Thursday, May 31, 2012

Amazing things

I see the KKK is back and has reared their pretty heads again. No, not THOSE guys, but the Kardashians. One of them (Kerplunk?) said she wanted out of the limelight. This while appearing on Jay Leno's show with her sisters (Kaput and Kindapregnant?) and hyping their next TV project. Amazing.

But this is supposed to be about sports. Right.

In the NHL, the LA Kings just knocked off the Devils in New Jersey in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals. The Kings have now won 9 games on the "road" in the playoffs. To get to the Finals, any team has to have won 12 games and this is LA's 13th win. So the Kings have won 9 road games and only 4 at home to get where they are?  Can that be right? If so -- amazing.

A couple weeks have gone by and nary a mention of Tiger Woods. Very amazing.

Serena Williams, after compiling a 46-0 record in the opening rounds of major tennis tournaments, got whupped by the 111th ranked player in the world in the first round of the French Open. Amazing. Further, she didn't resort to her usual multitude of excuses which might be anything from bad calls, to a tummy ache, to a sore "pick a body part", to maybe a solar eclipse that could be viewed if one happened to be standing on the planet Jupiter. She came up with some beauties over the years, but this time she admitted she didn't play well. Truly amazing.

Upon Niklaus Lidstrom of the Detroit Red Wings announcing his retirement after a long and glorious career, some local pundits can hardly wait to call him the all-time best player the Wings ever had. Forget about Gordie Howe, Stever Yzerman and others. These are the same people that are already referring to Justin Verlander of the Detroit Tigers as the best all-time pitcher the Tigers ever had. Nevermind he only needs another 140 wins or so to equal Jack Morris, or a measly 1600 more strikeouts to equal Mickey Lolich, to mention just a couple. JV has been a Detroit Tiger for 8 years, five of them good, and three not so good. But he won the American League Cy Young and MVP last year, has his own "fathead" and breakfast cereal, so he must be the best. Methinks such pundits have been swigging the home town Koolaid again. Maybe not so amazing.

To my knowledge, no member of the Detroit Lions has been arrested in the past week. Somewhat amazing. Head coach Jim Schwartz certainly knows pro-football, but he leaves an objective person to wonder what kind of control he has over his team. Given the infamous "Suh Stomp", players slugging each other in practice, and a few other incidents, either on or off the field, perhaps Schwartz has given the term "game warden" a whole new meaning. Amazing. Lions' owner William Clay Ford still apparently doesn't have a clue as to what's going on. Not so amazing.

Blake Griffin of the Los Angeles Clippers is an incredibly talented player. He's got a 4-year contract worth $42 million dollars. No matter how you slice it or dice it -- that's an amazing amount of money to the average working stiff. Yet athletes never seem to have enough. They want endorsements that will pay them even more. Someone in Griffin's position likely has many choices as to what product(s) to endorse. So why does an American pro basketball player seem so smug while hyping cars (KIA) built in South Korea? Hasn't he ever heard of GM, Ford, and Chrysler? Bentleys, Beemers, and maybe a Porcshe or Fiat I can believe, but does anybody really think he tools around town in a KIA, or even has one parked in his garage somewhere? If so, they're amazingly gullible.

Considering a lot of other things going on in sports, maybe the KKK isn't so bad after all.


Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The dumbest rule in sports

There's some really dumb rules in sports. Please jump in with your own suggestions if you please, but here's a few that I offer.

In hockey, whacking a guy in the face with a stick, as long as it doesn't draw blood, will result in the same degree of penalty as flipping the puck into the crowd. High sticking and delay of game are both 2 minute minors. That doesn't seem right.

In some car races, yellow caution flags are predetermined before the contest even starts. Maybe that has to do with checking out the track. But if they were worried about that, than they shouldn't be racing on it in the first place. Dumb.

In golf, one will get a 2 stroke penalty for not replacing the ball in exactly the same place on the green after it's been "marked". Yet one will only incur a 1 stroke penalty for hitting the same ball into the middle of a lake or deep into the woods. Evidently, missing by a couple inches is twice as important as missing by 40-50 yards. Dumb.

Tennis has a weird scoring system. Zero is love. 1 is 15. 2 is 30. 3 is 40. Who came up with this nonsense anyway? Dumb.

Across the spectrum of sports, head coaches and managers can be seen in a variety of clothing as they attend games. Everything from suits and ties to hoodies. Some major league baseball managers wear a uniform with a number on the back, and some don't. Jim Leyland, of the Detroit Tigers, appears to prefer wearing his team pajamas while on the field. You'd think the various commissioners of these sports would lay out a dress code for the guys running teams much like they do for the players, but I guess not. Seems dumb.

Yet I would maintain that nowhere is there a dumber rule than in major league baseball.

It has to do with yellow lines. Some major league ball parks have them -- and some don't. I'm referring to the yellow lines sometimes found at the top of outfield walls. If a batted ball goes over the wall in "fair" territory, then it's a home run. Most would think that if the same batted ball hits the wall, then it's up to the outfielder(s) to play it the best they can, while the batter perhaps gets a double, a triple, and in rare cases, if the ball caroms away from the fielders and the batter is speedy enough, maybe even an "inside-the-park" home run. If the ball hits the wall and bounces back, it's in play, right? Not so fast.

For some reason that appears to be known only to God and baseball commissioner Bud Selig, there are yellow lines at the top of some ball park outfield walls. If the ball hits the yellow line and bounces back -- it's a home run. How dumb is that? Granted, every major league baseball park has it's own unique parameters when it comes to the "fences", but c'mon. What's the point in the yellow lines? If they want that ball to be a home run, lower the walls a foot. Or bring the fences in. The Detroit Tigers did just that at Comerica Park in left field. When the stadium was brand new, it took quite a "poke" to hit a homer to left field. What would normally be a "round-tripper" in most other stadiums was just a long out in Detroit. To their credit, the Tigers organization realized the initial design blunder, reconfigured the bullpens, and brought the fence in by over 20 feet. But even the Tigers organization, as bumbling as they can be at times, ever had a "yellow line" on an outfield wall, to my knowledge.

I never noticed it until earlier today, but the dumbest rule of them all has to be at Fenway Park, home of the Boston Red Sox. Most everybody knows that Fenway features the "green monster" wall in left field. It stands a little over 37 feet tall. I suggest anybody reading this to Google "dimensions of Fenway Park", and after looking at an overview, wondering what the architect, James McLaughlin, could possibly have been thinking way back in 1911. The whole lay-out, at least these days, seems kind of dumb, but hey, such places as Fenway, and Wrigley Field in Chicago, forever the home of the Cubs, ivy-covered walls and all, should merit a great deal of respect.

Nevertheless, Fenway Park should get the gold for a dumb rule. They seem to have trumped the yellow lines at the top of walls in other parks. On the very edge of the "green monster" towards "centerfield" is a yellow line. And it's VERTICAL. A ball hit an inch to the left of the yellow line bounces off the same 37 foot wall and is in play. A ball hit an inch to the right of that line will drop into the centerfield stands amongst the fans, where the wall in only maybe 15 feet high. But if the ball hits the magic yellow line -- it's a home run. How incredibly stupid is that?

I don't know, but the above mentioned Jim Leyland somehow saw fit to walk onto the field in his PJ's and challenge a ball hit by one of his players that bounced back, but maybe, just MAYBE, it hit the yellow line, for a home run.

Nevermind the 30,000+ fans in attendance, that paid mega-bucks to be there. Let them twiddle their thumbs, or maybe go buy another $8 draft beer that's probably worth about a quarter. The entire crew of umpires stopped everything, and disappeared through a dugout to their hallowed " men in black" room, where presumably video techs were busy showing all four of these guys several different replays of whether a baseball hit an arbitrary yellow line or not in the field of play.

That goes way beyond dumb.

That's just stupid.


Saturday, May 26, 2012

Pole dancing

Believe it or not, a movement is underway to make pole dancing an Olympic sport in 2016.

Most American males, including myself, and probably a lot of ladies, have seen those girls in action sometime in their life. Up and down the pole they'll go, twisting, turning, right side up, upside down, and contorting themselves into some very provocative poses, all while scantily dressed. The crowd cheers and normally tips them generously when their routine is done. That's all well and good if one is into that sort of entertainment.

But I never thought I'd see the day that it could become an Olympic sport. Let's look at where this might go.....

First, would this be a woman only sport? I certainly hope so. The thought of guys doing this sort of thing -- well -- not only do I support Title IX, but think an exclusionary clause should be added on. Men should NOT be allowed to participate in some sports.

If pole dancing becomes an Olympic event, it would have repercussions the world over. Think about it. Most countries would be sending a pole dancing team to the Olympics. You might say, "You're crazy, Leach, nobody would go for that". To that I would respond, "Oh yeah, then how do you explain a country like Jamaica, with no snow or ice -- ever -- sending a bobsled team, that, by the way, beat the Americans?"

A few of the more "conservative" countries when it comes to women, such as some in the Middle East, might not know exactly what to do about this. Would they insist on their lady contestants keeping their faces veiled?  Fine by me. Veils have always been sultry. Bring it on. Besides, nobody looks at their faces anyway.

What would be the minimum age to participate, and would some countries try to cheat by sending girls "under the limit" that could better contort themselves? None of that matters. There should only be one rule. The participants must have cleavage. That would eliminate the 11 and 12 year olds. You might further say, "Wait a minute, some adult women never develop that". True, but tough. Let them play soccer, volleyball, or any number of other sports -- but they should not, repeat NOT, be allowed on the pole. When male viewers the world over tune in, they would want to be entertained watching this sport. Cleavage entertains. Stick girls do not.

And get rid of the blood and urine tests for this sport only. If there was ever a place for performance enhancing drugs -- this would be it.

This sport could get a whole lot more interesting, especially to the men, than synchronized swimming ever was. All we get to see there is girls upside down in the water twirling around and moving their legs in unison. Nobody even knows what they look like. As highly conditioned athletes, perhaps they could become multi-dimensional and enter another event. Get out of the pool and jump on the pole. That raises yet another question. Could there be synchronized team pole dancing? The possibilities are endless.

Some might argue that many "garden-variety" pole dancers have been "digging" for the "gold" for years.

This would give them a chance to actually GO for it.

And why not? It would be a heck of a lot more entertaining than, say, the biathlon. But that's held in the Winter Olympics and pole dancing would be in the Summer Olympics? Says who?

Put them outside in the cold and snow while they're competing on the poles.

That would likely raise yet another couple interesting "points".

I'm beginning to like this idea.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Stanley Cup Finals. Good news and bad news

Who would have guessed a #6 seed, the New Jersey Devils, would be heading into the Stanley Cup Finals against the LA Kings, a #8 seed? So much for all the media-generated hype during the regular season as to which teams finish higher in the standings. Obviously, when the playoffs starts, it doesn't seem to matter. All the so-called superior teams have been sent packing.

Nevertheless, New Jersey and  LA slugging it out for Lord Stanley's cup should be a helluva series. As with most such contests, there appears to be good news and bad news.

Now that the #1 seeded NY Rangers have been dispatched, there will be no more awkward press conferences featuring their smiling, but arrogant head coach John Tortarella. This is good news.

Then again, it was rather refreshing to see a coach capable of walking into a room full of reporters and putting them in their place when they asked stupid questions. Maybe that's bad news.

As for east vs west, it doesn't get much more "east" than East Rutherford, NJ, or more "west" than LA. There will be no teams like Detroit, Chicago, Nashville, St. Louis, etc., that are located in the "heartland" of the country, but seemingly arbitrarily assigned to either the eastern or the western conference. That's probably good news. The bad news is -- given this series -- 99% of the people living between NJ and LA probably couldn't care less about it.

If the series between NJ and LA goes 7 games, we're talking about some serious "air miles" as the teams travel back and forth, particularly in the last three games which would be played at alternating venues. Throw in jet lag, jet fuel, and the overall expense, and that's bad news. Yet for the owners of the teams, every game they get in their own arena is a big time cha-ching, to the tune of millions. That's good news -- for them.

New Jersey is going to lose their beloved NBA team, the Nets (well, maybe not THAT beloved) to hated Brooklyn next year. Maybe if the Devils win the Cup this year, New Jersey governor Chris Christie will feel a little better about the departure of the Nets. That would be good news. In a perfect world, Christie might even celebrate by slimming down to the size of your average blimp, or at least the city limits of Trenton. That would be even better news.

Out in LA, the Lakers and Clippers have been kicked to the curb. That's bad news. Now that the LA Kings are front and center in the Stanley Cup Finals, maybe glitterland will wake up and realize they actually have a hockey team too. That's good news. All three play in the same building, Staples Center, and it was probably bad news for the maintenance folks to keep changing it from a basketball to a hockey venue, depending on which sport was going to be played in that arena on any given date.

Alas, the NHL doesn't have the "drawing" power of the NBA. It's highly unlikely movie stars, hip-hoppers, and the like will even show up for photo-ops, much less stay and watch the games. There will be no Jack Nicholson sitting in the first row behind the "glass". That's bad news for publicity, but good news for the season ticket holders who won't get booted out of their seats to make way for the glitterati.

Along those lines, I hope Bruce Springsteen, a New Jersey native, shows up for games in East Rutherford. That would definitely be good news.

The "Boss" walking out onto the ice and singing the national anthem would stoke the home crowd, to say the least. That would be great news.

Maybe out in LA they could trot out a Kardashian for the same thing. That might stoke their crowd as well. Not sure why, but there's a remote chance one of the K girls actually has some, you know, talent -- perhaps singing.

One way to find out.

Nah, that would probably be bad news.

The NBA playoffs. Goons and gentlemen?

Looking at the NBA playoffs, the San Antonio Spurs will take on the Oklahoma City Thunder for the Western Conference championship. The old pros against the young guns. It would appear Okla City will be a power for years to come -- but can the wily vets and arguably the best coach in the game down in Alamo land get it done one more time? Hard to say, but it will likely be a long series, perhaps coming down to the 7th game.

Thing is, neither of those teams is known for getting overly physical, AKA "gooning it up". They both play hard and smart, just in different ways.

Conversely, in the Eastern Conference championship series, the Miami Heat will likely take on the Boston Celtics. Though Lebron James has pretty much stayed above it, his teammate Dwyane Wade has been known to get down and dirty when things aren't going his way, along with a few other guys on the Heat. Sometimes they get caught and sometimes they don't, but they're certainly not above "cheap shots" here and there on the court.

That could get ugly going up against the Celtics. Some have claimed Kevin Garnett, Boston's "big man", is the dirtiest player in the game. His teammates Paul Pierce and Ray Allen aren't exactly considered angels either. Throw in the supporting cast of a proud, tough team, along with their coach, Doc Rivers, no punk himself, and that series could turn out to be a brawl, perhaps literally.

I fully expect the Heat to eventually prevail and move on to the NBA Finals, but chances are they'll get dinged up along the way.

In the meantime the kids and the geezers will be deciding things out west. They'll make just as many incredible plays for the highlight reels as the goons in the East, but in a good way. Like the consummate professionals they are, I wouldn't expect either team to engage in the "dirty" stuff. In other words, play hard, but respect the game and remain gentlemen.

Let's take it a step further. Boston and Miami players talk "smack" on and off the court all the time. You haven't heard anybody from San Antonio or Okla City do that -- ever. They're humble.

One way or the other, the Finals are going to feature the goons against the gentlemen.

I know who I'm going to root for, but still think this is Lebron's year.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The Indy 500. Still great

It used to be known as "the greatest spectacle in racing" and, indeed, it probably was. Nothing got American race fans juiced like the Indianapolis 500.

I first got hooked on the Indy 500 back in the 70s. Used to go every year and camp out in the infield. Besides the race itself being incredible -- whatta party. In those days famous names of racers abounded. Like Foyt, the Unsers, Rahal, Andretti, Dahlenback, Rutherford, and a little later on, Mears and others. Janet Guthrie became the first woman to make the field. She didn't fare well in the race, but it was somewhat historic.

At that time, NASCAR had been around a while, but wasn't all that popular yet. It was still mostly a southern phenomenon. Abroad, most race fans, particularly Europeans, preferred Formula One racing. Still do. Perhaps it could be compared to soccer vs American football. Americans preferred one, and the rest of the world preferred the other. Still do.

Then came the infamous "feud" between the powers that oversaw Indy car racing. The opposing camps dug in for years, and the sport fractured. When they finally came to their senses and reached an agreement, the fans were long gone. In the meantime, NASCAR had jumped into the void with brilliant marketing, their own big names, and "stock car" racing went through the roof. It rules north American racing to this day, by a wide margin.

Before the power struggle, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway would routinely sell out the whole place, almost half a million people, just for the time trials, let alone the race itself. That was a BIG deal. Sadly, when they tried to restore the sport, they discovered not that many people were interested in coming back. Many of the former Indy car drivers jumped to NASCAR, and some still do. Back in the day, much like NASCAR now, the Indy 500 featured mostly American teams and drivers. Now it's gone international, with racers coming from all over the globe. This may or may not be a good thing.

In days of yore, the competition to make the field was ferocious. There was a lot of nail biting going on right up to the last minute of qualifying as to who would "get in". Post-feud, there were a few years when they struggled to merely get 33 cars to show up for a full field.
The race is slowly gaining a bit of traction again, but will it ever be the can't miss "spectacle" it once was? Probably not, and that's a shame.

However, yours truly never wavered through the "bad" years. The race is going to go off again this Sunday, and I'm getting geeked already. No, I won't be leaving on Thursday for a 3 day mega-blast in Indianapolis, culminating with the race itself, like I used to. But I wouldn't miss it on TV for anything.

Besides knowing Ryan Briscoe won the "pole" I couldn't name more than a half dozen of the other racers, but it doesn't matter to me. Indy cars are Indy cars, and despite some changes over the years, they're still flat-out FAST. If you've never been there, I would highly recommend checking it out at least once, live and in person. What you see on TV does absolutely no justice to the incredible speeds those cars are travelling. Seeing it up close is breathtaking. 225 is 225, and that's a whole lot faster than anything the NASCAR drivers experience, even on the "super speedways", restrictor plates or not. At Talladega, the high-banked 2.66 mile NASCAR oval, Indy cars could probably run upward of 240. How fast is THAT? Think of standing next to a major highway and watching the traffic whiz past. That's probably pretty close to how fast the Indy cars would blow by Sprint Cup cars if they were both on the Talladega track at the same time.

So as a fan that never lost interest, I say bring it on. When Gomer Py..., ahem, Jim Nabors belts out his tradtional pre-race song of Back Home Again In Indiana, complete with the sycamore trees and the banks of the Wabash --  I'll grin like a Cheshire cat. They'll release umpteen thousand baloons and the fighter jets will make a fly-by. I'll turn off the phone. When they play the National Anthem, I might stand up, hand on heart -- in my man cave.

When the immortal words "start your engines" finally sound over the PA system, I'll get goose bumps.

Can you tell I'm still a fan?
The NBA and NHL are getting down to crunch time in their playoffs? So what. That can wait.

This is the one and only Indianapolis 500.

I am SOOO ready for this.

Why you shouldn't go to another Tigers' game

For those that have never set foot in Comerica Park, home of the Detroit Tigers, I highly recommend going to a game -- once. It's very impressive, fancy scoreboard and all and, unlike the old Tiger Stadium, any fan in attendance can walk all the way around the stadium on the mezzanine level, peeking at the actual game as they do so.

Making the circuit on the mezzanine is like experiencing a miniature version of the Ringling Bros/Barnum & Bailey circus. From small children, to teenagers, to middle-agers, to retirees --  they've got something for everybody. Make your kids happy and step right up yourself -- all for a nominal fee -- of course. Everybody has a good time, but the next day it just might be that mom and/or dad are wondering why the blew so much money, and how they're going to make ends meet elsewhere.

Let's look at a few realities. Other than the players themselves, I doubt many objective people would question that major league baseball players, amongst some others in pro sports, are ridiculously overpaid for what they actually do. How it got to this point could be debated forever, but it is what it is, and it's certainly reflected in what the average fan has to pay to attend a game.

The Detroit Tigers themselves are nothing special. Even the "homers" in the local media will begrudgingly admit that. They have one great starting pitcher in Justin Verlander, and a couple sluggers named Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder. Beyond that, what do they really have?

The other starting pitchers and their bullpen are a crap shoot. No position player is even better than average defensively, and they have almost ZERO team speed. Let's not forget the manager, Jim Leyland. Despite the local media fawning over his every word, he's nothing more than a journeyman manager. Leyland's been around a long time with a lot of teams. After over 3200 games running a dugout -- his record stands at .500. The epitome of average.

But the local pundits are right in one respect. The Tigers will win the American League Central Division.  As average as the Tigers are, the rest of the teams in that division are worse. They won't be able to keep up over a full 162 game season. While many better teams in other divisions are slugging it out all season long for a spot in the "postseason", the Tigers will likely qualify by default, and that's nothing to be proud of.

So if you have nothing better to do, and a few C-notes you don't care about -- go to another Tiger game with your family. Make sure to look up at the luxury suites you can't afford, and which are mostly sitting empty when a team like Minnesota or Kansas City is in town.

Which brings me to the absolute best and worst scenarios. The best would be if the Tigers somehow made it to the World Series. The worst is, if that happens, even if you're a season ticket holder, you're going to get put in a "lottery" for tickets to the games.

Entertainers and politicians will get the best seats. Even if you're lucky enough to win the lottery, the prices of any seats (likely not your own) you can get will at least quadruple. We're talking house payments here. Why would the average fan want to do this when they can sit home, or in a sports bar with big screen TVs, catch all the replays, and save themselves a bundle?

Nothing like a ball-park frank? Baloney. They're terrible, as are the buns, onions and relish to go with them. Anything with liquid cheese on top is pretty nasty too. Ask yourself this -- would you eat that crap at home?

Yep, experiencing Comerica Park is pretty cool -- once.

If you keep going back, the above-mentioned Phineas Taylor Barnum had it right.

There's one born every minute.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

DirecTV and NBA playoff bias

If you've been watching the games, you've seen the commercials. Here's my take ---

No, I don't want to sell my hair to a wig shop after going broke in Vegas. Two reasons. Last time I was in Vegas I came home to find myself divorced. What could be worse than that? Going back to Vegas, only to return home and find myself married again. Now THAT would be scary. Besides, I would no longer have the product to sell, Where I used to have a pony tail growing is now a bald spot. Must have burned it out or something.

I certainly don't want to open my mailbox across the street and watch my house blow up because I screwed a client over and he wound up going to prison. That would definitely qualify as having a bad day, but I'm not a shyster lawyer, so I have no worries there.

I don't play racketball anymore, so I won't get an eyepatch and wind up in a roadside ditch.

All of this is brought to us courtesy of DirecTV, of course. They want us to cancel "cable" and sign up for one of their dishes. Thing is, I've had DirecTV for years, and it beats cable, but if they keep jacking my rates up every few months, I'll have to start selling off other things, besides the hair I don't have anymore, to pay for it.

Oh yeah. I'm supposed to rant about sports. Right.

Is it just me, or does it seem like the media are playing favorites in the NBA playoffs?  In the east, it's all about Miami. The Heat just evened their series 2-2 with the Indy Pacers. According to the media, Lebron and D-Wade had "monster" games. Superhuman efforts. One would have thought they beat the Pacers by 50. They won by 8. Now it's the best 2 out of 3 and we'll see what happens. Yet, it just seems like the media wants Lebron and the Heat to win SO bad. It's as if they're WILLING them to do it.

In the west, it's always about the Lakers and Kobe Bryant. A bazillion sound bytes are offered up as to why they should win. The media WANTS them to win. In their eyes, nothing would be better than an NBA Final matchup between Lebron and Kobe -- the Heat and the Lakers. No doubt the TV people would like to see it work out that way. Higher ratings mean bigger bucks.

Nobody talks about the Indiana Pacers, but those guys are really good. San Antonio always flies under the radar, and they've quietly been a steam-roller for over a month. Oklahoma City is a young team on the rise with a couple superstars -- but they don't get much attention either. Everybody thinks the Boston Celtics are over the hill, but they still "got game". I wouldn't count them out just yet.

The point is -- when it comes to the media -- it shouldn't matter which team has superstars, represents the bigger "market", or will draw the higher Nielsen ratings.

The fans are the people that are supposed to play favorites -- not the media. Their job is to be insightful, but always impartial and objective.

Yeah, it's an election year and the whackos from both sides are out in full force with their propaganda, but sports should be above that.

I think this is where I came in -- but no, I don't want a grandkid with a dog collar either. I'm just fine with my yorkies. The 4-legged variety of little ones are WAY lower maintenance.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

The LA Lakers. Talking and walking

The Lakers were supposed to win Game 4 in their western conference semi-final match against the Oklahoma City Thunder. All the talking heads said so.

After all, despite being blown out in Game 1, the Lakers had outplayed the Thunder in Game 2. Oops, they still lost a close one. Down 2-0 and back in the friendly confines of the Staples Center in LA, the Lakers outplayed the Thunder again. They barely won.

So all the so-called experts gave reason after reason why the Lakers would win Game 4.

They've been better than the Thunder the last 2 games, and should be better yet this time around.

They're still at home and they'll ride the crowd for extra energy.

The Lakers have been there, done that, and know how to win big games.

The Lakers will pount the ball inside to their big men, eventually wear down the Thunder, and Kobe Bryant will have a field day.

Everybody certainly talked the talk. It seemed like a mere formality that the Lakers would walk the walk.

Sure enough, the Lakers came out hard and fast, all but running the Thunder out of the arena while building a huge lead, and maintaining it well into the second half.

Then something funny happened. The Thunder regrouped, came storming back and, in the end, the Lakers, Kobe Bryant, Jack Nicholson and all, got whupped in their own building. Now they're down 3-1 and have to go back to Oklahoma City for Game 5. Could LA win that game to avoid being eliminated? Maybe. Can they beat Okla City the necessary 3 times in a row to move on? Uh-uh. Ain't gonna happen. Stick a fork in em. If they get blown out in Game 5, I suspect new Laker head coach Mike Brown might find himself on the proverbial hot seat. Like Lucy to Desi, Brown will have some splainin' to do.

