Monday, June 9, 2008

The NBA Finals can't hold my interest

I have already lost interest in the NBA Finals. I know it is Boston Celtics-Los Angeles Lakers, the biggest NBA rivalry of all-time and all that jazz. Magic Johnson. Larry Bird. There is quite the list of names involved in the rivalry. This year there’s Kevin Garnett’s quest for his first NBA title. Ray Allen and Paul Pierce are on the same quest as well. Kobe Bryant is trying to win one without some guy named Shaquille O’Neal. Kobe already has three. He wants four.

People keep talking about how much gravity the series has and how it is good for basketball. I do not think I will deny the magnitude of the games, but for me, it’s the fact that the Finals take from June 5 until June 19. That is two weeks. Fourteen days. Seven games over fourteen days. My attention span is already gone. I watched part of Game 1 because, heck, I wanted to see what it was all about. I was not disappointed, even though I felt staying up the next day during exams. But then I did not watch a second of Game 2. I opted for watching August Rush with my family. Yeah, I’m a wuss. (That is a great movie, by the way. It almost had me in tears.)

So call me un-American or any other names you want. It’s the truth. I’m already tired of the NBA Finals. You could say that I am ESPN’d out. Seriously. On Saturday, June 7, the day BEFORE Game 2, Game 2 was their “What to Watch For” for the day. Not even the Belmont Stakes drew that so-called “honor.” Having so much time between games gives the schmucks on ESPN time to over-analyze everything, down to what the fan in section 23, row W, seat 21 was doing for the whole game. Giving them two full days to analyze one game is way too much. And then they start talking about how both teams are going to do things differently in Game 2. Are you freaking kidding me? Of course they are going to do stuff differently. It doesn’t take 15 years of NBA experience, however many years of experience Stephen A. Smith has, and Mike Tirico to tell me that.

And now there are former Lakers and Celtics players jumping back into the mix. I find this to be rather annoying and some could accuse them of trying to re-live their glory days, but I do not feel that is valid accusation. James Worthy, if Pierce thought he needed a freaking wheelchair to get off the court, then by-God he needed a freaking a wheelchair. We all have those moments during injuries where we initially think they are worse than they really are and we take precautions. So deal with it.

If the NBA wants my attention for the Finals (and I doubt they want a white teenager’s), they should do things a little differently. Let’s look at how the Finals are scheduled:

Game 1: June 5, 2008 (@ BOS)
Game 2: June 8, 2008 (@ BOS)Game 3: June 10, 2008 (@ LAL)
Game 4: June 12, 2008 (@ LAL)
Game 5: June 15, 2008 (@LAL)
Game 6: June 17, 2008 (@ BOS)
Game 7: June 19, 2008 (@ BOS)

The scheduling of this seems rather illogical. Why have two days of rest between Games 1 & 2 and Games 4 & 5 when those sets of games are in the same city? Why not give them two days of rest on travel days? Am I unaware of some “television events” that ABC has been planning around? With so many days of rest, I easily lose track of what is going on. Part of that is because I am not a diehard basketball fan. I am a fan of the game, just not a diehard fan.

This idea probably does not seem feasible to you diehard basketball fans, but the NBA needs to re-do the formula for the series to make it more compact. Baseball’s seven-games series’ are done in nine days (or at least they used to be). I understand basketball is more of a “physical” game, but baseball ain’t no cakewalk either. My idea would be this:

Game 1: June 5, 2008 (@ BOS)
Game 2: June 6, 2008 (@ BOS)
Game 3: June 8, 2008 (@ LAL)
Game 4: June 9, 2008 (@ LAL)
Game 5: June 11, 2008 (@ LAL)
Game 6: June 13, 2008 (@ BOS)
Game 7: June 14 or 15, 2007 (@ BOS)

See, I just cut 4-5 days off the series time. As the series goes on and the players get more worn down, they get more time off. Now, this idea would never fly. The NBA rarely has back-to-back games during the regular season, and when they do, the players complain. It would keep my interest, but the backlash of the players not having enough “rest time” would be way too much. If basketball wants to return to relevance in my mind, it needs to do so through shortening series, not through better matchups. Maybe I’ll watch Game 3. Who knows. All I know is that ESPN is unwatchable for me right now because of this series. And after the proverbial teet of Celtics-Lakers is dried up, it’ll be back to Red Sox-Yankees.


Sunday, June 8, 2008

Action-Reaction: June 8, 2008

Yesterday, as most of you know, Big Brown went for horse racing immortality. His attempt to become the first horse to win the Triple Crown in 30 years captivated the nation. But like Funny Cide and Smarty Jones before him, he fell short at the Belmont Stakes.

I missed the race yesterday because I was at church. When I came home, they were interviewing Kent Desomourx, Big Brown’s jockey. Desomourx actually sounded like he was from Jockey Land. Anyway, Desomourx simply said, “I had no horse.” This feeling caused Desomourx to pull Big Brown out part-way through the race and just jog the horse in.

Some people out there probably feel that Big Brown should have been pushed all the way in, regardless of how he felt. Well as a runner, I know that is not possible. In the replay, Big Brown comes out of the gates pretty powerful, but after a few moments, it is clear that he is totally flat. That is the worst feeling ever as a runner coming off of the start. You feel like you cannot go any faster than how you are already running, which is not that fast. This feeling usually comes from not working hard enough the week before in practice or not warming up enough before the race starts. Big Brown was not able to get as much work in as his trainers had hoped for him in the weeks before the Belmont. This lack of work had an adverse affect on Big Brown, causing him to come out of the blocks totally fast.

