Tuesday, August 31, 2004

RTE's Olympics

My last post on the Athens games - promise!

RTE's coverage wasn't bad really. It's not really fair to compare RTE with the BBC as it's plainly obvious that the BBC has a vastly greater budget. RTE's strength was the studio discussions where the sporting events were analyzed seriously, unlike what often happened on the BBC.

One thing that was somewhat irksome was Tim McCarthy's basketball commentary. He called all the games and insisted on referring to the US's Allen Iverson as "Ee-verson". Now, I have no idea how Allen's parents pronounce his name, but I do know that every sports program from the US that I've ever watched or listened to has pronounced the name as "Eye-verson".

I wasn't too concerned about this until Mr. McCarthy felt obliged to lecture us that his pronunciation was in fact, correct and all us plebes were wrong to think otherwise. Until then I just thought he was stubbornly quirky - especially since Sean O'Sullivan who joined him in the broadcasts used the pronunciation that I've always heard.

"Maniac, defrocked priest"

That's how Cornelius 'Neil' Horan, the man who tackled the leader of the Marathon the other night, was described on ESPN's PTI last night. I've had quite a few e-mails from people asking me about him, so here's what I have found.

From what I can gather, until last year's stunt at Silverstone, when he ran out onto the track in the middle of a Formula 1 race, Fr. Horan was basically considered a harmless eccentric.

Fr. Horan was, supposedly, the inspiration for the dancing priest character on Fr. Ted (I heard this in a radio interview on Newstalk106 yesterday).

He is an 'agent of peace'in a troubled world who's basically trying to get us all to read the bible as the end is nigh. When he attacked the Brazilian runner, he was carrying a sign that said "The second coming is near, says the Bible".

His family wanted him jailed, but he was freed by the authorities in Athens.

There may also be a more unseemly side to his character as he's facing indecency charges, in relation to a matter involving a child under 16 years of age, according to the Irish Independent.

If you want to hear the man talk about what he was doing, you can hear him on today's edition of Liveline from RTE.

Monday, August 30, 2004

Don't cry for me

Yes, I'll be experiencing some withdrawal now with the Olympics over, but tonight the World Cup of Hockey starts and I'll be watching as much as I can. This article from the Toronto Star says the World Cup is a huge deal in Europe. Just in case anyone's wondering, I don't anticipate a lot of interest here in Wicklow.

Beijing - 2008

So, now it's on to Beijing. I hope by the time we get to Beijing Taiwan will be able to see its flag raised and anthem played whenever they win an Olympic gold. Taiwan won its first ever gold medal on Thursday (they actually won two on Thursday), but had to settle for stand-ins for their flag and anthem.
The images of Chen and Chu winning their medals brought emotions of the Taiwanese masses -- sitting before their televisions late into the night -- to a fever pitch. The strains of the National Flag Song sounded so sweet, and the five-ringed Olympic flag looked beautiful.

This was a moment of enormous pride -- but that pride was mixed with regret. For the flag was not Taiwan's national flag, and the music was not Taiwan's national anthem. Such are the compromises that the country must make in order to participate in international sports. It is not the sort of treatment that a normal nation would expect. Taiwan has to work harder to fight for the same kind of treatment other countries get as part of the international community.
Puerto Rico doesn't have to put up with this. Palestine had its own flag and anthem.

What odds that China will allow Taiwan to compete under its own flag by 2008?

Australia & Argentina

I'll say it again - how can Australia be so good at so many sports. 4th in the medals table! And, they're also really good at Rugby, cricket and they have their own popular Australian Rules Football. Where does all that talent come from?

Nearly as surprising is the fact that before Saturday, Argentina hadn't won a gold medal in over 50 years. A fairly wealthy country of nearly 40m people and no gold medalist in all that time?

They won two on Saturday - basketball and soccer - to end the drought.

Basketball - final thoughts

I didn't see any of the semi-final games thanks to Cian O'Connor's gold medal. {I think I've seen the clear round that won him the gold 10 times already. I'm sure it'll be on again today.} I don't know how the US lost to Argentina, but it's not a shock that they did.

