Archive for the 'sports' Category

One Word: Ugly

My first Seahawks report of the year is not a happy one. The Blue Men lost to the Buffalo Bills 34-10, and it wasn’t that close.

The story of the off season for Seattle has been injuries. Oh, and the utter collapse of Shaun Alexander’s career, but that one I sort of saw coming (more on that some other time).

Over the pre-season, guys seemed to be going down regularly. No where is this more apparent than with receivers. Not two years ago Seattle had too many receivers to throw the ball to. At the end of last season, Deion Branch went down; he’s still not back. After a long holdout seeking a contract extension, Bobby Engram came back, and went down. D. J. Hackett went to Carolina. This left Ben Obamanu and Nate Burleson as the only receivers with much experience. Obamanu went down in the preseason and is done for the year. Branch is week-to-week on when he’ll be back. This weekend, Burleson went down for the year. Yikes!

So, on to the game. Matt Hasselbeck, our plucky bald QB of Chunky Soup fame, has apparently developed a bad back, and didn’t play much in the preseason. It showed. The offensive line struggled with multiple guys out during the preseason. Coupled with a new running game (Alexander being gone, Julian Jones having been picked up from the Cowboys as a free agent) and well, the offense partly to mostly sucked.

The defense played ok; two of the touchdowns scored against the Hawks came on special teams. One was an sucker punch of a fake field goal pass to a defensive end who was so wide open even I could have caught the ball. The other was on a punt return on which I swear the Seattle coverage team looked like they were hoping the guy would just trip.

So as often the case when they go back east to play, the Hawks take the loss. I am slightly contented to remember that the Super Bowl season of ’05 they started the same way with a crappy loss in Jacksonville. We’ll see.

The next two games are at home against two of the poorer teams in the NFC, San Francisco and St. Louis. My prediction? If Seattle doesn’t beat both teams, and soundly, it is going to be a long year.

Coupled with the Washington State Cougs only taking the WORST loss in Pac-10 history, it was a pretty dismal football weekend. I think it can only get better. It better…

Posted on Monday, September 8th, 2008 by Bryan
Under: seattle, sports | 4 Comments »

Interesting Perspective

A couple of days ago I found a fascinating Olympics live blog, from the point of view of one of the Seattle Times photographers. He talks about what it’s like to capture pictures of the games and venues, and of course provides notes on his (excellent) photos.

Best Seat in the House

Posted on Friday, August 15th, 2008 by Jeri
Under: photography, sports | Comments Off

Inglorious Olympics

I really enjoy the Olympics, especially the summer Olympics. This year, though, more than any before, I’m pretty disillusioned with the whole three-ring circus.

Let’s talk about China. You can be a human-rights-abusing, quasi-third-world, anti-religious communist nation, and the U.S. will embargo you so fast your head will spin – if you are a poor country with no market or export opportunity to offer us. (Hello, Cuba!) But if you’re a huge country with the potential to become an economic superpower someday, even if it is on the broken backs of your abused citizens, then our high-minded democratic principles fly right out the window and we will extend foreign aid, provide tax relief for international business and encourage travel and joint ventures. I realize I’m oversimplifying – but I do firmly believe that US business ethics are entirely situational.

I understand that part of the ideal of the Olympic games is that the participating nations set aside any international and political issues and come together in peace to participate in athletic competition. Various games have been boycotted since the 1950s for political reasons, however, no nations have withdrawn from these Chinese games. This surprises me. Should nations have boycotted the Chinese games for political and human rights reasons, at the expense of their athletes? I can’t answer that – but I do think that the US should be consistent in its application of human rights and foreign aid censure.

These games have seemed to turn sour this summer, for many reasons:

IOC’s suspension of Iraq’s Olympic participation, based upon dissatisfaction with the selection criteria for the country’s Olympic committee. As a project manager, I understand the importance of governance, still, what in the heck does that have to do with whether the athletes who have trained their entire lives have qualified cleanly and are allowed to enter?

Forced relocation of Beijing residents to support Olympic venue, related construction, and general urban change. While China insists this was voluntary and compensated, many residents indicate otherwise – that eviction was forced, families were required to leave town, losing jobs and homes, and compensation was for a fraction of value, if available at all. This is the subject of citizen protest at this time – brave folks, given Chinese history!

Internet and press censorship for foreign journalists and visitors. The Chinese government had pledged to provide journalists unrestricted access to the Internet and other media, but journalists onsite found that they were subject to censorship restrictions similar to those of the Chinese population. Under fire, the Chinese government has reversed this and made an effort to make full access available to foreign journalists; the results have been inconsistent.

Draconian visa restrictions and denial-of-entry decisions. It appears that China’s plan for a safe and secure Olympics appears to be that if no one shows up, there can be no trouble. As of the end of July, hotels and airports were half empty. Some of the new visa rules require frequent and complicated applications, including proof of a hotel booking, round-trip airline tickets, and in some cases, a letter of invitation.

Gold-medal athlete and Team Darfur activist Joey Cheek was denied entry; he warns that current Olympic competitors that are politically active in pro-human rights causes like Team Darfur may be subject to treatment as suspect individuals in China, subject to extra security procedures and scrutiny when they arrive in Beijing. Naturalized American citizen and African refugee camp survivor Lopez Lomong, a middle distance runner and Team Darfur member, was chosen to carry the American flag at the opening ceremonies. I am very proud.

Doping is becoming epidemic in elite competition. Recent headlines revealing doping and stripping past heroes of their medals are disillusioning – as a spectator and a fan, I hope that my heroes have prepared honestly and compete cleanly, and it’s becoming harder and harder to suspend that disbelief. In track and field, swimming, cycling, weightlifting, wrestling, athletes are being suspended, admitting fault, losing their slots and even having past medals removed. How can we cheer the winner on the stand today, knowing that he or she may be making a painful “my cheating heart” confession sometime in the future?

Air quality and the US Olympic Team breathing mask debacle. The US Olympic team issued breathing masks to its athletes to help combat Beijing’s notorious and well publicized smog problem. A few bicyclists wore them in the airport upon arrival, thus “insulting” their host nation and requiring an apology. This infuriates me. Call a spade a spade. If the air is polluted, then wear a mask and don’t apologize. Pretending everything is shiny to save the host nation’s face is not going to help our endurance athletes conserve their lung capacity. And if wearing them in public, i.e. out-of-doors, is inopportune – then precisely when were the athletes supposed to wear them? In the shower?

The murder of US volleyball coach’s family members. In spite of the 100,000 armed troops and police lining the streets of Beijing to maintain order and security during the games, an attacker murdered a visitor and critically injured his wife in an act of random violence. The victims turned out to be the family of US volleyball coach Hugh McCutcheon. To add to the tragedy, it appears that Chinese authorities may be reinstating censorship measures related to coverage of this murder, wanting to sanitize any appearance of relationship of the murder to the Olympics.

Traditional Chinese squat toilets at many of the new and renovated venues drew frequent complaints. Limited renovation to serve athletes, journalists & VIPs was undertaken at the three most striking venues for the Olympics, the 91,000-seat national stadium, the water cube swimming and diving stadium, and the National Indoor Stadium. Spectators and athletes at less prominently placed events will still encounter the squat facilities.

I’m sure that other Olympic games have had their share of adverse advance press and sad stories during the games – today’s world of instant electronic media makes this kind of news more accessible and easier to find. Still, I don’t feel particularly charitable toward surly, dictatorial host nation China, nor toward the IOC that awarded them the games.

I wish the athletes, press and spectators, though, nothing but the best.

Note: I was going to write about tv coverage and web streaming but I never got there. Next time!

Posted on Tuesday, August 12th, 2008 by Jeri
Under: sports | 9 Comments »

True Tough Guy

Sports Illustrated recently published their list of 25 Toughest Athletes.

As with most such lists, most of the attention is on who earned spot #1. I’d like to instead talk about the #2 guy.

Lance Mackey & DogsLance Mackey won both the Yukon Quest and the Iditarod dogsled races. He was the first to have won both in the same year – and he repeated the results for a second year.

Both races are run by a driver, a team of 12-16 dogs, a single sled, and only the essential, required supplies required for the trip: an arctic parka, a heavy sleeping bag, an ax, snowshoes, musher food, dog food and boots for each dog’s feet to protect against sharp ice on the trail. Not only is the driver responsible for arctic survival for him/herself and the team, the driver is also required to take exemplary care of his dogs throughout the race and often runs a good part of the route when he/she wants to reduce the load or compensate for the terrain.

The Yukon Quest, held in February, is a 1,000 mile race from Fairbanks, Alaska to Whitehorse, Yukon Territory. There are 10 checkpoints and four mandatory longer rest periods spaced throughout the race, including a halfway 36-hour stop, where facilities and veterinary inspections are provided. Temperatures on the trail can range from -50°F to +25°F. The dogs typically run in a 4-6h on/4-6h off pattern around the clock, with the team and driver resting on the trail during their down time. Mackey’s 2008 winning time was 10d:12h:14m – the red lantern (last place) finisher’s time was 14:04:17.

The Iditarod, run in early March, is approximately 1,150 miles, from Anchorage, Alaska to Nome, Alaska. The route alternates yearly between a northern and a southern trail, and is often warmer and can be more hazardous than the Yukon Quest. There are 22 checkpoints and three mandatory stops on the race, one of them 24 hours. Mackey’s 2008 winning time for this race was 9:11:46, and the red lantern finisher completed the race in 14:19:51.

Oh, yeah – one more thing about Mackey. He’s a cancer survivor. After the 2001 Iditarod he was diagnosed with throat cancer, and spent the year undergoing surgery and chemotherapy. He started the 2002 Iditarod but scratched, took a year off, and has been running cancer-free ever since.

This is a tough athlete.

#1 on the Sports Illustrated list was Tiger Woods. Certainly, Woods plays golf like a genius, and his physical conditioning and mental toughness in a mentally challenging sport are legendary. Could he finish a 1,000 mile arctic dogsled race? After chemotherapy? I don’t think so.

On the other hand, Mackey could probably finish 4 x 18 hole rounds of golf – not necessarily with any kind of great score, but it’s do-able. My bet is he wouldn’t want to, though. No dogs are allowed on the golf course.

Posted on Tuesday, April 8th, 2008 by Jeri
Under: inspiration, sports | 9 Comments »

Mariners vs. Rangers

Safeco FieldLast night Bryan and I went to a Mariners baseball game, the 2nd of the season. It was a sunny, clear, spring day in Seattle, but cool and breezy when the sun went down.

Safeco field is awesome. I’m sure there are other wonderful ballparks, but this one is cooler than any other I know. It has a retractable roof in case of bad weather, seats 41,755, and has more widely varied concessions (sushi, barbecue, Cajun, and chocolate-dipped strawberries) than any other ballpark I know.

Last night was military appreciation night. Mariners officials brought out representatives from each local branch of service before the game, filling the baseline – then sent the baseball players out to thank them and stand among them for the national anthem. The most affecting group was a local chapter of the Paralyzed American Veterans, pushed onfield in standard and motorized wheelchairs.

Immediately following the vets’ entrance, the announcer offered a moment of silence for the servicemen and women we’ve lost, and an Army musician played taps on trumpet. There weren’t many dry eyes left in the house after that.

CH-47 Helicopters over Safeco FieldActive duty personnel threw out the first pitch(es) – four of them. The balls for the first pitch had each circled the globe in the last six months, visiting bases, carriers, aircraft and detachments overseas, all documented in photos.

Just prior to the start of the game, we had a flyby of Chinook CH47 helicopters – fun, because they can fly low and the sound shakes the stadium!

Oh, there was a baseball game too. ;)

Night at Safeco FieldIt was lively. We played the Texas Rangers, and my favorite pitcher (Felix Hernandez) started for the Mariners. Unfortunately, we gave it away in the 8th & 9th innings, losing 5 – 4.

Bryan, Smug Puppies sports correspondent, adds: I wondered why the Mariners weren’t picked to finish first in their division, and now I think I know why. They may be somewhat better, but they still have some of the same consistency problems they had last year. For example, this game was lost because their normally awesome closing pitcher, J. J. Putz, coughed up a home run to lose the team’s hard-fought for lead. Felix Hernandez, while overall pitching well, gave up an unearned run on his own error, but otherwise played the field in his own defense really well. So, even though the starting pitching is better, it seems the bull pen might be worse, and they’ll end up losing when they can’t hold the leads. The game was overall fun, even though cold, and I’ll second everything Jeri said about the military appreciation night, it was very classy and moving.

Jeri again: We’ll probably be back again in late April for Ichiro bobble-head night. We don’t collect ‘em, but I know a couple of nephews that would love to have the toys.

Note: photos (except the aerial view) are from my new Blackberry Curve phone camera – not bad for that type of device.

Posted on Wednesday, April 2nd, 2008 by Jeri
Under: sports | 4 Comments »