Enjoying the 2008 Beijing Olympics

After an incredibly busy and stressful week preparing for the intern presentation (in front of a client, our bosses, and a fourth of the office) on Friday and then moving from Chicago back home on Sunday, I am finally back in Michigan with a lot more free time on my hands. Fortunately, this nicely coincides with the start of the 2008 Beijing Olympics. I love ice hockey in the Winter Olympics, but I certainly enjoy the Summer Olympics so much more because I get to watch sports that are typically harder to find on TV (beach volleyball, swimming, track & field, and gymnastics). So far, I have thoroughly enjoyed my Olympic viewing.

On Friday evening, I caught the very end of the delayed showing of the Opening Ceremony as I saw the lighting of the Olympic flame. It was just impressive. While earlier parts of the ceremony certainly had a more militaristic feel, the sheer number of participants kicking or dancing in perfect harmony just blew my mind. Then, Li Ning was lifted into the air by thin cables and then ran along the rim of the Bird’s Nest.

Then, as the cables slowly guided him around the inner rim of the roof, as if he were running, a digital scroll unfurled behind him with images of some of the thousands of other torch bearers who had carried the flame during its journey around the world this spring. The mesmerizing sight culminated with Mr. Li igniting a giant torch affixed to the roof.

As the flame was lit, fireworks went off surrounding the stadium and I was just blown away by the aesthetics of the ceremony finale. The 2008 Olympics started off in spectacular fashion, but the games have certainly lived up to their expectations.

Before I accepted my internship in Chicago, I was unofficially going to be the media relations intern for the US Swimming team this summer. I decided to go a different path, but I’ve been closely watching the swimming events and last night’s 4x100m men’s relay was truly spectacular.

Earlier yesterday, French swimmer Alain Bernard told the sports newspaper L’Equipe, “We’re going to smash them. That’s what we came for.” Michael Phelps, who spent the past four years in Ann Arbor (Go Blue!), likes to use those type of quotes as a motivational fuel. In the Olympics, you obviously want to see your country win. When you hear the French make a comment like that, you want your team to win even more.

After three of the four legs of the relay had gone, 32 year-old Jason Lezak dove into the water behind Bernard, who was swimming the last leg for the French team. Swimming off of Bernard’s drag, Lezak was able to catch up with the Frenchman and then in an impressive finish, he actually out touched Bernard. It was certainly the most amazing Olympic moment thus far. Lezak, the oldest member of the US men’s swim team, swam an incredible 46.06 second split – the fastest split time ever for the 4x100m relay. The U.S. team broke the world record by almost four seconds. In fact, the top five teams in the relay beat the previous world record which truly emphasizes how fast these teams were swimming.

Michael Phelps race for eight gold medals is certainly helping NBC rake in the big ratings according to the NY Times.

NBC’s prime-time broadcast of the Summer Olympics on Sunday night from Beijing attracted an average of 31.7 million viewers, 5.9 million more than the viewership for the same night four years ago in Athens. Over three nights, NBC is averaging 30.4 million viewers, 6.4 million more than in Athens for the comparable period of time.

NBC’s viewership peaked at 38.4 million from 9:30 to 10 p.m. eastern on a night that featured the U.S. men’s 4×100 freestyle relay team’s come-from-behind victory, which gave Michael Phelps his second gold medal, and women’s gymnastics.

The image of Phelps’ pure joy after Lezak’s blistering split is going to stay with me for a long time. To me, that’s what I love about the Olympics.

Source: LA Times

Tiger Woods’ injury hurts Michigan

I pretty much never talk about golf and a certain Tiger Woods, but there are a few reasons I will address his injury today.

1) It’s a left knee injury. If you know me and my history of 9 knee surgeries on my left knee, you know I like to talk about sport injuries.
2) I saw the last bit of the playoff in the US Open at work with our company’s founder so I actually watched golf(!) this week.
3) It’s Tiger Woods. He came and spoke at our school when the Ryder Cup was held a mile down the road back in high school.
4) Hockey season is over.

Ok that’s why I’m submitting you to this golf post, so now let me get to what I actually wanted to say. Woods’ injury is quite a loss to the city of Detroit, southeast Michigan, and all of its golfing fans. Over the next two months, Woods was supposed to appear in two tournaments held in Michigan and host a golfing clinic at Comerica Park where the Tigers play. Now that he needs ACL reconstructive surgery, Detroit will be Woods-less during the two tournaments and the clinic for this upcoming Tuesday has been canceled. Ticket demand for both events will decrease and you certainly won’t get the attendance that you would had Woods been able to play.

Not only does his injury hurt the golfing community and its fans, but it hurts the sponsors that have invested heavily into the Tiger Woods brand.

One marketer is already suffering some ramifications from Mr. Woods’s injury. General Motors’s Buick is being forced to drop one of its advertising efforts, which has been hyping a Buick promotion and contest. TV ads, print ads and a slew of Internet ads have been highlighting a “Tee-Off with Tiger” promotion that gives entrants a chance to win the opportunity to have Mr. Woods caddie for them while playing a round of golf in October.

“We are going to conclude the ad program since he isn’t playing,” says Larry Peck, Buick’s promotions manager. Mr. Peck says the company will still select a final winner and a new date for a round of golf with Mr. Woods will be chosen.

When I think of the Buick brand, I automatically think of Tiger Woods. Maybe that’s because I’m from Detroit and the Buick Open is here in Michigan, but it’s a pretty strong correlation. To lose your leading man, one week before your brand’s defining annual sporting event, is a pretty big blow. The auto industry has already been through so much that I’m sure this hurts them where it really counts, their wallet.

His absence will be felt quite hard by the PGA Tour who will have to face lower TV ratings as a result.

PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem acknowledges that the absence of the sport’s No. 1 athlete will be a loss for the Tour. The biggest impact will be on TV ratings, he says, noting that when Mr. Woods plays well, he brings in more TV viewers, including more casual fans of golf. The PGA Tour says that TV ratings for the final rounds of tournaments show a 28% increase when Tiger Woods is in contention versus not in contention. Other areas like tournament revenue are more vulnerable to a slowing economy than by Mr. Woods’s sabbatical from the Tour, Mr. Finchem says.

One estimate believes that Nike stands to lose $75 million of exposure from Tiger’s absence. Ouch.

Certainly Sidney Crosby is the face of the NHL, but he isn’t THE sport. Without Crosby, the casual hockey fan would probably still watch the game. Without Woods, you lose that casual golfing fan. So who is going to step up and fill that Tiger void? Should be interesting for all you golfing fans.

Brett Favre retires after 17 seasons

I know I don’t talk too much football and usually when I do it’s restricted to Lions football, but I’ve been a lifelong Brett Favre fan so I wanted to make a post in honor of him announcing his retirement after 17 great seasons.

When I was a little girl, I remembered cheering on Steve Young and the 49ers, Brett Favre and the Packers, and of course the hometown Lions. Aside from his first season in the league, the rest of his career was spent with the Green Bay Packers. Similar to Steve Yzerman, Favre was the one player who stretched his playing time over the 90s and into the millenium. Like Yzerman, he played through his fair share of injuries. He even struggled with personal problems off of the field. But that’s why we loved him, he seemed human and then would go out on the field and play an amazing game despite the fact his father had just passed away the day before.

ESPN.com writer Wright Thompson wrote an online article about what he’ll miss the most:

I’ll miss the picks. I’ll miss them even more than the touchdowns, though he holds the all-time records for both. For it was in failure that we saw how much Favre wanted to win. He wanted to win so badly he was willing to lose. Not just lose. He was willing to be the goat for a shot at being the hero. So many quarterbacks are poor timid souls who’ve known neither victory nor defeat. Game managers. Not our man. He knew defeat 288 times. There is something poetic about his last pass as a professional ending up in an interception.

I’ll miss the pills, and the drinking, and the stories about rehab. Favre wasn’t perfect. None of us are. But in his imperfections lay his humanity. He was capable of failure like any of us, and therefore his successes seemed even more amazing. He was real, in a league that often seems anything but.

Brett, here’s to a happy retirement!

I am done with the Tour de France

I’ve been religiously following the Tour de France over the past 5-6 summers to help pass the time between the end and beginning of the NHL season. I know cycling is incredibly different from hockey, but there’s something about time trials, intense stages with plenty of pain, and a unique form of teamwork that kept me watching the race every July.

This summer, I decided that I would not watch the TdF. The cyclists I had cheered for over the years have either retired (Lance Armstrong) or have been pulled from the sport because of doping. I can’t even recognize the name of a lot of the top cyclists left anymore.

I still have read some articles about the Tour de France so I knew that Alexandre Vinokourov (one of the few names I did already know) was a pre-race favorite, was currently 23rd overall, and had won the 15th stage yesterday (and the 13th stage on Saturday). However, the cyclist had an awful stage on Sunday and was no longer in contention to win.

I then find out today that he has been pulled out of the race for doping. He tested positive for the blood transfusion in a test taken on Saturday and we didn’t hear about it until today (Tuesday).

“Vino has tested positive having to do with a blood transfusion and the team is leaving the Tour,” team spokeswoman Corinne Druey said, using the rider’s nickname. …

Race director Christian Prudhomme said the case showed that cycling’s drug-testing system doesn’t work.

“It’s an absolute failure of the system,” he said. “It is a system which does not defend the biggest race in the world. This is a system which can’t last.”

British rider David Millar, who was holding a press conference in Pau when the news broke, said: “Jesus Christ, I’m speechless.”

“With a guy of his stature and class, in cycling’s current situation, we might as well pack our bags and go home,” said Millar, who returned from a two-year doping ban in the Tour de France last year. Millar was stripped of his gold medal from the 2003 world championships after admitting taking the banned blood-booster EPO.

Unfortunately, I can’t say that I’m surprised another cyclist was found to be doping, but the TdF organizers had made a big deal about weeding out the dopers and I guess I had hoped that things might have changed now that most of the big names were kicked out or had retired. Sadly, I was wrong.

As of right now, I am done with the Tour de France and the sport of cycling. I know steroids is found in every sport (but to what extent varies), but time and time again the cyclists have let me down. Why should I invest my time and energy into cheering for a cyclist (ex. Floyd Landis) when they’re doping and likely to get banned from the sport at some point? I’m even starting to question Armstrong as a “clean” athlete when it seems that pretty much every other cyclist doped at some point.

Sorry for ranting about the TdF when this is a hockey blog, but I’m guessing some casual cycling fans like myself are thinking the same way and are no longer tuning into the race (which can only hurt Versus because this race is a big draw for them).

Most of my favorite Armstrong moments are in that YouTube video.

NHL is looking pretty good

So yesterday, I made a draft post in WordPress and planned on completing it tonight. I come online to finish it off and I find that IwoCPO @ Abel to Yzerman has already discussed the very thing I had planned on bringing up.

Does Little Gary have any clue about the opportunity dropped in his lap? The other “big three” sports are all mired in controversy and the NHL, if marketed, could come out smelling like a pretty little rose. A rose perched on the sill of your kitchen. Yes, surrounded by empty beer bottles and crusted mac and cheese bowls, but a rose nonetheless.

Baseball’s lead story: the dirtbag that is Barry Bonds. Football: the absolute dirtbag that is Michael Vick. Basketball: a gambling controversy that’s going to spread to every corner of that league of thugs.

Compared to other leagues, the NHL could be looking pretty good in terms of public relations. No, I’m not talking about TV ratings or contracts, etc. because the NHL is obviously lacking in those departments. But the NHL is the one big league that is not deeply involved in a scandal and they should use this to their advantage in promoting the league.

