Thursday, August 21, 2008

"I Blew My Mind and I Blew the World's mind"

Another week in the Olympics, and another personality that will be remembered.
Usain Bolt. What an amazing competitor.

If only he had confidence!

Dominates the 200

As the stadium announcer introduced the world's fastest man Wednesday night, Usain Bolt rose up the entire length of his 6-foot-5 frame and pretended to wipe sweat from his head. Then he pointed at the 91,000 adoring fans at the Bird's Nest who had come to witness sports history.

After the pre-race show, the Jamaican sprinter lowered into the starting block on this late summer night. Then the report of the gun echoed in the still air. A cheer rose.

And then it was over. Bolt's great stride made the world's best sprinters look like children trying to keep up with an older brother. He won the 200 meters in 19.30 seconds, breaking Michael Johnson's 12-year-old world record by two-hundredths of a second.

"I blew my mind and I blew the world's mind,'' Bolt said.

The performance was so devastating to the rest of the field that it seemed almost incomprehensible. And it happened on a bizarre night in which two other medalists were disqualified for stepping on the line, giving the United States' Shawn Crawford the silver and Walter Dix the bronze.

Bolt, who turned 22 today, won by the biggest margin since the 200 meters became an Olympic event 108 years ago. He annihilated the field by 0.66 of a second, an unheard-of margin in a race measured by hundredths of a second. Crawford, the defending Olympic champion, crossed the line in 19.96 seconds, leaning to edge out Dix (19.98).

Then is ripped by the IOC for showboating

IOC president Jacques Rogge criticized Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt on Thursday for showing a lack of respect to other competitors after his record-breaking gold medal performances in the 100 and 200 meters.

"That's not the way we perceive being a champion," Rogge said.

The International Olympic Committee chief hailed Bolt's stunning achievements in the two sprints, comparing him to American great Jesse Owens, but said Bolt should have cut out the look-at-me flaunting and acknowledged the other athletes.

"I have no problem with him doing a show," Rogge said in an interview with three international news agency reporters. "I think he should show more respect for his competitors and shake hands, give a tap on the shoulder to the other ones immediately after the finish and not make gestures like the one he made in the 100 meters."

Having built a huge lead in Saturday's 100 final, Bolt slowed, glanced around with arms outstretched and pounded his chest before crossing the finish line in a world record time of 9.69 seconds.

"I understand the joy," Rogge said. "He might have interpreted that in another way, but the way it was perceived was 'catch me if you can.' You don't do that. But he'll learn. He's still a young man."
Bolt, who turned 22 on Thursday, stormed to another one-sided victory Wednesday night in the 200, breaking Michael Johnson's 12-year-old record of 19.32 seconds and lowering the mark to 19.30.

Bolt made little effort to congratulate the other runners as he wrapped himself in a Jamaican flag and set off on a solo victory lap. Swaying to the reggae music on the stadium loudspeakers, he walked barefoot around the track, putting his face inches from a TV camera, raising an index finger and yelling, "I am No. 1! I am No. 1!"

"He still has to mature," Rogge said. "I would love him to show more respect for his competitors. That's not the way we perceive being a champion. But he will learn in time. He should shake hands with his competitors and not ignore them. He'll learn that sooner or later. But [he's] a great athlete, of course."

American sprinter Shawn Crawford, who crossed the line fourth in the 200 but was upgraded to the silver medal after the disqualifications of Wallace Spearmon and Churandy Martina, said he saw nothing wrong in Bolt's showboating celebrations.

"I guess there's mixed feelings among athletes," he said. "To me, I don't feel like he's being disrespectful. If this guy has worked his tail off, every day, on his knees throwing up like I was in practice, he deserves to dance."

Bolt became the first man since Carl Lewis in 1984 to win the 100 and 200 golds at a single Olympics, and the only man ever to do it by breaking world records in both. Owens completed the 100-200 sweep at the 1936 Berlin Olympics, adding golds in the long jump and relay.

But is it clean?

Several sprint experts called Usain Bolt a “freak” after he set the world record of 19.30 seconds at 200 meters on Wednesday. One Jamaican coach took him out of the realm of track and into the realm of theoretical physics, comparing Bolt to Einstein and Isaac Newton.

“You have people who are exceptions,” Stephen Francis, a Jamaican sprint coach, said. “It’s not explainable how and what they do.”

I want to believe that talent and hard work and determination are not fossil fuels, that a human, unlike a car, does not need chemical additives to run at peak efficiency.

Bolt is likable, as playful as he is fast. His speed is breathtaking.

