Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Shaun Hill gets the start

Shaun Hill was named the starter for the 49ers this season yesterday by Singletary. He has never lost a start at Candlestick, which in itself should award him his place. From what I've seen, he seems to have a better grasp of playing the quarterback position and has more confidence in leading a team. Clearly he's Singletary's guy since he was inserted at halftime of the first game after Nolan's sacking during the season last year. There are troubling reports that Mike Martz had manipulated the QB competition before last season to insure that his guy, JT O'Sullivan, who was one of my buddy's college roommate at UC Davis and more importantly knew Martz's system from being the Detroit backup in 2007, was awarded the starting spot. Nolan, who had promised Hill that there would be an open QB competition, either overlooked or was on board with Martz's plan to start O'Sullivan no matter what. Rumors are that Martz had Hill sidelined during training camp with a fatigued arm even though Hill felt just fine. Now that the 49ers have gone away from Martz's open offense and refashioned themselves to the "running the ball and playing defense wins championships" mentality of Singletary, they think Shaun Hill is the right fit.

Alex Smith's story has been a sad saga. He never seemed to have the stability at offensive coordinator (including losing the highly effective Norv Turner at offensive coordinator) which clearly stunted his development and he also couldn't stay healthy for long. While athletic and intelligent, he just doesn't seem have what it takes to be a NFL star. I think he's a nice guy but not a tough enough competitor. Strangely, Nolan seemed to really dislike him almost on a personal level and perhaps didn't do enough to help him succeed. What Nolan should have realized was that his career with the 49ers was tied directly to Smith's success and development. So goes Smith, there goes Nolan.

I think Smith worked hard to remake himself this offseason and I had high hopes of a personal comeback story. He had taken less money to try to win the starting job. It would have been great for the franchise had the 1st overall pick ditched his "bust" label and started to fulfill all those high expectations from 2005. There's still a long season left and perhaps he will still get a chance to show the NFL what he can do.

Across the bay, the 39 year old Jeff Garcia has landed as the Raider's backup QB. I personally wish the 49ers had just kept Garcia after that 2003 season. He has consistently proven his value as a proven NFL quarterback at his many stops including at Philadelphia and Tampa Bay. Since Garcia, the 49ers revolving door has shuffled in forgettable starters such as Tim Rattay, Ken Dorsey, and JT O'Sullivan. Worse yet, they still have not found a worthy successor to Garcia to this day. Had they just kept their Pro Bowl QB and not drafted Alex Smith, the 49ers would have been undoubtedly more satisfied with their production from their QB spot. Garcia just has the ability to win games.

That said, the 49ers probably outsmarted themselves when picking Alex Smith. Think about it: a no name guy from a no name school running a gimmicky offense? Really? Its not like Smith had obvious Peyton Manning-like talent, with a big arm and QB moxie. Aaron Rodgers made sense to any casual fan. He had a strong arm, excelled in a big time conference (Pac-10) and ran a pro offense. Plus, the 49ers had no excuse since Cal is in their backyard. Looking back, we now know that Smith's success in college was due to the genius of Urban Meyer.

So who is Shaun Hill anyway? Since Jeff Garcia, he's been the only QB to have a winning record as a starter. Other than that, I had no clue, so I looked him up. Born in 1980, he grew up in Kansas and was quite the HS athlete, leading his basketball team to the state tourney. He also played baseball and lettered in track. He went unrecruited out of HS so he went to junior college for a couple years, then transferred to University of Maryland. He finished his Maryland career with 3,158 yards and 19 touchdowns but was not drafted in the 2002 draft. Hill then signed as a free agent with the Vikings and spent 2003 with Amsterdam of NFL Europe, leading that league in passing yards. Then he returned to the Viking pine. In 2006 he joined the 49ers bench and started his first game in 2007 when Dilfer went down to injury. In 2007 and 2008, Hill went 7-3 with 18 TDs and 9 Ints, threw for 2,547 yards with a 64% completion rate, and finished with a 90.5 quarterback rating. As much as I like him, he still seems more like a game manager. I think the 49ers are still looking for their first true QB star since the days of Steve Young.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Allyson Felix - 200m Queen

