Monday, August 25, 2008

USA Returns to Gold

On Sunday, Team USA beat Spain 118-107 to win the gold medal in men's basketball at the Beijing Olympics. The win marks Team USA's first Olympic gold medal in men's basketball since the 1996 Atlanta Games.

Unfortunately, since the Olympic basketball final aired live at 3:00 AM Eastern time on Saturday night/Sunday morning, most people probably didn't get to see it. And if that's the case, they missed a really fun, exciting game.

Spain gave Team USA all it could handle -- especially under the basket, where Spain's twin tower Gasol brothers (the Lakers' Pau Gasol and Marc Gasol) couldn't be kept off the glass.

But thanks to a spectacular first half performance by Dwayne Wade (who subbed for Kobe Bryant when Kobe was saddled with early foul trouble) and designated go to "closer" Kobe Bryant's heady decision to take over in the final minutes of the game, the Team USA proved to be too much for the scrappy Spaniards.

After having found the previous two U.S. teams (2000 & 2004) difficult to watch -- those editions of Team USA had too many egos, too many ball hogs, not enough defense, not enough teamwork, etc. -- it was a joy to see this U.S. team buy into their respective roles and "leave it all on the floor."

Sure, the U.S. team was perimeter heavy & not very big in the interior. And yeah, Spain got into the lane at will (the culprit often being whomever Chris Paul was guarding) and got too many rebounds and second chance opportunities.

But it was just outright fun to watch Dwayne Wade come off the bench and explode for 21 points in the 1st half, with a crazy burst of energy (knowing that he was merely spelling Kobe, and could lay it all on the line rather than pace himself in order to remain strong throughout the game). As a role player, Wade had the luxury of gambling on defense, over playing the passing lanes to an almost ridiculous degree and gunning for weak side steals on ball handlers.

The result was a flurry of steals and fast break dunks that one doesn't normally see in NBA games.

Credit U.S. coach Mike Krzyzewski for being able to get his players to accept their respective roles and gel as a team ... a team dedicated to the common goal of winning Olympic Gold. And credit Krzyzewski and Team USA President, Jerry Colangelo, for assembling a roster with the right combination of basketball talent and character to achieve that goal.

(Image: New York Times)

Friday, August 22, 2008

Waiting With Baited Breath: Obama VP Mania Prediction

By this point, everyone and their grandmother knows that Barack Obama has pledged to reveal the identity of his choice for Vice Presidential nominee to supporters via text message, before he formally announces his VP pick to the media/rest of America. It's, hands down, the biggest news story of the day. And it's arguably been the biggest news story of the week, even with the Olympics in full swing.

With radio stations and TV networks promising to break in as soon as the text message is delivered, the media is in a veritable Obama VP text message frenzy.

I've been around politics for most my life: with political junkie parents, I was subjected to the weekend political TV shows as far back as I can remember and politics was one of the main topics of conversation at the dinner table. I've worked in Illinois state politics and have worked for a couple of campaigns. But I've never seen this level of media hype over the revelation of a VP nominee.

It kind of reminds me of the hype that always surrounds the announcement of the winner of American Idol.

In fact, I can only think of one other pending announcement from a notable person that attracted this level of media hype/buzz. And that was way back on March 18, 1995, when Michael Jordan, after weeks of having teased the media with hints of an NBA comeback, announced the end of his first retirement and his subsequent return to the NBA's Chicago Bulls by sending out a two word fax -- it simply read, "I'm back."

The merits of the Obama campaign's decision to announce his VP nominee via a mass text can certainly be debated. Some may see it as evidence that Barack Obama is young, dynamic and on the precipice of changing cultural trends. By that logic, Obama's attempt to make the announcement of his VP nominee viral can probably seen as a master stroke by a change agent who has connected with and inspired the millennial generation like no other politician has.

But the VP announcement by mass text could just as easily be seen as a shallow attempt to play up his image as hip/cool guy, and reinforce the Obama campaign's narrative that John McCain (Mr. Obama's opponent) is old, tired and out of touch (see here, and here and here).

One thing's for sure: this is going to be a very expensive text message.

So, readers may be wondering why Drive and Dish, a basketball website that occasionally covers other sports, would concern itself with the news of the day in politics.

The answer is because the Obama VP mania has been so over the top (and will become even more so after the Senator's running mate is actually announced) that the Drive and Dish editorial board has deemed it deserving of mention ... and a prediction.


