Monday, May 16, 2011

A Bunch of Acronyms

My head is spinning. Not only were there enough great sporting events this weekend to drown the masses in uselessly over-analyzed sports commentary, but none of it had to with baseball! Oh my soul, rejoice!

On top of that, we had a rare sighting of a weekend's most joyous occasion: the Sunday afternoon menage-a-trois! Not the gross kind that will make you popular with guys who wear half-buttoned dress shirts, no undershirt and necklaces, the wonderful sports kind that keeps your trigger finger firing on the "Previous Channel" button on your TV remote.

I was so excited I was standing and flipping back and forth between the NBA Playoffs (Oklahoma City Thunder v. Memphis Grizzlies Game 7) and the final round of the PGA Tour's Player's Championship at TPC Sawgrass. It was me, the NBA Playoffs and the final round of a PGA Major. The three of us were in heaven.

Factor in the NHL Western Conference Finals starting that night and you could say it was the NBA in OKC, the NHL, and the PGA at TPC won by K.J. all watched by AJ in Northern VA!

So now you know why my head is spinning.

I'll give you a thought or two about each to keep things moving.

NBA Playoffs
First of all, much respect is due to the Memphis Grizzlies. Largely for being a team from the city of Memphis, named the Grizzlies, and still existing as a franchise in 2011. Shouldn't they have folded years ago? Are there two things people care less about than the city of Memphis and Grizzly Bears as a sport's mascot? It sounds like a little league team with players who have nicknames like Chubbs, Rinky-Dink and Freckles.

But as sure you know my morning coffee will get two Splenda and two hazelnut creamers (I like to get rid of as much of the coffee taste as possible), you had to know OKC was going to send Zach Randolph, his lethal jab-step jumper, and the Grizz home to a much deserved warm welcome in Memphis. Which is in, of course, Tennessee. Just an enormous basketball state, known for legends like...Bruce Pearl and a women's college basketball team.

Second thought- This Chicago/Miami series is going to be incredible. Don't discount the Heat because of the final score, they were in that game halfway through the 3rd quarter when the the wheels fell off. Chicago stole the momentum and everything, I mean everything, went their way. Luol Deng shot a three-pointer from the corner that hit every part of the rim, bounced out of the basket, took a left turn, made a three-quarters rotation and swan dove back through the hoop it had previously left. That won't happen four games in a row. I can't wait to watch the rest of this series.

Also, you may send me personal checks or cash for telling you that the Spurs, Lakers and Celtics would all be out of the Playoffs by this round. You're welcome!

NHL Playoffs
Two real quick thoughts here: If the Tampa Bay Lightening don't win the Stanley Cup my flabber will officially be ghasted. They came back from being down 3 games to 1 and smoked the Penguins, demolished the Capitals, and they walloped Boston in game one 5-2. The Lightening sure are...streaking! Give me my Pulitzer now please.

Second thought- I wish I cared more about the San Jose Sharks or the Vancouver Canucks. Shouldn't the Canucks beat them by eight goals every game based on the laws of hockey? How can a team from San Jose, named after a predator in the ocean, beat a team from Canada named after Canada in a sport most loved by Canadians played on frozen water?! If the Canucks don't sweep then I'm losing what little respect I had for Canadians to begin with. That is to say, nothing will change.

The Players Championship
This is where I lose most of you, but bear with me for two minutes. Just because Tiger withdrew on Thursday after playing 9 holes because his knee was grinding like the gears in a 1977 Dodge Dart doesn't mean this tournament wasn't exciting.

There was another Sunday afternoon collapse by an Irishman (this time Graeme McDowell not Rory McIlroy), another playoff which means we got to see the iconic 17th again, and a bone-headed mistake by a veteran that gave my boy K.J. Choi his first Major Championship. A much deserved championship for a guy who seems to always finish in the top 10 but never seems to win.

Weekends without the NFL just don't get much better than that! Unless, of course, the Lakers could come back and get swept again by the Heat, then the Celtics, and then again by the Bulls. Who wouldn't love that?

In the end, it was a verifiable alphabet soup of sporting events and I couldn't have enjoyed it more. Savor these times folks. Pretty soon these playoffs will be over and I'm going to have to blog about the pros and cons of Thor, Green Lantern, X-Men: First Class and Captain America and which film really captured the character true to the original comic books.

Actually...that sounds like fun. I'll get started now!

Monday, May 9, 2011

The Fall of the Lakers

The following is a vitriol laced column detailing my feelings toward the 'bully-in-the-sandbox' Lakers and the disgraceful end to their season. Just so we're clear on where this is heading...

The Los Angeles Lakers, after losing the first three games of a seven games series to the Dallas Mavericks barely managed to lace up their shoes for the series deciding game four on Sunday. Instead, they mulled around the court apathetically, taking little interest in playing defense and opting for the "me-first" approach on offense (7 foot center Andrew Bynum was literally shooting turnaround, fallaway jumpers from 17 feet).

I'm reminded of Dudley Dursley in the Harry Potter series who, upon finding out he 'only' got 26 presents for his birthday declares, "I want another! I must have more than last year!"

This self-entitled Lakers team has been disillusioned to think they can hide behind Kobe's greatness and bully all opposing teams as they walk their way to another three-peat championship. "But I want another title! I deserve it because Kobe and Phil Jackson are on my team!"

Once Kobe stopped being the best player on the court the facade fell that the Lakers had any semblance of depth or support from their bench. And as soon as things stopped going their way they self-destructed and quit on each other, much like a group of strangers playing pick-up. Acting as though there is no loyalty and no bond between them. They just showed up to play ball for a little bit

Don't get me wrong, it wasn't just the role players who let this get out of hand. I blame Kobe himself. What? You don't remember that time when Jordan let his team get swept out of the playoffs, losing game four by 36 points? You don't remember when Jordan let his team quit on him and didn't will them to victory all by himself?

Kobe sits in his snarky tower barely giving notice to us commoners down below. Issuing a disrespectful quote here and there, never admitting fault or defeat. Stating that he wants to win more championships than Jordan so he can (in his mind only) become a greater player than the immortal MJ. Yet did Jordan ever let this happen? Did Jordan ever quit in a game? Even when he had the flu? Even after his Dad died?

In reality, the Lakers couldn't shoot the ball effectively, they couldn't guard an order of Mushu Pork if it ran a pick 'n roll against them, and they didn't get anything out of their two 7 footers. They had no answer for Dirk and showed great immaturity in handling crunch-time situations and, ultimately, defeat.

Despite having four of the five best players on the court almost all the time, the Lakers couldn't put anything together and, in the face of adversity, collapsed.

And really, none of that is what makes this Lakers season a disgrace. Sometimes teams don't shoot well in the playoffs, sometimes they collapse under pressure. It's not easy to win a championship, let alone three in a row.

But when you act like Veruca Salt, shouting "I want an oompa loompa, NOW!" you show what you're really made of. "If I don't get my championship ring this year I'm going to throw a tantrum like you've never seen!"

And they did. First Lamar Odom body checks Dirk Nowitzki on an inbounds pass and gets ejected, then the real Big Baby in the NBA, Andrew Bynum, frustrated that things weren't going his way and that he wasn't being used effectively, elbowed JJ Barea into next Friday while he was in the air driving to the hoop. Bynum was immediately ejected and promptly shed his jersey as he stormed off the court.

A class move, really.

Fitting though, the Mavericks were shooting so well that 5'11'' JJ Barea after being hit-sticked by 7'0'' Bynum still made the layup despite being driven through the hardwood. Karma, perhaps.

At least we know Lamar did it so his "hit" reality show Kholoe & Lamar will have a great season ending cliff hanger..."When Khole goes shopping without telling Lamar he takes it out on the court!" Followed by a slow-motion shot of Odom slamming into Dirk and knocking him over. "What will happen next season on...Khloe & Lamar?!"

What's ridiculous is that Ron Artest wasn't even the craziest guy on the court! He barley made a headline until he tried to rip JJ Barea's face off in game three McGruber style (note: also leading to Artest's ejection/suspension).

Just like a bully picks the smallest guy in class to abuse, the Lakers beat up tiny JJ Barea repeatedly but had no answer to a real threat like Dirk or Jason Terry even! Jason Terry! A guy coming off the bench!

I can't wait to watch the season in review DVD for the Lakers. The final montage played to Cyndi Lauper's "True Colors" and filled with slow-motion clips of Artest, Odom and Bynum intentionally slamming into Dallas Mavericks players because they didn't get their way and, really, they ought to because they totally deserve it!

And, much like Biff Tannan, when all is said and done, Marty McFly walks away the hero and Biff is left behind covered in horse s-, poop.

Kobe is no longer the best player in the NBA and he was drastically outplayed by Dirk in this series. The baton has been passed and the reign of terror is over.

In the end, someone stood up to the bully Lakers and at the first sign of resistance they backed down, cowered in the corner and took a few cheap shots.

