Cubs

The Show Always Goes On

The Show Always Goes On

Friday, Feb. 19, 2010
9:40AM

So much for my excitement about the start of the Olympics. I dont know why I forgot that these are the Corporate Games. You would have thought the failed Chicago 2016 bid would have taught me that, but again something happens that makes me shake my head. In fact, its more than that the shenanigans of the failed bid did not result in the loss of life of an Olympic competitor. I cant get the image of Nodar Kumaritashvili out of my mind. My hope was to watch and learn about new champions bringing glory to their countries. Instead what Im left with is a sense of sadness over lost life and appalled at what levels the powers to be of the Olympics will stoop to.

As I wrote here last week, I along with most others, only pay attention to most of the sports being played at these games for two weeks every four years. But even I knew of the dangers of the Whistler Sliding Center for years. I would read about how it was the fastest track in the world and taking speeds to unthinkable of levels. All the while I wouldnt give these statements a second glance, assuming it was all a part of the natural progression of any sport that measures speed. (In the center's website, it is promoted as being, Vivid, violent and rough, not for the faint of heart.)

Was it natural? Or was it part of a master plan to increase revenue? What better way to sell than to increase the level of danger? The viewing public gets bored if its the same old, same old. Lets see where the edge is! The events leading to Kumaritashvilis untimely demise where all laid together in a perfect storm of, unfortunately, finding that edge. My hope was to watch and learn about new champions bringing glory to their countries.-- Frankie-O on video of Kumaritashvili's death.

In trying to find a location for the luge and bobsled track for the 2010 Vancouver Games, a site was found in upper altitudes that would afford proper temperatures and a location that would be tourist friendly. This track would be financially viable long after the games. But in choosing the site specifically, the tract of land was more vertical and narrow than any before. Usually these courses arent laid out on the same mountains as the alpine events; too steep. But thats where the tourists are, so why not? Then in a move to amp it up it was laid out in a space that was 100 yards wide. (In Calgary, for example, the track was laid out on a space that was 300 yards wide and Salt Lake City had a course that was 500 yards.) Im no physics major, but Im guessing if you put a luge track on a mountain thats very steep, then squeeze it extra tight, things going down are going to do so VERY FAST! After her practice run last Thursday, a day before Kumaritashvilis fatal last ride, Australian Hannah Campbell-Pegg was quoted, To what extent are we just little lemmings that they throw down a track and were crash test dummies? Given the fact of how Im sure none of these competitors want to let anyone know that they have any fear, I find that statement remarkably chilling. In fact, there where many statements like this, from many people, for years. Kumaritashvili himself admitted to being terrified of the course.

But at this point it was not going to change anything. The design of the course was there for a reason, so was the access to it or should I say lack of it. As Ive read many articles on this tragedy, I learned about the Canadian quest to Own the Podium. This is because they had the stigma of being the only host country of the Olympics to not have a gold medal winner during their games, and they had done it TWICE! This was not going to happen again. Much of what I read had to do with how, with limited runs down this monster track for international competitors, the Canadians with literally ten times the amount of practice, would have a considerable advantage over everyone else. With a track that has no room for error, you have to wonder if this had any effect.(Safety over winning?)

Then, as always, when there is a tragic occurrence of this magnitude, the blame game starts. Should there be any surprise? There are tickets to be sold and money to be made. Are we going to shut this thing down? It would be THE story. We cant have an accident cast a pall over our two-week corporate cash grab. The IOC and VANOC disassociated themselves right away. Each sport was under the governance of its own body. The International Luge Federation wont talk to anyone, (they must be grief stricken). The designers, very respected, were only building what they were asked to. In fact there were two sets of builders, so the track designers and builders had nothing to do with the support poles to the stands and roofs. So it was no wonder, after their thorough ten minute review, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police deemed there was no design flaw or that excessive speed played no role. What happened was an accident therefore there was no one to blame. Well, there was someone. The international governing body that was responsible for luge events wasnt talking to anyone, but they did issue a statement that placed the blame on someone besides themselves. The athlete came late out of curve 15 and did not properly compensate to make correct entrance into curve 16. There was no indication that the accident was caused by deficiencies in the track.

My question here is, if youre saying that he was a bad rider, one who was liable to make a mistake, making sure that it was known that he ranked 55th and 44th in the world the last two years, why was he allowed on such a high level course? Why wasnt he allowed more access and practice time? Shouldnt he have been required to master it at lower levels first? Isnt that what governing bodies are for? To protect the sport and those who partake in it? Also, if there was nothing wrong with the track, why was there a new wall put up as an extension of curve 16? Why where the luge events of these games moved down to lower staring points on the course, dropping speeds by a whopping 5 mph? Doesnt that make it seem like something could have been done BEFORE to prevent this?

