Friday, August 31, 2012

Top Ten Reasons Clint Eastwood Spoke to an Empty Chair at the Republican National Convention

10. Thought he was starring in the conclusion to his seminal “Clyde” trilogy, “Any Which Way But Sane.”

9.   Was promised Morgan Freeman voiceover for chair on televised broadcast.

8.  Chair only remaining actor who will tolerate Eastwood’s tyrannical directing style.

7. Thought Chair was articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking chair.

6. Promised he could do for Wal-Mart’s Furniture Department what “Halftime in America” commercial did for Chrysler.

5.  Teaser for his new MTV Reality show "Eastwood vs. Chair."

4. Guy is 82 years old, really thought Obama was sitting in chair.

3. Was told he was hosting the Oscars, Obama would be CGI’d in later.

2. Chair needed a job, wouldn’t take government handout.

And the number one reason Clint Eastwood spoke to an empty chair at the Republican National Convention……..

1. HE BUILT IT!   Thank you ladies and gentlemen!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Arrivederci, London: V (5) Stories from the XXX Summer Olympic Games

I started this blog in 2006, and every two years since, I have dutifully recorded my musings on the Olympics, whether Summer or Winter. I’m all about consistency, so what follows is the 2012 London edition, with five stories about the XXX Summer Games I think you should know about. You won’t find anything about Michael Phelps here, nor Usain Bolt. No commentary about Jordyn Wieber, NBC’s coverage or the Opening/Closing ceremonies.  These are just the stories that I thought were particularly interesting, stories you might not know if you have some kind of life and didn’t spend the last two weeks watching 800 hours of coverage like I did. So, without further ado: V stories for the XXX Summer Olympiad:

1. The Montenegro Women’s Handball Team

Montenegro, as a sovereign nation, does not have a rich and storied history in the Olympic Games. In fact, it doesn’t have much of any history. Up until 1992, it was part of Yugoslavia, and even then, when other nations got to branch off on their own, like Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro continued to be part of a Federal Republic of Yugoslavia with Serbia. Montenegro did not become an independent nation of its own until a mere six years ago, which means their first participation in the Olympics as their own country was only four years ago, two years after they were formed. Unsurprisingly, they failed to medal.

In London, their chance for a large medal haul was similarly non-existent. Their best chance of any medal at all seemed to come from the men’s water polo team, as Yugoslavia had traditionally been a water polo power. Unfortunately for the Montenegrins, their arch rivals, the Croatians, knocked them out of the bronze medal game and sent them home hardware free. 2012 might have been another year of waiting to put Montenegro on the competitive map then, if not for the women’s handball team.

These gutty Montenegrin women made a statement in their first game, blowing out Great Britain by the unlikely score of 31-19, which spurred them on to a berth in the quarterfinals against the favored France, who they edged out with a 23-22 score. They pulled off a similar nail-biting upset in the semifinal against Spain, winning 27-26 and earning a gold medal shot against heavily favored Norway.

The Norwegians had won five of the last six European championships and were the current Olympic and World champions. They were the undisputed queens of the sport. Montenegro, in contrast, according to their coach, selected their team from a pool of about 100 women in the entire country who even knew how to play handball. If Montenegro were to win, it would have been the equivalent of the Miracle on Ice, only if the game were played in 1780 instead of 1980. With less than a minute and a half remaining, Montenegro trailed the Norwegian goliath by only a single goal. Sadly for the stalwart Montenegrins, Norway was able to pull away, and secured their gold medal with a garbage goal as time expired for a 26-23 victory, but Montenegro’s silver medal, and coming within inches of gold, was no doubt an inspiration to newly formed and forming countries everywhere.

2. The United States Handball Team

This story is not nearly as inspiring. There IS no United States Handball Team. Well, there is, but not with a presence at the Olympics. And why the hell not? Why don’t we play this sport? It seems to have everything. It’s got jumping, passing, fast ball handling, lots of scoring and physical contact. It’s like a combination of every major sport we play in this country. If there were a Major Handball League in this country, I would totally watch it. But no. We’re not interested. Are we just full up on sports? I don’t get it. Also, why is LaCrosse not an Olympic sport? It doesn’t seem much different from a lot of other team sports played in the Olympics. I guess it’s not played in enough countries but again, I don’t really understand why.

3. American Women and Teamwork

The fact that American women are phenomenal in the Olympics, that they often outperform our men percentagewise and are responsible for a massive inflation in our medal haul is no fresh news. If the US Women were an independent country, they would have ranked fourth in total medal count for men and women combined, ahead of everyone except for China, Russia, and the host nation Great Britain. In total gold medal count for men and women combined, they would have been exceeded only by the Chinese. If you’re happy about this, you can thank Democratic Indiana Senator Birch Bayh, who wrote and sponsored the Title IX legislation all those years ago (40 years, to be exact). What’s really astonishing, however, is the level of dominance by American women in team sports. The U.S women won Football/Soccer, basketball, all around team gymnastics, both track and field relays, two out of three swimming relays, beach volleyball, doubles tennis, women’s eight rowing and water polo. We also threw in a silver medal in volleyball for good measure. If they hadn’t cut softball out of the games, there’s little doubt our women would have won that too. Do American women simply work better together than the men? Or is it that Title IX thing again? Whatever it is, we can thank women’s team sports for letting the US swell out their chests with pride at another Olympics.

