Archive for June 2009

RIP King of Pop

June 25, 2009

As I sit here punching the keyboard I am in a total state of shock and sadness that Michael Jackson has died today at the age of 50.  I will remember him for many things both good and bad but above all else I will remember him for the wonderful and timeless music that he made. 

 Although it was more than 25 years ago, I can still remember being scared and running out of the room when watching the Thriller video as a child.  I’ll never forget sitting there in amazement when I first saw him moonwalk across the stage while singing Billie Jean at the Motown 25th Anniversary show.  He was the first “cool” musician I can ever recall in my life.  The man was like no other.  He was the greatest performer of my generation.  He transcended the art form of music and entertainment. 

While it’s his music that I will think of first and foremost, I will also recall his contributions to humanity.  He wrote “We Are The World” and was able to bring together many great musicians to record the song and most importantly help people in need from all corners of the Earth.  He was recognized by world leaders for his contributions to humanity. 

Michael Jackson was not without fault.  Despite all of the wonderful things that I will remember him for, I can’t forget the scandals in his life due to his alleged behavior with children.  Although he was never convicted of those charges, at some point when I think of him, the image of his statements proclaiming innocence against a red back drop will forever be burned into my eyes. 

All of us are far from perfect and have our faults.  When our time comes, most of us hope that we will be remembered for the good we did and for the positive impacts that we had on society and those around us.  On that note I would like to send my condolences to the family and friends of Michael Jackson and lastly I would like to say thank you for the good you did in the world.   Thank you for the happiness that you made me feel when I listened to your music.  Thank you for the joy that I felt when I watched you perform.  The world is a sadder and less entertaining place without you.  Rest in peace Michael Jackson.  You’ll never be forgotten, but you will be missed.

Why I’m Not A Fan Of Drafts

June 25, 2009

Every year between January and June sports fans hear such common terms as, “he has amazing speed”, “what great foot work”, “he can jump out of the gym”, “he can hit 100 miles per hour on the radar gun” or my personal favorite, “he’s a can’t miss prospect”.  That’s right.  I’m talking about the respective drafts of the NFL, MLB, NBA and NHL or any sport for that matter.

As someone who follows all of the sports listed above, these are things that I read or hear on a daily basis as the respective draft gurus began their guessing and speculation on who will be the next “big thing” and that’s exactly what it is too, guessing.  Albeit educated guessing, but guessing nonetheless. 

Every sports fan has one of those friends, including myself, who wait on pins and needles as these educated guessers give us the latest on who is moving up or down draft boards.  They go online several times a day in hopes of seeing (insert name of guru’s) latest mock draft.  There are even those who pour tons of dollars into buying the draft guides from several of their “heroes”.

I am just not one of those guys.  As a sports fan of over 25 years, I have yet to understand the appeal of a draft.  After about a week of hearing discussion on any particular draft I am ready to just throw my radio out the car.  It’s the same mind numbing discussion over and over again.  The NFL is the worst at this.  Almost four months pass between the end of the season and the time where we see Commissioner Roger Goodell at the podium announcing a team’s pick. 

Why does the NFL need so much time to hold their draft?  The NBA and NHL drafts are only a few weeks after their respective postseasons end and they invest just as much money if not more into their prospective athletes, due to the fact that those contracts are guaranteed.

Major League Baseball does things even better by holding their draft during the season so at least the discussion surrounding it is on the back burner behind what’s actually going on in the major leagues, between paid professionals who are already performing at the highest level. 

I have tried several times to sit down and watch a draft unfold.  Every time I have the same result.  I hit the eject button after about five picks.  I start asking myself, “how do people do it, how can they just sit here and watch this thing?”  All I can think about is the fact that I just wasted part of my life and those are minutes or an hour that I’ll never get back.   

What kills me the most about drafts is the discussion on what teams had a good draft as opposed to what teams had a bad one.  How can that question be answered logically?  No one knows how these guys are going to perform on the highest level.  That is a question that can only be answered accurately with the passing of several seasons, not the passing of several hours or one single day. 

Several years ago ESPN ran a series of commercials for the NFL draft in which they showed a guy who was drafted in the later rounds making plays against guys that were drafted in the earlier rounds.  Their point was to get you to watch because you never know where the stars of tomorrow will get selected.  What I took from it was that all this speculation and educated guessing is a waste of time and energy.  There is nothing that I can’t read about online later that night or in the newspaper the next day over a few minutes that’s worth me sitting through hours on the couch to find out.       

As you can figure out by looking at this blog page, I am as passionate a sports fan as anybody.  I love the fact that there are no two games that are exactly alike.  Each game gives us the chance to see something amazing or disappointing that we might never see again.  Sports are the most authentic reality show with nightly drama unfolding with every pitch or tick of the clock. 

