August 9, 2008

Michael Phelps National Anthem Cut Off - The Land of the

After Michael Phelps won the gold in the 4x100 individual medley this evening, I kept watching to see the medal presentation and national anthem. The Star-Spangled Banner seemed to start awkwardly, beginning in the middle of the word "O". It ended somewhat more suspiciously, totally cutting to Sopranos' silence at the final couplet - "O'er the land of the....." Either there was a technical glitch, or someone wanted to point out that they don't find us particularly free or brave.

blahblahblahblah Michael, unfortunately, shaved the porn 'stache.

President Bush was in attendance. Both he and Michael Phelps nervously laughed when the anthem cut out. Those silly Chinese.

Most likely we witnessed a technical glitch, but it is worth noting this confluence of factors:

- The event was televised live in the U.S.
- The event was one of a very few President Bush will attend
- President Bush spoke out earlier today over the lack of religious freedom in China
- The Star Spangled Banner cut out RIGHT before the word "free".

Maybe a coincidence. Definitely some plausible deniability. We'll see if this turns into a real controversy.

Remembering Why I Love the Olympics

In the run-up to the Olympics, I've heard a lot of bloggers say how they really don't like watching the Olympics and how NFL Pre-season is more interesting. Halfway through the first day of competition, I have to say they're crazy. I always like the Olympics, but after 4 years, I wasn't sure if I'd still feel the same way.

It's noon on the East Coast, and so far today I've already watched:

  • Women's Soccer
  • Women's Basketball
  • Women's Indoor Volleyball
  • Women's Beach Volleyball
  • Women's Handball
  • Dressage
  • Men's and Women's Badminton
  • Women's Weightlifting
  • Women's Fencing
How awesome is that? Those are sports that I would never normally care about or watch at all, but because it's the Olympics, every sport is exciting. Some thoughts on the first day:
  • I've watched more women's sports today than I probably will the rest of the year. I normally don't care for a lot of women's sports (other than tennis) but for some reason at the Olympics I don't really care whether it's a men's or women's event.
If beach volleyball is good enough for the President, who am I to argue?
  • Other than the uniforms, why is beach volleyball more popular than indoor? Indoor is faster paced and the players seem to hit the ball a lot harder. The team dynamics also make it much more entertaining. The sand just seems to slow down the beach game too much.
  • Tayyiba Haneef-Park is a beast. She's a 6'7" indoor volleyball player and she makes the other volleyball players (who are all really tall) look short.
  • Logan Tom (indoor volleyball) is cute.
  • I'm a bit surprised at how many of the announcers are reporting from NBC in New York. I guess it makes sense, but I would have assumed that there would be more live coverage.
That's a great way to start the Olympics
  • The US women's saber team swept the medals today, which is pretty awesome. You rarely see a single country win gold, silver, and bronze. Who knew that we were a women's fencing powerhouse?
So after 4 years, I realized that I love the Olympics even more than I remembered. It's a perfect match for my sports ADD and my affinity for weird sports. NBC's coverage so far has been a great mix of the usual sports along with some sports that you never expect to see. The mix of so many different channels really lets you pick what you want to watch. I'm sure the prime-time coverage will be full of sappy back-stories, but for now I'm not complaining.

Edit: I can't believe I forgot to mention a lock for the Unfortunate Names Hall of Fame - Japanese volleyball player Yoshie Takeshita.

August 8, 2008

Ravens v. Patriots Recap - Preseason Week 1

The Ravens and Patriots met in Foxboro tonight for a preseason matchup, and it was not pretty. The Ravens technically won 16-15.

For the Patriots, Brady and Moss sat, along with other starters. The Ravens sat McGahee and others. Kyle Boller got the start for the Ravens, followed by Troy Smith and finally a brief appearance by first-round draft pick Joe Flacco.

