Tuesday, July 31, 2012

London 2012: Olympic Village Shenanigans

Home to more than 10,000 athletes at the Summer Games and 2,700 at the Winter, the Olympic Village is one of the world's most exclusive clubs. To join, prospective members need only have spectacular talent and -- we long assumed -- a chaste devotion to the most intense competition of their lives. But the image of a celibate Games began to flicker in '92 when it was reported that the Games' organizers had ordered in prophylactics like pizza. Then, at the 2000 Sydney Games, 70,000 condoms wasn't enough, prompting a second order of 20,000 and a new standing order of 100,000 condoms per Olympics.

Many Olympians, past and present, abide by what Summer Sanders, a swimmer who won two gold medals, a silver and a bronze in Barcelona, calls the second Olympic motto: "What happens in the village stays in the village." Yet if you ask enough active and retired athletes often enough to spill their secrets, the village gates will fly open. It quickly becomes clear that, summer or winter, the games go on long after the medal ceremony.

"There's a lot of sex going on," says women's soccer goalkeeper Hope Solo, a gold medalist in 2008. "If you don't have discipline, the village can be a huge distraction," Solo admits.

How much sex?

"I'd say it's 70 percent to 75 percent of Olympians," offers world-record-holding swimmer Ryan Lochte, who will be in London for his third Games. "Hey, sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do."

The games begin as soon as teams move in a week or so before opening ceremonies. "It's like the first day of college," says water polo captain Tony Azevedo, a veteran of Beijing, Athens and Sydney who is returning to London. "You're nervous, super excited. Everyone's meeting people and trying to hook up with someone."

Which is perfectly understandable, if not to be expected. Olympians are young, supremely healthy people who've been training with the intensity of combat troops for years. Suddenly they're released into a cocoon where prying reporters and overprotective parents aren't allowed. Pre-competition testosterone is running high. Many Olympians are in tapering mode, full of excess energy because they're maintaining a training diet of up to 9,000 calories per day while not actually training as hard. The village becomes "a pretty wild scene, the biggest melting pot you've been in," says Eric Shanteau, an American who swam in Beijing and will be heading to London.

Still, some coaches try to limit late-night activities by enforcing 11 p.m. noise curfews, banning alcohol consumption or, in the case of USA Swimming, forbidding cross-gender visitation in bedrooms. Amanda Beard, with two golds, four silvers and one bronze medal to her name, was in a relationship with another swimmer during the 2000 Games but says, "People would walk around for miles to try to sneak somewhere."

Many on-the-prowl athletes maintain that they're driven by a simple human need: intimacy, if only for a moment or three. For most Olympians, the ramp-up to the Games is lonely. Not unlike movie stars on a far-flung movie shoot, the Olympics present the perfect opportunity to find a partner who understands where they're coming from. "Think about how hard it is to meet someone," Azevedo says. "Now take an Olympian who trains from 6 a.m. until 5 p.m. every day. When the hell are you supposed to meet someone? Now the pressure is done, you're meeting like-minded people ... and boom."

Typically, the swimmers are some of the lucky ones who wrap up early. For Lochte, that typically means "hitting a local pub and drinking with the soccer hooligans," he says. But a teammate in Athens had a better idea: sex on his village balcony. "Another team saw it, which led to a big argument because they accused me. I said, 'No, I'm innocent,'" Lochte says, laughing. "I'm always innocent." After his team finished its events in Beijing, "our coach sat us down and gave us what I can only describe as the birds-and-the-bees talk," says gold medalist Cullen Jones. "We're like, 'Okay, this is extremely awkward.'"

Just outside the village are sponsors parties. But what most Olympians want, in the end, is to bring the party back to the village.

"Athletes are extremists," Solo says. "When they're training, it's laser focus. When they go out for a drink, it's 20 drinks. With a once-in-a-lifetime experience, you want to build memories, whether it's sexual, partying or on the field. I've seen people having sex right out in the open. On the grass, between buildings, people are getting down and dirty."

And then there's the one party that can't be missed: the closing ceremony. Says Ferguson: "They basically throw us all in a stadium and say, 'Just go for it, party hard, get drunk and do some groping.' Which we did, with some Canadians." Here's what you don't see on TV: all of the athletes who arrive inebriated and, throughout the ceremony, sneak back and forth between the infield and the stadium with drinks. Somewhere in the middle of this party, typically, is America's women's soccer team, whose tournament runs the duration of the Games. "This is our chance to let loose," Brandi Chastain says. "Our hair is on fire, we're leaving the next morning, and we're going to enjoy our last 24 hours."

After the Beijing Games, the women went, well, Hollywood. Solo recounts the story: "I probably shouldn't tell you this, but we met a bunch of celebrities. Vince Vaughn partied with us. Steve Byrne, the comedian. And at some point we decided to take the party back to the village, so we started talking to the security guards, showed off our gold medals, got their attention and snuck our group through without credentials -- which is absolutely unheard of." And, she adds, "I may have snuck a celebrity back to my room without anybody knowing, and snuck him back out. But that's my Olympic secret." The best part, according to Solo? "When we were done partying, we got out of our nice dresses, got back into our stadium coats and, at 7 a.m. with no sleep, went on the Today show drunk. Needless to say, we looked like hell."

And then it's over -- for most Olympians, anyway. For a few and the most committed, the games continue -- all the way home. On a United Airlines flight from Sydney to Los Angeles in 2000, nearly 100 Olympians were among the passengers, causing the flight attendants to begin the flight with a warning: "Ladies and gentlemen, anybody who wishes to sleep, trade seats with someone in the front of the plane. Everybody else to the back with the Olympians." After that, the story gets fuzzy.

It's tales like these -- of connections made and just as easily ditched -- that have London-bound Olympians dreaming of the possibilities. "My last Olympics, I had a girlfriend -- big mistake," Lochte says. "Now I'm single, so London should be really good. I'm excited." So is American runner LaShawn Merritt, the reigning Olympic gold medalist in the 400 meters. "An Olympics to remember has to have those stories," Merritt says. "But I was too locked in in Beijing. This time, when I'm done leaving my legacy on the track," he says, laughing, "I'll make sure London remembers me."

London 2012: Schedule

"The first three days of NBC’s London Games coverage clocked about 36 million viewers on average — the biggest crowd through the first weekend of any Summer Olympics in history. And by “in history,” we mean since the 1960 Games in Rome, which was the first televised Olympics. Prime time is where the network makes the money that helps pay for the $1.1 billion fee NBC paid to license the Games, plus another $200 million for production costs. Brian Roberts, chief of NBC parent Comcast, said that NBC had sold just over $1 billion of ad time as of Monday."

More information:
» London 2012 Schedule
» Guide to London Olympics: Can't-Miss Moments
» Olympics 2012 and the Tyranny of Now
» @NBCDelayed

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Michael Jackson - "Thriller" (1983)

"Thriller" is a song recorded by American recording artist Michael Jackson, composed by Rod Temperton, and produced by Quincy Jones. The song peaked at #4 on the Billboard Hot 100 and became Jackson's seventh top-ten single from the album, while reaching the top of the charts in France and Belgium and the top ten in other countries. It is considered an funk disco song. Set in the key of C♯ Modern Dorian, its instrumentation consists of synthesizer, guitar, trumpet, flugelhorn, saxophone, flute and trombone. The song has a moderate tempo of 120 beats per minute.

"Thriller" was adapted into a highly successful music video, known independently as Michael Jackson's Thriller. The video was directed by John Landis, who co-wrote the screenplay with Michael Jackson. Contrary to reports of a $1 million dollar production budget, Landis stated that the music video was made for $500,000.

At fourteen minutes the video is substantially longer than the song, which ties together a narrative featuring Jackson and actress/former Playboy centerfold Ola Ray in a setting heavily inspired by horror films of the 1950s. In the video's most iconic scene, Jackson leads other actors costumed as zombies in a choreographed dance routine.

