Archive for August, 2012|Monthly archive page

New Look at Sports

Sports Talk Radio is everywhere. One of the most intriguing presentations on the topic is the movie, The Big Fan. One can go to ESPN.com, Foxsports.com and a ton of other distinct sites to get insight into current sports, statistics on players, teams, and indepth analysis on current circumstances.

Sports fans that want insight into sports history can go to http://newbooksinsports.com/ Authors of books talk about their work on podcasts at the site.

Listen and learn.

Theater J’s Strong Body Awareness

Fall season means children return to school, football starts in college and the NFL, and the theater season begins anew. This year’s off to a great start with Annie Baker’s comedy Body Awareness. Washington, DC theater goers saw her play,  Circle Mirror Transformation, at Studio Theater in the fall of 2010. Body Awareness was written a few years before Baker’s hit, Circle Mirror, but held my interest much more than the latter.

It’s Body Awareness Week at Shirley College, and the non-traditional Vermont family members Phyllis, Joyce and their possibly autistic son Jared are rocked by a visiting photographer and his ‘male gaze.’  I’d heard about the play through the Jewish Community Center’s Gay Lesbian group, GLOE. They liked that the play simply featured a lesbian couple without making it the center of the action. It’s true that the couple is respected and not made a central part of the story.

What makes the play so strong is that the dialogue is crisp and believable and the performances of all the actors are very natural. In addition, the play allows its characters to grow and for audience members to come to understand them and even like them.

The play raises questions regarding interpreting truth, when to use logic and when to go with instincts, and how to appreciate others who may be quite different from you. The jibes to PC are accurate but seemed a little too easy sometimes, as the US culture has begun to move away from the PC police era of the late 1980s and 1990s.

The playwright’s interview which appears in the program, noted that she wanted to complicate the things that we think of as “stupid.” One method was to have her least mature character call everything that he didn’t like “stupid,” illuminating that it takes a high degree of maturity to give credence to things that you either do not like or strongly disagree with. The Republicans are testing my patience this week.

Romney’s Tax Returns

MSNBC, Current Television all talk endlessly about Mitt Romney and his releasing only 1 full year and 1 year of projected taxes. The major claim is that every other Presidential candidate has released their returns since 1968 so Romney should also. Seems reasonable. These liberal bent stations tell us that not releasing the information is hurting Romney.

Does the American public care? Apparently, the public is evenly divided with 51% saying it is not something that they need to see. When you divide up the public, liberals are most interested and conservatives are the least concerned. Interestingly, people with lower salaries and younger votes both support the release of the Romney taxes.

 

Columnist Colby King raised this point today in his editorial. It’s not enough for Romney to say he’s paid all taxes that are “legally required.” A person who wants to be president should also be able to say, and to demonstrate, that no ethical lines have been crossed.

The best part of his piece is the succinct explaination for what could be hidden in his tax returns.

Was Romney’s income that was placed in a Swiss bank account reported on his earlier tax returns?

How did Romney’s IRA grow so large (to $100 million) when he could only put in $30,000 over any single year?

Did Romney report and pay gift tax on the funding of these trusts,” or might he have claimed “unreasonable valuations” that “would have exposed him to serious penalties if all the facts were known?”

All of these things raise questions about ethics and legal actions. All US citizens should be following the law when filing taxes; no special deals for the rich. This is especially true for a man who is running to be the person in charge of upholding all US and most international laws as the US President.

Paul Ryan: Reformist Conservative ?

Editorial writer Michael Gerson argues that Paul Ryan is not a Tea partyer. He is not like the Libertarians who want to remove all federal government. No, he is a Reformist Conservative.

What a load that is! He wants to reform like someone wielding an ax wants to do a surgical operation. Ryan’s proposal is to cut all non-entitlement spending (not Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid) to 3.5% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). The federal government in order to run all these other operations spends 12.5% of the GDP.

So what happens when you cut 9% of the federal spending on defense, law enforcement, national parks, intelligence operations, archives, and protecting the environment. Common sense tells one that none of these activities can be run anywhere close to effectively without the money. Therefore, endangered species do not receive protection. Strip mining operations can not be watched for illegal labor practices. Museums, archives and national parks can not stay open. Lawyers prosecuting cases, and police gathering evidence comes to a screeching halt.

The argument that the Republicans will make is that they are getting rid of government activities to remove the deficit problem. Half of the current deficit goes to health care, pensions, and paying interest on our debt. These are the areas where the budget is going to grow because of payments due to the increasing number of retirees.

 

 

That only leaves 44% of the budget to cut. Romney promises increased military spending so that takes that 24% off the cutting board. What’s left is 20% of the budget which would make only a small dent in the debt and not address the areas where government expenses are rising.

