had a dream a few weeks back where I was a multi-time Olympic shooting medallist. My nicknames were 'Mark the Marksman' and 'The Man With The Golden Gun.'

Kyle: This reminds me of Dwight's dream job where he makes $60,000 a year. Those ARE pretty good nicknames (though the latter could arguably apply to anyone). Why couldn't you dream about dominating a cool event? Shooting medallists don't, I'm sorry to say, get much tail.

(The last sentence is me evidently channeling someone from 1971.)

Mark: Note to readers, I paused a minute before writing my next bit since I was too busy laughing at Kyle's citation of the Jim-Dwight 'dream job in hell' routine. That might be my favorite Office bit ever.

Mark: But I was featured on a Maclean's cover where I stood, guns blazing like the Comedian or something, with all my medals draped over my rifles. It was pretty fictiously cool.

Kyle: Alright, bonus cool points for the Watchmen reference.

Mark: My backup reference was Punisher, but let's just say I recently saw the trailer for the Punisher sequel. It was....unfortunate.

Kyle: Is it still Tom Jane? (He just wants his kids back!)

Mark: No, Jane is out. Too busy with Homeless Dad 2.

Kyle: lol...who's in?

Mark: Some guy from Rome. The name is escaping me.

Kyle: according to imdb: Ray Stevenson. Never heard of him...Ok, what's next?

Mark: Best event and worst event. You covered this yourself in your post, summarize for the new readers....

Kyle: Best: swimming (compelling as all get out), with gymnastics a close second. Worst: equestrian (it's not a sport), but with a special shout out to the dreadfully dull soccer and baseball competitions...and sailing, which is--literally--impossible to follow.

Mark: I think I would've liked Olympic baseball more if we hadn't had to spend so much time watching Team Canada, who apparently hired Gary Denbo as their hitting instructor.

Kyle: Wow...I had to look that one up. I think he also moonlit as Canada's coach in the LLWS last week. (Sorry...that's basically the exact same joke.)

Kyle: He doesn't have an entry on Should I be alarmed?

Mark: My personal favorite Denbo stat is that in the one year he was the New York hitting coach, their team OBP was .334. The Yankees! .334! This was in 2001!

Kyle: Man, they should bring him back then. Maybe he's got some compromising photos of Hank Steinbrenner...

Mark: Sailing is pretty useless, I agree. I'd also throw in the marathon, which until the last few thousands yards is basically watching people torture themselves

Kyle: The marathon is, I'll admit, kind of a bore. Plus, now that we've seen a crazy person jump out of the crowd and attack a competitor, I'm disappointed when it doesn't happen. Kyle: What about best?

Mark: I really dug the canoeing. That was a nice story about the guy from Togo.

Kyle: "he's a real hungry canoer. He's actually canoeing for food." Oh, he medalled, right? I heard a bit about this.

Mark: He won a bronze, first medal ever from Togo. I may be slightly biased since I have fond memories of Togoland from SCTV, but still, good on ya, guy from Togo

Kyle: I was about to say that Togo is landlocked, but, no, they're not. Damn, geography. Are you prepared to go on the record with canoeing as your favorite event?

Mark: Yes....yes I am.

Kyle: [gasp]. What an upset!

Mark: What can I say. My parents are members of the London Canoe Club.

Kyle: For real?

Mark: Oh yeah.

Kyle: That's...improbable.

Mark: Oh wait, maybe it's the kayaking club. They even have a canoe-kayak, whatever it is.

Kyle: It's actually a desk.

Mark: Yes, my mother sails down the Thames in a desk. And then says "And now for something completely different...."

Kyle: I'm afraid we just lost our last reader.

Mark: Bye Ryan!

Mark: Ok, next category, best and worst TV personalities. Best....Bela Karolyi by a landslide Vegas has removed 'SNL does a Bela spoof in their first episode' from the board.

Kyle: I'm hesitant to do my best before you do your worst (if that makes sense). My worst is definitely Elfie Schlegel (NBC, gymnastics). As previously mentioned, I wish her ill. She was just so incredulous whenever a non-American scored above 15.5--extremely grating. It's actually kind of pathetic that they'd let someone that incompetent on the air.

Kyle: Bela! Bela was great. At first I was worried that he was too much of a homer, but then I realized that, when it comes right down to it, he's really, first and foremost, a gymnastics enthusiast. Inspired move on NBC's part to show Bela (on tape) watching Nastia win the gold. That was awesome.

Mark: I think my worst with an asterisk is whomever the colour guy for taekwondo was for CBC....the guy that wasn't Nigel Reed. He was a huge homer for Canada and seemed to think that the judges were blatantly ignoring points scored by the Canadian fighters. Then again, I don't know judo at all, plus the judging is always brutal, so he might've been right. Hence the asterisk.

Kyle: I dunno, I saw a Canadian girl actually knock someone from Sweden out...and she still lost.

Kyle: Karch Kiraly (beach) was probably my favorite.

Mark: Here's what I love about the Olympics....before an SI article a few months back, I had never heard of Kiraly's name before. Then I found out he's pretty much the universally-accepted best volleyballer ever.

Kyle: In most sports, picking the greatest person in the history of said sport to do the commentary is probably a terrible idea, but dude knows his beach v-ball, and never came across as arrogant. Kiraly is the shit.

I also loved how, when he was asked if Walsh-May-Treanor (that's just two people, btw) were the greatest team in beach history after they won their second gold he said, without hesitation or equivocation, "yes." Classsy.

Mark: Then I guess my worst is Jim Lampley, who just seemed really out of place at anything but boxing.

Kyle: [nodding]. I can't watch Lampley without thinking about his wife's claw hands. It's like Larry King's ruined me on Lampley for life. In Lampley's defense, Costas hogged all the prime events, leaving Lampley with the shit sports for the post part (though that includes kayaking, your alleged favorite event of the Games). But, yeah, he seemed like a fish out of water.

Mark: Now, at this point, you put 'Diana Swain: secretly kinda hot?' on your list of topics. Uh.....

---- editor's note: At this point, I brought up Kyle's next point, which was "don't you think Diana Swain is secretly kind of hot?" He then mysteriously vanished from his computer for the next little while. ----

Kyle: we're back from a 25 minute power outage on my end (thank you, York University).

Mark: We were just starting to discuss your forbidden lust for Diana Swain. Why do you swoon for Swain?

Kyle: Wait, wait...did we talk about Lampley's wife claw hands?

Mark: Claw hands?

Kyle: Yeah, it's like this really rare medical condition. Her hands are like paddles.

Mark: Like the Penguin?

Kyle: If that helps, yes. I also wanted to say that enjoyed Ato Boldon (track), Tom Hammond (swimming), and Ted Robinson (aka "Batboy," but mostly because he clearly didn't have a clue what the fuck was going on during the diving...and didn't bother to conceal it.) And, I'll admit, I still enjoy the Costas smirk.

Mark: And the aforementioned Michael Johnson. And Brenda Irving did a good job on the gymnastics.

Kyle: We kind of got screwed over with gymnastics, as they only had NBC in Jamaica. She was good?

Mark: I found her on the CBC feed to be way more tolerable than your archfoe on NBC. It helped that she was actually not a homer.

Kyle: Considerably easier when, Kyle Shewfelt aside, we don't have an able-bodied gymnast in the country.

Mark: If only I had been able to keep the weight off....I figure I picked up enough by osmosis from reading Spider-Man comics that I would've cleaned house.

Kyle:'s actually Lampley's EX-wife. She suffers something called "ectrodactyly," which, according to Wikipedia, is a rare genetic condition "resulting in her fingers and toes being fused together."

Mark: I think Electrodactyl was the name of one of the Dinobots.

Kyle: Or a Powerade flavour.

Mark: Oh, we're going to hell. Anyway, so, yeah, Diana Swain. Is she on your laminated List Of Five?

Kyle: Totally (re: the hell thing) Re: Swain: no chance. I think it was a by-product of me watching Olympic coverage while dozing in bed before going to work (aka sans contact lenses), but, yeah, I was kinda digging her vibe ("secretly hot," I believe, was my expression of choice). This gets less and less defensible by the day, mind you. Am I way off base? I'm way off base, aren't I?

Mark: She's not bad-looking, by any stretch. But she's what I call TV hot --- that generic type of attractiveness that you can acknowledge as being attractive, but without getting you really fired up.

Kyle: Excellent term! You should add that to the Urban Dictionary. So...what's left?

Mark: Where do these Games rank in Olympic history?

Kyle: Boy...that's an ambitious one. It certainly had its moments (Phelps, Bolt, and...ok, maybe not that many moments). Compared to past years, and referring only to competitions, it was relatively scandal-free, wasn't it?

Mark: Pretty much, yeah. So that's a plus. I'd rank it behind Sydney in terms of recent summer Games....maybe Atlanta too, though that Games was single-handedly elevated by Donovan Bailey.

Kyle: But ahead of Athens and Seoul, right?

Mark: I'm a bit too young for Seoul. But definitely ahead of Athens. I barely remember those Games

Kyle: Dick.

Mark: It was all Greek to me [/rimshot]

Kyle: lol...oh, dear. Save it for the telethon, Shuk.

Mark: Probably too soon to judge the history question. And, finally.....what was the best moment of these Olympics for you?

Kyle: Lezack outtouching Bernard to win the 4x100 freestyle relay for Michael Ph--er, I mean the Americans. That was incredibly improbable...and dramatic. You?

Mark: Interlude...ok, I'm watching the Jays-Rays game, and apparently Rocco Baldelli's at-bat music is "Dream Weaver." I have no words.

My favorite moment is an odd one...the men's tennis final

Kyle: ...of which, curiously, I saw nothing at all. Go on. (btw, re: Rocco, awesome)

Mark: I was in London the other weekend visiting home and also to visit with some family friends who were staying at my parents' place from England. (So, I went home just to sleep on a couch. But I digress...) Mark: Our friends are a couple and their two young kids....Jack, age nine, and Alexandra, age seven. So I'm watching the tennis final with them, and they're both rooting for Gonzalez. Jack's reasoning was that Nadal losing would irritate his arch-rival, a half-Spanish kid in his class at school. Alexandra just liked saying 'Chile' over and over again. So I watched the match with them, and they got really (hilariously) into it. I didn't have the heart to tell them we were watching a tape delay and Nadal had won hours earlier.

Kyle: Cute.

Mark: Wow, did I just turn into Rick Reilly there?

Kyle: Maybe a little least tell me you made a bit of money off of them.

Mark: Yeah, I swindled them good. They gave me a pound for just 10 Canadian dollars. I got them good!.....wait.....

Kyle: lol

Mark: Also awesome....Alexandra saying 'Yay Britain' whenever she saw a British flag on TV. So, like, when they're running through the standings in, say, triathlon, and there's a Brit who came in 39th or something. A tiny voice suddenly chimes in, "Yay Britain!"

Kyle: I felt like that during the first week, except replace "Britain" with "Canada" and "yay!" with an expletive-laden tirade.

Mark: lol. And a 39th-place finish would've been too positive a result.

Kyle: Exactly. Perhaps we should leave it at that--in no small part because Carrie will murder me if I don't sit down for dinner. Shuk, as always: a pleasure.

Mark: The pleasure is all mine, sir. High-five! Or, as Jim Lampley's wife would say, high-two!

Kyle: [really evil laugh]

Mark: After your first bite, say 'Yay Ireland!' and then refuse to explain it.

Kyle: Done and done.

Mark: See you at the 2010 Olympics recap!

Kyle: Can't do it. Power outage. I mean: you bet.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

"Yes, yes, you've mentioned your son's batting average SEVERAL times..."

2008 Little League World Series Championship Game Running Diary: it's back by popular demand. This year's final sees 5-0 West Waipahu, Hawaii facing off against 5-0 Matamoros, Mexico, which means my tasteless jokes about Japanese culture will have to be replaced by...tasteless jokes about the Latin Kings. Off we go...

3:45: Looks as though Mexico's starting pitcher is Sergio Rodriguez, which is to say: not the guy that pitched the perfect game earlier in the tournament (more on that later).

3:46: and it's a leadoff hit for Hawaii. That was fast.

I'm joined today by Louis--my brother's freshly shorn bichon frisse...who looks rather more rat-like at the moment than I'm entirely comfortable with--and, intermittently, by dad and Carrie.

Brent Musberger makes his first of presumably dozens of ridiculous remarks when he complains that, despite it being perfectly sunny in South Williamsport, PA, it's "a bit too humid for his liking." Oh, for fuck's sake, Brent! People, like, fell down dead from the air pollution in Beijing (didn't they?)

a seeing-eye single turns into an RBI as Emmanuel Rodriguez runs past the ball in left without picking it up (something the announcers insist on referring to as a "bobble"--whatever). 1-0 Hawaii. And the "U-S-A!" chants have already begun. Rats. I had 4:10 in the office pool...

a wild pitch followed by a walk and it's now 1st and 3rd with 1 out. This has an old-school "Chinese Taipei wins 12-0" feel to it. Could be a long afternoon.

one of the Hawaiian parents brandishes a "with God, all things are possible" sign. Hmmm...I typically prefer my creepy Christian banners to be a bit pithier ("John 3:16" and the like), but far be it for me to tell them how to prostelytize...

another walk and the bases are loaded, which leads to the first mound visit of the day, courtesy of Mexican Manager Gustavo Gomez.

Since there's a bit of a lull, this seems as good a time as any to point out the following: Mexico's uniforms are flat-out hideous. Is there anything less intimidating than red and green? They look like the Keebler elves...except latino (feel free to insert your own outsourcing joke here.) Hawaii, meanwhile, is sporting a very fetching Carolina blue.

...and a strikeout ends the threat. Kind of a scary first inning for Mexico.

in what, evidently, now passes as research for me these days, I quickly perused last year's post and noticed that there was nary a mention of the Canadian contingent. In an effort to correct this oversight, I watched two of Canada's three round robin games in their entirety. Bullet points of the more interesting/lamentable moments to follow:

-Canada's 9-3 loss to Japan was compounded by a truly embarrassing graphic highlighting listing "famous Canadians" (among them: Jim Carrey, Wayne Gretzky, and Mike Myers--what, no Tommy Douglas? He's Jack Bauer's grandfather!!) Sigh...must everything involving our country and team sports make us seem like America's pathetic loser friend? ("We're cool, we swear!")

-Against Saudi Arabia, Team Canada pulled off the rare feet of hitting doubles on back to back pitches without scoring a run. A few inning later, with the bases loaded and two outs, the Canadian runner on third tore back to the bag on a ground ball, only to be tagged out. Excellent work, boys! If I've said it once, I've said it a hundred times: hiring Lonnie Smith as the third base coach was a grievous error.

-A funny moment involving a spectator that was dozing in the outfield getting smacked right in the face by a Saudi home run. This was followed in the next half inning by an extraordinarily awkward interview with said spectactor (a thirteen year old boy) and his sister, wherein the boy had a noticeable red welt on his face, was clearly pissed off he'd been hit, and was in no mood for the reporter's playful banter.

-Let the record show the starting lineup for Saudi Arabia contained the following surnames: Beyers, Branton, Bradford, Knight, Durley, and Lavenue. Why don't we just end this charade and rename them "My Daddy's a Super-Rich Doctor and He Told Me Never to Look the Crown Prince Directly in the Eye"? I'm all for the Americans having half the teams (8 of 16 at present), but do they really need a thinly-disguised 9th team? Should we look forward to welcoming Team Iraq in 2021?

-As of the win against SA (a 7-5 squeaker), our lifetime record now stands at 37-108--that's right, this win put us over the .250 winning percentage mark, including a cool (frigid, actually) 7-20 record this decade. Since 2000, we've only advanced out of pool play once, in 2005, whereupon we were thumped 11-0 by Japan in the quarterfinals. Sigh...this makes me feel exactly like I do whenever I see a guy with my name on Blind Date acting like a total asshole (this happens more than you'd think)--1/4 horrified, 1/4 sheepish, and the rest just plain sad)

4:02: in my first of many politically incorrect fits of laughter, I burst out upon discovering that Mexico's squad is comprised, roughly, of a dozen kids (more like six, actually) with the last name Rodriguez (including three in a row in the starting lineup). Sadly, there's no one here for me to make snarky comments to--Louis just stares at me blankly.

4:04: in an interesting turn, all four of Hawaii's defensive subs are in for the first inning--Little League rules stipulate that all team members play at least one inning in the field and bat once. We'll see if this backfires.

as we cut to ABC's sideline reporter, it's time for the single most disappointing change to this year's coverage of the LLWS: Stacy Dales trowling the bleachers instead of Erin Andrews. All together now: boooooo.

and an easy double play ball is botched by Hawaii (not sure yet if it was sub-related--let's say yes so I can look like a genius). 1st and 3rd for Mexico with 1 out.

...but Mexico is unable to convert and it's 1-0 after one.

Hawaii Catcher Keelen Obedoza lists his favorite food as "seasoned salmon over rice." Now that's a refined palette! But what's the appropriate wine pairing?

Tanner Tokanaga absolutely crushes the fist pitch he sees to straightaway center for a two-run jack. 3-0 Hawaii.

Pikai Winchester (awesome name--does he solve mysteries in his spare time?) is hitting a Dalton Carricker-esque .714 for the week...but now a little less, as he fans on three pitches to end the inning.

...and we're treated to yet another ad about how analog TVs wont work after February 17, 2009. Oh, Jesus God, enough alrwady! It's bad enough that they run a crawl every single night on Jeopardy! Is there a TV owner in the country that isn't aware of this?

Quick MLB update: the Tigers are down 7-3 to the Royals. God, what a wasted season. I'm actually too depressed to even talk about this.

and, while I'm sitting around feeling sorry for myself, Mexico smacks a home run. 3-1.

I was too busy downing vodka and sodas at Jake's wedding on Saturday to notice this, but it seems Hawaii came back from 4 down in the sixth to beat Louisiana in the yesterday's U.S. Final. Apparently, quite a few left the ballpark before the game had ended. Uh...why, exactly? What else is there to do in South Williamsport? Antiquing? Coal mining?

the ABC/ESPN crawl indicates that Kurt Warner is going to be named Arizona's starting QB tomorrow over Matt Leinart. Ugh. Given that SI hinted that if the two were even remotely close in training camp, Leinart would get the nod, you have to wonder just how poorly he performed. In retrospect, he's probably rethinking having a threesome with Ken Wisenhunt's wife and daughter and then posting photos on

lots of buzz, evidently, from last night's game, as, Louisiana, up 5-1, elected not to bring out ace pitcher Trey Quinn (who'd scattered four hits and struck out seven in five innings of work) in for the start of the 6th inning, even though he still had three pitches left (Explain 85 pitch thing) and could've at least handled the first (and, possibly but unlikely, the second) batter (you can exceed 85 pitches to complete an at-bat). Given that Hawaai rallied, scoring 6 in the final frame, the decision seems particularly regrettable.

That rally, by the way, went as follows: single, double, single, RBI groundout, single, strikeout, walk, infield single, double. In a particularly '86 Red Soxian turn, Louisiana threw upwards of a dozen pitches that could've ended the game with two outs (and the infield single was one of those agonizing "the first baseman knocks the ball down but then can't find it because it's directly beneath him" plays). Not surprisingly, they beefed the 3rd place game, losing 4-3 to Japan.

Having sent a fair bit of time on the official Little League site for the past two years, I'm humbly offering a couple of suggestions: (1) include a tournament leaders page, already! I know, I know, it's all about participation and teamwork...and lots of other vaguely Cub Scoutian values, but, come on, I need to see who's leading the tournament in slugging percentage; (2) how about an All-Tournament team? You could even let the fans vote!

A high chopper for an infield single, a throwing error on a daring two-out bunt, and a wild pitch later and it's 4-1 Hawaii. Mexico is looking super shaky right now.

we're treated to our second untranslated mound visit of the afternoon. I maintain this is a huge missed opportunity for ABC. Why not bring in a Spanish correspondent? The coach could be threatening to murder these kids for all we know...

after still another walk--so much for that pep talk/veiled threat, eh?--Mexico changes pitchers. The relievers is Jesus Sauceda, he of the perfect game fame. I just assumed--incorrectly, it seems--that he pitched the International Final. Obviously not. Really odd line for S. Rodriguez: 2.2 innings pitched, 17 batters faced, 68 pitches thrown (39 strikes), 5 hits, 4 earned runs, 4 walks, and seven strikeouts.