Allyson Felix won the 200 meters at the 2009 IAAF World Championship in 22.02 seconds today. She ran a solid turn but won the race by pulling away down the stretch with a long graceful stride. You can tell a huge difference between today's race and last year's silver medal performance in Beijing. Last summer, she was clearly suffering from some sort of slightly hampering injury which caused a noticeable hitch in her stride. This year, she glided to the finish line with a big margin of victory punctuated only with a raised fist. I appreciate how she doesn't have to convulse or emote as others do but instead opts for just a dignified smile while congratulating others. Felix's achievement is even more significant as it is the first gold medal for the United States at this championship in a sprint race. Jamaica had dominated sprint races until finally, Allyson made things right again.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Brett, are you sure you want to put on that helmet?

Yesterday, while I was watching PTI on DVR, it was reported that Favre was likely to return to the NFL with the Vikings this year. Hearing only this statement, my wife immediately exclaimed from the kitchen for all to hear, "I hate Brett Favre".

This sealed it. We may have never seen a more wishy-washy player in the history of sports. Flashback to early last year when Favre tearfully retired from the Packers finally for the last time after we endured a couple offseasons of his indecision. It was one of those nice sports moments (even though I disliked him then already for being totally overrated) when an icon expresses his love for the game and we all go away with a sense of envy at wanting to be as good at something as he was. After all, Favre had turned in his best season in a decade and led the Packers to a 13-3 record, tying his best seasons of the mid 90s. Obviously the fire to play still burned inside him and since he wasn't forced to retire due to injury like Steve Young or Troy Aikman were, I was truly perplexed as to why he chose to retire at that moment.

Then after the Packers moved ahead in that draft and other offseason moves, Favre decided to return. We were all subsequently assaulted by months of 24/7 coverage over his prolonged standoff with Ted Thompson and Packers management. Then came the trade to the Jets and his 2nd retirement after last season. Favre had a mediocre 2008 season, a poor last few games, a torn bicep and another year of age added onto his creaky frame. No way he can come back right? Just a few months later we were again subjected to weeks of coverage over his indecision to join the Vikings. But this time he announced at the end of July that he had turned down their offer and would remain retired. Finally! 3rd time's a charm! Except...

Now Favre has already been named the starter for this week's preseason game. He hadn't even taken a snap yet. Tarvaris Jackson and Sage Rosenfels have been slaving away for months in offseason workouts and training camp vying for the spot but Brad Childress decided to bring in a rusty and still unhealthy Favre to immediately take their place? Way to show your QBs that you believe in them. When asked if Favre was coming back, he said, "in a perfect world". Huh? Did Favre all of sudden turn into Joe Montana circa 1989? Umm, at his age, he's at best Jeff George, circa 1989.

I'm tired of hearing about how Brett Favre might be the best of all time. He's not even top 8 or 9. Yes I know he's played and won more games than anyone and I know he has more TDs than anyone. Tremendous. So he has every volume record out there. But did you know he also has the most INTs in history? He just strikes me as a great gunslinger who was fortunate enough to play for a long time. While he did have a great 3 year period from 1995-97, he has been mediocre more often than not in this century.

A more accurate measure of how a QB contributes to his team's success is his TD to INT ratio. How does Favre's ratio measure up to some other greats in the modern era?

Montana had 273 TDs and 139 INTs. Ratio: 2.0
Marino had 420 TDs and 252 INTs. Ratio: 1.7
Young had 232 TDs and 107 INTs. Ratio: 2.2
Manning has 333 TDs and 165 INTs. Ratio: 2.0
Brady has 197 TDs and 86 INTs. Ratio: 2.3

Favre has 464 TDs and 310 INTs. Ratio: 1.5

The only great QB of this era who has a worse ratio than Favre is John Elway, who has 2 Superbowl rings to Favre's 1, including one head to head. I would say all of those QBs above are better than Favre and we haven't even talked about old school greats like Sammy Baugh, Otto Graham, Johnny Unitas, Roger Staubach or Bart Starr.

So Favre was okay. Not too bad. Better than average. Who cares if he set records for TDs and INTs? It could just mean that he was hopped up on Vicadin so long that he played enough games to air it out and set records of all kinds. In the end, his main claim to fame is his longevity, which is impressive, but is not the measure of excellence for NFL quarterbacks. Playing a long time doesn't mean he played well for a long time. I can't get out of my mind a few seasons ago when Brett was just flat out atrocious, leading the NFL with 29 INTs. Fran Tarkenton said that Favre "has made more stupid plays than any great quarterback I've ever seen". So kudos to you Favre for being Jeff George with a brain.

Favre better try to push his TD record as high as he can this season because he won't have it for long. He has thrown 464 over 17 years. If we give him the same number of TDs this year as he had last year - another 22 TDs which is generous in this Adrian Peterson offense, he'll have 486 over 18 years. Peyton Manning has thrown 333 TDs over 11 years. If he continues at his pace (30.3 a year), he'll only need another 5 years to catch Favre. Maybe this is the real reason why Favre wants to keep playing? hmm...

But I digress. This season the Vikings have a solid squad at just about every position except the most important one: the QB. I can understand their desire to find greatness at that position but I'm not so sure that Favre is it. Rumors of a tear in his shoulder aside, he doesn't strike me as the right fit anyway. With the best RB in the NFL and their great defense, Minnesota should be looking to give opponents heavy doses of Adrian Peterson and matching that toughness defensively. Their QB should be someone who makes good decisions and takes care of the ball. That doesn't sound like the Brett Favre I know. The last thing they need is someone who has set a NFL record for turning it over.

Also remember that last year Favre wasn't able to lead a solid Jets team to the playoffs, much less to the Superbowl, as the Vikings hope he will now. Yes, he threw 22 touchdowns but they were accompanied by his 22 interceptions. I don't remember Jets fans languishing for the days of Favre when they snapped up Mark Sanchez in the draft.

And, as Peter King pointed out, the worst case scenario is that Favre actually gets sidelined by injury (who knows about this mysterious tear) for the first time in 17 years and the Vikings have to rest their playoffs hopes on a disenchanted and bewildered Tarvaris Jackson. Favre himself said at his 3rd retirement that he didn't think his body could hold up to the rigors of a 16 game season. Then again, I guess we can't really believe what comes out of his mouth anymore, can we?

For me, after being annoyed by Favre's game during his playing days and bored by his indecision in his offseasons, I am actually excited to see him play (especially vs the Pack) for the first time that I can remember. My wife might have finally concluded that she hates Favre, but I think I like him more than ever. When else can you see an icon do everything he can to destroy his own reputation?

So again, we may have never seen a more wishy-washy player in the history of sports. I guess its fitting for someone who has made more good decisions (464 TDs) than anyone in history AND more bad decisions (310 INTs) than anyone in history. Perhaps Brett doesn't really know how to make good decisions at all.

Perhaps, all he knows is that he has to keep throwing.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Down goes Tiger

When Tiger gave 2 strokes back and was tied up with Yang at the turn, all I was hoping for was some good play by Yang and for Tiger to have to actually win it with some great shots. It never seemed conceivable that Tiger could lose. Can you imagine Tiger losing a 54 hole lead in a major, especially to the guy he is playing with? A 2 stroke lead in the final group on Sunday paired with a no-namer spells game over.

Then the most clutch performer in our lifetime couldn't make a putt to save his life. It was like he came down with a case of the yips at the worst possible time. Tiger's frustration was palpable. While it is inevitable that Tiger will pass Jack's 18 major record, he didn't make any progress this season. Even though he won 5 tournaments, some in dramatic fashion, after returning from his knee surgery, Tiger will still see this year as a failure.