Instead, that 20% pays for many agencies and thousands of programs. This gets to the heart of the plan. Eliminate those agencies and their programs, regardless of how important federal expenditures in these areas are to maintaining state and local governments in education and social services. Get rid of those programs and you remove the regulations that keep companies and rich people from exploiting workers, ruining the environment, and providing opportunities for kids to receive strong education regardless of their economic class.

Olympics are Great Fun but Not So Gay

Been watching the Olympic Games daily. Enjoying old favorites like gymnastics and soccer to newer games to me like team handball. Saw this great article on Foxsports about gays and lesbian competitors.

It has been a great games for gay Olympians – probably. So few come out that we don’t know who is and isn’t. A survey by Outsports indicated that there are 23 openly gay and lesbian athletes out of 10,000 in the competition.

British equestrian Carl Hesterwon gold in team dressage in London. Midfielder Megan Rapinoe has scored three goals for the U.S. women’s soccer team and several other lesbian players are part of the Dutch field hockey team heading into Friday’s final.

But it’s likely there have been more triumphs by gay and lesbian competitors that the world doesn’t know about.

There are more than 10,000 athletes competing at the London games, but when the gay website OutSports.com set out to count how many were openly gay, it came up with 23.

”It’s an absurdly low number,” said site co-founder Jim Buzinski. He said that compared to the arts, politics or business worlds, ”sports is still the final closet in society.”

Many athletes who come out say it has been a positive experience – and even performance-enhancing. Rapinoe scored two goals in the U.S. team’s semifinal win over Canada.

”I guess it seems like a weight off my shoulders,” she said on the eve of Thursday’s gold medal match against Japan. ”I’ve been playing a lot better than I’ve ever played before. I think I’m just enjoying myself and I’m happy.”

Estimates of the percentage of gay people in any given population vary widely. In a 2010 survey by Britain’s Office for National Statistics, 1.5 percent of respondents identified themselves as gay or bisexual, although many consider that an underestimate.

More scores are in the books, medals around necks. Find out who’s golden, and who’s on their way, with our full Olympics results.

Only a handful of Olympic competitors have publicly identified themselves as gay, including Hester, Rapinoe, U.S. basketball player Seimone Augustus, Australian diver Matthew Mitcham and South African archer Karen Hultzer, who came out to the media during the games.

”I am an archer, middle-aged and a lesbian,” the 46-year-old athlete told OutSports – but said she looked forward to the day when her sexuality was not an issues.

”I am also cranky before my first cup of coffee,” she said. ”None of these aspects define who I am, they are simply part of me.”

Gay sports groups say the London games organizers have been welcoming, including gay, lesbian and transgender volunteers among its staff and sanctioning an official games rainbow pin.

The London Pride House, a gay hospitality venue, had official approval from games organizers. London organizing chief executive Paul Deighton said the site helped show Britain as an inclusive place ”which welcomes the world’s diverse communities and creates a safe sporting environment for LGBT athletes.”

Looks like the tweeting is getting a little friendlier between the athletes. See their latest tweets.

But activists fear the next host city – Sochi in southern Russia – will be far less gay-friendly. Homosexuality was decriminalized in Russia in 1993, but anti-gay sentiment remains strong. Protests by gay rights activists regularly end in mass arrests.

British rights activist Peter Tatchell and a handful of supporters rallied Thursday outside Russia’s Sochi Park pavilion in London to protest Russian authorities’ refusal to allow a pride house at the 2014 Winter Games – a decision that was backed up by a Russian court.

”Quite clearly, this ban is in violation of the Olympic charter, which prohibits discrimination and guarantees equality,” Tatchell said. He said the International Olympic Committee ”doesn’t appear to want to engage with this issue.”

IOC spokeswoman Emmanuelle Moreau said the IOC would not comment ”on private court cases,” but added that ”the IOC is an open organization and athletes of all orientations will be welcome at the games.”

 

Marc Naimark of the Federation of Gay Games said the IOC should pressure countries to repeal anti-gay laws the way it once excluded South Africa for its racial apartheid policy and, more recently, succeeded in getting all competing nations to include female athletes on their teams in London.

”The lack of ‘out’ athletes in the Olympics is a symptom,” Naimark said. ”It’s not the problem.”

There is a particular dearth of openly gay male Olympians – there are only three men on that London list of 23. The most high-profile is Mitcham, whose Twitter biography calls him ”that gay, 2008-Olympic-gold-medal-winning diver dude.” He’ll be defending his 10-meter springboard title at the games this weekend.