But, what did surprise me somewhat was the enthusiasm that the American team showed in the bronze medal game. I thought the team displayed great character.

Acres of newsprint will be exhausted in the examination of what went wrong. That the US team wasn't good enough goes without saying. They didn't just lose one game in an upset, which can happen to any favorite in a single elimination tournament. They were beaten three times.

One thing I haven't read in any paper is whether some of the top NBA players opted out of Athens because they feared the IOC's stricter drug testing. I'm surprised no one (at least as far as I've found) has mentioned it.

Athens 2004

The papers are full of praise for Greece and the manner in which it hosted the Olympic Games. I think the venues devoid of fans and the incident in the marathon are two marks against the Athens organizers, but from the safety of my living room the Games seemed to go off well enough. At least the drugs issue seems to have been taken seriously this time, even though it meant driving away Greece's two favorite athletes.

Whatever about Athens, the IOC certainly has to do something about the fact that so many of the medals were disputed. The 3-Day-Event and gymnastics (and others?) had trouble deciding who actually won the gold medal. The athletes are professionals now and there's a lot of money at stake, but the people who run these sports are still amateurs. I've seen many, many disputed decisions in every sport I watch, but I've never seen such confusion as to who actually won the contest. No decision ever appears to be final. The IOC has got to do something about that. They should award no gold medals before the decision is final and then once the medals are distributed only a failed drug test should overturn that.

Saturday, August 28, 2004

What a joke!

I'll say it again. What a joke! The International Gymnastics Federation now wants Paul Hamm to return his gold medal.

I know there's no way the Olympics would ever get rid of gymnastics because way too much of the viewing audience is built around gymnastics, but let's face it, this situation is a farce and it's not the first time.

Friday, August 27, 2004


The Men's basketball game must be over by now and I have no idea how it went and I don't want to know in case they show it to me later.

Hard to moan about it when everyone is so excited with Ireland's first (and only?) medal at these Games. Cian O'Connor on Waterford Crystal won gold in the Showjumping this evening.

How do they do it?

There's no doubt in my mind that Australia is simply the best sports country on Earth. Australia is third in the medals table at the moment - ahead of Russia, Japan, Germany and loads of other bigger nations.

On Wednesday they had to settle for the silver in baseball. Is there any sport Australians are not good at?

11th place - quite an achievement

Due to the Olympics and a few other things I'm a little behind in my newspaper reading. {I'm not sure my family appreciates the mound of papers in the dining room that I call simply - July.}

So, I only came across this item last night. It's a review of the Olympics broadcasts from this week's Sunday Independent. I really enjoyed his perception of the difference in attitude found among Irish Olympians and the Americans (& other Olympic powers).

Booing a time-out

Apparently, the fans were booing at the end of the game because they felt the Spanish team was insulted by the Americans when they called a timeout with an eleven point lead and 23 seconds left in the game.

Funny how cultural differences can cause trouble. I didn't see that timeout as an insult. Any basketball coach can recall those miracle games when some team hits 4 straight 3-pointers in the last few seconds to snatch a victory. I figured that when Larry Brown, who I have to say I've never really liked, called that TO he didn't feel comfortable yet. His team is more than capable of throwing the ball away 3 times.

It's been pretty obvious that these guys have learned to respect their opponents, which is more than any other recent US Olympic team has done.

As for the officiating, it was truly awful. There should be no referees who work outside the US or Europe. Yesterday's Mexican ref was way out of his depth. He was the only person on the court who didn't belong there.

UPDATE: Here's a little more detail from USA Today:
Brown, as required by international rules, originally signaled the scorer's table for a timeout with the U.S. struggling against a full court press in the final minute of the game with an eight-point lead. When the officials finally granted it with 23 seconds left, however, the U.S. had control of the game.
So, the difference in the rules helped create this problem.

Thursday, August 26, 2004

Today's basketball game

I thought today's US vs. Spain game was excellent. The US won, but Spain's Pau Gasol deserved to win. He was incredible.

