Saturday, July 28, 2012

It sucks to be you: A photo gallery

Here's a sampling of some of today's most unbecoming shots. I don't understand how editors choose their photos...

This is just wrong! WRONG! WRONG!

Does he have to fart? Is he constipated? Poor guy...

 Spanny Tampson, it looks like you have another audition for the remake of The Cannonball Run

If you've ever watched So You Think You Can Dance, you've heard Nigel talk about "stank face." Well, this is the Oklahoman/Texan version of "stank face," and it ain't pretty.

Oh, Lord! Please don't tell me that's his "oh face." It just looks painful. Even Bart Conner has a better "oh face."

Yeah... This was on a news website. Clearly, the editors aren't being mindful of how they represent the ginger community.

Dear gymnastics editors,

I'm onto you. Consider yourself on watch.

Uncle Tim
P.S. Philipp Boy should always look like this:

Another gratuitous shirtless shot. I must find out when this all started.

I'm only a man in a silly red sheet

"30 minutes until the U.S. men and Kohei Uchimura make their Olympic debut," tweeted Gymnastike.

Being the snarky bastard that I am, I inquired, "Will the rest of Team Japan be competing, as well?"

Always quick with a joke, the silver-tongued Dvora Meyers added, "Uchimura will be doing all the routines on every event. He is that good."

Spirits high and expectations even higher, the Gymternet and I turned to our janky live feeds of the competition. As I tried to piece together the routines between ads and buffering problems, I saw the impossible happen: Kohei Uchimura fell off high bar. I couldn't believe my eyes, so I turned to Twitter to verify. Yup, Superman had just fallen off the high bar. "Shock!" was the exclamation that Andy Thornton tweeted. Nancy Armour was a bit more prolix, typing, "Wow. Just Wow. Uchi fell on his 4th release move." 

I said nothing. Dumbfounded, I just sat there and waited to see how others would react. I think that Nancy Armour was the first to cast off her shock and think rationally. She added, "Uchimura is world silver medalist, but he has been struggling here in training. Still, stunning to see that obvious an error from him." In her tweet, you can see her fighting with herself. History told her that Uchimura was indeed fallible, but a part of her did not want to believe it.

Nancy Armour, like the rest of us, expected the Japanese gymnast (with bed head) to get up on that bar and catch all his releases. She, like the rest of us, expected him to stick all his dismounts. And she, like the rest of us, expected him to qualify for several event finals. 'Cause that's what Superman would do. Wouldn't he?

I mean, it's what he had done in the past, and thus, it's what we have come to expect of the 2009, 2010, and 2011 World All-Around Champion. And it's not like he merely eked out a win. Oh, no, he destroyed his competition, defeating his opponents by several points. In fact, he could have fallen in any of those competitions and still won.

We don't expect those results from mere mortals. We expect those results only from those with super human talent. Perhaps that's why we call him Superman. But is his track record the only reason? I don't think so. Personally, I think that there is a deeper reason--one that speaks to how we see the state of men's gymnastics as a whole. In order to dig further, we have to think about what it means to be Superman. As I have suggested, Superman assuages our desire to be unbeatable, but he is more than that. We must not forget that superheroes are meant to save people. In this case, though, I don't think that it is a person as much as a sport that needs saving.

Blythe Lawrence's quick hits touch upon this issue. In podium training, she called Kohei Uchimura "technically perfect," and after seeing a Japanese gymnast muscle his way through his high bar routine, she wrote, "This is why we love Japanese gymnastics: Even when a guy has to muscle up to handstand, as one of the Japanese just did on high bar, it's beautiful."

The subtle implications of her statement fascinate me. Essentially, she is saying, "The Japanese men--unlike the majority of the competitors--are beautiful to watch and technically precise."

Indeed, in an era where Zou Kai cannot point his toes, in an era where Marcel Nguyen cannot keep his legs together, in an era where Oleg Stepko and his ilk cannot compete a vault without cowboying--that is, in an era when it seems like gymnasts have to sacrifice execution for the sake of difficulty, we want someone to prove otherwise. We want someone to prove that male gymnasts can have it all--both difficulty and beautiful execution.

And that's what Kohei Uchimura represents for us. He is the person who can save us from the current state of gymnastics, and that's why he is our Superman.

But today he proved that he's only a man in a silly red sheet, and now that we have seen that side of him, the question is, How will we react? Will we forget that he is vincible? Or will acknowledge that he is a mortal--just like the rest of the field?

