Off Day Offerings: Praise for Olympic Exploits and Criticism of Criticism

It’s been a while since I wrote one of these ODO columns, which I initially conjured up as an excuse to write about some items that weren’t necessarily Cubs-centric. And with the Olympics in full swing, I thought this might be a perfect time to share some quick thoughts. Don’t worry, there’ll be Cubbishness in here too. On second thought, I’m not sure that’s a good thing.

Speed kills

This might come as a shock to you, but I’m not a very fast man, at least not when it comes to putting one foot in front of the other. Maybe that’s why I’m so fascinated by the track events at the Olympics. I’m not alone, either, as the 100m sprint has long been the crown jewel of the summer games. But before Usain Bolt could set the straightaway ablaze Saturday night, South African Wayde Van Niekerk doused it with gasoline.

[beautifulquote align=”right”]Van Niekerk could have rounded the bases in about 11.8 seconds.[/beautifulquote]

Running in the eighth lane, from which no international champion had ever come, Van Niekerk blew away the field with a world record time of 43.03 seconds in the 400m. That’s 1,312.34 feet in 43 seconds. If you were wondering, that comes out to 30.49 feet/second (or 20.7 mph), which means Van Niekerk could have rounded the bases in about 11.8 seconds. Not impressed? The fastest recorded round-trippers are in the 13.8 to 14-second range.

Yeah, yeah, sharper turns and whatnot. I’m just trying to have a little fun with crossover stuff. Besides, NBC did a great job of hyping the 24-year-old sprinter with a human-interest story about his 74-year-old coach, Ans Botha. This is what makes the Olympics great.

As he was coming out for his own shot at glory, Bolt saw the conclusion of the 400m and was visibly shocked. Game recognize game, or something. With all the big names that have come and gone in the sport, Bolt might be the biggest. And for good reason, as he’s dominated for nearly a decade. No man had ever won the Olympic 100m three times and only Carl Lewis had ever won back-to-back titles (1984 and ’88, with the latter coming after Ben Johnson’s DQ for doping).

Bolt was anything but out of the blocks, though he summoned the lightning about halfway through the race to surge ahead and take his third straight crown. Awesome. What was really cool, though, was seeing the Jamaican superstar head into the stands to seek out his fellow world record-holder for a bro-hug. I thought it was cool anyway.

Net gain

If you’ve ever played beach volleyball, you know just how physically demanding it can be. Granted, the courts you and I use are probably not on par with those utilized for big tournaments. Regardless, running around in sand isn’t the easiest endeavor. I generally end up bloody, sore, and in need of several Aleves. Then I watch the grace and athleticism of Kerri Walsh Jennings and April Ross and I just sip my beer in awe.

[beautifulquote align=”left”]I watch the grace and athleticism of a Kerri Walsh Jennings and April Ross and I just sip my beer in awe.[/beautifulquote]

Up 10-8 in the first set of their quarterfinal match against Australians Taliqua Clancy and Louise Bawden, Ross dug a spike and sent it back over the net well wide of the boundary. Unwilling to accept the loss of a point, Walsh Jennings ducked under the net and sprinted to meet the ball in time to play it back to her teammate. Yes, this is legal. Amazingly enough, the Americans ended up winning the point before moving on to take the set and, eventually, the match.

For the record, this is not what I look like playing volleyball.

Ending on a weird note

By and large, I have been very much in Jason Heyward’s corner this season. I’ve pointed out flaws in his swing mechanics and flagging results but have also touted his phenomenal defense and have argued for him to remain in the everyday lineup. Things took a weird turn, however, when I said that I’d bust him with fastballs if I was an opposing pitcher. Given that he sees more heaters than any other hitter in baseball and hasn’t fared well against them, this seems like a sound strategy.

I should note here that I usually fire off a tweet or two about him rolling over to the right side when it happens. But on Sunday night I allowed myself to be dragged into a “debate” centered around criticism of Heyward vs. Kris Bryant. Bryant, the other party stated, has sucked in the second half (which is patently false) and should be under more fire than Heyward. And by not tearing Bryant apart, I was fomenting the racist tendencies of Chicago sports fans, if not outright participating in it myself.

[beautifulquote align=”right”]I think the color most at fault for the general disdain for Heyward’s performance is green.[/beautifulquote]

Without getting into all of the blatant factual and hypothetical holes in what this person was saying, I do want to acknowledge that, yes, there has been a history of different treatment of players based on race. That’s in Chicago and St. Louis and Los Angeles and Boston and everywhere, though. Even with that in mind, however, I think the color most at fault for the general disdain for Heyward’s performance is green. And I’m not talking about that of the outfield grass or the ivy out in right field.

Here’s the thing: I have been critical of pretty much everyone on this Cubs roster at one point or another. I’ve also heaped praise on all of them. Well, maybe not Trevor Cahill, but I’m sure that’ll change after he twirls a gem Tuesday. I don’t know, maybe I just need to be more blatant about it.

One thing I’ve learned for sure, though, is that allowing Twitter to determine your state of mind can be a recipe for disaster. Same goes for basing your happiness on the implosion of a bullpen when your team still holds a 12-game division lead. Actually, you know what? Take out the last ten words of that earlier sentence. Does “12” count as a word? Not according to the counter in the bottom corner of my draft tool, so excise nine words.

I’m very much looking forward to spending a Cubs-free night watching the Olympics and caring about certain sports for the only time in four years and participating in jingoistic chants and letting my kids stay up too late. Then it’s back to the grind Tuesday when the Cubs have a twin bill. Weird, wild stuff.

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