From the Bleachers: Team USA’s Most Memorable Gold, Champions League Breakdown, and is Tanking a Problem in the NBA?

Credit to Alyssa Barber

Dominic Hoscher, editor, points to the field on the bleachers of FHN.

By Dominic Hoscher, Editor

The 2018 Winter Olympic Games are beginning to come to a close, with the closing ceremony set to take place this Sunday from PyeongChang Olympic Stadium. Through the first 15 days of the competition, fans have been provided with many spectacular moments and medal-winning performances by some of the world’s greatest athletes. These events have taken over the sports universe over the past few weeks and will continue to do so all of the way until the torch is extinguished on Sunday.

While the Games have been loaded with memorable moments from many different countries, this week’s column will focus on Team USA alone. From iconic names climbing to the top of the mountain yet again to athletes who haven’t even hit their 18th birthday winning gold for the first time in their young career, the United States has had its’ fair share of these moments. If just one were to be chosen, however, which gold has left the largest impact on the Olympics and fans of Team USA?

In other news, Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban received a $600,000 fine on Wednesday for admitting that his team’s best option is to tank. Obviously, saying such a thing isn’t really the greatest idea out there, but is he wrong to think it? In Europe, the second wave of round of 16 fixtures took place in the UEFA Champions League. With two of the four games finishing level, there remains plenty to play for in the second leg. Which teams will move on and earn a place in the quarterfinals? All of this will be broken down in the 11th edition of “From the Bleachers.”


Kicking off the 2018 Olympics campaign for the United States was 17 year old snowboarder Red Gerard, who won the gold medal in the men’s slopestyle final. Team USA would then go on and win the women’s slopestyle as well, with Jamie Anderson taking home the gold in the event for the second time in her Olympic career. In the snowboarding halfpipe event, the United States would again top both the men and the women’s podiums behind golden performances from Chloe Kim and Shaun White.

Staying on top of the mountain but this time using skis, one of the team’s top athletes in Mikaela Shiffrin finished first in the women’s giant slalom alpine skiing event, her first of two medals in South Korea. In the women’s cross country team sprint, Jessie Diggins and Kikkan Randall pulled off an incredible upset, winning the USA’s first ever gold medal in cross country skiing.

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Returning to the halfpipe, David Wise won gold in the men’s halfpipe free skiing event, outlasting fellow American Alex Ferreira with a score of 97.20 in his final run. The team’s next medal came on the ice with the women’s hockey team. On Wednesday night in the US, the women’s hockey team was able to top their heavy rivals Canada in a shootout, comeback victory. Lastly, the USA won their first ever curling gold medal on Friday night, defeating Sweden in the final. Team USA’s nine gold medals are the fourth most in PyeongChang, only trailing Norway, Germany, and Canada.

Each of these performances were special in their own unique way, but if only one of these gold medal performances were to be chosen as the most memorable, which would it be?

Many heads will immediately turn to Shaun White’s gold medal winning performance in the halfpipe, and rightfully so. White became the first snowboarder in Olympics history to win a third gold medal, and did so in thrilling fashion overcoming Scotty James and Ayumu Hirano on his final run. If you’re interested in a deeper breakdown into the event, check out last week’s column here. While it was certainly a memorable victory, the legendary snowboarder has already achieved glory many times before which lessens the shock factor of his win. White’s gold holds a steady position among the USA’s top 2018 Olympic moments, but it isn’t quite number one.

Next on the list is the team’s most recent gold that saw Team USA defeat Canada in the women’s ice hockey gold medal match. Canada entered the game as the favorites after previously topping the USA by a score of 2-1 in the preliminary round, but the United States showed no signs of being the underdogs as they were able to bring the game level in the third period and take it into overtime. After a scoreless 20 minutes of overtime, the game went to shootouts and what followed will be talked about in international hockey for the next four years.

In the sixth round of shootouts, Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson scored the Olympic winning goal to put Team USA on top of the women’s hockey world and the podium. It was the USA’s first gold medal in the competition since 1998, with Canada winning the tournament in each of the last four Olympic Games. From a game standpoint, the two teams went back-and-forth for over 80 minutes with just one goal potentially being the difference between the teams’ positions on the podium. This provided for one of the more exciting Olympic finals in recent years, and made the win all that much sweeter for the United States and their fans while also making the gold medal the country’s most memorable one so far.


Tanking, in sports literature, is defined as the process of intentionally losing games in order to improve a team’s position in the next draft. The one league across American sports that sees this happen in the highest quantity is in the NBA. In professional basketball, some of the league’s bottom-feeders like the Philadelphia 76ers in recent years and the Mavericks this year shift their focus to the future and building a team that can compete in a few years time, rather than assembling an even competitive squad in the current year.

There are some obvious negatives with this but in today’s NBA, is Mark Cuban, his Mavericks and all of the other teams who engage in this process doing what’s wrong for their team and franchise?

The current NBA has been taken over by the creation of the super teams. Just to be a true contender, a team needs at least two All Stars to go along with also needing a strong lineup and bench. And in recent years, some of the league’s biggest names have joined forces with other stars, with examples being Kevin Durant heading to Golden State to play with Steph Curry and company and more recently Chris Paul joining the Rockets and James Harden. If teams like the Cavaliers with LeBron James struggle against these super teams, then what are the odds of the Mavericks or even the Atlanta Hawks fare any better?

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These teams are aware that their odds are minimal, and that they stand little-to-no chance in a seven game series against a super team. With this knowledge, any team that is below the top or middle tiers of the NBA is forced to rebuild and the best way to do this is through tanking. Deliberately dropping games obviously gives the sport a bad look, but until the structure of the league changes more and more teams will engage in the process so that they can return to playoff contention in a few years time.

For Mark Cuban’s sake, his Mavericks may be making a decision that is frowned upon in the NBA universe, but it’s the right move. Cuban is able to comprehend that Dallas has a zero percent chance of competing with a Curry and Durant-led Warriors in the near future and has now turned his team’s attention to building a young and balanced unit that can compete in around two to four years. This rebuilding effort begins with this season, as the Mavs hope to earn a respectable selection in the 2018 NBA draft and find a centerpiece to their future teams. And if other teams are interested in competing any time soon, they should follow the same route and do the same.


Coming into his knockout stage match against Chelsea, Lionel Messi had failed to score against the London club in each of his first eight appearances against the team. This is quite stunning, as Messi had found the back of the net 97 times in the Champions League before Barcelona’s contest with the English side on Tuesday. In the 75’ minute of the Argentine’s ninth meeting with Chelsea, however, Messi was finally able to net one (watch here) against the champions of England and turned the entire tie on its’ head as the game finished 1-1.

Heading into Camp Nou for the second leg, neither team is truly out of it just yet. Barcelona was able to find the all important away goal at Stamford Bridge, but Chelsea was the dominant side for a majority of the match in large part due to the Brazilian Willian. The winger was easily the man of the match for either team, controlling the wings and scoring a magisterial curler in the 62’ to put his side ahead at the time. Assisting the goal was the Belgian wizard Eden Hazard, who delivered a rather disappointing performance in the first leg despite the assist. If Chelsea hopes to continue the Premier League’s success in this round of the tournament, then they’ll need Willian to continue playing at this level and Hazard to regain his brilliance in Spain.

Despite being the favorites to advance to the next round, Barcelona fell short of expectations in London. They were out-shot 11-7 and gave Chelsea keeper Thibaut Courtois little to worry about for most of the 90 minutes of play. Even though they led in possession 74-26%, the stat is meaningless if their control of the ball doesn’t lead to any opportunities at goal. Barcelona will need to do better in front of goal in the second leg and with the likes of Messi, Luis Suarez and potentially Ousmane Dembele leading their attack, it looks likely that they can accomplish this and reach the quarterfinals of Europe’s top tournament.

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Prediction: F.C. Barcelona advances past Chelsea, winning 3-1 on aggregate.

The second of the two draws during the week occurred in Spain as Sevilla drew with Manchester United 0-0. The biggest reason as to why the game finished level was because of the man in goal: David de Gea. United’s keeper put together one of the better performances of any of the first leg matches, making multiple crucial saves including one just before halftime to deny a free header by Luis Muriel. de Gea proved yet again why he is one of the top goalkeepers on the planet, and how he is indispensable to this United team.

That was the lone bright spot for United on Wednesday night. The Red Devils were completely outplayed by the Spanish side, losing the possession battle 57-43% and were out-shot by a whopping 25-6. United was dominated for an entire 90 minutes all across the field, but especially in the midfield. While midfielders Nemanja Matic and Scott McTominay put together overall solid performances, neither stood out which allowed Sevilla to control most of the game. In order to improve upon this in three weeks, the English giants will not only need their star man Paul Pogba to return to the starting eleven but to also play at a World Class level, which will in turn open up United’s attack with Romelu Lukaku and Alexis Sanchez getting more chances in front of goal.

If Manchester United advances to the quarterfinals, it will be because of both Pogba and having the second leg take place at home. At Old Trafford, United have gone unbeaten in all but one game (vs. Manchester City) in the 2017/18 and are an entirely different side in front of their own fans. Sevilla was the better team in the first leg, but with the second match set to take place in front of a sold out and electric Manchester crowd, the Red Devils will continue their run at European glory.

Prediction: Manchester United tops Sevilla in the second leg 1-0 and on aggregate.