Five observations to start the week:
Went to the Big Strick Classic on Saturday at City College. The Big Strick is an annual tournament showcasing some of the best high school basketball players in the country. Team NYC, represented by players from the tri-state area, fell by one point against Team USA. The main ballers on display were the Texan twins, Andrew and Aaron Harrison. Color me unimpressed- Andrew especially seemed like a tuned-out, shoot-first point guard. My favorite player was Nutmegger Karon Iverson, who is indeed related to A.I., though he has never spoken to his cousin. Iverson is 6’8, runs the floor very quickly, can hit a pull-up three, and is a menace on defense. He slammed home several dunks off offensive rebounds. We’ll be hearing more from him in years to come.
Mitt Romney picked Paul Ryan as his running mate, doubling down on the sad message of austerity. Paul Ryan is a total radical, a sop to the right-wing base. It is a testament to the sorry state of the Republican Party that he is considered an intellectual dynamite by the rabid right. In fact, the core of his philosophy is to completely gut successful government programs like Medicare (replace with a voucher system) and Social Security (privatize it). Romney went with Ryan when we realized that his base was not completely behind him yet, and with his toxic personality appealing little to moderate swing voters, an energized base is his only path to success in November.
At the Big Strick classic I was introduced to Odessa Turner, a former New York Giant, and part of the 1991 Superbowl championship team. He was a big fan of the jersey (pictured left) that I rocked that afternoon. And he was not alone. A woman in the subway offered to buy it off of my back, and several others commented favorably on the trek through Harlem to the City College courts. Turner proposed that I import a whole bunch of them and sell them for $40 a pop uptown.
I bought the jersey in the markets of Monrovia (Liberia), where you can find all kinds of weird stuff. Do you think there’s a market for this type of apparel heading into election season? Lord knows I bought all kinds of wacky Obama gear in 2008, but that was at the height of Obama-mania. In any case, shipping things to and from Liberia is highly problematic, so I doubt this business venture will take off any time soon.
A couple concluding Olympic observations:
1. In the raging debate over “Greatest Olympian ever”, we are not only comparing different sports, but different eras and different maximum medal counts. And re: Jesse Owens, context does matter. That said, Michael Phelps demonstrated that he was the best swimmer in the world for the third consecutive Olympics, albeit with less dominance than he shows in Athens and Beijing. To be the best at a major sport for that long is staggering, and should clearly put him in the conversation for “best ever”. But pure medal count cannot be the premise under which he is granted such a title, especially when so many medals came from relays.
2. NBC’s tape-delay coverage has taken enough of a beating, but what about the actual content they showed in prime time? Way too much diving, in my opinion. We had to deal with 30 minutes of diving from 8pm-8:30pm most days last week. While dives can be impressive, they are far too similar to each other to evoke much emotion out of all but the die-hard fans. Track and field should have had a more prominent role, particularly field events, where we were often treated only to snippets of the eventual medalists doing their finals jumps and throws. Not a lot of drama in that.
3. Will dodgeball ever be an Olympic sport? People play it all around the world, although rules vary considerably. Is the International Dodgeball Federation up to the task of standardizing the sport? I like the idea of Olympic sports inspiring kids to go out and play, to work off those 24 ounce sodas everyone’s so upset about. I’m not sure some of the weird stuff NBC was airing fit that category.
4. Oscar Pistorius turned out to be a classy guy and inspiration to many, but he still shouldn’t have been eligible to compete. I now like enough that I won’t call into the Brian Lehrer show to complain about him again.
5. Gabby Douglas is awesome. In her post-gymnastics career, which will be commencing shortly, she should star in a super-hero movie as the Flying Squirrel. After all, we know two things about super-hero movies: 1. They are enormous block-buster hits. 2. We are just about out of superheroes, and can only take so many re-makes.
6. Team USA’s nail-biter against Spain was perplexing and worrisome. Given that some combination of Durant, Kobe, and Lebron were always on the floor, this shouldn’t have been close. Is there a basketball player more annoying than Rudy Fernandez? The 2014 World Championships, which should feature a Spanish team starring Ricky Rubio, will provide an interesting re-match.