Thursday, August 31, 2006

The Final Four

In the 2006 FIBA World Championships, the final four teams have been determined.

The United States versus Greece. Argentina versus Spain.

The US must play well just to even get into the final. And whoever wins Argentina versus Spain could very well be win the final gold. We'll see. The US game is in the middle of the night. I won't be up watching. But it'll be the first score I look for in the morning. See the comments for the update.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Quest for Gold

The United States basketball team is in the 2006 FIBA World Championship. And yes, we're gunning for gold.

The last FIBA championship was 2002, held in Indianapolis. Yugoslavia beat Argentina for the gold medal, with the US finishing sixth in the tournament. Sixth!

This year, the US coach is Mike Krzyzewski, the highly successful coach for the Duke University men's basketball team. Our players include LeBron James, Dwayne Wade, and Carmelo Anthony. The US beat Puerto Rico yesterday, and will face China tomorrow. The championships are being held in Japan, so you'll have to get up early to watch them.

Friday, August 11, 2006

World Trade Center

I saw World Trade Center, Oliver Stone's movie about 9/11. As reported by other critics, Oliver Stone does not use the events in this movie to jump on a soap-box. Instead, he takes a straightforward look at one of the remarkable survival stories of that grim and fateful day.

It is the story of John McLoughlin and William Jimeno, two Port Authority policemen who went into the World Trade Center that morning, aiming to help. Instead, they were crushed underneath the rubble when the towers collapsed. This first part of the movie takes place quickly.

The long middle of the movie takes us underneath the rubble, alongside these two average men, suffering above average pain. These scenes are dark (literally; the frames are mostly unlit), and close. As a viewer, you wanted to get out too.

The long middle also takes us into the worried families of these men (both are married with children). The actresses who play their wives convey the strength, the fear and the doubt that they certainly had to have, especially on that terrible day. In many ways, this was the more compelling story. We knew and the trapped policemen knew where they were: these women didn't.

The movie takes us from unknowing to knowing, from fear to joy. The dramatic finish is something Hollywood wouldn't dare write (a former Marine drives in from Connecticut, makes his way to Ground Zero, and begins calling out for survivors). But we accept it, with tears in our eyes, because it is what really happened that day.

The movie is a 'rescue' story. Rescues happen on all the time. But on 9/11, from the rubble of the fallen towers, there were only a few dozen 'survivors'. This is a great movie about two of those survivors and their rescuers.

Sunday, August 6, 2006

Tour de Farce

I held my breath waiting for the results of Floyd Landis' second blood test this weekend. On Saturday, I exhaled a disgusted breath. The second tests came to the same conclusion. Floyd Landis was 'doped up' during the Tour de France.

In sports, unlike the movies, or novels, letting yourself believe is a truly vulnerable act. If you let yourself believe in some sporting event, in some sporting hero, in some sporting result, and then you find out that what you've opened your heart to was actually tainted in some way, it's like a sucker punch.

Landis took away all the positive feelings from his 2006 Tour de France "victory". Yes, he'll appeal. Perhaps he may be redeemed. But two lab results are in, and it's devasting news for those of us who wanted to believe in a great event, in a new great hero, in a wildly spectacular result.