They went out like cowards instead of losing with class and dignity.

Like the Wizards do every year.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

D.C.'s Super Star

There's a superstar in the D.C. sports world I bet you don't know about.

He wasn't the number one overall draft pick like Strasburg, Harper, Wall or even Ovechkin. In fact, he wasn't in the draft at all. He wasn't signed to a $100 million contract by Dan Snyder, or acquired in a trade dump to get rid of Gilbert Arenas' contract. He plays the most popular sport in the world, but you won't find him on the Redskins roster.

Actually, its because he doesn't play for the Redskins or the Capitals that I doubt you know anything about him. He's a little guy named Charlie Davies. And I mean a little guy. Like, DeVito little.

Standing a rugged 5' 10", his name should be the one towering over the headlines about the tedious NFL labor dispute, the non-Wizards inclusive NBA playoffs, and the right-about-where-they-should-be .500 Nationals (don't worry, they still have 134 games left to play).

Perhaps if you knew his story you'd be inclined to pay some mind to the most successful D.C. sport's franchise, but be warned...its a soccer team.

D.C. United is home to four MLS Cups ('96, '97, '99, '04) and the U.S. Open Cup ('96), and the best fans of any Washington sports team. Don't believe me? Ever seen flags like this at a Redskins game?

And now, D.C. United is home to the best storyline character in Washington sports.

What about Ovi? He loves vodka, women, fast cars and losing in the playoffs. Yawn.
Stephen Strasburg? He's been icing his shoulder since the start of last season.
Bryce Harper? Still getting in meaningless fights in a league called "Class-A Hagerstown"...whatever that is.
John Wall? Last I checked he's surrounded by a bunch of nincompoops with no work ethic.

And don't get me started on the off-season woes of the Redskin's biggest name...and biggie sized...player.

No, we have a better story. A more inspiring story. A sports story that you hear about and wish the main character was playing for your team. Only this time, he is.

Less than two years ago Davies was involved in one of those stories that makes a hit episode of ESPN's "Outside the Lines" or "E:60".

Imagine. Heading home after a night in D.C. with your friends. Seconds later the car you're riding in is cut in half. All you can recall is blackness.You wake up to a right femur break, a broken right tibia and fibula, a dislocated left elbow, a face with numerous fractures, a brain that is bleeding and a lacerated bladder.

Your friend has died.

I guess that makes you the lucky one.

18 months later, the scars serve as an enduring reminder of that night. Of being forced to start over, of hours of rehabilitation, and of what it takes to make your new dream a reality.

Davies was a promising soccer star at the time. Playing on the French Club team, Sochaux, he had also made the U.S. Men's National team and was looking forward to his first World Cup appearance in 2010.

Then it ended. Over night. Dropped from the National team and a few months later placed on loan from his club team to play for D.C. United...the last placed team in MLS.

Returning to the city where he lost his friend, and potentially his career.

"So, what?" you ask. Sure its a heartbreaking story and we feel bad for the guy but that doesn't make him a superstar.

To me, a superstar has to have A) Unnatural ability, B) Swagger that demands attention, and C) Marketability. The third one is important, its why we consider Charles "I am not a role model" Barkley a star, but not a superstar. And why David Beckham is the biggest superstar on Earth after accomplishing...something. At some point in time...right?

In his first competitive match in over 17 months, Davies came off the bench for D.C. United and scored within 10 minutes. He added a second goal 15 minutes later. Coming off the his first competitive match in a year and a half...after suffering a broken femur among a litany of other injuries. I want to make sure you're following. He has 5 goals in 6 games played so far. Unnatural ability.

Did I forget to tell you what he did after he scored his second goal? What about after he scored against the L.A. Galaxy? This dude has swagger that is demanding your attention. It's still unconfirmed, but I'm pretty sure he tried to steal that Volkswagen right off the podium.

And hey, why wouldn't Volkswagen want to sign this guy to an endorsement deal? The celebration itself can be ripped and put straight into a newspaper ad. Easiest ad campaign of all time. Marketability.

So yes, I consider Charlie Davies a superstar. If nothing else, he has brought a swagger to D.C. sports that has never existed before. He's the most exciting guy to watch on the field and it's all made more impressive when you know what he's had to battle through to get where he is.

When the NBA playoffs are finished and the Stanley Cup has been awarded, it'll just mean its time for D.C. to turn its full attention to its next biggest, little, sports icon.

And in Brazil in 2014, expect to hear them say, "Charlie Davies, #9, starting forward for the United States."