Fun and frustration of voting on soccer awards

Even without Hope Solo’s Twitter jab at Julie Foudy, the voting for the U.S. women’s national team’s all-time Best XI was sure to be controversial, full of difficult cross-generational comparisons. Michelle Akers was a certainty (the one voter who omitted her from his/her ballot should really speak up and explain why). But what about the other two-thirds of the Triple-Edged Sword from 1991 — Carin Jennings Gabarra and April Heinrichs? Do you take Alex Morgan ahead of them even though Morgan is still in the early stages of a surely great career? How about Megan Rapinoe? The midfield competition is … Continue reading Fun and frustration of voting on soccer awards

NBA dumping divisions? Why not add promotion and relegation?

I’ve long figured the NBA was the U.S. pro sport best suited to a promotion/relegation system. It’s not hard to find a half-decent arena, the college system produces hundreds of noteworthy players who don’t make NBA rosters, several franchises sit in moribund mediocrity each year, and switching things up wouldn’t trample on history as it would in baseball, football or hockey. Today, the NBA is struggling with the imbalance in its regional divisions and conferences. The playoffs could easily have some rotten teams. The suggested solutions are creative. And all this is happening in a year in which teams are … Continue reading NBA dumping divisions? Why not add promotion and relegation?

2014 medal projections (and team stats): Figure skating

Updated Jan. 14; minor update Jan. 21 Here’s what we know about the ever-changing world of figure skating: – For the Japanese men, Russian women, Chinese pairs: Whoever makes team is a contender, even if Chinese pairs have slipped a bit. – All these events have long-established favorites, but none moreso than ice dancing, where everyone else is expected to fight for bronze after the Americans and Canadians take gold and silver (not necessarily in that order). – The team event is new and controversial. Some fans worry that their favorite skaters will wear themselves out competing in a team … Continue reading 2014 medal projections (and team stats): Figure skating

Big winter weekend for USA

No, I’m not talking about the fact that every tree and power line in the Mid-Atlantic is covered with ice right now. I’m talking about skiing, sliding and skating, where a lot of things went right for U.S. athletes two months and change before Sochi: – Figure skating: Meryl White and Charlie Davis are hardly a surprise in ice dancing, though they have tough rivals for gold in Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir. But the record they set in winning the Grand Prix Final was a grand statement. (NBC) Ashley Wagner also made it to the podium — perhaps all isn’t lost … Continue reading Big winter weekend for USA

2014 medal projections: Ski jumping

Updated Jan. 14 Finally, women have broken down the gender barrier that kept them from getting Olympic status for the times they fling themselves through the air and land on the snow. The USA fought for this event for a long time (another Olympic story I covered for some time). They’re also quite good at it, especially if Sarah Hendrickson heals in time. Away we go … LARGE HILL Gold: Gregor Schlierenzauer (Austria) Silver: Kamil Stoch (Poland) Bronze: Simon Ammann (Switzerland) Also considered: Anders Bardal (Norway), Richard Freitag (Germany), Severin Freund (Germany), Anders Jacobsen (Norway), Noriaki Kasai (Japan), Peter Prevc (Slovenia) … Continue reading 2014 medal projections: Ski jumping

2014 medal projections: Nordic combined

Updated Jan. 14 In 2010, USA TODAY dispatched me to Whistler Olympic Park nearly every day. The biggest story I was supposed to follow: The USA looked likely to get its first medal in Nordic combined, the sport in which athletes test themselves on the ski jump and the cross-country course. They did indeed get that first medal. Then their first team medal. Then their first gold. And it’s a fun event to watch. The cross-country race start order is determined by the ski jump results. The farther back you are in the ski jump, the longer you have to … Continue reading 2014 medal projections: Nordic combined

World Cup qualifying: Is there another way?

Mexico is in the World Cup, and Egypt is not. And that seems unfair. It’s not that simple, of course. One incorrect meme making the rounds: Egypt won seven games and Mexico won only four. Actually, Mexico won 10, sweeping all six of their third-round games to get to the Hexagonal. Still, we can shake our heads at the notion that Mexico feasted on New Zealand in a winner-take-all playoff while Egypt’s reward for a perfect round-robin was a playoff with Ghana. Shouldn’t we give teams more of a fair shake? Sure. And we can also turn the last stage … Continue reading World Cup qualifying: Is there another way?