After a two-week hiatus, there is a lot to catch up on. From the perspective of not hearing any of the details of what was going on in the US sporting world for the last 16 days, there are some surprising events and some not-at-all surprising things that have happened.
When I left, the Philadelphia Flyers were on life support in their series against the Boston Bruins. Now, they are in the Stanley Cup Finals against the Chicago Blackhawks. That is a surprise. This outcome leaves the NHL with two large markets represented in the Finals and that is a good thing. It also leaves them without Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin participating in the Finals and that is a bad thing from the perspective of marketing star players. The NHL does have an interesting story line with the Philly/Chicago match-up, however. The Flyers last won the Stanley Cup in 1975; those were the “Broad Street Bullies”. The Blackhawks’ last championship was in 1961. One team here will necessarily end a long drought without a championship…
When I left, the Cleveland Cavaliers were still involved in the NBA Playoffs and lots of folks had them penciled into the Finals against the eventual Western Conference champion. Now the Cavs are on vacation; they have fired their coach – - the guy who had the best cumulative record of any coach in Cavs’ history by the way; they have produced a musical tribute to LeBron James to entice him to sign on with the Cavs again and appear to be almost pathetic as a franchise. How did all of that happen?
Aside: if LeBron James and Alex Ovechkin really and truly are the most transcendent players in their sport, why have their teams never done anything reasonably noteworthy in their respective playoffs? Just asking…
David Stern reportedly fined Mark Cuban $100K because Cuban said that as an owner he would love to sign LeBron James, as would any other owner in the NBA. Most basketball fans realize that is a statement of fact and not “tampering”, but David Stern does not see the world the way most normal folks do. Whatever. It will be interesting to see if Stern tries to fine President Obama for saying that LeBron James ought to sign with the Chicago Bulls. That is a statement of the President’s opinion and involves “influence” on the decision making of a player still under contract to the Cleveland Cavaliers.
By the way, if LeBron does sign with the Bulls, do you think that might cost the President some votes in Ohio in 2012? Just asking…
Oh, by the way, the fact that it is almost June and there are still games to be played in the NBA semi-finals gives credence to the assertion that NBA really stands for Never-ending Basketball Association…
Bob Molinaro of the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot is a big NBA Playoffs fan. Nevertheless, he had this observation about the playoff scheduling there:
“In passing: I’m not sure how big of a role momentum plays in the NBA playoffs, but with all the off days thrown in between games, I’m thinking not much.”
Steve Simmons of the Toronto Sun must think along these same lines since he posed this rhetorical question:
“What drags out longer, the plotlines on The Young And The Restless or an NBA playoff series?”
When I left, Floyd Landis was an afterthought in the minds of the American sports fandom. Now he is back for another cycle – - no pun intended – - in the limelight. Remember when Landis was accused of doping while winning the Tour de France and he ran around claiming that he was framed by the French authorities who had it in for him because he was another American who had won their race? I think he even wrote a book declaring his innocence and dismissing the validity of the tests that were done. Well, now he has admitted that he was in fact on PEDs – - and he added that Lance Armstrong is the one who showed him how to do it so the testers would not catch him.
It always amazed me that Armstrong could dominate the sport of cycling – - where “everyone is on the sauce” and the authorities test daily during competitions – - and still remain completely “clean”. I am not saying he is a user; I am saying it would be shocking if he were not a user. Many have used Landis’ recent accusations to conclude that Armstrong is indeed a “cheater” too. I would like more info here because there is one thing in this whole sordid mess that I know to be a fact:
Floyd Landis has proven himself to be a lying weasel in the past; therefore, his credibility here needs shoring up before he is taken at his word.
Scott Ostler of the SF Chronicle had this cogent observation about the sport of cycling:
“You can’t spell pedal without P-E-D.”
Danica Patrick drew boos from a crowd at Indy when she complained to her pit crew that her car wasn’t very good and that it wasn’t her fault that her Indy times were not all that good. Somehow, that exchange became known to the crowd and the crowd let her know that they were a bit tired of her “petulant child” persona. In addition, while I mention Danica Patrick here, I think I have to mention that it is not all that surprising to me that she has done bubkes in NASCAR this season. Imagine how quickly Danica Patrick would fade from the minds of US sports fandom if she made a couple of really stupid “Go Daddy.com” commercials…
Finally, as I got back in the cycle of gathering material for these rants, I was glad to see that many of my favorite sports writers/columnists were continuing to provide good stuff for me to use to close out these rants:
“Scientists aren’t the only ones speechless over the news that Jupiter is suddenly missing one of its humongous rings.
” ‘No comment,’ said Kobe Bryant.” [Dwight Perry, Seattle Times]
“Kobe Bryant’s wife protested Arizona’s illegal immigration law by wearing a T-shirt to a playoff game that read, ‘Do I Look Legal?’ Gee, if that 16-year-old girl had been wearing that same shirt, Lawrence Taylor might not be in the trouble he’s in.” [Greg Cote, Miami Herald]
“Have you seen the new mascots for the 2012 Olympics in London? Wenlock and Mandeville. Seriously. They are the offspring of an illicit affair between a parking meter and a gas pump.” [Scott Ostler, SF Chronicle]
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports…