Thursday, February 27, 2014

2014 Sochi Winter Olympics: Recap Podcast

Three episodes in one year! Like a real podcast! It's February Madness, guys...

Share it and hit up Wedge on Twitter @AllenWedge.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Americans love the Olympic medal counts

So things got busy for me over the last week of the Olympics, and even though I watched many hours of coverage, I still was pretty lost. But that's not surprising. It's a lot to keep up with. Tonight we are recording a podcast episode to discuss some of our thoughts, and we'll have that posted ASAP.

But one thing I thought was funny was the constant medal count. I know this is nothing new, for Americans to keep a running tally of the medals our athletes have won and to compare ourselves to the other countries. Of course we want to "win" the medal count and the mythological Olympic title that comes with it.

But do you think other countries do this? Like, do you think the media in Kazakhstan or Croatia were constantly reminding citizens of their medal totals compared to USA and Russia? (Each of those countries won one medal, by the way.) I seriously doubt it! That has to be an American thing. It's not enough for us to win a bunch of medals. We want to win the MOST medals! If we had our way, we'd actually like to win ALL of the medals, I suppose.

I was talking to a friend last week, and she is from Poland. I was joking around and trying to talk a little trash about the Olympics, honestly not knowing how many medals Poland had claimed. Well, she immediately started telling me about a couple of golds they had won already and was very proud to be discussing it. It wasn't about the total (I think it was two or three at the time, and Poland ended with six). But she was very happy that some of her country's athletes performed well enough to medal in the games, and she was ready to discuss each individual performance.

The idea of winning the medal count is clearly a matter of cultural perspective, much like the Dutch speedskating coach who called Americans "foolish" for playing football, a subject we'll definitely be discussing in tonight's podcast. But I feel like, if we're going to make up some contest, we should at least do it correctly. Shouldn't we be rewarding gold medals over silvers and bronzes?

The final total kind of came down to the wire, with Russia eventually edging us out at 33-28 in total medals. But what if we used a point system, where golds got three points, silvers got two, and bronzes only one? Using that system, which seems like a more accurate scoring method to me, Russia would've blown us away with a score of 70-53. Furthermore, Canada would've outscored us with 55 points, while Norway would've matched our 53. It's hard for us to accept, I know, but I think if I were really trying to win a medal total, I'd be happier with the double-digit golds captured by Canada and Norway.

Either way, it was definitely a fun two weeks, and we have a lot to discuss tonight. But I'd love to see more Americans get to a point where they can just appreciate all of the athletes and focus on the individual medal winners instead of the total medals won by each country.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Nashville's Adventure Science Center: Science of the Winter Olympic Games

Nashville's Adventure Science Center is a great place for kids to learn about the science behind every day activities. My kids love this place, and our family membership allows us to stop in and check out all of the special programs they host. Every month or so, there is something new. In October, for example, they sometimes showcase the science of Halloween, where you can hold creepy insects or attend a special effects workshop. The recent Maker Fair was fun as well, with all kinds of makers and builders displaying their inventions and products.

Well, yesterday's event focused on the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics. This time the Science Center simply set up various stations, allowing the kids to play and experience fun versions of Olympic sports. There was also a celebration of Russia itself, with local native Russians teaching us about their culture. It was a great experience, with some of the highlights illustrated below.

The temperature outside was in the low-20s and was perfect for curling! There was an actual curling stone to hold, and then blocks of ice to slide toward the targets. Unfortunately, we had left our coats in the car and didn't complete even the first end.

Inside, we were met by the sound of Russian music. Tables displayed information about Russia, with everything from children's toys and games to clothing and even Russian food.

The kids then tried some hockey and downhill skiing (in the form of a large, inflatable slide). Or maybe that was the luge?

But the highlight for my kids was the ski jumping. Here they were allowed to use the Science Center's new Tinker Garage, which is filled with a wide array of donated tools and supplies. They had to build a "skier" out of any parts and pieces they could find. There were balloons and sand available, as well as cutout ski figures to attach.

After a good 90 minutes of cutting, gluing, taping, filling, and measuring, the skiers were ready for their big jumps. The creations were dropped down a slope of approximately 20 feet, ultimately crashing to the floor (and often shattering to pieces). Thanks to the sand balloons, though, most landed on their skis.

Overall, it was a great day, and my kids had a lot of fun celebrating the Olympics outside of our house.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Quick Olympic Thoughts

As we wrap up the first week, here are a few things I've noticed.

1. Bob Costas is rapidly fading from medal contention and, at this rate, may not even finish in the Top Three at his position.

2. The Gold Zone option on the NBC Olympics site is great. However, sometimes when they switch sports, they say, "Riveting stuff..." If that stuff was so riveting, then why are we switching to something else?

3. Who knew there was so much drama in women's skeleton?! I don't know if they know this or not, but essentially you lie on your stomach and hope you win. To paraphrase Seinfeld, you could probably win a medal against your will in this sport.

Another week to go! Our post-Olympic podcast will truly be riveting stuff.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Maybe curling just isn't for us?

Every morning I wake up to watch curling. Or, I should say… Every morning I wake up to watch Team USA lose a curling match! It's getting old quickly. These games come on pretty early, and by the time I take a shower and start getting ready for work, the game is half way over and Team USA is trying to find some way to keep the opponent from stretching an established lead. Watching curling when one team is simply attempting to limit the other side to a lesser victory is not very exciting!

The men seem to be 1-3 with a handful of matches remaining. The women, who dropped their first four, just pulled out a victory in a match that I somehow got to watch at a more reasonable hour of, like, noon. But it looks like they'd need to win their final four to have a chance of advancing.

Curling looks fun, with all the sliding and the yelling and the shaking hands. Like a game that would be played in a bar. But more polite. So like a game you'd play at church. If the church were frozen.

Either way, I'm starting to think Team USA just might not be cut out for this sport. I'm hoping somewhere there are small American children who are living, eating, and breathing curling right now. Then maybe in 2026, when the GBS writers' kids are blogging about sports and covering the Winter Games, they will not have to suffer through all of these terrible defeats that are basically decided by the fifth end.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

An Olympic medal decided by something called a 'YOLO Flip'?

I'm sure the Ancient Greeks would be so proud to learn that the "YOLO Flip" helped Iouri Podladtchikov win a gold medal in snowboarding yesterday. It's like that old story about Hercules doing the YOLO Flip, a feat that will be forever portrayed by the famous "Hercules Says YOLO!" constellation.

But just like the headline of this article/video suggests (in addition to links from Yahoo and other places), many are failing to recognize the fact that Shaun White was not defeated by this one trick. I know it sounds cooler to say this one move did him in, but you don't fail to medal because one guy did one flip.

Believe it or not, there were also silver and bronze medals awarded in this sport! Fifteen-year-old Ayumu Hirano (Japan) took second, while Taku Hiraoka (also from Japan) finished third. Unfortunately, you'd never know it based on many of the reports coming out of Sochi yesterday.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Olympic Anagrams!

Looking for a quick way to kill time between Olympic events? Here are a few anagrams based on the names of some Team USA athletes. The first one to tweet @AllenWedge with the answers (or about how stupid this is) will get a shout out on the next podcast!

1. Red Cola Gig

2. Seen In Major Ad

3. Devils Army

4. Dumpy Ray

5. Gun Gear Baskets

6. Elm Hair Inn

7. Chili Weather

8. He Saw I Hunt

9. Sea Hen Tank

10. Ransacked His Horn

11. We Lay Hangers

12. Usual Jam Icon

Olympic Dinner Part Two

Baked sole with a radish salad. While the sour cream sauce doesn't look perfect, it tasted great!

Monday, February 10, 2014

Top New Orleans NBA All-Stars Through History: Pelicans, Hornets, Jazz

With Anthony Davis receiving his first NBA All-Star bid, it'll feel great to have a New Orleans player back at the game in 2014. New Orleans NBA teams have not really offered tons of All-Stars in the past, but perhaps Davis can change this trend and get the Pelicans back on the right track. Davis, who is averaging around 20 points and 10 rebounds per game, becomes the 8th All-Star to represent a New Orleans team.

Below are the past New Orleans All-Stars, ranked by their performances in the big games.

7. Baron Davis

Davis's one All-Star appearance in a New Orleans Hornets uniform was fairly representative of the overall disappointment of his New Orleans tenure. In the 2004 game, he came off of the bench to score seven points, making only one of his six three-point attempts.

6. Truck Robinson

Robinson represented the New Orleans Jazz in the 1978 game, coming off of the bench to help the East win by scoring seven points and adding six rebounds.

5. Jamal Mashburn

Unfortunately, Mashburn was never fully healthy when playing for New Orleans. But he was a great player and scored 10 points in the 2003 All-Star game, marking the first player to represent the city in the game since 1979.

4. Jamaal Migloire

Migloire did not start the 2004 All-Star game, but he led the East in scoring with 19 points and added eight rebounds.

3. David West

West was a fan favorite in New Orleans and represented the team twice in All-Star competition. In back-to-back years (2008-09), West totaled 12 points and seven rebounds as his West squad split the decisions.

2. Pete Maravich

My favorite basketball player of all time hobbled up and down the court in a New Orleans Jazz uniform for six seasons. During this time, he was named an All-Star three times, although he missed the 1978 game with an injury. He became the first New Orleans All-Star when he started the 1977 contest, scoring 10 points and adding four assists and four steals. Two years later he scored 10 points as an East starter again.

1. Chris Paul

Paul was a great player to have around during the city's rebuilding after Hurricane Katrina. In 2008, during his first All-Star appearance, he came off of the bench to lead all players with 14 assists. He also had 16 points, four steals, and three rebounds in his All-Star debut. In 2009 he was named a starter, the first for New Orleans in 30 years; amazingly, he repeated his 14 assists and contributed 14 points, seven rebounds, and three steals in the West's win. After sitting out the 2010 game with an injury, he made one last All-Star start in a Hornets uniform, grabbing 10 points, seven assists, and five steals in a 2011 West victory.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Five Olympic Sports That Could Move From Summer to Winter

So apparently the IOC believes that the Winter Olympics should only include sports that involve ice or snow. Consequently, we end up with approximately three times as many sports during the summer games. While I have more than enough contests to entertain me over the next two weeks, I was a bit overwhelmed during the London games, and I would like to see a little more balance between the two.

