Don’t let Lochte Ruin your Memory of Rio

The 2016 Olympic Games now have been over for a little over a week.  Many people would say the event concluded on a down note.  Unfortunately, the ridiculous Ryan Lochte story left many spectators with a very negative memory of the Rio Games. Lochte deserves every bit of criticism, as his actions have demonstrated the stereotype of a spoiled and entitled American. Not much can be said to defend him or part the unavoidable dark cloud he has cast on the 2016 Olympic Games or even the sport of swimming. However, there were some pretty incredible and inspirational stories that are now getting overlooked, but should definitely not be forgotten. And you don’t have to leave the pool for these stories.

David Plummer breaks through

It takes an incredible amount of discipline, perseverance, commitment and sacrifice to make an Olympic team. That’s not an earth-shattering observation, but David Plummer’s path to Rio and Olympic performance was one of a kind. Plummer entered the 2016 Olympic Trials as a 30-year old who failed to qualify for the team in his previous two attempts. At the 2012 Trials, he missed a spot on the team by a measly 12 hundredths of a second, following a sixth place finish in 2008.

David Plummer came to this year’s trials, knowing it would be his last chance to qualify for the Olympics. He tied his hopes to one event, the 100-meter backstroke. Plummer prevailed this time around, finishing second and grabbing a spot on the US Olympic Swim Team. It was clear he was not satisfied by earning a spot on the team, considering he went on to earn the Bronze Medal in his lone event at the Olympic Games.

Most athletes, especially swimmers, have their best years between their late-teens and early twenties. Therefore, the odds of qualifying for the Olympics get slimmer with age. If you told me that an Olympic hopeful would go to the trials three times at the ages of 22, 26 and 30 and only qualify once, I’d put money on 22 and not think twice about it. But David Plummer, despite disappoint and heartbreak in 2008 and 2012 didn’t give up, despite the prospects of making the team as a first-time Olympian as a 30-year old looking very unlikely. If anything, it should teach us that despite failing to accomplish a goal when conditions may lend to it being the best chance to do so, that you’re never too old to chase a dream.

Simone Manuel makes history

Swimming has historically been a sport that has lacked diversity and minority participation. Cullen Jones had previously been the lone face of swimming for minorities in the United States. Jones failed to earn a spot on this year’s team, despite earning a pair of gold and silver medals in the previous two Olympic Games. Aside from Jones’ accomplishments in the pool, he has been a very significant figure and has never hid his passion for bringing more diversity to the sport. He has made a concerted effort to change the culture of competitive swimming by encouraging younger African Americans to become competitive swimmers.

Enter Simone Manuel, who was swimming in her very first Olympics at the age of 20. Manuel has been equally vocal and passionate about minority participation in competitive swimming. She made history by becoming the first African American woman to win a gold medal, by tying Penny Oleksiak in the 100-meter freestyle with a time of 52.70, an Olympic record.

It was a magical moment, and a very historic one. Very few people get to experience winning an Olympic gold medal. That alone is worthy of overwhelming emotion. But at that moment, Manuel knew that what she accomplished had unprecedented significance for competitive swimming.

Phelps with the unexpected encore

Michael Phelps could have retired after the 2012 Olympic Games in London as the most decorated Olympian of all time. He concluded the London Games with 18 gold medals with the plan to ride off into the sunset, retiring at the age of just 27. In April 2014, Michael Phelps announced he would come out of retirement and would target his fifth and final Olympic Games in 2016.

Two years after his retirement announcement and in September 2014, Phelps was arrested for his second DUI and was subsequently suspended from USA Swimming for a six month period, which prohibited him from swimming in the 2015 World Aquatics Championships. Phelps himself has admitted it to be the ultimate low point in his life, where he went as far as to contemplating suicide. At that point, it was not inconceivable to think his competitive swimming career was over and we would not have the enjoyment of watching him compete at the Olympics one more time.

All too often, very talented and accomplished athletes have their career cut short for “off-field” (or out-of-pool) reasons. Even if they continue to compete following an adversarial event, circumstances have their way of derailing the athlete’s focus, drive and commitment to their sport. However, the way in which Michael Phelps responded was dignifying. He wouldn’t let the 2014 arrest be the last event most people remembered about him. Phelps entered the 2016 Rio Olympics with a newfound determination to end his career on a high note and put the finishing touching’s on a legacy that another athlete has never match or is likely to ever match. He earned five gold medals in Rio, bringing his career total to an astounding 23.

Michael Phelps’s accomplishments as a competitive swimmer are beyond unbelievable and it’s unlikely that anyone will ever come close to paralleling his medals, performances and records. But it was his inspirational response to adversity and depression that made the conclusion to his career one of the best stories of the 2016 Olympic Games.

Photo Credits:

Squash Slighted By Olympic Committee Again; Supporters P*ssed

Squash snubbed by IOC once more.

Squash rejected by IOC for 2020 Olympic Games.

Marking the latest in a decade long rejection of Squash as an official Olympic sport, this week the International Olympic Committee announced the inclusion of five more events set to take the stage at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics: Skateboarding, Karate, Surfing, Sports Climbing, Baseball and Softball. While thousands of now potential Olympic competitors around the world rejoice at the news, the continued exclusion of this particular event has just as many athletes calling foul.

The Entitled Vs The Ignored

The world isn’t too happy with the IOC’s latest decision. Whether they believe that Squash meets more of the official qualifications than, for instance, Skateboarding, or that the Committee is purposely snubbing certain sports in favor of others with more profitability, both fans and participants of the game are outraged at the decision. The top Squash players dream of seeing their sport in the Olympics, but despite their pleas, they are forced to stand by and watch representatives of the other chosen sports treat their Olympic invite like a scrimmage.

A prime example of this is illustrated in 2016’s inclusion of Golf as an Olympic event. In what should have been a monumental opportunity to see the best contemporary golfers compete for the gold, some of the most notable names in the game chose to stay home. At the time, the top three in golf’s world rankings (Jason Day, Dustin Johnson, and Jordan Spieth, respectfully) opted out of the event. One would imagine that the leaders of the sport would jump at the chance to make Olympic history.

Instead, a few of the players you’d expect to see at the top of the leaderboard did not have any interest in even watching coverage. Golf superstar Rory McIlroy chose to watch other sports that mattered. Jason Day admits that he only watched one hole. Although, Dustin Johnson and Jordan Spieth pulled out over health concerns, Spieth now has regrets not competing. The players that did fly out to Rio put on a fantastic show, and the winners are well-deserving, but you have to admit that a few more high profile names would not have hurt.

Squash Isn’t the Only One with IOC Beef

Not all sports are created equal, but their organizations sure do deserve equal consideration during an Olympic bid. Unfortunately, even if they have a strong global presence, not everyone gets accepted. In fact, for the handful of sports that were included for the 2020 games, the IOC rejected twenty others (including Bowling, Chess, Korfball, Sumo, Tug of War, and Wushu). Squash may not be alone, but the companionship does little to mend the heartbreak.

As each Olympiad passes, the sports both included and excluded will be heavily debated. Squash may be sidelined for 2020, but there’s always the chance that it can usurp Golf, or another sport, in the future. Either way, the Olympics will forever be a prestigious event, but it isn’t the only game in town. For every casual spectator that flips through Olympic coverage every two years, there are dozens of diehard fans that passionately embrace these exciting sports year-round. Whether it be world championships or minor league games between local rivals, Squash and others ostracized from the Olympics will continue to keep the eyes of the world focused on their game. The IOC may be able to keep them out of the Games, but with the latest technology allowing all sports to substantially increase their global presence, perhaps it’s the Olympics, not squash, which is really missing out.


The Dude Award

There are plenty of awards given out in sports, some deserved, some not. [I’m talking to you participation.] However, there are no awards for athletes that exemplify a ‘don’t give a shit attitude’- the biggest characteristic I look for when determining who to root for. I realize that’s not a tangible measurement so I have created a weekly award to give praise to these athletes. I will be looking for athletes who face adversity; and, instead of crumbling under the pressure, they light a cig and keep on moving. The award shall be called ‘The Dude.’ It will exemplify those athletes that mostly abide, and yeah, it will, you know, just be my opinion, man.