Friday, July 27, 2012

The Evolution of the Kovács

What's a Kovács?

Unfortunately, Google won't help you answer that question.

Nor will Wikipedia

Nor will Twitter

Football players are so eloquent.

But I will!

In case you cared to know, Uncle Tim has not one, but two pairs of footy pajamas.

So, with no further ado, I present to you...

A visual history of the high bar release called a Kovács, as told by Uncle Tim

(Long titles always make you sound smarter.)

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Team USA, the gymnastics gods are upset with you.

Before I go off on a rant, let me say this: I am thrilled that the U.S. gymnasts are in the spotlight. They are far more entertaining than the women, and for the sake of men's gymnastics programs everywhere, I hope that the team members inspire little boys to enroll in gymnastics classes.

That said, we need to talk about this...

During your 4 minutes of fame, you decided to participate in


Danell... querido, Close your legs! ¡Dios mío!
Horton... Step out of the shadows and point your bloody toes!
Mikulak... Your shoulders aren't that wide. Move your hands closer together!
Orozco... ¡Ay, nene! WHAT THE HELL IS THAT!?
Jakey-Poo... You're NOT a turtle! Don't stick your head out!

Dear Team USA,

I hate to be the one to break this to you, but... The gymnastics gods saw you on TV, and

they're pissed!

Doesn't Sexy Alexei look pissed?

If you want to appease the gymnastics gods on Saturday, you better try a lot harder. Coaches always say that you play the way you practice, and if that adage is true, you're all screwed.

Uncle Tim

Monday, July 23, 2012

Team USA Merchandise That I'd Buy

I'm traveling more than usual right now, so you'll have to wait a few days for my colorful commentary. In the meantime, this post will have to do. I took the liberty of creating some mockups for Team USA merchandise.

Dear USA Gymnastics and Agents, You can thank me later. xx, Uncle Tim

Who can compete with Dominique Moceanu's story? No one. Unless you have an inspiring legless sister, the gymnastics book market is not for you, and new avenues must be explored.

I propose that Team USA come out with a series of bedtime stories in the form of audiobooks. The slogan could be: Fall asleep with Team USA every night for the rest of your life... 'cause that's not creepy at all.

Friday, July 20, 2012

The Battle of the Facial Hair: Louis Smith vs. Krisztian Berki

In order to be good at pommel horse, you must have facial hair. It's a rule.

Dear Louis and Krisztian, You better not shave. Otherwise, my theory is null and void. xx, Uncle Tim

Today, we're going to talk about the pommel horse. I can hear your groans. Most gym fans don't know much about it; most commentators don't say much about it; and most gymnasts hate it, but there are a few lucky schmucks who are crazy good at the pig. Take, for instance, Louis Smith and Krisztián Berki.

In case you haven't been following men's gymnastics, let me get you up to speed. British 'Stache has the highest score in the world (16.375). Australian 'Stacheless (Prashanth Sellathurai) is a close second (16.2), but he will not be competing in London, which is a shame because I wanted to hear Tim, Al, and Elfi pronounce his name. So, British 'Stache's biggest competition is Hungarian 'Stache, who has posted a 16.05.

British 'Stache and Hungarian 'Stache are indubitably two of the major players, but before I compare them, I want to talk a little about the event itself. It's a confusing one for most women's gymnastics fans who are curious about men's gymnastics, and I hope that a quick 'n' dirty explanation will help a few readers. So, avid MAG fans, please pardon the long caveat.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Olympics Hype: Jake Dalton vs. Zou Kai on Floor Exercise

Dear Gymnastics Editors, Why? xx, Uncle Tim

Today, we're not going to talk about pervy photos that make gay men giggle like a bunch of pubescent teenagers. Sorry.

As I stated in my last post, I'm tired of the Uchimura vs. Leyva vs. Orozco rivalry, so I am going to create my own hype as a way of introducing you to other gymnasts. Today, I want to talk about Jake Dalton and Zou Kai, who could medal on floor exercise, and just like last time, I will tell you what I love and hate about these two gymnasts. Some of it is personal taste, but most of it is related to the judging process and technique.

So, let's get started with the 2008 Olympic gold medalist who also happens to be the 2009 and 2011 silver medalist at the World Championships.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Olympics Hype: Leyva vs. Nguyen

When it comes to men's gymnastics, most U.S. journalists know three names: Kohei Uchimura, Danell Leyva, and John Orozco. Uchimura is the gymnast who has been dubbed "Superman," and most recently, he has been compared to Nadia. Leyva and Orozco, of course, are the two American gymnasts who could very well win an all-around medal.

