Damn You Versus!

I'm an NHL fan, born and bread. But man, Versus (Vs.) is making it damn hard to stay with the Stanley Cup Finals. Twice tonight already within a period and a half of the Ducks/Sens Game 2 (and that's with flipping to the Red Sox on breaks in action, hence missing small bits of the game) the producers at Vs. have somehow managed to bastardize the action by cutting to commercial during game play. It's like the incompetent employees in the production booth set commercial breaks and said, "Screw it. Even if the game's still on, we need the commercial revenue to keep this ship afloat."

Come on guys, get your heads out of your a$$es. It does not help your cause. If it happens again, I may just boycott the rest of the Finals- and that's from a die hard NHL fan.


A "Quickie" Type Post

Not lots of time to wax philosophic today, so I give you a "quickie-style" (thanks Dan) run down of thoughts:
  • How much are the Falcons lamenting moving Matt Schaub off to the Texans? If and when the hammer of Goodell comes down on Vick, something tells me the phrase, "Starting QB" is NOT a label they really had in mind for Joey Harrington (or Chris Redmond).
  • "Conley-tanking": That's it, I'm copyrighting the catchphrase right now. What is it? It's when an NBA-bound prospect, disliking his current high draft status, plans to tank his workouts leading up to the draft to lower his stock, thus dropping from the sights of inept GMs/teams with high picks (see: Atlanta Hawks) and, thus, ensuring life is better playing for a team with at least the motivation to improve itself in the coming years (see: Hornets), or, gasp- even better, lucking out with a team that bamboozled a Lottery team (see: NY Knicks) out of their 1st Round Pick, but are already near the top of their Conference (see: da' Bulls). Count on this, it will happen soon.
  • The biggest sign yet that A.J. Pierzynski is a d*ckhead... he and Justin Morneau were teammates in Minnesota several years back. Just shows you how far loyalty goes in the land of Free Agency.
  • Chuck Lidell- I'm in a quandry. He was the first guy I really noticed in UFC several years back (I have been a passive fan for a while), but I always found a better fight out of guys like Couture and even Shamrock back in the day. Lidell might be the first high profile UFC fighter (by "high profile" I mean ESPN/general sports fan recognized), but he's certainly not the best. And wait until we start getting into the "pound for pound" best fighter argument like we do for boxing. Guys in the lower weights classes- welterweight Karo Parisyan or middleweight Terry Martin, might be better for the sport's health when we look back after their careers play out.
    • My argument is, the UFC (and MMA in general) needs to be anti-boxing- in other words, to push for a "Heavyweights Headline" the way boxing has always done would kill the sport. Why does everyone flock to see De la Hoya/Mayweather in boxing? Because there is no heavyweight bout to carry the sport and that has just buried boxing.
    • So I argue, don't put your sport in that "do or die" position anyway. If you have guys you can root for at every weight division, is that not better for the marketability of the sport anyway? I mean, how many "real" guys out there picture themselves as the 225 pound monster hitter that heavyweights are? Is it not easier to think of yourself as- and root for- that 175 pound firecracker that gets in there and fights like he's 225 pounds?
    • I would argue that UFC can fill the gap between WWE and boxing. In other words, be the sum of both parts- the money/marketing of WWE combined with the raw/"real" sports satisfaction of boxing to garner casual fans and diehards alike when the product is- and here's the key- QUALITY. More on this as I give it more thought.


Elijah Dukes- You D*ckhead

OK, so Elijah Dukes pulled a Brett Myers and abused his wife (death threats and pictures of a gun, what?!). She called the police and she got a restraining order. Sad stuff and just another example of athletes with attitudes not meant to be removed from the field on which they play. But here's a funny side to it. Dukes' official head shot makes the guy look just like Flavor Flav. I swear, observe...

It's a scary resemblance. Well, when you pull "real" crap like hitting your wife, you are pretty much lower than 15-second fame whoring "reality" TV stars.


The Stanley Cup

I'll keep saying it... the NHL playoffs are better than any other playoffs combined (and that's even if you take out the significantly curve-shifting NBA snoozefest they call their playoffs).

So why watch this Cup? Here's a quick list:
  • Arguably the best scoring line (Ottawa's Spezza, Alfredsson, Heatley) versus the 2 best defensemen in the game (Anaheim's Pronger and Niedermayer).
  • 2 goalies who really came into their own this playoff season- Ray Emery for Ottawa proved his critics wrong. J.S. Giguere re-claimed his position as a #1 backstop like the 2003 Conn Smythe winner he is.
  • Overall though, it's the rise of 2 contrasting, but really committed professional hockey clubs in the early stages of the salary cap era.
    • It's interesting that these 2 teams are relative youngsters in the scope of NHL history (you cannot count the former incarnation of the Senators as part of this current club). They are on opposite sides of the hockey universe, both geographically and marketability-wise. Canadian die-hards versus L.A. celebrity bloggers.
    • And to this last point, with the opener in Anaheim... who of the Hollywood scene shows up to the Pond?
  • The Ducks signed Pronger just for a series like this. The Senators traded for Heatley last season to put them where they are- in the Cup Finals. Both teams' master plans have come to fruition quickly. Now it will be interesting to see who's philosophy trumps the other... Ottawa's "Fast and Loose" or Anaheim's "Muck and Grind".
  • It's the Stanley Cup. There's no better trophy in sports. No better hype to raising your teams' championship award than your team Captain taking that large chalice and skating around the rink passing it in turn to every teammate and every coach- the symbolism of teamwork personified through a great tradition.
  • And what other sport ends in teams lining up for a handshake for a battle well fought as they do at the end of an NHL playoff series? The ultimate show of respect. Gentlemen housed inside warriors.
Ah the Stanley Cup. Only the devoted need apply.


About Last Night...

Dice-K? More like Dud-K. Man I'm glad my Sox spent $100mil on this guy. Wait til he's been through the entire A.L. and teams start seeing him for the 2nd/3rd time post All-Star break. The counter argument being give the guy at least 1/2 a season in the bigs to warm up and get comfortable in the new environment. But wow, 7ER in 5 IP? Worse still... 5BB to 1K. His command was horrible to watch.

Again, my push for NHL coverage. Another OT game. 2-1 Ducks. Ducks win series 4-1. What does it say about the Canucks that they cannot outscore the similarly impotent Ducks? Oh that's right- the Ducks have 2 of the top 3 Defensemen in the league blue lining for them. Incidentally... there have been 17 Round 2 playoff games so far in the NHL. 13 of them have been decided by 1 goal- 13 out of 17 games!!! You must watch this happening (and wager on it). I said it preeviously and I will say it again. Top 3 NHL playoffs of all time.


So much playoffs, so little time.

As we are into 2 major sports' playoffs, a few observations:

I know I said back in the Fall I probably would not write another word about the NBA. But this IS the playoffs, so here we go...

Kobe Bryant is a one-man show. And a one-man show does NOT work in the NBA- the latest evidence being the Suns trouncing of the Lakers and Kobe's immediate dismissal in Round 1 of the NBA playoffs. I have argued before and I will again- all great NBA teams have a superstar and a complimentary player who on any other team would be a superstar. Bird/McHale/Parrish, Johnson/Jabbar/Worthy, Jordan/Pippen, Robinson/Duncan, Olajuwon/Drexler, Shaq/Wade AND Shaq/Kobe. All examples since just the 1980's of how NBA teams work with 2 or more stars. And the last example is the best- it shows how even the most selfish player in the league could win a title if he had help and was willing to accept said help.

Present Day Kobe is afloat in his own sea and he does not have a single life preserver on board to help him. I would not call Lamar Odom the supporting cast member to Kobe to get the Lakers another ring. He's not a different enough player
, style-wise, not an "X-factor". The only way the Lakers misfortune will change is if either: a) Kobe gets traded to build up the right components or b) the Lakers trade for the "X-Factor". A guy like Iverson (who they could have traded for this season) or even a Ben Wallace type (who they could have bought this past off-season in FA) would be the "X-Factor" to give the Lakers a run to the Finals. But they didn't do that, and they don't have a shot at another title. And thus continues the wasted prime of Kobe Bryant.

If Kobe gets traded, that would be the biggest affirmation in sports history that a team traded the wrong guy (Shaq). And I'm not talking about bad trades or lopsided trades (e.g., Jeff Bagwell for Larry Anderson or Hershell Walker for every draft pick in Minnesota). I simply mean, the straight out worst decision by an owner/GM/team when being handcuffed by a self-absorbed superstar. It would simply kill the franchise for the next 3 years (about how long it would take to cultivate 2 drafted players to make up the loss of Kobe in the lineup). But after 3 years? Best damn move a team like the Lakers could make. This is a team that's fans will show up almost regardless of whose on the floor starting. How many teams in the NBA can say THAT? Maybe 3? And that would be a BIG stretch. But the Lakers could put a team of under-21's on the floor and bench, led by Lamar Odom and be better for it in 3 years. All without losing a single season ticket holder. Tell me I am wrong on this.

Some in the know feel a hypothetical/nearly probable Spurs/Suns Western Conference Final is the defacto NBA Finals. Something tells me the Pistons or Bulls MIGHT have something to say about that. I truly think the Bulls have all the goods to stop the Spurs or the Suns- and the Pistons are not far behind. Sure, it may make for "Most Boring Finals Ever: Part II" if the Pistons and Spurs make it, but I seriously doubt it is a Spurs cakewalk. The Suns are the more complete team with "better" Superstars. And by better I mean more entertaining. Steve Nash doubles the fun over Tony Parker. Amare Stoudamaire is Tim Duncan and Ginobli in 1 player. And Shawn Marion has no one from the Spurs close to him. Not to mention this team scores at will. But I am sketchy on their defense. Which is why I think the Bulls and Pistons would probably take out the Suns and would give the Spurs a run to 7 games (and flip a coin for the winner).

Preferably, I want to see the Suns make it and give a little life to the Finals. Suns and Bulls, from where I sit, is the best possible match-up given the remaining teams in the playoffs.

If you haven't been watching the NHL playoffs, but you have watched the NBA playoffs, you are SO missing the best post-season of all major sports from the 2006 and 2007 seasons. This year's NHL playoffs are absolutely amazing. And that is coming from a lifelong hockey player and NHL fan- one of the top 3 playoff seasons all time in the NHL thus far. More on this later (because I think it deserves its own post), but watching the Rangers put the foot on the gas against a completely more gifted team on both ends of the ice like the Sabres are, shows you how, more than any major pro sport, the NHL playoffs are a whole new season unto itself. And the Canucks/Ducks and Sharks/Wings games do not get nearly enough play in the media due to their condemned status being on the West Coast. But watch just 1 game, hell 1 PERIOD, any period, and I guarantee you a great show from all 4 remaining series.