Miracle on the Diamond: Japan Beats the USA in Softball

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I wonder if, as Caitlin Lowe grounded out to third base earlier today, some Japanese play-by-play announcer was shouting the Japanese equivalent of “Do you believe in miracles, yes!” Or if he went with Jack Buck’s classic “I don’t believe what I just saw.”

A miracle? Yes. Unbelievable? Most definitely.

For the first time in international play since September 22, 2000, the U.S. women’s softball team lost a game. And they lost perhaps the most important game in international softball history. They lost 3-1 to the Japanese today in the gold medal game of the Beijing Olympics. The last softball game to be played in the Olympics for possibly ever, and definitely for the next eight years.

And excuse me as I go into hyperbole mode, but I think it’s fair to compare this game, this upset, to the famous Miracle on Ice of 1980 where the U.S. hockey team upset possibly the greatest hockey team in history in the Lake Placid Olympics. And I make this comparison because the reason there possibly will never again be softball in the Olympics is precisely because of how dominating the U.S. women were. The women had won the last three gold medals, and it appeared that no team could compete with them.

The first crack in the armor actually came yesterday when the Japanese team took the U.S. to extra innings before losing 4-1. The Japanese pitcher in that game, Yukiko Ueno, then pitched another game yesterday, a game of 12 innings, to send the Japanese into the gold medal game for a rematch against the Americans. She then came out today and led her Japanese teammates to victory, and history, while holding the powerhouse U.S. team to only one run.

So ends the dominating run of the U.S. women’s softball team. The queen is dead. Long live the queen. Because while the U.S. women may have been the greatest team in softball history, the last champion will always be the Japanese.

And now I wonder, as I ponder, if there is some film producer in Japan already casting his lead. Looking for just the right young unknown to play Yukiko Ueno, and balancing this unknown actress with just that right veteran star to play the wise and grizzled coach. Maybe sometime next year the film of the greatest softball upset in history will be released to theaters worldwide.

Do you believe in miracles? Well for today at least, the answer is yes.


And let the discussion begin. Just who is the best athlete of these Beijing Olympics: Michael Phelps or Usain Bolt? We all know what Phelps did last week. And it was rather spectacular. But yesterday Bolt did something which has never before been done in the Olympics. Yesterday Bolt won the men’s 200-meters sprint. And just as he did with the 100-meters, he did it in world record time. In so doing, Bolt became the first man to win both the 100- and 200-meters in the same Olympics since Carl Lewis pulled off the trick in 1984 in Los Angeles. But Bolt is the first man to ever win not only both events in the Olympics, but to set the world record in both while so winning.

The race was a marvel to watch, as Bolt jumped out to the lead and never looked back. As in the 100-meters, no one was close to catching up to him. And he did with such ease that it’s just evident he’s got many, many more world records inside of him.

******************* In conditions that might have disgusted some of the baseball scribes over at the Chron, the women’s beach volleyball final was held, with Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh winning their 108th straight match, 19th straight tournament, and second straight Olympic gold medal, defeating the Chinese team in a rain-filled final match 21-18, 21-18. The match however was much more closer than that final score indicates.

******************* The Woodland’s Laura Wilkinson has survived the semifinals in the 10-meter platform diving. She will be in sixth place as they head for the finals in the event.

******************* Are you fed up with how NBC is handling the Olympics? About how the track-and-field events are held for tape delay? About how even if an event is live, you can’t watch it live if you live in the Mountain or Pacific time zones? Well, ESPN feels your pain. And that is why ESPN is vowing to bid for the 2014 Winter Olympics and 2016 Summer Olympics, which are the next Olympics up for TV contracts.

And if somehow ESPN should win the rights to those Olympics, you’re not going to have worry about tape delays. Everything will be live. No matter when the event is. There will be no holding back for primetime television.

ESPN has the platforms to show all of the events, just as NBC does. And if ESPN can find some way to keep Chris Berman and Stuart Scott away from the Olympics, then here’s hoping that ESPN can get them.

Speaking of which, if you’re watching tonight, here are the mostly taped delayed events that NBC will be showing you: the men’s 400-meters final, the decathlon, finals in the men’s 110-meter hurdles and the triple jump, and the women’s 200-meters. There should also be live men’s beach volleyball and the postponed BMX finals. – John Royal

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