Playing Catch Up — Thoughts Around the World of Sports

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The gaps between SportsAttic posts are becoming too prolonged, and the world of sports has no mercy for those of us with day jobs, so blessed with a few hours on a plane, we’ll do a quick “around the world” to get caught up with the sports stories and issues that come to mind and make us stop, think or wonder.

NBA Musings

*Perhaps the best thing about today’s NBA is the broadcasting personalities we get to enjoy while watching the games. The TNT crew of Chuck, Kenny, Ernie and Shaq are more entertaining than 90% of the games they commentate on. I like it when the talking heads genuinely seem to be having a blast, and we viewers feel like we are right in the thick of it. Their masterful incorporation of Twitter and social media into the fun is both interactive and hilarious. The in-game back and forth between announcers Mark Jackson and Jeff Van Gundy is priceless, and always right on the mark with relevant insights for both sophisticated hoop-heads and those just enjoying the action superficially.

I mention this only because I was momentarily sorry to see Doris Burke relegated last night to sideline reporter status for the Warriors-Blazers game. I find Burke to be one of the NBA’s best insiders on television, and my viewing experience is enhanced when she’s doing the play-by-play. My disappointment was temporary, though, when I realized that Doris was doing the sideline thing only because Mike Breen was leading the broadcast team. Breen happens to be best in class when it comes to facilitating hoops action, and what an embarrassment of riches for ESPN to choose from, when you’ve got the best in the business alongside Van Gundy and Jackson doing the game, with the second best in the industry roaming the sidelines covering the coaches’ halftime comments and finding other important tidbits to interject as the action progresses. It’s Warriors-esque, with the broadcast version of KD and Steph being played by Mike Breen and Doris Burke.

*Which is why I am still scratching my head at Burke’s interview with Dell and Sonya Curry prior to Game 2 last night. Actually, I should say Burke’s interview with Dell Curry only. Burke asked the appropriate questions of the proud parents, who have the first-ever experience of seeing their two sons compete in a conference finals series, wondering how it felt dealing with the roller coaster of emotions in knowing one son’s success on the court that night could very well come at the expense of the other’s disappointment. Dell delivered all the expected responses, showing the poise learned over a 16-year NBA career of media interactions, but he also answered every question directed to his wife, Sonya, who was seated right next to him, on camera, and easily within earshot of Burke’s questions. WTF you say?

Sonya Curry is definitely not mute, as multiple crowd shots throughout the game caught her shouting encouragement toward the players on the floor (like most of us watching the game on national television, she seemed to be cheering more loudly for underdog son Seth, as opposed to three-time champ Steph, but I digress). So again, WTF? Burke asked in multiple ways what all viewers wanted to know — how mom felt. And Dell repeatedly answered on behalf of Sonya, as his wife kept her eyes glued to the court as though there was no interview taking place only feet away. Burke, ever the pro, didn’t probe further, taking the not-so-subtle hint that mom wasn’t speaking today, but I for one came away wondering, you know…WTF?

Careful What You Wish For

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*Yes, I’m happy to see the under-achieving Celtics and the arrogant and over-entitled Sixers sent packing after the last round, but now look what’s left for us in the east. I’m sorry, but Milwaukee versus Toronto just doesn’t get the juices flowing. And can we really start building a case that either of these squads has a shot at dethroning the Dubs? I can’t stand both teams, but Boston-Philly was the one we wanted, folks. I must admit.

*Here’s hoping that Kawhi Leonard lands in a market where we can all better appreciate the greatness of his all-around game, because it’s being wasted north of the border. He’s single-handedly changed the perennially spineless Raptors into a dangerous force, and his buzzer-beater to break Philly’s heart earned him some well-deserved national acclaim. Now how about putting him in a Knicks uniform for the next seven or eight years. Please? Pretty please?

*And not to jump the gun on my rant about the latest sad state of affairs seemingly infecting every professional sports team I root for, but we all know what’s about to happen to the Knicks, right? First of all, no Zion. That’s okay, I was mentally prepared for that reality as I’ve never been a huge proponent of any strategy that hinged on the winning of a lottery. But that’s my Knicks. I’m actually pretty psyched for R.J. Barrett to become our number three pick, which means one of the following is likely to happen to us Knicks fans:

A. Barrett goes number two, leaving us with Ja Morant, who doesn’t fill a need in our crowded backcourt of overrated point guards, and has high bust potential.