Wait a minute. Did I just say WATER POLO? People play water polo in this country? Does anyone remember going to see the WATER POLO team in college? As you might guess, this is the first gold medal ever for American women in water polo, and the first American water polo gold medal at all in over 100 years (yeah, I didn’t know water polo was that old either). Why water polo, traditionally the province of Eastern Europe? Why not? In fact, since 2000, our women’s water polo team has quietly medaled in every Olympics before finally taking the gold this year. Maybe it’s the fact that water polo, like soccer, is an area where women have an opportunity to shine rather than be overshadowed by their male counterparts as they might be in sports like basketball. Maybe it’s just that American women intend to eventually dominate every team sport imaginable. US Women’s Handball gold in 2016, anyone?

4. Claressa Shields

And while we’re on the subject of American women, let’s shine a little spotlight on Claressa Shields. While America was marveling to the gymnastic feats of Aly Rasmussen and Gabby Douglas, 17 year old Claressa Shields from Flint Michigan was carrying the once vaunted U.S.A. boxing team on her back. Shields was the only gold medalist in boxing from the U.S. this year, and one of only two medalists of any color (another woman, Flyweight Marlen Esparza, took a bronze), saving the U.S. Boxing team from their worst showing ever, which remains Beijing’s single bronze in the last Olympics of the men-only era. Middleweight Claressa, whose father went to jail when she was two, was undaunted by tough living conditions and a natural bias against women in boxing, not to mention her young age, and went on to qualify for the Olympic trials and charge through the middleweight division, securing her gold with a 19-12 victory over a tough Russian fighter, Nadezda Tolopova. She did it all with an Ali-like style and grace, strutting her stuff and sharing her joy with the camera, doing it all with far more charm than ego. And if you thought Gabby Douglas had the most winning smile in the Olympics, then you didn’t get a chance to see Claressa crack one when talking about her gold medal victory.

5. The Decathlon

Guess who won the Decathlon in the Olympics this year? The U.S. Specifically, Ashton Eaton, in one of the most dominating performances ever, spurred on by the silver medalist, Trey Hardee, also an American. Wow! Finally, the U.S. has the world’s greatest athlete again, you say! We’re on top again for the first time since Bruce Jenner back in Montreal in 1976! What a triumph for American sports! If you are thinking this, it might interest you to know that the U.S. has won the decathlon a bit more recently than 1976. In fact, we won it… in the last Olympics. Yes, the winner of the 2008 Olympic Decathlon was none other than Brian Clay, of Kaneohe, Hawaii. Before that, you only have to go back three games to Dan O’Brien. So why don’t decathletes get any press anymore?

What was so special about Jenner? I mean, I know, now he’s Kim Kardashian’s stepdad, but he’s always been the only decathlete most Americans have ever heard of.

Even in 1992, there was the big “Dan vs. Dave” hype leading into the games, with viewers being exhorted to speculate whether Dan O’Brien or Dave Johnson would take home the Olympics’ top prize. I don’t remember any “Ashton vs. Trey” commercials.

Back in 2008, I speculated that the problem might be that Clay was half African-American. I hoped that I was wrong, but I did note that Dan O’Brien was also half African-American (Not Dave, and when he dropped out of the picture, leaving the field wide open for Dan to win in 1996, O'Brien did so with little national fanfare). Well guess what, sports fans?  Do I need to tell you the ethnic background of Ashton Eaton’s dad?

I really, really hope this is a coincidence, as my fear, if realized, is not really in the spirit of the Olympic Games. Unfortunately, it looks like we’ll have to wait until another American white guy wins or is speculated to win the Olympic decathlon to find out. In the meantime, I’m going to go ahead and just hope that the lack of Eaton coverage was due to the fact that there were so many other great things to focus on in these Olympic Games, not only those I’ve mentioned here but stories like Great Britain’s tremendous performance as the host country, the valiant efforts of double amputee Oscar Pistorius, Sarah Attar and Wojdan Shaherkani’s defying of religious sexual oppression to become the first Saudi Arabian women to compete in an Olympic Games, and much more.

Well, I could go on and on about the Olympics, I guess, but it seems I already have, so I’ll close here. See you in Sochi!

Friday, August 10, 2012

The XXX Olympics: 10 Olympic Athletes that Sound Like Porn Stars

In honor of the XXX Olympics, here are ten athletes whose names sound like porn stars. Disclaimer: I'm not trying to suggest any of these people are anything but talented, respectable athletes. That having been said; they have porn star names.

                                  Shannon Boxx  USA  Soccer

Julietta Cantaluppi  Italy  Gymnastics

                                                                    Chris Adcock UK Badminton 

Destinee Hooker USA Volleyball

Lars Boom Netherlands Cycling


Karen Cockburn Canada Trampoline

Oliver Buff Switzerland Soccer
                                                                             Francesca Fox UK Gymnastics  

Hana Horakova Czech Republic Basketball

James Harden USA Basketball