We watch the Olympics all day so that you don't have to.
Excruciatingly tense game for the U.S. women's soccer team in the quarterfinal match against the Netherlands. After falling behind 1-0, it was 2-2 at the end of regulation, and still after another 30 minutes of Extra Time. All the more, the U.S. had three goals waved off because of off-sides, all three calls justified, though two of them were by about the width of a shoelace. But in the penalty kick phase, the U.S. goalie stopped two shots by the Netherlands and the American women only needed four of the possible five kicks to win. So, they're now in the semi-finals. Four teams left, including Sweden who crushed the U.S. in the opening round, and who the U.S. will play in the finals, but must first face Canada. Which remains an "if," given that the Americans don't seem to be playing at their peak. But still, they've made it to the semis.
It was great to see Katie Ledecky win her signature event, the 800-meter freestyle, for which (coming into the Olympics, and perhaps still) she has the 23 best times in the world, beating out Australian Ariarne Titmus. I think Titmus is terrific, and likely will be an even-greater competitor than she already is now, having won two Gold medals. But I was especially pleased to see Ledecky beat her for the third time in the games, my pleasure having nothing to do with Titmus but because I thought her Aussie coach was churlish when Titmus won the 400-meter race, dancing around and raving like a maniac. It got a lot of attention, and it seems many people thought it was a hoot. Excitement and happiness is one thing, but especially given how gracious Ledecky was in her loss, it made him look boorish and infantile, and as if he'd never been at a race before. In fact, many considered his swimmer the possible favorite in that race, not remotely a come-from-behind underdog.
I'm glad that during the 10,000 meters race (an event I always enjoy) they did an homage to Billy Mills legendary win at the 1964 Olympics, showing the last 15 seconds where this totally unknown American came from nowhere and out-sprinted everyone to win. I didn't see it, but actually heard it on the radio. Oddly, they covered the Olympics on the radio, as well as on TV, and had to take a shower, so I brought my transistor radio into the bathroom. And to this day, I clearly remember the stunned announcer screaming out, "HERE COMES MILLS!!!" My only disappointment with the homage to Mills was that they didn't mention that Disney made quite a good movie about Billy Mills (who was an American Indian and had a difficult, trouble life growing up on a reservation and later marrying a white woman), called "Running Brave," which starred Robby Benson.
Here's the last minute-and-15 seconds of the race. The huge favorites were r Mohammed Gammoudi of Tunisia and Ron Clarke of Australia. A big deal that gets overlooked by the announcers in their excitement is that at one point Billy Mills gets bumped an pushed to the outside. You won't hear it referenced (it was later), but you'll see it. The call is slightly different from what I heard, since this is the TV feed, but it's very similar -- since, ultimately, pure excitement just takes over.
And just for the heck of it, to show what a good job they did with the race (and as I said, the whole movie was quite well done), here's about five minutes near the end.
Note: It's say it's the "trailer," but it's not.
I didn't get to watch as much of the Olympics during the day as I normally do, since I got invited again to go out sailing on the Pacific Ocean with my cousin Jimmy Kaplan. So, I don't have as much to write about as usual. However, I justified taking the time off from my normal vegetation in front of the TV by recognizing that, rather than watching, I was taking part in a very late trials competition for the yachting preliminaries to make the USA Team. As you can see, we had tough adversaries with a couple of young girls to our right on solo sail board, and happily we passed them with ease and took our heat. We hopefully will be getting our credentials soon…
More to come…
From the archives. This week's contestant is William Beyer from Des Moines, Iowa. The hidden song is extremely easy, and most people should not only get it, but get it quickly. The composer style though is one of those where I can throw a dart among several people and hope for the best. In fact, the contestant, who from his analysis of musical styles was clearly very knowledge, and he had a great deal of difficulty, though eventually got it (albeit it with a a few descriptive clues). So, I took a total guess to the one I thought it might be closest to -- and was wrong.
We watch the Olympics all day so that you don’t have to.
It’s pretty remarkable that Sunni Lee won the Gold medal for best all-round in women’s gymnastics. Not that she won – but that she’s second best on the team, and was only put in this position because Simone Biles had to drop out. A friend said, “I heard though that she has a history of rising to the occasion in big moments.” That may be, I replied, but…she’s still second best on the team. My friend paused a moment, then said, “True.”
