THE USB Other Sports Column

Hello friends, Steve Cook here and I’ve found myself in a bit of a conondrum as far as my sports writing goes. Football season is approaching, but Dustin James & Jeremy Lambert are doing more than enough to take care of that. Baseball season in Cincinnati is pretty much over, so I’ve been focusing most of my attention on other sports lately. I thought it would fun to write about some of the stuff that’s slipping under THE USB’s radar.

Olympic Fever

Every two years like clockwork, horrible stories spring up about the conditions at wherever the Olympics are being held. We all laugh at Sochi or Rio or wherever the location might be, then we complain about how ridiculous the Olympics are, wonder why anybody would bother hosting them and that they shouldn’t even be a thing anymore.

Then we spend two weeks watching whatever we can & marveling at the greatness of the athletes involved. Then we spend the next couple of years not caring about any of the sports we obsessed over for two weeks. Usain Bolt? Michael Phelps? Simone Biles? Katie Ledecky? Great athletes, but we’ll spend virtually no time thinking about them or their sport until 2020. The Bolt/Phelps debate over who the greatest Olympian of all time is pretty interesting, but after the closing ceremonies on Saturday we’re not going to give it a second of thought.

Which is a shame. As a sports fan that doesn’t have much time for 95% of the talking head shows that populate ESPN & ESPN2 & FS1 & NBC Sports & CBS Sports’ lineups, that would rather watch live sporting events, the Olympics are a glorious time. As I’m typing this paragraph at 11:47 AM on a Wednesday, I have womens’ field hockey on in the background. OK, not the greatest sport of all time, but leagues better than whatever’s on ESPN & definitely better than whatever would usually be on MSNBC this time of the day.

(The best thing about the Olympics? The election is on my TV a whole heck of a lot less. Fox needs to get the rights to the Olympics so they can blow out some of that Fox News programming. But I digress.)

Some quick takes on the main Olympic stories:

-Bolt vs. Phelps? Tough call, but you have to immediately reject anybody saying that Phelps is better because he has more medals. Swimming has an event for every possible type of stroke at every possible distance. Bolt has three events. I think the answer to this question involves having them compete in a modified decathlon where they would both have to run & swim.

-The only times I haven’t rooted for the US athletes involve Usain Bolt. I don’t even know who these Americans challenging him are, but I don’t like them. Bolt is just so ridiculously good that you have to root for him even if he isn’t American. And besides, we’re so far up in the medal count at this point that it doesn’t really matter. Who said that America doesn’t win anymore?

-Wasn’t basketball getting more competitive internationally? What happened? Even if the US ends up losing a game during this Olympics, it’s a watered-down US team without the two best players we got. And these other games have just been trash.

-I watch all of these different sports and come to the conclusion that my middle & high schools didn’t offer nearly enough in the way of sports. Perhaps if I had been exposed to water polo or whitewater or kayaking or fencing or archery, I could have trained properly and become…well, not an Olympic athlete because that’s pretty hard, but at least I’d have better stories to tell. My highlight of my sports career was leading my volleyball team to tournament victory in 5th grade gym class, and my middle school only offered girls’ volleyball. Had I been able to pursue volleyball in middle & high school, maybe I could at least still play it today.

-Handball is a good example of a sport I wish I could have played when I was younger. It looks like so much fun, combining basketball & soccer kinda, but when you’re thirty-two, out of shape and have a bad foot, it’s not something you can start up real easily.

-Badminton was something we did in gym class. I didn’t get the appeal then and still don’t. Apparently it’s huge in China, I wonder what kind of ratings Monday Night Badminton gets over there.

-Judo was fun to watch, but they dropped the ball by not having more fighting events in Rio. Brazil being the fighting capital of the world, it would have seemed to make sense to add some of those instead of…golf? See, golf should have been added back in 2012 when they were in London and could play at an Open Championship course. I will say that Jeremy Lambert made a good point on this when I brought it up on Twitter: MMA fighters wouldn’t pass an Olympic drug test.

-Hope Solo is a hot mess, but we already knew this. US Soccer continues to allow her to do whatever she wants without reprecussion, and you won’t see any of her teammates take shots at her until they’re retired or just plain off the team. Part of me thinks we made too big a deal of it, but part of me also wonders what kids are learning these days manner wise, and if they’re taught not to be a sore loser. I mean, I was taught right from wrong & how to behave in public, but I’m not sure that’s a common thing these days. Or if it was common when I was a kid.

