Monday, June 30, 2014

Jason Kidd and Larry Drew

Any hoops fan knows who Jason Kidd is. After a long brilliant career in the NBA, JK is a lock for the Hall of Fame as soon as he becomes eligible. Somewhat surprisingly, he was tabbed to be the head coach of the Brooklyn Nets right after he hung up his Air Nowitzkis, or was that Jordans?

Larry Drew doesn't enjoy the same fame. Unless one is from, or a fan of the Milwaukee Bucks, BTW the worst team in the NBA last year, one might not know that Drew is their head coach. Milwaukee's got a couple really good things going for it. They make a ton of beer, a necessity of most sports fans, and it's also the home base of Harley-Davidson, which has been the class of street bikes for decades. But in pro basketball, they've pretty well sucked in the last few years.

Recently, something interesting has happened. Evidently, the Bucks, under new ownership, have made a pitch to the Nets. They want Kidd as their head coach, and offered a future second round draft pick. The Nets didn't exactly turn them away. They wanted a first round pick.

Maybe the two teams can work it out and maybe they can't, but it's definitely bad news elsewhere. Like players, Kidd finds himself just another piece of meat on the market who can be shipped off to another city if the price is right. This sort of thing doesn't happen without owner approval. It would certainly appear as if Nets' owner Mikhail Prokhorov, the Russian billionaire, is willing to send his head coach packing for a draft pick. No word yet on who the Nets may have in mind to replace him.

Much worse is the plight of Larry Drew. Sure, the Bucks were terrible, and likely won't be serious title contenders in the foreseeable future, but their new owners have made it plain he's expendable. It should be noted that the new owners are hedge-fund managers, and billionaires themselves. Guys in that line of business typically don't have much patience with losers.

What's that? They've reached a deal? The Bucks got Kidd for two second round draft choices? Larry Drew a blank and be gone? A 15-67 record will get you there, regardless of the talent on the team (there wasn't much),

Funny how the salaries of different new head coaches (all former terrific players) worked out. Steve Kerr was a TV analyst and got hired by Golden State to the tune of $25 million for 5 years. Five mill a pop. Most of us could squeak by on that. Derek Fisher was an active player last year, but was hired by the NY Knicks for the same amount of money and years. Neither of these guys has ever been a head coach before.

But Jason the Kidd only got a 4 year deal for a measly $10 million. Simple math says that equates to a paltry 2.5 mill a year. And something seems wrong with that.

Kidd has a year of experience under his belt as a head coach and his former team, the Brooklyn Nets, made it to the playoffs last year, even winning a round. Kerr and Fisher are brand new -- untested as coaches. But they're worth TWICE as much as Kidd? Doesn't seem right. Yeah, NY's a super-large market and Milwaukee's a relatively small one. But so is Golden State. Most people don't even know where the Warriors play. Somewhere in California. Turns out it's in Oakland, home of the Raiders, Athletics and Hell's Angels. Across the bay from Alcatraz. Been out that way a few times and actually Oakland's pretty boring, plus there's a few neighborhoods that aren't exactly recommended for recreational excursions, unless one happens to own a tank and knows how to drive it. All the cool stuff is across the bay in San Fran. Like Fisherman's Wharf, Lombard Street, the trolleys, countless numbers of street people with ingenious acts/scams to get you to give them money, and the former home of a big-headed home run hitter. Hmm. Perhaps it has a few drawbacks.

Nevertheless, here's wishing Jason Kidd well in his new job in Milwaukee. May he buy a new Harley and drink lots of beer, though it's also not recommended to combine the two on the road. Bad things can happen.

World Cup. Pressure and stereotypes

It's hard to imagine how much pressure the Brazilian team is under during this World Cup. After all, Brazil is the host nation and their natives are certainly as phutbol phanatical as any other country on the planet. Maybe even more so. They barely escaped a close call against Chile in the Sweet Sixteen. Lots of near misses, and a game that would be decided in "overtime" during a shootout, where the last red hot Chile pepper bounced one off the goal post to seal their fate. Alas, there is no joy in the Hormelville of the Andes, but the Portuguese speaking guys in the yellow shirts march on to the Elite 8.

Mexico collapsed against the Netherlands in the waning minutes of the game, giving up two late goals. In a post-game interview, the Mexican head coach would claim everybody in the whole World Cup hierarchy was against his team. Alas, poor Mexico got the Rodney Dangerfield treatment, he said. Oh, boo hoo hoo. He needs to shut up. Nobody likes sour grapes. They got beat fair and square. They should go back home, break out the Cuevo, and be happy. Besides, they haven't advanced past the Sweet Sixteen in the last quarter century, so it was hardly a surprise they bowed out early again.

Interesting some of the teams that have already been eliminated, particularly the Europeans. Soccer crazy England is gone. With all their "premier" leagues and talent to choose from for a national team, they didn't even make it to the knock-out stage. Pretty sure the Queen is not amused. She likely won't be conferring knighthood on any of those guys soon.

Defending World Cup champ Spain suffered the same fate. They be gone. Warm up the bulls in Pamplona. The boys are back in town, and they can give those pesky toros a serious run for their money. Pity they couldn't score more goals on the pitch.

A supposedly very good Italian team was given the boot back to the "boot". Hard to believe those guys were shy on endurance. I mean, c'mon, given the cuisine they're famous for, how could they NOT have been seriously carbo-loaded?

Costa Rica eliminated Greece in another exciting game. Chalk up one for Central America and down goes another old-worlder. Break out the bananas and let the descendants of the ancients drown their sorrows in ouzo. To the winners go the fruits of victory, while the losers have to settle for getting loaded on that nasty licorice flavored potable. Somewhere I think I faintly hear Harry Belafonte in the background. DAY-O.

On deck is the Germans vs the Algerians. Methinks the latter will be taken back to the mysterious Casbah indeed after that match. As is the USA vs Belgium. Got a coin to flip and feel lucky? Even if the Americans get past the Belgians, they'll likely have to face heavyweight Argentina. Switzerland is famous for a lot of things, like Roger Federer, delectable chocolate, high-priced watches, holey cheese, and secret bank accounts. But does anybody really think they can knock off the 'Tines in a soccer match when the crowd will be so heavily against them? Not I.

Still, all the pressure remains on Brazil, the host country. If they were to be eliminated, entirely possible as the competition gets tougher, it would likely be considered a national disaster. Yours truly was somewhat surprised to learn that Brazil had over 10 first-class venues for these games to be played at. That's a lot of stadiums.

And looking at the geography, some of them are quite far apart. A few hours, even by your typical charter jet liner.

Maybe I should have paid more attention to a man who led our country for eight years. After no doubt being extensively briefed, ex-President George W. Bush once said, "Wow, Brazil is big". Yep, that Dubyah could be sharp as a tack sometimes, or was that a bowling ball? No matter. He be gone too.

A question--- what happened to the vuvuzelas at this World Cup? You know, those super-annoying plastic moron horns that were everywhere at the Olympics a couple years ago? Did they ban them from the stadiums in Brazil this time around? One can only hope. The screaming TV announcers are bad enough.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Idle rants

Well OK. After just one round of a tournament, he finds himself tied for 83rd place and already a whopping eight shots off the lead. But guess who is the lead story at the Quicken National tourney, press conference and all? Yep, Eldrick Tont Woods must be back swinging his clubs again. Only Tiger can generate this sort of mania, for reasons yours truly has yet to understand.

What's that? After two rounds he's now 13 shots behind, in 104th place, and didn't come close to making the cut? Only one thing to do. Another press conference. Please.

Skin pigmentation aside, ever notice that rookie NBA Commish Adam Silver bears a striking resemblance to the President? The long skinny head, toothy smile, big ears, pencil neck, and the mastery of politically correct non-speak while trying to appeal to the masses for their own popularity are shared traits. Throw in the swagger and cockiness of dudes pretending to have everything under control, while in reality both are up to their eyeballs dealing with various controversies, and it's hard to tell them apart. Maybe they should switch jobs for a few months. Would anybody care? Better yet, would it even matter?

After a recent slump, the Detroit Tigers seem to be on a roll again. Given the pitifully weak division they play in, NOT winning it to make the postseason would be a colossal failure. Hope springs eternal, but wake me up in October when the playoffs start. Hype this, and hype that over the years, but the Tigers haven't won the World Series since 1984 -- 30 years ago. Have they got what it takes this year? We'll see. Nobody remembers or cares about shoulda, coulda, woulda. Runner-up doesn't count.

Glad that whole brouhaha over manager Brad Ausmus making a wisecrack about beating his wife has finally blown over. Hey, he was obviously just kidding. But leave it to certain others to pounce on such a thing in the name of a story or a (cha-ching) cause. Some want Ausmus to donate money here and there. Others want him to become some sort of spokeman for the plight of battered women, etc. Two words -- shut up. It was a joke. One was free to chuckle at his attempt at humor or disapprove of same, but get over it, especially those in the latter camp.

The latest edition of Sports Illustrated offers a very interesting article about the Houston Astros. Currently, the Astros are 15 games behind in their own division and slugging it out with the likes of the Chicago Cubs and Arizona Diamondbacks for the worst record in all of major league baseball. But this article suggests Houston is actually on the rise. Amazingly, it predicts the Astros might well win the World Series by 2017. That's quite a projection. May the force be with Ben Reiter, the author, but methinks he may have bitten off more copy than he can chew with that call. And keep him away from the Detroit Lions. Their fans don't need any hot-shot SI scribe getting their hopes up. It is what it's always been with the Lions. Still chasing that elusive Super Bowl appearance -- but the chances of it happening any year soon are slim to none.

So Venus Williams got knocked off again by a relative unknown at a major tennis tournament (Wimbledon) in the early rounds? Maybe it's time for Ms. V to call it quits. Other than collecting paychecks here and there, the elder Williams sister hasn't been world class competitive for several years, and it's only going to get worse as time marches on. She can't hang with the latest generation of power-strokers and fellow on-court shriekers anymore.

