Archive for the ‘sports’ Category

Ladies and Gentlemen, the World Champion Chicago Cubs

Thursday, November 3, 2016, 01:00 EDT Leave a comment

[Cross-posted from the Triumphant Red Sox Fan Forum]

I haven’t posted here since the Red Sox lost game 1 of the ALDS to the Cleveland Indians. I figured I’d wait until a Sox win, which of course never happened. So I decided to root for the Cubbies, in solidarity with their long-suffering fans. The Cubs won the NLDS, then the NLCS, before falling behind 3 games to 1 in the World Series against those very same Indians. As a Red Sox fan from long before they actually won stuff, I knew that anything could happen. And, indeed, it did. The Cubbies came roaring back to force a game 7, which I watched with great interest. They took a commanding lead, then gave up the lead, sending the game into extra innings. Oh yeah, then there was a rain delay. Because of course.

But never mind all of that. I am thrilled to be able to say…

The Triumphant Red Sox fan enthusiastically congratulates the 2016 Chicago Cubs for their first World Series title since 1908. Their championship drought now stands at… zero years. How about that?

Feel free to right-click on that image to save it. Also, you can grab this one (or left-click for a .pdf you can also download):

Have a fun year, Chicago. Take it from me: it’ll be a blast.

Categories: sports

And Now, On the Lighter Side

Thursday, October 27, 2016, 21:03 EDT Leave a comment

Just because the Den Mother can wax eloquent about the most pressing issues of the day doesn’t mean she is all work and no play. On the contrary, it is October, which in my world means the World Series, even if it’s Red Soxless.

It wasn’t so long ago (exactly 12 years, in fact) that my own beloved boys of summer made the hearts of New England’s loyal baseball fans take flight for the first time in a really long time. In 2004, everyone knew that the Red Sox and Cubs hadn’t won a championship, as my dear late father used to say, since Hector was a pup. The Cubs had last won it all in 1908, he Red Sox in 1918 (against, ironically, those same Cubs). Oddly enough, the Red Sox didn’t even have the longest drought in the American League at the time. That distinction (?) belonged to the other Sox, which are also the other Chicago team: the White Sox, who hadn’t won since 1917.

No matter. The BoSox won it all in 2004 (and again in 2007 and 2013), and their white-stockinged counterparts won in 2005, though at least one ChiSox fan hardly acted like it was anything at all. Just days after the series ended, I met a young-ish White Sox fan at the Baseball Hall of Fame and, upon wishing him enthusiastic congratulations on finally coming in from the wilderness, was met with a quizzical look. Apparently he didn’t realize his team had just earned its first World Championship in 88 years. Good riddance to him and those like him.

Anyhoo, fast forward to this year, when it so happens that the two teams battling it out for the title happen to be the teams with the two longest championship-free streaks in Major League Baseball. For those keeping score at home, here’s the list, with the number of years they’ve gone without a World Series title:

Chicago Cubs 108
Cleveland Indians 68
Texas Rangers 56*
Houston Astros 55*
Washington Nationals 48*
San Diego Padres 48*
Milwaukee Brewers 48*
Seattle Mariners 40*
Pittsburgh Pirates 37
Baltimore Orioles 33
Detroit Tigers 32
New York Mets 30
Los Angeles Dodgers 28
Oakland Athletics 27
Cincinnati Reds 26
Minnesota Twins 25
Colorado Rockies 24*
Toronto Blue Jays 23
Atlanta Braves 21
Tampa Bay Rays 19*
Arizona Diamondbacks 15
Los Angeles Angels 14
Miami Marlins 13
Chicago White Sox 11
Philadelphia Phillies 8
New York Yankees 7
St. Louis Cardinals 5
Boston Red Sox 3
San Francisco Giants 2
Kansas City Royals 1

*These teams have never won a World Series championship in their history.

Even before the playoffs, I said that the Cubs were the only team I wouldn’t be crushed to lose to in the World Series. So they are my team for the next 3-5 games. Go Cubbies.

Categories: sports

Happy Postseason!

Tuesday, October 4, 2016, 21:07 EDT Leave a comment

[Cross-posted from the Triumphant Red Sox Fan Forum]

It’s nice to be back, folks, and under very good circumstances.

I admit to the return of my pre-2004 mindset throughout most of this season, in that I never thought our boys would actually win the division. After the last two seasons, I would have been happy with a winning record.

