Friday, May 22, 2009

NBA: Is this where Amazing Happens?

For many people, hating on the NBA has become habitual; for example, some common grumbles: the league is too black, too thuggish, and too hip hop. On top of that, Commissioner, David Stern's, alleged insistence on promoting only Kobe, LeBron, and Dwayne Wade, have led to accusations of games being fixed; the new National Basketball Association is a far cry from days of white standouts like Boston's, John Havelichek, Philly's, Billy Cunningham, as well as, New York's Dave DeBusschere. Nowadays, the league is 80% African American; the players flaunt their tattoos; and trash talking is the norm. To counter that perception, the NBA shows lots of public service commercials of players helping low income children, and plenty of cameo shots of white girls holding signs asking Paul Pierce to marry them. Of course, this is a far cry from the not too long ago days of guard, Ron Artest, provoking a fan riot in Detroit, or a fuming Rasheed Wallace brandishing his 9.millimeter in the face of a teammate. To say the league has come a long way baby, is a bit presumptive; but some measure of redemption is occurring. The new slogan, "Where amazing happens," was clearly palpable when LeBron James nailed a last second unbelievable three pointer against Orlando. The Denver Nuggets, meanwhile, refuse to lay down for the star studded Lakers. With games this exciting, the NBA could be making a comeback on national television where ratings have been
leaky. If its stars can stay out of trouble - Uh, Kobe Bryant's "Last Tango" in Eagle, CO - there is no reason the NBA can't make a run at the NFL's television dominance. People forget, the Lakers and Sacramento Kings garnered a 21.0 rating for their game 7 in 2000. That's comparable to the numbers the NFL gets for the NFC championship; but first, people have to stop hating on the league while giving these amazing athletes a that asking too much?

Can this be Danica Patrick's Day?

It used to be every Memorial Day, you listened to the radio to see if Al Unser won the Indianapolis 500; today, however, you eavesdrop to see if Danica Patrick has the mettle to finish first. The nexus of man and machine has made this an event chockful of testosterone; but all that changed in 2005 when Danica became the first woman to lead this historic race. As a rookie, she was only six laps short of the finish line when St. Petersburg's, Dan Wheldon, roared past her: Low on fuel, she had to slow down. Yet, Danica still finished fourth; Today, her task is even more daunting as she starts four rows behind the favorite, Helio Castroneves. He drives for Roger Penske who has prevailed in this race a record setting 14 times. Castroneves won the pole position by accelerating around the oval at 224 mph. When Danica, however, raced for the Rahal/Letterman team, she posted a similar time; yet Danica didn't win the race. Patrick knows the Indy 500 is based on endurance rather than speed. Although she is starting in the middle of the pack, Danica has to resist the nervous jockeying occurring in the middle of the horde. If she can emerge unscathed from all the early yellow flags, this can be her day. There will be millions of little girls listening to the radio to see if she can hoist the Borg Warner trophy and proclaim, " Hey guys, anything you can do, I can do better!"

Monday, May 11, 2009

March of the Penguins, Not?

While the NBA playoffs troll along with catatonic blowouts and flagrant fouls, the quest for the Stanley Cup is nothing short of fantastic. Since its existence, the crusade for Lord Stanley's Cup has always pushed athletes to the edge of human endurance; but this year's hunt is matchless. In the past, anticipation was tempered because many of hockey's best players were on the same team; for example, Wayne Gretzky, Mark Messier, Yari Kuri, and Grant Fuhr were all teammates on the vaunted Edmonton Oilers. The Montreal Canadians featured the flower, Guy Lafluer, and Larry Robinson. The Boston Bruins had the great, Bobby Orr plus perennial goal scorer, Phil Esposito. The Pittsburgh Penguins, furthermore, paired Jamir Jagr alongside Mario Lemieux. All of those squads won multiple Stanley Cups. For the first time in many years, however, the best hockey players are spread out among different teams. The memorable series between Washington and Pittsburgh has been dominated by Alexander Ovechkin also Sidney Crosby. The surprising Carolina Hurricanes, meanwhile, are being pushed by speedy, Eric Stall, and cat quick net minder, Cam Ward. The Red Wings have a talent laden squad of Russian All Stars as well as the dependable, Nicholas Lindstrom. Although the Penguins were Stanley Cup finalist last year, their goal tending appears to be too shaky for them to beat Carolina or Boston. The Capitals, on the other hand, don't know how to handle the puck in their own end, so it's doubtful they'll advance beyond the conference final. The Red Wings are the most balanced team remaining in the playoffs; but they must rid themselves of the Ducks before inscribing their names on the cup; in the past, you always knew the Boston Bruins would win the fights, but the Montreal Canadians would parade around with the cup; now thanks to an infusion of new players, nothing rivals the intensity and expectations of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.