One might conclude that political ads and PR is one of a contending campaign’s biggest assets to the public — and the obvious fuel to this fire is money. 

And as we continue to notice the numerous left or right attack ads in what seems like every commercial break we run across, the press can’t help but link this back to their big story, Obama’s 66 million dollars in August. And this is perfectly on the spot — you essentially can’t go anywhere to the left or right (online or on your feet) without being swarmed with donation and fundraising opportunities and events. Recently attending an Obama fundraiser, I was amazed with the amount of excess opportunities to buy and donate to the Obama/Biden camp, especially considering the amount of money it cost to get in the actual venue. 

But when looking at the outcome of all this money steadily flowing into the Democrat’s hands, it begs a comment which has been screaming in my head for the last few days: “Is this what all this money is part of? Negative campaigning?” 

As a PR-focused political commenter, I understand that attack ads are merely defense from the latest opposing attacks, but as Karl Rove pointed out, the ads are really going to far. And although Rove may not be the brightest of politicians, his point is made clear. 

But in my view, the most essential thing here is the fact that the ads are virtually an input-output machine, with the input money, and the output a decline in the polls. 

I always look at a campaign in three stages, the first a reception, the second dinner, and the third a drunken bar fight. In more clarity — the candidates spend the beginning of their campaign introducing themselves, the second sitting down and watching the effects throughout the primaries, and the third picking fights and running negative attack ads. And although this has proven to work in the past, a change in politics is in my view essential to winning the campaign. 

So why, then, it is that as Obama keeps listing the lies of McCain’s attacks, the left slips in the polls? America doesn’t like disputes, they like answers. And so this back and fourth attack — defense media battle thus acts as an eclipse to regular politics, and further lets the conservatives ride on Sarah Palin’s media wave, perhaps right into the White House.

This is also comparable to a basketball game where one team is winning by 5 points. The other team may score, but the leading squad (in this case the McCain camp) will always return with another two points. And although the first team keeps scoring, they will always be down by five points, and in the end, losing the game. 

My point? Although Obama may speak the truth in his attacks, he must sacrifice a good reputation if he wants the White House next Spring. 

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Mixed feelings surround tomorrow’s (August 28, 2008) change in the MLB’s rule policy toward instant replay, which is noticeably only geared towards disputes on home runs. Most proclaim that its too little of a change, that baseball should suck it up and admit to the new age of technology, and forget all the old stuff. And very few, including me, argue the other way, claiming that baseball should stick to the original rules. 

Why? Baseball is all about the old stuff — the crack of the bat, the outdoors, the spitting on the ground like no one is looking, the game of gentlemen, the slow pace, the rain delays, and yes — the pile of chewed gum at the side of the dugout. But most of all, my favorite part about Baseball is letting the umpires call the shots. This game isn’t just like any other sport; its America’s pastime, and it deserves to be recreated every time the ball-players step onto the field. 

Personally, I am a huge fan of the JumboTron and its counterparts including Cricket and Tennis’s Hawkeye. Trust me as a die-hard Lakers fan, I’d die without correct calls, instant replay or not. But although Baseball isn’t exactly my forte, I can go this far — as a sports fan, and an American — the one sport that is ours entirely should stay entirely as it was meant to be, and if that answer is “old” — then so be it.

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Athlete 

n.

A person possessing the natural or acquired traits, such as strength, agility, and endurance, that are necessary for physical exercise or sports, especially those performed in competitive contexts.

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It’s been hovering around him since the opening ceremony, and now after he has shattered six world records and won seven of his seven entered races, there is no question to many sports fans and journalists alike that Michael Phelps is the greatest athlete ever to set foot on Earth. He has the three key components of a true athlete: strength, agility, and endurance, and he happens to compete in a sport that demands each of those traits. But is he really the best? I beg to differ.

There is no disputing that Phelps is the greatest swimmer ever, but some people need to seriously contemplate making a statement like this, which in my opinion is very premature. The world has only seen this guy for less than a week, and whatever he has managed to accomplish is admittedly extremely impressive, but the world has simply seen better out of a human being. It seems like in all this excitement the world has forgotten the flawless performances that have been displayed thus far in the world of sports ranging from Kobe Bryant’s 81 point performance, where relentless scoring met grace and agility, to Michael Jordan’s illustrious career. And who can forget Walter Payton’s mesmerizing speed and toughness in the dirty sport of American football and Usain Bolt’s recent world records with arguably the best sprinting ever showcased. And what about Pele, Gordie Howe, Magic Johnson, and the many others who really were sports during their era. 

