Kobe’s Undies Are As Baggy As His Game Shorts

Activision goes all Risky Business parody to promote the newest Guitar Hero. I see no problem with that.

Tony Hawk makes sense — doesn’t Activision also make his Pro Skater games? — and Kobe Bryant is just funny, as is Michael Phelps. But I wonder if Alex Rodriguez had even heard of the game; maybe he has.  He’s the only one I can’t really see as a gamer at all.

In fact, Activision totally whiffed when they decided not to bring the most obvious candidate for an ad for their game in:

Seriously, major missed opportunity to poke some more fun at itself and the game. They DID have to go for people who might actually be able to sell things (although, again, why go for A-Rod? How good a pitchman is he?)

(Photo via Deadspin.)

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Sure, Blame The Typists Rather Than The Peacock

Usually I make a point of ignoring Bill Dwyre’s columns in my daily perusal of the L.A. Times — they have largely become a tour of fogeyism (outrage over Becky Hammon and Chris Kaman deciding to play for countries not their own in the Olympics, for example) — for some reason, I was bored this afternoon and read a column with its heart in the right place: there was a lot of instantaneous match update action rather than actual writing and reporting on the Olympics, but he takes shots at the wrong people for it, managing to empathize with NBC somehow in the end.

In Chippewa Falls, Wis., Herbie hits a button and yells out, “Hey, ma, Dwight Howard just got the opening tip over Pau Gasol.” Herbie is dazzled that he got the word so fast, and the typist is equally dazzled at the speed he got it there. Neither seems to wonder whether what had arrived was worth the effort on either end.

I sat alongside a bright young reporter for the Washington Post, while the Post’s local interest, tennis star James Blake, played a semifinal match. The reporter typed after each game and hit the send button. Blake served. He won. The other guy served. He won. Tennis is like that.

Noting that it was the middle of the night back in D.C., I asked the reporter why he was doing that, since his audience, at best, could only be 35 insomniacs and 11 tennis freaks. He shrugged and said he had no idea, he just did what he was told.

It is the way of the future, we are told, as if the word “future” always connotes “better.”

This practice has to be scary for Dick Ebersol and NBC. The Olympic god that we worship nightly for two weeks, every two years — that has set the pace and raised the bar and confirmed the tone of the Olympics as one of warmth and joy and celebration of athletic excellence and good sportsmanship — may soon be riding the same horse and buggy as this columnist.

Dwyre, the reason people are looking for these things online is the fault of Ebersol and his bosses at NBC — the refusal to alter the daily schedule and tape-delay the majority of events to the Western half of the U.S., never mind delaying the U.S.-Argentina hoops semi to preserve the Today show’s 7-10 AM slot across the country, is driving even more people and reporters towards on-the-spot updates of the action as it happens.

Look, I work in television. I know why it happens this way. Affiliate stations loathe delaying local news casts, because that’s where they pull a lot of their local advertising sales, and in a down economy, that’s what you have to try and bank on — sales of ads during the morning news, along with the 5, 6, and 11.  This is why even the Winter Games in Vancouver will be tape delayed despite the city’s location in Pacific time.  The ratings NBC garnered from the Olympics have justified the practice because 8 pm is a set time where people who are not sports die-hards, who have not had the results wrecked for them, will watch — and even if they have heard who won, there is the “you gotta see it” factor added in.  We are talking about corporate owned networks; this is not the CBC or the BBC, they need to bring in the cash to justify the expense.

This doesn’t make the practice right.  The reason Dwyre is lamenting an expansion of the “type it up and post it” ethic is because the core audience for the newspaper writers abroad — sports fans — are not being served by the main television outlet, which decides to hold onto events for half a day before airing them, an absolutely inexcusable matter for a sporting event. Yes, the Olympics are chock-full of soft-focus crap to appeal to people who don’t care about sports, but they are sporting events and ought to be treated as such.  For the responsible network with the rights, this should mean live coverage to all of the country, as much as possible.

Say what you will about ESPN — slaves to stereotypical narratives regarding athletes, in bed with the leagues it broadcasts to an uncomfortable extent, gimmicky, shoddy graphical look — but at least they treat the sports they broadcast as sporting events more often than not.

(Oh, Dwyre, nice cheap shot at the bloggers too — not like I haven’t read that one before. Y’know, the vast majority of us happen to pay rent to someone not a blood relation.)

