Top five reasons to love sports these days

5. GYMNASTICS
Uh … could I lose my man card over this?

Oh, well, I still love gymnastics.

Before watching the Olympics this past weekend, you would’ve never heard me praising gymnasts, those tiny humans with otherworldly strength, dexterity and flexibility. But I didn’t have HDTV before this summer’s Games in London, and I rarely got to see gymnasts up close, so I didn’t have a real appreciation for them.

Now, I’m convinced that, pound for pound, top-flight gymnasts are the greatest athletes in the world. Yes, better even than top-flight basketball, football and track and field athletes – which I had ranked Nos. 1, 2 and 3, respectively, in the past.

The U.S. women’s Olympic team of Gabby Douglas (4 foot 11), McKayla Maroney (5-2), Alex Raisman (5-2), Kyla Ross (5-1) and Jordyn Wieber (5-2) are hardly the intimidating figures that LeBron James, Julius Peppers and Usain Bolt are in their sports. But the gymnasts are no less impressive – if we just take time to watch them do their thing. That’s what I’m going to do from now on, and I don’t care if I lose my man card.

OK, I care a little.

4. TWITTER

And, no, it’s not because I love to inform my 74 followers (and counting!) every time I go to the grocery store or find a great deal at Walmart.

I love Twitter because, as a journalist, it’s been the perfect reality check for many professional athletes. In the past, some athletes used the old fallback of “my quotes were taken out of context” whenever their words in a newspaper article were criticized.

Twitter doesn’t allow that because the comments are written – sometimes to their former English teachers’ chagrin – by the athletes themselves.

If an athlete says something controversial, he no longer can spout off about how media outlets are just trying to sell newspapers or get ratings. Sure, journalists get fewer breaking stories now because of Twitter, and athletes love having the power to deliver exciting news about themselves or give their honest opinion about other things.

But there are damaging tweets, such as the ones from Pittsburgh Steelers running back Rashard Mendenhall, who criticized the mass American celebration after the killing of Osama Bin Laden, and Carolina Panther Greg Hardy, who posted a photo of what’s believed to be the speedometer of his Bentley going more than 100 mph.

Too often, we see forced follow-up tweets, claiming, “I apologize to anyone who was offended by my comments.”

3. RYAN KALIL’S CONFIDENCE

I love that Kalil bought a newspaper ad and proclaimed that his Carolina Panthers are going to win the Super Bowl.

Sure, the Pro Bowl center’s dreaming if he actually believes that’ll happen, but I love that Kalil was willing to put the pressure of high expectations on his teammates entering training camp.

2. TEAM USA BASKETBALL

It’s hard for me to admit this, because I’ve been on record as saying I cheer against the Team USA’s Basketball Billionaires, but I genuinely love this team.

That’s a major contradiction, huh?

Let me explain: I love the selflessness. I love how the team’s going out of its way to play tenacious defense. I love how the Americans cheer like high school players when a teammate makes an impressive play. And I love it when, say, Kevin Durant passes up an open shot just to let a teammate in on the fun.

These are good guys, likable guys. There’s no taunting, no elbows being thrown against overmatched competition, a la Charles Barkley in 1992.

Alas, I still hope the Americans fail to medal — I want the college kids, not the pros, in the Olympics. But I have to admit that if this group wins it all, I won’t exactly lose any sleep.

1. HIGH  SCHOOL FOOTBALL

I love that the high school football season is 14 days away.

Aug. 17 also is the day our annual preview section, “Football Night in Southern Mecklenburg,” hits the streets. In this year’s preview, you’ll find our usual features, such as our Super 7 team listings and Twenty to Treasure player rankings, and much more.

Make sure you grab a copy and keep it handy as you head to the games this fall.

 

C. Jemal Horton, jemal@thecharlotteweekly.com

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