The Oscars vs. O.J. Simpson

I spent this week, as usual, surrounded by sports.

I watched several basketball games, including the UCLA vs. Arizona game (maybe the curse is broken!), Kelsey Plum becoming the highest scorer ever in NCAA Division 1 women’s basketball, and Gonzaga finally losing (no one’s perfect). I watched several tennis matches, I met Misty May, I took a gander at the Sports Illustrated swim suit issue (gross, I’m working up to talking more about that in a later post).

But this week, nothing felt incredibly inspiring to write about.

So, I did what every uninspired writer does on a dreary Sunday afternoon- I baked and I had an Oscar watching party.

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The cake was delicious (just saying)

To be frank, I haven’t seen much of the movies nominated, except for La La Land (overrated in my opinion), but I still enjoy watching the fashion, the jokes, and the original song performances (by which I mean Justin Timberlake is going to perform, so I’ll be watching).

As I sat munching on my hard-earned cheese, after baking and hosting for a couple hours, I looked up in time to see O.J.: Made in America win best documentary feature.

Now, like any 90’s kid, USC and UCLA student, sports and entertainment fan, and avid watcher of crime documentaries, I am obsessed with O.J. Simpson. I am currently watching The People vs. O.J. Simpson (now that it’s finally on Netflix) and I am completely hooked. I’ve heard that O.J.: Made in America  is even better, and, since it uses the real footage of him, I’m sure I will love this documentary as well.

However, as interested and fascinated as I am by this case (this is compelling TV), when O.J.: Made in America won for best documentary, the annoying voice in the back of my head was thinking, “Is America rewarding a narcissistic murderer?”

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There’s always an original 

I’m willing to hazard a guess that O.J. Simpson is sitting in jail laughing at America. Twenty-three years after the double homicide and people are just as obsessed with O.J. Simpson as they were when he first led the LAPD on a slow car chase (I still can’t believe that seriously happened).

The O.J. Simpson trial captivated America (and the world) for nearly a year and its conclusion brought no sense of peace to the public. If anyone was unsure of his guilt in wake of the overwhelming evidence against him, the leaked release of the “fiction” memoir If I Did It should have cleared up any lingering feelings of innocence anyone was feeling. Even if he is miraculously innocent, what kind of sociopath writes a book describing how he would have killed his ex-wife?

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O.J. missed his calling as a hand model

But here I am, captivated by all of the recent documentaries and hating that I am feeding into exactly what O.J. Simpson loves, media attention. While I’m sure O.J.: Made in America  is a compelling, well-executed, well-researched film, I wish America would be a little more discreet about how fascinating they find O.J. Simpson.

No, it hasn’t escaped me that I am writing this blog about him, thereby perpetuating the vicious cycle. I’m human, I readily admit it. But this is my one and only post about him (I think).

Since Simpson is out for parole later this year (and it’s been reported he will probably get out) I can only imagine the amped up media coverage he will receive. As a man who turned his entire first-degree murder trial into a circus, he thrives on this attention. I think we should all make a pact now not to give him the satisfaction that we still care about what he does.

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If only it were true

 

 

 

Very Supertitious

I come from a “basketball” school.

What does that mean?

Apparently that we’re supposed to be good at basketball.

We have 11 national titles. We have 31 conference titles. We have 45 seasons with over 20 wins. John Wooden (I don’t think I even need to say anything more other than John Wooden).  “We,” if you haven’t figured it out, is UCLA.

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The man, the myth, the legend

As for myself, I personally haven’t witnessed a good basketball game in the eight years since I became a UCLA Bruin. And by “good” I mean they win.

I’ve sat through a lot of bad games. Two of the four years I was at UCLA as a student we didn’t even make the NCAA tournament. For a “basketball” school this is a big deal. In 2013, my senior year, I did the unthinkable and got my hopes up when UCLA surprisingly won the Pac-12 tournament after missing the tournament entirely the previous year. I learned quickly from that mistake as the team decided they were tired of winning and instilling hope in their fans, and lost in the first round of the NCAA tournament to 11th-seeded Minnesota.

imgres-1 But this year- this year we are supposed to be good.