And we keep forgetting the unknown sports that really showcase the most challenging and athletic ability — Big Mountain Skiing, Biatholan, the marathon, horse racing, gymnastics, and (my favorite) — parkour.

So is Michael Phelps the greatest athlete ever? It’s very hard to tell, and it all comes down to a long and hard thought by a well respected journalist. So who is the greatest athlete ever? David Belle. Look him up.

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Times have changed. Five years ago the war in Iraq was supposed to be already over, Time.com  claimed that the internet was too crowded (no, really?), and above all, gas prices were nearing an all time high at an outrageous $1.72 per gallon. So you could imagine how the garage wars around your neighborhoods were going, with one guy whipping out his 2003 Acura NSX, which (at the time) was one of the fastest cars in the world, and bragging about his 5.2 0-60 time. 

But sadly, times like that are far away from us now. The cars have gotten better and more expensive, and in a sense so has the oil. Ok, maybe not better, but you get the point. The grass will always be greener on the other side — like always — and now everyone wishes instead of buying that flashy Corvette, maybe they should have hung onto their good old 50 MPG VW Rabbit. 

Enter the hybrids. Victor Wouk’s genius creation turned hybrids and other green cars away from their hippie image, and suddenly they were as popular as bell bottoms in the late sixties. With streets flooded with brand new Prius’s, and a new EcoGeek community rapidly forming, it was suddenly cool to be an environmentalist again. 

Meanwhile, truck and performance companies like GM started their downfall. No one wanted a new Chevy Tahoe anymore, and despite valiant efforts to “green-a-tize” these gas-chugging trucks, GM’s popularity and credibility took a giant blow. Toyota and their squeaky clean factories dangled Detroit’s credibility right in front of them, mass producing their trademark cars at a fraction of the price it took Ford and GM to. So GM rallied back, trying the most sensible thing to do — fighting fire with fire — and creating a green car of their own. But what they came out with? It makes me think to myself: “What the are these idiots thinking?!” 

As you can see in the pictures, what GM failed to do here was make a car that could sell. In short, they sent Chuck Norris to a black-tie formal. What I mean by that is they planted themselves in a market that they had never experimented in, and because of that they couldn’t hold back, planting a sports car with gigantic shiny rims and a futuristic muscle tone to compete with a Prius. And that’s not going to sell. Sorry for offending anyone, but the average tree-hugging Prius driver would not exactly fair well with a high-performance electric sports car with bigger rims than Ice-Cube could ever dream of.

So its not going to sell. Plain and simple. GM went way too far with a good idea and tried for something new, inventive and sportsy for a car that is their future’s last ray of hope. So would I drive it? Well, first of all I can’t drive, but if I had a choice between a Prius and the Volt when I turn 16 in a world of horribly high gas prices, I would take the Chevy in a heartbeat. But I’m afraid that this wouldn’t be the choice of the average middle aged driver looking for a fuel-efficient car. So what do I think? GM just made a big mistake.

Politics and The Olympics

August 12, 2008

Elder Bush made it clear that politics should not be in the way of the olympics, but will that become a reality? After an opening ceremony that included more heads of states than New Zealand has sheep, terrorist problems in Western China, and Bush talking with Russian President Vladimir Putin about Georgia, one might think this is a terrorist summit rather than an olympic games. And in a sense — it is! CNN can’t make it any clearer that this is a politician’s olympics with their “Beijing Reports” and it seems like whenever there is a timeout or halftime, a head of state is taking a cheap shot at the US or China’s sinking human rights policy. Yes, this was probably a bad decision in choosing Beijing for the games, but how about we watch some sports. No, I’m not going to go on my sports purist rant like I did in China’s In Trouble, but look around! Michael Phelps is dominating every swimming event he pleases, both US basketball teams look promising, we are one of the top five gold-winning countries so far, and we are shoving it away just to whine about oil and Iraq. I’m not considering a pep rally, but watching Judo alone from a ten channel television in Argentina was more exciting then anything over in the states. Why? They love their sport. I know this may come as a shock to us Americans, but they root for their team rather than accusing their players of asking for too much money or signing too many contracts. Just a suggestion — maybe we should adopt their customs and love and breathe our sports. Just a thought…

