thoughts and links

Posts Tagged "sports"

Landon Donovan’s goal

For some people, the dramatic 122nd minute goal (the latest goal in Women’s World Cup history) by Abby Wambach against Brazil to send the game to penalties will be their favorite sports moment ever.

You can have your Kirk Gibson, you can have your Michael Jordan against the Jazz and you can have your Miracle on Ice. For me, it was another soccer moment.

My favorite sports moment is the Landon Donovan goal against Algeria in the 2010 World Cup. I was watching it alone in my house, in Spanish (we didn’t have cable). 

The USA needed to win the game in order to advance to the knockout stages. Not tie and, obviously, not lose. The USA, of course, went on to play horribly. Tied 0-0. Into the 90th minute. Into extra time. 

Algeria goes on the attack and almost scores but Tim Howard is in the right position and makes an easy save. Throws the ball down the field to Donovan. Counterattack, USA.

Donovan streaks down the field. Passes to Altidore. Back to Donovan. To Dempsey. Shot. Save by Algeria’s goalie. Time ticking down.

Out of nowhere, Donovan is there. Coolly slips the ball into the corner. Goal. 1-0. Pandemonium. 

Ian Darke says “Go, go USA!" and "You cannot write a script like this" and lets vuvuzelas do the rest for seemingly forever (really less than 30 seconds). That is the call that pretty much everyone I know heard on ESPN.

Meanwhile, cut to me, alone, in my house, running around like a madman while Andres Cantor, hoarsely, screams “GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOLLLLLLLLLL!!!!!!!" Cantor! Hoarse! Who would have thought such a thing possible?

Donovan, the most hated and most respected American soccer player to Mexican soccer fans everywhere* just scored one of the most dramatic goals ever. 

Wambach’s goal will likely prove to have more impact on the overall results in the tournament. With Germany and Brazil gone the United States can easily win the whole thing. The United States men were never going to win the World Cup.

But I had grown up wishing to play for the United States men’s national team. I lived and died with the Gold Cup, the Confederations Cup, the World Cup Qualifying for the men’s team. That was my team in many ways.

Anyway, I will never forget that moment watching the United States play soccer, thousands and thousands of miles away in a language I speak only a few words of**. 

My favorites sports moment. Ever.

*Cantor is Argentinian but I would think that he is best known among Mexicans and Mexican-Americans for his work on Univision. I could be wrong, of course. We need a 10,000 word profile in the New Yorker on Cantor.

** Sorry high school Spanish teachers!

Tiger still the highest-paid American athlete

Despite all the scandal, all the controversy, all the injuries and all the struggles on the golf course, Tiger Woods is still the highest paid American athlete according to Sports Illustrated’s annual Fortunate 50.

The golf star made $62 million and tops the list for an eighth-straight year. However Phil Mickelson is breathing down his neck and unless Tiger starts winnings some tournaments he will soon lose his spot at the top of the list.

The top ten breaks down like this:

  • 2 golfers
  • 4 basketball players
  • 3 football players (all quarterbacks)
  • 1 baseball player

The highest paid player that is not in any of these four sports is Dale Earnhardt, Jr. who is 13th on the list. All of the top 50 are either play golf, football, basketball, baseball or are race car drivers.

Wow. Great picture of the Green Monster, the iconic left field wall in Fenway Park, before the Boston Red Sox hosted the Los Angeles Angels on Monday night. 
I’m sure there will be many, many other great photos from sporting events throughout this week in the wake of the death of Osama bin Laden.
Photo via @joshcumberland on TwitPic.

Wow. Great picture of the Green Monster, the iconic left field wall in Fenway Park, before the Boston Red Sox hosted the Los Angeles Angels on Monday night. 

I’m sure there will be many, many other great photos from sporting events throughout this week in the wake of the death of Osama bin Laden.

Photo via @joshcumberland on TwitPic.

You(probably) make more money than the highest paid pro athlete from Nepal

Pro athletes make a lot of money. A lot. A tremendous amount. Unless you’re from Chad or Nepal, that is.

ESPN The Magazine highlighted the highest paid athlete in each country based on… well, I’ll just let them explain:

"Annual Salary" represents only base salary from the most recently completed season or calendar year from each sport, and excludes any other source of compensation, unless otherwise noted. In countries where official salary figures were unavailable, we estimated the number based on information from multiple sources, including leagues, agents, consulates, embassies, sports federations, cultural centers and the U.N. All figures converted to U.S. dollars. Per Capita GDP (Gross Domestic Product), a leading indicator of national wealth, is the market value of a country’s goods and services divided by its population; we used most recently available GDP data for each country.