So which sports could be moved from the summer to the winter? Below are my top five summer options that I think could make the switch.

5. Gymnastics

Although I think it could easily move to the winter, I realize gymnastics would be too much of a direct competitor to figure skating for primetime broadcasts.

4. Swimming

Sure, we all associate swimming with the summer season, but it's an indoor sport and could easily switch. Of course, again, it's become a huge primetime draw and is therefore too "big" of a sport to be any higher on my list.

3. Fencing

Does it really matter if there is snow on the ground outside while guys are fighting with swords inside?

2. Table Tennis

This makes sense, as we could watch the real tennis outdoors in the summer, and then we'd have the table tennis inside during the winter.

1. Cycling Track

Maybe it's just that this has become one of my favorite sports and that I'd love to see it at both Olympics, but it's another indoor contest that could also easily be moved. For now I'll just have to settle for the speed skating in the winter.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

"Dude, let's boycott the Olympics!"

I keep hearing this. From people on my Facebook feed, various blogs and sites, and random people in public. They want to boycott! They want to tell our athletes who have worked each day for four years that they cannot go compete in the Sochi Winter Olympics.

I think if you're one of the people saying this, you were probably also the kid organizing the petition to get the teacher fired, right? You know. The teacher gave a test, everyone failed, and someone's approaching the principal's office with 17 signatures on a sheet of looseleaf. But that's what kids do. Instead of talking about issues, working out problems, and reaching some form of appropriate compromise, they resort to immature plans like this.

Also similar is the teenager quitting his job. Your boss at McDonald's wouldn't give you a cigarette break, so you threw your apron on the counter and "walked out." Of course, McDonald's didn't close because you quit, not even for five minutes. The company didn't lose one penny and, in fact, saved the $27 they would've paid you for the rest of your shift. And the dudes you joked around with at work every night? They couldn't even remember your name within 48 hours.

Neither of these scenarios ever accomplished anything, but we all knew kids who did them consistently. So let me ask you: What did the 1980 boycott accomplish? Aren't we back in Russia 34 years later, awkwardly threatening (if these critics had their say) to do the same thing? Are we still talking about how much we let our athletes down that year? (Hint: The answer is yes.)

I hate arguing politics, and I don't want to be preachy, but surely most people have to buy into the idea of reflecting on history and learning from past successes and failures. Right? Then why am I still seeing blogs like this one saying things like this:

"Besides the alarming problems on the women's downhill skiing and men's slopestyle snowboarding courses, threats of avalanches and potential terrorism and widespread complaints from journalists about dubious plumbing, the political and moral underpinnings of the games are falling apart."

When I read and hear you post and say things like that, I have no choice but to believe one of the following is true:

1. You are truly sincere in your efforts and are just misguided.

Maybe you really believe you will make a difference. I don't know, but I'm willing to give some of you the benefit of the doubt. Just do yourself a favor and research past boycotts. I think you'll find that continued dialogue and respectful compromise can usually be just as effective. Also, realize that "sticking to your guns" means that hundreds of athletes do not get a chance to compete at the Olympic level, something many of these Americans have dreamed of accomplishing for years.

2. You are selfish.

Similar to number one, except here your efforts aren't sincere at all. You just want what you want, and you don't care who else is affected. Maybe you have a gay friend, so you're going to show everyone just how much you believe in gay rights. Maybe you hate Obama and just want to criticize anything and everything that takes place during his terms. I don't know. But some of you sound like you only have your own interests in mind when you say these things. Just imagine that some day, your son or daughter may be on his or her way to the Olympics, and there will be a group of people attempting to minimize this achievement due to some political agenda.

3. You are crazy.

Maybe you really think you can fix everything. But here's the thing: You can't fix everything!

See, I believe that we should mainly focus on getting things correct here in America before we go fixing everyone else. You know, America. Where we live. Where it may soon be legal to buy marijuana in more states than it is to have a gay marriage. Our country isn't even on the same page, yet you want to "fix" other countries.

Did you see your Facebook feed during the Super Bowl Coca Cola commercial? "A gay couple!" "Those people are singing OUR song!" Yeah, we really need to focus on Russia right now.

What about all of the racism that still exists? What the homeless people sleeping on the streets this winter? Healthcare? Education?

In the end, we're talking about people competing in sports. There are much larger issues to address here at home before I'm ever going to worry about correcting another nation's problems in relation to the Olympics.

Did you watch the interview Bob Costas did with the President last night? There's a working relationship between the two leaders. I think that's actually pretty positive. It isn't really our job to correct everything.

And finally, I'm so sick of all the Americans talking about the awful hotel situation. If you aren't in Russia this week, I don't want to hear you comment on the plumbing in Sochi! Just shut up about it already.

4. You are lazy.

Look, I get it. Doing the Olympics is hard! Like many people, I'm just your average baseball- and football-loving American. I might be able to name 15 Sochi athletes total as we just get going here. And there is just so much other stuff going on, right?

As a kid in 1984, I had an Olympics board game. I watched on TV, I read about it in the newspaper. It was sort of hard to avoid, I guess. We talked about it in school, and I talked about it with my family.