The Olympics have their downside, sure. I guarantee that the IOC and their partners are sweeping a lot under the rug. But the athletes and the competition by and large are too notch and deserve our attention more than once every four years.

Premier Writing

Recently I decided that I need to get more into the sport of soccer. Or football, as it’s called seemingly everywhere except America, but that is what that is. FC Cincinnati is becoming a pretty big deal in my neck of the woods, and I figure if that’s going to be a thing I need to pay attention to, I should dive into the sport at its very top level: the English Premier League.

Yeah, I know everybody already did this “getting into the Premier League” column years ago, but I was too busy writing about dudes in spandex rolling around with each other.

As I’ve learned in experiences with other sports, it’s a lot easier to get into a sport when I have a team to root for. My adoption of the Nashville Predators has been great for helping me become a hockey expert. So I asked my friends at offtheteam.com who I should root for. They had a couple of suggestions:

Tottenham Hotspur: There’s a lot to like about the Spurs. Good nickname. Nice logo & colors. Cool mascot. A solid history but not too spectacular. They’ve never been relegated and don’t seem to be on the verge of it anytime soon. The main problem I have with the selection is it’s the same choice Bill Simmons made when he did this decades ago. Somewhat unoriginal. I’m not sure if he still follows them though, so I might be able to use that as a loophole. Their first game against Everton was not the best performance but they were able to get 1 point anyway. I guess its nice that they can coast, but do I want to watch a team that coasts all the time? Not really. Jury’s still out here.

Burnley: I was told that Burnley has exceptional female supporters. While I don’t doubt this, there is the matter of them being considered unlikely to be around the league next season. I don’t want to waste a year rooting for a team that I can’t even watch the year after. Middlesborough is another new Premier League team that was suggested and is said to be on more solid footing, but I need to see more of them.

I then considered asking Samer Kadi for advice. Samer is a good egg and my go-to for information on sports I know nothing about like mixed martial-arts. Then I realized that Samer is a fan of Manchester United, the Premier League’s version of the New York Yankees except even more dominant through the years. What a boring choice! I can’t very well jump on that bandwagon. I would have expected better from Samer but I guess he’s more boring than I figured.

Speaking of bandwagons, that rules out Leicester City, even though they had a really cool story last season. As it is, they went and lost to Hull City in the first match of the season, so it looks like they’ll be less of a factor. Hull would be an interesting choice…I enjoyed their play & they’re new to the PL, but apparently they’re getting sold sooner rather than later to a Chinese consortium. I can’t root for a team owned by Communist China!

Detestable ownership also rules out Arsenal. I hate the city of St. Louis with the fire of a thousand suns, but even I thought they got hosed by E. Stan Kroenke when he moved the Rams back to LA. I can’t support any team with Kroenke leadership. Did you know his first name is really Enos? ENOS! Vince McMahon told me that was funny. Liverpool is owned by the same people that own the Boston Red Sox. Chelsea is owned by a Russain oil baron. Manchester City is owned by an Arab oil baron and the Chinese government. Hey, at least they’re just trying to take over soccer and not the world. Or is this their first step? Hmmmm.

So I’ve managed to rule out several teams but haven’t settled on one yet. My plan is to watch a bunch of matches and hopefully fall in love with a team that way. This would be a lot easier if I lived in one of these teams’ cities and rooted for them out of convenience. Personal freedom is overrated sometimes.

Nobody Listens To Me

Speaking of people rolling around in spandex, SummerSlam is this Sunday. It looks good on paper, but I have little to no excitement going in. This is nothing new for me with WWE, which is a shame because ESPN has a WWE section now and that would probably be my best chance to get hired by them.

The big wrestling news story this week doesn’t even involve people on the SummerSlam card. Alberto Del Rio & Paige made history this week by being the first boyfriend & girlfriend to get suspended for Wellness violations on the same day. Pretty impressive.

I’ve been telling these wrestlers for over a decade now, and nobody ever listens to me. I don’t know what their obsession is with dipping their pen in company ink, but it rarely leads to anything good. And it’s only gotten worse since I ranted about it back in the day.

Is it really that hard? I’ve never dated anybody at my workplaces. Now, if ESPN hires me…I might have to change my take on this because there would be some temptation.

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