July 07, 2011

Bicycling S & M


The silver and yellow contraption illustrated in the first photograph accompanying this article is, in fact, a bicycle. It is of the type known as a "recumbent,” or simply a ‘bent to some riders of such machines. This particular machine belongs to me. The manufacturer, Rans, builds these bikes and light aircraft at their factory in Hays, Kansas. It is their V-Rex LE model and is of a sub-category of recumbents known as a short-wheelbase recumbent.


The second bike, in blue and silver, is my wife’s bike, also made by Rans. It is the Stratus LE model, and is—obviously—a long wheelbase bike. Very serious cyclists will notice that both bikes have racks—bicycling heresy! We ride the bikes to work regularly and have to carry our lunch and other goodies. Besides, the racks weigh almost nothing and provide a handy place to hang a taillight; live with it. Before I go on, here are some links to sites I’ll mention in this post (and some I won’t):

(1) Go here for a New York Times article on how traditional bike seats actually damage portions of the body you don’t want to be damaged (yeow!).

(2) Go here for the Rans website.

(3) Go here for the Lightning website.

(4) Go here for the TerraCycle website. They manufacture the highest quality idlers—wheel/guides for chains, important on recumbents—in the business and have some really neat accessories too.

(5) Go here for Aerospoke Carbon Composite Wheels. Very cool.

The common bicycle, or an “upright” as polite recumbent riders call them (less polite recumbent riders refer to them as “wedgies.” I’m sure you can figure out why.), has been around for centuries, and uses pretty much the same double triangle design as early bikes. Despite their more modern appearance, recumbents have been around for at least a century.

Why don’t we see them in the Tour de France and other bicycle competitions? They’ve been banned for a century primarily because of the 10-15% aerodynamic advantage they have over uprights. There are other reasons that I’ll get into shortly.

With uprights very well developed, capable of substantial speeds, very light, high tech, capable of accepting an incredible range of accessories, and for most riders, relatively inexpensive, why recumbents? After all, even entry level recumbents will cost around $1000 when entry level uprights of the most common types typically go for no more than $400. The V-Rex and Stratus have a MSRP of $1595, and as such, are excellent buys in the recumbent world. Our bikes are substantially more expensive as we’ve chosen to add carbon fiber wheels, racks, flashing taillights, and in my case, upgraded brakes and brake levers, rear derailleur and shifters, and a handlebar and stem that better suit my body and riding style.

Recumbents are more expensive primarily because they are manufactured in far smaller numbers than uprights. There is little or no economy of scale in the recumbent industry. Most are essentially hand built, and demographically, those who buy them tend to be more experienced riders who expect greater quality in the components that make up the bike and understand that they will have to pay for them. At the same time, they will usually ride their bikes much more than the average bike owner, and expect to own them much longer with all of the attention and maintenance that entails. Most recumbents don’t gather much dust in the garage or basement.

My experience well illustrates why a growing number of people prefer recumbents. In my 30s I was a police officer and had always been an athlete. In my first civilian police job, I bought my first serious road bike from a serious shop, a Raleigh, made in England, with only six gears in the cassette (the gear cluster on the rear wheel) and two on the chainwheel (the gear cluster to which the pedals are attached). My V-Rex has 9/3 respectively, which is common for contemporary recumbents. The Raleigh was high tech in its time, and I labored mightily to develop my skills, but was always hindered by the realities of uprights.

I suffered substantial discomfort in the crotch, and on longer rides (exceeding 30 miles), real pain. I often experienced numbness in the crotch and even the penis for hours after rides, and sometimes, days. At that age the second “P’ was the favorite part of my anatomy, and having sprightly responsiveness in those portions of my anatomy was an issue of some urgency (it is only slightly less so today), but part of the esprit de corps of the road cyclist has always been the mastering and overcoming of pain, so I soldiered on, numb as I sometimes was. I also experienced pain and numbness in my hands, arms, back and neck, particularly whenever I “got on the drops,” or gripped the lowest part of handlebars to establish a more aerodynamic posture. I know that some people think such things really don’t matter, but even subtle aerodynamic advantages produce real, sometimes amazing, speed differences in bicycling. The pain was so severe that I could not long maintain that posture, and if I couldn’t, I wasn’t destined for bicycle racing glory. Watching the Tour, you’ll notice that even the world’s most elite cyclists don’t spend a great deal of time on the drops, doing it only when the greatest possible speed is necessary, such as in time-trails, and they all use aero-bars for that.

