Saturday, June 23, 2012

06/23 (Title IX) Quickie

Exactly 20 years after Title IX was established, my wife entered college athletics -- something that would have not been possible before the groundbreaking 1972 legislation. She wore her college gear proudly today.

20 years after that, we walked along the Potomac River with our 3-month-old daughter (we have two other older kids, both boys who will never have to deal with gender issues in sports, except maybe their little sister kicking their ass.)

It is astonishing to think about where women's sports was in 1972, then 1992 and now in 2012, when a generation of women following in the footsteps of my wife's generation (which includes folks like Mia Hamm) who themselves followed in the footsteps of the original Title IX generation, along with the women who spent the first 20 years after its passage just trying to create a bit more opportunity for female athletes -- just a chance.

Over the next 20 years, it's hard to say what will happen. The infrastructure for our daughter's sports career has never been stronger -- the girls' youth soccer leagues in suburban Maryland are enough to make you think equality is here.

The number of girls participating will only increase, along with their confidence. The competition will be greater. It will become a lot more like boys' sports, where that increased competition means more girls don't get to reach higher levels.

But along the way, they get to experience the competition and teamwork and self-reliance and self-confidence and every other thing about sports that has less to do with sports itself than what it engenders in the athlete, what it gives them for the rest of their life. That is the legacy of Title IX.

It's not the US women's soccer team. It's not the WNBA. It's not -- and never has been -- about the professionalization of women's sports. It is about the aspiration for women's sports and what it might do for its participants. A college scholarship, maybe, but more importantly, a system to create a generation of even more talented women than the post-Title IX era has created.

My hope for our daughter isn't a college athletic scholarship -- in 20 years when college football has been reduced by insurance liability to a glorified version of touch football, the unintended consequence of all that money evaporating from the system is the hit to collegiate women's sports.

My hope for our daughter is that the Title IX system's trickle-down effect -- the local athletic institutions that get created and bolstered to feed the Title IX pipeline -- allows her to participate in sports as a girl and get all of the wonderful life lessons out of it that women have since 1972.

-- D.S.

Friday, June 22, 2012

06/22 (LeBron) Quickie

I said what I needed to say just after the game last night in the post below.

But I woke up still thinking about that amazing quote from LeBron: "It's about damn time."

There are very few iconic quotes in NBA history. Plenty of iconic moments -- very few iconic quotes. I think LeBron's instantly joins the short list, because it is so pithy yet so profound. It expresses enthusiasm and frustration and joy and arrogance and relief, all in one sentiment.

I think it's how the rest of us feel, too. Maybe that's it: What he said reflects what we're all thinking, so I'm glad he said it -- it means we didn't have to. LeBron and fans and critics, we could all exhale together.

Now, LeBron is a champion. You can't ever take that away from him -- whether he wins multiple rings (still an expectation he can fall short of) or just the one (honestly? unlikely.)

It is a grand tradition of sports fandom that "champion" trumps almost everything. LeBron has a lot of career left -- and probably a ring or two left -- but I think it is fair to say that "champ" bumps "Decision" from the defining moment of his career. As it should be (says even the hater).

But LeBron has done more than become a champ. He has shown the fortitude -- no, the jaw-dropping excellence -- combined with the requisite joy that makes him impossible not to respect.

It's about damn time.

-- D.S.

LeBron, Heat Win the NBA Title

"It's about damn time."

That's LeBron with the quote of the year and a perfect coda to his first NBA title. You can root against LeBron -- I certainly do -- and still feel good for (and about) an all-time great NBA player winning his first ring. Love this instantly shown video from Nike:

Also, this essay from's Kevin Arnovitz is awesome, and quite possibly the best thing you'll read on the LeBron/Heat title, even though it just happened 10 minutes ago.

Congrats to Heat fans. You didn't quite earn it in a way the rest of us would recognize. You didn't quite suffer for it in a way the rest of us would sympathize. But a ring is a ring.

Full Quickish coverage here.

-- D.S.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

06/21 (Game 5) Quickie

Here's what is at stake tonight: Either LeBron wins his first championship or the Thunder takes the series back to the friendly confines of OKC with a puncher's chance to pull of a historic upset.

It will be a big deal if LeBron wins, but you get the sense that the almost-immediate reaction will be: "...And?" One ring will be a start; one ring will not be enough. Necessary, but not sufficient.