Yang had 2 shots that will forever be remembered as the ones that did Tiger in. A 50 foot chip-in eagle at No. 14 gave Yang a temporary 2 shot lead, until Tiger birdied the same hole to pull within 1. Yang was not intimidated. The only nervousness he showed was the horrible lag putt on 17 which earned him a bogey and cost him a 2 shot lead with 1 to play. But on the last hole, he unleashed a beautiful drive which setup arguably the most memorable shot in PGA Championship history. A ridiculous 210 yard 3 hybrid (Taylormade Rescue) over a tree to 8 feet on the 18th hole!?!? I love sports.

They made a big hullabaloo over the fact that Yang is the first Asian-born player to win a major. Uber-nationalistic South Korea is justifiably going crazy right now to celebrate. But make no mistake, he definitely isn't the first Asian to win it. Tiger is. As much as Americans love to celebrate the achievements of African Americans, Tiger is actually only 25% black and 50% Asian. His dad is 50% black, 25% Chinese (and 25% Native American). His mom is 50% Thai and 25% Chinese (and 25% Dutch). This makes Tiger 25% Chinese, 25 % Thai, 25% black (and 1/8 Dutch, 1/8 Native American). Obama lovers, get over it.

Amazingly, this is the first year Tiger hasn't won a major since 2004. He isn't the only one to be disappointed this year. I actually preferred the runner-ups to all 3 of the other majors this year. Kenny Perry bogeyed 17 and 18 to let his first major slip out of his grasp at the Masters. Mickelson also bogeyed twice down the stretch to lose the US Open he so desperately needs and Tom Watson bogeyed 18 and lost what would have been a miraculous British Open.

But so goes golf. Upsets are a big part of why we watch sports. It is still the greatest reality show on tv. YE Yang did the impossible and it will probably change the sport of golf on the global level forever. If not, at least it will sell more 3 hybrids in South Korea.


Usain's record shattering performance was simply amazing yesterday. Instead of the mediocre start and a show-off display in the last 10 meters of Bolt's Beijing world record performance last year, Usain started well and ran through the finish line in Berlin. No one has lowered the 100m this drastically ever since we've been able to electronically time it - a period of 41 years. He shaved 0.11 seconds off the world record!

Tyson Gay actually ran an incredible race and is the second fastest man in history at 9.71, but it will be overlooked as Bolt has posted better times twice.

There's something elemental about the 100m race. It seems to epitomize the very core of human competition. There is no ball, no racket, and no vehicle. There is no turn in the track or inequity in playing surfaces or other variable conditions. There are no complicated rules, no real strategic advantages and no judgment calls or artistic expression scores to cause controversy. There are no teammates who must block, defend or assist. Neither are there others who must be motivated, coddled or blamed. It is not a race of intelligence, endurance or even willpower. It is simply a measure to see who is the best in the world at one of the most natural athletic abilities that all able-bodied humans can do: run. And Usain Bolt is the fastest human on earth who has ever run this race.

The scary thing is that he has only been running this race for a few years. Honestly, it doesn't even appear that he's even running with total discipline and commitment. When he finally gets the work ethic and experience of someone like Tyson Gay, it will be mind-blowing to watch. Usain has already stated his goal of 9.4. 9.4? Are you freaking kidding me? Can't wait. (Except for all that post-race posturing - childish and boring.)

Its sad that this even needs to be brought up but we didn't know that Marion Jones and others were cheating until years after the fact. Here's hoping that Bolt is not on any performance-enhancing drugs or HGH.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Vick and McNabb - a dogfight doomed to happen

Most talking heads seem to like Michael Vick's signing with Philadelphia since its only a $1.6 million contract for the first year with an option for the 2nd. They say that its a stable and winning team with a proven quarterback and Vick won't have the pressure to perform right away. While that may be true, I see some problems with this signing.

First, and most importantly, we know that Donovan McNabb is very sensitive about his starting spot. When TO was there, Donovan was almost territorial in trying to maintain his BMOC place on the team. While TO is always at fault, McNabb should also be noted for his poor attitude as well. Also, remember that when the Eagles drafted Kevin Kolb early in the 2nd round, McNabb was outspokenly unhappy. He seems to have a distrust issue with Andy Reid or management so I don't see how signing a big name QB in Michael Vick would sit well with McNabb. Tom Brady or Peyton Manning wouldn't feel threatened at all but the thin-skinned McNabb? He hasn't proven that he performs better when he's unhappy. He sulks.

Secondly, how are the Eagles planning to use Vick? You don't risk all the distraction that comes with Vick without planning to actually use him. Wildcat offense? The Eagles will have to come up with something they have never done before. Thirdly, Philadelphia is not a very forgiving or compassionate sports town. Results are all that matter so Vick's grace period will not be long.

As a sidenote, I don't share the national anger over Michael Vick as everyone else says they do. Brutally torturing and murdering dogs is heinous and he deserved to pay the penalty for breaking the federal laws that he did. But the fact of the matter is that he served his sentence and many say that it was a harsher sentence simply because he is a well known celebrity. In the end, I would come down a lot harder on him if he had a history of committing crimes against humans. But he doesn't, so I think its time to allow him to start over. I like that he wants Tony Dungy to be a big influence in his life now. Hopefully he is able to dedicate himself to his craft more than ever has before and return as a humbler human being than he was before. I think the best case scenario is that he quietly integrates himself back into learning the game of football this year and looks to compete for a starting job next summer on a different team. Perhaps the 49ers will still need a QB next year...

True homefield advantage: swine flu

Donovan revealed that he tested positive for H1N1 yesterday which he had started to feel effects of a few days before the game. This accounts for why he contributed very little in the 2nd half including getting beat for the 2nd goal. He said himself that he felt strangely sluggish and slow but he attributed it to the altitude. Now, I think we could have at least achieved a draw if not a counterattacking win with a healthy Donovan.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

so close....

For the first time in history, the US scored first at Azteca on Charlie Davies' 9th minute strike on which Landon provided a beautiful assist. For a few minutes, it seemed like the US had a flicker of hope for emerging victorious as long as they could keep up their balance play. Then for whatever reason, the US withdrew deep into their own half and chose to defend. It seemed inevitable that Mexico would score if this gameplan continued and they did on that wonderstrike by Israel Castro in the 19th minute. That shot looked as if it would soar above the crossbar but amazingly dipped just under it at the last moment.

That goal, and most likely the game, was the result of poor play by our central midfielders - Bradley and Clark. Bradley and Clark were nowhere near the ball when it came to the Mexican defender just 5 yards outside the 18. While our CBs, especially Onyewu, defended valiantly and our attacking players - Ching, Davies, Donovan, Dempsey played with a lot of heart, it seemed like our CMs were nonexistent. Versus Spain, those two were bulldogs in the middle, disrupting play and dispersing the ball on counters. Yesterday, they were relegated to jogging around and chasing Mexican bodies without any effect. Neither of them were even carded as you could typically expect when the opposition dominates possession vs the US team. At halftime, US fans were begging for the introduction of Benny Feilhaber to hopefully instill some semblance of a link between our defense and attack.

When Benny and surpisingly Holden were injected in the 2nd half (for an ineffective Clark and an exhausted Ching), moving Dempsey forward, the US play improved slightly. It gave fans the renewed hope for at least a draw and possibly even a counterattacking goal. Still, the US could not muster a consistent effective attack and eventually returned to defending and hoping for a draw.

A near fight ensued when Charlie Davies suffered an injury and that insufferable classless jerk, Nery Castillo, tried to force Davies back to his feet. I appreciated how Benny immediately raced over to protect his teammate from those hovering hyenas. Jozy Altidore came in to replace Davies and add some energy to the offense.

However, with 10 minutes left, the relentless Mexican attack bore fruit as a tired Donovan was beat in a footrace to the endline by Efrain Juarez and the resulting collision between a sweeping Demerit and .... popped the ball back to a wide open Miguel Sabah, who won the game. On the play, Bocanegra was nowhere to be found and Bradley inexplicably ran past the open Sabah to take a spot at the goalline.

