Friday, June 15, 2007

Friday Blogstrosity

And away we go ...

Spurs win. Spurs win. Spurs win. Sorry for the lack of enthusiastic punctuation, but after this snoozer of a championship series, it might be time for the league to change its name. Nyquil Basketball Association? Nighty-night Bron-bron Association? Look, I love Tim Duncan's game, and Tony Parker made the Cavaliers look like fight extras in a Bruce Li flick, but the Spurs dominated this series so thoroughly, I expected them to get a quick drink and get back on the court to see who had next.

So the next question is, with four titles in nine years, are the Spurs a dynasty? First answer, who cares? Second answer, yes, they have won multiple titles over a period of time with only two constants, Duncan and Gregg Popovich. Third, and correct, answer, no. They are good, and I know I just said they crushed the Cavs like zinfandel at harvest time, but the term dynasty implies a mythic quality. Certainly the Celtics of Russell and Bird had, as did the lakers of Magic and Kareem, Shaq and Kobe, and the Bulls of Jordan and Pipper. But the Spurs of Duncan and Popovich? Not so much.

Before the season, all I read about Duncan was that injuries would likely limit him again. All I read about Manu Ginobili was that he had lost a step. . And all I read about Parker was what he was wearing on the red carpet next to Eva Longoria. Nowhere did I see an article about how a Spurs title would amke them a dynasty. Once the season started, the Spurs were an afterthought behind the emergence of Dallas and Phoenix, the Iverson trade to Denver, the Kobe soap opera, and the fascinating specimen that is Gilbert Arenas. In the playoffs, the Spurs fell behind Golden State's upset of Dallas and Steve Nash's blood.

The point is, no one was talking about San Antonio until the Finals. Even today, the front sports page of my local paper (The Baltimore Sun) carried a picture of James being defended by Michael Finley and Fabricio Oberto, not MVP Parker, not Duncan and Popovich, and not Bruce Bowen, whose defense on James was crucial to the Spurs win. A dynasty has to seize the headlines and grab the public's attention in a way the Spurs just haven't.

Nor am I ready to accept Popovich's ascendance into the august company of coaches with four titles: Auerbach, Jackson, Riley, Popovich? Not so fast, Poppy. I'd put him tied with Riley, but a long, long way from the other two. (Yes, I know Riley won titles with two different teams, but he loses points for appointing himself head coach at Miami once he realized just how good Dwyane Wade is). One mroe title, preferably next year, and I'll cease and desist my arguments against both Popovich and San Antonio.

In a final schadenfreudean nonsequitur, it delights me to think of all the Celtics fans banging their heads against the bar every time Duncan hoists a championship trophy aloft.

If both the Orioles' decline and my son's team's improvement continue at the same rate, I think Baltimore might lose to a bunch of 10-year olds in the spring of 2009. And for all you Clemens/Yankees haters, here's little treat from Funny or Die. Link.

Lots of excitement about the U.S. Open this week, of course. Everyone seems very up in arms about Phil's wrist. I thought Phil got whacked Sunday night on the last episode of the Sopranos. But seriously, if you are looking for a golf article that is not about Tiger, Phil or Johnny Miller, check out Rick Maese's column on Jim Furyk in today's Sun. At first I hated Maese because he looks like he's about 15, but my annoyance has gradually been mitigated by his quality coverage of stories I don't see anywhere else. Worth looking for.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Doggy Bag

Okay let's wrap up a few leftovers today. Put 'em in some foil, maybe in the shape of a swan if you like the fancy joints, and heat 'em up later for a tasty treat.

Belmont Stakes
I was wrong several different ways on this one. Yes, the attendance at the event was 46,870, down from 61,168 last year, and way below the 100,000+ when a horse like Smarty Jones has a shot at the Triple Crown. And, yes, the TV ratings dropped from a 3.6 to a 3.1 share, both lower than the first two games of the NBA Finals but more than double the NHL final. But it was a great race, not stunningly fast, but Rags to Riches battled Curlin down the stretch to become the first filly to win the race since 1905. I didn't see the race live, but ESPN has the replay, and it's worth a look. And that little throwaway question I posted about the rarity of three different horse winning the three legs of the Triple Crown? Well, it happened last year, Mr. Trivia, with Barbaro, Bernadini and Jazil, and this year was the third time it has happened in the last 10. So good call by me on that one.

Didn't watch the finale, don't watch the show except for the occasional sterilized episode on A&E, but from what I've heard and read, I think I would have liked the ending. I'm fine with ambiguity. I like when a movie starts in the middle of the action without spoonfeeding me the origins of the plot. And the same goes for endings. If you don't wrap up all the loose ends, that's okay. I don't mind trying to figure it out.

I recently watched the first season of The Wire on DVD and enjoyed it very much, so maybe I'll take the same approach with The Sopranos. And one of the most enjoyable moments of last weekend came when my son's baseball team recorded the last out of the game on Sunday at 8:23, and one of the coaches handed the scorebook to the manager, grabbed his bag, and sprinted across the field to the parking lot to make it home in time.

NBA Finals
Well, those pesky Cavaliers are getting closer, but seriously, 50 points in three quarters? Sorry, ABC, but I'll be over at TNT (or is it TBS?) for sitcom reruns until The Daily Show comes on. The good news for ABC executives is that a Spurs sweep dramatically lowers the chances that the ratings could plummet into Stanley Cup territory. And that NBA "In Harmony" promo has to be the most unwatchable waste of money on television since they gave Magic Johnson a talk show. Of course, it could easily be knocked out of first place in the category with the debut in two weeks of Shaq's Big Challenge.

