Monday, August 18, 2008

Monday Musings

Welcome to an all-new feature here at Quick Hits... that I like to call "Monday Musings". Every Monday I'll take a quick look at the stories that caught my eye from the week prior and share my thoughts on each.

  • What better place to start of course than with Michael Phelps, the man who may have cemented his place as the greatest Olympic athlete of all time with a week-long performance for the ages in which he tallied eight (that's 8!!!) gold medals and surpassed the once thought untouchable record held by the great Mark Spitz

    I've been alive for eight (spooky) Olympic Games and never before have felt the type of palpable heart-thumping nervousness during an Olympic event that I felt each and every time Phelps took to the pool.

    His truly astounding feat of athleticism is something that I feel privileged to have seen and something that I will no doubt be telling my kids about years from now.

  • Another Olympic athlete who grabbed the spotlight and refused to let it go was gymnast Nastia Liukin. Now anyone who knows me knows that I don't particularly care for the non-sport that is gymnastics (we'll save that discussion for later), but I was captivated by the perpetually leggy Liukin and her stunning gold medal performance in the individual all-around competition.

    Perhaps it was the influence of her Olympic champion father, 1988 gold-medalist Valeri Liukin, but the unbelievable focus that Nastia exhibited in the face of a highly-biased crowd as well as some questionable judging was nothing short of extraordinary.

    Phelps had me glued to the television for obvious reasons, but it was Liukin who surprisingly grabbed my attention and became arguably my favorite Olympian in 2008.

  • Staying with the Olympic theme for just a bit longer, I'd be remissed if I didn't mention the disappointments that unfortunately stood out among all the American triumphs in Beijing.

    First would have to be gymnast and team captain Alicia Sacramone, whose two major mistakes during the the team finals will forever be seen as the difference between silver and gold for the American women.

    What was saddest about the situation was that it was clear that Sacramone was the inspirational leader on a team poised to make history. In the face of key injuries, Sacramone could be seen pumping up her less experienced teammates and you could feel the disappointment when she failed to hold up her end of the bargain.

    Impressively, Sacramone refused to pout or make excuses, choosing instead to do what all good leaders do and take responsibility for her missteps.

    The other massive disappointment in my eyes was the non-performance of swimmer Katie Hoff who came into the games as a strong favorite in several events and yet consistently came up short in the biggest moments.

    First she failed to qualify for the event most had her pegged to win pre-race, the 800-meter freestyle, and followed that lackluster performance up with several more down-the-stretch fade jobs.

    While her Olympics weren't a total failure as she managed two bronze medals and one silver, the lasting image of Hoff for me will be the bewildered look she seemed to flash at the end of every race, as if to imply that even she could not believe how poorly she performed overall.

  • Jamaica's Usain Bolt is the fastest man in the world and already I can't wait until someone slaps that stupid grin off his face.

  • Mixed feelings about the San Francisco Giants $6.2 million bonus for their top draft choice, catcher Buster Posey out of Florida State.

    Part of me is excited to get the young man into the fold and happy to see the organization's commitment to scouting and signing big time talent. But I also find myself having to question the notion of any team giving a guy with exactly zero major league at-bats that kind of money guaranteed.

    I can't fault Posey or his agent Scott Boras for seeking the large payday as they clearly were just exploiting the system as it stands. I just hope for the Giants sake that Posey reaches the big leagues quickly and has the kind of impact that many in the know think he can.

    By comparison the number one overall pick, high school shortstop Tim Beckham, received a $6.15 million bonus from the Tampa Bay Rays.

  • Vikings' QB Tarvaris Jackson suffered a sprained MCL in his right knee during the team's second pre-season game on Saturday. An injury that at first was believed to be only a bruise.

    Reports are that Jackson should not miss the Vikings' season opener on Monday Night Football in Green Bay, and may in fact play as early as this Saturday vs. the Steelers. As many people have mentioned, Jackson holds the key to the Vikings' fortunes in 2008. However I hardly see the difference in the offense when Jackson is at the helm and when veteran backup Gus Frerotte is leading the charge.

    Sure Jackson brings the added element of athleticism and escape-ability, but with a nicked up leg you have to wonder just how effective the still unfinished Jackson can be should he be forced to miss the final two pre-season games.

  • That other quarterback who nearly landed in Minneapolis did pretty well in his first action with his new team. Yay. But his name will still never grace this blog.

  • If we have indeed seen the last of Tom Glavine, the sure-fire Hall of Fame pitcher will be remembered as one of the best ever and a true inspiration to me in my younger days as a pitcher.

  • What in the Eastern Hemisphere is going on with all of these B and C-list NBA players defecting overseas? The latest player on the move is former New Orleans Hornet Jannero Pargo who agreed on a one-year deal with Dynamo Moscow worth a reported $3.5 million after taxes.

