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After the Bird’s Nest, What’s Next?

There’s nothing really special about this basketball hoop. It’s your basic portable model, regulation 10′ at the rim, glass backboard. Except that it’s inside the Forbidden City in Beijing. Now, it’s an established fact that the emperors of the Ming Dynasty were ballers, and that Chairman Mao’s indefensible hook shot was what kicked off the Cultural Revolution. It’s even been surmised that the Great Wall of China is simply the ultimate zone defense, or at the very least a fine example of boxing out.

Beijing hoops

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

But what’s happened to Chinese sports? Since the 2008 Olympics, when the Chinese impressed the world with their ability to build cool-looking swimming pools and harnessed the power of totalitarianism spirit of volunteerism to put on a dazzling opening ceremony, the biggest news in Chinese sports has been about the end of Yao Ming’s career.

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Dick Trickle finished…

He never won a race at NASCAR’s highest level. If anything, he’s known mostly for being the butt of a running gag on ESPN’s Sportscenter. But #64 took his own life today, so perhaps the best way to celebrate him is to acknowledge — as he did himself — that his name was hilarious. To that end, here’s a list of the best (or worst) named athletes of all time. (They’re all real athletes. Really.)

trickle_chat

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2013 MLB Division Predictions: AL Central

250px-Detroit_Tigers_logo.svgTigers
The Tigers are hellbent on winning a World Series before Mike Illitch dies, and judging from his appearance when they won the American League last year, they don’t have long. Adding Torii Hunter should help. Getting Victor Martinez back from a year-long injury should help. Harnessing rookie closer-in-waiting Bruce Rondon’s 103-mph gas should help. Having starters Anibal Sanchez (acquired in a mid-season trade last year) and Doug Fister (injuries) for full seasons should help. Installing a Marlboro vending machine in the dugout for manager Jim Leyland should, uh, help? But nothing will help more than playing in the AL Central.

2013 Prediction: 95-67
Last Year: 88-74

Royals
The Royals made a questionable trade, surrendering top prospect Wil Myers and others for one or two years of James Shields and a slightly above average starter in Wade Davis. That said, the move improves their pitching significantly this year, and that could be significant in this division. If Eric Hosmer regains his form while Alex Gordon and Mike Moustakas continue to improve, this lineup should be more than capable. Add in Billy Butler’s solid production, dynamic Lorenzo Cain in center field and budding star Salvador Perez behind the plate, and KC may surprise a few folks this year. A horrid start last year squashed any hopes of contention, but the Royals were decent after that. And hey, they’ve been the best team in spring training this year, which should count for something, right? Don’t expect a division title, but a wild card berth is not out of the question.

2013 Prediction: 85-77
Last Year: 72-90

White Sox
Adam Dunn remembered how to hit last year, and Robin Ventura learned how to manage. And AJ Pierzynski learned how to use PEDs. (Hey! You can’t say that!) Ok. Strike that from the record, please. In any event, Pierzynski and his strangely improved power numbers are gone, and the White Sox have question marks at catcher, second base, third base and (as usual) in the broadcast booth. Can someone just make Hawk Harrelson disappear already? Chicago’s big free agent signing was Jeff Keppinger, which was great for Mrs. Keppinger and their kids but not so great for White Sox fans. The Sox rotation looks like Chris Sale and some iffiness. Expect a step backward this year as other teams in the division have improved more.

2013 Prediction: 80-82
Last Year: 85-77

Indians
Has Terry Francona’s star has fallen so far that he had no choice but to accept a job managing the Indians? Apparently it has. Depending how you view things, Cleveland either was fortunate that Nick Swisher and Michael Bourn fell into their laps this offseason, or unfortunate that they overpaid for two players who aren’t likely to justify their contracts. More significantly, though, neither of them can pitch. The Indians will be better, but unfortunately in the same way that 98 Degrees was better than New Kids on the Block.

2013 Prediction: 78-84
Last Year: 68-94

Twins
The Twins are rumored to be desperately trying to void their lease at Target Field and move back into the Metrodome, where it seems they left all their talent and voodoo-like ability to win games. Wait, that’s not true? Well, it should be. Target Field has been a disaster recently for the Twins, and it doesn’t help that most of their players suck, too. They have some good young hitters, but trading away both of their speedy centerfielders – Ben Revere and Denard Span – for pitching that won’t help them this year spells another long season for Ron Gardenhire.

2013 Prediction: 71-91
Last Year: 66-96

Skins Fans Revel in True National Pastime

The Washington ‘Skins capped up an amazing seven game winning streak to beat the Dallas Cowboys last night and win the NFC East crown. RGIII was not his usual brilliant self, but gutted out running on a bum knee for 63 yards. Unheralded rookie Alfred Morris ran for 200 bruising yards, three touchdowns, and broke the franchise record for rushing yards in a season. The once shaky defense had three interceptions. An over all team effort means a home playoff game next week for the first time since 1999. (Cue Prince.)

In short, there was a LOT to read about this morning in the Washington Post if you are a Skins fan. Yet, here are the top five stories in the Post’s Sports section (as of about 10:00 AM Monday morning):

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Is anyone really surprised that Washingtonians would rather read about the Cowboys LOSING than the ‘Skins WINNING? That we’d rather celebrate Romo being NoMo than our own fantastic rookies? This is Washington, DC, and Power City is all about making sure the other guy loses as much as seeing yourself in the winner’s circle. Have you been watching the talks on the infamous “fiscal cliff”? No one is actually trying to negotiate a settlement right now. At this point, everyone is posturing and positioning their side to avoid taking the political blame if there is no deal. Why shouldn’t this attitude be reflected in the city’s sport scene?

Schadenfreude, America’s true national pastime.

UPDATE: Reading about Dallas losing is the most read story for the entire Washington Post, not just the Sports section–and the article beat out some heavy hitters. We truly are a sick, sick city.

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