Boller, the Eternal Rookie, started brilliantly, hitting Derrick Mason a few times and threading some beautiful passes. Then the Pats got to him. He fumbled the first time he was hit, as is his habit. He later threw an interception where the only doubt was whether the two Patriots defenders blanketing the intended receiver could decide which one of them was going to take it. Stop me if you've heard this one before.

Troy Smith played the middle 30-35 minutes of the game, and generally made great decisions with the ball. His biggest failing was in making accurate throws, which shouldn't be surprising since Cam Cameron has tried to tweak his mechanics to allow him to throw the ball more quickly. On some throws he confidently strode and hit his receivers. On others he missed by yards.

Joe Flacco made a pretty good case for worst professional debut of all time. His first snap and pass should have been picked off. His second snap resulted in a lost fumble. He ended the game 0 for 3 with a lost fumble, and none of the three passes were close to complete.

bblahlahblah The Skins are so good at LB they gave up on Robert McCune

There were highlights for the Ravens though. New free agent acquisition Fabian Washington, a CB and former Raiders first round pick, had two interceptions. Free agent acquisition Brendon Ayanbadejo (the second Ayanbadejo in Ravens history) knocked down a two-point conversion attempt that would have given the Pats the lead in the 4th quarter. Ray Rice looked serviceable, though with a weak two yards per carry.

The Ravens defense was, of course, excellent. Ronnie Prude is trying to keep his spot on the team, after his excellent campaign two years ago was tempered quite a bit by his disappearing act last season. The Ravens have a glut of linebackers, with Ray Lewis, Bart Scott and Brandon Ayanbadejo solidly entrenched. Last year's draft pick Prescott Burgess would seem safe, as would Ray Lewis' backup Nick Griesen. Gary Stills is a Pro Bowler on special teams. That leaves quite a backlog for Antwan Barnes (also a 2007 draft pick), oft-injured Dan Cody, Edgar Jones, and my personal favorite, Robert McCune. McCune appeared to be everywhere tonight.

Yamon Figurs, though, stole the show for the Ravens. He had a 52-yard punt return that ended when he carelessly stepped out of bounds at the two. Later he had a 48-yard kick return. He looks like a totally different returner than the rookie who ended his season with a broken leg last year. Special teams were good all-around for the Ravens, who got two field goals from Stover and a third from potential kickoff specialist Piotr Czech. Coverage was excellent, as returners were stopped inside the 20 on at least three occasions.

The Patriots hardly seemed as though they were trying. QB Matt Cassel looked absolutely putrid. His replacement, Matt Guittierez, was better. He took a few sacks though and threw one of the Fabian Washington picks. The last QB, UFA rookie Kevin O'Connell from San Diego State, made poor throws but looked good scrambling.

The bright spots for the Pats (other than the fact they trotted out almost entire backups) were running back and Maryland alum Lamont Jordan and rookie LB out of Michigan Shawn Crable. Crable had an interception. Jordan had some excellent runs and looked quite shifty. His size makes him a great change of pace to Maroney.

I guess the story of the night were the Raiders' cast-offs, Jordan and Washington. Well, them and the fact that the Ravens probably really wanted to win and the Pats are just biding time til they can start the divisional round of the playoffs in January 2009.

August 7, 2008

Understanding Athlete Pain

So in my rec-league softball playoff game this week, I was involved in a pretty nasty collision at third base with the third base"woman." (the "woman" is in quotes because if you saw her, you'd doubt that she actually possesses two x-chromosomes. plus, she played collegiate softball, so she doesn't count as a typical rec-league placefiller female). For somebody as experienced in the game, you'd think she'd know not to stand right in the baseline trying to make a tag. Well she did. I slide, our legs get tangled, bottom line is I stand up to run home when the ball gets by her (way to take one for the team, Jeremy!), and the knee gives out.

Well bottom line is that I have the dubious honor of having given myself a mild sprain of the posterior cruciate ligament (PCL). I've never had a knee injury in my life. I've biked the 170 miles of the C&O Canal Towpath over three days on top of crushed gravel. I've played a good amount of sports. Never a knee injury.

Where am I going with this? Well I think for us average Joes out there, we get used to reading NFL injury reports (or more importantly fantasy reports) and seeing injuries that we kind of shrug off. A strain here... a partial tear there... a pull here... a twisted this or that. We care about how long the player is going to be out and when they're going to suit back up.

Fortunately my knee didn't look like this.

According to (not quite a medical treatise admittedly), a mild sprain of the PCL may result in "no lost time up to a couple weeks off." A review of the NFL injury reports from the past few years shows that the average player who suffered a mild sprain of their PCL, like mine, was out the week after the injury, but dressed and practicing by the following week, often times playing in a limited role.

Let's talk about the symptoms of a PCL sprain... when you go down stairs, you feel like your knee is going to collapse underneath you. It isn't easy to stand up out of a chair or sit down in a chair. Your kneecap just kind of throbs. You have to sleep on your back with your leg propped up on a pillow which clearly makes for great sleep.

I'm not here to bitch about my problems. But I will say that from here on out, I think I'll think long and hard before silentely cursing a player in my mind for missing a game or two extra when they have a "minor" knee injury. Because God knows, the furthest thing from my mind that I could possibly do right now is to throw on pads, make cuts to try to deke out defenders, and know that I have 300 pound guys who want nothing more than to pull me towards the Earth without very much regard at all for my wellbeing.

Packers Exile Favre to Jets - Final F-You to Hero

Favre tried to walk away from football, but getting so close to the Super Bowl last year gave him that itch. He so badly wanted one last shot, whether it would be in Minnesota, Chicago, Green Bay, Tampa Bay or whereever. He just needed one more run.

blahahblah The Wrangler team might have a better shot at the AFC East

But not the Jets. For Christ's sake, not a team in the Patriots' division, and in a conference where the Patriots, Colts, Steelers, Chargers, and probably Jaguars would be favored in any hypothetical Super Bowl matchup against the NFC team. Green Bay GM Ted Thompson got the last laugh in this chapter, but the fact is he decided to blow the whole thing up. He's going to lie in his Aaron Rodgers bed, ignoring the long, long list of first round quarterbacking busts. He's going to ignore the fact that there are still FIFTEEN active franchises that have not won the Super Bowl, and he had a chance to return just about an entire NFC Championship Game team. Favre screwed up his plans, and he decided to screw Favre. So be it.

The Jets are pretty well hedged against the very real possibility that Favre shows up in camp and realizes just how big a mistake he's made. They traded a fourth round pick, but the pick can elevate depending on the percentage of snaps Favre takes. They lose at least the 4th, but if he never plays they don't lose any more than that.

Of course, this probably spells the end of Chad Pennington's career with the Jets. Kellen Clemens might be willing to sit a year behind Favre, but Pennington is going to want out now, and who could blame him? He's probably the best candidate to end up in Minnesota.

hlahblah Cotchery has always been a possession and YAC guy, not a burner/jumper
From a fantasy standpoint, Laveranues Coles is not a total turd now. I'm not sure how much more valuable Jericho Cotchery becomes, as he's more of a possession receiver than a jump ball threat. Brad Smith, the former preseason Heisman candidate at Mizzou, likely has only marginal value.

If you're looking ahead on your calendars, Madden and Michaels do not have the Jets at all for Sunday Night Football, except in the unlikely event of selecting one as a flex game late. ESPN has the Jets trip to San Diego in Week 3 on Monday Night Football. The Jets are not currently scheduled for any nationally televised preseason games. I guess if you want to see Favre in a Jets uniform on television this year, you'll have to check your local listings for the games in your area.

What a disaster.

August 6, 2008

Caption Contest

No prize this time, just pride. I think most of you will like the picture though.

Provide your best caption/description of this:

Photo Credit:

As always, enter in the comments. We'll declare a winner Saturday.

