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Wukesong Sports Centre, Beijing

USA versus China. The battle at the top of the medals table was distilled on the baseball diamond last night. Not much of a contest you'd think, and you'd be right. USA battered the Chinese 9-1, but the scoreline doesn't tell the whole story.

The game had chugged along politely to the fifth inning, with the US 1-0 ahead. China were struggling to get bat on ball, the US making it look like a gentle workout. China have no pedigree in the sport, haven't got the nuances or the etiquette that come with a century or more of obsession with the ball-park.

But as in all other aspects of China's emergence as a nation, they learn fast, and imitate well. Nate Schierholtz, the stocky US centre-fielder had been whacked by wayward pitches a couple of times, and clearly, was planning to introduce the Chinese team to a bit of retribution, major-league style.

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Hovering on third base, with his team-mate having skied a big hit to the deep, he went for it. Well, to be specific, he went for the Chinese catcher, Yang Yang, standing on the plate. Remember Jonah Lomu demolishing Mike Catt or Tony Underwood? Same thing. With a grunt of determination and a dipped shoulder, Schierholtz splattered Yang like a mallet whacking a melon.

Welcome to the big time. Cue a minute or so of shouting, squaring up, jostling and gesticulation. China's coach, the seasoned MLB campaigner James Lefebvre, shot off the bench, leading the protests, getting sent from the field for his trouble. Lord knows what the packed crowd made of it all.

Nowhere in the notes the Chinese supporters were given did it mention baseball was a contact sport. The scoreline read 5-0 to the US at the end of the inning - and 1-0 in the hard-ball stakes.

But you don't have a 3,000 year history without learning a trick or two along the way. At the bottom of the sixth inning, China took revenge. With an, "accidental", slip of the wrist, pitcher Chen Kun unleashed his 83 mph fast ball at the blameless Matt laPorte.

Normally in the major leagues, after a Schierholtz-type bit of gamesmanship, the next slugger knows he's going to cop one. A curve ball to the buttocks, take one for the team, get walked to first base, honours even....but the Chinese haven't grasped the etiquette, have they?

So, Laporte takes it square on the left ear, and goes down like a felled ox, as the crack on the helmet reverberates around the stadium. Lots more leaping about and arm waving later, Kun is sent off, as is the US assistant coach.

Laporte winds up in hospital having a precautionary scan, and the game peters out.

The last laugh goes to the wronged catcher, Yang, who clonks the only home run of the game in the ninth to bring the crowd back to its feet and the match to its inevitable close.

So a win to the USA, but further proof that China, in all things, are catching up quickly.

Gordon Farquhar is BBC 5 Live's sports news and Olympics correspondent. Our FAQs should answer any questions you have.


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  • 1. At 09:06am on 19 Aug 2008, JamJia Universe wrote:

    Hahahahaha! Gotta love baseball for what its worth!

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  • 2. At 09:34am on 19 Aug 2008, RedSoxGooner wrote:

    Sounds like a regular game at the ball-park!

    Don't forget that Lefebvre is a hardened MLB veteran who will have no doubt given the Chinese plenty of info about how the game is played when the going gets a little rocky.

    Big shame that we haven't seen any action on the Beeb! Even bigger shame that there won't be any games on the field in 2012!

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  • 3. At 12:11pm on 19 Aug 2008, hollywollyzaler wrote:

    Cricket will always be a far superior sport to baseball.....

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  • 4. At 12:52pm on 19 Aug 2008, hackerjack wrote:

    What a sad little man the american has shown himself to be.

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  • 5. At 2:10pm on 19 Aug 2008, caroline_cleveland wrote:

    youre completely leaving out the fact that the replacement chinese catcher who got sent in for the first guy was rammed even HARDER than the first by an american player barreling down the third base line. running into the catcher has always been a part of baseball. but beaming some guy in head in retribution is plain dirty. you could flat out kill the guy with a fast enough pitch.

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  • 6. At 2:12pm on 19 Aug 2008, caroline_cleveland wrote:

    oh. and its "ball player" not "baseman." have you ever watched this sport before?

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  • 7. At 2:56pm on 19 Aug 2008, Schlippo wrote:

    Sounds like the Chinese have a thing or two to learn about baseball. If you're going to plunk a batter with a pitch, you don't go for the head. Sending a message is fine. Sending a man to the hospital for a scan is not. Jim Lefebvre has been around major league baseball for a long time. He should have passed along some of the "unwritten" rules to his team.