Sauceda's perfect game (the fourth in the tournament's 62 year history), it should be noted, came about under unusual circumstances. Sauceda actually struck out all twelve batters he faced (yes, you read that right, the other team never put the ball into play), at which point, since Mexico was up 12-0, the ten-run mercy rule came into effect and--somewhat anti-climactically--the game was over. Additionally, it came against perennial Little League powerhouse Italy, so it probably doesn't even count. Ah, well.

with the based loaded and two outs, the Hawaiian batter grounds a ball to second that the 2B foolishly doesn't charge in on, and Christian Donahue--the dutiful coach's son--beats the throw...except he's called out. Ouch. Bad call, I think. Inning over.

...but instead of showing the replay after the break (suspicious!), ABC leads out with an inexplicable musical number involving the Jonas Brothers and a local meteorologist. Good Lord! I'd like the last 60 seconds of my life back, please.

the camera cuts to the Sad Sack Canadian team in attendance, looking wayyyyy too happy for a squad that only one 1 game (and barely at that) here.

a single followed by a walk and Mexico looks to be in business in the bottom of the third. But Caleb Duhay just fanned one of the Rodriguezs. 1 out. He's looked good so far...and only thrown 39 pitches. Very efficient.

Coach Gomez pulls Emmanuel Rodriguez aside and hisses in his ear "goddamn you. Get a hit here or we're not taking you back on the bus"...or something. Again, Spanish. Rodriguez promptly mashes a fly ball that's caught on the warning track. No one tags. Hmmm...bad baserunning...but they do advance seconds later on a wild pitch.

Eduardo Rodriguez (you thought I was kidding, didn't you?) fists one into short right, cashing in two. It's now 4-3. We may have a ballgame after all. If I were Jason Sobel, I would make the first of five thousand references to the blog jinx, but, no, it's just a coincidence.

After another single, Mexican pitcher Sauceda comes up with 2 on and 2 out. I have to say, he's a scary looking kid...and I'm ordinarly not terrified of 12 year olds.

Sauceda, hitting over .500 for the week, falls behind 0-2, then takes a huge cut, and whiffs. Threat over.

before we get to the top of the fourth we're treated to a brief bunting tutorial ("Foot Locker's Building Blocks"--from what I've seen today, a fielding seminar would probably be more appropriate) courtesy of former MLB player Orestes Destrade (aka the other sideline reporter). Destrade proceeds to instruct the Italian Little Leaguer (who, let's be honest, is just happy he got to make contact once during this tournament) in Spanish--oh, come on!! This is followed by Musberger speaking in broken Spanish. Oh, man, now they're just toying with us.

According to Musberger, Sauceda has "the face of a bulldog," at which point Orel Hershisher chuckles. Jesus, that's mean! Even I wouldn't say that! He might as well of said "my God, he is hideous!"

cut to a shot of tournament leader in hitting Pikai Winchester's parents holding up a sign that reads, appropriately enough, "PIKAI." Way to be team players, mom and dad.

and just when it looks like Hawaii's going to go quietly for the first time all game, Iolana Akau absolutely crushes a homer to dead centre with two outs, then proceeds to shake his head as he rounds the bases like a total cock. Lemme guess: favorite player is...A-Rod?

A dejected Sauceda--scanning the field to no avail for hapless Italian players--loads the bases on two walks and a hit batsmen, then walks in a run on a full count. 6-3. Oh, my. Someone get this kid a churro. According to a graphic that was just flashed on-screen, Mexico, which walked six batters as team in the previous five games, has walked seven today. Sauceda is quickly put of his misery. Commercial break.

with the two hour mark now in sight, we're barely halfway through the game. I never thought I'd say this, but this makes Olympic softball look brisk in comparison. I'm just saying, if they plugged this game into the Blue Jays Game in Hour highlight generator, it would still take 90 minutes. (Thank you, here all week, etc.)

the new Mexican pitcher--the improbably named Klaus Muller...ehm, does anyone want to check his birth certificate--elects not to cover first base on a blooper and another run crosses the plate. It's now 7-3 Hawaii...and the bases are still loaded.

Thankfully, Muller fans Donahue to end the inning.

I just saw an add for a Little League game on the Wii. Sweet! Dammit, Taylor, why didn't you tell me about this?

Mexico goes down 1-2-3 to end the fourth and are starting to look seriously bummed out. Frankly, I am too, as I was expecting a tight game.

Hersisher starts talking about how great the weather has been this week and the Jonas Brothers. I think they've officially entered vamping mode. Tanner Tokunaga then bashes a ball deep that to centre that Sergio Rodriguez looks poised to catch, only to bounce harmlessly off the wall (Rodriguez, not the ball) as the ball sails over the fence for yet another home run. 8-3.

Looks like we'll never get to the bottom of Klaus Muller's name (rejected fun fact: "his great-grandfather was a Nazi who fled to Mexico in 1945"), as he's promptly yanked by his manager after surrendering three runs in a third of an inning.

There's a great bit in Infinite Jest wherein one of the kids from the tennis academy (Jim Troeltsch, an aspiring television announcer) runs down the scores from Enfield's triumph over Port Washington, a rival academy in New York State...except there are something like 108 matches to report on:

(p. 309-10): The sports portion of WETA's broadcast is mostly just reporting the outcomes and scores of whatever competitive events the ETA squads have been in since the last broadcast. Troeltsch, who approaches his twice-a-week duties with all possible verve, will say ge feels like the hardest thing about his intercom-broadcasts is keeping things from getting repetitive as he goes through long lists of who beat whom and by how much. His quest for synonyms for beat and got beat is never-ending and serious and a continual source of irritation to his friends...[skipping ahead] by the time it's down to Boys A-14's, Troeltsch's delivery gets terser even as his attempts at verbiform variety tend to have gotten more lurid, e.g.: 'LaMont Chu disembowelled Charles Pospisilova 6-3, 6-2; Jeff Penn was on Nate Millis-Johnson like a duck on a Junebug 6-6, 6-7. 6-0; Peter Beak spread Ville Dillard on a cracker, while 14's A-4 Idris Arslanian ground his heel into the neck of David Wiere 6-1, 6-4." [My particular favorite comes later on: "A-2 Diane Prins hopped up and down on the thorax of Port's Marilyn Ng-A-Thiep 7-6, 6-1."]
Anyway...I'm kinda starting to feel like that.

: Let's try one: "Caleb Duhay makes Mexican reliever Eduardo Rodriguez sorry his parents were ever even in the same room together, as he pokes one through the right side of the infield." 10-3. (Yessss! Nailed it!)

: Another walk--the ninth issued by Mexico this afternoon, and that doesn't even include the three hit batsmen--and the bases are, once again, loaded.

: a passed ball leads to another run. Astoundingly, Musberger utters the following words: "suddenly [really?] it's 11-3 and Hawaii is threatening [again: really??] to blow this game wide open." Mexico catcher Ferdando Villegas--who has aged approximately six years in the past two-plus hours--has that glazed over look in his eyes where you can totally tell he's calculating what time they need to be at the airport.

Rodriguez, officially my new hero, miraculously records back-to-back Ks to, mercifully, end the inning. Hawaii, who has scored in every inning thus far, is six outs away from the championship, which would make four in a row for the U.S.

Iolana Akau--he of the arrogant head shake--makes an admittedly spectacular diving grab in right field to end the fifth...and then proceeds to do the head shake all over again. Musberger, clearly enraptured, completely ignores this second bout of poor sportsmanship and rhapsodizes about his "Little League smile." Awesome. The Rodriguez-Rodriguez-Rodriguez heart of the order, a veritable Murderer's Row throughout the tournament, is now 1-9 today.

Musberger is shamelessly rooting for Tanner Tokunaga to smack his third home run today, which would tie a Championship game record. Dude, they're already up eight runs. Relax. Unfortunately for him (but fortunately for Mexico) he strikes out.

: Winchester lashes a single up the middle, officially locking up the batting title (.647 for the week).

The--I'm sorry--undeniably beefy Hawaiian 1B Khade Paris (5'4", 164 pounds) gets an RBI on a two-out throwing error (Mexico's third of the game). It's 12-3. But SP Duhay quickly grounds out to short. Three outs to go.

wow, so they're still running Geico Caveman ads even after the unmitigated disaster of Cavemen? I would've thought that everyone involved died of shame...

6:14: After a walk, Duhay manages to get the first out in the sixth, but now has to leave the game because he's reached his pitch limit, having now thrown 89. Terrific! What a great rule! Not only does it deprive Duhay of getting the much-deserved complete game (he's been great today), but it extends the game past the 150 minute mark with a needless pitching change!!

: Duhay moves to CF, with, Donahue, the coach's kid now poised to claim the glory. I'm officially rooting for Duhay to sprint in from centre after the last out, push the reliever aside, and hug his catcher.

a chopper up the middle is fielded cleanly by Tokunaga at short and Hawaii is one out away.

another grounder to short and that's it. Hawaii wins. Musberger brays "Hawaii wins the gold medal." Huh? Look, just shut up, Brent.

We come back to Musberger and Hershisher singing Akau's praises (totally disregarding his big timing antics, of course), as I bash my clipboard against my face. Well, then. That kinda sucked. The good news is there haven't been consecutive blowouts in title games since 1995-96, when American squads had to be just about carried off over somebody's shoulder 17-3 and 13-3 by that bodes well for next year. Until then...

Friday, August 22, 2008

"Though it should be noted that many of these swimmers come from countries that have no swimming pools..."

2008 Summer Olympics Recap (Rejected Working Title: How I Probably Shouldn't Have, All Things Being Equal, Spent My Honeymoon)

OK, so here's the plan: I'm going to rank (admit it, you've desperately missed these hopelessly arcane lists) the Summer Olympic events from most interesting to least. I'll include some brief comments and also include--where appropriate (pretty much everywhere)--my biggest beef with said events.

Events I did not watch and are thus ineligible: Archery; Taekwondo (which, from what I've read, may or may not be run by a shadowy Boss Tweed-like organization. Well, hell, had I known it was going to be corrupt, I would've tuned in...); Judo; Shooting; Handball (note: I would've watched this were it far as I know, it wasn't); Modern Pentathlon (This. Event. Makes. No. Sense. Did they, like, pull events from a hat?); Field Hockey (dudes, too? Lame.)

Events I did watch that are simply too boring to comment upon: Sailing (sigh...I just don't get it); Boxing (it's almost unfathomable to me that Ali actually competed in this); Weightlifting (broken arm/shoulder/whatever clip aside--sick--I found this, shall we say, less than captivating).

Onto the list proper:

1. Swimming: teh awesome. Even without Michael Phelps's freakish performance, swimming would still be a comfortable #1 in my books. And as for Phelps, is he the grea--Yes. Stop. It's over. As much as it amuses me to see Mark Spitz make that pained face every time he's asked in an interview if his 1972 self could could compete with Phelps today, we should really table the discussion. He's the best and it's not even particularly close. (You didn't ask but I'd probably put Paavo Nurmi of Finland 2nd all-time--9 golds and 3 bronzes in some particularly gruelling distance runs between 1920 and 1928--and Carl Lewis #3.) Now, one might make the point that there are entirely too many swimming medals given out (34 events in all, meaning 102 medals--not including ties--up for grabs) and that swimmers, along with gymnasts (16 events, 48 medals in all) should always finish at the top of "most individual medals" list (indeed, as of August 21st, twenty-two of the Top 30 medallists of all-time are swimmers or gymnasts...and that list includes the Winter Olympics, too.) at that the "Best Olympian ever" category is decidedly rigged towards those two events, but it really seems neither here nor there. I'm certainly not advocating getting rid of any the events...and it's probably best if I drop my Backwards 100m, 200m, 400m and 4 x 100m sprint idea (about which the less said the better). Phelps was directly involved in two of the five or so most exciting moments of the Olympics: the miraculous 4x100 freestyle relay comeback, and outtouching Cavic to win the 200m butterfly by 0.01 of a second. Good times.

Biggest Flaw: re: Phelps' mom, Debbie, let me just say this: while she seems like a perfectly nice woman, was it entirely necessary to interview her so often and so thoroughly? What insight, precisely, did we gain into swimming career? I thought so.

2. Gymnastics: surprisingly compelling. I remember watching a fair bit of women's gymnastics in '88 and '92, but that was largely because I was kind of creepily fixated with the Romanian team. Since I'm pushing thirty and that would now be classified as totally pervy, my interest--officially--lies in how bunched together the top teams are...and how inconsistent the scoring system appears to be (also: the falls. The falls are always entertaining). Before we move on, just a quick reminder that the 10 point scoring system no longer exists. Now, routines are given a start value (basically, the degree of difficulty; known as the A score) and that's added to a gymnast's execution score (out of 10; the B score). Several points on the competition:

a. That their can't be a gold medal tie in any gymnastics event is (and remains), by far, the stupidest thing to happen during the sixteen days of competition (and we're talking about the Olympics here, so that's really saying something). Apparently, up until 1996, you could tie for a gold medal, but, for Atlanta, the international organizing committee for gymnastics concluded that that was wayyy too logical and implemented a convoluted tiebreaking mechanism. This reared its ugly head on Monday night. For the uninitiated, during the uneven bar competition, China's Kexin He scored a 16.725 for her routine. A few minutes later, American Nastia Lukin received the exact same score, yet was ranked 2nd. Since the two had the same degree of difficulty going into the event (both had a "start value" of 7.0), the first tiebreaker--whoever has the better execution score--was useless (both received an identical 9.025 there). This triggered the second tiebreak, whereby the lowest execution score (remember, like figure skating, there are several judges from different countries for the gymnastics competition; unlike figure skating, however, in the ordinary course of things, they don't release the individual judges' scores during the competition) for each girl would be dropped and they'd re-tally. He's lowest score was an 8.9, while Lukin's was a 9.0. As a result, He won the gold won 0.1 points. what other sport would the second tiebreak be virtually identical to the first tiebreak even though, by definition, the second tiebreak can only come into being if the first one fails to break the tie. This would be like the Lions (as if!) and the Packers being tied for the last playoff slot with a 9-7 record and, after the first tiebreaker failed (conference record), Roger Goodell saying, "I've got it! Let's remove their results from teams from the state of California!" Now, some might say that a better analogy would be if the NFL looked at Detroit and Green Bay's divisional record (which, I believe, is what they would actually do), but I respectfully (not really) disagree. In football, your divisional record should count for something (you play a disproportionate amount of your games--37.5%--against the three other teams in your division) and probably deserves to be considered. In gymnastics, taking out the lowest score is totally (totally) arbitrary. I mean, what's the rationale for not taking out the highest score? (Arguably, this would be more fair, since Lukin was actually punished in this instance for having a narrower band of scores--i.e. for being more consistently judged.) Or the middle score? Or giving it to whoever is older? Or hotter? (Lukin....who definitely has a bit of Kristen Bell thing going on.)

