Other Sports
Other Sports

Vuelta a España, U.S. Open and More Sports Updates

| by Sports Nickel
What makes us enjoy what we enjoy; how do our spectating proclivities develop, and why do we take interest in some events and not in others? It’s one of those things that I keep rolling over again and again in my brain as I find myself overwhelmed at times with the sheer number of events that seem to captivate me and pull my focus in every possible direction. We’re at the intersection of summer and winter, the traditional autumn pursuits taking center stage before the snow and the ice grip our consciousness — led by football of every conceivable guise, from the international variety taking hold throughout Europe and South America to the gridiron version which has begun its annual stranglehold on the nation’s attention at the professional and collegiate level.  

Baseball is in its stretch drive and preparing for its postseason, yet I find myself more interested in what’s happening in the last Grand Slam of the tennis calendar and the last few months of cycling’s fall racing season. Why is this? I always loved baseball as a kid, collecting cards and watching every game I possibly could find on our nine channels of television, piped in by the resort where I grew up to keep employees from going completely cabin crazy during the long winters. They mercifully included ESPN and TBS and all the networks as well as HBO and Showtime – which meant I had access to many of the seminal bouts in boxing’s last golden era as well as Wimbledon when it was still on premier cable only.  

But it was baseball that held my central grip of focus every summer. At least, that was, until around the time when I turned eight and my parents registered me for Little League baseball for the first (and ultimately last) time. I was a big kid; I grew fast for my age. So when the league saw my size, I was instantly put in with the 9- and 10-year-old league instead of with my own age group. I was physically as developed as the others against whom I was playing, but I’d never actually been trained in the fundamentals of the sport. What little I knew about hitting or fielding were gleaned in my own hours spent tossing balls in the air and hitting them by myself, or tossing them higher still and shagging them in my glove. I was playing against kids that had been in the Little League system for two, three, four years. I quickly lost interest in playing, dreading each twice-weekly trip into Jackson for another game where I would be fully out of my element.  

In my younger (and chubbier) years as a swimmer... the nascent rumblings of a Non-Traditional Sports Fan in America churning in the pool every summer...

Contrast that with the first time I ever really picked up a serious road bicycle and pounded the miles. I was 21 years old at the time, in my first stint as the sous chef of a major restaurant operation. My first few outings were spent with a friend who was an avid cyclist, someone who has checked off at least 300 riding miles in thirty or more states and several other countries. He introduced me to the intricacies of really riding a bicycle, how to be efficient on the pedals, when to shift to maximize my power usage. It soon became the best stress release possible. As opposed to baseball, which had left me feeling queasy every time the day came to don my uniform and grab my glove for the long drive to another exercise in futility, I had at least been given a crash course in cycling sensibility and had emerged with something that would come to be a salve for all the stresses of my daily life at the time. I soon found myself out at all hours of the day and night, riding mile after mile and collecting my thoughts. I was also in the best shape  

I would keep watching baseball for a few more years, but by then I’d already started to focus more on football and hockey and even sports like soccer. Becoming a cycling spectator came later, mostly because finding a race to watch was tougher than pulling my own teeth. The one sport I did stick with as a kid was swimming, as much because the club team I was on met at the resort pool all summer long as any strong desire to be a good swimmer. I had fun, for sure, and was not half bad in the breaststroke and backstroke events. I love watching Olympic action, and anytime I can catch a live feed of a swim meet is a day well spent. I was never going to be of an Olympic caliber, but at least I’d been learning the fundamentals and why I was doing the particular motions in each stroke from a young age and understood what was happening. Hence why even swimming started to become more fun to watch for me than baseball or basketball — it was a sport that I knew instinctively.  

It was also that way when it came to skiing. Every year during my elementary school days, we had a weekly P.E. class as most elementary schools are apt to hold. Ours, however, turned a little unconventional as soon as the snow started falling. Our school, like every other school in the county, would hold annual fall fundraising parties that generated the revenue to send all us students into town for skiing lessons every week. Every Friday we’d gather our skis onto the school bus, ride the 35 miles into town and spend our mornings with the instructors. After lunch, we always had a few hours of freedom to go around the mountainside and practice on our own or with our friends. Whenever the Winter Olympics rolled around, I would sit intently watching all the Alpine competitions and see what each skier was doing right and wrong on their paths to the bottom of the run.  

Maybe that’s the same reason I always loved Formula 1 racing more than NASCAR — despite having a grandfather who used to spend time in the pits working at Golden Sands Raceway in Wisconsin (including a stint assisting on Dick Trickle’s crew before he hit the national scene). Instead it was my experiences after getting my driver’s licence, driving too fast on the windy roads through the national park, that cemented my love of watching cars drive at insane speeds around courses that more closely resembled my daily drive into Jackson and back than any banked oval ever could.  

Would I bother trying to see the world from this vantage point had a few things twisted and turned differently in my childhood? I sure hope so...

So the seeds of a non-traditional sports fandom were born in youth. Perhaps all our proclivities are borne of our childhood and adolescent experiences. Experience begets familiarity; but in this instance familiarity bred little contempt for those activities. I started drinking in as much soccer knowledge as I could as a teenager to be able to converse more intelligently on the various leagues that held the interest of the growing international population coming to work on the resort every summer. My weekly rec-league broomball games helped me understand the vagaries of hockey better, relegating basketball to second- (or even third- or fourth-) class status amongst the sports of wintertime in my attentions.  

But it makes me wonder… what, for instance, would have happened if that Little League experience had gone differently? Had I been placed in my proper age group and received the requisite instruction, would I have never found myself turning toward other sports for my thrills? Would I be just another traditional sports fan in America, riding the same rhythms and enduring the same lulls? It’s an interesting thing to ponder, but as one event stacks upon another in a chain it becomes harder and harder to unlink the strands that comprise who we are and the type of individual we have become. So I guess, in a way, I can thank the powers that be in Teton County’s youth sports movement that saw fit to assess a player’s ability merely by size. Had things gone another way, perhaps I would be writing to you right now about who is going to reach the pennant, or offering up previews of NBA teams instead of the NHL preview we’re unfolding over September here on the site.  

We are what we know, that confluence of familiarities with which we are comfortable. I don’t know if I ever would’ve found contentment simply swimming with the current of the American sports calendar. After all, I still attune myself to the local rhythms as much as possible; some sports receive stunted attention, but by and large being non-traditional is not a matter of spurning what’s right at hand just for the sake of it. After all, I still play rec-league softball on a local team here in Eugene despite those first less-than-perfect experiences with organized sports. It’s just that those lulls would inevitably have driven me in some direction or another — the gaps must be filled. And it’s that pursuit for more, for something that can captivate and hold the attention in those slow moments, which has driven every move since I realized there was more to life than merely what was being spoon-fed to me by the mainstream. And so here we are again, onward into autumn, staring at the convergence of several big events on the calendar that go beyond merely the pigskin-dominated frenzy of the moment as we dive into another week with A Non-Traditional Sports Fan in America…  

 

THE SKIES FLUSH ON THE MEADOWS OVER CHAMPIONSHIP WEEKEND…

The rains dissipated enough to allow the culmination of this year’s U.S. Open, a day late but by no means lacking in excitement. The champions are crowned, the courts have been reclaimed by the USTA and the Grand Slam calendar has come to a close. We were offered up tales of inspiring teamwork, passionate battles and well-conditioned giants of the game trading blasts in hopes of conquering one of the sport’s most prestigious trophies. There are tournaments still to come on both the WTA and ATP Tour calendars, but the fever pace dissipates for an autumnal hibernation in advance of the shift Down Under for a Southern Hemisphere summer spent in Melbourne. It’s been a pleasure getting to cover my first Grand Slam tournament daily for Sports Nickel… and you can read the culmination of that coverage in each of my following daily musings:  

  • DAY 11 (Thursday/09 September) – The first champions of the 2010 U.S. Open were officially crowned today, the mixed doubles final headlining the day’s showcase at Arthur Ashe Stadium. It was the top-seeded team of Liezel Huber and Bob Bryan against the unseeded Czech-Pakistani partnership of Kveta Peschke and Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi for the title. It was a warm-up for tomorrow’s final of the men’s doubles, which incidentally will feature both men involved in the championship today. The top dogs prevailed, but it wasn’t as easy on the court as it seemed it would be on paper. Peschke and Qureshi took the fight to Huber and Bryan, giving the favorites just the few break points they needed to win the match 6-4 6-4. Qureshi hopes that Friday morning will yield better results as he partners with Rohan Bopanna to take on the Bryan brothers for another shot at U.S. Open glory. So just who is Aisum-ul-Haq Qureshi?…   READ MORE HERE

     

    For the third straight year, fans coming to Flushing Meadows on the "final" Sunday were rained out from getting to see a men's final...

  • DAY 12 (Friday/10 September) – Championship weekend looms as the singles tournaments play to their conclusion on Saturday and Sunday. But there was a major storyline converging to open the play on the showcase court. The Cinderella story missed its most fitting outcome possible as the U.S. Open; but even in defeat, Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi and Rohan Bopanna gave us a display that will resonate longer than any victory or defeat ever can. It may have been the Bryan brothers that walked away with the hardware as champions, but it was the “Indo-Pak Express” that walked away with the hearts of the 23,000-plus spectators assembled at Arthur Ashe Stadium and the millions more watching on television. A day after losing to Bob Bryan and Liezel Huber in the mixed doubles final, Qureshi fell maddeningly short once again. Neither side yielded a service break, and just five points were the difference in the end — the 7-4 and 7-5 tiebreaks won at the end of each set by the Bryans. After such a tight match went against them, Bopanna and Qureshi could easily have been bitter about the outcome and their own misfortune. But that is hardly their style….   READ MORE HERE
  • CHAMPIONSHIP WEEKEND (11-12 September) – But the result was hardly unexpected… unlike the second match of the Saturday program. It was a showdown between #2 Roger Federer and #3 Novak Djokovic, a battle so truly worthy of the semifinals that it is a rematch of the semifinals from each of the past two years — as well as a rematch of the 2007 U.S. Open final. The career series between the two men may be firmly in Federer’s favor (10-5, including the most recent matchup between them at the ATP Toronto tournament in the run-up to this U.S. Open), but Djokovic has had his share of big defeats. For instance, the only Grand Slam yet won by the Serb in his career, the 2008 Australian Open, was won not when he defeated Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the final but earlier in the semifinals when he smacked down Federer in straight sets to get the championship berth….   READ MORE HERE
  • CHAMPIONSHIP REDUX (Monday/13 September) — A 7-4 decision in the tiebreak handed the title over to King and Shvedova, who are quickly becoming the new version of Liezel Huber’s former partnership with Cara Black — the most dangerous partnership at the moment in women’s doubles. They’ve been partnering since just June, when they went to the final of the Wimbledon warm-up in the Netherlands in their first tournament together. They immediately arrived at Wimbledon and plowed through the draw, winning the final over Russians Elena Vesnina and Vera Zvonareva. Now they’ve added a hard-court title to their mutual repertoire. They are now 2-for-2 in Grand Slam tournaments played together. If there is any justice in the world, the 23-year-old Kazakh and 21-year-old American will be playing together for a long time moving forward — hell, they might even have a chance at breaking the record number of championships by a women’s doubles team, currently set at 20 by Martina Navratilova and Pam Shriver. Crazy thought? Maybe… but on a day when we were left to ponder “greatest-ever” status in the main event, it was also fitting that their run from 1981 to 1989 ended with Navratilova at 33 years old and Shriver at 28. King and Shvedova are already 10% of the way there…   READ MORE HERE

   

CHAOS REIGNS SUPREME ON SPANISH SOIL…

Only four stages remain in the last grand tour of cycling’s 2010 season, just four stages left for a rider to try to assert his dominance in one of the various jersey competitions. The field at the top has seen some heavy attrition in the past week, whether via crash or via a rough day in the saddle. Will Vincenzo Nibali manage to squash Spanish hopes of a domestic champion in the overall? Will Mark Cavendish manage to hold on to his lead in the sprint points and win his first career grand-tour classification title to go with all the stage victories he has already piled up? Will David Moncoutie hold on in the final mountain stage to the King of the Mountains that has been his exclusive domain at the Vuelta recently? There are still many questions to be answered in the final weekend of racing; I’ll be here to keep you updated all along the way. But for now, catch up with everything that’s happened to date in the race via the following stage recaps:  

  • STAGE 12 (Andorra la Vella to Lleida) It is funny to think about just how tough it has been for Mark Cavendish to win his first career Vuelta stage this year. After taking the Giro d’Italia and Tour de France by storm the past few years, the wins were supposed to flow like wine for him as the peloton traversed Spanish soil. But after watching Alessandro Petacchi and Tyler Farrar (and even Yauheni Hutarovich!) upstage him in the first half of the three-week tour, I was starting to wonder if the Manx Missile had overextended himself in coming to Spain. Of course, we’ve been in this very position before. In this year’s Tour, for instance, two straight Petacchi victories on Stages 2 and 3 coupled with zero Cavendish wins in the first week had everyone questioning his form. Of course, by the end of the race he had won four stages and broken the record for most career sprint victories in the event’s hundred-year history. Far from being discouraging, the near-misses seem to light a brighter fire under his saddle….   READ MORE HERE

     

    Peter Velits' win in the Peñafiel TT snuck him into third place overall and set up a might podium battle for the final weekend...

  • STAGE 13 (Rincón de Soto to Burgos)  After a prolonged drought at the Vuelta a España, the monsoon season has arrived for Mark Cavendish. The Columbia sprinter won his second consecutive sprint finish, quickly turning the streak of futility broken only yesterday into a situation of abundant success. It seems a familiar pattern by now — Cavendish stays cold in the first week of a grand tour, comes out of the first rest day and begins dominating his peers. A long transfer across northeast Spain from Lleida brought the peloton to Rincón de Soto for the start of Stage 13. The pace remained high through the first intermediate sprint 8 km into the stage, every breakaway attempt reeled in before it could even develop a legitimate gap. At the sprint point in Calahorra, Tyler Farrar took top points ahead of Wouter Weylandt and Cavendish despite his favorite lead-out man Julian Dean dropping out of the race before the start of the stage. The four points (versus just one new one earned by the Manxman) brought the young American sprinter to within six points of the lead. Once the sprint was past, the peloton allowed a five-man move to drift off the front…   READ MORE HERE
  • STAGE 14 (Burgos to Peña Cabarga) It might just be the worst way possible to take over the lead on the general classification — a crash that takes out the previous leader and renders him unable to continue. The “What if…?” questions pop up inevitably — questions about what might’ve happened in the stage had the leader not crashed, questions about whether the new leader would be where he is without being the beneficiary of his rival’s misfortune. The stigma is worse when it comes well into a race where the pecking order has clearly been established. It was tough enough watching Dave Zabriskie crash in the team time trial at the Tour de France five years ago, left behind to ride in to the finish line in his tattered all-yellow aerodynamic skinsuit. At least then Zabriskie was able to finish the stage (though he would later pull out of the race). The next day new leader Lance Armstrong tried to start the stage in his team kit instead of the maillot jaune; the race officials gave Lance an ultimatum to either change or be expelled. Armstrong, of course, donned the yellow and went on to win his seventh consecutive Tour two and a half weeks later in Paris. For him there was less stigma, as they were just four stages in and he was the defending champ…   READ MORE HERE
  • STAGE 15 (Solares to Lagos de Covadonga) After the pain of watching Basque rider Igor Anton take a spill yesterday that would leave him unable to continue the race, everyone – from the riders to the fans to the team directors to the race organizers to the press both on site and around the globe — were hoping for some sort of story to liven the spirits after a dour start to the weekend in Spain. On Stage 15, summiting up to the legendary Lagos de Covadonga, local boy Carlos Barredo made good for the assembled crowd at the mountainside finish as he crossed the line more than a minute ahead of his nearest competitor. The Quick Step rider launched his attack with 12.5 kilometers remaining, using the opening ramps of the climb to the lakes as his springboard to shed his breakaway partners and solo on alone to the victory.But did you realize that winning this stage in his home region marked the first time Barredo has ever won a stage in any grand tour?…   READ MORE HERE
  • STAGE 16 (Gijón to Cotobello) With Igor Anton gone, it almost seemed inevitable that Joaquin Rodriguez would eventually take over the race lead prior to the time trial coming out of the rest day. But after marking Vincenzo Nibali on the previous stage, there was only one opportunity left to shave away that minimal four-second deficit and reclaim the leader’s jersey — which he’d worn for a day earlier in the week, following his time bonus in the intermediate sprint on Stage 10 that ended his deadlock with Anton in the GC at that point – before Peñafiel yielded its race against the clock. And so it was that he danced on the pedals as the road ascended the Alto de Cotobello, the Vuelta sending the riders up the third consecutive mountaintop finish of the race before that one day of respite. He wouldn’t be the winner of the day’s stage… that honor fell instead to Euskaltel-Euskadi’s Mikel Nieve, who brought the team that had lost its best shot at the general classification when they lost Anton and Martinez to their crash-related injuries at least a prestigious stage victory to celebrate….   READ MORE HERE
  • STAGE 17 (Peñafiel TT) Well, that dream of winning the Vuelta a España didn’t last long for Joaquin Rodriguez. I mused in my last briefing that he may not have done enough in the mountains to secure his victory in the race given that the time trial was still to come… and verily it came to pass that Rodriguez would barely be clinging to top-five status by the time he’d completed the 46 kilometers around Peñafiel. The Spaniard would put his country’s hopes of completing its run of good form in the sports world — which continued on Monday with Rafael Nadal’s U.S. Open championship — in serious jeopardy after losing four minutes on the circular time-trial course. In his place jumped Vincenzo Nibali once again, taking right back the red jersey he’d lost before the rest day. Ezequiel Mosquera held his position in the standings aptly, now 39 seconds out of the lead and the last best hope of Spain to keep their national tour’s crown on a domestic pate. The Xacobeo-Galicia rider was nowhere amongst the winners of the day’s stage, but in keeping himself marked right on Nibali’s tail in the general classification he has at least a puncher’s chance given the penultimate stage finish up the Bola del Mundo in Madrid. The two riders are now the class of the 2010 Vuelta, the remaining two riders with the last best chance at taking the title this Sunday….  

