Bodies.

Tyson Chandler, New York Knicks

ESPN The Magazine‘s ‘The Body Issue’ is now available, and damn, is it fun to look at. I am of the opinion that muscles and toned physiques are incredibly attractive – on both men and women – and the bodies featured are at the absolute pinnacle in terms of training, sculpting, and goodlookingness (scientific term).

From the website: “It’s okay to stare. That’s what The Body Issue is here for. Each year, we stop to admire the vast potential of the human form. To unapologetically stand in awe of the athletes who’ve pushed their physiques to profound frontiers. To imagine how it would feel to inhabit those bodies, to leap and punch and throw like a god. To … well, gawk. So go ahead; join us.”

One of the things I like most about ‘The Body Issue’ is that it features athletes that you might not ever think of seeing highlighted in this way, like NHL Center Brad Richards or NFL RB Maurice Jones-Drew, but I especially appreciate the inclusion of muscular women with REAL (beautiful) bodies, like sprinter Carmelita Jeter, USA Soccer’s Abby Wambach, or basketball player Candace Parker.  Granted, all of these people are handsome as hell so it’s not hard to oogle any of them, but here are some of my favorite profiles:

Olympic Decisions.

Qualifier coverage is ramping up with the London Olympics looming mere weeks away. In the pool, Michael Phelps is working to qualify in enough events to go for eight golds again. For track and field, hurdler Lolo Jones was able to nab an Olympic team spot last weekend despite injury concerns. These stories are certainly notable and available, but one (summer games) sport in particular seems to enrapture the world every four years – and that is gymnastics.

For a sport that so few have access to throughout most of the year (from both a viewing perspective and via direct involvement), gymnastics owns a cult-like following when the Olympics roll around. There is a crescendoing buzz surrounding the women’s trials (which begin this evening at 9 PM on NBC) – who the favorites are, who will make the cut, who can make a comeback. The drama surrounding the team selection intensifies this year in that the pool of competitors is so strong, yet for the first time, only five girls can make the team. Until 2000, the squad consisted of seven. From 2000-2008, six girls could make the cut. But now it is down to five. In a sport where consistency is strived for yet unpredictability reigns, choosing the five representatives that will attempt to bring team gold to the USA for just the second time ever (1996’s Magnificent Seven were the first and only… cue memory of Kerri Strug’s vault) is a daunting task for head coach Martha Karolyi (who will actually have four choices to make after it becomes clear who wins the individual all-around – an automatic bid).

L to R: Gabby Douglas, Jordyn Wieber

The biggest rivalry for the all-around title will almost certainly come down to Jordyn Wieber (the reigning World Champion) and Gabby Douglas (nicknamed the “Flying Squirrel” for her unreal bar routine), two incredibly talented 16-year-olds, both of whom will likely make the squad no matter who takes top honors this weekend. With those two spots all but locked, the three girls who will make up the rest of Team USA is anyone’s guess. In the Olympics of years past (with larger squads), one or two-event specialists would often be selected. But this year, that tactic seems wasteful.

L to R: Bridget Sloan, Alicia Sacramone, Nastia Liukin

Ali Raisman, Kyla Ross, Elizabeth Price, and Sarah Finnegan are all strong candidates for the 3-4-5 spots, but they will also be competing against 2008 Beijing olympians Nastia Liukin, Alicia Sacramone and Bridget Sloan – all trying for comebacks. Trying might be as far as that goes though – the aforementioned “strong candidates” all finished ahead of the Beijing competitors at the Visa National Championships earlier this month.

I remember hearing many years ago that enrollment in gymnastics goes up in the year that follows the Olympics. I never saw it in my gym, and I’m not sure if that statistic is even true, but I could believe it. Little girls across America watching only slightly bigger girls performing indescribable feats of athleticism on pieces of wood and leather, chalk clouds erupting from grips slapped together pre and post bar routine. The thud of 90-odd pounds of muscle slamming into a bright blue mat, stuck landing, emphatic salute. Who wouldn’t want to be able to do that? I have had my share of angst when it comes to this sport, looking back at the sheer amount of time dumped into something so far off the general radar, something so unbelievably challenging. But I believe I am better for having been a part of it, and you can be damn sure I’ll be watching every second of it I can.

 

Finally an Appropriate Finale?

see ya.

Finally… I have posted a new blog entry! But more importantly, FINALLY (starting in 2014), college football will have a playoff to determine the national champion. The BCS (computers) will be no more, and the automatic qualifier status that favored specific conferences has also been vaporized.