The video was choreographed by Jackson and Michael Peters (who had worked with the singer on his prior hit "Beat It"). The video also contains incidental music by film music composer Elmer Bernstein, who had previously worked with Landis on An American Werewolf in London, and a spoken word performance by horror film veteran Vincent Price. Rick Baker assisted in prosthetics and makeup for the production.

Though it garnered some criticism for its occult theme and violent imagery, the video was immediately popular and received high critical acclaim, being nominated for six MTV Video Music Awards in 1984 and winning three. Thriller won Viewers Choice, Best Overall Performance and Best Choreography — but lost Best Concept Video, Best Male Video and Video Of The Year.

Voted as the most influential pop music video of all time, Thriller proved to have a profound effect on popular culture, and was named "a watershed moment for the [music] industry" for its unprecedented merging of filmmaking and music. MTV listed the music video as being the "Greatest Music Video Ever Made" on their list, "MTV: 100 Greatest Music Videos Ever Made" in 1999. It was listed as the "Greatest Video" on VH1's "VH1: 100 Greatest Videos" in 2001. In July 2011, the music video was named one of "The 30 All-TIME Best Music Videos" by TIME magazine. Guinness World Records listed it in 2006 as the "most successful music video", selling over 9 million units. In 2009 it was added to the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress, the first music video ever selected, for being “culturally, historically or aesthetically” significant.

In June 2011, the jacket that Michael Jackson wore in the video sold for $1.8 million at auction to Milton Verret, who said the jacket was the greatest piece of rock and roll memorabilia in history and that he would use it to raise money for children's charities.

Spotlight: John Landis

"In my career, my movies tend to polarize critics. The same movies I made that everybody shit on are now referred to as classic films and benchmarks by the same schmucks who shit on them in the first place."
Wikipedia | Rotten Tomatoes:
When Landis was eight years old, he watched The 7th Voyage of Sinbad which inspired him to become a director: "I had complete suspension of disbelief -- really, I was eight years old and it transported me. I was on that beach running from that dragon, fighting that Cyclops. It just really dazzled me, and I bought it completely. And so, I actually sat through it twice and when I got home, I asked my mom, "Who does that? Who makes the movie?'"

When he was 16, he began working as a mailboy at 20th Century Fox. His first noteworthy job in Hollywood was working as a "go-fer" and then as an assistant director during filming MGM's Kelly's Heroes in Yugoslavia in 1969; he replaced the film's original assistant director, who suffered from a nervous breakdown and was sent home by the producers. Following this, Landis worked on many films made in Europe (especially in Italy and England), most notably, Once Upon a Time in the West, El Condor and A Town Called Bastard. Landis also worked as a stunt double.

In 1971, Landis made his feature debut as a director with Schlock. He was 21 years old. The film, which he also wrote and starred in, is a tribute to monster movies. The gorilla suit for the film was made by Rick Baker -- the beginning of a long-term collaboration between Landis and Baker. Schlock was a failure, and Landis was not offered another directing job for some time.

But the film opened a door for Landis when David Zucker spotted him discussing the film on "The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson". Mentioning to friend Robert Weiss that he was impressed with the young filmmaker's energy, Weiss remarked that he was friends with Landis, and the result was The Kentucky Fried Movie (1977). A dream collaboration in anarchic humor, the wildly irreverent, non sequitur humor struck a chord with audiences fueled on "Saturday Night Live".

Natural progression lead to the breakthrough comedy National Lampoon's Animal House (1978) the following year. Based on the writer's college exploits and shot in a mere 28 days, Animal House proved an unmitigated smash hit at the box office despite nearly unanimous critical denouncement.

The Chicago native then co-wrote Dan Aykroyd's script and directed The Blues Brothers (1980), a comedy starring John Belushi and Aykroyd. Given free reign over his next film by Universal, rumors still persist that The Blues Brothers was the first film in cinematic history to begin production without a finalized budget. It was, at the time, one of the most expensive films ever made, at a cost of almost $30 million. It is speculated that Steven Spielberg and Landis engaged in a friendly rivalry, the goal of which was to make the more expensive movie. For comparison, the earlier Spielberg's contemporary 1941 cost $35 million. A loud and spectacular collage of driving blues music and eye-popping car crashes, the film not only made the world record for the number of cars crashed in a movie, but proved an even bigger hit than Animal House. It features musical numbers by R&B and soul legends James Brown, Cab Calloway, Aretha Franklin, Ray Charles and John Lee Hooker.

In 1981, Landis wrote and directed another cult-status movie, the comedy-horror An American Werewolf in London. The film was perhaps Landis' most personal project; he had been planning to make it since 1969, while in Yugoslavia. Yet another runaway hit at the box office, American Werewolf's shockingly frightful visuals earned Rick Baker the inaugural Academy Award for Best Makeup, the first ever Oscar to be bestowed upon a special effects artist.

As successful as Landis' career had been to date, filming of Twilight Zone: The Movie (1983) was ground to a halt following the accidental on-set death of star Vic Morrow and two juvenile actors. When special effects caused a helicopter to crash, killing all three passengers instantly, the director, as well as three other technicians who were working on the film, were charged with involuntary manslaughter. Though all would eventually be found not guilty in the case, the trial would drag on for a decade.

Trading Places (1983), a Prince and the Pauper-style comedy starring Dan Aykroyd and Eddie Murphy was filmed directly after the Twilight Zone accident. After filming ended, Landis and his family went to London, and he was approached by Michael Jackson to make a video for his song. "Thriller" forever changed MTV and the concept of music videos; it has won numerous awards, including VH1's "Greatest Video", MTV's "Greatest Music Video Ever Made", and the Video Vanguard Award for The Greatest Video in the History of the World.

Next, Landis directed Into the Night, starring Jeff Goldblum, Michelle Pfeiffer and David Bowie (a film was inspired by Hitchcock productions; Landis played in this film a mute member of the quartet of Iranian hitmen). To promote this movie, he collaborated with Jeff Okun to direct a documentary film called B.B. King "Into the Night". Landis directed music videos for three of King's songs as part of the film: "Lucille", "In the Midnight Hour", and "Into the Night" (specially composed by Ira Newborn for movie).

His next film Spies Like Us (1985), starring co-writer Dan Aykroyd and Chevy Chase, was an homage to the Road to... films, starring Bob Hope and Bing Crosby. Hope made a cameo in the film as himself. The movie also pays homage to spy movies such as the James Bond series; the crew included special effects makers Ray Harryhausen and Derek Meddings, both of whom had worked on Bond movies. Landis also directed a video for Paul McCartney as part of the promotion for Spies Like Us, and co-wrote the comedy film Clue.

In 1986, Landis directed ¡Three Amigos! (1986) for HBO. The film starred Chevy Chase, Martin Short and Steve Martin. Landis was the second choice to direct; Steven Spielberg had refused. The film was a tribute to old Mexican style westerns and musical movies. Randy Newman wrote three original songs for the film, which was shot in Technicolor to make it look like older Westerns.

Coming to America (1988) was a huge commercial success. An ideal vehicle for Eddie Murphy, the film brought the gifted comic actor back into the realm of straight laughs. But following on the lackluster performance of Oscar (1991), starring Sylvester Stallone, and Innocent Blood (1992), the director's career went into a bit of a slump. Though Landis would once again team with Murphy for Beverly Hills Cop III (1994), audiences had tired of the comic's wisecracking cop by the mid-'90s.

When it was announced in the late 1990s that Landis was set to helm a sequel to The Blues Brothers, fans were left scratching their heads in wonder as to how the film could recapture the chemistry between Belushi and Aykroyd that had played such an integral part in the success of the original. A rare instance in Landis' career in which critics and audiences agreed, Blues Brothers 2000 immediately tanked at the box office as mournful fans of the original struggled to comprehend how and why this could have happened.