Here's how stupid the decision was: since Lukin was the next to last performer on the uneven bars and since it's only gold you can't tie for, the routine of the final competitor--I believe she was Romanian--was completely inconsequential to Lukin. If she scored better than Lukin, Lukin would've tied for the silver. If she scored worse, Lukin would still be tied for the gold but knocked down to 2nd place. That's...madness. (Not "Kyle spends 1,300 words talking about gymnastics" madness, but close enough.)

b. Elfi Schlegel. I can almost forgive her constantly mixing up "in" with "on" ("she's done very well in the past on this event")--ok, no I can't--but what really rankles me is what an unbelievable (and unbearable) homer she is. It got to the point in the women's all-around competition where I turned to Carrie and said, "you know, they should just pre-record her comments when non-Americans are competing, like in Madden. That way, she can go grab a sandwich during those moments and the producer can just hit play after the scores are issued, and it'll say 'wayyyyy too high' over and over again." Hack. Total hack. I hate her guts.

c. One of the big stories during the first week of competition was the U.S. accusing the Chinese team of being younger than they were represented to be (you must turn 16 at some point in 2008 to be eligible). OK. So, lemme get this straight, the Americans are mad that the Chinese gymnasts are younger than they're alleged to be? So then it's the Danny Almonte situation in reverse? The hell? Why would this be a disadvantage for the Americans? Oh, sure, they'll couch their argument as follows "well, the rules state that you have to turn sixteen this year to compete, so if they can't meet that requirement they should be disqualified," but, no, it's a bunch of bullshit. It's just sour grapes. Yeah, I'm willing to concede that a 12 or a 14-year old might be more flexible and/or nimble than a 16 or 18-year old, but more adept at handling complicated routines? Or more capable of handling the extraordinarily intense pressure that comes with being an Olympic gymnast? Absolutely not. Misha and I talked about this and he claims the only thing you should lose to an eight-year old to is a video game contest or a Play-Doh eating competition (I will also add: colouring).

d. Trampoline. Misha thinks they should scrap the whole DOD and execution score here and simply give the gold to the person that bounces the highest...and I can't say I completely disagree. It is fairly transfixing.

e. Announce (or post) the goddamn start values before the routine starts, already! I can't count the number of times the announcers said "one gymnast to go, and she needs 16.5 to take the gold," only to discover minutes later that such a score was, from the outset, mathematically impossible. Lame.

f. Also, as much as a I hated the tiebreaker in the uneven bars, the announcing was arguably worse, as none of the three NBC announcers knew what said tiebreaker was...even though it aired 10 hours after the event had actually happened. The only thing the announcers seemed somewhat sure of is that the U.S. was about to get hosed. (This led to yours truly--who read earlier in the day how it all went down on at the television "they drop the next lowest score, morons!" and Carrie just looking frightened.) Even if one concedes that they recorded the commentary as the event happened and not hours later (itself a dubious proposition), how could the entire NBC gymnastics crew be so thoroughly baffled by the rules??

g. You know, I almost never use the expression "clutch" (which--parenthetically--for the longest time, Carrie apparently thought was synonymous with "lucky," leading to the following exchange when I watched the final round of the PGA Championship on Sunday after we got back from Jamaica:

[Harrington sinks a par putt from 12 feet on eighteen, successfully getting up and down from 180 yards to more or less clinch the title]

Me: Man, he is so fucking clutch.
Carrie: [shooting daggers with her eyes, coldly] maybe he's just really good.
Me: [terrified])

in the same sentence as "gymnasts," but, every single time (five, by my count: team, all-around, uneven bars final, floor final, balance beam final) the two Americans--Lukin and Shawn Johnson, Lukin in particular--needed a good score, they absolutely nutted their routines. Very, very impressive. (Yes, I know this makes me gay.)

h. Watching Bela Karolyi watch Lukin clinch the gold on tape? Priceless. Oh, he's a homer alright, but at least he knows it. I also have a sneaking suspicion that, like Yao Ming, his English may be better than he lets on (he seamlessly dropped "murky" into a conversation of Costas). And, no, I have no idea what purpose that would serve.

i. the Russian warm-up suits, which look like they should be worn in the backroom of the Bada Bing or by a character in GTA IV, are just too perfect. I love them.

3. Beach Volleyball: as of this writing, Kerri Walsh and Misty May-Treanor have won 108 consecutive beach matches (and now two consecutive gold medals). To put it in perspective, this is like UCLA Basketball circa 1971-1974 winning 88 consecutive games, if they'd won all those games by fifty points, if half the teams didn't even have courts, and no one cared. I kid...mostly, as I quite enjoyed the beach competition. Walsh and May-Treanor are arguably too good, in that there's never really any sense of jeopardy, but you kind of have to sit back and admire their talent.

As for the men's tournament? Not so much. It's all very forgettable--aside from Swiss-born Martin Laciga, who absolutely crushes his serve and it is totally batshit insane. (Witness: every time he screwed up in their round of 16 match against the U.S., he screamed at his partner. Legend has it that, though he played with brother Paul on tour from 1995 to 2004, the two simply stopped speaking on court for several of those years.) It should be noted that Laciga and Schinder really should've beaten the heavily favoured American squad (Gibb-Rosenthal, I believe) they played in the round but, up 6-0 in the deciding 3rd game (which only goes up to 15), the Swiss team--inexplicably--decided to start hitting on two. Predictably, they lost 15-13. Note to beach teams: stop hitting on two, or, at the very least, don't do it all the team. Yes, every fourth or so time you'll surprise your opponents, but you'll probably lose the other three points. As a friend of mine is fond of saying, that's negative EV.

Biggest flaw: well, I was going to complain that players tip too much on the women's side, but since (a) they've reduced the size of the beach court to discourage such soft play, and (b) the best team in the world absolutely pounds it, this seems somewhat disingenuous. So, I'll go with: the refs are wayyyy too liberal in their interpretation of what constitutes a proper set. I've seen players practically hold the ball against their chest before releasing it. No good. A bit amateurish, frankly.

