Tuesday, May 31, 2016

NBA. A rematch

Most hoop fans figured the Cleveland Cavaliers would cruise into the Finals, and they were right. The Toronto Raptors put up a bit of resistance in the eastern semis -- but the best team clearly prevailed.

The wild, wild west was quite a different story. Just when some thought the "other" LA team might have a shot -- down went Chris Paul and Blake Griffin to injuries. The Clips were quickly history.

San Antonio was supposed to beat OKC. They didn't. The Thunder rolled on.

Surely, the defending champion Golden State Warriors would make short work of the Thunder -- right? The Dubs had home court advantage and the Okies hadn't beaten them all year. But as we know, it didn't play out that way. OKC would win the first game on the road, then go on to hold a commanding 3-1 series lead. The champs were on the ropes. Even though they won Game 5 at home, most thought their death knell would ring in Game 6 back in Oklahoma.

Somehow the Warriors sucked it up and tied the series. Just a few hours ago, GS finally put an exclamation point on an amazing comeback to eliminate OKC in Game 7. True champs die hard indeed.

That sets up a rematch of last year's NBA Finals. A look back tells us the Cleveland Cavaliers once held a 2-1 advantage over the Warriors. But the latter would storm back to win the next three games.

Once again, GS will have home court advantage going in, and they must be feeling pretty good about themselves after surviving a couple "standing 8 counts" and getting up off the canvas to knock out the Thunder.

No doubt, Lebron and Co. were watching closely. Though they would never admit it, the Cavs were surely rooting for OKC to prevail, if for no other reason than such an outcome would have given Cleveland home court advantage in the Finals.

A lot of things are similar in this year's NBA Finals when compared to last. Same two teams. Both with the best records in their respective conferences. And it seemed inevitable they would clash for all the marbles.

But one aspect will be decidedly different this year. The cast of characters. A year ago, Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving -- the two best players on the Cavs not named Lebron James -- were out with injuries. Despite the greatness of James, it was no great surprise the Cavs would eventually succumb to the Dubs.

This year both K boys are quite healthy and raring to go. And no one doubts Lebron is on a mission to finally bring his beloved and beleaguered Cleveland its first professional sports title in over half a century. Unlike last year, he's got some serious help.

Will it be enough to dethrone the champs? Maybe. Or will GS splash their way to back-to-back titles? Another definite maybe. Regardless, it should be a very interesting series to watch play out.

At the time of this writing, yours truly is unaware of what kind of odds the wise guys (bookies) will put on the series. And does it even matter?  OKC wasn't supposed to beat San Antonio. GS wasn't supposed to come back from a 3-1 deficit. Good grief. With both parties and the media against him, a scant few months ago nobody would have believed a certain Presidential candidate would march on to the nomination. Yet it happened. Strange times indeed, but I digress.

Here's hoping for two things.

Both the Warriors and Cavaliers remain healthy throughout and play their best basketball.

Even more so, let's keep our fingers crossed Draymond Green doesn't find a way to thud a kick into the nether regions of Lebron James. If you thought his former "infraction" with Thunder big man Steven Adams got a lot of attention -- one can only imagine the fallout that would occur if the King's crown jewels were similarly assaulted. Accidental or not, the talking heads would go berserk with outrage. Forget a fine or suspension, they'd be screaming for the death penalty by lethal injection -- or at least amputating one of his legs. (Typically, a one-legged man doesn't fare so well when it comes to the kicking department). We don't need that.

My prediction? Golden State will be a tough out, but methinks this just might finally be the year Lebron gets it done in Cleveland.

On with the games.......

Monday, May 30, 2016


It used to be that, while the playoffs of both leagues overlapped somewhat in the spring, the NHL was a bit further along throughout. In other words, the hockey post-season started before that of basketball, which meant it finished up sooner. Typically, the Stanley Cup had been awarded before Memorial Day while the NBA played on into June.

Somewhere along the line that changed. This year the playoffs in both leagues seem to coincide chronologically. The San Jose Sharks will begin the Stanley Cup finals against the Pittsburgh Penguins exactly on Memorial Day. In the NBA, only one contest remains, Game 7 between Golden State and OKC, before the final pairing is set as well. One of them will move on to face the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Depending on how the Final series' play out, it's theoretically possible the NBA could have closed the book on another season while the NHL is still going on. A sweep in the former combined with a longer series in the latter would make that possibility a reality. Could happen.

Most of the media coverage, at least in America, has been blatantly biased. It is obvious they prefer hoops over pucks. Watch any sports show -- and they're coming out of our ears these days -- and one will discover they devote a great deal of time to the NBA. Reporters, analysts, ex-jocks, and various other talking heads will dissect everything that has happened -- along with their usual stats from hell -- and ramble on about teams, individual players, and what they foresee happening next.

Almost as an afterthought, a minute or two, sometimes, is devoted to NHL coverage. Is it fair to say this is justified because Americans prefer basketball over hockey? Turns out, that depends on the city and fans. In Detroit, the Red Wings have long sold out every game and have a brand new sparkling arena coming in the near future. Meanwhile, the Detroit Pistons -- who play in the more affluent burbs -- can't seem to put bodies in seats despite their myriad of shameless promotions and "giveaways". Who's really more popular among fans in New York? The Knicks or the Rangers? In Chitown, the Bulls or the Black Hawks?

Something odd happened this year. Not a single Canadian team qualified for the Stanley Cup playoffs. Were the legions of hockey fans in the great white north still interested in keeping track of playoff action? You betcha.

Alas, the only non-American team in the NBA, the Toronto Raptors, were recently eliminated. Do the hosers really give a damn about what team goes on to win the title? Likely not. An entire country just tuned out. Heckuva job, Lebron.

So how is an all-around objective couch tater sports fan to decide which playoffs he gives viewing preference to?

Simple. While yours truly is into both NBA and NHL action, it boils down to the personalities that are covering them.

Ego maniacal twits like Stephen A. Smith and Skip Bayless can talk for hours and not say anything of substance. Between that decidedly un-dynamic duo, it becomes more like a question of how long can a fan listen to fingernails scraping on a chalkboard? The late night hosts on the 4-letter network(s) aren't much better. There's likely a reason they put these clowns on when the drunks are finally getting home after getting kicked out of bars at closing time. Maybe they can relate to the gibberish that is typically offered up in the wee hours.

