Thursday, February 18, 2010

Morning: God Shed His Grace On Thee

Thought that post title was appropriate for two reasons.

1) It's a line from the song that should be our national anthem, "America the Beautiful," following a night when the good guys tore up the Olympics with three gold medals.

2) Yesterday, an army of besooted Catholics descended on NYC, scaring the bejeezus (smirk) out of everyone who kept forgetting it was Ash Wednesday.

Good day to be an American Catholic. And let's face it, they had a good day coming. History ain't been overly kind to the pope's American faction. Pretty much anything in the textbooks that begins with the letter K brings bad memories. Know-Nothing. Kennedy. Ku Klux Klan. I'm sure there are others. So today's post is dedicated to the papists. Blessings upon you!

Before I get into the Olympics and D-U-K-E, a quick note about this very blog:

As you know, it's been a daily venture, with one post going up every morning. That shall not change! The longer morning post, which usually runs by 10am, will remain the blog's heart and soul. However, due to the full recovery of the economy, we at Seth Curry Saves Duke! are now able to expand coverage. Throughout the day, on a highly inconsistent basis, I'll be posting smaller entries about this, that, and the other. Some days I may make no posts, other days I may make over 300 (no). It's just a little bonus for those who find themselves having outrun and even lapped the internet in the afternoons, and who might benefit from a little extra reading.

For the time being, posts will still be encumbered by the working hours, so don't expect anything after 5pm. But if you check back in the afternoons...who knows????

Time to get cracking!

I have to start with the Dukies. Quality effin' win on the road yesterday. Miami is not a great team; they don't even usually masquerade as a great team. However, before last night they were 11-1 at home, with wins over Wake Forest, Virginia Tech, and Georgia Tech. They're miserable on the road, mind you- this is a Jekyll and Hyde team all the way- but I knew this would be tough.

You know the horrible feeling you get when you turn on a game, and things immediately go south? As if, against all logic, you're a messenger of failure, a harbinger of bad luck, a purveyor of misfortune? The minute your eyes fall on the game, it curses your team? I've had this a million times, but last night was one of the joyous occasions when the exact opposite was true. I had a function that made me miss the whole first half, and unbeknownst to me, Duke went down 37-25. I came back with like 16 minutes left in the second, and within ten seconds of turning on the television, Singler hit the 3 that put us in the lead for good.

It was a gritty, hard battle the rest of the way, but Duke was always the better team. So, in lieu of my usual negativity, here's some great things about this year's team.

*We're clutchy clutchy clutch. Scheyer was ice cold the whole game, but when push came to the shove, his threes were falling. I'm being completely honest when I say that there's no player in Division 1 basketball who I'd rather have taking a game-winning shot. That being said, Nolan Smith is tougher than he's ever been. I feel very comfortable with the ball in his hands at the hand. And what about that third guy...

*Kyle Friggin' Singler. The Silent Dagger. "Earth." After a nightmare start to the season, I think we can officially declare him 'back.' Thank God. 22 points, 11 boards last night. Hey, Singler's probably Catholic, right? This is getting weird.

*Brian Zoubek?? At one point last night, he left the game, and Hubert Davis said something like "Duke might have a problem being as productive with Zoubek on the bench." My jaw dropped. Not only because I was hearing a sentence that I used to believe would hearken the end of days, but because he was right! Zoubek is an honest-to-goodness boon to our offense. Yikes. When did this happen?

*Road Warriors. Remember when I called us road patsies? Not anymore. Our road chops are now verifiable on the open market. Buy stock while you can.

I could kvetch and moan about the poor start, and agree again with Hubie that if we pull that first half act in the tourney, a better team will have us drawn and quartered. But we won, and that's a quality that matters. The dream of the #1 seed is alive and well.

On to Los Olympicos!!! Vaya!

*Shaun White.

You are a wonderful, ridiculous human. With luscious red hair (after yesterday's 'theatrics,' I've vowed to fog up the sexuality issue at least once per post). For those who missed it, he qualified for the finals in first, which meant he got to do his runs last. After his first run, he posted a score so high that nobody could catch him. So his second run was a victory lap, a gold medal celebration. And instead of taking it easy, he broke out some crazy new trick called a Double McTwist 1260, and nailed it to improve his score. Because why not?

There were a few great moments at the top of the hill before his final run. He and his coaches were celebrating, and because it was live, NBC didn't have time to bleep out the various curse words. His coach (who, hilariously for snowboarding, looked and talked like a stereotypical square-jawed football coach) dropped a few f-bombs, and at one point told him to "really stomp the shit out of it."

Another great exchange came when White asked his team if he should just go down the middle. All three, including the coach, had immediate 'helllll no' reactions. And I loved this:

White: I can't believe this.
Coach: I can't believe it either.
Long pause
White: I'm starting to believe it, though.

NBC had to apologize for the swearing, which was also great. Anyway, kudos to White. He's just so far ahead of the curve in that sport that anyone else winning was unthinkable. How are you supposed to beat a guy who can jump ten feet higher than anyone else competing? Here's how: hope he falls. And he didn't. Game over.

*Lindsey Vonn.

Since it's apparently impossible to enjoy any event untainted at these games, ESPN had to spoil Vonn's gold medal during the Duke game. I guess that's a smart tactic by the network. Why do NBC any favors? Still pissed me off, though. The result was under the heading "Olympics," but it should have been "Reasons Not to Turn to NBC Ever Tonight."

Anyway, Vonn overcame the shin injury and won the gold. My conclusion: you have to be fucking insane to be a successful downhill skiier. You either go balls out, or you're careful and sacrifice crucial seconds. But if you go balls out, you risk horrific, disgusting crashes. Did you see those wipe-outs last night? Three different women were catapulted down the mountain, tearing out gates, breaking skis, and looking for all the world like dead matter. And they all walked away.

It took its toll. One skiier, obviously afraid, fell down within like fifteen feet of leaving the start. Then the last woman to race, a German who is apparently pretty good, lost by two seconds because she didn't ski with any courage. "She's really not taking these turns as hard as she should be," the announcer said at one point. Gee, really? After watching what happened before, I would have been vomiting at the sight of snow. No way in hell I'd go down that mountain in anything but a giant slow-moving bubble.

But Vonn didn't care. Injuries be damned, she was going for gold. It was moving to watch her cry afterward. "Cry" is actually an understatement; she had something of a mini-breakdown. On one hand, I kinda hate when tv cameras are thrust in someone's face at such a personal moment. On the other, it's nice to witness the realization of a dream that someone wanted really, really badly. And not the scripted, bs kind like Kevin Garnett after winning a mercenary title with the Celtics. Vonn's reaction was pure emotion and totally real.

*Shani Davis.

He won the 1,000m speed skating event. It's easy to be annoyed at Davis, because he's definitely a me-first kind of athlete. In Torino, in 2006, he refused to participate in a relay event because he was concentrating on the 1000, where he eventually won gold. This pissed off his teammates, especially Chad Hedrick, and his coaches, especially Dan Jansen. This year, he didn't race the second 500m heat because he was annoyed at the zamboni delay problems. (Irony: of the relay in '06, his excuse was that he didn't want to deprive another skater of a chance to participate in the Olympics, but that's exactly what he did in the 500 this year...he admitted he only wanted to race to test out the oval for his specialty, the 1000.) Also, his mom manages his career, and she's apparently really overbearing and not well liked. And he had a feud with Stephen Colbert because he didn't understand his humor.

(PS - did you know Colbert raised 300k for US speed skating and basically saved their Olympic hopes? His only condition was that he be named "Assistant Sports Psychologist." Read this's also very funny.)

Other stuff...after the gold medal in Torino, he was so standoffish in his interview that Andrea Stark said "are you angry, Shani?" Later, he said he was angry that Stark had spent too much time with Hedrick after he won an earlier gold medal. And here's how he treated the New York Times, from this fascinating ESPN profile:

The New York Times Sunday Magazine recently sent writer Michael Sokolove to Amsterdam and Salt Lake City for an in-depth piece on Davis. After being made to wait for his subject several hours past their agreed interview time in Utah, Sokolove received a call from Cherie.

"Why are you bothering my son?" she demanded. Sokolove told her he was simply waiting for their interview.

"He doesn't want to talk to you," she said.

An hour later, Davis appeared and talked about the solitary dedication he gives to a sport in which he largely coaches himself.

So yeah, he seems like a humorless, selfish dick with a chip on his shoulder about nothing. But hey, he won the gold medal. Twice. And apparently he's well-loved in the Netherlands. So criticize away...I will. But at least he's doing something right. Still, I won't be rooting for him in the 1500m on Saturday. And it takes a lot for me to root against an American.

Today: Men's figure skating! Canada and USA in hockey (not against each other, though)! Tim Burke gets a second chance in the biathlon! Women's half-pipe! See you soon.

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