That likely sets up a very interesting series. The highly motivated and talented Okla City Thunder taking on the old-pro San Antonio Spurs, who haven't lost a game in over a month, in the western conference finals. In Game 3 of THEIR series against the LA Clippers, also in the Staples Center, San Antonio found themselves down by 24 points. End result? After another ferocious comeback, they won by 10. Stick a fork in Blake Griffin, Chris Paul, and the Clippers too.

Okla City-San Antonio should be a dandy. Youth and ridiculous athleticism against experience and the ultimate in team play.

Advantage Spurs for one reason. Their head coach Gregg Popovich. Like his team, he's a low-profile guy, but there's not a better tactician in the game who is more in sync with his players.

Friday, May 18, 2012

NBA refs. Check them out

It's hard to do, because when watching an NBA game, everybody's attention is always on wherever the basketball itself goes -- but if you can block that out for just a few minutes and pay close attention to the NBA refs -- I dare say you might be impressed. These guys are not only good -- they do things that most fans never even notice.

For decades the NBA only employed two refs in each game. They dabbled with adding a third ref in the late 70's, but it wasn't until the 1988-89 season that they made it permanent. And though most times it still goes largely unnoticed by the viewing public, that just might have been the smartest thing they've ever done.

Now is the perfect time to check it out because NBA refs are graded on their performance during the regular season and, at least theoretically, only those with the best results get to officiate in the playoffs. It's a murky and shadowy world as to where these refs come from in the first place, and how much they make; nobody but the inner-circle of the NBA knows for sure, and they guard that secret like the Pentagon would guard the details of a new bomber in the works. Seniority, nepotism, favoritism, and perhaps even notoriety might enter in, but for the most part, the more important the games become, the more the cream rises to the top in the world of NBA refs.

Mute your TV, ignore the game itself for a couple minutes, and watch what these guys do. Up and down the court they'll go with the action, but they always form a moving triangle for three different views of what's going on. Besides things the fans notice, mostly stoppages in play for various violations, these refs make subtle calls on almost every play, mostly with hand gestures, even as the action continues. The coaches and players see it, but most fans don't. Ever wonder why those same coaches and players react immediately to a call, before the TV announcers, the fans in the stands, and the viewing public, even knows what happened? Because they're tuned in to what most of us never notice with the refs. One of them made the call immediately, but most of us remain focused on the players.

There's something else NBA refs do that's even more subtle. If you watch closely, you'll notice that after a break in the action, be it for a foul, time out, commercial, etc., they will have rotated positions in their "triangle". All three are equally adept at all three "positions" in a very fast paced game.

[Idle thought -- why not have major league umpires change bases every inning? They'd probably welcome the change, and rotating umps behind the plate calling balls and strikes might just be a good thing]

NBA refs certainly don't expend as much energy on the court as the players but, then again, they don't get to sit down either. Are they as physically fit and tough as their NHL brethren? Of course not. Yet they likely put in a a few miles during the course of each game, which is a whole lot more impressive than some fat, obnoxious guy standing around third base waiting for an argument for 3 hours as a major league umpire.

Do they "blow" a call here and there? Of course. They're human. Could some be biased towards or against a particular team? After all, these guys have a home town somewhere -- another closely guarded secret --  and they're not robots, so that's a possibility. But I doubt it. They're just as professional as the players. Most players grow up somewhere, go to college somewhere else, and get drafted by a pro team in yet another part of the country. Throw in trades and free agency over the years, and few wind up with any real loyalty to anybody. It's a business, and they'll tell you that. It's probably even worse for the refs. They get shipped all over the continent every few days. After a while, they likely get numb to it all and just want to do their jobs.

Given the constant pressure, verbal abuse from players, coaches, and fans, and the constant scrutiny they're under from the ever-present all-seeing eye of the media -- they're not only good.

They're outstanding.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Larry Bird. The all time best in the NBA

Many would disagree with that statement, of course, because there's a lot of guys, notably Michael Jordan, who were, if not better players, certainly more exciting to watch.

Others have racked up better statistics in one category or another, won more MVPs, and have more "rings" as a world champion.

Yet I maintain that when one looks at Bird's entire body of work, the whole package over the years, he stands alone as #1.

During his playing years for the Celtics, Bird could shoot as well as anyone in the NBA, from anyplace on the court. At the free throw line, he was lights out. He grabbed his fair share of rebounds, could pass with the best of them, and played very good defense. No, he was never the fastest guy on the court, but oftentimes he was the most cerebral. He saw things before they happened. No one seriously doubts he was tough, because it's well known he had a chronic back injury, but he always found a way to play through the pain.

Still don't believe he's the best? Let's narrow the field. How many guys were multiple world champions, won MVP awards, and played on a gold medal winning USA Olympic basketball (original dream) team?

Not convinced? How about after retiring as as player, going back to his home of Indiana, and winning coach of the year with the Pacers? How many other guys can match that resume so far? None I can think of.

If that wasn't enough, fast forward a few years and Bird was just named "Executive of the year" in his role as president of basketball operations for the same Pacers. Since Bird has been in charge of personnel at Indiana, he's very quietly assembled a young, terrific team. Like Bird, they seem to fly "under the radar", but they've been very good all year, and are currently giving the Miami Heat, replete with their superstars, all they can handle in the NBA playoffs. While high-profile teams like Miami, the Lakers, and the Celtics dominate the headlines, Bird sits back, pays attention, and plots his next move. Quietly. The two teams to look out for in the next few years are the Okla City Thunder, who are already receiving much attention -- and the shhh, quiet, Indiana Pacers with Bird pulling the strings behind the scenes.

It's doubtful Bird would ever have an interest in owning a team. Not his style. At that, consider some other guys that have tried their hands at management. The aforementioned Jordan was a disaster as an executive for the Washington Wizards. Having bought into ownership of the Charlotte Bobcats, they are now the laughing stock of the league. Isiah Thomas, and his many stops while wearing a suit? What comes after disaster? Magic Johnson has been quite successful over the years, and he wound up investing in baseball as a partial owner of the LA Dodgers. The Dodgers will always have their faithful following, and the money will roll in. Pretty slick when you think about it. Guess he's called Magic for a reason.

But when it comes to the guy being the most all-around winner, in any and everything he's attempted in the NBA, during a career which is in it's fourth decade and still setting a standard of excellence every step of the way -- one man stands alone.

Larry Bird. The best of all time.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The Los Angeles Kings. Amazing

I couldn't name more than a few players on the team, and have no idea who the head coach is -- but the LA Kings are doing something very special so far in the NHL Stanley Cup playoffs.

Having barely squeaked in as a #8 seed to begin with, they've already knocked off the #1 and #2 seeds in the first two rounds. Now they're ahead of the Phoenix Coyotes, the original #3 seed,  2-zip in the Western Conference finals, both wins having came in Phoenix, where they seriously outplayed the Coyotes in both contests.

If I have this right, LA is now 10-1 in the playoffs, and are undefeated on the road. THIS -- from an 8 seed? Wow.

Yours truly has mixed emotions on this. Like many others, I'm a sucker when it comes to rooting for the underdog. But when that underdog just happens to be from LA -- yuck. Like New York and Boston (yes, I'm counting the NY Giants who actually play in New Jersey, and the Patriots who play in Foxboro) they've had their fair share of glory across the spectrum of pro sports recently, and it would be nice to see somebody new enjoy the thrill of a championship.

Now the Kings are going back to their home ice, and if they keep playing at the level they have been, they might very well sweep the Coyotes out of the conference finals.

I wonder what Wayne Gretzky thinks about all this....

Remember, Gretzky, arguably the best player in the history of the NHL, made his claim to fame with the Edmonton Oilers. They were a dynasty, but with so many world class players in a small town market, given the salary cap, a tightwad GM, and the lure of big bucks through free agency, it was only a matter of time before that team came apart.

Some say, at the urging of his wife Janet, and much to Edmonton's chagrin, Gretzky decided to "take his talents" to Los Angeles. It made sense. It was mega-bucks, and mega-exposure, which he had certainly earned. Also, given a choice between living in a frigid outpost like Edmonton during the winter, with not a whole lot going on even in the summer -- versus living in the always warm land of glitter, stuff happening everywhere, and hobnobbing with celebrities -- it doesn't take the proverbial rocket scientist to figure out which choice a beautiful woman married to a world class athlete would prefer. Those pesky significant others seem to have a way with such things occasionally. Imagine that.

After his playing days, Gretzky eventually bought into part ownership of the Phoenix Coyotes. Now he's watching his former team, as a player, dismantle his current one, as a boss. It would be interesting to know Wayne's innermost thoughts about this, but of course, we never will. And Janet could probably care less.

At any rate, unlike Phoenix, the Kings seem to be the ones that have risen from the ashes to dominate.

If they keep it up, they might well roll on to hoisting Lord Stanley's beloved cup.

Which means two things.

Amazing and yuck.

I still can't decide.

Monday, May 14, 2012

The LA Lakers. A sorry mess

Magic Johnson probably isn't sleeping well tonight. The former Laker great and Hall of Famer turned broadcaster makes no bones about it. He's still a huge Laker fan, but after what happened in Game 1 against the Okla City Thunder, Magic might be tossing and turning a bit right about now.

That's because the Lakers, who still possess formidable talent, looked hopelessly inept in the first game against the Thunder. To be sure, the Okies are an extremely talented young team, and probably on the fast track to an NBA title one year soon, if not this year, but what LA came with in Game 1 was just pitiful.


Okla City, leading by over 30 points, sent in the B team for "garbage time" -- with a full quarter of the game still remaining. They had also put almost 100 points on the board (98) after just 3 quarters of action. Yes, the Thunder made a high percentage of their shots, and perhaps that's an anomaly, but maybe not. They seemed to get whatever "looks" they wanted, WHEN they wanted. The Lakers' defense was being shredded.

When the Lakers are seriously challenged, there's two things that seem to always happen. Kobe Bryant will attempt to be a one man show. We can always count on the "black mamba" to find a way to shoot the ball. Bryant might do a pivot, a reverse pivot, fake left, fake right, pivot yet again, a double-gainer with a 2 and a half twist while triple teamed and falling away off-balance from the basket 35 feet away -- but dammit -- he's going to shoot -- while totally ignoring wide open teammates waiting on a pass for an easy shot.

And somewhere during the course of the game, Ron Artest, aka Metta World Peace, will find a way to "goon it up". It's actually a shame, because Artest is a terrific player, particularly defensively, and he doesn't need to do that stuff -- but he does.

In the first game against the Thunder, the Lakers didn't look anything like a highly successful NBA franchise with a proud, storied history. Rather, they more resembled a bunch of guys from the "hood" getting together on a public "court", complete with weeds growing up through cracked concrete, netless rims, and no rules. Magic Johnson was a part of the "showtime" Lakers. They put on quite a show as a team. The current Lakers seem to be every man for himself trying to put on a show. It won't work.

That falls on coaching, particularly head coach Mike Brown, who I always thought was a terrible hire by owner Jerry Buss and the Lakers in the first place. While Brown may indeed possess a wealth of knowledge regarding the intricacies of professional basketball, he doesn't seem to be able to get a team to play as a team. Granted, Phil Jackson, the Zen Master, was a tough act to follow, but Brown apparently doesn't have a clue about how to make a mix of highly paid, highly talented, and highly egotistic athletes come together. The inmates appear to be running the asylum.

Magic Johnson also said "on the air" that if the Lakers got eliminated by the Denver Nuggets in the first round, he expected Mike Brown to be fired. That raised a few eyebrows. The heavily underdog Nuggets took LA to 7 games before falling just short. Now they're facing the Okla City Thunder, a huge jump in the level of competition. If Mike Brown and his LA-LA boys don't get their act together pretty quick, they might just find themselves on the wrong end of a broom, while being humiliated.

Would Ervin Johnson lose sleep over that? Hmm. Probably not. He's got millions, lives in a mansion with a gorgeous wife, is as popular as ever on the airwaves, and is now a part owner of the LA Dodgers, which will rake in even more money.

I think he'll be just fine.

Mike Brown? We'll see about that. Shortly.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

The Twilight Zone

Let me see if I have this right.

Brandon Inge, he who couldn't hit a lick for the Tigers, and was unceremoniously dumped by those same Tigers is busy hitting grand slams and racking up RBIs galore for the Oakland Athletics, while the Tigers still pay the vast majority of his $5.5 million salary.

Bernard Hopkins, in the always shady and smack-talking world of pro boxing, humbly accepted defeat at the hands of Chad Dawson, and not only personally put his light heavyweight championship belts on Dawson after the fight at a press conference, but hung out to pose for pictures with Dawson's kids, before quieting exiting the stage.

During the course of a race, a local prep long distance runner, far and away the class of the field, not only "paced" his second best competition, shouted encouragement to other runners as they were being lapped, and even slowed up at the finish line to let his closest competitor win, having driven the winner to a personal best time.