So what's Drive and Dish's prediction about the Obama running mate announcement text?

Well, since the Obama campaign has waited until Friday (the end of the week's news cycle) to announce Sen. Obama's choice for VP nominee, and bearing in mind the fact that ABC news' George Stephanopoulos has said that an Obama campaign insider informed him of the campaign's desire to maximize buzz over the text by sending it out at a time when the greatest number of people will be by their phones, I predict that the Obama campaign will keep everybody waiting all day before sending out the much anticipated/hyped text.

The media will have to wait the entire day with baited breath.

And then it will happen ... the much awaited text will be sent out sometime around midnight Central time, when the target audience for the text -- Sen. Obama's legion of affluent, twentysomething supporters -- will be in bars, in clubs and at parties.

I don't know who Sen. Obama will announce as his VP nominee (although if pressed, I'd say it will most likely be a Southern white male -- Democratic strategists are quick to acknowledge that no Democrat has won the white house without a Southern white male on the ticket since Harry Truman [and even then, an argument can be made that Truman -- a Missouri native -- was sort of a Southerner]), but I do know that, considering the fact that, as a group, young women overwhelmingly support Sen. Obama's bid for the Presidency, any guy who receives an after midnight text from Barack Obama while out bar-hopping will have a major leg up on the competition.

By sending his text message, Sen. Obama will essentially serve as a virtual wingman for thousands of guys across America tonight. Make no mistake: Sen. Obama is going to get lots of guys laid.

And don't think the Obama campaign isn't aware of that.


"Slow Joe" Biden?


Did Barack Obama really chose as his Vice Presidential nominee the most arrogant, verbose, self important, plagiarising, tone deaf (more here), gaffetastic (more here), foot-in-mouth prone and easily lampoonable windbag (more here, here and here) in the Senate (with apologies to former Ku Klux Klan member turned United States Senator, Robert Byrd -- more here, here, and here)?

I'm really surprised.

Biden represents everything that people don't like about the Beltway. He's the ultimate self aggrandizing political hack.

Even among the most die-hard of Democrats, Biden has long been regarded as a buffoon and a laughingstock (note the less than flattering comments that I linked from the Daily Kos above).

If Biden really is Sen. Obama's choice, Drive and Dish will almost certainly be dishing out more political commentary in the near future (and that's a shame -- we really like to stick to basketball/sports).


Robert Stacy McCain (no relation to John McCain) reacts to Sen. Obama's announcement:

"To jerk around the national press for a full week, only to deliver Joe Biden -- this is a disappointment. Imagine the reactions of those poor saps getting their text messages: 'WTF? Dude. Joe Biden?'"

I generally agree with the above sentiment, except that I'm not sure whether most of the people who received Sen. Obama's text actually know who Joe Biden is.

Update (Saturday, Aug. 23, 2008):

Yesterday, I took note of the almost ridiculous the media feeding frenzy over the pending Barack Obama VP nominee selection text. Today, 23/6 has a brilliant short montage of yesterday's CNN coverage of the Obamania waiting game (or as CNN dubbed their own coverage, "Obama VP Drama").


For the benefit of people who land on Drive and Dish via political blogs, Drive and Dish does not officially side with any political party or political ideology. We're a basketball/sports blog. We don't normally do politics.

My characterizations of Sen. Biden are not based on any opposition that I may or may not have to Biden's positions on political issues. Drive and Dish does not take sides in political arguments.

My characterization of Sen. Biden as an arrogant windbag is based solely on my opinion that, after years of having observed Sen. Biden in action, Sen. Biden is an arrogant windbag. But that's completely separate and unrelated to any opinions that I may hold with regard to his political positions or party affiliation.

Whether or not I agree with Sen. Biden on political issues has little, if anything, to do with the fact that I think he's a complete asshat whose flaws and shortcomings obscure his strengths.

Drive and Dish is a blog that writes primarily about basketball. We hold the opinion that sports, and sports coverage, should not be politicized. Politics is a vital facet of life in our republican democracy and every citizen has a responsibility to make sure that he/she has a reasonable understanding of the principles, traditions and documents on which our government is based, the mechanics by which our government operates, and of the issues of the day. And while it's often said that politics is itself a sport, Drive and Dish remains steadfast in the belief that politics doesn't belong in sports (or in entertainment, for that matter).

