Friday, January 30, 2009

Novak Djokovic Proves It Takes A Real Man To Whine Like A Little Girl

It is possible that when Novak Djokovic quit against Andy Roddick earlier in the week, it was the most courageous act of the young 2009 sports year.

Djokovic has a bit of history with retiring early from matches, at least 4 times in Grand Slams. He actually has the highest percentage of retirements to career losses among the top 10- nearly 10% of the time he loses because he quits. Perhaps he retired each time because of injury. Or perhaps he retired because he was losing.

He also has a history of calling the trainer out to get treatment during matches, something other players have expressed annoyance with. There is nothing illegal or unsportsmanlike about getting treatment, but it just seems like he happens to need it far more often than most guys.

So last year during the U.S. Open, Roddick came out and called Djokovic on all of this and said that Djokovic "is either quick to call the trainer, or he's the most courageous guy of all time," joking with the press that it could be any number of ailments, from shoulder, knee, ankle and back injuries, to SARS, anthrax or a commong cold. This after Djokovic said in an on-court, post match interview ealier in the tournament that he needed to stand next to the next so he wouldn't fall down. When Djokovic later beat Roddick in that tournament, he spoke live on the air and over the stadium P.A. and whined that Roddick had said those mean things and said that crushing Roddick as he had just done proves he didn't have those fake injuries. He was soundly booed by the New York crowd and ripped by the general media.

The irony of course, is that by playing "hurt" in one match and then playing brilliantly with no sign of injury the next match (like he had done here), it kinda proves that he was faking, right?

Then before this latest Grand Slam, Djokovic bristled at the (truly absurd) idea that Brit Andy Murray belonged on tennis' current Mount Rushmore alongside Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Djokovic. Let's be honest, Djokovic doesn't even belong there, and Murray sure as hell doesn't...the guy hasn't won anything yet. Murray has been in one Grand Slam final and he got crushed in straight sets. All of this is fine for me to say because I am not one of his opponents, and no one is reading this anyway.

But Djokovic couldn't resist and came out before the Australian Open and whined how offended he was that Murray was being called a favorite alongside himself, Federer and Nadal. Of course, Djokovic has won one Grand Slam (against a patsy in the final when Nadal and Federer had both been upset earlier) and his only other Grand Slam final looked a lot like Murray's: a straight-set crushing by Federer.

Anyway, after all of this, you would never think that Djokovic would ever have the guts to fake injury, ask for extra treatment, or certainly not retire early against Roddick again! And not in a Grand Slam where the true champions show their mettle!

This week Djokovic and Roddick faced each other in a Grand Slam for the first time since that U.S. Open match and the conditions were brutal. By the end of the match, the on-court thermometer showed about 136 degrees Fahrenheit (the air was actually about 95).

Djokovic came out well early and won the first set. Roddick took an early lead in the second and almost instantly Djokovic looked like the walking dead. I understand that it was hot, but it was hot on Roddick's side of the court as well. And it was hot on every other player who had been playing that day and that week. And these are supposed to be some of the finest athletes in the world!

So Roddick jumped all over Djokovic, winning the next two sets, with the Serb dragging himself around the court like he'd been shot for most of the time. He had a few extended breaks with the trainers coming out and putting ice on his neck and stretching his legs and shoulder. Roddick even drove the "you're a whiny girl" point home by standing in the sun, running place and keeping loose during one of Djokovic's "injury breaks." Then finally when the match was about to get out of hand, Roddick up 2-1 in the fourth and 2 sets to 1, Djokovic summoned all the courage he had in himself and disregarded that what he would do in the next 30 seconds would characterize himself for his entire career: he quit.

Federer, who is about as prone to smack talk as the Pope said after the match, "Well you know, it's not the guy who's never given up before...he gave up against me in Monaco last year because of a sore throat." After that sore throat match, Djokovic said in an on-court interview that he felt a little dizzy too. He said that he'd been checked by a doctor the day before and cleared, but that he thought the doctor's diagnosis was wrong, "obviously." He was booed off the court.

Federer went on to say, "If Novak were up two sets to love I don't think he would have retired 4-0 down in the fourth."

