Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Men's ACC Championships

Conference championship season has arrived. The best college swimmers in the country have geared up for the pre-game show to the NCAA Championships. What’s that? The first bunch of conference championships already happened? Indeed; Florida ended the 16 year winning streak of the Auburn men at SEC, where Breeja Larson and the Georgia women set American records, and Marcelo Cherighini, Kyle Owens, and Elizabeth Beisel all ripped off fast swims. Virginia extended its winning streak to six at the women’s ACCs, and that’s just the beginning of it. This week features the women’s Pac-12 championships – a conference very likely to contain the eventual national champion, men’s Big-10 championships, and the Big-12 champs, or as I like to call the meet, the University of Texas time trials.

With big-time swimming on the horizon once again, the time has come for me to make a return to the deck. However, this time, I won’t be travelling halfway across the country by plane; instead, I get to go one-fifth of the way across the state of North Carolina by car to the men’s ACC Championships in Greensboro. I will be at the meet tweeting and writing daily event recaps for Swimming World and also helping out with the media for the Duke team, which already has some points on the board thanks to junior Olympian Nick McCrory’s sweep of the three diving events at the women’s meet last week.

Just like on the women’s side, UVA comes in having won five in a row, but this meet will be exciting, as always, with the likes of long-time rivals Virginia Tech and UNC looking to end that reign. I’d try to explain the competition, but I’d be better off sharing the words of a former UVA swimmer. “They say that the Cal-Stanford rivalry is the biggest in the swimming world, but I argue that that’s the west coast. On the east coast, UVA-UNC is the biggest rivalry in the country. I checked the results on Thursday (during the women’s meet), and UVA was in first place, and UNC was in last, and I couldn’t have been happier.”

As much as I hate to disturb my perception as an all-knowing swim geek, I really don’t know what will happen; I just want to see some awesome racing and competition. I’ll be in Greensboro for finals on tomorrow, Friday, and Saturday, and I’ll be writing full recaps of each finals session for Swimming World, and you can follow up-to-the-minute race results on my Twitter page. I’ll also be helping out with Duke Swimming and Diving’s coverage of the meet. Should be an awesome meet; the ACC may not be the SEC or the Pac-12, but there will be some speed in that building this weekend.

Greensboro Aquatic Center, home of the ACC Championships

Friday, February 1, 2013

Quick Splashes: A Skip Too Far & Super Bowl Prediction

Today is February 1, 2013. It’s been six months since the Olympic Games in London. It seems like so much has happened, and yet, not all that much has happened at all in swimming. Aside from some World Cup fireworks and another Lochte-being-Lochte performance at the World Championships in Istanbul – yes, I watched that meet – no one has put up any stellar times since the summer, especially in long course. That will change soon enough, as the college swimming season ramps up and teams start hosting trials for this summer’s World Championships in Barcelona. Meanwhile, let’s take a look at what has happened.

First of all, I am the voice of Duke swimming. Yes, I’d argue that working the public address announcing at two of the three home meets this season qualifies me for that title, and I’ve also been posting some on the team’s Twitter page. Elsewhere, Nathan Adrian swam some fast sprint free times at the Austin Grand Prix, his 100 free just a tick faster than James Magnussen’s from the other side of the world. Both Katie Hoff and Dagny Knutson announced long-term breaks from swimming which could lead to retirement. Michael Phelps played at a big golf tournament this week. Ok, so am I caught up?


A Skip Too Far

Think back for a minute to the Olympics in London. Ryan Lochte entered the men’s 200 back final as a heavy favorite, although he ended up settling for bronze behind Tyler Clary and Ryosuke Irie. Imagine, now, if the night before the final, a major Japanese swimming writer wrote a piece arguing that backstrokers should only be allowed to kick ten meters underwater, which was the original rule in the early 1990s. According to this writer’s logic, dolphin kicking isn’t really part of backstroke, and the race should measure who swims backstroke the fastest on the surface. Without a doubt, Irie would be the fastest surface swimmer, and his underwaters are a weakness.

Yesterday, one columnist basically wrote that article. ESPN’s Skip Bayless, well-known from the show First Take – which, yes, is one of my favorite shows – wrote how field goal kicking should be abolished from the NFL. Bayless argues that it doesn’t make sense for football games to come down to kicking, an act so different from the sport’s other aspects. Certainly, Skip makes a great point. Check out his whole column if you’re interested in what he has to say.

Why, though, does he come out with this three days before the Super Bowl? Wouldn’t such a discussion make sense in the offseason when the league discusses rule changes? Certainly, nothing can be changed NOW. Skip, however, has ulterior motives besides merely changing a rule he does not like. As he will remind anyone continuously, Skip picked the San Francisco 49ers to go to the Super Bowl before the season, and he likes to root for the teams he picks. For example, his lifelong favorite team has been the Dallas Cowboys, which makes listening to his rants all the more frustrating for a Cowboys hater like me.

Conveniently, 49ers kicker David Akers has been in an awful slump as of late, missing field goals at a rate he never has, including a shanked 38-yard attempt in his last game. Meanwhile, Justin Tucker, the Baltimore Ravens kicker (and brother of University of Texas swimmer Samantha Tucker), hasn’t missed this postseason, including kicking a 47-yard game winner in double overtime in Denver. Baltimore clearly has the advantage in the kicking game, and Skip can’t bear to think about how Akers could cost the 49ers the game. Moreover, Skip might even want to psych out Tucker with this type of article, putting the pressure on the undrafted rookie kicker.

I argue that Skip has gone too far in advocating a radical rule change that would clearly help the team he roots for just days before the biggest football game all year. I brought up a hypothetical example of Japanese media begging to limit Ryan Lochte’s biggest weapon in an Olympic final. As far as I know, no one in Japan wrote such an article to advocate why Irie is actually better although Lochte should win within the current rules. In the days before such a big sporting event, a respected journalist should analyze what to expect and the keys to the game, not use his limited internet space to make it very clear what team he wants to win and what team he thinks should win.


Super Bowl Prediction



Pretty good no-zoom view from the student section of Cameron Indoor Stadium.