LONDON -- Fleeting thoughts crossing my mind while waiting for Usain Bolt to cross the finish line one more time ...
The US basketball guys are still huge worldwide, and to a man they've done a remarkable job of being accessible and part of the Olympic experience; I half expect the ubiquitous Kobe Bryant to be walking around Olympic Park in one of the purple-and-red volunteer shirts, helping a puzzled family from the Netherlands find its way to the field hockey venue. But let's put it this way: If Usain Bolt and LeBron James walked into a pub at the same time, LeBron could go sit in a corner booth, enjoying his fish and chips and beverage of choice undisturbed and barely noticed. It's Bolt's world, and everyone else is a bystander.
London is exactly as I imagined it (OK, minus the imagined random acts of hooliganism and sightings of a blinking, stammering Hugh Grant), and by that I mean it is awesome. Spectacular architecture, a fun pub on every corner, and the people have a generally charming and witty way about them. The accent is so killer, it makes me not even want to talk. The myth about bad food in London is just that, too, unless you happen to be stranded at the Main Press Center with nothing but pork, mayonnaise and feta subs to choose from.
You don't have to watch it for long to recognize that it's a grueling, serious sport, but I just don't get racewalking at all. Every time one competitor is gaining ground on another, I have to suppress the urge to yell, "Run! Run! She's closing the gap! Forget heel-to-toe! RUN!"
Have not met an Olympic athlete yet who didn't seem genuine, engaging, and impossibly down-to-earth, and that includes Michael Phelps. (I should note I did not meet the apparently monosyllabic Ryan Lochte, though he seems decent enough in his Spicolian way. Jeah! ) Ashton Eaton, the decathlon gold medalist who is roughly the size of a Division I football safety, couldn't be a nicer guy. There are no Josh Becketts here.
Being over here for the past 20 days, the depth of my knowledge regarding NBC's coverage boils down to what I read and hear from those back home. (Boo tape-delay, yay Michelle Beadle, more or less, which sounds about right to me.) I'll catch up with that on the DVR when I get home. But while I've been in London, I've been absorbing BBC's coverage, and it has been exceptional. No treacly melodrama, no teasers to features that run two commercial breaks later, no Seacrest, just smart, spirited coverage and analysis. And I'd wager that two of BBC's primary studio analysts -- Olympic legends Michael Johnson and Ian Thorpe -- are as insightful, articulate and in Thorpe's case, sharp-witted -- as anyone NBC is using in a similar role, save for perhaps Doc Rivers.
Joe Posnanski absolutely nails it here on what it's like to cover the Olympics. I found this passage particularly true:
I don’t think anyone cares — or should care — about the various inconveniences of being a sportswriter. It is a dream job, and when you are sitting in the stadium watching Usain Bolt run, or you are at the beach volleyball gold-medal match and can check the time by turning to Big Ben, or you are interviewing athletes after a team handball match and suddenly find yourself talking to the irrepressibly cool Ólafur Stefánsson, well, who really cares about any of that other stuff anyway?
So true. It's exhilarating and exhausting, often within the same hour, but you never let yourself forget the privilege of being here. But it's also true -- and this is something Joe elaborates on with his usual perfect aim -- that the thrills are sometimes surrounded by tedium, that as the days go on home feels farther and farther away, especially when you miss a meaningful moment or milestone. (Happy 6th birthday, bud. Hope you got the R2-D2 and "Three-Creepy-Oh" you wanted.) This is my second Olympics, but the inevitable juxtaposition is already familiar: In the final days of the Olympics, you can't wait to get home. And once you're home, the magnitude of what you got to do sinks in, and you wonder why it had to end so soon and hope you'll get another chance again.
The Cubans added another three-run homer, this time by catcher Ariel Pestano. The Cubans lead 10-2 heading into the ninth.
Right fielder Alexei Bell hit a three-run homer in the bottom of the eighth inning to give the Cubans a 7-2 lead.
Following one out singles to right by Michel Enriquez and Frederich Cepeda, Bell crushed a no doubt homer to left and he stood at the plate admiring his work.
The Americans received a big break in the top of the fifth inning. With one out, catcher Lou Marson hit a high pop up in shallow right. The ball fell in between the first baseman and right fielder.
The play was called an error and Marson reached second. Then the next hitter, Jason Donald hit a solid single to center, scoring Marson, who just got under the tag of the Cuban catcher,
Cuba 3, US 2
Cuban DH Alfredo Despaigne hit a two-out solo shot to center on a 1-1 hanging breaking pitch.