So the book is closed on this one. He may go on to one of the great champions of all time (once Federer and Nadal retire), or he may succumb to all these unnamed maladies. But either way, Novak Djokovic will very likely go down as one of the biggest whiners and quitters the sports has ever seen.

Stay tuned (in the middle of the night) Saturday for what is bound to be an epic final between two acutal champions, Nadal and Federer.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Actually, A Duck's Quack Does Echo

I have long felt that Mythbusters is one of the cooler shows on TV, but in the last two weeks, it has become my favorite show. Why? Because where else do people test out urban legends that you've always wondered about, then just blow everything to hell at the end regardless of if it applies to the legend or not, and wrap it all up with a bow made of drunkenness?

Last week, they were testing to see if a sighted passenger could safely navigate for a blind driver (yes), and then they tested if the same sighted passenger could get drunk and still safely navigate for the same blind driver (no). So in the middle of the tests, the guy had to just sit down on the curb and drink a quarter of a bottle of Jack Daniels.

Today I saw an episode where they tested whether various methods could fool a breathalyzer test. Of course to accurately tell if that was happening, they first had to fail a breathalyzer test. So they had thirteen drinks (though they were never clear if they shared thirteen drinks or if it was thirteen each) and both blew over the legal limit. They then blew again after eating breath mints (no), taking a bite of an onion (no), putting denture cream in their mouths (no), gargling mouthwash (no!), and holding either a battery (no) or a couple of pennies (no) in their mouths.

This was after they tested if medieval villagers could have A) built a functional cannon out of a hollowed log (yes), and B) all been killed when the cannon later blew up (yes).

Educational and entertaining!

Here's a quick list of those myths they tested that I can remember:
You can't polish poo (no)
Phonebooks with interlocking pages are nearly inseparable (yes)
You can blow up an oxygen tank with a bullet...think Jaws (no)
You can blow up a propane tank with a bullet...think James Bond (no)
You can cut through the floor with bullets (no)
You can blow a hole in a wall with sodium and water...think MacGyver (no)
You can cut down a tree with bullets (sorta)
A child could float away with a pack of helium balloons (no...unless the pack is mansion-sized)
Ping pong balls can be used to raise a sunken ship (yes)
Poppy seed bagels can make you test positive for heroine...think Elaine from Seinfeld (yes)
Metal golf spikes attract lighting (no)
Breast implants will explode at high altitude (no)
Hot pepper pain remedies: milk (yes), water (no), tequila (no), toothpaste (no), beer (no)
Using a cell phone while pumping gas will cause an explosion (no)
Running in the rain keeps you drier than walking (no and then retested...yes)
Tesla's hand-held earthquake machine could destroy the Brooklyn bridge in an hour (no)
A can of beans on a hot stove could explode and kill you (yes)
A dog's mouth is cleaner than a human's (yes)
Yawning is contagious (yes)
A cowboy could shoot a man's hat off of his head (no)
Jet wash from a 747 could flip a: taxi (yes), school bus (yes), small plane (yes)

But this is supposed to be a sports blog, so here you go:
Helium will cause punts to travel further (no)
You can hit the cover off of a baseball (no)
Corked bats hit balls harder (no)
Sliding into a base you can't overrun is faster than not sliding (yes)
Humidifiers cut down how far baseballs are hit (yes)
A fastball can actually rise (no)
Jimmy Hoffa is buried at Giants Stadium (no)

It is on Discovery; I have no idea when thanks to my DVR, but seriously it is the best show on TV, so go find it (reruns are ubiquitous on Discovery).

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

From Lingerie-Clad Football Players To Topless Figure Skaters

The sports world took a bitter blow on Monday. I imagine I don't really need to go into it further and you already know what I am referring to. The Lingerie Bowl was cancelled. Apparently one of the main roadblocks that wound up shutting down the event was that these highly principled, modest, proud young women were unwilling to degrade themselves by having to play the game at a nudist colony...I mean what are they, prostitutes?

As it turns out, this is the third consecutive year that this game has been cancelled. At what point is an event cancelled for the year and what point is it just an historical footnote? And does the fact that no one ever watched it when it (allegedly) was played make a difference?