Anyway, the highest paid athlete from Nepal was Santosh Sahukhala, who made $8,430 for playing soccer at the Manang Marsyangdi Club. 

Unsurprisingly, most of the highest-paid athletes played soccer, followed by basketball then baseball. 

And the highest paid athlete from Mongolia is Hakuho, a sumo wrestler in Japan who makes $400,000 per year. Which is impressive, but not nearly as impressive as the $26,333,333 that Kimi Raikkonen of Finland makes for driving int he World Rally Championship.

The highest paid athlete that I saw was… Manny Pacquaio, the Filipino boxing sensation.

And there are no professional athletes from six of countries, including Afghanistan and Tuvalu. and salaries aren’t available from many countrys like ST. Kitts and Nevis and Yemen.

The atmosphere at the cricket World Cup

ESPN has a great look at the atmosphere around the cricket World Cup in Sri Lanka Bangladesh. It has basically shut entire countries down — just as the soccer World Cup does to some countries.

But it’s hard to imagine even the soccer World Cup having an atmosphere like this:

The street is a sea of green-and-red flags. On poles, on passing cars, on headbands. Families who live in the buildings across the street lean over balconies to look. There’s a blur of details. AK-47s with folding stocks on the backs of soldiers. Riot police wading into the crowd with swinging sticks. When the sun goes down later, street performers blowing fire into the air.

"I’ve never seen anything like this before," says the Indian television reporter.

"It’s absolutely crazy," says the man from the BBC.

The shrill blasts of whistles, honking horns, the buzz of vuvuzelas, shouts, cheers, singing, drums, constant chants of “Bangladesh! Bangladesh!” The noises lose their individual properties and become one noise, unified, constant, loud. Every so often, for no apparent reason, it ticks a notch louder, then another, changing gears. This goes on for hours. Workers string blue lights on the side of the stadium, which match the blue lights in the trees and the ones hanging across the road. The celebration outlasts daylight.

Awesome. Now if someone could only explain to me 

CBS entering larger cable sports fray

ESPN is the most dominant sports entity in the United States. The New York Times recently wrote about this dominance in a profile in the (oddly enough) Fashion & Style section.

Besides ESPN, there are the niche networks for each sports (led by NFL Network, NBA TV, MLB Network and whatever the NHL channel is called), Versus (which still features lots of rodeos and hunting shows), the Fox Sports Net regional channels (buoyed by local sports contracts with teams and colleges) and, somewhere in there, CBS College Sports. 

Well CBS College Sports is about to rebrand and expand its portfolio. Variety reports that it will change its name to the CBS Sports Network.

While making no claim to challenge ESPN at this point, CBS is undoubtedly keen on building the relationship between its flagship network sports properties — which include the NFL, the PGA Tour and NCAA football and basketball — and those of its sports cable outlet, similar to the synergy shared by ABC and ESPN.

"That’s a pretty tall order," said Berson of competing directly with ESPN. "That’s a pretty lofty goal. I wouldn’t say that right now, but I do think there’s tons of sport content out there (and) tons of ideas to generate more sports content. … There’s plenty of room for a lot of folks out there.

Eventually this may be a challenger to the ESPN throne, but I think that the CBS Sports Network could leapfrog the patchwork Fox Sports Network entity and Versus to be the largest of the second-tier sports networks.

Every QB who has won the Super Bowl is still alive

ESPN has a cool slideshow showing the 28 quarterbacks who have won the Super Bowl. One thing I noticed — they are all still alive.

Which, considering the brutality and wear and tear of football, is pretty amazing. 

Here are some of the notable names:

The oldest is Bart Starr, who is now 77 years old. He won two Super Bowls, Super Bowls I and II, and was MVP of both. In addition to those two Super Bowls, Starr won three NFL championships before that. 

And I can’t go on without mentioning Len Dawson since I’m a Chiefs fan. The Chiefs lost Super Bowl I, but Dawson and the Chiefs rebounded to take Super Bowl IV over the Minnesota Vikings. Dawson was Super Bowl MVP in that game. Dawson’s Chiefs also won an AFL Championship in 1962.

