Wanna know what it took for me to appreciate the Summer Olympics? Writing a weekend wrapup column in July without them. Man, the Games are great ... for an item or four. On to the weekend ...
Why is Michael Phelps at the Olympics? Of course, Phelps is in London because he's still one of the best swimmers in the world, and there's still lots of money to be made. But one can't help but wonder if he should have taken these games off after winning eight gold medals the last time. He didn't prepare the way he did in advance of the ‘08 games. Unlike then, he seemed to find -- gasp! -- better things to do than live in a pool. He became an American icon and enjoyed his new stratus. Like most sheltered prodigies who get their first whiff of fresh air, he made up for lost time. Then, when he tried to replicate that very feat by jumping in the pool later than his competition, he came up short of the medal stand in the 400-meter individual medley.
Know what? That's fine. Nothing Phelps could do in 2012 could top Beijing. He couldn't even really add to that. The legend of Michael Phelps was cemented four years ago. Whatever gravy he threw on top of it this year would be forgotten. So, even if Phelps gets shut out of gold this year, there's no reason to complain or criticize. Like the folks running the games, Phelps came to get paid. He performs in an individual sport, so he is accountable to no one (except in relays, and no one's forced to put him on a team). He would prove nothing by winning. Phelps did more than enough for enough people, including himself, before he got to England. Good for him that he did some things for just himself in the years before he arrived.
Stop whining about NBC. Nothing says "first world problems" like the complaints about NBC's refusal to televise many Olympic events live, including those taking place while the network is broadcasting coverage on three networks. Well, we're in the first world, so feel free to complain.
That said, this is one of those times when hardcore sports fans need to remember they do not represent the median Olympic viewer. That viewer is most likely content to wait until he or she gets home at night to find out what happened in London, so that's when anticipated events like the 400 IM featuring Phelps and Ryan Lochte will be broadcast. Those who want to watch events as they happen can download the serviceable (and free) Live Extra app on their phones and tablets, or they can (try to) watch on NBC's better-get-better-pronto online viewer.
But when there are options to watch events live, the outrage on social media platforms feel misplaced. The same phone, computer or tablet used to complain can be used to catch events. If you're venting about first world problems, put those gadgets to good use. Or, you know, don't watch the Olympics on TV. You live in the first world, after all, meaning you've got more choices than whether to complain on Twitter, Facebook or both.
There's one reason we should stop sending NBA stars to the Olympics. The allure of the Olympics is the collection of heartwarming backstories the competitors bring with them. There is no human interest element to the basketball team, though. All USA Basketball brought to London was hype and expectations. It is a collection of professionals, unquestionably the most talented in the world, and it's the only American Olympic entity that must win. Michael Phelps is the greatest swimmer ever and has suffered this Olympiad because of insufficient preparation, but missing a medal stand won't draw nearly the same scrutiny as the basketball team would receive for a silver medal.
The NBA wants to make the Olympics an under-23 event. For them, it's about money. But considering how un-Olympic basketball feels -- at least the other sports are positioned to fake it -- it might not be the worst idea.
Hope Solo and Brandi Chastain have beef about ... what, exactly? Aside from the awkwardly predictable "cat fight!" reference -- that we at SB Nation couldn't let pass, either -- this post from The Big Lead seems to connect the right dots. While the rest of the world was letting Solo skate for her positive drug test, Chastain made the obvious and incontrovertible point that the U.S. goalkeeper nearly cost her team a chance at a gold medal with her oversight. That seemingly would make Solo more upset than whatever she said while commentating on a game Solo played in, presumably on a broadcast Solo couldn't pick up while she was in London. If Solo's mad about what Chastain said about her positive test, she should say which of Chastain's statements were inaccurate. If it's over criticism of Team USA, I'd love to know just what brought her anger on. As far as I can tell, no one seems to know.
But, hey -- the media got its "cat fight," the very definition of counterproductivity when two of this country's most visible female athletes are competing and speaking on the world's largest stage.
PisSed at U. Last week in this space, I warned that external pressure, rather than forcing Penn State to overhaul its culture, would galvanize Penn Staters in a fight against heavy-handed outsiders. Well, tell me I was wrong. Lucky for Gary Gilliam, he and his teammate got theirs early.
Pretty much how we feel right now! 9/1 twitter.com/GarryGilliam89…— Garry Gilliam™ (@GarryGilliam89) July 26, 2012
What I'd like to know, though, is specifically at whom these Penn Staters are "pissed." Is it their own administration, which took the NCAA's punishment even though its jurisdiction is questionable and its intentions are specious? Is it America, whose collective outrage empowered the NCAA to deliver the punishment it believed Penn State deserved? Is it Jerry Sandusky and his effective co-conspirators, who got the school in this mess in the first place?
