London Olympics

Rick Telander and Rick Morrissey share their thoughts

Just curious: I f you were head football coach at a D-1 school, what would your work mindset be? Would you be perusing the emails and ``help wanted'' posts even as you were smiling and telling the local fans how happy you were right here in Paducahville?
Or would you be true blue, honoring your contract, putting down roots, meaning what you said about this being your ``dream job''? I wonder. Fellows like Nick Saban and Urban Meyer, and it's looking like Brian Kelly, always need to be moving on, sometimes ahead of the posse, sometimes right with it. Makes sense, when there is ever more money somewhere else, plus more prestige, power, perks, golden rings of the type Gollum followed to the fires of Mordor to retrieve.
But you know the home place that loves you so much will likely fire you soon. Just stop winning--or winning enough--and away we go! The mercenary part goes both ways. Boosters are born restless.
But if you're not like those guys, 5he Leaving' Larrys--oh yeah, Bobby Petrino comes to mind, as does Tommy Tuberville--would you be somebody like Joe Paterno (before the scandal and before he died), staying in one spot, in a peaceful realm, forever? I think about Pat Fitzgerald at Northwestern now. Once a baby coach, just 31, he is now approaching a decade as the head man at NU, and you know he must get offers to go to ``big-time'' programs every day. But he's got a young family, he likes where he is and the success he has had, and for now it seems he's glued to Evanston. He turns all those offers down. For now.
How long can any coach hold out? How long could you?

END

LONDON--

We're winding it down at the Olympics, so let's get it right:

1. Matt Grevers mother's first name is spelled Anja, not Anje as I spelled it in my column about the big guy from Lake Forest and his gold medal and Olympic record in the 100-meter backstroke. For what it's worth, Matt might be about the nicest elite athlete you're ever going to meet. He led off Michael Phelps' last race ever--the 400 medley relay--and took the lead.

2. Jessica Ennis, the British heptathlon champion, is 26, not 19, as I wrote. Where I got 19 from, I have no clue. I might have been thinking of Michael Phelps eight years ago, but I think not. Ennis, nicknamed ``Tadpole'' by her teammates, because she's all of 5-5 and almost skinny, is an astounding athlete. World class in the hurdles, she manages to throw the shot and run the 800 meters, and all the other stuff, like a champ. Another terrific role model.

3. The water Friday in the men's 10-K swimming marathon at the Hyde Park lagoon called the Serpentine was 70 degrees at one end and 70.5 degrees at the other. That was the race I wrote about because American Alex Meyer was in it (he finished 10th), and he has been active in trying to get better rules made regarding water quality and temperature in these distance events that are swum outdoors all over the world. Two years ago his good friend and world-class teammate Fran Crippen drowned while swimming with Meyer in an event in 84 degree salt water.
I forgot to include the temperature at Hyde Park in my story. Seventy degrees is cool, but the swimmers wore partial wetsuits and were fine. However, there's nothing much they can do to keep their thermostats in order in water as hot as 84 degrees.

4. Stacy Loukas and her two brothers, the children of George and Patty Loukas,and the siblings of Christina Loukas, the U.S. 3-meter springboard diver, do not manage and work at the Cubby Bear in Chicago. They run both it and the Wrigley rooftops owned by father George. Patty herself gave me that update.
By the way, Christina is a former U.S. national diving champion. Her eighth-place finish was disappointing to her, but she is a two-time Olympian, and she was magnificent to watch.

5. Loukas's diving coat is Kenny Armstrong from the University of Texas, not Kenny Anderson. My bad. A typing brain lock.

6. The water quality at the Serpentine did not make the Chicago River look like a park pool, as I wrote. I may have overstated my repulsion. It made the Chicago River look like a Wisconsin lake.

That's it, until I have more.


LONDON - A few thoughts and observations as the Olympics near their end:

-- I still can't get over the fact that men's 1,500-meter winner Taoufik Makhloufi of Algeria ran his last 100 in 12.6 seconds. That's insane.

-- It sure looked as if the taekwondo referee I saw on TV the other day was wearing a protective cup. If he wasn't ...

-- I love how some Russian journalists wear the same warm-up pants and coats as the athletes do. Can you imagine if U.S. journalists donned the same outfit as Michael Phelps? The way some of these guys have hit the free buffet line over the years, it would be stars and stripes forever.

-- Can someone explain why divers get under a shower head immediately after each dive? Isn't that sort of redundant?

-- If you had 10 BMX races with the same competitors, you could easily have 10 different winners, given the amount of jostling, falls and general chaos. You can't say the same thing about most other competitions at the Olympics.

-- OK, I finally have it down: The cars drive on the left side here. It would follow that pedestrians would walk on the left, too. But, no. People are all over the sidewalk. The stairs are a study in confusion. Make up your mind, Brits!

-- If professional boxing bouts were three three-minute rounds, like the Olympics men's fights are, instead of 10 or 12 three-minute rounds, it might have more of a following. With much less time to make an impression on judges, boxers throw lots more punches and are much more ferocious.

-- Synchronized swimming is not a sport. Carry on.