Personally, give me Barry Melrose any day. He played, he coached, and the dude knows what he's talking about. Plus, he keeps it short and to the point -- with an admirable sense of humor to boot.

But the true highlight? The always precious few minutes of Don Cherry being on the air to offer up his wisdom. Ya gotta love the outfits he wears. After all, they're no more outrageous than those of a typical American rapper or fashion model. And he knows what he's talking about too. Been there done that, unlike most of the jive talking American hoops geeks.

Let's put it this way. Don Cherry is considered a national treasure in Canada. Guys like Stevie and Skippy are just another couple yappy-heads in America.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Golden State. Champs die hard

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But that's Monday.

Bring on the glorious Indy 500.


Saturday, May 28, 2016

Detroit vs the Bay area

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But I wouldn't count on it.

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

Thursday, May 26, 2016

NBA playoffs. Follow the money

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lebron James chasing history

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Golden State going down?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, May 23, 2016

Draymond Green and the "kick"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Irritating things

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Steph Curry's dive. Bad fans?

With apologies to the Bard, this appears to be much ado about nothing. Nobody got hurt -- no harm, no foul -- and all that. But the legions of talking heads need SOMETHING to blather on about, so the Golden State Warrior guard supreme (and a few fans) were back in the news.

While chasing a loose ball, Dell's boy managed to wind up a couple rows deep in the court-side seats. The ever-present cameras zoomed in. #30 had gone down amid flailing arms and legs in a sea of humanity. Was he OK?

The point of contention became the fans involved not immediately coming to the rescue of dear Steph. A couple even snapped a few pix of him floundering at their feet.

Naturally, the media was quick to pounce. What the hell is the matter with these fans, they roared. Don't they know Steph Curry is the franchise player? How DARE them look on idly while their own superstar was in "distress". Harrumph!!

To all of which yours truly says -- Hogwash. Let's look at it objectively and remember who's who, and where they are.

If a fan runs on the court for any reason, he/she will be quickly corralled and escorted out of the building -- if not arrested. Regardless of the sport, we all know thou shalt not trespass on the actual playing surface. Fair enough.

But where is the line when it comes to the players? Shouldn't they have to abide by the same rules in reverse? Stay on the court, dammit. They have no more right to charge into the seats than a fan has coming onto the court. The line is the line and it should be respected both ways.

Many would likely counter with -- what's the matter with you dillweed? Don't you know this is the NBA Western Conference finals, Steph is a star player making a bazillion dollars, and his own fans OWE him any help they can provide?

Nonsense. Look at it from a fan's point of view. How much did he/she pay to sit in those court-side seats in the first place? A couple grand? Five? Ten? And then some sweaty guy comes charging into THEIR space bowling them over because he's chasing a basketball he obviously couldn't get to anyway? The fans were where they were supposed to be. It was Curry that crossed the line. Chasing a loose ball is no excuse to dive into the seats. He could have easily seriously injured innocents while doing so. But the media doesn't seem to care about that. It's always about the player and who cares if a few fans get dinged up?

So if I was one of those fans, I don't owe Steph Curry anything. I paid my way in with big bucks in the first place. If I want to snap a few pix with him floundering at my feet -- in MY space -- I have every right to do so. I am NOT obligated to render him assistance. If he's hurt, the team has trainers and a medical staff to tend to such things. For that matter, if he WAS badly hurt and I made matters worse by attempting to hoist him back up -- I could find myself getting sued. No thank you. I'll just snap a few pix and see what happens.

But Steph is the "franchise", some would still ask? Maybe so, and all the better to leave such a situation to the professionals to sort out. Besides, if I'm sitting in those seats -- how does anybody know I'm not equally important in my walk of life? Maybe I'm the CEO of a company. Or a neurosurgeon. Or run a yard care business. How are all those paychecks going to be signed, brains fixed, and lawns mowed if some reckless player puts me out of commission for a while? All while I was exactly where I was supposed to be. I didn't do anything wrong -- that idiot player did -- so where's the love for me?

Bad fans, my butt. Reckless player is more like it. We stay out of their space, so they should stay out of ours. And guess who's paying who's salary?

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

OKC. Odds are.....

First it made sense -- and then it didn't. Before the series between the Golden State Warriors and Oklahoma City Thunder started, the oddsmakers had the defending champs as solid favorites to prevail in the Western Conference finals.

That seemed logical. After all, the Dubs had cruised through the first two rounds of the playoffs hardly breaking a sweat and had home court advantage over the Okies. Plus, OKC hadn't beaten them all year during the regular season.

And then the Thunder went into the Oracle in Oakland and thumped the Warriors fair and square in Game One. That raised a few eyebrows. OKC was now up 1-0 and THEY now had home court advantage for the remainder of the series. And hadn't the Thunder just demolished the San Antonio Spurs?

Surely the odds would swing -- right? But not so. The wise guys in Vegas still weren't convinced. They still had the Warriors as "slight" favorites to win the series. That didn't make sense at all, but the secretive shrewd operators that run the "books" surely know much more than average hacks such as yours truly.

Lo and behold, Golden State came out and put a thorough thrashing on OKC in Game Two. Twenty-seven points worth, to be exact. That's a beatdown. Surprising? Yes and no. The margin of victory was, but this is what can happen when the Warriors obviously made such major adjustments after Game One. They cut way down on turnovers, bad passes, and committing fouls. They pounded the boards and got back into their game of crisply moving the ball, eventually to the open shooter. Plus Steph Curry went off on another 3-pointer barrage. When they play like that, they're almost unbeatable.

Still, the series is tied at 1-1 and OKC accomplished what they wanted. Take at least one of the first two games from GS on the road. They retain home court advantage and the next two will be played in Okieland.

What are the odds OKC wins the next two games at home and goes up 3-1? No idea. I'm not a sports book. Had I been, given my pitiful track record of picking winners and losers, I'd have probably been wearing cement overshoes at the bottom of Lake Mead long ago.

We'll hear all about how crucial Game Three is over the next couple days. Sure, it's important, but hardly a death knell to whichever team loses. Being down 2-1 isn't the end of the world -- either way. However, if OKC is on top, surely the leader would become the favorites to win the series, yes/no? Maybe.

Thing is, even if the Warriors were to go down 1-3 in the series -- facing elimination for the next three straight games -- it's hard to count them out until they actually ARE out. Those guys just never seem to get rattled and, when they get it going, which could be at any time, lookout.

True, Cleveland is playing Toronto in the Eastern Conference finals, equally important, but most everybody assumes the Cavs will prevail. The bookies definitely agree.

But most NBA fans' eyes are on the GS/OKC series. Two down and at least three to go. Or four. Or five.

Here's an unlikely scenario, but it could happen. Let's say GS/OKC are tied 3-3 after six games. That's entirely plausible. The odds of winning the series may have shifted game by game along the way.

A seventh and deciding game would be played in Oakland. No doubt, the Warriors would be highly favored. But they were also favored in Game One at home -- which they lost.

So what would the fallout be if the Thunder were to waltz back into the Oracle as heavy underdogs and upset/eliminate the Warriors in a Game Seven?

The talking heads would go berserk talking about it. Endless replays, stats from hell, diagnostics a forensic scientist would be envious of. Those guys/gals would get so excited and talk so fast they might actually spontaneously combust on the air. That would be interesting. It would be a never-ending loop of analysis -- right up until the NBA Finals started. Then the GS/OKC series would be forgotten quicker than a politician's campaign promises after they get elected. Old news. Doesn't matter any more. Nobody cares who lost in the semi-finals in ANY sporting event for more than maybe 5 minutes. Or the Finals, for that matter. Runner-ups (losers) are quickly forgotten. Over is over. Done is done. The media and fans quickly move on. Who's kidding who?

But the Golden State/Okla City series should be enjoyed while it's playing out. Truly, two very good teams.

Which will prevail would seem to be a very good question.

Forget the wise guys -- got a lucky penny?

Monday, May 16, 2016

Thunder and Lightning

Thunder and lightning always seem to go together. A flash followed by a boom. Like salt and pepper, corned beef and cabbage, politicians and lies, and even another season with the Detroit Lions having no hope --ZERO -- of reaching the Super Bowl. One pretty much always comes with the other.

It seems odd that two professional sports teams named after weather conditions most of us find somewhere between annoying and troublesome have reached their respective conference finals.

But such is the case with the Oklahoma City Thunder and Tampa Bay Lightning.

OKC wasn't supposed to get this far. All the pundits had said so for months. They considered it a foregone conclusion the NBA Western Conference finals would feature the San Antonio Spurs taking on the Golden State Warriors. After all, they had far and away the best regular season records.

But the Thunder, after being blistered in the opening game against SA, went on to defeat the Alamolanders 4 out of the next 5 games, including two in SA to dispatch the Spurs. That wasn't supposed to happen, but it did.

Ah, the defending champ Warriors would put them in their place -- right? It looked that way in the first half of their opening game. The Dubs led by 13 at the break and seemed to be on cruise control. But then something strange happened. The Warriors went cold -- and dumb -- in the second half and the Okies wound up beating them by 6 points to take a 1-0 series lead. A 19 point swing. That wasn't supposed to happen either.

When one thinks about it, the OKC Thunder has accomplished something extraordinary. Combined, Golden State and San Antonio had lost just 3 games on their home courts all season. The Thunder has been able to match that single handedly in merely the last couple weeks. The Warriors were well rested, fully healthy and had plenty of time to prepare for OKC coming into their house. But they got beat fair and square anyway. Game 2 in the Oracle is far from a lock for the home boys. OKC's confidence is running mighty high, and rightfully so. If the champs go down 2-zip at home, then have to face the prospect of the next two games in Okieland, the unthinkable might happen. No Golden State or San Antonio making it to the Finals. Sure, we all knew the Thunder was pretty good, but few thought they were THAT good.

The NHL's Tampa Bay Lightning seem to be over-achieving as well. Aren't these the same guys that have been playing without their top forward, best defenseman, and ceded home-ice advantage to the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Eastern Conference finals? And then their starting goalie went out with a leg injury -- duration unknown -- in the opening game? Still, the Lightning took Game 1 and it took the PPs overtime to win Game 2.

True, anything can happen in the wacky world of professional sports when the playoffs start. Everybody's pretty good or they wouldn't still be there, especially in the later rounds.

Maybe the Warriors roar back. Or the Penguins. Or maybe they don't.

Most assume the Cleveland Cavaliers will make short work of the Toronto Raptors in the NBA Eastern Conference finals. Maybe. But hey, the Raptors beat them 2 out of 3 in the regular season. We'll see.

And how crazy would that be? The Toronto Raptors facing off against the Okla City Thunder in the NBA Finals?

Nobody would have ever thunk it. But it's possible. This was supposed to be be Lebron's Cleveland coronation year, but it might not work out that way.

In the NHL Western finals, St. Louis is battling San Jose. Blues and Sharks. They seem to go together as well. Don't sharks swim in the deep blue sea? Neither was projected to get this far, but they did and somebody's gotta win.

Bottom line. Nobody's a sure thing this year. Some mighty have already fallen, and some improbables are still kicking butt.

The next few weeks could feature some very interesting stuff indeed.

And they're practicing at Indy for the "greatest spectacle" in racing on Memorial day Sunday. The 500 of FAST cars. Forget the short tracks (demolition derbies) and wimpy restrictor plates NASCAR has mandated at Daytona and Talladega to slow the cars down. Bring on the boys and girls that can go 225 MPH all the way around the track. THAT'S some serious racing and yours truly wouldn't miss it for the world.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Air miles and odds

To nobody's surprise, the Cleveland Cavaliers swept the Detroit Pistons in the opening round of the playoffs. They had to fly once to Detroit and then back to Cleveland. Hardly more than puddle jumper flights.

Then the Cavs swept the Atlanta Hawks. One round trip team ticket from Cleveland to Atlanta and back. Maybe a two hour flight each way.

The Cavs have been resting for the last week or so waiting to see who their opponent would be in the Eastern Conference finals. Turns out it would be the Toronto Raptors.

It took the hosers from the north the full seven games to dispatch the Indianapolis Pacers in the opening round. Granted, it's not that far from Hoosierland to bottom of the barrel NHL hockey country on an airliner, but it was still several flights back and forth.

Then the Raptors got taken to the full seven game limit against the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference semis. Several more flights, and the distance between Toronto and Little Havana is quite a ways, even when zooming along at 500 MPH in the air. Likely about 3 hours each way. Plus all the hassle of buses to and from airports, checking into and out of motels, and having to deal with the dreaded media hounds away from home. It can't help but take its toll on some level.