I don't blame the U.S. media for promulgating the Uchimura vs. Leyva vs. Orozco rivalry. Who doesn't want to see a spectacular all-around battle? I certainly do. But guess what... There are other gymnasts competing at the Olympics. Shocking, I know. So, I'm going to tell you about some of the other competitors by spinning my own hype.

I can't make any promises that these rivalries will come to a head. Then again, the media can't, either. (Kim Zmeskal and Svetlana Boginskaya in 1992?) What I can say is this: based on current scores, they could be legitimate rivals.

With no further ado, let's take a look at our first pairing: Danell Leyva vs. Marcel Nguyen

Only the cool kids wear grips during photo shoots.

If Tyra Banks had to choose one of these boys, she would probably choose Danell because he is looking fierce in his photo. But in the gymnastics world, the gold medal on parallel bars is Marcel's to lose. Even though Danell is the reigning world champion on parallel bars, Marcel has posted the highest score in 2012. (Marcel: 16.1 vs. Danell 16.0)

Rather than make predictions about who will win, I'm going to give you a preview of both gymnasts. Specifically, I'll tell you what I like and don't like about each of these gymnasts.

First up: Danell Leyva, the 20 year-old Cuban American from Miami who is coached by his stepfather Yin Alvarez. (NBC is going to tell you that over and over and over again. So, get used to it.)

I live for the simple elegance of Danell's routine. (Watch his 16.0 routine here) Unless you are a diehard gymnastics fan, you don't realize that Danell is doing some frickin' hard skills. For instance, he does what is called a Teng Hai Bin, which is a basket--sometimes called a peach--into a full pirouette on one arm. That, my friends, is an F in the Code of Points, and his toes are pointed the entire time. Pardon me while I swoon.

By the way,  the basket (or peach) is featured in the first photo.

With these pirouetting skills, it is easy to muck up. As you can see in the last photo of the Teng Hai Bin, Danell is a little archy in his handstand. Sometimes, he handles this well, and other times, he starts walking his hands all over the bar. GAH! Male gymnasts tend to do this in training, but in competition, each extra hand movement is a 0.1 deduction.

Also, I've been over the double pike dismount for a few years now. Pretty much everyone does one because it's a D (which adds 0.5 to your difficulty score). You're going to see a lot of them. Personally, I'd like to see more creative dismounts, but that's just me.

Anyway, moving onto the 24 year-old German Zoolander. (Watch his routine from the European Championships here)

Marcel's style is completely different from Danell's, and I love it just as much. (Yes, believe it or not, you can appreciate two distinct styles of gymnastics.) Whereas Danell's routine is composed of deceptively simple-looking skills, with Marcel, you know that his routine is hard. His skills, though not belabored, just look frickin' hard. For instance, he does a Dimitrenko, which is a double back starting on his upper arms and finishing on his upper arms. You see that, and you can't help but say, "Damn."


He also does a full-twisting double back dismount (called a Kato). Your jaw should drop when you see that. It's one of two F dismounts on parallel bars for men.

Also, Marcel has extremely well-manicured eyebrows. I'm still trying to decide whether I love them or hate them. (Feel free to weigh in.)

What I do know is that I hate his form. When he's off, his legs immediately spread open. I shall call these his "Oh, haaaaay" legs.

Those legs make me want to flagellate myself with a wet noodle. GAH! If he competes like that, Marcel might not qualify for event finals on parallel bars. Yes, that's right. Even though he is doing the hardest dismount in the world and even though he has posted the highest score in the world, his terrible form might prevent him from having a shot at an Olympic medal.

Dear Marcel, close your legs. xx, Uncle Tim

Friday, July 13, 2012

Chasing Superman - Part 3: Leyva on Rings

Oh, ESPN, you make my job easy. Thanks to you, I didn't have to spend the afternoon photoshopping Danell's head onto the body of a random, drunken frat boy, whose spring break pictures wound up on the internet. I simply had to click through the Body issue and voilà, I had myself a logo for the final edition of Chasing Superman.

As the logo suggests, we are going to talk about rings. Full disclosure: It was never an event I enjoyed training, nor is it an event I enjoy coaching. But I assure you that my disdain for the apparatus will not hinder my ability to be a judgmental curmudgeon. If anything, it will help.

Before we take a look at Danell's routines, though, we must understand some of the "technical" language related to the apparatus. On rings, there are two types of gymnasts. There are the swingers and the juicehead gorillas. Some refer to the latter as, "Muscle daddies," but I prefer Snooki's more... poetic, endearing term.

To help you with the distinction, I turn to the Code of Points.

Swingers get their difficulty points by swinging. Duh.
Juicehead Gorillas get their difficulty points through beef. Duh.

From time to time, the two groups overlap. Occasionally, a juicehead gorilla will do a Jonasson, for instance, but a swinger will never do a Rodrigues.

I should also point out that you will never see a swinger in the event finals on rings. Don't believe me? Watch the competition on August 6. For every swinger who makes finals, I'll write a haiku dedicated to Tim Daggett.

Dear juicehead gorilla rings specialists, please don't fuck up 'cause last time I checked, Tim Daggett wasn't one of the nine muses. xx, Uncle Tim

Anyone who has seen Danell on rings knows that he's a swinger, and at this point in time, it's too late to turn Danell into a juicehead gorilla. It's for the best, though, because "Jersey-Shore-muscle-daddy" is not a good look on him. See for yourself:

So, we'll just have to deal with what we got, and thankfully, we have quite a lot to work with. With Danell, it's merely a question of fine-tuning his swing.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Chasing Superman - Part 2: High Bar

Today's edition is called "Danell and John Keep Me Up At Night." But before I begin, please do not get your hopes up. I will not be talking about this:

Sorry to disappoint. Don't get me wrong; had Danell been alive in the early 16th century, I am sure that Michelangelo would have chiseled him out of marble.

But, for the time being, I have more important things to discuss. Like, how men's gymnastics has made a mockery of one of my favorite skills: the hop full. Leave it to the men to eff up a thing of beauty. (Am I right, ladies?) In fact, their hop fulls bother me so much that I lie awake at night, wondering, "Why, men? Why can't you do a good hop full? And if you struggle with the hop full, why do you even attempt a Rybalko?"

This is my attempt to make sense of it all.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Chasing Superman - Part 1: Orozco's Vault

And so the Olympic hype begins.

The U.S. media has pitted Danell Leyva and John Orozco against Kohei Uchimura, who has been nicknamed the "Superman" of men's gymnastics:

When the newspapers mention Uchimura, they tend to reference the 2011 World Championships, where Leyva and Orozco qualified to the all-around finals just behind Superman. It's a subtle way of leading readers to believe that the Cuban refugee and the boy from the Bronx could find themselves on top of the podium.

While I'm not here to make predictions about the all-around finals, I will say this: I desperately want to channel my inner Yin Alvarez. Meaning: I want an American to medal in the all-around so that I have every excuse to jump up and down, fist pump, yell at my TV, hug everyone around me, and maybe even weep tears of joy.

Yin is a younger, sprier version of Bela Karolyi, and he's sure to be all over your TV screen this summer. His step-son, like John Orozco, will be in the medal hunt, and if either gymnast is going to wear gold around his neck, he has some work to do.

Yin knows it. Head coach Kevin Mazeika knows it. And I know it.

And in this series of posts titled "Chasing Superman," I'll explain how Team America can improve their routines.The first part in this series is dedicated to Orozco's vault, and I am affectionately calling it, "John Orozco's Right Arm Is, Like, Really Strong." You'll understand why in a second.

Hold onto your seats, kiddos, because this website is about to get super kitschy.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Does the 5-Gymnast Team Kill the Specialist?

In case you haven't heard (Sarcasm light is on), Team USA was named this weekend, and it wasn't without controversy. Part of the polemic stems from the selection of the event specialists. Why was McKayla Maroney named to the team? Why was Anna Li chosen as an alternate over, say, Alicia Sacramone? Why wasn't Naddour selected as 1 of the 5?

This is my attempt to make sense of it all. In my view, the answer lies in the new format. Based on the selection committees' decisions, it appears that being a decent all-arounder is crucial to making a 5-member Olympic Team.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Another Look at Our Champion, Danell Leyva

These photos attempt to capture the excitement and beauty of Leyva's high bar routine. Enjoy!

(Also, check out Orozco in the background of this first shot!)

Choosing Team USA: The Logic Behind the Decision

Jonathan Horton, Sam Mikulak, and Jake Dalton will join John Orozco and Danell Leyva in London. It could not have been an easy decision for the committee members, but it was a logical one.
Photo: John Cheng / USA Gymnastics