The Cardinals and Steelers have arrived in Tampa for the other football game that was scheduled for Sunday (apparently still on, as of Tuesday morning). I have heard a lot of talk on sports radio and ESPN about how the Cardinals are built just like the Steelers are, so this success is not a fluke - they drafted well and are now reaping the benefits. So basically, the question is whether this season's success is repeatable.

I have heard a lot of interesting arguments that indeed, it is repeatable, but of course these arguments are all stupid. Kurt Warner is a fantastic story, but he is likely going to retire and even if he doesn't, it is far more likely he will look like the Kurt Warner of the previous five years, and not the one of last year. And besides his phenomenal year, this would have been the same team as last year: no running game, no running defense, great receivers, Matt Leinart.

When you are wondering if the "story of the year" team can repeat the next year, the answer is always no. If it is a miracle that they got this far, is it really fair to expect them to perform another miracle? Not only can they likely not pull it off, but everyone will be gunning for them from day 1. Ask the Rockies what it was likely coming back after that ridiculous 2007 season?

Are you hearing this Tampa Bay Rays?

The 2008 Dodgers are another such team, but their "magical run" was fueled exclusively by Manny Ramirez, there was no synergy, no draft picks that worked out, no coach pulling all the right strings. There was a dude hitting .400 that made all the other crappy players look they belonged in the major leagues.

I saw an interview with Dodgers first baseman James Loney recently where he said he was excited for the upcoming season, especially with the way everyone came together and really hit their strides towards the end of 2008. Does it count as your stride when someone is carrying you?

So then that means they just need Manny back and they'll win 120 games right? Not so much. With every swing, Manny was screaming "F you!" at Theo Epstein. That fire won't be there this year. If he is anywhere but L.A., he'll still hit .300 with 25 homers and 100 RBI, but he won't hit .400 with 50 homers and 150 RBI. If he is in L.A., he will sandbag the whole year and prove Boston was right to dump him.

Does anyone think that a guy with a history of loafing when he feels disrespected is going to hustle and smile and shine if he rejoins the Dodgers after they low-balled him for five months? He just came out Monday are repeated again that he wants 4-5 years at $25 million a year. So all this waiting and posing that the Dodgers have done has not knocked a dime off of his asking price. So in the next month, will he really knock 550,000,000 dimes off and then come to camp happy?

But the McCourts have done what they do best: they've made it look like they tied to fix things but that it was out of their hands. They made their crappy, low-ball offer and then made sure the media knew they did it. Now they can put all the blame on the player when he inevitably bolts for a better deal. I hope Manny relents (not likely with Scott Boras as his agent), takes a 3 year deal for $70 million and then just tanks for the next three years, making the Dodgers wish they still had Andruw Jones.

The last two stories of note: Floyd Landis' two year ban from supposedly doping during the 2006 Tour de France is up this weekend and Landis is training for the Tour of California and ideally the Tour de France, assuming that he can get onto a team that is in it. This means that this year's Tour de France could add Lance Armstrong, Floyd Landis, Tyler Hamilton, Alberto Cantador, Andreas Kloden and Levi Leipheimer to the field after last year's superstar-devoid race. I personally thought the parity in 2008 was very entertaining and that Carlos Sastre, Cadel Evans, Christian Vandevelde, Bernhard Kohl, and Denis Menchov put together a great Tour. But the absence of the sports' stars was palpable throughout and it will be great to watch the French swallow having five Americans as potential favorites.

And finally, last week the strap of a pairs figure skater snapped and her breast was exposed during their routine. The pair amazingly didn't stop and actually finished the routine. They finished 12th, so apparently the judges didn't like what they saw.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Accountability Means The Ability To Steal From Bank Accounts, Right?

I lost my wallet on Wednesday and before I was able to get home, look up the number and call the credit card company to cancel it, someone found my wallet and made a few charges on my card.

The credit card company took the charges off and all is well, but I found it really funny what it was that this a-hole paid for with my card. Let's play multiple choice:

A: Flowers for an elderly loved one
B: A donation to a children's hospital
C: Clothing and food for a homeless shelter
D: The phone bill for a federal inmate

If you guessed A, B or C, I appreciate your faith in humanity.

I went to the website of the company that does the billing for the inmates and guess what their little tagline is: "Integrity, Responsiveness, Accountability." Ah, the irony.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

How Often Is There A Sports-Related Event Worthy Of Saying "Low And Behold"?

I got to watch my alma mater play hoops tonight for the first time since their second round NCAA tourney game last March. They were hosting St. Mary's, a conference opponent who is currently ranked #27 (AP). Typically teams will get up for a rival who is highly ranked, especially at home, so I was pretty excited about the game.

The game was set to come on a 6 Pacific time, and when I tuned in around quarter to six, the Purdue at Minnesota game still had about 10 minutes to go, so I knew I'd miss the start of the USD game. This was a little frustrating at first, but I did get a nice piece of information that I will store away for this upcoming March, and I will pass it along to you fine folks now (both of you):

Purdue is ranked 18, and Minnesota is ranked 21, and they play in the Big 10, so their chances of both making the NCAA tournament are very good, and they'll likely get good seeds. If you have any inkling that their first round opponents are potential Cinderellas, or if they happen to get a crappy seed and play a good team in the first round, do not hesitate to pick Purdue and Minnesota to both lose in the first round. The only way I will pick these teams to win a game is if I learn that their opponents have three or four guys get hurt. Or if they play Gonzaga, because I have a long-standing personal rule that I do not pick Gonzaga to win any games in the Tournament, and generally speaking, it serves me well.

(I think I need to formulate the Rules of Picking the Tourney.)

Anyway, as that painfully slow game withered to a merciful end, they starting running the USD-SMC score in the upper corner.

"Hey, USD is up 2-0...oh, make that 2-2...down 4-2...6-2...13-2. Ouch."

By the time ESPN2 switched over from Brent Musberger's miserable ass-kissing call of the Purdue-Minnesota game, the USD was already over. But then I remembered that St. Mary's had led USD by 17 in the second half of their conference semifinal game last year and USD came back to win in double-OT. Not tonight. But at least USD had the courtesy to play quickly, lose quickly, and allow ESPN2 to get to their next scheduled program a little early!

By the way, if you are looking for a small team to make some noise in the Tourney, St. Mary's is a very good option. They have a spectacular point guard (guard play+NCAA tourney=win), good shooters, some decent big men, 5 Australians (I don't know if it helps, but that is kinda cool) and they play serious defense. They won't be under the radar since they're already creeping into the rankings and have the nation's longest winning streak going, but everyone east of California will not trust this little band of Aussies.

They are impossible to root for however. Last week they beat a conference opponent by 50. No problem there; you should beat conference foes when they're down. The problem I have with it is that they fired up 31 3-pointers in the game. Classy coach.

One final thought on the Purdue-Minnesota game before moving on: we are all clear that the Big 10 Conference has eleven teams in it and that as creatively as they may hide that fact in their logo, that still doesn't make sense, right? OK. Moving on...

Speaking of Aussies and ESPN2's evening program, the next thing on the agenda was the Djokovic-Delic match. It ended up being a very nicely played, evenly matched four-setter between the #3 ranked returning champ and the little known American. The announcers made the point several times how these two were friends and how good the sportsmanship was throughout. When the match ended, they greeted each other genuinely and both thanked the boisterous crowd warmly.

The reason that all those warm feelings are worth remarking about (besides that they are just rare in sports) is that Djokovic is Serbian and Delic is a Bosnian-born American. I'm not sure how much you've been paying attention to the news for the past...oh...500 years, but the Bosnians and Serbs don't generally hug and and get warm reactions from crowds of people from the other place. I wasn't going to write about this because I couldn't really figure out a point I wanted to make that didn't get all socio-political and/or cheesy.

So I started writing about the USD hoops game when what on my TV should appear but a good old fashioned, Geraldo-style chair throwing brawl in a courtyard at the Australian Open. Apparently the warm fuzzies between the Serbian Dojokovic fans and Bosnian Delic fans only lasted until they got outside the stadium. Then a Serb threw a chair at a Bosnian woman who had just finished being interviewed by ESPN2 and the kangaroo shit hit the fan. I still wasn't sure what to write about because now I couldn't figure out a point I wanted to make that still didn't get all socio-political and/or judgemental.

So I went back to writing and ESPN2 came to my rescue again providing me with a nice, neat ending to this story. They went back out to the courtyard and showed some cops hauling the thugs away who had been throwing metal chairs in a crowd including women and children and low and behold: Australian cops wear Crocodile-freaking-Dundee hats! They're like Canadian Mounties but not gay. I am 100% sure that if they had widened the shot, we would have seen that they also wore just board shorts and sandals and carry boomerangs and machetes instead of guns and mace like our sissy cops here.

Add this to the growing list of reasons why Australia is awesome (#1 of course being how much hotter the accent makes the women).

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

A Great Day For Mankind

Mark January 20, 2009 as one of the most important days in American history, possibly even world history. It is a day of social progress, cultural significance, and historical relevance. Yes, my fellow Americans, it is the day I start writing on this site again.

Despite that this is basically a sports blog however, I do have a few things worth noting (but likely not worth reading) about the day's other significant news: the Inauguration:
-Never before has Dick Cheney looked more like an evil mastermind than he did rolling up in his wheelchair. Is there any doubt that that cane he carried was made from the dried, compressed hopes and dreams of people he has destroyed with some kind of gigantic death ray that is housed in a cave underneath the Vice President's residence?

-I saw Aretha Franklin in concert a few years ago and she was not great, but she was still Aretha Freaking Franklin. She spent as much time back stage in costume changes (you try putting a new billboard on a blimp) and presumably eating, as she spent on stage. All that changed at the Inauguration: she is now officially a mere caricature of herself...a caricature that should not, under any circumstances, sing.

-You have to like Craig Robinson (first lady's brother, basketball coach at Oregon State) wearing an Oregon State scarf. If I was a student there, and he was my basketball coach, I would be so fired up about that. This could easily inspire those kids to win two or maybe even three more Pac-10 games this year.

-Was George Bush, Sr. wearing Mikhail Gorbachev's hat?

-Some day an old lady will tell her grand children that she was in the front row at her church watching with pride and satisfaction the day the first African American was sworn is as the President of the United States of America. She will talk about the glorious sun shining down on him as he gave his beautiful, determined, sober, powerful address. She will talk about how it gave hope to millions and will hopefully talk about how good things got after that day. She will probably not mention that she was the kid asleep in the front row that CBS kept showing. Note to the director: maybe focus on a different area of the area where people are awake.

-Speaking of the CBS broadcast, did they not have a switch or a button or something that could shut off the mics of Katie Couric and the other hosts? I have never heard so much off-camera whispering and conversation in my life. It was like standing outside of the control room at a high school play.

-Finally, at one point they mentioned Robert Frost reading a poem at an Inauguration. I am sure that Frost enjoyed that 5th grader's poem that that women read at the...what's that? She wrote it? Oh, in that case, I imagine Frost, Edgar Allen Poe and Mark Twain are rolling over in their graves after that horrible poem, or maybe it was just her delivery. Somewhere Maya Angelou is freaking pissed right now.

The main reason I have restarted to write again is that my opinions are just too important to civilization to be kept to myself, so I felt like the right thing to do would be to broadcast them to the world so that people around the globe (well mostly just my mom and occasionally my wife when I ask her to read it) can learn from what I have to share.

Today's post is already too long thanks to the monumental historical event I mentioned earlier, so I won't drag on any longer, but I won't take two months to write my next entry so check back soon. Some topics I expect to cover: Pete Carroll: a-hole, the Super Bowl, Devil Rays vs. Arizona Cardinals, Manny Ramirez, St. Mary's throwing their hats in the ring for the Worst Sportsmanship of 2009 award, the ticking time bomb of crappiness that is 24 and how to fix it, and of course Lost which is returning exactly 34 hours from the moment I type this period: . And much, much more, most of which you will not care about, including the funniest injuries in professional sports history.