Another set of the Olympic Games have come and gone. I very much enjoyed watching the London events even if I didn’t catch as much as I wanted to. The neat thing about the Olympics is how we’re all on the same team. Your entire country is rooting for your team, it’s not just your city. It’s amazing how these games bring us together as fans.
Back in the Beijing Olympics, our hometown hero, Michael Phelps (Baltimore represent), was poised to make history. Mark Spitz owned a 36-year-old record with seven gold medals captured in a single Olympic Games. It was common knowledge Phelps went to Beijing with one goal, to sweep his events with gold medals.
On August 17, 2008 the Baltimore Ravens hosted a home preseason game against the Minnesota Vikings. As far as preseason games go, crowds tend to thin out almost completely after half time. Not that night, the Ravens organization planned to simulcast Michael Phelps’ final event, the 4x100-meter medley relay, on the jumbotron at the conclusion of the game.
Thousands endured a heated battle between Tarvaris Jackson and Kyle Boller. It turned out to be worth it. Watching Michael Phelps win his eighth medal with thousands of cheering fans is something I’ll never forgot. I still get goosebumps thinking about it. I tried my best to capture the sentiment in the accompanied video. There are many skills I can list on my resume, cinematographer is not one of them.
“Every memory I have from when I was a kid involves basketball.”
— Kevin Durant
It’s cliche but this kid eats, sleeps and breathes basketball. It’s good to see KD and crew get their gold.
All the other kids with the pumped up kicks
You’d better run, better run, faster than my bullet
— Foster The People, Pumped Up Kicks
Gail Devers. Those fingernails. How can an Olympic athlete have finger nails that long? Well, when you Gail Devers you can do just about anything you want.
Devers came out of high school ranked as one of the top hurdlers in the country. She set a national record in the 100 meter hurdles and earned a spot on the 1988 Olympic team. While training for the Seoul Olympics she started to experience muscle pains and drop in weight. She was eliminated in the semi-finals with her slowest time since high school. Experts said that she practiced too hard, she put too much strain on her body.
But after the Olympics she felt worse. She started to lose her hair and hearing, her nails stopped growing and her skin fell away from her face. For the next two years nobody could diagnose her illness. Eventually she was treated for Graves disease and underwent radiation therapy. Complications from the radiation led her unable to walk. Doctors considered amputating her feet.
Gail Devers overcame all odds and recovered in time to compete in the 1992 Barcelona Olympics. She qualified for the 100 meter sprint and captured the gold in an unbelievable photo finish. Four years later she represented the USA in Atlanta and took home another two gold medals. Like I said, Gail Devers can do whatever she wants.
And I’m back to tear it up
Haters, start your engines
I hear ‘em gearin’ up
People talk so much shit about me at barbershops
They forget to get their haircut
— Kanye West, Everything I Am
All this talk about how he isn’t the same Michael Phelps we saw in Beijing. They’re right, this isn’t the same swimmer. But you’d be crazy to expect a 2008 repeat of eight gold medals or a 2004 haul of six gold and two bronze.
Michael Phelps is four years older and by all accounts less medal hungry. Yet Phelps just anchored a gold-medal relay to capture his Olympic-record 19th medal. The reports of Phelps’ death are greatly exaggerated.
At the risk of sounding corny I am going to admit John Williams’ "Olympic Fanfare and Theme" gives me goosebumps. We’ve been waiting for this. Michael Phelps vs. Ryan Lochte, Usain Bolt on a fast track, T-Rex, teenaged Tom Daley, and these guys — I’m all in. And what better compliments than Joe Posnanski’s blog from London and NBC Olympic Live Extra for my iPad?
T-Rex isn’t her real name. Her real name is Claressa. Friends and family just call her Ressa. She’s from Flint, Michigan, and next year she’ll be a senior in high school. The first day we met, it was her 17th birthday. She had a water balloon fight and a big, yellow cake. She carries her money around in a plastic bottle. She wears her hair in braids (sometimes). She takes the bus to school. She likes Twitter. She likes boys. She writes in her journal. Pretty everyday for a teenager. But this is hardly an everyday story. Six years ago her dad took her to a local boxing gym. She said she wanted to box. He said, “Hell no. Boxing is a man’s sport.” She ignored him. Next month, women will box in the Olympics for the first time ever. Claressa will be the youngest among them. And that’s just where her story begins.
I cannot wait to watch her in the Olympics.
Earlier this week was the anniversary of the Miracle on Ice. It was February 22, 1980 when the scrappy USA team beat the USSR 4-3 in Lake Placid, New York. In 2010, the 30th anniversary of the event, Joe Posnanski wrote about some little known facts concerning the hockey game. Facts like how the game was not broadcast live, people viewing from their home were on a tape delay. Posnanski also uncovered some interesting tidbits about Al Michaels and his signature line:
"Do you believe in miracles? Yes!"
It was a perfect call. Goosebumps. It’s further heightened by the fact that it’s followed by a minute of crowd noise. The next thing Michaels says is, “No words necessary just pictures." Damn, he’s good. Here’s what’s interesting, we almost didn’t get this line. Michaels said that if he had thought of the line before the moment it happened he never would have used it. It was a spur of the moment thing, it just came out.
When I went to the [1972 Munich] Olympics, a Russian coach asked me if my mustache slowed me down. I said, “No, as a matter of fact, it deflects water away from my mouth, allows my rear end to rise and make me bullet-shaped in the water. That’s what allowed me to swim so great.” He’s translating as fast as he can for the other coaches. The following year every Russian male swimmer had a mustache.
— Mark “The Shark” Spitz, winner of 7 gold medals in Munich
Mention Jesse Owens and most people immediately think of him sticking it to Hitler in the 1936 Berlin Olympics. A major highlight on any athlete’s legacy, no doubt, but what happened between 3:15-4:00pm on May 25, 1935 has no parallel by any athlete in any sport. Richard Rothschild of SI.com recounts the historic day and profiles one of the great American athletes. A must-read.
Ferry Field still stands. Outside the track a plaque commemorates Owens’ record-shattering day. It is, perhaps, the ultimate compliment in college sports that a University of Michigan athletic facility continues to honor the achievements of an Ohio State Buckeye.
March 21, 1980 — President Jimmy Carter announces US boycott of the Moscow Olympics.
The United States and several other countries chose to boycott the 1980 Summer Olympics because of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Some of these boycotting countries allowed athletes to participate in the games under the Olympic flag instead of their country’s colors. Many of these boycotting countries chose to instead attend the Liberty Bell Classic (Olympic Boycott Games) at the University of Pennsylvania.
Put aside all the turmoil that surrounded the 1980 Olympic games and take a look at the official emblem created by Vladimir Arsentyev.
Above the Olympic rings we find parallel lines in the shape of a pyramid, and a five pointed star which serves as a reminder of the flag of the Kremlin.
A section of a running track rising into an architectural silhouette typical of Moscow and a five-pointed star topping the silhouette.
Now that’s a visual identity. Have you seen the one for London 2012? I guess it’s memorable. Or maybe striking but I wouldn’t say it’s at all attractive. Not like Moscow. Look how well the Moscow identity translated to print pieces.
A Chitwood & Hobbs Field Report