Okay, as promised, a few rambling thoughts about recent events in the sporting world.
Although, first, courtesy of The Sports Guy’s mailbag yesterday, a remake/tribute of the training scene in Rocky IV. I can’t say why it’s funny, exactly, except that it just highlights the ridiculous nature of the original. Worth a viewing, to be sure, although the final shot lacks the drama of the original, helicopter-over-the-Himalayas version.
Okay, on to the actual sports. In the last week, I’ve had the good fortune to be able to see all three of the early season NBA favorites play. I got second-row seats for the Nuggets/Cavaliers game last Friday, then nearly-as-good seats (as in, the recliner in Shane’s living room, watching ABC on his 61″ monstrosity) for Lakers/Celtics last night. And really, all I can say is that I’m very excited for the playoffs this year. All three of these teams look really good.
I don’t think we learned a whole lot about either the Lakers or the Celtics yesterday, except what we already knew, which is that both teams are definitely quality squads. The Celtics look better than last year, with Rajon Rondo making a few ‘did I just see that?’ kind of plays, although I think they really do miss James Posey, their unsung defensive stopper. Neither Ray Allen nor Paul Pierce were able to really slow down Kobe – they were making him work to get any shot off, but Kobe was hitting said shots. The Lakers are still flawed, defensively, although not nearly so bad as the Suns are – watch the last shot of the Spurs/Suns game, and see how Jason Richardson not only unnecessarly slumps off Roger Mason, a 50% 3-point shooter, to try to help Grant Hill with Tony Parker, Richardson then jumps into the air, spinning around, in such a way as to prevent a cheap foul, but also to keep himself from having any chance to close on Mason and get a hand in his face as the game-winner is let go. Anyhow – I digress. The Lakers are still flawed defensively, giving up far too many cheap buckets in the paint, but they sure are fun to watch on offense. Kobe continues to amaze me – the way he has kept his athleticism and just seems to be able to will the ball home when he shoots simply has to be seen to be believed.
The Cavs are the one team to make real, noticeable strides since last year. The primary piece is that they actually brought in a point guard, Mo Williams, in the offseason. This takes a lot of pressure of LeBron – he is no longer responsible for handling both the primary scoring and ball distribution duties. In fact, in the lull points in the game, whole possessions go by when he doesn’t even touch the ball, which should let him keep his legs both for late games and also for May and June. The change in the team is remarkable – they are all shooting better. Their 7’2″ center even hit two three-pointers, and players like Sasha Pavlovic and Wally Sczerbiak are getting many more open looks with the 1-2 punch of a competent point guard along with the single most unstoppable force on the planet, the site of the LeBron express barrelling towards the hoop.
Now that Philly has gotten the championship monkey off its back with the Phillies’ win in the World Series, I’ve decided that I am going to transfer my cursed allegiances to the city of Cleveland until they can win themselves a championship. Let’s face it – Ohio needs the help! And that means I’m going to be a Cavs fan for the season, so I’m going to go out on a not-too-long limb and predict Cavs over the Lakers in the NBA finals this season. Should be fun…
On to other sporting news, I have nothing to say about the college bowl season starting up, except that I think the BCS should go ahead and restrict BCS game access to the so-called “Big 6” conferences, which is obviously what they want to do, and then we should keep ourselves from referring to the winner of the BCS Championship game as the “National Champion.” Instead, we should refer to them as the “BCS Champion”, since that’s really all they are – the best-ish team from those 6 conferences. I’m totally fine with college football not really naming an actual champion; and they should learn to be fine with it, too.
Finally, to the NFL. I’ll be back on Shane’s recliner Sunday, to watch my Eagles’ last game of the season, in all likelihood. It seems like they’ve pulled their shit back together long enough to keep McNabb and Reid in place on the team for another year, but I think that I’ve decided that Reid’s absolute inability to learn the fine art of clock management, or at least to teach it to his players, has reached the point where he simply has to go. It’s been too many years of wasted timeouts, blown 2-minute drills, and an utter inability to get 1 yard rushing when they really need it, and I’m sick of it. I love and appreciate everything that jolly man has brought to the franchise, but it’s time to move on.
In other NFL events, after watching the first quarter or so of the Patriots/Cardinals game last weekend, I think the league should put in effect a mercy rule, like it’s kid’s baseball, where the game ends if one team is up by 9 runs after the losing team’s at-bat finishes. If the Cardinals didn’t feel like playing the game, they should just be allowed to go home, you know?
And, finally, if I were a sports-gambling type, I would be with the Sports Guy – I could not wait to have the opportunity to gamble against Vikings QB Tavaris Jackson on the road in Round 2 of the NFC playoffs. That’s gold, Jerry – gold!