August 25, 2008

A long two weeks

by Dan Bilicki In: Basketball, Olympics

The Olympics have come and (finally) gone. It will be another four years before we, as fans of real sports, have to endure our Sports Centres being filled with rhythmic gymnastics results and canoeing or race walking updates. So here were my lasting impressions of the 2008 Beijing Games…
I really don’t believe how much I didn’t care about the Redeem Team. Seriously, I didn’t watch a single second of them playing and didn’t bother reading about their blowout wins either. In retrospect, it was very foolish to pick against these guys to lose any game even if they were spotting 15 points – at least – let alone lose straight up. Now, after the U.S. has reasserted its dominance, can we please go back to having NCAA players and amateurs play at the Olympics? The “Big Brothers” have come out and flexed their muscle and now they have nothing left to prove. Sending pros to the next games will be a classless and unnecessary display. And even if the U.S. sent its best NCAA players or even just NBA rookies (and maybe a sophomore or two), they would still at least medal. A Redeem Team II would be the equivalent of using a Legends team to beat the computer on rookie in Madden and then celebrating excessively afterwards.
Speaking of excessive celebrations, the man who is — without a doubt in my mind — the MVP of the Olympics (an award that there should be) is Usain Bolt. You can argue for Phelps all day long but you’ll still know that Bolt’s sprinting accomplishments were better than Phelps’ medal count. If you weren’t a fan of Bolt’s showboating and dancing after breaking both the 100 m and 200 m records, well then you’re a hater of freedom. That’s right, the freedom of expression. Anyway, I’ve already gotten into the “Why Phelps isn’t the greatest” debate, so let’s not waste words.
As for all of the swimming world records broken at the Beijing Games, I’m going to take them the same as I do for Baseball power-related records during the steroids era — with a grain of salt. The new Speedo LZR sit is as close to a performance enhancing tool as you’ll get in swimming (obviously excepting PEDs). Sure, it’s legal and it helps you immensely but in major league baseball in the juiced era, steroids were legal and helped you just as much. So, yeah, Phelps was the greatest swimmer at these Olympics is the same as saying Barry Bonds was the best slugger when he hit 73 homers in one season.

One of the coolest things I saw at the Olympics was weather-related. Seeing some of the guys run in the rain — and the ladies race walking — was quite the sight. I’m surprised that no one slipped or was injured though.
And, the thing I’ll remember most about the Beijing Olympics, like I said earlier, is the smog that covered the city despite many drastic measures taken to ensure it wouldn’t bother the athletes. To their credit, there wasn’t as much dissent over the smog as was initially expected and it didn’t seem to have an effect on the athletes. But, it was still there and it still made me question weather there was a tinted screen over the back window of broadcast studio windows or if it was pollution. The real question now comes up: Will China and Beijing continue to actively work and get rid of the smog? Or will they go back to destroying their air?

And how about events in the ring going awry? First a guy yells at officials and throws his bronze medal in the ring then a Cuban kicks a referee straight in the face? That’s something for the ages! Even better, the Cuban coach defended his guy vehemently. I could watch that video all day.

So, with the London Olympics just four years away, let’s hope that Canada can improve on their results in sports that actually matter. When a country picks a person who won silver on the trampoline to be their flag bearer – a position of greatness – that’s just sad. I still not know why they didn’t pick their gold medal equestrian Eric Lamaze. He was a double medalist and had a compelling story. Who cares about the trampoline? That shouldn’t even be a real event.


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