    Now I've never been one to say a guy shouldn't do something that is clearly in their best interests financially, but this is an alarming and disturbing trend if you're a fan of NBA basketball.

    Along with Pargo, former Magic guard Carlos Arroyo took a three-year deal from Israel's Maccabi Tel-Aviv, former Bobcats guard (and my wife's favorite player) Earl Boykins signed a one-year deal with Italy's Virtus Bologna and former Hawks forward Josh Childress signed a three-year deal with Greek club Olympiacos.

    Now I don't believe for a second that the Kobe Bryant's and LeBron James' of the world would make that kind of jump, but it makes you wonder just what's going on in the NBA when legitimate NBA-caliber talent is choosing to play somewhere other than the best basketball league on Earth.

  • In the same week the AL East leading Tampa Bay Rays lost arguably their two best offensive players to injury, left-fielder Carl Crawford and the game's best rookie, third baseman Evan Longoria.

    Longoria may be back sooner than later, but Crawford will miss the remainder of the regular season and it would be quite impressive if he were ready for the playoffs should the Rays make it that far.

    Of course there is one man out there who by all accounts is in great shape, rearing to go and willing to play for the minimum. He hit 28 home runs in 2007 with an OPS of 1.051 and did it all while playing in only 126 games, the bulk of which he played in one of the best pitcher's ballparks in all of baseball.

    His name of course is Barry Bonds and even the Rays, who have gone from annual cellar-dweller to first place darlings in the course of the last calendar year, will not touch him with a 34-inch/32-oz. maple bat. Did I mention he's willing to play for the league minimum?

    Unfortunately for Bonds and the few of us in the world who long to see him play one more time, there is virtually no chance he will find himself on a big league roster ever again. It's near impossible to prove collusion of course, but I for one firmly believe there is no solid baseball reason why a team in contention and in need of a bat couldn't take on Bonds and his unquestionable talent.

  • Meanwhile the Arizona Diamondbacks gave up two prospects and a legit big league starter in the form of Micah Owings to acquire Reds' slugger Adam Dunn for the next two months.

    Dunn will hit the open market at season's end and is likely to receive a hefty payday from someone. I watched him all last year and you can't tell me Barry Bonds is any worse in the outfield than Dunn and I'd be willing to bet Bonds wouldn't hit .236.

    OK, I'll stop.

  • The Georgia Bulldogs are the consensus No. 1 team in the country according to the major pre-season college football polls. It's the first time since 1982 that the Dawgs have been ranked that high.

    Good luck fellas. One look at that brutal schedule which includes road games at #15 Arizona State, #7 LSU and #10 Auburn, not to mention games against #24 Alabama, #18 Tennessee and #5 Florida and it's hard to imagine Mark Richt and company maintaining their lofty perch.

  • Tiger Woods should be player of the year on the PGA Tour, period. Four wins including a one-legged U.S. Open win, a 2nd place finish at the Masters and a 5th at the WGC-CA Championship is all the proof you need.

    Apologies to back-to-back major winner Padraig Harrington, but Woods still tops the tour money list by over $1 million with $5.75 million in earnings, and despite not playing since June would enter this week's FedEx Cup Playoff opener as the top seed.

    Aside from a 5th place finish at the Masters, Harrington's best showing in a tournament with Woods in the field was a 17th place finish in the WGC Accenture Match Play tournament.

    I rest his case.

  • As for my beloved San Francisco 49ers, it's looking like journeyman quarterback J.T. O'Sullivan will be the opening day starter for new offensive coordinator Mike Martz.

    This decision baffles me as I had a chance to see first hand just how dreadfully awful O'Sullivan (they're calling him JTO, of course) really is at Vikings training camp in 2006. That team broke camp with Brad Johnson as the starter, Mike McMahon as the backup and a rookie Tarvaris Jackson as the third-stringer. In other words, they just said no to JTO.

    Suddenly the man deemed not worthy enough to hold a clipboard in front of Mike McMahon has seemingly supplanted former No. 1 overall pick Alex Smith. Smith has never really had a chance in my opinion, as Martz is now his fourth different offensive coordinator in his four years as a pro.

    Niner fans have no fear however, we'll soon get to hear these words again:

    With the first pick in the 2009 NFL Draft, the San Francisco 49ers select...

    So that should be fun.

  • Lastly, I feel compelled to mention that former Vikings' practice squad wide receiver Jason Carter is just about assured of making the opening day roster for the Carolina Panthers and thanks to a few key injuries he should see significant playing time right out of the box.

    He was already turning heads at Panthers camp and now it looks like his opportunity has finally arrived. I've long been a fan of the versatile Carter who I'm convinced could have helped the Vikings in the passing game from day one but never got a real shot.

    Stay tuned for an update on his progress and a possible Q&A session with the man himself.

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