Sample: "In an alternate universe, prison yards are even more cushy."

August 5, 2008

Stadium Review: Kauffman Stadium

As part of my vacation to Kansas, my family and I saw the Royals play the Rays at Kauffman Stadium. For some perspective, I grew up watching games at Memorial Stadium and Camden Yards in Baltimore. I've also seen games at Fenway and Skydome (I just can't call it Rogers Centre). So I haven't been to a ton of MLB stadiums, but I've seen some pretty good ones.

Kauffman is undergoing some major renovations (just out of the shot to the left), but on the inside there wasn't much disruption from the construction.

The exterior is pure 70's futurism, but that's not totally a bad thing. Most of the 70's concrete monstrosities have very flat upper bowls that wrap all the way around the stadium, but Kauffman's upper deck sweeps down from behind home plate to hug the foul lines.

Instead of a boring multi-sport bowl like so many cities built, Kansas City built a pure baseball stadium and a pure football stadium. With Arrowhead, they got one of the best (and loudest) NFL venues in the country. With Kauffman, they got a decent baseball stadium with some character.

From the main parking lots where we parked, the approach to the stadium isn't all that impressive. There's not a street scene like Eutaw Street at Camden Yards, and the facade doesn't dominate a city skyline like at Fenway. It's an OK looking stadium from the outside but nothing to write home about.

The coolest thing about the exterior of the stadium is the statue of George Brett. I always like it when teams put statues of their iconic players right out front, and Brett is certainly deserving. He was one of my favorite players when I was growing up (for no good reason) and it was really cool to see the statue.

The inside of the stadium is nice, but not spectacular by any means. The main concourse wraps all around the stadium and is open to the stands and the field. It's cool to be able to see the field from anywhere on the concourse, I had never seen that at a stadium.

The most dominant feature of the inside of the stadium is, of course, the outfield fountains. Instead of having mostly empty bleachers, Kauffman has two sets of huge fountains with waterfalls. In between innings, they do a water show (seen above) and after a home run is something similar. I really like the fountains, they add a lot of character to the stadium and make it unique.

Another cool feature of the stadium is the dugout seats. I don't know how many other stadiums have this, but there were seats in essentially a second dugout. I bet it would be a lot of fun to watch a game from there, but I'm afraid they'll have to remove the seats after someone gets seriously injured by a hard foul ball.

In between the 5th and 6th (I think) innings, they had a mini-weiner race. I'm not sure how I feel about these gimmicks. The Brewers race is awesome because it started the trend, but the Nats' Presidents race and the Royals mini-weiners running around are just a bit weird. The part that makes the Royals' event unique is that they use kids in the costumes. Watching little kids run around in costumes is at least more entertaining than watching adults do it.

Overall, we had a really fun time at the game. Kauffman is a good place to watch a game. It's a decent (but not great) stadium with a fair amount of character. The fountains are awesome, and I'd like to see more stadiums take risks with architectural elements like that.

NCAA '09 Roster Patch IS OUT!

I just turned on NCAA '09 and was delighted to see that there was an update waiting for me from XBox Live. Apparently the long-awaited roster patch HAS BEEN RELEASED.

Now I can finally make sure I'm yelling at the correct fake Terp when I do something stupid.

I personally endorse the rosters created by Gamertag "pastapadre". Just go to the EA Locker and enter that name. His rosters are totally accurate as far as I've seen.

August 4, 2008

NBC Sunday Night Football Cookbook Sample Recipes

NBC was apparently inspired by ESPN's commercials showing Tom Jackson and Mike Ditka arguing over hot gardening trends. They've now unleashed their own cookbook, inspired by the delicacies of the 31 NFL cities. (What exactly is an East Rutherford, New Jersey, delicacy, I wonder?)