Because being flat comes from not training enough in the weeks before a race or not warming up enough, your muscles are not in racing condition. Pushing yourself through the flat feeling in a race is not the best idea. When you push through the flat feeling, you risk injury. Stress fractures, hamstring pulls, and knee problems can result from pushing too hard when your body is not ready for it. Desomourx did not want to risk serious injury to Big Brown, and even said that he wanted to save his horse. Pulling Big Brown up and jogging him in was a good idea.
I am not saying that you should not pull up in every race you feel flat in, as there are always parts of races you will feel flat in. In the 800m, you hit the 400m wall. At the 400 mark, you are supposed to start your kick and you start to feel like you are flying. However, at the 500m mark, the realization that there are 300m to go kicks in and immediately saps all the energy out of your legs. The flat feeling returns, but the fact it comes so late in the race and it comes where you are supposed to be tired is no reason to pull up and jog it in. Feeling flat in the first 100m is a type of situation that can call for pulling up in a race. I have seen teammates do it before. It is rather embarrassing, but you know it is for your own health.

I do feel sorry that Big Brown did not win the Triple Crown. It could have provided the boost that the horse racing industry needs, but I feel the industry will continue to struggle if incidents like the ones surrounding Barbaro and Eight Belles continue. Desomourx was right to save Big Brown, although it seems like he passed up a chance at eternal glory, but it was for Big Brown’s

Monday, June 2, 2008

Action-Reaction: June 1, 2008

Sports: Escape or Microcosm of Life?

Many rags -to-riches stories involving athletes growing up in hard childhoods have one thing in common: sports are used as an escape. In some cases, sports are an escape from drug use which was the original escape from a difficult home life. (In my opinion, using drugs as an “escape” is one of the lamest reasons to use them, right up there with “being cool.” But this is a sports story. Basically kiddies, stay clean and there’s no reason to use them. DIGRESSION!) Anyway, while setting out for my daily run today, I kicked around the following question in my mind: Are sports really an escape from life? Or are they something totally different?

Sports do not provide an escape for an athlete. Instead, they provide a situation that is more easily managed than the athletes own life. Think of the star point guard or the star quarterback battling off the field issues. When they step onto the court or the field, they have almost complete control over the decision-making process, something they do not have in their off the field life. At home, they may be battling a drug addiction or alcohol problems. When they give in to those problems, they lose complete control of their lives and start searching for a new way to gain control of their lives.

This is a double edged sword, too. While the player may now have complete control over what happens, they must take the bad that comes along with the good on the field or court. Off the field, they lack complete control so therefore they do have somewhat of an excuse to blame their problems (albeit not that great of an excuse). But now that they have control on the field, they must take full responsibility for their actions, something they may not be able to do.

Have you noticed that some of the most exciting players in the game run afoul of the law? The one example that comes straight to my mind is that of Adam “Pacman” Jones. When Jones played for the Tennessee Titans, he made some amazing plays. He could break a kick or punt return for a touchdown or intercept a pass and take it all the way back to the yard. However, his on the field playing style was indicative of his off the field lifestyle. His reckless life away from football has made me wonder whether or not how he played the game was how he lived his life. If I were the Dallas Cowboys, it would be interesting to see whether or not Jones’ playing style changes if he has made a complete “turnaround” in his lifestyle. Former Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Chris Henry was the team’s best red zone target during his tenure with the team. We all remember his big catch in the 2005 Wild-Card Game against the Pittsburgh Steelers where Carson Palmer had his knee infamously rolled over on by Kimo von Olehoffen. Henry was a great player. He could always make the big play. But it seemed he was also trying to make the big play off the field a lot too.

Sports provide a microcosm of life for athletes. Baseball has always been used as a metaphor for life. “You win some, you lose some” is commonly echoed throughout life. You are not going to be able to win all 162 games in a season no matter how much you want to. In life, you are not going to win all the battles you face. You are not going to pass all the tests. Instead, you just pack it up, move out, learn from your mistakes, and try to do better next time.

This also leads into the question of whether or not athletes are actually role models for children, teens, and even older people. The fact is that they are and there is nothing the athlete can do about it. I look at the players and how the face adversity to use as a guide-point for my life. Take Brett Favre and his painkillers addiction in the mid-1990’s. He tried to run from his problem and hide, but eventually it caught up to him and backed him into a corner where he had to confront it head-on. I know a lot of people bring up the fact that he was addicted to pain pills and that a lot of parents would not want their child to look up to a pill-popper, but the fact that he confronted his problem head-on taught me a whole new lesson. I learned that if I run from my problems that they will catch up to me eventually, so it is better to just take them head-on in the first place.

The criteria for kids and their role models should not be what the role model does, but how they respond to their present situations. This is why the situation in the NFL for players being seen as role models is in great peril. When a player gets in a situation they do not like (I’m looking at you Chad Johnson), they kick and scream and demand they get to choose the solution instead of working through the adversity. I am happy to see that the Bengals are not giving in to his demands. When a child sees players like Johnson complaining and moaning to get their own way, it sends a message that if they do not get their own way, they can just complain and throw temper tantrums and they will get their own solution for it. In the real world, that is false.

The athletes need to clean it up.

Excuse the digression.

Your thoughts on whether or not sports are a microcosm or an escape, or if athletes truly are role models are welcome here.