We opened the regular season undefeated. We knocked off #1-ranked Kentucky on the road (although apparently now everyone has knocked Kentucky off this year). We held a no.2 ranking for a few weeks. This is the best I can remember us being since 2008 when we made it to the Final Four (one year before I became an official Bruin).

You can imagine how excited I was then to get tickets to the UCLA vs. USC game at USC this year. A small aside- I currently attend USC for graduate school (yes, yes, I’m in enemy territory, I’m a traitor, I am the enemy now- I’ve heard it all from both sides). But my loyalty for my Bruins remains intact.

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Should have known this high wouldn’t last

This year has been a little rough to be a UCLA fan going to USC and working in the USC athletics department (yes, I’ve really crossed some lines in grad school). Luckily, football season is over now and I can just put that small hiccup behind me. After all, I come from a “basketball” school.

I’ll admit, I was maybe a little cocky when game day rolled around on January 25th. I may have said some things to my USC colleagues (all in good fun of course). I even wore bright blue into the office (what? it’s a nice color, brings out my eyes). This was our year.

Well, I don’t think I need to go into the gory details, but UCLA lost that game in dramatic fashion. Actually, it wasn’t very dramatic. They never really showed up to play. They got whooped by USC 84-76. USC is not a “basketball” school.

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I got free tickets to this?

I, for my part, went back into the office the next morning quietly, with my head down.

Last night, was the highly anticipated rematch at Pauley Pavilion. This time UCLA soared. They killed USC by 32 points, 102-70! Four game losing streak against USC snapped! All five starters hit double-digit points for the night.

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This is what I imagine the game was like

 

And before you ask- no.

I did not watch the game.

I fully intended to, until I realized the night before that it was on the Pac-12 network. The dreaded Pac-12 network. Call your cable providers now because odds are you don’t get the Pac-12 network. No one does (sorry Colorado). One of the most highly anticipated games of the season (at least within the Pac-12) and the Pac-12 took the broadcasting rights for themselves.

I’ll hand it to them- that’s savvy business sense for the Pac-12 to keep the TV rights for the game. But from a fan perspective it’s kind of terrible. It’s hard enough to find millennials who are actually willing to pay for cable these days (I am actually one of those unicorns), much less pay for the Pac-12 network (my mystique stops there).

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Could be the Pac-12 Network for all I know

So instead of watching the game, I worked on homework (I am in grad school after all), and saw the occasional ESPN update about the game.

Do I think UCLA won because I wasn’t watching? I won’t count out that possibility. Sports are nothing if not superstitious. Let’s just say for once I am OK with being a hostage to the television networks.

All’s well that ends well. I can go into the office with my head held high on Monday and finally have proper bragging rights (which I fully intend to do). No one needs to know I didn’t actually see the game.

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Forever true

 

 

Bracketology

I hope everyone has started filling out their brackets because it’s that time of year again.

That time when you hope the stars will align, the heavens will open up and the gods will guide your hand with divine intervention for the chance to win $1 million dollars.

I am of course referring to the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show bracket challenge.

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And you thought March Madness was the only “bracket”

What’s that? You didn’t realize that the elite Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show will be taking place this coming Monday and Tuesday? Cancel your Valentine’s Day plans now because you are not going to want to miss the finals of the most prestigious dog show in the world.

But wait. You’re not sure how to go about filling out your Purina Pro sponsored bracket?

Well, lucky for you Andy Roddick is willing to help.

Yep, you heard me (or, rather, read me) correctly. Retired pro-tennis player, three-time Wimbledon champion, one-time U.S. Open champion, future Hall of Famer, Andy Roddick has shared his personal Westminster Kennel Club bracket with the public.

Roddick has finished his work for the week. He has chosen the miniature poodle to go all the way. Now he can sit back and watch the show with his own pups, Bob Costas and Billie Jean (I know every Roddick fan and sports fan just swooned at those names).