Now the Raptors, fresh off their conquest of the Heat, have to turn around and fly to Cleveland. Not only are they ceding home court advantage going in, most have them as a decided underdog in the upcoming series against the Cavs.

The early odds are almost astounding. If one was to plop a C-note down on the Cavs winning the series, and they did, one could expect to net a profit of about 10 bucks. Very short odds.

Conversely, if one were to plop that same C-note down on the Raptors winning the series, and they did, one would walk away with roughly $700. Very long odds.

All the "experts" say the Raptors don't have a chance against the Cavs. Lebron and Co. will win the series in 5 games -- 6 max. And they very well might. This could finally be Cleveland's year.

But didn't those same experts long have a Golden State/San Antonio Western Conference final etched in stone? How did that work out?

Tell ya what. If yours truly was to plop down a C-note on this series -- and I might -- it wouldn't be on the Cavs. Even if they win as expected, who cares about netting a measly ten bucks? Much better to put it on the Raptors and likely kiss it good-bye. Eating a few more ramen noodles for a while won't be the end of the world.

But if the Raptors somehow pull off an upset and an extra $600 or so comes back, now we're talking some serious beer money and firing up the grill with GOOD stuff cooking for a few weeks.

It's worth a shot (though I gave those up a long time ago because they made me even dumber than I already am).

So OK. The Cavs will probably whack the Raptors. But ya never know. Injuries to key players can happen at any time. Ask the LA Clippers how it felt to suddenly be without their best two players only to go down to the Portland Trail Blazers in a series everybody on the planet was sure they would win. Stuff happens sometimes.

Yet the series that everybody wants to watch is the match-up between Golden State and Oklahoma City. Talent galore on both sides. But only one can win to move on.

By far, the Cleveland Cavaliers have had a much easier road so far in the east, while the west teams having been slugging it out. The GS/OKC series should be a fast-paced hard fought battle indeed. A slight edge has to go to the defending champ Warriors. They have home court advantage, posted the best regular season record ever and -- for now -- are healthy and rested as well.

But give me 7:1 odds against and I'm taking the Thunder every time. What's another Franklin? I'll catch up on the electric bill and Master Card next month.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

More idle rants

Sports Illustrated had a blurb about NY Met pitcher Bartolo Colon being the oldest player ever (42) to hit his first home run. Excuse me, but when they mention the name Colon and "going deep" in the same sentence, yours truly squirms a bit in his chair. Ahem.

After getting off to a fast start, the Detroit Tigers have now lost 11 of their last 12 games. They find themselves 5 games under .500, and nine out of first place in their own division. Another month like this and their season could be over before Father's Day. This probably wasn't exactly what owner Mike Ilitch had in mind when he plopped down over $200 million in salaries. That's a whole lot of pepperoni.

Some say manager Brad Ausmus is on the "hot seat". Probably so, but it's not fair. Any team is only as good as the players and there's nothing a manager can do about it. If hitters can't hit and score runs and pitchers can't get guys out, it's not HIS fault. The true heat should come down on GM Al Avila. He's the guy that signed off on all the ridiculous contracts for a bunch of players who can't seem to get out of their own way.

The Tampa Bay Lightning and Pittsburgh Penguins had a rock-em sock-em affair in Game 1 of their NHL eastern conference final series. A Bolt crushed a Pen head-first into the boards. He had to be taken off by stretcher. Then the Pens managed to hobble the Lightning goaltender. Bring on the stretcher again. It's probably a fair statement to say some serious bad blood is already brewing between these two teams. TB would win the opener in Pitt to swipe home-ice advantage -- if that even matters. This series could get seriously ugly -- and hazardous to player health -- before it's over.

Why is it that every commercial advertising a super-duper wonder product is pretty much the same? They all cost $19.99 -- but wait -- you can get TWO of these miracle inventions if you call now at 1-800 - SHYSTER. And if these things are that great, then how come they're not available in stores? Then again, that Ginsu all-purpose kitchen knife I phoned in for years ago still comes in handy once in a while. Maybe I should coat the handle in Flex Seal.

The word "hater" has spiraled out of control. The politically correct crowd is quick to label someone a hater if they dare show anything less than adulation towards an athlete. No criticism is allowed is their pitiful little world. Everybody's great. I beg to disagree.

No, yours truly was never a fan of Tiger Woods, Serena Williams, or Kobe Bryant for various reasons. They had/have their legions of faithful followers and good for them. But I wasn't one of them. Hey, this is America and anybody can root for or against anybody they choose. Don't believe that? Check out the current Presidential campaign. Groupies here and bashers there. Most of them don't even know why they love/loath any given candidate other than long-misguided blind party affiliation. Dems spend more time bashing Reps, and vice versa, than they do trying to accomplish something good for the people they supposedly represent. It's pitiful.

In the cases of Tiger, Serena, and Kobe, yours truly was turned off by arrogance, always blaming a loss on a mysterious illness/injury, and look-at-me selfishness respectively. I don't hate them -- never did or will. But I didn't have to root for them just because so many other people chose to. A big difference. In fact, I rooted against them. If you tell me that's not allowed, I'll counter by citing an infinite number of classic rivalries. Ohio State/Michigan. Army/Navy. Red Sox/Yankees, or pretty much anything Boston/New York. Notre Dame/pick one. FOX/MSNBC. Donald Trump/Democrats/his own party. Various religious factions in the middle east. The bad blood list could go on forever. There's some SERIOUS animosity going on between many of these folks, so don't tell me I'm some kind of hater because I root for -- or against -- different people. It is my right as a fan and a person to make my own choices. Ironically, the true "haters" appear to be those that accuse others of it.

Lebron James needs to know when to shut up. In a recent interview LJ waffled on the difference between "most valuable" player and "best" player. This was likely due to Steph Curry being the first player in history to get 100% of the MVP votes this year. Curry's stats spoke for themselves. A 90% free throw shooter, 50% on two point shots, 40% from behind the arc (though it seemed higher), obliterated his own record on 3's by making over 400 of them, and the Warriors put up the best regular season record of all time?  Well, duh, OF COURSE he was going to be the MVP. No matter what James said about it, he was going to catch some flak. It was a no-win proposition in the public relations world with the press. Dude should be channeling his energy into getting ready for whoever comes out of the Miami/Toronto series -- not trying to split hairs about a vote that was long a foregone conclusion anyway.