He is the first man to win the Olympic 100 and 200 meters since Carl Lewis in 1984, the first ever to set world records in both events at the same Summer Games.

But when I want to fully believe, I feel a twinge of skepticism. It nags, like a strained hamstring.

For 20 years, I have covered this sport. I have seen the East Germans and Flo-Jo and Ben Johnson and Carl Lewis and Michael Johnson and Maurice Greene and Marion Jones. And now Bolt. I have seen inspiring moments, but I have also witnessed the corrosive implosion from doping. Try as I might, I can’t break the tape in unrestricted trust. I always pull up at the last minute, limping from doubt.

Three of the last five male Olympic 100-meter champions — Ben Johnson, Linford Christie and Justin Gatlin — have served drug suspensions. A fourth, Greene, has been accused by an admitted steroid supplier of receiving banned substances, although Greene has denied this and has never been charged by antidoping authorities.
Meanwhile, Jones, the disgraced women’s 100 and 200 champion from the 2000 Sydney Olympics, must watch these Olympics from federal prison.

It would be naïve not to have suspicions. At the same time, I feel guilty for doubting.

Why should sprinters be mistrusted when Michael Phelps and other swimmers get the E-ZPass lane on wariness, not having to pay the toll of answering questions about doping?

And I feel bad for track and field.

NY Times profiles the Cowboys image …\

Welcome to America’s Team. Or is it Only in America’s Team?

This is where Jerry Jones, the owner of the Dallas Cowboys, can proudly point out two of his team leaders: Terrell Owens, who left behind a locker room’s worth of ulcers in San Francisco and Philadelphia; and Tank Johnson, who has collected enough guns and ammo to start a militia.

It is also where Pacman Jones, who was suspended for last season because of a litany of off-the-field troubles, is being counseled by the twin pillars of humility and virtue: Deion Sanders and Michael Irvin.

It is not clear if this is a sociology experiment, or the Mean Machine gone cinéma vérité.

What is clear is that the Cowboys have not won a Super Bowl since the 1995 season.
And after last season’s disappointing end — Dallas’s 13-win team, with 13 Pro Bowl players, lost to a Giants squad it had beaten twice in the regular season — there is a palpable sense of desperation to reach the title game.

Thus, the addition of Jones, a dynamic cornerback and punt returner who was acquired from the Tennessee Titans, and the ascension of Johnson, an athletic tackle, into a key role on the defensive line in his first full season with the team.

“It’d be naïve and not realistic to think there aren’t going to be people who are skeptical and waiting for the next shoe to drop,” Jerry Jones said this month during training camp here. “But I’ve already passed that in my mind.

“We’re very sensitive about our image, we’re sensitive about our reputation. There’s no free lunch here when we bring in a player that has some controversy involved. I always want to make sure that an individual understands that we’re paying a pretty big price to have them involved.”

Jones, who made his fortune in the oil business by buying up leases to drilling sites that bigger companies had walked away from in the 1960s, has taken the same approach with building his team. Where others see risk, he sees reward.

He took defensive end Charles Haley, a malcontent in San Francisco, and won three Super Bowl titles with him. He took chances on defensive linemen Alonzo Spellman and Dimitrius Underwood, who had been found to have mental illnesses. (Those did not work out as well.) He has always regretted that he did not take one on receiver Randy Moss when he had the chance to draft him.

“Jerry’s a wildcatter,” said Calvin Hill, a former Cowboys running back and a consultant for the club in its off-field program for players. “But he doesn’t do it without good geologists talking him through what the risk is.”

In the case of Pacman Jones and Johnson, the risks are not a matter of science. They are a matter of public record — police records, to be more precise. Bad raps are one thing; rap sheets are another.

Jones has been arrested six times and been involved in 12 incidents in which the police were called since he was chosen sixth over all by Tennessee in 2005. Most notably, he was part of a strip-club melee in Las Vegas in 2007 in which three people were shot.

Johnson served two months in jail on a parole violation after the police raided his home in late 2006 and found 6 unregistered firearms, 550 rounds of ammunition and 2 pounds of marijuana. Two days after the raid, a man who was Johnson’s bodyguard and friend was shot and killed while the two were at a Chicago nightclub.

When he considers a troubled player, Jerry Jones said, there are three criteria he examines. The player must be extremely talented. Also, Jones said the Cowboys’ success is more likely to keep a player out of trouble. And there must be a core of “top-quality people” in the locker room who lead by example.

Once the Cowboys decide to take on a player, Jones said, there is constant communication with at-risk players throughout the organization — the coaching staff, the player support staff, the public relations staff and himself. The key, he said, is to always make them aware of what is at stake.