As willing to jump in front of the camera as behind, Landis has frequently displayed his healthy sense of humor by appearing in such films as The Muppets Take Manhattan (1984), Darkman (1990), Vampirella (1996), and 2001 Maniacs (2003). Real Landis fans can spot his cameo appearances in Battle for the Planet of the Apes, Deathrace 2000, Spontaneous Combustion, Psycho IV, Sleepwalkers, and Venice/Venice.

More information:
» A.V. Club: 2011 Interview with Landis
» John Landis and The Blues Brothers

"John Landis says he originally had the idea for a movie called See You Next Wednesday as a 15-year-old in 1965. The line is from Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey. The movie was never made, but he has since revealed that he often references his unmade film in his movies. For example, it appears as a billboard in the Blues Brothers. It was the supposed porn film playing in the theater scene in An American Werewolf in London. In a twist, it is said, in German, by some soldiers in the Vic Morrow scene of Twilight Zone: The Movie. It was the title on the marquee on the theater that Michael Jackson and Ola Ray leave at the start of the Thriller music video. It often appears as a movie poster in his films, including Trading Places and Coming To America, and it's on the labels of two video cassettes in a treasure chest in Amazon Women on the Moon."

Friday, July 27, 2012

2012 Olympics Opening Ceremony

"London plays host to the 2012 Olympic Games, which will include 26 sports contested by 10,500 athletes over 17 days of competition." Oh yeah, and 86-year-old Queen Elizabeth II parachuted into the Olympic stadium.
Syracuse Blog:
One of Britain's most successful contemporary movie directors, Oscar winner Danny Boyle (Trainspotting and Slumdog Millionaire), was presiding over a three-hour spectacular highlighting the U.K.'s history and impact on the world.

Boyle's $42 million show, with 15,000 volunteers, promised to take the expected global television audience of one billion on a rich and textured journey through British history.

He drew from Shakespeare, British pop culture, literature and music, and other sources of inspiration that will speak to — but perhaps at times baffle — not just Anglophiles but people across the globe.

The parade of nations was expected to feature most of the roughly 10,500 athletes — some planned to stay away to save their strength for competition — marching behind the flags of the 204 nations taking part.

Greece had the lead, as the spiritual home of the games, and Team Great Britain was last, as host. The tradition of athletes marching into the stadium by nation at the opening ceremony began at London's first Olympics, in 1908.

Two-time Olympic fencing champion Mariel Zagunis bore the flag for the U.S. team, while Muhammad Ali, who lit the cauldron at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, was among the nine people who carried the Olympic flag. Because Ali was too infirm to walk half the stadium with the flag, he waited for the others at the foot of the hill where it was raised.

It fell to Queen Elizabeth II to formally declare the games open. Last month, the nation put on a festive Diamond Jubilee — a small test run for the games — to mark her 60 years on the throne, a reign that began shortly after London's last Olympics, in 1948.

The Olympic cauldron was lit with a flame that was kindled May 10, at the birthplace of the anciest Olympics in Greece, from a reflection of the sun's rays off a mirror.

Since then, 8,000 torchbearers, mostly unheralded Britons, have carried the flame on a 70-day, 8,000-mile journey from toe to tip of the British Isles, whipping up enthusiasm for a $14 billion Olympics taking place during a severe recession.

The identity of the last torchbearer, the one to light the cauldron, was kept secret — remarkable given the intense scrutiny at what have been called the first social media Olympics.

Speculation focused on Roger Bannister, the first man to run a four-minute mile, in 1954, and on rower Steve Redgrave, who is the only Olympian to have won a gold medal at five consecutive Olympic Games.

Paul McCartney led the crowd in a "Hey Jude" singalong and the world's largest harmonically tuned bell tolled intermittently as the 80,000-seat stadium emptied.

More information:
» Fox Sports: Opening Ceremony Explained
» LA Times: Opening Ceremony Review
» Guardian: July 27 Picture Blog

Monday, July 23, 2012

Area Olympians

Here is a list of Olympic athletes with ties to Washington D.C., Maryland or Virginia:

Jacob Wukie (archery) » The 26-year-old James Madison University graduate steps up to the Olympic team after serving as an alternate in 2008. He is a native of Oak Harbor, Ohio.

Carmelo Anthony (basketball) » The Baltimore native, 28, who played at Towson Catholic and Oak Hill, plays for the U.S. for the third time. The 6-foot-8 forward is five-time NBA All-Star.

Kevin Durant (basketball) » The D.C. native, 23, was raised in Prince George's County and played at Suitland, Oak Hill and Montrose Christian. The 6-foot-9 forward is a three-time NBA All-Star and league scoring champion.

Ekene Ibekwe (basketball) » The 27-year-old former University of Maryland center plays for Nigeria. He currently plays professionally in Europe.

Nene (basketball) » The Washington Wizards 6-foot-11 center will compete for Brazil. Other NBA players on the Brazil roster are Leandro Barbosa (Pacers), Tiago Splitter (Spurs) and Anderson Varejao (Cavaliers).

Kevin Seraphin (basketball) » The Washington Wizards 6-9 forward will compete for France. He is one of five NBA players on the team including Tony Parker (Spurs), Ronny Turiaf (Heat), Boris Diaw (Spurs) and Nicolas Batum (Trail Blazers).

Tony Skinn (basketball) » The former Takoma Academy player and guard at George Mason, who started for the 2006 Final Four squad, plays for Nigeria. The 29-year-old was born there and moved to the Maryland suburbs as a child.

Claire Laubach (field hockey) » The Centerville High graduate, 28, who played for three national championship teams at Wake Forest, plays defense for the U.S., bringing more than 100 games of experience in international competition.

Katie O'Donnell (field hockey) » The 23-year-old, two-time national player of the year at Maryland led the Terps to two NCAA titles and helped them to another last fall as an assistant coach. The 5-foot-2 forward plays in the Olympics for the first time.

Paige Selenski (field hockey) » The University of Virginia midfielder took last year off from school to prepare full-time and will return to Charlottesville in the fall. This is her first Olympic Games.

Keli Smith-Puzo (field hockey) » The striker and mother of two, who helped Maryland to the NCAA championship in 1999, is the senior member of the team at age 32 and competed in Beijing.

Shannon Taylor (field hockey) » The Midlothian native, James River graduate and former player at Syracuse is a striker for the U.S. team in her first Olympics.

Michelle Vittese (field hockey) » Like Virginia teammate Selenski, Vittese has spent the last year in San Diego training with the national team. She plays in the midfield.

Gabrielle Douglas (gymnastics) » The 16-year-old Virginia Beach native was a member of the 2011 world championship U.S. team and participates in her first Olympics.

Caroline Queen (kayak) » The 20-year-old Darnestown resident edged Germantown's Ashley Nee by 1.06 seconds to make the team for the first time. Queen is a junior at Davidson College.

Scott Parsons (kayak) » The 33-year-old, a resident of Bethesda, competes in the Olympics for the third time. He is originally from Toledo, Ohio.

Julie Zetlin (rhythmic gymnastics) » The 21-year-old Bethesda native and Walt Whitman graduate won the all-around competition at the 2011 Pan American Games and is the first American to qualify in rhythmic gymnastics since 2004.

David Banks (rowing) » The Potomac native and 2001 graduate of Winston Churchill High took up rowing at Stanford. He will be a member of the eights.

Giuseppe Lanzone (rowing) » The McLean High graduate continued his rowing career at the University of Washington. This is the second Olympics for the 29-year-old, also a member of the eights.

Farrah Hall (sailing) » The 30-year-old Hall, a former track athlete at Broadneck High and a graduate of St. Mary's College, competes in the Olympics for the first time.

Nataly Arias (soccer) » The 26-year-old former O'Connell and University of Maryland midfielder will compete for Columbia, the homeland of her mother. She was also eligible to compete for Venezuela, the homeland of her father.

