Sunday, August 24, 2008

In honor of my birthday today...

...let's take a look at some of the athletes (pretty awesome athletes, I might add) who are lucky enough to call August 24th their birthday, too:
Inge de Bruijn (1973) - Dutch swimmer and four time Olympic champion. She made her debut at the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona and retired from competitive swimming in 2007.

Reggie Miller (1965) - spent his 18 year NBA career with the Indiana Pacers, and a player who played a key role in the Knicks-Pacers Eastern Conference playoff rivalry of the 1990s, back when I was a Knicks fan. I loved to hate Reggie Miller in those years.

Cal Ripken Jr. (1960) - spent his entire MLB career (1981-2001) with the Baltimore Orioles, was a 19 time All-Star, is a Hall of Famer and considered one of the best shortstops to ever play the game. He played in a record 2,632 straight games spanning 16 seasons (which seems like an almost impossible feat, considering how easy it is to get injured and how even a minor injury can sideline a player for one day, which would be enough to break that streak).

Vince McMahon (1945) - since we haven't decided whether or not the WWE qualifies as a sport, we're just gonna go ahead and include McMahon on this list. Chairman of the WWE and one of the campiest villains that people (my boyfriend included) love to hate. Wrestling may be more soap opera than sport, but the physicality of it is real and so McMahon will manage to squeak by onto this list.

In side notes: today was the closing ceremony of the Olympics and last night, the Redeem Team beat Spain for the gold medal. I didn't watch it, but my dad did, and he said the Americans, these professional Americans who get paid millions of dollars whether they win or lose, were jumping up and down and as excited as any Olympians have ever been to win gold, which just goes to show that even athletes who have sold out and who are in it for the money started out because they love the game, and that deep down, that love of the game is still inside them.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Women's basketball takes gold

The American women beat Australian to win the gold medal in basketball this morning, their fourth straight golden win. Kudos to them for keeping pace with the men's team, which goes for gold against Spain tonight (this morning?) at 2 a.m. - seriously, they couldn't schedule this for a more convenient time? All the major events "just happened" to fall into primetime U.S. scheduling but men's basketball, in the gold medal game, featuring some of the biggest superstars in the NBA, going for a redemption win no less, falls in the middle of a night. On a Saturday. Bizarre. Although now that I think about it, most bars outside New York close at 2 a.m., so maybe everybody who's out partying tonight will be not only awake but home in time to catch the game.

Just another bizarre note on the MLB front: Carl Pavano is pitching for the Yankees tonight. Pavano, who hasn't pitched at the major league level since April of last year. Pavano, who is totally cute but which still doesn't make up for how spectacular a failure he's been for the team. Right now the Yankees are winning, though, thanks to a Giambi home run, but it's kind of confusing, because they're playing in Baltimore and everyone was cheering to hit (Baltimore is so close to New York that you can find a ton of Yankee fans at Oriole home games - random fact, my very first Yankee game was at Camden Yards in Baltimore. Go figure.)

Anyway, congratulations to the American women's basketball team, and good luck to the men tonight.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

108 wins and counting...

Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh won Olympic gold in beach volleyball for the United States without losing a single game or dropping a single match. For someone who refused to even take part in a beach volleyball league for fun this summer, I enjoyed watching these two play, as I have in the past. They make it look so easy. Meanwhile, I'm thinking how much I would hate getting sand in my mouth if I had to lunge for the ball. But even more impressive, they've won 108 consecutive matches. May-Treanor and Walsh are relentless and they admit that they are competitive to a fault, but how many other athletes/teams, amateur or professional, can claim a streak that long?

This, I think, should definitely be classified as a "go, girl!" moment...


The American women's soccer team won the gold medal, beating Brazil in overtime. I'll admit I didn't watch any of their games this time around (women's soccer is still Mia Hamm and Brandi Chastain to me), but American women continue to dominate in this sport, making it only more sad that the professional women's soccer league wasn't able to sustain itself stateside - where are all the female soccer fans? All the little girls who want to grow up to be professional athletes and superstars?

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

A question about men and sports

This is something that impresses me, confounds me, and annoys me.

