Tag Archives: @nbcsports

THE TALE OF TWO POSTSEASONS

The late, great Jim McKay used to proclaim in the opening of ABC’s Wide World of Sports “the drama of athletic competition.”  This is truly what we are witnessing in both the Stanley Cup and NBA playoffs this year.  Both tournaments are offering the dramatics this year, but that’s where the similarities end.

To be honest, I haven’t watched any of the NBA playoff games this year.  I have been keeping myself informed through my ESPN app and news reports.  That being said, I am fully aware that both the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers have yet to lose a single game. Therein lies the drama.  Who will flinch first?  To me, as well as most basketball fans, it’s a far gone conclusion that last year’s finalists are on a crash course to this year’s NBA Finals.

The Stanley Cup Playoffs have been much more intriguing.  The only four game sweep came early on, when the Anaheim Ducks dispatched the Calgary Flames in Round 1.  The Pittsburgh Penguins win over the Columbus Blue Jackets and the St. Louis Blues victory over the Minnesota Wild are the only two match-ups to end in five games.  Both five game series were in the first round.  A Stanley Cup record 18 first round games went into sudden death overtime, including four in one night.

Image result for lebron james stephen curry and kevin durant

Lebron James, Stephan Curry, and Kevin Durant (pictured in an Oklahoma City Thunder jersey, he is now with the Golden State Warriors) have led the Cavaliers and Warriors to undefeated playoff seasons.

 

Back to the NBA story.  I mentioned earlier in this article that I have yet to watch a single NBA playoff game this year.  In contrast, I watched nearly the entire NCAA Tournament back in March, so it’s not that I’m not interested in basketball.  The NBA has become so predictable that it has, in my opinion, become unwatchable.  No game this year made that more evident than the Cleveland’s 130-86 drubbing of the Boston Celtics on Friday night in Boston.  This game was over in the first quarter!  Given the fact that Boston’s top star Isaiah Thomas is sidelined for the remainder of the playoffs takes all the drama out of this series.

The Western Conference match-up between Golden State and the San Antonio Spurs looked at least palatable on paper .  Spurs coach Gregg Popovich has a history of having his team ready for big games.  However, given the injury bug that has hit San Antonio (Kawhi Leonard is out with an ankle injury), it appears that the Warriors might close things out on Monday night.

The NBA has been dramatic, yet unwatchable.  Hopefully we will see a series for the ages in the far gone concluded NBA Finals between the Cavs and Warriors.

The NHL has a much different situation going on.  Yes, the games have been dramatic, yes the series’ have gone deep, but there is one more dimension to add to the Stanley Cup drama of 2017.  Unlike the NBA’s two marquee franchises being on a crash course to a championship clash, two of the NHL’s smallest markets are in a Stanley Cup frenzy.

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The Nashville Predators have been the surprise of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

While the President’s Trophy winning Washington Capitals (and superstar Alexander Ovechkin), and marquee franchises from Montreal, Chicago, and the New York Rangers watch from the sidelines, the Nashville Predators and Ottawa Senators are making headlines.

With last night’s come from behind victory in Anaheim, the Predators find themselves within one win of the Stanley Cup Finals.  That can happen in the Music City on Monday night.

The one marquee franchise remaining in the Stanley Cup picture is the Pittsburgh Penguins.  They host the Senators this afternoon in Steeltown, the Eastern Conference Finals is tied at 2-2.

So much drama, so much intrigue.  It’s been a spring for the ages for two very different reasons.  Stay tuned!

 

BRACKETOLOGY-AN AMERICAN OBSESSION

This weekend is arguably the second biggest for sports fans on the calendar.  Although Super Bowl weekend is still king,  the first two rounds of the NCAA Basketball Championship is, in my opinion, number two.  When else is it almost appropriate to have the early basketball games minimized on your work computer on a Thursday and Friday afternoon?