I felt sorry for the Spanish because they probably deserve to win a medal. But, that's sports. Spain is out having won all their group games and the US is in the semi-finals after a lackluster showing in the group stages.

Why were the fans booing at the end of the game? Were there that many Spanish fans there? If not, I would have thought a neutral would have really enjoyed this game.

"Deep disappointment"

That's how the Irish Examiner characterizes the public's sentiment with regards to the Irish Olympians' performances. I'm not sure that many people are really that worried about it.

I'd like the Irish athletes to do better, but I'm not willing to pay more taxes to the privileged few who get to represent the country at the Olympic Games. Funding sports for kids and the general public as an investment in both education and health makes some sense, but giving taxpayer's money to the competitors just so they can take part in the Games is a travesty.

I don't know if the US government funds athletes competing in the Olympics, but I hope not. Most of the development of Olympians takes place at the collegiate level, where the money comes through normal college fund-raising efforts.


Nice article in today's Guardian about Luol Deng who has just signed with the Chicago Bulls for $6.3m.


Just finished watching the USA vs Spain game. Very good game.

I'll add more later, but want to warn those who are hoping to watch it later on tape delay or whatever.

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Heating up the track

The track & field at this Olympics has been stretched way too thin. It used to last about 7 days, but now it's 10. So, in order to fill in the extra time, we're getting a lot of evening time heats.

I know the real afficianados love the heats too, but to me semi-finals and finals are the only races that belong in prime-time. Last night's program wasn't too bad, but if I had paid big money to see Tuesday night's evening session I'd have felt cheated. There was virtually nothing of importance going on. So many womens' 200m heats.

Watching the women's beach volleyball

For what it's worth, the women I've seen playing (field) hockey are much better looking than the women who I've seen in the beach volleyball, despite beach volleyball's sexy image. However, if you're watching the Olympics for the attractive women then you've got some serious 'issues'.


I was on Luas yesterday. My verdict: it's clean.


Spotted Moneyball for sale in Read's of Nassau Street yesterday. It was a paperback version and around €10, I think.

"Over My Dead Body"

I wonder if that's what Misty May's mother said about her daughter's efforts to win beach volleyball gold? Well it wasn't quite over her dead body, but May did distribute her mother's ashes over the beach volleyball court after last night's gold medal victory.

Now I'm wondering if either of the Mens' teams will be a little hesitant before diving into the sand to dig one out.

By the way, despite the fact I've made some negative comments about it, beach volleyball is a really good game. I actually prefer it to the inside version.

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Pro-Americanism on RTE?

I know nothing of his political views, but Eamonn Coghlan obviously loves US Track & Field. He may be the most pro-American person on RTE.

I met Coghlan a couple of times back when he was "Chairman of the Boards".

Watching the Olympics

Sometimes I wonder why I find myself drawn to the Olympics every 4 years because I would watch almost none of the Olympic sports if they were on in any other context. I don't blame anyone who doesn't watch because I can't explain my own interest.

A couple of the sports - track & field and rowing - can be good and I would watch them outside of Olympic competition. And, obviously some of the team sports (baseball, soccer, basketball) I watch regularly, although the Olympics versions are inevitably inferior to other competitions.

Then there are the sports that I watch only during the Olympics, but which infuriate me. Gymnastics is first and foremost in this list. Actually, I really can't stand any sport that depends on judges for the scoring (diving, figure skating, etc. - even boxing, but they at least have tried to make their judging transparent). But, gymnastics seems to be the worst.

The fact that the crowd was able to force the judges to change the score for the Russian gymnast Alexi Nemov last night shows what a joke gymnastics is. Of course, this was a reaction to the mess the other night.

What's really ridiculous is that this will only generate more anti-American sentiment in Korea. I suggest that President Bush issue a statement saying that he was 'watching the gymnastics competition and cannot believe what a disaster the judges were'. He should then invite both Paul Hamm and Yang Tae-young to the White House for a sandwich and a special presentation to both of them. Would be an easy way to smooth over some ruffled Korean feathers.

