Monday Myriad, Aug. 18: Hit!

A once-in-a-lifetime javelin throw, Usain Bolt’s beach activities and some winning U.S. teams are in this week’s highlights:

No comments this week due to the splint. Typing is hjklae.


SportsMyriad podcast, the first: Lori Lindsey’s perseverance

Lori Lindsey’s retirement provoked a lot of good discussion. Would a young player coming through the ranks today stick around in amateur soccer to work her way into the national team? Who else makes that great through pass down the center?

What a great time to experiment with podcasting!

I’ve been thinking about podcasting for a while, and with my left hand in a splint that slows down my typing, it’s the perfect time. And it gives me a good excuse to put all the interviews from Lindsey’s home finale in one big audio file.

I’m learning on the fly, and I’m open to constructive feedback. If you’d prefer to skip around and listen only to the parts that interest you, here’s a quick guide:

3:20 Olympic sports recap

9:05 Setting up interviews on Spirit-Sky Blue game

10:15 Jim Gabarra’s comments on Sky Blue’s season. Techncal difficulties erased Mark Parsons’ comments on the game — basically, the occasion got to them, and everyone was trying to hit one big heroic pass instead of combining intelligently.

11:30 Me on Lori Lindsey’s history in Washington. Somehow, I worked Landon Donovan into it.

18:00 Setting up the rest of the interviews:

18:38 Virginia coach Steve Swanson telling an old anecdote on Lori and paying tribute to her attributes that many younger players do NOT have.

(Incidentally, I don’t think that’s me laughing on this one and other interviews. Maybe Kevin Parker? Maybe the other man who was there? We had a group of about 8 people.)

20:38 Christie Rampone on Lindsey’s ability to play a direct ball with great vision

21:15 Spirit coach Mark Parsons on how Lindsey filled a couple of different roles on a playoff team this year and a last-place team last year. Also, there’s some dispute over who won a danceoff in 2013. (It was Toni Pressley, as recorded in my book.)

24:45 Ali Krieger on the Spirit wanting to win for her

25:25 Lindsey on her retirement and favorite moments

31:00 I sign off and show off my mad GarageBand skills.

Enjoy, and tell me how I can do it better.

Spirit vs. Sky Blue: Farewell to Lori Lindsey

I’m not going to do a big recap of Sky Blue’s 1-0 win over Washington for the following reasons:

1. Western New York held Chicago to a draw in the later game, clinching a playoff spot for the Spirit despite the loss. (Former Spirit Reserves goalkeeper DiDi Haracic, essentially the Flash’s fourth-string keeper, got the start.) Sadly for Sky Blue, which counterattacked beautifully in this game and got solid defensive performances from Sophie Schmidt and Christie Rampone, that result knocks them out.

2. Spirit coach Mark Parsons summed up the team’s performance with elegant simplicity: “The occasion got to us a little bit.” More specifically, “everyone wanted to hit that final pass.” He’s right. The night was riddled with ambitious passes that skidded away so quickly that Canadian artificial turf apologists will surely use the video to claim the ball is tough to control on all surfaces, not just FieldTurf.

3. Broken finger. Can’t type much.

So the lasting memory of the evening will be Lori Lindsey’s retirement. The Spirit put together a nice video tribute with comments from all over — former coaches such as Clyde Watson and Kris Ward, former teammates such as Becky Sauerbrunn and Megan Rapinoe (the funniest of a fairly witty bunch), even Mia Hamm.

Fans outside Washington or recent women’s soccer fans might not realize how important Washington has been to Lindsey (and vice versa). In the years between the WUSA and WPS, she slogged it out with the Washington Freedom (held together by Jim Gabarra, now the Sky Blue coach, who graciously congratulated Lindsey before the game). She played on this field in front of a couple hundred people at times. In those years, she pushed her way into the national team pool and wound up playing in the 2011 World Cup.

She talked a bit about those years in the postgame interview, after she signed autographs for everyone who hung around. I’m uploading the entire audio here and may add parts of it to the debut SportsMyriad podcast Sunday or Monday. Stay tuned.

Here’s Lori:

MMA’s new Dark Ages

Why limit five-on-five to basketball? Why limit fighting to one-on-one?

Most people could come up with a whole list of reasons, but that hasn’t stopped Team Fighting Championship from lining up five-man teams to do battle in the … well, it’s not a cage. It’s sort of a ring, but it’s basically a mat with some loose ropes and tires.

The first question: Is it safe? In the interview linked above, the founder says yes. They have one ref for each pair of fighters, which certainly separates this from pro wrestling. The downside: It’s a format that encourages fighters to jump opponents from behind. That leaves fighters defenseless. In every other fighting format, the fight is stopped when one fighter is defenseless. Maybe refs can be sure fighters aren’t “surprised,” but that didn’t seem to be the case in the footage they’ve posted so far.

The next question: Is it interesting? And it’s really not. The human eye can’t follow five fights at once. And then when one guy taps or is knocked out, it’s over — the other team can then double-team a guy to wipe him out, and so on.

The last question: Does it feed stereotypes of MMA fighters as bar-brawlers or soccer hooligans? Yeah, pretty much.

Simply put, the “why not?” answers are more compelling than the “why?”

One-handed Monday Myriad, Aug. 11: USA is not Greece

My poor goalkeeping form has left my left hand in a splint, so this will be a scaled-down Monday Myriad.