    Oh, and as a Yank who loves most things about the UK, I have to say that cricket just can't compare with baseball. ;)

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  • 8. At 3:08pm on 19 Aug 2008, ilokid wrote:

    Why is baseball an Olympic sport - likely to placate the Americans!
    In any event, the action of the base-runner was out of order, since the catcher was in no way trying to tag him out. The resulting pitch by the Chinese was equally wrong. What more can be said about baseball, other that in the UK, it's called 'rounders' and played by girls. Don't like cricket either (both games are akin to watching grass grow, and merely excuses to drink beer), but at least with cricket, there is a level of decorum observed that is sadly lacking in baseball. It is with relief that it will no longer be an Olympic sport

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  • 9. At 3:35pm on 19 Aug 2008, Schlippo wrote:

    "Why is baseball an Olympic sport - likely to placate the Americans! "

    That's a bit unfair. Baseball is played around the world. There are professional leagues in Australia, Japan, South Korea, China, Taiwan and in several Caribbean countries. There used to be leagues in Holland and Italy, but I'm unsure if they still exist.

    It's not fair to dismiss a sport just because it's not popular in your home country.

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  • 10. At 3:38pm on 19 Aug 2008, tampalaw wrote:

    It is frustrating that every blog seems to devolve into an anti-American rant. Too many people have Bush-derangement syndrome, both in and out of the US. Get over it already! If you understood baseball at all, you would know there is nothing wrong with colliding with the catcher when he is standing on home plate. Either he has the ball, or is expecting the ball to tag the runner out. Otherwise he would or should not be on the plate when the runner is comming home. Baseball IS a contact sport! Intentionally throwing at the batter is bad form however! Like it or not Baseball is very popular in many countries, especially in latin America. It is the most popular in the worlds 2nd largest economy, Japan. It has been dropped TEMPORARILY from the Olympics in London as yet one more dig at Americans. With friends like these, who needs enemys.

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  • 11. At 3:51pm on 19 Aug 2008, philipdr wrote:

    It seems that most people commenting on this article know nothing about baseball. IF, as stated in the article, the Chinese catcher was blocking home plate then the baserunner from third was within his rights to knock him over - he has to touch the plate for the run to score. It sounds like he may been somewhat over zealous but, as anyone who has watched much baseball will tell you, when batters get hit by pitches multiple times, things can get ugly in a hurry. Having said that, deliberately throwing at someone's head has no place in the game.

    To those who attempt to compare cricket and baseball because they're both played with a bat and a ball you might as well compare golf to snooker because in both games you're trying to knock a ball into a hole with a "stick". The fact is that they're totally different games.

    As a Brit, living in the U.S. I grew up watching cricket and have been watching baseball for 10 years and can definitely say that you have to watch both games for a number of years before you can truly understand and appreciate them.

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  • 12. At 3:52pm on 19 Aug 2008, Schlippo wrote:

    For me, the point of watching the Olympics is to watch sports I don't get to see very often, not to slag on things like water polo and badminton because they're not marquee events here in the US.

    Kind of a shame Britons would slag baseball simply cos they don't play it.

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  • 13. At 4:32pm on 19 Aug 2008, stuzroz wrote:

    The silly comments on here are obviously by people who have never watched baseball. It's a great game - I LOVE cricket and baseball so stop comparing the 2 and just live and let live. And for anyone who bashes it just because it is an American sport - be careful as it was actually invented in Britain :)

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  • 14. At 4:51pm on 19 Aug 2008, hackerjack wrote:

    Kind of a shame Britons would slag baseball simply cos they don't play it.

    --------------

    Shame someone would accuse Britons of slagging anything when it is maybe 2 or 3 people making comments against it.

    Most of us are more than tolerable of baseball even if we neither understand nor really like it.

    I fully admit to not being a huge baseball fan, but whether its deemed acceptable in MLB or not the actions of the american concerned were pure thuggary, there was no need for it. Yes the retaliation was worse and stupid but that does not excuse the initial actions. Also to blame it on some wayward pitches that were thrown accidentally is pure scapegoating.

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  • 15. At 5:03pm on 19 Aug 2008, Schlippo wrote:

    "I fully admit to not being a huge baseball fan, but whether its deemed acceptable in MLB or not the actions of the american concerned were pure thuggary, there was no need for it."

    As was pointed out before in a previous comment, a catcher blocking the plate has to expect to be flattened. The runner does not know if the ball is on the way to the plate, and he has every right to reach the base. If there was not going to be a play at the plate, the catcher put himself in harm's way by standing there. It's not thuggery to attempt to score a run. Should the runner stop short and politely allow himself to be tagged out? Laughable.

    Everyone seems to be focusing on the play at the plate, which was legal, and not on the actions of the Chinese pitcher who beaned Matt LaPorta. Intentionally hitting someone in the head has no place in the game.

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  • 16. At 5:06pm on 19 Aug 2008, wake-up-simp wrote:

    does anyone else think its scandalous that baseball is an olympic sport?! seriously, how many countries sent teams out there that play the sport properly, or even at all? just an easy gold for the US. if thats the case then why isnt rugby introduced (even just in 7's format)? surely thats much more relevant

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  • 17. At 5:07pm on 19 Aug 2008, huckerville wrote:

    Running into the catcher in an attempt to dislodge the ball is NOT dirty play. It is normal, hard, fair baseball. The pitch thrown at the head is extremely dangerous and the dirtiest play. The USA team seem to have been pretty blameless on this occasion.

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  • 18. At 5:15pm on 19 Aug 2008, Schlippo wrote:

    "just an easy gold for the US."

    Another uninformed comment. The US has only won 1 gold medal in baseball. Cuba is the traditional Olympic baseball power. 17 nations have competed in Olympic baseball. It's quite clearly not just an American sport.

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  • 19. At 5:16pm on 19 Aug 2008, NDoeTitans wrote:

    Cricket better than Baseball? Really?! Hey, I've got an idea! Lets stand in front of some sticks with a bat in the middle of a round field. Someone will hit the ball, and then run back and forth between said sticks until sombody chases the ball down. Genius. Baseball is better in every way. More skill, more exciting play in the field, the thrill of the Grand Slam or the No-Hitter. Peanuts and Cracker Jacks. Even without the steroids.

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  • 20. At 5:22pm on 19 Aug 2008, goeast12 wrote:

    "the actions of the american concern were pure thuggary"

    Why do people comment on things they know absolutely nothing about?

    Baseball players run the bases at full speed. If the catcher is set up at the plate he is in the way of a guy running full speed who needs to touch that plate to be safe and they will collide. If the catcher gets the ball before the runner gets there he tries to tag him for an out, and he must hang onto the ball during the collision. If the catcher drops the ball during the collision the runner is safe. It's the normal play and to be expected everywhere baseball is played.
    Throwing at a batters head is considered a dirty play in every baseball playing nation.
    Baseball is played throughout Latin America, the Caribbean, Asia, and a few parts of Europe. It's a great game that's loved by many, although I personally am not a big fan.

    I just don't get these constant anti-american comments and rants. A lot of times they are because of ignorance like hackerjacks, but just as often they're just plain petty and vindictive.

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  • 21. At 5:40pm on 19 Aug 2008, TheTomTyke wrote:

    The American had every right to run through the Chinese catcher. Now please explain why coverage of this sport has not been made available?

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  • 22. At 5:44pm on 19 Aug 2008, welsh_wizard_92 wrote:

    It really isn't any surprise that so many ordinary Brits are prepared to slag off baseball without knowing anything about it.

    When UK Sport found out that baseball was being dropped as an Olympic event after for 2012 with the possibilty of it returning for 2016 (if no other sport is chosen to replace it) they ceased to give funding to the GB Baseball team.

    The sporting authorities are clearly not prepared to back a team or person that they don't deem to be capable of winning an medal.

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  • 23. At 5:50pm on 19 Aug 2008, Williedaho wrote:

    Watched a game once because my friend ask me to check it out, fell asleep.
    Decided to give it another go and watch another game, same result.
    Boring as hell, so glad it is off the Olympic menu.

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  • 24. At 5:54pm on 19 Aug 2008, Schlippo wrote:

    Haha...such ignorance. Baseball is relatively low on the action scale, but above just about every other sport when it comes to tactics and strategy. There are plenty of people who are ignorant of footie who could claim it's boring. I'm a footie fan and I can tell you that sometimes it can be quite boring. Should we remove footie from the Olympic menu because some games aren't ram packed with action?

    Or marathon, for that matter?

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  • 25. At 6:44pm on 19 Aug 2008, samarims wrote:

    Nice article title Gordo! Learn a little more about the sport before you write about it please. Suspect that you have been relegated to baseball by the BBC from your usual coverage of Darts and Snooker? Poor showing.
    I will start by stating baseball should not be an Olympic sport but in this case we can be assured that the replacement sports will be in line with trampoline and syncronized swimming. More crap. Rumor is Jacques Rogge is replacing it with the Belgian/French sport of petanque (boules) where Gauloises smoking "athletes" can have more chances for medals. Right in line with darts and snooker!
    Back to the article, you have no clue what you are talking about. According to the news we heard, Schierholtz had been hit by two pitches already and yes, he was returning a message to the Chinese. Was it over the top? Yes, but the response of beaning a ball player is a criminal offense and clearly out of line also. La Porta was involved in the other altercation at the plate and clearly this was retribution. Ugly game and both managers should be sent home.

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  • 26. At 7:10pm on 19 Aug 2008, levdavidovich wrote:

    A microcosm of thuggish US attitudes, and a robust response.

    Well done China.

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  • 27. At 7:24pm on 19 Aug 2008, jonmoss28 wrote:

    Oh my Good Lord, how tiresome and bloody stupid is all this jingoism. Im english, I live in the states, and am actually quite sick of ignorance of each others cultures on both sides of the fence. Yes you've got the arrogant US attitude - which mirrors the still prevalent UK attitude of "we are the best" blah blah blah..and then the pompous bloody british nonsense, describing behaviour of 'typical US thuggery" in a baseball game. Have these fellow brits ever been out on the town in Newcastle on a Friday night? See any thugs perchance..or vinnie jones, etc etc. Both countries are generally just fine with a few bad or weird apples here and there, so quit being so judgemental the pair of yous!! Thanks, and enjoy the olympics!

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  • 28. At 7:25pm on 19 Aug 2008, patsf8 wrote:

    It’s really a crying shame that the U.S. Baseball Money Machine Inc. would not allow their best players to play in the Olympics. It would have been the perfect opportunity to introduce the world, and especially the Chinese, to this wonderful sport, which most Chinese know or care nothing about. And now with baseball out of future Olympics, even fewer Chinese will care anything about it.

    Baseball is saturated in the U.S., and China should be the natural growth market for baseball. But a few short-sighted MLB money men decided they’d rather keep their best players at home to have a good "season." The NBA guys are much smarter. They let their top NBC players play in the Olympics, and China now has more basket ball fans than the rest of the world combined, and NBA is rolling in dough from their China venture. Wake up, MLB!

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  • 29. At 8:20pm on 19 Aug 2008, zarbi42 wrote:

    I totally agree that we should not be slagging off each others sports - a totally futile effort. I have absolutely no objection to Baseball remaining an Olympic sport - but given the equal or indeed greater global popularity of both Rugby and Cricket - they should also be Olympic sports.

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  • 30. At 8:32pm on 19 Aug 2008, raincheck123 wrote:

    Gordon, were you at Hull U?

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  • 31. At 8:48pm on 19 Aug 2008, philipdr wrote:

    Re: #28

    Do you think the NBA would have released their players if the Olympics had coincided with the last month of their season with playoff faces to be decided? Or if the Olympics happened to coincide with the last month of the Premiership, with the title at stake, would Man Utd., Chelsea etc. release their best players? Get real.

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  • 32. At 8:52pm on 19 Aug 2008, philipdr wrote:

    Re: #23

    So there you have the qualification for being an Olympic sport. If someone watching for the first time, with no knowledge whatsover of the sport, can get excited about it, it's in, otherwise it's out. Great - the next Olympics can be held over a weekend, including the opening and closing ceremonies.

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  • 33. At 9:26pm on 19 Aug 2008, goeast12 wrote:

    levdavidovich-

    Showing prejudice and being a walking ball of ignorance are not good qualities. You might want to work on that.

    It's reached epic proportions the lengths people can go to express their anti-american hatreds and prejudice. It's really quite sick, and very similar to racial or religious hatred. The only difference is it's still acceptable and you can get away with it and maybe even still feel good about yourself.

    I expected better from the Brits and didn't expect to see such an unhealthy attitude concerning the Bejing Olympics.

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  • 34. At 10:48pm on 19 Aug 2008, imperialApplepie wrote:

    What they say:
    "If you understood baseball at all, you would know there is nothing wrong with colliding with the catcher when he is standing on home plate."

    What they mean:
    If you understood the USA at all, you would know there is nothing wrong with colliding with other nations when their home is standing on oil.

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  • 35. At 11:02pm on 19 Aug 2008, Rustigjongens wrote:

    The last laugh goes to the wronged catcher, Yang, who clonks the only home run of the game in the ninth to bring the crowd back to its feet and the match to its inevitable close.

    BBC reporter

    ---------------------------------------------------------

    firstly, the last laugh went to the USA they WON 9-1.

    Next time a BBC reporter decides to give an analysis of a Baseball match I suggest the following:

    1, the USA were 100% within the rules in their approach.

    2, Yang was not 'wronged', he was playing Baseball.

    3, The BBC needs to stop with it's anti USA bias.

    4, BBC needs to grow up, the USA are not always in the wrong.

    5, For US viewers, The BBC does not represent the majority of UK viewers, the BBC caters to a left-wing audience based in Islington.

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  • 36. At 11:16pm on 19 Aug 2008, Sir Paul Varley Mk 4 wrote:

    Funny how in cricket it's the other way round - perfectly acceptable to bowl the ball at a batsman's head (as long as it bounces off the pitch first, that is), but slamming into each other is generally a bad thing (or at least, taking advantage of slamming into someone - see that controversy of that one run-out in an England vs. New Zealand ODI).

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  • 37. At 00:49am on 20 Aug 2008, 5891jonathan wrote:

    Baseball is not a dinner party.

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  • 38. At 04:27am on 20 Aug 2008, Nasaken wrote:

    at least, baseball is the an Olympic that is
    hosted by China

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  • 39. At 2:39pm on 20 Aug 2008, Williedaho wrote:

    Re #32.

    I read the rules, I watched matches on tv prior.
    I was referring to a real baseball match live in the stadium.

    I know it doesn't make me knowledgeable at the game, that some people like, while others dislike.
    But I still found it boring after all that.
    You could give me free tickets and I would not go.

    By the way, I usually wouldn't watch Swimming, Gymnastics, Diving, Table Tennis, Badminton, Weight Lifting, Archery and Shooting if it weren't for the Olympics.
    Except baseball that is.
    So I guess it would last longer than a weekend.

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  • 40. At 6:09pm on 20 Aug 2008, 5891jonathan wrote:

    Chess is boring too if you don't understand it. First lesson - you watched a "game", not a "match".

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  • 41. At 09:58am on 21 Aug 2008, JohnWalmsley wrote:

    Slightly off thread, for which I apologise, however baseball is alive and well in Britain, as well as most European countries.

    Team GB are the current European silver medal winners, from Barcelona in 2007. GB lost its final game to the Netherlands. Had GB won it would have meant automatic qualification for Beijing. As it was Team GB secured an Olympic playoff spot in Taiwan, but with no backing from UK Sport to send the team, GB regrettably pulled out.

    The National Baseball Championships take place in Croydon on 6/7 September. 14 teams compete in four brackets to be crowned champions. The Youth National Baseball Championships take place in the Lake District on 13/14 September. 8 teams compete in 10-13 and 14-16 age ranges. Spectators are welcomed at both and they are good ways to see great baseball live.

    To find out more check www.britishbaseball.org. The domestic sport is participant-led. Most baseball clubs are always on the look out for new adult and children players, both experienced and rookies. There's probably a club near you. Or participate as an umpire or official scorer.

    For more on European baseball check CEB at www.baseballeurope.com, or for the world body IBAF, www.ibaf.org.


    Regards
    John Walmsley
    British Baseball Secretary
    www.britishbaseball.org
    Participate. Enjoy. Succeed.

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  • 42. At 12:10pm on 21 Aug 2008, DJBoogie wrote:

    as a brit living in the US, I have to say, baseball bores me to tears, and Im sick of americans claiming baseball is so much harder than cricket....theres no damn stamina involved and theyre overpaid

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  • 43. At 12:10pm on 21 Aug 2008, DJBoogie wrote:

    btw, that "china catching up comment" people need to realise, the home run that brought the crowd to tears??? was hit of a minor league pitcher.........china havent a clue trust me

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  • 44. At 12:14pm on 21 Aug 2008, DJBoogie wrote:

    these games have had terrible judging bad sportsmanship, big headed athletes, and its a mere shadow of sydney (aside from team gb who I do applaud)
    these games have been farsical
    under age atheletes for the sake of winning not competing, fixed juding, terrible decisions, dq atheletes (200m, the US athelete was dq, but the netherlands ONLY dqw after a protest, which took them 2 hours to sort out, what the hell???)

    world records aside and the magnificent pheps, the sydney games were so much better

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  • 45. At 5:39pm on 21 Aug 2008, mullerman wrote:

    Rounders ... cricket in 2012 please.

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  • 46. At 4:30pm on 23 Aug 2008, EPF wrote:

    New Zealand cricketer Daniel Flynn should talk to these americans about becoming a bit tougher, 83 mph to the helmet or 90mph to the teeth? I know what i'd take on!

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