Saturday, August 23, 2008

Olympic Musings

Sorry I've been out of pocket for so long. What with political and track news, you'd think I'd be zapping out posts like crazy. But life has intervened--first week of school (which has gone fine, for those who might ask).

I'll probably think out loud about Joe Biden later (and no matter how wordy I am, it will be fitting, as he is one of the biggest bloviating gasbags in DC... but I like that!). But what's on my mind right now is a full week of Olympic track. It's the one time every 4 years that "my" sport takes center stage. And I LOVE it! So here are my thoughts, in no particular order:

  1. Usain Bolt is a freak of nature. I think (and hope) he's drug-free. He just takes less steps with those long legs than all the other runners, and turns them over just as fast. Truly amazing. The fastest man on the planet. Ever. And we got to watch him. What a treat.
  2. Bolt had a better Olympics than Michael Phelps. I know that's heresy, and not what NBC has been pushing. But 3 golds with WR in sprints is superior to 8 golds with 7 WR in swimming. The events are physically more demanding (imagine having 2 sprint finals 25 minutes apart... couldn't happen. It does in swimming, because there's no pounding). Moreover, the WR's he broke were superior. Michael Johnson's 19.32 in the 200 was thought by some to be the most untouchable record on the track. The 4x100 record had stood since 1992. There have only been twelve WR performances in the 100 since they started using fully automatic timing in 1968. Compare that to swimming, where WR's are broken all the time. Finally, Phelps basically duplicated what Spitz did, plus one event. Bolt did what no one has ever done... not Jesse Owens, not Carl Lewis. Nobody has ever swept the sprints with 3 world-record golds.
  3. Jeremy Wariner fired his coach, Clyde Hart (of Baylor, formerly Michael Johnson's coach), last year. He thought he was too expensive. LaShawn Merritt hired Clyde. Merritt beat Wariner at the US trials, and beat the heck out of him at the Olympics. Yes, there is a great deal of natural talent at work in track. And when the more talented meets the harder worker, sorry to say, talent usually wins. But when talent is equal, technique, and COACHING, counts. I still am a huge Wariner fan, and would love to see him get the world record someday. But Merritt deserved this one.
  4. Do you know who Bubba Thornton is? He's the relay coach for the USA. And he should be fired, tarred, feathered, hanged, drawn, quartered, beheaded, flayed, and disemboweled... for starters. Both US 4x100 relay teams dropped the batons and failed to advance to the finals. Now, I'll bet the Bolt-led Jamaicans would have still won the men's race. But we should have at least medaled. Those passes would be inexcusable on my high school team. My boys' 4x100 team is currently the SCISA state record holders, and we have won several state titles in relays in my years coaching. And rule #1 is ALWAYS "get the stick around." You do that by practice, practice, practice. Obviously, the world-class athletes we had didn't put enough effort into teamwork and fundamentals. That lies squarely at the feet of the coach.
  5. The USA basketball team is much better this go around. Unlike our sprinters, they seem to have found some humility, and with it, the ability to play as a team. And so far, they have beaten every team they have played by 20+ points. My pick to replace Bubba Thornton is Coach K.
  6. Notice that China is leading in gold medals, even though USA leads overall. Why? China has 4 times the population, a state-run athletic system that takes kids away from home at a young age and puts them in "sports academies" (I need to work at a US track academy!), and is obviously willing to cheat at a national level (providing faked passports for their underage gymnasts). Yet the only reason they have so many golds is because they win in sports that... sorry... shouldn't even be in the Olympics. Come on! Ping-pong? Trampoline? Synchronized gymnastics? Air pistol? Badminton? I'll make a deal... drop our golds in fencing and rowing and other non-sports, and everybody else do the same. Then we'll compare. I guess since poker and spelling bee are now on ESPN, they'll be giving Olympic gold for them, soon. Bah!
  7. Lest I be accused of jingoism for saying the above, let me qualify by admitting that pound-for-pound, the UK and Jamaica are doing even better than the USA. I just have no love for the Chi-Coms. Free Tibet!
  8. Still 4 events left I care about... basketball gold medal game, men's 4x400, men's 5000, and men's marathon. This is a GREAT week!


Goode Design said...

Coach Sal! You're saying that PRACTICE has something to do with winning? Now I know you'll vouch for talent, strength & genetics, just like any other coach. It's a real treat to see someone who has some good ol' "inate talent & ability" who also has a great work ethic!

Isn't it odd that people like Tiger Woods still find it necessary to do something as mundane as practice?

Isn't it odd that those who run all the time are the ones who look like they don't need to run all the time.

There's no doubt that you're a great coach. Just your verbiage gives it away.

Coach K for President! Coach Sal for Veep!

Anonymous said...

Men's marathon was pretty sweet! Surprised we didn't do better than we did, but we still kicked it pretty stinkin well! More than that, good for Kenya! I give them mad props! I feel bad for the Ethiopian though, that made my laces hurt:( And yeah, did you notice that at the 4x4 qual. they all passed off like distance runners;) As far as basketball, Coach K is just the man!!! And I think you nailed it on the head when you said they found some humility! If the track team would do that, I think they would be spot on.