Simply, sports are fun. Politics ... not so much.

But Sen. Biden's long history of overt douchebaggery transcends politics. He's lampoonable because he's an undeniable buffoon and an absolute living parody of the archetypal windbag United States Senator ... independent of his politics and party affiliation (archetypal windbag Senators populate both sides of the aisle).

Olympic Village: Best Hook Up Scene Around?

Former British Olympian Matthew Syed seems to think so.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The Quick Decline of the Chicago Tribune ?

Much has been made about the ongoing decline of the American newspaper industry. With advertising revenues and circulations in seeming free fall, newspapers are widely believed to be the modern equivalent of the buggy whip (i.e., a product from a bygone era on the fast track to obsolescence in a changing marketplace). Dailies are furiously slashing staff and desperately attempting to make their content appear more relevant/edgier/hipper in order to attract a younger, tech-savvy demographic. More here. And here. And here. Still more here.

Frank the Tank, of the fine Chicago/Illini sports/politics/pop culture blog, Frank the Tank's Slant, writes about what he perceives to be a recent decline in the quality of content in the once great Chicago Tribune. According to Mr. the Tank, Sam Zell, the new owner of Tribune Co., plans to "cut staff and close bureaus to slash costs and redesign the Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times, and other Tribune Company newspapers to make them more in tune with what focus groups supposedly say they want, which are more charts, colorful graphics, and shorter stories."

Mr. the Tank argues that Mr. Zell is attempting to make the Tribune, and other Tribune Co. newspapers, look more like USA Today. But he questions the wisdom of attempting to make the Tribune hipper/edgier:

"Here’s the mistake that nearly every newspaper owner in the country is making when they are trying to attract the elusive Generations Y and Z: they equate short attention spans with smaller papers containing fewer stories about substantive national and international issues and more blurbs about Hollywood. This is a ridiculous notion since when you take a look at the top 100 websites in the United States by numbers of visitors, you won’t see USA Today, Entertainment Weekly,, People, or any site focused on celebrity news on the list. However, the New York Times, BBC, and Washington Post websites are all on there. People over 30 fail to understand that people under 30 are the most media-savvy consumers anywhere and can instantly identify fluff versus well-written stories. While young people certainly like their junk food stories about the latest travails of Brittany Spears and Lindsay Lohan along with snarky commentary from a slew of blogs and other media sources, they also crave substance and they will turn to media sources that provide them with that. Even if you grant that physical newspapers are eventually going to go extinct and media companies should focus on the web, the success of the Times and the Post websites ought to be an indicator that going for the high-end of journalistic scale is a lot more successful in drawing readers (and the advertisers that pay for such readers) either online or offline than a bunch of cost-cutting measures and flashy graphics.

So, as a Generation Y guy whose main complaint about today’s Tribune is that it has introduced too many empty journalistic calories (the What’s Your Problem? feature is more suited to a community flyer as opposed to the top paper in the nation’s third-largest media market that features multiple Pulitzer Prize winners, while the Trib’s Starbucks fetish has been well-documented), the path to long-term survival in the newspaper industry, whether it’s with ink and paper or on the web, is all about substance over form as opposed to the other way around."


Considering some of the apparent (ahem!) esoteric preferences of the many visitors who click on certain Drive and Dish posts after having searched for fetish websites (I should note that the Drive and Dish posts which garner hits from the fetish community don't actually contain any fetish or fetish related material, but rather poke fun at a former college basketball player who urinated in his pants during a game last season), I'm almost afraid to see the web traffic that the term "Starbucks fetish" will bring.

Drive and Dish usually gets between 15-30 hits a day from people who find this site after having searched for such websites. And although some of the comments on the latter of the above linked posts are, undoubtedly, of a joking nature, the constant traffic from guys who accidentally stumble on this site whilst looking for fetish porn is definitely no joke.

Probably at least half of them come from Germany. But England, Sweden, Belgium and the Netherlands are also quite well represented. And, unfortunately, an increasing number of such hits are coming from folks with strange tastes who live here in the good ol' United States (although a disproportionate number of them come from New York and the Bay Area).


Speaking of Starbucks, Frank the Tank has thoughts on "Race and Class (and Starbucks) in Chicago." It's a strong read and it hits close to home for this native of Chicago's South(west) Suburbs and former Naperville and North Side denizen.

