Friday, February 28, 2014

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Joe Biden on Basketball

As part of the Obama Administration marking Black History Month, Vice President Joe Biden told a crowd of his hoops prowess.

If Biden wants to step up his game and take on POTUS, he ought to remember Charles Barkley's analysis of Obama's game.   Barkley spoke with President Obama prior to the NBA All Star Game.  In conjunction with the soft ball Oval Office interview, Barkley observed that Obama always goes to the left on the court.   So that's not just Obama's modus operandi in the political field.

Monday, February 24, 2014

The Demolition of the Metrodome

The Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome, a.k.a. "The Metrodome", "Mall of America Field", "The Thunderdome" and "The Homerdome", is no more.   The domed stadium which was opened in 1982 was designed with football's Minnesota Vikings, but which also was the home of baseball's Minnesota Twins from 1982-2009 before they moved to Target Field.  The Vikings will play at outdoors the TCF Bank Stadium at the University of Minnesota until the $975 million Viking Stadium is completed, which is projected to be in 2016.

Demolition began the day after the Viking's last home game against the Detroit Lions on December 29, 2014, as seats were sold as souvenir.

The air supported dome was deflated on January 18th, 2014.

At least this deflation was intentional, unlike the five times the dome had previously collapsed due to snow.

What architectural aficiandos and pyrotechnic fans look forward to is the demolition phase.  The steel support cables on the roof were severed on February 2nd.  But when demolition crews were taking down the steel beam support rings, some of them collapsed out of sequence.  After a week-long investigation, it was decided that using controlled explosives was the best way to proceed.  So on the morning of February 23, 2014 84 explosive charges felled the facility.

And so another dome bites the dust.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Brew Dog-- Stray Becomes Mainstay at Brewers' Cactus League Camp

[Photo: The Arizona Republic/Cheryl Evan]

As the Milwaukee Brewers reported to their spring training in Phoenix, Arizona, the baseball team was joined by an unusual walk on.  A stray dog wandered in to Maryvale Baseball Complex.  The dog, which looks like a Bichon Frise mix, looked a little roughed up.

Brewers staff took the dog to a veterinarian for a checkup.  The vet found a tail injury and some gray marks around his hind leg, which suggests that the stray dog may have been run over by a car.  The team took  the little dog in and named him "Hank", in memory of baseball great Hank Aaron, who started and ended his major league career in Milwaukee.

Signs were put up to find Hank's owner.  In addition, the Brewers publicized Hank's arrival on social media and the dog became a celebrity.  If the owner is not located, Hank will be drafted to join the team when they move up North to Miller Park in Milwaukee.

The team has really taken to Hank.  Brewers' owner Mark Attanasio was traveling in Europe last week on business where he received four texts from his wife, and three of those messages concerned trying to adopt  Hank.

Hank has become the unofficial mascot of the Milwaukee Brewers.  Barely a week into the camp, Hank was assigned number 1 for his doggy jersey.  Veteran Pitcher Yovani Gallardo marveled how he did not miss any ground balls during infield practice with Hank by his side.

                                                                                     [Photo: The Arizona Republic/Cheryl Evan]

The Brewers seem well trained to cater to Hank's needs. Coach Ed Sedar went to fetch Hank's favorite breakfast dish of scrambled eggs from the food line.  Brewer staff members take turns housing Hank for the night.  And Hank takes his breaks from the field in the stadium operations office.  The players want to put Hank on the roster and have him travel with the team.

Spring training not only winnows down the roster but also conditions players for the long 161 game season.  If Hank truly becomes the Brew Dog, the boys of summer won't have to wait for the dog days of summer to find their Fido as Hank came onto the scene in the Cactus League.

h/t: AP

Sarah Hughes on Winning

Sarah Hughes

Jimmy Thompson on Daytona

Jimmy Thompson  Daytona

Kirill I on the Olympics

Kirill I Olympic blessing

Friday, February 21, 2014

Figure Skating Folderal on Judging at Sochi

There have been a couple of prominent voices at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics which have been fervently complaining about judging at Figure Skating competition.  There was prior to the start of the Olympics, there was a rumor that there was a backroom deal which would allow for Americans Meryl Davis and Charlie White to win Gold for the Ice Dancing discipline while the Russians would again be at the top of the podium for figure skating.

Toronto Star sports writer Rosie DiManno spewed bile at the second place finish of Canadian skaters Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir being edged out of their repeat Gold medal in Ice Dancing by Davis and White.  Dimanno went so far as to exclaim that : “If the fix is not in against Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, then I'm the Princess of Wales."  That seemed like jingoistic jive from the Great White North.

Ashley Wagner, the 22 year old American Figure Skater, placed in seventh  at the Womens’ Figure Skating competition at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics.  Yet Ashley Wagner felt “gypped” because of the judging in the individual competition.  Wagner’s scrunched face in the “kiss and cry” after her performance during the Team competition showed confusion at the judging.

Wagner’s overall 193.20 point total was 7.37 points behind Yulia  Lipnitskaia who placed in fifth.  Lipnitskaia seemed like the darling of the Sochi Olympics when her skating lifted Russia to Gold in the Team Figure Skating competition.  But during the individual Womens’ Figure Skating  the 15 year old Russian falling once during the short program  and once during the free skate. But Lipnitskaia had the home crowd behind her and was scored higher than Wagner.

Wagner’s ire may also extend to Gold medal winner Russian Adelina Sotnikova, fellow American Gracie Gold who finished fourth as well as Japanese skater Mao Asada who placed in sixth who also fell during their performances at the Iceburg Skating Palace in Sochi.

Prima facia, Wagner’s rant sounds like it has some credibility.  But several points seem to extinguish the flame of figure skating ire.

Firstly,  Canadian Ice Dancer Scott Moir’s mom told her son when he was starting in the sport that it was a judging discipline which can be fickle.  Wagner’s suggestion of ending anonymous judging at the Olympics might somewhat curtail nationalistic favoritism.  The USFSA associates judges names with scores but it uses all of the scores, whereas international competitons drop the high and low score and have anonymous, randomly selected panels

Secondly, Ashley Wagner barely made US Figure Skating team to Sochi because of her disastrous skates at the US Nationals in Boston.  The US Figure Skating Association chose fourth place finisher Wagner over the US Nationals Silver Medalist Mirai Nagasu.  Some questioned the fairness of Wagner’s selection, even though the USFSA thought that Wagner had a better chance at the Olympics.  A few voices thought that it was racism.  That seems silly considering the prior US figure skating successes of Debbie Thomas ( Calgary 1988), Kristi Yamaguchi (Albertville 1992) and Michelle Kwan (Nagano, 1998 and Salt Lake 2002).   Perhaps it was a choice based on international competition experience along with marketability, good interviews for NBC Olympics up close and personal glossy videos as well as the ability to make headlines.  On the latter quality, Wagner wins a Gold.

Mao Asada jumping
A third compelling counter-argument to Wagner’s competitive cri-de-coeur is the change in Figure Skating judging.  After a Figure Skating judging scandal at the Salt Lake Games in 2002, the scoring system for Figure Skating was revamped.  No longer did judges start from perfection and deduct points, but you needed to earn points, with a full point being taken off for a fall.  There is also a clock for midway through a skater’s program when extra points are awarded for jumps performed at exhausting stages of a skate.

Mao Asada seemed in the zone of Wagner’s criticisms about falling during performances.  But Asada has a very challenging program and was rewarded for that, despite her flaws.  Asada does all six kinds of jumps and is the only female skater to land eight triple jumps at Sochi.  Wagner should not be so jumpy about figure skaters’ scoring well despite falls.  Wagner won the 2013 US Nationals despite having two halls during her free skate.