I am passionate when discussing sports or sharing my opinions on things that have happened between the lines by actual athletes that have accomplished things on the highest level and not on what they might do based on their achievements at the amateur level.  There is no draft that is worth me dedicating more hours of my day to watch than I would to a game where things that actually matter happen.    

Enjoy yourself tonight fans of the NBA draft.  Have fun making your educated guesses and cheering and booing the good or bad picks.  If a trade happens that involves actual professional players let me know, (especially if it involves the Lakers) but if not, I’ll read all about it later and share my thoughts on the players in a season or two.

Brett Favre: Wants to Play For The Wrong Reasons

June 18, 2009

For NFL fans spring and summer is a time of transition from one year to the next.  Football has become a year round sport, between the draft, offseason moves, and the actual season itself.  Typical questions during the offseason include:  What free agents are my team going to be able to sign?  What players can they bring back?  Who should my team draft?  What rookies are making a big impression in OTA’s or during camp?  Is Brett Favre going to retire or play another year? 

Football fans around the world are once again subjected to the annual offseason miniseries entitled “As The Favre Turns.”  I have gotten to the point where I have stopped reading every article, listening to every story on TV and radio, or waiting on pins and needles regarding Favre and his inevitable decision whether to spend time with his family in Mississippi or return to a NFL stadium near you.

I just wish that he would make his mind up quickly and let some of the other important stories that surround the league come to the forefront.  There has been much discussion about why Favre should retire or continue his Hall of Fame career.  Regardless of what we, the fans, think Favre should do, he has earned the right to end his career on his own terms.  If he is still able to perform at a level that is high enough to satisfy the front office and coaching staff of a National Football League team then he should be able to continue his career.

With that being said, Favre should hang it up and call it a career.  I am really hoping that he doesn’t come back and play.  If he still wants to play because of his love for the game or to earn a substantial living, then that’s one thing.  In my eyes, Favre is not considering returning for any one of those reasons, but is doing it solely to spite the Green Bay Packers.  That is the tragedy in this whole matter. 

Green Bay was not wrong in their decision to let Favre go last offseason.  He had made his decision to “retire” and so they moved on.  What were they supposed to do?  They couldn’t just sit back and wait for him to change his mind.  Not to mention that Favre was 38 years old at the time and they had Aaron Rodgers, a 2005 first round draft pick, on the bench.  They owed it to themselves to see what they had in the significantly younger Rodgers who had been sitting on the bench for three seasons. 

Furthermore Green Bay was right in their decision to trade Favre to a team of their choosing.  There is no way that I would trade a Super Bowl winning legend on my team to a divisional rival.  Teams in every sport refuse to trade players to division rivals every year.  The Packers were not doing anything that was unreasonable. 

Would I have liked to have seen a better end to Favre’s time in Green Bay?  Without a doubt.  But when a player refuses to stick to the decision he made, this is what happens.  Favre made the mistake of thinking  he is bigger than the Packers.  No player on any team is bigger than the team itself. 

It is shameful that Favre is using spite as his motivation to return to the gridiron.  It is disappointing to see him treat the franchise that gave him the opportunity to become a legend in such a disrespectful manner.  Let us hope that the image of Brett Favre in a purple and white NFL uniform on Sundays is something that we will never be unfortunate enough to see.

Lakers Make Magic Disappear To Win NBA Title

June 15, 2009

To steal from the immortal Chick Hearn, “This season’s in the refrigerator.  The lights are out, the eggs are coolin’, the butters getting hard and the jello’s jigglin’.  For the 15th time in franchise history, the Los Angeles Lakers are NBA champions!” 

With a 99-86 victory Sunday night, the Lakers road back to the top ended by dispatching the Orlando Magic in five games to become the 2009 NBA Champions.  Kobe Bryant was named Finals MVP after averaging 32.4 points, 7.4 assists, 5.6 rebounds, 1.4 blocks and 1.4 steals per game in the Finals on his way to winning the fourth championship of his career. 

For Bryant and the Lakers it was a long road back to the top of the NBA mountain.  A seven year journey to be exact.  The travel included Bryant dealing with rape allegations, a Finals loss to the underdog Detroit Pistons in 2004 that was followed by the trading of Shaquille O’Neal to Miami and Phil Jackson stepping down as head coach, thus ending a dynasty. 

The low point was 2005 when the Lakers missed the playoffs.  Although Jackson returned as coach after a one year sabbatical, 2006 and 2007 both ended in first round playoff defeats to the Phoenix Suns which resulted in Bryant publicly requesting a trade from the team. 

Last year things began to turn around for the Lakers as they made a return trip to the NBA Finals before being eliminated with an exclamation point at the hands of the Boston Celtics by 39 points in Game Six.  But it was that painful lesson that gave the Lakers the motivation and focus to return to the Finals but get different results. 

That result was the Lakers winning the fifteenth championship in their storied history.  Phil Jackson moved into a class by himself winning his tenth title as a coach passing Red Auerbach.  For Kobe Bryant, he put to rest the biggest criticism of his career.  No longer will he have to hear that he couldn’t win a title without O’Neal.

Credit must also be given to Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak for having the patience to stick with his plan despite the pressure from both Kobe Bryant and Laker fans alike.  The team would not have reached this moment without the draft picks and trades that he was able to make.  Luke Walton, Sasha Vujacic, Andrew Bynum and Jordan Farmar all made contributions during the season.  All were draft picks made by Kupchak. 

Two major pieces to this years championship puzzle were made via trade under Kupchak when he outright “gun and ski masked” Pau Gasol and Trevor Ariza from Memphis and Orlando respectively.  The talent that he received in exchange for what he gave up for those players was downright criminal.  Do any Laker fans even miss Brian Cook, Maurice Evans and Kwame Brown?

Laker fans will rejoice in the glory of another title and many will head to downtown Los Angeles Wednesday to see the parade featuring their championship heroes.  The legions of purple and gold followers will have lots to celebrate over the next few days.    Enjoy it while you can because if the last seven years have taught us anything, it’s that these championships fade into the rear view mirror just as fast as they appear on the horizon.  This Laker fan will milk the next couple of days for all they’re worth.

Fisher King Reigns Supreme In Game Four

June 12, 2009

If you didn’t watch the game and only took a look at the box score, nothing about Derek Fisher’s stat line jumps out at you.  In 42 minutes he finished with 12 points, one assist, four rebounds,  and two steals.  He shot just 5-for-11 including only 2-for-7 from the three point line. 

If you did watch the game and then looked at the stat sheet, one number will jump out at you, the number two, as in two three pointers made.  Fisher missed his first five three point attempts from behind the arc but as the good veterans do, he did not let it affect him mentally. 

He did not let it affect his confidence when he made the two biggest three pointers in his life.  One tied the game to eventually send it into overtime.  The second came in overtime and essentially won the game for the Lakers 99-91 to give them a 3-1 series lead.  With those two shots, Derek Fisher cemented his status as a Laker legend.

On the other side, the Orlando Magic will remember that they had a five point lead with less than a minute left in the game.  With eleven seconds left to play, the Magic maintained a three point lead and their superstar center Dwight Howard stepped to the free throw line needing to make just one of two attempts to make it a two possession game and essentially seal the deal. 

Unfortunately for Magic fans, the ghost of Nick Anderson reared his ugly head as Howard missed both free throws, giving the Lakers life, which was all their veteran laden team would need.  Just like the Laker fans will remember the number two for what Fisher did, Magic fans will remember that same number for what Howard did not.

In fairness to Howard, it was not all his fault.  Some other things that I will remember are Hedo Turkoglu missing three of four free throws in two trips to the line late in the fourth quarter.  I will also remember Orlando point guard Jameer Nelson having a mental breakdown by positioning himself defensively inside the three point line.  That mistake allowed Fisher to step up in rhythm and make the first of two shots that will go down in Laker lore. 

History shows that essentially this series is over.  No team has ever rebounded from a 3-1 deficit in the NBA Finals.  For the Magic, they will never see a better opportunity than the one they saw Thursday night.  Kobe Bryant had another poor shooting performance hitting on just 11-of-31 shots finishing with 32 points, 7 rebounds and 8 assists. 

Andrew Bynum, Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom were all in foul trouble for much of the night.  The three were on the bench at the same time during a second quarter that saw Orlando take a 12 point lead at halftime.  When was the last time that you saw both DJ Mbenga and Josh Powell on the court at the same time playing crucial minutes?  Right around never.

Magic head coach Stan Van Gundy in the post-game press conference said that he didn’t think that experience had anything to do with what happened in Game Four.  I disagree.  Starting the second half, Orlando had all the momentum with a lead and a crazy crowd that was giving them life. 

At this point, experience played a big part in what occurred in the second half.  The Lakers opened the third quarter on a 18-5 run over the first six minutes to take a one point lead.  Trevor Ariza led the attack by scoring eleven points in that span and finished with 13 points in the third quarter.  The Lakers would outscore the Magic 30-14 in the third quarter turning a 12 point halftime deficit into a four point lead through three. 

Experience contributed to what happened down the stretch in the fourth quarter.  The Lakers were calm, cool, collected and it showed in their execution.  Orlando looked rattled contributing to their inability to take care of the ball and hit shots from the free throw line.  The Magic shot just 59.5 percent as a team from the charity stripe and turned the ball over 17 times. 

The only questions that remain now are, “Can the Magic rebound mentally from blowing a golden opportunity to even things up and send the series back to Los Angeles?” or “Do the Lakers smell blood in the water and go in for the kill?”  Sunday night we’ll have our answer.

