Tag Archives: 2012 olympics

Padre Steve’s Look Back at 2012: The Year that Was and Still Can Be if You Have Access to Time Travel

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“For last year’s words belong to last year’s language
And next year’s words await another voice.
And to make an end is to make a beginning.”
~T.S. Eliot~

Well my friends it is my time to look back at 2012, the year that should have been the end of the world had the Chicago Cubs won the World Series. However the Mayans couldn’t see that possibility and life goes on. With that in mind I decided to look back at the more that 300 articles that I have written since the the babe wrapped in Champagne soaked clothes and lying in Times Square gutter belched out his first words… “Is this live?” 

If we lived in the Star Trek World things could be different. We could find an alternate universe, find a time portal at the City on the Edge of Forever or if need be whip the Enterprise around the Sun to throw us back in time.

However we don’t have that ability yet and the year of our discontent began in January. It was a year filled with political carnage, war, man made and natural disasters including the BCS Championship, the athletic drama of human competition, the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.

Much of the year was consumed by the American 2012 General Elections and Presidential primaries and campaigns. It was a year where we thought things might be different but sages like me looking back on the wisdom inscribed in my Bloom County Comic Strip Collection knew was not.

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Back to the Future in Iowa: A Bloom County Redux

It was not just politics as usual it was also media as usual something again that I predicted was the case by looking back at history.

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Doing the Sidestep: The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas and American Politics and Media

But as the campaign season snaked its eerie course through the hills, dales, bayous and valleys of our fair fruited plains the rest of the world experienced joy and pain, triumph and tragedy.

It began in this country as all things do when the University of Alabama, a fully accredited school of higher learning won the BCS College Football Championship game, something that the University of Phoenix will never do.

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Alabama wins the Boring Pseudo-National Championship Game…aka the BCS BS Championship Game

Not to be outdone the Italian Merchant Marine got into the act when Captain Francesco Schettino while joy riding in hie massive 115,000 ton Cruise Ship, the Costa Concordia  managed to hit a rock and sink the ship.

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Sinking the Costa Concordia: A Lesson in Hubris and Cowardice

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In February we saw the renewal of of love affair with television commercials as the Super Bowl XLVI: Commercials, Madonna and a Football Game as Madonna lip synced between the halves as the New York Football Giants defeated the New England non-Tea Party Patriots in Super Bowl XLVI, pronounced “Exlivy” in the original Latin.

Politics continued in March with the indecisive “Super Tuesday” Primaries:

Super Tuesday Agony: Indecisive, Inconclusive and a Portent of Things to Come

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But thankfully for all baseball returned in April bringing some sense of normalcy back to a world gone mad. Opening day brought me back to an even keel and the fact that it coincided with Holy Week made it more special to me. Opening Day and Holy Week and being able to attend a home opener was nice. A Home Opener and thoughts on Rick, Ozzie and George

But even in the midst of this there was perfection, in fact perfection done several times in Major League Baseball one of those being when Matt Cain of the San Francisco Giants pitched a perfect game on June 13th.

Houston Astros v San Francisco Giants

The Mark of Cain: Matt Cain Pitches 22nd Perfect Game in MLB Historyand Johann Santana did the same for the otherwise hapless New York Mets 8020 Games and Finally….a Miracle for the Mets: Johan Santana Pitches First No-No in Mets Historyand “King Felix” pitched his first perfect game for the Mariners The Perfect King: Felix Hernandez Pitches Third Perfect Game of 2012while Phil Humber of the Tigers threw a perfect game against the Mariners Perfect! Phillip Humber Joins Legends as He Pitches Perfect Game against Mariners

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Baseball produced other surprises this year but probably none bigger than that of the Oakland Athletics and Baltimore Orioles, underdog and underfunded teams that surprised everyone with their playoff runs and playoff appearances. September Surprises: O’s and A’s Shake up the American League

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The Major League Baseball playoffs were filled with amazing comeback stories but none more than that of the San Francisco Giants who played on the brink of elimination in both the NLDS ( Giants Sweep Red’s in the River City: On to NLCS ) and NLCS ( Raining on a Parade: Giants Make Giant Comeback to Win National League Pennant ) before sweeping the Detroit Tigers in the World Series. SWEEP! GIANTS WIN SERIES!

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But around the world and away from the rich green baseball diamonds there were other events. In April Kim Jong Un #1 the new dictator for life in North Korea shot a rocket in the air, and where it landed he knew not where Missile Impotence: Kim Jong Un’s Rocket Launch goes Splat even as an American preacher turned fake historian became the star of the Religious Right Faux Fact Factory: The Twisted World of Fake “Historian” and “Hero of the Faith” David Barton  Not to be outdone a Roman Catholic Bishop made his own bad history comparisons Bishop Jenky’s Obama and Hitler, Stalin, Bismarck and Clemenceau Comparison: Bad History, Bad Theology and Bad Politics

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Meanwhile in the background Europe and the European Union faced their own problems. Economic and political crisis engulfed the continent. Europe on the Edge: France and Greece Point to Dangerous Times Ahead

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The Middle East was not to be left behind in the the political tumult. Syria continued its post-Arab Spring plunge into the abyss of full out civil war. Fear and Loathing in Damascus eventually bringing the deployment of NATO Patriot Missiles in Turkey. NATO Patriots to Turkey as Syria Teeters on the AbyssIn the broader Middle East War threatened on almost every front The Gathering Storm: Shades of 1914 as War Threatens in the Middle East and the Arab Spring heated up again Arab Spring Fever: The Revolution Begins Anew in Egypt as Syria Begins to Melt Down

In June the United States saw something akin to what our European cousins were going through when my home town, Stockton California declared Bankruptcy. When City Dreams Become Nightmares: Stockton California to Declare Bankruptcy

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But Britain was able to celebrate as Queen Elizabeth marked her 75th year on the throne in June  The Diamond Jubilee: All Glory is Fleeting and hosting the XXX Olympic Summer Games in London in July and August

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British Humor: Bond, Bean, Poppins and The Queen Kick Off XXX Games , Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life” Goodbye London: XXX Olympics End on Musical Note

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After a bitterly contested primary campaign Republican Presidential nominee Mitt Romney lost the General Election to President Obama. Obama Wins….Now the Real Work of Healing the Wounds Must Begin However that healing didn’t begin and as of today the nation stands at the brink of political and economic crisis that could harm everyone in this country and sink the world economy. Fiscal Cliff Notes: There are Always Results

Then there was the senseless violence of massed murders, some obviously motivated by some kind of insanity while others simply due to hatred of people different.

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The Hatred of “the Other”: White Supremacists, Neo-Nazis, Politics and the Oak Creek Massacre

Man of Murderous Mystery: James Egan Holmes and the Aurora Dark Knight Massacre

The worst of these was just a couple of weeks ago in Newtown Connecticut A Cry in Newtown: Anguish after a Massacre

The War in Afghanistan dragged on while no politicians really addressed the subject even though the toll in American lives passed the 2000 mark and casualties at the hands of our Afghan allies rose to unthinkable levels. Likewise the crisis in the rise of suicides among active duty and reserve troops as well as Veterans continued unabated.

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The Afghanistan Quagmire and the Escalation of “Green on Blue” Attacks

Why Aren’t Any Politicians Talking About the War and Why don’t Voters Care?

Padre Steve Remembers 9-11 and the Forgotten War

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Natural disasters were not absent from the news this year, the biggest as far as the news went was Hurricane Sandy which struck the week before the US Presidential Election and devastated large parts of New Jersey, New York, the Mid-Atlantic and New England. A Massive and Deadly “Freak” Storm: Sandy Hits the USA while in the forgotten country of Bangladesh a fire at a clothing factory claimed over 100 lives A Juxtaposition of Contradictions: Thanksgiving, Black Friday and the Bangladesh Clothing Factory Fire

There were deaths of noted people this year:

Disgraced former Penn State College Football Coach and legend Joe Paterno died in January barely 2 months after his final game.

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The Death of a Tarnished Legend: Joe Paterno dead at 85

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Singing great Whitney Houston died of what appeared to be an accidental overdose One Moment in Time: Rest in Peace Whitney Houston 1963-2012 

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Neil Armstrong, the first man on the Moon passed away in August One Giant Loss for Mankind: Neil Armstrong Dead at 82

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1972 Democratic Presidential nominee, war hero and Senator George McGovern died in October A Loss for the Country and the World: A War Hero and Prophet of Peace George McGovern Dead at 90

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Iconic General H Norman Schwarzkopf, victor of the First Gulf War died just this week The Loss of an Icon: General Norman Schwarzkopf dies at 79 

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Of course much more happened over the course of 2012 including the end of the world that didn’t happen The Failed Mayan End of the World Prediction and the Chicago Cubs 

There are other things that I might have or should have written about but looking back over the past year if I was a full time writer. However I don’t think that I did too bad for being just one person who has a day job and who is maintaining two residences in different states. Besides as much as I want I still don’t have access to Warp Drive, transporter beams or time travel.

So I write today hoping for a good end to 2012, a better 2013 and peace on earth.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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“Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life” Goodbye London: XXX Olympics End on Musical Note

Some things in life are bad
They can really make you mad
Other things just make you swear and curse.
When you’re chewing on life’s gristle
Don’t grumble, give a whistle
And this’ll help things turn out for the best…

And…always look on the bright side of life…
Always look on the light side of life…

The XXX Olympiad in London ended on a musical note with many acts celebrating British Music.  Amid the spectacle athletes from the most of the 204 competing countries took pictures, some clasping medals that they won and others just taking in the moment as musical superstars past and present entertained the audience.  It was a nice show but despite the proliferation of great music the show was not nearly as memorable than the opening ceremony.

The Olympics were a massive undertaking that the British should be decidedly proud over. The challenge of traffic, transportation, potential terrorism were overcome and the weather which had been abysmal during July was for the most part excellent.

The opening ceremonies were light hearted with my favorite part being the appearance of Rowan Atkinson in a Mr. Bean type role in the Orchestra. My favorite part of the closing ceremony was Eric Idle of Monty Python singing Always Look on the Bright Side of Life” which though it comes from crucifixion scene of the movie The Life of Brian is really funny song. It is a typical British outlook on life going back to the days of the Nazi Blitz against London when Britain stood alone in the summer of 1940. It is kind of a “Keep Calm and Carry On” kind of song.

The United States led the medal count with 104, easily outdistancing the numbers put up by the Chinese. The USA men’s Basketball team won the Gold on the final day of the competition defeating Spain 107-100.  This was a big win as the team went into the Olympics having lost its big men and other key members to injury and defeated excellent teams from Spain and Argentina enroute to the win.

The British had their best Olympics since 1908 when the Olympics were decidedly different. Globalization has increased the competitiveness of the games. Even though large countries such as the United States, China and Russia, as well as those of Western Europe dominate much of the competition it is not uncommon for representatives of small nations to take medals.

Now Rio de Janeiro Brazil will undertake the gargantuan challenge of hosting the 2016 Summer Games while Sochi Russia will prepare for the 2014 Winter Games.

So until then regardless of how your days go try to “Always look on the bright side of life.”

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Queens of the Beach: Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh Strike Gold for Third Time

 

Kerri Walsh-Jennings and Misty May-Treanor take Gold

If there ever was an Olympic sport that is quintessentially American in its genus it is Beach Volleyball. It is a sport that I love to watch, especially women’s competitions.  My wife Judy says that the sport is sexist because the men wear more clothing than the women, not that she doesn’t mind watching the men as much as I enjoy watching the women, but I digress…

The sport began in Southern California about 1915 and has become a staple in the United States as well as around the world. As it is played today in professional and international amateur competitions it is played just two players as opposed to regular volleyball which is played by 6 player teams. Unlike volleyball beach volleyball has no substitution so players must play the entire match.

Since 2004 the women’s competition, especially in the Olympics have been dominated by an American team composed of Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh have dominated the sport. They were undefeated in any Olympic set or match until this year when they lost one set to the Austrian sisters Stephanie and Doris Schwaiger in the competition. Other than that set they are undefeated in every match and 42 sets. They are as close to perfect in a sport as any team in history. 

An Amazing Team

They had played together as a team since 2001 defeated the other American team in the women’s competition Jennifer Kessy and April Ross who had defeated the number one ranked team of the 2012 season, the Brazilians Larissa Franca and Julianna Felisberta-Silva in order to reach the final.

The future: Jennifer Kessy and April Walsh 

Their Olympic dominance began in Athens in 2004 and they repeated the feat in Beijing in 2008. Their journey was beset by injury and interrupted at times by the responsibilities of marriage and family.  In London they dominated even as the competition reached higher levels of excellence.

As the flags were raised at Horse Guards Parade under the shadows of Parliament the two American teams, four women knit together by shared skill, teamwork and determination stood together singing the Star Spangled Banner. They were joined by thousands in the stands, and as they sang Kerri Walsh cried as she sang.

Triumphant and Emotional

The Olympic championship in London culminates the incredible careers of Misty May and Kerry.  They have left a legacy that will be hard for others to match. Jennifer Kessy and April Walsh are the new team to beat and the competition will be intense when they go for Gold in the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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2012 Olympics: The Gold for the Fab Five, an Olympic Record for Phelps and putting the Bad Back in Badminton

The Fierce Fab Five

I am amazed at the abilities of Olympic athletes, especially the gymnasts.  As part of junior high physical education we had to play around at gymnastics and I can say I am in awe of young women and men who combine the strength, grace and agility required to do this at any level, but especially at the national and international level.

The Magnificent Seven of 1996

My appreciation for these athletes really began in 1976 when like so many I was charmed by little Nadia Comaneci who scored the first perfect 10 in Olympic history. Since then when I watch the Olympics I make sure that I at least try to see the gymnastic competitions.  I remember the 1996 Games when the American “Magnificent Seven” led by the injured Kerry Strug won the Gold in Atlanta.

 

Jordyn Wieber

Last night I watched the Women’s Team event even though I already knew that the American girls had won the event. Somehow that didn’t seem to matter. NBC has had its share of errors during this Olympic year but last night was not one of them.

Gabby Douglas

I had watched the individual competition earlier in the week and was disappointed with the rules that kept Jordyn Wieber from being in the individual all-round competition despite being one of the top five competitors. It is a bad rule but it did not stop Wieber from helping her teammates win the Team Gold on Tuesday.

Wieber along with her teammates Gabby Douglas, McKayla Maroney, Ali Raisman and Kyla Ross blew away the competition  demonstrating incredible aggressiveness and amazing ability. The started strong on the vault and continuing without any major mistakes in any event. As the final scores were registered on the balance beam and the Russian team wept the girls who in a sport that is an incredible display of individual achievement showed that they were a team. Some are saying that they are the best team ever. It would be hard to argue that point.

It was a proud moment for them, their families and their coaches. It was great to watch and made me proud to see such poise under pressure and excellence in execution. It was inspiring to see these young women stick together as a team.

Michael Phelps

Likewise it was good to see Michael Phelps the greatest swimmer in Olympics history add to his legacy. It had been a tough Olympics for Phelps who had taken 8 Golds in Beijing in 2008 but failed to end up on the medal stand in an event for the first time since 2002. He won Silver in the 200 meter Butterfly, losing in the last couple of feet, but  anchored the team in the 4×200 freestyle relay.

Now while the Fab Five and thousands of other athletes were doing all that they could to win there was a shameful display in the Badminton tournament. Four teams were disqualified from the Olympics for attempting to manipulate the standings of thier group stage to secure more favorable match ups in the next rounds. The Badminton tournament is a round robin competition instead of an elimination style event that most of the other team events follow. In this event four pairs of doubles players, four teams, one from China, two from Korea and one from Indonesia were disqualified for throwing games in order. The Chinese seemed to be the instigator of this trying to set up a situation where they could play another Chinese team for Gold.

Disqualified for Throwing Games

There always seems to be at least one scandal at the Olympics, usually related to judging or teams or athletes using performance enhancing drugs. This was different. There is cheating and there is cheating. In this case China’s world double’s champion team of Wang Xiaoli and Yu Yang threw a match against the South Koreans after another the second seeded Chinese team was unexpected defeated by a team from Denmark. Had the Wang Xiaoli and Yu Yang won the match the Chinese could have faced each other in the semi-finals. By losing they hoped to set up a situation where they could still meet in the final. The Koreans and Indonesians were punished for the same type of behavior.

Throwing games in any sport shows a lack of honor and no respect for the game.  The teams that were involved should be banned from international competition.  Officials and fans alike condemned the teams. Gail Emms said that “It was absolutely shocking….The crowds were booing and chanting ‘Off, off, off.’” Another top player called the it a “circus match” while Lin Dan, the Chinese Men’s Gold Medalist noted that the sport would be damaged while defending his teammates and blaming the organizers for the round robin format.

Thankfully the Badminton World Federation took decisive action penalizing the teams for “conducting oneself in a manner that is clearly abusive or detrimental to the sport.”

The contrast between the Fab Five and the teams that gave their all but lost in the team gymnastic competition and the “Bad” girls of Badminton was amazing. The women of the gymnastic competition, even those that did not medal clothed themselves and their sport in honor while the four Badminton pairs damaged their sport and dishonored themselves.

That being said I find it hard to believe that a “sport” like Badminton remains an Olympic sport while the IOC members voted out both Baseball and Women’s Softball. That is a travesty.

Well, back to watching the games.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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British Humor: Bond, Bean, Poppins and The Queen Kick Off XXX Games

It was quintessentially and quirkily British, and quite a show that director Danny Boyle produced to begin the XXXth Olympiad in London. It was a show that many wondered about considering the lavish display of nationalistic pride put on by China in the 2008 Games.

The British production was a display of how a nation can respect its heritage while at the same time have enough wit to laugh at itself. Maybe that is a result of having been the world’s largest empire a century ago to being a rather modest power today. Britain may no longer have empire, but it does have a rich tradition and great history that was displayed in the show.

http://vimeo.com/46518877

Music was a big part of the show and the influence of music of British music has been very large in the spread of western culture and influence. The opening song “Jerusalem” the lyrics of which come from William Blake is the unofficial hymn of England has a connection with the legendary Glastonbury Tor which was recreated in the stadium. Other songs from ancient to modern including folk songs like Danny Boy, hymnody, rock and pop were featured with Sir Paul McCartney closing the ceremony with his Beatles hit Hey Jude.

http://vimeo.com/46518877

As for me I appreciated the humor, or as the British call it humour. It was refreshing to be able to see a great people be able to celebrate greatness but also have the ability to laugh at themselves. I think that the biggest highlights for me was the entrance of Queen Elizabeth II with Daniel Craig, the current James Bond. It showed that even the Queen has a sense of humour as she took part in a skit with Craig that featured her Corgi dogs, a slick helicopter and a stuntman dressed as the Queen parachuting into the stadium. It was a scene that probably she will be remembered by long after she passes from this life.

http://www.ebaumsworld.com/video/watch/82693026/?lt=em

But even more fun was the appearance of Rowan Atkinson who reprised his Mr Bean type character. As a member of the orchestra who bored with his part the continuous tapping of the same note, daydreams about being in a scene from the film Chariots of Fire.  Of course as so many of his characters do and wins the race by cheating.  I can appreciate the honesty.

I was kind of bored by the tribute to the National Heath Service, not because I am a critic of the NHS, but it seemed to drag in comparison to other parts of the program despite the appearance of a flock of Mary Poppins ladies sailing in to chase off the villains of British Children’s literature.  However that being said it is important to note that the British are very proud of their health system despite the critics on this side of the pond, and the system is linked forever to J.M. Barrie, the author of Peter Pan who designated the Great Ormond Street Hospital as the beneficiary of the royalties from Peter Pan.

One thing that I find interesting about the British is that when times are bad they still can find humour in the situation. The British economy is suffering at the present time and there are many problems in the country. But there is something in the British character that helps them get through hard times and will again.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DahhUaoxX3I

I will occasionally post something about these Olympics. As always there will be controversy, but hopefully whatever controversy emerges in these games will not detract from the excellence of the athletes that compete.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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