Monday Myriad, July 21: Spike and strike

This week: A couple of U.S. teams won world championships (one official, one nearly official), and we had a track meet with a series of dizzying performances.

We are the champions (I): U.S. men in the World League volleyball final.

We are the champions (II): U.S. women’s saber team in the fencing world championships.

And individually, Mariel Zagunis rocks on …

Don’t say I didn’t warn you: Remember when I did a few posts on the War on Nonrevenue Sports? (No you don’t, please don’t lie.) Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby, also a U.S. Olympic Committee board members, sees a post-O’Bannon suit future in which men’s Olympic sports are gone.

Best doping excuse: Want to know why athletes often claim they doped accidentally or tested positive because of a contaminated supplement? Because it happens. Just ask biathlete Evi Sachenbacher-Stehle.

Speaking of the complex morality of doping …

“Daddy, can we ride the white elephant?”: No, because Barcelona is actually making good use of its Olympic venues.

Big things that happened at the Herculis Diamond League meet:

Take a look — Gatlin goes so fast he can hardly stay in his lane …

(Always a cynic …)

Over to the women’s 5,000 …


Then the women’s 800 for a big upset in a world-leading time by American Ajee Wilson, which you wouldn’t have expected even with 200 meters left …

And the men’s 1,500, where most of the top nine set some sort of mark …

And Tori Bowie — from unknown quantity on the track to dominance …

See the Daily Relay wrap.

Fond farewell: Thanks to Betsey Armstrong, you’ll no longer think of your 100-year-old distant cousin when you hear the name “Betsy.”

Volleyball takes another shot at a pro league

Hi, I’m U.S. volleyball veteran Logan Tom. I play for Fenerbahce. Really! There’s a video linked elsewhere in this post. (Find “Turkey.”)

Women’s soccer isn’t the only sport in which the USA is a world power but struggles to keep a league of its own. Volleyball and water polo are in the same boat.

USA Volleyball, along with the Los Angeles company Grand Prix Sports, is aiming to change that: USAV Awards Sanctioning for Pro League. The same company is working on a rugby league.

(Yes, this is indoor volleyball. Beach volleyball, like tennis and other sports for individuals and pairs, has an international circuit and the reborn AVP. Jake Gibb and Sean Rosenthal just clinched the FIVB beach tour title for the year.)

As it stands now, most U.S. players go overseas. Check the Olympic rosters for the men’s and women’s team and count the countries represented: Italy (3 men/3 women), Russia (3 men/2 women), Poland (3 men/2 women), Brazil (2 women), Kuwait (1 man), France (1 man), Azerbaijan, Turkey and Puerto Rico.

And it’s not just the national team — USA Volleyball tracks many players around the world.

In the USA, volleyball had one high-profile league effort in the 1970s, the International Volleyball Association. Andy Crossley has some of the details, understandably focusing on the league’s star player — Wilt Chamberlain. You may have heard something about his basketball career.

Other attempts: Major League Volleyball (late 80s – see video!), Women’s Western Volleyball League (1993-94), U.S. Pro Volleyball (2002). USA Volleyball has also sanctioned a league, Premier Volleyball League, that seems less ambitious.

This history will sound familiar to fans of any women’s sport or niche sport. (In other words, anything other than football, baseball, basketball and hockey.)

Will it work this time? No idea. But it’s just peculiar that Puerto Rico could support a pro volleyball league while Southern California can’t.

2012 medal projection update: Ball sports

See the original post for projections from 16 months ago; read on for the latest (which may not have changed much):


The only major international event played since the last World Championships were the men’s and women’s European tournaments. The top four men: Spain, France, Russia, Macedonia. Women: Russia, Turkey, France, Czech Republic.

FIBA also compiles rankings that reflect all the various zonal tournaments. Top men: USA, Spain, Argentina, Greece, Lithuania, big gap. Top women: USA (by a mile), Australia/Russia (tie), giant gap, Czech Republic, Spain.

Men: The USA and Spain are clearly the front-runners. After that, the picks are more difficult. France has Tony Parker, Boris Diaw and two other NBA-affiliated players, though Joakim Noah is out injured. Great Britain has two players who passed briefly through Duke — Luol Deng and Eric Boateng. But you can’t always judge by the number of NBA or former college players. Lithuania has a lot of Euroleague experience (as well as some players U.S. coach Mike Krzyzewski will know from ACC play), and Russia is built around several players from perennial power CSKA Moscow.

France (ranked 12th) may be underrated, especially when you consider that France qualified for the Olympics ahead of fourth-ranked Greece. Then Nigeria knocked out Greece in the last-chance Olympic tournament, qualifying along with Russia and Lithuania.

Brazil (#13) is certainly underrated. They finished second at the Americas qualifying tournament behind host Argentina (the USA did not participate), and they usually give the USA a tough game. Argentina beat Brazil in the neutral setting of the 2010 Worlds. But on paper, Brazil’s roster is stronger, and the history is solid.

So we’re not changing. USA, Spain, Brazil

Women: A U.S. loss would be a shocker. Australia has three straight silver medals, and the Opals return roughly half of their 2008 squad, including world-class star Lauren Jackson, though several WNBA players have moved on.