The lead story this week: Ten years ago, Athens hosted the Olympics in venues that were doomed to rust. The lesson isn’t to avoid hosting the Games. The lesson: Don’t do it like Athens.

The big events: USA Swimming championships, determining teams for the Pan Pacific meet AND next year’s World Championships. Yeah, that’s odd, but …

The week:

TOUR OF UTAH: Prettiest event in the USA?





Soccer as distraction and soccer as sanity

When I was little, I learned about war and sports at the same time. I browsed World Almanacs and other reference books and read statistics, my young brain not yet able to distinguish the gap in meaning between Hank Aaron’s 715th home run and the 140,000 people (give or take tens of thousands) killed when the atomic bomb hit Hiroshima. “Innocent” and “ignorant” are close cousins.

“War annihilates innocence, and no war more than this one,” says Brian Phillips in this brilliant Grantland piece on World War I and soccer. In Phillips’ view, Europe was wholly unprepared for the brutality of the conflict it had unleashed, thinking of it in terms of the sport that had grown so quickly in the generations since the last major war.

Phillips’ view here is dark, seeing the “war as sport” view as an insidious trivialization of what was happening on the gas-clouded battlefields of Ypres and elsewhere:

(W)e still make the same mistakes, because we still understand war through analogy and our analogies still fail. Now we see it as a video game, or we see it as a component of the NFL’s set of minor paraphernalia, jet flyovers part of the same combo pack that includes beer commercials and classic-rock riffs.

(I’m reminded of a sports journalism colleague, not normally a left-leaning guy and certainly a big fan of the NFL, who muttered that if we saw some North Korea, Saddam’s Iraq or some other country doing military flyovers at a sports event, we’d be horrified. So why is it OK if we do it?)

He’s right, of course, but the war photos and histories also provide us a view of soccer as a means of providing some joy and hope in horrible times. We need to cling to something — a loved one’s photo, a favorite food, or a soccer ball.

After Sept. 11, I wrote a column about soccer’s place in the world. I never got any feedback on it, and perhaps rightly so — it’s not as brilliant as Phillips’ work here. But I expressed a bit of optimism in soccer’s role as a peacemaker:

Games remind us that we are all not so different. The people we see as our enemies become sportsmen and sportswomen against whom we can test our skill. They even become our teammates. Our friends.

As we listen to commentators dividing the world into “us” and “them,” we can look on a soccer field and remember that the “us” far outnumbers the “them.” Players of Middle Eastern descent have graced MLS rosters and will continue to do so. Greater freedom in Iran has yielded a few stars of Germany’s Bundesliga. World Cup qualifying this year included a team called “Palestine,” representing the hopes that all nations share — to play in the greatest event in the world.

We can’t all make it to the World Cup. We can’t all play well. But we can share this unique experience with all who take advantage of whatever freedom they have to enjoy this game — a game that captures the human spirit in every corner of the world, even and perhaps especially those that are suffering or mourning.

Play the game.

Live the game.

My optimism is limited, of course. Soccer didn’t end World War I. It won’t end the conflicts in Ukraine or Gaza. And yet there’s something about this sport that has the power to remind us of our common humanity.

I’ll give the link again to Phillips’ piece, Soccer in Oblivion. And I’ll celebrate the fact that when France (or England) and Germany (or Austria) meet now, they dispute nothing more than the occasional call by the ref.

(So once again, England fans, you can stop booing the bloody national anthem any year now, all right?)

USA Swimming championships, Day 2

The basic U.S. women’s plan for the foreseeable future: Katie Ledecky wins the distance races, Missy Franklin wins everything else.

But hold on a minute. Ledecky met Franklin in the 200-meter freestyle Thursday at the U.S. nationals and won. By 1.24 seconds.

So within U.S. swimming, we’re going to have a nice friendly rivalry, one that caught the attention of Alan Abrahamson and USA TODAY’s Nicole Auerbach, for a few years to come.

Now we’ll see if they’re as quotable as Lochte and Phelps.

Also Thursday — Franklin dominated the 200 backstroke as usual, and Lochte fell well short of 2012 gold medalist Tyler Clary in the men’s 200 backstroke.

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Monday Myriad, Aug. 4: Flip and fight

Starting with a few bits of news:

– Both U.S. teams won their first matches at the 2014 Chess Olympiad, then faltered today against high seeds. The U.S. open team lost 2.5-1.5 to the Netherlands, while the U.S. women lost 3-1 to China. Only eight rounds to go.

– The U.S. women’s volleyball team had a disappointing 1-2 start in the monthlong World Grand Prix, righting the ship against Japan.

– Nothing else happened.

Seriously. It’s a slow week. Thank goodness two UFC fighters decided to throw down … at the press conference. That’s actually kind of rare for the UFC.

The week in tweets and videos …

Top THIS, Vegas …

Wiping the floor: Simone Biles won the Secret Classic, thanks in part to this:

Close finish: You’d expect a margin of 0.27 seconds in a 100-meter race, but 10,000 meters?

Weekly reminder of global press protocols (or lack thereof): 

Best prep for climate change: Hey, just make biathlon a summer sport.

Most dangerous PR position: UFC’s Dave Sholler had the unfortunate task of attempting to keep Jon Jones off Daniel Cormier.

One more reason to visit Barcelona 

You’rrrrre … um … out?: This isn’t supposed to happen in beach volleyball.