Archive for the 'Other, Less Awesome Sports' Category

Tennis Expert

Every few years I get sucked into a tennis event, and this year I’ve become QUITE taken with the US Open.

One of the things I enjoy about tennis is that the players are so obviously bonkers. I mean this in a good way, as I’m actually quite fond of loons, especially loons who I get to watch on television in HD.  As far as I can tell, tennis is a sport comprised entirely of Ryan Millers, only THESE Ryan Millers aren’t even socialized.  These poor people don’t even have teammates to keep them grounded.

They’re totally on their own out there.

It’s fascinating, and alarming, and inspiring, and sometimes a little sad.  It’s first rate drama.

5 Things I’ll Miss About the World Cup

In no particular order [AND NOW WITH ONE UPDATED BONUS THING]:

1. Vuvuzelas. Yup, that’s right.  I’m a vuvuzela lover.  Like every non-deaf person in the world, when I first heard the vuvuzalas, I was all, “What in the what?!…Is my TV on the fritz?”  But the vuvuzelas quickly faded to background noise for me.  Sort of like the sound of a fan at night.  I honestly think I could sleep through a vuvuzela chorus now.  Then, against all odds, I began to like vuvuzelas.  I even bought some vuvuzelas.  (I bought three!  So, not only am I part of the vuvuzela solution, I’m part of the problem.)  No, I don’t want them to infiltrate American sports.  Yes, I agree they’d be annoying in person.  But the vuvuzelas were an amusing part of the 2010 World Cup.  I know that for the rest of my life, when I hear a vuvuzela I’ll be instantly transported back to the summer of ’10 in my mind.  I like stuff like that, and I’ve had a good summer so far, so I think I’ll enjoy having an easy way to remember this year.  Vuvuzela as time capsule.

2. The jerseys. Perhaps it’s just because I root for the Sabres, but I wouldn’t call myself a jersey watcher.  (A Sabres fan who is obsessed with jerseys is in for a sad, sad time.)  I have lots of basic opinions about hockey jerseys, but I don’t lose sleep over the bad ones, and I don’t have more than a basic appreciation for the good ones.  Until soccer came along, I was pretty neutral on jerseys.

I’m not sure if it’s the simplicity of the uniform, but MAN did I enjoy noticing every little aspect of their outfits.  And I chose my rooting interests accordingly.

Paraguay is the team that got the most affection from me based on their uniforms alone.  These socks make my heart all fluttery.  Magnificent.


And then there was Germany.  These were BY FAR the worst uniforms in the World Cup.  So many things to hate.  I can forgive the Germans for World War I and II, but will never, ever, ever forgive them for having gold stripes on their shoulders and WHITE stripes on their shorts.  Those mismatched stripes are so disgusting that the red piping in the shirt is nearly acceptable in comparison.  Red piping!  These uniforms make me angry.

3. The thighs. I’ll miss the thighs a lot.

4. Passionately cheering for/against a totally random country. I tend to be a, “Let peace begin with me,” kind of gal, so I actively shy away from issues of nationalism and politics.  I get nervous about any big display of nationalism from any country.  Perhaps this is why it I found it so amusing to be all, “Those filthy, cheating [insert the name of any country]-ians!”  It turns out xenophobia is kind of hilarious when applied completely haphazardly to a sporting event I know almost nothing about.

On the flip side, I rooted VERY passionately for a few countries I’d never really thought much about before.  For example, I cried when Ghana was eliminated.  Actual tears of sadness and frustration slid down my pasty Minnesotan face when Ghana missed that penalty kick.  If you’d told me a month ago that I would be passionately rooting for Ghana I would have said, “I’m, like, 99.99% sure that Ghana is somewhere in Africa.”  And now, after watching the World Cup, I’m thinking that I must be at least half-Ghanaian.  There just HAS to be at least a little Ghanaian blood in my ancestry somewhere.

It’s right there, you fool.  Gha! na!  Gha! na!  Gha! na!