In 1992, I remember the Red, White, and Blue pay-per-view channels. We didn't pay for it, but I listened to the Dream Team's games on these channels, trying to figure out which of the scrambled video images were Michael Jordan.

Now we have it all at our fingertips. Television coverage of some kind will be available at almost every hour, day or night. Live streams of most sports can be found on our computers, phones, and other devices. (I'm watching live speed skating right now as I type at 7:00 a.m.) And yet many of us will not watch one second of this year's games.

There is so much to do, so much to watch. We have American Idol, and CSI, and whatever else people watch. We have hundreds of channels and dozens of devices streaming Netflix and other services.

Where do we start? Who are the big names? Which are the best sports? It's a lot to dive into. But it's really fun.

Just this week, I learned so much. On Tuesday, I did a couple of hours of research and setup the Live NBC Sports app on my phone before recording our preview podcast with Wedge that night. I don't really know much, but the podcast gave me a chance to at least discuss some things with Allen and to learn a bunch as we talked.

On Wednesday I spent 45 minutes making a TV schedule for myself, using the Central time zone, and noting all Olympic programming on the five channels offering coverage (NBC, NBC Sports, MSNBC, USA, CNBC). My kids have already gone through it and marked some things they would like to watch, and they have the exact time and channel listed for them right there by the TV.

We watched as much of the NBC coverage as we could this week, we read a little bit about Russia, and my wife planned a few "Russian" meals to cook during the Olympics. My kids are learning a little bit and are having some fun.

To me, the most telling sign of freedom is that we can allow our athletes to make their own decisions. Even if we disagree with the way things are in other countries, our athletes are ultimately free, and we aren't going to stop them from following their dreams. They've trained for years and have decided to compete in these games. For two weeks we can watch, we can support them, and we can have fun along the way.

(Check out this post from the Tipsy Geekette blog for more sane reasoning.)

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Olympic Cauldron Lighting - What Does Sochi Have to Live Up To?

I think this might be a first, as I’d like to take moment at Grab Bag Sports for once to reflect on something that technically isn’t sports. But very much sports related. The opening ceremony for the Sochi Olympics is just over 12 hours away (live) and 24 hours from U.S. broadcast, and even though it’s all about aesthetics, throwing a party, art, history and theater, it’s something that I think the large majority of sports fans have grown to love.

However I’m not really going to go into the ceremony itself, but cover something that has always intrigued me specifically on “opening” night. The lighting of the Olympic Cauldron that signifies the beginning of the games. It’s a monumental moment, and I really can’t wait to see what Sochi has in store for us, can they truly raise the bar or do their own unique thing?

In order to properly judge this, I feel like GBS should take you through the very interesting history of the Olympic Torch: why we have war and conflict to thank for what it has become, and the ceremony and now surprise of lighting of the cauldron.

The Ancient Games
As per Wikipedia:
“In the time of the original games within the boundaries of Olympia, the altar of the sanctuary dedicated to the goddess Hera maintained a continuous flame. For the ancient Greeks, fire had divine connotations—it was thought to have been stolen from the gods by Prometheus. Therefore, fire was also present at many of the sanctuaries in Olympia, Greece.”

The Modern Olympics Begin - No Flames, Just Games

In the early years there was only a Summer Olympics (first Winter games were 1924) and actually there was no flame at all.

1896 – Athens, Greece
1900 – Paris, France
1904 - St. Louis, United States
1908 – London, England
1912 – Stockholm, Sweden

1916 - Not held - Due to World War I – Was Scheduled for Berlin, Germany
1920 – Antwerp, Belgium
1924 - Chamonix, France
1924 – Paris, France
1928 - St. Moritz, Switzerland

Interesting that the first ever Winter Olympic Games went to France along with Summer Games in the same year. In fact, this dual hosting repeats itself in 1932 with the U.S.A. and in 1936 with Germany; it was scheduled again that way in 1940 for Japan, but those games were never held (see below).

A Flame is Simply Lit as Commemoration

1928 – Amsterdam, Netherlands   


In 1928, for the first time they decided to have a continuous flame buring during the games in Amsterdam, and it stuck, but it wasn’t the ceremony it is now of deciding who got to light it and making it a big deal as evidenced by this historical footnote: “An employee of the Electric Utility of Amsterdam lit the first Olympic flame in the Marathon Tower of the Olympic Stadium in Amsterdam.”

That’s right, the first modern Olympic flame was lit by a guy, because it was his job…
It actually switched over to being famous people or famous athletes in time giving us the “who will light the cauldron?” suspense, but here’s what some of the lightings looked like.

1932 - Lake Placid, N.Y., United States
1932 - Los Angeles, United States 

1936 - Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany

War Brings an Everlasting Tradition - The Torch Relay Begins From Olympia, Greece

In the previous 4 Olympics, the cauldron was simply lit up. Believe it or not, the tradition of lighting the torches from the lasting flame in Olympia, Greece and transporting it to the host site came from somewhat terrible reasons, and definitely terrible people. Who is to thank for the torch relaying? The Nazis. In 1936 the Germans were hosting the Summer games in hope of showing their Aryan theory of superiority. Hitler specifically thought lighting the flame from Greece was a way of connecting Aryan Nation to gods as that’s where the flame came from, but the Nazis had a second agenda that lasts to this day, they just did it for the wrong reasons.

The Nazis knew they were getting closer to war, and in an attempt to sway public opinion, they secondarily devised the relay as a way to make many countries feel included in their Olympic games by running the torch through their country on the way to Germany. The Olympic flame was lit by a concave mirror in Olympia, Greece and transported over 3,187 kilometers by 3,331 runners in twelve days and eleven nights from Greece to Berlin, but not entirely as planned as there were protests in Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia on the way.

So the Nazis gave us the torch relay, but when it comes to the actual lighting of the torch during the opening ceremony, all is the same, person runs up and lights that cauldron.

1936 – Berlin, Germany

So while the new addition to the ceremony signifying the beginning of the games was nice, Jessie Owens kicked some ass and Hitler got mad and started a terrible war because Hilter was stupid, and thus...

1940 - Not held - Due to World War II  - Was Scheduled for Sapporo, Japan
1940 - Not held - Due to World War II – Was Scheduled for Tokyo, Japan
1944 - Not held - Due to World War II  - Was Scheduled for Cortina d'Ampezzo, Italy
1944 - Not held - Due to World War II – Was Scheduled for London, United Kingdom

So while the Nazis may have had war charged intentions behind the torch relay, their “bringing everyone together” via the torch relay remained even after World War II, even if that’s not what they actually intended. The lighting of the cauldron was still 100% of the time an athlete running into the stadium, sometimes doing a lap of the track and then running up the steps to the top of one end of the stadium or a stand and lighting a standard cauldron wherever it was, usually within basic reach of height.

1948 - St. Moritz, Switzerland

1948 – London, England

1952 - Oslo, Norway

1952 – Helsinki, Finland

1956 - Cortina d'Ampezzo, Italy

1956 – Melbourne, Australia

1960 - Squaw Valley, California, United States

1960 – Rome, Italy

The First Winter Relay from Olympia, Greece

1964 - Innsbruck, Austria  

While Innsbruck wasn't a change in the standard running up and lighting of a basic cauldron with a flame from Greece, it was just the first Winter Olympics to do so. Does that mean the previous Winter Olympics had no flame relay... why certainly not, the previous Winter Olympics had quite an interesting history:
“1952 and 1960 had torch relays starting in the fireplace of skiing pioneer Sondre Norheim, and one (1956) had a relay starting in Rome. The 1984 Winter Games were preceded by two torch relays, one from Norheim's fireplace, and the other from Olympia. The plan had been to mingle the two flames, lighting the cauldron with the combination, but this was disallowed; instead, only the Greek flame was used.” 
Yeah thats right, the flame came from some dude's fireplace!!! Understandably they put an end to that short lived tradition.

1964 – Tokyo, Japan

1968 - Grenoble, France

Innovating Socially

1968 - Mexico City, Mexico

Give it up to Mexico to break a huge barrier as Enriqueta Basilio became the first woman to light the Olympic Cauldron

1972 - Sapporo, Japan

1972 – Munich, West Germany

1976 - Innsbruck, Austria

1976 – Montreal, Canada

War and Conflict Ups the Gamesmanship of the Cauldrons and Lightings

So after World War II, the lighting of the cauldron runs largely on tradition, a torch relay from Greece where a surprise athlete from the host country does the final leg into the stadium and lights the basic cauldron. Leave it to conflict and the threat of war to once again push the way into torch/cauldron innovation. Going into the late 70s and early 80s the Cold War happened. With it brought a giant pissing contest between the Soviet Union and the United States in the forms of the Space Race, technology advancement, communications and encryption advancements, economic advancements and failures, nuclear advancements and lastly… Olympic Cauldron lighting advancements.

To really fully set the stage you start with the athletes for competing right? But why stop there? Then comes the perfect storm in 1980 at the height of the Cold War, with the U.S. hosting the Winter Games and the Soviet Union was hosting the Summer Games later that year. The  U.S. had the standard lighting of the Cauldron or so everyone thought. Charles Morgan Kerr, A doctor from Arizona who had been elected from all 52 torch bearers to run the final leg, he wasn't even an athlete, barely even important in retrospect.

He was able to walk up steps to light the cauldron, but it was no ordinary Olympic Cauldron, it was the first ever movable Cauldron in Olympic history, so after it was lit it raised high, very freaking high, above everyone, higher than any flame ever before as if the U.S. was saying we have the best cauldron that has ever been done, no one else could do this.

1980 – Lake Placid, United States
Cauldron lighter: Charles Morgan Kerr
The Surprise: Whoa look how high that cauldron goes!!
The Cauldron: ditto to above
The Lasting Memory: Literally the cauldron itself amidst all the athletes rising up above everyone. The cauldron was amazing and having it go up too, but the person lighting it is somewhat forgettable. By the days standards though it was amazing on cauldron alone.

Its On!!!

So that pretty much set the stage, how could everyone, namely the Soviets, one up each other, and the modern history of things has been entertaining to say the least. The U.S. went on to boycott the Soviet Union for summer but it didn't stop people from watching and seeing how the Soviet Union would reply to that?

1980 – Moscow, Soviet Union
Cauldron lighter: Sergey Belov (4-time olympic medalist in basketball, including gold in 1972)
The Surprise: How in the world is anyone going to get up to that cauldron, its behind all the people in the stadium!? Whoa where in the hell did that floating pathway come from!?
The Cauldron: Very tall and very large above the stadium
The Lasting Memory: Watching Belov run atop the crowd as the colors change in his wake then the magic pathway disappeared after he was done running on it.

1984 –  Sarajevo, Yugoslavia
Cauldron lighter: Sanda Dubravcic (Yugoslavia's champion figure skater)
The Surprise: The torch arrives via cross country skiers
The Cauldron: Like Moscow and many before it, its tall and atop the end of the stadium seemingly out of reach
The Lasting Memory: Dubravcic running through the performers and up an incredibly steep incline that is actually disappearing behind her

1984 – Los Angeles, United States
Cauldron lighter: Rafer Johnson (Winner of the 1960 decathalon) also the first black person to light the caldron
The Surprise: How in the hell is anyone getting up there to light that thing!?
The Cauldron: It was standard, but it was atop the arch of the rose bowl but seemingly, inaccessible to anyone
The Lasting Memory: It went a little like this, 1) we see the cauldron but no one can get up there.. 2) ok that's a staircase, that gets him higher but it is a stairway to nothing... 3) whoa the whole Olympic symbol is on fire!

Imagine if they did it at night.

1988 – Calgary, Canada
Cauldron lighter: Robyn Perry (12 year old figure skater)
The Surprise: Leave it to Canada to go "eh, just lighting this thing is still good enough for us"
The Cauldron: Big copper/bronze color and it kept rising up after lit
The Lasting Memory: Honestly just seeing the lit cauldron between the intersecting spires

1988 – Seoul, South Korea
Cauldron lighters: Track and field and dancing athletes Chung Sun-Man, Sohn Mi-Chung, and Kim Won-Tak
The Surprise: There is no way in hell anyone can get to that cauldron!
The Cauldron: read above, it was this incredibly tall stem maybe 20+ stories high
The Lasting Memory: Seeing the torch bearers get on the platform and be elevated up the entire stem so they could light the torch. Also hoping the birds would get off the cauldron so they don't get fried. And if that wasn't enough a perfectly timed flyby just as it was lit.

1992 – Albertville, France
Cauldron lighter: Michel Platini and Fran├žois-Cyrille Grange (a footballer and a 9 year old who remains the youngest cauldron lighter in history)
The Surprise: This was the first time we got to see a fireball (fire on a guide rope) that Grange lit and it then flew into the cauldron.
The Cauldron: like a giant musical instrument honestly
The Lasting Memory: It was the first night time ceremony which allowed them to do the fireball

1992 – Barcelona, Spain
Cauldron lighter: Antonio Rebollo (paralympic archer)
The Surprise: He shot a freaking flaming arrow into the cauldron!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
The Cauldron: It was tall, and high above the stadium, overseeing it, and inaccessible to anyone but that did matter because...
The Lasting Memory: He just shot a flaming arrow into the cauldron to light it!!!  I really like to think this will forever remain one of, if not the, coolest lighting ever. It took a massive amount of skill to pull this off and that's what made it so damn impressive. I really like to think this was the pivotal moment that took us from really cool, to pushing the envelope.

1994 – Lillehammer, Norway
Cauldron lighter: Haakon, Crown Prince of Norway
The Surprise: He just ski jumped in with the flame in hand!!!!
The Cauldron: It was just a white cylinder, not even that remarkable, it was all about the delivery on this one.
The Lasting Memory: Its silly to lay the importance to Prince of Norway who lit the cauldron because no one cares about that, you can barely even find that part on YouTube, the part people care about was Stein Gruben ski jumping with the flame in hand to deliver it to the games. The insane part is that he wasn't even supposed to do it, he was just the understudy that filled in due to injury.

1996 – Atlanta, United States
Cauldron lighter: Muhammad Ali
The Surprise: Muhammad Ali
The Cauldron: A Large french fries from McDonalds??? Seriously, that's what it looked like
The Lasting Memory: For many people it was obviously Ali holding the flame and then lighting a little fireball the shot up to the very odd, McDonalds french fry holder looking shape. The anticipation of "who will it be" was so great on this one, I remember people visibly trying to figre out who was last in the line.

1998 – Nagano, Japan
Cauldron lighter: Midori Ito (1992 silver medalist)
The Surprise: Chris Moon (a mine explosion survivor) delivers the torch into the stadium and eventually it goes up but then its Ito in gorgeous Japanese traditional outfit from under the stage who does the lighting, not the one who delivered it up there
The Cauldron: Actually very unique with the colors and the way it had a bunch of spurs of sorts
The Lasting Memory: A basic but perfect lighting, proving that you don't always have to be in a running suit, you can look elaborately elegant

2000 – Sydney, Australia
Cauldron lighter: Cathy Freeman (Winner of Olympic silver in 1996 and went o to win in Sydney too, the only person ever to light a cauldron and win a gold medal in the same games.)
The Surprise: the Australians built a freaking waterfall into their stadium but forgot to build a cauldron!!! Where is the flame going to go!!!?
The Cauldron: A hidden from view saucer under a waterfall that rose up and connected to its stem.
The Lasting Memory: My personal favorite cauldron to date, it was completely hidden, yet perfectly in view, the entire time hidden under the water so that final torchbearer Cathy Freeman literally set water on fire. Think about that for a second. She set water on fire, then the flame arose around her, made its way up to the top where it got attached to a stem and rose even higher, its just awesome.

