It’s a new semester. That means you can count on three things: bad food, freshmen vomiting and the glorious return of Around The Dorm. This week in AtD, staff writers Steve Cohen and Duncan Slobodzian and Opinions Editor Michael O’Donnell battle it out over the Olympics, the G-Men’s chances for a repeat and the team most likely to miss the MLB Playoffs. Sports Editor James Queally dishes out the points.
1. At the 2008 Summer Olympics, Michael Phelps proved himself to be the most dominant Olympic champion in history. Who had the second-most impressive trip to Beijing? Usain Bolt? The U.S. Men’s Basketball Team? Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh? Someone else?
SC: While watching our basketball team dismantle every team thrown at them was fun for me, it didn’t compare to the clinic Bolt put on in Beijing. In the immortal words of Rocky’s trainer Micky, this guy could catch greased lightning. Not only did he bring home three impressive gold medals in the 100- and 200-meter as well as the 4×100-meter relay, all the man had to do was set foot on the track and it was safe to say he was breaking a world record. When Bolt was on the track, there wasn’t another runner that could even be compared to him from this summer’s Olympics, and for that reason he most certainly had the second-most impressive performance this summer.
MO: The most impressive performance besides Mr. Phelps had to be Bolt’s. The Jamaican Olympian set a new world record in the 200-meter with a time of 19.30 seconds and broke the world record in the 100-meter at a mark of 9.72 seconds. Bolt then broke it again in Beijing by another 0.03 seconds, and he even let up at the end of the race by coasting to the finish line. That may not have been the most effective thing to do, but Bolt still won by leaps and bounds, becoming the first man since the great Carl Lewis to snag gold in both of the aforementioned races in the same Olympics. Now that is a legendary performance.
DS: Bolt, in a blowout. To set the world record in the 100-meter sprint is a feat worthy of breaking news on SportsCenter, even if it happened in some remote place at some little-known track meet. Bolt set new standards in the 100 and the 200 at the Olympics. On the biggest stage his sport can support, Bolt blew away the rest of the international field – twice. He set a record in the 100-meter even though he didn’t sprint through the line. He set a record in the 200-meter, breaking Michael Johnson’s golden-spiked 19.31 of 12 years ago, days later, sprinting all the way through the finish and around the next turn. Bolt’s biggest success might well be in his helping track out of the doldrums of steroid scandals. The 22-year-old Jamaican has people in track circles happy to be talking about sprinting again.
JQ: Solid answers all around. Duncan grabs 3 for pointing out that the feel-good story of Bolt may help track escape the shadow of the Marion Jones doping scandal. O’Donnell and Cohen both touched on the main points of Bolt’s success, and I’m tempted to give Cohen extra for the Rocky reference, but you guys basically said the same thing: 2 points apiece.
2. After a shaky preseason and a season-ending injury to defensive end Osi Umenyiora, can the Giants repeat as Super Bowl champions? Are they even the favorites to win the NFC East anymore?
SC: When were they ever favorites to win the NFC East? The Giants lost their defensive leader when Umenyiora went down, and it’s not difficult to see that with the loss of half of their starting defense from last year, the Giants have a tough road ahead of them. But I ask you this: What’s different from last season, when the Giants weren’t picked to win eight games? It didn’t stop them from battering arguably the best team in NFL history. They have a confident Eli Manning returning to quarterback this season, as well as probably the best running back platoon in the NFL, not to mention their insane depth at wide receiver that added young stud Mario Manningham this offseason. The Giants could have an extremely strong offense this year. With defensive end Mathias Kiwanuka taking Umenyiora’s place, I wouldn’t close the book on their defense yet either. So, no they aren’t the favorites to win the NFC East. They are the underdogs, and this Giants fan wouldn’t have it any other way.