 

In a game hyped beyond belief, stuffed with politics analogies as well as a standing basketball turning point, not only did the US prevail, but they did so in such an effortless fashion it made the Chinese look like they were suddenly playing for second place. The US players floated down the court, and had two options – pass the ball to their guards for them to embarrass the inexperienced Chinese defenders or dump the ball into the post and watch Dwight Howard’s carnage. It was such a blowout, by the end of the game the US players were getting fancy with behind the back and twisting passes, mostly fans weren’t contempt with the US team flat out scoring. At any time during the game, if a Chinese player made any sort of nice move and finished it either with a layup, dunk, or a three pointer got the entire bench complete with everyone from China’s coaching staff to the Chinese models that normally just stand there and smile jumping for joy and pumping their fists.

So now that it is clear China still has work to do in basketball, why isn’t the USA back to their normal selves? They passed their test and demolished the famed Chinese dream team, with all 15 people on their team personally stabbing China’s basketball coffin. So why aren’t they credible any more? Is it because this was just a first round game? No. My answer? They haven’t faced Greece yet, plain and simple. Why? They is the perfect team to beat America — under the radar, sly, non-advertised, and good. They aren’t my pick for the gold, but they sure are contenders that the USA needs to watch out for – if they come into a game with them in their normal cocky, bulldozer attitude their going to snatch that gold medal off of their necks like they did in 2004.

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Having seen quite a lot of sporting events, and naturally, quite a lot of opening ceremonies, I must admit I was pretty amazed watching this year’s Olympic Opening ceremony. It was huge, involving thousands of people, but it was also very simple and artistic. From the blimp camera view, the shapes that the many thousands of humans made were breathtaking (my favorite was a bird which flapped its wings multiple times). The dancers were skilled and quick, and their overall performance was brilliantly choreographed. The fireworks were amazing, all their detail was displayed individually. The opening ceremony was (you could say) perfect, with amazing technology, great music, and risky acrobatics that was flawlessly executed via thousands of headphones, remote controls, and intense determination behind the scenes. 

But I didn’t like it.

Why? How could you just dismiss a flawless performance that took years of preparation and thousands of people to perform? In truth, it was perfect, but to me, and probably to many other people, it was expected. Let’s face it — the Chinese are master performers, they are as skilled, acrobatic, and dedicated as anyone else out there, but this would be their stereotypical performance. Just think about it. If someone told you that the Chinese were going to put on a performance for billions of people, and they could use all the people and money they pleased, this is what you would expect — and this is what we got. It was the best performance I have ever seen — and call me spoiled — but it wasn’t unique. It wasn’t different, it wasn’t simple, and it could have been. I enjoyed watching the ceremony, but I still think they could have done better. Better, but not with more people and money. Call me crazy, but I think the perfect Olympic Opening Ceremony should involve not involve dancers and acrobats, but all the athletes participating in the actual games. 

Let’s face it — to make it to the olympics, you don’t just need to be good at your sport, you need to be legendary. And everyone in the olympics is skilled, in shape, and experienced in entertainment. It would be exciting to have all the athletes’ best skills incorporated into the performance. It would be a fresh idea, it would be hilarious (some of the athletes would probably slip up or add some humor into it), and it would be great to see your favorite player perform. It would be like a professional dancing with the stars, and I think it would be entertaining for the viewers. Its just an opinion, but I think it would work.

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China’s In Trouble

August 6, 2008

I bet a few critics of the IOC are giving their “I told you so” remarks right about now. Why? China’s in big trouble. After insurgent attacks in Western China, China’s is up to their necks in problems – as well as doubters. These attacks (which killed 20 border patrolmen) claimed to be in favor of independence in some of China’s Western providences. But everyone knows that they came at the perfect time – just days before the Beijing Olympics. And why are we so ticked off with this? In 2001, when China was given their Olympic stature, they vowed to do many things for the game, including limiting the violence and taking care of their human rights issues. If you ask a foreign policy hunk, they’ll most likely tell you that after seven years, they haven’t exactly fulfilled their promises. Their popular-with-the-press pollution problem doesn’t help either, as many athletes who arrived to the games wore masks off the plane. 

But aside from that, one must wonder if another attack is in the making for Beijing. The Chinese government boasts they have foiled past plans, but many of us know that with China’s decreasing credibility, they are looking for anything to gain the press’s trust – and with China that sometimes leads to a habit of exaggerations. Aside from that, it looks like China isn’t very keen on getting very much outside press into their business – they weren’t so accommodating to Japanese reporters covering the insurgency attacks. They also don’t like the rest of the world reporting on the games, as they issued a countrywide internet blackout for websites that planned to cover the Olympics. They also sent out a list of websites that they did not want to publish a word about their games, most international. China has also cut off internet access entirely in parts of their country, and one can only wonder why…

So here we have a country in which many people are speculating. It has in a sense failed its own promises. They have issued a media and internet blackout throughout their entire country and have set limits on all the worldwide media they can get their hands on. They aren’t exactly best of friends with America, and our athletes have showed their concern by wearing masks inside the air-conditioned Beijing airport. So with all this, one might conclude the US president should not be one of the spectators at the Olympics. This was something I was for until my brother brought me to my senses and gave me a great, but simple reason why this would be a horrible idea. He correctly stated that Bush would stir an already sticky situation by boycotting the Olympics.

Now this is a correct answer, but there is something he may not have thought of, and rightfully so. In this whirlwind of politics, one might forget what the Olympics really boil down to – sports. A gathering of world-class athletes couldn’t come in a more grand stage, and sometimes big time newspapers and writers can forget that. We’ve all had those moments sitting in front of the TV with a Coke in one hand and chips in the other with your buddies, and whether you are watching tennis or basketball, ski racing or baseball — pegging your friends with chips or chucking them at the players on TV – we’ve all felt at home. I remember watching the finals with a bunch of guys I spent a week with in some remote tennis camp (that’s another story), and they were all Boston Celtics fans. Crammed in a smelly breakfast room with a bunch of sweaty top US junior tennis players in a room with only two small rotating air-fans, I felt like some monk dude who found the connection with god. I had found the real essence of sports – rooting on a team with a bunch of other people who you knew nothing about other than the point that they liked another team. You hated them, but that just makes your connection with them more powerful. So this is why we should forget that maybe we made a bad decision by picking China to host the Olympics, but besides that, in the end it’s the game that matters. I’m sure if Bin Laden was a Red Sox fan and Bush was a Yankees fan they would get in a brawl, but in the end they are just sports fans. My point here? Sports isn’t just a game, it’s an escape from politics and the outside world. That’s why every country should be part of this celebration, and that’s why we should all forget the politics, cram ourselves in small bar with our buddies and stare at the TV screen, and be sports fans. Not politicians, presidents, citizens and terrorists, but just sports fans. And that’s all that we have in common these days.

A Changed Game

July 28, 2008

As the Olympics draw closer and closer, through observing the US’s olympic preparation, I noticed the distinct differences between todays athletes and yesterday’s legends. One difference that really divided me were the physical differences. Watching the Olympic track and field trials, I noticed the build the runners had. They looked like hulks compared to the brawny runners of the past, their stick-like arms and long legs making long and fast strides. And although this new breed of runners doesn’t exactly look like the stereotype 1970’s sprinters, they can certainly sprint like them — and these days, they can do it faster. It seems like all the news stories in track and field these days are either someone breaking a record, or someone using steroids, but none the less, this kind of popularity definitely doesn’t hurt the sport. For me, it also makes it exciting. Reviewing the old tapes of the 70’s and 80’s was fun for me (I wasn’t even close to being alive then), but more fun is watching the races live. I am one of the many people who welcome this new change in sports — and there will certainly be more to come.

Is Speedo Cheating?

July 27, 2008

With the new launch of Speedo’s LZR racer swimsuit, a proven formula to stop skin flab and reduce friction while racing, one must wonder if something like this should be legal. Sports purists would probably agree, claiming that swimming was the individual body’s work, and any help to reduce the body’s natural speed flaws while moving in the water would be the equivalent to doping. Plus, the team speedo will only be available to team USA, so you can imagine how the rest of the world feels about it. The suit, rigorously tested by nasa, is “virtually guaranteed” to break a wold record next month in Beijing — says Speedo, and the world will certainly be watching. Tell me what you think about this below.

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