Start with SI, end with SI. If one opens up an issue and sees an article written by either Tom Verducci or Chris Ballard, they can be assured it will be long winded, as in Michenerish. They go on forever, page after page. Anybody that can slog through one of these tomes in a single sitting on the "throne" is either a speed reader, or won't be able to feel their butt when they finally try to arise.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

The stunning collapse of the Spurs

Maybe the clock finally went ding and it was just time. As they say, all great things come to an end eventually.

But likely few would have predicted what happened to the San Antonio Spurs in the NBA playoffs. Most had long penciled them in to face off against the defending champ Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference finals. The Oklahoma City Thunder, while being a very good team, was supposed to be just another bump in the road.

But it didn't work out that way. In fact, what happened to the Spurs was stunning.

Weren't these the same guys that posted 67 wins during the regular season? Had only been defeated once at home all year, and that in the last week of play by GS? The very same team that blistered Memphis in the opening round and clobbered the Thunder by 32 points in the first game of the second round?

Everything was going to plan -- and then the wheels fell off. OKC would beat the Spurs 4 out of the next 5 games, including two in San Antonio. So the Spurs are done and the Okies move on to face the Dubs.

It could well be the end of an era in San Antonio. Tim Duncan, a lock Hall of Famer, was long considered one of the best power forwards in the history of the game. But he's now 40 years old and appears to have become more of a liability than an asset. Chances are good we have seen him play his last game.

Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker are getting up there in age as well. While Kawhi Leonard and LaMarcus Aldredge were wonderful additions to the Spurs, overall the team would appear to be trending downward in the near future. Sure, they still play smart and have the best coach in all of the NBA, but they were exposed by the Thunder. Younger, faster, more athletic teams, especially with a super-star or two (Durant and Westbrook), that have also learned to play team defense are carrying the day in modern times.

Let's get real. When the Spurs lost a game, people said they were old. When they won, it was because they were experienced. That's a heckuva juggling act and something had to give eventually. Turned out, the Spurs would finally fold. How they rebuild from here is a very good question, but it's difficult to imagine them not continuing their excellence. Maybe not championship caliber, but definitely a cut above most other teams. Never underestimate the Spurs. They'll figure out something -- because they always do. It's a pretty safe bet the Spurs won't be a lottery team any year soon.

The thing they need first and foremost is someone to replace Tim Duncan. Names have been bandied about. Dwight Howard? Could he adapt to "Spurs basketball" and be just another cog in the machine? Would Coach Pop even want him? Unknown.

Even Kevin Durant of the Thunder has been mentioned. He's in the last year of his contract and still hoping to win a title with OKC -- but then what? Especially if he and the team fall short? Does anybody think the Thunder can knock off the Warriors in the Western Conference finals, ceding home-court advantage? Likely few, but few thought they could dispatch the Spurs either. And then there's the matter of those pesky Cleveland Cavaliers that will likely await them in the NBA Finals. Tough rows to hoe indeed. Regardless of how this year plays out, would KD consider jumping to San Antonio if they made him an offer he couldn't refuse? Hard to say.

For now, the Western Conference finals will be interesting indeed to watch. Two up-tempo teams that can shoot the lights out, play some defense, feature All-Stars galore, and are deep.

But only one can survive to move on.

Though the shoot-outs in the West have been flashier and garnered much more attention  -- don't sleep on the Cavs in the East.

Those guys are the real deal and Lebron will never have a better chance to finally bring a title "home" to Cleveland. I'm just saying.......

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

The Bryce Harper affair

In a recent game against the Detroit Tigers, Washington Nats' Bryce Harper was ejected. Did he have it coming? Probably.

He'd been mouthing off to the home plate umpire, both while at bat and later from the dugout. Bryce was not happy with some of the ball and strike calls on himself or his teammates. Neither was the umpire happy with the constant verbal barrage he was getting. Something had to give.

Though MLB umpires have long exhibited the self-control and composure of, say, your average rabid wolverine, they always get the final say. Ranting and raving players and managers can be ejected. Equally ranting and raving umpires cannot. One would think that somewhere along the line in umpire school, these guys would have to take a class in maintaining professional decorum. Always being gentlemen, as it were. Evidently not, or they all failed miserably.

Still, what is a player obligated to do after he's been ejected? Leave the field, of course, and even the dugout. He's not supposed to be seen or heard from for the rest of the game.

But there's the rub. Once the game is officially over, is he STILL banned to the clubhouse in the bowels of the stadium? Or can he come back into the dugout -- even on the field -- to briefly pal around with his teammates before they all head to the showers? Yours truly knoweth not.

And that's exactly what happened. After one of Harper's teammates hit a walk-off home run to beat the Tigers, he not only came back on the field to celebrate, but also had a few choice words for the above-mentioned umpire. As in F-You. Bryce was still hot, and it was quite unprofessional. But did he cross another line?

Apparently so. He was fined a so-far undisclosed amount of money and suspended by the league for a game. Naturally, he's appealing it which means he can continue playing until the matter has been fully arbitrated and resolved. That could take a while.

Did Bryce Harper deserve to be ejected in the first place? Sure. He was warned to knock off the "chirping" but persisted anyway. What was comical was Harper's initial reaction after he got the hook. He could be seen saying, "Who, me? What did I do?" Like a little kid getting caught with his hand in the cookie jar but denying any responsibility for the missing chocolate chip goodies. Unless he's a psychopath or total idiot, Harper knew damn good and well why he got busted. To feign otherwise made him look like a spoiled brat that's used to getting his way.

Still, the game WAS over. And an expletive here or there from an athlete/coach/manager is hardly anything new. It happens all the time during games. After a game should be no big deal either.

It will be interesting to see how the league and player's union eventually sort this out. When a player is "grounded", how long is it in effect before he can come out of his room? And what exactly constitutes the "room" anyway? Is it out of sight, out of mind, which could be two steps away from the dugout in the tunnel -- or is he supposedly banished to the clubhouse for the rest of the entire day/night? Is there even a rule on the books that covers this? Unknown.

Yet it's difficult to sympathize with any of the entities involved.

1) A loud-mouthed player that didn't know, or have sense enough to shut up.
2) A typical short-fused umpire that kicked a guy out of a game because he was ragging on him from the dugout.
3) Another professional sports league that seems to go out of its way dropping the hammer on an employee in the name of "law and order", over a trivial manner to begin with. (Flexing its muscle to maintain authority -- even in grey areas).

We'll see. Maybe.

Or perhaps a quiet settlement will be reached and it will all be brushed under the rug like it never happened.

Be it Harper, the ump, or the league -- would they really want to go to war over this up to and including litigation that could drag on for years?

Let's hope not. The only people that would benefit would be lawyers and talking sports heads.

Lord knows, we have both of them coming out of our ears already.......

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Flawed MVP/Hall of Fame voting

Few would doubt that Steph Curry deserved to be voted this year's NBA MVP. The numbers he put up throughout the season were phenomenal. Never before had a player made more than 300 three-point shots in a regular season. SC blew by his own record and racked up over a mind-boggling 400.

What raised more than a few eyebrows was that Curry was the first MVP ever to get 100% of the votes. Nary a single dissenter. Others had come close before (over 99%), like Jordan and James, but it was never unanimous among the voters. There was always a hold out or two. Call them "spoilers" if you will.

Much the same is true in other sports and also the Hall of Fame voting that goes along with it. Here's a few scenarios and questions to ponder.....

How could it be that George Herman Ruth got a lower percentage of HOF votes than Cal Ripken Jr.? The Babe was arguably the most iconic baseball player of all time. His feats on the diamond were legendary, especially clubbing homers. CRJ played for a very long time and broke the consecutive games played record long held by Lou Gehrig. But he was never known as a "super-star". Other than longevity, his year to year stats weren't that impressive.

But one must consider who is doing the voting when it comes to such matters. By and large it's the writers that cover the various sports. Are they "experts" and therefore qualified to cast such votes? Maybe, maybe not across their spectrum. Like athletes, some are better than others.

Thing is, all these folks are based somewhere. Whether they work for a newspaper, magazine, TV, online, or other -- they all have a "home town". And they're all human, I think. Ahem. Therefore they have human flaws. Like bias. Whether they want to admit it or not, they're going to favor their home town heroes, while likely harboring grudges against athletes from other teams and cities they considered the "enemy" for so long.

There's a certain writer in the Detroit area that's still whining because Alan Trammell and Lou Whitaker never got their plaques in Cooperstown. He voted for them every year, until their eligibility was over. Too bad hardly anybody else did. This is the classic case of being a "homer".

So sure, many of the writers are biased. But if the vote is taken away from them -- then who takes their place?

The players? Or former players? True, nobody knows players better than other players, but who would be eligible to vote? Anybody still alive that ever signed a big league contract? That could get complicated. And of course they would have the same biases as the writers -- likely even more pronounced. Rivalries and even hatred at times are woven into the fabric of sports between teams and their athletes. It's hard to believe they could be totally objective when it came to casting ballots. Much easier to vote for teammates, present or former, or at least the guys on the other teams they became friends with. Human nature again, but that wouldn't make it objective.

The fans? Perhaps they should decide. After all, one way or the other, be it buying tickets to games, team paraphernalia, and the ultimate consumers of products featured on commercials -- they've always bankrolled the whole works. Without the fans, there would BE no professional sports.

But nobody is more biased than them. They love their home teams (players) and hate anybody that beats them. And the vast majority are couch taters that know little if anything when it comes to true worthiness for sports honors.

That would be fine if the system was fair -- but it's not. It's no big secret that teams hand out All-Star ballots with impunity. One in attendance can snatch up as many as they want and vote as many times as they want. On-line, it's even worse. Unlimited voting. Click away. Though technically legal, such a system is corrupt and makes a mockery of fairness and objectivity. The teams themselves openly urge their fans to vote for their players as many times as they can. The whole process has become a bad joke. It's not about who is truly deserving, it's about hype and popularity contests. How many times have we seen All-Stars selected at various positions, when others are vastly superior to them in any given year?  What greatness they may have shown in the past shouldn't matter. It's about now. But it doesn't work that way -- does it?

Yet for now, Steph Curry was a worthy choice indeed as MVP.

The writers got that one right. Still, it's amazing not a single curmudgeon from coast to coast opted to vote otherwise, just because he/she could.

100% coming from such a diverse group, likely many of which reside in towns the Warriors have come into and blistered their homies?


Steph Curry and the audition

[This post is a day late. That's because while yours truly was in the middle of writing it last night, the Google/blogger site crashed. After waiting a couple hours for it to come back up -- it didn't -- I crashed too. Finishing up here.....]

It was the best thing that could happen to Steph Curry and the Golden State Warriors. Well, maybe the second best thing. The first, of course, was the Dubs knocking off the Portland Trail Blazers on the road to take a commanding 3-1 series lead. It will likely be lights out in Game 5 for the RipCity bunch when the series goes back to Oakland.

But another interesting subplot was very much in play. This was Steph Curry's first game back since suffering back-to-back leg injuries. No doubt, the sprained ankle had had plenty of time to heal, but the strained knee ligament was still a question mark. Was he truly good to go 100%? Would it hold up in a game situation? Nobody knew for sure, probably including Curry himself.

It's one thing to trot up and down the court in practice and leisurely shoot balls from different spots on the floor. But it's quite another to go full speed with defenders hounding you. And yes, there will be contact in a game. Sometimes hard -- your're going to the floor -- contact.

Besides, Curry had been "inactive" for a couple weeks. Would the "rust" factor come into play when he returned? This wasn't just some ordinary regular season contest -- it was a playoff game on the road against the Blazers who were fighting for their post-season lives. They were going to "bring it".

Almost predictably, Curry got off to a sluggish start. He was less than impressive in the first half. Throwing up bricks, bad passes, and coughing up a few turnovers. But the knee held up. No pain.

In the second half, he started to return to form. His shots started falling and the swagger came back. In a back and forth game, as fate would have it, the teams were tied at the end of regulation. That meant overtime.

It's quite likely the GS trainers/medical staff had some concerns about Curry. Probably the LAST thing they wanted to see was the game go into OT, hence pushing the envelope on Curry even further.

But the leg held up indeed. Not only that, he rediscovered his shot and was back to his old long-range bombing self. He would wind up dropping forty points on Portland in his first game back. Very impressive stuff.

Quick question. What are the chances Steph Curry got another (just to make sure) MRI when he arrived back to Oakland?

Answer. Better than average.

Yep. As things turned out, it was the best thing that could have happened to Curry and the Warriors.

He most definitely passed the "audition" with flying colors.