Still, I bought into the macho image of bicycling, but that didn’t stop me from looking for more comfort as well as greater speed. I eventually bought an American-made Trek with a bonded aluminum frame—very hi-tech at the time--the best components I’d ever imagined, and experimented with a variety of saddles of various configurations and with various kinds of hi-tech paddings that were then coming on the market to address the problems that virtually every serious bike rider experiences. I had gloves with gel-filled palms, shorts with gel-filled inserts, and even aero-bars (they clamp onto handlebars and extend forward, with pads for the rider’s forearms), which allow a rider to get into an aerodynamic tuck with less pain. I had 8 gears in the cassette and three in the chainwheel, so I could go faster and climb steep hills more easily, but still, all of those technical goodies only slightly delayed the onset of pain and numbness. The NYT article at the beginning of this post explains the problems in some detail, and women are affected too.

As my career took even more of my free time, I rode less and realized that I was riding less in part to avoid the pain, which lasted for days after each ride. I wasn’t getting any younger, and that played a part in recovery times.

Then one day I answered a domestic violence call in a well-to-do neighborhood at a lawyer’s home. I ended up under attack by the lawyer and much of his family, and though the bad guys ended up in jail, I ended up with a neck injury, which plagues me to this day. I’m far from an invalid, but when I turn my neck, it usually sounds and feels like a bag full of gravel. I used to think that people who complained about neck and back pain were just not tough enough. I don’t harbor that delusion any longer. As part of my rehabilitation, I tried to ride my bike and discovered that apart from all of the other issues, there was no way I could be on the aero-bars for any length of time, and forget the drops; my neck simply would not tolerate it. I had a choice: quit riding altogether or find another type of bike that would not aggravate my neck.

My first recumbent, carefully researched, and the first recumbent ever ordered (specially ordered in my case) by my local bike shop was the legendary Lightning P-38. Light, fast, and ridiculously comfortable, I discovered that once again I could ride 30 miles or more and step off the bike tired, but without pain, in fact, feeling pretty darned good. In fact, I just hopped on the bike and did a 24 mile ride on winding mountain roads the first time I rode it. Not a good idea for most people, but my local dealer had never sold or rode a recumbent, and I had never owned one, so what did I know? Like Nike used to say, I just did it.

It was not until I rode my P-38 for the first time that I realized how much of the strength of our upper bodies, arms and hands we use in riding any upright. No wonder I ended up so sore all over all those years. The key to recumbent riding is to completely relax your upper body from the waist to the tips of the fingers. Gently rest your hands on the handlebars—no death-gripping the bars--and particularly, work to completely relax the shoulders. The minute you adopt upright techniques, you’ll find yourself all over the road and once again building up tension and soreness. You’ll also discover that recumbents use slightly different muscles and use them in different ways than uprights.

The P-38 was a revelation! It accelerated effortlessly and handled like the F-16 of the bicycle world. Think about turning and you were already halfway through the turn.

In various organized centuries (100 kilometer or mile rides), I learned about recumbent realities. The best upright riders can out-accelerate you when climbing hills. They can stand on their pedals, rising off the saddle, and use their body weight to help drive them up hills. You’ll see tour riders doing that in the mountain sections. Recumbent riders can’t do that, but they can press against their seats with their lower backs, use one hand to help press down on one thigh (alternate, of course), and develop very smooth pedaling techniques. Even in my old age (57), I routinely pass a great many younger upright riders when hill climbing. On flat sections, the recumbent aerodynamic advantage---you’re always in an aero-tuck—means that I can keep up with much younger and inherently faster riders. It is on the downhills that the recumbent aero advantage becomes really obvious. Start a recumbent and upright downhill at the same time without pedaling and the recumbent will simply run away from the upright. The aero advantage is that real and obvious. If you want to amaze and annoy upright riders, really pedal when going downhill and you’ll pull away from them like a missile coming off the rails of a jet fighter. With a recumbent, you can also pedal and accelerate through corners with sharp lean angles. Do that on an upright and you’ll whack your inside pedal on the pavement and actually lever your rear wheel off the ground and it’s hamburger city.

The P-38 and V-Rex are short wheelbase bikes. The advantages of that design are great maneuverability, shorter overall length and easier portability on commonly available bike racks. Such designs usually require a smaller diameter front tire such as the proprietary 16” on the P-38 and a 20” on the V-Rex. Smaller diameter wheels are easier to accelerate, and this is quite obvious. The first few times I accelerated from a stop on the P-38 I laughed out loud out of surprise and delight.

Small front wheels also keep the chainwheel and pedals from being too high above the seat and keep the seat height—above the pavement—lower. That’s important. Some people have a problem with foot numbness if their feet are higher than their butt on a recumbent, and if the seat height is too high, it makes the bike unsellable to people with shorter legs as they tend to topple over when they have to stop unless they stand completely upright. If the bike fits, you only have to drop one foot and lean slightly to that side. Interestingly, despite having a very low seat height, the design of the P-38’s seat—which is ridiculously light and comfortable--almost requires longer lower legs.

My wife went for a long wheelbase bike because she is one of those people who experiences foot numbness, and long wheelbase recumbents tend to position their chainwheels below the bike’s seat. While she can handle the seat height of a short wheelbase bike, she prefers a lower seat height, both of which the Stratus provides. Because a long wheelbase bike must have more frame material than a short wheelbase bike, it will virtually always weigh a little more.

One long-wheelbase problem is finding a rack that will easily fit. I had to alter my rack with longer metal arms, but I have the tools to do that sort of thing. That’s not the only transport option, of course, but something to keep in mind. To fit both of our bikes on the rack, we have to remove the seats, but the Rans design makes seat removal, adjustment and replacement quick and easy, which is not true of every other make and model.

I loved my P-38 and rode it 14 years. My only real complaint was that I could not get a carbon fiber front wheel because of the odd wheel size (I prefer Aerospoke wheels). That, and the only tire I could buy was the mediocre quality Moulton model stocked by Lightning for many years. They now have a much better Bridgestone tire. I’m no longer a 6’, 155 lb, nothing but legs and lungs kind of guy like I was in high school, and when you’re heavier, you tend to need to have your spoked wheels regularly re-trued. That’s true to a somewhat lesser degree for any rider. With composite wheels, that’s not an issue. They are a bit heavier than the lightest spoked wheels, but I’m far past the age when a few grams, ounces, or even pounds, make any real difference. Yes, I am aware of weight in components, but I don’t obsess over it.

Last year, the P-38 was getting a bit long in the tooth. It was still a great bike, but before long, I was going to have to get some new components, components that would be costly on an old frame with only eight gears on the cassette (contemporary road bikes have nine). Back to research and I discovered Rans and the V-Rex. It’s a bit heavier than the P-38, but with the 20” front wheel, I could have composite wheels front and back and much greater choice in front tires. It’s easily as comfortable as the P-38, handles 98% as quickly and well, and while not quite as fast, is more than fast enough. I used to tell upright riders who inquired about the P-38 that the bike was a lot faster than I was. That’s still true of the V-Rex.

Another factor was cost. A new P-38 runs about $3200, and the V-Rex, only $1600. True, with the accessories and upgraded components I added, the V-Rex ended up costing nearly that much, but it has features I very much wanted that the P-38 lacks. Still, if I was a young speedster in need of a recumbent, the P-38 would be my first choice, or if I had money coming out my ears, I’d spring for Lightning’s carbon fiber-framed recumbent which is obscenely light and fast. I have no doubt that a great many riders would be very happy with the V-Rex as it comes from the factory. Even if you are a young speedster, Rans makes the V-Rex with a titanium frame—very light—and provides a “hot-rod” kit of replacement components that shaves even more weight from a stock V-Rex. Rans makes a wide variety of recumbents in many price points, and I find something satisfying about buying from a solid America company. Rans also has a great accessory catalog with just about anything a savvy recumbent rider might want. There are several other fine manufacturers of recumbents, which you can easily find through a web search.

Oh yes, two other reasons why bike race organizers don't want recumbents: These folks tend to be very traditional, and the international cycling organizations are dominated by the Europeans. Also, Imagine the difference in endurance and day-to-day strength and ability to perform between upright riders whose teams have to hire masseurs, compared to riders of recumbents. In no time, for at least some races--depending on terrain--everybody would be riding recumbents. That would be harmful to the upright bike industry and related interests.

Clipless pedals are pretty much a recumbent necessity, as your feet will tend to slip off the pedals without them. Remember: Your feet aren’t directly over the pedals on a recumbent with your weight bearing down on them. For most riders I recommend the Shimano (the Japanese company that leads the market in bike components) SPD mountain bike standard. With mountain bike shoes, the clips—male part-- are recessed in the soles of the shoes and allow you to walk more or less normally when off the bike. With the Look-type or other road bike pedals and shoes, you end up clomping around like a skittish pony. Check out the two types in a bike shop and you’ll see what I mean. Serious road riders wouldn’t give a second look at mountain bike gear, but a lot of them are weenies anyway (just kidding—sort of). It’s wise to have the shop loosen the pedal spring strength a bit and to practice starting and stopping, particularly at slow speeds, in a large parking lot before venturing out into the wide, wild world of traffic. That will keep you from coming to a stop, forgetting you’re clipped in, and flopping on your side. On a recumbent, you don’t have nearly as far to fall, so such things tend to be embarrassing rather than damaging. You can get straps and toe clips, but they do the same thing that clipless pedals do, just not nearly as efficiently or well. They are, however, cheaper.

Keep one other fact in mind: You’ll likely have to travel to try or buy a recumbent. Most bike shops don’t stock them and wouldn’t know where to order them even if they were inclined to order them. Even the shops that do stock recumbents tend not to have many on their showroom floor. Check the manufacturer website for their dealer locator lists and be sure to call ahead.

Recumbents are obviously more expensive than comparable (if such a thing is possible) uprights, but there is little economy in a much cheaper upright that you don’t ride for all of the reasons I’ve listed here. Being able to climb into rather than onto your bike—there is a reason that recumbent riders refer to their “cockpit”—with the knowledge that you will not be in pain during or after the ride and will be able to concentrate on a solid workout, or simply an enjoyable jaunt, is priceless.

Unless you’re really into pain in the crotch area and elsewhere, in which case I have no idea why you’re reading this website instead of one more specific to your needs, recumbents are an elegant and fun option.

Posted by MikeM at 09:11 PM | Comments (8)

March 28, 2011

Down to the Final Four

Kentucky, UConn, and... Virginia Commonwealth and Butler?

Oh, well. I'm sure that screwed up a ton of office brackets, but if you bet on sports you know that momentum is a fickle thing, and it enable the most unlikely of underdogs to shine as giants (what, Duke?) unexpectedly collapse.

I'm one of a small number of native North Carolinians immune to "March Madness," but that is certainly a product of going to a school (East Carolina) that has always been more focused on the gridiron and the diamond than the court. Now that Carolina has fallen, most of my fellow Tarheels will settle back down to work.

It will be all over a week from today in Houston and the rest of the nation will turn their attention eslewhere.

They maybe someone will inform President ESPN that we're at war in Libya. I'm sure he'll be surprised.

Posted by Confederate Yankee at 08:02 AM | Comments (2)

February 26, 2011

I Hope The Fight Will Be As Good As The Trash-talking

UFC 127 is rolling around tonight, and the fight I'm most interested in watching is Jorge "El Conquistador" Rivera vs. Michael "The Count" Bisping.

Ranger Up (Rivera's sponsor) has been putting up videos on Youtube one after another mocking Bisping. Rivera's trash-talk leading up to this fight has been epic (and no those three videos aren't the only ones), and has made this fight both very personal for Bisping, who is making a second run at the middleweight title and considers the 38-year-old Rivera an over-the-hill loud-mouth standing in his way.

And you know what? Bisping has a point. Rivera is closing in the end of his career (only a handful of fighters can compete at the elite level past the page of 40), and no one thinks his string of recent victories will result in a late career surge to the top. Bisping is the more talented striker and is very elusive, even if he lacks knockout power. He should easily outpoint Rivera for a easy decision victory.

But old age and treachery are a dangerous thing. Rivera is trying to get inside Bispings head, and is trying to get Bisping to stand toe-to-toe with him and bang. Rivera may not be the more talented striker, but he is the harder hitter of the two, and if he can negate Bisping's movement advantage via head games, well, that's all part of the fight.

The main event of UFC 127 is still going to be BJ Penn vs Jon Fitch and it should easily be the better fight, but I suspect internet wagering is going to pick-up for the Bisping-Rivera fight purely on the strength of the smack being tossed around.

That's a good thing for Dana White's promotion. Quite frankly, the other fights on the card feature fighters with much less name recognition. Without the drama drummed up by Rivera and the Ranger Up crew, this event might not even be worth watching.

Posted by Confederate Yankee at 10:50 AM | Comments (0)

January 22, 2011

NFC and AFC Championships Sunday Promise More Fun Than Olbermann's Firing

So the Jets and the Steelers are matching up for the AFC championship, and the Packers are lining up against the Bears in the NFC.

I'm sure the folks getting their sports betting news from BetUS have a far better idea of the match-ups than I do, but I'm not afraid to make predictions. It isn't like anyone is listening to me anyway.

The Jets looked solid last weekend, but a lot of folks are convinced that the game was fluke. I'm not one of them. While I've always liked the Steelers, I think the Jets are peaking at the right time, and I think they have enough in the tank to win by 10.

On the NFC side, I suspect it is going to be a down-to-the wire game, but think the Bears pull it out in the end by a field goal or less over the Packers.

Posted by Confederate Yankee at 12:24 AM | Comments (4)

January 14, 2011

UFC Fighter Who Challenged Obama Suspended from Coaching by School System

Never, ever commit blasphemy:

An Ultimate Fighting Championship fighter has been placed on administrative leave from his job at a Minnesota high school after he insulted President Obama's intelligence and challenged the commander in chief to a fight.

Jacob Volkmann told Fox News Radio that he is under investigation by White Bear Lake High School, where he has worked as a part-time assistant wrestling coach for three years.

"They didn't like how I was representing the school," he said. "They said I was representing them bad because of what I said about the president and his policies."

Remember kids, dissent is only patriotic when used to bash Republicans. Volkmann challenged Obama to a sporting competition in the ring with a referee and judges, but the real affront to the educators was his insulting the President's intelligence and questioning his policies. That simply isn't allowed.

Posted by Confederate Yankee at 08:37 AM | Comments (2)

January 04, 2011

UFC Fighter Wants Obama. "Someone's Got To Knock Some Sense into That Idiot"

12-2 UFC Lightweight Jacob Volkman is a chiropractor by trade, and does not appreciate what the President has done to American health care or small business.

Via "CareyB," who found this at Hope for America.

Posted by Confederate Yankee at 08:55 AM | Comments (0)

January 01, 2011

UFC 125 Tonight

I owe a shout-out to Stephan in the previous post for pointing out that UFC 125 is tonight. Frankie Edgar is defending his lightweight title against Gray Maynard, the TUF 5 alum that is the only person to have been beaten Edgar in his 14 pro fights. I checked out the sports betting news by BetUS and was mildly shocked to see that Edgar is the odds on favorite to retain his title. I disagree with the pros, and expect Maynard to decisively out-point Edgar to take the title. The conventional wisdom is that you can't take the title on points in a close fight, but I think Maynard simply has Edgar's number. Actual Result: Draw

Edgar-Maynard may be the headliner, but the fight I'm most interested in seeing is between two of my favorite fighters, the bad boy Chris Leben versus the Marine officer and combat hero, Brian Stann. Both fighters are tough strikers with knockout power, but Stann's almost purely a puncher, while Leben has serious ground game, even through he prefers to stand and trade punches. I'd kind of like to see Stann win this one, but doubt he will unless he is one of the few people that can find a soft spot in Leben's chin. I predict the Crippler takes out the Silver Star recipient in the first or second round by strikes or submission. If it goes to the third round, I think the odds swing back to even, giving Stann's cardio a chance to pull out a victory. Actual Result:Stann KOs Leben, 1st Round

For some reason, I just can't seem to bring myself to care about the Brandon Vera vs. Thiago Silva fight. If Vera can get his knees going he has a shot, but I'm predicting Silva grounds and pounds him after following a staggering punch in mid-to-late in the first round. Actual Result:Silva by decision

Further down the ladder, I'm predicting:

  • Diaz over Kim (submission) Actual Result: Kim by decision
  • Gomi over Guida (split decision) Actual Result:Guida by submission
  • Davis over Stephens (submission) Actual Result: Stephens by KO
  • Poirier over Grispi (strikes) Actual Result:Poirier by decision
  • Tavares over Barone (strikes) Actual Result: Tavares by KO, Round 1
  • Brown over Nunes (submission) Actual Result: Nunes by split decision
  • Soto over Roberts (decision) Actual Result: Roberts by submission, Round 1
  • Volkmann over McKee (strikes) Actual Result: Volkmann by split decision

Keep in my that I suck at guessing the winner of any given fight, and in any given slate of fighters there always seems to be at least one significant upset.

Update: Added results.

Posted by Confederate Yankee at 05:06 PM | Comments (0)

And Now, the Bowls That Matter

Remember college bowl season as a kid? There were just a handful of bowls, and only the very best teams got a post-season bid. It's a far cry from the scene of today, where any empty stadium that can find a sponsor and a pair of teams without a losing record suddenly has a "bowl game" from a matchup that would only draw regional television otherwise. I'm sure the folks at gambling sites see a benefit to this, and the universities pick up a little more money for their athletic programs and some advertising for their recruiting efforts, but lets face it: unless we're watching top-ten teams or a real playoff system, it's just fluff.

That said, most of the fluff games are over. The New Year is here, heads are pounding, eyes are bleary, and the bowls that matter are just around the corner.

I'm ready for some football; just as a soon as I put away this Christmas tree...

Posted by Confederate Yankee at 10:44 AM | Comments (4)

December 19, 2010

Cage Walker

I've been busy working on several projects at work and for some of the other publications I write for (just added one, and will have another coming soon), and so I missed World Extreme Cagefighting's WEC 53, and one hell of a performance from Anthony Pettis. His fifth-round cage climbing kick has got to be one of the most athletic I've ever seen.

That kick didn't knock out his opponent Ben Henderson, but it did help him win the WEC lightweight belt. The UFC (which owns WEC) is pulling the lightweight division into the UFC, and Pettis retires the WEC lightweight belt and posiitions himself for a fighting against the winner of the Frank Edgar/Gray Maynard fight at UFC 125, where Edgar is defending his title against the only fighter to ever defeat him. The title unification fight will then occur sometime in early-to-mid 2011.

Sports betting sites like BetUS are already picking their winners, and have Edgar over Maynard. I think that is likely, and if it holds, sets up a interesting match between Pettis and Edgar.

Posted by Confederate Yankee at 12:28 PM | Comments (2)

December 04, 2010

TUF 12 Finale Tonight

The Ultimate Fighter: Team GSP versus Team Koscheck is tonight on Spike TV.

Those of you into MMA mma betting have already probably made your calls for tonight. While I've watched season 12—well, I've DVR'd it and fast-forwarded through the Real World crap in the house to get to the actual bouts—I don't have that good of a handle on the undercard fights as I have on past episodes, and won't hazard a guess on who will beat who among this season's TUF fighters. I will take a stab at the main event, though.

Jonathan Brookins and Michael Johnson of Team GSP made it to the finals, and on paper seem to present the opportunity for a good fight. I'd be surprised with a first round knockout or submission with these two fighters, and predict this fight goes to the third round, and maybe even to the judges. While I admire Johnson's heart, I think Brookins is the more tactical fighter and will be able to stick to his game plan better, particuarly if they keep it on their feet. Brookins wins by ground and pound stoppage in the third or in a unanimous decision.

Stephan Bonnar, one-half of the TUF 1 finale (along with Forrest Griffin) that put on arguably the best fight in UFC history at any weight class, is stepping in the ring against Igor Pokrajac. is a Croatian and a training partner of Mirko Mirko Filipović (AKA Cro Cop). Pokrajac is 1-2 in the UFC, while Bonnar has won just one of his past four fights. He once tested positive for horse steroids after a fight, and if he loses again to drop his record to 6-7 in the UFC, he may be sent to the glue factory. I think both fighters understand that a loss may be the end of their appearances in UFC events, but think Bonnar is the better fighter, and will pull out a submission in round 2.

Kendall Grove is an imposing 6'6" at 185, but is spotty. If he shows up wit his "A" game this could be a good fight. If he doesn't, this one will be over quickly, with BJJ expert Demian Maia tying him into a knot to climb back up the middleweight ladder towards another title shot. Maia in round one by triangle choke.

Posted by Confederate Yankee at 09:46 PM | Comments (1)

November 26, 2010

I've got a Bad Feeling About This...

Han Solo must have been an East Carolina football fan.

My alma mater of ECU is up against Southern Methodist today in a CUSA game. Both enter with identical records 6-5 (5-2 CUSA), but there the similarities end.

The defending CUSA champion Pirates under first-year head coach Ruffin McNeal have been dazzling at times, with a high-octane offense that is capable of putting up astronomical numbers. Unfortunately, they've also been cursed with a young and undersized defense that is giving up the kind of points normally seen in basketball games, including a humiliating 62 points given up against a sub-par Rice team last week.

SMU, however, is a team on the rise, hoping to contend for their first CUSA championship

local sports reporters is picking SMU, 56-42.

I'm not into sports betting (primarily because I stink at that and just about every other form of gambling) but if I was putting money on the game, I'd have to give the game to SMU by a touchdown or more.

I'd really love to munch Thanksgiving leftovers while watching my Pirates win, but I don't think it's in the cards in their regular season finale.

Posted by Confederate Yankee at 12:58 PM | Comments (3)

November 20, 2010

Anybody Watching the Fights Tonight?

So I let it slip during the dog days of July that I am an avid mixed marital arts fan. There are few individual sports that require as much technical proficiency, raw power, and heart as this modern combat sport, which has evolved to be the domain of an incredible new breed of hybrid fighter.

Unlike the early days of MMA when pure practitioners of various martial arts stepped into the cage with the mastery of one style, today's athletes cross-train as wrestlers, Brazilian jujitsu submission artists, kick-boxers, and brawlers.

That is part of what makes tonight's UFC fight between Quinton "Rampage" Jackson and Lyoto "The Dragon" Machida interesting to me.

Rampage is a hotheaded brawler with a wrestling background that tends to be best on his feet, but who has decent submission defense. He's powerful and emotional and simply pours it out in an a rush, but isn't a technician, despite his championship belts. He's just a tough son-of-a-gun, without much quit in him, who prefers to push forward. Detroit seems to be pulling for him, as well, making this a"hometown" fight for him, of sorts.

Machida, on the other hand is one of the more disciplined martial artists in modern MMA, using Brazilian jujitsu, Shotokan karate, and even Sumo in an elusive, counter-punching style.

Those of you interested in sports gambling are going to have a tough choice to make tonight as Rampage and The Dragon face off.

My pick? I'm guessing Machida on points in a unanimous decision after three rounds, with Machida not really hurting Jackson but frustrating him as he points his way to a win.

UFC 123's other big fight is the rubber match between legends BJ Penn and Matt Hughes. I'd like ot talk this up, but I can't. Penn is slower and less flexible and doesn't seem to have the heart he used to, while Hughes is recharged and evolving.

Hughes by submission early in round 2.

Update: Penn destroyed Hughes in seconds, and Rampage outpointed Machida to a split decision. Did I mention that the unpredictability of the sport is another thing that fascinates me?

Posted by Confederate Yankee at 09:24 PM | Comments (1)

July 04, 2010

Champions Don't Quit

Few of you probably know this, but long before I ever though about politics or blogging I was a sports writer. I don't follow sports as often as I once did and hardly ever write about them anymore, but every once in a while I'll witness the greatness and grit that sports can show in individuals.

UFC 116 showed that in spades, and particularly in the two most important matches of the night.

I know that many people find mixed martial arts to be too violent for their tastes, but I'm utterly captivated by it. The brutal physicality of it, the strategic ebb and flow, contrasting styles and raw heart on display is simply impossible to turn away from, and the backstories and larger-than-life personalities of some of the sports stars keep you coming back for more.

Last night, my brother-in-law and I watched a beaten and battered Chris Leben refuse to admit defeat to Yoshihiro Akiyama, a fighter who had not lost since 2005. Akiyama punished Leben and was winning the fight on points, but Leben refused to quit and kept coming forward pressing a tiring Akiyama, who just couldn't seem to understand why his opponent still stood. Leben absorbed everything Akiyama had to throw, and then caught him in a triangle choke that ended the fight. After the fight, Leben looked the worse for wear, but there was no doubt that he was the victor. His sheer tenacity broke Akiyama's will and defeated him before he was able to crank down on the choke. It was Leben's second victory in two weeks, in a sport where athletes train for months between fights.

MMA fans didn't buy the UFC pay-per-view to watch Leben gut out another win, however. They came to see two of the biggest, fastest, most imposing fighters on the planet collide.

Brock Lesnar's outsized WWE-crafted heel personality suits him well for the role of the champion people love to hate, as the 6'3" 265 lb monster defended his UFC heavyweight champion against Shane Carwin, another massive 265-lb fighter that put all 12 of his previous opponents out within the first round.

Many people watched the fight to see how Lesnar would cope when he finally ran into someone as big, fast, and strong as he was. Many hoped he would lose in a flurry of punches from Carwin.

They nearly got their wish.

Carwin toppled Lesnar early in the first round and pounced on him against the cage, connecting on strike after strike. For tense moments it looked as though the referee might stop the fight. If it was any fight other than the heavyweight championship, he probably would have. But to be the champion you have to beat the champion, and the unwritten rule is that champions get little more wiggle room than journeymen grinding it out in the lower ranks. Truthfully, they've earn that right along with their championship belts.

And so while Carwin through powerful bombs and Lesnar covered up to protect himself from a clean knockout punch, it became apparent that the ref would not easily stop this fight. Carwin kept up a relentless pace, but each punch cost him power and strength. Incredibly, near the end of the round, a bloodied Lesnar fought to his feet. As the round ended and both men staggered to their corners, the audience and viewers at home were amazed. No challenger had so throughly dominated a champion in the first round without finishing the fight, but Lesnar absorbed everything Carwin had to offer. And Carwin had punched himself out.

It was in the Lesnar-dominated second round that the South Dakotan really earned my respect as a fan.

Lesnar had Carwin on his back, and was able to slip free and take a full mount position. Everyone, and I do mean everyone expected Lesnar to draw up and start dropping hammerfists and elbows on Carwin's face. It's simply what you do when you're a ground-and-pound fighter.

But Lesnar saw an opening few (if any of us) saw, and slipped off to his right as quickly as he took the mount, trapping Carwin's arm in the process and connecting in a loose choke. Lesnar turned, tightened, and suddenly it was over.

It was an awesome display for fortitude and adaptability from a fighter that almost had his career ended by illness after his last victory. He is the heavyweight champion of the world, and last night he proved he deserved it.

Posted by Confederate Yankee at 11:10 AM | Comments (0)

February 24, 2010

Biathlon: Finally Worth Watching

(h/t The Firearm Blog)

Posted by Confederate Yankee at 09:52 PM | Comments (4)

January 11, 2010

That Just Ain't Right

While I haven't had the chance to get out on the water in several years, I used to be an avid fisherman, stalking largemouth bass in lakes, farm ponds, and rivers. For bass fisherman, the &qout;holy grail&qout; has long been the 22 lb, 4 oz record bass caught by George W. Perry in Georgia in 1932. The catch spawned (sorry, couldn't resist) a multi-billion dollar industry, professional bass sport fishing, and made famous guys with names like Bill, Tom, and Ray.

Everyone suspected that one day soon Perry's record would be tied or broken, but we always figured it would be a good old boy in a remote Southern slough, or a new breed of big bass hunters that specialize in California's reservoir bass.

A bleach-blond Manabu Kurita isn't exactly the good old boy anyone expected to tie the record.

Posted by Confederate Yankee at 11:58 AM | Comments (2)

November 18, 2009

If Socialized Medicine Did This to Him, What Would it do to You?

A dirty little secret of mine is a love of mixed martial arts. Right now, the biggest star in the biggest MMA promotion is heavyweight titleholder Brock Lesnar of the Ultimate Fighting Championship.

At 6'3" and 265 lbs of ripped muscle, the 32-year old former NCAA wrestling champion is arguably one of the most dangerous MAA fighters in the world today, and yet his career may be jeopardy... and at least one person is blaming his health problems on Canadian health care:

Brock Lesnar's chiropractor blames the Canadian medical system for failing to manage the UFC fighter's mystery illness after he collapsed here last week.