I am proud to announce this weeks ‘The Dude’: the Filipino Dive team. I know the viral video surfaced a few weeks ago but it felt sinful to not appoint these two as the Inaugural ‘Dudes.’ And, it’s actually a pretty Dude move for me to not adhere to the definition of time.

Filipino divers at 2015 SEA Games - Imgur


Let’s start with the physical danger of diving.

You are catapulting yourself 15 feet in the air, rotating yourself numerous times, then entering the water head-first. Seems pretty dangerous, especially for two guys who have no idea what they are doing. Could you imagine climbing the ladder of the springboard knowing there is roughly a 3% chance you pull off your dive and a 97% chance you hurt yourself? Those are the same odds as me beating Antonio Brown in a foot race or Ryan Lochte beating Ken Jennings in a game of Jeopardy. Fabriga and Pahoyo fell victim to those odds. Fabriga did a 2 1/2 rotation power back-flop that sprayed the front row of spectators Shamu style.



They had to deal with nerves.

The Filipinos were performing on a huge stage with a chance to compete in the Olympics; yet, they appeared calm, cool and collected. Fabriga and Pahoyo were giving the water glares the same way Kobe looks at his competitors. When I watched the video for the first time, I honestly thought Pahoyo was about to do some incredible dive that has never been done before.


I was in for a pleasant surprise. If ‘keeping it cool under pressure’ was a competition in the Olympics, Fabriga and Pahoyo would be bathing in gold.


The absence of dedication.

The theory of 10,000 hours is the thought that anyone can do anything if they practice at it for 10,000 hours. It’s safe to say that Fab and Pah are still in double digits. I can’t think of another example where the skill/talent gap between competitors is so vast. Possibly when The Big Show wrestled Hornswoggle…


Eh, I still think Hornswoggle had better odds than the Fillipinos. Not trying hard and having an allergy to practice are essential personalities a Dude must contain.


The Filipino diver’s didn’t give a shit about danger, or nerves, or experience, and that is why they are this week’s Dudes. Keep on keepin’ on boys, you have a White Russian waiting for you in Phoenix.


Blood, Sh*t & Tears: How One Race Walker Poignantly Embodied The Olympic Spirit

Photo courtesy Yahoo

Yohann Diniz competes in the 50km Race Walk at the 2016 Rio Olympics. Photo courtesy Yahoo Actualités










For over two weeks, coverage of the 2016 Rio Olympics has dominated our television screens, news feeds, and conversations but among all of the triumphs, heartbreaks, and scandals, there’s one Huffington Post headline that immediately captured my attention:

“An Olympic Race Walker Pooped Himself, Started Bleeding And Still Placed 8th”

That’s a lot to digest so let’s break it down. First of all: what in the world is “race walking” and why is it an Olympic sport?

Pooped, Bled, Placed could be the tagline for at least a half dozen Olympic articles. Over the years, we’ve seen sickness overcome weight lifters, sprinters, wrestlers, and more. Considering the looming health concerns associated with this particular Olympiad, trending news detailing an athlete succumbing to illness during their event was almost a guarantee. But what surprised me wasn’t the mildly nauseating video of blood and feces dripping down the competitor’s leg; it was the event itself that sent me into shock: Olympic Race Walking.

A Slower Race To The Finish Line

Race Walking? I couldn’t believe it. How in the world did glorified speed walking make it onto the world’s stage? Grouped in with events like the high jump, decathlon, and steeplechase are the 20 and 50km race walks for men and a 20km for women. Zeus must be beside himself.

Though it evolved from the 1880’s competitive walking sport Pedestrianism, race walking didn’t become a men’s Olympic sport until 1904 and not until 1992 for women. The rules are predictably simple: walk fast without technically running. According to USA Track & Field, each walker “…maintain contact with the ground at all times and requires the leg to be straightened as the foot makes contact with the ground. It must remain straightened until the leg passes under the body.”