Beijing: Olympics’ instant gratification has a cost [Los Angeles Times]
Beijing Olympics up 8% over Athens [Sports Media Watch]

(P.S. Yeah, that’s Katie Hoff, Michael Phelps, and Natalie Coughlin at some post-event function in China. I just thought the photo was funny.)

Hush, Now

I had the accidental good sense to watch the gold medal match between the U.S. and Spain while out on the town; the trying-too-hard-to-be-L.A. club I was in happened to have the live telecast on all three of the flat screens behind the bar, so I watched without commentary and with a Euro-house “untz-untz-untz” in the background that was solely broken up by the DJ spinning M.I.A.’s “Paper Plates,” fitting because no one on the corner had swagger like both teams had in that game.

If you want to see a nightclub tilted towards a large douchebag factor turn their attention to a T.V. set like that, make the game close, it will inspire shouts of “U.S.A! U.S.A!” in seconds. Anyway, it was compelling television — the manic pace, like an All-Star Game that meant something, the sick dunk Rudy Fernandez put on Dwight Howard , the scrambles all over the floor. The end was in doubt until Kobe Bryant hit that three and got fouled — because there wasn’t a whole lot of defense on both ends.  But damn, did I love this:

(Hush, hush. I think I hear you calling my name.)

I’m sure Jacques Rogge will issue a statement before the closing ceremonies admonishing Bryant for not showing the proper amount of sportsmanship with that selfish gesture. (Leave Usain Bolt alone, Jacques!) Meanwhile, in the club, as soon as Bryant whipped that three out, a complete stranger and I just looked at each other and imitated that exact hush (a total sports bar moment in a non-sports bar.)  The squad of ballers just told a long line of fuckwads to shut their mouths:

– They hushed everyone who said NBA players were too “selfish,” too “undisciplined” to play together for all those years after Athens.

Dwyane Wade hushed up anyone who wondered about how good he would be after being hurt for a large part of last year as the team’s sixth man.

Kobe Bryant just hushed up any of the last few people out there who thought he couldn’t play as part of a team concept. By no means was he the leading scorer, but he was an important cog in the mix.

– The team hushed up anyone who thought that the system that foreign players were brought up in was somehow inherently superior and wrote so loudly in print, with overtones of outright racism. (If any game looked like Mike D’Antoni’s “Seven Seconds or Less”, it was chunks of this one, and proof the U.S. team can adjust — although Coach K cannot, see more on this later.)

– The gold medal ought to hush up anyone who continues to defend Larry Brown’s coaching effort in 2004. How a college coach (even one with the respected track record of Mike Krzyzewski) could get grown men to play defensively first and yet a supposed defensive coaching genius like Brown could not ought to be worthy of a bit of scrutiny. Yes, different squads, different process, but Brown was more of an Achilles heel in Athens than his players were. He didn’t set a very good rotation, and the most talented players seemed to be in his doghouse for no reason.

To be brutally honest, Coach K didn’t look like he had all the answers in game (Spain goes to zone and no Michael Redd or Tayshaun Prince; no Carlos Boozer when both Chris Bosh and Howard were having issues), but if the philosophy was, “play defense and do everything you want on offense,” then it worked for the first few rounds.

– They hushed me up, because I honestly thought this team needed another big man, but they were able to run circles around teams.

Unfortunately, not all the haters are hushed up — there’s a lot of qualifying “But, but it was a close game” to many of the wrie-ups, as if the entire process was supposed to be easy. The world has gotten better; we are the gold standard again, but it won’t ever be like it was back in the day when the U.S. won by default. That’s a good thing.

I wish the win would hush up —

– Doug Collins, who still isn’t over 1972 and said so in damn near every teelcast. It was nice not to hear him talk for the final.

Jemele Hill, who penned an inexplicable column suggesting the black community was placing an importance on this team winning gold.  I wonder whom she is talking to. As if one gold medal lets up on the stupid stereotypes about black NBA ballers that sportswriters use all the damn time. Call out the writers who use these stupid tropes.

Bill Walton, who appeared on ESPN minutes after the semi-final against Argentina ended to spit trash about how it was the sloppiest game he’d seen on the U.S.’s part, it wasn’t a good game, and the only reason the U.S. won was because Manu Ginobili got hurt. Since I’m on the West Coast, I watched the game on delay an hour later and saw something completely different. Amazing. It wasn’t nearly as apocalyptic as he made it out to be, but then, that’s Walton — anything that isn’t John Wooden-based does not meet his approval.

– Every writer whom, in the next few days, will give Jerry Colangelo and Krzyzewski all the damn credit for the team. These are the people who pushed the idea of a “Redeem Team”, not only because it sounded good and made good headline copy, but as if it was some damn fault of the players that the U.S. didn’t win everything basketball-related and were solely responsible for a supposed decline in the American hoops game.  No one calls out the minor-leaguers and journeymen we sent to rep the U.S. in baseball when they never win gold; no one is raising a stink over the U.S. losing out on softball gold for the first time since it became an Olympic sport.

Photo: Getty/AFP/Filippo Monteforte

Why Someone Ought To Outbid NBC For The Olympics

I have griped about the Peacock’s amazingly stupid mentality towards tape delaying events during the Beijing Olympics, and this is above and beyond the usual tape-delay frustrations because NBC is not alerting the telecasts in any way to make it clear to viewers West of the Mississippi that none of the content is live. In the wake of Usain Bolt’s record-breaking 200-meter win that none of us will see on television until later tonight (both Awful Announcing and With Leather are hosting video until the copyright police go after it), I am absolutely excited at the thought of ESPN formally bidding with the IOC for the rights, starting with the 2016 Winter Olympics.

In a sports and media world driven by the Internet and up to the minute results, it makes absolutely no sense whatsoever to have so few of the events by live in one half of the country and not live everywhere else — and, as NBC Universal is wont to do, get bent out of shape when the video leaks.

This leaves affiliate sports directors in the quandary of not publicizing the results of matches due to be aired on their stations AFTER local news goes off the air for the night — for example, if you are covering Phil Dalhausser and Todd Rogers in men’s volleyball because they happen to be from your market, and you know they’ve advanced to the gold medal match, but the match has not aired — you have no highlights and are even conflicted about reporting whether they’ve won in order not to spoil it for viewers who might be sticking around at 1 A.M.

The problem is that ESPN shouldn’t have a lock on all the important sporting events, but considering that they would actually rotate their cable networks’ schedule to do a lot more live coverage of events across the U.S., the trade-off is worth considering.  It goes without saying that ESPN would produce certain stuff that ABC could air live and probably delay to the Mountain and Pacific time zones, but so much more of the content would be live on the other channels.

Then again, also in NBC’s favor is that their presentation for sporting events (graphics, etc.) is just head and shoulders above other networks. ESPN’s work for ABC always seems kind of cut rate compared to how CBS handles college football and basketball and NBC handles football and the Olympics, and I keep thinking that the Four-Letter would underwhelm in this department.

Would you trade a near-monopoly on live sports to be able to see some actual Olympic content live?

Photo: Reuteurs/Kai Pfaffenbach

Tossed-Off Olympic Impressions

To be perfectly honest, the achievements of Michael Phelps are pretty much the only things I’ve watched of NBC’s Olympic coverage with any sort of actual attention — it’s very difficult to be emotionally invested in an Olympic outcome when NBC will only go so far as to have events broadcast live only for Eastern and Central viewers, even with USA, CNBC, and MSNBC at their disposal.  It has been impossible to avoid the spoiler effect online or on TV, as announcers of pre-season football games have gone out of their way to note Phelps and ESPN (rightfully, since it’s news) hasn’t hesitated either.

This isn’t going to change as long as NBC has the rights to broadcast the Olympics in this country.  The problem is that the powerful affiliate stations West of the Mississippi, particularly the NBC owned-and-operated ones, loathe shifting their 5 and 6 newscasts for sports, because it costs them prime time ratings, and the Olympics are the rare sporting event that draws the non-hardcore fan demographic.   It’s almost enough to make someone hope ABC/ESPN could win the next IOC contract in the hope of seeing some live events. ALMOST.

As for Phelps himself — yes, it’s safe to say the world is in awe of the eight gold medals and the breaking of Mark Spitz’s record for golds in a single Olympics, and it’s been scintillating television. I’m not interested in pissing on the parade, but considering the scrutiny track and cycling have received about doping, how many questions get asked about those in the pool? Usain Bolt has already earned an SI writer’s posturing despite him taking ungodly large strides because he is 6’5″.

Drugs and PEDs may be a real side effect of why baseball isn’t going to be in the Olympics in four years — in the sense that they may be the unspoken stumbling block between the IOC and MLB, which will not halt its season NHL-style to allow major leaguers to participate.  The IOC, acting holier-than-thou when it comes to doping but with its hand on the till in everything else seedy, would certainly want its own people (mostly WADA) handling the testing of MLB stars — and wouldn’t that be a kick.  Caught in the crossfire is softball, which also has the problem of being utterly dominated by a U.S. squad.

Still fully behind the NBA ballers wearing the Stars and Stripes this year, because there is one noticeable difference between this team and the one that won bronze in Athens: they are playing some spectacular defense, and that is creating the fast break points.  Spain was supposed to be a bit of a challenge and it looked like anything but down the line yesterday.  Better shooting has helped, although Michael Redd, the shooting specialist, is not on the floor a ton. It comes from guys like Kobe Bryant, Carmelo Anthony, and the rest of that squad getting open looks thanks to the defensive pressure — and the breakaways that LeBron James and Dwyane Wade are getting don’t hurt either. (Who wouldn’t want to be Pat Riley this upcoming NBA season? Wade looks healthy, add him with Shawn Marion and Michael Beasley and that’s a combination that makes me think Riley will be kicking Erik Spoelstra off the bench come January.)

I will not watch a soccer match aired on an NBC network again because they have no concept on how to handle commercials. They cut to break at the most awkward of times, and the only reason we don’t miss goals is because damn near the majority of the Olympic footy matches are tape delayed altogether, even on the East Coast. (I’m thrilled that the Premier League season has started again, it’s been much better viewing.)

Yup, those Chinese female gymnasts had some members under 16. I think it’s funny that such a fuss is being made when the sport in general tends to value the pixie-like, some whom may even take drugs to hold back the onsets of puberty.  Essentially, Bela Karolyi got all pissed off on NBC because his wife Martha couldn’t get away with doing what the Chinese did with the U.S. team.  It’s why most of the major blogs went ga-ga over Alicia Sacramone even after her falls on the beam and during the floor routine essentially cost the U.S. the gold.  It helped that there was a YouTube video of her at Brown punching out a drunken frat boy, and it’s also about the hottie-ogling factor, but — shock — she looks semi-normal and not underfed. (Sympathy also came in when Andrea Joyce laid waste to her in the post-competition interview.)

Let’s just get this over with, NBC, so the rest of us can get back to both types of football and pennant races in baseball.

My Prayers Were Answered

More often than not, my mental response to Bill Plaschke’s L.A. Times columns is something along the lines of, “God, this guy can go eat a dick as far as I’m concerned.”

Well, he and a Chicago Trib reporter actually did — in the name of Sino-American relations while covering the Olympics.

If you make it all the way through the video, I salute you.

If You Are Surprised By This, Raise Your Hand So I Can Laugh At You

Remember that promise China gave the International Olympic Committee about members of the media having the same Internet access they had at prior Olympic Games in Beijing this year? How many of you thought that was actually going to be kept?

Good, because — surprise — not only are there sites (coughcoughAmnestyInternationalcough) that media members can’t access, it turns out that the IOC just copped to striking a deal with the Chinese government to allow them to block those particular sites and some pages. The Wikipedia entry on the Tianamen Square protests being one , and in a more amusing sense, Fire Joe Morgan is another. Apparently, one-party rule frowns on the concept of VORP, as one person is no more valuable than another in Communist countries.

I hate to double link to work I’ve done somewhere else in one day, but this is part and parcel with the debate over whether athletes ought to speak out in this sense: the IOC’s pretense about the ideal of athletic competition is about as flimsy (if not more so) than the NCAA’s use of the “student-athlete” mask for Division I revenue sports.

Jacques Rogge and his organization handed over an Olympic Games to a country with severe human rights violations on its record, horrific levels of air pollution, and limited speech and press rights. They did so with no concern for any promises that China made outside of getting the facilities prepared on time, because this is about money: making it for the IOC through its advertising and TV broadcasting rights fees, and tapping into one of the world’s most populous nations — at a cost of obvious credibility regarding the organization’s own charter.

You can only say that these games will force China to open itself up on so many times before there has to be some proof. This is the latest in a series of less than encouraging developments regarding Beijing and the Olympics; I doubt it will be the last we have when the Games end.

Olympic organisers agree to China blocking ‘sensitive’ Internet sites [Times UK]
Hu Jintao Does Not Care For OPS+ [Rocky Mountain News]
A Journalistic Highlight [Fire Joe Morgan]
Should Olympians Be Compelled To Protest In Beijing? [BallHype]