But they exceeded my expectations and now embark on what we all hope will be another worst-to-first postseason performance. Having limped through the last week of the season (a lone win in the final six games) that cost them home field advantage in the first round, they nonetheless start wish a clean slate. Here, are the matchups (click the image for a .pdf version you can download and print):


The Red Sox vs. Indians best-of-5 series begins on Thursday evening at 8:00 EDT. Cleveland will host games 1 and 2 Thursday and Friday, Boston will host games 3 and 4 (if necessary) Sunday and Monday, and they’ll all go back to Cleveland on Wednesday if a game 5 is required. The winner of that series will play the winner of the series between the Rangers and either the Blue Jays or Orioles, who are playing for the wild card slot tonight.

From my perspective, I say we should root for the Orioles as the preferable team to face should they beat Texas and we beat Cleveland. We beat Baltimore in the season series 11-8, whereas Toronto edged us out 10-9. Toronto is also on a bit of a high, having surged past the O’s at season’s end to secure home field for the wild card game. Baltimore, on the other hand, were swept by the Sox in the second last week of the season, so hopefully we might be in their heads a bit.

Another advantage the Sox have over the Orioles is in starting pitching against each other. Looking at John Farrell’s postseason rotation of Porcello, Price, Buchholz, and Rodriguez has fared much better overall against Baltimore than against Toronto. Likewise, our batters have done better against Baltimore.

I should point out that as I write this, the O’s have just taken a 2-1 lead against the Jays in the fourth inning. So pull for those O’s to keep it going and win this thing.

See you on Thursday.

Olympic Boyfriend Update

Tuesday, August 16, 2016, 16:35 EDT Leave a comment

Samir Ait SaidTen days after breaking his leg in horrific fashion landing a vault in Rio, French gymnast Samir Ait Said is reportedly on the road to recovery.

Ait Said had surgery the night of the injury and posted a video on Facebook the next day, thanking well-wishers for their support and offering words of encouragement to his Olympic teammates (according to a partial translation provided by Yahoo Sports). Yesterday he attended the rings final as a spectator.

Because I’m not an avid gymnastics fan, I didn’t realize that this wasn’t the first injury to keep Ait Said from Olympic competition. Another leg injury prior to the 2012 Games in London kept him off the team entirely. Last year, he declared his desire to medal twice in Rio to make up for what he couldn’t do in London. No one would blame him for being bitter for being denied yet again.

But he isn’t bitter, telling French sports daily L’Équipe (as quoted in the Guardian article linked above) that he is really quite fortunate:

There are worse things in life. I’m in good health, that’s the main thing. You have to put it in context. You know, people died in the Paris terrorist attacks, some people lost their children. I’ve missed out on the chance to make the Olympic final, that’s all. I’m still alive, I have my friends, my parents are here with me.

Ait Said says he plans to compete in Tokyo in 2020. I, for one, will be rooting for him to win big.

Categories: olympics

Olympic Boyfriend Winner Declared

Saturday, August 6, 2016, 22:38 EDT Leave a comment

Samir Ait SaidIt’s only day 2 of the XXXI Olympiad in Rio de Janeiro, but we already have a winner for The Den Mother’s Olympic Boyfriend of 2016.

French gymnast Samir Ait Saif gets the nod not only because he’s gorgeous, but also because this happened to him and he didn’t throw up on international television. He didn’t even yell. (WARNING: Disturbing video at the link.)

If you’re squeamish and would rather not watch the video, here’s USA Today‘s description of the incident:

Ait Said’s left leg snapped on his vault landing, the sharp crack heard throughout the arena. As he rolled over, clutching his leg just below the knee, his foot and the lower half of his shin dangled in the opposite direction of the rest of his leg.

It was not a compound fracture (in other words, the bone did not puncture the skin), but there might still be internal soft tissue damage.

The Den Mother joins many others around the world who send Ait Said heartfelt wishes for a fast and full recovery.

Categories: olympics, sports

One Year

Tuesday, April 15, 2014, 12:23 EDT Leave a comment

The 2013 Boston Marathon took place a year ago today. Of course, that annual big event would be overshadowed by the explosion of two bombs at the finish line at 2:50pm, just a few hours after the winners had crossed.

Three people were killed at that moment, dozens more seriously injured. The medical personnel who volunteered at the finish line to handle cases of dehydration, heat stroke, and muscle strains became, in an instant, medics in a war zone. It was later reported that the medical tent personnel triaged 58 people—several of whom had limbs blown off—in less than a half hour.

One of the registered nurses in the medical tent that day, a friend of mine who is also an officer in a U.S. Army Reserve medical brigade, recently spent three weeks in annual training exercises simulating mass casualty situations, which for their purposes were defined as five or more casualties. She said that after Boston, five casualties was a piece of cake.

People have moved on with their altered lives. The families and friends of the three dead, along with the loved ones of the M.I.T. police officer killed three days later by the alleged terrorists (or, as I call them, dirtbags), have made it through the first year. Survivors have recovered, some continuing to learn how to use the prosthetic legs that replaced the real ones they lost. Marathon organizers have planned this year’s event taking into account the need for increased security. Boston and state police, with federal law enforcement, have developed new public safety strategies based on lessons learned. Some of the runners who were prevented from finishing last year’s race have taken advantage of the Boston Athletic Association’s offer to run this year without having to re-qualify. Likewise, some of the volunteers who dealt directly with the carnage have decided to go back to the medical tent.

Today at the finish line, which has already been painted on Boylston Street in preparation for next Monday, wreathes have been placed in memory of the victims. A commemorative service will begin in a few minutes at Boston’s Hynes Auditorium. As I watch some of the coverage on television, I am more than a little weepy, which surprises me because 1) I was 40 miles away at my office when the bombing happened, 2) I didn’t know any of the victims (although several of my friends were very nearby); and 3) I never cried back when it happened, going instead from shock at the attack to indignation by the time the suspects were identified and hunted down. Probably thousands of other people feel the same way I do and, like me, don’t really understand why.

Maybe it’s because, as I’ve said before, this may not be personal to me as an individual, but it’s personal to me as a New Englander. This corner of the country is very stoic, its inhabitants proud of our history as the cradle of the American Revolution. Boston seems like a big city, but in many ways it feels like a small town. And the Boston Marathon, the oldest annual marathon in the world, is our special party in which we are kind enough to let others join. Crashing it for the sole purpose of killing and maiming people is bad form, and we take it personally. In the immortal words of David Ortiz, “This is OUR fucking city!” The implication being, How dare you come into our home and attack us and our guests! How dare you take our wonderful event and ruin it with blood and body parts! A year ago, it made me angry. I’m still angry, but I’m also sad, and it has taken a year for that to happen.

Some things can’t be understood or explained, so I won’t try. I’ll just let it happen. And maybe, on Monday, I’ll head into Boston and watch a marathon.

Bode Miller, Christin Cooper, and NBC’s Olympic Coverage Suckitude

Monday, February 17, 2014, 18:22 EST 1 comment

While the last part of this title could launch a whole series of articles, my target today is last night’s Christin Cooper interview of American skier Bode Miller after the Super-G event which was his final chance to get a medal. Miller’s rather interesting story includes significant competitive achievements. It also includes a recent personal loss, the death of his younger brother.

Throughout their coverage so far, NBC has presented personal information about Olympic athletes as a way to elicit greater interest among viewers (and, by extension, enhance the television ratings). After all competitors had finished yesterday’s race, Miller was left tied for third place, thus becoming the oldest alpine skier ever to win an Olympic medal.

Cooper approached Miller and initiated the following on-camera exchange:

NBC [Christin Cooper]: For a guy who says that medals don’t really matter, that they aren’t the thing, you’ve amassed quite a collection. What does this one mean to you in terms of all the others.

Miller: This was a little different. You know with my brother passing away, I really wanted to come back here and race the way he sensed it. This one is different.

NBC: Bode, you’re showing so much emotion down here, what’s going through your mind?

Miller: [pause] Um, I mean, a lot. Obviously just a long struggle coming in here. And … it’s just a tough year.

NBC: I know you wanted to be here with Chilly, really experiencing these games. How much does this mean to you to come up with this great performance for him? And was it for him?

Miller: I mean, I don’t know if it’s really for him but I wanted to come here and … I don’t know, I guess make myself proud, but…

NBC: When you’re looking up in the sky at the start, we see you there and it just looks like you’re talking to somebody. What’s going on there?

Miller: [breaks down crying]

Awful, right? But it gets worse. Because of the time difference between the U.S. and western Russia, the NBC production team had 20 hours to either edit the interview before televising it or decide not to use it at all. They did neither.