Also glad to see the Uruguayan serial biter, Luis Suarez, was suspended for the next 9 international matches, and is banned from any contact with major league futboll for 4 months. This chomping of his incisors into an opponent's flesh has to stop. When he's allowed to return, perhaps one of the terms of his probation should be Suarez has to wear a Hannibal Lector mask for a couple years while competing. Couldn't hurt.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Lebron James. What's next?

Through his agent, Lebron James has notified the Miami Heat that he'll opt out of the remainder of his player-option contract and become a free agent. This comes as a surprise to -- well -- actually nobody.

Had the Heat three-peated for another NBA championship, things might well be different. But seeing as how they were trashed in the finals by San Antonio, who likely will be just as good next year, evidently James wants to survey the landscape and see if there is another destination where he would have a better chance at winning another championship. And, oh my. How the rumors and possibilities have run wild already. Analysts are analyzing, "experts" are offering their expertise, and the TV talking heads are once again flapping their gums at warp speed trying to bring us the latest news flash -- even though they don't have any idea how this is going to work out.

Remember when Anderson Cooper and CNN devoted an entire month to that missing Malaysian plane? Their ratings actually went up. Three months later, the plane is still missing and nobody knows anything. It's amazing how much interest can be generated when newsy folks talk about things they have no clue about. Or perhaps that's an indictment on a gullible public that is desperate to buy into something -- anything -- that will make their lives more interesting, even if the story has absolutely no basis in fact. But I digress. Back to the hoopsters.

It's not just Lebron that will be hitting the open market on July 1. Teammates Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh can opt out as well. For that matter -- can this be right? -- the only player on the entire Miami Heat roster under contract beyond next year is back-up guard Norris Coles. It would appear their front office has some serious work facing them in the near future.

Throw New York Knick Carmelo Anthony into the meat market mix as well. Madison Square Garden might be a great place to play, but Melo has realized he'll never win a ring in the Big Apple. So he's looking for another competitive landing spot as well.

Scenarios have been offered. The Chicago Bulls seem to be high on most lists. Any of these free agents might go to the Windy City and team up with the likes of Carlos Boozer, Kirk Hinrich, Joakim Noah, and even former MVP Derrick Rose, if he can stay healthy.

Or maybe the Houston Rockets. If they off Jeremy Lin to create cap space, point guard extraordinaire James Harden and "Superman" Dwight Howard seem to have the long and short of it covered when it comes to the nucleus of a team. Throw in a couple super-stud free agents, and these guys could be contenders in a hurry.

There was even a rumor Kobe Bryant was going to have a talk with Lebron, and possibly some of the other free agents to be. That's a joke. Kobe's on his last legs and the Lakers look to be terrible for the next several years. If an aging high profile free agent is seeking a title, LA is not the place to go -- unless it's with the Clippers. Playing with the likes of Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan, and for head coach Doc Rivers could definitely be inviting, if they can get around that pesky salary cap. That, and the whole Sterling mess is likely far from being resolved, so nobody knows for sure who the owner's going to be in the near future.

Regardless, when it comes to players like Lebron, Dwyane, Chris, and Carmelo seeking further fame and fortune -- two words come to mind. Who cares?

No matter where they end up, all will make over $20 million a year to play basketball. Throw in various endorsements, and that number likely at least doubles.

You know what's ironic about this? Lots of teams would bend over backwards and break the bank to sign some of these guys. But not the San Antonio Spurs. They don't need them, and probably the last thing they want is some big ego guy coming into town that wouldn't mesh with their system, and create a bunch of me-me waves. Though it doesn't make for good press and hype -- yours truly is of the opinion that it's very refreshing to see humility and team play win a championship. Especially with a head coach like Gregg Popovich, who besides being a great basketball tactician and player personality handler, has an even more special knack of putting reporters with dumb questions in their place.

One place none of the above free-agents to be will land? The Detroit Pistons. Not a chance. Besides the team itself being woeful with no help in sight, the Pistons' management hierarchy has recently become a paradox. While owner Tom Gores is likely off chasing his next billion in equity trading, he hired Stan Van Gundy as the president and head coach. Stan hired another guy as general manager. In the whole scheme of things, it's difficult to figure out who's reporting to who. Would Stan the president fire Stan the coach if the team continues to be terrible? Would the GM be consulted, which is underneath Stan the prez, but technically Stan the coach's superior? And if Stan is in charge of all basketball operations, then just what, pray tell, will the GM be doing, other than collecting a few million bucks from the platinum equity guy?

Pretty sure Lebron and the other guys have better things to do than trying to sort out that mess, while chasing a ring.

On an unrelated note, big time congrats to Vanderbilt, the college baseball champions. Vandy's got the Rodney Dangerfield treatment for decades, and now they finally have something to celebrate. Very cool.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Luis Suarez. A fitting penalty

Turns out, Uruguayan soccer star Luis Suarez has a nasty habit. Biting people.

Mike Tyson got in big trouble once for biting off a chunk of Evander Holyfield's ear in a heavyweight title match. Iron Mike was disqualified. But he never did it again, to my knowledge.

Some people and things are expected to bite hard and draw blood. Like Dracula, Hannibal Lector, and my ex's divorce attorney. It goes with the territory. But even little kids, at least most of them, know that biting is a definite no-no. These days, being caught red-incisored committing such a nefarious act can result in severe penalties. Like a stern time-out, getting to strike two or, in severe cases, being deprived of their play stations and/or smart phones for a couple hours. Horrors!! The cruelty that some parents inflict on their children these days in the name of discipline. Personally, if I had bitten another kid when I was a child, and my dad found out about it -- merely sitting down would have been a problem for a while. But we all learned in different ways. Don't do that, or there will be consequences, sometimes painful ones.

Evidently, Luis Suarez has not. This isn't his first go-round with sinking his choppers into an opponent's flesh. Indeed, he was suspended for 7 games in 2010 after biting an opposing player in the Netherlands, and another 10 games after a repeat 2013 chomp in England. All of these incidents were captured on TV, so there is no doubt they happened. Also, he was suspended yet again for using racial slurs against another adversary along the way. While a terrifically gifted futboller, it would appear Suarez has a serious problem going on. The man turns into a savage animal when the pressure is on. Kind of like an American politician facing stiff competition to get re-elected. No holds barred.

The governing body of World Cup Soccer (FIFA), is aware of Suarez's latest munch on an Italian player, and will be quickly be meeting to decide what punishment, if any, will be handed down. There is no denying the latest incident actually happened. Millions of people world-wide saw it on TV in HD, though incredibly, the on-field referees called no foul at the time. This punishment could range anywhere from a 2 game suspension, to a 2 year ban from soccer for Suarez.

To boot, Suarez was totally unapologetic and even maintained his bite was somehow the fault of the Italian player. Given that, and his priors, one would think FIFA would slap him with the max punishment of a 2 year ban. Outta here. Go get the help he obviously needs and see ya in 2016.

But the soccer folks are notoriously wimpy when it comes to such matters. Even with serial offenders like Suarez. Even if he's suspended, chances are he still wouldn't have learned his lesson.

How to fix this? Simple. The tournament's in Brazil, right?

Promptly transport Suarez to a section of the Amazon river that is heavily infested with piranhas. Use a crane to dangle him by his ankles over these waters with his face a few inches away. Throw in some bloody meat and let him watch the action up close. Then dip him up to his shoulders beneath the surface. Count a thousand one, a thousand two, and yank him out. After he recovered, Suarez would fully understand what it feels like to be bitten. Inform him if he does it again, it will be a thousand five next time. I flat out guarantee you his biting would stop. Seems over the top, you say? Maybe. But it's soccer, right? Give the piranhas a yellow card to warn them of any future bad behavior and consider the matter properly adjudicated. Justice was served.

Sometimes desperate times call for desperate measures.

The wacky World Cup

This whole World Cup thing is getting very confusing. In the opening rounds of "group play", there are actually 8 groups, A through H, with 4 teams apiece. They have all played at least 2 games within their groups. After various "qualifiers", 32 teams from nations around the globe started this tournament in Brazil, and the next step is to make it into the "knockout' round, which is basically the same as the Sweet Sixteen in NCAA basketball.

Except the format of "group play" and who might qualify to move on is insane. Here's an example --- The US can move into the knockout round with a win or tie against Germany on Thursday. But even if they lose, they're not out yet. Portugal and Ghana will be playing a game at the same time. If that game ends in a tie, the US moves on. If there's a winner in that game, the Americans could advance depending on several "tie -breakers". Like total points, goal difference, total goals, head-to-head points, head-to-head goal difference, and head-to-head goals. If there's still a tie, it will come down to a coin flip.

That would seem to beg a few questions.....

First, who are the lunatics that came up with this "bracketology" in the first place? Have the Marx Brothers come back from the dead to be in charge of the World Cup? Are Doctor Howard, Doctor Fine, and Doctor Howard on call again for consultations? Four years to plan this event, and it comes down to a system nobody can understand, with more loopholes than your average billionaire can find in the tax code? Everybody's in charge, and nobody's in charge. This sounds like the work of Congress and the White House. Are they running the World Cup these days? God help us.

On that note, an idle thought. Our honorable Secretary of State, one John Kerry, recently said "talk is cheap". THIS, from Kerry, who's main function is political double-talk, non-speak around the world? And with a straight face? Excuse me for a second. (HAHAHAHAHA. Snort, gasp, wheeze, knee slap. Jackie Mason had nothing on this guy. That's hilarious). Sorry, I'm better now.

Back to the World Cup. Here's another example of the silliness --- some teams that have already qualified to advance have to play a third game against a team that has already been eliminated. So what, pray tell, is the point in playing such a game?

These guys need to get their act together and make it like the NCAA hoops tournament. Forget all the confounding scenarios that could possibly happen with tie-breakers and the like. If you win, you move on. If you lose, you go home. Period. And get rid of the ties. If it takes minutes, hours, days, whatever, they play on until somebody wins, like an NBA/NFL/NHL or Major League baseball playoff game. Same with golf and tennis. You play until there's a winner, however long it takes. The futbollers might eventually drop like flies in the heat, you say? Who cares? It's only soccer players. The last guy left standing can finally, mercifully (for the fans) kick the ball in the net. Game over. What's the problem?

Just don't put a politician in charge, okay? The system's screwed up enough already to the point where nobody seems to know what the hell is going on until the teams get into the Sweet Sixteen. One game knockouts we understand.