I have noticed something about men who are sports fans. Men who don't follow sports don't count. But a guy who is totally into sports, whether it's one sport or many, seems to have this extra space in his brain for an endless amount of stats. Maybe this is the space women use to know how to do laundry or wash dishes. Maybe this is the space women use to place some kind of importance on personal hygiene, like taking regular showers and brushing our hair when we get out of bed in the morning. Maybe this is the space women use for common sense. It's a scientific mystery.

But here it is: without fail, a male sports fan seems to be able to spit out at a moment's notice the batting average and on base percentage of his favorite player. Not only that, he can tell you how many times his favorite team has come behind to win this season, how many players they've left stranded, how many games they've won when leading in the eighth inning, and every pitcher's ERA. Not only that, but they can give you these same stats on not just their favorite players and teams, but on their opponents as well. Not only that, but they can give you all these stats for players and teams from 30 years ago. And they look at you as if you have two heads when you say that not only do you not know who won the Cy Young Award for the National League in 1969, but unless he's putting that award to good use by pitching your team into the World Series this year, you couldn't care less who the winner was (Tom Seaver for the NY Mets, by the way, which I had to look up).

As someone who knows Jason Giambi is a power hitter but couldn't tell you his batting average this season, and as someone who knows that Goose Gossage made it into the baseball Hall of Fame this year but couldn't tell you why beyond the fact that he was a pitcher, I do find this ability of male sports fans impressive. But at the same time, I can't help but think that if they channeled all this collective brain space and power into something useful and productive, that the human race might have already cured cancer and achieved world peace.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Gymnastics update and Olympic gripe

Shawn Johnson finally won gold, on the balance beam, after collecting a bunch of silvers. Good for her. She may only be 4'9" but she looks tougher than many bouncers I've seen. I wouldn't wanna run into her in a dark alley. Unless she was there protecting me.

Anyway, my gripe. Maybe it's just with the Olympic commentators, and anybody who knows me knows I have issues with sports commentators in general (just stop saying inane, stupid things! Silence can be golden!)...the things they say when someone who maybe was the favorite to win gold, "only" wins silver. Or anybody who fails to capture a gold, but "only" comes in second or third. They make it sound like that athlete was a complete failure. Like everything they worked for their whole lives and especially the last four years broke down at the last second and was all for naught.

Really? Sure, maybe Shawn Johnson wasn't the absolute best in the all-around gymnastics competition. Maybe Dara Torres came up a little short to beat everybody else in swimming. But being second best in your particular sport out of everybody in the entire world (that's a lot of people, in case you didn't know)? Not too shabby.

Instead of focusing on how "disappointing" it must be to have gold elude an athlete, why not congratulate them on their achievement of coming out on top (while we're at it, how about congratulating all the Olympic athletes, even the non-medal contenders/winners, for their HUGE accomplishment on making their respective Olympic teams in the first place)? It's not about giving props to everybody for any slight thing in order to make them feel good about themselves. It's about recognizing and celebrating real achievement. As someone who probably falls into the bottom half of the human population when it comes to athletic prowess, coming in 2 our of 6.6 billion isn't the end of the world.

Not to keep beating a dead horse...

...but just wanted to point out another thing that made Michael Phelps' accomplishment so amazing. Not only did he have to win eight medals to break Mark Spitz's record, he had only signed up for eight events.

No wiggle room there.

Not only would he have to win eight golds, he'd have to do it in every single race he was swimming. As we all know now, after watching Aqua Man swim, that monumental task seems like it should have been a foregone conclusion, but it must have been a daunting goal a week ago, even for the best athlete.

And Phelps just might be the best athlete.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

And history was made

Oh. My. God. I can't breathe. The American team just won gold in the men's medley relay and I don't think I took a single breath while Michael Phelps and Jason Lezak swam their legs. Jeez Louise. My heart is still racing. That was the most stressful 3 minutes ever. Well, maybe not ever. But that was almost too much for me to take.

Michael Phelps just made history, winning his eighth gold medal in a single Games, toppling Mark Spitz's seven golds record set in Munich back in 1972. That was amazing. It's moments like these, when I almost can't even watch because of how stressful it is (and that's just watching in my living room - this is why I'm not the Olympic swimmer...), when my heart is racing, when Michael Phelps is hugging Aaron Piersol and his mom is cheering on Jason Lezak and crying in the stands, that make me love sports.

And just wanted to add how much I love the Olympic Visa commercials with Morgan Freeman's narration. First, cuz I'm a sucker for sentimental crap. But also because, though they focus on American Olympians, the tag is "Go world." I think that sums up what makes the Olympics so special.

Women's medley relay

The Americans came in second. That's three silver medals for Dara Torres. Not too shabby for a woman who is old enough to be the mother to, like, three-quarters of these athletes. They got beat by the Australians. Those Australians swim like they're born in water.

More Olympics happenings...

41 year old Dara Torres, the oldest person to make it on the American swim team, just won the silver in what looked like the 100m free. She's racing again in about 15 minutes in the women's relay medley. And then, most excitingly, Michael Phelps swims in the men's relay medley for what would be a record-breaking eighth gold medal. I missed his seventh gold, but talk about a nail biter! I was freaking out for him just watching the highlights today, even though he already nailed it. What an athlete. He's just an amazing, gifted athlete and how awesome to see him so excited after that win. He seems like such a dorky goofball. I love it. I hope he gets that eighth gold tonight...

And congrats to Nastia Luikin and Shawn Johnson from the American women's gymnastics team, who came in first and second respectively in the overall competition. Apparently, Nastia is only the third American woman to win gold in that event. And as someone who has never mastered the cartwheel, who can barely do a somersault, and who can't keep her balance on solid ground much less on a balance beam, I am in awe of what these girls can do with their bodies. How they flip and jump and contort and launch themselves into the air, I'll never know.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Michael Phelps, still on track...

Last night, Michael Phelps (who, more and more, I am convinced is absolutely part fish) won two more gold medals. This not only keeps him on track for eight golds to beat the record of seven golds won in a single Olympics, but puts him at the very top of all time Olympic athletes as having the won the most gold medals ever. All this, from a 23 year old kid. The worst and best part is how easy he makes it all look - he makes it look effortless!

And congratulations to the US women's gymnastics team and men's gymnastics team, who both medaled, silver and bronze respectively...

Monday, August 11, 2008

Olympic highlights from the opening weekend

They're calling it the most exciting race ever, and I'm not entirely sure they're wrong. Swimming is one of the Olympic events I enjoy watching. Michael Phelps is a favorite of mine. But watching the US men's 4x100 relay team come from behind to not only win, not only smash the world record to win, but to beat the French, who were trash talking the Americans beforehand, by .08 was pretty amazing. If you missed it, you can watch the video on the NBC Olympic web site, or follow the link below:

That feeling you get in your stomach as you realize, oh my God, this team actually has a chance, they might actually do it...that excitement? That's sports at its best.

Also at its best? Watching Brendan Hansen, who came in 4th (and is incredibly cute) in the 100m breaststroke, sincerely congratulate Japan's Kitajima, who not only came in first but broke Hansen's record.

Other upcoming competitions to watch: the men and women's basketball teams; men's soccer; Michael Phelp's quest to break a record by winning 8 gold medals in one Olympics (2 down, 6 to go...I don't think I'll love him any less though if he doesn't make it); women's gymnastics, who are struggling but hanging in there.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Summer Olympics 2008

Today is the opening ceremony of the 2008 Olympic Games. If you want to get technical, that ship already sailed, as Beijing is 12 hours ahead of New York, I think. But the ceremony was taped and will air tonight on NBC at 7:30 pm EST.

My brother, like many people, is very much into the pageantry and spectacle of the opening and closing ceremonies. I kinda like to see the interesting ways they decide to light the official torch with the relay torch. One year they shot the flame into it with a bow and arrow. That was pretty cool. But I prefer the sports. I just love rooting for my team.

Running is obviously a big one - I remember watching Michael Johnson, Jackie Joyner Kersee, Flo Jo...

Gymnastics is huge - watching Kerri Strug land on a twisted ankle and not fall down in order to win gold for the women's team was pretty frickin' awesome. Paul Hamm was a big name I remember watching last time who was pretty impressive.