NBA = Referee Scandal

I’m going to try to quickly explain what has gone down so far: A veteran NBA referee, Tim Donaghy, made calls to affect the point spread on certain games that he and his associates had money on the table. These bets included thousands of dollars and were placed on games over the last two seasons. Some of his associates are apparently in organized crime and other arrests are expected in the future. The FBI is investigating the matter and the NBA is doing all they can to assist the investigation.

No referee, umpire, linesmen or other in-game official has ever been arrested or indicted for game- or match-fixing in the history of the four major sports. …

Gambling long has been a problem in sports, and leagues have made a point of educating players of the potential pitfalls. The NBA, for example, discusses gambling at rookie orientation, even bringing in former mobster Michael Franceze to speak.

Matt @ Detroit Bad Boys wrote about the scandal from the viewpoint of a Detroit Pistons’ fan. It’s safe to say that referee Donaghy was not a fan of Pistons’ forward Rasheed Wallace.

MLB = Steroid Scandal

While the steroid scandal is no longer at the height it once was at with the MLB, it still is a hot topic with Barry Bonds closing in on the home run record currently held by legend Hank Aarons. Bonds is two home runs away from tying the league record of 755 runs. The federal grand jury is investigating Bonds in the BALCO mess and could be indicted within the next six months. Back in March, two San Francisco Chronicle reporters had their book, Game of Shadows, released to the world and they made a very convincing case that Bonds has used steroids. Personally, it makes me sick that he’s going to break Aaron’s record.

NFL = Discipline Problems

Over the past couple of seasons, the NFL has had a lot of problems with their players getting arrested. The league decided to implement a disciplinary system (ex. commissioner Goodell suspended Tennessee Titans’ cornerback for an entire season). Things got worse when Atlanta Falcons’ quarterback Michael Vick was indicted for being a participant in a dogfighting ring with fights being held on his property. Dogs that lost fights were brutally killed whether by drowning, electrocution, shot, or hung. Agents took 70 dogs from the property.

Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick was served a summons to appear in federal court to face charges over competitive dogfighting and brutally killing pit bulls, court documents said.

Vick, who faces up to six years in prison if convicted, was handed the summons Thursday by a U.S. Marshals Service official in the courthouse in Richmond, Va. He and three associates must appear in Richmond next Thursday for bond hearings and arraignments on charges contained in a detailed, 18-page indictment handed up Tuesday.

I certainly would not want to be the Falcons right about now. Not only do they have a PR mess, but Joey Harrington (former Lions’ QB) is their backup. But that’s another story in of itself.

Back to the NHL…

So as you can see, the NHL is doing pretty good right about now in terms of discipline and steroids. I believe the NHL should be promoting its players as good citizens and players. Hockey fans know that hockey players are some of the nicest athletes around and the NHL should use that to their advantage at a time when the other three leagues are struggling.

Rags to Riches wins the Belmont

Rags to Riches is the horse on the left while Curlin is on the right.
Source: AP Photo

Earlier this evening, I decided to watch the Belmont Stakes and I’m happy I did so. Rags to Riches became the first filly (young female horse) since 1905 to win the race and the third since the inception of this race. It ended the droughts for trainer Todd Pletcher and jockey John Velazquez. Pletcher was previously 0/28 in his attempts at Triple Crown races (Kentucky Derby, Preakness, and the Belmont).

The normally reserved Pletcher was screaming throughout the stretch run, one that had the fans at Belmont Park on their feet roaring as the two stars battled saddlecloth to saddlecloth to the wire.

Rags to Riches, despite a slight stumble at the start, became the third filly to capture the Belmont Ruthless took the first running in 1867 and Tanya won in 1905. Only 22 fillies have tried the Belmont, with Rags to Riches the first since Silverbulletday finished seventh in 1999.

Down the stretch, Curlin (the favorite) and Rags to Riches went head to head with the filly winning by a nose. This is the longest race of the three and usually the most difficult leg of the Triple Crown for any horse to win. Other fillies have won the Kentucky Derby, but couldn’t handle the longer Belmont so this is quite an accomplishment.

Drawing on the bloodlines that carried her father, A.P. Indy, and grandfather, Seattle Slew, to victory in the race, Rags to Riches proved she is as worthy as her half-brother, last year’s Belmont winner Jazil.

“It’s a special feeling to do it with a filly,” Pletcher said. “When she stumbled, I had a bad feeling. When we turned for home and I saw Curlin sneak through on the inside, I knew it was going to be a horse race from there.”

Pletcher wasn’t even going to run Rags to Riches if the top three finishers from the Derby and Preakness met again in New York. But when Street Sense dropped out, Rags to Riches was in, and came through with a history-making victory.

Ratings for NBA finals fall

Game #1 of the NBA finals only received a 6.3 rating and a 14 share on Thursday evening, which is apparently the lowest rating ever for the first game of the NBA finals in a prime-time slot. The 6.3 rating was a 19% drop from last year’s matchup.

The previous low was a 6.4/11 in 2003.

Last year’s Game 1 between Miami and Dallas earned a 7.8 rating and 14 share.

The rating is the percentage watching a telecast among all homes with televisions, and the share is the percentage tuned in to a broadcast among those households with televisions on at the time. A ratings point represents 1,114,000 households.

Just goes to show that the NHL isn’t the only sports league experiencing a drop in ratings. Unfortunately, the NBA’s low ratings equal 6.3 while the NHL struggles to get a 1.8 rating for Game #5 of the finals. Admittedly, the ratings do not include Canadian viewership. There were 2.163 million viewers in Canada and 2.005 million in the US.

Former Duke coach reaches settlement

I was pleased to read that the former coach for Duke Lacrosse has reached a settlement with Duke. I’m sure many of you heard about the rape accusations from a stripper who worked at a Lacrosse party. The stripper accused three players of rape and they were charged with kidnapping, sexual offense, and rape. The team’s season was cancelled and the coach resigned. The head coach at that time, Mike Pressler, was the only staff member at Duke standing up for these players and the only one to lose his job from this fiasco. The players have since been cleared of all charges and the prosecutor is now on trial for ethics violations from the case.

North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper didn’t just dismiss all the remaining criminal charges against Evans, Reade Seligmann and Collin Finnerty. He took the extra step of declaring the players innocent — the victims of a “tragic rush to accuse” by a rogue prosecutor who could be disbarred for his actions.

“This case shows the enormous consequences of overreaching by a prosecutor,” Cooper said. …

Former Duke lacrosse coach Mike Pressler, who resigned under fire and is now lacrosse coach at Bryant University in Smithfield, R.I., said he was convinced early on that his former players were innocent.

“Two days after this happened, I knew what the truth was,” he said. “When you say you believe in somebody, when you say you believe the truth, you stand by them.”

Read the rest of this entry »

NBA finals are going to cost you

Unless you are one of the 2000 fans to win the Cleveland Cavaliers’ lottery, you’re going to be forking over a lot of money to get a ticket to one of the Cavs’ home games in the NBA finals (which starts Thursday evening by the way). The lottery winners will only pay $30 for their nosebleed seats. How much are the tickets going for at online ticket brokers? Between $300 and $14,999. Wow!

Amazing Tickets Inc. in suburban Beachwood has sold courtside tickets at $10,000. President Mark Klang said he has fielded calls from as far away as New York and Washington, D.C., and said high-end tickets for the games in both cities sell in the same price range — $2,000, $3,000 or more.

The San Francisco-based StubHub.com ticket reseller has found fans willing to pay more for Cleveland tickets — probably because it’s the team’s first championship series — and said the series is one of the top items among the 20,000 events listed on its site.

“It’s certainly one of the hottest sports events, far and away hotter than the NHL finals,” said Sean Pate, StubHub’s public relations director.

Did you catch that last quote? Tickets for the NBA finals are doing a lot better than the NHL finals. The sad thing is that hockey games are the most exciting games to watch in person (the game on the ice and not necessarily the stuff going on around the arena). I realize that attendance is strong around the NHL for the most part, but the demand definitely is not at that level. But then, if the Toronto Maple Leafs reached the Stanley Cup Finals, would we see ticket prices like this? Now that’s definitely a possibility.

Moore signs with Mercury

I know I rarely talk about the WNBA. I know this is a Red Wings blog and its playoff time. But I had to mention this piece of news.

Carrie Moore just graduated from Western Michigan University. Four years ago, she graduated from my high school, Detroit Country Day. In my sophomore year, she was one of my two sports editors for our high school paper, The Day Times. She was in my advisory with my other basketball friends (yes, basketball is how I originally screwed up my knee). She tore her ACL less than a year after I first tore mine so we usually talked rehab in the training and weight rooms. Carrie was actually one of the first people to help me up from the court when I completely tore my ACL during tryouts my sophomore year.

Anyways, she was invited to the Phoenix Mercury’s training camp and has been participating in their preseason exhibtion games. Who knows if she’ll make the team, but I’m so proud of her and all the effort she has put forth to make this dream come true for her.

PhoenixMercury.com: What do you think it is going to take for you to make the team?

Carrie Moore: I will need to work really hard everyday in practice and I will really need to keep my mind focused. I also need to come in with confidence and work hard everyday. My hard work and dedication will give me the edge over some of the other girls here. I hope the coaches will see what I can bring to the team.

PhoenixMercury.com: What was your reaction to the Mercury inviting you to training camp?

Carrie Moore: After I was asked to attend camp, I was ecstatic. I really didn’t know what my chances were after the draft and just to be here is a blessing. I am very thankful to be here with such an incredible coaching staff and players.

PhoenixMercury.com: What do you feel you can bring to the team to make you stand out?

Carrie Moore: I am hard nosed basketball player and I will go hard on the court. Whatever I am asked to do, I will do it. I will try to do it to the best of my ability and I will have fun doing it too.

According to my Detroit Country Day newsletter, Carrie has signed a contract with the team.

Carrie Moore, a standout at Western Michigan University, has signed a free agent contract with the Phoenix Mercury of the WNBA. While at training camp this week, Moore hopes to earn one of the 12-13 spots on the team and become the first player from Western Michigan to ever play in the WNBA.

An All-American Honorable Mention selection and Mid-American Conference (MAC) Co-Player of the Year, Moore led all Division I players with a 25.4 scoring average this season. She broke eight Western Michigan and four conference records along the way. Among those, she is the school’s all-time leading scorer (2,224 points) and set the MAC mark for points in a single season (813). A three-time first-team All-MAC honoree, Moore finished her career third on the MAC all-time scoring list.

In addition to her incredible athletic accomplishments, Moore was just named Western Michigan’s Female Senior Scholar-Athlete of the Year. She has a 3.79 cumulative GPA in journalism. As Carol Moore, Carrie’s mom, says, “Balancing academics and athletics is not an easy thing. Country Day gave her the tools for success.”

Moore played in one of her first preseason WNBA games and scored 11 points.

The Los Angeles Sparks won their preseason opener and dropped the Phoenix Mercury to 0-2 in exhibition play with a 91-71 victory on Tuesday afternoon at US Airways Center.

Marta Fernandez scored a team-high 16 points and added six rebounds to lead the way for the Sparks, who outscored the Mercury by seven in the first quarter, 12 in the second and eight in the third. Making her debut for the Mercury, Kelly Mazzante, who was selected by Phoenix in the Charlotte dispersal draft, scored 16 points, including 4-of-7 shooting from three-point range.

Crystal Smith and Carrie Moore each added 11 for the Mercury, who are still awaiting the arrival of Diana Taurasi, Cappie Pondexter and Penny Taylor.

Moore has said that this has been an experience of a lifetime and something she has always dreamed of.

Regardless of what happens, Moore said this has been a great experience. She’s been face-to-face with the Phoenix Suns’ Steve Nash; she’s been to a Suns playoff game; she’s earned the respect of her WNBA teammates (veteran Kelly Miller raved about Moore’s ability and attitude Wednesday); and she’s had the chance to don a WNBA jersey in front of her friends and family.

Not a bad couple of weeks.

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