[L] Tara Lipinski [R] Johnny Weir 
As much as one is tempted to criticize Johnny Weir’s flamboyant sense of fashion when covering Figure Skating at Sochi for NBC Sports, he was spot on in predicting where Wagner fell short with her free skate and he anticipated fewer points awarded.  Weir observed that Wagner changed music for her free skate from   Romeo and Juliet   which fell poorly in Boston to a more familiar Samson and Delilah.   Weir’s commentary caught some jumps where Wagner landed on two skates and also kicked up some “snow”.  So simply landing a jump might not cut it for the judges.  These nuances might not be seen by casual fans, but it seems to matter to judges and competitive skaters.

It is easy to understand the disappointment of athletes who worked hard for years to compete on the international stage at the Olympics and who follow short of their potential or expectations.  But short of exposing a conspiracy among judges, this is figure skating folderal.

Ashley Wagner has expressed her intention to compete for the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea.  If that falls through, she may pursue a career in modeling.  But finishing seventh on the Olympic stage in Sochi does not set her up for as many lucrative endorsement.

Men with Brooms on Curling

Men with Brooms on Curling
Men with Brooms

Peggy Fleming on Figure Skating

Peggy Fleming Winter Olympics

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Lamenting the Lack of Olympic Truce for Sochi Olympics

Dmytro Mystak is an 18 year old downhill skier for Ukraine.  The day before his first Olympic ski race, there was organized violence against Euromaidan protesters at Independence Square in his native city of Kyiv.   The Euromaidan protests demanding an end to corruption and tyranny were attacked by paramilitary forces.  At least 25 people were killed and 1,000 persons injured.  And Mystak is supposed to compete in this environment.

Mystak's lament about the lack of an Olympic truce is a reasonable reaction for an athlete.  While Mystak's sympathies are clear, the skier does not want to politicize the situation.  Sergey Bubka, the head of the Ukrainian National Olympic Committee also urged his countrymen for an Olympic Truce.  Bubka wrote on his website: “I am once again urging all parties to stop the violence! There is no 'their' Ukraine, or 'your' Ukraine. It is OUR Ukraine.”

The IOC prohibited Ukrainian Olympic athletes from wearing black armbands to commemorate the loss of life at Independence Square presumably to maintain neutrality, which also would not embarrass the Sochi Winter Olympics host, Russian President Vladimir Putin, who is closely aligned with Ukrainian President Victor Yanukovych.

[L] Russian President Vladimir Putin [R] Ukrainian President Victor Yanukovch

  Some Ukrainian athletes were willing to sacrifice their chance for glory which they trained for years by intentionally missing their events in protest of the bloody crackdown in Kyiv.   Marina Lisogor and Katerina Serdyuk failed to appear for their cross country team sprint semi-final race.   Andre Sannikov, a prominent opposition leader from Belarus, indicated that it was a gesture originating in the prohibition on black armbands.

A  Facebook statement indicated that Bohdana and Oleh more explicitly refused to perform at Sochi in solidarity with the Euromaidan protesters.  Oleg and Bohdana Matsohski also refused to compete in solidarity with the protest movement.

Oleg and Bohdana Matsohski, Ukrainian Olympic Skiers 

Although  generally I am skeptical about athletes opining about public affairs, like the Protect Our Winters Manifesto, as the details of the policy are often beyond their ken.  However, it is easy to understand that Yanukovych blessed paramilitaries attacking peaceful demonstrators and violated the idea of an Olympic truce.  I am chary about politicizing the Olympics but I admire individual athletes following their consciences at great personal cost.

For those who need background information on what sparked the controversy, please see Understanding the Euromaidan Unrest at

Thowing Cold Water on Athletes' Alarmist Climate Change Sochi Manifesto

American Cross Country Skier Andrew Newell along with  104 other  Sochi Winter Olympians endorsed a statement decrying climate change.  The Protect Our Winters manifesto urged world leaders to take action on climate change and prepare to commit to a UN Framework Convention on Climate Change to be held in Paris in 2015.  These environmental activist athletes came from  the U.S., Canada,  Switzerland, Norway,Sweden, Estonia, France, Germany, Italy and  Australia.

To bolster his support of the POW Manifesto, Newell pointed to a study from the University of Waterloo (Ontario, Canada) which worries about the future of Winter Olympics in a warmer world.  The Waterloo  researchers claim that six of the last nineteen Winter Olympics host cities will be cold enough to host the games as you can't ski safely or successfully in slush.

This Protect Our Winters message seems to resonate through the warm weather conditions in Sochi, Russia for the XXII Olympiad to reinforce the message about global warming (although this snow job is somewhat diminished when digging out of the snowy Nor'easter on the Eastern Seaboard).   Low information voters who only pay rapt attention when it is a Presidential election, or during the Olympics when Curling and the Luge dominate the airwaves, may unquestioningly buy this progressive propaganda.

Global warming has now been rebranded climate change, since there was not global warming for 16 years (between 1997 and 2012).  Progressive apologists hotly dispute this challenge purporting that climate change "deniers" do not look to the right sources and are all funded by fossel fuel think tanks.  Ironic, isn't it that the unproven theory which has driven much of the global warming debate originated from the East Anglia University hockey stick model, in which data was intentionally manipulated and there was a cover up lest their research funding be imperiled. 

There is some question as to whether the climate change is anthropogenic (man made). The data that global warming was arrested for 16 years, without significant attainment of the ambitious Kyoto Protocol goals, gives cause for pause.  But even if , for the sake of argument, there is a question as to what difference would it make.  Danish Environmentalist Bjorn Lomborg, author of The Skeptical Environmentalist (1998), points out that even if European Union implemented Carbon Tax to achieve the 20-20 goal, it would cost $7 trillion over the course of the century achieving a miniscule 0.05oC reduction in temperature and lower the sea   levels by a trivial nine millimeters.    This does not account for third world nations (including Russia, India and China) which were exempt in the 1997 Kyoto Protocol and would not seriously implement costly environmental curtailment, especially if it sacrificed national economic growth.  Then there is the inconvenient truth that implementing environmental abatement in the wrong way can be counterproductive. 

It is worth recognizing linkage of the warm Sochi weather with an environmentally endangered Winter Olympics as a false flag down the slippery slope of big science.   Ed Morrissey wrote in a Hot Air a piece which debunks warm Winter Olympic weather worriers.  Morrissey points out that Sochi is on the Southern-most part of the Russian Federation and was a controversial choice by the IOC in 2007

Arguably, Sarajavo (1984) and Innsbruck (1964, 1976) are not that much further North than Sochi.  But Innsbruck is located in the Austrian Alps and has an elevation of 1886' and Sarajevo is in the Dinaric Alps with an elevation of 1699'.  The problem is that Sochi is at sea level  and temperate weather can impact the Caucus mountain sites. Typically, Sochi has an February average of 42.8 degrees, with a high of 49 degrees and a low of 37.   That's a rather poor choice for a Winter Olympic locale.  But it probably was a political move at the behest of Russian leader Vladimir Putin.  

Between the questionable science on man-made climate change and the poor choice of Olympic host cities, it is sad that activists athletes are given a platform to pontificate such poppycock.  As   Robert Heinlein lamented: “The United States has become a place in which professional athletes and entertainers are mistaken for people of significance.” 

 In this case, maybe Newell should shut up and ski.  Newell failed to medal in the three disciplines he skied at Sochi, at best coming in 4th in the Mens' Cross Country Sprint


Brendan Shanahan on Hockey

Brendan Shanahan Hockey

Dorothy Hamill on Figure Skating

Monday, February 17, 2014

Meryl Davis on Ice Dancing Partnership

Meryl Davis was paired with Charlie White to ice dance when she was ten and he was eleven.  After seventeen years of partnership, their athletic efforts culminated in a Gold medal for Ice Dancing at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics. 

Rosie DiManno on the Villainy of Ice Dancing

Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir have been paired together for Ice Dancing for seventeen years, when Virtue was seven and Moir was nine.   While they are Canadian, they travel North through Detroit to train in at the Artic Edge rink in Canton, Michigan alongside their main rivals, Americans Charlie White and Meryl Davis.

Despite Toronto Star sports columnist Rosie DiManno's jaunty jingoistic jibes after Virtue and Moir took the Silver Medal in Ice Dancing with 190.99 points  as White and Davis took the Gold in Sochi with 195.53 score. This is a reverse of the placement at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver. 

Vancouver Winter Olympics Ice Dancing Top Two Pairs 

While the Canadian pair was certainly disappointed that they were edged out of the top spot on the awards platform in 2014, Virtue showed more sportsmanship than the cranky Canadian columnist. 

Even Scott Moir's mom realizes that Ice Dancing is a judgment sport, where your fate is decided by a panel of seven judges.

So DiManno's philippic against the prostitution of ice dancing sounds like sour grapes coming from someone not picked for the dance.

As important as performance and perfection is at the Olympics, it also teaches life lessons.  Launching into crude attacks when your favorite does not win in a judgment discipline is the opposite of the beauty performed on the ice. In short, it's losing ugly.  Even more ugly than the Team USA Opening Ceremony Uniforms. They may get a lot of attention, but I wouldn't be caught dead wearing it or clothing myself in such bitter bile.

Nancy Kerrigan on Perseverance

Dave Barry on Winter Sports

The foggy weather in the mountain venues of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics which postponed snowboarding events may test this witty observation.   However, all is not lost for finding humor in the situation.  The Sochi Olympic organizers tried to use the snow guns to blow the fog away.  It didn't work.

Bode Miller on Winning

 Congratulations to Miller, who is said to be the oldest Alpine downhill medalist in the Olympics.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Charles Barkley on Obama

In conjunction with the NBA All Star Game, President Barack Obama is offering a media availability with a reporter.  TNT is putting up Charles Barkley to interview the Celebrity-in-Chief.  Perhaps having an adversarial interview with FNC's Bill O'Reilly prior to the Super Bowl or even an obsequious interview with Bob "Red Eye" Costas for the Sochi Winter Olympics opening  was too draining.   Instead, Mr. Obama granted an exclusive interview to a former NBA star now turned hoops color commentator. 

A political junkie should expect little from the interview which was prerecorded on Thursday as Barkley is an  an unabashed Obama supporter.  But the two questions that undoubtedly will be avoid are about the Benghazi bungle and POTUS' questionable hoop skills as demonstrated at the White House 2013 Easter Egg Roll. 

Victor Ahn on Speed Skating

Elvis Stojko on Motivation

Jonathan Quick on Playing Team Russia at Sochi

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Silver Lining for Veteran Ski Jumper Noriaki Kasai in Sochi

Noriaki Kasai, a 41 year old ski jumper from Japan who is competing in his seventh Winter Olympics, won a silver medal at the Large Hill Ski Jump at the Sochi games.  Kasai's two jump totals at the RussKi Gorki Jump Center were 277.4 points. Kasai was just edged out by Poland's Kamil Stoch for the Gold with a 278.7 margin.  

Kasai did win a silver medal in Lillehammer (1994) with the Japanese team on the normal hill.  But winning an individual medal was quite important to the veteran olympian.

Kasai won plaudits from fellow competitors for his achievement.  Kamil Stoch, the 26 year old who also won Gold in Sochi on the normal hill,  was particularly gracious in recognizing Kasai's success.

T.J. Oshie on Heroes

Paul Wylie on Success

T.J. Oshie on Ice Time

T.J. Oshie,  the St. Louis Blues Center, who is playing on Team USA during the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics may be modest about his abilities.  But Oshie's worth was highlighted in a dramatic finish to the USA-Russia hockey matchup.  With the score tied 2-2 after a 5 minute overtime, the game was decided by a shootout.  Oshie took most of Team USA's eight rounds of shots and put the puck in the net four times, thereby winning the game 3-2. 

Herb Brooks on Hockey

Brook's desired virtues for the US Hockey team paid off in Lake Placid (1980), in the Miracle on Ice.  The excitement of Al Michaels' call of the last minute of the game was remarkable considering it was not even the medal game.