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The winner as predicted by Andy Roddick

I hope the Westminster Kennel Club paid Andy a lot of money to give that endorsement. Is retirement that boring that a dog show, ok, the dog show, is what’s occupying his time as of late? Roddick has apparently come a long way since his days of throwing his racket and storming off the court. Some critics would say Roddick threw in the towel when he retired in 2012. He simply gave up. Roddick turned his back on the courts at the age of thirty, after a season plagued by uncharacteristic losses. He retired ranked thirty-ninth in the world, the lowest he had ever been ranked since turning pro in 2000. By many accounts, Roddick left the game in defeat.

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Roddick bidding adieu

Since retiring, Roddick has kept a fairly low profile. He did a brief stint as a co-host on Fox Sports Live, but left the show in 2015. Since then, his wife, super-model Brooklyn Decker, has given birth to their first son and the couple continues to live in Austin, TX. Roddick is also apparently an avid dog-lover.

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If this picture doesn’t make you smile, I don’t know what will

The inevitable question comes to mind- is Andy Roddick that hard up that he needs a joint endorsement with dog food? Since Decker continues to work steadily and Roddick is being inducted to the Tennis Hall of Fame this year, I would venture to guess no. He’s just a man who loves his dog (or loves getting paid to love his dog). But, if you’re a female ( or a male, I don’t judge) or a tennis fan (as I am), the endorsement might just work. I may set my DVR to record the Westminster Dog Show this year. If it’s good enough for Andy and his dogs, why shouldn’t it be good enough for me?

Perfect Illusion

“They [the Falcons] are the underdogs.”

“The Patriots have more experience.”

“Ryan is good, but you can never count out Brady.”

“It will be a close game, but the Patriots will win.”

Turns out…they were right.

In the greatest Super Bowl comeback in history, the New England Patriots defeated the Atlanta Falcons 34-28 in overtime to win Super Bowl LI.

The Falcons came out of the gate strong Sunday night, leading 21-3 at halftime. Their defense sacked Brady twice in the same drive in the first quarter, against an offense who has only allowed fifteen sacks on Brady all season. The Falcons scored a pick-six off Brady to put them ahead 21-0.

The Patriots went into the locker room at the half having only managed to score a field-goal.

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Falcons’ fans rejoice at this sight of Brady

Troy Aikman repeatedly reminded America that no team has ever come back from more than a ten-point deficit in the Super Bowl.

And let’s not forget,  the Falcons also had two important groups in their corner. The puppies and the pigs.

I am of course referring to Live with Kelly’s  and The Tonight Show’s Super Bowl predicting pigs and puppies, respectively.

Kelly Ripa and guest co-host Carrie Ann Inaba raced pigs this week to predict who would win the Super Bowl. The Notorious P.I.G., representing the Falcons, immediately ran down the field to the end-zone. Meanwhile, Piggy Smalls, repping the Patriots, took his time moseying down the field, while periodically stopping and grazing. By all accounts of the first half of the actual game, it seemed like these pigs were on to something.

Jimmy Fallon’s puppies were equally tuned in to the Falcons’ bandwagon. The majority of the hungry puppies went straight to the Falcons bowl, ignoring the less popular Patriots bowl.

Yet, while the Falcons seemingly had everything going for them as they took the field in the second half, there was one important factor that may explain why they lost the largest lead in Super Bowl history and gave away 31 unanswered points- Bill Plaschke.

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Readers of the Los Angeles Times may be familiar with writer Bill Plaschke who has, by self-admission, correctly predicted three out of seventeen Super Bowls. That’s fifteen miscalled Super Bowls. Bill recognizes his own short-comings and even apologized to the Falcons for predicting that this was their year. He regretfully wrote this morning, “The Falcons seem like like such a nice bunch of folks, it’s a shame to jinx them like this, but all the human signs point to a huge upset of arguably the greatest dynasty in NFL history.”