It's recommended reading for Chicago area Drive and Dish readers, and even for readers who are reasonably familiar with Chicago. On the downside though, the post does reference and link to the Freakonomics blog. Be forewarned.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Weber Finally Makes Right Call on Smith

A little over two weeks ago, Illinois men's head basketball coach Bruce Weber dropped guard Jamar Smith from the Illinois basketball program. Smith had been a two year starter for the Illini and, along with sophomore point guard Demetri McCamey and Kentucky transfer Alex Legion, was expected to be a key player in what projected to be one of the best backcourts in the Big Ten.

But, according to the Chicago Tribune, Weber kicked Smith off the team for violating what the coach termed a "personal agreement."

As the Tribune notes:

"Weber's decision came two days after Champaign County state's attorney Julia Rietz filed a petition to revoke Smith's probation for his DUI conviction last year. Smith was barred from drinking, and police told the state's attorney Smith acknowledged drinking three beers when they came across him after responding to an unrelated call outside a Champaign bar at about 2:30 a.m. Friday."

Drive and Dish passed on the opportunity to write about Jamar Smith when he was dismissed from the Illinois basketball program two weeks ago. Yours truly hasn't really had much spare time lately, and the Drive and Dish editorial staff thought that the Jamar Smith dismissal -- if not the entire condition of the Illinois basketball program -- was deserving of a well thought through essay, rather than just a few sentences and a link to the Daily Illini's recap of the Smith affair. Unfortunately, we didn't really have sufficient time to develop such a post when events were unfolding and the story was hot.

Hence, Drive and Dish's silence on Jamar Smith.

But after Drive and Dish reader Toki Wartooth made note of Smith's dismissal in the comments section of a Drive and Dish post, one of our grunt writers visited the comments section of Mr. Wartooth's fine Illini blog, Paint the Town Orange, and left a lengthy (and perhaps somewhat rambling) comment regarding Bruce Weber's dismissal of Jamar Smith.

Rambling though it may be, our Paint the Town Orange comment probably better summarizes this blog's thoughts on Bruce Weber, Jamar Smith, and the overall state of Illinois basketball than anything we could conjure up in a hurried late night blog post (sunrise and the ever-ticking alarm clock loom over this blogger's head like the Sword of Damocles). So we've decided to republish the commentary here:

"I strongly believed that Bruce Weber should have dismissed Jamar Smith from the team when he received his felony conviction. At the time of the Smith DUI/accident (back in 2007), Illinois was short on talent ... but more than anything, the Illini looked like a team that was lacking in discipline. Making matters worse was the fact that they appeared to lack respect for the coaching staff.

Back in 2007, Bruce Weber tried to get Jamar Smith and Richard McBride to quit chucking up bad 3 point shots early in their offensive sets. But in game after game, Smith and McBride just ignored him and kept on gunning the 3's (usually without even looking into the post).

Bruce Weber also wanted Smith and McBride to calm down, make decent decisions in the offense, protect the ball, and quit turning the ball over. But they both continued making glaringly bad decisions and committing unforced turnovers.

Further, Bruce Weber wanted his players -- most notably Smith, Warren Carter and Shaun Pruitt -- to dedicate themselves to improving their basketball skills, their athleticism and their strength and conditioning in the off season. He also wanted said players to commit themselves to playing hard nosed defense -- the bedrock of the Gene Keady/Bruce Weber style of basketball. But those players couldn't be bothered with committing to grueling off season workouts and to such a thankless, unglamorous task as bucking up on defense ... they were already big men on campus. The Illini nation fawned over those cats, regardless of how they performed on the court. So from their perspectives, what more did they have to prove? Besides, all those off season workouts would have cut into their busy social schedules.

In his first two seasons, Jamar Smith had already been suspended for a few games because of unspecified disciplinary reasons.

His on court productivity had declined precipitously after the first half of his freshman season.

But none of that seemed to matter. Jamar Smith was a kind of a big deal in Champaign. He and his underachieving teammates had the run of the town. Basketball was the vehicle for their celebrity, but it seemed to take a back seat to other, more pressing, extracurricular activities.

It appeared that sometime after 2005 or 2006, Bruce Weber had lost his team. No matter what he said (or yelled) to his players, it just seemed to go in one ear and out the other. Bruce Weber's authority was nil.

Don't forget, Smith's DUI/accident occurred the night before a crucial game near the end of February and near the end of Illinois' basketball season. The Illini were desperately fighting to remain in the hunt for an NCAA Tournament berth. They were the quintessential "bubble team." And Weber had instructed his players to refrain from partying that night. Once Smith was in police custody (I believe he was in the hospital at the time), it was determined that he had a .2 blood alcohol content -- and that was several hours AFTER the accident ... which means that Jamar Smith had gotten VERY inebriated with less than 24 hours before the tipoff of a must win game.

Don't get me wrong: I'm not hating on those guys for having possessed such less than exemplary attitudes. They were young, immature college kids who were on top of the social ladder because of their status as athletes. Truth be told, my own attitude wasn't really all that much better when I was at their stage in life. In fact, I once missed the bus for an away basketball game on a Saturday morning because I took a took a Friday road trip to a campus 3 states away, and didn't make it back to campus in time (err, at all). I felt bad about it, but as a walk on, I didn't play much anyway and I wasn't going to miss out on an impromptu road trip! And as bad as that may sound, it wasn't the first time I'd missed a team bus. During my freshman year, I was absent from an important track meet at the University of Iowa -- at which I had been slated to run anchor on the 4/100 relay -- because I was too hung over to make it to the team bus at 6:00 am (I told the coach that I had to write a paper).

But I paid a price for those mistakes. And although I eventually matured and learned from those incidents (and others), I regret having made those mistakes to this day.

I'll never get those games/track meets back. I'll always regret the fact that I denied myself the opportunity to compete in those athletic events. My perspective abruptly changed after having lived through a spate of major, season ending injuries later on in college. Never again would I take athletic competition, or my youth, health, or status as an athlete for granted!

And I know as well as anyone that young, cocky athletes need structure in their lives and they need to be held accountable for their actions -- both on and away from their respective fields of competition.

In my opinion, Bruce Weber had lost control of his team long before Jamar Smith smashed up that old Lexus and left Brian Carlwell for dead in the passenger seat (in a blizzard and with the mercury hovering near zero, no less). To put it in popular terms, the inmates were running the asylum. Hell, I wasn't even around that team -- or anywhere near Champaign for that matter -- but even from afar, I could see that the Illini were suffering from a MAJOR attitude problem.

Which is why Bruce Weber dropped the ball by not dismissing Jamar Smith from the team a year and a half ago.

Weber desperately needed to reassert his control over his pampered, undisciplined squad. Even in spite of all Bruce Weber's recruiting and on court woes, the biggest problem with the Illinois basketball program in the post-2005 Final Four years has been the astoundingly poor attitude displayed by its players. Bruce Weber would have been well served by laying down the law and reasserting his control over his basketball program.

But Bruce Weber was worried about his recruiting struggles and the subsequent severe talent drop off that his program had endured. Weber had just come out of the Julian Wright PR fiasco, the Jon Sheyer PR fiasco and the Sherron Collins PR fiasco. Eric Gordon was supposed to be the program's (and Weber's) savior, but he'd recently left Weber standing at the alter as he hooked up with Kelvin Sampson and IU.

So Bruce Weber, Ron Guenther and the Illinois basketball program were desperate. In pleading with the administration for Jamar Smith to remain on the team, Weber was acting out of a position of weakness, not out of a position strength. And it was obvious to everyone -- especially to his players.

So at the very moment when Bruce Weber most needed to reassert his authority and appear STRONG (in order to change the attitude and the trajectory of his basketball program), he made a move born of desperation -- and as a result, he sabotaged his authority and made himself appear weaker than ever.

So it should have come as no shock when Illinois had continuing attitudinal problems with the 2008 team -- most notably vis a vis Shaun Pruitt.

Bruce Weber got lucky, though. He'll have 2 very good recruiting classes matriculating to Chambana in the next 2 years. And Alex Legion helped Weber out in a major way by deciding to insert himself into the Illini mix. Maybe having Tracy Webster abruptly leave town, and having Jerrance Howard replace him has changed the metrics for the Illini. Maybe it's Divine Providence. Who knows!?!

The bottom line is that things are looking up for Bruce Weber and the Illini. But no matter how much talent Weber and Howard amass in Champaign, Weber won't succeed unless he has control of his team (and has the respect of his players). Talent alone won't make a college basketball program elite -- just ask USC's Tim Floyd.

Illinois finally made the right move by dismissing Jamar Smith. He was lucky to have been given a second chance. He was astoundingly stupid (and, frankly, arrogant) to have so blatantly violated the terms of his probation. He simply had to go. But Illinois should have pulled the plug on Smith when he first incurred his legal troubles, back on Feb. 21, 2007. Remember, Jamar Smith didn't just get in an accident and get convicted of DUI. While DUI's are, obviously, not good, merely being convicted of DUI isn't normally grounds for expulsion from a college basketball team (second chances are completely appropriate in such instances -- just ask Chris Duhon and J.J. Redick).

What made Jamar Smith's actions in the wake of the DUI/accident so extraordinarily egregious -- and what should have been the grounds for his dismissal from the Illinois basketball squad -- were the facts that Smith:

1.) Left the scene of an accident -- a really bad accident, no less

2.) Left a teammate for dead in the smashed car overnight -- with no apparent concern for the teammate's health or well being

3.) Failed to place a call to 911

4.) Otherwise failed to report the accident to the appropriate authorities

5.) Failed to seek medical assistance for his nearly fatally wounded teammate/friend

6.) Sought the counsel of teammates (most notably Chester Frazier) to help determine whether or not the injured teammate (Carlwell) was living or deceased

7.) Barricaded himself in his apartment in an attempt to avoid dealing with the authorities (including medical personnel, police and coaches) and, presumably, in order to sleep off his drunken state.

Worse yet, if Smith -- and the teammates whom he consulted in order to determine whether or not the injured player (Carlwell) was still alive -- believed that the injured player had likely perished, their lack of action in seeking assistance for the injured player, and in reporting the accident to authorities, indicates that they may have been plotting a strategy (and making up a story) to to help Smith evade accepting culpability for the accident and for the purported death of the injured player. Even worse, they may have been devising a strategy for disposing of the wrecked car/body of the purportedly deceased teammate.

Illinois basketball is better off without Jamar Smith. His absence will probably cost the team wins in 2008/'09, but the fact that there's finally some accountability in the Illinois basketball program will serve the Illini well in the long run."


Our apologies for the length of the excerpted Paint the Town Orange comment, and for it's less- than-stellar writing style (it's a little bit tough to read). That comment was written "on the spot," in "stream of consciousness" mode (if we were pretentious, we'd say that we were channeling Kerouac) and it got published without having been proofread or edited in any way (actually, we didn't even so much as read it through before hitting "send").

Nevertheless, in spite of its run-on sentences, changing verb tenses and overuse of parentheses and dashes, Drive and Dish stands by the sentiments and opinions expressed in the Paint the Town Orange comment.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

3BA: New Professional 3 on 3 League

This story is a couple weeks old, but it's interesting (via Slam Magazine):

A newly minted professional 3 on 3 basketball league is trying to get off the ground. The league will essentially be a pro version of the popular, outdoor 3 on 3 basketball tournaments that dot the American landscape every spring and summer (Gus Macker, Hoop it Up, etc.)-- minus the teams comprised of dorky, bespectacled, knee pad wearing, doughy middle aged white guys who are usually a staple at 3 on 3 tournaments, of course:

"Kevin Lubahn, who created the idea for the league a decade ago, designed the game to eliminate power forwards and centers who slow the game down. This opens up the court for quicker, more athletic players to do their thing. The four 11 minute quarters really take a lot out of players who are forced to play at a jet-like pace."

Misty Hyman vs. Dick Trickle

Back in the 1990's, Harry Colon was a starting safety for the Detroit Lions. Although his career turned out to be short-lived, Colon was one of the most underrated defensive backs -- and one of the toughest guys -- in the NFL during his day. But I always thought that Harry Colon had the most unfortunate name in sports. Little did I know that guys named Pete LaCock, Dick Pole and Dick Trickle had preceded him (well, I did actually know that Pole had been the Cubs' pitching coach at one point, but I didn't realize that he'd actually been a Major League player).

Sometimes ignorance is bliss, I guess.

And just in case you're similarly under-informed with regard to your knowledge of athletes who have made it big, despite possessing unfortunate names, Top Ten Chicago Sports enlightens us with the "Top Ten Names In Sports You Might Not Want to Have."


Thanks to a reader comment left by "Buckeye Tom," I hereby declare that, in being excluded from the list, Red Cox was given the shaft.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

What Would President Clinton Have Done?

On Saturday, President Bush met with American Olympians in Beijing. Typically, when a President or similarly prominent politician meets with athletes, it's for one reason -- the photo-op value of posing with popular, successful athletes is considered political gold (although I'm not convinced that it usually translates into increased public support for the politician).

But when President Bush yukked it up with the women's beach volleyball team yesterday, it was not your run of the mill photo-op:

Explanation here:

"Bush knuckled off a couple of lobs, but defending gold medalists Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh gave the chief executive some pointers. Then after a good play, in the tradition of female volleyballers, May-Treanor turned, bent over slightly and offered her bikinied rear-end for the 43rd president to slap. 'Mr. President,' she said, 'want to?' Want to has nothing to do with it in public life."

Also: President Bush going in for the classic "kiss close." President Bush may have attempted to execute a kiss close, but he has nothing on his predecessor, President Clinton. President Clinton was known for his frequent use of the uncommon "f**k me b**ch, I'm the damn President of the United States" close. Under normal circumstances, the "kiss close" would be considered an advanced pick up artist move. But compared to the "fu** me bi**h, I'm the damn President of the United States" close, the "kiss close" looks only slightly better than the commonly used (by average Joes) "Paris close" (i.e., "One of the best experiences of my life came when I was dining at this wonderful little, out of the way, outdoor bistro in Paris. I was drinking wine and watching the Parisian sun set over the Eiffel Tower ... it was, you know, an almost perfect moment. The only thing that would've made it better is if YOU had been there to share the moment).

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

"How Your Inner Athlete Makes You Smarter"


"Athletes and people who exercise not only have better bods — they have better brains too, a host of studies have now firmly established."


"Exercisers learn faster, remember more, think clearer and bounce back more easily from brain injuries such as a stroke. They are also less prone to depression and age-related cognitive decline."

I've always bristled at the stereotype of the "dumb jock." Sure, there is seemingly no shortage of athletes who come across as dolts. But I've never been convinced that the percentage of "slow" people is any higher in sports than it is in society at large. A lot of athletes don't place high value on the intellectual pursuits, but that's not necessarily the byproduct of their having lower levels of intelligence. Plenty of athletes have above average intelligence, but just haven't bothered to develop their intellects. And that shouldn't be too surprising, since their physical prowess -- rather than their intellectual prowess -- has been the source of their athletic success (don't confuse lack of intellectual prowess with lack of mental acuity -- being able to make quick, smart decisions is an essential component of being a successful athlete).

And let's not forget that scores of athletes do, in fact, develop their intellects. Ivy League institutions compete in NCAA Division I, but don't offer athletic scholarships. Their student athletes are notoriously bright/good students. And the service academies don't give their athletes any breaks with regard to their studies, and the curricua at the service academies would make most college students' heads spin (the student athletes at Army, Navy, and the Air Force Academy usually don't have professional sports in their futures, but they truly are the creme de la creme in terms of representing the student athlete ideal). And don't forget, Division III has no shortage of elite, small, private institutions which field highly competitive athletic teams comprised of good students (Johns Hopkins, Williams, Bowdoin, Chicago, Washington U., MIT, Cal Tech, NYU, Emory, Tufts, Wesleyan, Colby, Swarthmore, Middlebury, Oberlin, Carleton, Amherst, Occidental, Bates, Washington & Lee, etc. ...).

What's more, it's been my experience that involvement in athletics and the regular performance of strenuous physical exercise has always seemed to make me more mentally astute and alert. Essentially, when I'm physically fit, I feel more mentally fit.

The ancient Greeks seemed to understand as much: they gave us the credo, "of sound mind and sound body." Thomas Jefferson had that credo in mind when he mandated daily physical activity for students at the University of Virginia. And the service academies require participation in some kind of regular physical activity: if a student isn't a participant in intercollegiate athletics, he or she has to participate in intermural athletics.

It's a good thing that science is finally coming around to discovering what the Greeks knew 2500 years ago. Advances in medicine and nutrition have helped advance life expectancy for people in the developed world. But as our society continues to age -- and as the enormous baby boom generation (who, ironically, came of age in 60's) advances into their 60's -- science and medicine's continued understanding of the connection between physical activity and brain function will become an increasingly vital component in advancing the health and well being of our society.