-- And, finally, this letter to the editor in The Independent newspaper about Boris Johnson, the spotlight-seeking London mayor: "Prime Minister David Cameron describes Johnson as a 'titan.' I have not received the classical education enjoyed by these two gentlemen but, as I understand it, the Titans of Greek myth were creatures much given to incest, inbreeding, intoxication, the eating of children and a cosmic fratricidal conflict which ended in their ultimate defeat. I see what Cameron's getting at.''



LONDON - A miracle happened the other day.

An athlete who tested positive for a performance-enhancing drug admitted he was guilty. As I said, a miracle.

Alex Schwazer, an Italian race walker (yes, a race walker), said he had bought EPO, a blood booster, during a trip to Turkey in September, then hid the drug from his girlfriend, figure skater Carolina Kostner, by putting it in a box of vitamins.

He won gold in the 50-kilometer walk in Beijing four years ago and had been favored to win again here. But he said he was tired of living a lie and actually wanted to get caught during a July 30th drug test.

"I'm not made to take drugs or to deceive people, and I couldn't take it anymore,'' a tearful Schwazer told reporters in Italy on Wednesday. "I couldn't wait for the whole thing to end.

"When on the 30th the doorbell rang, I knew it was the anti-doping people. I knew it was all over. It would have been enough to tell my mother not to open the door or to tell them I wasn't home, but I couldn't take it anymore.''

We Americans are used to weak defenses: Somebody spiked my Gatorade. Somebody tampered with my urine sample. The lab mistook my sample for someone else's. I didn't know the brownies had marijuana in them.

But here we have someone who is honest and contrite. Can you imagine the good will it would have engendered had Mark McGwire taken the same approach? He and all the others would have found a much more forgiving public. But something tells me Schwazer's is a one-time miracle.

8-10-12 LONDON--
Usain Bolt came into the room like the ``living legend'' he would soon anoint himself, in a jovial style, smiling and joking with his pals, Yohan Blake and Warren Weir. Silver medalist Blake sat to his right and bronze medalist Weir to his left as they took their places at the podium table.
The questions for gold medalist Bolt came with each passing of the microphone by Olympic officials to the next eager journalist from God knows which corner of the globe. Everybody wants to know about The World's Fastest Man. Nobody wants to know much about the second fastest man. That is, unless the three fastest men on earth--at least in the 200 meters--all come from the same island nation of 2.8 million people.
What I wanted to know was: Are you guys doped up? Simple question, to which the answer should be simple, too. So I decided to ask it just like that. I waved at the Olympics lady, one of them, and she whispered that I'd get my chance. But when I had the mic and was ready to ask my question, somebody with another microphone butted in. I waited, got my turn, and said quickly, ``Can you assure us that you and the Jamaican drug team--''
It was a slip of the tongue, a classic Spoonerism, and the place exploded in wild uproarious guffaws. ``Hyaw! Har Har Har!'' Now there are many in these packed rooms, remember, who are ``journalists'' only in the nominal sense. They wear the same tracks suits as their country's athletes. They cheer and clap in the press box. They root like fans. The guys in front of me were madly taking photos of one another, grinning like hyenas, with Bolt in the background. These ``journalists'' want entertainment.
So, anyway, I said, ``Excuse me, a slip of the tongue...the TRACK team, the sprinters, are drug free?''
The laughter calmed. Bolt looked at me and said he hadn't heard the whole question.
I said slowly and carefully, ``Do you feel certain the Jamaican sprinters are drug free?'' Got it properly that time, I did.
``Without a doubt,'' Bolt replied. `` Without a doubt. Without a doubt. We train hard. Especially my teammates. We stick together and we see each other work every day. Yohan doesn''t throw up. He doesn't like it--he won't do it. But we work out. We throw up every day. We have injuries, we take ice packs. We lay on the track-- I've seen the work we've put in to do the best.''
It was a good, straightforward answer, if you don't mind vomiting references. I had only asked in the first place because the odds are against the small-country triumvirate of speedsters being teammates under one flag, one coach. Plus, we know the history of doping and Olympic sprinting.
``When people doubt us, it's really hard for us,'' Bolt finished, almost forlornly. ``Because we try our best to show the world that we run clean.''
It was good to hear him on record. Hope he's right. Hope I learn to speak right.
* * *

LONDON--When something like the Olympics comes to your town, you can almost hear the b.s. whistling in the air. All the politicians and business wheeler-dealers start gushing about how good the undertaking will be for the community, the "infrastructure" ( favorite word), the reputation of the city, and (even more favorite word) the "economy."
Little people, little dreams take cover. The grandiose and the bloviated are on stage. And, oh yes, the liars, connivers and profiteers.
In London the obfuscating began seven years ago when the IOC awarded the city the 2012 Games. Future promises mean nothing when you're knocking down buildings, destroying neighborhoods--no--in the name of progress to come. Maybe that should be in caps, so worshipped is it. PROGRESS.
Everything will be richer, faster, higher.
Little people? Who? Lost in the dust storm.
"What rubbish!" Olympic neighborhood apartment owner Warren Lubin told the Evening Standard of the intrusions and lies made to or upon all the people, including himself, who were or will be dispossessed: "Go back four years, remember Beijing and how LOCOG said they would never destroy people's houses the way they did in China to make way for the Olympics. Well, it has happened here, just in a different way--stealth."
But stealth works, you know. When big concepts are afloat, and the politicians and connected are at the trough, just about anything does.

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LONDON -- I have a suggestion that I just know will be incredibly popular among people who compete in what I refer to as niche sports.

Not all Olympic medals are created equal. For example, winning a gold medal in men's soccer should be worth more than, say, a gold medal in the men's 50-kilometer walk. That's because billions of people around the world play soccer. Although it's true that billions of people walk, sometimes fast, in their daily lives, not many people are competitive race walkers. I'm guessing it's easier to get to the Olympics as a beach volleyball player than it is as a marathoner.

Thus, each medal should not be worth the same. The International Olympic Committee should decide the value of each medal in the medal standings based on participation in the sport worldwide. Values would change from Olympics to Olympics.

If you think I'm being an ignorant American, I'm willing to guess that basketball might not be as popular internationally as some other Olympic sports. Many people around the world might know who LeBron James is, but it doesn't necessarily mean basketball is more popular as a participation sport than swimming is.

What got me thinking about this was Great Britain's medal haul. The Brits are third in the gold medal count with 22 and tied with Russia for third overall with 48 medals. Nine of those medals came from track cycling - seven gold, one silver and one bronze. Because of the cost of the bicycles and the lack of velodromes around the world, track cycling is not among the most popular sports around the world.

Cost is also a huge issue with equestrian events, another sport in which the Brits have succeeded at these Olympics. Should Great Britain's gold medal in the team dressage count the same as Usain's gold medal in the 100-meter dash? No. The equestrian gold medal should be the size of a half-dollar.

I'm not trying to diminish the preparation and effort that go into competing in any of these sports. But if the pool of pole vaulters is significantly smaller than the pool of table tennis players around the world, shouldn't the table-tennis gold be worth more?

Only if you think table tennis is a sport.

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LONDON -- I'm at gymnastics again, and Wenlock is here.

He's one of two Olympic mascots. He has one large eye, an evolutionary development that doesn't suggest "evil'' so much as scream it. I'm not sure what the idea of Wenlock is supposed to "say'' other than, "hide the children!''

A bit of advice: If you're ever confronted by this thing or one of its devil spawns, try to stand to its side. No peripheral vision. Knock him in the nether region and run like hell. Unless he's a she. Then you're dead.

Team Morrissey

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LONDON -- Apparently, it's the last name.

If you've noticed, I've been railing against the Brits' unabashed homerism throughout the Olympics. More than once, I've written that if Great Britain had its way, each event would be filled with only British athletes. That would cut down on the country having to pretend the rest of the world exists.

Into the fray comes Morrissey, the English rock singer.

"I am unable to watch the Olympics due to the blustering jingoism that drenches the event,'' he told a fan website. "Has England ever been so foul with patriotism? The 'dazzling royals' have hijacked the Olympics for their own empirical needs.

"As I recently drove through Greece, I noticed repeated graffiti seemingly everywhere on every available wall. In large, blue letters it said, 'WAKE UP, WAKE UP.'

"It could almost have been written with the British public in mind, because although the spirit of 1939 Germany now pervades throughout media-brand Britain, the 2013 grotesque inevitability of Lord and Lady Beckham is, believe me, a fate worse than life. WAKE UP.''

Morrissey's music has been described as morose. Sometimes my writing is described that way. Sadly (key word), I think we're both right on this topic.

LONDON--I watched the Spain vs. Brazil game here at the Basketball Arena, because it preceded the U.S.-Argentina game, which I would be writing about. Sitting tin the stands taking in the game, I started rooted quietly for Brazil as it made a comeback against the higher-rated Spanish team. Under-dog rooting is always fun.
Back Brazil came, too, making some terrific fast break plays and playing tough defense on Spain, which had led at one point baby as much as 11. Brazil outscored Spain, with its Gasol brothers and other NBA regulars, 31 to 16 in the fourth quarter, on some terrific fast break plays, sticky defense, and good rebounding, winning 88-82. Blimey! Well done, lads!
Then the buzz started soon after among the sports guys--what if Spain threw the game? Well, not exactly threw it, but didn't want to win? Didn't give its all at the end? Hmm, Spain sure did look ugly at the end, missing shots, etc.
But lose on purpose?
Why would the players do that? To get into another bracket for the lose-and-you're-out games that follow the group round-robin play. Spain now plays France, not a bad team, but certainly not the United States, which is in the other bracket. Spain can win two games and make it to the gold medal game Sunday, likely against the U.S. If it had beaten Brazil, it would have had to play the U.S. in the semi-final matchup. Now the winner of Brazil-Argentina gets that dubious honor.
These Olympics have already had the badminton lay-downs by China, South Korea, and indonesia. And there was some manipulating in women;s soccer, though not as severe or obvious. But this? This would be a mess.
Can there please be some way to stop this nonsense? Even the possibility of it? Can it simply be made so that losing always is something you try to avoid, the way it should be?

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