Cuba 3, USA 1
The U.S. scored a run in the top of the fourth inning when it put together a small rally. Brian Barden and Nate Schierholtz led off with base hits.
After Terry Tiffee moved over the runs by grounding to second base, DH Matt Brown hit a sacrifice fly to shallow left to bring home Barden.
Cuba 2, US 1
United States pitcher Stephen Strasburg (San Diego State) got out of a little jam in the top of the second when he gave up two infield singles and a ground rule double.
Before the double, Strasburg was bailed out as the US catcher Lou Marson threw out a Cuban, who was trying to steal second base.
Good morning Boston
I am awaiting for the start of the USA-Cuba semifinal baseball game. I will provide some updates.
The U.S. baseball team won a pitchers' duel by committee Wednesday night, defeating Japan 4-2 in 11 innings to close out preliminary play in the 2008 Olympic Games tournament.
U.S. manager Davey Johnson used six pitchers, with Jeff Stevens (Berkeley, Calif.) picking up the win after pitching the 12th and 13th innings to gain his first win of the Games. Casey Weathers (Elk Grove, Calif.) picked up his first save, striking out one in the 14th. Each team managed only five hits, with American Dexter Fowler (Atlanta, Ga.) wrapping out a pair of singles in three at-bats.
The American team receives the No. 3 seed moving into semifinal play and will face Cuba, the No. 2 seed, on Friday, August 22.
USA beat China 9-1.
In the bottom of the seventh inning a Chinese pitcher hit American batter Matt LaPorta with a pitch to the helmet.
The pitcher has been ejected.
LaPorta was struck behind the left ear. He is going to the dugout and leaving the game.
With one catcher knocked out of the game with an injury from a collision with a runner, another American ran over the backup Chinese catcher to score.
It was more than enough for the former major league manager Jim Lefebvre could take for his Chinese ball club. He came out with a profanity-laced tirade to the umpire saying the runner used his forearm to run over his catcher.
Meanwhile, the Americans lead 5-0 in the bottom of the sixth inning one out and a man on second.
Cuba's baseball team had to work overtime to earn a 5-4 victory over the United States in 11 innings Friday afternoon at the Wukesong Baseball Main Field.
Jayson Nix (Dallas, Texas) hit a solo home run in the bottom of the eighth to tie the game at 3 and force the extra innings. Cuba pushed two runs across in the top half of the 11th, and the Americans could only respond with that that for the final score. Terry Tiffee (North Little Rock, Ark.) went 2-4 with a run and an RBI to lead the U.S. offense.
Nix was hit in the face by a fouled bunt attempt in the U.S. loss to Cuba and was taken to the hospital for evaluation. More information will be available later after the examination. Nix was a first round (supplemental) draft choice of the Colorado Rockies and plays outfield for the Rockies AAA affiliate Colorado Springs.
Now 1-2, the Americans' next test is Canada in a game scheduled for 10:30 a.m. Saturday August 16.
The U.S. Olympic baseball team bounced back with a 7-0 victory over the Netherlands on Thursday after losing its opening game 8-7 against Korea.
The game was shortened due to rain with the teams unable to complete the bottom of the ninth inning at Wukesong Field 2.
Steven Strasburg (San Diego, Calif.) hurled seven scoreless innings and did not allow a hit until the seventh inning. Matt LaPorta (Port Charlotte, Fla.) tallied a three-run homer and Matt Brown (Bellevue, Wash.) added a solo shot as well to pace the offensive attack.
Team USA returns to action on Friday morning vs. Cuba, with first pitch scheduled for 11:30 am at the Wukesong Main Field.
The U.S. baseball team fell 8-7 to a scrappy Korean squad in the opening game for both teams in the 2008 Olympic Games baseball tournament.
Trailing 6-4 going into the ninth inning, the Americans were able to plate three runs and take a one-run lead into the bottom half of the inning. Korea was able to answer with two runs, with the winning run coming on a sacrifice fly by Lee Jongwook that scored Lee Taekkeun from third base.
It will be a quick turn-around for the U.S. as it faces the Netherlands at 10:30 a.m. Thursday, August 14, at Wukesong Baseball Field. The Netherlands lost its opening round game to Chinese Taipei, 5-0, earlier Wednesday.