I had no idea race walking existed, let alone had strong enough global presence to make it an Olympic event for the last hundred years, especially when you consider that the ever-popular golf is just now making its return after a 112 year absence. While I’m sure there’s a rich history that my shallow investigation hasn’t uncovered, I was only interested in one person: Yohann Diniz, the French Olympian who took a crap, took a fall, and, through solid determination and courage, had us all taken aback.

From Gold to Brown Yet Still A Champion

Who is Yohann Diniz? A quick read of 140 characters might lead you to believe he’s some guy that pooped his pants power walking in the Olympics. What the headlines don’t tell us, however, is that this isn’t just some Average Joe that got runner’s diarrhea (which is no laughing matter). Dig a little deeper into his history and you’ll discover that not only is he a three time gold medal winner of the European Championships, he also set a new world record in 50km race walk back in 2014.

His Olympic history, however, has not been as impressive. In 2008 he did not finish and in 2012 was disqualified. It would be easy to dismiss this as another failed attempt. Early in the race he experienced diarrhea and eventually collapsed as he was leading at the 35km mark. End of story, right?

Photo courtesy Mirror

Photo courtesy Mirror Online

I cannot tell you who took home the bronze, silver, and gold but I can almost assure you that for years to come, people will remember Yohann Diniz’s victory at the 2016 Olympics. Yes, he experienced bowel issues, and yes, he did collapse and instantly lose any chance of winning the elusive medals, but he’s still a champion. Whereas other Olympians may have left the track in embarrassing defeat, Diniz did the unthinkable and continued on, finishing the race in 8th place which alone is a remarkable feat.

Diniz is a true Olympic champion because he showed strength in continuing on despite every reason to give up and go home. His courage to overcome embarrassment and proudly make it to the finish line is deserving of the highest respect. It takes true fortitude to push through failure and humiliation. With Hope Solo’s immaturity and lack of sportsmanship, and Ryan Lochte’s shameful misadventures bringing disgrace to the Olympian title, its competitors like Diniz that deserve our praise and admiration, not our mockery. He may not have won a medal, and he may never, but he left the 2016 Olympics with his pride and our respect stronger than ever. That alone makes him a true Olympic idol.


Summerslam 2016: Fake Fights, Real Pain

The highlights of WWE’s annual Summerslam were not what you would expect from a wrestling show. Sure, there was a Match of the Year Candidate between AJ Styles and John Cena. But, there was also a multitude of injuries that dared to sour WWE’s second biggest event of the year.

The Women’s championship match between Ric Flair’s daughter, Charlotte and the defending champ, Sasha Banks was extremely physical. Women’s wrestling is awfully dependent on these two to perform quality matches and they did just that. At one point during the slugfest, Banks found herself in a vulnerable position on top of the ropes in the corner of the ring. After what looked like a botched move by Charlotte, Banks hit the ropes on her way down to the canvas and landed awkwardly. She immediately grabbed her lower back in obvious, real pain. For the next few minutes, Banks was slightly off and moves weren’t being executed cleanly. She was able to rally and the ladies’ put on a hell of a match nonetheless, with Charlotte eventually winning.  WWE will be removing Banks from programming for the time being as a result. So much for it being fake.

Photo courtesy SBNation

Photo courtesy SBNation

A few matches later, there was another quality match between the cosplaying Finn Balor and Seth Rollins for the new WWE Universal Title. WWE cut away the cameras after Balor was thrown into the barricade. As they were doing so, you could see Balor quickly jamming his shoulder back into its socket.  What I thought was a brilliant fake injury to get some extra crowd backing as an underdog was just false hope. Balor actually won the match but now may miss up to six months with an injured shoulder. WWE now has to scramble to find a new champion for this hideous new belt.

In the final melee we saw UFC and WWE’s favorite corn-fed roid monster, Brock Lesnar take on Randy Orton. Both guys have been in the company for years and have never had a match on Pay-per-view which gave it a great build. Lesnar dominated the match as expected and had Orton grounded. Lesnar then repeatedly drilled his elbows into Orton’s skull causing massive bleeding. Orton received 12 staples to his forehead.

Photo courtesy

Photo courtesy


WWE is no stranger to blood, but the new PG era doesn’t see it too often. If you watched wrestling in the Attitude era days (who didn’t?) the ring would look like a shoeless John McClane had walked through it every show. The bloodshed in this match caused a lot of speculation afterward. I wasn’t sure how planned it was but then I saw an interesting report from Dave Meltzer of The Wrestling Observer.