CFB Playoff nearly here: The conference commissioners agreed on a plan -- the most sensible plan of the options available (4 teams, best available, selection committee, bowl games host semis, title game site up for bid). In other words: SEC commish Mike Slive won again. It is expected to be ratified next week.

It is an improvement; it is not flawless -- the fury around picking the 3rd and 4th teams in the playoff field (potentially among a half-dozen or more reasonable contenders) is going to be intense, most likely centered around a one-loss SEC runner-up versus a one-loss conference champ (or unbeaten lower-conference team).

Euro 2012 Quarters: Portugal should get past Czech Republic today.

NBA: Trade! The Wizards (my Wizards) used their (our) Rashard Lewis albatross buy-out deal and prodigious cap space to take on two decent (but expensive) complementary players: Trevor Ariza and Emeka Okafor, two potential starters and shoring up areas of weakness: A solid defensive SF who can occasionally shoot the 3 and a shot-blocking anchor in the middle to complement Nene. To those NBA pundits ripping the Wizards for joining the "treadmill of mediocrity," I contend that it is a huge upgrade -- as long as they aren't contending for a title, they might as well be contending for a playoff spot.

NFL:  Percy Harvin wants out. I think he's worth trading for -- a Top 5 most dynamic receiver talent in the NFL.

Today's best read:'s Wayne Drehs on Ryan Lochte.

Best thing I found yesterday: SBNation's amazing video with Bill Murray.

Media: Top sports business reporter Darren Rovell is going back to ESPN after a good run at CNBC. It's a great move for Rovell and ESPN.

Tomorrow's headline today: "Back to OKC!"

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

06/20 (Cramp Game) Quickie

It's going to go down as the "Cramp Game," but more on that in one sec.

First, be sure to pop by Quickish this a.m. -- a bunch of really good takes and reactions, put in a stream so fast it'll take you all of 30 seconds to inhale it (you can get more by clicking on the individual blurbs or watching the videos I posted). Plus, if you want to see new corporate synergy in action, check out the front page of USA Today Sports, which is linking to Quickish's coverage.

OK, so let's start with this: The Heat are up 3-1 and no team has ever come back from a 3-1 deficit in the NBA Finals. My response: So what? OKC has been in both games in Miami right up until the end -- there is no reason (other than if they were broken last night) they can't win Game 5. All of a sudden, the series is 3-2 with the final two games in OKC, where the Thunder can absolutely win Game 6, take back all the momentum and then close out in Game 7.

The point is this: Anyone saying "It's over" this morning needs to go back two weeks and check out their "It's over" columns after Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals.

Meanwhile, if -- IF -- the Heat go on to win the series in five games (maybe even at all), last night's dagger 3 from LeBron on that cramped-up leg is the defining moment of his career. It implodes the mythology that he's soft, that he's not a closer, that he lacks a killer instinct. (That narrative was already specious, but hopefully now it tucks it away. Pundits sure seem ready to do just that... at least until something else happens in Game 5.)

But -- and I say this as someone who roots against LeBron -- it was the single-best moment of his career (ironic, given that he spent the game's dramatic final minute on the bench with that cramp).

Two other thoughts: (1) My 6-year-old is a big Thunder fan, but where I love Durant, he loves Westbrook. When you watch Westbrook play last night, you realize why. (2) James Harden can't possibly play this badly in Game 5 (or 6 or 7), right? That's the difference in the game, not Westbrook committing that dumb foul out of the time-out when the Heat had just a few seconds to get a shot off.

Typically, a 3-1 playoff series would feel a bit lame. But this one feels as dynamic as ever. Game 5 shapes up with a pretty amazing pair of storylines: Either LeBron wins that first ring... or the Thunder send it back to OKC with every chance in the world to complete the greatest comeback in NBA history.

-- D.S.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

06/19 (Not Guilty) Quickie

I think what frustrates me (and others) about the Clemens verdict is that the trial seemed so unnecessary. Everyone has an opinion: He cheated or he didn't. Most people are pretty willing to stipulate that he cheated. So the real question is: Do you care? And when we ask "do you care?" we're really asking "Should he be in the Hall of Fame?"

That Clemens had a Hall of Fame career is beyond question. I think most people are willing to overlook the PEDs -- if nothing else, as a product of the era itself -- and recognize that one of the 5 best pitchers of all time should be in baseball's Hall of Fame.

But others are hell-bent on denying him that entry -- the trial and its verdict was never going to change that. I have a bigger problem with the strident baseball writers -- baseball Hall voters -- than I do with Clemens' PED use (his lying is another thing).

The Hall's looming crisis isn't the vote on players like Clemens and Bonds or the integrity of the Hall should those players (and others from the so-called Steroid Era) be admitted. Its looming crisis is that enough of its runaway electorate themselves threaten to hijack the integrity of the Hall. The Hall's biggest problem is what happens when those all-time greats don't get in.

BTW: R.A. Dickey. Amazing. Best story in baseball this season and a clear-cut pick to start for the N.L. in the All-Star Game.

-- D.S.

Monday, June 18, 2012

06/18 (Monday) Quickie

And so the dominant narrative is that the Heat learned from last year's Finals implosion and are applying that new residual toughness now.

I would say the bigger factor was Kevin Durant picking up his 4th foul late in the 3rd, Scott Brooks inexplicably sitting KD and Westbrook at the same time and James Harden working so hard on defense that his offense suffered -- he was in no shape to carry the O when KD/RW sat down.

The Thunder are one entirely winnable game in either of the next two games from having the Heat exactly where they need them to be: Two OKC home wins from a 4-3 series victory. In other words, I think the Heat winning had more to do with OKC tripping themselves up than Miami asserting.

The larger lesson? Stop worrying about the narratives and just enjoy the series.


*Webb Simpson wins the U.S. Open: Nothing like watching a golfer win a major sitting inside the clubhouse. Tough break for McDowell (tougher break for Furyk...yeesh). Toughest break of all for Tiger, who had a horrible weekend and backslid into irrelevancy (or that old "maybe Tiger isn't back after all" storyline).

More later.

-- D.S.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

06/17 (Father's Day) Quickie

I woke up early this morning and took my 3-year-old to the ice-skating rink. Back in January, he got obsessed with hockey and he likes to go wobbling out on the ice.

Then I took my 6-year-old to a summer basketball thing I signed him up for -- he really likes baskeball (he's partial to the Thunder, although he favors Westbrook over Durant).

This is the day after we all went to Nats Park to watch the Nationals play the Yankees. It was the 6-year-old's second MLB game (we went to Wrigley two summers ago for his first) and the 3-year-old's first MLB game. It was a gorgeous day and a great atmosphere.

The influence dads have on sons when it comes to sports is highly variable. If your dad was a fan, you'll probably become a fan. Usually, team allegiance is inherited, father to son, like male-pattern baldness. (For example, I grew up a huge Cubs and Bears fan -- even in D.C. -- because my dad was a huge Cubs and Bears fan.)

My earliest sports memory is playing a game with my dad where he would say the city name and I would say the NFL team nickname. I was probably 8 or 9. My dad would almost always get us to an Orioles, Bullets and Caps game once a season (a Redskins game if we were really lucky). A few years later, he got a 10-game plan for the Orioles -- it was a fun tradition. By then, I was all-in as a sports fan. But I was also in my late teens.

At 6, Gabe watches NFL Red Zone. He watches ESPNews Highlight Express every morning. He follows my fantasy team. He knows dozens of NFL players -- probably a lot more. He knows every team of the four major sports. He has an insatiable appetite for sports (I just caught him watching Portugal-Holland Euro 2012.)

Maybe this is all of a piece -- kids growing up ever faster as technology makes information more available. Gabe knows every NFL player because he watches Red Zone, where I had to watch whatever Redskins broadcast was on. He knows all the scores, because he plays with my iPhone app Sportacular; I relied on reading the newspaper sports section -- no West Coast scores, obviously -- at breakfast.

He's not just a better fan at 6 than I was at 6 -- he's a better fan at 6 than I was at 10 and he's damn close to being a better fan at 6 than I was at 16. Thank you, Internet + iPhone + Red Zone + ESPN.

As a sports fan, I think it's fun that this is something we can relate to together. It bodes well for a lifetime of bonding over sports fandom, if nothing else. (Let's hope there is more, obviously.) As a parent, I wonder if it's all too much too soon -- but, for now, it's mostly benign, and I am thrilled to answer his many questions, even when we're at a Wizards game and his question is: "Daddy, why are they booing Andray Blatche?"

He is still at the stage of discovering how awesome sports can be -- which, as a dad, it makes me feel like I'm rediscovering how awesome sports can be, too.

-- D.S.