February 26, 2010

Does Vasquez’s Jersey Belong in the Rafters?

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As Greivis Vasquez nears the end of his college career, there is one major question remaining: Will #21 be hung in the rafters next Wednesday when the Terps take on Duke?

He’s the 6th best scorer in Maryland basketball history, behind only Juan Dixon, Len Bias, and Albert King.  He’ll pass King before the end of the year.  That puts him in the top 3 scorers ever to wear a Terps jersey.  He’s second all time for the Terps in assists, with 738 (behind only Steve Blake).   

More importantly, he’s been the unquestioned leader of the team for 4 years.  He’s taken the Terps to two NCAA tournament berths (with a third almost certainly on the way). 

Vazquez also has one of only two triple doubles in Maryland history, which led the Terps to a victory over #3 UNC (one of four victories over top 10 teams during his tenure).

For reference, here is the list of jerseys honored by the University of Maryland.  No one has been added to the rafters since Steve Blake in 2003.  I think Greivis has done more than enough to cement his place among that rarified company no matter what happens the rest of the year.  I hope to see his jersey raised high next Wednesday before the big game against Duke.

Photo via http://www.testudotimes.com/

Rick Reilly Insults Female Athletes

In his latest column for ESPN, Rick Reilly says that we've just witnessed "the greatest moment in women's sports history," and his column is devoted to questioning why this event has not received greater attention among sports fans or the media. What is this great event, you might ask? Kelly Kulick won a bowling tournament, beating the best in men's bowling. It's ridiculous to label that victory as the greatest moment in women's sports history, and further it's clearly insulting to women, especially female athletes.

Kelly Kulick celebrating her victory. (AP Photo)

First, is bowling a sport in which males enjoy a natural physical or mental advantage over females? Well, let's consider the areas where men might have such an advantage: overall strength and musculature, speed and maybe quickness, or size. Bowling does not require any of these, only requiring a walk of maybe 10 yards repeated about 15 times per game for the best bowlers. This is followed by a swing of the arm in rhythm, while holding a ball of 10-20 pounds, and then a precise release with the right speed and spin. All of this requires great concentration and practice and skill, but are women really handicapped somehow in these capacities? Reilly summarizes the qualities required as endurance, brains, strength, and will. I am not stupid enough to argue that women are less capable than men in items 1, 2, or 4, and could easily write a full post on reasons women could be superior in each of those. So that leaves only strength, and I would argue that being able to "throw a 15-pound ball at 17 mph, 18 times a game, for 90 games, over six days, averaging 226" is much more about endurance than strength. Most women who work out can roll (not overhand throw across a baseball field) a 15 pound ball, just as well as a man. And further, the slight difference in velocity that might differentiate men from women isn't going to help your bowling score that much. Justine Henin doesn't have to hit as hard as Serena Williams to win grand slam tournaments and be ranked #1 in the world.

This historical moment has received little recognition primarily because it's bowling. No one cares. ESPN shows it at 1 pm on Sundays in the fall, what else is on then? As the winner of this grand Tournament of Champions, Kelly won $40K. Granted it's not all about the money, but I think most professional sports pay a little more than that to the champ. I'm not trying to take away from Kelly's accomplishment, she is the best bowler in the country (or maybe world) this week, no qualifications or sneers required. But we're still talking about bowling.

And finally and most importantly, Rick's ridiculous claim is insulting to all the other female athletes, women in general, and even sports fans. There are so many examples of greater moments in women's sports that I'm sure I can't name them all, but here's a sampling of the types of events that are clearly more historic:

1. A victory that starts a league: Remember a few years ago when that US soccer team won some tournament and that player took her shirt off? Well most sports fans noticed and still remember the names of some of the players from that team: Mia Hamm, Brandi Chastain, Julie Fowdy, and I promise I didn't google that. And then a women's soccer league started in the US, a country that couldn't care less about soccer. That game and that tournament garnered so much national attention that businessmen were willing to invest millions of dollars in women's soccer. People believed in the future popularity of a women's sport, even soccer in the US. Now that's a great moment. I won't remember Kelly's name in 2 months, and I'm pretty sure we're not going to see new bowling leagues in the wake of this event.

2. National pride and playing through the pain: Remember that Olympics when the gymnast had a bum ankle and could hardly walk, but then nailed a vault to clinch the gold for the US, and got carried off by her coach? Talk about a great moment, how about overcoming adversity in the form of crippling pain to come through for your teammates who are depending on you? How about winning the gold for your country, for their first team gold? I don't think anyone will ever forget the image of Kerri Strug in Bela's arms.

3. Perfection: How many Romanian athletes have you ever heard of? I bet you've heard of Nadia Comaneci and her perfect 10, just another example of a great performance popularizing the entire sport and entering the history books.

