The Conversation

Sports: Discussion of sporting events and developments.

The Brainy Bracket: Fun While It Lasted

Mar 23, 2014 11:49 AM PT

In March Madness, you live and die by the upsets. And that's what happened to the "brainy bracket," my attempt to pick the winners based on their academic ranking in the annual U.S. News & World Report survey. I picked Stanford to upset Kansas, and of course Harvard to win in the early rounds. But Duke and Villanova--my eventual winner--crashed out in upsets of their own, sending my bracket from the top to the bottom of the heap.

What does it prove? Absolutely nothing, except that there is enough parity in the tournament to keep things very interesting. In a league where an academic titan like Duke can compete for the title every year (well, almost), that says a great deal about the enduring ideal of the scholar-athlete, for all its imperfections. And who knows--maybe Stanford and Wisconsin will make the Final Four after all. Better half-right than nothing!

'Brainy Bracket' Still Intact--Mostly

Mar 20, 2014 10:16 PM PT

As the first round of the NCAA men's basketball tournament continues, the "brainy bracket"--in which I chose winners based on their academic rankings by U.S. News & World Report--remains largely intact. Harvard's upset win over Cincinnati preserved their Elite Eight hopes. However, Oklahoma (#101 in U.S. News's rankings of national universities) fell to North Dakota State (#190), while Ohio State (#52) fell to Dayton (#112).

So the South and the West regions are a bit of a mess, though the East and the Midwest are fully intact, putting the "brainy bracket" in the 89.9th percentile of all brackets on The real test comes Friday, when Cal Poly (seeded #16) plays Wichita State (seeded #1). No #16 seed has ever beaten a #1 seed. Yet on the U.S. News list, Cal Poly is the #9 regional university in the west, while Wichita State is completely unranked.

Bode Miller Defends NBC Reporter Who Made Him Cry

Feb 17, 2014 10:54 AM PT

A minor media firestorm erupted yesterday after an NBC Olympic Alpine Skiing reporter interviewed American skier Bode Miller just after he won a bronze medal in the men’s super-G ski race.

Interviewer Christin Cooper pressed Miller multiple times with variations of questions about the passing of his younger brother and what it meant to him in the competition.

Miller starting tearing and eventually broke down physically and emotionally.
Chelone Miller, a snowboarder, died within the past year.
The interview, which aired on tape delay, was bashed by people inside and outside of the television business.

Richard Sandomir of The New York Times called it “overkill,” Kami Mattioli of the Sporting News said Cooper “repeatedly badgered” Miller and the AP’s David Bauder called it “a shameful spectacle.”

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Who Roots For Figure Skaters To Fall?

Feb 13, 2014 4:10 PM PT

So, Twitchy has a post up today about folks who actually root for the Olympic figure skaters to fall. They think it's funny and LOL about it on Twitter.

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No Fishing Allowed in Olympic Toilets

Feb 5, 2014 5:05 AM PT

Canadian snowboarder Sebastien Toutant arrived in Russia before the Olympic Games to find a list of rules posted in the bathrooms.  Among forbidden activities is fishing. 

While the list of dos and don’ts includes some reasonable tips in aid of promoting good hygiene - not standing up, being sick or squatting above the toilet being used - you might be forgiven for thinking the chart's designers had ran out of ideas when they got to the last two rules.

In one, a stick man can clearly be seen fishing, with a rod, in the toilet. The reasoning behind this remains unclear - with fishing not included as a sport at the winter games, athletes are unlikely to have brought equipment along with them.

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Breaking: Obama's hypothetical son not allowed to play football

Jan 20, 2014 3:52 AM PT

Even as sports fans gear up for a big playoff day, an interview with David Remnick of the New Yorker tells us that Barack Obama wants everyone to know that his hypothetical son - one of the most famous imaginary people in the world, having previously played a role in the Trayvon Martin case - would not be permitted to play football:

Obama spent his flight time in the private quarters in the nose of the plane, in his office compartment, or in a conference room. At one point on the trip from Andrews Air Force Base to Seattle, I was invited up front for a conversation. Obama was sitting at his desk watching the Miami Dolphins–Carolina Panthers game. Slender as a switch, he wore a white shirt and dark slacks; a flight jacket was slung over his high-backed leather chair. As we talked, mainly about the Middle East, his eyes wandered to the game. Reports of multiple concussions and retired players with early-onset dementia had been in the news all year, and so, before I left, I asked if he didn’t feel at all ambivalent about following the sport. He didn’t.

“I would not let my son play pro football,” he conceded. “But, I mean, you wrote a lot about boxing, right? We’re sort of in the same realm.”

The Miami defense was taking on a Keystone Kops quality, and Obama, who had lost hope on a Bears contest, was starting to lose interest in the Dolphins. “At this point, there’s a little bit of caveat emptor,” he went on. “These guys, they know what they’re doing. They know what they’re buying into. It is no longer a secret. It’s sort of the feeling I have about smokers, you know?”

Obama chewed furtively on a piece of Nicorette. His carriage and the cadence of his conversation are usually so measured that I was thrown by the lingering habit, the trace of indiscipline. “I’m not a purist,” he said.

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VIDEO:Hockey Player Ejected After Two Seconds in NHL Debut

Jan 19, 2014 6:47 PM PT

24-year-old Kellan Lain had a dream to play in the NHL. On Saturday night, his dream came true...for literally 2 seconds. Donning a Vancouver Canucks jersey, Lain took center ice to face off against the Calgary Flames' Kevin Wesgarth, who according to HockeyBuzz, has a "reputation in the league as a tough customer when it comes to dropping the mitts." In fact he reportedly has "fought just about every heavy weight in the league during his seven professional years." 

Lain in his NHL debut, had most of his family in attendance to share the once in a lifetime experience. "My parents are here today. My brother flew in last night...this is something that you dream. It's not only yours, but it's also a family accomplishment," the rookie said

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Teenage Figure Skater Jason Brown Heading For Sochi Following Epic Performance At US Nationals (Video)

Jan 16, 2014 9:54 AM PT

The two men the US will be sending to the Sochi games next month to compete in the men's figure skating competition, will  be Jeremy Abbott, who  won his fourth U.S. figure skating title at the US Nationals on Sunday, and teenage sensation, Jason Brown, who won second place. 

A 19-year-old from Illinois, Brown earned a spot on the U.S. Olympic figure skating team with a crowd-pleasing performance at the 2014 U.S. Figure Skating Championships in Boston on Sunday. Sporting a long ponytail, the teen skating sensation briefly transformed the competition at TD Garden into a rock concert with an epic performance in his free skate.

"As we've said many times over, Jason does not have the quad jump and some of the jumps that the other competitors have but he has something that is very unique that we have seen and that is an ability to connect with the audience and by extension, the judges," NBC announcer Tom Hammond said before Brown began his free skate.

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