Blogs Should Be What?

The International Olympic Committee has deigned to allow athletes at the 2008 Beijing Olympics to blog. However, the IOC wants to make sure that athletes know the rules beforehand. They cannot post pictures, audio, or video of the events because the IOC does not recognize blogs as a form of journalism:

The IOC has set out guidelines for blogging at the Beijing Games to ensure copyright agreements are not infringed. They include bans on posting any audio or visual material of action from the games themselves. …
“The IOC considers blogging… as a legitimate form of personal expression and not a form of journalism,” the Olympic authority said.
“Blogs should be dignified and in good taste.”

Dignified and in good taste? The IOC obviously hasn’t spent much time reading blogs. Or, maybe they have.
Since this Olympiad takes place in China, where oppression on free speech and Internet access has been a major issue, who becomes the arbiter of dignity and good taste? Will the athletes have to pass their posts through an IOC censor before the text can hit the web? Or will that fall to China’s authoritarian regime, as it does for more than a billion Chinese? Once pre-publication standards get put in place, enforcement always follows.
The real concern isn’t about dignity and taste. It’s the fear that the athletes will use blogs to make political statements about the oppression of the Chinese government. The Olympics have a long and inglorious history of being manipulated for political purposes, by both its athletes and its host nations. The IOC wants to cut off the athletes while looking relaxed, but has no problem staging games in countries known for their dour attitude towards liberty, free speech, and free access to information.
In effect, the IOC has become a mini-me to Beijing in an attempt to straddle that line. Only the East German judges would have given them high marks for courage with this statement — if freedom hadn’t eliminated the ersatz nation of East Germany almost two decades ago.