“There’s a sign in the offices,” Hill said. “It says, ‘There are lots of reasons, but no excuses.’ We make it very clear what the rules are, what’s acceptable and what’s not.”

That was also the point being made when N.F.L. Commissioner Roger Goodell toughened up the league’s personal-conduct policy last year after a number of incidents — particularly the ones involving Pacman Jones and Johnson — left the league with a public relations problem. Goodell promised longer suspensions, heftier fines and also threatened teams with penalties.

“What happens to young guys — they get overzealous,” said Nate Newton, a former Pro Bowl offensive lineman for the Cowboys. “Nobody ever told them no, so they went on to their next wild adventure.”

Newton, who retired nine years ago, understands this well. He spent 32 months in prison after being arrested twice in 2001 for transporting several hundred pounds of marijuana across state lines.

“I’m not going to make excuses for athletes,” said Newton, who does radio and TV work in Dallas. “I’m not going to say, ‘Oh, man, look where he’s come from, look what he’s been through.’ What football does is it exposes us, as athletes, to every nature of person there is. If we want to grasp the good people, the intelligent people, we can. If we want to grasp the ignorant people and the stupid people, we can, too. When you play football, you meet everybody — from the lowest dope dealer to the highest prince of Egypt. It’s just what the person wants.

Big Road win for the USA in Guatemala in the 1st World Cup Qualifier

The U.S. men's national team faced an inspired Guatemala team that pressed and attacked and looked every bit a team capable of knocking them off, but one vicious elbow changed the momentum of the match, as the U.S. would go on to win 1-0 on a Carlos Bocanegra goal in the 69th minute.

When Steve Cherundolo was sent off after a second yellow card in the 60th minute, the U.S. team suddenly found itself facing 30 minutes with a man down in front of a hostile crowd, against an inspired opponent. The signs of an upset hung in the air, threatening to overwhelm the U.S.

"We looked at the clock and there was a long time left so we were going to have to defend for a long time," U.S. goalkeeper Tim Howard said. "We've been resilient and we showed that against Argentina as well. We've figured out ways to make a block of eight and fight through that time. It's not always easy. That's when we got let off the hook."

They were let off the hook when Guatemalan defender Gustavo Cabrera drew a red card for a late challenge on U.S. midfielder Eddie Lewis that resulted in Lewis leaving the match with a cut over his right eye. The ejection erased the man advantage and seemed to give the U.S. team some much-needed energy.

It also helped pave the way for DaMarcus Beasley to take the field and make an instant impact. The speedy winger not only helped set up Carlos Bocanegra's winning goal with a perfect curling corner kick, but Beasley's pace on the left flank helped neutralize Guatemala's main source of attacking menace.

Bolstered by another top-shelf performance from Howard, the U.S. defense made Bocanegra's goal stand up by neutralizing a Guatemalan offense that looked so dangerous early in the second half, led by some runs from MLS castoff Mario Rodriguez.

"Their right winger had done a good job," Lewis said of Rodriguez. "I think he was by far their most direct attacker up the wing and I think he was having a lot of success getting behind us."

"It helped us a great deal when we brought DaMarcus Beasley in," Bradley said. "He did a very good job of working with Heath Pearce and helping to make that situation better."

Beasley's defensive work, as well as better possession from the Americans in the final 20 minutes, helped kill off a game that will never be confused with an example of quality attacking soccer. The Americans basically found themselves in a street fight and showed enough heart to win in hostile territory.

"Although probably everybody would assume that we're the strong team of the group and everything else, we haven't won here in 20 years and there's a reason for that," Lewis said. "It was a quick reminder for everybody tonight that these qualifiers are tough. They're hard games and it was a testament to the player's efforts tonight and it's a great result."

Lewis' words helped provide some perspective on a match that wasn't likely to please many American fans from an aesthetic standpoint. While you can certainly criticize the U.S. team for being outplayed by Guatemala for the first 60 minutes of the match, you must also credit it for withstanding that onslaught and taking control of a game that looked like it might overwhelm the Americans.

No, it wasn't pretty, but an ugly win beats a loss any day of the week.

Are you seated? Ok. The Mavs have retained Devean George! …seriously!

Agent Mark Bartelstein cited Rick Carlisle as one of the primary reasons Devean George is returning to Dallas after having serious discussions with "six to eight" other teams.

Carlisle visited George at his home in Minnesota a couple of times this summer to talk to him face-to-face about how the 6-8 veteran would fit in his system with the Mavs.