So why is Reilly's claim insulting? Because a victory over the guys in a minor sport (similar to archery) should not be the best thing women have ever done in sports. Why is beating the men so much more important than every other measure, such that a bowling game (not even a perfect game) becomes the best women's moment ever? Women have been playing sports for decades and have not failed to provide a long list of awesome, inspirational moments. They have excelled, overcome pain and adversity, fought for their pride in themselves and their countries. Unless I missed something, the ultimate goal for female athletes isn't to play professional football better (or run faster sprints or throw farther) than men. During the Olympics, we should all remember that the goal of sports is to be all you can be, to go "swifter, higher, stronger" than you have before. This is why even the athletes who have never been within 10 seconds of Michael Phelps compete, so that they can do better than they have before, and can represent themselves, their team, and their country proudly. Lisa Leslie's dunk was memorable because female athletes typically can't, not because she was dunking as well as the guys. Even the average sports fan recognizes these other events more than a victory over the guys in bowling. To say that Kelly Kulick's victory is the greatest moment in women's sports history is to insult just about everyone.

February 24, 2010

Idol Recap: 2/24/10

Quite possibly the worst, longest, most painful two-hour performance show in the four full seasons I have been watching this show. It felt about four and a half hours long. I mean, come on judges, what the hell was up with this season's top 12 male selection? I simply refuse to believe that these were the 12 best guys out of the tens of thousands who auditioned across America. It was absolutely dreadful.

And song selection tonight was even worse. Was there a memo circulated amongst contestants that warned about some penalty for picking an upbeat song? I think the entire studio audience is going to need electroshock therapy after this.

You know what, fuck it... let's just save my DVR space and the Idol production staff some monetary cost and just give you the final 4 guys right here: Lee Dewyze, Michael Lynche, Casey James, and Andrew Garcia. That's it. The other 8 can go home right now. We'll narrow down the girls over the next few weeks, end the show a few weeks early, and all will be well. Unfortunately we're going to have to suffer through some of these dreadful male performances over the next few weeks while talented girls are being sent home.

Enough bitching... on to the recaps... for more bitching.

Todrick Hall
Holy shit. Seriously... if Kelly Clarkson wasn't pissed off at American Idol before, she will be now for letting a contestant positively slaughter one of her songs the way that Todrick did.

Aaron Kelly
David Archuleta could pull off the undescended testicle prepubescent Idol contestant thing because he actually had vocal talent. Aaron doesn't have as much vocal talent. Which unfortunately just leaves him with delayed-onset puberty for 30 million people to see for at least a few more weeks because America's 10 and 11 year old females who are allowed to vote three times before they go to bed will flock to him.

Jermaine Sellers
Sexual Chocolate called. Randy Watson got another bit part on the hit television show "That's My Mama" so now they have an open spot for a lead singer. And if you're over age 21 and haven't seen Coming To America at least 4 times, I question your patriotism. I'm not even going to dignify this joke of a performance with an actual review.

Tim Urban
To quote your lyrics tonight... "Said it's too late to apologize." Yup. That about sums up the performance.

Joe Munoz
Hello Mexican Derek Zoolander. Decent vocals. Seems like a decent guy. Nothing much else I can say. He'll get some Latino vote and stick around.

Tyler Grady
You know it's a bad night when his tone deaf version of American Woman actually seems like a step up. At least the judges finally called him out on his horrible 70s shtick.

Lee Dewyze
Finally... a decent vocal performance. I didn't know if it was possible. For the first time in recent memory, all the judges disliked a performance except for the one judge who matters, Simon. The Snow Patrol song was a good, safe bet for a first song out. He's got some serious David Cook in him and will be a contender long into the spring.

John Park
If American Idol held auditions at a karaoke bar in Seoul, John Park would be the grandest champion ever. Unfortunately, it doesn't quite work that way. Wins the award for worst song choice of the night. Also earned style points for calling out his parents for being poor when his parents were sitting front-and-center. Nicely done.

Michael Lynche
A good guy. We want to like him. We want him to do well. Because he's an ex-NCAA football player, I'll give this analogy... he's like the walk on non-scholarship football player who makes the team, through hard work and luck earns a starting spot and a scholarship, and you're happy for him to have made it, but at the same time, you're concerned he's a liability because he's just not that good compared to the rest of the guys on the field. And oh yeah, he really needs to avoid trying to talk over Simon or else he's liable to wear out his welcome.

Alex Lambert
For as much stage presence as the other Lambert had this year, this year's Lambert is the exact opposite. When I see him on stage, I'm reminded of when I was growing up and we'd have visitors and my cat would get the horribly freaked out look on it's face when it tried to flee and realized there was absolutely no place to go aside from passing by the stranger. Wins the "Dear God, make it stop... no, seriously, MAKE IT STOP NOW GODAMNIT" award of the night.

Casey James
Anybody catch when they panned to the kid's brother in the crowd? My God, dude, I'm sorry, but sometimes genetics can be really unfair. Also, the Kara crush thing stopped being funny two weeks ago. I give her a little bit of credit for trying to move past it. Casey has decent vocals sitting on a stool and strumming a guitar, but anybody who remembers his audition knows that he's a trainwreck waiting to happen when he has to actually perform on stage without an instrument. He's likely going to have to be in those horrible choreographed Top 10 performances on tour. That'll be almost as fun as seeing Scott McIntyre. Almost. Yes, I'm going to hell.

Andrew Garcia
Shit dude, even the Vegas favorite was off tonight picking a slow, dreary song that sounded like something I'd hear in an elevator. Just the end of a long, long, long night.

Pack your bags, you're likely going home:
Man, this is unbelievably hard... there were so many bad performances, it comes down to who had not only a bad performance but who will likely have problems getting a voting bloc.
- Tim Urban
- Todrick Hall
- John Park

February 23, 2010

Idol Recap: 2/23/10

So you may be shocked to see a recap of American Idol in this space if you're new to this blog since last May. Well, yes, some of us ECB Writers (3 of 4 of us) actually do watch American Idol. Plus, you can gamble on it (for your reference, Katie Stevens and Andrew Garcia are the two Vegas favorites to win it all). If you don't like these posts, well, skip them.

I'll handle most of the writeups but I will likely have some assistance from Brien and Jason as Idol dominates the television landscape during the next few weeks and there are multiple performance rounds each week.

Off we go with a recap of tonight's performances of the top 12 females...

Paige Miles
So we're officially introduced to Paige because we didn't see her at all over the past few weeks. She leads off. Big voice trying to sing too big a song outside a genre where she should be, which will cause her trouble in later rounds. That being said, she's through.

Ashley Rodriguez
Not a good performance out of the gate for the girl who, according to Vegas, has the second highest odds of winning it all. Maybe it's time to stop trying to emulate Simon's past diamonds in the rough. You're not Leona Lewis or Jordin Sparks. You're pretty, you have a decent voice, you have a shorter shelf life than you think.

Janell Wheeler
Should probably stick to being the girlfriend of college athletes (she's Tim Tebow's ex). And try to apply the Haley Scarnato theory and wear less and less each week. You'll be surprised how long you can stick around with minimal talent.

Lilly Scott
The Bjork of American Idol Season 9. A great voice but probably in the wrong venue. She'll get some name recognition from the show, go on tour, and cut an Indie CD.

Kristen Epperly
Shocked by a much more solid vocal than I was expecting and grateful that we didn't have to hear any more of her back story about how her performing on Idol will apparently piece back together her parents' broken marriage. Also shocked by the prostitute costume that she seems to have borrowed from the Idol costume closet. Adam Lambert called. Wants his drag outfit back.

Haeley Vaughn
All I can say is she wins the "Dear God make it stop" vote of the night. votefortheworst.com has it's official candidate. There is so much else that I can say. Very little of it I'm willing to publish.

Lacey Brown
Wins the all around FAIL award. Combination of "Dear God make it stop" award and, on top of that, holds up the wrong number of fingers at the end encouraging us to dial the number for the contestant after her.

Michelle Delamor
Hi there, Michelle. We are the Idol viewers. It's nice to meet you. Another who we never saw in the prelims. Stuck around with a tough Alicia Keys song which could kill many contestants.

Didi Benami
This year's Kristy Lee Cook/Megan Joy token understatedly cute blonde contestant, but with more talent.

Siobhan Magnus
Does a passable job with Chris Isaak's Wicked Game. Still creepy enough that America is left thinking that aside from using the torch for glass blowing, she may just be an arsonist on the side.

Crystal Bowersox
Wins the Helen Keller "Miracle Worker" award in honor of the makeup artists' intense work behind the scenes. Teeth lightened 20 shades from brown to light taupe, actually looks showered. Has the most musical talent of any of the 12 female finalists. We'll be left to see how well she can fit in the Idol format.

Katie Stevens
The 17 year old tries to vamp it up and does... not... do... well... at... all. I hope her Alzheimer's-inflicted grandmother was asleep and didn't have to watch this performance (seriously, Idol producers, we have been knocked unconscious by this back story... just kill it already). Unlike Jordin Sparks, a contestant of similar age, Katie seems like she'll be swallowed up by this competition. The overall Vegas favorite has a tough night but she shouldn't have trouble building a fanbase.

Pack your bags, you may be going home:
- Haeley Vaughn
- Lacey Brown
- Michelle Delamor... the dark horse surprise voted off pick (stuck in the middle of a talented female group, somewhat forgettable, and has no following because the Idol producers have given her no screen time)

February 22, 2010

I Could Watch This Over and Over…

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(sorry gpb)