Abby Wambach (soccer) » The 32-year-old forward, and former player for the Washington Freedom, scored the winning goal in the gold medal game in Athens (2004) but missed the Beijing Games with a broken leg.

Katya Bachrouche (swimming) » The former Virginia All-American and 2011 graduate will swim for Lebanon, the homeland of her father. The 6-foot Bachrouche was raised in Michigan.

Katie Ledecky (swimming) » The 15-year-old from Bethesda is the youngest U.S. swimmer at the games and will compete in the 800 free after her surprise win at the trials. She is a rising sophomore at Stone Ridge and trains with Curl-Burke Swim Club.

Matt McLean (swimming) » The two-time ACC swimmer of the year at Virginia was added to the team to participate in the 800 free relay. The 6-foot-6 Sterling native is a 2007 graduate of Potomac Falls.

Lauren Perdue (swimming) » The University of Virginia senior was a surprise qualifier for the 800 free relay just four months after undergoing back surgery. She was born in Charlottesville and raised in North Carolina.

Michael Phelps (swimming) » The 27-year-old from Baltimore won six gold medals at Athens and eight in Beijing, more than any athlete at either Olympics. The Towson High graduate will compete in seven events in London.

David Karasek (swimming) » The 2012 ACC swimming and diving scholar-athlete of the year from Virginia will compete for Switzerland. He is a graduate student and a resident of Zurich.

Kate Ziegler (swimming) » The 24-year-old from Great Falls finished two seconds behind Ledecky in the 800 at the trials. The O'Connell graduate competed in the 400 and 800 in the 2008 Olympics, failing to reach the finals.

Terrence Jennings (taekwondo) » The Alexandria native and T.C. Williams graduate earned one of two men's slots on the U.S. team and competes in the Olympics for the first time, in the featherweight class.

Matthew Centrowitz (track) » The 22-year-old from Arnold will run the 1500 meters. This is the first Olympics for the Broadneck High and Oregon University graduate. He finished third place in the 2011 world championships.

Julie Culley (track) » The former Loyola (Md.) track coach will compete in the 5000. It is the first Olympics for the 30-year-old.

Francena McCorory (track) » The 23-year-old from Bethel High and Hampton University competes in her first Olympic Games, running the 400. She won gold in the 4x400 world championships in 2011.

LaShawn Merritt (track) » The 26-year-old from Portsmouth and Woodrow Wilson High is the reigning Olympic champion in the 400 meters and also won gold in the 4x400 relay. He is coming off a 21-month ban for testing positive for a banned steroid.

Andrew Valmon (track) » The University of Maryland and former Georgetown track coach was named U.S. men's track and field coach last year. He won gold in the 4x400 relay at Soeul and Barcelona.

Reid Priddy (volleyball) » The Richmond native took up volleyball when his family moved to Florida. The 6-foot-5 Priddy, 35, helped the U.S. win the gold medal in Beijing.

Angel McCoughtry (women's basketball) » The 25-year-old from St. Francis of Baltimore plays for the U.S. for the first time. The 6-foot-1 forward plays for the Atlanta Dream of the WNBA.

More information:
» WTOP: Locals in London
» "Taking the Piss": British English for Americans

Sunday, July 22, 2012

American Ninja Warrior 2012 Finals

Washington Post:
On "American Ninja Warrior," there’s really no such thing as a second chance or second place, not after the qualifying rounds. The show, which has aired all summer on G4 and in prime time on NBC, is a wonderfully brutal wake-up call to a nation nursed on participation trophies.

When the last of 24 remaining men attempts to finish stages 2, 3 and 4 of the infamous Mount Midoriyama obstacle course on Monday night’s finale (airing on NBC), there remains the distinct possibility that none of them will make it all the way. “Almost” can be everything and nothing here, which means the $500,000 prize could go unclaimed. Which also means, as the show has reminded viewers all along, repeatedly, cruelly: “No American has ever conquered Mount Midoriyama . . .”

No American. Since the Tokyo Broadcast System began running “Sasuke,” their ninja warrior obstacle course competition in 1997, several Americans have auditioned and competed. One came close to finishing Stage 3, but none have made it to the end. (And, out of thousands of contestants over the years from all over the world, only three competitors — all Japanese — have ever finished all four stages.)

Four years ago, the growing popularity of “Sasuke” sparked the interest of G4, an NBC-owned cable network obsessed with all things geeky and guy. Early versions of the American show ran U.S. contestants through a preliminary course and then flew the best of them to Japan, where they each got a chance to conquer Mount Midoriyama.

Through a series of obstacles, some with sushi-menu-sounding names (“jumping spider” and the “salmon ladder”), as well as those with gym-rat monikers (the “warped wall,” the “spinning bridge,” the “jump hang” and the “devil steps”), the Americans met defeat year after year, but they also grew more resolute. Ninja warrior fitness communities began to emerge across cities and suburbs, obsessed with the event’s ideals of strength and discipline. A lot of would-be ninja warriors are parkour and free-running enthusiasts — human jumping beans whose fitness routines include flipping and leaping off (and between) buildings, outdoor stairwells and trees. Many are former gymnasts and acrobats. Some work as stuntmen in movies and TV. Some are retired military. Some are just the most agile and strongest members of their local CrossFit gang.

After last year’s show, it was clear that the sport had crossed a certain threshold. The time came, says Laura Civiello, G4’s vice president for development, to stage the entire competition in the United States, which included rebuilding Mount Midoriyama to exact specifications on a spot of desert next to a highway between the casino strip and airport in Las Vegas. As it was in Japan, the Mount Midoriyama course is 1,000 feet long. Building it required six acres of truss construction and 13 semi-truck trailers full of fear. Stage 4, the course’s final climb, stands slightly shorter than the Statue of Liberty.

In March, the network built a portable qualifying course for regional tapings in Los Angeles, Dallas and Miami. In previous seasons, as many as 250 contestants attempted the qualifying round; this year, thousands of audition tapes arrived; 750 men and women were granted a chance to compete. Many ended up falling, dropping or otherwise petering out on the course, but 100 of them either completed the qualifying course or performed strongly enough to be invited to the finals in Las Vegas.

“I can tell you, though, in watching the audition reels, our contestants are getting stronger every year,” Civiello says.

One dispiriting aspect to “American Ninja Warrior” is watching its female competitors fail so frequently and early on. The show has no solution for that, no Title IX analogue that would adapt the course to emphasize the strengths of a female athlete. To have any women compete in Las Vegas, the network had to extend a few “wild card” invites to a few who had been eliminated in qualifying rounds, and even then, the Mount Midoriyama course made short work of them.

“Even in Japan, aside from the very first episode they made, no woman has completed Stage 1,” Civiello says. But the women who come to the show, she adds, very much want to confront the course as it is, with no favors. “This is a hard course, period. By being on the air, I hope the show actually encourages more women to come out there and try. The women who did compete, they each want to be the woman who can do it. And someone will be.”

Until then, Mount Midoriyama remains a man’s world, and it’s a punishing world at that. It is fraught with symbolism, packed with lessons about the human body. The Americans keep plummeting off it.

World's Largest Breasts!

An Arlington resident was profiled on the TLC show Strange Sex last weekend. The reason? She has the world’s largest natural breasts.

Annie Hawkins-Turner, also known in the world of fetish modeling by her stage name Norma Stitz, recently moved to the Fairlington section of Arlington from Atlanta, Georgia. The 53-year-old has a rare condition called gigantomastia that has caused her breasts to grow so big — her bra size is 102ZZZ — that they now weigh 85 pounds. She says she’s used to attracting attention where ever she goes.

“No one looks like me,” Hawkins-Turner said. “I’m one in a million.”

More information:
» SFGate: World's Longest Penis Stopped by TSA
» Huffington Post: Sarah Massey's seven-foot butt

Penn State to Face Unprecendented Sanctions

"The $60 million fine dwarfs any levied by the NCAA in the past; the four-year bowl ban will cost the school tens of millions of dollars; and the reduction to 15 from 25 annual new scholarships, while not unprecedented in scale, will significantly handicap recruitment efforts, especially given the other negative fallout from the Sandusky scandal."
Calling it "a stark wake-up call to everyone involved in college sports," the National Collegiate Athletic Association announced a $60 million fine against Penn State University on Monday and stripped 14 seasons of football victories from the late head coach Joe Paterno, from 1998-2011.

NCAA President Mark Emmert said the unprecedented fine will be paid over five years to fund programs that serve the victims of child sexual abuse. The NCAA also banned Penn State from postseason play for four years and took away 20 football scholarships a year for four seasons, he said.

Penn State President Rodney Erickson said in a written statement that the university has accepted the NCAA decision and will not appeal.

"It is important to know we are entering a new chapter at Penn State and making necessary changes," he said. "We must create a culture in which people are not afraid to speak up, management is not compartmentalized, all are expected to demonstrate the highest ethical standards, and the operating philosophy is open, collegial and collaborative."

Paterno, who coached at Penn State for 46 years, had been the all-time leader in major college football victories for a coach, with 409 wins. The NCAA's decision strikes 111 of those from his record, beginning in 1998.

The Big Ten Conference also acted Monday, ruling that Penn State is ineligible for its conference title football game and that the Nittany Lions' share of bowl revenues for the next four seasons -- approximately $13 million -- will be donated to charities that "protect children."

A lawyer for one of Sandusky's victims said the NCAA should have heard from his client and others who were abused.

"Throughout the past several weeks, PSU and the NCAA have imposed sanctions and taken what they perceive to be corrective measures," said Ben Andreozzi, attorney for the person identified as Victim No. 4 in the Sandusky case. "I am disappointed that no effort was made to consult the victims in this case to ensure that their voices were heard in this process. After all, they are the ones who were victimized, not the NCAA or PSU. "

Emmert said current players will be allowed to transfer to other schools without having to sit out a year, as is normally required, or they can stay and keep their grants, even if they don't play football. The restrictions mean that starting in 2014, the school cannot have more than 65 players on scholarship, and it can offer only 15 new scholarships each year for four years, beginning with next year's incoming recruits.

"I knew when I accepted the position that there would be tough times ahead," new coach Bill O'Brien said in a written statement. "But I am committed for the long term to Penn State and our student athletes."

"If I were Penn State or any other school and were given both options, I'd pick the death penalty," the source said, adding the range of sanctions "is well beyond what has been done in the past" and "far worse than closing the program for a year."

The NCAA last imposed the so-called "death penalty" to a football team in 1987 against Southern Methodist University's program in the wake of a payments-to-athletes scandal.

The NCAA will punish the school following the Freeh Report, which detailed findings of an investigation into the scandal involving former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky's sexual abuse of children. Sandusky, 68, was convicted in late June of 45 of the 48 sexual abuse counts he faced, involving 10 victims.

The investigation was led by former FBI Director Louis Freeh, and the report held four top Penn State officials, including Paterno, responsible for failing to stop the abuse.

The Freeh report found several Penn State officials concealed evidence that Sandusky had sexually abused minors. Freeh concluded that Paterno could have prevented further sexual abuse had he taken action.

The news comes the same day a 900-pound bronze statue of the late Penn State coach Joe Paterno was removed from outside the campus' 107,000-seat football stadium.

The statue was removed exactly six months after Paterno died of lung cancer. Paterno had coached at Penn State for 61 years, 15 of them as an assistant. He died less than three months after he coached his last game, an October 29 victory over Illinois that gave him a record 409 wins.

Under Paterno's 46-season tenure as head coach, the Nittany Lions won two national championships, went undefeated five times, and finished in the top 25 national rankings 35 times.

More information:
» Hampton Roads: Beamer and ACC Coaches Sound Off

Saturday, July 21, 2012

RG3 Signs Four-Year, $21 Million Deal

ASHBURN, Va. - Robert Griffin III and the Washington Redskins ended their contract impasse Wednesday when the rookie quarterback signed a four-year, fully guaranteed deal worth $21.1 million. It also includes a club option for a fifth year.

Griffin's agent, Ben Dogra, told The Associated Press that the Heisman Trophy- winning quarterback agreed to terms and will be in Redskins rookie camp on Wednesday.

The rookie wage scale keeps Griffin’s salary cap number manageable for the life of the contract.

His $13.8 million signing bonus is prorated over four years. By comparison, left tackle Trent Williams, who was Washington’s last first-round pick before the rookie scale was implemented last season, counts more than that in 2012 alone.

Griffin, the second overall pick in the draft out of Baylor, announced the news on Twitter, writing, "Well people....It's Time to go to Work!!! Off the unemployment line and oh yea HTTR!!!"

The latter stands for "Hail To The Redskins," the team's fight song.

The Redskins traded their first-round choices in 2012, 2013 and 2014 as well as their second-round pick this year to the St. Louis Rams on March 10 for the right to move up four spots to take Griffin.

Coach Mike Shanahan orchestrated the trade for Griffin, who threw for 4,293 yards and 37 touchdowns with just six interceptions and ran for 699 yards and 10 touchdowns in 2011 while leading Baylor to the Alamo Bowl.

Shanahan selected the 22-year-old Griffin the starter ahead of Grossman on the final day of rookie minicamp in May.

Washington made the big move after finishing last in the NFC East for a fourth straight year with a 5-11 record in 2011. That was the 16th season in the past 19 in which the Redskins didn't make the playoffs. During that span, they have started 21 quarterbacks. The most recent, Rex Grossman, committed 25 turnovers in 13 starts last season.

Griffin’s agreement preceded the Redskins' afternoon signing of offensive lineman Josh LeRibeus, their third-round pick. The guard from SMU signed a four-year contract under the terms of the sport’s rookie pay system. All of Washington’s draft picks have signed.

Washington’s veterans don’t report until Wednesday, July 25, and the first full-squad practice isn’t until July 26. Shanahan is easing rookies into their work this week with film review, weight-lifting and team meetings to discuss playbook installation.

More information:
» Washington Post: "Becoming a Redskin"

Frank Ocean - "Bad Religion" (2012)

Friday, July 20, 2012

Frank Ocean - "Thinkin' Bout You" (2011)

"Thinkin Bout You" is a song by American singer-songwriter Frank Ocean, released as the lead single from his debut studio album Channel Orange (2012). The song was written by Ocean, and collaborator N. Cobey and produced by Shea Taylor. "It succinctly defines me as an artist for where I am right now and that was the aim," he said of the follow-up to his acclaimed Nostalgia, Ultra. "It’s about the stories. If I write 14 stories that I love, then the next step is to get the environment of music around it to best envelop the story and all kinds of sonic goodness."

After being released as a single, the song peaked at #49 on the US Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart, and at #27 on the UK R&B singles chart. Ocean performed the track during his seven show tour through North America and Europe in November 2011 and notably at the April 2012 Coachella Musical Festival. It was also performed during his Channel Orange tour.

The song received highly positive reviews from music critics. Complex named the track the fourth best song of 2011, writing that "Ocean's voice explores those awkward spaces in a new relationship, making the eternal lover's questions sound new and urgent. Whatever it is, Frank Ocean's "Thinking About Forever" is one of those songs that will never get old."

More information:
Album Review: Frank Ocean's Channel Orange


» Tori Kelly's "Confetti"

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Frank Ocean - "Swim Good" (2011)

"Swim Good" is a song by American singer-songwriter Frank Ocean, released as the second single from his 2011 mixtape Nostalgia, Ultra. The song was written by Frank Ocean, Waynne Nugent and Kevin Risto of the duo Midi Mafia, who also produced the track. It features additional vocals by fellow Odd Future member Tyler, The Creator. The song explores the topic of romantic baggage, guilt and utilizes several metaphors. Lyrically, the song expresses a narrative about a man who, burdened with many failed relationships, ends his life by driving into the ocean. The track explores tropes of the tragic love story and suicide. The song received generally positive reviews from music critics, who praised Ocean's vocals and the song's dark subject matter.

When Nostalgia, Ultra was expected to be released as an EP by Def Jam, "Swim Good" was released as the second single, though the EP release was later cancelled. The song peaked at number 70 on the US Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart. The song received a music video directed by Australian director Nabil Elderkin. The anime-inspired music video features Ocean driving down remote roads in a Samurai costume and eventually setting his car on fire. Ocean performed the track during his seven show tour through North America and Europe in November 2011 and other notable concerts such as Coachella.

That's a pretty big trunk on my Lincoln town car, ain't it?
Big enough to take these broken hearts and put 'em in it
Now I'm driving 'round on the boulevard, trunk bleeding
And everytime the cops pull me over, they don't ever see them
And I've got this black suit on
Roaming around like I'm ready for a funeral
Five more miles 'til the road runs out

I'm about to drive in the ocean
I'mma try to swim from something bigger than me
Kick off my shoes and swim good, and swim good
Take off this suit and swim good, and swim good, good

[Verse 2]
Got some pretty good beats on this 808 CD, yeah
Memory seats I'm sitting on stay heated
I woulda put tints on my windows but what's the difference
If I feel like a Ghost, no Swayze, ever since I lost my baby
I've had this black suit on
Roaming around like I'm ready for a funeral
One more mile 'til the road runs out


I'm going off, don't try stopping me
I'm going off, don't try saving
No flares, no vest, and no fear
Waves are washing me (out)

Sunday, July 15, 2012

2012 USA Men's Basketball Team

Carmelo Anthony
Anthony, 28, is coming off a tumultuous season with the Knicks that included the firing of coach Mike D'Antoni, a Team USA assistant. Still, he's a dynamic scorer and five-time All-Star who played in the 2004 and 2008 Olympics. He was fourth on the team in scoring and rebounding in 2008.

Kobe Bryant
Bryant, 33, will be the oldest player on Team USA and figures to play a significant role, especially with Dwyane Wade dropping off the team. Bryant has five NBA championships with the Lakers, an NBA MVP award, and a gold medal from the 2008 Olympics. He was third on that team in scoring and took over down the stretch of the championship game against Spain.

Tyson Chandler
Chandler, 29, is the only true center on Team USA, thanks to Dwight Howard's injury and Andrew Bynum's lack of interest. He saw limited action in the 2010 FIBA World Championship, averaging just 2.6 points and 2.7 rebounds for the US gold medalists. But the NBA's reigning defensive player of the year could provide necessary rim protection against big front lines like Spain's.

Kevin Durant
Durant, 23, was the breakout star of the FIBA World Championship in 2010, leading Team USA to the gold medal with an unstoppable offensive arsenal. He averaged 22.8 points while shooting 55.6% from the field, 45.6% from 3-point range and 91.2% from the line. (No other American averaged double figures in points.) He's led the NBA in scoring each of the last three seasons and will again be a matchup nightmare for international opponents.

Anthony Davis
With Blake Griffin's injury, Davis has been put on the squad. He was among the last cuts after being added to the list of finalists after leading Kentucky to the national championship as a freshman. The shot-blocking No. 1 overall draft pick of the New Orleans Hornets originally was considered because injuries depleted Team USA's frontcourt prospects. He'll be the first American player since 2004 (Emeka Okafor) to compete in the Olympics without any NBA experience.

James Harden
Harden, 22, was a late addition to the list of finalists after point guard Derrick Rose suffered a torn ACL in the playoffs. The NBA's Sixth Man of the Year for the Oklahoma City Thunder, Harden is an outstanding playmaker and scorer, though he struggled in the NBA Finals against the Miami Heat.

Andre Iguodala
Iguodala, 28, started for Team USA at the FIBA World Championship in 2010 and led the team in steals. One of the NBA's top wing defenders, Iguodala's All-Star season and the Philadelphia 76ers' strong playoff run help explain why he made the US roster.

LeBron James
James, 28, will go to London as the biggest superstar in the sport. Having finally won his first NBA title as well as his third MVP award, LeBron will be playing in his third Olympics. He was very good but not quite dominant in Beijing in 2008, averaging 15.5 points and 5.3 rebounds in 24.8 minutes while shooting over 60 percent.

Kevin Love
Love, 23, didn't see much action for Team USA at the FIBA World Championship in 2010, averaging just 8.9 minutes. But he could play a much bigger role for the US in London, thanks partly to an injury-depleted frontcourt but also due to his own much-improved skills as a scorer and 3-point shooter. Already a voracious rebounder, he averaged 26 points and 13.3 rebounds for the Minnesota Timberwolves last season.

Chris Paul
Paul, 27, didn't start for Team USA in the 2008 Olympics, but he played more than the team's other point guards and led the Americans in assists. He'll likely start this summer after leading the Los Angeles Clippers to the second round of the playoffs and finishing third in MVP voting.

Russell Westbrook
Westbrook, 23, isn't a conventional point guard but he's an explosive athlete who figures to give Team USA a burst of energy off the bench. That's the role he played in the FIBA World Championship, averaging 9.1 points in just 19.4 minutes. He was fifth in the NBA in scoring last season and helped the Oklahoma City Thunder reach the NBA Finals.

Deron Williams
Williams, 28, made the biggest free-agent splash of the summer, agreeing to stay with the Nets for five years and over $98 million. He won't need to be a star on Team USA, just a steady backup point guard, much as he was in 2008 in Beijing.

More information:
» 2012 Olympic Games Men's Basketball Schedule
» PhilStar: Kobe's Dream Team 'Blasphemy'
» MJ and Sir Charles Respond to Kobe's Comments

Spotlight: The Dream Team

Charles Barkley, Larry Bird, Clyde Drexler, Patrick Ewing, Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan, Christian Laettner, Karl Malone, Chris Mullin, Scottie Pippen, David Robinson, John Stockton

The Dream Team was the nickname given to the U.S. National Team that won the gold medal in men's basketball at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics. The team -- the first U.S. national team to feature NBA players -- dominated the competition, finishing with a perfect 8-0 record at the Olympics.

Their 117.2 PPG set an Olympic record, and the 43.7 PPG margin of victory was second only to the 1956 U.S. team. As the team received its gold medals, Jordan, Barkley and Johnson draped American flags over their warm-up suits, covering the Reebok logos -- Jordan and Barkley were noted Nike endorsers, while Johnson was the face of Converse.

Choosing The Team
At the 1988 Olympics, the United States took home the bronze medal, marking just the second time the U.S. had competed at the Olympics and failed to win the gold. In the aftermath of the loss, U.S. officials pushed FIBA to allow professionals to play in the Olympics. Previously, the U.S. had been sending teams comprised mostly of college players to compete against international teams that had been playing together for years, and often had much more experienced players.

In April 1989, FIBA officially allowed professional players to compete in international competitions, and USA Basketball began the process of choosing NBA players to compete at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics. A 13-man selection committee was put together to choose the coach and the roster. On Feb. 15, 1991, Pistons coach Chuck Daly was named the coach of the Olympic team. Two months later, Daly's three assistants -- Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski, P.J. Carlesimo (then with Seton Hall) and Lenny Wilkens (then with the Cavaliers) -- were selected.

In February 1991, Charles Barkley, Patrick Ewing, Karl Malone, Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan appeared on the cover of "Sports Illustrated" in Team USA jerseys under the headline of "Dream Team", leading most observers to believe they were locks for the roster. The first 10 members of the team were officially announced on Sept. 21, 1991 with "The Dream Team: USA Basketball Selection Show", a one-hour special on NBC. The 10 players selected that night were Barkley, Ewing, Malone, Johnson, Jordan, Larry Bird, Chris Mullin, Scottie Pippen, David Robinson and John Stockton.

The initial roster selection was not without controversy. Isiah Thomas was a surprise omission from the roster, leading Jack McCloskey, then the general manager of the Pistons, to resign from the selection committee. Most reports speculated that Jordan had led the charge to snub Thomas from the team, but at the time Jordan denied having any influence on the roster. In a 2009 autobiography, Johnson said that multiple players expressed their feelings about not playing with Thomas, including Jordan, Pippen, Bird, Malone and even himself.

The final two roster spots were left open at the time, with the understanding that one of them would be reserved for a college player. Johnson was forced to retire prior to the 1991-92 NBA season due to testing HIV-positive, but remained on the Dream Team roster. After competing in the 1992 All-Star game, he reaffirmed his commitment to playing at the Olympics.

On May 12, 1992, Clyde Drexler of the Portland Trail Blazers and Duke University's Christian Laettner were added to the roster, rounding out the 12-man squad. Though Laettner was the reigning national college player of the year, his inclusion on the team was criticized. Some said the final spot should have gone to an NBA player, while others said if the team was insistent on adding an amateur, they should have selected LSU center Shaquille O'Neal, who would go on to be the top pick in that summer's NBA draft.

The name "Dream Team" continued to be used for U.S. men's basketball teams, with Dream Team II winning the 1994 FIBA World Championship and Dream Team III winning gold in the 1996 Summer Olympics held in Atlanta, Georgia. The team featured five members of the original Dream Team (Barkley, Malone, Pippen, Robinson, and Stockton), plus two other members of the NBA 50 Greatest Players list, Hakeem Olajuwon and Shaquille O'Neal. Lenny Wilkens coached the team.

The "Dream Team" name fell out of use by the time the 2000 Olympic team struggled to win gold in Sydney. In 2002, a team of NBA players represented the U.S. at the World Championships in Indiana, losing three times after a 5-0 start to finish a disappointing 6th. The team was referred to as "The Nightmare Team", though that label would end up being applied more to the 2004 Olympic Team that lost three times, but rebounded to win the bronze medal. At the 2008 Olympics, "The Redeem Team" -- with eleven NBA All-Stars, a Hall of Fame coach, and a NBA MVP -- ultimately accomplished their goal and defeated Spain 118-107 for gold.

The Dream Team is widely considered to be one of the greatest teams ever assembled in any sport. It was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame as a team in 2010, and as of 2011, 11 of the 12 players and three of the four coaches on the team are in the Basketball Hall of Fame as individuals.

In 1997, the NBA named its 50 greatest players, in conjunction with the league's 50th anniversary. 10 of the 12 members of the Dream Team (Laettner and Mullin were the exceptions) were named to that list. In addition, Chuck Daly was named as one of the league's 10 greatest coaches.

The team is credited with increasing the popularity of the sport of basketball worldwide, resulting in an influx of international players to the NBA in the following decades. The name "Dream Team" has since become synonymous with any collection of stars in any sport.

More information:
» Yahoo: The 1992 "Dream Team" Will Forever Be the Best

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Manny Pacquiao Loses WBO Welterweight Title

"The WBO completed its review Wednesday of Timothy Bradley's controversial split-decision victory against Manny Pacquiao with its five-member international judging panel all scoring the fight for Pacquiao, even though the official result will stand. The five judges, whom WBO president Francisco "Paco" Valcarcel said are accomplished judges with world title experience -- but whose names were not disclosed -- scored the fight for Pacquiao, 118-110, 117-111, 117-111, 116-112 and 115-113."
LAS VEGAS -- Injustices like the split decision that gave Timothy Bradley a controversial victory over Manny Pacquiao are not unheard of in boxing.

Yet that doesn't make the stunning outcome of Saturday's welterweight title fight -- one of the most dumbfounding decisions in recent history -- any easier to make peace with.

Pacquiao connected on 253 of 751 punches (34 percent), compared to 159 of 839 (19 percent) for Bradley, and outlanded the challenger in 10 of the 12 rounds. The Filipino absorbed Bradley's best shots in the early rounds and, undeterred by his opponent's rapidly diminishing offense, relied on his speed and power to entice Bradley into toe-to-toe exchanges and batter him into retreat.

"I don't remember if he hit me with one punch," Pacquiao said afterward.

Yet ringside judges Duane Ford and C.J. Ross both scored it 115-113 to Bradley, dissenting with Jerry Roth, who had it 115-113 to Pacquiao. (SI.com scored it 116-112 to Pacquiao, among the more charitable scores on press row.)

The decision was met with horror, then shock, then anger by the mostly pro-Pacquiao crowd of 14,206 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena. Said promoter Bob Arum: "I went over to Bradley before the decision and he said, 'I tried hard but I couldn't beat the guy.'"

It marked the end of a remarkable run for Pacquiao (54-4-2, 38 KOs) that spanned more than seven years, 15 victories, and five championships in five weight classes -- running his overall haul to a record-breaking eight.

But after everything he's done for boxing, Manny Pacquiao is the last person who should have been cheated like this. He deserved better.

The result, of course, was no fault of Bradley (29-0, 12 KOs). The junior welterweight champion from Palm Springs, Calif., turned in a heroic effort in his second fight at 147 pounds, overcoming foot and ankle injuries to his left and right feet (respectively) so grave that he conducted his post-fight presser from a wheelchair. Through it all, he never acquiesced like so many Pacquiao opponents have done over the years when confronted with the realities of the Filipino's relentless work rate. It was a brave effort by one of the sport's most promising young talents.

It just wasn't enough to win.

A mere day after Bob Arum predicted Manny Pacquiao and incarcerated domestic abuser Floyd Mayweather Jr. will battle each other twice in 2013, “Pac-Man” allegedly told the bombastic CEO of Top Rank to make a match against “Pretty Boy.”

"Obviously, the one fight that [Pacquiao] wants is Mayweather. That's the guy he wants to fight," Arum told the Manila Standard, having spoken to Pacquiao about his future plans.

On June 9 at the MGM Grand Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada, incompetent judges allowed “Desert Storm” Timothy Bradley, a likable man who showed heart, and moxie, by continuing to fight after suffering a fractured left foot and severely sprained right ankle, to unwittingly steal Pacquiao’s belt with an asinine split decision.

It was widely believed the 33-year-old Pacquiao, voted “Fighter of the Decade” for the 2000s by the BWAA, would exercise his rematch clause and throw fists with “Desert Storm” this autumn.

However, despite the recommendation made by a five-member international judging panel for the WBO, Arum, who is the matchmaker for both Bradley (29-0-0-1, 12 KOs) and “Pac-Man,” recently said a rematch would be too difficult to organize.

Therefore, rather than again scrap “Desert Storm,” Pacquiao will reportedly throw fists with WBA, WBO and The Ring lightweight royalty “Dinamita” Juan Manuel Marquez for a fourth time on November 10 in either “Sin City” or Mexico City.

Meanwhile, Mayweather (43-0, 26 KOs), the longstanding WBC welterweight king, who defeated powerful Puerto Rican icon Miguel Cotto by unanimous decision to gain the WBA world light-welterweight belt on Cinco de Mayo, began serving 87 days behind bars on June 1 at the Clark County Detention Center for beating his former sweetheart while two of their children watched in September 2010.

"Pacquiao will have another fight this year [November 10] and then look forward to maybe two fights with Mayweather next year," said Arum, a corruptible weasel who acknowledged during a 2000 federal trial that he bribed the International Boxing Federation (IBF) to attain a higher ranking for one of his pugilists.

“Pretty Boy,” who has been forced to reside in a segregated 7-by-12-foot cell for his protection from the other 3,200 jailbirds in the downtown “Sin City” slammer, has pledged to be more active when he is released.

"I don't think Mayweather will be prepared to fight this year, because it looks like he will be in prison for at least one or two more months,” said Arum. “So I think that if the Mayweather fight happens it would probably happen sometime next year."

