Monday, August 11, 2008

Monday Means Swimming!

The thing about the Olympic Games is that I never know if I am going to watch until it gets here, and then I just kind of give it a chance to grab me and see if it works.

If it doesn’t, I go on with my life and hold no grudge.

If it does, then I have something to blog about. Like today.

That 4 x 100 meter relay was so awesome last night, I cannot even describe how much I enjoyed watching swimming. I obviously don’t know what I was looking at, but I knew the French were talking smack, so it was on. And just when it looked like we could not close the gap on the last leg, our dude pulled off a brilliant comeback.

Loved it, and it appears Michael Phelps did, too.

The Story of the Gold

To win eight gold medals in a single Olympics, Michael Phelps not only needed to be as his personal peak for 10 days, he also needed his teammates to swim their best under intense pressure.

And that exactly what happened Monday at the Water Cube.

The U.S. 400-meter freestyle relay team of Phelps, Cullen Jones, Garret Weber-Gale and Jason Lezak came from behind to win the gold medal, upsetting France, and the biggest hero of the day turned out to be Lezak, the American anchor and captain of the entire team.

Lezak trailed France's Alain Bernard -- who started the day as the world record holder in the 100-meter freestyle -- by half a body length when the two swimmers turned from the final wall. But Lezak slowly closed the gap, reeling in Bernard an inch at a time, and he out-touched the Frenchman by eight-hundredths of a second to win gold in a world-record time of 3 minutes, 8.24 seconds.

"When I flipped at the 50, and saw how far ahead he was, knowing he was the world record holder, for a split second a thought crossed my mind: There is no way," Lezak said. "But I said 'You know what? This is ridiculous. This is the Olympics and I'm here for the United States of America. I don't care how bad it hurts.' Honestly, in like five seconds, I was thinking all these things. I just got like a super charge and just took it from there. It was unreal."

Lezak's closing leg (46.06) was the fastest relay split ever, and it kicked of a celebration by Phelps and the rest of the Americans that can best be described as four men going absolutely bonkers with joy.

Phelps, who won his second gold medal of these Olympics and is closing in on the record for most golds in history, threw his arms in the air, opened his mouth and screamed as loud as he possibly could. Weber-Gale bear-hugged Phelps from behind and Phelps shook his fists like a warrior king, bellowing in triumph. Jones leaped into the air, and worried he might fall into the pool. The crowd inside the 11,000-seat Water Cube roared with appreciation.

"That's what I'm talking about!" Phelps screamed. "That's what I'm talking about!"

Towson's Katie Hoff also had an impressive day, winning her second medal of the Olympics with a second-place finish in the 400-meter freestyle. She came incredibly close to winning gold, leading by a second coming off the final wall, but Great Britain's Rebecca Adlington out-touched her by seven-hundredths of a second.

"I gave it everything I had possibly, but they got me on the end. ... I feel like I should have got my hand on the wall first," Hoff said.

The Americans' relay victory was all the more sweet considering the way France declared itself the favorite prior to the Olympics. The Frenchmen weren't shy about repeating it either. In a news conference prior to the start of the Games, Bernard, who boasts a tattoo of a shark on his abdomen, was asked what he thought about his country's chances against the United States.

"The Americans?" Bernard said. "We will smash them."

Several of Bernard's teammates followed his lead, even going to far as to suggest that the Americans were scared of the French.

"This morning, Bob (Bowman) had said the French was saying some stuff, talking a little bit of trash," Phelps said. "It fired me up more than anything else. I told Garret, and he said 'You know what?' We're going to let our swimming do the talking."

The United States had never lost the 400-meter freestyle relay at an Olympics until 2000, when the Americans were beaten by Australia, and in 2004, the event also derailed Phelps' quest to win all his events when the United States came in third.

This time, it looked like the Americans were destined for silver, even with 50 meters left in the race. Lezak simply would not let it happen.

"His last 50 meters were absolutely incredible, and he had a perfect finish," Phelps said.

Here is the NBC Olympics site so you may try to keep up with what is on when

Meanwhile, that golf major was amazing, too. As Padraig won again! …If you watched the PGA’s final 9 holes yesterday, you had to think it was worthy of a standing ovation. Awesome stuff.

Padraig Harrington of Ireland made more history than even he realized at Oakland Hills Country Club on Sunday when he snatched the 90th P.G.A. Championship from Sergio García’s grasp and refused to let go. Three weeks after his successful title defense of the British Open at Royal Birkdale, he became the first European in the modern era to win the British Open and P.G.A. Championship in succession, and the first to win the P.G.A. since Tommy Armour in 1930.

He now has won three of the past six major championships, prevailing in this one by stalking and pressing and ultimately overtaking Ben Curtis and García. Harrington’s final-round 66 gave him a total of 3-under 277 to beat them by two strokes. He did it by making every important putt on the final three holes, the last one a 15-footer for a battling par at No. 18.

“It was looking like Sergio’s day, and I just wanted to hang around and get some opportunities,” Harrington said. “I knew what I had to do. I was playing catch-up and had to take on the shots on the back nine that would mean the difference between winning or losing.

“I’m a great believer in making it your own responsibility to win or lose in a major.”

And it will never be said that Harrington shrunk from that responsibility. With his face set like flint and his eyes wide, Harrington played with an almost frightening single-mindedness. Beginning with the last nine holes of his rain-delayed third round — which he played in 32 strokes, 11 of them putts — he had nine birdies. His third-round 66 pulled him into contention at one over par, three strokes behind the third-round leader, Curtis. Harrington, 36, then rode his putter and a series of huge shots to victory.

“That’s the way it goes,” said García, who closed with a 68, bogeying two of the final three holes. “You know, the good thing about it is I feel good out there. I felt like I played good. I definitely feel like I played well enough to win. But unfortunately, it didn’t happen. So that’s pretty much all I can ask myself to do.”
Curtis, the 2003 British Open champion at Royal St. George’s, was not disconsolate about his round of 71. “I struggled in the middle of the round,” said Curtis, who tied for second and qualified for the United States Ryder Cup team for the first time. “Those guys were having such a good battle. Every hole it seemed like those guys were making something. It was fun to hear and a lot of fun to play out there in a championship like this.

“Coming down the last two holes, I had a chance to win the golf tournament, and that’s all you can ask. You don’t get these opportunities very often, and to be able to stick in there and to be able to hold my emotions under control is a good feeling.”

In a chilly wind and intermittent rain, García and Harrington went back and forth over the final 18 holes as they did a year ago in the final round at Carnoustie, where Harrington also prevailed.

García birdied the first hole, eagled the second and birdied the sixth. Curtis, playing behind Harrington and García, birdied the sixth to get to four under and maintain a one-stroke lead over García, but his consecutive bogeys at the eighth and ninth holes took him out of immediate contention and García went to the 10th tee with a one-stroke lead over Curtis and a three-stroke lead over Harrington.

Then began Harrington’s onslaught of one-putt greens. He one-putted everything but Nos. 14 and 15 coming in, including a huge par from 20 feet at No. 16 to tie for the lead when Garcia made bogey. Harrington then took the lead for good when he birdied the 17th.

“I hit a lovely putt,” he said. “I read it exactly how I wanted it, and it did exactly what I expected.”

Check out the historical context of the win

Harrington closed with a 4-under 66 at Oakland Hills for a two-shot victory over Garcia and Ben Curtis to become only the fourth player to win the British Open and the PGA Championship in the same year.

Along the way, he ended 78 years without a European winner at the PGA Championship. And to top it off, he became the first European ever to win consecutive majors.
"I obviously hold a lot of European players who I grew up watching in high esteem," Harrington said. "To believe that I achieved something they hadn't is very special."
He showed no regard for one of his own for the second straight year.

Garcia ran his record to 0-38 in the majors, right when the 28-year-old Spaniard felt it was all coming together. He had a one-shot lead and was in the middle of the 16th fairway when he hit into the water and had to scramble for bogey. Then he missed a 4-foot birdie on the 17th to match Harrington. And he could only watch -- again -- as Harrington knocked in a par on the last.

