He Taught Many What HIV Meant…

It’s a shame that on this pretty significant anniversary, the sports news world is so distracted by the unbelievably sickening news out of Happy Valley.  It’s a shame that the despicable acts of a few sports egos overshadow a pretty remarkable act by one of the biggest sports personalities of all time.  It’s a shame that the ugly, as always, has to overshadow the good…  But, I’d like to spend a few minutes focusing on today’s great news, instead of today’s miserable news…

20 years ago today, Magic Johnson told the world that he was HIV Positive.  After mysteriously being absent from the first few games of the Lakers season (which we were all told were due to “flu-like symptoms), here was Magic, on national television, retiring from basketball and telling the world he was going to die.  Or at least that’s what it sounded like to me…

This is one of those days I’ll never forget, one of those moments that left an indelible mark on my childhood.  Right alongside the ones we all talk about: the Challenger explosion, the Berlin Wall coming down, the first Iraq War.  We were on a family vacation, and after returning to our hotel for the evening, we turned on the TV to hear the news and watch Magic speak.  I was shocked.  I was scared.  I thought it was a death sentence.  Heck, we all thought it was a death sentence.

What Magic said: “Because of the HIV virus that I have attained, I will have to retire from the Lakers today.”

What 13-year-old me (and many others, I believe) heard: “I have to retire from the Lakers because I have AIDS and I’m dying.”

What did we know about HIV and AIDS in 1991?  Not very much and certainly not nearly as much as we do today.  And as a kid, I knew even less.  I had heard of AIDS, of course, but I’m not sure I had ever heard “HIV Positive” and certainly didn’t understand the difference.  And here was Magic telling me about it on national television while I was on vacation.

This was Magic Johnson.  This wasn’t some random 6th-man on a middling franchise from the mid-west or something.  This was Magic.  He was a Laker.  He was a five-time champion.  He was a 3-time MVP.  He was an 11-time All-Star.  Heck, he WAS the NBA at this point.  He was Showtime.  He was my favorite player and probably the favorite player of half of the kids across the country.  Don’t forget Michael Jordan had just won his first title a few months earlier, so his ascent to glory was really only just beginning.  This was Magic & Larry’s league still.  And here, on national television, was the face of the NBA telling the world he was going to die.

But, Magic also said this: “I plan on going on, living for a long time. I plan on being with the Lakers and the league for a while and going on with my life.”

And the 13-year-old me thought: “What? What do you mean? Aren’t you in dire trouble?  Won’t you be dead in a few months?”

This is what Magic did for the world…  He taught the 13-year-old me, and many millions of other “13-year-old me’s” in the world that this was a complex disease, with many factors, many acronyms apparently, and many things we all didn’t know.  We learned that it was something you could fight.  We learned it was something that could affect anybody.  We learned it was something we had to pay more attention to.  And now, 20 years later, we learned that it, in fact, wasn’t a death sentence then, and quite often, isn’t one now.

But we certainly didn’t know it that night…  His “public education course” took some time…  We “checked on him” for weeks.  Was he going to die now?  Soon?  This year?  Next year?  When we realized he wasn’t going to die right away, obviously our thoughts all turned to when we would see him on the court again.  Could we see him again?  It didn’t take long, thankfully…  I’ll never forget, and I’m sure many people won’t, his return at the All-Star Game later that season.  I’ll never forget the controversy over whether he should play or not.  I’ll never forget the fear of him “bleeding on the court” or on another player.  I’ll never forget the fears of other players playing with him.  But I’ll also never forget his introduction.  I’ll never forget Isiah Thomas kissing him just like he always did.  I’ll never forget him lighting it up with a final 3 to clinch the game and the MVP award.  What we saw that night was that it wasn’t hopeless.  It wasn’t over.  Magic was, to steal one of the best lines from the musical “Rent”, living with the disease, not dying from it.

It took 3 more years for him to return to the Lakers.  I don’t know the full reason for this absence (as I’m not sure anyone does), but I’m pretty sure it had something to do with the fears of fellow players, the naivete of the league, the unknown of the disease.  Maybe Magic actually wasn’t healthy enough.  Who knows…  But he did return a few years later, and while he essentially had a different body and played a different position, Magic nonetheless played in the NBA with HIV.  And played well enough to compete.  This was a huge step to recognizing he really wasn’t going to die…  And, more importantly, to recognizing that no one had to die from the disease.

Now, look, I’m not naive in my old age…  I recognize that many, many were aware of the struggles of HIV and AIDS in 1991 and that Magic wasn’t the first to really push for advocacy, research, and the fight.  I recognize that the disease wasn’t new in 1991 and wasn’t an unknown problem.  But he brought an awareness to this disease to many people who might otherwise have continued to ignore it, might have continued to call it the disease of “drug addicts and homosexuals”, and might have continued to pretend there was no chance it could happen to someone like them.  And I would venture to say that the three things that truly brought AIDS & HIV to the forefront of culture to me, and probably to most of the world, were Magic Johnson, Tom Hanks and Denzel in “Philadelphia”, and the Broadway musical “Rent”.  All of those things happened in a 5-year span in the early ’90s, led off, of course, by Magic and his press conference.

So Magic, you certainly have had your ups and downs since this announcement - did you REALLY need to have that talk show?!? - but I’m sure I speak for many of us when we say we are quite, quite glad to still have you around and still have you in our lives.  You taught me what HIV meant.  You taught me that anyone could get the disease.  You taught me that it didn’t have to be a death sentence.  And you taught me that it needed more awareness than it had.

And I bet you taught millions and millions more than just me…

Happy “Anniversary” Magic.  I hope to celebrate this one with you again in 20 years, and again 20 years after that.

33

I turned 33 today.

By most accounts, 33 is a pretty generic, relatively insignificant age to be.  There are no “names” for the day, no new permissions to get.  You’re still closer to 30 than you are to 40.  You’re still closer to 20 than you are to 50.  Not really a bad place to be, but also your last year in your “early thirties”.  I would imagine most people are neither put off nor enthralled by their 33rd birthday.

I, however, am far from “most people”.

I, in fact, think this is the perfect age, and would be perfectly happy to stay 33 for as long as humanly possible.  The main reason why?  33 is, and always has been, my favorite number.

True story…

I’m not really sure the exact origin, but I’ve always been into 3’s, and, well, 33 has two 3’s.  But in reality, I have a feeling my love for the number, whether or not it started with him, was completely iced by this guy:

Yes.  Tony Dorsett wore #33 and from my earliest memory of him, I was hooked.  On him.  On the Cowboys.  On the number 33.

I remember, season after season, making lists of every player on every football team that wore 33.  If I got lucky, one of the 12-15 guys who they put into the Topps football card set was the 33-wearer for the team, making my identification easy.  Being a running back number, you’d think there would have been LOTS of 33s, but interestingly, it was (and still is) nowhere near as popular as 32 or 34 was.  Not sure why, but it added to my love of Tony and to the challenge of finding the 33 on each team.  The only other superstar of the era sporting the 33 was Roger Craig of the hated 49ers.  But mainly, I would yearn for the random special-teamers who would make it on TV on Sundays to try to catch a glimpse of Mr. 33.

Interestingly, 33 was a much more prominent number in the NBA during the same era…  3 of the arguably top 20 players in HISTORY were wearing 33 during the 80s, as Kareem Abdul-Jabaar, Patrick Ewing, and Larry Bird all sported the double-triple.  And if you like Scottie Pippen more than I do, you could say even 4 of the greatest.  33 got lots of love in the NBA.  And I loved every second of it…  Seeing Kareem take on Bird and Ewing spar with Scottie was always fun.  Even our old pal Shaq wore 33 for one year with the Cavaliers in 2010, despite wearing 34 with the Lakers, 32 with the Magic, Suns, and Heat, and 36 with the Celtics.

(33 wasn’t as popular in baseball, but Mr. Switch Hitter Eddie Murray made it famous with the Orioles and then with my Mets.  Sadly, I think Eddie, despite his short time with the team, was by far the best Met ever to wear the number.  John Maine may be the 2nd, which is CLEARLY a step down.)

So sports clearly had an effect on my love of 33, but it continued long after Tony retired, Ewing and Bird hung it up, and the 80s ended.  Even by the early 90s, when I started wearing 22 more, 33 still had a place in my life.  And a place on our family room wall.  Yup.  I’m not sure how they ever allowed it, but my parents let me put up jerseys on the wall of the family room, highlighted by Tony’s 33.  As you can see below, Mr. 33 is hanging on the wall over my left shoulder in this picture from my 15th birthday in 1993.

Mom - for this, I’m sorry…

And to this day, I’m still obsessed…  Usernames of mine all over the internet tend to have a 33 as a suffix.  Many of my passwords that require a number have a 33 in them somewhere.  Our home WiFi key features a 33.  I was deliriously excited to buy a house that had a 33 in it (and even more excited when it also had a 22 for my boy Emmitt).  The number surrounds me and I’m pretty excited by it…

So, turning 33 brings with it some serious comfort and excitement.  I’ve managed to stay employed at 33.  I’ve managed to keep my son alive for a year at 33.  I’ve even managed to keep a beautiful wife at 33.  Not too bad.  It will be a happy year and I hope it’s a great one for you, too!

(Think the mudge will fit in that little 33 jersey someday?  Man I hope so…)

An Embarrassing End

This afternoon was an embarrassing end to the latest incarnation of the Lakers as a powerhouse and to the latest chapter in Phil Jackson’s coaching career.  And unless you are a Mavericks fan or a Laker-hater, it was pretty hard to watch.  And I bet even some of those audiences found it to be a sad way to watch Phil go out…

After blowing yet another game that they could have won on Friday night, the Lakers found themselves down 0-3 to a team that had proven to be QUITE ready for the task of beating the defending champions.  And Sunday, in a game that the Mavericks of old may have had a hard time closing out, these Mavericks put on a shooting display to flat-out crush the Lakers.  Led by three bench players who scored a combined 86 points (yes, 86 points - which is also the final total that the Lakers mustered as a team), the Mavs drubbed the suddenly hapless Lakers by 36.  In doing so, they set a new NBA record for 3-pointers made in a 4 game series with 47.  They flat-out lit it up.  The Lakers could do nothing to stop them, and ended up doing absolutely nothing to stop them.  It was ugly.  Jason Terry was 9-10 from 3.  Peja Stojakovic was 6-6.  It was unreal.

But this wasn’t the embarrassing part…

Despite holding the Mavs to only 2 points in the first 5 minutes of the 3rd quarter, the Lakers couldn’t get any offense going.  And then when Jason Terry hit two back-to-back threes, the Lakers just seemed to give up.  And it just got worse and worse.  No more defense, no more offense, no more caring.  This is a team that had been to three straight Championship Series and had won two straight championships.  This is a team with arguably the best player in the league.  This is a team with arguably the best coach of ALL-TIME!  And they gave up…  And all you could do was watch it in horror.  Watch as Phil Jackson realized the fate of the team and of the season and sat back and stared…  Just a sad way to watch a team treat a coach…

And then it got even more ugly…

After hard foul by Lamar Odom on Dirk Nowitzki that resulted in Odom being ejected, Andrew Bynum elbowed Jose Juan Berea hard in the chest while he was going up for a layup in an ugly cheapshot that also resulted in his ejection.  While I don’t have a lot of problems with the Odom foul, which was just a shove and clearly followed some Dirk trash-talking and frustration, the Bynum foul was embarrassing and ugly.  And it was not the way to watch a two-time champion be sent from the playoffs.  It reflected badly on Bynum, of course, but it also reflected badly on the Lakers, on Phil Jackson, and even on Kobe, all by association.  What happened to this team?  What made this a reasonable reaction?  What was going on in the locker room that none of us know about?

Either way, the Lakers lost by 36 and embarrassed themselves with a 4-0 loss to the Mavericks and a loss of integrity with Bynum’s foul.  It was ugly and it was a shame.  And unfortunately, while certainly not overshadowing either of them, it casts an unfortunate cloud over the end of this latest Lakers dynasty and the end of the Phil Jackson era.

This Lakers team is definitely over as we know it.  They’ve got a bunch of all-stars who showed down the stretch that they were too old to keep it up.  I would be surprised if at least 2 of the top 6 Lakers are not gone by the start of next season.  I wouldn’t be surprised if GM Mitch Kupchak tells the league, “Hey - Look at our roster.  Everyone but Kobe is available.  Make us an offer.”  And who could blame him…  This team has played a LOT of basketball over the last 3 years.  3 Finals runs means TONS of extra games.  And when you add in the Olympics in 2008 and the World Championships in 2010, in which Kobe, Odom, and Gasol each played a lot of EXTRA basketball, there was a lot of mileage on this team.  And it showed.  Sadly, it showed…  It’s a shame it had to end on an ugly, embarrassing elbow to the chest by a young guy just starting to show his value, because this was another great team in a long line of great Laker teams…  They all deserved more…

And Phil Jackson DEFINITELY deserved more…  Now, I’m not actually convinced he’s done coaching forever, but I definitely think he’s done coaching the Lakers.  I would not be surprised to see him on the sidelines next year or the year after, possibly for the Knicks, possibly for the Heat, possibly for someone else, but he’s done in LA.  And the Lakers showed him the door by quitting on him in Game 4 and by making fools of themselves with stupid fouls.  And that’s a shame…  Here’s a guy who has the greatest winning percentage in the history of the game.  Here’s a guy who has 11 championships.  Here’s a guy who has had 3 three-peats for crying out loud!  It doesn’t get much better than him.  And while many have said that it is just because he was blessed with Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Kobe Bryant, and Shaquille O’Neal, there’s no doubting the way he was able to manage those egos and keep those guys paddling together.  He was blessed by having those 4 players, but they were each far more blessed by having the Zen-Master.

So as I watched the game end this afternoon, I couldn’t help but feel pretty crappy for the entire franchise and for Phil.  The Bynum shot was just a microcosm of a sad, unfortunate, and embarrassing end to a great NBA era…

When Life Gets in the Way…

So…  If my fat baby, my job, and my desire to build Dioramas out of Peeps hadn’t gotten in the way in the last week, here are the things I would have LOVED to have written about…  Sadly for you (ok, really just sadly for me), you are forced to get mini bullets instead of diatribes…

  • UVA Blew a Lead that was Statistically Impossible to Blow - Indeed, it’s actually true.  UVA led by 10 points last Thursday against Miami in the first round of the ACC Tournament.  After 4 missed free throws, 3 embarrassing turnovers, and 3 3-point plays, Miami sent the game into overtime and crushed them in the extra period.  It was about as unbelievable to watch as you imagine it was.  Just bonehead move after another.  Simply holding the ball and getting fouled and STILL missing your foul shots would’ve probably won the game.  That’s how bad it was.  And to add insult to miserable injury, the lead was actually statistically impossible to blow, based on the history of college basketball games.  Read this article to see what I mean.  It was an unfortunate and sad ending to a basketball season that exceeded expectations in nearly every single way.  It probably also sealed the fate of the team not getting an NIT bid.  Shame.
  • Changing TV coverage of the NCAA Tournament- They’ve decided to spread the TV coverage of the tournament over 4 channels to be sure that everyone can watch every second of their game, without having to be cut away.  I like this on it’s premise, but don’t like it for 2 specific reasons.  First and foremost, they’re using TruTV as one of the channels.  Unfortunately, I don’t get TruTV in High Definition.  And let me just say that watching sports in Low Definition is NOT something I’m interested in anymore.  This is a huge dagger.  Secondly, I sort of liked being passed around to be sure I saw all of the great endings.  I know CBS will still do some of this, but I really enjoyed knowing I wouldn’t miss any of the “great” action, even if I had to miss some of the “good” action in the process.  But I recognize that not being able to watch every second of your team’s most important game of the year was certainly an issue for people.  Maybe it’s just because UVA never gets a shot that I’m not bothered by that.
  • Cricket World Cup - The cricket World Cup has been going on in India all week and while I can’t watch any of it on TV, I’ve been following the daily matches each morning on the internet.  I really believe the US would love cricket if presented in the right way as it’s really, really quite entertaining.  And I’ve loved the action including big upsets (England who?) and last minute heroics.  Just wish I could watch some of it on TV here, in high definition of course!
  • Selection Sunday - The NCAA Tournament committee seemed to do yet another bonehead job of filling out the bracket, even with an additional 3 teams added to the fold.  Teams with seemingly much better resumes (Colorado, Virginia Tech, Alabama) were left out for teams that essentially beat no one (UAB, VCU, USC).  Boy, I love this time of year!
  • Jimmer Fredette Can Score - Yes, there is a young man playing for BYU whose name is Jimmer.  You can’t make that up.  And let me just say that that dude can score the basketball.  He had been lighting it up all season long, but after BYU suspended their second-best player in a very unique and interesting scandal, he was literally their only offensive option.  You’d think could stop “only options”.  Oh no.  Not Jimmer.  He only went for 52 against New Mexico State the next week.  The kid can shoot, he can drive, he can dunk, and he’s got shoulders like Dwight Howard.  I’m a Jimmer fan.  For reals.
  • Charlie Sheen is Comedy Gold - In reality, I don’t have much to say in the Charlie Sheen insanity other than he is truly crazy, but NOT to be missed.  The things that come out of his mouth in interviews and on Twitter are truly pure gold.  I’ve enjoyed every bit of his meltdown the last few weeks.  We’re all WINNING with Charlie in our lives.
  • The Lakers are Playing Great- Despite losing to Miami, which wasn’t awesome, the Lakers have been playing quite well, with wins against San Antonio, Dallas, Orlando, and lots of other contenders since the All-Star Break.  Andruw Bynum has been the difference to me, creating a defensive and rebounding force that very few teams can handle.
  • Baby Comedy - The video of this baby tearing up “the bar” is one of the funniest things I’ve seen in ages: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cds7lSHawAw
  • The Fab 5 Documentary on ESPN- Sunday night, ESPN had a documentary on the “Fab 5” - the 5 freshman basketball players who entered the University of Michigan together in the early 90s and really impacted the sport.  I sadly have not seen the entire documentary yet (fear not, it’s been DVRd), but I have read more thoughts about it than almost anything else on TV the last few days.  Apparently those Michigan boys had lots to say about those Duke boys.  I’d watch a replay if you can catch one.
  • And probably much much more…

Sorry I haven’t been around…  This week starts the NCAA Tournament, so you’ll be hearing a WHOLE lot about that over the next few weeks…

And I mentioned how I’ve been distracted at the beginning of this post.  Obviously, no one cares about my job, but I thought you deserve to see why the other distractions have been hurting me…

First of all, the fat baby…  Few things are as fun to be around as this little monster:

And secondly, we’ve been spending lots of time lately building our Peeps Dioramas.  Yes, you read that correctly.  Dioramas featuring Peeps.  The Washington Post runs a contest every year (read about it here and see some of the past winners here) and we’ve been dying to enter.  This year, we finally did.  Here are our superiorly awesome creations:

Angry Peeps (based on the ever-so-popular Angry Birds app)

The Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Peeps

Really quite an NBA season…

I recognize that many people out there (and probably many of you) are generally down on the NBA as a league filled with prima donna millionaires who don’t really play hard and are only in it for the fame, the money, and the exposure.  And often, you’re probably right…  But as I’ve said a few times this year, this season is really, truly one of the best NBA seasons I can remember.  It’s got it all, literally.

Fresh Faces

It’s got a fresh crop of rookie stars making names for themselves and even impacting the league.  Clearly Blake Griffin is the head of this class, as he (rightfully) earned a place on the All-Star team in the West by playing some dominating and exhilarating basketball for the first half of the season.  But his dunks, statlines, and headlines are far from his biggest accomplishment this season.  No, his best work has been getting renowned lump Baron Davis to actually show up for games again.  With him playing hard and with guys like Griffin and Eric Gordon on that team, the Clippers are actually a threat to win a few games this year.  Now THAT’S a story.

Other rookies of note of course include John Wall, who has played well WHEN he’s been healthy, but is clearly suited for a nice run in this league.  And Greg Monroe, who came in with some possible hangups, has played quite well for Pistons, another bad team.

Storylines a-plenty

Want storylines?  This is still the NBA, don’t ever forget it…

  • How about Lebron going from the chosen one to the evil lord of the league?
  • How about the never-ending saga of where Melo will go?
  • How about the Cavaliers being possibly the worst team in history after Lebron ditched them?
  • How about the “fall” of the Lakers?
  • How about Jerry Sloan vs. Deron Williams?
  • How about the search for Blake Griffin’s nickname? (Poster Child, Crotch Face, Blake Mamba, to name a few)
  • How about Tony Parker vs. Eva and Brent Barry?
  • How about Gilbert Arenas vs. his angry baby mama?

Budding Superstars

We’ve got a few guys who are now in their 2nd or 3rd years who are starting to ascend the mountain to really becoming superstars in this league.  And they’re well positioned alongside the current “deity” of Kobe, Bron, Wade, Dirk, and Timmy.  Guys like Kevin Durant and Derrick Rose are not only great players, they’re clearly superstars that are not going away and are going to make their teams contenders for years to come.

The Old Guard is still kicking

Despite all these fresh faces and budding superstars, the best teams in the league still seem to the “the old guard”.  Lead by Tim Duncan and the Spurs, ALL of the big names floating around the league have managed to find themselves on great teams, and the playoffs are shaping up to be quite, quite awesome.  The Spurs are clearly the class of the league, but the Heat (with Bron, Wade, and Bosh) have asserted themselves just fine after their rough start, the Celtics (led by the old big three of KG, Pierce, and Allen) are beating everyone they’re supposed to, the Mavericks (led by Dirk and Kidd) are ready and waiting to make a run, and the Lakers (with Kobe, Pau, and Lamar), while “falling apart”, are still going to cause some trouble in the spring.  You have to love all these big names being in contention throughout the 2nd half of the season.

***

What drove me to wrote this this morning was the BIG win by the Lakers last night in Boston.  This is a Lakers team that has been in the headlines for ALL of the wrong reasons this month, with trade rumors, in-fighting, and bad losses creating their stories.  And the biggest story is the one of their apparent collapse, fueled by the fact they had beaten basically NONE of the good teams.  But last night, despite Ray Allen’s historic night, the Lakers managed to pull out a tough one in Boston and make it clear that while they may not be the best team right now, they’re still the two-time-defending champs, and they’re not going away without a fight.  I really hope the Spurs and Lakers meet in the Western Conference Finals, as that will be a great, great series.

Flat out awesome…

I’m not one for too many superlatives, but it doesn’t get any better than a Game 7 in the NBA Finals between the Lakers and the Celtics.  And tonight’s game lived up to the hype, and about 20 times more.  Despite being an incredibly “ugly” game, featuring lots of great defense, lots of physical play, and lots of missed shots, this Game 7 was just unbelievable to watch.  Not only could I not sit down for the entire second half, but I nearly ripped my shirt off about 25 times due to the pressure, the excitement, the heart-wrenching misses, and the flat-out insanity.  The girl stayed up and stayed in the room to watch it with me, and she’s a saint for putting up with my insanity, my antics, and my temporary temper tantrums.  Thanks for being a great sports-wife!

My apologies in advance for the gushing, but that ugly game was one of the best I’ve ever seen…

And now the Lakers have won back-to-back titles again.  Phil Jackson has won an insane 11 titles.  Kobe has his 5th title and his 2nd Finals MVP.  Derek Fisher has his 5th Championship.  And that stud Gasol has his 2nd.  And my absolutely detest for Rasheed Wallace and Paul Pierce has reached an even higher level, if that was possible.

Want to know what I’ll remember from Game 7?

  • Kobe, Kobe, Kobe - Kobe had a pretty bad shooting night, going 6-24 from the field (including 0-6 from 3) and even missing 4 free throws (despite shooting over 93% in the regular season).  But despite all of that, Kobe managed to pull down a crazy 15 rebounds.  15 REBOUNDS!  For a guard like Kobe who shoots 24 times in a game, 15 rebounds is flat out absurd.  And he managed to score 10 in the 4th, the quarter where the Lakers needed his poise the most and needed those points even more.
  • Ron Frieking Artest - No one in this series, and i mean NO ONE in this series, was as frustrating to watch and all over the place as Ron Artest.  He took some of the worst shots in the series, yet made some of the biggest shots of the series.  His 3-pointer with 1 minute left, which followed a huge 3-pointer from Rasheed Wallace was huge.  It staved off the final momentum that the Celtics could’ve built and cemented the lead for the final minute.  And his defense on Paul Pierce tonight, and nearly the entire series, was just awesome.  I will be the first to say that I was COMPLETELY AGAINST the “trade” of Artest for Trevor Ariza after last season.  I thought that Ariza’s offense was way better than Artest’s (it still is) and I thought Artest’s defense was not enough better than Ariza’s to make the difference (and it still may not be).  But what I didn’t give Ron-Ron enough credit for was his intensity.  The man is absolutely insane, and has lost his marbles years ago, but his intensity and his 20 HUGE points tonight really made the difference in the game.
  • Some things change, some stay the same - There were lots of streaks in action tonight, some that continued, and some that didn’t…  Phil Jackson goes to 48-0 when winning Game 1 of a series.  That certainly was in doubt.  The Lakers won tonight, despite losing the 1st quarter, which had not happened for the entire series.  The Lakers won the rebounding game by 13 rebounds and had 15 more offensive rebounds than the Celtics, continuing the streak that the team who won the rebound battle won the game.  Just a beautiful, beautiful thing.
  • The Celtics are crazy tough - What made watching this series so crazy was how physically tough and scrappy the Celtics are.  EVERY loose ball that flew through the lane was owned by some crazy hands of a Boston player.  Rondo and Pierce can turn any play into a layup.  And even the grizzly vet Garnett can always find a way to get it done.  And their host of role players - Sheed, Nate, Big Baby, Tony Allen, Perkins - all get it done whenever they are on the floor.  Just a tough team that is NOT fun to play against…
  • Kobe’s Wife - Was it just me, or did anyone else find it odd that after the game, during the trophy presentations and speeches, one of the main people you saw was Kobe’s wife?!?  It was Kobe, and Magic, and David Stern, and Phil Jackson, and Bill Russell, and Jerry Buss, and Kobe’s wife.  Kobe’s wife?!?  Something was very off there.  I wonder if this was part of her settlement after Kobe got into his trouble in Colorado.  “Kobe, I demand to be front and center when you win a title, no matter if I belong or not!”
  • Pau and Lamar - Gasol and Odom get it done whenever they need to.  WHENEVER they need to.  I love those guys.  Flat out love.
  • Foul shots - Why the heck couldn’t the Lakers hit a foul shot in this game?!?  They missed 12 free throws.  12!!!  That nearly cost them the game.

