Sunday, May 29, 2016

Golden State. Champs die hard

The OKC Thunder had the Warriors right where they wanted them -- and they let it slip away. Remember, back in Game 1 of the Western Conference finals, OKC had waltzed into GS's arena and beat them. It was only the third time all year -- including the playoffs -- the Warriors had suffered a defeat at home. Few saw it coming.

The Warriors would romp in Game 2 to even the series. Still, OKC had stolen home court advantage. The consensus at the time was GS would win at least one of the next two games in OKC and eventually prevail. But it didn't work out that way.

The Thunder would demolish the Warriors in both Games 3 and 4 to take a commanding 3-1 lead. The almost unthinkable had happened. The defending champs, who had put up the best regular season record of all time -- were on the ropes facing elimination.

Game 5 back in the Bay area was a see-saw affair, but the Warriors were able to eke out a victory to close the gap to 3-2.

Yet they faced a daunting task. Going back to OKC for Game 6, where they'd been blown out the last two times. The vast majority of "experts" and hoop fans predicted the Thunder would finish them off. Likely even another blowout. After all, the Thunder had all the momentum on their side, their home crowd would be rocking, and they were feeling quite confident. And wasn't this the same team that had dispatched the San Antonio Spurs in the previous round and was playing lights out basketball? They had gotten on a roll and appeared unstoppable.

But true champions die hard indeed. They just keep plugging away and hope the challenger makes a mistake. The Thunder did.

The ever-lovable Charles Barkley probably summed it up best. When the pressure is at its highest, that's when you see what teams and players are made of. That came to pass in the 4th quarter of Game 6. OKC had led the contest throughout, by sometimes well into double digits, but the Warriors had one last run left in them. They would close the gap.

Certainly the pressure was all on GS. Win or go home, period. When the pressure REALLY ratcheted up in the fourth quarter of what had become a tight game -- the Thunder blinked.

According to the above-mentioned Chuckster, they had reverted back to their old ways of playing "hero ball". In essence, that translated into stars Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook forgetting they had three teammates on the floor and playing like they were back in a street game somewhere. Basically, they tried to be too spectacular by themselves -- and it backfired.

While the Warriors kept coming, it appeared the Thunder started choking when it mattered most. In the closing minutes, GS would have zero turnovers while OKC would cough up six -- including four by Westbrook.

The Thunder would wind up losing by seven. This, after once leading by thirteen. A twenty point turnaround on their home court. They had them -- and then they didn't in a close-out game to reach the NBA Finals. It had to be demoralizing for the OKC players and their fans to be so close -- only to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

So now there will indeed be a deciding Game 7 back in Oakland on Monday night. Which team will be under the most pressure is a good question.

If the Warriors prevail -- and they'll be favored to do so -- OKC would have blown a 3-1 lead and the media will not be kind to them.

However, if the Thunder somehow manage to go into GS's Oracle and win yet ANOTHER game to move on, the media will chew up the Warriors. The best regular season record of all time, but they lost two games at home in the Conference finals?

One way or the other, one team is going to come under a lot of scrutiny and criticism in a couple days, while the other marches on to meet Lebron and Co. in the Finals. Put another way, though perhaps unfair, somebody's going to get raked over the proverbial coals as being a "failure", while the other will be considered as having "sucked it up" in crunch time. No pressure. Right.

But that's Monday.

Bring on the glorious Indy 500.



 

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Detroit vs the Bay area

For whatever reason, some areas seem to breed champions while others not so much. Comparing the San Francisco area to Detroit would present such a contrast. Let's look at their respective teams over the years.

The San Francisco Giants have won three of the last five World Series. The Detroit Tigers haven't won one since 1984. Advantage Bay.

Idle thought: Why have they always called it the "World Series" when, with the exception of the
Toronto Blue Jays and the long defunct Montreal Expos, all the teams have been American? Even the Little League World Series has long been open to foreign competition. But not Major League Baseball. Who knows how good of a team the Cubans or Dominicans might have to offer?

The Golden State Warriors, in Oakland across the Bay, are reigning NBA champions. The Detroit Pistons won back to back titles in 1989-1990, and another in 2004. Though they remained almost but not quite championship caliber for a couple more years, their fall from greatness was quick and they've pretty much been in the dumpster for the better part of the last decade. Though they squeaked into the playoffs this year, they were predictably blown out by the Cleveland Cavaliers in the opening round. Overall -- let's call that a draw.