Super Bowl Live-Dip-Blogging

What better way to watch the biggest spectacle in sports than to kick back in a favorite recliner and live blog while consuming chips and dip? The Super Bowl will hopefully feature a dramatic and close game, but even if it doesn’t, it will provide plenty of entertainment. The game sometimes takes a back seat to the advertising championship that takes place between the plays. I’ll comment on that as well as the game, and in between, I’m going to enjoy my corn chips and guacamole, too.
Keep checking back. I’ll post the comments in reverse-chronological order so the latest will be on top.
9:14 – Thanks to all the CapQ readers who came along for the ride, especially Jazz in the comments, where he was as good as a co-blogger tonight. Great job, Jazz. This may have been one of the best Super Bowls I’ve ever watched, except for the five in which the Pittsburgh Steelers won. It’s probably the greatest 4th quarter in a Super Bowl since Pittsburgh beat Dallas 37-35 in 1979. It’s probably the biggest upset since Broadway Joe picked his Jets to beat the Colts almost 40 years ago.
What a great game!
9:03 – GIANTS WIN! GIANTS WIN! Don Shula, break out the champagne. Eli Manning just made himself into a superstar, and the Patriots have to live with the choke of the decade. They finally put in a championship drive, and Manning answered back with another. What a game, and what a gut-check by the Giants and Eli Manning.
8:56 – Eli Manning, Stud. What a great series from the Kid. They left 35 seconds on the board for the Patriots — and if they want to earn perfection, they have their work cut out for them.
8:55 – The Pats are getting better pressure on Manning.
8:52 – Holy cow, this turned into an exciting game!
8:46 – Ben Roethlisbeger tanks … on the Pina Colada Song. The only network promo I’ve liked all night long (for American Idol).
8:42 – Eli has to go 83 yards in 2:39. Here’s where you earn the ring, baby.
8:39 – Randy Moss, wide open. The First Mate is boooooing. She hates Moss, but that was one hell of a drive.
8:35 – Only three minutes left in the game. If the Pats can score a TD, Manning may not have enough time to answer it.
8:30 – Can Brady lead another 4th-quarter come from behind win? He’s putting together a good drive now.
8:26 – And a good stop by the Pats D. Brady and his O had better show up soon, or the perfect season’s going to end in the perfect choke.
8:20 – Big stop by the Giants D. That could be the game, if Bradshaw can run the ball.
8:13 – Bill Frist and James Carville, sharing a Coke and a smile. Well, not bad, but I liked Charlie Brown getting the Coke in the previous break a little better.
8:11 – And they do! The Giants look like they’ve figured something out, and Don Shula may be able to breathe again soon ….
8:09 – Eli’s coming … The Giants O has come alive again, but they’d better score a TD.
8:01 – That 3rd quarter went quickly! The Pats will likely pin the Giants deep on the upcoming punt. It’s a field-position, ball-control game. The Pats may have made some inroads in that strategy. Their D has to get a big stop. And I liked the Chester Pitts NFL commercial, too. “What do you play?” “The oboe … it’s a member of the woodwind family.”
7:53 – Forgot to mention the Bridgestone ad where the car accelerates towards Richard Simmons — pretty funny, and you have to give Simmons credit for poking fun at himself.
7:52 – Pats D comes up with a big stop, but the O is in the hole on their 10-yard line. They’d better start moving the ball a little better.
7:43 – Why didn’t the Pats kick the field goal? 4th-and-13? What was Belichick thinking?
7:41 – The Pats just seem to be gutting this out …
7:37 – Chase Blackburn better hope his D rescues him from a really stupid penalty. Good on Belichick for challenging it, too.
7:32 – Wow — did anyone find the SalesGenie panda commercial just a wee bit un-PC?
7:31 – Not a bad series for either team to start. The Pats protected Brady a little better, and manages to pin Manning deep in his own territory.
7:26 – Expect dink-n-dunk from Brady in the second half — all quick release passes.
7:23 – Wow — it’s going to be a 40-minute break by the time they get the offense back on the field. Which team spent the long halftime making the best adjustments?
7:05 – I love Tom Petty, but this looks like the Pacemakers more than the Heartbreakers.
7:04 – Was that a guitar float moving across the field, or a tribute to the ultimate wardrobe malfunction?
6:56 – An excellent and moving anti-smoking commercial. I really thought it was a trailer for a lame knockoff of Father of the Bride (either version), and I could have sworn that was Blythe Danner playing the mom.
6:51 – Exciting! Great first half, and the Patriots don’t look terribly invincible so far. The Giants D has done a good job, even if their O hasn’t. 7-3 at the half, and the Patriots get the ball first in the second half.
6:37 – Neither offense looks particularly adept tonight. And that cashew commercial was just … disturbing.
6:30 – Well, the Pats look as poor as the Giants on offense. Giants are going to take it back to the running game now.
6:22 – The Giants looked pretty rattled on the next series. If they can’t pull it together, they’ll watch the Pats put up a lead they can’t overcome.
6:20 – I liked the Garmin Napoleon ad, and Leatherheads looks pretty good. I still think the Audi commercial gets the nod so far.
6:18 – The Giant D gets their first stop of the night, and Eli’s off the hook.
6:15 – Oh, Eli’s made his first post-season mistake. That’s a killer.
6:10 – Amazing pass and catch to Amani Toomer.
6:04 – GoDaddy has their ad on line, where they can market to their spammer base. Dell continues its series of lame commercials with “Red”. The FedEx commercial with the giant pigeons — a subliminal message for the game? And the Tide to Go ad was pretty funny, especially if you’ve ever interviewed a candidate who showed up in stained clothes, which I have.
6:02 – Patriots score the TD. Again, this looks like the San Diego game again.
6:00 – The Bridgestone screaming squirrel was cute. Nothing earthshaking, but better than the flatulent-horses beer commercial from a few years back. And you all missed a pretty good local Twins commercial….
5:58 – What a bad penalty on the pass in the end zone! That’ll cost the Giants.
5:55 – The Patriots look pretty good moving the ball, too.
5:51 – Jazz liked the Underarmor commerical, but it didn’t impress me. It just reminded me of Dune, which didn’t impress me either.
5:47 – Pepsi Max commercial doesn’t impress, but Lawrence Moroney does on the kickoff return. Let’s see if Tom Brady can move the Pats better than Manning did the Giants. He’ll have a shorter field in which to do it.
5:44 – The Patriot D stiffens and holds the Giants to a field goal. That’s points, but the Giants might want to ask San Diego how it worked out for them to get field goals instead of TDs in the redzone.
5:40 – Peyton Manning, spectator, watches as his little brother keeps the Giants moving pretty well.
5:37 – Was that Alex Rocco in that Godfather satire in the Audi commercial? That one was pretty good. And Rocco is a Godfather alum, too — he played Moe Green, who made his bones while Michael was out banging cheerleaders.
5:33 – Manning converts his first 3rd-down try. That should help settle down the inexperienced QB.
5:30 – And we’re off — with a mundane kick return. Let the commercials roll, as Jazz advises they will in the comments!
5:26 – Giants win the toss. I think they elected to receive, but all of the commentary drowned out the actual events on the field. How better to encapsulate a Super Bowl?
5:22 – Not seeing too many new commercials today. I’m now seeing the Dell “Que Sera Sera” commercial for the fourth time, and it’s not getting any better.
5:15 – Nice commercial for Ronald McDonald House.
5:11 – Anyone think we’ll have a wardrobe malfunction today? I was liveblogging that Super Bowl, too.
5:00 – Yeah, that was pretty awesome. It was great seeing Jim Brown, Ronnie Lott, Alan Page, Roger Staubach, and Don Shula as part of that — but even better to see FDNY and the US Navy as well.
4:54 – The traditional recitation of the Declaration of Independence. Well, maybe not entirely traditional, but I’d call it more meaningful than the playing of our national anthem.
4:50 – 10 minutes to game time. So far, I haven’t seen any new commercials except perhaps for the strange “Que Sera Sera” Dell ad. Do computer buyers care about “pretty” more than power, speed, or function?
4:48 – You know, when Monday Night Football used Dennis Miller, they had a good blend of comedy and commentary. With Frank Whoever on Fox, it’s beyond pointless.
4:35 PM CT – Bradygate! He didn’t return Eli Manning’s pregame greeting. He has several better moments in his interview with Terry Bradshaw, a man who Tom Brady hopes to equal in Super Bowl wins tonight.