Man, that was great.  And Milo got to see it.  And while he won’t remember it, I’ll be sure to tell him all about it someday.

Has it been that long?!?

My apologies for disappearing for a few weeks, but the boy’s arrival certainly sent us for a little loop…  That being said, however, a SLEW of amazing things happened while I was “indisposed”…  As much as I’d like to recap them all and give you my thoughts on them all, that would be one quick way to certainly bore you (even more than I usually do)…  So, how about a few quick bullets?  I’m always good for a few good bullets, huh?

  • The Flyers fell JUST short of winning the Stanley Cup, losing in 6 games to the Chicago Blackhawks.  The hockey fan in me (admittedly not the biggest piece of me and a LOT smaller than my nose) was pretty disappointed, but the Flyers put on quite a show considering they were the LAST team to make it into the playoffs, requiring a shootout victory on the last day of the regular season.  I actually think that they outplayed the Hawks in nearly all of the games, but could not get the goals when they needed them, despite often having more chances than Chicago.  Overtime in Game 1 and overtime in Game 6 both exemplified this exactly, which Philly out-shooting and “out-offensing” the Hawks, only to get beat on a great run.  Shame.  A Stanley Cup would’ve been a great way to start the summer.
  • A young man named Stephen Strasburg made his professional debut for the hometown Nationals here.  And despite having tickets for the WRONG game (thanks for nothing Buster!) and being in the hospital for the actual game, I thoroughly enjoyed it nonetheless.  If it was possible, the top pick from last year actually exceeded his incredibly high expectations, striking out 14 in the 7 innings he pitched, including the final 7 he faced.  Oh, and did I mention that he walked NO ONE and hit 100 on the gun at the same time?  I’m not one to jump on bandwagons too quickly (except actually i TOTALLY am), but the start was quite amazing.  And his second start against Cleveland, in which he went 6 and 2/3, striking out 8, and got his 2nd win, was nearly as good.  If nothing else, this kid has stirred up some serious excitement here in DC and has made baseball relevant here again.  Granted, the Nats are still in last place, but they’re only 4 games under .500 and actually feel like they’re heading the right direction.  I can NOT wait to see him in person.  (Side note:  I would be remiss if I did not take a second to brag about something involving Strasburg.  His senior year at San Diego State, he went 13-1, dominating just about every team he faced.  Want to know the one team that beat him?  You got it.  Your University of Virginia Wahoos.  Got to love that.  I hope Ryan Zimmerman reminds him of this every time he sees him in the clubhouse, calling him “13 and 1”.  That would amuse me.)
  • I’ll get far more into this later this week after Game 7, but the NBA Finals have truly turned into a classic.  You can’t get much better than the Lakers and the Celtics, the two most successful teams in NBA history, playing in the finals, trading blows, and going 7 games.  Obviously, I’m rooting tremendously hard for the Lakers, considering how much I detest Paul Pierce and Rasheed Wallace, but Game 7 is just going to be awesome.  My stomach was churning this morning just thinking about it.  It’s just a shame that Celtics Center Kendrick Perkins will not be able to play tomorrow, having torn 2 ligaments in his knee.  While not a huge loss, he certainly will be missed by Boston and this is an advantage for LA, no doubt.  Remind me give you my thoughts on Paul Pierce’s drama antics, Ron Artest’s propensity to take bad shots, the Lakers’ inability to hit foul shots or maintain a lead, my thoughts on NBA instant replay, and why I’m mad at Phil Jackson for not finding a way to get one more technical foul against Perk or Sheed.  Remind me, for real.
  • Some dude who’s name you’ve probably never heard (again, probably except for KJ) had a 3 shot lead going into the final hole at the St. Jude Classic this past weekend in Memphis.  Sounds like a nice cushion to have right?  Well, Mr. Garrigus proceeded to triple-bogey the whole, bringing Lee Westwood and Robert Karlsson back into the tournament and into a 3-man playoff.  What was Garrigus’ excuse?  He thought he had a two-shot lead, and not a three-shot lead.  Ummm, what?  You thought you were only up by 2, so you decided to triple bogey the whole and lose by 1?  But if you knew you had 3, you would’ve won it?  Just embarrassing.  I feel bad for the guy big time, but that’s a choke he may never live down.
  • The Big 12 conference nearly crumbled, and then didn’t crumble after all.  This had to be some of the WORST reporting I had ever seen from the news stations and websites, as nearly ALL of their predictions for the demise of the Big 12 proved to be way off base.  For those of you who missed it, Nebraska left for the Big 10 and Colorado left for the Pac-10.  All those other teams who were leaving to form the Pac-16?  Yeah, they all stayed.  So, the question now is obvious…  Since the Big 12 now has 10 teams and the Big 10 now has 10 teams, do they get to change names?  How confusing would THAT be!  And since the Pac-10 now has 11 teams (12 if they get Utah as they’re planning), do they change their name?  You’ve got to love the conference shuffle…  And one can only dream that the rumored offer from FedEx CEO Fred Smith of $10M per year to any BCS conference that takes Memphis as a member is in fact true.  Nothing like bribing conferences to get what you want, more money for your school.  Oh wait, isn’t this what the BCS does already?
  • The World Cup kicked off last week with some of the worst goaltending I’ve ever seen.  Granted, I don’t exactly watch soccer on a regular basis, but the goals given up by the English goalie and the Algerian goalie were flat out embarassing.  And if you add on to that the miserable sounds of the horns that all the fans are blowing non-stop, it was not exactly a perfect opening week for the World Cup.  I’ve got some major changes to the professional soccer rules that I’ll be proposing in the next few weeks, so you’ve got that to look forward to.
  • The Phillies have somehow lost 15 of their last 21 or 22 games to find themselves out of first place in the East.  I don’t see how this offense continues to slump this bad, so I’m not sure you’ve got much to worry about Dad, but they do need to figure out a way to score runs.  And if that Halladay guy keeps throwing “less than perfect games”, it could get uglier faster.

Sorry I disappeared…  Promise to be better now…  And I also promise to splice in a little Milo with all the nerdy sports…

The Weekend Cliff

Our weekend, in reality, was dominated by the finale of LOST this evening, but apparently other things happened…

  1. "Eat that Yankees!" - It’s been a while, but the Mets finally won a series, and want to know what makes this series a great one to win?  It was against the Yankees.  Yes, the Smoke Monster that is this Yankees team, lost 2 of 3 to the Mets this weekend, capped off by a good one that ended late tonight.  With the Mets up 6-1 going into the 9th, a big run brought it to 6-4, but the Mets held on to win.  Eat that, Smoke Monster!
  2. "Looks like we got ourselves a series in the West, huh?" - Unlike the Celtics in the East, the Lakers could not take Game 3 against the Suns and instead the series is now 2-1 and we’ve got ourselves a series.  Amare went for 42 and 11 in Game 3, trying to create his own “luck”.
  3. "I don’t think the Magic are even playing anymore." - In the East series, the Orlando Magic lost their 3rd in a row to the Celtics, this time in MAJOR blowout fashion.  This series is over, and most likely in 4.
  4. "Think our NHL finals are set?  I wouldn’t bet on it yet…"- While the West series seems to be wrapped up, with the Blackhawks beating up on the Sharks, the East series still has a little bit of drama left.  The Flyers were able to pitch a THIRD shutout in Game 4 on Saturday, putting them in prime position to win the series, but since we just saw a great comeback by Philly in the semis, we can’t count this as over yet.
  5. "A second inside-the-park HR in the same week? You bet!"- Saturday, the Nats got their 2nd every inside-the-park home run in Nationals Park, this time by the Orioles.  What’s interesting is that this is two in 4 days.  What’s more interesting is that both of them hit off Nyjer Morgan’s glove into the field of play.  Crazy.
  6. "7 runs, huh Doc?"- Doc Halladay gave up 7 runs in just over 5 innings for the Phillies today against the Red Sox.  Not the outing they were looking for and definitely not the outing my dad was looking for.
  7. "I was really loving that LOST finale, except for the final 10 minutes."- We’ve been loyal LOSTies in our house, and while we’ve definitely been high on it at times and really low on it at times, the finale was quite good, for the first 140 minutes.  Sadly, and without giving anything away, the last 10 minutes were a little anti-climactic for us and left us a little bit cold.  The rest of the episode was great, with lots of things you wanted to see and lots of resolution.  They certainly ignored all the questions they didn’t want to answer, but that’s what we expected really.  I just wish they hadn’t added those last 10 minutes.  Frustrating sadly.  But while I’m slightly sad to see it go, I’m certainly not sad to get that hour back every week!

Have a great week everyone!