"I have no regrets of anything I did out there," Garcia said.

Harrington talked about going to another level after winning the British Open, and he wound up in elite company a month later. He joined Tiger Woods (2000 and 2006), Nick Price (1994) and Walter Hagen (1924) as the only players to win the PGA and British Open in the same year. And he now has won three of the last six majors, accumulating them at a rate only Woods can appreciate over the last 25 years.

"That's Tiger-like, right there," Curtis said.

Woods, who missed his second straight major after season-ending knee surgery, could have appreciated Harrington's clutch performance. Even more impressive was how he kept his cool, rarely showing emotion over key putts until the final one dropped.

I was interested in the premise of winning 3 majors in 6. That really seems like a cut above all others, and completely removes fluke out of the mix. Imagine. 3 majors out of 6! And even though Tiger hasn’t played in these last 2 (A little like the Houston Rockets during the Jordan retirement) it still puts him on such elevated ground. According to my quick research (Wikipedia) – here is the 3 in 6 club since 1970:

Thanks Wiki

Padraig Harrington 07-08
Tiger Woods 99-00, 00-01, 01-02, 05-06, 06-07 – That’s right. He’s done it 5 times.
Nick Faldo 89-90
Tom Watson 82-83
Jack Nicklaus 71-72

Ben Curtis wears Lions gear? – And then he loses?

In this week's SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL, Terry Lefton reports Reebok has signed '03 British Open champion Ben Curtis to a three-year endorsement deal. But instead of wearing Reebok golf gear, Curtis will wear various NFL licensed apparel beginning at this week's Sony Open. Curtis likely will wear Super Bowl and Pro Bowl merchandise early in the season, but is later "expected to wear licensed garb of the local NFL team" for the event in which he is playing. The agreement is similar to the NFL's deal in the '90s with late PGA Tour player Payne Stewart (SBJ, 1/12 issue).

And now, on to the brilliance of pre-season Cowboys football.

I obviously am no happier with the work of Bruce Read than you are, but let’s all take a deep breath and recall it is merely the first weekend of the preseason.

Otherwise, I greatly enjoyed how the young RB’s looked, as Felix has a gigantic burst; I was happy with the work of Miles Austin; I am still convinced the Cowboys do not have a back-up QB who can win a game; and I still don’t care for Bobby Carpenter’s work (Did you see how a FB destroyed him on the goal line?).

Also, Martellus may need to play like a pro-bowler if he wants to act like one, Pac Man may need to knock some rust off, and Danny Amendola may need to be really good the rest of the way or he will not make this team.

Mickey’s look

But not enough to off-set the bad, and the Cowboys were reminded just how devastating turnovers can be, and whatever wide receiver Danny Amendola has been so
far or might be, you just can't fumble away your second punt return, especially when the staff is trying to find other jobs than just becoming a slot receiver to qualify your presence on the 53-man roster. That set up the Chargers first touchdown.

Then there was the miscommunication between backup quarterback Brad Johnson and Patrick Crayton for an easy Quentin Jammer pick, Johnson throwing one way and Crayton running the other,

Then came the rash of interference calls, first on Ken Hamlin in the end zone to set up the Chargers next touchdown, then on Alan Ball at the Cowboys four leading to another Chargers touchdown and one last one on Adam Jones to wipe out a Patrick Watkins interception leading to yet another San Diego touchdown. I mean other than that . . . .

Oh, but we have to get to the ugly, and it was so ugly Cowboys owner Jerry Jones seemed a bit perturbed since this was an extension of some ugliness from last season. And if you guys remember, before this camp even began I said the weakest unit on this club, the one which needed the most improvement, was special teams coverage.

Yeesh . . . Ug-Lee. The Chargers had four punt returns for 82 yards, and that included a 21- and 25-yarder. Kick-off coverage was average. And then factor in the one fumbled punt, one dropped kick-off and another where the return guys' communication was off, well, listen up.