The other thought I had was that for all the highly-deserved celebrating Americans will have for her win, I have little doubt – that when she returns – if she was walking down the street in far too many areas of the country, there would be people (who had celebrated her win) who wouldn’t know who she was and start screaming at her for attacking the U.S. with the coronavirus. Never mind that she’s not even Chinese – not that that should even matter in the slightest.
I was happy to see Australian Jessica Fox win the Gold medal in the Whitewater canoe slalom. She comes from a deep “Whitewater slalom” legacy – her father was an Olympian and 5-time world champion – and she herself is the #1-ranked competitor in that field, but she’s never won a Gold medal. And always seems to have a big smile on her face after every race, whatever the results. She had won the Bronze medal earlier in the Games, but this was her last chance in Tokyo. And she went last, since she had finished first in the preliminaries – and she had a tremendous race and won. And was utterly overjoyed. Here – you can see her tremendous run crashing through the rapids…and her exuberance after winning, along with leaping up-and-down on the medal stand. This 4-1/2-minute video has the preceding race to start, but if you want to jump to Fox’s seriously-impressive (and adventurous) Gold medal-winning run only, it starts around the 2:40 mark.
By the way, although Whitewater races are probably my favorite of the lesser-known minor events, I still have no idea why they have both canoe and kayak competitions. Yes, I know that the boats are not exactly the same-ish, and I’m sure to those in the sport, the difference is significant. I’ve yet to figure out why it cries out for both. But – since I love Whitewater slalom races, I’m glad they have the two.
The women’s volleyball team had a scare in their qualifying round final. They were ahead of Turkey two games to none, in a best of three competition. But Turkey came back to win the next two games, to even things up. And in the tie-breaker, which is only to 15 points, the score was 10-10 – until the U.S. came on strong and won.
As popular as swimming is at the Olympics, I only watch it with mild interest. There are certain races I like – anything freestyle, individual medleys and relays. But most of the others don’t do as much for me. Butterfly, difficult and powerful though it is, is too silly-looking a discipline for me to take seriously, leaping out of the water with arms whirling like a windmill and then diving back in, head plummeting down into a water, a bit like a professional game of Bobbing for Apples. As for the backstroke, seeing someone lying on their back, a position usually associated with staring up at the stars and contemplating your navel, is not something I can mesh with the concept of “racing.” The breaststroke is a perfectly normal and respectable stroke, except it’s such a plodding one that it always seems to me like it’s impossible to go fast using it. So, that leaves freestyle, which is about as ideal as a swimming stroke gets for racing. Actually, there’s one other stroke that unfairly gets short shrift in swimming competitions, and that’s the sidestroke. Sure, it may be especially relaxing, something you use for lolling about, but to leave it out completely seems so dismissive and unfair.
More to come…
A couple of weeks ago, I saw a story here in Los Angeles about an increase of COVID cases in the Pacific Palisades and Brentwood, near where I live on the Westside.
And now there’s an additional story, somewhat related, of COVID cases continuing to rise in Los Angeles County on Thursday – although, happily, the article adds, “albeit more slowly.” And it says that what has been driving the rise have been the more affluent communities including Beverly Hills, Bel-Air on the Westside, as well as, Studio City, Sherman Oaks and Encino in the Valley (though the last three aren’t anywhere near the “affluent” level of the first two.
It’s important to note that the rise is in “cases” and not hospitalizations or deaths. That fits into my theory about the rise in cases in a lot of areas, including locales that previously hadn't been associated with an COVID increase, like white affluent areas.
I suspect that when people get double-vaxxed, many of them feel like they’re totally protected and almost have a defensive bubble shield around them, so they lower their guard and let down many of the protections they were doing before. And so they stop wearing a mask, almost everywhere. They stop washing their hands as often. The get together with groups more often. And they go into more indoor areas with a lot of people – like movies. And so, though they’re safe from serious illness and hospitalization, they’re leaving themselves much more open to getting infected than before. Again, I’m not a doctor, but I’m SURE that that’s at least a part of the reason. And even a sizable part.