Monday, August 23, 2004

100m dash

Sounded like the 100m race last night was a good one. Sounded you say? Yes, I couldn't watch the race because our cable television went out just before it started and didn't come back until this morning. Damn NTL! I listened to the race on the radio.

Friday, August 20, 2004

Rule Britannia

A century ago Britain dominated the high seas with the biggest navy in the world - a position it had held for a few hundred years.

Today, the BBC gives the impression that Britain's dominance in the Olympic sailing should be equally celebrated in song.

Sixty million people on that small island - I'd expect them to dominate the sport.

Beach volleyball

One more thing about Gerard Baker's article (it's pretty long). My favorite part of his article is this:
The other night, searching in vain for some news of how the British team had fared in three-day eventing or clay-pigeon shooting on my various NBC channels, I came across what for a moment looked promisingly like some new reality TV show in which Playboy models compete with second-rate film stars for a moment of real fame.

Svelte, bronzed, blonde Californians with names such as Misty and Kristy were cavorting with a beach ball in little bikinis and sunglasses on a studio lot got up as a sandy beach, eagerly observed by a predominantly male, middle-aged audience (no problems filling seats at this one, I'm guessing).

Now I may be wrong about this, but isn't beach volleyball simply a make-do version of a game developed while on holiday by the sea?
I'm not about to defend beach volleyball. If it's to be taken seriously, then the women should at least wear as much clothing as the men, who wear big tee shirts.

But, what about Baker's choice of sports above? Clay pigeon shooting? Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't that a "make-do" game for toffs while on holiday "in the country"?

NBC's Olympics coverage

Obviously, I'm not able to judge NBC's coverage of the Athens Games, but I have no doubt that some of what Gerard Baker says in his column in today's (London) Times is true. {Reg and possibly sub required.} I'm sure NBC's coverage is awful, but I'm not sure Baker has actually explained why that is.

Americophile Baker says his patience is tested by the "the quadrennial festival of self-congratulatory, narcissistic pap that is US Olympics coverage". I know when I was last at home during an Olympics, it was a total turn-off. There probably is an excessive focus on the American athletes.

But, I also know that there are a lot of Irish people who would argue that the BBC's coverage is full of "self-congratulatory, narcissistic pap" too. And, on those rare occasions when Ireland wins a medal, I think a little "self-congratulatory, narcissistic pap" creeps in too.

The fact that America wins more medals probably makes that more tiring, but I don't really have a problem with that.

Based on my experience in the past, I fully understand his frustration with NBC's coverage. My biggest complaint, however, is not the nationalism but that there's very little actual sports and WAY TOO MUCH of the "touchy-feely", "get to know the athletes" type stuff. Also, everything's tape delayed. No real sports fan wants to watch tape-delayed competitions (especially when the results are on the news and/or online) or learn about some swimmer's relationship with her cat or whatever.

And, there's the problem. In the US, coverage of the Olympics is directed at a female audience. The beer-guzzling male sports fans are too caught up in baseball and pre-season football to pay much attention to the gymnastics, etc. NBC hopes to attract women to its Olympics coverage and believes that this "getting to know the athletes" is what women want.

Thursday, August 19, 2004

Rowing 'tragedy'

One of the best things about watching the Olympics in Ireland is that the country is so small that everyone feels as if they're related to the Olympics competitors. And then there are the people in the studio. You'd swear they all had a stake in the competition themselves.

So when the Irish double skulls shocked us all by NOT qualifying for the men's lightweight double sculls final (they were Ireland's best medal hope) I thought Neville Maxwell in the studio was close to tears. I actually felt sorry for him. Obviously as a rower he knows these guys, but it was more than feeling sorry for a couple of men he knows. It was if someone had told him his dog had died.

And, of course, we the viewers can't help but be affected by that. We're all "gutted" by this.

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

Damn Greedy Americans

I'm sitting down watching RTE's coverage of the Olympic Shot Put competition. Beautiful, ancient setting. Ideal television really. I'm not too bothered about who'll get the medals.

Then it comes down to the last throw (should be "put") by American Adam Nelson, who's just behind Ukranian Yuri Bilonog. Nelson lets loose with a really long put, but his momentum carries his foot just out of the ring.