2002 – Salt Lake City, United States
Cauldron lighter: The Whole 1980 U.S. Olympic ice hockey team
The Surprise: Mike Eruzione recreates the famous 1980 medal ceremony with the entire 1980 hockey team
The Cauldron: A beautiful swirling spire very high above everything
The Lasting Memory: Many people remember the torch being skated around the rink, but it seemed silly when you noticed they were just doing circles. But then it got really cool, for Americans at least, when the final torch bearer was captain of the 1980 hockey team, Mike Eruzione. What made it awesome was that he recreated, to the detail, the exact scene of the 1980 medal ceremony, because back then only captains were awarded the medal but in 1980 he waved up the entire team, and did the same with the torch setting the record for the most ever cauldron lighters.

2004 – Athens, Greece
Cauldron lighter: Nikolaos Kaklamanakis (Sailing gold medalist, and won silver in these games)
The Surprise: the flying torch bearers
The Cauldron: I'm sure its not what they were going for but it looked like a giant joint until it was made vertical.
The Lasting Memory: not only did a bunch of torch bearers fly out from the crowd, but Kaklamanakis ran over to what looked like the biggest doobie ever and lit up. The torche then made a 120ish angle turn upward to soar over.

2006 – Torino, Italy
Cauldron lighter: Stefania Belmondo (cross country skier, one of Italy's most decorated olympians with 10 medals)
The Surprise: The whole freaking stadium lights up!?
The Cauldron: Uhh technically the whole stadium got lit up, the cauldron looked like it exploded, but if we're talking just the cauldron it was a cool set of spiraling pipes high above everything.
The Lasting Memory: Ok so far I've talked about just torch lighting, but did you see them have an F1 car do donuts in the middle of the stadium!? Seriously just go to the 1:42:00 mark. (I think that satisfies our racing talk quota of this blog)

On second thought if it were China, the donuts would have made a perfect Olympic rings on the ground... speaking of...

2008 – Bejing, China
Cauldron lighter: Li Ning (China's most decorated athlete, gymnastics, with six medals)
The Surprise: What the hell is going on, are the chinese even human, this whole thing looks like a science fiction thriller, people are flying, the torch is gigantic but it was literally not there 2 seconds ago!!!
The Cauldron: an amazing paper spiral look, but crazier is that it literally wasn't there until it was time for the lighting.
The Lasting Memory: The memory everyone in the world had was spending the next 2 weeks trying to pick their jaw up off the floor from the opening ceremony, the dancing, the drumming, the blocks, the largest led screens ever, the projected videos, the dancing calligraphy, and to top it off their torch lighter was suspended and ran the entire length of the stadium's rim sideways, and then lit a cauldron that appears out of freaking nowhere.

2010 – Vancouver, Canada
Cauldron lighter: Catriona Le May Doan, Steve Nash, Nancy Greene and Wayne Gretzky...ish
The Surprise: Soo... I guess only 3 torch lighters needed?
The Cauldron: It was supposed to be, and eventually was, 4 leaning towers around a master cauldron, but one of them got stuck so eventually they gave in and just lit the 3 that were up. After wards they fixed the 4th and got it done.
The Lasting Memory: Sadly all video of this ceremony is being pulled off youTube, and the collage below doesn't fully show the awkward million hours everyone stood around waiting to see if the 4th tower would show up. It was awesome of Canada though to have the idea of having 4 towers leading up to a master cauldron.

2012 – London, England
Cauldron lighter: Seven unknown aspiring young athletes
The Surprise: After high stakes gambling, worldwide speculation, the Britians turn to 7 unknown young athletes to light the numerous cauldrons, rather than a single one.
The Cauldron: One mini cauldron for every country participating in the Olympics
The Lasting Memory: London did what they do, they saw what China did and knew they couldn't compete with the scale so they brought their ingenuity. Rather than a famous athlete they sent their youth to do the lighting, and rather than one big cauldron, the made a ring of small ones that each country was able to take home. Innovation in spades those Brits.

2014 – Sochi, Russia
Cauldron lighter:  ????
The Surprise:  ?????
The Cauldron: ?????
The Lasting Memory:  ????

What do you have in store for us Russia??? Or for that matter how will you raise the bar for the future:

2014 – Rio, Brazil
2018 - Pyeongchang, South Korea
2020 – Tokyo, Japan

Olympic Dinner

Kicking off the Sochi games with some beef stroganoff. Happy Olympics!

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

2014 Sochi Winter Olympics: Preview Podcast

Here is our first non-Blogathon podcast! Feel free to share, to let us know what you think, and to get feedback to Wedge on Twitter @AllenWedge.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Super Bowl XLVIII: Commercial Ratings

So we know that when it comes to the Super Bowl, the commercials are just as important as the football game being played.

I'll keep a running post here where I give my ratings for some of the commercials shown during Super Bowl XLVIII. (Ratings are mostly based on originality and humor. I don't really care about what they're selling.)

Fusion Hybrid: Double Commercial - 3.5 out of 5 - Bonus points for James Franco.

Bud Light: Ad About a Guy Who Doesn't Know He's in an Ad - Uh... 1.5 / 5 - I guess I might have to change this one since it looks like it will continue. But that's kind of annoying too. Just give me your best in 30 seconds.

Doritos: Time Machine - 4 / 5

Silverado: Bull - 1.5 / 5 - "Nothing makes me want to buy a truck like cows having sex." - my friend Jeremy

Turbo Tax: Sean at the Prom - 4 / 5

Bud Light: Part II - 2 / 5 - Arnold is playing ping pong. But I'm still not into this.

Beats Music: Ellen with Bears - 2.5 / 5 - My kids loved it.

U2: Invisible - 1 / 5 - I think the hatred that Wedge and I have for U2 has been well documented around here.

Cheerios: Baby and Puppy - 4 / 5 - Her face is great.

Squarespace: A Better Internet - 2.5 / 5

Radioshack: The 80s Called - 5 / 5 - Perfect! Jason Voorhees, Chucky, Twisted Sister, ALF!

GoDaddy: Puppets By Gwen - 2 / 5 - Did she really just quit her job? If so, I could go to a 3.

T-mobile: Tim Tebow No Contract - 2.5 / 5

Volkswagon: German Engineers with Wings - 2.5 / 5

Wonderful Pistachios - 4 / 5 - The head crack!

David Beckham Bodywear - 1 / 5

Carmax: Slow Clap - 5 / 5 - The kid falling off the bike was the best.

Geico: Digital ID - 1 / 5

M&Ms: Peanut M&Ms for Everyone - 3.5 / 5

Highlander: Terry Crews and the Muppets - 5 / 5 - There were singing vegetables!

Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee: Seinfeld Reunion - 5 / 5 - Counts as a commercial. The best commercial ever. Waiting for that Full House reunion though!

Audi: Compromise Scares Us - 4 / 5

T-mobie: Tebow Part II - 3 / 5 - This one was a little better.

Chobani: Bear Attack - 2 / 5

KIA: Laurence Fishburne - 2 / 5

Heinz: If You're Happy and You Know It - 2 / 5

Honda: Bruce Willis and Fred Armisen - 2.5 / 5

Chrysler: Bob Dylan - 1 / 5 - Really? Dylan is selling cars?

Coke: Touchdown - 2.5 / 5

Butterfinger: Peanut Butter and Chocolate - 2.5 / 5

Hyundai: Johnny Galecki - 1 / 5 - This is worse than all the "Yay, America" stuff.

Jaguar: Good To Be Bad - 1 / 5 - What is the deal with all the cars?

Oikos: Full House Reunion - 5 / 5 - Yes, yes, yes! Those pants are going to stain.

T-mobile: Breakup - 1.5 / 5 - Kind of hypocritical since they've already used Tebow twice.

Sodastream: Scarlett Johansson - 1.5 / 5

Go Daddy: Spray Tan - 3 / 5

Doritos: Cowboy - 4 / 5

Esurance: 1st Commercial After the Game - 4.5 / 5 - Jim Halpert!

Super Bowl XLVIII: Fun with prop bets

We hoped to have more Super Bowl coverage this week, and we even had a non-Blogathon podcast planned for about five minutes! Unfortunately, things got a little busy for us. (We're shooting for an Olympic preview podcast this week, for those who like to hear us talk.)

Still, it's Super Bowl Sunday, and it's going to be a great day. With all the prop bets available for today's big game, I figured I'd weigh in on some of them. Please note, (a) I am not a gambler and (b) I am a Broncos fan. So don't blame me if you lose any money. Also, remember, I already kind of predicted a 49-7 Denver victory.

So here are my predictions for just some of today's available prop bets for Super Bowl XLVIII (2014).

Player to score the first (receiving or rushing) TD: Demaryius Thomas

Longest rush of the game: Russell Wilson

Will Richard Sherman receive a taunting penalty (between kickoff and final whistle)? No.

Will Richard Sherman receive a pass interference penalty? Yes.

Color of liquid dumped on winning coach: Clear.

Seen first after kickoff, Erin Andrews or Pam Oliver: Pam Oliver

Will any member of the Red Hot Chili Peppers be shirtless during their performance? No.

Will Renee Fleming forget or omit one word of the National Anthem? No.

Will Renee Fleming wear gloves? Yes.

Renee Fleming's glove color: Black

(Note: I wish I knew Renee Fleming so she could help me bet this one and we could win a trillion dollars.)

Below are some available "over/under" bets.

Russell Wilson TD passes (2): Under

Marshawn Lynch yard total on first rushing attempt (3.5): Under

Peyton Manning's "Omaha" count (27.5): Over

Renee Fleming's National Anthem length (2:22): Over

Number of times Archie Manning is shown on screen (2.5): Over

Number of times "12th man" is said during the broadcast (2.5): Over

And just for fun, I'll add a couple that are not officially available to bet on, as far as I know.

Number of times broadcasters mention Julius Thomas played basketball (1.5): Over

Will Eric Decker drop a pass? Yes.

Will Jacob Tamme score a touchdown? Yes.