It’s sort of like why we read for years stats that say many people in Los Angeles get hit when in a crosswalk because, by law, pedestrians have the right-of-way the moment they put their foot in a crosswalk, and so they think it means they’re fully protected, almost like having a force field shield around them, and so they aren’t as careful and don’t look for oncoming traffic. But since the law says cars have to stop and give way, they believe “By law, cars must stop, so cars will stop, and so I’m safe.” And, of course, cars don't always stop, and it's worse for the pedestrian in the sidewalk.
In affluent neighborhoods, where there’s likely a far-greater sense of entitlement, that probably plays a part in the COVID increase, as well. “We’re double-vaxxed. We’re affluent. We’re protected.” And so, the guards come down.
Again, at least it’s “cases” and not hospitalizations and deaths. But I sure wish it was lowering.
We watch the Olympics all day so that you don’t have to.
Yes, I spent some of the day with the horsies, and watched some Equestrian yesterday. And I admit to doing so to see if Bruce Springsteen’s daughter Jessica was riding. I have no doubt that she’s very talented, and her making the Olympic Team is an impressive accomplishment she’s achieved, all the more so for succeeding in something separate from her renowned father. But…well, yeah, I normally wouldn’t be watching it all that much. And I suspect I’m not alone. Though it does have its loyal followers. Alas, I was watching the dressage event, and she’s competing in the show jumping category. So, more Equestrian to come. And no, I have no idea what makes one dressage performance better than another – and I’m sure neither do the horses.
The U.S.men’s Basketball team had a big win today. I watched off and on, and they won big, 120-66 against mighty powerhouse…er, Iran. I hope that this win doesn’t give the team too much of a swagger since, as we’ve seen, they got beat by Nigeria and France, and no one should consider Iran much of a test, especially by U.S. basketball standards and expectations.
The U.S. women won the 3x3 Basketball Gold medal. And I was wrong about who plays in it, since it turns out that those on the women’s team are fairly accomplished, most even from the WNBA. But that defeats the only reason I could see for it as an Olympic sport, which was to have a venue for amateurs, since regular Basketball is now made up of pros.
There was a very nice moment at the medal ceremony for the double sculls rowing, won by the Sinkovic brothers Martin and Valent of Croatia. As you may know, because of the pandemic officials no longer put medals around the winning athletes’ necks, but hand them over. What the Sinkovics did, though, was the officials’ old job – and rather than put their Gold medal on their own neck, instead each put it on their brother.
I watched a bit of weightlifting, and the starting weight was 347 pounds, though I wasn’t impressed because even I have lifted that amount. In fairness, I didn’t lift it all at once – 30 pounds here, 20 pound another time, 40 pounds later, then 12 pounds – but eventually I made it to 347. More even.
Lots of good whitewater canoe slalom, which I said is one of my favorite, offbeat events. I stayed up until 12:45 AM two nights ago watching, and looked forward to more being shown the next morning on the USA channel, since it was listed as “New.” As it turns out, no, it wasn’t new at all, but just a repeat of the night before. Had they left off that pesky (and deceptive) “New,” I would have gotten to sleep a whole lot earlier, and just watched the whitewater racing in the oh-so far more convenient morning.
I keep meaning to mention this about the Opening Ceremonies, but just haven’t gotten around to it yet. So, now is as good as time as any –
For the Opening Ceremonies, NBC generally has two hosts, one a sports expert and the other for more social color. While I understand the latter, since this really isn’t a sporting event – I tend to find it empty airspace. After all, there are only two parts of the evening: the first is the arts and cultural presentation, and the other the parade of athletes. For the arts portion, although you’d think a social host is appropriate for that, all they’re really doing is just reading a press release that explains the otherwise indecipherable movements, so there’s nothing that they or pretty much anyone bring to the event from their personal expertise, or could possibly bring to it. (“I don’t know, Mike, it looks like this is a tribute to abstract thought, or perhaps screen doors…”) As for the other part when the athletes enter – that does call for sports expertise, to recognize who is who, and ideally know something about their career to add historical perspective. Bob Costas was always brilliant at this – I’m sure announcers are given notes, but he also had an encyclopedic knowledge of such things. Mike Turico isn’t at that level (few are), but he handled things respectably. Unfortunately, talented as Savannah Guthrie is, this is just historically a poor venue for most people who aren’t sports experts, and I always dread the cringe-worthy moments that are sure to come.