San Francisco Giants Honor Their Shortcoming Against The Team That Caused It

June 11, 2009

As a southern California sports fan, I consider myself behind enemy lines when it comes to viewing games on television.  Because I live in Fresno, I am in the northern California viewing region. 

Instead of being able to watch teams that I care about on a regular basis like the Lakers, Dodgers, Angels, LA Kings, etc., I get the pleasure of being subjected to the Warriors, Sacramento Kings, Sharks, A’s and Giants.

Today was one of those days where I was actually happy I came across a Giants game.  They were playing the Arizona Diamondbacks and as every team does, they were advertising some of the special events that were coming up on the next homestand. 

It was at this point where I had to stop what I was doing, grab the remote and rewind things back to make sure I heard things correctly.  A second listening confirmed what I thought I heard the first time around.  I was completely dumbfounded to the point where I just had to chuckle. 

This Saturday the San Francisco Giants are honoring their 1989 NL Pennant winning team before the game when they take on, wait for it…the Oakland A’s. 

Considering the fact that the A’s beat the Giants like a drum en route to sweeping them in that series, am I the only one who finds irony in this? 

I understand this is the 20 year anniversary of a significant team in the history of the San Francisco Giants, but for crying out loud, you don’t do it against the team that dropped a beat down on you and kept things from becoming “1989 World Series Champion San Francisco Giants”.

Somebody please explain to me what the Giants promotional department was thinking?  There are six months in a baseball season and which equates to about 24 weekends and you pick the one where you’re playing the A’s.  I’d like to think even a monkey would have more sense than to green light that planning. 

Long time fans will not be able to help being reminded of the “agony of defeat” that occurred that postseason when they look across the diamond and see the green and gold of their east bay rival in the visitors dugout. 

What’s next, is boxing going to honor the career accomplishments of George Foreman in Zaire where he had the most famous loss of his career against Muhammad Ali?  It makes the exact same sense as what the Giants are doing this weekend.

Orlando Magic: Magical Shooting In Game Three Victory

June 9, 2009

You knew it was only a matter of time in this series before the Orlando Magic would play their best game. From the opening tip, they hit shot after shot after shot. 

In the first half, the Magic set a record for the best shooting percentage in any half of an NBA Finals game, shooting 75 percent. They set another record for a single game by finishing with a shooting percentage of 62.5 percent on their way to a 108-104 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers. 

No Orlando starter hit less than 50 percent of their shooting attempts. Mickael Pietrus got into the act, coming off the bench to shoot 7-for-11 and finish with 18 points. 

The Magic have been able to get back into the series due to excellent production from the aforementioned Pietrus, along with point guard Rafer Alston, who finished with 20 points on the night. For the first time all series, the Magic were finally able to get productive play from their guards. 

From field goal percentage, to guard play, to taking care of the ball, everything went Orlando’s way on the stat sheet, and yet they still only beat the Lakers by four points. 

Los Angeles was in this game until the very end. Kobe Bryant missed a crucial free throw down the stretch and committed a costly turnover with the game still in reach. Bryant finished with 31 points and eight assists but went three-for-14 from the field after making eight of his first eleven shots. Pau Gasol scored 23 points but only grabbed three rebounds.

Another missing ingredient from tonight’s Laker box score was the production of Lamar Odom. Odom finished with just 11 points and two rebounds. Odom seemed to be out of the rhythm of the game in the first three quarters because of foul trouble. In the fourth quarter he finally started to play aggressively by driving the ball to the basket and picking up points. 

Trevor Ariza, who has shot close to 50 percent for the playoffs from the three point line, had an off night. Ariza connected on just two of his seven attempts from behind the arc. 

Tonight was a big win for Orlando, and it couldn’t have come at a better time. They had to pull out tonight’s game to have any shot of beating the Lakers in this series. They fed off the energy of the home crowd and played their best game against Los Angeles.

Orlando now has one game under their belt, and most importantly, the confidence that they can win games in this series. This could be the spring board to great things for them in the remaining games of the series, and I wouldn’t be surprised at all if they even things up on Thursday night.

That being said, the Lakers are a veteran group that has been to the Finals before and Bryant and Fisher have each been on three championship teams in their careers. They know that defensively they did not bring anything close to their best effort. 

I look for Phil Jackson to make the necessary adjustments, and for the Lakers to have confidence in the fact that Orlando played at their best and still only beat them by four points. Like Orlando, the Lakers have showed an ability of their own to come back in the next game from sub par efforts. 

With Game Three turning out the way it did, both teams have a lot to build on for Thursday night. Will the Magic even up the series? Will the Lakers be one game away from winning a 15th championship? We’ll all find out a little less than 48 hours from now.