I promise I didn’t intend for things here to become all-election-the-time; between work ramping up and having the World’s Most Awesome Five-Month-Old at home, it seems that all my other free time over the past week and a half has been spent watching the DNC and reading news coverage about the election. Alas, this will all be over soon.

For a bit of only-partially-election-related linkage, though, you have to read this week’s New Republic Q&A with Charles Barkley. It’s entertaining as hell, much like Sir Charles.

This is, by far, the best photo sequence I’ve yet seen demonstrating that Michael Phelps did manage to out-touch Milorad Cavic in last night’s unbelievable 100 butterfly final. I mean, you get a great sense that Phelps did the unthinkable from the in-pool and high-speed overhead cameras (note that I’m sure those videos will disappear from YouTube at some point soon), but these photos are pretty awesome.

What a great year this has been for Olympics swimming.

(Postscript: I just realized that those SI photos weren’t official Omega timekeeping photos or anything, they were taken by my old boss, a regular member of the press covering the Olympic swimming events; those are just all kinds of pure awesome.)

According to NBC’s own Olympics site, swimming would be starting at 3:30 PM today on the main NBC network; imagine our surprise when we found that Michael Phelps’s first qualifying heat was broadcast at 2:56 PM (when NBC’s schedule says they’d be broadcasting road racing). Fortunately for us, we came home before our DVR had erased the 2:00 hour from its buffer, so we were able to see it, but seriously, NBC: whisky tango foxtrot?!? If you’re going to put up a f@#!ing schedule, you should f@#!ing adhere to it.

Reason #2,331 why Red Sox fans drive me up a f*cking wall: a mere New York license plate is enough for them to attack you with baseball bats and “accuse” you of being a Yankees fan.

The Red Sox are the only team I’ve ever found whose fans are defined more by their hatred of a team than their love of one.

Update: it appears that the guy who wielded the baseball bat, Robert Correia, will remain in jail for at least the next 90 days awaiting his trial; the judge deemed that he’s too dangerous to release into the community. I’m sure that’ll do nothing to incense his fellow New York Yankees haters Red Sox fans…

On one hand, we have Harriet Miers and Josh Bolton, one the one-time lawyer for the President of the United States and the other the former White House Chief of Staff. Both of them were allegedly involved in the White House’s firing of U.S. Attorneys who weren’t willing to follow along with efforts to discredit or damage Democratic politicians in their districts, and both ignored Congressional subpoenas to provide documents and testify about the dismissals.

On the other hand, we have Roger Clemens, the baseball pitcher for the Boston Red Sox, Toronto Blue Jays, Houston Astros, and New York Yankees. He was allegedly a user of performance-enhancing drugs during much of his baseball career, and gave testimony before a Congressional inquiry into the use of drugs in sports which was directly contradicted by his former trainer.

In what can be said to be one of the most poignant statements about what’s wrong with politics and justice in America, the Department of Justice has agreed to investigate whether Roger Clemens lied to Congress, but has refused to investigate Harriet Miers and Josh Bolton for not complying with Congressional subpoenas. The fact that our Executive Branch isn’t wiling to hold its own people responsible for abiding by the law is abhorrent; the fact that this is all taking place alongside the same Executive Branch spending its time on the private behavior of athletes competing in games is just the icing on the proverbial cake.

Bill Simmons, ESPN’s Sports Guy and possibly the biggest Boston sports homer in the world, found himself at this year’s Super Bowl without his lucky Wes Welker jersey. He grabbed a Randy Moss jersey from the vendors inside the stadium, put it on, and proceeded to watch the Pats get stunningly upset by the Giants; after that, he went home, threw the jersey away, but then thought twice about it and decided to auction the jersey off for charity. So now, you can head over to eBay and bid, with all proceeds (literally, 100%) going to the Jimmy Fund! Having worked at the Jimmy Fund clinic for three years, I can dig the sentiment, and hope that the eventual winner of the auction follows through with the donation — I like how Simmons put it in the auction listing:

Note: A warning to anyone thinking of bidding this auction up without any intention of paying the final fee: This is for charity, we’re raising money for cancer research, and you would be guaranteeing yourself a lifetime of bad karma if you ruined this auction in any way. Go on the Jimmy Fund’s website, read about the kids they’re trying to help, and tell me how it would possibly be a good thing to sabotage this auction. Hopefully, we can raise some money for cancer research and reverse the bad karma that this jersey has wrought on the Patriots franchise. Once you get the jersey, I don’t care what you do with it - you can wear it, you can burn it, you can bury it in your backyard. I don’t care. I never want to see it again.

The New York Times ran an awesome article last week about how Big Papi (more formally known as David Ortiz, the designated hitter for the Boston Red Sox) spends most of his time during games reviewing every pitch of the opposing pitcher, as well as all his at bats against the pitcher (from the game in progress and every other game in which they’ve faced each other). Far from the hulking bear that he appears to be, Ortiz is apparently a total nerd when it comes to using technology to improve his batting — unsurprising, since I’ve actually had the chance to meet Big Papi twice, and both times he displayed a knack for being the exact opposite of every stereotype you could possibly muster about him. I think it’s safe to say that while I’m a Yankees fan through and through, I’m also a pretty huge David Ortiz fan, and the fact that he spends his between-bats time shuttling through a video-on-demand system makes me like him even more. (via Jason)

I mean, who the hell knew that Tim Hardaway was such a complete homophobic jackass? All I can say is… wow.

It’s fascinating to me that this Sports Illustrated gallery of the magazine’s “favorite Muhammad Ali fight photos” doesn’t include what is perhaps the most famous Ali fight photo ever, a photo shot by Neil Leifer that was considered so amazing it appeared on the cover of the SI double-issue carrying the headline “The Century’s Greatest Sports Photos”. I’m assuming that the prominent “license photos at SIPictures.com” link below each of the photos is a big part of the explanation; although has SI printed the photo a few times over the past 40 years, the magazine doesn’t own the rights to the picture. (Neil Leifer himself still owns the rights, and has told his story about being in the right place in the right time a few times.)

So, I guess the photo gallery might more appropriately be entitled, “SI’s favorite Muhammad Ali fight photos for which we can sell you a license”. Don’t get me wrong, there are still some amazing shots in there, but it’s like a list of best steakhouses that doesn’t have Peter Luger on it, or a list of worst movies that doesn’t have “Random Hearts” on it.

For a while, I’ve been pretty irritated that the ESPN home page has a video and audio block (part of ESPN Motion) that starts playing without any intervention on my part and blares ads and sports highlights through my speakers. This morning, while looking for this weekend’s NFL playoffs schedule, my second pageview of the site launched a pop-up ad in a way that managed to defeat the pop-up blockers in both Firefox and the Google Toolbar. At this point, it’s clear that ESPN.com is too hostile to users for me to use; there are way too many alternatives to make it worth my blood pressure to deal with the desire of ESPN’s site designers to subvert their users’ preferences.

I can’t even begin to imagine the gall it takes for a television network that broadcasts a scant three to six hours of live, relevant programming a week to begin demanding that cable companies offer the network in their lowest-tier basic programming packages… but that’s exactly what the NFL Network is doing this year, and quite a few cable companies are telling the network to go screw itself. And that means that with this Thursday’s first of eight prime-time games that are being shunted onto the NFL Network, nearly two-thirds of the nation’s television-containing homes won’t be able to watch. In that news story, NFL Network spokesman Seth Palansky says that these eight games are “the most valuable programming a cable company can offer, and a cable company not carrying live NFL games is like a grocery store not carrying milk”; I’m pretty sure a more accurate analogy would be that the grocery stores are refusing to do business with a single dairy company that only deigns to bottle its product for three hours on eight random days of the year, and the rest of the year distributes three-month-old yogurt and cottage cheese.

Fun fun fun — since Shannon and I will be in the heart of southern New Jersey for the holiday (and almost certainly won’t have access to the NFL Network), I guess we’ll be watching the primetime game via DirecTV and the SlingBox…

I’m pretty sure that the main qualification for being appointed head of IT for any of the popular marathons is a complete inability to anticipate people’s desire to use online services to track runners. Take today, for example; in my 50 to 100 attempts to load the NYC Marathon Athlete Tracker over the past hour, I’ve had the page successfully load and render a sum total of five times. Or take last weekend’s Marine Corps Marathon, where the reliability of the athlete information site was a slight bit better, but the system which sends alerts via text messaging was spotty at best (the norm was to get an alert somewhere around 15-20 minutes after a runner passed a waypoint). In my three years of living in Massachusetts, the site for the Boston Marathon always became unusable within 20-30 minutes of the official race start, and last year I didn’t get a single text message update for the people I was tracking.

In today’s day and age, the technology and knowhow certainly exists to build a reliable site capable of handling a short-term heavy load; given that every single popular marathon decimates the IT systems meant for public use, how long will it take for a company like Google or Yahoo to step in and solve this problem?

Is there an single person anywhere who thinks that Pink’s NBC Sunday Night Football intro are sexy, or anything but supremely disturbing? I can’t figure out what part of the NFL demographic she’s supposed to appeal to; she’s just gross, and the intro bit makes her even nastier.

My favorite weblog du jour: Free Floyd Landis. I’m incredibly hopeful that this is yet another example of the interface between bad lab testing and overzealous enforcement of rules that only have the most tangential relationship to actual doping.

I can’t believe I’ve neglected to mention here that Martin Dugard is back with his amazingly well-written Tour de France weblog this year. Last year, I found that his coverage of the Tour was, by far, the best cycling writing I’d ever read, and was pretty sad when he wrapped up his weblog at the end of the race. I seemed to recall Dugard making noise like he wasn’t going to cover this year’s Tour, so when my brother dropped me a message last week with a pointer to the 2006 weblog, I was pretty excited. Even if you couldn’t care less about cycling, his writing is well worth a read, and once again I’ll be bummed when things come to a close in a few days.

Well, f#@%.

In his NBA column over at Yahoo Sports, Dan Wetzel says that ABC and the NBA got what they deserved for scheduling the worst playoff game yesterday during the best television time slot. Because of the Pistons and the Cavs getting the prime 3:30 PM slot, the Spurs and the Mavericks were relegated to a 1 PM tipoff; this meant that much of the country wasn’t able to tune in to see two 60-game-winning teams (one of which is the defending champion!) facing off in what was predictably a great game, and another chunk of NBA fans were able to turn on — and quickly turn back off — a total blowout of a contest in a series that nobody’s predicting will last beyond four or five games. Alas.

In the days leading up to the 110th Boston Marathon (and in the spirit of all-Bill-Simmons-all-the-time), everyone who cares about 20,000 people running 26.2 miles (on roads graciously cleared of Masshole drivers) should read the Sports Guy column from just before the 2003 Marathon. It’s a question-and-answer format, and is as ragingly hysterical as everything else Simmons has penned.

Q: Why is it that you can’t buy most products unless they have tamper-proof packaging, but when you run the marathon, you eagerly accept oranges and water from complete strangers who might be raging psychopaths?
A: No idea.

There are times I laugh my ass off when I read the latest Bill Simmons has to say in his Sports Guy column over at ESPN.com, and then there are times when I laugh my ass off and recognize him as a total genius. From his mailbag column this week, in which readers email in questions for him:

Q: I love TiVo, but why can’t I change the name of my saved shows? In the days of the video, I could tape what I want, change the name to “Broncos Highlights — 1994” and rest assured my wife would never look at it. Now, if I TiVo something she might not like, “Naughty Nurses” is right on the saved list. Has there ever been a better product with such an obvious oversight?
—Brendan Lane, Darnestown, Md.
Sports Guy: You’re a genius. They should add a special feature called “TiVo Camouflage” for an extra $9.95 a month. Every time you record a movie like “Naughty Nurses,” TiVo Camouflage automatically changes the title of the show to something concurrently running on the NFL Network. That can’t miss.

Seriously, this might be the best thing ever.

Awesome — Vice President Cheney threw out the first pitch at the Washington Nationals home opener yesterday, and was resoundingly booed from the moment he stepped foot on the field through the moment he disappeared back into the dugout. (You can listen yourself here, although it’s Fox News, and the producers unsurprisingly muted the crowd for a few seconds in the middle before giving in and letting us hear the disapproval.)

Today, ESPN.com has an awesome conversation between Bill Simmons and Malcolm Gladwell that’s well worth a read. Bill Simmons, the Sports Guy, is (in my estimation) the best and funniest sports writer alive today — reading him during a Red Sox pennant run or just after a fantasy football team draft is something that has the potential to make a person laugh hard enough to asphyxiate. And Malcolm Gladwell is the very well-known author of Blink and The Tipping Point, a staff writer for New Yorker, a nascent weblogger, and an incredible sports fan. Happily, ESPN promises us part two of the conversation tomorrow!

(I actually recalled that Gladwell had contributed to Page 2 before; turns out that he was interviewed back in 2000, but the article is locked up in ESPN.com’s pay archive.)

Being a complete news whore, I read about Lindsey Jacobellis’s last-minute loss of the snowboardcross gold medal hours before I actually saw NBC’s coverage of it. Watching the event, though, I’m not entirely convinced that she was outright showboating — but I am entirely convinced that it couldn’t matter any less. She’s a 20-year-old young woman who went to Torino to compete in an individual event, was having fun, got caught up in it, and (whether showboating or not) made a mistake that cost her first place. Critical in that, though, is that she was having fun, which seems to me to be what the Olympics should be about. The athletes are supposed to enjoy what they’re doing, but watching the broadcasts of most of the other events, I’m unconvinced that anyone but the snowboarders are actually having fun. (Seriously, am I the only one who thinks that the figure skaters and ice dancers look like they’re about to commit ritual suicide every time the camera catches them without a plastered-on television smile?) The New York Times actually devoted an editorial to this today, ending with the line: “What did she think these were — Games?” It’s the perfect sentiment, and in listening to Jacobellis’s statements in all her post-event interviews, it’s one that she appears to understand well.

Seriously, why is it taking the Yankees (and Major League Baseball) so long to release official Johnny Damon Yankees T-shirts? Being marooned here in the land of the BoSox (and thus having had to tolerate the puppy dog love of the Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer displayed by nearly every Boston woman for the past two years), I really can’t wait to wear a Damon Yankees shirt into the hospital. Alas, the official MLB merchandising juggernaut hasn’t gotten around to making anything but the official (and $190) jersey for the Yankee’s newest outfielder, and while I’m sure that there are plenty of knockoffs along Canal Street in Manhattan, there’s nothing here in Boston but “Johnny Judas” shirts. It’s getting bad enough that I’m considering getting a “Welcome to New York, Johnny” shirt being sold online by Modell’s…

Happiness is waking up to discover that the Yankees have taken the lead in the American League East! For the past few weeks, it’s been a tight divisional race between the Red Sox and the Yankees, made all the tighter by the fact that the Cleveland Indians are hanging out in the wildcard wings trying to make sure that whichever AL East team doesn’t win the division also doesn’t make the playoffs at all. (And while I obviously would love to see the Yanks in the postseason, I fear for my life here in Boston if that happens and the Red Sox don’t make the cut!) As if out of the movies, in one week’s time the two teams end the regular season with a three-game series at Fenway Park, a series that’s likely to be as exciting as it is meaningful to both team’s postseason chances. Of course, last time the Yanks played the Red Sox in a series that critically mattered was last year’s AL Championship, which was one of the the biggest chokes in the history of the game… here’s hoping they dont repeat that this year.

Count me among those glad to see UCI (the International Cycling Union) stepping in to call on the carpet everyone involved in last month’s allegations that an old urine specimen of Lance Armstrong’s might contain erythropoietin. In the UCI’s own words:

We have substantial concerns about the impact of this matter on the integrity of the overall drug testing regime of the Olympic movement, and in particular the questions it raises over the trustworthiness of some of the sports and political authorities active in the anti-doping fight.

By making public and of the urine results, a whole slew of rules were broken, the most important of which are that no samples can be retested without an athlete’s consent and that no results of a doping test can be revealed without the ability to verify the truth of those results on a second sample. In this case, tests were run on what is claimed to be Armstrong’s backup specimen from 1999, but the primary sample was disposed long ago, meaning that there’s no ability to validate (or invalidate) the results, and thus no ability for Armstrong to defend himself. (In addition, there are very real questions about the validity of results obtained from six-year-old samples, questions that are hard to answer given the fact that the test for erythropoietin didn’t exist in 1999, a fact that makes it hard to know how results from the test change over time.)

Given that the UCI now finds its focus shifting from the athletes to the anti-doping authorities themselves, its press release ends with pretty wise words:

Finally, the UCI wishes to express the wish that governments, sports authorities and anti-doping authorities, which rightly expect honest and irreproachable ethical behaviour from sports men and women, themselves respect the fundamental obligation of fair play and examine possible sanctions which could be adopted, should infractions be discovered on the part of any of those bodies.

It was interesting to me to discover today that the exact same Tour de France tracker is being used by almost every web-based media outlet I can find — Sports Illustrated and CNN use it, ESPN uses it, the New York Times uses it, and even Le Monde uses it. It’s a Flash-based applet that looks to be distributed by AFP, and it’s not too bad. In the past, with most major sports events, each news site has tended to develop its own little applet to provide results and information; I wonder what motivated everyone to jump on the same bandwagon for the Tour this year.