I'm kinda into swimming the past couple games - Dara Torres is a huge story this year. She's 41 years old, is in her fifth Olympic games I think, and is supposed to be phenomenal. I'd like to watch her race. Michael Phelps and Aussie Ian Thorpe, who went head to head in the games last year, race again this year. were fun to watch - Phelps is amazing. And a cutie ;)...keep an eye on him this year.

And for those of you who aren't really into all those "Olympic sports," there's also "regular" sports like soccer and basketball. The US women's soccer team lost their first game to Norway but are still considered medal contenders. The US men's basketball team is star-studded for all you NBA fans, from Dwayne Wade to LeBron James to Kobe Bryant. All on the same team. Sounds fun.

There's a lot of controversy over the Games being held in China. China is a controversial country. I don't agree with their politics and practices concerning the Sudan, concerning Tibet, concerning their own people. But I also don't agree with those people who are protesting and boycotting the Olympics. I support our athletes. They trained their whole lives for this and when an American excels, I feel proud to be an American, even though I did nothing. And I am proud to see people from every nation engaged in a competition of national pride that doesn't involve deadly weapons. And I am proud when an American and someone from China and someone from Russia can stand on a podium together and acknowledge each other as people, people who excel in and love the same things, the same sports, the same spirit of competition and excellence, not as an American and someone from China and someone from Russia, but just as people.

Okay, enough of that. For all things Olympic - times, schedules, results - check out

Thursday, August 7, 2008

There's something about Brett Favre

So, Brett Favre, who had supposedly retired from the Green Bay Packers after last season (and to be more specific, after the Packers were knocked out of the playoffs by the New York Giants on the way to their underdog Super Bowl victory...I really need to get all those games on DVD so I can rewatch that playoff run. When current sports glory evades my teams, I over-revel in past glories...), was traded to the New York Jets late last night, early this morning.

For anyone who doesn't know Brett Favre from football, you might know him from his itty bitty but pivotal role in "There's Something About Mary."
I like Favre. He seems like a good guy. I like the Jets. They practice on a nearby field at Hofstra University and my dad and grandfather used to take us to watch them. My sister's friend from junior high and high school, D'Brickashaw Ferguson, plays (played?) with them. My dad and brother are diehard fans. And as much as Chad Pennington totally deserves a spot as a Crush of the Day here, he always seemed to be injured or not coming through the way top calibur quarterbacks do for their team.

But here's my problem with the deal, and it's the same problem I have with many of the trades made by the Yankees (speaking of which, I go to Australia for two weeks and there were so many deals and trades made by the Bombers while I was gone that I come back to a team I don't even recognize! Not sure how I feel yet about all that...)...the Yanks always go for the quick fix. And for them, the quick fix is signing an expensive, aging superstar for what will probably turn out to be a year or less, whose best days are pretty much behind them. Am I saying that this is the case with Favre? Not necessarily. But he's 38, which is practically ancient in the sports world. And he did retire. And how long do we expect him to stay in New York? And how many up and coming young guns with promising careers ahead of them will the team have to pass over because they spent all their money on him? I don't know the answers to those questions. Maybe I'm worried about nothing. And I use "worried" losely because I'm still not a total football convert (you can tell what sports I actually love by which sports I watch all season, not just during the playoffs or postseason), and because I might decide to become a Giants fan, not a Jets fan (sorry, Dad!)

Anyway, in honor of whatever contributions Chad Pennington did make to the team while he was here, here's this edition of Sports Crushes of the Day:

Chad Pennington, quarterback, New York Jets - he didn't always win me over on the field, but he was always fun to look at.

Mark Texeira, first base, Los Angeles Angels at Anaheim - loved him on the Texas Rangers, loved him on the Atlanta Braves, love him on the Angels even though he's beating up on my beloved Yankees. He's just an awesome player to watch play.
Justin Christian, outfield, New York Yankees - this kid is normally a bench player, but he totally earned his last two starts in outfield this week. He has been tearing it up on the field offensively, hitting balls, getting on base, stealing bases like a bona fide thief, and manufacturing runs. Could he be this season's Melky Cabrera or Robinson Cano or Joba Chamberlain, another edition to the Yankees' New Guard?