For the kids competing in the 68 school event, it’s anywhere from a once in a lifetime chance at fame, to an NBA audition.  What makes this time of year even more intriguing, is the fact that millions of casual fans have an interest in each and every game.

What had begun as a simple office pool in the 1980’s has caught on and become an obsession in America!  The advent of the internet has helped fuel the fire on this.  It is now so easy to log on to any of the hundreds of pools and click away at your predictions.  I began competing in pools when players actually hand wrote there predictions and the moderator of the pool used a photocopier and kept track of the standings by hand!

There is a genius to this. If it wasn’t for my picks, would this sports fan who is originally from New York and lives in South Florida, have any rooting interest in a game involving Duke or Kentucky?

Like most Americans. while I was eating lunch on Thursday I was sitting at my desk watching the first game of the day.  I had Notre Dame going another couple of rounds and continued to watch as Princeton stayed with them.  The Irish would win by two points and had me whispering “Yes!” as time ran out.  I’m not a fan of either school, but Notre Dame was supposed to continue on to the Sweet Sixteen in my world.

Yesterday afternoon the bubble burst for many when Wisconsin took down number one overall Villanova.  A mere hours later Florida State’s loss to Xavier busted more brackets.

Here’s the genius in all of this. If you fill out one of these pool worksheets it gives watching the tournament new meaning.  You have a rooting interest in every game!  Thursday and Friday of the first weekend has everyone interested in all of  the games being played.  This weekend   everyone from the most seasoned  college basketball fan to the receptionist in the office all have a shot at winning.  Everyone is interested during the first weekend of wall to wall basketball games.

During Barack Obama’s term as President, basketball fans looked forward to the unveiling of his bracket on ESPN.  Many are disappointed that President Trump declined to do so this year.  This just shows the enormity of what March Madness has become.

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President Barack Obama fills out his 2009 Presidential Bracket

The question in workplaces throughout the United States and beyond, tomorrow morning will be “how did you do this weekend?”  or “did your bracket get busted by Wisconsin beating Villanova?”  There can be even more questions by day’s end today as number one seeds North Carolina and Kansas are in action.

Just for the record, I’m still alive and well despite Villanova losing yesterday.  I had them losing to Duke in the Elite Eight.  As for Florida State, I had Xavier winning that game.  My Final Four you might ask?  Three of them see action today.  Kentucky, Louisville and Duke all play today.  Gonzaga is safe and sound and in the Sweet Sixteen.

Enjoy the rest of this once a year basketball celebration.  Take out your brackets and take notice as these kids play for a National Championship.

THE MOST BORING GAMES OF THE YEAR

Today used to be called “in between Sunday.”  This is the Sunday in between Championship Sunday and Super Bowl Sunday.  It was the middle of two weeks of hype leading up to the NFL’s marquis day.

In 2010, the National Football League moved the Pro Bowl from the week after the Super Bowl to the week before it.  The biggest problem, among others, with this scheduling change is the fact that the players on the two championship teams wouldn’t participate in the game.  Let’s digest that for a minute.  The best players on the top two teams in the league would skip a game set aside for stars to showcase their talents.

One of the reasons for the change of schedule was the idea that the Pro Bowl would be played in the same venue as the Super Bowl.  This would limit traveling to Hawaii where the game was traditionally held.  That theory never did catch on.  This year’s game and festivities will be held in Orlando.

Image result for camping world stadium Camping World Stadium in Orlando, FL

In recent times the National Hockey League also claimed the weekend prior to the Super Bowl as their All-Star Weekend.  The main reason for the move from a mid-week night game was the fact that the NFL was off.  Of course that ended in 2010 when Roger Goodell in his infinite wisdom invaded Gary Bettman’s space.

This year the NHL goes Hollywood with the Los Angeles Kings hosting the festivities.

Image result for staples center Staples Center, home of the Los Angeles Kings

Let’s face it, football and hockey do not lend themselves to great all-star games.  The Pro Bowl limits many defenses and blitzing is a penalty.  The result is always a high scoring affair.  The NHL’s game is basically “flag hockey,” checking is not allowed.  The NHL All-Star Game is reminiscent of an adult league at a local ice skating rink in which the best goaltenders in the business are hung out to dry.  Both games are an excersise in keeping from getting hit.

I will give the NHL some credit for making an attempt to make their showcase palatable.  The skills competition on Saturday night has become more of a highlight of the event than the actual game.  You have an evening of the best players in the league showcasing what they do best.  This year the league will continue with a three period mini tournament among the four divisions.  Although it was exciting last year it still resulted in a hidden score-fest.  Total goals in last year’s game was 23, including a 9-6 mini game between the Western Conference divisions.  Keep in mind this was in one period.

After a choose-up format over the past few years the NFL finally and mercifully return to an AFC-NFC format this year.  This is how it was for generations, why Mr. Goodell turned a nationally televised all-star event into a glorified choose-up game is still beyond me.

So what are your plans for today?  Non contact football? Three on three mini non contact hockey?  How about skipping them both altogether and take a nap?

WEDNESDAY NIGHT BASEBALL-THE HALL OF FAME CLASS OF 2017

Welcome to my new Wednesday night blog.  Nothing but baseball on Wednesday nights!

Although its only mid January,there is so much is going on in the world of baseball!  Free agency is coming to a close, the hot stove is still burning and Spring Training is only a month away.  Join me each Wednesday for news, weekly wrap ups, and of course opinions and discussions!

That being said, earlier tonight the National Baseball Hall of Fame released its class of 2017!  I give you this year’s class:

JEFF BAGWELL:

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After years of waiting for this moment, Bagwell earned an overwhelming 86.2% of the vote.  Bagwell has been on the ballot since 2011. He retired in 2005 as a member of the National League champion Houston Astros.

Bagwell was a rarity in today’s times, spending his entire career with the same club.  He hit 449 career home runs, drove in 1,529 runs and had a lifetime average of .297.  He made one trip to the World Series.  Bagwell broke the 40 home run barrier three times in his career, and hit over 30 homer runs eight years in a row. He hit a career high of 47 round-trippers in 2000. Bagwell was the National League MVP in the strike shortened season of 1994.  Bagwell was also known for his defense at both catcher and second base.

TIM RAINES:

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After 10 long years on the ballot, The Rock gets his plaque in Cooperstown!

For a team that no longer exists, the Montreal Expos will most likely have its logo on three plaques this summer (Andre Dawson and Gary Carter being the other two).  Although Raines played for the White Sox, Yankees, Athletics, Orioles  and finished his career with the Marlins, he is mainly remembered as the Road Runner from Montreal.

He was part of two World Series championship teams in New York (1996 and 1999).  A lifetime .294 hitter, he stole 808 bases in his career. He  joins fellow speedsters Ricky Henderson and Lou Brock in the Hallowed Hall.  Raines was the National League batting champion in 1986 with a .334 average and four-time stolen base champion.

IVAN RODRIGUEZ:

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Arguably the best catcher in the Majors during the 1990’s and early 2000’s Pudge was elected to the Hall on his first ballot.

A .296 career hitter, Rodriguez played most of his career with the Texas Rangers.  He won his only World Series ring in his lone year with the Florida Marlins (2003).  He was also one of the best defensive catchers ever to wear the gear.

Pudge was the 1999 American League MVP as a member of the Rangers.  He belted out 199 hits including 35 homers and 113 RBI and hit .332 in that MVP season.

Congratulations Bags, Rock, and Pudge!  See you in Cooperstown this July.

There were also two other inductees.  John Scheurholz, the architect of the Braves teams that finished first in their division 12 straight years was elected.  Also elected was former commissioner Bud Selig.  This writer totally disagrees that Selig deserves this honor.  He doesn’t hold a candle to the likes of Bowie Kuhn.

See you next week as we continue through the off-season.  The warmth of baseball will get us through the cold of winter.