Pacquiao, the first pugilist to win 10 world crowns in eight different weight classes, and Mayweather, The Ring “Fighter of the Year” in 1998 and 2007, have argued over how to distribute the pay-per-view revenue.

The 35-year-old “Pretty Boy,” who Forbes last week listed as the wealthiest athlete in the world for amassing $85 million for performing in two legal fistfights in 2011, refuses to share any cash with “The Fighting Pride of the Philippines.”

Nevertheless, Arum is confident the pound-for-pound icons will finally reach a compromise and clash.

Roger “Pit” Perron is a venerable boxing trainer from Brockton (Mass.) who now works with Mike and Rich Cappiello at their gym, Cappiello Brothers Boxing and Training.

Perron predicts that Mayweather, a 1996 bronze medalist who already owned a decent rap sheet from convictions on battery and assault in 2002 and 2005, would outclass Pacquiao in a match.

“Nobody will ever beat Floyd until he retires,” said Perron, 75, who worked in the 1980s with International Boxing Hall of Famer Marvelous Marvin Hagler at the Petronelli Brothers Gym. “If Floyd and Manny ever get together, mortgage the house on Mayweather.”

Unfortunately, forever mistreated prizefighting fans should put minimal credence in the words of the sketchy Bob Arum.

In all probability, Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao will ultimately retire from the sport of boxing without ever having met in the squared circle.

Floyd Mayweather won the 2012 ESPY Award for Best Fighter at the recent ESPN awards show, beating out fellow nominees including undefeated boxer Andre Ward, and UFC champions Jon Jones and Anderson Silva.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Puscifer - "Momma Sed" (2008)

Puscifer is a side project of Maynard James Keenan, known for his work with the bands Tool and A Perfect Circle. As Keenan is the only permanent member and he considers the project to be his "creative subconscious", Puscifer could also be considered a pseudonym for his solo work. According to his MySpace, the band includes "Maynard James Keenan and a revolving door of talented people."

"V" Is for Vagina is the debut studio album by Puscifer, released on October 30, 2007. The album has sold over 112,000 copies and features a significantly different, electronic sound and arrangements than Keenan's other bands.

Along with Keenan, "Momma Sed" was co-written by Tim Commerford and Brad Wilk, best known as the bassist and drummer of Rage Against the Machine and the now-defunct supergroup Audioslave. On October 17, 2008, an official music video for the song was released online via the official Puscifer YouTube channel.

The music video for "DoZo" by Meats Meier combines live action and 3D animated characters, was about 50% hand-animated and 50% motion captured acting from Maynard, which was done at the Nexus Digital Studios stage.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Federer Ties Sampras with 7th Wimbledon Title

"Roger Federer became the first man to reach eight Wimbledon singles finals, knocking out defending champion Novak Djokovic with a beguiling victory in the semifinal. The third seed progressed to his 24th Grand Slam final with a 6-3, 3-6, 6-4, 6-3 win over tournament favorite Djokovic. It took Federer only two hours and 19 minutes to end the Serb's reign."
WIMBLEDON, England -- Once the Centre Court roof was closed, nothing could stop Roger Federer from winning his record-tying seventh Wimbledon title.

The 30-year-old Federer finally equaled Pete Sampras' record at the All England Club, and won his 17th Grand Slam title overall, by beating Andy Murray 4-6, 7-5, 6-3, 6-4 on Sunday.

Federer took advantage of the windless court and won 65 of the 117 points played indoors. Sunday's match was the first Wimbledon singles final to be played with the roof closed. The roof was first used on Centre Court in 2009.

Federer is now 17-7 in Grand Slam finals, including 7-1 at Wimbledon.

"It's amazing. It equals me with Pete Sampras, who's my hero," said Federer, who lost in the quarterfinals at the All England Club in 2010 and '11. "It just feels amazing."

Besides Sampras, 1880s player William Renshaw also won seven Wimbledon titles, but he did it at a time when the defending champion was given a bye into the following year's final.

With his victory, Federer regained the No. 1 ranking from Novak Djokovic, allowing him to equal Sampras' record of 286 weeks as the top-ranked player.

"He doesn't want to stop now," Sampras said in a telephone interview of Federer. "He knows he's going to continue to play well and try to break seven, and he could very well end up with eight or nine Wimbledons. I just think he's that much better than the other guys on grass, and he loves the court the way I loved that court. He's a great champion, a classy champion, and I'm really happy for him."

At the start of the match, Murray was the one dictating play and winning the tough points. He broke Federer in the first game of the first set, then broke again late before serving it out.

The second set was much more even, and both had early break points that they couldn't convert. Federer, however, finally got it done in the final game of the set, hitting a backhand drop volley that Murray couldn't get to.

Both held easily to start the third set, but then the rain started abruptly, suspending play for 40 minutes. Shortly after they returned, it turned into a one-man show.

With Federer leading 3-2, they played a 26-point, 20-minute game in which Federer finally converted his sixth break point -- after Murray had slipped on the grass three times. Federer lost only five points on his serve in that set.

Britain has been waiting 76 years for a homegrown men's champion at the All England Club, and the expectations on Murray were huge. Thousands of fans watched the match on a huge screen on "Murray Mount," but left the grounds still waiting for a British winner.

Inside the stadium, Prince William's wife, Kate, sat in the Royal Box along with David Beckham, British Prime Minister David Cameron and a slew of former Wimbledon champions.

Many of them left a bit disappointed as well.

"Everybody always talks about the pressure of playing at Wimbledon, how tough it is," said Murray, who held back tears while speaking in front of the crowd. "It's not the people watching. They make it so much easier to play. The support has been incredible, so thank you."

Murray is coached by eight-time Grand Slam champion Ivan Lendl, the only other man to lose his first four major finals.

But after going 0-9 in sets in the previous three, Murray finally won a set Sunday.

"I played better this time in the final, and that's the main thing," Murray said. "It's not an easy tournament for British players in many ways, but I think I dealt with all of the extra things away from the tournament pretty well, better than maybe I had done in the past."

Murray, 25, dropped to 0-4 in major finals, with three of those losses coming against Federer. In his other Grand Slam final appearances, Murray lost to Djokovic in Australia in 2011 and to Federer in the 2010 Australian Open and 2008 US Open.

More information:
» BBC Sport: Andy Murray's Wimbledon column
» Wimbledon: Final Match Photo Gallery
» Wimbledon: Parallels between Federer and Sampras
» Wimbledon: Milestones make for Epic Championships

Title defended in the challenge round
Active player +
Player Open Era Amateur Era All-time Years
 Pete Sampras (USA) 7 0 7 1993, 1994, 1995, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000
 Roger Federer (SUI) + 7 0 7 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
 Björn Borg (SWE) 5 0 5 1976, 1977, 1978, 1979, 1980
 John McEnroe (USA) 3 0 3 1981, 1983, 1984
 Boris Becker (GER) 3 0 3 1985, 1986, 1989
 Stefan Edberg (SWE) 2 0 2 1988, 1990
 Rod Laver (AUS) 2 2 4 1961, 1962, 1968, 1969
 John Newcombe (AUS) 2 1 3 1967, 1970, 1971
 Rafael Nadal (ESP) + 2 0 2 2008, 2010
 Jimmy Connors (USA) 2 0 2 1974, 1982
 Don Budge (USA) 0 2 2 1937, 1938

"With a 6-1, 5-7, 6-2 win over Agnieszka Radwanska, Serena Williams won her fifth Wimbledon and 14th career major title (putting her fourth on the list behind Graf's 22, Evert and Navratilova at 18). She became the first 30-year-old Grand Slam champion since Martina Navratilova in 1990 and the seventh different Grand Slam women's champ of the last seven majors. Serena continued riding her hot serve, setting a new record of 102 aces for the Championships on the way to her first Slam title since winning here in 2010."