"We got to cover, we just got to cover," Jerry Jones said with some sternness after the game. "We should have one of the best coverage teams in the NFL. That killed us against the Giants," that playoff loss never far from Jones' mind, especially how the Cowboys' lack of kick coverage continually set up the eventual Super Bowl champs with good field position during that playoff loss at Texas Stadium. "We got to cover, got to get better at that."

"We understand penalties and turnovers, but we got to cover. Everything is there, we just got to go and do it."

Now the Cowboys were using a lot of young guys on their coverage and return units. They were mixing and matching, and some guys were playing NFL special teams for the first time. OK, understood.

But the Cowboys just have to put a stop to this, and the first preseason game only reminded of how they lost one of their best coverage guys in the off-season, Keith Davis signing with the Miami Dolphins. His considerable slack must be picked up by somebody, anybody.

To this point, this has been the No Issues Training Camp, everything seemingly progressing smoothly. Few injuries. No squabbles. No transgressions.

Well, as Jones terms this, "coverage" after the first preseason game is becoming an issue, and one that must be nipped in the bud right now. Because if not, this carryover issue from last year can ruin a whole lot of good.

Rafeal Vela’s look

Instant Analysis — Chargers 31, Cowboys 17

August 10, 2008

With 13 minutes left in the game the Chargers had 31 points and just 132 yards of total offense.

Sloppy play, a hazard of the first practice game, helped the Chargers to a 31-17 win, as did some overzealous coverage. Danny Amendola’s fumble put Dallas in an early hole after the first teamers had made two stops on San Diego and the first offense drove the field.

I know that one concern early in practice was that the corners were playing a bit too aggressively, grabbing and holding too far down the field. The appearance of league referees was supposed to help the corners get a better understanding of what they can and cannot do, but the secondary guys will have to review the rules again, as Dallas was flagged on three Chargers TD drives, putting the ball inside the Cowboys ten each time. Consider:

1. The Chargers went 36 yards to the Dallas one on the first interference call;
2. The Chargers moved 28 yards to the Dallas four on an interference call against Alan Ball for their 3rd TD.
3. The Chargers moved 22 yards to the Dallas four on an PI call against Adam Jones and scored shortly thereafter.

The Cowboys have to be happy with their first teams, which dominated the ten minutes in which they played. The remainder of the game was a different story. Some bright spots and dim ones”

Bright sparks:

– Tony Romo — three for three on his lone TD drive. Got the ball out with ease, though the Chargers rushed five men on every throw.
– Jason Witten — caught the first two Romo darts. Threw an effective block on Marion Barber’s 13 yard scamper when he turned out his OLB, then raced upfield when Barber was clear to lead interference.
– Andre Gurode — pushed Jamal Williams around on Dallas’ drive, which is quite a feat. On Barber’s long run, Gurode threw Williams to the turf.
– Flozell Adams and Kyle Kosier — the left side of Dallas’ line caved in their opposites. They provided deep push on Barber’s TD run. His 13 yard scamper actually started right, but they pushed their guys well upfield and gave Barber a huge cutback lane. He was 10 yards upfield before he contacted anybody, and that was Witten’s backside.
– Tank Johnson — he got penetration and sacked Phillip Rivers on San Diego’s first throw.
– Felix Jones – you saw the explosiveness everybody talked about. Get him the ball in space and he’ll make linebackers and safeties look stupid. Blocked well too.
– Tashard Choice — relentless. Can slide, spin and accelerate quickly when the hole appears.
– Miles Austin — The Cowboys receivers practice catching the ball at its highest point every day. Austin had to catch several such passes in the second half because Richard Bartel was consistently high. Austin showed strong hands, something he didn’t display last year.

It was a tough day at the office for:

– Martellus Bennett — dropped his first pass and looked slow blocking on the edge when he stayed in.
– Tank Johnson — could be disruptive but was blown off the ball on Darren Sproles 5 yard TD run.
– Cory Proctor — interior linemen must anchor and prevent pressure right up the gut. I saw him jacked up and driven into Brad Johnson’s lap more than once.
– the core punt coverage team. The Justin Rogers, Pat Watkins, Bobby Carpenter, Kevin Burnett, L.P. Ladoceur group surrendered four long returns, almost all to their right. The third one set the Chargers up at the Dallas 31.
– Adam Jones — was juked by Chris Chambers on a deep in on his first series and was faked out of his jock by Jacob Hester on a 23 yard run early in the 3rd quarter. He was flagged for an 18 yard pass interference penalty one play later.
– the third D-line of Junior Siavii, Remi Ayodele and Marcus Smith was goal line fodder on the Chargers’ fourth TD.

Ranking the QB’s in the NFL by career win percentage …Here are the Top 10

QUARTERBACK WINNING PERCENTAGES (at start of 2008 season, min. 10 starts)
Reg. season Postseason Total Pct.
Tom Brady 86-24 14-3 100-27 .787
Philip Rivers 25-7 2-2 27-9 .750
Ben Roethlisberger 39-16 5-2 44-18 .710
Tony Romo 19-7 0-2 19-9 .679
Kyle Orton 12-6 0-0 12-6 .667
Donovan McNabb 73-39 7-5 80-44 .645
Peyton Manning 105-55 7-7 112-62 .644
Brett Favre 160-93 12-10 172-103 .625
Rex Grossman 19-11 2-2 21-13 .618
David Garrard 19-11 1-2 20-13 .606

We are just 5 days from another English Premiership Season

Chelsea have not spent as much as they have in previous seasons, but shoring up the right-back slot with Bosingwa and adding more creativity in Deco will make them tougher opponents this season. Add another world-class striker (Robinho?), ensure that both Frank Lampard and Didier Drogba return to their devasting best and new boss Felipe Scolari could pick up the title in his first season in England. Injuries may play their part, but the depth of the squad means the new boss can call upon the likes of Wayne Bridge, John Obi Mikel, Shaun Wright-Phillips and Alex if things take a turn for the worse.

After winning the double last year Man Utd are in a strong position to challenge them, although the impact of Ronaldo's transfer saga cannot be understated. Despite choosing to stay at the club the Portuguese 'slave' will still miss the start of the season and the disruption caused by his summer activities may harm the team's title ambitions. While the squad is still immensely strong, an injury to key defenders Rio Ferdinand or Nemanja Vidic could scupper their charge late into the season.

As usual before the Premier League season starts it is very hard to leave Liverpool out of the contenders for the title - until the season actually begins that is. On fire Fernando Torres should link well with new-boy Robbie Keane, but Liverpool have struggled in the League and the other arrivals so far: Philipp Degen, Andrea Dossena and Diego Cavalieri won't change that.

At Arsenal though, it's the lack of signings that could hinder their aspirations for the new season. Samir Nasri and Aaron Ramsey have come in, but transfer talk has unsettled Emmaneul Adebayor and the departures of Alexander Hleb, Gilberto Silva, Mathieu Flamini and Jens Lehmann have robbed the squad of experience. Should still get Champions League football though.

Michael O'Neill offers a Favre Blog post that takes on me

Favre runs a penalty lap in New York



Jake said...

Yea, that relay event last night was...awesome. Parle vu suck it?

B. Johnson looked pretty bad Sat. but another spare like Chris Simms ain't gonna fix that problem. Bennett better watch out for Curtis as well.

Go Rangers?

Andy D. said...

Dallas Preseason...

- Felix Jones looks solid
- Tank Johnson looks solid
- Zach Thomas looks solid
- Bobby Carpenter looks like a fag

are we finished talking about this guy now. Cmon. What a waste of time he is. Just waive this guy in 2 weeks so we can get rid of him.

PGA Championship...

Last 45 minutes was gold.

Sergio made 3 mistakes in 30 minutes that cost him the tournament... Sigh. Will he ever learn?

A Silence Production said...

and I have trouble playing the guitar with hands.

*I am trying to root for BC, but Andy's right, not only will he never break the starting LB core, he's also a burden on Special Teams...not necessarily a fag though.

Crisatunity said...

Taking on The Sports Bully has been a thrill and a half. Thanks.

Well, I ran it through the computers and determined whether or not Favre is a "no brainer" top ten QB of all time... Is Brett Favre Top 10 Greatest of All Time?