Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Leaving Early, Staying Late

Last week, two of my favorite athletes retired, both surprisingly. Annika Sorenstam is one of the greatest female golfers of all time, maybe even the best. At age 37, she figured to have a number of high-quality years left in her career, with a number of career records in sight. Last year she was injured and Lorena Ochoa took over the number one ranking. This year she is back and is ranked second behind Ochoa, pretty impressive coming off an injury. Yet she has announced that this year would be her last. It seems that her time off while injured showed her that there were other things she enjoyed doing. Add that to her impending marriage with the possibility of kids out there and she doesn’t want to hang around as a part-time player. Maybe, a few years down the road, she’ll be back, as others have returned. For now she will leave, but the sport she leaves behind is in fine shape, with youngsters like Paula Creamer and Morgan Pressel emerging as possible stars, as well as an endless stream of Korean youngsters set to challenge Ochoa at the top.
The other departure is sad in a different way, as Justine Henin has decided to leave tennis while on top. In the modern era, no woman has quit while number one. She was a player of incredible talent, combining speed and power with competitive fury rarely matched. Her talent and spirit enabled her to overcome a lack of size relative to the other top players. Most of the top players are anywhere from 5’10 to 6’2, she is only 5’5 ½, not an unusual height for a woman, but for a top tennis player, quite small. Add in her beautiful one-handed backhand, a shot rarely seen anymore, and she will be sorely missed. The game has been given over to the giants, with spectacular power and court coverage. There’s nothing wrong with that, but all tennis fans will miss the variety which Justine brought. Why quit now? The fire had gone out – it was that simple. She couldn’t coast on talent until it came back, she suffered the worst defeat ever by a number one. So now she is gone – maybe the desire will return, but her body and will were being pushed to their extreme all the time, resulting in injuries to her body and now her departure. It’s hard to believe she can recapture her greatness if she does come back.
Which brings us to Hillary Clinton – she ain’t going nowhere. Her competitive fire has not gone out, not for a second. She is still talking about going all the way to the convention, still talking about the popular vote, still talking about Florida and Michigan. Tonight she will win Kentucky easily, in two weeks she will win Puerto Rico. Does any of this really matter? It’s not like the super delegates are coming to her side. With every victory of hers, more and more of them endorse Obama. Does she really think she can win? Maybe she does, as unlikely as that seems. There is a real chance that she will win the popular vote race – a race only she seems to be running, but nonetheless, a talking point. Puerto Rico is the key there, as they could cast upward of 2 million votes there, as it is the only chance they get to select the President. Give her 62% of those and she makes up nearly half a million votes on Obama. Look for the Clintons to keep talking about this and saying how she is the real choice of the people. I’ll have more on this tomorrow.

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Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Showdown Tuesday

It’s Showdown Tuesday – hey, I have as much right to make up a pointless name for the NC and IN primaries as the networks, who keep calling everything Super Tuesday.
So what is going to happen today? My prediction: Clinton wins Indiana by a bigger margin than Obama wins North Carolina – let’s say Clinton by 7 and Obama by 5 (or less). The turnout is very heavy, with a particularly large surge in Republican crossovers in NC. That surge will help Hillary, not just because of Rush Limbaugh, but because the National Right to Life organization has been robo-calling on her behalf in NC and IN.
What will all this mean? Look at the exit polls – unreliable as they are, the media will be all over them – and check the white vote for Obama. If he drops under 30% (a real possibility, if it’s close and chock full of GOP voters), there will be great hand-wringing and gnashing of teeth about his collapse in white support. This is the opening Hillary needs to try and convince super delegates that she is the one they should support. More about that tomorrow.

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Monday, May 05, 2008

Calling Henry Waxman

Roger Clemens issued a statement last night apologizing for mistakes in his personal life, while assuring people that he never did performance-enhancing drugs or 15 year-olds. I’m sure that’s very reassuring to his wife and kids, as well as his lawyers, who are getting ready to buy new boats based on the legal fees they are about to pile up. But there is still one key group yet to be heard from – the U.S. House of Representatives. That’s right, Congress clearly needs to investigate this, for the sake of the children. I mean, if they need to hold hearings to protect children from steroid use, surely they need to protect them from sexual exploitation by famous people. I want to see these hearings just to see the Republicans defend Clemens on this one as vigorously as they did on the steroids one.
“Mr. Clemens, you are one of the greatest pitchers of all time and I am honored to be discussing underage girls with you today. I think you are being unfairly accused by unscrupulous reporters looking for a cheap thrill. A man like you, famous, talented, and if I may say so, darn good-looking, must have his pick of women to fornicate with. I find it incomprehensible that you would choose a 15 year-old. And who among us has not seen a young woman who looked 18, but then turned out to be younger? Come on, we have to be fair here, young girls look more mature every year. You meet them, they say they’re 18 or 19, what are you going to do, ask to see their birth certificate? You have the respect and admiration of all Americans, Mr. Clemens, and I am horrified that we have chosen to drag you here today.”
Sounds like fun, doesn’t it? Come on, Congressman Waxman, this could be a wonderful summer replacement for the tedious Democratic nomination race.