And it doesn't bode well for their competition in the future. GS was pretty good without #30, but with him back in form, and holding home court advantage throughout the playoffs, the Dubs are going to be a mighty tough out.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

The Mother's Day pink thing

At first I didn't get it. What was with all the pink stuff MLB players were wearing? Some even swinging pink bats. Sure, with apologies to Bob Dylan, times they are a-changing indeed, and many are coming out of the "closet" in one way or another. But ALL these guys? On the same day? Dang.

Or maybe it was another one of those breast cancer awareness things. A worthy cause indeed, but otherwise macho men wearing pink hardly brings a cure any closer. That's like everybody wearing green on St. Patrick's day. A very small percentage of the revelers has any Irish blood at all in their heritage. But many do it anyway because, well, everybody else does. And one will catch some flak if they don't conform.

Then I was reminded it was Mother's Day. Truth be told, I'd forgotten. Yours truly hasn't had a mom for many years, bless her soul, so sometimes it's easy to overlook such occasions that are so important to others. Put another way, congrats to the millions of couples that celebrate their wedding anniversaries every year and good for them. But to other millions that have gone through divorce proceedings, somehow the same such anniversary doesn't seem so important. A child's birthday is usually a joyous event for the family -- unless it had tragically died as an infant for whatever reason. It happens.Then it's a day of sadness. In the whole scheme of things, it all depends on circumstances. The very same occasion can be euphoric for some, heart-wrenching for others, and just another day in the life for many more -- nothing special.

Personally, I know a lot of mothers -- and muthas -- so it was probably a good idea to get out and wish a few moms a happy Mother's day. Like chocolate or flowers, they always seem to rather enjoy that sort of thing. The muthas, sometimes known as significant others, are on their own, or might be soon if they don't start taking better care of business.

Yet that raises a few questions. If pro athletes donned pink to salute mothers everywhere, what will they wear on Father's Day?

Neckties their kids gave them -- again? An extra pair of socks? Will all of them reek of Old Spice on Father's Day when they take the field?

And if moms are celebrated with pink, what color would be appropriate for dads? Blue? Maybe. Methinks many of them would just as soon the day went by without any fanfare and dopey gifts they neither need nor want -- while having to pretend that pair of cuff links they got was the greatest thing since thousands of cable channels and a remote control. Or maybe the John Deere multipurpose riding machine in the garage. But he had to buy that himself, likely after much haggling with the Mrs. If push came to shove, one can only wonder which he would rather part with.

Hey, he can put on his new tie, new socks, douse himself in cheap cologne, and even make sleeve holes in an old sweatshirt for cuff links. One "dear" had her pink day a month before. Color it any shade you wish, but get the hell out of the way when he decides to ride the other Deere. A man needs to have his own space once in a while. Father's Day is normally an exercise in awkwardness -- from both sides. Who needs it?

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Lebron's magic year?

NBA fans know the history of Lebron James. An Ohio native, he toiled away in his early years desperately trying to win a title for the Cleveland Cavaliers. Though he and they made it to the Finals here and there, the Cavs could never quite get over the top. It was the classic example of how one guy, despite how ridiculously talented he is, can't get it done in a team sport.

So off to Miami where he teamed up with Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, and a better all-around supporting cast. James would win two titles there, but the attempt for a three-peat would be quashed by the San Antonio Spurs. The Heat appeared to be fading while the Spurs were on another up-swing. Plus the Golden State Warriors were quickly coming together as a powerhouse. Lebron likely saw the handwriting on the wall. He wasn't going to win another championship if he stayed with the Heat. The cream of the crop out west was just too good and getting better.

And no doubt, somewhere in his head remained the desire to bring glory to Cleveland. So he went back. Though the Cavs' management structure, from ownership on down to head coach was, and still is almost comical -- they had somehow found a way to land a couple other terrific players. Enter Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love.

One need only remember what happened just last year. Lebron led the Cavs back into the NBA Finals, and at one point were ahead of the Golden State Warriors 2 games to 1. We know how that worked out. The Bay Boys would storm back and capture the title.

But Irving and Love were already out with season-ending injuries. Once again, Lebron got oh-so-close in Cleveland, only to come up short. He put on quite the one-man show, but the Warriors as a team were too much.

Fast forward to the present. Irving and Love are back and healthy. Predictably, the Cavs swept the hapless Detroit Pistons in the opening round of the playoffs, and appear they will do the same to the Atlanta Hawks in Round 2. Now already down 0-3, the Hawks are just trying to save face by maybe winning a single game. It's a foregone conclusion the Cavs will move on.

Then they will face the winner of the Miami/Toronto series in the Eastern Conference finals. Few would doubt the Cavs will roll through that series as well to be back in the NBA Finals. It seems to have been their destiny all year long. The only question was who would emerge out of the wild wild west to face them?

That question remains unanswered. The usual wannabes have already been dispatched (see LA Clips). San Antonio is in a dogfight with Okla City, and Golden State is trying to hang on against the Portland Trail Blazers without the services of Steph Curry.

Most think GS and SA will prevail and slug it out against themselves in the Western Conference finals. Likely a toss-up series if their ever was one. Both teams are really, really good, but have different styles of play. Nonetheless, only one of them can survive. And if it's indeed a SA and GS match-up, it will likely be a long brutal series.

If the Cavs can cruise to the Finals while their potential competition is beating each other's brains out, it would definitely be in their favor. They get to rest, watch, and study BOTH teams. Sure, most NBA players are in world-class tip-top shape, and their bodies recover quickly after a grueling game.

But somewhere along the line the long season, and all the travel that's involved, plus running the gauntlet of physical play in the playoffs has to take its toll on some level.

True, the Cavs hired a clueless coach in David Blatt, finally (DUH) fired him, and then brought in another whozit in Tyronn Lue to take over, but that's just Cleveland being Cleveland. Despite front office ineptness, the team itself seems to be on auto-pilot. They can definitely play.

Lebron Ramone James is exactly where he wants to be. In Cleveland, with a strong supporting cast, including two of All-Star quality (like he had in Miami).

There are those that think whichever team emerges from the West (especially GS or SA) will be favored to go on and win the NBA championship. And they might be right.

Then again, don't sleep on Lebron and his second go-round with the Cavaliers.

This just might be the year he finally gets it done.

And can you imagine? Cleveland hasn't celebrated a professional championship -- in ANY sport -- since way back in 1964. They'd go crazy. Zebra mussels would hop up on shore and dance. Guv Kasich might decide to run for Pope (hell, he's run for everything else). John Boehner might turn orange again. Hordes of Buckeyes running amok could start a grass-roots movement to have Lebron's likeness be the fifth carved on Mount Rushmore. Owner Dan Gilbert's mug might take the place of George Washington's on the dollar bill. How scary would that be? This could get out of control.

Still, it would be pretty cool to see a super-star return to his "home" town and finally bring it a championship.

Friday, May 6, 2016

Coloring by numbers

If one was an Oklahoma City Thunder fan in attendance at the game against the San Antonio Spurs, they would likely consider it team spirit -- even solidarity.

But to others, at least yours truly, it was sort of spooky.

That would be the color scheme the fans sported in Chesapeake Energy Arena, home of the Thunder.

One entire section was clad in blue shirts, the next in white, and they alternated all the way around the building.

That begs a few questions ---- how does such a phenomenon come to be?

Are we to believe every person in every seat is a season ticket holder? Does the team pre-mail them to their most faithful followers with instructions to wear blue/white to any given game, depending on which section their seats are in?

Perhaps they're handed out at the various entry gates upon arrival. The ticket takers check which section a fan's seat is in and gives him/her either white/blue. Who knows?

What we DO know is the fans fall in line like lemmings -- or your average hard-core Republican or Democrat partisan. They don't know why they're marching up a cliff only to plunge to their doom or vote for certain candidates (sometimes eerily similar) -- they just do -- because they're "supposed" to. The team or party said so, and that's good enough for them. Did I mention spooky?

For the sake of argument, let's assume these shirts are handed out at the arena when fans show up for the game. But that begs more questions. If the fans already know they're going to get assigned shirts to don for the game, what are they wearing when they show up? Something else they pull the blue or white shirt over? Or are they bare chested or in bras only?

And what might happen if a fan had already plopped down the big bucks for a playoff ticket, but decided not to fall in line and didn't wear the shirt he/she was assigned? Would they be escorted out of the arena and flogged for insubordination?

Perhaps we'll never know, because participation appeared to be unanimous. One section all blue, the next all white, and repeated all the way around. It's probably a good thing the Thunder wasn't handing out white robes with tall pointy white hats to all those entering the arena. Such a clannish spectacle would have created quite the media buzz, not to mention being somewhat intimidating to many of the players.

But one never knows what a team will come up with next in the way of silly promotions. They DO know their fans are typically easily led by the nose and will buy into just about anything -- or wear anything they think somehow supports their team.

Alas, despite the Okies dutifully donning their white and blue to go watch their millionaires play, their team would go down in Game 3 to defeat at the hands of the Spurs.

Did they get to keep the shirts on the way out or are they taken back to be re-issued to the next crowd? Unknown.

Hey, if they want to do something original, surely Thunder management can come up with something more imaginative for Game 4 then blue and white shirts by section. Do it by individual seats with every shirt fitting into a grand color scheme.

How about something in a paisley? Or a giant gaping Kardashian butt that looks like it might snap shut on the whole court at any second. Now, THAT would be original. Scary for sure, but a lot more interesting than blue and white.

Parting thought. The Thunder plays in Oklahoma City -- right? So how did they wind up naming their home building Chesapeake Energy Arena? Last time I looked, Chesapeake Bay was still on the east coast. You know, Maryland, Virginia, and that area. It's a mighty long ways from Okieland. So what were they thinking?

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Spoofing names and initials

If the New England Patriots are commonly called the Pats, and the Jacksonville Jaguars the Jags, what should we call the Tennessee Titans for short? Hmm.

And while on the subject of possibly riling up the lady fans, dare we come up with an abbreviated name for the Charlotte Hornets? Yikes, that could get ugly in the morning.

A generation ago, jolly old England gave us Princess Di. Sadly, that's exactly what happened in a car crash.

It is interesting to note the initials of the President of the United States. He's even been referred to as "BO". But the letters themselves have long had another not-so-good connotation. BO, as in body odor. Could it be?

And between his wife and kids we have a Michelle, Malia Ann, and Natasha. Add it all up and America's first family consists of a BO, a MO, a MAO, and a NO. Natasha is more well known by a pet name. Sasha. SO?

On the other hand, we have Melania Trump, the latest and greatest wife of the Donald. Her initials are obviously MT. Look into her eyes and listen closely when she speaks. "Empty" would seem to be the perfect moniker.

Longtime Duke men's basketball head coach Mike Krzyzewski's name has been shortened to just Coach K. Probably because nobody knew how to spell or pronounce it -- maybe even him. Everybody's cool with just "Coach Kay".

But what about legendary women's basketball coach Pat Summit during her time at Tennessee? She became known as Coach Pat but never just "Coach Pee". That might not have went over so well. Funny how just a single letter can make such a difference in perception.

Current TNT NBA analyst Charles Barkley was known in his playing days for soaring high to grab rebounds. Would it be fair to call him Upchuck these days? Consider that thought the next time you see him swing a golf club. That's about enough to make anybody nauseous.

Eldrick Tont Woods became Tiger. Should he have been called Ellie instead?

Laurence Turead became Mr. T of film and screen. So what happened to Larry? Oh, that's right. He's the Cable Guy. But his real first name is Daniel.

Caryn Elaine Johnson, a pretty enough name, somehow turned into Whoopi Goldberg. Go figure.

Last but not least there is one Shaquille O'Neal. The big goof sits on the same panel as Upchuck, begging to stay relevant Kennie, and while bow-tie nerdy Ernie tries to keep some sort of order in the asylum.

Mostly Shaq just stares off into space or occasionally grunts. Yet to earn his paycheck another SO is obligated to actually, you know, say something once in a while.

And that is exactly where the best shortened version of a name should come into play.



He should collect his hefty NBA pension, scarf up whatever endorsements he can get for any company still desperate enough to use him as a spokesperson to hawk their product, and hope for a future role as an extra in a movie. It's likely only a matter of time before another Planet of the Apes sequel comes around.

Either that, or marry one of the K girls and get his own reality TV show. If America has been dumb enough to make them some sort of role models, it's certainly dumb enough to accommodate Mr. O'Neal as a leading man.

But for now, let's just stick to SH!. Every time he opens his mouth, it just makes matters worse.