After a long hiatus, the Detroit Red Wings finally broke through to capture Lord Stanley's Cup again. Back to back in 1997-98, again in 2002, and most recently in 2008. Hey, 4 Cups in little more than a decade is impressive stuff. Since then, the Wings keep making the playoffs -- sometimes barely -- but don't usually get far once they begin. This year they were bounced in the opening round by Tampa Bay. Though they will never admit it, the winged wheelers appear headed to total rebuild mode in the near future. It was a nice run back in the day, but eventually all good things must come to an end. Meanwhile, the San Jose Sharks, just down the road from the Bay, are into the Stanley Cup Finals this year. The Wings have banners hanging from the rafters and the Sharks so far have none. Advantage Detroit. However, if the Sharks can dispatch the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Finals to become current champs, that picture would change a bit. As they say -- what have you done for me lately?

When it comes to Detroit vs the Bay area in NFL football, the difference is staggering. Back in the early days, the Oakland Raiders won a couple Super Bowls. Then along came the San Fran 49ers with their "dynasty" in the 80s. They would win four and, just for good measure, "one for the thumb" a few years later. A total of seven championships in all.

Meanwhile, the Detroit Lions are one of only four franchises to have never even MADE it to the Super Bowl, let alone won it. The other three are "expansion" teams -- namely the new Cleveland Browns, Jacksonville Jaguars, and Houston Texans. Even the old Cleveland Browns moved to Baltimore and won the Vince Lombardi trophy.

Fifty -- count em -- FIFTY Super Bowls played and no sign of the Lions. In fact, it's been SIXTY years since they had anything to brag about. This was about the same time the ill-fated Edsel was making its debut. A guy named Eisenhower was early into his second term in the White House. The Leave It To Beaver TV show was brand new. Let's just say it's been quite a long time.

The "over-under" on the Lions win total this year is a meager 7. Obviously, the wise guys in Vegas think it's just going to be another year piled on the already huge scrap heap.

So if I have this right, teams from the Bay area have won seven Super Bowls, been to and lost a few others along the way, and the Lions have put up a grand total of ONE playoff win during all those decades. Advantage Motown or Bay? Are you kidding?

San Francisco is a beautiful town to visit. So many sights to see and things to experience. Oakland not so much. Detroit? Well, it's trying to find its way out of bankruptcy, avoid being #1 on the murder capital list of American cities, features deserted properties and blight throughout, and maybe they'll pick up the garbage the citizens leave at the curb this week -- or maybe not. All in all -- not a pretty sight, much less a place most tourists would rank high on their lists of places to visit.

Yet you never know. Maybe the Tigers will win the World Series this year. The Lions (cough, choke, gag) march on to a Super Bowl. The Pistons will come roaring back next year to dominate the NBA. And the Red Wings skate again into Lord Stanley's good graces. Right.

But I wouldn't count on it.

For right now, be it sports or quality of life, give me the Bay area any day......















Thursday, May 26, 2016

NBA playoffs. Follow the money

Obviously, when it's all over, there can only be one champion. But a whole lot of money is at stake along the way -- particularly for the owners of the franchises. True, many of them are already billionaires having already made their money elsewhere, so owning a team that doesn't make the playoffs isn't exactly going to send them into bankruptcy court.

Yet just getting to the post season is a big financial deal. And the deeper their team goes into the playoffs makes a huge difference in their bottom line. Consider-----

The Toronto Raptors. Most think they have little chance of getting by the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference finals. And they're probably right. Who owns the Raptors? The same conglomerate of faceless honchos that own the Toronto NHL team. Maple Leaf  Entertainment Inc. Close enough. While they will likely fall short of winning a title, the season has already been a financial windfall.

The first two playoff series' the Raps played in went the full seven games. Having home court advantage, that meant the owners reaped the benefits of 8 home dates. Currently against the Cavs, they will get a third home date, for a total of 11. This is big money.

