Friday, June 6, 2008

Sports! Sports, sports, sports, sports...

Now that the Stanley Cup finals are over, the really exciting hockey stuff can begin. You know, the stuff Randall loves, like the draft, and the coaching carousel, and the trade rumours and the free-agent signings and so forth. FAR more exciting than actual hockey, isn't it? Discussions are sure to be had over Jim Balsillie and his plans to bring hockey back to Canada, one way or the other. And how Gary Bettman won't let it happen, no matter what. Frankly, the game of hockey looks awfully strong right about now. The two glamour teams meeting in the final - the best team in hockey beating the most exciting team in hockey in six of the best games in the cup final for some time. I won't lie - I was cheering for Pittsburgh. I like Marian Hossa and Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby and Jordan Staal and Ryan Malone et al. I thought Marc-Andre Fleury played a phenomenal series and I might even suggest that Hossa's attempt to tuck the puck past Chris Osgoode in the last second of that game six was an even more exciting end to a Stanley Cup than Brett Hull's overtime goal a few years back.

And the American ratings were up, which is a good thing for hockey. More Americans watched, and they saw an excellent display of skill on the ice, and they were certainly entertained. Pardon The Interruption, my favourite TV sports talk show, had NHL coverage every night. They normally never touch hockey at all, but this time they were discussing Crosby and Zetterberg and Fleury every single day. All in all, this spells good health for the game of hockey. And now that it's over, I can't get into the offseason stuff the way Randall does. I'll pay some attention to the moves and the draft and the major stuff, but minutiae is not always my thing. But I hate this time of season. No hockey, no football, meaningless baseball games and horse racing. Tractor pulls and darts and bowling and poker on the sports channels. But this year, for the first time, I found at least one more week's worth of sports entertainment - basketball.

I have never watched much basketball. The last series where I watched every game was that great Raptors-Sixers semifinal, where Vince Carter and Allen Iverson had that epic showdown in Game 7, with Carter falling just short at the buzzer. That was in 2001. It has been seven years since I have been invested in any way in a basketball series, but now is the time. What the Penguins-Red Wings matchup did for the NHL this year, the Celtics-Lakers matchup is doing for the NBA. This is not Magic vs. Bird, it isn't Bill Russell and Robert Parish and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and James Worthy and Kevin McHale and all that history, it is brand new history. This is the basketball equivalent of a Leafs-Habs final (something the NHL has ensured can never happen again). Or a Red Sox-Yankees final (something that is also impossible). There is no rivalry in the NFL that can come to a head in the Super Bowl, because all the major ones are within their own divisions. Only in basketball can the two most historic teams, the two biggest rivals in history, meet in the championship. And for that reason alone, it is worth watching.

I never thought I would get excited at the midway point of a basketball game either. The only time anyone, ever, gets excited at a basketball game is at the very end, when the last team with the ball gets it to their best player and he fires up a buzzer beater. But when Paul Pierce returned to the court after what looked like a series-ending knee injury, it was really an inspirational moment. It wasn't quite Kirk Gibson hitting that home run off Dennis Eckersley, or Bobby Baun, or anything like that, but it was a moment that happens all too rarely in the world of sports these days. I really don't know what I'm going to do once this series and, by extension, the basketball season ends. I guess I'll have to hope for more basebrawls like that hilarious Rays-Red Sox one last night. I can watch Manny Ramirez all season. That guy's entertaining.


  1. How about checking out NASCAR Sprint Racing?