19 Aug 2014
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Olympic Obsession: Day 10

Monday's U.S.-Canada soccer semifinal game was an instant classic. And if you couldn't enjoy a soccer game like that, then you don't deserve soccer.

Olympic Obsession: Day 10

OK non-soccer fans, tell me that wasn’t amazing.

If Monday’s between Canada and the United States was just the latest in a series of great soccer games featuring American teams. There was the men’s team’s win in the World Cup, and then the dramatic, man-down comeback by the women’s team at last year’s Women’s World Cup. Then Monday.

Let’s put it this way, if this game was broadcast by ABC/ESPN, it would have been replayed on ESPN Classic later in the night, the next day and the next day. There was no doubt about the determination of its status of “Classic.”

It was a pair of prizefighters standing in the middle of the ring, toe-to-toe, just throwing punch after punch. It featured everything: A heroic performance by a national star. Controversial decisions by a referee. And a last minute, desperation score that helped avoid the dreaded shootout.

So, non-soccer fans, if that didn’t convert you … we don’t want you.

Following along with Monday’s game on Twitter (while watching live on TV) was a great way to connect with other sports fans. And, for me, as a hockey fan has a bunch of Canadian media types on his feed, it was even better.

There was smack talk and complaining aplenty, along with tweets of amazement at what transpiring.

It was by far the best thing I’ve seen at these Olympics. By. Far.

It was even great seeing the transition from the soccer game to the basketball game. Seeing Doc Rivers, with his mouth agape at what he was watching, was worth every moment. Here was a basketball guy, with little to no soccer knowledge, tripping over himself with how impressive that game was.

But here’s the one complaint (you knew it was coming). NBC blew it. They showed the game live on the NBC Sports Network. It was followed by more live action (the aforementioned basketball game). And then, to fill out their Olympic block, they replayed the majority of overtime.

Just the overtime. Not the whole game. I’m sure there’s rights issues or International Olympic Committee rules about replaying a game like that. Because I sure as heck would have rather seen that playing on my network instead of the National Heads-Up Poker Championship for the next two hours.

That’s where ESPN has got NBC’s fledgling sports network beat. It has the ability to pick up and replace something of greater interest that night. At that hour, you had a chance to show the east coast, and the people arriving home in the west, the best game of these Olympics, and you went with poker?

At least they showed the highlights at the top of primetime.

MORE SOCCER: Monday’s games were chock full of great goals. Highlight goals that were great no matter what gender converted them.

All three of Christine Sinclair’s goals for Canada were fabulous. Megan Rapinoe’s second goal was a pure blast (and her first one, off the corner, takes some finesse at that level). Two of the three goals in the Japan-France game were picture perfect.

SOCCER LAST: The complaining about the officiating wasn’t limited to fans on Twitter.

After the game, Sinclair and Canada coach John Herdman were not very complimentary of referee Christiana Pedersen of Norway. Both were less than happy with the call that led to Abby Wambach’s penalty kick goal in the 80th minute.

Sinclair went as far as to say the referee had determined the game’s outcome before it started.

It’s disappointing to hear a player make comments like that. I understand the frustration, and she’ll probably downplay them as time goes on. But it still cheapens the amazing game she played, and her new place among Canadian sports heroes.

OTHER STUFF: The last U.S. men’s beach volleyball team was eliminated short of the medal round Monday. And every headline and announcer made it out to be this huge upset.

Since when is a five-seed beating a four-seed a huge upset?

Upset? Sure. Huge? No.

Think about it in NCAA Basketball Tournament terms. If a bracket’s four and five seed met in the Sweet Sixteen, would it be all that surprising if the five seed win?

Meanwhile, on the track, the U.S. picked up a gold in women’s pole vault in conditions the athletes called “terrible” due to swirling winds.

And the U.S. got a silver in the men's 400-meter hurdles, as Michael Tinsley finished second to the Dominican Republic's Felix Sanchez. The silver wasn't the story, as Sanchez's story is one of those that is magnified in the Olympic spotlight. If you've ever loved your grandmother, then it's worth a click.

ONE MORE THING: I came across this bit from Yahoo’s coverage of the Games: The Real Medal Count.

Apparently, someone at Yahoo is with me on this whole idea of judges deciding winners of sporting competition. So they did something about it.

They removed all the sports that rely solely on judges: gymnastics, diving and trampoline (they also included judo, but I don’t see that one as being necessarily being a “judged” event, because then you’d have to include boxing).

The way the writer did the story came off as the U.S. is still better than you (and commenters called him out as such). But the point remains for some of us: How does a judge’s decision make one person better than another?

UPCOMING: The men will have a lot to live up to in their soccer semifinals, as Mexico takes on Japan (9 a.m.) and South Korea plays Brazil (11:45 a.m.). Both of the American women’s beach volleyball teams will be in semifinal action, with Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh Jennings playing at 10 a.m. (and NBC’s saving it for the primetime broadcast). The other match, featuring April Ross and Jen Kessy, is scheduled to start at 1 p.m. (and it’ll be shown sometime in the afternoon, maybe live). The U.S. women’s basketball team will start knockout play against Canada (um, awkward) live at 6 a.m. Plus, there’s more individual gymnastics action and track and field (the women’s 100 hurdles featuring Lolo Jones will be the marquee event for NBC).

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