The Weekend Cliff

So, what seemed in advance to be a generally “normal” weekend (for playoff season, anyway), turned out to be quite a highlight-filled weekend..  Here are some one-liners to get you going at work tomorrow…

  • "A perfect game, huh?!?  Looks like calling out A-Rod paid off for Braden!"- On Sunday, Dallas Braden of the Oakland A’s pitched a perfect game, only the 19th EVER in the history of baseball.  Before this event, Braden was ONLY known (and i mean ONLY known as I had never heard of him before this event) for calling out A-Rod a few weeks ago when A-Rod broke an unwritten rule that says no one but the pitcher should step on the pitcher’s mound.  Looks like karma was on Braden’s side.  It was the first perfect game since Mark Buehrle who did it last year for the White Sox.
  • "When was the last time we had a perfect game AND a player hit for the cycle in the same weekend?!?"- On Saturday, Jody Gerut hit for the cycle for the Brewers against the Diamondbacks.  For those curious, a cycle is when you hit a single, a double, a triple, and a home run in the same game, and while not as rare as a perfect game, is pretty rare and pretty impressive.  This was the first time we had a cycle in 2010.  And having one in the same weekend as a perfect game is pretty absurd.
  • "Steve Nash is so good, he can beat you with one eye shut!" - Literally.  On Sunday night, Nash was hit in the face and his right eye was swollen shut.  Did this stop him? Of course not…  He played the entire 4th quarter and hit huge 3s and driving layups to finish off the Spurs in their 2nd round series, WITH ONLY ONE FRIEKING EYE!
  • "Looks like Tiger continue to know how to stay on top of the headlines, even without another girl coming forward!" - Tiger Woods, who barely made the cut at this weekend’s Players Championship, withdrew from the tournament on Sunday with a neck injury.  Tiger was not really in contention as he started the day 9 shots back of the leaders, but by withdrawing, all anyone was talking about when the TV coverage started was Tiger.  The man knows how to get a news cycle.  Now it just remains to be seen if he is hurt and how hurt he is.  We may not see him again for a while.
  • "There are few things more fun to watch on TV than the island green." - The Players Championship takes place at one of the more famous professional courses, the TPC at Sawgrass, in Florida.  The “gem” of this golf course is the 17th hole, which is a short hole over tons of water to an island green. Check it out. Not only is it pretty amazing to look at, but it brings MANY pros to their knees, with all that water surrounding the green.  In reality, it’s a pretty short and easy hole, but considering its placement on the course (late in the round) and all the water, it plays head games with the best golfers in the world.  When the leader got there today, it was almost ASSUMED he would dork it into the water (which he didn’t) because of the pressure.
  • "At least the Sox made it competitive in the Yankees series.  They looked pretty pathetic in the first two games of the series."- In the second Yankees-Red Sox series of the year, the Yankees ran roughshod over the Sox for the first two games of the series.  But Sunday night was different, as the Sox jumped all over AJ Burnett.
  • "Lebron who?!?  I’ll take Rajon Rondo!"- The Celtics evened up their 2nd Round series with the favored Cavaliers on Sunday behind a mammoth performance from Rajon Rondo.  Rondo put up a HUGE triple double (not just any triple double) with 29 points, 18 rebounds, and 13 assists.  It should be noted that Rondo is their point guard and is easily the smallest guy on the Celtics, yet he had more than 3 times as many boards as anyone else on the Celtics, included their “bigs” Garnett and Perkins.  An incredibly huge day.  If that line was put up by a star like Lebron, they would call it one of the most amazing performances ever.  For historical purposes, this is only the third time EVER that someone has put up those numbers or better.  The other two?  Yeah, they were named Oscar Robertson and Wilt Chamberlain.  Pretty good company.
  • "The Jazz need to close out game eventually, or this series will be O-V-A over!"- While it may be the most competitive series, the Lakers-Jazz series is still 3-0 Lakers right now, which means it is pretty much over.  On Saturday night, they had the closest game of the 2nd round so far, with a buzzer-beater from the Jazz just falling off the rim to give the Lakers the game.  The Jazz have managed to be in every game and make them each a great battle, but have not been able to pull it off.
  • "Forget the action, how about those money NBA playoff commercials!  ‘Get back into our game!’"- Clearly, one of the highlights of the playoffs this year has been the commercials that the NBA has put together featuring player comments and interviews set to music.  I love them, and about a billion times more than the “where caring happens” commercials that they’ve been relying on for years (and I know KJ loves them too since he told me to mention them - Thanks KJ!).  There’s no doubt the best one features Magic Johnson (and a little bit of Larry Bird and J-Smoove).  Get a little of it here on YouTube.
  • "Remember when the Mets were in first place?  Yeah, neither do I."- It was fun while it last huh?  The Mets did manage to win a weekend series against the Giants (with 2 walk-off home runs), but have fallen 2 games behind the fightin Phils again.
  • "Forget the sports, what I can’t believe is how much it frieking costs to buy a baby all the schwag they need!" - Ok, this one isn’t so much about the weekend in sports as it is about my weekend.  We dropped a LOAD of cash on Saturday buying the “essentials” for the pending birth of the boy, including a car-seat “system”, a bassinet-equivalent, and a breast pump.  Yes folks, this is what my weekends have become.  Awesome.

Have a great week everyone…  I promise to be a little better and more prolific this week.  Sorry for being so pathetic last week…