Some of the recipes sound delicious. Here are some samples:
  • Peter King's Frappuccino with Special Brett Favre Cream

  • Keith Olbermann's Republican Hash

  • Bob Costas' Vanilla Flavored Vanilla Cake with Vanilla Icing

  • Andrea Kremer's Butterface Cookies

  • Cris Collinsworth's Dry Manhattan with Extra Bitter Bitters

  • John Madden's Recession Turducken with Spam, Potted Meat and Vienna Sausages

  • Al Michael's Seemingly Unscripted 83-Step Tuna Casserole
  • Jerome Bettis' Detroit-Style UAW Bread Sandwich
  • Tiki Barber's Sour Grapes
  • Buffalo Philly Cheesesteak
  • Philly Buffalo Wings
  • Miami Dolphin, Now with More Tuna

Apparently Dan Patrick felt the book was beneath him, though once you go to syndicated talk radio, frequently tape-delayed to air between the hours of 3am and 6am, I'm not sure what is beneath you.

Name That Olympic Event

August 3, 2008

Colts v. Redskins Hall of Fame Game

Brett Favre is back. He's going to be the starter by Week 1 if he's still a Packer then. When you have only one team in your division that could unseat you, you make a run. This is a no-brainer. It isn't like McCarthy has the job security to fool around. That's all I'm going to say on that topic.

Redskins 30, Colts 16
Since we have two Redskins fans writing for this blog, I'll forgo the worship of Darryl Green and Art Monk.

The Starters

Washington Offense - Indy inexplicably opened the game with a surprise onsides kick attempt, indicating that they are not too interested in seeing their first string D play any meaningful time. The Skins answered with a quick three play touchdown drive (middle route to Cooley, nice run by Rock Cartwright, Randle-El all alone in the left side of the end zone).

On the second drive, Cartwright continued to look good. The Colts' pass D is very soft, but Campbell was assertive and hit receivers in the chest. The drive stalled, and the Skins were forced to punt. Todd Collins came in to direct the third drive with the second team offense.

Campbell left the game 5-for-5 with 61 yards and the Randle-El touchdown. There's really nothing to criticize about his performance.

Washington Defense - The Skins' opened the game with a CB blitz, catching Dominic Rhodes in the backfield. I get the sense Zorn wants to win this game to set the tone for his era (Vegas agrees. That plus the "home crowd" has the Skins as 5 point favorites.) It appears the Skins can't tackle again this year, as Addai has made LBs look bad already. Fred Smoot dropped a pick in his chest. For the starters, the Greg Blache era looks a lot like the Gregg Williams era.

The Skins first team D left the game when Sorgi did, after the first Indy possession.

Indy Offense - Peyton Manning is out, recovering from a bursa sac removal. He will play little if at all this preseason. Jim Sorgi (Wisconsin) is still his backup. Gijon Robinson, first year TE (undrafted out of Missouri Western in 2007), is the first (and possibly only) player on our fantasy radar as a potential bye week TE starter. He has been involved a couple times already. Robinson is only seeing starting time, though, because rookie TE Tom Santi out of Virginia is also coming off bursa sac removal surgery. Indy has come out pretty vanilla, with straight carries to Addai and Rhodes and passes to the TEs Clark and Robinson. The drive stalled out when Sorgi remembered who he is and hit a defender in the chest and a receiver in the foot.

blahblblah File away Gijon Robinson in case you need a spot TE start late

The Colts shut down the first team after that one drive. Kenyon Keith took over at RB and Quinn Gray (FAMU, 6th year, first five played in Jax) took over at QB. Jared Lorenzen (The Round Mound of Touchdown) is the other QB on the roster.