Rapinoe, who came out earlier this year, said it was more difficult for male athletes than for women to be open about their sexuality.

”I think there’s a lot of gay women in sports, and it’s widely known in the team, they can live a pretty open lifestyle without being open in the media,” she said. ”But I think for men unfortunately it’s not the same climate in the locker room.”

 

There’s also the fear of losing lucrative commercial endorsements. Sponsors would never admit that they would drop an athlete who came out as gay, but few competitors would want to risk it.

Much was made of the fact that former NBA player John Amaechi signed an endorsement deal with razor company HeadBlade after he came out in 2007. But HeadBlade is small potatoes compared to Adidas or other huge sports sponsors.

Times may be changing, however. Adidas spokeswoman Katja Schreiber said the company would stand by an athlete who chose to come out of the closet.

Buzinski thinks the environment for gay athletes is improving. He points to the growing number of athletes, gay and straight, who are prepared to speak out against homophobia.

 

 

More Olympic Boxing Insanity

The London 2012  Games Boxing fiascos continue. Another mysterious win by a boxer who throws phantom punches and gets the points needed to outpoint their opponent.

The US Olympic Boxing Committee had enough! They registered a protest after the last of their boxers, welterweight Errol Spence, lost 13-11 to a man who spent most of the third and last round of the fight, holding on, grabbing his opponent, and committing other rule infractions.

The amateur committee overturned the decision against Spence. He now advances on to the next round.

 

A few hours after the U.S. men’s boxing team thought it was done at the Olympics, amateur boxing’s governing body decided Errol Spence deserved to fight on.

AIBA overturned Spence’s loss to Indian welterweight Krishan Vikas late Friday night, five hours after the defense-minded Vikas had apparently clutched and grabbed his way to a 13-11 victory.

After the American team protested the result, AIBA’s competition jury reviewed the bout and ruled Vikas had committed nine holding fouls in the third round alone. He also intentionally spit out his mouthpiece in the second round, which should have resulted in at least four points of deductions.

 

[+] EnlargeErrol Spence

Kyle Terada/USA TODAY SportsWelterweight Errol Spence, left, lost Friday, but after the American squad protested the result officials ruled that Spence should have won. Spence will stay in the tournament.

 

Spence advanced into the quarterfinals to face Russia’s Andrey Zamkovoy on Tuesday. If he wins, the American men’s team will avoid leaving the Olympics with no medals for the first time ever.

“I am obviously thrilled that the competition jury overturned my decision and I can continue chasing the gold medal I came here to win,” Spence said late Friday night. “I am going to make the most of this second chance that I’ve been given. I can’t wait to get back in that ring on Tuesday.”

India’s veteran boxing coach says he accepts the decision.

Gurbankhsh Singh Sandhu was disappointed, but he says “a rule is a rule.”

Spence felt he had won the bout afterward, expecting his hand to be raised in the ring, but wasn’t terribly surprised when Vikas got the nod. The welterweight from Dallas already was the last U.S. man standing after his eight male teammates lost in the previous five days, including three-time Olympian Rau’shee Warren’s 19-18 loss to France’s Nordine Oubaali an hour earlier.

Spence stopped the eight-fight skid, but must beat Zamkovoy to save the most successful team in Olympic boxing history from its first medal shutout and its worst showing at any games — although three U.S. women are still alive in their first Olympic tournament, which begins Sunday.

Spence’s late reprieve was surreal for a team that appeared headed home with nothing. Spence struggled to penetrate Vikas’ technical, plodding style despite showing superior power and entertainment value.

“We did a lot of work, got a lot of coaching, but it’s the judges that we feel we’re going against most of the time,” Warren said.

The 2008 U.S. team won only one bronze medal in Beijing, the worst showing so far — but at least that team won six total fights, one more than the London team. The American men have won only one gold medal in the last three Olympics, by Andre Ward in Athens in 2004.

The vaunted American team has claimed at least one boxing medal in every modern Olympics where boxing was a sport except the boycotted Moscow Games, and many of the men who won them are among the giants of the sweet science.

Cassius Clay, Joe Frazier, George Foreman, Floyd Patterson, Oscar De La Hoya, Evander Holyfield, Roy Jones Jr. and Floyd Mayweather Jr. all won medals for U.S. teams, leading generations of boxing talent the world couldn’t match.

 

[+] EnlargeRaushee Warren

Chuck Myers/MCT via Getty ImagesAmerican flyweight Rau’shee Warren, right, lands a punch on France’s Nordine Oubaali during the third round of Friday’s bout.

 

The Americans’ 48 gold medals and 108 total medals are easily the most in Olympic boxing history, with 45 more medals than second-place Cuba.

The London team actually won its first four fights last weekend, but then the losses piled up with alarming speed. The Americans’ poor performance caps a two-decade struggle to adapt to changes in the amateur sport, with steadily declining medal counts ever since boxing went to a computerized scoring system that rewards a style with stark differences from pro boxing.

The U.S. seemed headed for a better showing last week. The 4-0 start showed its improved team chemistry after the Beijing team squabbled and argued its way to a dismal showing.

The current U.S. team has a strong relationship with coach Basheer Abdullah and his staff, even though Abdullah only had about six weeks to prepare as a late hire by USA Boxing. None of the fighters blamed the coaching-staff turmoil for his performance, but the string of losses was stark: Three fighters lost on Wednesday, followed by two more on Thursday before Warren’s defeat.

After Spence’s apparent loss, Abdullah came close to suggesting the judges might have been biased against some American fighters, although he also believes U.S. boxers need years of training in the amateur sport to compete at its highest levels. Amateur boxing features five ringside judges who award points only when they believe a punch lands, rather than traditional scoring systems that evaluate skill, style, technique and aggression.

The amateur sport moved to a computerized scoring system after Jones’ infamous loss at the Seoul Olympics in 1988, when three judges awarded a decision to South Korea’s Park Hi-sun after Jones dominated their fight.

“I don’t blame any (scoring) systems,” Abdullah said. “I blame the people that operate them. I’m disappointed in some of the things I’m seeing.”

Spence knew the feeling after three rounds of trying to break through the passive guard of Vikas, who fights a rigid amateur style emphasizing defense and tactical aggression. India’s amateur boxing scene has surged in popularity in the four years since Vijender Singh won his nation’s first Olympic medal in Beijing, with thousands of prospective Olympians training in the amateur style with no intention of ever turning pro.

“I thought I won the fight,” said Spence, a talented puncher who intends to turn pro this fall, along with most of his teammates. “I thought I threw more punches and landed more shots. I thought I was the more aggressive boxer. It was kind of frustrating, but he’s fighting to the computer system.”

Warren’s loss was particularly heartbreaking. The undersized dynamo nicknamed “Nuke” twice passed on a pro career and a chance to provide financially for his growing family to take another shot at hanging a gold medal around the neck of his mother, Paulette.

He waited well over a decade for this moment, climbing the amateur ranks in his native Cincinnati and avoiding the pitfalls that put two of his three brothers in prison. He got to the top of the amateur sport — and then stumbled at the three biggest moments of his career.

Warren wept in Beijing when he lost his opening bout on a last-minute tactical error. Four years and another one-point loss later, he seemed dulled to the pain of going winless in his unmatched Olympic career.

And he won’t be back for Rio: Warren said he’ll turn pro, probably along with every member of his team.

“It ain’t really no setback for me,” Warren said. “I’ve got big things coming up. This isn’t the end for Rau’shee Warren.”

Oubaali rallied from a first-round deficit with more aggression and precision than the third-seeded Warren, a former world champion. Warren also lost his contact lenses in the opening round and couldn’t size up Oubaali, who mostly controlled the final two rounds.

Warren still thought he might have eked out the decision, but few fans at ExCel seemed surprised when Oubaali got the decision. Abdullah also said he agreed with the decision.

Now 25, Warren says he’s still happy he stuck around to become the first three-time U.S. Olympic boxer — even though he might still turn out to be the biggest disappointment on the least successful American team ever.

“It’s always a good experience,” he said, “to do something people don’t normally do.”

Organize Protest Against Olympic Boxing

I admit it. I get worked up watching sports. I love sports because supposedly the best person or team wins.

That is generally true. It is not the case for boxing in the Olympics. I wonder how other commentators are calling these fights back home to their viewers. The two announcers for CNBC are beside themselves with rage and disgust over winners that have no business being selected.

Teddy Atlas has raised all kinds of questions regarding the judging and rightfully so. As one blogger noted, The reffing and judging in Olympic boxing has been problematic to say the least for the past few games. This year the trend has only gotten worse. Today we had one particularly egregious instance of abysmal reffing and judging result in a fight’s results being overturned.

A fighter gets knocked down six times and not only isn’t TKO’ed, he wins the fight on points. Apparently, you can score points from punches thrown while lying on the ground????

In today’s joke, a Romanian boxer takes it to his Azerbijan opponent for the last two rounds. However, he scores the same number of points as his opponent despite landing double the number of punches.

The only way to get through to the leadership of the sport is to hurt them where it counts. Stop watching and participating in the Olympic sport.

Boycott boxing!!!