Super Sunday

Will today’s Super Bowl give us the second undefeated champion of the modern era in the New England Patriots? Or will we see the New York Giants extend their improbable ten-game road winning streak and derail perfection? Most football fans would probably be satisfied with a competitive and interesting game, but a Super Bowl would not be the spectacle it is without the subplots and the drama — and the predictions.
So here’s mine: New England Patriots win, 27-20. What’s yours?

These Were, Well, Super

The two NFL championship games yesterday turned out more competitive than first thought, with the NFC title decided in overtime for the second time in history. The result has the undefeated team overcoming their quarterback’s worst game all year to go to the Super Bowl. He gets to face the kid brother of his AFC nemesis, who beat the league’s cold-weather team on the third-coldest playoff game in history.
First, the Patriots get a chance at history, but only after overcoming three interceptions by a QB who only had eight all season:

With a trip to Super Bowl XLII at stake and NFL history hanging in the balance, the Patriots relied on their stout defense and clock-burning running game to beat San Diego, 21-12, turning back an inspired effort by the banged-up Chargers.
It was an oh-so-close call for the undefeated Patriots, who overcame three interceptions by Brady and on three occasions stopped the Chargers inside the New England 10-yard line.
Said linebacker Mike Vrabel: “It was probably our time to win a game.”
And now the Patriots have a chance to win their fourth Super Bowl since 2001, plus secure a hallowed place in league history. They’re 18-0 and with one more victory will join the 1972 Miami Dolphins as the only teams to win every game, from opener through grand finale.

For those who had forgotten that the Pats won 17 on their defense as well as their offense, Sunday provided a reminder. The Patriot D put on a tour de force showing yesterday. Despite the uncharacteristic sloppiness of Tom Brady, they kept the Chargers out of the end zone.
As for the Chargers, they seemed to overcome the exit of LaDainian Tomlinson and have energy and enthusiasm to spare. They moved the ball at will through all but the last ten yards of the field. They simply could not cross the goal line, and while the Chargers will spend all off-season trying to assign blame for that on their offense, truthfully it was the spirited New England defense that gets the credit.
On the other hand, the NFC championship appeared to have an unending supply of goats:

Lawrence Tynes couldn’t have been feeling confident after hooking two field-goal tries — two potential game winners — wide left.
But with the New York Giants facing a crucial fourth down in overtime — try an improbable 47-yard field goal or try for a first down — Tynes did not wait for his coach to decide.
“I just ran on the field,” he said. “I kind of made the decision for him.”
Moments later, his kick sailed through the uprights, giving the Giants a 23-20 victory over the Green Bay Packers in the NFC championship game at sub-zero Lambeau Field on Sunday night.

