Friday, June 15, 2007

I'm not a big fan of the midday post. Even when I don't have better, or at least more important, things to do, I try to give the impression that I do. But I was just too damn tired, and quite frankly a bit angry, so I couldn't do this last night. In part I was mad that the Spurs won, and a lot of my anger had to do with the guy who was tailgating me in his minivan for a good 10 miles last night. And I'm not an easy guy to tailgate, as I tend to be somewhere around ten miles over the speed limit at all times.

I find myself wondering as I watch certain commercials (like this recent one from Nike) whether I am the only one out in the wide world with a sense of irony. I thought it when I first saw the old Campbell's Chunky Soup Ads that featured Michael Strahan's grinning maw peering in the window on a NYC subway car, with his face framed above a decal that said "Watch the Gap." And I think it now, watching the We Are All Witnesses spots from Nike which will surely go away now that the NBA Playoffs are finished.

We were witnesses, that much is true, but not necessarily in the sense that Nike commanded us to be. We were supposed to witness LeBron James become the basketball player he had better be for the sake of the NBA's future. And he very nearly did. He submitted what would have been the mother of all transcendent sports moments for this very young century in that ">amazing Game 5 performance against the Pistons. I say would have been because he really needed to submit a couple of 30 point efforts, maybe force the Spurs to a game 6 (or at the very least game 5) to cement that status. Alas, it was not to be.

What we, the basketball watching public, instead witnessed was a shameful display of dreadful basketball with a few brief shining moments where the games aspired, didn't quite reach but aspired nonetheless, to something verging on mediocrity. Now for a regular season game in early January where one or both teams comes into the game on the second leg of back-to-back games, that wouldn't be so bad. Unfortunately for us, this wasn't a throwaway game. This was the end-all, be-all. The NBA Finals. These were the last two teams standing slugging it out for the O'Brien Trophy.

Back when I thought it was a good idea to study European History, I remember reading about the Battle of Jutland. The British and the Germans invested ludicrous sums of money in big fleets of massive battleships. The two navies sailed out and met off the coast of Denmark. They fired their big guns at each other for hours, and at the end of the day it was just a big waste of time. The Germans ended up inflicting more damage on the British ships, but they went back to port and never tried their luck again.

That's what this series between the Spurs and Cavs boiled down to in the end. A big, giant multi-million dollar waste of time. I wonder whether some marketing czar at Nike is answering to the CEO as we speak. I wonder whether David Stern is thinking that maybe some rule changes are in order. Maybe Mark Cuban is thinking he really shouldn't have hired Dan Rather, what with the fact that he said CBS is tarting up its evening news with Katie Couric. God forbid we get a younger woman who doesn't look like Methusala's older brother and doesn't have an alleged penchant for broadcasting doctored documents about the President of the US as though they were true. But enough about that.

I think that the easiest way to fix the NBA is to have the officials actually call fouls that are in fact fouls. A foul doesn't cease to be a foul because the player scored, nor does it become a foul when the shot misses. This late whistle nonsense must come to an end. This can never happen, as it would require a miracle and the present NBA regime has apparently outlawed miracles.

If, however, the league office desires to be more proactive about fixing its product than interfering in off-court behavior and imposing a dress code as though this were reform school and not a professional sports endeavor, I have a suggestion I think is constructive (for a change). Get rid of the 24 second clock and replace it with a 14 second clock. Get some positive ball movement back into the game, speed up the tempo and end the trend of the superstar who dribbles at the top of the key until fans decide to surf channels to see if Masterpiece Theater is showing an interesting Miss Marple mystery.

But what do I know? I'm only a rabid sports fan who found himself watching Too Late the Hero last night during the first three quarters of the last game of the NBA Finals. And wouldn't you know, the damn hero was, in fact, too late. And that ending was still more of a surprise than the Cavs losing the game and the series to the Spurs.

But every cloud has a silver lining. This time, to paraphrase the immortal words of MeatLoaf, two out of three is not, in fact, bad, not bad at all. The Red Sox lost the rubber game against the mighty Colorado Rockies. It could not have been better. Josh Beckett was shelled. Francona dug deep into his bag of tricks and ordered JD Drew to bat in the leadoff spot, where he submitted probably the single most impressive 0 for 5 game in the history of Major Leage Baseball.

In case you're keeping score at home, this was the seventh time in the last nine games the mighty BoSox have managed to put two or fewer runs on the board. JD Drew, Coco Crisp and Julio Lugo are all hitting .230 or below and making millions. Kevin Youkilis and Dustin Pedroia have a long way to go to hit the seven figure plateau in terms of salary, but are both hitting over .300. Sooner or later the iniquities of the selfish and the tyranny of evil men are bound to catch up to this team. But at least John Henry has his little foray into professional beach volleyball to console him.

For long time readers familiar with my habit of quoting the Grateful Dead in order to remind everyone that every silver lining has a touch of grey, here it is. The Yankees are seven and 1/2 games back, but they host the Mets (whom I absolutely hate, except for that nice little two week stretch back in October of '86) who enter the game at 36-28 and in first place in the NL East while the Red Sox host the Giants who enter the game at 30-35 and in the cellar in the NL West. It was a nice run while it lasted, now we need the Yanks to stay close through the weekend and then mount another run before the All Star break.

PS - I hate to do this, but it was a nice, empty gesture on the part of the Red Sox to ask that MLB replace David Ortiz with Kevin Youkilis on the All Star ballot.

No comments: