Tuesday, February 14, 2006

posted by James - 11:50 PM

And I'd like to congratulate David on being the only blogger I know who can't post a link. HA HA! Keep up the good work, my friend.

This part of most years is the post-NFL sports doldrums, but the 2006 Winter Olympics of Torino, Italy are saving us a little bit. Of course, I always have wrestling (except when it's preempted by the Westminster Dog Show... thanks USA Network) and I can get into some NCAA Basketball sometimes (damnit Huskies! Stop losing to the effin' Cougars!) and Skippy always has the Utah Jazz (currently ninth in the Western Conference, 1.5 games behind Los Angeles for the final playoff spot), but I usually try to sleep through most of February.

This year we have some great action happening on the other side of the planet worthy of much TiVoing (yay... no commercials, figure skating or curling!) led by U.S. stars Bode Miller, Apolo Anton Ohno and Michelle Kwan... oh wait.

I'll take that in reverse order. Michelle Kwan didn't even deserve to be there. I don't fault anyone for wanting to represent their country, but she needed to not pursue a spot when she couldn't physically meet the demands... not only that, but she took a lot of advertiser's money to show up at the opening ceremony and take tv time from other athletes who actually deserved it, and then she doesn't even stay to support the rest of her team.

On the other hand, Emily Hughes has said all the right things and stayed ready to go just in case, missing out on her chance to walk into the Olympic Games under the banner of her country and enduring a massive snowstorm. Maybe she'll become the story of Torino, much like her sister, Sarah, was the talk of Salt Lake City for winning gold in the same event.

Now, let that be the last time I ever discuss figure skating here again.

On to Mr. Ohno... TiVo's been very good to me. Because of TiVo, I get to see all of my favorite events such as the luge, the snowboarding and skiing and speed skating. I can watch speed skating. Heck, it might be because of what Ohno did in 2002 in Salt Lake City and the City of Seattle treated him like the greatest hero to ever hail from the Emerald City... but he proved himself a bonehead in this year's Olympiad.

He cruised through his first heat into the semifinals, where he found himself securely in second place with about one lap left to go, guaranteeing him a spot in the finals. He then proceeded to try to pass the leader on the outside catching his hand on a skate, a barrier and a pretty woman in the first row (ok I made that last part up) completely losing out on a medal chance for the event. He then made a spectacle of himself by almost missing the consolation heat.

Finally, there's Bode Miller. There's a lot I appreciate about Miller. He's very American. Brash. Risk-taking. Ambitious. The media appreciates him a lot too. It's not his fault they put him on every major magazine cover before the games started. It's not his fault they made way too much out of him getting drunk before events. However, it is his fault he got drunk before events real people do every year. And let's not forget skiing isn't as safe as doing snow angels as far as winter sports go. Earlier this year, somebody died in the Cascade Mountains just for skiing too close to a tree and falling in its "well". I know people drink when they ski, and it's great Miller can do it while taking tight turns going 40 m.p.h, but it's not the safest thing someone can do and glorifying it makes it even worse.

Like I said before... not really his fault, though. Unfortunately, skiing in his first two events as good as he possibly can and having only a 5th-place finish and a DQ to show for it are his fault. If I were him, I wouldn't have anything to be ashamed about. He really did ski well in the downhill... four other skiers were just better... and he was on his way to gold in the combined when his skis straddled a gate. I don't even know what most of this means, but I do know he was nowhere to be found when his teammates were hoisting Ted Ligety on their shoulders after he won the combined event... and then he comes out and says, he's glad he got DQ'd so he wouldn't have to schlep off the mountain to Torino for the medal ceremony. Here's the link.

It's one thing to be calm and confident you'll get another shot, but what are you there for if even winning an event for your country would be an inconvenience? I'm hoping he was joking, but it wasn't funny. He should want to go to Torino, if only to support his teammate.

You can't extole the virtues of being an Olympian and representing your country, if you're only there for yourself.

Thankfully this Olympics has starred the Incrediblly Gold Duo of Chad Hedrick and Joey Cheek, the dominating U.S. Snowboarding Half Pipers and Down The Mountain Ligety Split instead of the Law Offices of Miller, Ohno and Kwan.

Ok... that's my last attempt at being funny.

I'm also very happy baseball gave me something to chew on today, as they released the rosters for Team USA's entry into the inaugural World Baseball Classic. I've looked forward to this for three years now, keeping track of what most of the North and Latin American teams would look like (I couldn't really predict they'd stretch it to include a team of Italian- and Greek-heritage players). I also didn't expect so many of the American players would bow out because of injuries. It doesn't really matter because they'll still field a strong team, but their pitching won't be as strong.

The big news for Cubs fans comes from Derrek Lee and Michael Barrett's inclusion on the U.S. team. Lee should see the majority of the time at first base (Rangers' up-and-comer Mark Teixiera will back him up and could start as the designated hitter) and bat fifth behind Yankees 3b Alex Rodriguez and Cincinnati cf Ken Griffey, Jr. and in front of the likes of Braves 3b Chipper Jones (who could see time in right field or at dh) and Teixiera.

Barrett will serve alongside Nationals c Brian Schneider backing up Boston c Jason Varitek. He'll probably see quite a bit of time, because USA Manager Buck Martinez has already said that very few players will play the full game, and Schneider is there more for his defense.

I would like it if Cubs players would focus the entirety of their spring efforts on winning a World Series. The spectre of losing Carlos Zambrano, Aramis Ramirez or even Michael Barrett to injury in this exhibition would haunt me the whole year.

But I'm a big fan of this event. It's good for baseball. It's good for the globalization of the sport, hopefully opening up further revenue and talent streams in Asia and Europe, necessary since the Olympics has rejected the sport for the next two games. Hopefully, the Cubs can benefit from the improved talent and recenue pool... and we fans get games that "matter" in March.

If I had to pick a winner right now, I'm going with Venezuela. Their pitching towers over Puerto Rico and probably even the Domincan Republic, and their offense isn't bad either. Cuba and Japan are major wild cards.

Venezuelan right-hander and Cubs ace Carlos Zambrano is already in mid-season, spitting-fire form, lobbying to pitch the WBC opener against Pedro Martinez and the Domincan Republic ahead of his left-handed teammate and former Cy Young winner Johan Santana.

As long as Zambrano keeps it under control, this is the Zambrano I look forward to taking the hill and the pill for the Cubs. He is what makes the difference between fourth place and a playoff team.

How about that, guys? Looking forward to the Cubs playing. Something I can honestly say I haven't said all winter.

nope... still not liking how the blogger comments works... anybody have any suggestions or should I just go get a comment system from somewhere else?
Yeah... the comment system sucks. I'm too LAZY to post a link by the way... not too inept. lol.

No worries though. If people can't manage to cut and paste... they should be banned from the internet until they learn how to use their computer.
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