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Friday, August 24, 2012

This Week in Sports: August 24, 2012

The Week That Was:  My goal is always to get this column posted on Thursdays.  But, this week, I'm glad I was delayed.  Thursday and Friday provided most of the big news of the week.

Lance Armstrong:  Normally, the captions on these posts are the name of a sport or a sports league.  But, let's be honest.  Only about 3 people reading this post can name another cyclist besides Lance Armstrong.  I do not understand all the ins and outs of the processes that govern cycling.  But, the gist of the story is that Lance Armstrong decided on Thursday night that he would not contest the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency's official claims that he had been involved in doping as far back as 1996.  Despite the fact that Armstrong still claims to be innocent, USADA and the World Anti-Doping Agency consider this to be an admission.  As a result, USADA has issued a lifetime ban against Armstrong.  USADA has also stripped Armstrong of his seven Tour de France titles and his Olympic medal from 2000.  There is still a dispute about what governing body actually has the authority to strip Armstrong of any of his wins.  Apparently none of this matters to Armstrong's fans.  Friday's donations to Armstrong's Live Strong Foundation were up 25 times as compared to the day before the announcements.

MLB:  The dog days of August are about ready to change over to the pennant races of September.  But once again, this week the biggest news is who will not be participating in a playoff race.  As I write this post, the Oakland A's are locked in a three-way tie with the Tigers and the Orioles for the second Wild Card slot in the American League.  But, the A's are going to have to battle it out the rest of the way without 10-game winner Bartolo Colon.  The 39 year-old pitcher tested positive for performance enhancing drugs and must serve a 50-game suspension.  That would include the remaining 40 regular season games and the A's next 10 games ... whether they be playoff games or 2013 regular season games.

In actual on-field news, the San Francisco Giants rose to the occasion without their suspended slugger Melky Cabrerra.  This week, the Giants completed a 3-game sweep of the arch rival Dodgers to open up a 2.5 game lead in the NL West.  In the AL East, the Tampa Bay Rays took advantage of the Yankees 3-game slide to trim the Yanks lead to 2.5 games heading into the weekend.

The Week Ahead:

NASCAR:  The NASCAR circuit gears up for one of the most popular races of the season.  The Bristol night race.  Bristol is a half mile, high banked track.  Very unique and very fast.  The track got a new surface heading into the 2012 season, and many fans complained after the spring race that the new surface cut down on the amount of bumping and pushing that they had grown to love.  In response, SMI made some changes to the track over the summer.  Until the race is actually run, it will be difficult to tell if the summer changes actually have any effect.  But, there are only three more races left until the beginning of the Chase, so there will be a lot of intensity on the track.  Coverage of the race will begin on Saturday night at 7:30 on ABC.

Little League World Series:  The Little League World Series comes to a conclusion this weekend in Williamsport, PA.  The International Championship game will be played at 12:30 on Saturday.  Japan will play Panama in that game.  That game will air on ESPN.  The U.S. Championship game will be played at 3:30.  Tennessee will play California, ahat game will be shown on ABC.  The Championship will be played at 3:00 on Sunday afternoon on ABC.

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Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Football Fashionista: Adidas Edition

Quick!  What college football team are you looking at?

If you answered the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, then you are either clairvoyant or follow college football uniform trends religiously.  Or your eyesight is good enough to read the word "Irish" on the front of that weird looking jersey.

Before we get back to Notre Dame, I want to focus on two other schools.  The last few years have been wild in the world of college football fashion.  Until now, most Big Ten schools and have chosen to take the high road and dress in uniforms that have stood the test of time ... or are, at the very least, recognizeable.  Well, this year, Adidas has changed that.

On September 29, Nebraska will host Wisconsin in Lincoln.  Both are Adidas schools.  And both will be wearing alternate uniforms that can only be described as "bizarre."

Nebraska traditional
Nebraska's new look

Wisconsin's new look

Wisconsin traditional

But, Adidas did not use up all their creativity on this game on Wisconsin and Nebraska.  On October 6, Notre Dame will square off against Miami in a neutral site game to be played at Soldier Field in Chicago.  And when they do, Adidas will have the Irish decked out in flashy alternate uniforms.  There will be stripes on the pants.  An unusual font for the numbers and letters.  And gloves that form the image of a leprechaun when players strike a celebrati.  But most shockingly of all, Notre Dame's iconic gold helmets will not be part of the ensemble.  Instead, the helmets will be off-balanced, two-tone, garish monstrosities.

Out with the old ... in with the weird.

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Wednesday, August 15, 2012

This Week in Sports: August 15, 2012

The Week that Was:

(Kerim Okten/EPA)
Olympics:  Last weekend, the Games of the XXX Olympiad came to a close in London.  Although it had been a tight race throughout the games, the United States ended up winning the overall medal total over China by a count of 104-88.  Russia came in third with 86 medals.  The host country of Great Britain rallied in the second week of the games for a strong 4th place finish with 65 medals.  The Jamaican sprinters put the final exclamation point on the games when Bolt and company set a new world record in the 4x100 relay.

PGA Championship:  As the Olympics were wrapping up, golf was quietly holding its final major of the year.  The PGA Championship was played at Kiawah Island Golf Resort in South Carolina.  Twenty-three year-old Rory McIlroy captured his 2nd major victory in as many years.  And, like last summer at the U.S. Open, McIlroy did it in dominating fashion.  McIlroy won by a record 8 strokes over Englishman David Lynn.

MLB:  The two biggest baseball stories of the week occurred on Wednesday.  In Seattle, Felix Hernandez threw a perfect game for the Mariners against the Tampa Bay Rays.  This was just the 23rd perfect game ever thrown in the history of Major League Baseball.  Meanwhile, it was announced that San Francisco Giants outfielder Melky Cabrera tested positive for performance enhancing drugs ... specifically, testosterone.  In accordance with MLB's drug policy, Cabrera will be suspended without pay for 50 games.  At the time of the suspension, the Giants trailed the Dodgers by just a half game in the NL West.  Cabrera was 2nd in the National League in batting average and was the MVP of the All Star game.  If the Giants do make the post season, Cabrera's suspension would extend through the Giants' 5th game of the playoffs.

The Week Ahead:  It is a bit of a slow week ahead.  But honestly, sports fans need a little rest between the Olympics and the start of the football season.

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Sunday, August 12, 2012

Cooking with Banshee: Flat Iron Steak Burritos

The Olympics are coming to an end today in London.  That gives me just time enough to squeeze in one last international recipe before the closing ceremonies.  I present to you: Wild Banshee's Flat Iron Burritos.  The key to these burritos are the meat and the Triple Threat Topping that appeared on the blog back in November.

This recipe will feed about 4 people.

Basic Supplies and Ingredients:
1.5 lb flat iron steak (these come vacuum packed at my grocery store)
Pico de gallo
Triple Threat Topping
Sour cream
8 flour tortillas

Meat Preparation Ingredients ... Per Side:
1 oz silver tequila
1 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 tsp of cumin
1/4 tsp cayenne powder
1 tsp chili powder
Sweet Baby Ray's Chipotle Barbecue Sauce

Preparing the Meat:
Place the meat on a large cutting board.  Pour 1 oz of silver tequila over the meat.  Allow tequila to soak in for a few minutes.  After the tequila has soaked in, coat the meat with olive oil.  Sprinkle on the salt, pepper, cumin, cayenne and chili powder.  Rub the seasonings into the meat.  Flip the steak over and repeat on the second side.  Allow the meat to rest at room temperature for twenty minutes before cooking.  Cook the meat on a grill over medium heat.  Baste with barbecue sauce on each side as you cook.  Cook for approximately 4 minutes per side.

Putting It All Together:
Remove the flank steak from the grill and allow it to rest for five minutes before cutting so that the juices get reabsorbed.  Cut the meat diagonally against the grain and then cut into bit-sized pieces.  Heat the tortillas according to the instructions on the package.  Build the burrito with sour cream, guacamole, meat, Triple Threat Topping, cheese and salsa.


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Friday, August 10, 2012

Sport or Reality TV?

The Games of the XXX Olympiad are nearing their end in London.  NBC and it's family of networks have exclusive rights to broadcasting the Olympics here in the United States.  Since London is five hours ahead of New York City and nine hours ahead of Los Angeles, NBC has had a continuing dilemma about what events to show live during the American work day and what events to show on tape delay in prime time.

In this era of social media and ESPN alerts on smart phones, it has been almost impossible for any sports fan to avoid knowing the outcome of the big events before they are actually aired in primetime.  Of course, all events are streamed live on the Internet by NBC, but that is little consolation for folks who actually have a job during the day.  As a result, there has been a torrent of complaints from sports fans about NBC and the whole issue of taped delayed coverage.

I understand that NBC can't alter the time space continuum, so I'm not going to blame them for saving the marquis events for primetime.  And, I'm not going to blame NBC for the fact that tweets and Facebook updates spoiled a few events for me.  But, even when I managed to navigate the minefield of social media and Internet updates, I still found the NBC primetime coverage to be tremendously unsatisfying.  It took me a full week to realize what was wrong with the primetime coverage.  Then it dawned on me. NBC has not presented the Olympics like a sporting event.  NBC has presented the games like a reality TV show.

A prime example came on Thursday night.  When NBC came on the air on for their primetime coverage, they had an entire day's worth of taped events that they could have shown.  This included a women's gold medal water polo and soccer matches that included the United States, the U.S. women's volleyball team in an elimination round match, the U.S. women's basketball team in the semi-finals, the decathlon, the triple jump and Usain Bolt's highly anticipated 200m race.  Yet, NBC decided not to show any actual sports for the first 40 minutes of their coverage.  Instead, NBC showed Bob Costas recapping events that were not going to be shown, and they showed Ryan Seacrest doing his nightly segment about what people are discussing on Twitter.

But, even when NBC has shown sports at night, they have not shown those events in a manner that feels at all natural to a sports fan.  Games are not shown in their entirety.  Games are often joined "in progress" despite the fact that they actually ended eight hours ago.  NBC has also edited out part of matches and events and fast forwarded to the end.  And all this is done so as to make time for in studio interviews with random celebrities like Shaun White.

Why does any of this matter?  Because every sport has a natural rhythm and flow.  A basketball blowout is only impressive if you got to watch the will of the losing team be swept away  A soccer goal is far more exciting if you watched the 40 minutes of struggle that led up to it.  A fantastic floor routine is far more dramatic if you've watched the same athlete struggle on the pommel horse.  And a volleyball comeback is only exhilarating if you got to experience the momentum shift.

The time difference between the United States and London may have forced NBC into presenting marquis events in tape delay.  But the time difference did not force NBC to reduce the beauty of sport to the level of a reality TV show.

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Sunday, August 5, 2012

Cooking with Banshee: Fish and Chips

As promised, Wild Banshee is continuing to celebrate the Olympics by bringing you recipes with an international flair.  Today's recipe is in honor of the host country, Great Britain.  Beer Battered Fish and Chips.

In this recipe, we are going to cheat a little bit on the "chips."  I know that fresh cut fries are better than frozen fries.  But the big taste difference comes when you use a fryer instead of baking them.  These will be frozen fries done in the fryer.

Tools and Supplies:
Deep fryer (or a pot or dutch oven)
Fryer basket
Baking dishes
Work space near fryer
Paper Towels

Basic Ingredients:
Frozen French Fries
Cod (1.5 lbs per person)
Vegetable oil for deep frying
Salt and pepper

Condiments and Accompaniments:
Malt vinegar
Tartar sauce
Cole slaw

Beer Batter Ingredients (4 servings worth):
2 cups flour
1 Tbs baking powder
1 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
Dash of Old Bay seasoning
1 bottle of brown beer, cold
Cornstarch for dredging

French Fry Directions:
Preheat your oven to 225 degrees.  Line a baking dish with paper towels.  Heat up the oil for frying, and fry according to the directions on the package.  As each batch gets finished, put into baking dish and season with salt and pepper while hot.  Place finished fries in the oven to keep them warm until the fish is done and ready to serve.

Fish Directions:
Cut the cod into appropriately sized pieces.  You know what it should look like.  Make sure that your pieces are similar in thickness.  Line another baking dish with paper towels.

In a bowl, mix together flour, baking powder, salt, cayenne pepper and Old Bay.  Add the beer and whisk until batter is smooth and has no lumps.  Refrigerate batter for at least 15 minutes.  It can stay in the refrigerator for up to an hour.

Heat frying oil to 350 degrees.  Dredge fish pieces in cornstarch.  Dip into batter and coat completely.  Place immediately into the hot oil.  Do just a couple pieces at a time.  Fry for about 8 minutes.  Flip half way through.

When the fish is done, put it into the baking dish.  Season with salt and pepper while it's hot.  Put the finished fish in the oven with your fries.  Repeat until all the fish is cooked.

Tips and Pointers:
Frying can certainly be done in the house on the stove.  But, it is a messy proposition and makes your whole house smell like a fast food restaurant.  I do this outside in a fryer designed for this purpose.  It has a propane tank, and it's more shallow than a turkey fryer.  Don't get the oil too hot when you are frying the fish.  If the oil is too hot, it will burn the batter before the fish is cooked through.  You might want to do a trial run to practice.  It's hard to get the first batch just right.

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Thursday, August 2, 2012

Banshee Rant: August Edition

This is a freestyle podcast touching on a variety of Olympic topics ... ranging from doping to skimpy bathing suits.

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This Week in Sports: August 2, 2012

The Week That Was:  Obviously, the Summer Olympics are the biggest story right now, but a few other sporting events did take place last week.

MLB:  The Boston Red Sox traveled to Yankee Stadium last weekend.  The Yankees had an opportunity to drive a final stake in the heart of their struggling rivals.  Instead, the Red Sox took 2 out of 3 games in the series and left the Bronx with a .500 record.  It's still unlikely that the Red Sox will catch the Yankees and win the division.  But, with two wild cards in each league this year, the Red Sox's playoff hopes still have a flicker of light as we head into the dog days of August.

NASCAR:  The Sprint Cup Series was at the famed Indianapolis Motor Speedway last weekend for the Brickyard 400.  The race was not competitive.  Jimmie Johnson dominated and won easily.  However, in the bigger picture, there was some excitement.  Matt Kenseth came into the weekend with a 16 point lead in the standings over Dale Earnhardt, Jr.  But, Kenseth got caught up in a mid race crash and finished in 35th place.  Junior finished 4th and left Indy with a 14 point lead over Kenseth.  This is the first time that Dale Jr. has had the points lead since 2004.

Missy Franklin (Getty)
Olympics:  The Games of the XXX Olympiad officially got underway last Friday.  The first week of the Olympics has been focused on gymnastics and swimming.  Team USA's women's gymnastics team lived up to the hype and won the team gold medal by a wide margin.  The men's team was hopeful heading into the competition.  They showed promise in the qualifying round but struggled mightily in the team finals and did not get a medal.  As usual, the USA has been strong in the pool.  Both the men and the women.  Ryan Lochte burst onto the stage, partly because of his swimming and partly because of his swagger.  Michael Phelps became the most decorated Olympic athlete of all time when he collected his medals this week.  The darling of the games seems to be 17 year-old Missy Franklin who won a gold medal in her first individual event and helped her relay team capture another gold.

The Week Ahead:

Olympics:  Week 2 of the Olympics will be even bigger than the first week.  The team sports will be handing out their medals.  That includes, men's and women's basketball, volleyball in the gym and on the beach and soccer.  Track and field will also get underway.  The later rounds of the tennis competition will be especially compelling because the matches are being played at the All England Club.  The same famed grounds where Wimbledon is played each year.  Although China holds a small lead in the total medal count at this point, it is expected that the United States will take the final lead after strong showings on the track and on the basketball courts.

NFL:  It is finally time for football to start!  The first preseason game of the year will be played on Sunday at 8:00 p.m.  The Saints will be playing the Cardinals in the annual Hall of Fame game in Canton, OH.  I won't lie.  It's hard for all but the most die hard of fans to sit through an entire preseason game.  But, it looks like football and sounds like football, so it will soothe the souls of many starving fans.

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Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Change is in the Air

I am proud to announce that there have been some exciting changes to the blog.  Banshee Sports has a whole new design and color scheme.  The new look extends to the Banshee Sports Facebook page and to Twitter.  Valerie Hilde at Lunatorium designed the header and the new logo.  I was a finicky client without artistic sensibilities.  Valerie was patient, talented and responsive.

There is also a new web address.  The old address will still work, but Banshee Sports' new home is

One thing that won't change is the content.  This will still be your home for Sports, Entertainment, Food and More Sports.

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