*ESPN did training camp and 2011 season projections for the Buccaneers, Chiefs and 49ers this week. It’s April, and they are locked out. WTF?
*My World Series picks were the Oakland A’s and the Milwaukee Brewers. As of today the A’s are 5 up and 7 down and the Brewers are 5 and 5. Not a great start but when you make such bold picks, sometimes you get burned. We’ll see.
*Nobody knows who killed Rosie Larsen yet.
*Bonds’ head is turning north, so it looks like smooth sailing for this trip, now on with it.
No Longer a Major Sport
As far as I can see, the NHL has become about as relevant as “The Joy of Painting” reruns on PBS. I mean no disrespect to Bob Ross, may he rest in peace, but he’s not exactly blowing up the Nielsen’s, and neither is the NHL. Here are signs that your sport has become completely irrelevant. The first thing is when ESPN sportscenter, on the eve of your postseason kicking off, does nearly 10 minutes on the WNBA draft, and barely mentions the NHL. With the story lines the NHL has, and the fact that the Rangers, the top draw in the NHL, are in the playoffs, you should be able to easily grab some headlines from the WNBA. I mean, it’s the WNBA. Now I understand that the WNBA is an ESPN product, but really, 10 minutes to 3 minutes is a very large difference. The 2nd sign of the apocalypse is if you are buried on NBC once per week on a Sunday morning. Back in the day, this time slot was reserved for Roller Derby. The only reason I watch these games on Sunday is because I’m on the west coast, and it’s on at 9am. So I’m finished with it by lunchtime, and I have the rest of my day. And on that note, the NHL “Game of the Weak” on NBC leads you into Bull Riding. BULL RIDING? If you had any draw at all, they would have you lead into something more relevant, like the Jihadi games from Tehran, or something like that. And the final sign of the end times for you as a league in America is when your playoff games are being televised on a cable channel that only 50% of America can get if they wanted it. So that means, the most important games in your league, to determine who gets to play for your championship, are being shown to only 50% of the country, and I bet that only a 5% of those people are actually watching. Now in Canada the NHL is thriving. As a matter of fact, they cancelled a televised government debate for Wednesday night because the Montreal Canadians are opening there first round series with the Boston Bruins. Hockey is messing with the government in Canada. Makes you feel good to be an American, doesn’t it? A make-up date for the debate has not been set yet for those of you following the Queen’s government. However the one thing the NHL, nor anyone else for that matter can compete with is RUSH. Apparently, the same Canadiens-Bruins series Game 3 is being pushed back a night so RUSH can tear the face off of Montreal’s Molson Centre. You damn right, eh. “Living in the Limelight the universal dream” I’m air drumming right now.
Defending your title
Not to pick on the NHL anymore, but they are quite the easy target these days. The Chicago Blackhawks, the defending Stanley Cup champs, backed into the playoffs yesterday when they lost to the Red Wings, but benefitted from an equally inept Dallas Stars team, who lost with the playoffs on their stick. So with this in mind, I went back through the annuls of sports history to around 1980 or so, searching for past champions who never even got a chance to defend their title on the biggest stage. In the NHL, it doesn’t happen very often because well almost every team makes the playoffs. So that list was very short at the 2007 Carolina Hurricanes. You have to suck on an exceptional level to not make the playoffs in the NHL.
In the NBA, it’s a similar story; most of the teams make the playoffs every year. So you have to either be decimated by injuries, suck big time, or have to replace someone as legendary as Michael Jordan, which is exactly the circumstances the 1999 Chicago Bulls found themselves in. So they didn’t make the playoffs after a 6 title in 8 year run, so no one holds it against them.
In baseball, this happens more often than any other sport. If you go all the way back before the wild card was a factor, this was a yearly occurrence. Because back then, you had to win your division to make the playoffs. But even now, only 4 teams per League make the playoffs, so it happens quite a bit. As a matter of fact it was only 3 years ago that the St. Louis Cardinals after an improbable run in 2006 to a World Series title, failed to reach the postseason the following year. The 2006 version of the red birds are and probably will always be, the worst MLB champs with an 83-78 regular season record, exactly 12 games worse than there World Series opponent, so when the 2007 squad failed to make the post season, I don’t think anyone was shocked. Other notables were the 2004 Florida Marlins, 2003 Anaheim Angels and the 2006 Chicago White Sox.
In the NFL, the Super Bowl champ almost always answers the bell, except for one, The Pittsburgh Steelers. 3 times in the illustrious history of this great franchise, the Steelers failed to qualify for postseason play and defend the title they had one the year prior. The last 2 times it was due to career rapist and all around douche bag Ben Roethlisberger and his bag of irresponsible decisions. In 2006, Ben was involved in a Motorcycle crash and the first of his rape accusations came down, and then in 2009, Ben was at it again with the young ones. Man, there are some hot cougars out there, hands off the high school girls bro. The other Steeler team not to answer the bell was in 1980. Other notables from the NFL were the Super Bowl I & II winners, the Green Bay Packers, and Super Bowl IV winners, the Kansas City Chiefs also failed to make the postseason after winning it all the year prior.
Mason on Steroids
“He’s been on this crusade about HGH, but he needs to be on a crusade about getting these owners together and trying to work out a deal. To me, he’s a joke, because every time I look, he’s talking about performance enhancements instead of talking about trying to figure out a way to make sure football is played in August.”
That was Derrick Mason from the Baltimore Ravens, commenting on Roger Goodell’s remarks demanding a drug program in the NFL that includes; testing for HGH in the new Collective Bargaining agreement. Remember, you heard it here first. Derrick Mason is on performance enhancing drugs. What other conclusion can you draw from this statement made on the “Norris and Davis Show” on 107.5 in Baltimore last week. Anyone who comes out so strongly against something like this is running from someone. Derrick Mason, a 37 year old WR, stands to lose a lot by sitting out this season, I get that. I can also see the outrage when you hear the commissioner come out and basically add another issue to an Alp sized mountain of issues that they are already fighting over. On the other hand, I can also see, if you’re me, how someone who was trying to prolong his career, uhmmm chemically, would be outraged over adding a more stringent drug testing program to the deal of the future. Derrick appeared on ESPN’s First Take as I was writing this, and seemed to back off these statements a little bit, but not totally. If I were an NFL player, I would not want to mess with Godfather Goodell. You’re just taking your NFL life into your own hands. But everyone has their mountain to die on; I guess Derrick has chosen his.
Meanwhile, Back in the NHL
I hate to dump on the NHL but my ex-passion is really screwing themselves at every turn. So I’m watching ESPN First Take on ESPN 2 and the NHL finally gets a segment of roughly 7 to 10 minutes to really preview there upcoming postseason. I guess the segment as a whole was ok, but here was where it got irritating. I don’t want to tell Barry Melrose that he doesn’t know what he’s talking about, or where to bet his money if he’s inclined to do so, but if you FINALLY get a segment on “The Leader in Worldwide Sports” to discuss your sport, you really need to step it up. Say something bold, something news worthy. His picks were ridiculously predictable. My 8 year old could make Melrose’s picks. First off, he picked the two #1 seeds to face off in the Finals. WOW, that’s a bold one. I bet Barry picked the four #1’s in the NCAA as well. Stop being so scared of being wrong. Nobody cares if you are wrong, especially if you go safe like that. Then when asked for a dark horse, he picks the Anaheim Ducks, a #4 seed. Stop the presses that would a REAL UPSET, if a 4 wins it all. Let’s go through the history here Barry.
*Seven #8 seeds have beaten a #1 seed
*In 14 seasons only six #1 seeds have won the cup
*Only once has two #1 seeds played each other for the title
*5 teams seeded 5th or higher have made the finals
*Three 4 seeds and a 5 seed have won the cup
Now I know what some of you are saying “since #1 seeds don’t win that often, it’s kind of a bold pick.” If you think this, you are an NHL apologist. I used to be one of those, it’s a lonely existence. It’s lazy and short sighted. Barry is not here to be right, he’s here to promote the sport right? Look, if I were an analyst for any sport I would always make the outlandish pick. Why? I, as a fan, never remember the guy who picked the #1 seed or the favorite to win a big game or tourney. But I do remember the guy who sticks his neck out, and picks Butler to go to the Final Four. Now I know any dick can just pick an 8 seed and get lucky, but if they back it up with an explanation, I’m game. During Barry’s picks his reasons for picking Vancouver and the Caps were “they are the most talented and they’ve been tough all season.” NO SHIT! That’s why they are…..wait for it Barry…..#1! But look at some of the other factors. The Caps are facing the Rangers in the 1st round. Now the Rangers are 3-1 against the Caps this year. Did Barry say that, no. There are many reasons why any team can win or lose, it’s all about match-ups, and Barry you failed to shine a spotlight on the match-ups. You failed to shine a spotlight on your league. I mean what good does it do to discuss Sidney Crosby when he may not even play, and if he does, he may not be any good. He certainly will not be at 100%, so why not spend some time talking about the Sharks, who have quietly put themselves in position to FINALLY win it all. Or the Red Wings continued dominance of the NHL. They may not win every year, but the Atlanta Braves of hockey continue to answer the bell. I hope soon, before it’s too late, the NHL begin to take advantage of the few opportunities it’s afforded. Get rid of Barry Melrose, find someone with some balls like Mick Vikoda or Tie Domi, and have these guys do the analysis. They may not be the smartest, but God they would be entertaining. BTW, the Phoenix Coyotes and the Buffalo Sabres are going all the way. BANK IT!
Strippers and prostitutes in the Las Vegas area were dealt a terrible blow today when the NBA cancelled its summer league in Vegas for the year. The NBA sighted impending labor strife as its reason for the cancellation. The NBA owners and players have not met formally since February to try and hammer out a new collective bargaining agreement. So the NBA has fired the first shot by cancelling the summer league that is hosted by Vegas every year. But who are the real victims here? The strippers and the pros that make large bank by entertaining the NBA’s young stars and borderline players during these summer sessions. I guess the pros and strippers will have to wait for Tiger Woods and the PGA tour to blow through Reno in August.
Jack Buck’s MNF Memories