Monday, January 14, 2008

Choking Points

  • Tony Romo and Yoko Romo: I love it! A local radiohead observed that current high school seniors have never seen the Cowboys win a playoff game during their entire school careers. America's team is back! On the couch, watching the playoffs on TV. Of course the Skins have mustered, cough, TWO playoff wins in that timeframe, so let's not be bragging too hard. But let's revel just a bit in the worst choke job by the Cowboys since, well, last year. Any reason to think the Skins, with an upgrade, can't take these guys next year?

  • Speaking of the Skins, I think I'm off my Saer Sene-like infatuation with Bill Cowher as the next head coach. Let's bring in Double-G and see what he can cook up in 3 years, say. Always a chance to change it up then.
  • Pros: constancy, tough guy, great D, player support, the annointed one(?)
  • Cons: offense change imminent(?), poor communicator (freezing players out w/o explanation), not so hot run in Buffalo
  • Would love to see an in-dpeth look at Double-G's time in Buffalo -- what he did right, what he did wrong. That could tell us a lot.
  • How bout them Wizards? Just as the Celtics seem like the second coming of the 72-10 Chicago Bulls, Caron and the guys hit them in the mouth not once, but twice. Suddenly Boston finds itself 30-6, and I don't see them going 43-3 to break the record. Almost time for the '96 Bulls to pop some champagne... And this just when it seemed like the absence of Arenas's finishing ability was catching up to them. It will be interesting to see them blend Gil into their newfound team concept. As I told Ollie before the season started: this team will be at its best with Arenas averaging 23 points a night and getting others involved more often. Clearly DeShawn, Mason and Haywood are ready to pitch in regularly, with Nick Young needing just a bit more maturity before he can be relied on night-in and night-out.
  • A story that has flown largely under the radar of major media has been the controversy surrounding sprinter Oscar Pistorius, who moved up from the 100 and 200 meters to race the 400 as a paralympic athlete. The "blade runner" raced 46.9 this past summer to come within shouting distance of times that would qualify him for the Olympics. To be competitive at the world level a runner must be able to break 45 seconds, and American Jeremy Wariner is on track to make a go of trying to break Michael Johnson's 43.18 world record. The point of contention is Pistorius's prosthetic limbs, his "blades" and how much advantage they give him. Selena Roberts of the New York Times wrote this editorial this summer in support of Pistorius competing against an open field, decrying the IAAF's concern about possible advantages he might have.
  • They uttered the preface of false sensitivity — “with all due respect” — as the sport’s officials launched into an insolent logic that ended with a warped depiction of a disabled athlete as the lucky one:

    Your technology is such a gift that it cheats our human triumphs. Our image of courage is undermined by your annoying persistence. Now, if you could kindly retreat to the Island of Misfit Toys so our vision of an athlete will remain unthreatened...
  • Well, research done at the bequest of the IAAF, by Professor Peter Br├╝ggemann at the German Sport University in Cologne (perhaps Lil Bro can get a Sandy, Baby exclusive interview?), had determined that Pistorius has great advantages conferred by his Cheetah prosthetics. The excellent analysis by blogspot neighbors The Science of Sports breaks this down.
  • Analyzing Pistorius's advantage or disadvantage is complex stuff. Equipped with the Cheetahs, he has some disadvantages (like a very slow start) that must be figured into the equation. But even to a novice track aficianado like myself, it was apparent from early on that his races were run like no other 400 meter runners. Typically Pistorius would start slow, then gain on competitors over the final 100 meters. While so many other 400 meter runners were fighting to slow down the least, Pistorius was still going strong. Br├╝ggemann's research showed that the carbon-fibre prosthetics convey a number of different advantages that leave Pistorius with more gas at the end of the race (The Science of Sports estimates possibly an advantage of 5-10 seconds). While supporters of the blade runner's bid to compete in the Olympics, like Roberts, want him able to participate because of the great, heart-warming, inclusive story it would make, the implications of the impact of technology on fair competition clearly have been shown to be severe. The best analogy, that no one I've read has brought up, is that of wheelchair racers. They compete on the track, on the roads, in marathons, but the advantages their wheels give them would make it patently unfair to throw them in a race against runners. Pistorius's prosthetics throw him into the same class. This, surely, not the last time new technology will raise complex questions about sport.
  • The sad truth is that we will never know how fast Oscar Pistorius would run with legs; it all ends in conjecture and guesswork. We know how fast he can go on his Cheetahs, and it is a marvel. But the playing field must remain level, or it's unfair to everyone. No matter how good the story.

1 comment:

Ollie said...

Nice post, I'd be intrigued to see what double GG (the second stands for "gangsta") can do. I hate to say it, but I think Gibbs' wasn't very hungry to succeed towards the end...it just seemed like he was (understandably) exhausted from Sean Taylor's death and his grandson Taylor's cancer. Nothing wrong with that, just means he had his priorities straight (caring about family and friends first), but I'd like to see what a coach who hasn't won anything and likely has a chip on his shoulder from all the criticism he got last time, and doesn't have to deal with such tragic circumstances, can do.