Tynes avoided being a goat with his surprising 47-yarder, but both teams had missed opportunities. Thanks to the cold, passes got dropped and mistakes got made, and neither team looked especially sharp. The Giants managed to keep moving the ball, however, while the Packers offense appeared to freeze solid sometime in the third quarter.
Brett Favre has managed miracles all during his career, but last night he and his entire team came up empty. They never did adjust to the run defense of the Giants during the game, and it looked like the cold kept them from making any adjustments at all. Favre had little of his usual snap on his passes, and the final interception looked like a dead duck from the moment it left his hands. In the end, the Giants proved more adept and more adaptable in the cold, and Eli Manning completely outplayed Favre in the latter’s element.
Tom Brady now has to face off against a Manning in the Super Bowl — it’s just the other Manning, the one people had begun to write off earlier this season. Will he follow his brother to championship glory and end the dream for the perfect Patriots? Given his own perfection over the last three weeks — and the fact that the Giants get to stay on the road, where they’ve won a record 10 in a row — it’s a distinct possibility.

Who Goes To The Super Bowl?

Instead of debating the meaning of the South Carolina and Nevada primaries, most people will gather today to see who gets to go to the really big show — the Super Bowl. Will the Patriots beat the Chargers to stay undefeated and play for the right to claim themselves the greatest football team of all time? Will the Giants send another Manning to a Super Bowl by defeating perhaps the greatest quarterback of all time in Green Bay?
I’ll offer a few predictions:
* NFC – The game will be played late, when the temps will dip below zero, but when snow will not be likely. That will negate a little of Green Bay’s home-turf advantage, but not all of it. Ryan Grant will run well enough to keep pressure off of Brett Favre, and Eli Manning will not get enough protection to have the kind of superb game he would need to beat the Pack. I see Favre going to his last Super Bowl. Pack over the Giants, 27-20. (I’m worried about the Giants’ terrific road strength, though. This will be a great game.)
* AFC – Even at full strength, the Chargers would have a hard time beating the Patriots in San Diego, let alone in Foxboro. Philip Rivers and LaDanian Tomlinson are both dinged up, and Antonio Gates more so. They beat the Colts with their second squad offense, but the Colts are not the Patriots. Expect this one to get ugly. Patriots over the scrappy but undermanned Chargers, 38-17.
What are your picks?

Perfect Suspense

In the end, it turned out much more suspenseful than anyone predicted. At one point, the New England Patriots found themselves down 28-16, then scored 22 unanswered points to seemingly put it away. They then had to weather a late effort by Eli Manning to hold on, 38-35, to have the first perfect regular season of the 16-game schedule, and the first in 35 years overall.
Tom Brady came out roaring in the second half, but the big surprise came from Manning, who had played poorly in the previous four games. Tonight, he looked a lot like his older brother had switched jerseys with him. Until the fourth quarter, Eli played flawlessly. He looked commanding, poised, and prepared. Only an unfortunate interception in the last stanza marred his record, and it provided the Patriots with the drive that won the ballgame.
Once again, the Patriots looked beatable … for a while. That 22-point run looked mighty impressive, especially given the forgettable first half the Patriots defense played. They got tough when it counted. That makes them look fairly unstoppable, and with a first-round bye to rest everyone, they will be fresh for their next opponent.
The Giants played with a lot of heart tonight, but got coached with little brains. Tom Coughlin watched two key players go out of the game with injuries, especially Sam Madison in a defensive backfield already weakened with injury. If Eli Manning or Plaxico Burress had gone down with a season-ending injury, Giants fans would rightly have asked what the hell Coughlin was thinking in keeping him in this meaningless game. As it is, they will go into the first round coming off a hard-fought loss and shorthanded. Coughlin validated the Patriot win, but that’s hardly his first responsibility in coaching the Giants.
Will this go down as the greatest team in modern NFL history? Not unless they win the Super Bowl. It’s the greatest regular season ever, but if they can’t add a Lombardi Trophy to accompany it, history will rightly question why they failed. Nick Buoniconti and Bob Griese still have bragging rights, at least for five more weeks.