Alas, chances are slim that Larry, Moe, and Curly would even WANT to come back and be in charge of the World Cup. Same with Groucho, Harpo, Chico, Zeppo, Gummo, etc. Even their comical descendants like Anderson Coopo, Donald Trumpo, Lou Dobbo, Howard Sterno, Rush Limbo, any Kardashio -- you get the idea -- would likely pass as well. They're all too busy talking smack and patting themselves on the back to have any time for soccer.

But if someone could be resurrected, there's a perfect candidate to head up the US soccer team. Get rid of that German guy, Klinsman. Replace him with Rodney Dangerfield. It's no secret American soccer doesn't get any respect -- right? So put a guy in charge that knew all about that for his whole life.

If you can't win, according to Klinsman, might as well have a few laughs. Bring on Rodney......

Monday, June 23, 2014

The wacky US Open

Looking up and down the leader board, one could note a Wie, Yang, Choi, Ryu, Yokomine, Park, Feng, and a Lee or three.

Um, this was the US, as in United States, Open, right? Strangely enough, a Lewis came in second. Wait a second. Lewis? How'd she get in there?

Eleven year old Lucy Li was all the rage for the first two days. She carded a pair of 78s and didn't make the cut. Yours truly isn't laughing. I've never broke 80 in my whole life, even on public courses that are a whole lot easier than Pinehurst #2. Still, 11 seems way too young for anyone to be competing at the highest levels of any sport.

Idle thought: When Lucy was giggling and eating ice cream at a press conference, everything appeared normal. But she has braces on her teeth. At age 11, have all her baby teeth even fallen out yet? She can't be that far removed from the tooth fairy -- can she?

Congrats to Michelle Wie on winning the ladies US Open for her first major title. Remember, Michelle started playing with the big girls not long after her Santa Claus and Easter Bunny days as well. And what gave with all those stickers up and down her left leg? Was she covering up a few tats? Or WERE they tats? If the latter, that was some mighty sorry looking ink work. Or were they some sort of therapeutic pads? Maybe just a fashion statement? Beats me, but I wonder how they were held on. Glue? Velcro?

Worse, some other golfer, I forget which, was wearing what appeared to be either solid black panty hose or some sort of leotard. This, while it was over 90 degrees on the course. How bad were her legs underneath that she had to cover them up? Yikes.

This was the same course the men played their US Open on just a couple weeks ago. Sort of. Still a par 70, but some 1300 yards shorter for the ladies. That's a whole bunch. Granted, the girls can't hit it as far as the boys, and compensations are made. Even public courses have always had the ladies' tees moved up. Turned out, Wie was the only player to shoot under par for the tournament, and barely at that.

But there should be a limit to this. A report said Wie ripped a drive on the 10th hole, then hit a cut 8 iron into 10 feet to set up an eagle putt which she made. Sounds great, but something is very wrong this picture. Be it men or women, if a golfer can hit driver and short 8 iron into a green, it should not, repeat NOT, be a par 5. This is the very definition of a par 4, regardless of the yardage.

It was interesting that long-time fixture on the pro golf circuit Laura Davies was recently dubbed a Grand Dame. Pretty sure only Queen Lizzy the Deuce can do that. Ms. Davies said it was an honor to have reached the same plateau as long time men's golfer Nick Faldo. Dang, I never knew Nick was once dubbed a Grand Dame. This whole sexual identity thing is getting out of control, I tell ya.

But Grand Dame is pretty good for Davies, who's only 50, but doesn't look a day over.... hmm, nevermind. Maybe one day, her and Sir Mick Jagger can hook up and make beautiful music and, hmm, nevermind again. That could get ugly. Paint it black.

Regardless, all hail Michelle Wie, the 2014 champ of the Asian, excuse, US Open. What's that, you say? Wie is an American who was born in Hawaii?

A likely story. I want to see her birth certificate. I think she came from the same place as the President. Some kind of mutant with Korean, Kenyan, Klingon, Vulcan, Romulan, and ewok blood coursing through their veins to be inserted on planet earth as the prelude to an eventual alien hostile take-over.

Ridiculous, you say? Maybe. But it's all relative. Check out the track records of Congress and the Detroit Lions over the years. Now THAT'S ridiculous.....

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Tiger Woods. Godlike?

Drop to your knees, clasp your hands together and give thanks for your salvation, all ye miserable peasants. Line up the sacrificial virgins at the altar and let the trumpets blare. The Messiah's long anticipated return draws nigh.

Yep, none other than Tiger Woods is about to start golfing again. What, you thought this was about something or someone else?  Hmm. On second thought....

Our Eldrick, who art in comeback
Shallow be thy name
Thy bimbos come, thy marriage done
In America, as it is in Sweden.

Give you this day your holy majors
And forgive us our dalliance with Rory,
As we forgive your escapades in Vegas.

And lead us not to Adam, Martin, or Phil,
But deliver you to another green jacket

For thine is the kingdom of Augusta, the power of your brand, and the glory bestowed on you by the adoring throngs of groupies forever and ever.


Sorry. Couldn't resist.

Nevertheless, 3 months after back surgery, Tiger is ready to give the PGA tour another go next week at the Quicken Loans National, which will be held at Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, Maryland. It seems odd that Quicken is owned by Dan Gilbert, who is based in Ohio, and has Michigan roots, would sponsor a tournament in Maryland. Then again, Gilbert also owns the Cleveland Cavaliers of the NBA, and he was the same guy that said his Cavs would win an NBA championship before Miami did when Lebron James ditched his team and "took his talents to South Beach" a few years back. We all know how that worked out. The recent beatdown by San Antonio aside, Lebron has two rings. Danny Boy's Cavs are still floundering. Revenge of the nerds might work in the movies, but seldom in professional sports. But I digress.

Back to Tiger. The talking heads are already in warp-speak counting down the days and hours until Eldrick tees it up again with the big boys. No matter how he plays at the Quicken, it's absolutely a win-win situation for him. Consider....

If he crashes and burns, as in not making the cut, the apologists will be out in force. They will likely say Tiger gave it a heroic effort, but it's too much to expect anyone to be able to play at a high level so soon after a major injury. Nevermind that by entering the field, Woods knocked somebody else out. And since when were former sports stars coming back from being hurt allowed to play themselves back into shape at the major league level, especially at the expense of another player? Not in basketball, baseball, football, or hockey. Throw in lacrosse, volleyball, and soccer. Pro tennis players wouldn't dare come back if they weren't totally healthy, lest they be eaten alive by a quality opponent.

Either Tiger's 100% good to go or he's not. If yes, than no excuses. If no, then he has no business back on tour. Unlike tennis, where it's head to head, it's not like Woods doesn't have a variety of PGA level golf courses he can practice on with or without a few playing partners as he attempts to regain his game. Quitely, privately, get it together, however long and whatever it takes, before jumping back into the big leagues.

However, if Tiger indeed makes the cut at the Quicken, he will no doubt he hailed as a hero. We will hear about his Audie Murphy courage, his John Wayne true grit, and his overcoming all odds like that Brat that just knocked off Eric Cantor. Obama might even give him a medal -- perhaps nominate him for a Cabinet position. Considering his alleged history with the fairer sex, Secretary of the Interior would seem to be just about perfect. Ahem.

And OMG, if Tiger were to actually, gasp, win this tournament? For one thing, a few more good paying jobs would become available. That's because many of the talking heads would be so hot with their excitement -- they'd likely spontaneously combust. Heads on fire for real on the 4-letter network would give them a huge boost in the ratings. It could even be that some of those pesky countries and factions on the other side of the world would call a truce in their constant warring so they could all tune in to see which American sports reporter went up in flames next. In that respect, Eldrick winning a tournament might be a good thing for the world.

But alas, him coming back to the PGA tour has its downside as well. It took a while, but during the 3 months of his absence, finally -- FINALLY -- all the Tiger replays from years, tournaments, and shots past, mercifully went away.

In the meantime, it's been a joy to watch pro golf tournaments as top golfers from all over the world compete at various venues. Why? Because in the absence of Woods, the TV coverage and commentary is spread much more equally across the field. We've got to see a lot of golfers and shots we never would have seen if Eldrick were present. Because when he was, even he wasn't competitive, much less on the leader board at any particular tournament, the viewing public would still be bombarded with Tiger this and Tiger that, to the exclusion of other action around the course.

The Tiger hype has started already. And it's going to be even worse at the Quicken. Everything the man does, from drives, iron shots, chips, putts, taking a drink of water, eating a banana, talking with his caddie, etc., will not only be shown, but replayed -- over and over and over. Such is the continued fascination with Eldrick Tont Woods for whatever reasons. And while this is going on, viewers won't get to see a lot of other things going on around the course. Let's face it. Despite all the on-course cameras and various commentators, they can only broadcast one video and corresponding audio at a time to fans out in big screen and surround sound land. If a disproportionate amount of air time is devoted to one player, then the fans are necessarily deprived of seeing many other things going on.

Here's wishing Tiger well on his comeback trail, and yours truly will tune in to the Quicken tourney next week to check it out, if only for a short while. Because I fear it's going to be the Tiger show again, regardless of how well he fares. See Tiger walk, while "experts" give their prognosis on his post-surgery stride. We were denied seeing a great shot elsewhere on the course. See Tiger scratch his ear. Did it just itch, or could this be a symptom of a neurological after-effect of his back surgery? Bring on more experts to talk about it and lets see a few replays, replete with slow motion -- maybe even frame by frame. Please.

So if you're a Tiger fan, the Quicken tourney will definitely be the thing to watch because, one way or the other, your man is going to get some serious air time. If things work out well, you might even be treated to seeing a few more on-air personalities go super-nova. And wouldn't that be fun?

Personally, yours truly enjoyed the arrival of Tiger Woods on the world golf circuit back in the late 1990s.. He was quite the phenomenon and likely racked up the greatest 10 years of golfing accomplishments in the history of the game.

But I've liked watching golf more in his absence, because the coverage is so much more evenly spread amongst the field, as it should be.

Yes, Tiger gave the PGA a huge bump in popularity when he came on the scene and was winning everything. He was just what they needed at the time. But 15 years later, his personal foibles aside, the Tour is very much alive and well with young stars continuing to emerge from all over the globe.

Contrary to the current Tiger hype -- and it will fade away eventually -- in my humble opinion the game of golf has been better served in Tiger's recent absence. It has allowed us to see so much more from other really good players.

Woods is a lock for the golfing Hall of Fame, but he's pushing 40, been through various injuries, swing changes, personal trials and tribulations, even caddies. Though once thought to be a given, it's no longer realistic to think he can ever catch, much less surpass Jack's 18 major victories. His groupies can wish he may, wish he might all they want, but it ain't gonna happen. It's been 6 years since he won one, and nobody, including Tiger himself, knows for sure that he will ever even be competitive again following his surgery, let alone return to his former dominance of years ago.

And guess what? The other fearless young studs with serious game keep on coming. In any given tournament, including a "major", it only takes one of them to get hot for 4 days to deny Tiger, assuming he can be in contention, no given, another one. Lately we've seen a lot of new champions, and I suspect that trend will continue.

Like it or not, Tiger Woods' days as a dominant force on the PGA tour are most likely done. It was a great run, but the competition is too ferocious these days and will certainly continue in the future as Tiger gets older yet. These guys don't care about his former fame or legacy. They're out to make their own fame and fortune. Such is the nature of pro sports. They come, they rise, they fall, and others can't wait to take their place.

But for at least one more week, Tiger will be front and center next week. Replays and all. Here's wishing him well.......

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Washington Redskins. The name game

Apparently, the skirmish has flared up again. That being the fight over the name of the NFL team located in Washington DC -- the Redskins. Actually, quite an unexpected turn just happened, but more about that later.

In the red corner, no pun intended, there are those that deem the name "Redskins" as being insensitive, derogatory, and even a racial slur toward Indians -- oops -- Native Americans. In the blue-blood corner we have current owner Daniel Snyder who refuses to change the name of his club, standing on "tradition". That, and he paid $800 million for the team and probably thinks he can call them whatever he damn well pleases.

Let's look at a little history of the Redskins. They weren't always in Washington. Back in 1932 they were the Boston Redskins. This was when a man named FDR was first running for President. You remember him. He had polio, which left him a "cripple". Over the years, polio has all but been eradicated and so has the word "cripple". We're not supposed to say that anymore, though if someone had referred to FDR back then as being "mobility challenged", nobody would have known what the hell they were talking about. Times change.

Should it count that the Redskins were the first professional football team to integrate in 1962? Given the current dust-up over their name, probably not. That's very old news, right?

The Washington Redskins have led the NFL in home attendance for the last 9 years, a record. Evidently the football fans in and around DC aren't too put off by their name. Is that relevant? Maybe not.

Does it matter that when Snyder bought the team in 1999, the other 31 NFL owners gave their unanimous approval of not only his ownership, but tacitly the name of the team itself? Well, OK. That was 15 years ago. Again, times change. Maybe just because they've been the "Redskins" for 82 years doesn't mean it's etched on a stone totem pole -- oops -- sacred tribal monument, right?

But here's a few things that SHOULD matter.

In 2002, a poll was conducted amongst various American Indians, and it was found that 75% of them had no objection to the Redskins' name. Shortly thereafter, certain activists cried foul. They claimed the poll was too narrow in scope and targeted only a small slice of Native Americans that likely didn't fairly represent the much larger view.

So another much more extensive poll was conducted in 2004, which encompassed the entire continental 48 states. The results of that survey found that a whopping 93% of Native Americans found the name to be acceptable.

That was 10 years ago, you say? Indeed. Just last year in 2013 the pollsters were at it again. 79% approved of the Redskins name, and 19% opposed. A mere few months ago in 2014, the approval rate was up to 83%. These aren't even close calls -- they're landslides amongst the very peoples that are supposedly being offended giving their approval.

As for the unexpected turn mentioned above? The feds, in their infinite wisdom, just cancelled the patent and copyright protection the Washington Redskins have had for decades to market its own name and logo. Evidently, Big Brother doesn't approve of the Redskins name. One would think with all the other issues still festering -- like unemployment, immigration reform, the mounting deficit, the VA hospital debacle, the IRS under fire for targeting certain groups, the spooks listening in on our telephone conversations, and general mayhem elsewhere around the world amongst others -- they would have better things to concentrate their efforts on than the name of an historic NFL franchise. But never underestimate the pettiness of bureaucrats, especially during an election year.

At that, yours truly is dumbfounded as to the logic of it. Sure, by the Washington Redskins no longer having sole control over their name and logo and how it is marketed, it will no doubt cost them some revenue on fees they otherwise would have collected.

But in the meantime, pending an appeal, the doors will be opened for anybody that wants to make a few bucks selling imitation Redskins apparel and gear. And there will be many that hop on that bandwagon because, like the name or not, the Redskins remain hugely popular. So in the end, the name and logo of the "Redskins" would get even MORE exposure, when fans start snapping up the knock-off (cheaper) merchandise. Of course it doesn't make sense, but that's how our "best and brightest" elected representatives always seem to do business.

Finally, despite protests by many factions over the years, there can be little doubt nobody got screwed worse than the Indians in America over the last couple hundred years. It used to be their country from coast to coast. They've been lied to, shunted off to reservations, and otherwise abused since the white man cometh. Native Americans have gone from having free rein over the entire continent to running a few casinos and having "special" fishing and hunting privileges here and there. It's truly a travesty in American history.

But in the case of the Washington Redskins' current name game, if a vast majority of these same peoples indeed support the moniker of "Redskins", as the above polls clearly indicate, then the activists and politically correct folks need to shut up.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Detroit Tigers. Funk or overrated?

Well OK, the Tigers started out the season 27-12. The pitchers were pitching, the hitters were hitting, and they were even stealing a lot of bases, something unheard of as recently as last year. Indeed, they had the best record in all of Major League Baseball. The wise guys in Vegas who had tabbed them the pre-season "favorites" to win the World Series were no doubt feeling pretty good about all the numbers they had crunched to come up with the odds.

Since then, the Tigers have gone a woeful 9-19, worthy of a last place team in any division. They've not only surrendered the best record in baseball by several games, but also the lead in the supposedly weak AL Central Division. Though the hitting has been hit and miss, no pun intended, they've made some uncharacteristic fielding errors, bone-headed plays while running the basepaths, and seem to have developed a nasty penchant for hitting into double plays at key times to kill a possible rally.

Sure, streaks happen all the time in Major League Baseball -- win or lose. It was unrealistic to think the Tigers could continue their 29-12 pace (.700) for the duration of the season. Even the greatest teams don't go .700 for the whole year. Conversely, certainly the Tigers are better than the .321 record they've posted over the last 28 games.

Conventional wisdom held the Tigers' starting pitching was their strength, while the bullpen was shaky. But of late, something unforeseen has happened. Justin Verlander, he of the Fastball Flakes and not long ago considered to be amongst the most dominating starting pitchers in the game -- has suddenly turned average -- at best. JV is now 6-7, and has been banged around in his last several starts. His ERA has climbed to a not so pretty five. Reigning Cy Young winner Max Scherzer just got pin-balled for 10 runs in five innings of work. In Scherzer's case, it brings to mind a song Crystal Gayle once made famous. Something about turning brown eyes blue. Sorry. Ahem.

It's telling when the Tigers can rally for 6 runs in the ninth inning -- and still lose by three. That means the other team was rocking and rolling their pitching staff for the first 8 innings. Definitely not a good sign for a staff that was supposed to be the best in baseball.

When a guy like Phil Coke is your go-to guy out of the bullpen, then you have a problem. At that, Coke possibly commits a balk on every pitch. Once he's come to the "set" position, his ensuing shoulder shrug could certainly be construed as a balk, though it seems to have been accepted as his norm. Aging closer Joe Nathan, whom the Tigers procured from the Minnesota Twins, always has the Motown faithful holding their breath. Maybe he'll save a tight game, and maybe he'll get lit up. Hardly Mr. Reliable.

So what will happen with the Tigers? After all, they have 101 games to go. They're not as good as their first 39, and not as bad as their last 28. Will they still win their division and/or qualify for the playoffs? Maybe, even probably.

Thing is, they need to snap out of their current funk pretty quick. When they were riding high a month ago, a degree of swagger came with it. They knew they were good. Confidence makes more winning easier. If this slump lasts another couple weeks or so, and they find themselves 5-6 games behind in their own "weak" division, serious doubts might start to creep into their clubhouse, even amongst a veteran team like the Tigers. Even rookie manager Brad Ausmus recently got a bit testy while saying he basically had no idea on how to right the good ship Tiger. There's really not much he can do. Keep putting the best players and pitchers out there he has, and hope for the best. Sometimes ya win -- sometimes ya lose.

It will be interesting to see where the Tigers are after the next few weeks or so. Maybe back on top, pitchers pitching, hitters hitting, runners stealing, and defense solid. But if they go another 9-19 in the next month -- they just might be in serious trouble.

A recent funk they will come out of, or overrated from the get-go?

We'll see.....

Even the wise guys botch a call once in a while.....

Monday, June 16, 2014

Panic. A matter of timing

Sports fans see it every year. When their home teams in various sports loses a few games, especially when they're supposed to be pretty good -- the local scribes and talking heads that follow them will always bring up the panic question. Is it time yet? Personally, yours truly has always found this notion quite silly, if not outright laughable, for a couple reasons.

First, in any professional "league" sport, at the end of the season there can only be one champion. In one form or another, all the rest have to lose somewhere along the way. If all the fans of all the losing teams decided to panic, 95% of Americans and most Canadians would be whacked out on Xanax, or other medicinal goodies. That doesn't appear to have happened, at least not to a large degree. Ahem.

Secondly, franchises such as the Detroit Lions would have ceased to exist long ago. Why? They wouldn't have any fans. If after 50+ years of futility, the Honolulu blue and silver faithful were prone to jumping out of tall buildings every time their team crashed and burned, that particular species would have already been extinct for decades. Obviously, that hasn't happened. The throngs of Lions' fans are very much alive and semi-well. No Xanax for them, but lots of beer. How many Ford Field draft beers equal one anti-depressant pill anyway? Beats me, but I'm pretty sure the pharmaceuticals are a whole lot cheaper. Nevertheless, hats off to a species that has not only survived the worst of times, but actually seems to be growing in numbers. They're breeding -- multiplying, buying even more Lions' gear. Infants in strollers are commonly seen wearing a mini-Lions jersey. Little do the adorable little tykes know their parents have set them upon the path to certain doom in the sports world. So innocent, and corrupted already. It doesn't seem fair.

However, it could well be there comes a time when sports fans should indeed panic.

The NHL playoffs are over. The LA Kings are the champs. Same with the NBA and the San Antonio Spurs. The US Golf Open recently concluded. A German, Martin Kaymer, won it. A few days ago, the French Tennis Open wrapped up. Russian Maria Sharapova took the ladies' honors and Spaniard Rafael Nadal the mens'. The NFL won't get serious for another two months. The American soccer faithful -- evidently there are some -- are jubilant because the US finally, FINALLY, defeated Ghana? This is a cause for celebration? Please. Even their head coach has publicly stated the US team has no shot at winning the World Cup. NASCAR will have a race almost every week, but that doesn't get interesting until the "Chase" starts, which is several months away.

So what are we serious sports fans left with in the meantime?

Baseball. Perhaps there's a reason they call it the dog days of summer. Most people have always thought that was about the players slogging through the heat day after day while grinding out a long season.

But it's also about sports fans. No hockey, no basketball, no college or pro football for a couple months?

If there was ever a time to panic -- it's now......

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Miami Heat. Blown away

Just a few days ago, Dwyane Wade of the Miami Heat offered some interesting comments. Referring to the San Antonio Spurs, Wade said they were the other team like them (the Heat). You will not, cannot "put us (or them) away" because we will always believe.

Wade turned out to be dead wrong. In the NBA Finals, the Heat were not only put away, but blown away by the Spurs.

Who would have thunk it? Not yours truly. I thought the Heat would 3-peat as champions going into the series, especially after they "stole" homecourt advantage by winning Game 2 in San Antonio. But then something amazing, or maybe not, happened.

San Antonio promptly went into Miami and thumped them thoroughly in Games 3 and 4. I dare say few saw that coming. Wade himself admitted the same after he and the Heat found themselves down 3-1.

However, a look back at the series clearly shows the Spurs were the vastly superior team. Indeed, the Spurs won their four games by margins of 15, 19, 21, and 17 points, while the Heat's only victory came by 2. In other words, over five games, the Spurs outscored the Heat by 70 points. And that's not a close call. It's pure dominance.

Many hoop fans think the Spurs are "old" by NBA standards, and some of them are. Notably the Big 3 of Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, and Tony Parker, who seem to have been around forever, though it's only slightly over a decade. Thing is, when one takes a closer look from top to bottom of the rosters, Miami's even older.

But top to bottom of the rosters made a world of difference in this series. The Spurs could routinely substitute fresh bodies into the game and continue playing within their system and at a very high level. Conversely, the Heat seemed to live and die by the output of their own Big 3 -- Lebron, D-Wade, and Chris Bosh. Their bench players couldn't remotely match the tempo, talent, and overall play of their Spurs' counterparts.

While Lebron James almost single-handedly attempted to carry the load for the Heat in Game 5, eventual Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard, amongst others, was dogging him all over the court. By the middle of the third quarter, James appeared gassed. And yes, the air conditioning was working just fine this time in the A.T. &T Center.

Good grief, Spurs super-star Tony Parker was 0-10 in the first half and the Spurs still led by 7 at the break? This, after Miami had jumped out to an early 16 point lead? Considering they would eventually lose by 17 points, that's a 33 point differential. A virtual beatdown for three and a half quarters, garbage time at the end notwithstanding.

But it's all about a few things. Superior ball and player movement. Depth. Staying within the system they've been taught -- as in -- passing up a good shot so an open teammate can have a better one. A team defense that seamlessly shifts, rotates to the ball, and generally makes life tough for the opposing players on offense. In a word -- stifling. And of course, the coaching. Heat head coach Eric Spoelstra didn't appear to have any answers for what Spurs mastermind Gregg Popovich was throwing at him.

There can be little doubt the best team won.

Yet looking at San Antonio and Miami in the future presents food for thought. Sure, the Spurs' "old guard" are likely getting close to retirement. And who knows? A couple of them might hang up their sneakers after this year and go out on top as champions. Could happen. Would they be championship contenders next year if their aging Big 3 all bowed out? Maybe not, considering the ascendance of other "youthful" teams, notably the LA Clippers, Okla City Thunder, and even Golden State. The western conference looks to be brutal for many years.

Miami offers up a totally different scenario. Remember when their Big 3 was originally mugging up the cameras as to how many titles they could win once they had teamed up? Not one, not two, not three, four, etc. And they all smugly laughed.

Well, they got two, and were just blown out in their quest for a third. And that gets interesting as well. Lebron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh will soon all become free agents. A few questions. Will they all want to re-sign with the Heat for another go-round at a title? Or might one or more of them be lured elsewhere? Could the Heat find a way to re-sign them all with enough decent help to be title contenders, given that pesky salary cap? Or after the embarrassment of being trashed in these NBA Finals, might ownership decide to blow up the team and start over, while saving a few bucks? Hey, 10 million here and 20 million there and, next thing ya know, we're talking about serious money, even for a billionaire owner.

Watching this Spurs team play during the Finals poses another interesting question. Could this current squad be, gasp, the best team of all time -- at least for one year? Forget Red Auerbach's Celtics team of old with Bill Russell and Co. This year's version of the Spurs would run them out of the building. The 80s version featuring Bird, McHale, Parrish, etc? Same. The "showtime" Lakers with Kareem, Magic, Michael, James, and all? Now that would have been a series to behold indeed. As would challenging the Bulls during their Jordan -- Pippen heyday.

But for now, all hail the San Antonio Spurs, 2014 champions of the world.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

A death in the family

Yes, it happens to everybody, but it's never easy when it does -- is it? Taking a little time off to tend to biz and let the emotions run their course.......

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

USA soccer and munchies

One Emily Kaplan recented penned a very imteresting article for Sports Illustrated. In it, she expounded on the importance of the dietary regimen of the US national team as they head to Brazil to compete for the World Cup.

Certainly endurance is paramount for world class soccer players running up and down the field for a few hours. It's almost like running a marathon kicking a ball down the road, with a few flops thrown in for good measure along the way.

As they say, "what you put into your body translates into what you get out of it". In other words, pounding down double bacon cheeseburgers, super-sizing on the fries, and a meat-eaters pizza ala mode every other day probably aren't the optimum scenario to enhance a soccer player's stamina. All the above, served over heaping bowls of rice might be beneficial to a sumo wrestler -- but not so good for a futboller. Plus, a lot more toilet paper and flushes become involved, and have you seen the price of Charmin and checked out the water rates lately? Brutal, I tell ya.

Nevertheless, enter one Danielle LaFata to the rescue. She is the nutritionist advising the US men's national team on what they should eat. Ms. L says salad bars stocked with creamy dressings, fruit gummies, pretzels, and Twizzlers are OK, but not optimal for peak performance. So she's come up with her own concoctions. Did you know dried cherries help you sleep better, battle jet lag, and reduce muscle inflammation and soreness? Me neither. I'm gonna pop a handful of those rascals next time I get a leg cramp running through an airport to catch a red-eye flight crossing a few time zones. Dried cherries don't sound very appetizing, though.

But that's just for starters, according to LaFata. She's whipped up custom shakes with specific amounts of protein and carbohydrates tailored to each individual athlete's needs, depending on when he works out and his body mass. Yum, nothing like a linguini flavored milk shake to get a soccer player fired up.

Plus her, and team chef Bryson Billapando (yes, a cook isn't good enough -- the futbollers must have a chef -- and Boyardee didn't make the cut) have made sure the hotels and training facilities where the players will be staying can drop 50-60 avocados on them every day. Sounds delicious.

However well intentioned, there could be a couple drawbacks to this scenario.

First, if I'm a soccer playing busting my butt running up and down the field representing my country in a foreign land, I'm only going to tolerate a steady diet of cherry skins, pasta shakes, and guacamole for so long, before I start thinking about skipping curfew to go have some real food. Like a burger, pizza, burrito, KFC, whatever. A man can only be pushed so far.

And most importantly, it likely doesn't matter what LaFata serves them up. The US team has little or no chance to win the World Cup. So many other international teams are vastly superior, and it will show as the tournament goes on. The US is good at a lot of sports, but men's soccer isn't one of them.

Lastly, consider the name itself. La-Fat-a. No pic of her was included in the SI article, but it leaves one to wonder.....

Is she scarfing up all the good food while the team itself withers away from slow starvation?

I dunno. Food for thought, though....

Sterlings, the NBA, and the twilight zone

Just when you thought it couldn't any crazier -- it did. Let me see if I have this right.

This whole mess started when LA Clippers owner Donald Sterling told his "girlfriend", who happens to be a woman of color herself, that he didn't want her bringing other black guys to the games. This was supposed to be a private conversation. But she recorded it, and it eventually went public, sparking outrage from many quarters.

The media jumped all over it, and even the Prez, Obama, weighed in to express his disapproval over these "incredibly offensive racist statements". One would think with so many other issues burning out of control, both domestic and abroad, a US President, especially a lame duck, would have more important matters to concentrate his thoughts and efforts on. Evidently not.

Certainly the NBA, rookie Commissioner Adam Silver in particular, sat up, took notice, were highly offended, and acted swiftly. Sterling would be barred for life from any association with the NBA, fined $2.5 million dollars, and the league would quickly move to force Sterling to sell the Clippers. Since then, little more than a month ago, this whole strange saga seems to have turned into the twilight zone. Nobody knows for sure what's coming next -- but it's going to be weird. Consider....

Sterling was initially defiant. He would fight.

Then he became contrite, and even apologized.

Unfazed, the league set a June 3 meeting of their Board of Governors (the other owners) so they could get the 3/4 vote necessary to have Sterling removed under the NBA's "constitution". That date has come and gone with no such vote.