Russia was far from unbeatable in the European qualifying tournament last year, barely getting past Slovakia in the opener and losing a group-stage game to Lithuania. Belarus beat them in the next round, and Britain got within three points. They woke up and stomped everyone in the knockout stages, and no one else has given any reason to doubt the rankings, the original projection or the 2008 finish. USA, Australia, Russia

Read on …

Continue reading 2012 medal projection update: Ball sports

2012 ball sports: Yay, team! Except you folks with bats

Let’s see … I’ve done projections for archery, athletics, badminton … let’s call up the spreadsheet and see what’s next:


Oh … right.

Baseball and softball are gone from the Olympic program because, as we all know, it’s easier to turn an 18-hole golf course into an Olympic venue than it is to put a fence around a small part of an Olympic green and have baseball and softball games. Or something like that.

That still leaves us with a few team sports: Basketball, field hockey, soccer, handball, volleyball (beach and indoor) and water polo. (We’ll save synchronized swimming for later.)

Continue reading 2012 ball sports: Yay, team! Except you folks with bats

Monday Myriad: Want U.S. world titles? We’ve got ’em

Even with an extra day, the weekend was overstuffed:

Soccer: No disrespect to Uruguay and the Netherlands, but isn’t the Germany-Spain matchup as good as it gets? The most explosive team in the Cup against a team that has spent the last three and a half years as the Harlem Globetrotters of world soccer?

Closer to home, MLS had terrific goals in the Seattle-Los Angeles matchup, and Conor Casey is playing like he’s still auditioning for the national team. Or like he thinks he’s Marta.

Tennis: Serena and Nadal winning Wimbledon isn’t the surprise. The surprise is that Roger Federer has fallen all the way to No. 3.

Track and field: David Oliver set an American record in the 110 hurdles at the Prefontaine Classic, which also saw Walter Dix outrun Tyson Gay down the stretch in the 200. Field events were less kind to Americans — Dwight Phillips finished second in the long jump and pulled up with some sort of strain, and Jenn Suhr no-heighted in the pole vault.

Softball: Not all of the games were easy, but the USA trounced Japan 7-0 in five innings in the World Championship final.

Water polo: Soccer isn’t the only sport settled with a penalty shootout. The U.S. women tied Australia 7-7 in the World League final and won the shootout. Brenda Villa was named top player; Betsey Armstrong was top goalkeeper.

Gymnastics: Bronze for U.S. men at Japan Cup, featuring mostly A-teamers.

Cycling: The Tour de France is underway, which means it’s time for one of the funniest annual reading activities — the Tour de Schmalz. If you prefer drama to comedy, read the Wall Street Journal‘s harrowing story on Floyd Landis’ doping allegations.

Poker: The Main Event is underway, even as two other events are still going … and going … and going …

The Tournament of Champions is over, at least, with Huck Seed outlasting Howard Lederer.

Volleyball: The U.S. men got two wins in Egypt, leaving themselves in contention to make the World League’s six-team final tournament. All they have to do is beat pool-leading Russia twice July 9-10 in Wichita.

Beach volleyball: Phil Dalhausser and Todd Rogers remained unbeatable, winning the FIVB event in Norway. Yes, Norway. What? They have beaches.

MMA: All hail Brock Lesnar.

Chess: Yes, they exhumed Bobby Fischer.

And a couple of random reads of interest …

Cricket: Did you know about Staten Island’s cricket history?

Soccer: One of the best reads about South Africa since the Cup started — meet Santos, “The People’s Team.” (Not in the Communist sense.)

Thursday: No fooling around here

Today’s headlines:

Soccer: The U.S. women’s team beat Mexico 1-0. At least, we think that’s what happened. The snow made it a little hard to see. Can’t wait for U.S. Soccer to post the highlights. In the meantime, the Salt Lake Tribune story includes a photo gallery worth checking out. (U.S. Soccer match report)

MMA: Kenny Florian took a comfortable third-round submission win to spoil Takanori Gomi’s long-awaited — probably too long, unfortunate — UFC debut in the main event at UFC Fight Night. Roy Nelson won the battle of big and tall against Stefan Struve, ducking under a punch from “The Skyscraper” and answering with a knockout shot. Florian and Nelson took the night’s submission and knockout bonuses, while Ross Pearson and Dennis Siver took the fight of the night honors. Jorge Rivera had the best overall performance of the night with a convincing win over Nate Quarry that didn’t last long into the second round.  (MMA Fighting Stances)

Soccer: Not to judge a city’s politics from afar, but it looks like a one-week delay in a vote on the Houston Dynamo’s stadium deal has spawned a bit of petty sniping. (Houston Chronicle)

Alpine skiing: You didn’t expect Bode Miller to make his mind about next season anytime soon, did you? (AP)

Soccer: U.S. player Marcus Tracy expects to miss the rest of the club season in Denmark with a knee injury. (AP)

Today’s reads:

Volleyball: Need to catch up with any of the 157 U.S. women’s players going to overseas club teams? They’re rounded up on one staggering roundup. (USA Volleyball – PDF)

MMA: The toughest part of getting into the house on The Ultimate Fighter might be dealing with solitary confinement in a hotel before the first bout, according to this compelling blog entry from contestant Court McGee. (Sherdog)

Soccer: Inside Minnesota Soccer compiled a comprehensive preview of the USSF Division II (shotgun marriage between USL and NASL) season, with one writer per team. Familiar names include Steve Ralston, Christian Gomez, Louis Crayton and Steve Cronin. Future MLS clubs Vancouver and Portland have kept a lot of players from year to year. Miami, which has Gomez and Abe Thompson, is trying to rival the MetroStars/Red Bulls for roster turnover. (Inside Minnesota Soccer)