The Foregone Conclusion Will Get Broadcast Live

The NFL put an end to one of the dumbest controversies in politics this season, and an end to grandstanding by a Congress that has accomplished next to none of its own business. The league has decided to have CBS and NBC join the NFL Network in televising the final regular-season game of the New England Patriots:

After weeks of insisting they wouldn’t cave in, NFL officials did just that Wednesday. Now all of America can see the Patriots’ shot at history.
Saturday night’s game between New England and the New York Giants on the NFL Network, which is available in fewer than 40 percent of the nation’s homes with TVs, will be simulcast on CBS and NBC.
The Patriots could become the first NFL team to go 16-0 in the regular season.

Could? The Patriots have proven themselves as operating at another level, while the Giants have struggled to make the playoffs. Not only that, but the game means nothing to the Giants. They won’t risk their chances in the playoffs by getting Eli Manning or the rest of their starters hurt. They may play the first quarter, but after that the Giants will be giving their bench a warm-up for the postseason.
And why did the Senate get involved in this game? It may be stupid for the NFL to take its highest-profile games and reserve them for their own channel, but that would be their stupid decision and none of the government’s business. One can understand John Kerry pandering to his constituents, but Pat Leahy and Arlen Specter threatened the NFL’s anti-trust exemption as an extortive device to get them to break their exclusivity contract with a Boston television channel. If the anti-trust exemption is bad public policy, then Congress should revoke it, and if it isn’t, then Congress should quit using it as leverage to determine the league’s broadcast schedule.
Congress can’t even pass its own budgets on time. What makes any of them think they have the competence to run someone else’s business? If this is the new direction promised for the 110th Congress, then it’s a Wrong-Way Riegels.

My Steelers Prediction — NFL Week 14 Thread

Today the Pittsburgh Steelers meet the undefeated New England Patriots in Foxboro. The Patriots face the toughest remaining test this year in their quest to match and surpass the 1972 Miami Dolphins. Miami, meanwhile, faces off against Buffalo not far away to maintain its perfect season of futility.
Anthony Smith predicts a Steeler win:

Certainly, Steelers second-year safety Anthony Smith thinks so. The big discussion in the Patriots locker room Thursday was Smith’s bold guarantee of victory.
“We heard about it,” Brady said. “Coach always says we do our talking on Sundays. I’m glad they feel that way. I hope they feel that way. We’ll see who comes out ahead on Sunday.”
Belichick, whose quotes always seem to be in lockstep with Brady, added, “I would expect when Pittsburgh walks out there, they’re going to expect a win. I can’t imagine they would approach it any differently.

My prediction? Steelers win a tough game of smashmouth football, 27-21. Miami’s already losing 21-7, so I think that streak will be safe. What are your predictions for today? The thread is open ….
UPDATE: Well, crud. Both teams kept their streaks alive, and Smith will have to get new uniforms next week to get one without the scorch marks left on him by Pats receivers:

Tom Brady threw four touchdown passes, shattering Steelers safety Anthony Smith’s guarantee of a victory, Randy Moss caught two of them and New England crushed Pittsburgh 34-13 on Sunday.
The lopsided victory against the NFL’s stingiest defense followed a two-game struggle in which the Patriots (13-0) needed late comebacks to beat teams with losing records, Philadelphia and Baltimore.

I missed the game; I spent the evening watching the Little Admiral sing in a church Christmas pageant. The First Mate teasingly sympathized with me for missing the game, but I obviously made the right choice.

The Patriots Stay Unbeaten With Baltimore’s Help

It looked as though the New England Patriots would lose their perfect season in Baltimore last night. On a desperation fourth-down play, Tom Brady couldn’t execute the sneak to get the final yard, and the Ravens took over on downs — except that their bench had called a time out just before the play to ice the Patriots. That one misstep encapsulated a quarter in which the Ravens gave the game back to the Pats in a nailbiter that kept New England perfect for at least another week:

The New England Patriots, pushing for the first undefeated season by an NFL team in 35 years, marched into Baltimore on Monday night and nearly ended up with a bruised ego and an embarrassing loss.
Thanks to willpower and sheer luck, the Patriots defeated the Ravens, 27-24, and walked off with their 12th straight victory.
Behind, 24-20, with less than three minutes left, Tom Brady methodically marched the Patriots into a bind. With the ball just past midfield, the Patriots ran into a fourth and one. Brady tried a quarterback sneak and got stuffed. The game should have been over.
Instead, the Patriots got lucky. A Baltimore coach called timeout just before the snap, allowing the drive to continue. After two more game-saving fourth-down plays, and a crucial defensive holding penalty on Baltimore, Brady found receiver Jabar Gaffney for an 18-yard touchdown pass that sealed the victory and kept the Patriots’ streak alive.