The ending of the Randy Orton vs. Brock Lesnar SummerSlam match, which went pretty much as planned, led to a verbal and somewhat physical confrontation between Lesnar and Chris Jericho last night.”

“Lesnar pushed Jericho with his fingers, and Jericho did what was described as the “Rousey-Tate” forehead press. One version [of the story] also had Jericho shoving Lesnar to the wall at one point.

They got tangled up against the wall and Lesnar told Jericho to punch him or kiss him. Paul “HHH” Levesque jumped in quickly and broke it up. It was heated enough that they went back at it at which time Vince McMahon broke it up. Jericho started yelling about Lesnar and McMahon told Jericho that it was all a work and to be professional.”

The ending was planned, but it’s crazy to think how far wrestlers will go to progress a story, not to mention disbelief that the other superstars can have. For the most part, those not involved in the match are aware of the end result. Jericho, who fought earlier in the night, was looking out for Orton and was under the impression that Lesnar went too far.

If a wrestler gets hurt in the process of a scripted story, it’s on to a whole new script for WWE to start from scratch with very little turnaround time.  The dramatic and sometimes soap operatic angles can be ridiculous, but given the elements one can understand why.

The primary takeaway from all of this is the dedication of wrestlers to battle through injury. The harm they endure in the ring can be paralleled to those that occur in professional sports. The value of wins and losses in WWE are fractional in comparison. WWE’s purpose is purely for entertainment, and to see people throw themselves in harm’s way is both impressive and mind-boggling.


College Football Preview

College football is just around the corner, and here’s my first-ever article to give you a nice right-to-the-point preview of the 2016 season.

First, let’s look at the returning Heisman finalists, in order of their 2015 Heisman Rankings.

1. Christian McCaffrey

2. Deshaun Watson


3. Baker Mayfield


4. Leonard Fournette



5. Dalvin Cook


There are two teams looking to win their first game since the 2014 season. I’ll give you a fun fact about each. The Kansas Jayhawks’ last victory came at home when hosting Iowa State on November 8th, 2014, winning comfortably 34-14. To make it even worse, Kansas has not won a road game since 2009.


The UCF Knights’ last win came on a last-second Hail Mary from Justin Holman to Breshad Perriman against East Carolina at Dowdy-Fickle Stadium on a Thursday night thriller. If there’s one thing I’d bet on this year, it’s that these teams will win more games than 2015. ucf1

Here’s a refresher on the more popular coaching changes for the 2016 season:

Kirby Smart to Georgia (formerly DC at Alabama)

Mark Richt to Miami (former HC at Georgia)

Lovie Smith to Illinois (former HC of Tampa Bay Bucs)

Will Muschamp to South Carolina (former DC of Auburn)

Full list of coaching changes

It’s also the third year of the college football playoff system. Woo! Screw the BCS!


Watch List

If you’d like a list of the preseason Top 25, check this out. I don’t like those because you got one there…and on ESPN…and you probably have your own opinion of what it’s like. So why bother? You know it will look much different come playoff time. However, here are a few teams to keep an eye on this year.


These boys are the consensus underdog to go the distance, which kind of doesn’t make them the underdog anymore, but they’re still like the underdog. With a giant RB (6’4”, 230) and dual-threat QB on offense, Evan Berry (Eric’s younger brother) returning punts and kicks (for a touchdown, and another touchdown), and a defense returning over half its starters, they could be that good. A not-so-competitive SEC East makes it a little easier for them too.

The Cougars are coming off a great year with second-year coach Tom Herman, houstonwho led Houston to a 13-1 year ending with a 38-24 win over the defending
national champion Seminoles in the Peach Bowl. Greg Ward Jr is coming off a season as a top-50 rusher with 21 scores on the ground and another 17 through the air, look for him to be a dark horse Heisman candidate.