For the sake of argument, let's throw out a few guesstimate numbers. An NBA arena can typically hold 15,000 to 20,000 fans. Any playoff game is a guaranteed sell-out. And at exorbitant prices. The seats might range from maybe two grand to sit court-side down to a few hundred bucks in "nosebleed" country. Let's assume the average seat fetches $500. Do the math. Even at the low number of packing in 15,000 people, that's $7.5 million bucks walking through the turnstiles every game. Throw in the cha-chings of parking and the cuts they get from concessions and paraphernalia sold. Any sports fan who has made the trek to an arena knows all about $6 hot dogs and $8 draft beers. The profit margin on such items is obscene. Add it all up and maybe we're at $10 million per game.

But it doesn't stop there. The television folks pony up countless millions for the rights to televise these contests. They recoup it through commercials to make their own profit, but this is even MORE money flowing in to the owners' pockets. With the huge infusion of TV bucks, can we safely assume each home playoff game might fetch $20 million?

If so, with the Raptors set to play their 11th home playoff game, the math is simple. That's $220 million bucks -- just in playoff money. With the salary cap currently around $60 million, the owners can not only meet total player payroll with ease, but likely pay all the coaches, trainers, doctors, other support staff, and everybody from the front office down to waterboys with a whole lot of money left over.

And that's not even taking into account the 41 home games their team played during the regular season. How much more mega-dough did THAT rake in? The parking, seats, hot dogs, beer, etc., were no doubt cheaper, but you just know they turned a handsome profit each and every game. Good grief, with the enormous TV revenue the owners get, selling tickets is just gravy. It could be argued that if NOBODY showed up all year, they'd STILL make a profit.

On the other hand, consider Dan Gilbert, principal owner of the Cavaliers. Oh, how he aches to finally bring a title to Cleveland. It would be the first that city has seen -- in any sport -- for over half a century. And this just might be the year. The Vegas oddsmakers have Lebron and Co. as the favorite to win it all.

The Cavs currently lead the Raptors 3-2, with Game 6 being in Toronto later tonight. So put yourself in Gilbert's place. Which would you rather have? Your team ending the series in this contest and getting a few days rest? Or perhaps the Raptors winning to force a Game 7 back in Cleveland? The Cavs have absolutely trashed the Raptors in the first three games they played at home, and there's no reason to think they wouldn't do it again in a Game 7.

Plus, there's that little matter of another $20 million or so to be pocketed for another home playoff date.

Ah yes, it's good to be an NBA owner. It's a no-lose situation.

It's even better when your team advances deep into the playoffs.  




Lebron James chasing history

If he can make it to a sixth straight NBA Finals -- and it certainly appears likely -- Lebron Ramone James will join a very short list of those to ever accomplish it. And most of them are Boston Celtics from a long time ago.

From the mid-50s to mid 60s, the Beantowners of yesteryear had quite the dynasty going on. Some of the players were Bill Russell, a couple Jones boys, Tom Heinsohn, Bob Cousy, and Bill (don't squeeze the) Sharman. From the beginning of Eisenhower's second term in the White House until midway through LBJ's tenure, the Celtics were the cream of the crop in the NBA.

[It should be noted that back then the NBA only had seven teams. Be it in the "East" or "West", a team only had to be better than two or three opponents in their conference to reach the Finals. The boom of "expansion" was yet to happen. However, to be fair, such a small field also meant only the very best players of their time would ever make it onto a roster. It cuts both ways.]

Lebron James has had mixed success over the last five years when reaching the Finals. Consider the years and results----

Pre-2011 he toiled for the Cleveland Cavaliers but could never get them into the Finals. As great as he was, the one man show just wasn't good enough.

2011. Amid much fanfare, he and fellow free-agent Chris Bosh from the Toronto Raptors "took their talents" to Miami. There, they would join up with Dwyane Wade. We all remember their grand entrance and prediction. Not one, not two, not three.... when it came to winning titles. They were quite smug about it. They would indeed make the Finals, but go down to the Dallas Mavericks 4 games to 2. Oops.

2012. They got it together and marched to their first title, dispatching Oklahoma City 4-1. Lebron finally had his ring.

2013. Once again in the Finals, they nipped the San Antonio Spurs 4-3. Back to back titles.

2014. The "three-peat" didn't work out. The Spurs would get their revenge in the Finals by rolling over the South Beachers 4-1.

2015. Then Lebron semi-shocked the world by announcing he was going back to Cleveland. Like in Miami, this time he had some serious help in the form of Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving. But as fate would have it, the K-boys were injured when the Cavs finally made another Finals. After leading 2-1, they would see Golden State roar back and trounce them three games in a row. The Warriors and the "Splash Brothers" were all the rage, and deservedly so. But in truth, they had defeated a Cleveland team without two of their best players. Once again, Lebron's heroics fell short.

So add up the above and what do you have? Lebron James has been to the NBA Finals five years in a row (for two different teams) and has a 2-3 record to show for it. It's very impressive in one way, but not so much in another. Sports fans have a way of quickly forgetting about which team came in second. Even some players feel the same way. Tiger Woods once famously said, "coming in second only means you were the top loser". Point noted.

Given James and the present-days Cavs appear poised to make it to the Finals once again (after the demolition they put on Toronto in Game 5, few have any doubt of the eventual outcome), it will be interesting to see how Lebron and Co. fare once they get there.

Barring a miraculous comeback, the defending champ Warriors, already down 3-1 to the OKC Thunder, appear to be one year wonders. Maybe two, considering the all-time best regular season record they put up this year. But how much does that matter if they can't even make it back to Finals again? They get a place in the history books, and that's about all.

The two teams right now playing at a super-high level are Cleveland and OKC. It's not a lock yet they'll meet in the Finals, but it surely appears highly likely.

And then what might happen? Will Lebron and his mates finally be able to bring a professional championship to his beloved Cleveland -- something the Lake Erie-ites haven't known in any sport for over a half century? That would lift him up to a 3-3 record in championship series'. A .500 record. True, countless really good players have toiled away for years in the past on various teams and never even made it to a SINGLE Finals, let alone won a ring. It all depends on how one wishes to look at it.

But the standards for Lebron James have been set much higher. Close isn't good enough. It's not just the media. LJ himself has freely admitted in the past he would rather not even MAKE it to a Finals -- only to lose once there. Believe that if you will, but count yours truly skeptical. You can't win it if you don't at least GET there, and most players are thrilled to enjoy the experience. (Don't forget the owners either. They get major cha-chings along the way the further their team goes.) Yet he has got there -- 5 years running -- with a sixth likely coming up soon.

If it turns out the way it's currently looking, Lebron and his Cavs will have a daunting task indeed taking on the OKC Thunder.

That would leave questions the media hounds haven't addressed yet. What if he gets there again -- only to lose again? His Finals record would then be 2-4. This is by far the best team he's ever had to play with in Cleveland. What would the King do then? It's not like there's anyplace else for him to go. He already made his bed when he returned to Cleveland out of "home town" loyalty. For better or worse, he has to sleep in it. If he jumped ship for another team (and where would he find a better one?) in quest of another ring, it would expose him as nothing more than a mercenary -- rather than a local boy trying to bring glory to his long-joyless homies. Nice guy or not, the press would eat him alive. Even kings have their limitations in the public relations world. The legacy he has so carefully tried to cultivate over the years would go up in flames.

Nonetheless, here's wishing him the best. Personally, yours truly has always been a big fan of Lebron Ramone James. Besides his obvious talent, he's a good man off the court. Nary a hint of any sort of scandal over the years. Then again, he does have this nasty habit of "flopping" once in a while during games, and hawking a Korean car he supposedly drives for even more money he obviously doesn't need. But everybody has their flaws.

Except maybe my ex, and a couple current Presidential candidates. They're perfect. Just ask them. They'll tell you. And all of them want your money to further their own interests. But I digress.

Bring on the 2016 NBA Finals. It should be quite the exciting series indeed.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Golden State going down?

It sure looks like it. The Okla City Thunder seem to have their number. As they say, how quick the worm can turn. Let's recap:

The Warriors were all but unbeatable at home this year during the regular season, losing only once -- in the last week of the season. Plus, they put up the best regular season record of all time.

So it was somewhat surprising when OKC waltzed into GS and knocked them off in Game 1 of the Western Conference finals. Remember, OKC wasn't even supposed to be there. Most thought they wouldn't get by the San Antonio Spurs in the semis. We know how that worked out.

Then GS roared back with a resounding victory in Game 2 to even the series. All was well in Oakland and the oddsmakers still had GS ultimately prevailing. Surely they would win at least one game in Okieland to regain home-court advantage -- or so many thought.

Even after the defending champs got blown out in Game 3, it wasn't that much cause for concern. They hadn't lost two games in a row all season, including the playoffs. They'd find a way in Game 4 -- right?

Wrong. Instead, they were run out of the building by the Thunder as they piled on yet another lop-sided victory to take a "commanding" 3-1 series lead.

GS is definitely in trouble. Though they're going back home for Game 5, it appears highly unlikely they can win the next three in a row against a team that is playing at a phenomenal level. Especially Game 6, which would be back in OKC's arena.

Before the debacle of Game 4 occurred, some were quick to point out that GS had been down 2-1 last year in the playoffs -- twice. Against the Memphis Grizzlies, and then against the Cleveland Cavaliers in the NBA Finals. Obviously, they overcame those deficits to eventually win the championship.

But those circumstances were a lot different than what's going on now. If one harkens back, they will recall the Grizz were a banged up team at the time without the services of a couple of their best players. In the Finals against the Cavs, both Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving were out. Lebron was trying to do a one-man show, like in his early Cleveland years. It wasn't enough against a healthy Warrior team. Not too surprisingly, after being down 2-1 to both teams, the Warriors got their act together and steamrolled both for the next three games.

The Oklahoma City Thunder is a whole different animal. Known earlier in the year for squandering fourth quarter leads, they found a way to gel and became stronger and stronger late in the season. The same trend has continued during the playoffs. Dispatching the Dallas Mavs in the opening round hardly raised any eyebrows, but when they clobbered the Spurs in the conference semis, ceding home court advantage going in, it was time to sit up and pay attention. These guys are not only really good, but peaking at exactly the right time.

Besides a more than able supporting cast, the Thunder feature the two-headed superstar monster of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. And under new coach Billy Donovan, they are playing far, FAR, better team defense than they had in the past. Put it all together, along with the confidence they have gained in recent weeks, and the Thunder are a formidable opponent for anybody -- including the Warriors. As long as they avoid any key injuries -- never a given -- this team is going to be mighty tough to beat.

That likely sets up an NBA Finals match with Cleveland. True, the Toronto Raptors came back to tie the Eastern Conference finals 2-2, but good luck finding anybody outside the Toronto area that truly believes the Raptors can knock off a healthy Cavs team 2 out of the next 3 games, especially with two of them being in Cleveland if it goes that far. Sure, it's possible. The Raptors are a very good team. But it would be considered an upset of epic proportions if they were to somehow pull it off. Despite one clueless Cleveland coach being fired, only to be replaced by another, Lebron's on a mission to bring a title to his sorta home town, and this time he's got some serious help.

And what a series that would be. A King, a Kyrie, and a Kevin going up against another Kevin and a seemingly unstoppable Russell? Plus both teams totally healthy with deep, strong supporting casts? Could this finally be the year of Lebron's Cleveland coronation, or would the oncoming Thunder prove to be too much for them as they showed San Antonio and are currently in the process of doing the same to GS?

Oh my. Somewhere the TV execs are likely licking their chops over such a prospect. Let the ratings and ad money pour in.

But first things first. The Warriors aren't done yet. Though a comeback seems unlikely the way OKC is playing, you never know. Stranger things have happened. Neither are the Raptors. After all, that series is tied 2-2. If Toronto can hold serve at home and win just one measly game at Cleveland in two tries -- well -- wouldn't that be something?

Personally, yours truly doesn't see either series ever making it to a Game 7. I hope I'm wrong, as I so often am. Deciding Game 7s are great drama. And you just never know what might happen. The possibility of a star (or two) getting injured at the most crucial time always lurks. Let's hope everybody stays healthy throughout and may the "best" teams win in hard fought games.

That's really all we can ask for......

Monday, May 23, 2016

Draymond Green and the "kick"

It was certainly the buzz in the sports world. During Game 3 of the NBA Western Conference finals, while Golden State was being blown out by Oklahoma City, Green managed to give Thunder big man Steven Adams a resounding kick to his groin area.