This is where this situation gets ironic. America cheered as Penn State was bludgeoned. Then, many cheered as 30 players reinforced their commitment to the program and its importance ... even though the importance of the program is what so many railed against. Now, the same kids you cheered for? They seemed to be pissed off with you. They'll be playing to spite you. And, if they exceed expectations, you'll cheer them on as you do.
And what will central Pennsylvania use to heal during what promises to be a difficult autumn? Football. The thing Mark Emmert -- and America -- said could no longer come first, that he tried to hard to destroy, will invigorate that community for at least one more season.
That shot in the arm will be anger, a device that seems counter to the healing most think is necessary. Rather than destroying Penn State's existing culture, Emmert and the NCAA may have emboldened it, something they should have seen coming.
Wait, home fans booed Tim Tebow? In the grand scheme, one poor practice performance won't matter for Tim Tebow or the Jets, nor will the boos he heard as he struggled during Saturday's practice. It is, however, a reminder --- a big point that was lost when Tebow took his talents to the Big Apple -- he's not in Denver anymore.
In Denver, fans were willing to ignore his obvious shortcomings, so long as the Broncos were winning. He was as much good luck charm as he was fearless leader, and they couldn't be bothered with worrying about why they were really winning. But in New York? Eli Manning won a Super Bowl, and he wasn't a made man in New York until he won the second one. You think winning would be enough to shield Tebow from fans and the media?
There's no telling when -- or if -- Tebow will take meaningful snaps in the regular season. But, as the season gets closer, ask yourself this question -- what good is the already shaky notion of being a "winner" in a city where winning anything but a championship has never been good enough? If anything can take Tebowmania down, it's the demanding Jets fan base.
Are these holdouts good ideas? The new collective bargaining agreement, with its rookie pay scale and heavy fines for missing camp, was supposed to effectively legislate holdouts out of the NFL. Yet camps are open, and the league's leading rusher's at home. The rookie quarterback most would assume couldn't afford to miss any snaps showed up late. And the league's most dangerous deep threat might have seen the contract he was offered given to his teammate, and his team doesn't seem interested in trading him.
In each case, the player is fighting an uphill battle. Not only is Maurice Jones-Drew signed for two more years, but as my colleague Woody Paige noted, he's entrenched in Ralph Kiner territory ("we can finish in last place without you"). Ryan Tannehill and the Dolphins haggled over contract language. And Mike Wallace, whose rights the Steelers hold for this season and can be franchise tagged before 2013, is just stuck for at least a year.
Who will win these battles? Noses have been cut and faces have been spited. And, in the end, all parties involved will suffer.
Unfair is unfair, even if you make six figures. Since people assume all NFL players are rich, fans are numb to hearing about five-figure fines. But Jaguars coach Mike Mularkey's plan to fine players $10,000 for discussing injuries with the media is absurd. It might not hurt the millionaires, but imagine being a rookie hoping to earn a contract for the minimum salary. What's 10K to you? Before the contract, it must be the world. And if you earn a job, it's a pretty significant chunk of the rookie minimum, $375,000, after the tax man and everyone due a percentage get their shares. It's a safe guess either the NFL or NFLPA will shut Mularkey's plan down, but it's problematic and unfair he even considered this in the first place.
With friends like these ... Just when you thought the Dwight Howard ordeal couldn't become more of a clown show, David Stern effectively outed Dan Fegan, Howard's agent, as the source of most of the information leaked about Howard's meetings and demands. It didn't take a rocket scientist to figure this out, but it's telling that the commissioner found this so ridiculous that he put a name to it all. Oh, and said name came out and copped to being the leak.
Fegan's reputation is for being more of a lawyer than an agent, a fighter rather than a negotiator. The threatening way he's handled this situation gives credence to this notion. Stern, an attorney who knows how to get things done, told him to shut up. The leaks -- which usually discuss all the places Howard won't go -- have undermined the Magic's leverage, making it less likely Orlando will trade him. They won't simply give him away, and no amount of anonymous bullying will change that.
Fegan, if he's smart, will listen to Stern before he does any more harm to his client's brand and reputation, both of which are in shambles. And, for what it's worth, both are still in Orlando with no trade in sight.
Jerry Jones wants some glory hole. No, seriously. He said he wants some glory hole. You can take it from here.