Column about sports where one-liners and sarcasm will be the theme in the ever laughable world of professional sports.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Quick Hits #9

NHL is cancelled, then “The Great One” and "The Magnificent" (Wayne Gretsky and Mario Lemieux, I had to look up Lemieux's nickname) “Inevitably” save the season, then the day ends and the sides are still far away in labor negotiations. Now, it is widely believed that the season will be cancelled. All these announcements with all of 15 people taking notice. 10 in Detroit and 5 in Canada, even the commissioner of the NHL, Gary Bettman, did not care. Stock Up: Everyone in the U.S. (can pay attention to more exciting sports, or take up a hobby, like crochet. Or, even crazy enough, do activities with your children.) Stock Down: Not sure the NHL can go further down without hanging out with the Devil.

Is there some sort of arrogance that we can say that Gretsky and Lemieux have (much of it deserved), to think that after months of labor negotiations, that these two, because of who they are can salvage the entire season within a 48 hour window? Stock Down: Wayne Gretsky and Mario Lemieux

Kansas losing twice in one week? Duke with a chance to lose three in a row? Sweeping through the Big Ten? Pacific University (alma mater of NBA stud Michael Olowokandi) with an unblemished conference play and the best record in the NCAAs since January of 2004? Is this 2005 or 1905? What is next? Mike Kryzewski passing out on the floor during a game? Rick Majerus giving birth at a press conference announcing his acceptance and rejection of a head coaching position? Ok…maybe that went too far, but I don’t really care. (Send emails to to complain) Stock Up: Illinois and Pacific Stock Down: Duke and Kansas.

NBA All-Star Weekend, first of all does NBA stand for (Nothing But Arrests)? Anyways……

All-Star Weekend, started off on Friday Night with the Celebrity Basketball game that featured WNBA Players. The game was on mute and ignored, much like the rest of the WNBA and the NBA. Stock Up: Me for ignoring the game Stock Down: the NBA taskforce who keeps coming up with these dumb competitions and David Stern for signing off on the idea.

Saturday Night featured the 3-Point Competition, the Slam Dunk Competition and, the newest boring gimmick by the NBA, the Shooting Stars Competition. Phoenix won the Shooting Stars Competition and Phoenix Suns Guard, Quentin Richardson, won the Three-Point Competition. The Slam Dunk content, although proclaimed by Magic Johnson, much like Ted Danson announces over and over again on “Curb Your Enthusiasm” with, this is “Heaven”, comment. Magic Johnson announced that the Slam Dunk Competition was officially back. This after J.R. Smith took three chances to dunk on his first shot, but since the ball never hit the rim it did not count. And Chris Andersen from the New Orleans Hornets took 15 tries on his first and only two attempts. I think Charles Barkley said it best, when he said that we should go to commercial break. I yawned my way through the entire competition and wondered how this was nearly as exciting as the Dominique Wilkins-Michael Jordan Competitions of the late 80s when they had one chance (with one mulligan) or they would get 25 points for the dunk.

Stock Up: Michael Jordan, Dominique Wilkins, Quentin Richardson, J.R. Smith and Charles Barkley, Chris Andersen of the Hornets (You had to cheer for the one white guy who has been in the competition since Brent Barry won it a few years back) Stock Down: Magic Johnson (for saying the Slam Dunk Competition is back!), Chris Andersen of the Hornets for 15 Slam Dunk attempts, 2 completions and 2 awful dunks)

Is the NBA season over?

Stock Up (Buy and Hold stock will return thousands of percentage points): LeBron James: He does more stuff with the ball, and you are frightened at how good he will be with a rare combination of Magic Johnson with athleticism plus Michael Jordan plus the unbelievable passing skills. Now before you all knock me, yes, I think Michael was a great passer as well, but he was not in the same league as Magic…and I grew up in Chicago as a Bulls fan. The Chicago Bulls, for being a college basketball team that happens to get paid (well, more than they did in college) and playing a team game. Phoenix Suns for playing as fun of a game as you will see with scoring coming from more places and for having the best young player in the game right now not named LeBron. Stock Down: the Rest of the NBA.

Oh yeah, for all those Southern readers, or people above the Mason-Dickson line that forget they are not Southern, the Daytona 500 is right around the corner. Now past the corner. Now coming up again, and driving past again. And driving 220 MPH in a circle for 5 hours is fun. Hell, give me a car, I will drive around a circle for 20 minutes and be bored, let alone watching someone else do it for 5 hours. This is the lowest form of sport, I believe, in this country. Because the fan base is there purely to see a crash and get very intoxicated. Nothing better than getting drunk on a Saturday, Sunday and Monday morning. I have no problem with that (others may say I endorse it), but to then have to sit there on a bench around a bunch of fat, sweaty, smelly, drunk and hairy rednecks, and that is just the women, does not sound like fun. If you were to drop the drunk, if sounds more like a southern prison than it does an event. Stock Up: Everyone who did not go to the Daytona 500, people who went to Daytona or are going to Daytona without having to do the “500” part. Stock Down: Fat, sweaty, smelly, drunk and hairy rednecks and those from the North who, apparently, wish to be.

Final Notes: NCAA basketball has been better this year than is many years past. Duke has not been quite as dominant, North Carolina is freakishly good, and athletic and fun to watch. B.C. continues to win games and do them in some spectacular ways. Illinois is unbeaten and looks like they will remain that way through the end of the Big Ten Season. Pacific is unbeaten in conference play. The three big teams to watch out for in the NCAA Tournament looks like the three teams that recently had to deal with the coaching carousel two seasons ago, North Carolina, Kansas and Illinois.

