Archive for March, 2007

Phantastic Phelps
March 29, 2007

e-mail Pete

Three years ago Michael Phelps was the best swimmer in the world, nearly reaching an unprecedented goal of eight Olympic gold medals. Phelps already earned comparisons the greatest of all time like Mark Spitz and Ian Thorpe. Back home, we threw parades for his accomplishments and the American sporting culture accepted him as a household name, as the face of his sport. The best example of that comes of course with a seven figure endorsement deal.

So what are we going to do now? Throw bigger parades? The best swimmer in the world right now is now arguably the best of all time. His performance thus far at the 2007 World Championships makes his eight medals in Athens look human, even flawed. Three days, three world records, the first of which completely eviscerated the previous mark (of course held by Phelps).

The Sun’s Kevin Van Valkenburg offered a compelling piece on Phelps and his place in historical domination of a sport. Van Valkenburg used Bob Beamon’s world record long jump from 1968 for a comparison on shattering a record. A fair comparison for sure although he points out it doesn’t quite match. He also used Tiger Woods’ humiliating the field at the 2000 U.S. Open.

I think even better though might be Secretariat at the Belmont in 1973. The footage of Secretariat winning by 31 lengths is a combination of the comical and surreal. Did that really happen?

That’s where we are with Phelps. He’s winning by comical lengths, leaving his competition to utter things we don’t hear other professional athletes say. Ever.

Here’s China’s Wu Peng on trying to catch Phelps in time for the 2008 Olympic Games in his homeland.

“To secure that gold medal is impossible,”

What?? Even when facing Michael Jordan in his prime, did you ever hear Karl Malone say he couldn’t beat him? Athletes have too much pride to say something like that. At least they did before. Another swimmer said it an honor to be in the same pool with him.

We may have to soon leave the sports world to find a true comparison for Michael Phelps. Beethoven, Einstein, Machiavelli, pick your prodigy. True genious is at work in Sydney this week. Get ready for another parade.

Early Spring Musings
March 23, 2007

A couple of thoughts as I head out for to shoot a feature story on Daniel Hostetler (three sport star for River Hill HS).

I can’t find anyone making much noise about the way Southern Illinois was jobbed last night by the refs in the Sweet 16. Kansas was awarded two points for a slam dunk after the shot clock expired (indisputable) and Saluki guard Jamaal Tatum had a shot goal tended (doubly indisputable) while fouled. Tatum made both free throws leaving him one point shy of what was due. Final score, Kansas 61-58 over SIU. Where’s the outrage?

Orioles Tag Day kicks off tomorrow. It’s a chance for fans to roam Camden Yards and pick out seats for their season ticket packages. The cynic in me views Tag Day as a chance to figure out what seats would best sell to Yankees and Red Sox fans come mid summer. Nine years of losing makes optimism about good times at Oriole Park an awful challenge. Every March I hear from the die-hards and tend to believe some of their “this is the year” rhetoric. And while I actually think this is the best team to take the field in nearly a decade, I refuse to get excited. Been there too many times. My goal remains the same as last year. That the Orioles somehow stay relevant till training camp opens in late July. A feat only accomplished once this decade.

The Maryland women proved exactly how far tremendous talent takes you when not properly motivated. To the 2nd round. Yikes! As brilliant as the 2006 Championship season was, the 2007 campaign left Brenda Frese open to questions about whether cutting down the nets as underdogs was a fluke. Not really fair, and a general rule of thumb says most criticism gets shelved for a five years following a title. But the decision to bench her point guard to start the NCAA Tourney looks really, really, really suspect. Kristi Toliver played like someone possessed in response. Possessed by the ghost of Moses Malone past (NBA’s all time turnover leader). Bowing out early in an event where upsets are so few because the talent’s all bunched at the top should serve as a healthy reminder to get in the gym all off season long.

Good Start in Buffalo
March 15, 2007

e-mail Pete

Maryland/Davidson Box Score

Maryland’s best game of the year? Not even close. But one never need apologize for winning an NCAA Tournament game.

The Terps showed enough flashes of great play to make you think at least a trip to St. Louis is in the works. But when they weren’t great they were awful. No middle ground for this team. The way they came out of the locker room at half time was down right embarassing. Not sure what Gary Williams said at the break but I’m wondering if 20 minutes of meditation was the best idea.

Turnovers, defensive breakdowns, and frankly indifference let the Wildcats build an eight point lead. If they had the depth to match Maryland, Davidson could have pulled away at that point.

Depth was the key. Ekene Ibekwe, in what has become the norm, racked up fouls faster than Bengals collect arrests. Bambale Osby though offered more than a physical presence in his sted. Osby scored 11 points, passed well, blocked shots, and sparked a team desperate to wake up. Today he became memorable for much more than a hair style.

The Wildcats’ Stephen Curry lived up to his hpe and then some. I find it hysterical that Virginia Tech wouldn’t give this kid a scholarship. His NBA veteran dad Dell is an alum, and oh yeah, he’s awesome! 30 points for the freshman despite D.J. Strawberry dogging him all afternoon.

Gary Williams outcoached Bob McKillop or maybe McKillop simply undercoach Williams. Believing the Wildcats could run with the Terps backfired. When fresh Davidson proved a worthy opponent. Williams’ worked the temp of the game beautifully, mixing up his presses throughout and even the little things like inserting Dave Neal for free throw purposes worked as planned. He is a very good coach.

With the nerves now gone and the another opponent (either Butler or Old Dominion) that seems to favor Maryland, Saturday afternoon should be the next step on a March to the Arch. The Sweet 16 in St. Louis tips off Thursday.