Saturday, June 19, 2010

Fathers' Day Gift: "Are We Winning?"

Looking for a last-minute Father's Day gift? I recommend heading to the local bookstore to pick up the book "Are We Winning?" by Will Leitch, reviewed here last month with a tribute to my own dad.

Saturday (Robbed!) Quickie

The US-Slovenia tie -- or "tie" -- yesterday left me entirely conflicted. On the one hand, after going down 2-0 at half, salvaging a tie was a gift.

On the other hand...


Robbed of the 3 points, yes. But robbed of one of the greatest comebacks in US sports history. I'm not talking about in international competition. I'm talking about "Red Sox Come Back from 0-3 in the 2004 ALCS" territory. I'm talking about "Bills Come Back from Being a Jillion Down Against The Oilers In the Playoffs" territory. But so much bigger. Because baseball runs and football touchdowns are relatively easy to score, compared to World Cup goals.

This was a travesty. The US earned that win. When I think about it too hard, I get angry, so I'll let it go now. The game next week vs. Algeria is going to be bonkers.

More, very quickly:

*Well, at least we weren't England, with the nil-nil result.

*Strasburg Mania: 10 Ks, 0 BBs, 1 ER, 7 IP. Cripes.

*Break 'em up: Mets beat Yankees to win 8th straight

*Phil's 66: At some point, everyone will agree he has surpassed Tiger.

Back to World Cup. The vuvuzelas just got louder....

-- D.S.

Friday, June 18, 2010

06/18 Quickie: Lakers, Artest, USA

Well, that Game 7 was a grinder -- but that meant that the 4th quarter was close, with plenty of chances for big shots... none bigger than that 3 by Ron Artest to basically win the game for LA.

When the game was over, the instant reaction was that we will not remember the build-up to Game 7; as usual, we will remember the champs -- Lakers repeating, Kobe winning his 5th ring.

But then Ron Artest did his post-game interview with Doris Burke, and we had the kind of crazy joy that only Ron-Ron can provide. How could I not lead today's SN column with Artest?

He thanked his therapist -- not his physical therapist, his psychotherapist. And in the litany of thanks he offered, that one stood out, for two reasons:

(1) Only Ron Artest would acknowledge that he uses a shrink. (2) His shrink, apparently, gave him the confidence to shoot (and make) that game-sealing 3. So kudos to YOU, "Dr. Sandy."

For me, Artest is the defining player of this Lakers championship. He was the change from last year's title to this year's. He personified the intensity of Game 7. He carried the team when Kobe was doing his best John Starks impression. (OK: Kobe wasn't THAT bad. Hardly.)

Ron thanked everyone. I say: Thank YOU, Ron-Ron.

More you'll find in today's column:

*Are the Celtics finished? (No.)

*How about Phil Jackson and Doc Rivers? (Maybe.)

*Is this a must-win for US Soccer?

*Tiger hates Pebble Beach greens.

*More love for Utah.

*Ubaldomania. Enough said.

Complete column here. More later.

-- D.S.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

My Life As a Terrible Youth League Goalie

The great folks at The Awl were good enough to publish a piece I wrote for them about my experience as a youth-league soccer goalie in the early 1980s that gave me extra empathy for Robert Green. Check it out. I really was quite bad.

06/17 Quickie: Game 7, Spain, US Open

My only problem with the whole "This is the biggest NBA game since the 1984 Finals Game 7 -- if not ever" thing is that it is entirely about pre-game expectations.

The reality is two-fold: (1) Expectations rarely match how the game unfolds, and (2) no one ever remembers the expectations, just the result.

And so I'm left with the idea in today's SN column that there is no way this game can live up to the hype -- short of a clutch play in the game's final seconds that caps a back-and-forth 4th-quarter battle, I guess.

So the superlative qualifier really should be "the most anticipated NBA game since the 1984 Finals Game 7." That's what I mean by "biggest" -- it's supposed to be implied. But I appreciate the need to clarify it.

And I remain skeptical that the game can live up to the massive hype (recognizing that I am contributing to that hype).

More you'll find in today's column:

*There isn't a bigger choker in sports than Spain soccer in the World Cup. Yesterday wasn't the biggest upset ever in soccer, but it sure was a shocker.

*Given the hype for how well Tiger has played at Pebble Beach, his inevitable failure at the US Open will be another of his continuing humiliations.

*I think Jamie Moyer is the most interesting player in baseball. You could make the argument that a 47-year-old waltzing into Yankee Stadium and beating the Yankees is a bigger achievement than the Perfect Games or Strasburg. I'd like to see Strasburg pitch when he's 47 -- or 37, for that matter. And if Strasburg wants to match Moyer's career win total by the time he is 37, he will need to average 18 wins a season for 15 seasons. Umm...not going to happen.

*I reiterate that Utah will be the best bowl-eligible team in the Pac-10 when it joins. I think Pac-10 fans have no idea what is about to hit them.

*John Wall is going to work out for the Wizards today. I can't help but be giddy about that.

More later. With a round of opening games behind us in the World Cup, the games take on a slightly more urgent feel. Complete column here.

-- D.S.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

06/16 Quickie: Game 7, Izzo, Pac-12

Flashes of classic Quickie-style "Instant History" in today's SN column:

Is tomorrow night the biggest game in NBA history?

At the very least, is it the single biggest NBA game since the last time the Lakers and Celtics played a Finals Game 7, back in 1984?

When considering the Jordan Era of the 90s or the Kobe/Shaq and Duncan combo-dynasty of the past decade -- which were defined by dominance, not drama -- it is at least in the discussion.

(Since '84, I'll take some votes for Knicks-Rockets Game 7 in 1994, but that seems like something only a New Yorker would offer up. I don't think you'd say it was bigger than Lakers-Celtics '84.)

What I find most interesting is that in all the insta-nostalgia for 1984, consider that if you're under 30, you have no recollection of the 1984 Finals.

If you're under 40, you might -- might. But it would have merely a hazy (if formative) place in your development as a sports fan.

If you're older than 40, it will bring back all sorts of memories. If you're older than 60, you even get to add in context of the Lakers-Celtics Game 7s of the 1960s.

But the fact is that all that nostalgia compounds to make 2010 even bigger. Then layer in things that would have been fiction in 1984 -- 24/7 sports cycles, the Web, social media.

It is refreshing to consider that with a combination of retro and nouveau, tomorrow night's game breaks through the weight of history -- particularly the NBA's hallowed (if overrated) "Golden Age" of the 1980s -- to stand on its own.


More you'll find in today's column:

*Tom Izzo staying at Michigan State: I really wanted to nick him for his dalliance with the pros, but his discussion of staying was so heartfelt, I couldn't begrudge him any further. As I said last March, Izzo is the best coach in college basketball, and if anything, the drama of the past week will make Izzo's national title next April all the more dramatic.

*So I guess Roy Halladay won't be leading the Phillies past the Yankees in the World Series.

*David Price for AL Cy?

*I love Utah in the Pac-10. Consider this: Utah instantly becomes the best team in the league. At least the best bowl-eligible team in the league. Wonder if the Pac-10 will regret it after Utah wins the conference title in its first year of eligibility in the league?

*What a goal by Brazil's Maicon. Didn't think it was possible to score from that angle. (Today's game to watch: South Africa vs. Uruguay. What's the chance that every single game in Group A ends in a tie? Better than not! In that case, URU needs a goal to help its tie-breaker chances.)

*There are very few Jordan Farmar fans out there -- the ones who accept the ribbing from folks who find him an amusing sidebar. And so last night's Farmar posterizing of KG has to mark the player's finest moment ever.

Lots more in the column. Check it out here. More later.

-- D.S.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

06/15 Quickie: Big 12, Game 6, More

Let's be clear: It's not the Big 12. And that's not because there are only 10 teams in it. It's because there is Texas, then everyone else. It's more like a Big One (Plus Nine Afterthoughts).

As I put it in today's SN column, I don't begrudge Texas carving out their own individual TV deal to go along with the fictitious TV deal that Big 12 commish Dan Beebe has promised his members.

But let's not talk about Texas "saving" the Big 12 -- they maximized the deal for Texas, and if everyone else happened to get to stay in a solvent Big 12? Just an unintended bonus.

More you'll find in today's column:

*As long as you're not a Lakers or Celtics fans, you really can't lose tonight in Game 6 of the NBA Finals. I'd like to see it go to a Game 7, if only because little beats a Game 7.

*I'm getting really really tired of Tom Izzo, who is giving LeBron a run for his money as a "will-he-or-won't-he" diva holding his current team over a barrel. Classy!

*World Cup: The vuvuzelas are saved! Hooray for the world! Meanwhile, was anyone rooting (aside Italy fans) for Italy to tie Paraguay? Big day today: Brazil!

Tons more in the column. Check it out here.

-- D.S.

Monday, June 14, 2010

06/14 Quickie: Cup, A&M, Finals, Stras

To start things off, consider me firmly in the camp that would be entirely against banning vuvuzelas from the World Cup. They are a part of the regional sporting culture.

It would be like banning the Wave, or chants of "Dee!-Fense!" or morons who wave at TV cameras while using their cellphones as their buddies call to tell them they can see them on TV.

What a morning, hunh? Probably 5 things that could have led today's SN column:

*The World Cup is off to a rousing start. It's hard to complain about ties when the US tie with England was so dramatic. (Speaking of dramatic: Ghana!)

*Feels like the first four games of the NBA Finals were a sideshow of Ray Allen, Big Baby, Nate Robinson. Last night was for real -- Pierce vs. Kobe. (Lakers in 7!)

*Texas A&M to the SEC? That's how it is looking, and more power to the Aggies, who are ready to stick it to sibling Texas and claim all the cachet that comes with joining college football's best conference. (For a 14th, I think the SEC should go after UNC.)

*LeBron endorses Tom Izzo: Even if it is tacitly through an intermediary, LeBron wanted that message out there. This should embolden Izzo to take the job -- and embolden Cavs fans that LeBron might come back (if only for a mini-max deal for 3 years).

*Strasburg? OK, he only has racked up more Ks by a pitcher in his first two starts than any pitcher in the last half-century, but how about Ted Lilly's oh-so-close near-no-no?

You know who is loving life this morning? Vince Young. If this was a dull sports day, he would be in some trouble. Instead, his little club incident is an afterthought.

More World Cup all day. Almost assuredly, more drama out of the Big 12. Light MLB schedule. No NBA. Maybe some word from Izzo. Keep tracking.

And embrace the vuvuzela!

Complete SN column here.

-- D.S.

Sunday (Late Late Late) Quickie

I love the "US Wins 1-1" headline. That says it all.