The cringe moment that stood out this year is when host nation Japan came in, and she noted that their flag bearers were carrying “one of the most recognizable flags in the world.” All I could think was, well, yeah, but that’s probably because of all the WWII newsreel footage and movies about then uniting with the Nazis and attacking the U.S. at Pearl Harbor. Yes, that’s just a pure guess on my part. But it’s not like there is much of another reason for people to see the Japanese flag regularly – or (to be fair) any flag but their own. If the Stars-and-Stripes is so recognized around the world, that’s likely because American popular culture permeates the world, English is the international language, and America has commercialized its flag so egregiously on as many products as possible that it’s probably the only flag in the world that needs a trademark. I just don’t think the Japanese flag, unique though it is, is especially seen more over the years all that more than others – except perhaps on Red Dot Day. Or on the History Channel.
More to come...
I enjoyed The Voice during its first few years, though haven't watched for a while -- not for disliking it, but just finding a certain sameness. The show aside, they have a new ad running which I thought was a hoot. And when I went to check it out online, I found a longer and even better version. It's really quite amusing and endearing, with a big of an homage (intended or otherwise) to The Three Amigos, and someone came up with a weird and very successful promotion.
Yes, today we're looking at problems for senators Joe Manchin and Kyrstem Sinema -- but no, it's not the problem of the blocking change to the filibuster rule.
For Manchin, it's a personal matter to a degree, overlapping with a crisis for some of his constituents. Last November, two pharmaceutical giants -- Upjohn and Mylan -- merged. As a result of that, the united companies formed a new unit called Viatris, who had a plant in Morgantown, West Virginia. However, this week that Viatris facility is closing down in order to move operations to India and Australia, in order to ""maximize the best interests of the shareholders," the company says. Because of this, 1,400 West Virginians who work at Viatris in Morgantown will be unemployed, and are appealing to their senior senator, Joe Manchin to help.
The problem? The person who had been chief executive of Mylan before the merger is Heather Bresch – who is Joe Manchin’s daughter. And, to make matters more problematic (and yes, it’s possible) got $31 million when the companies united. Making matters worse still is that there have been many reports that recommend keeping pharmaceutical production in the United States because of security lapses overseas. “This is pure insanity,” says investigative journalist Katherine Eban, “"It seems like it is both pharmaceutical and national security suicide to close this plant."
As for Kyrsten Sinema, her problem is somewhat similar to her filibuster blockage, though on another important issue – the reconciliation bill. There was a great deal of excitement in the news yesterday when it appeared there could possibly be agreement on the Infrastructure Bill. For that bill to have meaning, though, House Democrats have said they’d only vote for it if the larger $3.5 trillion reconciliation bill would pass. That seemed the easier of the issues, since all it would take in the Senate was agreement among all 50 Democrats, with Vice President Harris breaking the tie.
The problem? Lost amid much of the headline was Sinema saying, “"I have also made clear that while I will support beginning this process, I do not support a bill that costs $3.5 trillion.”
That’s a hurdle. Anything less than $3.5 billion will likely be unacceptable to progressive Democrats in the House, since in a perfect world they’d like the amount significantly higher. So, if Sinema holds to her statement, both the Infrastructure Bill and reconciliation could both go down to defeat.
How flexible she’ll be – especially in what is sure to be major pressure by the White House – remains to be seen. She did leave some cracks open, but noting, “…in the coming months, I will work in good faith to develop this legislation with my colleagues and the administration to strengthen Arizona's economy and help Arizona's everyday families get ahead,"
More to the point, though, is – what on earth is she thinking?? I could ask the same about her obstinacy against changing the filibuster, though while that is probably more important, in order to pass a Voting Rights bill to protect democracy, I can almost sort of understand it, trying to protect a sort-of, kind-of tradition. But blocking a signature bill for the Biden Administration is just bizarre. Yes, it’s a huge amount of money, but not only is even more needed, but much of it could be paid for. And it would be an utterly massive win for Democrats. I do think some agreement will ultimately be found, though I don’t know that.
But above all, the Manchin-Sinema tag team do seem to have a talent for landing in the middle of messes.
We watch the Olympics all day so that you don't have to.
It's hard to overstate how amazing Katie Ledecky's achievement was yesterday. Yes, it's disappointing that she finished out of the medals in the 200-meter race. However, that she was a close contender in the shortest sprint race and then not only won the longest 1500-meter race is remarkable enough - but that she swam both in the same day only one hour apart (!!) is utterly stunning. This is like if 100-meter Olympic Gold medalist Usain Bolt not only also ran in the 1500-meter race, which is near-unthinkable, but almost won - and even more, did so just 60 minutes after he had sprinted in the 100-meter dash and had a chance to cool down. As I wrote the other day, Ledecky often won all four races she competed in, but it's the long distance 800-meter and 1500-meter races that she was untouchable at.
The U.S. women's soccer team played a lackluster 0-0 tie against Australia, but it was at least understandable in that they knew if they just protected themselves and tied they would make it through the qualifying round and into the knock-out round. I've thought that Julie Foudy has done a very good job as an analyst on the broadcast, not falling into the problem I've written about where former athletes doing commentary become cheerleaders for their friends. It's all the more impressive since she's such an important part of recent women's soccer and is probably very close to many of them. But she was critical of the play, settling for a safe tie, though she did acknowledge she understood.
A lot was made of Brazilian surfer Italo Ferreira breaking his board on a huge wave, but coming back to win the Gold medal on a spare board by noting how he learned to surf on the lid of his father's fishing bin. This is nice story about how he learned, but unless his replacement board was the lid of a fishing bin, it's completely meaningless to how he won. In fact, his coach got him an identical surfboard to what he'd been using. Also worth mentioning, though, is that this was the first-ever men's Gold medal awarded in surfing. And American Carissa Moore won the first-ever Gold medal for a woman. Here's video, though, of that massive wave breaking his board.
Yesterday, I mentioned that it was surprising, but nice to see Shepard Smith as the in-studio host on CNBC during his news show’s time slot. Though I added that he didn’t do all that much, just introduce an event at the top and send it to the on-site announcers. He’s still doing that (which remains good to see), but because they have a lot more events today that’s given him even more to do, and he’s been hosting a bit more. Very nice.
Sorry to see the U.S. women’s softball team lose in the Gold medal game to Japan. The Japanese team is the defending Olympic champs, and the U.S. team got great pitching in all their games, but very little hitting, and that caught up with them in the finals, losing 2-0. Unfortunately, baseball and women’s softball won’t be in the Paris Olympics in 2024 – though I’m sure skateboarding will be. And rhythmic gymnastics. And trampoline. However, it’s expected to return in 2028 when the Olympics return to Los Angeles. Though the Canadian team has just appealed to the IOC to reverse its decision and include softball in 2024. The IOC tends to move with the speed, compassion and good sense of a glacier, but we'll see.
One of the more surprising finishes, for several reasons, was the Men’s 2000 meter 4x, a race that Great Britain had won the past five Olympics. But not only did they not win the race this year, and Australia did (last Olympics Silver medalists), but the British 4-man team didn’t even finish in the medals – but what made that even more odd was one of the reasons how they lost: in the last 500 meters, trying to make up the distance, they got so out of sync that they began rowing out of their lane (something I’ve never seen before) and almost crashed into the Italian team before righting themselves.
The other day, I wrote about the IOC “ban” of Russia for a major transgression, but I think it deserves more explanation, since I was only making a quip about how name they created for athletes being ROC (for Russian Olympic Committee), when it should be Russian Olympic Team, but that would be “ROT.” For the IOC to ban a country, you know the offense had to be massive and blatant. And it was. Russia put up a building next to the drug testing center – and from there, they were able to cut a all in the center next door. And every night, they would sneak in and exchange the doping results for Russians with clean ones. Yet even at that, the IOC created a massive loophole that not only allowed Russian athletes to compete, but do so while using a name with “Russia” in it, and with “anthem” music by Tchaikovsky, a Russian composer. I know the explanation had to do with not wanting to punish the innocent athletes – but that defeats the purpose of punishing the country. And I’m sure the IOC has no idea how innocent all those athletes were. Maybe some were innocent, though maybe some or most knew full well what was going on.
