Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The Week (and a Half) in Sports

I just wanted to make three quick points that were tangentially related to three recent events in the world of sports while there were at least mildly relevant. Each of them individually would have been too pithy to stand on their own so I figured why not haphazardly combined them into some sort of unholy Frankenstein post?

1. Farewell Manute Bol
Former NBA player and overall gentle giant (but really are there any other kinds of giants? Like mean, hateful giants? I always thought former Jazz big man Mark Eaton didn't look too friendly) Manute Bol unexpectedly passed away two Saturdays ago at the age of 47. While nowhere close to what one would consider a "good" NBA player during his 10 years in the league, he is a definite first ballot hall of famer in turns of sheer uniqueness. Sure Gheorghe Muresan was taller and there were better blockers but Manute will always have two particular records that will probably stand until the end of time: 1. He is the only player with more career blocked shots than points scored (a true testament to his amazingly one dimensional skill set) and 2. His glorious 1987-1988 circus sideshow season with the above pictured 5'3 Muggsy Bogues was the greatest height difference between teammates on an NBA team. In addition I will also remember him for his bizarre SNL cameo.

2. One More Game
By the unfortunate virtue of being played mostly during USA's thrilling yet ultimately futile extra time victory against Algeria in the group stage of the World Cup and just being tennis, the surreal, endless, first round Wimbledon match between Nicholas Mahut and John Isner did not get the proper spotlight it really should have. The whole thing took 3 days and over 11 hours of playing time, but that second day on the 23rd with the 118 game fifth set that took up 7 of those 11 hours was the thing to watch. I just followed the updates while in school so I couldn't tell if both players were that evenly matched or were both so inept/exhausted that neither of them could win two consecutive points to end the madness. The match oddly reminded me of the old commercial for the Fisher Price 3 in 1 Tournament Table which involved two kids eschewing basic food and sleep while locked in a never ending death match involving pool, table tennis, and air hockey (man did I want that sweet table growing up; definitely one of my top 5 Christmas wish list toys). I like to think that nearly 20 years later, those kids are still locked in eternal combat in that tense, dark basement; with the family dog eagerly following the action.

3. 0-0
Let it be known that I'm essentially a hater when it comes to soccer (and yes I'm calling it soccer, not "football"). I'll take it in as a novelty every four years and the national rooting interest helps, but really anything beyond that is an unbearable amount of "the beautiful game" to me. I'm not going to go off on one of those anti-soccer rants that many people do. We all know the classic knocks: low scoring, ties, lack of strategy, excessive flopping, foreignness, etc. What really sums up a lot of the worst elements of soccer to me is the 0-0 game decided on penalty shots like the one between Paraguay and Japan today. A soccer fan may categorize it as a tense, suspenseful duel, but for me it's over 120 minutes of total futility. In over two hours of play, some of the best players in the world couldn't muster one goal? I know scoring is at a premium but both teams should be ashamed of themselves. Even if it was a 1-1 draw or a 2-2 draw, I would give them some credit, but really not one goal? On top of the insult of a scoreless draw, instead of forcing the teams to man up and keep playing until one of them takes a lead, it goes to the shootout; which is like the equivalent of everyone agreeing that after regulation and overtime, neither side is capable of scoring a goal under normal conditions so we have to literally have the two teams take turns shooting in controlled, unfettered situations. It's like a little league game that gets converted to a t-ball game since no one can hit or a bowling match that turns into bumper bowling since everyone is chucking up gutterballs. I mean, even tennis will force its players to keep playing to the point of total exhaustion until things are settled.

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