The Pats looked very beatable last night, struggling for most of the first half. The second half started to look the same, but somewhere in the last quarter, Baltimore looked like it just couldn’t handle success. For some reason, with a one-touchdown lead and a drive looking like it might put the game out of reach, Kyle Boller decided to crank up a bomb — to a section of turf with five Patriots and not a Raven in sight. The return gave the Pats great field position and allowed them to score a crucial field goal — the difference in the game.
New England has run on fumes the last two games. Philadelphia, not exactly a tough team this year, nearly beat them with an aggressive defense. Baltimore would have beat them with the same kind of defense if the offense had been just a little better. Next week, they play Pittsburgh at home. Pittsburgh has also struggled a bit against poorer competition, but they play the kind of physical defense that has stymied New England of late, and they have an offense that can put points on the board. The Steelers also know how to play in cold and sloppy weather, which Foxboro will likely provide next week.
Here’s my prediction: The Steelers will upset the Pats, 27-21. You read it here first.

Can The Dolphins Do It?

The NFL and its fans have a rare opportunity to follow two teams pushing for perfection in the same season. Tonight, the New England Patriots take on history again as well as the Baltimore Ravens in tonight’s Monday night game, hoping to extend their unbeaten record in 2007. Yesterday, the Dolphins managed to clear the most significant hurdle in their quest for another kind of perfection:

It’s going to be tough to stop the Miami Dolphins now.
The last realistic obstacle in their path to imperfect immortality — the New York Jets — came and went Sunday, dropping a 40-13 defeat on the Dolphins as easily as Miami quarterback John Beck dropped the football — twice — when he wasn’t throwing it to Jets defenders.
After three interceptions and two lost fumbles by Beck, the Dolphins were left at 0-12 with four games to play. They are the seventh team to open the NFL season with 12 consecutive defeats but the first to get there with seemingly no way out of an indelible 0-16 tag.*
(*The 1976 Tampa Bay Buccaneers went 0-14 because 31 years ago, NFL rules prevented teams from losing more than 14 games during a regular season. That changed in 1978, when the league expanded its regular-season schedule to 16 games. The Buccaneers went on to lose their first 12 games of the 1977 season for an overall 26-game losing streak, but the record does show that Tampa Bay never finished a season worse than 0-14. Sorry, Dolphins fans. Rules are rules.)

Florida may well find itself with two goose-egged NFL teams in history. At least the 1976 Bucs had some excuses. They had just come into existence as an expansion franchise in an era with some considerable hurdles to forming a first-year team. The NFL didn’t have free agency at the time, so a free-spending new owner could hardly have bought his way to respectability, or even a couple of wins. It was a team of cast-offs and rookies, and legendary USC coach John McKay learned how Casey Stengel felt while managing the Mets in 1962. Asked to comment after one game about his team’s execution, McKay replied that he thought it sounded like a good idea.
The Dolphins could use the excuse that they’re in their 41st year as an expansion team, and they’ve certainly played like it. Despite going 0-for-2007, the Dolphins went into yesterday’s game as the favorites. The Jets had just stunned the Steelers with a win at home, but otherwise had only beaten one other team — the Dolphins, also at home. With home-field advantage and having just lost to the Steelers on the road by the only three points scored in the game, oddsmakers figured the Dolphins couldn’t be bad enough to lose at home against the Jets.
Hopefully, Vegas casinos will absorb the shock at the slots. The Jets creamed the Dolphins in their worst loss all season — and it doesn’t get any better for Miami from this point forward. They have to play Baltimore, Buffalo, Cincinnati, and the unbeaten Patriots to close out the season. They will have a tough time avoiding immortality as the only 0-16 NFL team ever.
This season could feature an impossible pas de deux: an unbeaten team and an all-beaten team, together in the same division. It would be the stuff of legend. Football fans will be on the edge of their seats for the rest of the year, and it’s about the only way Miami could generate any interest at all.