"He was really impressed with Rick Carlisle," said Bartelstein, who confirmed that George agreed to a two-year, $4 million deal with a player option after one season. "He's really excited about the opportunity and direction they're going. He's looking forward to playing a whole season with Jason Kidd."

Re-signing George won't cause a sudden spike in season-ticket sales, but I can understand why Carlisle wanted him. He's a solid team guy who can play three positions.

Jan Hubbard on Josh Howards’s summer

His track record with the media has made the past few months difficult because, although he deserves criticism for bad judgment, he has built credibility. It’s like the kid next door who is always polite and helpful yet he keeps hitting baseballs through your living room plate glass window. You want to break his neck, but you know he’s a good kid.

The infamous radio interview when he admitted smoking marijuana, the ill-advised birthday party after the Mavericks lost three of their first four playoff games to New Orleans, and the recent attempt to emulate a NASCAR driver, which resulted in an arrest for going 94 mph in a 55-mph speed zone, are lamentable decisions on Howard’s part.

But the conclusion reached by way too many people is that exercising questionable judgment in his personal life translates to a decline in ability on the basketball court, and that is ridiculous.

Howard had the best season of his five-year career in 2007-08. His averages of 19.9 points, seven rebounds and 2.2 assists were career highs. In the first two months of the season, he was so good that Dirk Nowitzki willingly deferred to him.

Nothing that he’s done in the off-season offsets the ability he demonstrated on the court. Yet there were fans and media who were in favor of the Mavericks trading Howard for Ron Artest before Sacramento traded Artest to Houston.

Wait a minute. Ron Artest? The guy who initiated that ugly Auburn Hills scene in 2004? The guy who once asked for time off during a season to promote a rap album? The guy whose dogs spent 77 days in a pound because Artest did not properly care for them? The guy who was charged with four misdemeanors in a domestic dispute at his home?

Howard may have had his moments as a space cadet, but he’s hardly Darth Vader.
"I know a lot of 20-somethings who have made mistakes, myself included," Mavericks owner Mark Cuban wrote in an e-mail. "The smart ones learn from the mistakes. Josh is smart. He has learned from all of this, and will continue to learn from it, and use it for motivation on and off the court."

But he might need some help. Howard held a charity softball game in DeSoto on Saturday and a local TV crew showed up and asked an easy question about being a role model. Howard was irritated and complained that he should not have been asked such a question at a charity event. He provided audio and video that did not make him look good.

Howard will face distracting challenges this year. If he starts slowly, the home fans may boo. On the road, he will hear derisive chants. Tough questions will be asked.

If Cuban is right and Howard is smart, he will answer all questions and the Mavericks will let him. The last bit of assistance Howard needs is someone standing next to him trying to censor reporters. It will make Howard and the Mavericks look bad.

Any professional media trainer would tell Howard that his response to questions is simple: "I’ve made some mistakes and apologized to the appropriate people. I’m moving forward and focusing on basketball."

And if he’s asked the same question 100 times, he needs to answer it the same way. Eventually it will go away.

Cuban believes in Howard’s basic goodness and pointed to Howard’s community work in the Metroplex and his home state of North Carolina as an example of his character.
"While others might have run away from responsibility when they get hit with negative media," Cuban wrote, "Josh not only followed through with all of his camps, he expanded the camps, increasing the number of scholarships [in his foundation]. In addition to the camps he has in Dallas and in Winston-Salem, in addition to his annual bowling tournament, this summer he added a charity softball game."

Howard has made himself the focal point of criticism, and he had a poor playoff series against the Hornets. But Cuban said that as a basketball player, "I have complete confidence in Josh."

And he should. Howard still has All-Star talent, which doesn’t mean the Mavericks would not consider a trade if they were offered equitable value. But despite nervous fans and media, the Mavericks are confident going into a season with Howard. A few wrong turns off the court have nothing to do with shooting straight on it.

Yesterday, we had spirited sports talk with Mike Hindman about the Rangers and their philosophy to acquire pitching.

his initial essay

His Follow up

And, A thread where I am not overly popular with the Rangers fans who disagree

And stop accepting collect calls from jail! …who does that?

1 comment:

Jay said...

I keep holding my breath for the Mavs waiting for that "big move" that will make them "totally redeem themselves!!" and I'm suffocating as most Mavs fans. They are so irrelevant right now - they don't seem to "get it". OK so they have a team that could be 40-50 win team and place as high as 5th or something next year? Which would be fine if they were young up and coming but we've seen this act. They either need to go all in or blow the thing up. This limbo they're in is ridiculous.