MO: The Giants won’t even come close to repeating as champs, and they may not even make the playoffs. The G-Men reside in one of the toughest divisions in football, and that certainly doesn’t help their chances. Quarterback Donovan McNabb is healthy with the Eagles, the Redskins return the same team that snuck into the playoffs last year, and the powerhouse Cowboys are arguably the favorite to win the Super Bowl. With the injury to Umenyiora, the Giants have had a lot of shifting on defense, which brings with it a lot of adjustments to be made and much unfamiliarity. Combine that with how uncertain Manning will play (last year’s playoff run could turn out be a huge fluke since his regular season was sub-par) and you’ve got a recipe for a team with a cloudy postseason future.
DS: The jury’s still out on the G-Men since the first snap has yet to be hiked, but things are looking real bleak in East Rutherford. The bookend to the biggest strength on the Giants’ defense a year ago, their pass rush, is no longer at the top spot on the depth chart. The offense is wide-receiver depleted and will struggle to pick up the slack if there’s a significant dropoff. The NFC East has long been one of the more competitive divisions; three of their teams made the playoffs last year. I’d handicap the Cowboys as favorites in the East right now on paper, but the order of the rest of the teams is very much up in the air. And as for Big Blue’s Super Bowl aspirations, I’d take a cautiously optimistic approach; the AFC is still the big brother.
JQ: Are you guys cheating off each other this week? OK, so you all know the NFC East is tough and the defense is a question mark. While I don’t think the Giants are as insanely deep as Cohen would have you believe, I like his faith in Kiwanuka and the underdog argument – 3 points. Duncan, the Giants aren’t crippled at WR either, but the AFC factor is a big one to point out. Two. Mike, nothing terrible or great about your argument, just weaker than the other two: 1.5.
3. I’m a Mets fan, so as September rolls in, I’m not only praying for the Amazins to avoid collapsing, I’m hoping someone else fills their choke artist shoes. Which AL or NL playoff contender is most likely to miss the playoffs?
SC: Barring a repeat of the biggest meltdown in sports history, I think it’s safe to say the Mets are in and the playoff contender most likely to not make it is the Phillies. It’s not as much due to their level of play declining, with three straight losses including the first two to the Mets, but more the fact that the Mets have really been picking up the slack as the season winds down. Center fielder Carlos Beltran’s bat is starting to come around, and with Billy Wagner injured, Aaron Heilman is finally starting to settle into his role as closer. Let’s face it: The Phillies are out and the Mets are in.
MO: You have to go with the New York Yankees. For some reason, the Yanks’ players, organization and spoiled fans all think they are still contenders when they have been behind the Red Sox in the wild card and the Rays in the AL East for most of the season. New York’s pitching has been inconsistent, as Chien-Ming Wang and Joba Chamberlain have been hampered with injuries and Phil Hughes and Ian Kennedy did not pay immediate dividends as expected. The offense has dipped as the roster’s age has increased, especially A-Rod, who is batting only .242 with runners in scoring position. That doesn’t sound like the best player in baseball, does it? The distractions surrounding this team have taken them completely off the map for the postseason.
DS: Considering I’m wearing my Gary, Keith and Ron T-shirt and Mets hat as I type this, it shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise that I will say the Phillies. Check out the oh-so-important September schedules: the Mets alternate between bottomfeeders Atlanta and Washington from Sep. 9-21. Meanwhile, the Phils have to play the Marlins and a four-game set with the Brewers. The last week of the season the Mets play the Cubs – who in all likelihood will have clinched something by then – and the Marlins. If the Phillies fall behind in this upcoming stretch and have to play outside their comfort zone to skirt elimination, they’ll be struggling. Plus, the Phils play weaklings the last week – teams that will be playing “spoiler.”
JQ: And to think I was almost impressed with you all. Duncan wins with the bare minimum but always effective “their schedule sucks for them” argument and grabs the 3. Cohen, the Phillies lost three in a row last week but only one to the Mets. The other two were against O’Donnell’s precious Cubs. And while I wouldn’t call the Amazins a lock, I am surprised and impressed that you noticed Heilman has been significantly less disastrous in the past few weeks. O’Donnell: You said in your argument that the Yankees aren’t contenders. So why did you pick them? And I hope the Cubs get swept in the first round. One point.
With a score of 8-7-4.5, Duncan takes this week’s title.