4. Track and Field: my brother, no doubt, will be apoplectic about track finishing fourth, but I simply wasn't blown away by the athletics comp this year. (Sorry, spaz!) That said, the following all rocked: Bolt in the 100, 200, and 4x100; the men's 1500 m final; and the decathlon (in large part because it's fun to see these world-class athletes, having killed themselves over nine events, be so hilariously bad in the 1500, the final event--hell, I think I could run a 5:07). I'm sure I should say a lot more here, but I can't think of anything at the moment. A special shout-out to IOC President Jean Rogge, presumably roused from 47 months of slumber, who inexplicably went after the most (or 2nd most) popular competitor in the entire games (Usain Bolt). For those that missed it, Rogge called out Bolt for showboating at the end of the 100 m final (which he no doubt did; otherwise he may have run in the 9.5s) and the 200 m final (which he did not) even though, to a man, everyone professes to adore Bolt (Donovan Bailey called him track's version of Shaq). Nice work, Rogge! It's bad enough that you're appointed for life--must you flaunt it by being so thoroughly out of touch with reality? I'm amazed Hilary's campaign team didn't find a position for you...

5. Volleyball:
screw basketball, the women's volleyball players are the true freakish athletes...Now if only someone could tell me what a libero is (...I think I saw one in Eyes Wide Shut.) As for the men, I know I go through this every four years, but I'm simply agog at how hard these guys can hit the ball. Truly astounding. Reluctantly, I've finally come around on rally point scoring (but, CBC announcers, do stop calling it "ping pong scoring"--we're not retarded.)

6. Water Polo: Kinda cool.

Biggest Flaw: three here actually (which begs the question: why is Water Polo ranked so high on my list? I dunno, I just think it's fun to watch):

(1) very oddly--to me at least--though water polo is technically a full pool (as it were) game, when you watch it even remotely closely for any length of time, you quickly realize that it's actually two separate half pool games, in that there's no transition game whatsoever. Team A will take a shot on Team B's goalie, but if it misses (or even if it goes in) they quickly swim back to their own end (not unlike the original rules of basketball--google it if ye doubt the claim), whereupon Team B fires upon A...and so forth. In other words, there's no way to press, which kind of cheapens the experience just a bit. This makes Canada's 12-0 loss to Serbia especially ignominious. 12-nothing? You didn't score in a full game? How is that even possible? It's not called water soccer!!

(2) incessant whistling, not unlike the recreational volleyball game that was played in Jamaica roughly 20 meters from where Carrie and I were lounging on the beach, without fail, every single day at 6 p.m. and was--again, without fail--replete with whistle-blowing from a Grand Bahia Principe-appointed official who was either (a) way too caught up with the rules for what was invariably something like a 10-on-10 game, or, (b) was merely entertaining himself by tweeting roughly every four seconds (GOD!!).

(3) (Semi-related, I suppose:) For the life of me, I don't understand how or why fouls are called. I just don't. It seems to me like everyone is always trying to beat the shit of and/or drown the person they are guarding, so how then are we to tell what's suitably malicious and what's beyond the pale? Frankly, I'm at a loss...

7. Basketball:
sigh...remember how excited we all were about the Dream Team back in 1992? This? Is not that. So far (with only the gold medal game left), the U.S. has won by 31, 23, 37, 49 (yawn), 31, and 37--and the most interesting story by far has been the incredibly ill-advised promotional photo taken by the Spanish squad. Since I don't have much else to say here, now seems like as good a time as any to talk about the--and I'm really not sure how else to put this--bewildering presence of Cris Collinsworth in the NBC studios. Did Dick Ebersol lose a bet or something? Look, I really like Collinsworth, but it's because he's a kickass football analyst. So...why is he here? Is Costas lonely? So he could ask Kobe such hard-hitting questions as "where does your patriotism come from?" (Note: that actually happened.) So he can stalk Debbie Phelps? It's all rather baffling. And, let me add, it's not that CC is doing a bad job--Kobe interview aside, he's perfectly competent--it's just that it doesn't make any sense to me. I mean, if you're going to fly this guy halfway around the world, you would think that NBC would consider cashing in on his Superstars prowess. For those that don't remember the program (or simply had lives in the 80s and early 90s, unlike yours truly) Superstars was a bit of genius counter-programming from ABC that aired annually in the fall. The gist of it was that famous athletes from the four major sports--along with boxers (allegedly, Joe Frazier nearly died in the 50 meter swim during the maiden show back in 1973), skiiers, and other Olympians--would compete in a series of events at a plush Hawaiian resort. These events included tennis, weightlifting, kayaking (I know!), swimming, cycling, a 100 meter dash (I think you can see where I'm going with this...), and always culminated in a totally kick-ass obstacle course. Basically, it was American Gladiators...but with Hershel Walker. And it was sensational. ANYWAY, it turns out that, somewhat improbably, Collinsworth, then a receiver with the Bengals, won the competition back in the early 80s. I only know this because there was an article about it (which was all but subtitled "Holy Fucking Shit!: I Cannot Believe This Skinny White Guy Took Down All These Talented Black Athletes") a fifteen year old Football Annual Almanac that I successfully bid on during the London Sportsman Dinner silent auction. So, then, why not have Collinsworth face off against a variety of American athletes in the very events he dominated 27 years ago? Spitz may be kind of a pussy now but CC would be up for it. That's television gold, baby! What a wasted opportunity!

Note: it was only after completing this long, rambling section that I discovered that Collinsworth actually only won the football subdivision of the 1981 competition (defeating James Lofton by 1 point), finishing 4th in the main event (won by someone by the name of Renaldo Nehemiah, purpotedly a famous hurdler). Well, screw it. It's still a valid point...and I'll be damned if I delete ie.

8. Tennis:
I can't shake Jon L. Wertheim's point that, to be a proper Olympic sport, winning a gold in that sport must be the ultimate accomplishment. This, of course, is a test that tennis can't pass. Now, there's no doubt that the big guns took the event seriously (hell, Gonzalez may want to take out a restraining order on James Blake), but, still, it's just another tournament isn't it? I know Federer desperately wanted the Singles title, but in his heart of hearts, there's no way he trades a single of his twelve Slams (no, not even one of the Australians) for a gold. No chance. Also, it's hard for me to take the women's tournament seriously when the winner (Elena Dementieva) serves like an eight-year old...well...girl. And a special "what the fuck?" to Daniel Nestor and Frederic Neimeyer, our men's doubles (admittedly: longshot) medal hopefuls who flamed out in the first round against Andy Murray and...Jamie Murray, his older brother. His older brother who has never played a Grand Slam singles match. Who has never been ranked in the Top 800 in singles. I didn't even know that Andy Murray had an older brother! I mean, really? Andy Murray's current doubles ranking is a robust 249th. Terrible, terrible loss. Is it possible they thought it was a double-knockout tournament?

9. Diving: Not without its charm (especially the 10 m stuff, and double especially if it involves a handstand on the 10 m platform) though, predictably, I do have a couple of issues:

(1) it seems like the scores are very high (8.5 - 10) or very low (2.5 - 4.5), with very few dives falling in the 4.5 to 7.5 range. Aside from being statistically improbable (some of these dives have to be merely average), it just seems really unfair.

(2) it seems like twins should always win the synchro diving competition (I'm actually not trying to be flip here--how can partners that aren't the same height and weight possibly compete? There should be a second degree of difficulty component, call it the "sameness quotient" or something...)

(3) Along similar lines, I'd like to introduce the diving judges to a little scientific term called "displacement" (I don't want to spoil it for them, they can look it up later). Anyone familiar with it might well reconsider the overly simplistic "big splash bad, small splash good" judging framework. There's no denying that the Chinese divers are incredible, but, to be fair, some of them are barely even three dimensional and thus almost incapable of making waves.

(4) In the 10 m women's competition, it was revealed that, for the semi-final portion (although, for all I know, this may hold true for all three stages--15 dives in all) the two Chinese medal hopefuls did the exact same five dives in the exact same order. When I first heard this, I was irate, and while I've settled down a bit, I still think that's ridiculous, and shows a startling lack of imagination. Carrie contends that there are only so many dives that exist, but I think that's bullshit. At least make them change the order (or have them share the medal!). Put it this way: if there were three Chinese divers doing this and they swept the medals, there'd be an uproar. Guaranteed.

10. Softball:
On paper, this looks like a can't-miss event for me, what with its ties to baseball, the visors, and athletic lesbians women, but, for a variety of reasons, it's just not clicking with me. Maybe it's because there doesn't seem to be much nuance in the pitching the point where location seems irrelevant (witness Canada's starting pitcher, nursing a 3-2 fourth inning lead against Australia late Wednesday night, whipping a juicy fastball right down the middle of the plate on a 1-2 count, only to have it smashed out of the park; that's just stupid)...or that the games take forever to play (said game clocked in at 2 hours and three minutes)...or that unless a ground ball is fielded perfectly cleanly, the runner is guaranteed to be safe at first...or maybe it's the fact that Canada went three games (games) without scoring a run (and, perhaps even worse, only two runs in five games) immediately before appearing in the semi-finals. Really? I mean, is it even a credible sport if that can happen? It seems almost silly at this stage. The only saving grace last night was that Australia had a pitcher named Tanya Harding (which, amazingly, the announcers never commented upon) and an outfielder with the last name Natalie Titcume (pronounced precisely the way you wouldn't want it to be if that were your name). I would've been like Jimmy Barrett at the dinner table if I were in the booth (that one was for you, Shuk). That said, even with all my juvenile giggling, I still fell asleep in the middle the fifth (in my defense, that was around 2:30 a.m.).

11. Rowing: our best event by far (as of Friday, 4 of our 17 medals have come here), I'm moving it up a couple places simply because I find the idea of rowing coaches cycling alongside the boats to be hilarious. I suggested to Carrie that, instead, they build a super-fast motorized sidewalk (like in airports), and which point she said that my plan was needlessly complicated and expensive (sigh...I suppose.)

Biggest Flaw: the camera work (at least on CBC) has been uniformly atrocious, with confusing close-ups and totally random angles at the worst time imaginable. Seriously, the fight scenes in The Bourne Supremacy were easier to follow than Canada's bronze in the doubles sculls (bam!).

12. Triathlon:
Don't really have anything to say here except that Simon Whitfield's second wind/miraculous comeback made for some great television.

13. Cycling:
I'm including the BMX stuff here, which is shit cool. (I love the idea of collecting points from three different races--anything this shamelessly stolen from Mario Kart deserves props).

14. Table Tennis:
I really thought this was poised to be the breakout sport (they're in China, people!!), but that's failed to materialize, probably, in no small part, due to the fact that it aired for roughly two minutes during the eight days I watched NBC's coverage and--so far as I can tell--not at all on CBC. Disappointing.

15. Badminton: OK, just so we're clear, I'm under no illusions that I could even come remotely close to being an Olympic athlete, I swear. That said, I understand how most of these sports work and, if pressed, could discuss match strategy reasonably cogently or even play a few of them (and, in my younger years, have played a few of them) to a sufficient degree of competency that I wouldn't look like a complete idiot. But badminton--a sport I dearly loved in high school--at the Olympic level, is completely incomprehensible to me. I dig it, but it's almost impossible for me to follow. It's just too damn fast. Any chance they could bring back the FOX puck for this event?

16. Fencing:
truth be told, I saw approximately six minutes total of this event, five of which were devoted to a Bob Costas interview with the Americans who swept the podium in something called Individual Saber (which, frankly, sounds made up). Now, here's where it gets interesting (note to readers: not really). Near the end of the interview Costas revealed (to me; I'm assuming the girls were already aware) that there was a "Team Saber" competition later in the week, joking that he very much liked the Americans' chances. Well...I "missed" the team event, only to later read that the Americans finished third. Third? The fuck? It's the same three girls!! This may not be like a country sweeping the medals* in the 100 m dash and then beefing the 4 x 100 (mostly because no one cares about fencing) but it's gotta be close.

* Aug. 19 Note: the Jamaican women actually did this, so we'll have to wait and see how they do.

* Aug. 21 Note: ...and, due to a dropped baton, they didn't medal in the 4 x 100. Well, so much for that theory.

17. Baseball: yeesh...a disaster. Shuk and I are doing an Olympic wrap-up early next week, and I envision him totally smacking me down here, but I have absolutely zero enthusiasm for Olympic baseball. Zero.

18. Canoeing/Kayaking
(note to Olympic organizers: we're at war, pick a side.): Admittedly, the only event I saw here was one of the slalom competitions. In addition, I'm told (by Wikipedia!) that the slalom course is particularly brutal this year, even for the Olympics. All of that said, I saw four consecutive kayakers (including the presumptive gold medallist) miss gates (thus incurring a penalty), knocking themselves out of contention. Now....I understand--given that it's a, you know, fucking race--that time is of the essence and that finding the best racing line is vital, but a missed gate costs you 50 seconds, which is clearly catastrophic in an event where the winner typically clocks in in under three minutes. To analogize (and, by that, I of course mean "grossly oversimplify"): if I wake up late for class, you might find me racing around the bedroom frantically trying to put my pants on while hopping towards the staircase. This I get. But would I fall down the stairs (breaking my neck in the process) or--only slightly better--show up for class pantsless? Clearly (I hope!) not.

19. Socczzzzzz--wait, wait, I'm up!: Hmmm. I don't want to be too uncharitable so let's leave it at this and then move on: Euro Cup this is not.

20. Equestrian: as Shuk so artfully put it "seriously, it's riding around on a fucking horse." It sure is. And while I'm happy that 61-year old Ian Millar (now a nine-time--!--Olympian) finally took home a gold (in your face, Dara Torres!), that's exactly the sort of thing that prompts drunks in a English pub to wonder aloud "hey, why can't darts be a focking Olympic event?" Or chess...or competitive scrabble...or...and so forth. That's...not good.

But the Games--on the whole--undeniably were. Roll on 2010.