Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Phelps loses. Is it the suits?

Of course it's the suits. Michael Phelps, the greatest swimmer of all-time and most famous person to rip it off a bong, came in second in the 200 meter freestyle yesterday at the World Championships in Rome. This was the first individual race that Phelps did not win in four years.

He lost to German Paul Biedermann who set a world record with 1 minute 42.00, shattering Phelps’s year-old world record of 1:42.96. At the Beijing Games, Biedermann finished fifth with a time of 1:46.
Biedermann said, “It was amazing to swim against Michael Phelps. I was there when he won his eighth gold medal. Just to live this moment and now I’m actually faster than him — I feel absolutely great about it.”

Don’t kid yourself Paul – you’re not actually faster than Michael Phelps, based on your more buoyant swimsuit, you were assisted in your victory over Phelps. What would happen if both swimmers competed in cotton boxers? Would Biedermann still be faster than Phelps?

In the first three days of competition, 63% of the races witnessed a world record, or 15 out of 24.

Phelps was unable to “level the playing the field” and use a similar swimsuit since he is sponsored by Speedo. Speedo’s swimsuits are not made entirely of polyurethane like Biedermann’s. FINA has banned these suits startining January 1, 2010, but is now unsure when the ban will take place. The lack of a definitive date has irked Phelps’ coach who has threatened removing him from international competition.

Initially, the goal was to have these swimsuits banned before the World Championships so the record book would not be skewed out of proportion. Unfortunately, with FINA’s lack of progress, they damaged the sport’s biggest stars credibility and now made these current world records that much more difficult to break for future swimmers. Have the decision makers at FINA have been drinking the Kool-Aid from Major League Baseball? If so, time to switch to a new beverage.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

High-Tech Suits Are Banned

In a move that did not surprise anyone, FINA, swimming’s governing body, has banned high-tech swimsuits. However, like most sound decisions, the ban will not start until 2010, allowing swimmers one last hurrah at this weekend’s World Championships in Rome.

When Speedo introduced the LZR Racer swimsuit seventeen months ago, more than 130 world records have fallen. Some swimmers supported the measure including the sports biggest star, Michael Phelps. FINA’s new proposal is that the suits be made of permeable materials and that there be limits to have much the suit covers one’s body.

Now the debate has begun as to whether these swimmers were cheating by using the enhanced swimsuits. One swimmer, Rebecca Adlington, said she would never take a drug so why should she be considered a cheater for swimming in LZR Racer. Mark Schubert, the general manager of the United States national team, suggests that the records from this era should be wiped out because they were achieved through artificial assistance.

This debate has many parallels to the steroid era in baseball. Athletes claiming that they would never knowingly cheat. However, as long as what they are doing is not against the rules, they will take whatever edge they can find. Previously, Italian freestyler Federica Pellegrini wore two swimsuits on her way to a gold medal in Beijing to make her more buoyant. Like baseball dealing with the steroid era, swimming will be debating how to deal with the swimsuit era and those who are unable to maintain their prior levels of accomplishments will be forced to admit that it was a result of the suits.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Karma at the All-Star Game

This year's All-Star Game was actually exciting and watchable...a rare combination indeed. What I found most telling was how it ended with Miguel Tejada making the last out for the National League.

When Tejada first came to the plate, he crushed a fly ball that actually elicited an emotional response from Joe Buck, but alas, the power was not there and the ball landed in the outfielder's glove.

Miguel Tejada earlier this year was sentenced to one year of probation for misleading Congressional investigators during the 2005 steroid investigation. Tejada was also mentioned in the Mitchell Report being linked to two purchases of PEDs. When he came to his last at bat, Buck mentioned his AL MVP award in 2002 and was the MVP of the 2005 All-Star Game, yet failed to mention his ties with PEDs or his recent sentencing.

I thought it was another strikeout on the part of MLB to award a player with "All-Star" recognition who lied to investigators and has been linked to PEDs. Neither of the two biggest stars to be linked to PEDs this year, Alex Rodriguez or Manny Ramirez, were selected by their respective managers to be a reserve on the team like Tejada.

Perhaps Tejada not coming through in the clutch and Buck failing to address the elephant in the room, still illustrates that baseball does not have the foresight to make smart business decisions to promote their game. Karma is real.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Power Outage in Minor League Baseball

Recently, I attended a triple A minor league game in Portland, OR. The stadium was beautiful. The price ($9 day of, $8 in advance) was right. Yet, something was amiss and I'm not talking about the fact that a beer cost more than an advance ticket ($8.75).

As each batter came up, the statistics were downright dismal. Batting averages constantly below 300, only two batters out of both teams had double digit home runs with their All-Star Game a little more than a week away. These players are supposedly the future of their respective ball clubs and they are not lighting it up? What gives?

Stay tuned, this will require some more research.