With Trevone Boykin gone, they don’t have a quarterback right? Nah, they have Kenny Hill who transferred from Texas A & M and will likely lead the always-high-powered Horned Frogs’ offense. If anyone in the Big 12 is going to challenge Oklahoma for the conference title, it’s these guys.

Despite having a question mark at quarterback, FSU is always a playoff fsu
contender. Dalvin Cook is poised to have a huge year on the ground, possibly better than that Fournette guy on LSU. The Seminoles’ defense isn’t that bad either – returning for a consecutive year are most of its D-linemen, OLB’s, and DB’s.

uwYou know, I’m not entirely sure why they’re on my watch list, but I feel like I’ve heard some good things about them in the background noise of my TV playing ESPN. This team is ranked #14 this preseason, which makes them second in the PAC-12 behind Stanford at #8. Come to think of it/look it up, it’s the third year for Chris Petersen at UW, which is about the time new coaches’ vision and plan are well-developed and executed. Disregard that first sentence.

Every year I choose a random team to follow for various reasons, and this year iowathat team is Iowa. If you’re the type who likes old-fashioned football that requires a TEAM effort to win games without any flash, this team is for you (FTR that’s not why I picked them). If you aren’t aware, the Hawkeyes are made of a veteran offense and a half-experienced defense driven by the 2015 All-American & Jim Thorpe Award Winner Desmond King at CB. They just might make the Big 10 Championship game.

ucf2My alma mater has to turn it around after an abysmal 2015 campaign. They will have 3/4 of its starters returning under new head coach Scott Frost, previously the Oregon OC. (Did you know he beat Peyton Manning in the 1998 Orange Bowl while playing QB for Nebraska?) The Knights even got some new uniforms to hopefully inspire some Oregon-esque flare on the field. It won’t be easy getting past Houston to win the American.


Himesman Award

This will of course go to the best all-around college football player of the season. Not only will numbers carry significant weight, but off the field factors (e.g. what brought him here, academics, significance to team’s success) will also play a major role in determining the winner. One factor that will not carry much weight is his team’s W-L record. No, someone from a 0-12 team will not win the award, but recent Heisman winners have been on a championship-bound team. While I respect what it takes to bring your team to the national stage, there have been times a player on a less prestigious team was deserving of the esteemed trophy in college football. And I feel it’s my duty to give that award. The preliminary list will come out next month. And yes, I just created my own “award”. (I mean no copyright infringement, my apologies in advance Heisman Committee members).


Final Thoughts

Here’s an idea for next season and every one thereafter – do away with preseason rankings! Let’s have rankings come out week 4, after most teams have played a couple games. Maybe wait until week 8? Reminiscent of the despised BCS era. I bet it would change the way teams prepare each week, but on the flipside make it more exciting not knowing who is considered the best.

But wait! There’s more! Food for thought – what if rankings were totally abolished and there was one big playoff involving all of the FBS divisions based on final standings and conference title games. More on that in my next article.


Get ready people, it’s college football season!



[Disclaimer, being a UCF alumnus I like to shine some light on my college. However, I will not bias my articles for or against them. Peace peeps, I’m gonna go enjoy Spain for the next 8 days.]


Picture credits:



Keep your eye OFF the ball

One of the first lessons we learned playing sports as kids was to “keep our eye on the ball”. It’s a pretty basic concept, but also a critical one. It was the first skill we had to master before learning to throw, catch, dribble, kick, pass or shoot (the ball). The “ball” represents the center of the action; the past, present and future of the game. Even the most casual sports fan knew that following “the ball” was the minimum attention and effort required to have a basic understanding of that game’s setting, situation and circumstance.

Something I’ve learned in my short lifetime as a sports fan, is that so much can be learned by observing other parts of the game – especially those away from the center of the action. When watching football, I’ve become amused by watching the battle of the offensive and defensive lines. In baseball, the infield alignment adjusting after each pitch is extremely fascinating. The strategy behind situational basketball lineups continues to be intriguing.

Sports provide entertainment, distraction, inspiration and perspective. The motivation behind “Eye off the Ball” is to provide a fresh, unique perspective on sports. The goal is produce content that is not being regurgitated by the mainstream media, ultimately allowing sports fans to look at sports in a new way, or to take their eye off the ball.