When he sees the red flag for a foul, he starts arguing with the officials. I'm still not too worried because it's not the first time I've seen an athlete argue with officials when they know they've just missed something special or when they feel hard-done by. Often it's painful to watch because we viewers have seen clearly that the referee/umpire/whatever is right.

But, then Tony O'Donoghue ruins it for me. First he vents his disgust at Adams for his reaction, but then the clincher. O'Donoghue explains that the worth of a gold medal in endorsements in the United States is so great . . .

In other words, Adams is not angry about losing, but he's angry about the money he's not going to get. Now, I have no idea what was going through Adams's head at that moment, but neither does O'Donoghue. Maybe Adams was mad about the money or maybe he was just mad that he lost. Hasn't O'Donoghue ever seen an athlete react badly on the playing field when things don't go his way? {By the way, I sincerely doubt a shot put gold medal is worth that much in the US.}

Athletes from many nations, including Ireland, make fools of themselves arguing with the officials when the officials are clearly right. It's part of the make-up of many athletes – they're bad losers.

What bothers me is that O'Donoghue's assumption that it was about money is because Adams is American. Americans are, don't you know, particularly greedy. Europeans compete for the love of the sport, Americans for cash. No European would cheat or try and pull a fast one on the officials (don't mention Kostas Kenteris or Michelle Smith)

This is anti-Americanism. It's part of the culture of the Irish media, but it's actually more obvious the greater the remove from "hard news".


I know there are other things going on in the world, but I haven't been paying much attention. Just a little tired of it all, maybe? Anyway, despite the fact I think the Olympics are a dying institution, I'm still watching hours of it. Can't get enough.

Tough being an addict.

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Greece vs. U.S.

Obviously, nobody will be shocked if the home team wins tonight (8:15 on the BBC, 3:15 EDT on the USA network). I expect the seats to be full and the fans to be rabid. Anything less and you can write these Games off.

Anyone who wants to know how the US team can turn it around only had to watch the US women play yesterday. If the men's team plays with that kind of intensity tonight they should win fairly easily. Playing a high octane game for 40 minutes is the only hope they have of winning in Athens.

Monday, August 16, 2004

Olympic basketball

Anyone who has really been following basketball cannot be surprised that the American team was taken apart yesterday. I'm sure some would say I am unpatriotic, but I didn't really care that they lost. I watched the last quarter (all that was shown here) and really enjoyed watching an underdog that wanted it badly get the win.

This loss was made by the NBA. The NBA doesn't want great basketball, they want showy basketball. And, when a team of less than top-flight talent takes the floor against an organized T-E-A-M this NBA assortment that is representing the US will find the going very tough.

If you watch Europeans play the game you can see that they pass it well and they make free throws. These are skills that the NBA doesn't cherish, probably because they don't suit a modern t.v. audience. (Ever wonder why they have a Slam Dunk competition, but not a free-throw shooting competition?)

Of course, the US has so much talent that the best America has to offer can still handle a well-organized European team. But, this Olympic squad is far from the best the US has to offer.

Olympic crowds

When I said that I expected the American athletes and flag to be booed at the Olympics, that was based on the assumption that Greek people would actually go to the Games. Well, that was wrong. At a lot of the venues, the empty seats far out-number the full ones. And, those events that do have half-decent crowds, most of the audience seems to be visitors, not Greeks.

Having said that, there was no booing of the American flag or team at the Opening Ceremony, so maybe I underestimated the Greek people.

Saturday, August 14, 2004

How 'bout some editing?

Does anyone actually edit the Irish Independent, particularly the articles written by Conor Cruise O'Brien?

This article from today's Independent has the kind of blooper that makes me shake my head in wonder.
The present Governor of California George Kazantsakis, was elected in 2002 with the active support of President Bush, who campaigned for him in the State, and toured the State with the new Governor immediately after his election. The new Governor pledged his support for the re-election of President Bush immediately after his own election as Governor. He has recently renewed his pledge of support for the re-election of the President.
I'm willing to cut Cruise O'Brien a lot of slack not because I agree with him, but because he's 87 years old. And I know old people get these kinds of things mixed up.

There is only one state governor that I would expect any Irish newspaper editor to know instantly (maybe two, if you count Gov. McCreevey of NJ today) and that is the current governor of California.

For any Independent editors that may be reading this, here are a couple of hints as to who the governor of California is:
  1. He was in a few movies
  2. Liverpool FC played a match in a stadium named for this man
{NOTE: I'm assuming this article is written by Cruise O'Brien based on the style, but the Independent doesn't actually provide any attribution.}

Thursday, August 12, 2004


If there's one thing I don't know enough about it's the people who read this blog. I have no idea what really interests them. So, now the Irish Eagle has been added to the links list at The Eddie Kranepool Society I feel that at least some of the people coming from that page will be looking for something, anything on baseball. After all, Stephen, who writes The Eddie Kranepool Society page, never lets anything less important than the fortunes of the NY Mets darken his page. No space wasted on politics, the environment (other than when the Mets are rained out or there's a problem with the turf at Shea) or other drivel like his wife, children and life in general.

No, for Stephen, it's strictly NY Mets baseball.

Now that I have your attention, one of the benefits of watching games on NASN is that we get the local coverage from all the different cities in the league. What I've come to realize is that some of the other cities suffer with really, really poor announcing teams.

I grew up watching the Mets (thanks Bob Murphy), Yankees, Red Sox and, when I was a little older, the Braves. I just assumed that all the teams had announcers of similar quality and style. How wrong I was. I could happily go the rest of my life without hearing Bip Roberts again. (If truth be told, same goes for Vin Scully, who I can't stand, but at least I can understand what he's saying.) Roberts is truly awful.

There are others who annoy or confuse me. Maybe I'll keep a list.

This land

In case any of you haven't seen this yet, here's a little election ditty.

{NOTE: It's 3.5MB.}

Rebel Flags

I guess I missed this in the Irish papers while I was away, but apparently the SWP (that's the Socialist Workers Party, but can also be thought of as Seriously Wacko People) wants the Cork GAA to ban the Confederate Flag from its grounds.

The fans are, as you might imagine, none too happy that this silliness is being taken seriously.

I'm pretty much go along with Dave Hannigan who says that the various flags only add to the pageantry. I've seen all sorts of bizarre flags at GAA matches (Mayo fans love the Portuguese flag which made a Portuguese friend of mine a Mayo supporter). But, I do wonder how far I'd go along that line. I wouldn't be so tolerant if NAZI flags were being waved gaily. Intent matters. Anyone would have a sense of what the Nazi's were about, but the Confederate flag to people in Cork is only a "rebel flag".

I wouldn't ban the Confederate flag and I wouldn't ban the Hammer & Sickle, even though I'm sure any Ukrainians (and others) might see it as a symbol of their plight under Stalin (and others).

I wonder why the SWP isn't worried about the USSR flag possibly offending those who lived under crushing Soviet rule? {Okay, I don't wonder, but it's always nice to bring their hypocrisy to light}

On the positive side, if not for this ridiculous story I'd never have known that there were so many "Official Flags of the Confederacy". I only know the one flag, which is apparently the Confederate Navy Jack.

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Olympic diets

How many other Olympians are preparing for the Games with a soul food meal? The US Basketball team had one yesterday afternoon in Istanbul after waking to the news of the bombings nearby.
Late yesterday afternoon, the United States team received a much-needed emotional lift. Mama Kisa, a singer at the Q Jazz club in the hotel, surprised the players by cooking them a Southern pregame meal. She had met some of them a couple of days earlier and determined that they needed some soul food. She made a spread of fried and barbecue chicken, cabbage and macaroni and cheese.

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

Greek Olympics

Although most Americans think the French are the most anti-American people in Europe, it's actually the Greeks. The Greeks hated us before the war with Iraq. They hated us in the immediate aftermath of the September 11 attacks. They hated us back in 1991.

