Olympic Torch Burns Itself Out
It’s sort of a letdown to come home, walk over to the television set and flip it on, and find...there are no more Olympics. No more running, jumping, balancing, cartwheeling, and no more counting medals in the USA tradition of puffing out our chests and patting ourselves on our backs, simultaneously.
It got to be automatic, over more than a two-week stretch, to watch whatever was going on in NBC-TV’s version of the world. It must also be pointed out that NBC reacted to all the criticism of keeping results secret all day in order to boost the videotaped highlights in prime time at night. You could find a way to watch enough of the events live during morning and late night telecasts to appreciate the prime time stuff as sort of an ESPN-style highlight video.
I must also admit that I avoided watching the men’s and women’s basketball games throughout. Yes, the U.S. teams were magnificent in both, but both proved to be good reasons why they should either change the rules on professionals playing, or eliminate them from the Olympics. It was great that Spain made a strong showing against the USA’s collection of NBA superstars, and the 107-100 final could have been closer, but LeBron James came off the bench with his four fouls and made a key drive for a slam dunk, plus a long three-pointer, and then ran over some poor Spaniard who was setting a pick at the top of the key, and the poor, flattened guy also was given a foul on the play. Had James been given the foul, he would have been out of the game and it might have ended closer.
That’s about all I watched of the basketball, because the games were foregone conclusions, even though the U.S. media treated each U.S. game as though those other poor countries, with pro leagues that wouldn’t even qualify as NBA farm clubs, had realistic chances against the U,S. I’m sorry, but I want to see true competition instead of routs. How many players on Spain’s team had anyone ever heard of? And while the U.S. media gushed over their most easily recognized athletes, they tried to convince us that basketball was one of the few real team sports in the world.
In women’s basketball, the U.S. has won 41 straight games, which adds up to gold medals in the last five Olympics. That counts back from 2012 to 2008, 2004, 2000, and 1996. If I remember right, there wasn’t any women’s basketball in the Olympics before then. When the U.S. dominated women’s softball to this extent, the Olympic committee dropped softball for being noncompetitive. This Olympics, the U.S. women won by an average of over 34 points every game, with one game, against Australia, ending with a 13-point cushion.
Soccer is a far more logical world sport from a competitive standpoint. Rugby and LaCrosse would also be logical team sports in the Olympics, even though they are minor sports in the U.S.
Then, of course, we also had my biggest peeve -- the medal count. The U.S. finished with the most golds, silvers, bronzes, and naturally the most total medals, with 46 gold, 29 silver and 29 bronze for 104 total, while China was second with 38-27-22 for a total of 87. As I’ve said with weary repetition, why doesn’t anybody list the number of Olympians from those leading countries. I don’t think Jamaica, or Grenada, bothered keeping a medal count, but their miniscule number of athletes compared to the U.S. made their medal-winning percentage pretty amazing.
I will repeat my idea that only the top single qualifying athlete in each sport should represent each country -- not the top three or four. The Olympics are for international competition among elite athletes, and eliminating professional athletes would make the competition so much better, while eliminating the medal count would increase the feeling that actual sportsmanship still matters.
The Duluth Huskies failed to make the playoffs in their summer college baseball league, faltering just a bit to a 5-5 finish in their last 10 games to go 19-17 in the competitive second half. The Huskies went crazy in the next to last game to beat the Alexandria Beetles 14-2, but then they dropped the finale 5-4 at Wade Stadium. Had they beaten the Beetles in the finale, the Huskies would have tied the Beetles for second place.
But, it’s the competition that matters in the Northwoods League, and the competition was excellent. The crowds even grew to over 2,000 for the final two-game stand against Alexandria. And the fans seemed to be having a good time.
Max MacNabb pitched a three-hitter to stifle Alexandria until the bullpen allowed the runs in the 14-2 romp on Saturday night. MacNabb, who finished 5-3, struck out 44 and walked onlhy 18 in 42 innings, second best in stats to Joey Novak, who went 7-3. The league requires that players have remaining college eligibility, which makes it exciting, because every player is trying to learn and develop as well as be part of a winning team. MacNabb attends San Diego State, while Novak, who is from Lakeville, MN., is at Harvard.
The Huskies also had some really good hitters, with five over .300 and four of them over .335. They also had a couple guys that Bob Nielson could use with UMD’s football team. In Saturday’s next to last game, pitcher MacNabb singled home two runners, and they were Hawaii’s Max Duval, who is 6-foot-5 and 240 pounds, and Louisiana Tech sophomore Taylor Burch, who is 6-4 and 230.
The Twins keep playing exciting ball but not winning consistently enough to get near the .500 mark. Joe Mauer continues to be a highlight, responding to a week of dropping average by surging back up over .320, which put him second or third in the American League after the weekend.
Meanwhile, the Vikings have started their exhibition football season already, and while optimism runs rampant during exhibitions, the Vikings got hammered at San Francisco last weekend, scoring only two field goals and appearing indifferent at best in responding to 49ers touchdown runs.
If the Vikings can figure out how to cover and tackle, it might be an interesting season. Adrian Peterson gives the Vikings a constant breakaway running threat, and Christian Ponder could improve enough to emerge as a promising quarterback. But the Central Division has gotten very good, and the Vikings will be facing a huge challenge to get up into contention with the Packers, Bears and Lions. My concern is that if Ponder plays up to his full potential, he might still only be fourth-best quarterback in the division.
And if the Vikings don’t stop anybody on defense, an improving offense trying to find itself might just not matter.