Then came the tricky parts. Was it a flagrant 1 foul? Flagrant 2 which would require an immediate ejection from the game? The on-court officials reviewed the replay and came to the conclusion it was a flagrant 1. A couple of free throws and possession for the Thunder. Then play on. Green could continue.

But two things happened shortly thereafter. The media went berserk showing replays and offering up various opinions, and the league office would review the incident to determine if further punishment was warranted -- perhaps a suspension.

All day Monday the debate raged on among the talking heads. Was it intentional? Not? It's impossible to know what was going through Green's head at the time. Only he knows for sure, and he emphatically denied any intent to injure. In fact, he said he wasn't even aware he had made such "contact".

GS head coach Steve Kerr went on record saying such "oopsies" happen all the time during the course of games and thought even the flagrant 1 call should be rescinded. Of course, Adams and his Thunder teammates saw things quite differently.

Then the wait was on while the league office thoroughly deliberated the matter. Would they suspend Green for a game? Hour after hour went by and still no answer. The TV folks beat the story to death while waiting with bated breath for a verdict.

Finally it came. The league ruled Green should have been hit with a flagrant 2 at the time and ejected from the game. At that point in the contest, it mattered little anyway. The Warriors were being thrashed. Green or no Green for the remainder of the game, they had long since been doomed to defeat.

Yet another subplot was in play as well for the league to consider. If they suspended Green (a star player) for Game 4 in Okieland, the odds went up the Thunder would roll to another easy victory, thus putting the Warriors in a seemingly insurmountable predicament of being down 1-3. True, OKC may very well defeat GS in Game 4 even WITH Green on the court. Or maybe not. It's difficult to count the Warriors out until and unless they ARE out. They could very well roar back to even the series. After all, they haven't lost consecutive games all year long, including in the playoffs.

Though they will never admit it, the NBA disciplinary honchos were likely mindful of the fact they didn't want to do anything "drastic" which might fairly (or not) hamper a team's chances.

So what they wound up doing was basically sitting on their hands, or offering up window dressing at best. Upgrading a flagrant 1 to flagrant 2 after the game is over, but not issuing a suspension amounts to the proverbial much ado about nothing. It took their "brain trust" all day to come up with a "non answer"?

One is free to believe Draymond Green should or should not have been suspended for a game. Opinions will certainly vary. But the $25,000 fine that was handed down as "punishment" was an insult to our collective intelligence, sorry as it may be. Fining a guy who making almost $15,000,000 this year a measly 25 grand does not even constitute a slap on the wrist. Sure, to the average John/Jane Doe, 25K is a lot of money. But to a guy with a guaranteed long term contract that will fetch him over 82 MILLION, it's chump change.

If a guy was guilty of an egregious infraction, bang him hard. If not, let it slide. But for the league to try to justify what they did as "proper punishment" is a joke.

Here's an interesting scenario to consider. Suppose it wasn't Draymond Green doing the kicking into Steven Adams' nether region -- accidental or not. Suppose instead it was an end of the bench opposing player that did the exact same thing to, say, Lebron James, or Steph Curry. Would the "punishment", or lack thereof, have come down the same way from the league offices to the "offender"?

Somehow I think not. Supposedly, as players, they should all be treated equally in such cases.

Yet methinks some players are more "equal" than others. It's not right, but it's definitely real......

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Irritating things

In no particular order of magnitude, here are a few things yours truly finds truly irritating.

Stephen A. Smith. This yappy head seems to think he's Moses coming down from the mountain with tablets when it comes to basketball. SAS, a perfect monogram, never played or coached the game. He just talks -- and talks- and talks some more. His foil, one Skip Bayless (and I wish the TV sports execs had done just that instead of hiring him to blather on) ranks right up there with the wimpiest, whiniest nerds the planet has ever seen. These two clowns make millions. They deserve each other. We deserve better. When I see Stevie or Skippy pop up on the screen, yours truly is reaching for the remote to click on something else. ANYTHING else. Give me shyster evangelists asking for money, how to spice up a salad with minced road kill, the finer techniques of knitting booties for gerbils, or even a network that speaks a foreign language where I can't understand a word. But not THESE guys.

Political debates and the rules. We've seen it over and over again. A candidate gets asked a question, but they'll dodge it and talk about something else. The moderator should say, "It is noted the candidate did not address the question. We'll move on". Further, when they have a time limit to their responses, it should be enforced. Be it three minutes or 30 seconds, that's all they should get. But we all know every politician ignores such rules and keeps talking. How to fix it? Simple. When the clock goes "ding" on their time -- cut off their microphone and switch the camera shot to the next one up. The former can blather on all they wish, but nobody can hear or see them. Even the smarmiest politico would figure that out pretty quick. And hey, aren't these the people that are going to be MAKING the rules we have to live by? The least they could do is abide by debate class 101 decorum.

Baseball outfielders and their diving catches. Once upon a time, Willie Mays supposedly made the greatest outfield catch on a drive to center field off the bat of Vic Wertz. Nowadays, major league outfielders routinely make more spectacular catches. But when watching late-night "highlights" we will always be force-fed a few diving catches. The talking heads will act like they've never seen such a spectacular feat before. Hey, not only do major league players make such catches every day -- so do college players -- and high school players -- maybe even little leaguers. This is nothing special anymore.

Why does there always have to be soccer highlights of foreign teams playing in foreign countries? Nobody in America cares any more about futbol abroad than those folks care about whats going on in the NBA and NHL playoffs. Who's kidding who?

It used to be that pro bowling was a big deal in America. While it still exists, it has definitely been relegated to lower status on TV and among the masses. In order to spice it up some, the crowds in attendance at the alleys no longer have to be hush-hush when keglers are plying their trade. They are free to scream at yell throughout. The players not only got used to it, but appear to relish it.

So why doesn't pro golf adopt the same philosophy? This remains the only sport (OK, maybe tennis serves) where fans have to be silent when a player is hitting the ball. After the ball is in play, they can cut loose again. Are we to believe a golfer's concentration before hitting the ball is more fragile than that of a bowler, or a major league hitter standing in the batter's box waiting on the next pitch while thousands in the stands are free to carry on vocally throughout?

And why are only positive cheers allowed in a pro golf tournament? Evidently, they have a rule against booing. Shouldn't a fan that paid the price of admission be allowed to root against a player they don't care for? It happens in baseball, basketball, football, and hockey. Does our First Amendment right regarding freedom of expression stop when attending a golf tournament?

After a linkster strikes the ball, we've heard shouts of "GO IN THE HOLE, or YOU'RE DA MAN!"
What we never hear is "GO IN THE WATER/DITCH, or YOU AIN'T ALL THAT!"

But the latter is not allowed, else one be quickly escorted (thrown) off the course. It's not right. And that's only on the men's tour. Try the same sort of tactics at an LPGA event, and one will be lucky if they don't wind up in Guantanamo Bay with a few other alleged terrorists. Either that, or have to do an hour being grilled on The View. Brrr, and perish the thought. Given a choice, I'd rather take my chances in Gitmo.

Lots of things are irritating. The power going out, then starting up the generator, only to see the power come back on. Reset all the digital stuff. And then it goes out again. Grrr.

All those 800 calls that keep coming during an election year. They are ignored and you'd think they'd figure out after being routed 20-30 times to an answering machine, they aren't going to get through. But they never do.

The lady with the giant cottonwood trees at the end of the block. In a few weeks they will start to shed and, given the prevailing winds, cover up the whole neighborhood with that nasty stuff again. Swimming pools and AC units clogged up, garages full of it. Where's a modern day Paul Bunyan when you need him?

Michael Smith and Jemele Hill on their daily sports jive-a-thon. Lots of empty sound bytes, but neither appears capable of listening to, much less comprehending a differing opinion. Do they act like that at home?

Kenny Smith always trying to one-up Shaq or Barkley on another cable channel. But that's what little guys do. Try to prove they're smarter than the big fellas, both Hall of Famers. It's the inferiority complex thing, but it's still irritating.

Last but not least, it's Detroit Lions' fans. Like every other year, they're already raving about what a killing they made in the draft, how great their team will be this fall, and going to the Super Bowl is a possibility.

That's not really irritating. It's laughable. Bless their big hearts and wallets, but small brains, some folks just never learn.....