All of this has me wondering how do I respond to any anti-Americanism on display at the Athens games?

Boycott Greek products? Well, a quick search through the house has turned up zero. So, that's out.

Stop visiting Greece? I've never been there, but I'd love to go. Whatever about modern day Greeks, I still want to visit all the ancient sites there. Who knows when that will happen, however.

Maybe I should just enjoy the knowledge that the Greeks have paid an exorbitant amount to boo American athletes and/or the anthem. They'll be paying for these Olympics for a long time into the future.

Kerry on Iraq

The nuances of the American election don't get much attention in Europe. I'm sure most Europeans believe that Senator Kerry is against the war in Iraq because that's the only "sensible position" to have.

Well, yesterday Kerry said if he had it to do over again, knowing all he knows, he'd still vote to give the President the authority to take the country to war in Iraq. He argues that the Bush administration failed to do proper post-war planning (possibly), that the country was misled into war (possibly again), and that a different approach would have ensured greater allied participation (almost certainly not), but not that the war itself was wrong.

Monday, August 09, 2004

What's the Story . . .

Now it's my time to bad-mouth Americans.

All those who are in charge of programming for children's t.v. in the US are really STOOOPID.

For some reason no US channel wants to pick up What's the Story in Balamory?, which is a BBC Scotland production (and no worse than lots of other children's shows, probably better).

This touches on a subject that I've wondered about for a while now. Why do Americans feel that children won't understand accents? Thomas the Tank Engine is a great little program for kids. Yet, when it went to the US, the programmers felt that they needed an American voice to narrate. So, out went Ringo Starr (Ringo Starr for God's sake! Wasn't his voice on records that sold well in America at one time?) & Michael Angelis and in came George Carlin & Alec Baldwin.

Why? I don't know, but I do know that the shows seem to lose something in the non-translation.

Now it seems that American TV executives feel that children won't understand the Scottish accents in What's the Story. They're totally wrong. Kids will understand them much better than adults. Kids are much better listeners and will have little trouble getting used to the Scottish accents.

What puzzles me is that Sesamee Street and other programs have no trouble with people who have heavy Spanish accents, but somehow the Scottish accent is ruled out? This is ridiculous nonsense.

Booing the US

I was watching the McLaughlin Group over the weekend and heard Eleanor Clift predict (the final act in every show is "predictions") that the US Olympic team would be booed at the Athens Games.

Maybe it's because I live in Europe, but I wouldn't have expected anything else. I'd be shocked if any US athlete gets warm applause, unless they happen to first bad-mouth their country in the local press. I fully expected serious booing from the Greeks during the playing of the Star Spangled Banner (which thanks to the drugs scandals will be heard a lot less on the track this year).

Japan vs. China

It was only a minor blip in yesterday's Sunday Independent (only a news brief and not online), but apparently there's growing anti-Japanese sentiment in China as yesterday's loss in the Asian Cup Final showed.

Saturday, August 07, 2004

Msgr Kelly

Monsignor James Kelly, originally from Limerick, is the kind of priest that too often fails to make the news. He was in yesterday's NY Times because he was attacked by an intruder in the rectory of his Brooklyn parish.

A lawyer who offers immigration advice for free and a former Italian-American of the year! Sounds like a remarkable man.

Friday, August 06, 2004

Death Flight

Okay RTE, all is forgiven. My €150 is well worth it after your late night movie the other night (I taped it and watched it last night).

If you haven't seen this movie, originally known as SST: Death Flight then you really MUST. Now, don't spend any money on it because it is truly one of the worst movies ever made, but there are so many familiar faces in it that you find yourself constantly saying, "I know him/her, errrrrmmmmm, oh yeah, that's so and so from whatever" (like spotting Eve from Ironside).

Plus, it's so bad, it's a great laugh.

Thursday, August 05, 2004

Born to Run

Bruce Springsteen may not be running for political office, but his article in today's NY Times shows he has one of the key required talents: the ability to pose with attitude while speaking in platitudes.

If his songs were this bland he'd still be a poor guy trying to make ends meet rather than a multi-millionaire celeb complaining that Americans don't pay enough in taxes. He could always give his money away to fund afterschool programs. Wouldn't that be a great act of "fairness"?

Wednesday, August 04, 2004


I just finished reading Moneyball by Michael Lewis. This book's not available through Amazon.co.uk, but it should be.

Moneyball is about Billy Beane, who runs the Oakland A's, and the methods he uses to succeed despite having a small budget. {For more on the book see here.}

Of course, the book is about baseball, so fans of other sports may not be as interested. But, the concept that you can build a team on a low budget by using sound statistical analysis of what's happening on the field of play is probably transferable, although not as easy to do as it is in baseball. But, if economists can analyze statistics measuring all sorts of activities to try and predict the future, why can't similar methods be used to analyze soccer games and soccer players' performances. (Same goes for basketball or hockey.)

As I read this book I thought to myself, this is what Charlton Athletic, for example, needs to do in order to be competitive - use statistical analysis of player performances to achieve a competitive advantage in player development. {Charlton would be better for Beane to work for than Manchester United, which is his dream. He's also a fan of Dropkick Murphy's, which has been mentioned in the comments section of this blog before.}

There's a part of me that was absolutely fascinated by this book. As a baseball-loving math major, I realize I missed my calling. But, I also recognize that this method of evaluating player talent is completely devoid of the romance and mysticism that is part of baseball. Crusty, middle-aged guys scouting high-school players in mid-western towns is part of baseball.

The A's use stats they find on the internet more than crusty scouts. So, I'm torn between loving this underdog and worrying that baseball might eventually lose more than it gains if this approach becomes standard.

{For more on how people are seeing lessons for other spheres in this book read here, here and here.}

UPDATE 6 AUG 10:20: Just found Moneyball on Amazon.co.uk. It was there all along, but under a different ISBN.

Tuesday, August 03, 2004

More on Montreal

I never finished my thoughts on Montreal.

I have to say that I didn't encounter a single person who made me feel unwelcome. Granted I had few real conversations, but everyone I had to deal with was very pleasant. And, I'm sure I had "Yankee tourist" written all over me (although I was wearing my Mets cap).

Things that struck me about the city:
  • Pan-handlers (mentioned this already)
  • The city was probably a little less interesting than I had anticipated. Maybe I expected too much and/or I didn't see enough.
  • Having said the city was less interesting than I had hoped, the lack of English was very interesting and still has me wondering about it. Many people I dealt with spoke broken English (although their English was far better than my non-existent French). I had expected more English. All the road signs are in French only - even those just over the border (took me a while to figure out simple things like "east", "west", "bridge", etc.). On the NY side of the border you see occasional signs in French starting in Albany and they become more frequent as you get nearer to the border. I've come away from Montreal with the feeling that Quebec is like the Gaeltacht, only more successful at preserving the language.
  • Olympic Stadium is horrendous. It's no wonder nobody goes to see the Expos. The tone is more family-friendly than either of NY's stadiums (stadia?), but the ball-park itself is like a parking garage with seats and fake grass.
The only rudeness I encountered was shown by the Montreal Expos. They invited a club from NY to join them in their yard for a ball game in front of an intimate gathering (6,500 people), which included a good 1500 visitors from south of the border. They then proceeded to humiliate the New York nine, leaving us visitors with a sour taste in our collective mouth.

Monday, August 02, 2004


I don't read enough books. Too much time spent (wasted?) reading newspapers (both on-line and in print). But, over the past couple of weeks I've read two books, which is some form of modern record for me.

One of them was an historical novel, Star of the Sea by Joseph O'Connor. As I finished the book I realized that I had enjoyed that one a lot more than I had expected. A novel about the famine years written by Sinead O'Connor's brother didn't sound like it would be great entertainment, but it was very enjoyable.

In fact, I think I enjoyed this book more than True History of the Kelly Gang (pretty good) and definitely more than Cold Mountain (dull and over-rated), both of which I've read recently (past 3 years or so).

I'll talk about the other book I read later. It's a very important book, particularly if you understand that sports is the essence of life.