Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Epic Sports Battles

In the year that brought us the greatest Super Bowl in recent memory, 2008 has made room for some memorable sports moments, stories, championship battles, and headline grabbers. Posted here are epic battles in sport to get you through a summer that is bound to bring us some wonderful games of baseball.

5. 2008 Beijing Olympics: Team USA vs. the World
The original Dream Team, having competed in the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, looms over the 2008 team like a finger-pointing specter who proclaims, “You intend to win gold in Beijing without the likes of Duncan and KG? HA!” The Round Mound of Rebound himself, Mr. Charles Barkley, led the 1992 edition in scoring (18.0 points per game) and field goal percentage (71%), in addition to being fortified with the inside presence of NBA superstars Karl Malone, Patrick Ewing, and David Robinson. 2008’s team, on the other hand, has Superman (Dwight Howard) and two undersized big men (Chris Bosh and Carlos Boozer), hardly the equivalent to the Dream Team’s meaty interior. Add to that a lanky Tayshaun Prince and the selfish tandem of Michael Redd, Kobe Bryant, and a Carmelo Anthony, and you have a team destined for another bronze medal, no matter what competitors like Lebron James and Chris Paul can offer. Just as the NBA has been infiltrated by international players galore (Manu Ginobili, Dirk Nowitzki, Yao Ming, Tony Parker, etc.), the league's best can expect to be challenged by the likes of China and Argentina. Does Coach K have enough to rid the American conscious of the 2004 Olympic mess? Only time will tell.

4. Brett Favre vs. the Packer Faithful
The very thought of Brett Favre returning to the NFL, especially after witnessing this hero diminished to a blathering mess of tears, is difficult for this sports fan to swallow when you consider that Green Bay's finest has toyed with the fanbase's hearts for three years running. Will he retire? Won't he retire? To hear Brett's brother and mother discuss his return garnered some rolling of the eyes, but the latest report of Favre text-messaging his former general manager has many of us pleading "ENOUGH!" After bringing his team to the brink of the Super Bowl in his 'final' season (in spite of many experts picking Green Bay to miss the playoffs), Favre has done all he could for the sake of this team. One Super Bowl championship. Three consecutive MVP's (an NFL first). Why follow in the footsteps of Michael Jordan and Joe Montana, who limped into retirement after failing to lead sub-standard organizations to glory (the Wizards and Chiefs respectively)? The Packers GM clearly won't return his calls, the fans are a little tired of his premature retirement antics, and Aaron Rodgers, his heir apparent, more than likely would impose a curse on the Favre family complex. Besides, if Favre returns, he has that whole Madden cover curse to fret about. And if there is any indication of how the Packers franchise currently feels about the Wrangler-donning QB, check their official website: there is not a single mention of brouhaha he has singlehandedly created these past few nights.

3. The A-Rod Divorce Debacle
The tabloid headline powerful enough to stop the presses: Alex Rodriguez becomes a Kabbalist in the name of Madonna while Cynthia, the former Mrs. A-Rod, canoodles with Lenny Kravitz in Paris. The sheer mystique of this story evokes the days of K-Fed and Spears, perhaps taking infidelity, poor parenting, and selfish antics to a whole new level of travashamockery. C-Rod, as they are calling her in various entertainment media circles, is no fool: her divorce settlement will entitle her to half of A-Rod's yearly income, a sum of money she could manage a third-world nation with. Rumor has it, A-Rod, Kravitz, and Madonna share the same agent/publicist, so either (1) these events could not have come at a better time for said agent or (2) we have a shameless publicity stunt on our hands. While A-Rod continues his assault on the record books (he recently tied Mickey Mantle with homerun # 536), C-Rod is intent on turning those millions into Gucci and Prada, all the while neglecting (along with her ex-beau) the welfare of two oblivious children.

2. Kobayashi vs. Chestnut II: Sudden Death Elimination
As Tiger Woods and Rocco Mediate most recently proved at the U.S. Open, sports competition doesn't get any better than two warriors pitted against one another in sudden death overtime. Witness the gluttony of July 4, 2008 in Brooklyn, NY: at the end of regulation, after having imbibed 59 tube steaks comprised of processed pig entrails, snouts, and God knows what else, Joey Chestnut and Takeru Kobayashi reached a competitive eating stalemate, a Coney Island Hot Dog Eating Contest first (as if eating a family of four's quota of annual hot dog intake wasn't enough, Chestnut and Kobayashi competed in the Krystal Square Off, a burger eating contest that saw Chestnut ingest an astounding 103 beefcakes in a single sitting in 2007). The overtime round was a five hot dog eat-off in which the quickest man won, the defending champion Chestnut. And what does he win, Rod? A bank-busting $10,000 check and three days worth of heartburn, not to mention national coverage on ESPN. So worth it, right down to the last bite and subsequent hurlfest.

1. Nadal vs. Federer: 2008 Wimbledon
Sunday's men's final match between 6-time Wimbledon champ Roger Federer and clay court guru Rafael Nadal (who has won a remarkable 81 matches on his surface of choice) may go down as not only 2008's best, but one of the best in sports. Ever. On the line throughout this particular match was Federer's streaks of 65 wins on grass courts (surpassing Bjorn Borg's one-time record of 41) and 40 consecutive Wimbledon victories, one shy of Bjorn's mark. A win by Nadal would put the brakes on Federer's Wimbledon dominance and open the door to a new breed of champion: one of power, finesse, fire, and tenacity, all at the age of 22. Clocking in at nearly five hours, the match was nothing short of gladiatorial, a bout worthy of Bird-Magic, Ali-Frazier type status, a true clash of tennis titans. Each player rose to the challenge by accomplishing feats (knee-buckling serves, indomitable backhands, and cross-court shots) that expounded and exhausted each other's repertoire. Those lucky enough to enjoy this match, including less than humble John McEnroe, regarded it as "the greatest match ever played." May August's U.S. Open bring the same level of competition in another potential bout between these two incomparable rivals, a pairing that epitomizes sports at its most efficient.

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