The Problematic Olympiad

The first notes of Bugler’s Dream.

The five colored rings on the white flag, representing the continents of the world.

It’s almost time for another round of Olympic Games. A series of contests that bring the world together, going back to the ancient times of Greece and Rome.

It seems the two versions of the Games, the summer and winter versions, are going in different decades as this last Olympics of the 2010’s is set to begin. The Summer Games are being held in all the metropolises of the world – Rio, Tokyo, Paris, and back to Los Angeles in 2028. The Winter Games have had the misfortune of having being held four years ago in Sochi, Russia – and now in Pyeongchang, South Korea, with political clouds hanging over the games four years ago and once again this time around.

I don’t know how interested the American sports fan will be in Asia’s third Winter Olympics, with word of a virus of some sort infesting Korea that’s caused a last-minute shuffle of manpower and security. The hockey tournament won’t be including NHL stars for the first time since 1994, and the Russians will for the most part be banned from competitions due to continuous allegations of doping.

It shapes up to be a stranger version of Olympics than most of us are used to, but like Pavlov’s dogs, once we see that five-ringed white flag and hear the music, I’m sure most of us will be turning on NBC and their various related networks to watch the Games play out.

(EDIT, 2/7/2018, 10:55pm ET: When I originally made this post, I stated that this was the first Winter Olympics held in Asia. I was incorrect – it is the third Asian Winter Olympics. The first two were held in Japan, one in Sapporo in 1972, the last to this point in Nagano in 1998. My apologies for the error.)

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Winter Of Discontent

american-football-wilson

Wait, another post about football?!? Well, it’s nearly Super Bowl time, so indulge me.

The 88th NFL season comes to a climax on Sunday night when New England’s Patriots and Philadelphia’s Eagles square off at the 52nd Super Bowl in Minneapolis. It has been one of the more tumultuous seasons in league history, with the kneeling controversy hitting full stride early in the season, and the league’s refusal to enforce their own directives regarding the national anthem playing out as it did.

For now, water under the bridge.

I get a lot of people who ask me what my prediction is for the Super Bowl. This year it’s kind of complicated, so let me explain:

If you’re looking for me to pick a winner, I’d pick New England. As of this writing on Tuesday, the Patriots are -200 on the “money line” in Las Vegas. If you bet $200 on the Patriots to win, you’d get $100 back on top of the $200 wagered if they win.

The point spread on the game has the Patriots currently 4.5 point favorites, with the half-point there to prevent ties if the margin of the game hits that number exactly. (That’s happened before, most famously when the Steelers beat the Cowboys 35-31 in Super Bowl XIII in 1979, the point spread was four points. The game was a “push” and everyone who had that line got their money back.) If I were a Vegas bettor, I’d take the Eagles getting 4.5, because in the eight Super Bowls the Pats have played in during the past two decades, they’ve never won or lost by more than six points.

The over/under for the game (the total number of points scored by both teams) is at 48 as I type this. I’d take the under on that. There are also a menagerie of “prop bets” out in Las Vegas out there, plus some casinos now offer in-game wagering with a point spread that moves during the course of the game, but I’ll leave you to do your homework if you’re curious about that.

Would I mind if the Eagles won? Absolutely not. They’ve been close a few times since winning their last NFL title in 1960, and the Patriots have won five of these things in the past two decades – sure, let the Philly fans have one. Wouldn’t mind that at all.

As a fan, I’m hoping for a good game. I finally got my wish of seeing the first Super Bowl game to go to overtime last year, so I don’t know how that can be topped.

Miracles and Mythology in Minneapolis

For six weeks during the NFL season, when all the player kneeling that was going on, I boycotted watching the games. I felt the open disrespect the league’s players had for those who serve was discouraging. But like the whore that goes back to her pimp, even though the whore knows full well she’s being abused and mistreated, I came back.

Sometimes there’s a short-term reward in coming back to people who abuse you. While I don’t know what the short-term rewards are for prostitutes (more money for tricks, I’m guessing, or supplementary recreational drugs of some kind), the NFL has always been good by design at creating moments the pro football world hasn’t seen previously. Last year, it was the masterpiece of a Patriots-Falcons Super Bowl featuring a massive comeback by New England, culminating in the first Super Bowl needing more than 60 minutes of playing time to decide with this little thing we call overtime.

This year, there are two story lines needing conclusion as the Super Bowl tournament is reduced to four. First, will the New England Patriots win their sixth Super Bowl in seventeen years, which would tie Pittsburgh for the most ever won? More importantly, a Patriots championship would give them three such titles in four seasons, and would tie the Dallas Cowboys of the 1990’s in that department.

If you’re bored with the Patriots, then there’s Minnesota Vikings and their attempt to become the first team to ever play in a Super Bowl in their home stadium. (Oddly enough, since it’s an even numbered Super Bowl, the 52nd, they would be the acting visiting team, with either Jacksonville or New England being the acting host team.) Their win against New Orleans in the quarterfinal round (yes, I know the NFL has these fancy names for each round, but I try to keep things simple, and the round two stages away from a championship is a quarterfinal, so I call it that) was a thing of beauty. It was the first time a playoff game had ended with a walk-off touchdown at the end of regulation in the history of the NFL playoffs, going back to 1934.

Needless to say, I’m rooting for the Vikings and the Patriots. That would ensure a historic outcome either way. Now watch Philly and Jacksonville make it, with my luck.

The History Of NHL ’94

First, I hope everyone’s Christmas or “holiday of choice” was a good one. This is the third of three “sport shorts” I’ve been putting up on the blog the past three Wednesdays.

I used to love to play sports video games, and to some degree, I still do.  Two game series stand out from the 90’s when the gaming began to get much more realistic. One was the John Madden series of pro football games that still exists today. Then there’s the NHL series, which also still goes on to the present time.

You might be surprised to know that I thought the NHL games were slightly better, believe or not. Heck, the Madden games (correct me if I’m wrong) have never been in a movie, but the NHL series has. (Foot note: Wayne Gretzky was much better than Jeremy Roenick over time, but in the 1990’s, Wayne was fading, and Roenick was rising.)

Back to normal business next Wednesday as 2018 begins.

The Night Troy State Scored 258…Or, 253

Last Wednesday, this Wednesday, and next Wednesday, I’m doing this “mini-series” of sorts about odd moments from the sports world, as shown on YouTube. Last week, I mentioned the first bowl game ever played.

This week, I’d thought I’d delve into the first time a college basketball team, Troy State (now just known as Troy) racked up 200 or more points in a basketball game. The game was so odd that the other team, DeVry, scored 141 points in the same game, yet lost by over 100!