The BCS system has long been scrutinized by national media and fans alike, and for good reason. Here’s a fun example of why it did/does not ensure the best two teams me(e)t in the championship game – a decade ago, Nebraska lost its final game of the regular season by a horrendous 62-36 margin and STILL played in the 2002 championship game. No surprise, they were pulverized in said championship by Miami. Nebraska’s making the championship game in 2002 specifically displayed the culmination of an egregious systematic error, but year after year, great teams are getting leapfrogged by lesser teams based on polls and rankings and automatic bids that cheapen the prior season of play, not to mention make little sense.

The new playoff plan, approved Tuesday by a committee of university presidents, will consist of two national semifinal games (four top teams – #1 vs. #4; #2 vs. #3), and the winners of each will meet in the finale.

There are certainly some questions that still need to be answered (like how teams will be selected, and how the money will be doled out… and what the hell are they calling these playoff games?), but this is officially huge.

You Can Play.

...

“If you can play, you can play.”

That’s the mantra and namesake of an international initiative launched in March aimed at ending homophobia in hockey.

You Can Play was created by Philadelphia Flyers scout Patrick Burke (son of Toronto Maple Leafs GM Brian Burke) in honor of Patrick’s brother, Brendan, who passed away in a car accident in 2010. Brendan notably came out in 2009 while in post as the manager of the Miami of Ohio hockey team.

The mission of You Can Play is simple –

You Can Play is dedicated to ensuring equality, respect and safety for all athletes, without regard to sexual orientation.

You Can Play works to guarantee that athletes are given a fair opportunity to compete, judged by other athletes and fans alike, only by what they contribute to the sport or their team’s success.

You Can Play seeks to challenge the culture of locker rooms and spectator areas by focusing only on an athlete’s skills, work ethic and competitive spirit.

– and yet the mission is difficult in reality. Challenge the preexisting culture in sports? Yikes. But with professional athletes on board, not to mention an entire college hockey team (see below), things are moving in a direction where this seems possible.

You Can Play – The Faceoff

Brooks Orpik, Pittsburgh Penguins:

Cal Clutterbuck, Minnesota Wild:

The UCONN Men’s Hockey team is on board with the Captain’s Challenge. Head coach Bruce Marshall said wanting to participate in the videos came from the players, not the university. UConn is one of eight total teams that have joined the initiative as a group.

Old-School Coach.

And when I say Coach, I mean the brand. Coach, known for its foundations in fine leather, has made available a Baseball Heritage Collection. The collection includes wallets made out of glove-tanned leather, a leather baseball and paperweight, and baseball duffel, among other items.

leather baseball - coach.com
heritage baseball double billfold wallet - coach.com
leather baseball paperweight - coach.com
heritage baseball duffle - coach.com

I want that wallet.

 

Rivals.

Last year New Era, Major League Baseball’s official cap-maker, pitted Alec Baldwin (Yankees) vs. John Krasinski (Red Sox).

This year, Craig Robinson and Nick Offerman are facing off over baseball in Chicago. If (somehow) you do not know these actors by their real names at this point, let me break it down – Ron Swanson is a Cubs fan, and Darryl Philbin likes the White Sox. Commence awesome shit-talking. Like this sequence:

“How old is Wrigley anyway? Do you even have electricity?”

“It’s powered by tradition, my friend. Something you wouldn’t know about at mobile phone park.”

Check out the full (extended) Round 1 video below. Enjoy.

 

The Good, The Bad, The Fugly – April 11 Edition

The Good

Streeter Lecka/Getty Images.

A man with a funky swing who never took a golf lesson won the Masters on Sunday (4/8). That man is pink driver-wielding Bubba Watson. Watson (33) hails from Bagdad, FL, is wont to cry, and seems to be an all-around good guy – but one shot is going to stick in the minds of anyone who watched (or watched highlights of) the Masters this weekend. After driving a ball into the woods, Watson hooked his next shot (off of literal pine needles) – an essential 40-yard curve ball – that landed 10 feet from the hole. Watson tapped in the easy par for the win.

“I got in these trees and hit a crazy shot that I saw in my head, and somehow I’m here talking to you with a green jacket on,” said Watson after the win.

Bubba Watson is now the highest-ranked American golfer in the world at #4.

The Bad

AP photo.

Arkansas sacked head football coach Bobby Petrino Tuesday (4/10) for both hiring his mistress to work on the football staff and for withholding the fact that said mistress was present (on the backseat) at his recent motorcycle accident. Petrino is married with four kids, but he apparently had a long-standing affair with Jessica Dorrell (25), a former Arkansas volleyball player.  Dorrell had worked as a fundraiser for the Razorbacks until Petrino hired her as the football program’s student-athlete development coordinator (she was one of three finalists out of a pool of 159 candidates) – but never disclosed his affair or the fact that he had gifted her $20,000. Athletic Director Jeff Long said Petrino was fired “with cause,” which means Petrino will not receive an $18 million buyout listed in his contract. Assistant coach Taver Johnson became interim head coach while Petrino was on leave, and ESPN.com is reporting that Johnson will continue to hold the head coaching spot.

 

The Fugly

AP.

Ozzie Guillen, known for being outspoken and outrageous, has done it again- only this time on a much more serious level. The new manager of the Miami Marlins, insulting the heart of the fanbase for his new team, made comments to Time magazine that he loves Fidel Castro and admires the Cuban dictator’s ability to hold onto power for so long. The Miami Marlins promptly suspended Guillen for five games and issued a public statement that the organization is not in line with the sentiment of Guillen’s statements and that “the pain and suffering caused by Fidel Castro cannot be minimized especially in a community filled with victims of the dictatorship.”

Guillen, who in 2006 was fined and sent to sensitivity training for a gay slur he directed at a Chicago-based columnist, held a press conference in Miami Tuesday (4/10) in an effort to apologize.

“I say a lot of things and I never apologize but now I have to because I did the wrong thing. I’m behind the Cuban community. How am I going to make it better? I’m going to show the community that I support them 100 percent,” said Guillen.

Bench coach Joey Cora will step into the Marlins’ managerial role until Guillen’s return.

The End of Madness.

is this an official logo? no idea.

March Madness is coming to a close tonight and tomorrow night (4/2-4/3) with the Men’s and Women’s NCAA basketball championship games (respectively) set to take place. The upsets, the upheld reputations, the drama, the dunks, the lady dunks, the tears, and the triumphs have all led to this (also, the month of March has literally ended).

rematch.

Number 1 seed Kentucky will face number 2 seed Kansas in New Orleans this evening (tip off around 9:30 PM ET). Kentucky and Kansas met once (much) earlier this season; the Wildcats were victorious (75-65). The Jayhawks are again certain underdogs but overcame adversity throughout much of the tournament (most recently working out of a 13-point deficit in their Final Four match-up Saturday against Ohio State) to reach tonight’s final. Both programs have winning histories, but these 2012 teams are made up very differently. Where Kentucky’s roster is thick with freshmen and sophomores, several of whom won’t return to college ball next season (like freshman Anthony Davis, the AP’s college basketball player of the year), Kansas brings more juniors and seniors to the court (specifically junior Thomas Robinson, the only unanimous AP All-American this season). Kentucky will seek its eighth national title tonight (the last coming in 1998), while Kansas will seek its fourth (the most recent title earned in 2008). Speaking of 2008 – Kansas, coached then and now by Bill Self, defeated Memphis in the Championship that year (in OT), a Memphis team then coached by John Calipari. Calipari became head coach of Kentucky in 2009, meaning this is a rematch of sorts for the two head coaches.

Prediction: Though Kansas has shown much heart, the sheer amount of talent (and depth of talent) on the Kentucky squad might be too much to overcome. Kentucky wins.

Can Brittney Griner be stopped?

On Tuesday night (at 8:30 PM ET in Denver), the women’s championship game will also be a rematch of sorts. Number 1 seed Notre Dame gets another crack at fellow number 1 seed (and favored) Baylor, who felled them in a preseason match-up (94-81). A lot of season has unfolded since then. Baylor rolled undefeated and now looks to seal off a record 40-0 season – a 40th win that would bring a championship title to Baylor (the second in program history). Notre Dame, with only three losses this season, looks to claim a title that proved elusive in 2011 (the Irish fell to Texas A&M 76-70 in last year’s championship game). Just as in the men’s final match-up, these women’s teams bring two very different squads to the court. Brittney Griner, the 6’8 Lady Bears center, has been the talk of the tournament, a woman dunking and blocking at will. The Fighting Irish, on the other hand, play without a center (starting four guards and one forward), but they have one of the best backcourts in the country.

Prediction: Though Baylor has dominated its opponents all season, Stanford was able to defend the Lady Bears well in the Final Four game – they just couldn’t score to back it up. If Notre Dame puts up points as well as they did against Connecticut, they have a strong chance of upset victory. Notre Dame wins.

Really?

The New York Post is often crass in its cover headlines. And I use “crass” as a (gross) understatement. Following Tiger Woods’ win at the Arnold Palmer Invitational yesterday (3/25 – his first PGA Tour win since 2009), the viewing public was treated to this:

grimace.

I am not a big Tiger fan (especially in light of his undoing). I don’t think he’s necessarily a good or decent person. From everything I’ve heard about him (via people who have been in close contact with him), he’s an asshole. But these covers are RIDICULOUS.

Not that this is anything new. Here are a two other recent, ridiculous, sports covers from the Post. And there are so many, many more (google it).

still grimacing.
oh good.