Right where we left off: Spurs prove to be just as good as new

The Spurs looked just as good as new: cuts to the basket, flawless pick and rolls, and a few threes’ the Spurs picked up right where they left off. As the Spurs proudly unveiled their 5th Championship one might expect a team that that has been crowned champion to take the night off, but that couldn’t further from the truth. The NBA’s first game of the 2014-2015 started with bang with the Spurs defeating the MAVS 101 to 100. Tim Duncan continues to show how having fundamental skills extends your career, and the often under-appreciated Tony Parker demonstrated that he is the best point guard in the league (yes, I would chose him over Chris Paul). The Mavs proved to skeptics that they will be one of the top teams to look out for in the loaded Western conference. Dirk looks rejuvenated, Tyson Chandler seems to have gotten his groove back, and the Mavs role players having a significant impact on the defensive and offensive end. So what should we expect from these two teams going forward? For the Spurs we should expect the Spurs to be, well, the Spurs with Pop resting his key players throughout the season. The only change to look out for will the be emergence of Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard offensively, I expect Leonard to develop a nice mid-range game throughout season averaging 18 and 10 this season.
For the Mavs Monte Ellis will have a breakout season. Dirk, Monte, and Chandler will prove to a big three that will be hard to defeat, solid but not great defensively the Mavericks are team that can and I predict will be in the Western conference finals barring no injuries. Let the battle of Texas begin!

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Ray Rice: Why Domestic Violence isn’t the only problem in this story.

In the interest of full disclosure I want to start off by saying that I have never been a victim of domestic violence nor have ever witnessed  it, so I cannot and will not provide any opinion on how she should deal with her emotions and her relationship. This article is simply to provoke thought and dialogue.

Yesterday TMZ released the of video Ray Rice viciously striking his then fiancée now wife in an elevator coming out of a New Jersey casino. What was most disturbing to me was when Ray Rice threw his hands up in the air in a gesture of annoyance after he knocked his wife out cold, seeming to suggest that it was chore to pick her up. Dragging her an kicking her around as if she was a rag doll. This video is just a glimpse into what commonly occurs in many households of domestic violence, an ugly cycle of violence that becomes the normal way of communication. When the NFL came down with it’s initial punishment I, like the rest of the public, was surprised by the lenient punishment handed down to Rice; six games I thought should’ve been the minimum.

However, after stepping back and thinking about why the suspension was so short I looked turned my attention to the court system, which essentially only gave him slap on the wrist. If the NFL was following the lead of the authorities why would they hand down a more severe if punishment law enforcement is saying that it’s no big deal, which leads me to my next point, value. Does the NFL really value the severity of Domestic violence? Do we as a society truly understand the mental and physical trauma of domestic violence? Or has sensationalistic news, fame, and desperate need for attention taught us to only care the reaction and not about the people involved involved in these horrific incidents?

Janay Rice took to her social media account to blast the media for posting the video of her husband brutally punching her in the face twice. To paraphrase what she said in her statement she rightfully calls out the media for being insensitive to her feelings; now she has to relive that moment in front of the world. She is not only a victim of Domestic violence due to the hands of her husband she’s now also a victim of public judgement and humiliation; she once again was hurt by hands of someone who hit her emotionally and psychologically by releasing the tape without even thinking about how SHE might feel; the media in many ways punched her in face by it’s knee jerk reaction to publish this story in sensationalistic fashion. The value to the media is that they got the big story, they got the ratings, but if they really valued and took into consideration Janay the VICTIM of crime they wouldn’t have released the tape. From what we saw prior to the this tape leaking it was obvious that what happened in the elevator was bad, did we really need to see the actual crime? How does that help Janay? SHE is the victim, SHE has to live with that, SHE has to explain to her family what she has experienced, not us: the general public, not the sports writers and bloggers, but Janay. If it took seeing the video of man violently punching his wife in face for us a society to react this strongly then we as a society do not value domestic violence as an issue as much as we think, including law enforcement (demonstrated by the fact they only gave him a slap on the wrist). It should not go to this extreme for us to have a dialogue about domestic violence.

One of the keys to progression in any society is where we place our value. If we are still hiding the issue of domestic violence, or haven’t figured out how the voice of the victims should be delivered to the public with their consent, then the value is not placed with the victim it is placed on how WE much can gain from the story, it placed in our ego driven assumptions. The NFL,TMZ, and Law enforcement did not act out of having a high moral value for the victim feelings by lenient sentences and by the releasement the video.

Domestic violence has been a recurring problem in society but has been illuminated mostly my recent incidents by NFL players, Ray Rice hasn’t been the only one unfortunately. The player gets the chance to prepare a statement and explain himself while the significant is either nowhere to be found or is dutifully standing by her husband at a press conference. If it happens again lets hope that for once the spotlight will be on the victim’s voice. As a society, including myself, will look to hear how she feels FIRST. It is one thing to feel sympathy for someone it is another thing to value her or his voice and listen to them when THEY are ready to speak.

The reaction to this story and how it was delivered to the public speaks volumes about how we value women and domestic violence. If anything this taught us that the voice of the public overwhelms the voice of the victim, where’s the value in that?

See link below to Janay Rice’s reaction on her instagram by checking out the link below :

http://www.bostonglobe.com/sports/2014/09/09/janay-rice-posts-statement-instagram/oU6Pcur0GHjBNwyhGuWjNK/story.html

Ray Rice Press Conference

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A King’s Welcome: LeBron James returns to Cleveland.

LeBron James has shocked the world, again! Around 12:30 pm the internet exploded with the story that LeBron James would return to the place he publicly abandon- his basketball home, the Cleveland Cavaliers, and his native East Akron Ohio. 4 years ago LeBron James announced on national television that he would be taking his talents to South Beach to join the Miami Heat. During his time in Miami he became a two time champion and Finals MVP. In his essay in Sports Illustrated LeBron James likened his stay with the Heat to going to college. Although his Senior year at Miami Heat University did not end with a Championship ring to add to his legacy it ended with the gift of enlightenment.

LeBron expresses in the article that his decision to rejoin the Cavaliers was bigger than basketball. He began to think about how his life would be like raising his two boys and soon to be daughter in his home state of Ohio. It was about providing hope and inspiration to kids from the local community. Much like the rest of the Midwest, Cleveland’s economy has been decimated by the economic down turn and has not fully recovered. It has been no secret that LeBron’s heart was always in East Akron Ohio. He has invested heavily in his High School alma mater, his charities, and most importantly his career in Ohio.

LeBron’s essay illustrates that grudges are not meant to be held, people can grow, and that at some point there is a time of deep reflection that we all will face in our lives that will force us to question our priorities and values. LeBron has always embraced being a role model and this essay serves as beautiful testimony to the phases of life that that will hopefully resonate with his young fans. Considering his tumultuous departure, no one ever thought he could redeem himself. Is all forgiven? James’ essay was full of emotional depth, contemplative thought, and social responsibility -it is safe to say that LeBron has redeemed himself and that his a role model status has been elevated especially to kids in East Akron, Ohio. Whether he wins a championship or not Cleveland has forgiven their native son. Well done, LeBron.

There’s another element that makes this already shocking and compelling story even more interesting, the role of the Midwest. As a fellow Midwesterner (being from Chicago) we tend to have an intense connection to our homegrown sports hero more than other places. Midwesterners tend to operate with a chip on our shoulders. There is a subtle or some might argue not subtle resentment people in the Midwest have towards bigger “sexier” cities. There is a attitude of ‘who do you think you are’ towards people that live and more importantly boast about living on the East or West coast, or a place like Miami. Midwesterners pride themselves as being loyal, real, and having a tight close nit circle; despising anything that is too loud and flagrantly superficial. So when LeBron James left the Midwest to go to a bigger city it validated the inferiority complex that many Midwesterners have, we’re not good enough for you? What makes ‘them’ so much better? You can stay here and make it big, why do have to leave?

As an aside, being from Chicago and now living in New York I can certainly understand leaving the Midwest to go experience the bright lights and the big city of the East coast. I’m elated that LeBron that went back to his Midwestern roots. The inspiration of his decision to leave the glamorous city of Miami to go to a cold, economically fragile, and “boring” city and state that is Cleveland, Ohio is immeasurable. LeBron has never shied away from assuming the responsibility of his team and his community; this move validates his willingness and dedication to bring his long suffering community a championship and a reason to be proud. Celebrate well tonight, Cleveland. In the eyes of the best player in the world, you’re good enough.

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Rapid Reaction. When History Doesn’t repeat itself: Spurs win 2014 NBA Championship!

Who would’ve thought that the Heat would only win one game out of this series?! The Spurs used their devastating loss last year to fuel them all season  and post season long, and it paid off! The Spurs played with vengeance and executed the game of basketball to near perfection!!! This series win against the Heat exposed the Heat’s major roster weaknesses. Bosh was virtually non-existent, again! Wade’s knees, even with the maintenance program, still proved to be a major problem, regulating him to be a jump shooter throughout the series with a few cuts to the lane, and Mario Chalmers appeared to be a bit of head case. The Heat’s supporting cast was anemic. Shane Battier, who barley played, Ray Allen, Norris Cole, Birdman, and Rashard Lewis, demonstrated a lack of court awareness, defensive prowess, and above all else looked old, confused, and defeated. The Heat were beat on the boards and played dispiritedly throughout the series, seeming to succumb to the realization the Spurs were just too much to overcome.

The Spurs on the other hand demonstrated that persistence, playing with a vengeance, teamwork, and playing the game of basketball inside out is only way to win the game.Gregg Popovich  continues to show how great of basketball mind he is, Kawhi Leonard emerged as star player on both ends of the floor, Tim Duncan played like the all time great he is, Patty Mills step up to the plate as a beyond solid backup to a sometimes struggling Tony Parker, and Boris Diaw reestablished himself an impactful teammate.  The Spurs have always been a team that has illustrated the how beautiful the game of basketball is and how it should be played.  This is now the 5th NBA title for the Spurs organization. Congratulations to the Spurs! it was a well deserved win!

 

 

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Not YOU again!!! Heat face Spurs for the NBA title.

Well Sports fans isn’t this what we wanted all along? Even with all the hype about the Pacers, Golden Sate, and Clippers, possibly all being contenders to either dethrone the Heat or beat out the old and arguably boring San Antonio Spurs for the Western conference championship we are left with the rematch we wanted all season long. With an efficient but diminished Dwyane Wade, whose damaged knees have forced him to become a more selective scorer, primarily relying on Jump-shots and cuts to the basket, and Tony Parker with a bum ankle, this championship series will be one filled with even more drama than the last face off.  The devastating lost the Spurs faced last year in game 6 was simply demoralizing: the championship was literally snatched from them. Both teams have faced obstacles this season; Spurs have been able to weather the storm of an emerging young and talented Western conference and the Heat facing their share of adversity this year as well: Dwyane Wade missing nearly 30 games, LeBron James had his most offensively efficient season but wasn’t as defensively locked in as we are accustomed to seeing, and Chris Bosh who disappeared offensively and defensively at times throughout the season (and arguably during the postseason) left many to wonder if they had enough to face whoever came out the West. This will be the 6 trip to the Finals for the Spurs and the 4th straight trip to the Finals for Heat five overall in franchise history.

The Heat and the Spurs are essentially mirrors of each other. Both teams have the same offensive philosophy, three point shooters and cutters to the basket. What makes this match up even more intriguing is that it isn’t brain vs. bronze, the Heat are no longer as athletic as they were in previous years. This series will come down simply to who executes better, and the Spurs are the best at it. However, with that being said the team with the best player almost always wins (with the exception of Mavs vs. Heat) : Kobe, Shaq, Jordan, and now LeBron! LeBron has elevated his game to measures we haven’t seen any athlete do ever before. He is simply the best player in the WORLD right now, LeBron is in his prime and that is dangerous for the rest of the league. This is the prefect storyline for redemption.  This is the first rematch since 1998 when the Bulls faced and defeated the Utah Jazz. The stage is set for the Spurs to win, but the basketball gods are known for toying with us mere mortal fans. I mean c’mon game is six of last year’s finals was a collapse of team that we never seen before, simply unfathomable. Tim Duncan misses a jumper that he most always makes, Ray Allen hit the biggest shot of his life, Shane Battier who struggled showed up BIG time in the end, Greg Popovich made some uncharacteristic coaching calls toward the end of the game. It was a combination of Murphy’s law and how pure will and determination can change circumstances and outcomes instantly.

So who’s going to prevail this time around? WIll it be Texas Hold’em or Miami Vice? To be honest I have absolutely NO idea. I’m a LeBron Fan but failing at the highest level provides a motivation and determination cannot be overlooked. Just look at  how LeBron James and the Miami Heat got better after loosing to the Mavs. It can drive a person and a team absolutely INSANE! Legacies are at stake, off-season moves will be affected tremendously, and us fans are on the edge of our seats waiting to see how this rematch will end. It will be a match that will make NBA history…again!

 

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Chris Paul, A Point To Prove?

Chris Paul’s second round exit from the playoff’s ended with more questions than answers. With the emergence of Damien Lillard, the continued success of Tony Parker, and Russell Westbrook’s advancing to the Western conference finals again, many sports critics and fans are wondering where does that leave Chris Paul in the Point Guard race? If you were to look at Chris Paul’s stats there is no doubt that he is elite: in 2008 and 2009 he lead the league in assists, from 2006 to 2012 he lead the league in steals, and has been an All-Star  since 2008. So that begs the question why hasn’t the won? With a much improved Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan, a coach with a championship ring in Doc Rivers, and with a solid bench to back him up it seemed as if this was the perfect team for Chris Paul to help Chris Paul get his Championship ring after 9 years in the league. I’ll always been a fan of Chris Paul, however as good as Chris is his fatal basketball flaw is that he presses too much to the detriment of his team sometimes. In game 5 of the OKC series where his three turnovers cost the Clippers the game despite the controversial missed call the by refs, which doesn’t excuse the collapse the of Clippers by there own self-making.

One could make the argument that when Chris Paul had Tyson Chandler and David West and the took the Lakers 6 games before ultimately losing in the first round that that team was good enough to make it to the Western Conference finals. This isn’t an argument against Chris Paul’s talent, but it is does leave many sports fans and critics wondering what else is it going to take for Chris Paul to finally win a ring? Chis Paul is unquestionably one of the a greatest leaders and talents in the NBA, but perhaps he as well as the sports world have finally come to realize the Chris Paul needs way more help to win than we thought.

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Mayweather wins, but Maidana proves to be a worthy opponent.

From the beginning of the fight Maidana lived up to his perceived bravado. Maidana pressured Mayweather with furious body shots and strong right hands, and bullied him to the ropes, he executed his strategy to near perfection. As for Mayweather it was a fairly unusual fright from the beginning he took the more the offensively aggressive approach which proved to not phase the his opponent. While most of Mayweather’s opponent’s become confused by Mayweather’s tactics Maidana remained fairly steady. It appeared that it took Mayweather a longer time to adjust to Maidana’s awkward fighting style. But I, like many spectators who watched the fight, noticed that Mayweather didn’t seem to be all the way there mentally. His superior defensive skills were there but his reflexes did not seem as sharp as they were in previous fights. Is this a sign that Mayweather is getting closer to his boxing mortality? Is father time catching up to Mayweather? Or did the rumors surrounding his personal life effect his focus? Only Mayweather really knows why he at some points in the fight he seemed to be a bit despondent and inattentive.

Even though Mayweather’s focus was in question for the majority of the fight he refocused himself in the later rounds , despite some dirty shots but Maidana, to throw accurate punches and be elusive enough to make Maidana miss and win the fight by Majority decision. Maidana is arguably the most ferocious fighter that Mayweather has fought in recent times: and while many critics question weather Mayweather fights any worthy opponents I think this answers their question.  It proved to be an exciting fight for the fans and critics: fans are clamoring for a rematch, but what will that mean for the possibly of Pacquiao Vs. Mayweather fight? Will Maidana be the last opponent Mayweather chooses to fight? The Boxing world will have to have to wait and see and for now Mayweather is still undefeated. Until Mayweather fights again, presumably in September, this fight can be characterized as “The Moment” that boxing fans and the sports world in general thought Mayweather would finally lose.

 

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Empire State Of Mind: Phil Jackson officially named Knicks President

Leave it up to Phil Jackson to conquer the three biggest cities in the United States: 6 titles with Chicago, 5 with the Lakers and now hoping to bring a title to the New York Knicks who haven’t won in over two decades. As Jackson stood at the podium and spoke so eloquently about his ambitions to build a team that is capable of bringing New York a championship, it was clear from that Phil Jackson has been wanting a position like this for sometime. His contentious relationship with his fiancée’s family, the Buss family (who own the Lakers) has prevented him from staying with Lakers organization and being part of the front office, forcing him to look at other NBA teams. All is fair in Love and Basketball, right? So Phil has been searching (something he advocates for players to do: to search and find their role within a team) searching for the right fit, searching for the right opportunity, searching for an organization that will allow him the autonomy to build a team and have control of personnel decisions.

When I first heard about this story I approached it with skepticism. Before going further let me say I’m a Phil Jackson fan: I believe he is a basketball icon, an incredibly intelligent man with sound judgement. Which is why the decision to join the Knicks baffled me. Owner of the Knicks, James Dolan, hasn’t been known to a person that exercises sound judgement. Some of his most infamous decisions are bringing Isiah Thomas on as President of Basketball operations and signing a then aging Allen Houston to a $100 million contract. Is it really plausible to think that someone who throws around money so carelessly and who has demonstrated that he’s going to do what he wants do and not answer to anybody really all of sudden going to give up to control to the Zen master, Phil Jackson. Why would Phil Jackson put himself in such a chaotic situation?

Granted Phil made Jordan and Kobe championship teaching them and coaching them to go to the next level mentally so they can elevate their game physically. Phil has been used to having subordinates and being in position to authority, but in this case we’re not talking about players we’re talking about management! Phil’s in a more corporate political setting now, where egos are too big to be manipulated and taught.  Although Dolan said that he is willing to ready to give full control to Phil his history has proven otherwise. I would even argue that  during the press Phil seemed to remain relatively skeptical of Dolan’s quirky character. Phil’s emotional reticence isn’t anything new, but the vulnerability that I would argue many people saw and heard today is indicative of how Phil really feels about being in the front office of a dysfunctional organizations. Phil is obviously excited about the opportunity but he realizes this is an enormous gamble that can affect his legacy. As Phil Jackson steps to the Broadway stage the sports world is watching the biggest audition of this basketball icon’s life. Seeing if he can keep Carmelo Anthony, take one!

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Allen Iverson: Hip Hop Legend & Basketball god

As I watched Allen Iverson get his number retired by the Philadelphia 76ers there were chills going up and down my spine. As a kid I grew up right when Allen Iverson was in is prime. A.I. was and remains to be one my favorite players of all time.  There’s no question that when Iverson came into the game he pushed the envelope not only in terms of how he played the game but how he looked. Listed at six feet tall, 165 pounds, Iverson was quick, fearless, and able to score at will. He played as if he was as big as anybody. The NBA commentators and sports journalists at the time were skeptical of the braids, tattoos, and jewelry that Allen wore unabashedly, and often their prejudices prohibited them truly appreciating how great Allen was a player.

He embodied the unapologetic, me against the world hip-hop mentality that hit it mainstream America at the time. Allen’s brash attitude on top of what some people may deem to be an intimidating image overshadowed Iverson’s basketball talent; to many critics, opponents, and sports journalists Iverson was simply a thug. An entitled gifted athlete with no respect for the game who possessed no work ethic, or respect for authority. To the hip-hop community he was their representative. Someone who wasn’t afraid to be himself in front of corporate America. He refused to be beholden to the GMs and CEOs of corporate America and the Public Eye. In his mind it was their time to conform to him, and the hip-hop community was his army, his shield, his validation, for his mission to be himself.  If anybody knows Allen Iverson’s history it’s not hard to see why he had such animus towards authority, and law. Refer to the bowling alley incident that happened in 1993 http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=125870182, which unquestionably shaped his narrative of what is considered to be “justice”.

However, Iverson was not always the victim of unwarranted denigration: Iverson contributed to his own demise and frustration. No one will forget the “practice” rant that will always be tied to his legacy.  He and legendary head coach Larry Brown often budded heads. He wasn’t known for having a great work ethic, not always being the best teammate, and perhaps being too reluctant to corporate with GMs and owners proved to be to his detriment: especially towards the end of his career where teams did not want to add him to the roster because he seemed to be too difficult to work with. Additionally, Iverson had a number of personal issues that were splashed all over the media. Towards the end of his career as he bounced around to Denver, Detroit, and Memphis, it was apparent that he wasn’t the same NBA player he used to be. The fierceness that he played with was gone and he just didn’t seem to be all the there mentally. It became clear at the time he was a fading basketball player that was caught in personal and professional purgatory. It was apparent that this basketball icon was a conflicted person struggling to find his place on and off the court.