In the meantime, Donald Sterling had made his wife Shelly the sole trustee of the Sterling Family Trust, supposedly giving her control over the Clippers.

Shelly said SHE would fight the NBA to retain the team.

But then Shelly not only files for divorce from Donald, but has him declared "mentally incapacitated". That divorce stuff with billionaires can get down and dirty sometimes. No word yet on a second opinion regarding Donald's mental health, though it's a pretty safe bet a couple other shrinks will be weighing in with opposing diagnoses if necessary.

Still, Shelly maintains she'll fight to keep the Clippers.

Right up until Steve Ballmer, former CEO of Microsoft, makes an outrageous offer (more than 3 times the market value) of $2 billion to buy the team. Shelly is sold, lock, stock, Doc Rivers and Chris Paul.

Adam Silver and the NBA were happy. It's a done deal. The media can turn their attention to the latest disaster they can root out, and Obama can go back to being Presidential, such as it is.

But not so fast.

Also in the meantime, Donald Sterling had filed a billion dollar lawsuit against the NBA, accusing them of violating his constitutional rights by relying on information obtained from an illegal recording, and further being in breach of anti-trust laws by attempting to coerce him into selling his team.

Then Donald changed his mind and said he'd go along with the sale. He'd drop his lawsuit, the NBA need not vote on his expulsion (likely much to the relief of several owners), and take his share of two billion bucks, minus capital gains taxes, and everything would be right in this crazy world.

It should be noted that when Shelly negotiated the deal with Ballmer, she would be left with a 10% interest in the team, along with the perks that go with it. Like courtside seats. Donald would be shut out entirely.

Upon learning this, Donald changed his mind yet again, and the lawsuit against the NBA is back on. He's going to fight, at least for now. Give it a few days and it might change again.

But you know who's fault this is? The NBA, and their arrogance. Spokesman Mike Bass said there was never any discussion involving the NBA in which they would modify Sterling's penalties in any way whatsover.

In that respect the NBA is penny wise and pound foolish. Sterling was evidently OK with selling his team, but found the lifetime ban and fine unacceptable. So the legal eagles are back in and the big time lawsuit against the league is going forward, for now. If the current situation stays the course, countless millions of dollars will be racked up in legal fees by both sides before the dust finally settles. It could take years proceeding through various courts before the matter is finally resolved.

Though the NBA appears to have public sentiment on their side regarding Sterling, if and when the matter of that original "illegal" recording is presented in a real court, and anti-trust laws come into play, this could be far from the slam dunk Adam Silver originally thought it was.

And it could all be so easily avoided.

The NBA should back off it's ridiculous $2.5 million fine. That's chump change for both the league and Sterling. It's become a matter of principle for Sterling, and the NBA might be wise to waive such a petty fine in the interest of what's best for all in the long run.

And drop the lifetime ban. If Sterling is willing to sign off on selling the team as long as he can retain his courtside seats -- then what's the big deal? Let him have them. It would be a win-win. Adam Silver and the NBA can say they accomplished their mission of ousting Sterling as an owner, and the west coast Donald can still sit courtside with the next bimbo of his choice -- as long as she doesn't bring Magic Johnson along, of course. Ahem.

Yet something tells me a few more strange twists and turns remain before the credits roll on this show. Even Rod Serling might have been proud to have authored such an episode featuring not only the unpredictable, but also the macabre with a few touches of the absurd for good measure.

Leave it to power brokers, billionaires, the media, and politicians to screw things up so bad......

Monday, June 9, 2014

Rafael Nadal. Best ever?

Able to leap tall tennis nets in a single bound. More powerful than an Obama campaign speech. Faster than a speeding hooker at a stag party. It's a bird. It's a plane. It's Rafa, the man of -- clay?

So it appears. Nadal just won his 9th French Open on the clay courts of Roland Garros. This is his fifth title in a row. What's truly astounding is Nadal has only lost one match -- ever -- at the French Open. That was 5 years ago in 2009. Before that, he had won another four titles in a row. In all, Nadal has won 66 of 67 matches at that venue. This is an incredible feat, likely unmatched anywhere else in the world of sports.

Combined with his 9 French Open titles, Nadal has won a couple Wimbledons, US Opens, and an Australian Open, giving him a "major" total of 14. He's currently tied for second place all time with the retired Pete Sampras in that department, trailing only Roger Federer's 17.

But here's the thing. Nadal just turned 28. While in the world of elite pro tennis that age might be considered as being a bit long in the tooth, consider Federer will soon be 33. Granted, though he still has serious game, Roger appears to be on the back side of his career bell curve. He last won a major tournament (Wimbledon) in 2012 at the age of 30, and may well never win another one. The competition is just that brutal and the really talented young studs keep on emerging from various places on the planet.

The difference between 28 and 33 in the tennis world is huge. It's almost like having a dog. If your canine is 10 years old and still active, it's likely slowing down a bit. If it lives to 15, it's in doggie geezer world. Five years can make a big difference in dogs and tennis players.

Yet at the "ripe old age" of 28, Nadal finds himself the #1 ranked player in the world, and likely has a few very good years left in him before the Father Time of tennis starts slowing him down. And Rafa wouldn't have to be off his game much for the ever-present thundering herd of wannabes to pass him by. Federer is just beginning to taste that and Nadal's time will come as well.

Nevertheless, if he can keep his pesky back problems under control, Nadal could well win 3 or more majors in the next few years to become the Jack Nicklaus of golf. Like the Golden Bear, 18 is the magic number.

Along that line, Nadal has the same 14 major tennis victories as Tiger Woods does in golf. Once thought to be a lock to pass Nicklaus' major title record, there is now serious doubt whether Tiger will ever win another one. Though golfers can remain competitive on the world stage into their 40s, Woods is now 38, still recovering from surgery, and it's likely a fair statement to say most have become highly skeptical that he can ever catch Jack. Eldrick hasn't won a major in 6 years, when he was 32.

On the tennis side, much has been made of Serb Novac Djokovic. He's certainly a dominant player and has been ranked #1 himself. But an important stat jumps out, actually two. For all his incredible talent and play over the years, Djovic has only won 6 major titles. And at 27, is a mere single year younger than Nadal. As a hugely popular player, Djokovic might be likened to Phil Mickelson. Lefty has won 5 majors. Both are future Hall of Famers to be sure, but neither has a prayer of setting any all time major records. Too late in the games of tennis, golf, and life for that. Did I mention the merciless and perpetual thundering herd of young studs that continue to nip at their heels seeking their own glory?

For now, all hail Rafael Nadal, once again the French Open champion. The man is sitting on top of the tennis world, and deservedly so. He's that good.

And oh my. How much Nadal has going for him. He's pocketed millions between playing tennis and endorsements. As a dashing "young" Spaniard, this rascal has the ladies drooling over him everywhere he goes. We get that, and more power to him.

But note to Rafa. Yes, besides the speed and blistering ground strokes, you have perfect teeth as well. We get that too.

So stop nibbling on the trophies already when you win to show off your flawless choppers. That act is getting old, and the ladies don't need any more encouragement.....

Sunday, June 8, 2014

California Chrome and sour grapes

No Triple Crown for California Chrome. Once again, the Belmont reared its ugly mile and a half head and CC faded at the end to finish merely tied for fourth.

Yet the colt's owner, Steve Coburn, couldn't resist a whine. It's not fair, he said. Some of these other horses have skipped races and were only here to try and win this one. Note to Mr. Coburn -- shut up.

If the three weeks between the last race your horse ran (the Preakness) weren't long enough for it to be properly rested and recovered, then like so many others over the last 36 years, you had a two trick pony between the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness. It was not worthy of winning the Triple Crown.

That's the thing about the Belmont Stakes. Instead of the mile and a quarter in the first two legs, part 3 of the trifecta consists of a mile and a half. And that extra quarter mile seems to make a big difference with a lot of horses. When California Chrome's jockey "went to the whip" down the home stretch, the horse didn't, or couldn't respond. It appears a mile and a quarter is as far as its endurance is good for. Perhaps that should be no great surprise.

After all, most such thoroughbred 3 year old horses have been pampered, groomed, and trained since they were merely foals for only a certain amount of endurance. When their internal clocks go ding, they're pretty much done. It's baffling when one thinks about it. Be it a mile and a quarter or a mile and a half, these horses are only asked to run at a full gallop for less than two minutes. Good grief, in so many western movies we've seen horses run full speed for at least a half hour chasing cowboys or indians through deserts and forests, up and down hills, rocky formations, and swimming through rivers to continue the chase at the other side. So what's the problem with highly trained elite horses maxing out after less than two minutes and shutting down like Lebron did in Game 1 of the NBA Finals?

Sure, world class sprinters like Usain Bolt can't be expected to run a steeplechase or a marathon, because they're not geared up for that. But if they stretched that 100 meter dash into 125, would they fade that far in the last couple seconds? Are they that finely tuned and fragile?

I dunno. Affirmed may have been the last horse to win the Triple Crown in 1978, some 36 years ago. But it was a close finish at Belmont, with Affirmed winning by about a length.

But the horse of all horses remains Secretariat. Big Red not only handily won the Kentucky Derby and Preakness in 1973, but in the added quarter mile of the Belmont Stakes, didn't fade but poured it on even more, winning by some 31 lengths.

With apologies to Mr. Ed, a horse is a horse, of course, of course, but Secretariat was some kind of special equine. There will likely never be another like him.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

USA soccer. For shame

Something is wrong with this picture. The US National soccer team is getting ready to partipate in the World Cup coming up in a few weeks. Like an Olympic hockey or basketball team, Futbol USA supposedly consists of the finest squad they could assemble, from coast to coast, border to border. The best of the best the Yanks have to offer.

How far they will go in the tournament remains to be seen, though most don't consider the American men to be a serious threat to actually win the World Cup. Try as they mightily have over the years to gain traction and public interest, the soccer folks still lag far behind many other sports in America. Baseball, football, basketball, hockey, and NASCAR racing to name a few. Maybe even, horrors, golf, especially when Tiger Woods was rocking and, ahem, rolling.

Granted, many of these other sports have seen an influx of "foreigners" as the search for talent has gone global. Indeed, pro leagues have been berry berry good to lots of players. Major league baseball has a couple Latinos, the NHL a stray Canadian here and there, and the NBA features a few players of African heritage that appear to be pretty good. Amazing. In America, they not only let women vote and drive cars, but also allow them to run for political office and pilot high-speed racing machines worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. And sometimes they actually win. Incredible! What a country. But that's not what's wrong with this picture.

What's wrong with the picture is the head coach of the US soccer team, one Jurgen Klinsmann. Herr Klinsmann is a German. He was born in Deutschland, played and coached soccer himself for teams there. Yet for the last few years, Klinsmann has been the Bill Belichick, Phil Jackson, etc. of the American futbollers.

So out of a country of more than 300 million people -- the US can't find even one of its own that's qualified to coach their national soccer team?

Corporate outsourcing for cheaper labor is one thing -- but this is ridiculous. The Americans have hired a German national to coach their Team USA? Oh my.

At that, Klinsmann has been quoted as saying the team can't win the World Cup. They're not good enough yet. Well gee. Nothing like a positive attitude from the head coach going in.

He's probably right, given the superior squads many other nations will bring to the show, but c'mon. While some things are apparent, it's not necessary to actually say them out loud publicly. It can be deflating for the fan base, and soccer doesn't need to turn off any of the few fans they have. Don't believe that? OK. Quick, other than Landon Donovan, who made the biggest news by being left off the team by Klinsmann, name three players on the US World Cup soccer squad. Bet you can't. See what I mean?

A defeatist attitude is the LAST thing the US team needs from their head coach. Though Klinsmann is paid roughly $2.5 million a year, he seems to be on a mission to tell America their entire soccer program sucks. From the World Cup players all the way down to soccer moms in mini-vans handing out orange slices to the grade schoolers they're transporting to a game -- and everything in between.

And this is the guy America has put in charge of the best soccer team they have to offer?

Ja, something is seriously wrong with this picture. Ach du lieber!

The Detroit Pistons. Who's on first?

OK, the team itself is terrible by NBA standards. We all know that. But trying to make sense of the Detroit Pistons' hierarchy is like Mr. Spock of Star Trek fame trying to logically explain Abbott and Costello's classic "who's on first, what's on second" etc. routine. May he live long and prosper indeed, but even a brainy Vulcan like Spock would likely be dumbfounded attempting to rationalize the current state of the Pistons' management structure. In no particular order, let's look at a few things.

Owner and head honcho Tom Gores has been in charge for 3 years. Though he came (back) to town professing he would do whatever it takes to make the Pistons a winner -- they have remained dreadful for those same 3 long years, and possibly even become worse.

Though a former two-time former champion himself as a player, who also went on to rebuild the Pistons into championship form years later while he was the Prez and GM, it had become obvious Joe Dumars had to go. Hall of Famer, pillar of the community, and all-around nice guy notwithstanding, he wasn't getting it done anymore. The team had become a train wreck under his watch. He gone.

The Pistons needed a new head coach, new GM, and new Prez. Basically, the whole front office. Gores had to do something. Yes, Gores made his billions in an outfit called Platinum Equity, which basically buys assets on the cheap, fixes them up a tad, then either liquidates them or flips them for a big profit. Sort of like Mitt Romney, without being dumb enough to jump into the political arena, let alone running for President against a popular incumbent at the time.

But it wasn't just Gores. He had/has a couple of his top Platinum Equity execs/henchmen that were quietly pulling strings behind the scenes in how to restructure the Pistons.

In their infinite basketball wisdom, Phil Norment and Bob Wentworth, along with Gores likely giving the godfather nod, decided to hire Stan Van Gundy as both president of basketball operations and head coach. Thirty five million bucks for a five year deal. Pretty easy math to figure out on an annual basis.

And that was the beginning of how even Mr. Spock wound up stumped. As the president overseeing all basketball operations, would Van Gundy have to fire himself as head coach if the team continued its losing ways for a few more years?

Even that wasn't strange enough. Van Gundy decided to hire a guy named Jeff Bower as the team's new general manager. Van Gundy says Bower will be running the show.

But wait a minute. As a coach, Van Gundy has to report to Bower. But as a GM, Bower has to report to the Prez -- which is Van Gundy. Would Bower have to get president Van Gundy's approval to fire Van Gundy the head coach if the Pistons don't make the playoffs in the next couple years?

And how would Norment and Wentworth figure into all this? As top lieutenants within the organization, would they have to be consulted? Or would all such decisions ultimately rest with Don Gorleone?

Not only do the Pistons appear at least several years removed from remotely being contenders on the court, now their management hierarchy has seemingly become a hybrid of Catch 22 and the above mentioned Bud and Lou routine. In the end, there's no figuring it out or making rational sense of it. It just is what it is. Perhaps we should appreciate the humor, even if unintended, of how the Pistons are currently structured.

But you know what? Besides being smart, guys like Tom Gores have to be lucky sometimes too. And something totally beyond his imagination and/or control just happened to Gores and other NBA owners. The whole sordid Donald Sterling meltdown with the Los Angeles Clippers has definitely played to their financial advantage.

Reports say the Clippers will shortly be sold for $2 billion to Steve Ballmer, former CEO of Microsoft. This is more than 3 times the price most considered that franchise to be worth.

Three years ago, Tom Gores bought the Pistons for about $325 million, considered a steal at the time. But late owner Bill Davidson's widow Karen apparently just wanted to cash out, and $325 M will tide most folks over rather nicely for a lifetime or three. Notice dear Karen has since disappeared from the radar. Imagine that.

Nevertheless, if the value of the Clippers just more than tripled, then so likely did the value of every other NBA franchise. If the house next door sells for more than three times what you thought it was worth, then your property value just went up too -- big time.

Tom Gores says he remains committed to turning the Pistons back into a winner. They're not for sale. But if the value of the Pistons just appreciated like that of the Clippers, then that franchise is now worth at least a billion bucks. To boot, unlike the Clippers, who continue to be renters, Gores and the Pistons have their own top-notch venue/arena to play in.

So what would happen if some other multi-billionaire like Ballmer came along and offered Gores a billion plus bucks for the Pistons? Would the former Michigander decline the offer, and stay the course in his committment to returning the Pistons to greatness?

Or would the apparent godfather's business instincts rule the day and find it an offer he couldn't refuse?

Beats me, but right now, from top to bottom, the Pistons appear to be moving more towards slapstick comedy than being considered serious contenders....

Friday, June 6, 2014

Hot times in San Antonio

Last time I looked, San Antonio was way down in southeastern Texas. It can get mighty hot down there starting about this time of year. Turns out, they also had a basketball game going on. Game one of the NBA Finals to be exact. But that was played indoors, so sunstroke and tumbleweeds of mass destruction were not likely to be a problem.

The problem was the air conditioning inside the Spurs' arena. It broke. Wait a minute. NBA arenas are air-conditioned? It's bad enough fans have to pay the ridiculous multi-million dollar salaries of these guys, along with their private team planes and staying at 5 star hotels while on the road. Now we have to dig even deeper to make sure the poor dears play in a climate-controlled atmosphere? Get outta here. What's next? Making sure the on-field temperature at Lambeau Field never dips below 60 after Thanksgiving? That would take some kind of furnace, but please. Some things are meant to be. It's supposed to be cold in Green Bay during January and February.

It's also supposed to be hot in places like San Antonio. And after all, the Miami team calls itself the Heat -- right? So why would they wilt playing a basketball game because an air conditioner called a time-out? But wilt they did in the fourth quarter against the Spurs. Lebron James was so gassed he had to sit out the last several minutes of the game.

Reports say the temperature "soared" to a torrid 90 degrees in the second half. Sure, that's hot, but these guys are supposed to be in world class shape too. And let's get real. Even the most relied upon starters for NBA teams seldom actually play more than 30 minutes, while a game typically takes close to 3 hours (180 minutes). At that, there are countless stoppages in play for breathers. Every time a turnover happens or a foul is called, play stops. Throw in all the time-outs between worshipping the TV gods and those the teams take themselves, sometimes approaching 20, combined. Also, there's a long break between quarters and an even longer one at halftime. And it's not like these guys are in the octagon beating each other to death in a cage match. It's a basketball game, with a little contact here and there.

Yet it appears some of them, like Lebron, are akin to thoroughbred race horses. Amazing at what they can do for short periods of time, given the right conditions they've become accustomed to, but very fragile if circumstances take an unexpected turn.

And let's face it. When it comes to wimpiness, despite all the tattoos and their other pseudo macho bravado, NBA players are tougher than major league baseball players, pro golfers, and tennis stars -- maybe. (And wouldn't a tag-team wrestling match between the Williams sisters and Lebron/D-Wade be interesting?)

NFL players would scoff at all this, of course. Those guys have to play in heat, rain, wind, snow, and sometimes freezing temperatures while colliding at high rates of speed. Climate control is not an option. But they get plenty of breaks between plays, only have to play on either offense or defense, and get plenty of time-outs too, you say?

True enough, and only in the NFL, and maybe a starting pitcher here or there, are big "beer-bellies" tolerated, as long as the player remains better than average at his specialty. You won't see any rolls of fat hanging over the waistlines of NHL players. A huge difference in conditioning.

Nevertheless, everything's relative when it comes to conditioning. Some sports require much more than others of the athletes that participate. Marathoners, not to mention tri-athletes (swimming, cycling, and running a marathon to boot) have to have some serious endurance. A designated hitter or place kicker? Not so much.

But it's almost inexcusable that someone like Lebron James, at the peak of physicality at age 29, would wither because an air conditioner failed.

So it was 90 degrees. Good thing he's not a world-class soccer player. They play that sport very well in places like Ghana and Nigeria where it's a helluva lot hotter than what it was inside San Antonio's arena. And those folks run, run, run, and run some more, with about the same amount of contact (and flopping) as happens in the NBA. The clock only stops for halftime.

The World Cup is set to happen in Brazil -- in the heat of this summer. How hot will THAT be for the players running miles up and down the field during any game?

Lebron and the Heat may or may not come back from their opening game defeat to 3-peat as NBA champions. But please stop with all the whining because an air conditioner failed and the arena wasn't just perfectly climate-controlled for him in Game 1. If he seized up, it's because he wasn't in good enough shape to begin with.

Maybe James should forego the dopey endorsements for money he doesn't need, stop mugging up the TV cameras, and gravitating to the microphones to spout platitudes your average third grader can see through as no more than typical jock-talk, and spend some serious time getting himself into better shape. Aerobics, swimming, other cross-training, a couple hours a day mud wrestling with Oprah, whatever.

Because this is no time to run out of gas.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

The Detroit Tigers and doomsday. Again

While how well the Detroit Tigers fare this season is certainly a big deal to many, perhaps they should kick back and exhale. Or is that inhale? No, that was Clinton. Nevermind. Regardless, just chillax. Like the old song goes -- every little thing's gonna be alright.

It's only barely June and already there are those that mention words like "panic", "tragedy", and even "Armageddon", when it comes to the Tigers. It's as if a doomsday scenario looms for their fans if the Tigers don't perform up to their pre-season expectations. Surely, all life will cease to exist in the Detroit area if their baseball team doesn't ---- umm -- do exactly what?

Win their division? They play in the weakest division in all of baseball, where no other team is even above .500. For all their hype, that should be a given.

Advance through the playoffs to the World Series? Could happen, but at that level, it's a crap shoot. The other teams are pretty good too. Actually win the Fall Classic for the first time in 30 years? They've got a legitimate shot, but the odds are against it.

Yet here we are, with over 100 games left to go in the regular season, and some folks either believe, or more properly want fans to believe they should consider panicking. Maybe not just yet, but stock up on the Xanax just in case.

Rookie Tiger manager Brad Ausmus even used the word "Armageddon". He didn't think his Tigers were there -- yet. Good thing. Last time I looked Armageddon had to do with the second coming, the anti-Christ, Satan, 1000 years of purgatory (hmm, how did the Detroit Lions get into this narrative?) and a whole bunch of fire and brimstone (kind of like an election year). Very grave matters indeed when it comes to pass.

Ausmus maintains the Tigers' recent 4-12 slide isn't indicative of his team. He thinks they're more like the 27-12 record they posted in the first month and a half. The truth likely lies somewhere in the middle.

The Tigers certainly aren't as bad as 4-12, but they're not as good as 27-12 either. They started out hot, and have recently gone cold. It happens all the time, both ways, in major league baseball.

But yours truly really wishes they'd stop with all the possible panic stuff. If the Tigers don't win another game all season, nobody's going to be jumping out of tall buildings or throwing themselves in front of freight trains, or speeding semis on the interstate. It's baseball, a game played by pampered millionaires. Win or lose, the world will be just fine. Nobody cares what happened last season, and nobody will care next year about what happens this year. It's only a game -- remember?

Unless, of course, former Tiger Brandon Inge is unanimously elected into the Hall of Fame when he becomes eligible.

Then it would be time to stock up the bomb shelter with plenty of food and survival gear, and get one's shorts in a serious knot indeed, because the world has obviously been lost to the forces of the dark side.

But for now, let's just see how it plays out in the next few months, OK? No worries......

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Heat, Spurs, Lions, and Busch

So James, Wade, and Bosh of the Miami Heat are photo-bombing each other while San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich continues to yuk it up with his veteran players? Interesting, but methinks it will be no joking matter when the NBA Finals start tomorrow night. The Spurs have home-court advantage, but how many would dare bet anything worthwhile against the Heat pulling off a 3-peat when it's all over? The Spurs are the feel good story, a class act if there ever was one but, alas, yours truly fears the South Beachers will be too much for them.

In Detroit, Lions linebackers Stephen Tulloch and DeAndre Levy are highly regarded as top-flight players. As team leaders and savvy veterans, they'll be able to help out the younger guys. Obviously, they're a lock to start at their positions when the NFL season starts again in September. In the meantime, Malcolm Smith of the Seattle Seahawks, merely the MVP of the Super Bowl four months ago, finds himself in a dogfight just to keep his job. The competition is that good and that ferocious in Seattle. Tulloch and Levy would likely be lucky to make the team at all for the Seahawks -- perhaps only as kamikaze special teamers, or on the practice squad. If the Lions even make the playoffs this year, their fans would consider it to be a successful season. Anything less than getting back to the Super Bowl would likely be considered a failure in Seattle. Such is the difference between teams that have risen to the elite level and remain hungry to stay there -- and those that are so used to losing that merely being mediocre is triumphed as successful. A very large gap indeed. Sure, over the years, teams go up and they go down. Look at the Packers, Cowboys, Steelers, and Broncos for example. Nobody stays on top forever. Nor will the Seahawks. It's cyclical, but the good franchises don't stay down for long. They'll find a way back eventually. The Lions have been stuck as flat-liners for over half a century, and don't appear poised to change that any year soon. Despite the team and their local kool-aiders peddling their typical annual snake oil wares again, for every "star", they have numerous glaring weaknesses elsewhere. Who's kidding who?  They'll be lucky to make the playoffs. The Super Bowl? Get real. Not a chance.

Loved the Sports Illustrated story about Kurt Busch doing double racing duty between Indy and NASCAR. But it was funny too. As an Indy car rookie, Busch finished 6th at the 500. Pretty impressive. Then he hopped on a chopper, then plane to take him to Charlotte to compete in the 600 mile NASCAR race. As the story goes, Busch wanted to prove racers were athletes. By gawd, he was in shape. He had endurance. He could take it -- dammit.

So on the short flight to Charlotte, Busch had a doctor, a nurse, and a priest ministering to him, his girlfriend rubbing his feet, and an IV hooked up to replenish his bodily fluids. All this after sitting in an Indy car for 4 hours, gas pedal to the floor on the track, occasionally shifting, a few pit stops, and mostly turning left. Yep, we're talking about a really highly conditioned athlete here -- right?

The engine of Busch's car would blow up 200 miles short of the finish line in Charlotte. So on the day he raced 900 miles, and had one 6th place finish to show for it. No word on how much the chopper, plane, doctor, nurse, and whatever was in that IV cost. The priest likely requested an "offering", and the girlfriend will get her payback for that foot massage in time. But gosh darn it, this man has proven once and for all that if one just sticks to it, has enough deep-pocketed clueless sponsors, and continues to whine -- anything is possible. Even being perceived as an athlete, much less lauded as some kind of warrior hero in an SI article becomes possible.

And somehow that's funny.....

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Stanley Cup gangs

In the Western Conference Finals, the west coast gang finally prevailed over the midwest gang. In overtime in Game 7, the Los Angeles Kings finally knocked off the Chicago Black Hawks.

And let's get real. When it comes to real gangs, LA and the Windy City are a couple of the gang- bangingest places in the country. Over a hundred different varieties in Chicago, and LA last checked in with 80+. Sometimes a different gang on every street in certain neighborhoods.

While the mostly white boy gangs (sometimes referred to as NHL teams) from their respective cities were busy skating around trying to shoot a puck in the net -- chances are not much has changed on the home fronts. Last time I looked, real gangs weren't that much into hockey.

The NY Rangers prevailed in the Eastern Conference finals. Few saw that coming. Maybe Pittsburgh, Boston, or Montreal, but the Rangers playing for the Cup? Really?  Then again, the Big Apple doesn't have that much of a gang problem. At least not anymore. Since former Mayor Mike Bloomberg stepped aside and stopped his jihadic turf war on over sized soft drinks, things seem to be relatively peaceful in the boroughs.

So after all the games, goals, saves, penalties, and overall spectacular plays in the first three rounds of the playoffs, what are we left with?

Teams from the two largest markets in the US slugging it out for Lord Stanley's cherished cup. It's doubtful too many people from Pennsylvania all the way west to Nevada will get overly excited over this Final match-up. In other words, all the folks in a couple time zones from Canada to Mexico, and that's a lot of folks, probably could care less who wins. Between any NY and LA matchup for a title, it's pretty tough for common folks to get behind a sentimental favorite, ya know?

Consider the travel miles the teams will face. From NY to LA is roughly 2500 air miles. Depending on the prevailing winds at the time -- that's at least a 5 hour flight. From the time the players and coaches leave home to go to the airport, get on the plane, fly cross-country, disembark, and find their ways to hotels -- it's probably at least an 8 hour deal.

Given the Stanley Cup Final format is 2-2-1-1-1, with the first two games being in LA, obviously both teams have to fly back to NY for games 3 and 4. Should the series go 7 games, entirely possible, they'll have to fly back to LA, back again to NY, and back one more time to LA. No matter how you slice it or dice it -- that would be a whole lot of air miles.

Sure, NHL players are probably the most all-around highly conditioned athletes of any sport. But combine the physical beatings they've taken in all the games over the season, throw in three rounds of an even more brutal playoff gauntlet, and now they have to go get beat up some more, while possibly flying 4 or 5 times from coast to coast? Even if they get a day or two off between games, somewhere along the line, jet-lag has to be a factor. These guys are supertough -- but they're also human.

Then again, though the Rangers have to make the initial flight, both teams face the same travel scenario after the first two games, depending on how long the series goes.

And it's a good thing there's planes involved that typically fly around 500 MPH. Can you imagine if this was the old old days? No planes? They had to travel by train? How long would each trip take?

I dunno, but the players would be plenty rested up by the time they got there each time. Bored silly, no practice for days, and likely hung over from too many trips to the bar car, but dammit, they'd be rested. And if it went the full 7 games, with a train having to go cross-country five times, the Stanley Cup Finals might not be over until well into July.

At any rate, here's rooting for the Rangers. The Kings won the Cup just two years ago, and its been 20 years for the Rangers. Besides, folks in LA have enough to root for. The dominance of the Lakers. The stable ownership of the Clippers. The fast moving traffic on the freeways during rush hour, or pretty much any other time for that matter. And of course, the gangs will still be there. Hmm. On second thought, nevermind.

And how would yours truly celebrate another NY Ranger Stanley Cup victory? With a 32 ounce cup of Coke. Sorry, Mr. Bloomberg, but your gang of one war on pop was a really dumb idea.