Tuesday, July 31, 2012

My thoughts on Olympic spoilers

The 2012 London Olympics are in full swing this week, with some of my favorite events: swimming and gymnastics. I'll probably go back to actually getting some things accomplished during week two when track and field gets going, instead of being addicted to the Olympic coverage like I have been so far.

Ever since I watched a bunch of my brother's high school swim meets, I've really enjoyed watching swimming, and diving as well. So many great stories in the pool for this Olympics. Rising teenage star Missy Franklin, Ryan Lochte getting some attention over American rival Michael Phelps, who's showing that he might just be human after all.

Gymnastics is one of those must-watch events every four years during the Olympics. I remember watching Team USA in women's gymnastics win team gold in 1996 at the Atlanta games. Kerri Strug's vault? I mean, c'mon. That was pretty awesome.

Olympic spoilers
I do have a gripe so far with these Olympic games: I've been spoiled. And I know I'm not the only one.

It's just a couple days into competition, and I have been spoiled on results of some of the marquee events. In the age of constant and in-your-face social media, it makes sense that results and updates are available as they happen online. But there's this little issue of the six-hour time difference from the central time zone to London.

I'll use Twitter as an example because, let's face it, I love Twitter. If you listen to my co-worker Kay, I need a Twitter-vention. I also love the combination of Twitter and sports. I would love to send Olympic Tweets, if they weren't seemingly meaningless because everyone already knows the results hours before the Olympic coverage airs on NBC.

I've been spoiled on both the men's and women's gymnastics team final results for the United States, races for Phelps, other various swimming events and the devastation of Jordyn Wieber not making it into the all-around final (That's a topic for another blog.). Most of the time, I saw Tweets with the results. It even caused me to close my Tweet Deck today, but I was still spoiled by looking at Facebook and hearing about results from other people.

So much excitement is taken out of watching the Olympics if you already know what's going to happen at the end. I've still been watching, but it isn't the same.

New online Olympic etiquette, please
I have a proposal for how results might be better handled on social media sites like Twitter or Facebook, at least for news outlets, blogs or publications. It's fine to post about the Olympics before they've aired, just don't include spoilers in the initial post. Make reference to Olympic spoilers, then provide a link to another web page so users can choose to look at what happened.

In a perfect world, I'd prefer everyone to keep quiet until everything airs. I know that's not going to happen, but it would be nice if people could try and be a little respectful of  others who still want to be surprised.

Prime example? I had the epic battle in 1998 between figure skaters Tara Lipinski and Michelle Kwan spoiled for me. My fifth-grade teacher asked the class if anyone had heard who won gold. A classmate answered. Then class went on. It was all pretty casual. I guess, clearly, it bothered me because I still remember that today.

Please, don't be a spoiler.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Greyhounds chip away for a 6-3 win

It was another lovely night for baseball Friday evening. So I thought it might be good to catch another Austin Greyhounds game down by the river at Marcusen Park.

Not the same large crowd that was at the game I went to in June, so we had a good pick of seats. Some friends decided to join the party as the sun started to set. Those would be the always-unwanted guests known as mosquitoes. Sitting in the bleachers behind home plate though, what more could you ask for on a warm night?

It was a quick first inning for both the visiting team from Savage and the Hounds. The Savage Outlaws got the scoring started in the second inning with a two-out, two-run double for an early 2-0 lead. Austin chipped away at the lead with a run each in the second and third innings.

In the fourth, the Hounds had the bases juiced trailing 3-2. A wild pitch brought the tying run safely home to get the game knotted at three runs apiece. Savage didn't see the lead again for the rest of the night.

Some heads-up running on the bases gave the Hounds the winning run in the sixth. Austin's Alan May reached base on a walk, stole second, went to third on a wild pitch and then trotted home when the Savage catcher threw the ball away at third base. The result was a 4-3 lead for the home team.

Austin got some insurance runs in the bottom of the eighth, as Savage's pitching became unglued. Matt Raso, who had a three-hit night, smacked a two-run double to give the Hounds a 6-3 cushion, which ended up being the final score.

Savage got a couple hits in the ninth, and one taken away. Austin center fielder May made a spectacular diving catch in right-center for one of the final three outs. It was highlight-reel worthy and got a few cheers from the dugout and those watching in the stands.

Another great game from the Hounds. Once again, I'm glad I was there to watch.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Twins are not doing well

The Minnesota Twins limped into the All-Star Break. Never fear, they came out of it with three losses at home to the Oakland Athletics. At least they're consistent.

One of the only bright spots of the weekend was pitcher Francisco Liriano's performance on the mound Friday night. He fanned 15 batters over eight innings, and the Twins still couldn't get a win. Of course, the grand slam he gave up in the fourth inning certainly didn't help matters. The 15 strikeouts was good because if nothing else, it upped his trade value.

If the A's proved one thing this weekend, it was that hitting a bunch of home runs at Target Field is nowhere near impossible. I know they hit at least four on Saturday at the game I went to. The game was so out of reach that I stopped counting after that. In fact, it was 4-0 after the first inning. Nothing like digging a big hole, Cole DeVries.

Not enough in the clutch
The Twins did get one the board with a couple homers as well in the 9-3 loss Saturday. Unlikely source Brian Dozier hit one out in left field, and Josh Willingham (shockingly enough) banged one off the big wall in center. It was a follow-up performance from his two-blast night on Friday. He has the team lead with 22 home runs this year. Trevor Plouffe needs to catch up again because I just love watching these two slug it out for the team lead.

It wasn't that the Twins weren't hitting Saturday (they had 14 of them.). It was that the all-important clutch hitting was absent. That was clear by the nine guys left on base as potential rallies were washed out quickly with inning-ending dribblers to the infielders, or some other anti-climatic way to halt any scoring in its tracks.

Of course, you'll have trouble winning a game if your starter doesn't have it and the runs just keep coming for the other team. Everything comes back to pitching, that and defense, which saw a couple bad moments as well.

In the 'where did that come from?' category
Monday with the Baltimore Orioles in town, the Twins finally got back in the win column, in a big way. They won 19-7. Former Twin and veteran slugger Jim Thome wasn't in the lineup for the O's, but I don't think even he would have been able to have the birds overcome the early deficit they faced.

I didn't get to watch the game, but I guess Joe Mauer hit one out. That's a big deal right there. I'm sure the Twins will get bumped back to reality in the rest of the series and have trouble hitting the ball again, though.

You have to start trading 'em
The end of July is looming, meaning the trade deadline is near. It's pretty obvious that the Twins need to clean house and start thinking about future years. Anyone in Twins Territory thinking about the playoffs this year much be rooting for another team.

Liriano is likely to be traded, and Denard Span's name has been thrown out there as well. I'd be OK with dealing them both. Moves need to be made, so if the Twins can pull off some good ones, even better. Something has to be done. This team that went from first to worst is in need of an overhaul.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Minnesota Wild Road Tour comes to Austin

Some days, my job at the Austin Post-Bulletin is really just the best thing ever. The Wells Fargo Minnesota Wild Road Tour stopped in Austin, Minn. for a visit a couple weeks ago, and I was the lucky journalist who got to report on it. Anytime I get to overlap some sports into my workday, it's a good thing.

The tour had a couple different sets of players and Wild representatives traveling in parts of Minnesota. The guys that stopped in Austin were Charlie Coyle, Matt Kassian, Wild alum Antti Laaksonen and Wild television color analyst Mike Greenlay. I had the chance to interview all of them.

I got to the parking lot where the big tent was set up for the tour's arrival. I saw a few fans already lined up (so I got some interviews out of the way early), and then about 70 kids with matching t-shirts from the local Kids Korner group. They were pretty amused when the Austin Bruins mascot Bruiser showed up to entertain them while they waited. It was like they didn't even need to see anyone from the Wild to have their days made.

Players arrive, Spam and all
The Wild contingent arrived, Kassian with a can of Spam in hand. I knew from following him and Greenlay on Twitter that they had already made a stop at the Spam Museum earlier that morning. Like the patient journalist that I am, I mostly hung back in the tent and watched as the line of fans snaked around to get to the tables of players waiting with their autographed photos.

Kassian was definitely the most personable of the group, not that the others weren't, but he made sure to talk with each fan as he or she came by. It wasn't just a signature-and-go kind of style for him. He was so talkative that sometimes he held up the line, as Laaksonen sat at the other end waiting for the next fan.

Time for the interviews
Greenlay was a good multitasker, as one of the Wild media relations gals pointed out to me, so I chatted with him over his shoulder as he continued to greet fans and sign autographs. His hockey photos to give away were of him in goalie gear for the Edmonton Oilers. A picture that he said was taken before Coyle, who's 20, was born.

I grabbed Laaksonen after that, for some more multitasking. Maybe some didn't remember him from the Wild's early days, but I certainly did. I was also surprised to learn that he likes to fly fish and he travels down to the Rochester area for this hobby.

Coyle was a nice guy, too. Kassian shook my hand, and did sort of a fist-bump handshake. I asked about the Spam Museum, the potential for a lockout to start the season and about what it's like to get out on the tours like this and see the fans. A car horn started sounding during our interview, but he kept his cool and actually worked that in to his answers in a good way to poke fun at what was going on.

I got back to the office and was really excited to share my day with my co-workers. They couldn't believe I didn't get autographs from the players. Well, I like to think I'm an ethical journalist, so that was out of the question. And besides, I got to interview all of them. How cool is that?