While I sort of like the new 3x3 basketball competition, since it’s very fast-paced and sort of like pick-up street basketball, I’m not quite sure why it exists as an Olympic sport. After all, they have basketball. And at its core, it’s played like basketball is played. The rules are different, but the skill to play it is 100% pure basketball. The best I can figure is that since pros now play basketball in the Olympics, this lets amateurs play. And I think that’s nice – except I don’t think it’s a good-enough reason for it to exist as an Olympic sport. If you don’t like professionals playing, don’t have them. And if you’re okay with it, fine, then that’s who plays. And it’s not like, “Well, okay, pros play in basketball, so we’ll have the best amateur college players in the 3x3 competition” – since that’s not what’s happening. As far as I can tell, these are people who play 3x3 basketball during the year, not The Best Amateur College Players. In fact, for all I know, they’re all professional.
More to come…
Finally. After only half a year, someone in government thought it was a good idea to investigate why a mob of insurrectionists broke into the U.S. Capitol and tried to overthrow the government. I understand that the Republican Party isn’t as represented on the House Committee as they wanted to be – but that was by their choice, considered that they also previously turned down the option of having a non-partisan blue-ribbon panel investigate. But then, if my party’s leader and many of its leading officials helped incite the insurrection, I might not want it investigated either, assuming I was okay with it and with democracy.
I didn’t see all of the first day’s hearing, but saw a fair amount, as well as a lot of coverage after the fact. However, I only watched a few seconds of the new footage because a) for my sensibilities, it was too ghoulish to take, and b) I already knew how horrifically violent it was because seeing how even more violent..
I thought Officer Michael Fantone was especially moving in this statement, particularly when he got so emotional that he pounded the table when about the members of Congress he was protecting that day who have dismissed the violence as being peaceful, and like visiting tourists or that maybe it didn’t even happen.
"What makes the struggle harder and more painful is to know so many of my fellow citizens, including so many of the people I put my life at risk to defend, are downplaying or outright denying what happened," Officer Fantone said. "I feel like I went to hell and back to protect them and the people in this room, but too many are now telling me that hell doesn't exist or that hell actually wasn't that bad.
"The indifference shown to my colleagues is disgraceful!" he said, slamming the table with explosive emotion. "My law enforcement career prepared me to cope with some of the aspects of this experience. Being an officer, you know your life is at risk whenever you walk out the door, even if you don't expect otherwise law-abiding citizens to take up arms against you. But nothing — truly nothing — has prepared me to address those elected members of our government who continue to deny the events of that day, and in doing so, betray their oath of office. Those very members whose lives, offices, staff members I was fighting so desperately to defend."
He was impressive throughout. If you missed his full presentation, this is what I mean –
The officers’ bluntness in not just blaming those in power, but being fairly specific about it was pointed and excellent. It’s one thing to hear that from Democrats in Congress, but it’s on another level hearing it from the officers themselves. This was most driven home impactfully when one of the officers noted how you don’t just go after the hitman, but the one who hired the hitman. You knew who he was talking about because you knew that he knew who he was talking about. The “hitman” illusion was visceral.
Visceral too was the emotion, almost to tears, of several of those Congressmen on the committee, in particular Democrat Adam Schiff and Republican Adam Kinzinger.
From what I saw, two other moments stood out.
The first was that I loved that Jamie Raskin asked the officers if they felt the insurrection was old history. And that we should just move on, as many Republicans have suggested and likely wish. And their answers were all eloquent –ranging from a simple and direct “No” to more detailed, controlled fury.
And the other came after Officer Daniel Hodges had referred to the insurrectionists as “terrorists.” Rep. Raskin asked him about his using that word. I absolutely loved when Hodges said that he knew that some people would be bothered bit it, “So,” he continued, “I came prepared.”
And boy, did he ever. He pulled out a document and cited the U.S. code which lays out in detailed specifics what the law says constitutes a terrorist.
And it described the insurrections to a T. And the hitmen who hired them.
But of course, this was only Day One. I look forward in the days and weeks ahead who they are going to subpoena. Perhaps even some of those who hired the hitmen.
Somewhat related to this, I was very glad to see that the House's General Counsel's Office will not represent Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL) in the lawsuit filed against him by Rep. Eric Swalwell for inciting the riot. The Counsel’s Office says the suit "does not challenge any institutional action of the House or any of its component entities."
Perhaps we may find out that inciting an insurrection, as well as attempting to carry one out was not really a good idea after all.
We watch the Olympics all day so you don't have to.
A huge shame for Simone Biles dropping out of the team competition, referring to mental stress pressures. Oddly, last night I was watching yet another TV ad with her and thought, “Geez, she’s getting stretched awfully thin.” I know that this isn’t The Cause, nor directly related to that, but I’m sure it’s part of the larger picture. What isn’t clear in any of the articles I’ve read is if she’s pulled out of the rest of the Olympics, including the individual events that come later, or only from the team competition because she felt she would drag down the rest of the team. But in the individual events, however she does would only reflect on her alone, not impact others. Why the question also came to mind is that she showed up for the press conference and seemed to handle it well. And also, there oddly hasn't been all that much coverage about her decision, including on ESPN, which suggests she might possibly still be competing. I'll be curious to find out. I assume the answer will come soon.
Another of my favorite lesser-known, offbeat events was on yesterday morning, Cross Country Mountain Bike. As I watched, I realized that in some ways it’s the dirt equivalent of another of my faves that I mentioned the other day, Whitewater Canoe Slalom, with the bike crashing up and down over rocks, across a twisting course curving back on itself and through pummeling nature. It’s a great treat, but I always wonder how in the world every rider doesn’t have their tires burst as the bikes fly over ledges and spin over boulders with sharp edges. And then, one of the leaders was knocked out of the race when his tire was shredded off the wheel and flattened. He was not a happy camper. I’m just shocked it doesn’t happen more. Yes, I’m certain their bikes are made special, but still, they’re bikes, tires and boulders. And as poor timing would have it, NBC had Whitewater Canoe Slalom on at the same time on another channel. After some moments of panic, happily they didn’t overlap.
Katie Ledecky was back in the pool, winning her heat for the 200 meter freestyle. But it’s the 800-meter and 1500-meter races I’m most looking forward to. And she came back later in the day to win her heat in the 1500. But that’s not what so impressive. Because, although these two races were on TV Monday, it ignores the time difference in Japan, and – in reality – Katie Ledecky swam her 400 meter race in the morning, came back to win her 200 meter heat later, and returned to again swim, not a short race, but the longest of 1500 meters the same day! She’s quite remarkable.
At one point, when I switched the channel, the event was skateboarding, and I heard the announcer tell us, “And so we have two 13-year-olds and a 16-year-old competing in the finals.” I watched for about a half-minute and then switched away. Not just for it being an event I don’t care enough about, but I’m also not sure if I could take hearing the winner weep, “I have wanted to do this my entire life.”
I’m surprised how mediocre Jessica Mendoza is as an on-site commentator for women’s softball. Mendoza is good enough to have been made part of the Major League Baseball team for Sunday Night Baseball on ESPN, where she does a very solid job. But here at the Olympics, she’s almost – I don’t know, the best word I can think of is “giggly.” She’s a former Olympian and clearly feels a closeness to the team, but that’s no excuse. I finally saw her do an okay job when in-studio, away from the team, giving her analysis – but then at the end she mucked it up by talking about how she’s wearing her “lucky braids.” She’s much better than this.
Interestingly, the late afternoon coverage on CNBC is hosted in-studio by Shepard Smith. It's during the time slot when his news report would normally be on, but I'm sure he had the option of letting someone else handle the small assignment. He doesn't have all that much to do, pretty much just set up the event and send it off the the on-site announcers, but I still like that he's doing it.
Nice moment in the women’s triathlon when Bermuda’s Flora Duffy took control of the race and ran away with it during the running portion, becoming not only the first athlete from Bermuda to win a Gold medal, but it made Bermuda the least-populace nation to ever have a Gold medal. Katie Zaferes of the U.S. was neck-and-neck in the early part of the run, but was able to hold on and easily win the Bronze medal. And it was all made more interesting for taking place much of the time during the rain – and having a rainbow pop through.
Speaking of the triathlon, there was a strange occurrence the day before at the start of the men’s triathlon, when the athletes dove in the water to begin the race with their swim. But the starter pushed the buzzer too soon before a boat got away, blocking some of the swimmers. They all had to be called back to start again.
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
Feedspot Badge of Honor