Indy Defense - Well, the first drive wasn't promising. NBC isn't showing a replay, but Randle-El was wide open on the Skins' TD drive. Freeney (DE) , Brackens (LB), Sanders (S) are out. What little there was of the Indy first team left when Jason Campbell did.
Depth Chart Standouts
Washington - Colt Brennan looked extremely impressive in the second half. Right after sideline reported Adam Scheftler came on to relay that Zorn would just run the ball in the second half, Brennan connected twice on perfectly thrown deep balls, one for a TD. (Zorn did run the ball with Cartwright and Marcus Mason almost exclusively in the 4th) Brennan also split three defensive players to hit TE Jason Goode (rookie, Maryland), though Goode dropped a little TE out pass later. WR Maurice Mann (3rd year, Nevada) got open a couple times, including Brennan's early TD, but he also muffed a punt in the 4th quarter. Brennan threw a second TD pass in the 4th quarter, improvising a rollout under pressure and finding RB Marcus Mason (UFA rookie, Youngstown State, Georgetown Prep HS - Potomac, MD) on the goal line.
Chris Horton, 7th round rookie S out of UCLA, had an impressive debut. He recovered the opening onsides kick (after it bounced off the hands of the first Redskin) and brought down Jared Lorenzen on a safety blitz. Horton, whose dredlocks obscure his name, also nearly forced a turnover on another safety blitz in the 4th quarter. Horton gathered a second sack just before the two minute warning, hitting Lorenzen hard from the blind side. Horton needs to work on his downfield blocking though, as his ole block on Matterral Richardson's interception return almost cost Richardson the touchdown.
Special props to Brian Westbrook's little brother Bryant Westbrook, who had a kick return in the first half. Bryant attended the college in my hometown, Salisbury University (D-III).
Indianapolis - Michigan RB Mike Hart got some carries in the second half, looking good against the backups on D. Jared Lorenzen (6-3, 285) actually scrambled for a first down. That might make the whole game worth watching. The bottom line for the Colts from this game: GET WELL SOON. That's for Manning, Harrison, Brackens, Sanders, Freeney and anyone else.
Position Battles

Redskins P Derrick Frost v. P Durant Brooks. The Skins drafted Derrick Frost five years ago, but have been disappointed with his performance. This year they selected Durant Brooks out of Georgia Tech.

Durant Brooks, the 2007 Ray Guy Award Winner, did the punting tonight. His first, from the Indy 46, landed in the end zone. His second punt was excellent, a 54-yarder downed around the 7. His third was returned for a touchdown, but the score was negated by a holding penalty. He did not punt again until the fourth quarter, when he dropped a 40-yard kick near the sideline around the 20 yard line. It is not clear whether the 3rd and 4th punts were intentionally angled (especially since the 3rd resulted in a long runback), but both were taken near the sideline.

Colts 4th WR With Marvin Harrison missing some games last year with injuries, this is an important position in the Colts high-octane offense. Harrison, Wayne and Anthony Gonzalez are established as the started WRs. Competing for the fourth and possibly fifth spots are Devin Aromashodu (3rd year, Auburn), Pierre Garcon (rookie, Mount Union D-III), Onrea Jones (2nd year, Hampton), Roy Hall (2nd year, Ohio State) and Courtney Roby (4th year, Indiana, cousin of Reggie Roby).

Of the five, Garcon has been the most impressive. Onrea Jones caught a TD, but he was the beneficiary of a coverage breakdown and Quinn Gray's improvisation. Hall and Aromashodu were active at times last year, Hall for the first three games and Aromashodu for the last seven (with some catches for under 100 yards). Roby has some playing time with the Titans and Bengals, but he dropped a ball in the end zone with under a minute in the 4th. Hall looked uncomfortable.
At least Garcon and Roby return kicks as well, giving them another advantage in making the team. Roby was unimpressive as a returner tonight. Garcon had an excellent trash time kick return to the Indy 47, with the kicker, Suisham, saving a TD.

What Not to Do - If you are drafted as a C in the 7th round like Steve Justice was, and the starter is probably the best center in football, like Jeff Saturday is, you should probably try to make the team as a long snapper. You should not snap a ball out of the end zone on a shotgun play. Long snappers aren't that hard to come by.
In the third quarter, Justice earned himself a holding penalty as well. His parents might be a little sick.