TOOLING AROUND THE NET…

It’s funny… I don’t think I’ve picked up a book in the past month. Between one event or another — whether it be the multitude of major tournaments ongoing, or the cycle of visitors which seemed to bombard the house in succession over the past few weeks, or the fluctuations of a work schedule as a catering cook — I haven’t made it to a library in far longer than feels right. I’m always drinking in books. The stack of Newsweek and Mother Jones and Vanity Fair and the rest are all piled neatly after being read voraciously; the internet has seen me crawl all over the cerebral vortex recently looking for good reads. Here are my favorites from the past week of online article surfing: 

 

  • Life, Liberty and Breaking the Rules (Bill James/Slate.com/13 September 2010) So one of the preeminent men who brought sabermetrics up through the decades from obscurity to respectability in baseball had one hell of an opinion about the current furor over performance enhancement in sport. While it centers around the American ethos driving baseball players to dope, the underlying reasoning is just as apt whether you apply it to a baseball player or a cyclist or a track star or any other athlete. This one is definitely worth a read for those who are willing to suspend their judgment and listen to a non-traditional opinion on the subject…

     

  • In their younger years, Dundee was for Muhammad Ali the sidekick that every great superhero needs...

     

  • Cornerman Angelo Dundee on Taschen’s Immaculate GOAT (Nurit Zunger/GQ.com/15 September 2010) It’s hard to argue that Angelo Dundee has been among the greatest cornermen ever to grace the sport of boxing. For six decades he’s helped train some of the best boxers to ever enter the ring, assisted in their corner and celebrated their championships. GQ’s Zunger sat down with Dundee for an interview about his life in the sport, especially his time spent working with Muhammad Ali. It’s marvelous to hear from a man who is still going strong, still loves the sport that has been his life… but is wholly unwilling to hold any punches when it comes to critiquing the good and the bad in the sweet science…
  • Sven braced for further criticism over Saudi move (Jon Carter/ESPN Soccernet/15 September 2010) So former England manager Sven-Goran Eriksson is looking to move to Saudi Arabia to coach Al Hilal. His motivations have come under scrutiny, but as Carter notes here the general tenor of Middle Eastern soccer has changed completely. No longer is it a dumping ground for aging due-date-looming (or already expired) former stars and the second-grade chaff of the European leagues. Nor is it merely a place for mercenary coaches to burn the money of sheikhs in oil-rich nations. Whatever Eriksson’s motivations might be, this is an interesting development for an undeniably talented manager…
  • The Radical Conventional (Peter Bodo/Tennis.com/15 September 2010) Bodo, the dean of tennis writing at the moment, knows exactly what it feels like covering one event in real time — he’s been doing it a hell of a lot longer than I have. (Of course, I wonder if he’s ever deigned to cover a World Cup and the run-up to the Tour de France at the same time Wimbledon is ongoing.) Avoiding a straight-up argument about that well-worn debate about the greatest of all-time in the sport, Bodo instead focuses on Nadal’s true transcendence — turning what once was perceived as “ugly” tennis, his combination of speed and raw power, into an art form all its own that is fluid and more than mere mashing…
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    A NICKEL’S WORTH…

     

     

    • Monza hosted the last Formula 1 race on European soil this season before the circuit takes its cars to Asia for the final five races of the 2010 season. Don’t look now, but by winning the Italian Grand Prix Fernando Alonso just reinserted himself into a title discussion that seemed closed to all but Mark Webber and Lewis Hamilton throughout most of the summer. His victory in Italy pulled him to within 21 points of table leader Webber. If the Red Bull and McLaren leaders continue to have poor days like they did last Sunday (Webber finished 6th, while Hamilton had to withdraw after 53 laps) we may very well see the Spaniard in the Ferrari auto stealing away his second world championship…
    • Champions League group-stage play began throughout Europe the past few days, and we were treated to a few surprises. Okay, I use the word “treated” lightly. This long-suffering Inter fan had to watch as the defending champions were held to a 2-2 draw in Holland against Twente Enschede. Manchester United inexplicably failed to score a single goal in a 0-0 draw against their northern neighbor, Glasgow Rangers. Spanish teams (Barcelona, Real Madrid and Valencia) got off to a great start, winning all three of their matches and outscoring opponents a combined 11-1. The next matchday is in two weeks, so be sure to catch your favorite team when you can!
    • It was sad news on the injury front as we learned this week that Didier Defago, the Swissman who won Olympic gold in the downhill earlier this year at the Vancouver Olympics, has been ruled out of this year’s World Cup season after tearing the ACL in his left knee in training. It’s an unfortunate loss that drains the sport of one sublime talent. Instead his countrymen will have to turn toward Didier Cuche and Carlo Janka instead for their hopes at vicarious victory. Here’s to hoping the long path to recovery pays off and the soon-to-be 33-year-old veteran can come back for a few more strong seasons before hanging up the skis for good…
    • Speaking of the injury front, Kentucky Derby winner Super Saver has been relegated to two months of stall rest after bone bruising was discovered following the horse’s 10th-place finish in the August 28 Travers Stakes. Bruising on the left front fetlock and cannon bone were detected by Dr. Larry Bramlage. Hopefully, like Defago, the horse can recover over his assigned period of rest and return for a few more moments of glory before being put out to stud. The last thing horse racing needs is another former champion enduring a painful demise…
    • Twitter is a great tool when you realize its potential. But realizing the potential means more than knowing what you can send out into cyberspace for immediate digestion by the masses. With great ability comes great responsibility, and unfortunately it seems too many athletes don’t understand the better part of discretion these days. Football teams have routinely tried to ban players from using the site — after all, with NCAA suspensions now stemming from the loose fingertips of overprivileged football stars, they have an incentive to keep teams together without the distractions of investigation. Everything stays in your permanent file when you rant to a site like that. So when Australian swimmer Stephanie Rice decided to start gay-bashing on her feed, it was bound to create backlash. The biggest cost, of course, was to Rice herself — automaker Jaguar pulled its quite-valuable sponsorship of the swimmer, leaving her with just regional backers. Hopefully this costly mistake and subsequent action by her sponsors will wake Rice up to the cost of inflammatory speech and will make other athletes think twice before spouting off virtually…

         

    ON THE DOCKET…

    I know what’s on the docket first and foremost — football, football and more football. From the college games that bring out the Tailgater in all of us and the professional games that electrify our Sundays, to the version played across the pond on European soil that dazzles with domestic play every weekend in countries across the continent (and beyond to the greater reaches around the globe), it’s that time of the year when a slight chill gets into the air and the grass seems just a little greener. But just because the football (and fútbol) seasons are upon us is no reason why we should discount the greater abundance all around. Here are a few of the things I’ll be prying my eyes away from the gridiron and the pitch to witness this weekend and beyond:   

    • Vuelta a España (through Sunday/19 September) Only four stages remain in the Vuelta, and just 39 seconds separate first place from second. It’s bound to be a tremendous battle for the red jersey of the overall leader… and we might even see American sprinter Tyler Farrar win another stage or two and win the points classification, if only he can surpass the back-on-fire Mark Cavendish. With some new roads being visited in the capital city (including an inaugural summit finish) there is one chance for David Moncoutie to have his third consecutive King of the Mountains title wrested from him as well. Follow the last few days of action through my daily coverage here, the live online coverage daily courtesy of Steephill.TV and on television if your provider offers Universal Sports…
    • Davis Cup semifinals (Friday through Sunday/17-19 September) The action doesn’t stop on the courts just becaues the Grand Slam season is done for the year. We’re down to the final four nations in the 99th running of the annual men’s team tennis competition, and this weekend we will know which two teams will have a chance of winning the 2010 title on my birthday. Both semifinals will be played on hardcourt surfaces in indoor venues. The first will be played in Lyon, as Argentina travels across the Atlantic to face France. The other, a duel between the Czech Republic and Serbia, will take place in Belgrade. You can find the matches via my favorite live-feed portal or check out the action from Argentina-France on the Tennis Channel
    • Other tennis action (throughout the week) Not only is there Davis Cup action, but after the Grand Slams bring everyone back together the WTA and ATP Tours split on their international schedule. We’re currently seeing WTA tournaments conclude this weekend in Guangzhou and Quebec. Next Monday four more events begin — the WTA heads to Seoul and Tashkent, while the ATP takes the men to Metz and Bucharest. There’s no rest for the weary-legged, and as the season winds into its fractured fall schedule those of us who suffer from withdrawals after the high-profile coverage the Grand Slams afford to tennis have plenty of places to turn…
    • MotoGP Aragon GP (Sunday/19 September)The stars of the motorcycle Grand Prix season make their way to a brand-new venue in Aragon for the inaugural running of this event. Valentino Rossi, who returned from a crash earlier this season but has yet to catch a victory, is hoping to cash in on his good karma in Spain for a 20th career victory in the  nation. Of course, he’ll have to knock off favorite native sons Jorge Lorenzo (he of the seven season victories and commanding 63-point lead in the standings) and Dani Pedrosa (the current series runner-up who has won each of the past two races in Indianapolis and San Marino and has a 69-point gap between him and teammate Andrea Dovizioso in third) to pull off the victory. Can he nab that elusive return win? Watch SPEED TV on Sunday morning at 9:00 am Eastern for the live coverage…

       

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    And just like that, another week is in the books and the map is traced ahead of us. I may never know which part of my childhood it was that definitively set me on the path toward becoming A Non-Traditional Sports Fan in America, but I know that it sure is one hell of an interesting reality I could’ve chosen from amongst all the alternatives. As marvelous and downright comforting as it can be following along with the daily rhythm of the rest of the sports fans glued into the cycle of Americana, sometimes it just feels right to charge against the current.

     

    That’s what we do here every week, and what I hope keeps you coming back. I’m here every Thursday, and you can keep abreast of all my writing developments between the weekly columns through either of the links to the right. It’s always nice having another fan of diversity in sport along and part of the burgeoning army of fans for whom life must be about more than merely the big three sports in America. So join up, come back, and let me know what you think. Is there something in particular that captivates you, something I’ve been remiss in covering and you’d like to see once in a while amongst these pages? Is there a particular story behind what got you into a certain sport? I’d love to hear it all — questions, comments, suggestions and just plain ridicule — right below in the comments… it never gets tiring hearing from others who deign to spend at least a small portion of their lives grooving to a less-traditional beat…

     

    NTSF 104: The origins of non-traditional spectatorhood plus news from Spain, Flushing Meadows, Monza and more… is a post originally from: SportsNickel.com - In Sports We Trust

     

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