Well Bill, you predicted an upset alright, just not quite what you were hoping for. There are many unpredictable things that have happened over the past several months, but it’s comforting to know that taking the opposite view of Bill Plaschke is still the closest one can get to a sure bet.

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Matt Ryan can take comfort in the fact that it wasn’t his fault. This epic comeback was destined to happen. All he had to do was read the Los Angeles Times this morning.

There’s Still Work to be Done

For fans of tennis, this Australian Open Finals weekend may as well have been Christmas morning- Williams vs. Williams and Federer vs. Nadal. Four of the greatest athletes to ever play the game met head-to-head once more in the singles finals to compete for the Women’s and Men’s Singles titles, respectively.

On Friday night, I settled in to watch the Women’s Singles Championship.

Actually, that’s a lie.

The match didn’t start until 12:30 a.m. Pacific time. I’m a dedicated fan, but not quite that dedicated. So I set my trusty DVR to record the historic ninth time Serena Williams will meet her sister Venus in a grand slam singles final.

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Venus and Serena post-match. Spoiler alert- this post is not about the match itself.

I did, however, stay up to listen to the pre-match commentary, and, quite frankly, was a little taken aback by what I heard.

The commentators began by giving a recap of the Williams sisters over the years. They flashed pictures across the screen of Venus and Serena competing from early in their teenage years, all the way to the present and highlighted all of the different hair styles they have had.

Wait.

Hair styles?

Do I care about their hair styles? Will they talk about Federer’s and Nadal’s hairstyles? Maybe. But my guess is probably not.

Now, to be fair, this is no where near the 2015 Australian Open snafu where a male reporter infamously asked Eugenie Bouchard, the 7th ranked women’s singles player in the world at a time, to “give us a twirl” after her second-round victory.

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Bouchard stunned at being asked to “twirl” after Australian Open victory

A twirl? Is this a beauty pageant?

Needless to say, that remark was widely criticized across the globe as being “sexist.”

Now commenting about the Williams sisters’ hair styles is not the same as the Bouchard incident. Yet, it’s these daily, seemingly innocuous, remarks that help perpetuate the double standard and sexist culture the exists not just in tennis, but in most sports.

Serena Williams has been a powerful voice in the industry, fighting for equal prize money and respect for female tennis players. Though she has made great strides in the sport, there are still daily battles to be fought, as these commentating remarks show.

The commentators went on to describe Serena as “one of the greatest female tennis players of all time.” Now I don’t think they meant to make that slip, as there has been a lot of criticism of late over calling Serena a great female tennis player (most of it by Serena herself), but this just goes to show how easy it is to make these slips.

Finally, the commentators came to my favorite [read “worst”] remark of the pre-match show. While talking about the Williams sisters’ careers, female commentator Chris McKendry, claimed that the only other siblings who come to mind to compare them to are the Manning brothers.

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Eli and Peyton Manning aka the equivalent of the Williams sisters

The Manning brothers?

Perhaps Venus and Serena should be flattered that they are being held on the same level as two great male football players. But how is this a like comparison?

Peyton and Eli Manning play a team sport, and, furthermore, they are both quarterbacks. They will never be on the same field at the same time. They will never compete one-on-one against the one person who might know more about their game than they do. They will never face each other on the field as enemies, and then return hours later to compete on the same team (Venus and Serena also have fourteen Grand Slam doubles titles together).

Is this the best comparison the Australian Open commentators can come up with? A comparison in which the only similarity is that the two pairs are siblings who play the same sport?

Does everything have to come back to football to be viewed as relevant in the sporting world?

Well, maybe it does.

Serena’s and Venus’ match happened to fall on the same day that Baylor, a Christian university, announced a lawsuit against them that alleges over fifty-two rapes have been committed by over thirty football players over the last four years.

Fifty-two.

That is a shocking number. And sadly, that number is probably lower than actual number, as most rapes go unreported.

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This is not normal

Baylor has been discovered to have an institutionalized sports culture that condones showing possible football recruits a “good ole time.” Apparently, these players interpreted “good ole time” to mean a ” good ole rape.”

Again, I’m not saying that any of the comments towards Venus and Serena on Friday night were anything close to this horror, but they did reveal that inherent, everyday sexism is still around, even in the slightest of forms. We’ve come a long way, and most people would probably agree that Serena Williams is one of the greatest tennis players of all time, male or female. But, there’s always more work to be done.

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This is also not normal

If we don’t take note of what may seem to be the smallest of comments, we start to think they’re normal and okay, and then one day we wake up to fifty-two rapes by college football players and a pussy-grabbing president.

Four Years Later, No Redemption for Seattle in Atlanta

January 13, 2013– The Seattle Seahawks and Atlanta Falcons met in Atlanta for the NFC Divisional Playoff.

The Georgia Dome may have a roof, but the temperature inside was cold as ice. At least for Seahawks fans who saw their post-season dreams freeze when head coach Pete Carroll iced his own kicker Steven Hauschka, who then missed what would have been a game-winning field goal.

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This post-season match-up featured two teams who had only one previous Super Bowl appearance each and zero Super Bowl championships. Fans of both teams were on the edge of their seats as Atlanta, who had the early lead with 20-0 at the half, watched Seattle make an incredible comeback run in the fourth quarter and narrow the score 30-28. With 0:08 left on the clock, Seattle lined up for the infamous field goal attempt.

Winning the game 30-28, Atlanta went on to keep chasing the Super Bowl dream for one more year, while Seattle went back home to the drawing board.

Four years later-The Seahawks have a Super Bowl championship and back-to-back “rePETE” Super Bowl appearances. The Falcons are still hankering for that Super Bowl ring.

The Seahawks have been in the playoffs every year since 2012. The Falcons have not made it to the playoffs since 2012.

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Dan Quinn, the defensive coordinator for Seattle’s top ranked defense, who led them to two Super Bowl appearances and a championship ring, is now the head coach for Atlanta.

Seattle’s 2016 season has been riddled with inconsistencies and injuries from key players including safety Earl Thomas III, quarterback Russell Wilson, and wide-receiver Tyler Lockett. The team continues to carry around the weight of the infamous 2015 Super Bowl pass call that resulted in an interception and the loss of a second championship. But Seattle is determined to prove they are still the championship team they were three years ago.

Atlanta’s 2016 season has been one for the records. Quarterback Matt Ryan finished the season with career highs in touchdowns, passer ratings and completion percentage. However, the Falcons, who boast the number one offense in the country, are still being dubbed by critics as merely a good “regular season” team.

Each team continues to have something to prove.

January 14, 2017- The Seattle Seahawks met for the first time in the post-season since 2013. Once more the NFC Divisional Playoff was held in Atlanta.

History seemed to be repeating itself in this game, as Atlanta scored a safety and twelve unanswered points, leading 19-10 at the half.

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Yet, this time there was no fourth quarter comeback for the Seahawks. Seattle allowed nineteen unanswered points before quietly responding with a 26-yard field goal late in the third quarter, making the score 26-13 with Atlanta leading.

Gaps from injured Seattle defensive players were felt, and more injuries continued to plague the game, including cornerback DeShawn Shead who suffered a serious knee injury. Huge penalties called back what yardage Seattle’s special teams could muster.

This time around Atlanta routed Seattle 36-20.

For the Seahawks, there was no redemption in Atlanta.

For the Falcons, there was the continuing spark of hope.

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Matt Ryan proved that he can get it done under pressure, throwing 338 yards and 3 touchdowns. Dan Quinn proved that he could beat his former team and still be classy by taking a knee at first and goal in the remaining seconds of the game. Atlanta gave their fans something to cheer for as they played what could have been the final game at the Georgia Dome before the Falcons move into their new stadium next season.

Once more Seattle returns home to the drawing board (or more likely the rehab facility) while Atlanta thinks ahead to the NFC Championship game against the Green Bay Packers.

The Super Bowl dream is still in the cards for Atlanta. Maybe this time around they will actually make it a reality.