5. Having an excuse to shut down my life and watch sports all day for a month. This perk of the World Cup cannot be overstated.  I didn’t feel even remotely guilty watching up to three soccer games a day.  In fact, I felt like I was becoming a part of the global community.  Not only was I not wasting time, I was being worldly and sophisticated!  I was learning about new cultures (kind of) and shedding my stodgy American sensibilities.  Look.  If 90% of the world thinks the World Cup is important enough to drink beer in the middle of the day over, well, who am I to argue?  It’s my duty as a well-rounded citizen of the world to participate.

_______

So, World Cup, I bid you a fond adieu.  You’ve been a hoot and I’ll miss you very much.

_____

Oh wait!  I can’t believe I forgot this one.  It’s a BONUS thing I’ll miss about the World Cup.

6. Paul the Octopus

He’s an octopus.  Named Paul. (PAUL!)  And he knows what’s up.

Man. Is LeBron James a Douche, Or What?

When I first heard about it, the LeBron James one-hour “DECISION” special didn’t seem like that bad of an idea.  Sure, it was an obnoxious concept from the beginning, but I could also appreciate it for its unabashed hat-tip to show biz.  Sports are, after all, a big silly show.

But as the day wore on yesterday, I began to imagine what it would be like to watch as a Cavs fan, and I got increasingly uneasy.  I should also admit that I believed all along that he was going to choose to return to Cleveland.  I mean, who in their right mind would set up an hour long spectacle in order to shit all over their home town?  It’s one thing to leave for greener pastures, but to go that far out of your way to be a dick on the way out of town?  Surely he had to be picking Cleveland.  Right?

Then I saw the “DECISION SPECIAL,” and it was SO MUCH WORSE than anyone could have possibly predicted.

I mean, that was cold.

I don’t have anything to say that hasn’t already been said better by foxier folks than me, but here are a few thoughts that I can’t stop myself from vocalizing:

- One of the things that reeeeally bothers me about this whole thing is the sneaking suspicion that LeBron James actually thought that the whole world would be excited about this.  I think he thought that we’d all shed our previous allegiances, and become Miami Heat fans.  For some reason, this chills me to the bone.  In addition to being an incredible tool, LeBron James might be bat-shit crazy, you guys.  Crazy like the Joker.  I’m literally afraid of LeBron James now.  The best thing we can assume about him is that he’s empty inside.  The worst is….scarier than empty.

- My favorite point about why his decision is icky is this: Superstars are supposed to compete against each other.  They’re not supposed to call each other on the phone and figure out a way that they can all play on the same team.  It’s just not right.  Imagine if Sidney Crosby and Ovechkin called each other on the phone and were all, “You know, it would be a LOT easier to win Cups if we were playing together instead of competing against one another, don’t you think?”  It’s just. plain. WRONG.

- On the other hand, if LeBron James doesn’t have that crazy competitive drive, that’s fine by me.  Seriously.  That’s okay.  I really think it’s alright to be suuuuuuper good at basketball and also have a normal human disposition.  Surely the same competitiveness that makes Kobe and Jordan and Magic “great” on the court also makes them total dicks in their personal lives.  Normal people have doubts, and not everyone wants to be a leader.  This is perfectly fine.  I actually think it’s kind of sweet.  BUT IF YOU’RE NOT THE GUY, YOU CAN’T TATTOO “CHOSEN 1″ ON YOUR BACK AND REFER TO YOURSELF AS KING JAMES.  Everything about that dumb special was presuming that LeBron James is one of the greatest that ever lived, while simultaneously selling a “decision” that made him seem small and insecure. How dumb do you think we are, LeBron James?

There were a few good things that came out of this though:

1. The Cavs owner is cah-razy, and I love it.  I know, I know, he’s stupid and he’s never going to sign another free agent again, and his letter was ridiculous, and he lost ALL credibility when he guaranteed the Cavs would win before LeBron, but still.  In the aftermath of that creepy display of consumerism, it was incredibly refreshing to get a taste of some unadulterated, genuine emotion.  The sad truth is that Gilbert’s lunatic rant felt like the first taste of sanity in a post-LeBron-ESPN-Decision-Special world.  So, now I’m a Cavs fan.