The positional issue that the US will have to address in the future is the Mexican attack on the flanks by Guardado, Dos Santos, Vela and Nery Castillo. Matched up against our outside backs, we were under heavy pressure from the wings the entire time. Bocanegra was painfully slow against any Mexican player on the wing with the exception of Blanco. Cherundolo, while showing fairly well, still had difficulty with the speed and skill of those young Mexican players. The likely replacement for Cherundolo, Jonathan Spector, is even slower than he is. The US will have to really address the LB situation soon - perhaps taking a long hard look at Edgar Castillo.

The addition of Jermaine Jones will help upgrade the CM as well since it was our other weak position yesterday. Other things we need to work on is ball control and first touch. Our passing was not crisp and our players seemed to have difficulty settling the ball. Often, we decided to just boot the ball upfield instead of pass it. Perhaps Jose Francisco Torres would have been a better option instead of Holden. We needed somebody to keep possession.

The referee was pathetically abysmal in that game. Fouls committed by Mexico went overlooked while similiar fouls by Americans warranted yellow cards. Close calls almost always went to the Mexicans. It was as if the ref was afraid of the crowd. Ridiculous. FIFA should review this game and punish this ref.

The game was ultimately a disappointment. After that landmark performance in the Confederations Cup followed by that letdown in the Gold Cup, US fans were hoping for another momentous upset at the Azteca to complete a memorable summer. Personally, I would have been very happy with a draw. We were one defensive stand away from doing just that so we can't be too down on the team. It is virtually impossible to win at Azteca since only 1 team has done so in like 50 years. Mexico deserved to win. And don't forget, we had scored first and were 10 minutes away from a result. Anyway, I would much rather have beaten #1 Spain than win the meaningless Gold Cup final or even beat Mexico at Azteca. Its inevitable that we do emerge victorious one of these years.

Player ratings

Tim Howard 6 - Tim was not at fault for the 2nd goal and was beat by a great dipping shot on the 1st. Still, its not a good outing when you are beat twice.

Steve Cherundolo 6 - Steve showed presence on the ball and was not outworked. However, he still struggled at times with the speed of Guardado.

Oguchi Onyewu 8 - Gooch was a force in the defense and made countless plays to keep the US in the game for 80 minutes.

Jay Demerit 6 - Jay had a decent outing and is at least as good as Bocanegra in the central defense. He needs to be careful on his tackles - yellow cards are easily awarded against skilled players.

Carlos Bocanegra 4 - Carlos is too slow to play LB at the international level. He played as best as he could but is simply out of position. Also, he contributes nothing to our attack and could not support Landon at all.

Clint Dempsey 5 - Looked tired and frustrated.

Michael Bradley 4 - Did not look like the box to box midfield we are accustomed to.

Ricardo Clark 3 - Completely ineffective and out of position on first goal. Should lose his spot to Jermaine Jones.

Landon Donovan 6.5 - Maybe our best player in the first half but was exhausted late in the game and beat for the 2nd goal.

Brian Ching 6 - Did his best to draw fouls but could not contribute much when central midfielders not getting him the ball.

Charlie Davies 8 - Terrific goal early on and was dangerous when presented with opportunities. Finally a clear cut starter for next summer.


Benny Feilhaber 6 - Not the midfield general performance we were hoping for but still an upgrade to Clark.

Stuart Holden 7 - Surprisingly, he seemed unintimidated by the magnitude of the game (and was probably just angry at the 5-0 beatdown last month) and was fairly disruptive and relatively effective in getting forward on the right side.

Jozy Altidore 5 - didn't play enough or see the ball enough for a true rating.

Our starting lineup needs to be:

--------Davies - Altidore-----

I put in Spector simply because I don't have any other answers at LB. none at all. Castillo doesn't strike me as a good defensive option nor does he seem to fit with the US system yet. I was thisclose to starting Feilhaber in place of Jr but Bradley's been far too valuable defensively to bench after just one poor game.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

A new day at Real

Now that Madrid has won out in the Xabi Alonso saga and failed on Ribery, it looks like their best starting lineup would be:


I'd a hard time leaving the extremely talented Robben on the bench but I still have questions about his defense. Sneijder and Higuain should see plenty of playing time as well. This lineup has 6 new starters and should be a vast improvement from last year's mediocrity.

How does it match up with Barca's Ibra injected lineup?


One heckuva matchup - can't wait to see this. Madrid's defense better develop some chemistry in a hurry. But more importantly, getting Xabi Alonso was paramount in matching up with Xavi and Iniesta. At least this is a fair fight now...

Monday, August 3, 2009

Hey Cavic, last year I didn't even wear a suit...

The best moment of this weekend is the Phelps-Cavic rematch at the World Championships in Rome. It seems like all events are better when they're in Rome - at least we get more shots of the Coliseum and the Pantheon.

Milorad Cavic just doesn't know when to shut up. First he claims that he really won last year's epic race in the Beijing Olympics. When asked what proof he has, he shrugged and said, "I saw it". Really? Look again, Phelps has pressed 4 fingers into the wall (slammed into it actually - ouch!) while you look like you're free-falling the other way. Then Cavic goes on to mock Phelps because of Bob Bowman's assertion that the new swimsuits made by Arena are too much of a performance enhancing advantage. (More on the suits later). Cavic absurdly states that he is even willing to buy Phelps a suit if asked. His point is that he doesn't want Phelps to have any excuses when he beats Phelps in the final. Now in the semis leading up to the final, both men had broken the world record in the 100 meter butterfly with Cavic last holding the record at 50.01.

Obviously, the race is a tale of two halves, just as it was last year. Cavic always jumps out to the early lead and hopes that its enough for Phelp's second half onslaught. Last year it was 0.01 of a second short. In this year's final, as expected, Cavic jumped out to the early lead but Phelps swam a career best first50 meters to stay on Cavic's hip at the turn. According to Cavic and Bowman, they both knew that the slight lead was probably not enough. I thought it was incredible how Phelp's only really made his move in the last 15 meters or so and smashed Cavic's world record and possibly his psyche in 49.82 seconds. Phelp's exuberant and almost angry celebration fittingly included "popping" his "inferior" Speedo swimsuit.

It goes forgotten that Cavic also broke the 50 second mark in this final. Its not like he failed to deliver in the clutch. He just got beat by the greatest swimmer of all time. If Cavic didn't shoot off his mouth this week (and didn't choose to swim for Serbia even though he was born and raised in Anaheim and collegiately competed for Berkeley), I'd would just admire him as a great swimmer who unfortunately lived in the time of Phelps. In the aftermath, Cavic has proposed a 1 v 1 rematch TV event in 2010 since they are not slated to race again until 2011. The problem is that you can't really have a rivalry until both sides have, you know, won before. Phelps really has no reason to consider this proposal especially since he has left us all with a perfect and indelible moment for the years to come.

The rematch buildup, the pre-race trash talking, the controversial Arena and inferior Speedo suits, the in-race strategy (Cavic going out early and Phelps coming from behind) and Phelp's reaction afterward truly made this the race of the year. Unlike so many other hyped sports events, this moment exceeded all expectations.


Now as for the suits, I think swimming has an issue very similiar to baseball. These new swimsuits are so effective that world records have been broken approximately 150 times in the last 18 months alone. These suits are, no doubt, a perfomance enhancer. In many ways, they are worse than steroids since you don't even have to expend effort to make use of its advantages. You simply have to squeeze yourself into one to drop seconds off your time.

The German swimmer, Biedermann, will always get to say that he beat Phelps in a final for the first time in 4 years. He will also admit to beating his own personal best by about 4 seconds. 4 seconds? Nobody drops 4 seconds just like that. These Arena suits practically have propellers in 'em. Phelps did not and should not have complained about the suits since his Speedo suits were the top of the line in technology just last year at the Olympics. But the fact of the matter is that FINA's ban starting in 2010 is 2 years too late. Some suit records will never be beaten. However, at least everyone could legally use them, which means no one won illegitimately. And its an easy fix, unlike baseball.