Note: The first four Super Bowls featured with NFL champions against the AFL champions. So, counting the Super Bowl as the NFL Championship, Starr won five NFL championships and Dawson won three AFL championships.

The Pittsburgh Steelers’ Terry Bradshaw won four Super Bowl titles and two Super Bowl MVPs, all in the 1970s. He can now be seen laughing at dumb jokes on Fox’s NFL pre-game show. 

Joe Montana also won four Super Bowl titles, all in the 1980s for the San Francisco 49ers. He was the MVP of three Super Bowls, the most of any player in NFL history. Montana is, mainly because of this, also arguably the greatest quarterback in the game’s history.

Doug Williams of the Washington Redskins was the first, and still only, African-American quarterback to win a Super Bowl. He earned himself the Super Bowl MVP nod in Super Bowl XXII for his performance.

Troy Aikman won three Super Bowls in the 1990s for the hated (by me) Dallas Cowboys. He won the Super Bowl MVP once and will be heard next Sunday doing the play-by-play for Fox’s Super Bowl broadcast.

Tom Brady also has three Super Bowl titles and has two MVPs. 

The youngest Super Bowl winner is Ben Roethlisberger. He has two Super Bowl titles to his name and he is just 28 years old (the next youngest is Eli Manning). When Roethlisberger won his first Super Bowl in 2006, he became the youngest QB to win a Super Bowl, younger than Tom Brady.

Roethlisberger can join the elite three-time-Super-Bowl-winning-quarterback club next Sunday but oddly enough doesn’t have an MVP to his name.

Of the 44 Super Bowl MVPs, 23 are quarterbacks. Of the ten quarterbacks to win multiple Super Bowls, only Roethlisberger and Griese don’t have an MVP in a Super bowl.

Oh, and if the Green Bay Packers win next Sunday, Aaron Rodgers, 27, will be the youngest Super Bowl MVP winner as of today. 

This is my favorite of 19 great sports images this year. A lot of them involve the Winter Olympics.
And one involves a shirtless David Beckham, if that is your sort of thing.

This is my favorite of 19 great sports images this year. A lot of them involve the Winter Olympics.

And one involves a shirtless David Beckham, if that is your sort of thing.

NFL dominates TV

The NFL is the biggest thing when it comes to TV. The only thing that is perhaps comparable in its dominance is American Idol and there is some thought that Idol’s reign of terror over the TV landscape may be coming to an end soon.

But the NFL? In an age of declining ratings shares, more and more people continue to tune into the action on the gridiron.

NBC’s Sunday night games are up 10 percent this season. With three games left, “Sunday Night Football” is certain to complete the fall as the most-watched offering in prime time, the first time the N.F.L.’s prime-time showcase (which began in 1970 as “Monday Night Football”) has ever attained the top ranking.

CBS’s Sunday afternoon games are also soaring, up about 10 percent from last year. Games on Fox are up about 2 percent. ESPN’s Monday games are about flat with last season, which that network considers remarkable because last season’s games broke all records.

The games on ESPN not only dominate cable television (the top 13 spots in cable ratings this fall are all N.F.L. games) but also have become a force against a network show on that night. While the show, “Dancing With the Stars” on ABC, managed to draw more viewers over all, “Monday Night Football” smashed all its competition among the younger-adult viewers most sought by the networks.

There are some advantages to watching football on TV. You can see every little thing in HD. In my opinion, sports have been helped by the advent of high definition TV more than any other type of programming. 

Watching soccer on Fox Soccer Channel, which does not currently have an HD version in my area, versus watching soccer in HD on ESPN is like watching two completely different sports.

Plus, it happens in the winter. It’s cold outside in much of the country and it is easier to sit inside and watch football all day Sunday instead of, you know, doing something.

However, everything isn’t perfect for these networks that are lucky enough to pay billions of dollars for the TV rights. Sometimes they make significant missteps:

 For the last two weeks, on regional games with smaller audiences, the network has played a musical score in accompaniment with the coverage of the games. The idea, Fox contends, could be the next big innovation in television football coverage because the audience is growing more accustomed to having music with every form of entertainment.

Trust me, it’s distracting. Then again, I bet people said the same thing when they put the yellow first down line on the field back in the day. Now it is hard to watch football without the yellow line.