Rescue Me
I'm back for more F/X TV tonight with the return of Rescue Me, which is often a bitterly hilarious and wrenchingly sad portrait of humanity, but occasionally falters into an hour of Denis Leary showing us what a wisecracking, lifesaving, hockey-playing uberstud he is (who also writes poetry and tolerates alternative lifestyles). Generally there's enough of the former to tolerate the latter.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Beisbol con Mucho Gusto

You may recall that Friday I posted the question, can there ever be too much baseball? Apparently the answer is both yes and no. Yes, because by the time Saturday afternoon rolled around and we were nearly halfway through our four-day seven-game marathon, I audibled out of our plans to go see the Orioles, and instead, we recuperated and recharged at the pool. On the other hand, no, because the six games the boys played provided many, many highlights. Here are just a few:

1. An opposing second baseman, barely taller than his bat, cleanly fields a ground ball and makes a delighted throw to first. Never mind that the runner beats the throw, the fielder's smile at his proficency is unforgettable.

2. A boy finally gets his first base hit of the season with two outs in the bottom of the last inning of his second to last game and skips, nay, floats down to first base.

3. A courageous lad gets hit by pitches three times in two days, and then rocks a solid single through the infield.

4. A team gets its first league win of the season Friday night and finds the experience so pleasurable, it wins its next three in tournament play.

5. A last place team suddenly catches fire (after a noted blogger retires as third base coach) and goes undefeated over its last six games to capture the championship. Gatorade is dumped on coaches, pizza consumed in joy at a local establishment, and likely more than one first place trophy is pried from sleeping hands.

6. In the last inning of a championship game, after an eight run lead is cut to three and the pitcher knocked out by a hard grounder to the shin, a steely-eyed first baseman climbs atop the mound, calmly strikes out two, and induces a groundout for the gamewinner.

7. A batter's face is a portrait of furious determination as he outraces the opposing first baseman to the bag for an infield hit.

8. A modern day Enos "Country" Slaughter ignores the stop sign from the third base and barrels home, scoring from first on a single.

9. An umpire calls three straight games wearirng a red t-shirt from a bar on a Caribbean island that features the following quote from noted batsman Oscar Wilde, "Work is the ruination of the drinking class."

10. A baserunner on second nods enthusiastically when his coach yells, "Two outs, no hesitation." After he scores, he shakes his head just as emphatically when his mom asks him if he knows what hesitation means.

Friday, June 08, 2007

If a Blog Falls in the Forest ...

During my last lengthy hiatus from FitzFacts, a good friend of mine described the "arc of the blog" in a way that I can't exactly recall, but it was a pretty fair assessment of the way my blogging endeavor had progressed: start with a flurry of posts in a variety of areas, settle into a groove of topics (college basketball, American Idol, FX tv shows), and then, as material begins to dry up, posting peters out until, suddenly, weeks and months have passed with nothing new.

This time, I stopped posting about college basketball right in the middle of the NCAA Tournament and abandoned AI when the contestants still numbered double digits. So what was my excuse? Well, I did go away on vacation for a week, broke a few bones in my hand (that put me in cast for three weeks), spring sprung here in Phoenix, Maryland, which led me to as much gardening and landscaping as my hand could tolerate. None of those are really good reasons. Then again, I don't have a good reason for getting back to it now.

So where are we?

NBA Finals
I watched parts of the second and third quarter of this game, and other than the stupefyingly low score, all I noticed was that San Antonio always seemed to have the ball and at least a five point lead. And every basket, whether it was Manu Ginobili converting an alley-oop from Tony Parker, Tim Duncan making a jumper from the free throw line, or Francisco Elston powering up from the block, every basket came with the Spurs' player squared up to the hoop as if he were making an instructional video. I noticed this morning that Parker and Robert Horry - who, by the way, is 11 years younger than Julio Franco - had more assists (13) than the entire Cleveland team (9). And it seems important that I mention the name Bruce Bowen before the man he held to 14 points (none in the first 13 minutes), LeBron James. If the Cavaliers don't show up a lot more quickly in Game 2, the NBA and ABC can kiss the ratings goodbye.

The Anaheim Ducks won the Stanley Cup. The 2007-08 season starts in less than four months. That seems like more than enough hockey information.

Horse Racing
After thrilling races in the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness, the Triple Crown closes with a whimper this Saturday at the Belmont. With Street Sense out, Curlin can only hope to pull a Secretariat and crush the competition. Two questions: When was the last time three different horses won the legs of the Triple Crown ? And, will the Belmont draw a bigger rating than the 1.1 million households that watched the Stanley Cup final game?

I won't be watching the Belmont because I'll be at the Baltimore Orioles' game with the boys on Saturday night. The Orioles won six in a row at the end of May and then lost their first five games in June before winning at Seattle Wednesday, so I have no idea what to expect, except that I'll spend too much of money on hot dogs, programs, peanuts, cotton candy, etc. This game will be one of seven baseball contests that I'll be attending in the next four days, but the other six will all feature young men in my immediate family. By Monday night, I just might be able to answer the question: is there ever enough baseball?

Paris Hilton
And let's end this post with a slightly different spectator sport. The Baltimore Sun wrote the following subheadline in this morning's paper: "Hilton's image may be further hurt by early release from jail." I don't know who wrote that copy, but it seems to me that Paris Hilton thrives on publicity, so the only publicity that would be bad for her image would be none at all. Maybe if she murdered her ex-spouse and a friend, or turned out to be connected to the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Or dogfighting. Unless it was those annoying little chihuahuas. Okay, I think I should stop typing right now.