The viewing audience was horrified, as indicated by comments on Twitter.

Then, to add stupidity to both insult and injury, the networked doubled down. According to the New York Times, an NBC spokesperson issued a statement in defense of the interview itself and the decision to air it later.

“Our intent was to convey the emotion that Bode Miller was feeling after winning his bronze medal,” a spokesman for the network said. “We understand how some viewers thought the line of questioning went too far, but it was our judgment that his answers were a necessary part of the story. We’re gratified that Bode has been publicly supportive of Christin Cooper and the overall interview.”

How nice that Miller, who apparently has been friends with Cooper for years, is willing to forgive. That doesn’t mean that it was the right thing for NBC to do.

How and why did this sordid episode suck? Let me count the ways.

  1. Even if Miller’s grief over his brother’s death was “a necessary part of the story,” it was addressed very clearly by Miller in his response to Cooper’s first question. Hammering him about it afterward was redundant, unnecessary, and ultimately mean.
  2. NBC is supposed to be presenting Olympic coverage, not a gossip rag. Giving some background on the athletes adds a human interest aspect to the coverage, but it shouldn’t be the focus over the results of the competition. NBC chose to make it the focus.
  3. Cooper had obviously decided in advance that she would go for the most gut-wrenching display she could evoke. That she didn’t stop until he was sobbing is proof of her intent.
  4. Once she got the tears she wanted and in full view of the camera, Cooper attempted to comfort Miller by laying her hand on his shoulder. If she were really concerned for his comfort, she wouldn’t have badgered him.
  5. The decision, hours after the fact, to air the entire exchange shows how far American media have descended into the “reality TV” pit. Someone, or more likely several people, deliberately decided that the ratings were worth exposing someone in a vulnerable moment to a voyeuristic public that, thankfully, was horrified by it.
  6. “How much does this mean to you?” (like its close cousin, “How special is this to you?”) isn’t an interview question. It’s a crutch used by reporters who are too incompetent to ask relevant questions about the event at issue and/or too lazy to come up with a real question. Just once, I want the interviewee to reply, “It’s not special to me at all, dumbass,” and then walk away. Extra points if it’s done on live television.

Over at today’s Wall Street Journal, Kwame Dawes has an “Ode to Bode Miller’s Tearful Interview with Christin Cooper” which I won’t excerpt only because you really should read the whole thing. All I’ll add is that it made me think of rocker Don Henley’s 1982 single “Dirty Laundry,” which is as accurate an indictment of major media today as it was then.

We got the bubble-headed-bleach-blonde
Comes on at five
She can tell you ’bout the plane crash
With a gleam in her eye
It’s interesting when people die
Give us dirty laundry

Can we film the operation?
Is the head dead yet?
You know, the boys in the newsroom
Got a running bet
Get the widow on the set
We need dirty laundry

Kick ’em when they’re up
Kick ’em when they’re down
Kick ’em when they’re up
Kick ’em all around

Categories: family, media, olympics, sports

Boston Strong: Why This World Series Title Is the Best So Far

Thursday, October 31, 2013, 02:52 EDT Leave a comment

This was originally posted at the Triumphant Red Sox Fan Forum.
Edited for spelling and grammar —TRSF 11/01/2013 15:34EDT

It almost doesn’t seem possible, but it’s true. The Boston Red Sox are 2013 World Series Champions.

The September 2011 collapse that ended Terry Francona’s managerial career in Boston, the Bobby Valentine Era, and last place duds that were the 2012 Red Sox feel like ancient history.

As I drove home from the sports bar where I watched Game 6 with friends and family, I heard a question posed on 98.5 The Sports Hub: Of the three championship teams in the last ten seasons, how would you rank them in terms of favorites? The first thing I thought was, WE’VE WON THREE CHAMPIONSHIPS IN THE LAST TEN SEASONS! (The first team, by the way, to do that in the 21st century, is all.) Then I set my mind to the question.

Each championship has been special in its own way. The 2004 title removed from the Red Sox organization and its long-suffering fans the weight of generations of disappointment. The 2007 title was proof that 2004 was not a fluke and allowed us to enjoy the team’s success as normal fans not starved for enjoyment. But this one is something else entirely, the rare achievement of a front office determined to atone for last year, a manager committed to restoring order and dignity to the team, and players who learned very quickly that each of them had a part to play and did so enthusiastically—on the field and off.