At the time no one in the NBA was so examined, so scrutinized, so speculated about, and questioned more than Allen Iverson. As I watch his post NBA interviews it is obvious that Iverson has matured, reflected, and grown as a person. I argue that all Allen Iverson wanted to be was respected, accepted and appreciated for his talent and how he changed the game. Did he make some mistakes along the way, of course, but he’s acknowledged his flaws and mistakes. People might have questioned his work ethic, his morals, but what can’t be disputed is A.I.’s love for the game. Iverson gave everything he had on court, undoubtedly being one the most exciting and competitive players to ever play. Iverson is a MVP, 4x NBA scoring leader, 11x NBA all-star, 3x NBA steals leader, and the epic crossover he gave Michael Jordan (as Bulls fan that still hurts), among a plethora of NBA accomplishments. Influencing and inspiring players like LeBron James, Dwayne Wade and Kobe Bryant, Iverson is a true basketball god.  Allen Iverson saluted the 76ers crowd during his jersey retirement ceremony, but after all he’s given to them game I think it was about time the NBA saluted Allen Iverson, and accepted him flaws and all. He finally got the respect he so desperately wanted.

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The Sochi Olympics, A Case Against Parity?

The Sochi Olympics has not surprising started without controversy. Over the past couple of days we’ve seen on the news pictures of athletes and journalist living in subpar hotels: pictures of yellow water, questionable bathrooms, and bees in honey (at least they know its fresh). Not the most comfortable conditions needless to say, which begs the question why did the committee decided to have such a massive event take place in controversial place like Russia?!

I was listening to the Colin Cowherd show on ESPN, who I really like by the way, as he argued that the issues going on in the Sochi Olympics is an illustration as to why parity shouldn’t exist when putting together sporting events. He argues that no one really likes parity, but I digress. The perception is that the Olympic committee decided to give a country that is unarguably governmentally flawed to prove that even countries in the midst of unrest and constantly at battle with westernization should have opportunity to utilize its intellectual and economic resources to execute a massive production. I commend this line of thinking, as I believe everyone deserves a shot to prove themselves. However, I don’t think that it’s all about parity.

I argue that one of the reasons the Winter Olympics were held in Russia was to create and feed this sensationalist culture that we live in today. There is a significant amount of animus that exist between Russia and the other countries in Europe and obviously in the USA, governmentally speaking of course. Let’s be honest the narrative that is playing out in U.S. media feeds into the story and image of the shady and uncouth Russia. Having a character like Vladimir Putin just adds to the spectacle. In this 24 hour news cycle world that we live in today it is easy to strike up fear and perpetuate a particular narrative to keep people interested and riled up. Additionally it meets the bottom line, it gives the media something to talk about!!! Let me be clear, I’m not dismissing the complaints, uncomfortable living conditions, and security concerns athletes and journalist are dealing with in Sochi, but I am stating that it is not exclusively an argument about whether parity in sports and sporting events is a good thing, I am arguing that there is another facet to this debate- MEDIA! It is important not to overlook the agenda of the media and what they get out of having sporting events in countries that aren’t perceived to be worthing of hosting world events. Outside of the obvious need for ratings there is a social and cultural agenda that whether consciously or unconsciously makes people more judgmental, and anxious, in many ways contributing to this cycle of sensationalism that we desperately have come to crave in American society: relying heavily on the media to tell us who is involved and what is going on when world events take place in countries whose culture is so foreign to us. From the standpoint of the committee it keeps their event relevant. It is no secret that the Summer Olympics are more popular it doesn’t take as much to generate interest, as where the Winter Olympics tends to not garner as much enthusiasm.

As person who spent a couple of days in Russia I can say that is a fascinating country: the food, the people, the history, and culture in Russia is something to experience. It will be interesting to see how this story unfolds and when it’s all said and done how the this event will be told in both sporting and political history. Whether the agenda of the committee was to promote parity in sporting events or to get people talking to elevate the profile of the Winter Olympics, they’ve definitely created a story, for better or for worse.

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