Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Olympic Water Polo: Soccer with Hands in the Water

The 2012 Olympics are in full swing by now.  And despite promises to show a variety of strange Olympic sports this time around, we have instead seen a lot of swimming, gymnastics, basketball and European Football.  We're not complaining mind you, but there are only so many complaints I can field about swimming before I start to agree with the kids' assessment that swimming is REALLY boring.  And don't get me started about whether the U.S. team has any members on it other than Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte.

But this morning, we were finally treated to some different sports.  First it was Equestrian, with some cousin who was 40th in line to the British throne winning some sort of medal.  That didn't really pique any one's interest, but then one of my favorite sports came on - water polo. According to FINA, the quick rules are as follows. Teams try to score against a goal keeper, there are a bunch of small, ordinary fouls and players can only use one hand on offense and defense.  Mostly the rules revolve around not mauling players, particularly the player in front of the goaltender - the hole set, I believe his or her name is.

The game we watched didn't even feature the United States, instead it was a classic grudge match between Hungary and Montenegro.  As I was about to confirm that Hungary is a world power in men's water polo (How exactly does that happen?), the boys start asking me questions about this new sport.

"Dad, this looks like Soccer with hands in the water!"  G exclaims as the players start the match swimming after the ball at half court (Is that what they call it?)

"It's not, dumbo!"  My 10 year old chimes in.  Please hold on while I send the 10 year old to his room.  Too bad its 7 in the morning otherwise it would be bed time.

OK, we're back.  I'm personally confused about the green line and the red line.  Not because I don't understand what the meter lines mean, but that they couldn't figure out how to make it un-wavy - isn't there some sort of Physics that they could have performed to make this better.

"I'm just glad that Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte aren't swimming.  Wait Dad, Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte aren't swimming on this team, are they?"  I honestly think that my 8 year old would leave the room if Phelps' mug showed up on our screen against.

"Dad, actually it looks like Serbia is the Olympic favorite, not Hungary."  Whatever.  I did mention - since I read it - that Hungary hadn't lost in water polo since 2000.  They are like the Harlem Globetrotters in the water, except that this is real sports.  Interestingly enough, Serbia is also fighting this same Montenegro team for the Gold Medal.  So the favorites for the Gold Medal are Serbia, Hungary and Montenegro?  Seriously?  Three landlocked countries in Eastern Europe are the favorites for the Gold Medal?  The boys look at me like I have two heads as I ask these questions to myself under my breath.  Sorry.

Ultimately, Hungary lost to Montenegro 11-10.  One of the perennial powers in the sport is now 0-2 and in danger of not making it pas the First Round. Off with their heads!

For more information about water polo, I found this site about fan-friendly water polo to be especially helpful.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

JMR's Guide to the Strange Summer Olympic Games

One thing that the Olympic Games always bring, beside the usual Olympic heroes that swim or run really fast, is a showcase on sports that I don't think are even played outside of the Olympic Games much less televised in the United States.  The kids expressed an interest in the 2012 London Olympic Games, much more than the Beijing Games from 2008.  So I decided to challenge them in an academic sort of way.  I gave them a list of real games that are being played in London later on this month and asked the kids what their thoughts were.


C:  Trampoline is an Olympic Sport?  It is probably where you jump on one and do tricks and see who wins.

G:  You jump on a bouncy thing.  It goes really high.  It is really fun.  Everybody likes the trampoline sport in the Olympics.

S:  Flips on a trampoline.

Cycling Sprint.  I did indicate to them part of the strategy of winning was to go slow and even stop so the other biker has to go first and then you are cycling on a draft

C:  Why would you stop trying not to be first? What is this?

G:  Cycling sprints looks fun too.  But you run really fast.  Everybody likes it.  Even the runners.  (I don't think G fully understands what kind of sprint this really is).

S:    Ride on a bike and stops halfway.

Synchronized Swimming

C:  I think synchronized swimming is when 2 people dance around in the water and see who wins.  I think I want to watch this to see if the U.S.A. can win.

G:  2 Dancers swim in the water to dance moves.  It is really fun.  It is fun for them too.  It is really cool.

S:  Doing the same thing at the same time.

Table Tennis

C:  It is where you hit a ping pong ball around and whoever it gets passed the most loses.