2. We will now have a new way of identifying the truly depraved people of this world.  They will be those wearing Heat jerseys outside of Miami.  I’ve heard a lot of excuses for rooting for the Yankees in Buffalo (“My father rooted for the Yankees, I grew up with them, Buffalo is a losing town I just want to cheer for a winner blah blah blah blah.”), but NO ONE grew up rooting for the Miami Heat.  There is only ONE reason to cheer for the Miami Heat, and that is that you are a GIANT TURD.

3. That ESPN special was so cold, so gross, so narcissistic, so unbelievably disturbing that it felt like a glass of cold water to the face.  It was a wake-up call.  Do not get me wrong, I have NO DOUBT we will ultimately ignore the wake-up call entirely, but I love that everyone in the country is on the same page (the page simply says, “THAT WAS SO FUCKING WRONG”) today.

The disturbing truth is that if LeBron James had said, “I’m sticking with my hometown team, the team I’ve always loved, the Cleveland Cavaliers.  I want to bring a championship to the city where I grew up,” my heart would have swelled with joy, and I would have forgiven LeBron for all the hubris and the narcissism of “The Decision”.  But it would have been wrong of me to forgive him for “The Decision” just because he said the thing I wanted to hear.

I think the ESPN spectacle was more wrong than any decision could have possibly been right.

That horrible sense of self-loathing everyone who watched the special is feeling today?  That’s the guilt-ridden hangover we earned last night.  It’s important.  That hangover is infinitely better than the alternative.  Without this crushing hangover, we might go on, drunk forever on whatever noxious, truly poisonous brew ESPN decides to serve next.

6 Things

1. If you didn’t get a bang out of that US/Algiers game you’re either dead inside or an Algerian.  (Actually, I learned this weekend from a Syrian friend that the Arab nations tend to band together to cheer for whichever Arab team is still standing in the World Cup, so in reality there were a lot of sad non-Algerians yesterday.)  That game was pure magic.  The frustration level of the first 91 minutes only made the eventual goal that much sweeter.

I find this US team very likable.  Landon Donovan seems like a bit of a weenie, but he’s good at kicking the ball into the net, so he’s okay by me.  I have a love/hate thing going on with Jozy Altidore.  I love to fire and re-hire him dozens of times in a single game.

It’s fun cheering for a sport you know nothing about.  I feel like I’m getting back to my roots.

2. The best thing about the US team is that they’re good enough to cheer for, but not so good that I’ll be devastated when they get eliminated.  They’re just right.

3. Italy and France + soccer = me cackling

4. I’m pretty bummed that we’re playing Ghana on Saturday.  Ghana was the team that really jumped up and grabbed me by the heartstrings during the first week of matches.  It’s sad that one of my two favorite teams will now eliminate the other.  Obviously, I need to choose a few more teams to root for so I don’t find myself adrift in a sea of teams I care nothing about.

5. I didn’t watch the NHL Awards because I respect myself too much to put myself through that ordeal again (fool me once, shame on you.  Fool me twice? I should just kill myself), but by all accounts the show was less painfully awkward than usual.  Good work, NHL.

6. Hooray for Miller and Myers!  Darcy, please sign at least one respectable “top six” forward for them.  Also, you might want to begin working on how you’re going to trick Tyler Myers into signing a lifetime contract.  He won’t be a baby for much longer.  Soon he’s going to require big boy money.

Other, Less Awesome Sports

I made the category tag “Other, Less Awesome Sports” almost as soon as I started this blog.  It was intended to be a tag that could encompass all of my encounters with non-hockey sports.  When I started TWC,  my hyper-awareness of sports was brand new, and I quickly realized that even without trying, I was having daily interactions with all kinds of sports.  I had been thinking about sports as a I’ve-been-looking-for-you-my-entire-life love affair, but I quickly realized I was in a you’ve-been-here-all-along situation.  After I sought out hockey, I simply noticed that sports were all around me, all the time.

The last few weeks I’ve been going through a funny sports rebirth. I’m watching other sports more and more.  Frankly, I’m surprised by my depth of interest.  Shocked even.  I like sports!…and not just hockey!

Basketball

Basketball was the one sport that I truly thought I could never like.  I’m still a little astounded to catch myself tuning into the NBA Finals.  I can’t fathom that my interest in basketball will bleed into the NBA’s regular season, but you never know.  Four years ago I couldn’t have fathomed that I’d ever have season tickets to the Sabres, so I’ve learned to never say never.

I like the raw athleticism of basketball, and I like that it’s such a simple concept.  Run back and forth and take turns putting a ball through a hoop.  That’s the whole thing.  Basketball is a very simple sport, and I like it that way.  I’m also fascinated by how close the spectators are to the action.  I guess hockey has nearby spectators too, but in hockey the glass creates a sense of separation whereas in basketball those dudes are right there.  They can land right on you, and they often do.  I also like how basketball players are freakishly large.  Basketball is a sport played by genetic mutants, and that amuses me.

What I don’t like about basketball is how the first half is pretty boring (and as far as I can tell, largely irrelevant), and how the last two minutes often involve everyone purposefully fouling everyone else.   I also don’t like how the players act like GIGANTIC effing babies every time they get bumped.  Hockey has spoiled all other sports for me in this respect.  Which leads me to….

Soccer

Holy COW are soccer players drama queens!   But in the case of soccer, the drama just cracks me up.

I am REALLY enjoying the World Cup so far.  I’m a little iffy on soccer still, but the spectacle and drama of the World Cup has got me hooked.

The real moment of falling in love with the World Cup came while I was watching the Ghana game yesterday.  They were so spunky, and their fans were so much fun with their dancing and hopping around.  For some reason the people from Ghana (Ghanians?) kind of clued me into what a big deal the World Cup is.  I know that’s a very obvious point, but as most of the people reading this blog know, we really don’t care about the World Cup in the United States.  It recently occurred to me that the rest of the world is having a gigantic, rollicking party, and meanwhile the United States is sitting around being all sullen and, “Whatevs.  Your party is lame.” You know what?…. I think we might be the lame ones.

Why are we such pills about the World Cup?  Can’t we see that everyone else in the world thinks it’s totally rad?  And isn’t that reason enough to give it a chance?

Yes, soccer is kind of redonk.  The clock goes UP and no one knows when the game is going to end.   That’s weird.  BUT, it looks real VERY good in HD, and, it’s on in the morning. Sports!  At seven in the morning! It’s amazing.

Tradition Is Dumb

You can’t fix 99% of blown calls after the fact without opening a huge can of worms.  Like it or not, human error is part of sports, and in trying to correct those errors, there is often no easy solution.

But this Galarraga situation is different, and it created a wonderful opportunity for MLB.

A perfect game is a very rare individual achievement, but, in the context of a season, a perfect game is no different from any other win.  This is about as simple as a blown call can be, and correcting this error does NOT open a giant can of worms.  Unlike most of the problems that plague baseball, this situation is black and white.  Galarraga threw a perfect game.  Joyce blew the very last call.  End of story.

There is almost nothing at stake except for a line in a record book for Galarraga and a little peace of mind for Joyce.  Both the ump and the pitcher showed remarkable class in the aftermath of the game.  This could be a feel-good story of redemption for the league.  Couldn’t baseball benefit from a little public contrition?  Would admitting a mistake really be SUCH a terrifying precedent to set?  Why would baseball ignore an obvious solution to an obvious mistake?  I don’t understand the risk here.

Show fans that you want your hallowed record books to be correct.  Everyone wins.  No one loses.

“We effed this one up, but we want to make it right.”

Just overrule the call, stupidheads.

Hockey Is Awesome

That game did not end how I wanted it to end, but overall, I feel pretty warm and fuzzy about the whole thing.  Cheering for Team USA was a joy, and at the center of that joy was our very own Ryan Miller.  Hockey could not have put on a better show for the Olympics, and I’m proud to call myself a fan of this sport.

Now, it’s time to come home, Crunchy!  We’ll be very gentle with you for the next few weeks.  We promise not to bug you at Wegmans.  We’ll just quietly send you good vibes, and it will be straight from our very grateful hearts.


…A Blog About the Buffalo Sabres

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