Pitchers and Catchers and some position players have reported to Spring Training. This gives everyone hope. And I am not talking only about the teams, I am talking about us poor saps in Chicago when it is 37* and rainy outside at 11:30AM a day after a slight snow covering from the prior evening. I love baseball and I love going to games. This season may feature Little Pinz at 5 or 6 different venues to watch the Cubs play ball. It is already determined to be three [Wrigley Field (Chicago), Yankee Stadium (New York), Pro Player or Joe Robbie (Miami)] and the list could grow to three more [Busch Stadium (St. Louis), Miller Park (Milwaukee) and Comiskey or U.S. Cellular Field (Chicago)]. It sounds like a dream come true summer. I may even see a Dodgers-Mets game at the end of a trip to Vegas (a whole other story all on its own) in August.

I wish nothing but the best for Jose Canseco, wait, no I don’t. Even if even one of the stories is true (and I think there is a significant level of validity behind the stories) you still do not write a tell all book which includes ratting out people and then claim it was not about the money. If it was not about the money, we should ask Canseco to go ahead and donate all proceeds of his book to charity. Then we can find out how he really feels about the almighty dollar. One of the Major League players put it best when he said, “When you are stuck at home for house arrest, not much else you can do but write a book.” Fantastic.

Monday, February 14, 2005

Quick Hits #8

Yay, Kobe's Back!!! And even better, the best basketball player in the NBA upstaged his return with a heck of a performance. Stock Up: LeBron James, Stock (and trousers) Down: Kobe Bryant

Jose Canseco said he, Mar McGwire and Jason Giambi and injected steroids together. And, on a separate occasion, he, Rafael Palmeiro, Pudge Rodriguez and Juan Gonzalez did the same, while our current president was the owner of the team. Canseco has hit rock bottom, although I bet some of the stories has some significant truths to them. I was unaware that steroids not only made you really strong, and have uncontrollable fits of rage, but also the inabilitiy to keep your mouth closed. Plus, who really thinks that Jason Giambi of all people would use steroids? I mean, he only allegedly admitted to using steroids to a Grand Jury, but what really is a "Grand Jury"?
Stock Down: Jose Canseco, Major League Baseball, Me (for not getting in on the steroids and making the Major Leagues when I was younger).

The Illinois Fighting Illini won again this past Saturday over the Wisconsin Badgers, and looked pretty impressive in the process. They will now be the number 1 ranked team in the countty for 11 straight weeks. "Experts" keep selecting North Carolina to beat Illinois in the Finals. Meanwhile, the Duke Blue Devils beat the number 2 ranked North Carolina Tar Heels and then Duke lost to Maryland. Now we will hear that the Big Ten is watered down and the ACC is so good, that there is never a break. You know, those same breaks that Illinois gets when they go to Wisconsin facing a 38 game home winning streak and into Michigan State. Stock Up: The Fighting Illini Stock Down : So-called "Experts"

Pitchers and Catchers are going to report to Spring Training for Baseball right around the same time the NHL owners officially cancel the season. Boy, I was so worried that I would have nothing to do around this time of year except watch the NBA and the NCAA and no NHL. Oh wait, I never watch the NHL. The NHL to me was always a 10 minute time filler on Sportscenter between the NBA, NCAA, off-season information in the NFL and Major League Baseball. What are we going to do? I have a friend from Canada who said that the NHL, which is thought to be such a part of Canadian life, this lockout has allowed people to decide how much they care about it. Uh oh, the four teams that get any attendance outside of Detroit for the NHL are starting to have second thoughts. Can you say MHL (Minor-League Hockey)? which can be loosely translated into, No one Cares.
Stock Up: Canadians (for realizing how boring hockey is) Stock Down: NHL (Nothing like squabbling over millions of dollars)

Karl Malone and Barry Larkin each officially retired both with the teams they entered their respective leagues. (Malone signed a contract simply to retire a Jazz, Larkin only played for the Reds). So the end of the Golden Age of sports when players played for one team and played for the love of the game has officially seen two more players call it quits. Stock Up: Karl Malone, Barry Larkin Stock Down: the NBA and Major League Baseball for losing two class players

"Lefty" Phil Mickelson last year shed the title of "Best Player on the Tour without Winning one of the Majors" when he won the Masters. Now, he has won back-to-back tournaments with his Sunday win at Pebble Beach. Mickelson is now the hottest player on the tour (and his wife is pretty hot all on her own). Vijay Singh did not even make the cut for the tournament. Although the Shot of the Day did not come from Mickelson, but rather, comedian BillMurray dropped a 150-yard approach shot to about 4 feet from the cup. He even used a little backspin to get the ball there. Stock Up: Phil Mickelson, Bill Murray Stock Down: Vijay Singh

On Saturday, the Underachieving Minnesota Timberwolves fired coach Flip Saunders and replaced his with Kevin McHale. Promptly, and right where the Timberwolves left off prior to Saunder's dismissal, the (overachieving) Chicago Bulls, came in to Minneapolis and defeated the T-Wolves 87-83 behind Ben Gordon's 21 points and Kirk Hinrich's 15 points. Stock Up: Chicago Bulls (Continue to win) Stock Down: Flip Saunders, Kevin McHale, the Minnesota Timberwolves

Catchers and Pitchers report in 24 hours...also known as tomorrow. Spring is almost here (for those of us in cold places.)