After over half a century of seeming futility, the Detroit Lions are not only competitive, but appear to have drafted well for the future. Do I dare mention Super Bowl capability in the next few years?

For the time being, there doesn't appear to be any "feuds" going on in NASCAR, where guys are intentionally wrecking each other.

Phoenix and LA are in the western conference finals in the NHL? You would have thought it? With all due respect to the "old guard", "new blood" is a healthy thing.

All the up and coming "young guns" on the pro golf circuit appear to be very polite, humble, fan friendly, gentlemen on the course respecting the game, and have no issues with caddies, swing coaches, or other personal dramas like "you know who". They just play and have a good time doing it. I hope they keep coming.

Pat Summitt, the legendary ladies' hoops coach at Tennessee, has quietly passed the reins on to her long time protege, while being honored as Coach Emeritus. No muss, no fuss, and a lot of class all the way around.

While I surely omitted a few other equally "feel good" stories about people or teams -- what, pray tell, is going on in the world of sports these days? It's as if Rod Serling has come back to life and is serving up episodes of the rosy side of athletics. The negative image of the Twilight Zone. As we all know, two negatives make a positive. Very strange.

But I'm liking it.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Tiger Woods: End of an era

Few would question there was a time, not long ago, when Eldrick (Tiger) Woods sat alone atop the world of golf. For about a decade he dominated the game like no other had before, and likely ever will again. Sure, there's a long list of golfing greats that preceded him, but Tiger was precedent-setting in several ways.

Let's be honest about it. When Woods burst upon the world scene, he was a black man playing basically a white man's game -- and it quickly became apparent he was playing at a level only known to him. He had every shot in the book, and seemingly a miracle up his sleeve whenever it was necessary.

With all due respect to a couple former golf greats, it could be argued that Tiger not only intimidated the competition more than Jack Nicklaus ever did, but also had a fan following that dwarfed any "army" Arnold Palmer ever had following him around the course -- or on TV, for that matter. Did that have anything to do with him being a "minority", a handsome guy with a great smile that was out there breaking new ground, and inspiring the next generation to dream of following in his footsteps? Perhaps.

And oh my, did he win. Not even counting all the other tournament championships he garnered, Tiger began racking up the "majors".  A scant few years ago, who amongst us doubted that it was only a matter of time before Woods would surpass Nicklaus' record of 18 major championships? Whether one liked it or not, it seemed inevitable. He became married to a gorgeous woman, had two adorable little kids, and it was almost like a fairy tale, where everybody lives happily ever after.

But of course, we know that didn't happen. Besides the meltdown in his personal life, Woods experienced a rash of injuries. All of which led to a swift decline in his golf prowess. Then he parted company with his long time caddy -- and those guys are more important than many think -- and also fired his long time "swing" coach, and has since opted to try and reinvent his game with a new coach and a new swing. The results have not been good. Yes, Tiger won a tournament not long ago, but it seems like for every week he's competitive, there's another week when he's struggling to merely "make the cut", oftentimes against a field that doesn't include all the top players. Those 4 more major championships to equal Nicklaus, that once appeared to be a given, now seem to have disappeared over the horizon.

How far has he fallen? It's not just that he got dislodged from his throne from being the #1 player in the world for so long, but much worse. Think back. A few years ago, in any given tournament, there were many that would take Tiger over the entire "field" on a wager. Not a bad bet back then, but who would make it now? These days, despite all the hopes from his faithful fans, Woods not only seems to be a long shot to win, but some are betting on whether he'll even make the "cut" to continue play on the weekend. As I write this, Woods is 8 strokes back after just one round at the Players' Championship, the biggest tournament outside the usual "majors". That's a lot for one day. If he continues plodding along in the second round, he'll get blown off the course. And let's not forget, Woods doesn't play a full schedule. He'll take a week or two off here and there to "prepare" for a big event. If after all that -- if he still can't make the cut -- that's not a good sign.

It might just be that the golf world is missing the obvious. Maybe it's not about Tiger getting weaker. It's about the "field" getting stronger. There's young guns that are barely old enough to drink coming from every corner of the planet -- and not only are they really good and will get better -- they have the cocky conscience of youth that Tiger once had. They're not intimidated in the least by what Woods has accomplished in his past, and most likely think they could take Tiger on any given day on any given course. These guys aren't going away and, what's worse, there's teenagers all over the globe that are busy honing their games, and will be on the scene soon.

Will any of them dominate like Tiger once did? Probably not. There's so many in the "field" these days that can play so well, with yet others jumping in every year, that golf is likely approaching "parity", like most other pro sports. Whoever won last year, or even last week, doesn't seem to matter. The competition is too ferocious.

Eldrick Woods deserves credit for re-energizing the game of golf. It had become somewhat stagnant until he burst on the scene. Yet, in a cruel twist of irony, all those kids he inspired years ago to start taking golf seriously, and practicing like maniacs under every condition, have come back to bite him. Because they're there now, on the same course, and are beating him.

I truly believe the era is over.  

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Floyd Mayweather.

It's difficult to figure out just where Floyd Mayweather ranks on the list of all-time boxing greats. Several factors seem to be involved.

The numbers speak for themselves. Mayweather is undefeated in 43 professional fights, several of which were against world class competition, and has held championship belts in a few different weight classes. He's taken on all comers (except one, and I'll get back to that) and most times made it look easy.

If money matters, Floyd certainly made enough of it over the years. He just raked in over $30 million for his last fight alone. Yet Mayweather's one of those kind of guys that blows money in a big way. Floyd lives the high life in between fights, complete with an entourage reminiscent of Iron Mike Tyson. In other words, the more money he makes, the more parasites he attracts. Tyson made hundreds of millions of dollars and, in the end, it was all gone. How anyone can go through that much money is beyond my comprehension -- but it happens. It seems some of these guys never realize that the people they think are their best friends are actually ripping them off, until the well is dry, and they disappear to latch onto the next sucker. Mayweather's 35 years old, not exactly a spring chicken in the boxing world. How much longer he can keep fighting is unknown. Never known as a "heavy hitter", Floyd's always relied on speed, conditioning, and finesse -- and had great success doing so. Yet Father Time won't spare him either. If he slows down just a touch, there's always going to be "young guns" coming up that would like nothing better than to dethrone him.

Mayweather's upcoming little month or two stay in jail for a domestic crime is basically irrelevant. He's fresh off a fight, and world class guys usually have 6 months or so between bouts anyway. I suspect Floyd's legal team had something to do with the timing of his incarceration coming right after a huge purse for a fight -- but that just is what it is. If one has that much money, those sort of things have a way of going down like that.

Mayweather thinks he doesn't have anything more to prove, and considers himself in the "catbird seat" when it comes to fighting Manny Pacquiao, because his legacy is already great enough, with or without taking on the Filipino congressman. Many Americans want to believe that. Nevermind it would be the biggest money-making bout in the history of boxing -- and Floyd likes money -- Floyd continues to make excuses. First, he wanted Pacquiao to undergo olympic style drug testing. Pacquiao eventually agreed. Next, Floyd said he wasn't willing to split the purse 50-50. He wanted the lion's share. Now, it appears he's just writing the possible fight off completely.

But here's the kicker. While Mayweather may be hugely popular with many Americans, what he doesn't seem to understand is the majority of the rest of the world holds Pacquiao in much higher esteem, both as a boxer, and a man.

Consider: At 33 years old, Pacquiao is a congressman in the Phillipines, a national hero, and some predict he'll eventually become President of that country. If Mayweather keeps up his current ways, it might just be that about the time Manny is being inaugurated, Floyd will be in dire straits.

Pacquiao is not only fast, and superbly conditioned for his fights -- he hits hard -- and despite all the excuses, Mayweather appears to be afraid of getting in the ring with him.

But if Mayweather wants his resume and legacy to be complete -- and go out on top as the "greatest" -- not to mention likely pocketing $100 million dollars or so -- it's pretty obvious what he needs to do. If he doesn't, people will always wonder "what if"? It would forever be an asterisk in the minds of boxing fans the world over.

Contrary to what Floyd says, he needs this fight more than Manny. He just hasn't figured that out yet.

Or else he's just scared......

Monday, May 7, 2012

The NHL and something strange in Phoenix

Throw the seedings out the window because they don't seem to matter in the NHL playoffs. In all my years of watching different sports tournaments and playoffs, I can't remember one as wide open as this appears to be. It seems like anybody can win. Parity at it's finest, or worst, depending on one's point of view.

The Vancouver Canucks have won the President's Trophy for having the best regular season record --  and this year they were bounced in the first round by the LA Kings -- who barely made the playoffs as an 8 seed. The good people in British Columbia are probably scratching their heads wondering what happened. Perhaps it never occurred to them that the President's Trophy is all wrong in the first place for any Canadian team. Canada doesn't even have a President. Maybe if it was the Prime Minister's Trophy, they'd still be playing. Who knows?

Wars are going on in the near east. Philly/New Jersey, and NY Rangers/Washington Caps. They're playing at such a high level, including speed, skill, and being physical, it's almost a shame to see somebody lose. It's a pretty safe bet to say hockey fans in all those cities couldn't care less about original seedings right about now. It's about survival. Jersey hasn't bit on the Flyers' agitation tactics, are leading 3-1, and might well close them out in the next game. But ya never know. Even though the Rangers lead the Caps 3-2, that series is still a coin flip.

Yet, out in the wild west, something strange happened. The Phoenix Coyotes were hosting the Nashville Predators. Yes, those same dastardly Preds that sent the Red Wings packing in the first round.

As the home team, the Coyotes were wearing red uniforms, while the Predators wore the vistors' whites. Thing is, everybody in the crowd in Phoenix was dressed in white. Seems to me another team used to do that once -- the Quebec Nordiques -- I think. Kinda spooky looking. But you'd think if the home team was running some sort of fan promotion gimmick, they could at least get the color right.

I guess it could have been worse. If all those fans dressed in white were also wearing tall pointy white hats, that would have went beyond spooky into the realm of scary. If you think the New Orleans Saints' "bounty" affair drew a lot of attention -- imagine THAT scenario. Maybe NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman would suspend all the Coyote season ticket holders for a year. He's done dumber things.

Yet, when all the dust clears, I suppose I have to pick a winner. I'm going with the NJ Devils, for two reasons. First, they're as good as anybody else and have a great playoff-tested goalie in Martin Brodeur. More important, they need to do it this year because of their Governor in that state. Chris Christie has already said good riddance to the NJ Nets of the NBA as they are about to move to Brooklyn. Perhaps the Devils will be the next to relocate. And then the Giants and the Jets of the NFL, their new stadium notwithstanding. Why? Because if Christie gets much bigger, there won't be enough room in New Jersey for anybody but him.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Handicapping the NBA playoffs

It's probably a bad idea for an armchair quarterback such as myself to weigh in on who's going to win what in the NBA playoffs, but a few things would seem to be obvious. Even if I get this totally wrong, it's not like I'm going to get fired from a multi-million dollar contract, so let's rock and roll.

Unlike the NHL, which I'll talk about next time, the "seedings" in the NBA matter. Barring catastrophic injuries, mass arrests, or something else unforeseen, you won't see a #1 seed getting knocked out in the first round of the playoffs by a #8. Further, I'm going to ignore what I consider to be teams in the playoffs that are "pretenders", and only concentrate on the those teams that had a realistic "shot", going in.

Let's look at the Eastern Conference. The Chicago Bulls have a lot of talent, a great coach, and posted an impressive regular season record. Whether they were championship caliber is debatable, but once Derrick Rose went down, they were done. The Big 3 of the Boston Celtics might be getting old, but make no mistake, with Rajon Rondo, arguably the best point guard in the league, those guys still "got game", and can be formidable on any given day. The sleeper is the Indiana Pacers. They've been quietly flying under the radar all year, are young, really good, and will get better. They might well advance further in the playoffs than most people expected, but they're not ready to be champions yet. Look out for them in a couple years. But it all boils down to the Miami Heat. After losing in the Finals last year, Lebron has rededicated himself to improving his game, if that's even possible. They're on a mission. And who is capable on defeating them in a 7 game series, with Miami holding home court advantage? Nobody. They're going to the Finals again.

The Western Conference is trickier. Again, ignoring the pretenders, one of 3 teams will make it to the Finals. There's San Antonio, the experienced vets with probably the most knowledgable mentor in the game in Coach Popovich, the ever-present LA-LA boys from glitterland, and the up and coming Okla City Thunder. Two of them have to go down. In my opinion, new coach Mike Brown in LA, a castoff from the Cleveland Cavaliers, was a bad hire. Despite the talent he inherited, it will show come crunch time. Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Mano Genobili, and the rest of the Spurs are a class act, but I don't think they can get to the finish line again. Okla City with Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrooke, point guard James Hardin, and their teammates are the real deal, as witnessed by their sweep of the defending champ Dallas Mavericks. They're coming hard, and in a grueling 7 game series, give me young legs over older legs anyday.

Yet in the end, like it or not, I strongly suspect this is the year Lebron finally gets it done. He just wants it too bad, and considering D-Wade and the rest of the talent on that team -- who's going to stop it from happening?