"His symptoms became severe while in Canada, which because of their health care system made it difficult to manage. And at this point it's a possibility that it could jeopardize his career," chiropractor Larry Novotny told KSAX-TV news in Alexandria, MN, according to the network's website.

Yeah, I know... an unknown chiropractor in Minnesota isn't exactly House (though he may be as qualified to comment on the quality of Canadian health care as Hugh Laurie).

But let us accept for the moment the possibility that Novotny is correct.

If a highly-conditioned professional athlete at the top of his game could see his health and career threatened by the inadequacies of socialized medicine, what would it do to those of us who aren't in that kind of shape?

Posted by Confederate Yankee at 01:42 PM | Comments (6)

October 15, 2009

So... When are These Guys Getting Kicked Out?

It has now been confirmed that Rush Limbaugh is not longer part of the bid to buy the St. Louis Rams, a political move orchestrated by those willing to risk libel and slander lawsuits to derail a hated political commentator's desire to participate in an entirely legal business transaction.

Rush's "crime" was that he was accused of being a racist. These charges were supported by a series of poorly-faked quotes concocted anonymously online and repeated ad nauseum by liberals in the media who did not even attempt to verify if these smears were accurate before spreading them.

If the NFL is going to force Limbaugh to drop out of the running to buy the Rams based upon poorly-faked allegations, then the much more credible 471 arrests for real crimes documented against NFL players since 2000 should lead to all of the arrested players still active in the league immediately being immediately suspended, if not terminated.

After all, if accusation is the new standard of proof in the NFL, it needs to be applied to every player and owner evenly. If it isn't, then it's real bigotry... and we know the NFL hates that.

(h/t Rock Moran for the NFL crime database)

Posted by Confederate Yankee at 09:13 AM | Comments (27)

October 14, 2009

Non-Felon Left Behind

Michael Vick get his rocks off getting dogs to fight each other to the death, and is welcomed back to the NFL with open arms, along with other convicts and thugs. Rush Limbaugh gets tarred for things he didn't say by a series of dishonest hacks, and that enough to knock him out of the bidding to buy a team.

Maybe if he had actually killed someone, he would have been accepted.

Anybody got Ray Lewis' number?

Posted by Confederate Yankee at 11:41 PM | Comments (3)

July 15, 2009

Yahoo Sports: Taped Bush Address got More Applause At MLB All-Star Game Than Obama Appearance

I didn't watch the game myself—I've been disgusted with Major league game for years, though I have Durham Bulls tickets—but according to Yahoo! Sports, a taped address by Dubya apparently outshown the man who is determined to undo America:

Though Obama was roundly cheered by the All-Star fans, his live presence still didn't attract the applause that George W. Bush did during a taped announcement by the four previous Presidents before the game and some boos could even be heard among the cheers.

It is also worth noting that Obama's pitch, like his Administration, came up short.

Posted by Confederate Yankee at 10:31 AM | Comments (15)

September 18, 2008

Josh Howard Expresses his Love of Country, Obama

"Star-Spangled Banner going on right now. I don't even celebrate that sh*t. I'm black, God d*mn it. Obama '08. Obama and all that sh*t."

Details here.

I've got nothing to say against the Democratic candidate here, but find the disrespect of country from a punk who makes millions of dollars a year for playing a game is infuriating.

Posted by Confederate Yankee at 08:52 AM | Comments (10)

June 30, 2006

Tour De Turtle Bay

Isn't it an almost perfect metaphor?

American power dominates for years over European interests, and is then accused of using underhanded nefarious means to achieve the pinnacle of success. We find out later that it was the Americans won because of our unmatched work ethic, while the Europeans who cried that we were cheating, were actually guilty themselves the entire time.

Sounds a bit like the Oil for Food Scandal, doesn"t it? Guess again:

France — Favorites Jan Ullrich, Ivan Basso and other cyclists were barred Friday from the Tour de France in the biggest doping scandal to hit cycling in years. The decision to prevent Ullrich, Basso and others from racing threw the sport's premier race into upheaval the day before it begins.

Tour director Christian Prudhomme said the organizers' determination to fight doping was "total."

"The enemy is not cycling, the enemy is doping," he said.

Doping of course, is what seven-time American Tour De France Winner Lance Armstrong has repeatedly been accused of, and a charge he has repeatedly denied. Every time he has been vindicated, the latest time just four days ago.

Americans win, and continue to win, through unrelenting work, while soft, decadent western Europeans break the rules and still continue to come up short.

Someone please tell me why American liberals (John Kerry would be a prime example) so aspire to be like these people. Is cheating to lose that much fun?

Posted by Confederate Yankee at 08:43 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

June 06, 2006

Never Say Die

One of the best sporting comebacks I've ever seen.

Well, since the 1992 Peach Bowl when my beloved Pirates came back to beat N.C. State 37-34 to cap off a 11-1 1991 season, anyway.

Posted by Confederate Yankee at 06:30 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack