Thank you, Tokyo Olympics, for bringing us the ‘beast mode’ we all needed

Many wanted the Tokyo Olympics cancelled, but in the end, they were incredible.

The best.

Pushing past the flimsiest steel barrier ever constructed, into a restricted area he clearly shouldn’t have had access to, Boxall ripped off his required mask and proceeded to… dry hump a fence like The Ultimate Warrior circa Wrestlemania 6?

Like I said. Beast Mode.

The best part: In the background, a Japanese Olympic official, doing her level best to provide resistance, raises her hands like a frightened gazelle and then succumbs. Slowly those raised hands are lowered, evolving into confused claps. OK, she seems to say. You’re here now. There’s nothing I can do about this. I’m just going to try and enjoy this front row seat to Beast Mode, starring Dean Boxall.

In this metaphor, Boxall is the Tokyo Olympics. Both as an event and an idea. In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic both probably shouldn’t be here. As the world reels from the effects of the delta strain and global vaccine hesitancy, this is the Olympics no one asked for. Dean, what are you doing here? Bugger off, Dean. Now is not the time.

High jumpers Mutaz Essa Barshim and Gianmarco Tamberi gave each other their gold medals. This is too much.

Me? I’m the Japanese official. We’re all the Japanese official. Nervous, unsure how to react, ultimately acquiescing to this moment completely out of our control. Even in Japan, the host country, people were protesting the Olympics. First we collectively raised our hands in passive resistance. Seconds later we were all clapping.

And we were clapping because Dean Boxall is awesome. Reckless, sure. But so awesome. The Olympics were reckless too — but also awesome.

This is what the Olympics delivers: Beast Mode direct to your screen and your heart. It’s in the business of providing iconic moments like Boxall’s. Moments that simultaneously inspire and subvert our sense of what’s possible. Weird shit, displays of pure athleticism.

Two men collapsing into one another’s arms when they realize they can share a gold medal instead of duelling to the death for it. Skateboarding girls cheering each other on, making quick friends in the face of fierce competition. Runners stumbling, falling over in potentially race-ending collisions, miraculously recovering to win races.

Incredible, awe-inspiring moments.

Maybe it’s because we live in a universe where moments like these are worshipped, contorted and shaped into GIFs, tweets and memes in an infinite social media content spiral, but it somehow feels like we’ve had more of these moments compared to previous Olympics. That these Olympic Games have meant more than we ever could have expected when we cynically, reluctantly invited them into our homes.

Personally, as a man living in Sydney, a city wrestling with strict lockdowns that could potentially last for months, the Olympics was been a salve I didn’t realize I needed. It was a welcome distraction as I juggled home-schooling, work and a near-permanent dread at the daily ritual of waiting for Sydney case numbers to drop so we can all go back outside and live relatively normal lives.

There were a million reasons why the Olympic Games shouldn’t have happened in 2021. A million reasons why we shouldn’t have watched and supported what is arguably an irresponsible event run for the wrong reasons. But it’s also equally possible that — this year — the Olympics were more useful than ever.

The Tokyo Olympics probably shouldn’t have happened because of COVID-19. But I’m also happy it happened — because of COVID-19. If that makes sense.

None of it makes sense.

But right now, sport — with its simple rules and digestible outcomes, with its warm blanket of normalcy and straightforward narratives of triumph over adversity — is maybe the only thing that makes sense.

The Olympics, much like Dean Boxall, busted its way into our homes and televisions and refused to leave. An unwelcome guest. But, like the uncertain Olympics official dealing with the uncontainable Boxall as he dry humped a fence, I’m glad the Olympics forced their way into my life. I couldn’t have done lockdown without it.

High jump event at the Tokyo Olympics ends with unprecedented shared gold

Mutaz Essa Barshim and Gianmarco Tamberi shared the most heartwarming moment of the Tokyo Olympics so far,

Gianmarco Tamberi of Italy celebrates winning gold in the high jump at the Tokyo Olympics.

Mutaz Essa Barshim from Qatar and Gianmarco Tamberi from Italy were the last men standing in the final of the men’s high jump event on Sunday. Both had successfully cleared the 2.37-meter mark and both also couldn’t clear 2.39 meters, using up all three attempts.

Which served up a conundrum: Who wins? Officials offered Barshim and Tamberi two options. They could take part in jump-off, to decide a winner, or they could share the gold medal.

They chose to share the gold medal and the moment they decided to do so is perhaps the most wholesome moment of the Tokyo Olympics so far…

“Can we have two golds?” Barshim asked. The answer was yes.

Some of the shots in the aftermath of the decision shows how much it meant to these two athletes.

The moment both athletes realized they could share gold.

Gianmarco Tamberi had missed the last Olympics due to injury.

Barshim celebrating his win.

“I look at him, he looks at me and we know it. We just look at each other and we know, that is it, it is done. There is no need,” Barshim said, in an interview afterwards.

“He is one of my best friends, not only on the track, but outside the track. We work together.”

Online, people reacted to one of the most emotional moments of the Tokyo Olympics so far.

Sport is good.

Eddie Huang’s Boogie is the ‘Taiwanese-Chinese NY Rocky’

On CNET’s I’m So Obsessed podcast, the talented Huang opens up about making his feature film directorial debut and his love for writing.

Eddie Huang (center) sits between two of the actors in his debut film Boogie: the late rapper and songwriter Pop Smoke (left), who plays Monk, and Taylor Takahashi (right), who plays Alfred “Boogie” Chin.

“It’s not about basketball, right? He [Boogie] plays basketball. But it’s the Taiwanese-Chinese New York Rocky. Rocky is not about boxing, it’s an Italian American coming-of-age story,” said an energized Huang. “That’s what Boogie does with the Asian American immigrant experience. And then it also intersects with the Black experience.”

Boogie stars Taylor Takahashi in the titular role and the late rapper and songwriter Pop Smoke as rival Monk. In February 2020, Pop Smoke was killed when four men broke into and robbed a house he was renting. Along with Boogie being the only movie he was in, Pop Smoke has original music on the film’s soundtrack.

When I watched Boogie, I was taken aback by its smart and raw storytelling. This is an independent film that is both contemporary and old-school. Huang is incredibly gifted when it comes to dialogue, and Boogie reminds me of the satisfaction I get from the dialogue in a film penned by Quentin Tarantino or Diablo Cody.

During our conversation, Huang discussed the challenges of directing his first feature film, how he absolutely loves writing and how Chinese Americans to this day are still hurt by the myth that MSG is harmful.

You can listen to my entire conversation with Huang on Spotify or Apple Podcasts. You can currently see his film Boogie in theaters. Also, you can subscribe to I’m So Obsessed on your favorite podcast app. In each episode, Connie Guglielmo and I catch up with an artist, actor or creator to learn about their work, career and current obsessions.

Climbing at the Tokyo Olympics: Start times, finals schedule, how to watch

Next up for climbing: Men’s finals.

Adam Ondra is probably the best climber in the world right now.

Traditional climbing takes place outside without a predetermined route.

All the qualifiers have taken place. All that’s left is the finals. First up is the men’s finals, which starts at 4.30 a.m. August 5 EDT (1.30 a.m. PDT).

Full schedule:

The women’s finals follow a similar schedule on August 6.

In the US, NBC will broadcast events, with the BBC securing rights in England and Channel Seven, 7Mate and 7Two in Australia. All events will take place at the Aomi Urban Sports Park in Tokyo.

The finalists for the men are…

Bassa Mawem is expected to withdraw as a result of bicep injury inflicted during qualification.

Finalists for the women are…

Sport climbing will be broken up into three separate disciplines: speed climbing, lead climbing and bouldering. Not every country will be represented; only 20 athletes per gender (40 climbers total) will be allowed to compete at the Games, and only 2 athletes per gender per country will compete in any given event.

FYI, the International Olympic Committee currently recognizes only two genders — female and male. There are currently stipulations for athletes that identify as transgender, both female and male, to compete. But there aren’t any guidelines or rulings for athletes who don’t identify as female or male — including those who are nonbinary, agender and genderqueer.

The combined nature of climbing at the Olympics has been somewhat controversial. Speed climbing requires a completely different skillset compared to bouldering and lead climbing. In the next Olympics speed climbing is being broken out as a separate event, leaving bouldering and lead climbing as a combined event.

Two climbers, one wall.

Speed climbing is relatively simple: there are two climbers with safety ropes and one 15-meter wall set at a 95-degree angle. The climbers race against each other to get to the top, with the fastest one winning. The speed route is the exact same at all times: the same holds in the same position at the exact same angle. The addition of speed climbing has been somewhat controversial in the climbing community, because it requires a completely different skillset compared to other climbing disciplines.

Athletes use physical and mental precision to climb to the top of a bouldering route.

Bouldering takes place on an shorter wall, where climbers take turns attempting to scale as many routes on a four-meter-tall wall in 4 minutes. Each route (also called a bouldering problem) is laid out with hand and foot holds in a specific color, and they vary in difficulty based on the size of the holds and the way they are spaced out. A climber completes a problem by grabbing the top hold with both hands.

Bouldering has traditionally been about power and finger strength, but recently competition route setters have been creating problems that require delicate co-ordination and explosive gymnastic movements. This one will be fun to watch.

In Lead climbing, participants secure themselves with a rope as they climb higher.

Lead climbing is arguably the most recognizable of the three events. The climber has six minutes to climb as high on a wall that is taller than 15 meters. They use safety ropes that attach to quickdraws on their way up, allowing the rope to run freely while they stay anchored to the wall. If two athletes reach the same point on the wall, the person who got there first is the winner.

In both bouldering and lead climbing, climbers are not allowed to practice climbing on the routes before they compete or watch each other scale the wall, and they only have a couple of minutes to study the routes and decide their strategy before the timer begins.

The Olympic and Paralympic medals are made from recycled electronics. The Olympics won’t change the year on the medals, by the way.

If you thought the qualifying system was a bit complicated, take a deep breath. There’s only one set of medals awarded per gender, so all three events will go into determining which country gets the gold, silver and bronze.

The speed climbing discipline will be done in a bracket format, with athletes competing head to head, while bouldering is in a leaderboard format. Lead climbing will have a point system in which each hold on the wall counts as one point and the athlete who climbs the highest will obtain the highest score.

Once all the athletes are ordered by placement per event, their placement numbers will be multiplied, and the climbers with the lowest scores will win medals. Because of the scoring format, each climber will compete in each event. For example, if an athlete gets second place in speed climbing, third in bouldering and first in lead climbing their overall score would be six (2 times 3 times 1 equals 6).

In the men’s event the favourite is almost certainly Tomoa Narasaki. Some of the other climbers like Adam Ondra and Alex Megos are considered stronger climbers in terms of their performance on real rock, but this is competition climbing and it’s very different beast. Narasaki was born in the darkness of comp climbing. He’s the Bane of bouldering and, of all the strong climbers, he’s evolved to the weirdness of speed climbing the best. This gives him a great shot at claiming gold.

In the women’s event you’d have to pick Janja Garnbret. She’s been literally unbeatable in the competition scene, particularly in bouldering. There are plenty of others worth watching. From Japan both Akiyo Noguchi and Miho Nonaka have a great shot. Noguchi is probably the most decorated female comp climber of all time and Nonaka is a great all-rounder who competes well in speed — the boogie event most top climbers are nervous about.  

Can’t wait to see how it all plays out.

Jake Paul announces he’ll fight former UFC champ Tyron Woodley

The two clashed at Jake Paul’s last fight. Now Woodley says he’ll “take out the trash.”

Jake Paul will fight Tyron Woodley on Aug. 28.

Woodley gave as good as he got, making fun of Jake Paul’s bragging about snatching Floyd Mayweather Jr.’s hat at a press event for the upcoming June 6 fight between Mayweather and Paul’s brother, Logan Paul.

“Dear Jake Paul, keep the hat,” Woodley wrote. “I’m taking your head clean off your neck!”

Jake and Logan Paul first became famous for their internet videos. Jake Paul also played Dirk Mann in the Disney Channel show Bizaardvark. Both Paul brothers have pursued boxing, with Jake Paul boasting a 3-0 professional boxing record. He has fought former NBA point guard Nate Robinson, social media influencer AnEsonGib and former MMA champion Ben Askren.

Tyron Woodley, a former UFC champion, was in Askren’s corner for Paul’s recent victory and clashed verbally with Paul before the fight.

“Easiest fight of my career and biggest purse of my career all in one night,” Woodley said of the Paul match, according to ESPN. “Basically, they brought me in to take out the trash. I can’t wait to shut this b—- up. This is getting done for the culture, the whole MMA community and boxing community, to rid this guy of combat sports.”

The fighters will fight at 190 pounds, wear 10-ounce gloves and fight in a 20×20 ring, ESPN reports. The fight will be distributed by Showtime and air on pay-per-view, with fans expected to be in attendance. No location has been announced.

NFL heads to Twitter Spaces to produce content for the 2021 season

The NFL is taking to Twitter Spaces to talk football throughout the 2021 season and beyond.

“The commitment to Twitter Spaces represents another innovative step forward in the longstanding partnership between the NFL and Twitter,” said Blake Stuchin, the NFL’s vice president of digital media business development. “We’re excited to bring NFL fans a new way to engage with live audio ahead of our biggest events of the year and every week throughout the NFL season.”

The news comes on the heels of the NFL’s previous partnership with the Twitter Spaces rival Clubhouse, which saw the league host live audio content on the platform during the 2021 NFL draft in May. Moving forward, the league says to expect to see live audio content like that, including during upcoming drafts, exclusively on Twitter Spaces.

CDC eases travel restriction on Japan and other countries ahead of the Olympics

The agency says people should be fully vaccinated before traveling.

The CDC’s Level 4 risk assessment advises against all travel to a country and recommends being vaccinated if you must go there. Level 3 is more forgiving. The risk is still high, but the CDC doesn’t strictly recommend against it for vaccinated people.

The State Department has updated its travel recommendations to match.

Just 2 months ahead of Olympics, US issues do-not-travel advisory for Japan

Team USA says it’s “confident” it can safely compete in the Tokyo Olympic Games.

The US has issued an advisory against travel to Japan.

Read more: The Tokyo Olympics: Will the games be canceled, expected start date, full schedule

Team USA said it’s aware of the updated travel advisory, but is “confident” it can safely compete this summer.

“We feel confident that the current mitigation practices in place for athletes and staff by both the USOPC and the Tokyo Organizing Committee, coupled with the testing before travel, on arrival in Japan and during games time, will allow for safe participation of Team USA,” the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee said in an emailed statement.

Last month, the US issued Level 4: Do Not Travel advisories for around 80% of all nations. The travel advisories were updated to reflect the CDC’s COVID-19 health notices about other countries. Japan was initially left off the Level 4 warning list, but was added Monday.

Read more: Vaccine passports for COVID-19: How they’ll be a part of global travel

White House confirms diplomatic boycott of 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing

The move is in response to China’s human rights abuses. American athletes will still be allowed to compete in the Games.

The Biden administration says the diplomatic boycott is a response to China’s “genocide and crimes against humanity in Xinjiang.” Above, a Games-themed sculpture is featured at Beijing Winter Olympic Park.

Psaki said the US doesn’t intend to stage a full boycott, which would prevent American athletes from attending. The last time the US staged a full boycott was during the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow during the Cold War.

On Jan. 19, the US State Department under the Trump administration declared that the Chinese government is committing genocide against Uighur people and other predominantly Muslim ethnic minorities in the Xinjiang region. This is just the latest action the US has taken against the Chinese government, intensifying an already strained relationship due to years of tensions over human rights abuses and trade.

Monday’s announcement comes two months before the Games are set to begin. “We feel this sends a clear message,” Psaki said during the press briefing.

In response to the boycott, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian on Monday said, “I want to stress that the Winter Olympic Games is not a stage for political posturing and manipulation. This wishful thinking and pure grandstanding is aimed at political manipulation. It is a grave travesty of the spirit of the Olympic Charter, a blatant political provocation and a serious affront to the 1.4 billion Chinese people.”

Grab two pairs of NFL or MLB gloves for just $15 shipped

These logo-emblazoned utility gloves make an excellent (and useful) stocking stuffer.

Before you get too excited, be warned that not every NFL team is represented in the glove sale but 18 are, including the most storied franchises, such as the Packers, Steelers, Patriots, Giants, Cowboys and ‘Niners. You have fewer options for MLB teams: just the Red Sox, Yankees, Mets, Tigers, Twins and Indians (who are soon to change their name).

You also can’t pair NFL gloves with MLB gloves, so you’ll have to pick two from the same sport. We haven’t gotten our hands in these gloves yet and so can’t speak to their quality, but they score high marks on Amazon, where the same gloves sell for $13 a pop.