Read more at the Triumphant Red Sox Fan Forum.

Categories: sports

Boston Sports: It’s Good to Be Us

Wednesday, October 23, 2013, 01:25 EDT Leave a comment

Cross-posted from the Triumphant Red Sox Fan Forum.

Boston StrongIn case you live outside North America and/or in a cave, you probably know that the Red Sox are going to the World Series for the third time in 10 years. Before 2004, such an achievement was unimaginable.

The Red Sox aren’t the only local team that has enjoyed recent sporting success. Our professional sports franchises have had a tremendous collective run in the last 12 years, with three Super Bowl wins by the Patriots (2002, 2004, 2005), an NBA Championship by the Celtics (2008), and a Stanley Cup by the Bruins (2010) to go along with the Red Sox wins. It hasn’t always been like that. When our teams have enjoyed success, it was usually one at a time, while the other teams floundered. I got thinking that it would be interesting to look at the entire history of our major sports franchises and see exactly what they have and haven’t done for us over the decades. The results surprised me.

Read more at the Triumphant Red Sox Fan Forum.

Categories: sports

Fun with Numbers, Olympic Edition

Sunday, August 12, 2012, 22:59 EDT Leave a comment

2012 Olympic gold medalWho has spent the last two weeks following the Olympics? (The Den Mother raises her hand.) There were many opportunities for me to blog about the games, but life has gotten in the way. Now that the festivities have concluded, I didn’t want to miss the opportunity to look at London 2012 by the numbers.

What most people follow is the medal count, and it tells some interesting stories. Of the 200+ countries that sent athletes to London, 85 got medals, with the top five countries ended up with more than half of all medals awarded. The United States led all around, winning more total medals (104) and more of each color than any other country. Rounding out the top five countries were China (87 total), Russia (82), Great Britain (65), and Germany (44), with the host country eclipsing Russia in golds. Compare that to the other end of the spectrum, where 18 nations took but a single medal each.

As an American, I am understandably proud of the success of my countrymen and women. We’re a populous and prosperous nation, which goes a long way toward explaining why we’re the all-time leader in medals won in the modern Olympics. But I’m equally interested in the smaller countries that have notable Olympic success. And if you look at medals won compared to population, the United States didn’t even make the top half in London. Team USA brought home one medal for every 3,020,000 people in the country, but doing even better were Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Great Britain, most European nations, and several former Soviet republics. The runaway leader in medals per capita was the tiny Caribbean nation of Grenada, which won only one medal—a gold—but has a population of just 105,000. Compare that to the world’s most population nation, China, which came in 12th from the bottom, with one medal for every 15.5 million people.

The gold medal picture shapes up about the same, where the United States (one gold medal for every 6.8 million people) was 28th out of 54 nations that won at least one gold. At the top of the list after Grenada were the Bahamas (one gold per 353,658), Jamaica (1 per 675,457), New Zealand (1 per 886,898), and Hungary (1 per 1.25 million). Our North American neighbors didn’t do as well: Canada (a single gold for its population of almost 35 million) was 8th lowest and Mexico (one gold for the country of 16 million) brought up the rear.

But for all the emphasis some of us put on medal counts, it’s worth remembering that most of the countries that sent athletes to London won not a single medal of any color. In fact, the vast majority of competitors went in knowing they had not a snowball’s chance in hell of getting near the medal podium. Their successes were measured differently, perhaps by making it out of a qualifying round or achieving a personal best, but for most merely by participating. With the occasional exception (think Eddie the Eagle or the Jamaican bobsleigh team), we won’t hear about them, and they will go about the rest of their lives in obscurity. But they will come away from their Olympic experiences much happier than the soccer team that lost in the gold medal match or the world champion diver who “only” got silver, because they recognize what an honor it is to be able to say what the rest of us never will: that they are Olympians.

The Olympics are all about numbers. The number of participating countries. The number of events. The number of spectators. The number of volunteers. The number of points awarded by a judge. The number of centimeters or milliseconds by which a race was lost. The number of dollars or euros or pounds or pesos or yen spent by the host city. The number of corporate sponsors. The number of athletes suspended for doping. The number of scandals among IOC officials. Strip away those numbers and you’re left with the only number that makes the Olympics worth all the trouble: the people who get nothing but joy from competing or cheering or watching on TV, the ones for whom the ideals of Olympism really mean something.

Those numbers are immeasurable.

Categories: olympics