B. We pick Barrett and immediately package him, along with everything else in The Garden that isn’t nailed down, in a swap for Anthony Davis that will somehow go bad (I’m not sure how, yet, but it will, oh yes it will).

C. We pair Barrett with the signing of ballyhooed free agent Kyrie Irving, giving the NY tabloids the cool little angle of former Duke “one and done” stars teaming up on the big stage. But that would mean we have Kyrie — does any Knicks fan feel good about that proposition right about now? Anyone? No, me neither.

The Sweet Science

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*If boxing lives and dies by the heavyweight division, it may be time to send the priest to boxing’s bedside.

I’m conflicted here, as I grew up a diehard boxing fan, and nothing stirs my sports fan enthusiasm more than an appropriately hyped heavyweight title fight. Up until the early-2000’s, I was a Ring Magazine subscriber, could recite the Pound-for-Pound Top 10 list by heart, and was good to attend one or two fights in person every year. But as the heavyweight division became less and less intriguing to me (I never could keep straight which Klitschko was which), I gradually stopped paying as much attention. My disinterest and disdain picked up speed when it seemed that the only “big” fights on Pay Per View featured Floyd Mayweather, who I can’t stand as a person, and dislike even more when forced to watch 12 rounds of him dancing around the ring, barely engaging in the exchange of punches (“I just paid $95 dollars for this pile of shit???” — I would cry out to no one in particular, on those occasions when Pretty Boy Floyd would slip into the ring and grace us with a title defense).

Recently I started to pay a little more attention as a new heavyweight name began to pile up victories and a couple of championship belts (that I also can no longer keep straight). Deontay Wilder appeared to have the potential to inject some excitement back into my old favorite sport, and I even made an effort to get to Staples Center last year when he squared off with Tyson Fury for one of the various heavyweight, “alphabet soup” titles (side note — I didn’t make it down to Los Angeles for the fight, which of course clinched the fact that it turned out to be a war and a contender for Fight of the Year). Then, two days ago, I see Wilder quoted in the press saying how one of the things he likes about his chosen profession is that he is legally allowed to kill someone in the ring. And since it was legal, he was going to do his best to pull off that unique “accomplishment.” Ugh.

Now will such macabre nonsense help the sport? Maybe in the short run, since a few more eyeballs will probably tune in tomorrow night in Brooklyn, when Wilder looks to make good on his barbaric prediction against an obscure opponent by the name of Dominic Breazeale. But in the long run, I must wonder if this is that final and fatal step that allows the sport of boxing to cross over into the world of the WWE once and for all?

I’m not watching the fight tomorrow night. I hope to read about Deontay Wilder getting knocked out by Mr. Breazeale (preferably after getting pummeled unmercifully for several rounds) on Sunday morning. Sadly, I will also have to accept the fact that, going forward, my boxing viewing will only consist of re-watching grainy, old fights on YouTube or DVD for the rest of my life (Hagler-Hearns, anyone?). Oh well.

Damn Yankees

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*The New York Yankees take on the Tampa Bay Rays tonight, and I’m feeling a measure of unpleasant anxiety associated with the likely outcomes that will follow tonight’s clash:

-When the Yankees win (yup, I’m going with “when”) tonight’s game, they will officially take over first place in the AL East. I have a sinking feeling that they may not relinquish that position in the standings for the rest of the year.

-The Yanks do have to get healthy at some point, right? They are about to take over the division lead with a Triple-A team on the field most nights. What happens when Stanton and Judge are back doing their Mantle-Maris routine come the month of June? Or when Gregorius shows up off the IL in July? And when Luis Severino returns rested for the stretch run as the ace they’ll need to hold off Houston in the ALCS? God I hate the pinstripes, I really do.

-And speaking of the Yankees and their injuries, with seemingly half of the projected opening day roster on the IL, why has the biggest prick in the Bronx, Luke Voit, managed to escape harm’s way? When it comes to the Yanks, there really is no justice (except when they signed a near-washed up David Justice all those years ago, and he found the fountain of youth and contributed to World Series victories — just like all us Mets fans knew he would). Dammit!

-And how about those Astros? Have they officially clinched the AL West yet? What’s their magic number? They are playing close to .700 ball and appear to have near-perfect balance around the diamond and incredible starting pitching. And worse yet, Jose Altuve hasn’t even gotten on a roll yet. We’ll reserve judgement on the ‘Stros relief pitching, always the potential Achilles heel down in Houston, but this team appears really solid. I learned my lesson multiple times a year ago not to write off the Red Sox too soon, but I’m having a hard time finding a crumb of meaning in the balance of the American League regular season, with a Yankees-Astros ALCS appearing pre-ordained. And it’s May…

New York State of Mind

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*The Knicks have cap space for two max deals and the third pick in a draft that offers three elite picks. Sure, we didn’t get the one “can’t miss” of the three, but still, I had envisioned us landing at number five, so we are happy, are we not?

Nope. We are not.

And why does every Knicks fan I know dread what’s to come? Yeah, you guessed it. It’s because we are the Knicks. The franchise where our owner ejected a franchise icon from Madison Square Garden last season. The same owner who welcomed back that miscreant pariah, Isiah Thomas, to run the Liberty. The same franchise where two guys named Steve Mills and Scott Perry, who have never presided over anything remotely successful in The Association, have the reigns firmly in their inept hands in this most critical of off seasons. We feel dread because we know the first shoe in our aspirational, offseason house of cards fell two nights ago, when we didn’t land the first pick despite the league’s worst record. A record earned as a result of the blatant tank job presided over by an “all hat, no cattle” spin doctor named Fiz, that rendered our 2018-19 season unwatchable.

We’ll keep paying attention and hoping, because that’s what we Knicks fans do. We’ll watch as Durant and Kawhi become Clippers and Klay goes to the “other” Los Angeles franchise. We’ll keep hoping (and maybe even breathe a sigh of relief) when Kyrie shuns The Garden for Brooklyn. We’ll try and make the most of it when we position the consolation prize signing of Kemba Walker as our preferred plan all along.

And then we’ll party like it’s 1999 when we trade away all of our accumulated future number one picks along with this year’s number three selection. Plus Mitchell Robinson (last year’s sole glimmer of hope for the future). Plus poor Frank Ntilikina (who will emerge as a Defensive Player of the Year candidate once he sheds the Knicks’ blue and orange). Plus Dennis Smith, our best scorer. Sending them all to join Zion Williamson in New Orleans, in return for the next savior in a decades-long string of Knicks saviors — Anthony Davis. We will no doubt win that press conference, too, when The Brow officially comes to town.

And then what? Torn achilles? Plantar fasciitis in both feet? Concussion after a spill in the bathtub? Not sure what the malady will be, but it’s coming. Oh yeah, it’s coming…

*If the Knicks weren’t such a dumpster fire right now I might be more distraught over the current state of the Mets. Yes, they are only two games under .500 and still quite alive (statistically) in the NL East race only a quarter of the way through the season, but something’s starting to stink pretty bad out in Queens. Let’s see — when the starting pitchers excel, the bullpen implodes. The defense, an annual problem, remains porous. The hitting is sporadic, but particularly non-existent in low-scoring, close games (aka when we need it most).

The best contact of the year made by new second baseman Robinson Cano, who was acquired with much fanfare over the winter, came yesterday when he decked our hottest hitter, Michael Conforto, with a shoulder to the noggin on a collision chasing down a pop fly in short right field. Yes, our old friend the injury bug is slinking back into town. At least Todd Frazier has put that “salt and pepper” thing from a year ago in mothballs.

Mets manager Mickey Callaway? The over/under on his tenure is the All Star break at this point, and I’m taking the under on that one, for sure. Bring up Tim Tebow, sign Dallas Keuchel and Craig Kimbrel, and go for broke BVW, because this train is off the rails and we can’t keep counting on matchups with the Florida Marlins to bail us out.

*Until two days ago I could at least take solace in the fact that the New York J-E-T-S JETS, JETS, JETS were back on the right track. Not so fast…

Whaaaa? So it took us the free agency period and the draft to decide we had the wrong GM and Pro Personnel Director in place? Where were these decisions as we slogged through the previous two pitifully bad seasons of Gang Green football? I thought we might actually be able to contend for a playoff spot this year? Apparently our owner thought otherwise. Again, WTF?

Poor Sam Darnold. He’s got this demented megalomaniac, Adam “Crazy Eyes” Gase, going all Mad Queen on the Jets franchise, with the owner himself playing the role of pet dragon, and Gase is the guy who’s going to turn Sam the Man into the next Tom Brady? I think newly acquired Le’Veon Bell spoke for us all when he remarked after the Maccagnan ousting that he wasn’t concerned, because over the years he has become quite familiar with dysfunction. Amen to that, brother.

As the immortal Sam Kinison once said, “Oh, OH, OHHHHHHH!!!!!”

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