G:   In table tennis, it is tennis but you play on a table.  It is very fun.  Everybody likes it.  You play with a ping pong ball and ping pong paddles.  Table tennis is ping pong.

S:  Ping Pong.


C:  Badminton is where 2 people have like tennis rackets and they have like a ball with wings or something.

G:  Badminton is where you hit something over a net.  You play with a birdy.  This sport is very fun.  Everybody likes it.  The people who play love it.

S:  Hitting a birdie back and forth.

We are really getting psyched for the Olympic Games...I think.  I guess we still have Michael Phelps.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Scituate White 14, Plymouth Gray 13

The JMR Journal takes a quick break from the Evolution of Sports Fans to provide a Game Report from the South Shore 8 Year Old Friendship league.  Come back next week to read about how many sports G and C are able to identify from the 2012 Summer Olympics and how many of those sports they actually care about.

Scituate White 14, Plymouth Gray 13   

July 17, 2012.  Plymouth, MA.

Despite trailing 9-1 and again 13-6 late in the game, the Scituate White Friendship League Sailors (3-3-1) showed its grit and determination yet again by riding an 8-run sixth inning to roar past the previously undefeated Plymouth Gray Eagles (6-1), 14-13.

The comeback started in the bottom of the fifth after a masterful job of coaching from Scituate White's head coach who, after observing a Plymouth Gray batter miss First Base by more than 6 feet, coached his players on executing a perfect appeal play.  To the Sailors' great fortune, the umpire immediately responded that he also saw the error leading to brief conference near the mound.  A perfectly executed appeal play from Connor S. at catcher, Jake S. at pitcher and Gray H. at First Base turned an inside the park home run into a very loud out.  And the comeback was on!

And it was an epic Sixth Inning that saw clutch hitting, base running and fielding that sealed the win for the Scituate White Sailors.

The top of the Sixth started innocently enough as a 13-6 Plymouth lead diminished to 13-8 after 5 consecutive walks by Plymouth Gray Pitcher Cam L.  Forced to bring in the team's star closer in what suddenly became a tense save situation, Plymouth Gray was clearly on the ropes. Plymouth Gray's pitcher Matthew M., feeling the pressure of upholding his team's perfect record, proceeded to hit his first batter and give up clutch two run hits to Johnny K. and Nick T. that upended a 13-9 deficit to a 13-13 tie.  A ringing 2 out single past the Plymouth Third Baseman by Evan N. put Scituate up for good.

The bottom of the Sixth was just as tense as Scituate closer J.J. Rivera forced a couple of hard hit ground balls to shortstop and two strike outs to earn his first save the season.

The Scituate White Sailors' 10-hit attack was paced with two hits apiece by Keegan S. and Gray H. as well as multiple RBI games from Gray H., Keegan S., Henry G., Johnny K. and Nick T.  Strong pitching performances from Johnny K., Gray H, Jake S. (1-0) and J.J. Rivera bolstered a tired rotation that managed to keep a strong Plymouth Gray lineup in check for most of the game.

The Scituate White Sailors season concludes with a rematch at home against the Hanover Gold Indians (2-4-1).

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Tennis at Wimbledon is Difficult to Learn

C and I were watching the Men's semifinals at Wimbledon yesterday afternoon.  It was a match between Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic and it promised to be a good match.  Even C was interested in watching this.  And as we were watching, C was immediately fascinated by the score at the top left of the ESPN box.  Showing the names, the game score, and the set score, it seemed to be just a jumble of numbers that made little sense to a mind that was used to seeing baseball scores.  He grew so curious that he started to ask me questions.

"Dad, who do you want to win?"  He asked, obviously priming me for more difficult questions later on.  Without hesitation, I answered that I wanted Roger Federer to win the match.  He was the underdog and the elder statesman of the tournament.  Of course I wanted him to win.

"Dad what does the score 40-15 mean at the top of the screen there?  What does Ad mean when it replaces the score?"  I then talked to him about how games in Tennis were played.  I think that it just got him more confused.  "So if a player has zero, they call it love?  That's stupid!"

"So if Federer wins this game, then he goes on to the Championship?"  Not quite, I tell him.  If he wins a game, that is merely one game in one set.  They have a lot of games to play.  I go on to explain that these guys are trying to win sets by being the first to 6 games while still winning by two games.

That answer really didn't help since he now quizzed me about sets and how those are scored.  "So they they are trying to win the Set?" I tell him that tennis players try to win sets and that they need to win three sets out of 5 in order to win the match.

"But wait, Serena Williams only won two sets and she went on to the championship."  I explain that women have to win 2 sets and men have to win 3 sets.  I pretend that all tournaments work this way even though most men's tournaments go the best of 3 sets too.  We won't be watching that tennis though.

C then examines the results from the previous day.  This is when things get interesting. "Dad, why did that guy win a set by winning 7 games, I thought he has to win 6 games to win a set?"  I explain to him that to win a set you have to win by 2 games.  "But that guy won the set 7-6, Dad..."  Shaking my head at this point I try to patiently explain that if two opponents are tied at 6 then they play a tiebreaker.  I cross my fingers hoping that he doesn't ask me about the rules pertaining to tie breakers.  I think it will make my head and C's head explode.  But instead he asks me an even better question.

"But Dad, what about that time two years ago when those two guys played that set that you talked about where one guy beat the other 61-59?  Good one.  I tell him that at Wimbledon and certain other tournaments, the last set has to go until one player wins by two and that there is no tie breaker. 

C looks at the TV screen and continues watching the match.  Federer is leading.  "You know a lot about tennis, Dad.  Were you good before you got old?"

"Do you want to go to the baseball field"  I finally say.  There, the rules are a lot easier to understand.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Nathan's Hot Dogs on Surf and Stillwell

Was it already a year ago when we watched the Mt Sinai of Mastication?  It was in front of our TVs of course, but the kids and I were still thoroughly disgusted by the sopping wet buns and the half eaten hot dogs.  They were all in again for the 2012 version.

As we tune in, we are first greeted by Renee Herlocker discussing the history of the Women's tourney.  No seriously.  The last time I saw Herlocker was this time last year so she must not be taking over for Erin Andrews at ESPN.  The women's tourney ends with Sonya Thomas breaking the record with 45 hot dogs to win the contest.   Juliet Lee comes in second with an so-so 40 hot dogs eaten.  I'm gaining weight just thinking about it.

But we came for Joey Chestnut and his bid to win his 6th win in a row.

My sentiments exactly, Joey
Official weigh in.  For god's sake why are they doing a weigh in?  Badlands Booker is 360 pounds for Christ's sake!  Then they show Thomas and Chestnut with hot dogs in their hands and they couldn't look more disgusted.  They looked like they did not want to see any more hot dogs.

Undaunted, and with chants of "USA, USA" in the air, competitive eating has reached its apex with the Hot Dog eating contest.  Are you ready to ride the tornado and make love to the dragon?

Pete "Pretty Boy" Davekos is back from our jaunt in Foxboro last year.  Same with Tim "Eater X" Janus, Eric "Badlands" Booker and "Crazy Legs" Conti.  But we are watching to see if Joey Chestnut can break his record of 68 hot dogs eaten, set back in 2009.  We also want to watch to see if Takeru Kobayashi makes a surprise appearance, just to later get arrested.

The boys and I are getting pumped as Joey Chestnut comes out to Baba O'Reilly.  The boys are practically dancing around waiting for the contest to start.  Well either that or they really want to go play video games somewhere.

Let's get a refresher on the Hot Dog Eating Contest rules:

1.  Competitors must eat the hot dog and the bun.
2.  10 minute time limit
3.  Dunking must not exceed 5 seconds
4.  Automatic DQ for "reversal of fortune"

And they start!  Stonie the Megatoad and Eater X came out fast, but Chestnut easily takes the lead at hot dog number 8.  The boys and MM all throw up in their throat looking at the dunking of the bread.  By the way, Bertoletti is freaking disgusting with his red hands.  It looks like he is killing the cows (and pigs and horse) himself instead of eating hot dogs.

"Come on Chestnut, don't cry"  The boys both start to say.  They are riding the favorite, just like their Dad. And at the 5 minute mark Chestnut has a 5 hot dog lead over Eater X.

As the contest comes to a close, Chestnut easily beats Eater X and Bertoletti.  He only ties his record of 68 and expresses disappointment that he couldn't give his fans a world record (Note to Joey, we don't really care that much).  It wasn't a contest as it turns out.  At least the kids stayed through the entire contest.  Now that's the real contest.

photo courtesy of popcrunch.com