I know Ill drive myself crazy trying to figure this out and hoping that something like it will not happen again. But I know thats not how the world works and for a lot of people this event will be forgotten as soon as the games are over,(if not sooner.) In life its about moving on and moving towards the future, not dwelling on the past. But the parent in me cant help but think what pain his parents are feeling at this moment. I agree life is about the future, the future of our children. Unfortunately, one of those children wont be here to see it, and that will be my image of these games no matter what else is done or said. Rest in peace Nodar.

Is Joe Maddon covering for Wade Davis? Where do Cubs go from here?

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USA TODAY

Is Joe Maddon covering for Wade Davis? Where do Cubs go from here?

Is Cubs manager Joe Maddon taking the heat and covering for Wade Davis while the All-Star closer deals with atypical soreness in his right arm?

“No, no,” Maddon said Tuesday when asked if Davis felt anything unusual that lingered into the National League Championship Series after last week’s all-out effort eliminated the Washington Nationals from the divisional round.

The Los Angeles Dodgers took a 2-0 lead in this best-of-seven bullpen battle without Davis throwing a single pitch, the backlash from Cubs fans, Twitter and the national media again putting Maddon on the defensive, the year after he got second-guessed for pushing Aroldis Chapman so hard during the World Series.

This NLCS truly is a bizarro world, with Maddon comparing the Buster Posey Rule to the Chicago soda tax, getting so little benefit of the doubt – the Cubs really did beat the Cleveland Indians in Game 7 – and working the baseball term “dry-hump” into one answer during Monday’s Wrigley Field press conference.

Maddon said he would have to check first with Davis – who would have almost five full days in between relief appearances – if the Cubs need a four- or five-out save in Game 3.

“Nevertheless, I always check,” Maddon said. “I can’t just assume that.”

Maddon’s Game 2 calculus on Sunday night at Dodger Stadium – sticking with lefty reliever Brian Duensing in a 1-1 game to start the ninth inning and then bringing in John Lackey to serve up the walk-off, three-run homer to Justin Turner – made you wonder if Davis was still dragging after ending Washington’s season and traveling on the overnight cross-country flight that got diverted to New Mexico for about five hours when Jose Quintana’s wife experienced a panic attack.

“I think he just got mentally exhausted,” Maddon said. “Physically, 44 pitches, he hasn’t done that in a while. But also the seven outs and what it meant and the plane ride itself, sitting on the tarmac, there was a lot of non-rest going on right there, so it was harder to recover.

“So, no, he was fine for the last game, but we set up the parameters before the game.”

Maddon is sticking with his story, that he would only deploy Davis in a save situation and not use him for one out against Turner (1.115 career postseason OPS) or have him totally warm up without the guarantee of getting him into the game.

“To put Wade in that position would be wrong on my part,” Maddon said. “We had already talked about the circumstances, so my loyalty there lies with Wade, or my decision-making lies with Wade, nobody else.

“That was a heavy day for him (in Washington). Going into the last game in L.A., like I talked about, we talked about one inning only, and not to get up and not put him in the game.

“If you get him up and sit him down, then you have no idea what it’s going to look like. My responsibility is to him, also, and to the players, so I told him that before the game, so I had to stick with our decision.”

Before finalizing the Jorge Soler trade at the winter meetings, the Kansas City Royals took the unusual step of allowing the Cubs to meet with Davis at his home in New York’s Hudson Valley and go through a physical exam. The Cubs wanted reassurances after Davis spent parts of last season on the disabled list with a forearm strain and a flexor strain.

The Cubs wondered if “dry-humping” had contributed to those injuries, and tried to stay conservative with Davis during his free-agent year, watching him convert his first 32 save chances and using him for three-plus outs only three times during the regular season, all in mid-to-late September.

“If you look at the numbers this year, I thought going into the playoffs his usage has been really good,” Maddon said. “Minimal, in a sense. We didn’t get him up hardly at all where we didn’t utilize him.

“He just wasn’t set up for it the other day. So honestly, I think he’s in really good shape right now, actually. I don’t think he could have gone those seven outs the other day if he had been overly dried up during the course of the season. He felt good. But that was above and beyond, and that wasn’t part of the game plan the other night.”

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Ben Zobrist shares his leadoff approach

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SportsTalk Live Podcast: Ben Zobrist shares his leadoff approach

Sports Talk Live is on location at the Brickhouse Tavern at Wrigley Field to get you set for Game 3 of the NLCS. David Haugh (Chicago Tribune), Jesse Rogers (ESPNChicago.com) and Bob Nightengale (USA Today) join Kap on the panel. 

Plus, Ben Zobrist and Curtis Granderson drop by to talk about the big matchup.

Listen to the full SportsTalk Live Podcast right here: