On Thursday night, Barry Derr was reminded in stark metaphorical terms of his place in the entertainment pecking order. Thousands had come to downtown Los Angeles to see the big matchup: Candice versus Kree on American Idol. Barry and a few dissidents had come for Kings versus Sharks, a second-round NHL playoff game. The idols were greeted by a wide red carpet outside the Nokia Theatre, where teleprompters spit out inane questions (“What’s going on down there on the red carpet?”), and entertainment correspondents wore heavy makeup. The Kings had a deejay playing “Sweet Home Alabama.” Someone had strung up balloons. “If you’re born in L.A.,” Barry said, “you gotta fight to see a hockey game.”
You could forgive Kings fans for feeling like members of an out-of-the-way cult. This is partly because their team plays at Staples Center, which is nestled in a vast entertainment complex called L.A. Live and is just steps from the Nokia Theatre. L.A. Live is a place where TV shows are filmed so they can be shown to the West Coast on tape delay. It is also a favored site of movie premieres and VIP visits. Thus, a Kings fan leaving Staples often finds himself encountering Twilight fans who have bivouacked for the premiere, or emissaries from the South Korean presidential delegation. The two groups stare at one another as in a first-contact moment on Star Trek.
In case you were busy doing hilarious takes to a nonexistent camera when your friends and associates said absurd things, here's what you missed in sports on Thursday:
In a conclusion to a magnificently contested series that makes me wish to wax poetic, the San Antonio Spurs overcame a poor shooting night from their backcourt to oust the Golden State Warriors from the NBA playoffs with a 94-82 Game 6 win. Despite its premature end, twas a series in which all of the participants were worthy of the title warrior, even those generals who bestrode the sideline battling with their wits rather than their bodies. Sing oh muses of the ankle of Steph Curry, son of Dell, which brought countless ills first to his enemies, and then to himself! Such was the sovereign doom of a cursed team, and the will of Stern writ large: There shall be contested yet between famed warriors The Bron and Timothy Who Dunks a Finals that shall split the world in twine!
In a non-conclusion to an adequately contested series that makes me wish to speak plainly, the Knicks kept their hopes of an Eastern Conference finals showdown with Miami alive, beating a depleted Pacers team, 85-75, at Madison Square Garden. "Just taking it one day at a time," said Knicks coach Mike Woodson after the game, "because if we do more than that we'll become aware that the winner of this series gets the Heat and oh, no that's terrible! The winner of this series gets the Heat! Oh no, they have LeBron James and Dwyane Wade. Oh man, they also have Chris Bosh. Why did I stop taking it one day at a time? Why?"
In case you were out looking at buffalo and thanking the heavens that you never had to actually traverse the Oregon Trail by wagon, here's what you missed in sports on Tuesday:
Paul George and the Indiana Pacers remained red hot at home as they pushed the New York Knicks to the brink of elimination with a 93-82 win. This battle of the second- and third-best teams in the Eastern Conference has now tilted firmly in favor of Indiana, which has New York residents stunned. "This was our year," said Daniel Czaplinski of Woodside. "We at least had to make it to the Heat. The Pacers? Gimme a break. Who the heck are they?" When asked if he had seen the Pacers play at all this season, Czaplinski said, "Yeah, they had that Zeller kid, and Oladipo. Not sure what happened to them, but Melo shouldn't be letting this George Paul guy take over. This is an abomination and all these bums should be fired."
The Spurs grabbed a pivotal Game 5 win in the friendly confines of San Antonio, beating the Golden State Warriors, 109-91, behind 25 points and 10 assists from Tony Parker. Parker, a noted French person from Belgium, was quietly finishing off a pack of Gauloises after the game before he mused about the idea of a falcon he had in his mind. "You know, bird that does not exist, your ability to fly is less impressive to some because of your lack of corporeal form. But to me, nonexistent falcon I just named Tweet-Tweet, you are more impressive, as you at least know you do not exist, where as real falcons contend daily with the illusion of reality." After a brief pause when Tweet-Tweet likely asked Parker for his last Gauloise, as Parker dropped one onto the ground next to him, Parker added, "And that is how I defeat the Warriors. They expect me to move at speeds, or to distribute the basketball. But that's all the secondary creative act. The original creative act was forgetting my own creation. Here, let me imagine a treatise for you to read." Unfortunately, Tweet-Tweet does not read French, and used Parker's imaginary philosophical text as bedding for his imaginary nest.
In case you were busy dusting off the old Maypole a few days early so you can really get your Maypole dancing where you want it in time for May Day, here's what you missed in sports on Tuesday:
Denver kept its playoff hopes alive with a chippy 107-100 win over the Golden State Warriors. Both Warriors coach Mark Jackson and guard Stephen Curry complained about the Nuggets' physical play, and forward Kenneth Faried was singled out for a few illegal screens committed in the first quarter. "Is it illegal to commit an illegal screen?" Faried asked after the game. "Is jabbing a smaller man in the chest with your elbow, just to make him think all of a sudden, against the rules of basketball? Is it?" When told that it was, Faried responded, "Oh, it is? Really? Oh, man, I had no idea. I'll clean that up in the next one. My bad, Steph."
If the Los Angeles Kings are going to defend their Stanley Cup crown, they'll have to do better than their 2-1 opening-game defeat to the St. Louis Blues. Kings goalie and noted hockey satirist Jonathan Quick, whose careless giveaway led to the winning goal in overtime, said after the game, "I was caught in reverie, devising a modest proposal whereby the people of St. Louis might avoid the blues: They could eat their young. And then I thought maybe I could just let them score. And before the thought was even finished in my head, it had happened."
In the next few hours, a winning-goal scorer will think briefly about his accomplishment, and he will shrug and toothlessly smile. "Hey, that's playoff hockey," he will say, as if that explains it. In another room not far away, a heavy and defeated defenseman will shake his head, trying to find an answer for what went wrong. "We can't be making these mistakes," he will say. "This is playoff hockey."
The concept of playoff hockey is like the notion of wellness: It's an ideal, an asymptote, something to strive for and live by but not something that can be explained other than to crane your neck and give a head nod when a living example walks by. When it comes to wellness, routine begets stability and control. In playoff hockey, familiarity breeds sweet, sweet contempt.
And coming off a lockout-shortened season, this particular edition of playoff hockey ought to be as insane as ever. We'll be previewing the postseason series that begin this week. Here's a look at the three games making up the playoffs' opening schedule tonight.
The NHL playoffs are here, and if you cheer for one of the 16 teams that made the cut, you know what you need to do: Put fresh batteries in the remote, kiss your loved ones good-bye, and get ready for the emotional roller coaster that you’re about to ride.
But what if your team didn’t make it? What if you find yourself looking for a bandwagon to jump on over the next few weeks? Well, in that case you could refuse to do that because bandwagon-jumpers are the absolute worst fans in sports better choose carefully!
It’s not an easy decision. In fact, choosing a temporary team can be one of the toughest calls a sports fan can make. You want a team that’s fun to watch, is riding a nice story, and preferably has a chance to win at least a round or two. You might prefer a franchise with some recent success, but not so much that you seem like a front-runner. And of course, you’ll want to be associating yourself with a worthy fan base, even if the relationship is only going to be short term.
I’m here to help. So I went through all 16 playoff teams and ranked them in terms of their desirability as a bandwagon destination. If you want someone to root for during the postseason but you’re not sure which team to choose, consult this handy guide to make sure you don’t make a decision you’ll regret.
In case you were busy crashing Lark Voorhies's birthday party (and if so, kudos to you), here's what you missed in sports on Monday.
Tiger Woods had a vintage weekend as he both reclaimed the no. 1 world ranking in golf and won his record eighth Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill. When asked if things could be any better than they are right now, Woods responded, "Um, yes. Yes, they could. You have no idea." When asked to elaborate, Woods responded, "No, I better not. I I better not."
The Miami Heat ran their win streak to 27 games after a 108-94 win over the Orlando Magic. Miami forward Chris Bosh was jubilant after the performance, saying, "Big things are happening in Miami. I'm hoping this will finally get the media to pay attention to us down here. These 27 straight wins should definitely get us the attention we deserve."
There are umpteen NHL games going on at any given time, and it's always hard to know how to allocate your attention. Here's our recommendation for the most interesting of the week's many matchups.
Anaheim Ducks at Minnesota Wild Tuesday, 8 p.m. ET Fox Sports West 2/Fox Sports North
When the Chicago Blackhawks' prosperous romp through the NHL was finally stopped by the Colorado Avalanche on Friday — and stomped on by the Edmonton Oilers two days after that — the most noteworthy thing atop the Western Conference standings wasn't that Chicago had taken some sort of Secretariat-style lead on its opponents — it was that after all that, the Blackhawks actually weren't very far ahead of the flying-under-the-radar Anaheim Ducks.
We’ll use the same format as we did earlier this week — expectations, reality, and whether it will continue — but add a special fourth category to deal with the possible fallout if the player continues to struggle.
In case you were busy watching the test signal on the NFL RedZone channel and holding back the tears, here's what you missed in sports last weekend.
Notre Dame outlasted Louisville, 104-101, in a five-overtime thriller in South Bend. Now, I just looked at the box score for this game, and I saw something a bit suspicious. The score was the same at the end of regulation, the first overtime, the second overtime, the third overtime, and the fourth overtime? Isn't that a little fishy? A little too fishy? See, both teams had 60 points at the end of regulation. Then they both scored eight points in the first overtime. Then seven in the second. OK, that's weird enough, but get this: In the third overtime, they both scored eight again. Too much, right? But it gets worse. In the fourth overtime, they both score 10. Perfect 10. Then, just to throw me off the trail, Louisville scores eight again, but Notre Dame, the Irish, I kid you not, scores 11. Lucky number 11. Now I don't want to accuse the good people of Notre Dame of any misconduct without proof, but it seems as if they were trying to get the same score at the end of every period, doesn't it? Until, quite naturally, they scored two different numbers. Very clever, guys. A little too clever. I'm keeping my eye on you, Notre Dame.
Wisconsin upset Michigan, 65-62, in overtime, after Badgers junior Ben Brust made an improbable half-court shot to tie the game at the end of regulation. "That's the sort of shot that needs to be immortalized with a song parody," overexcited Wisconsin junior Walker Nelson said after the game. "How does Brustified sound? Like, Justin Timberlake? But like, with Brust. We could do a whole suite of parody songs, like, 'Bringing Devin Back' in reference to [former Badgers point guard] Devin Harris. I'm totally going to get on this right away." Nelson then went back to his fraternity house, where he watched his ill-conceived ’N Sync parody from freshman year, "J.J. Watt You Back," and thought long and hard about his life choices.
Just when we thought we’d seen it all in NHL shootout action, Alex Burrows proved us wrong. Plenty of players have used the ol’ spinorama in a shootout. But none of them ever came up with that whole “ignore the puck entirely when you do it” angle that Burrows broke out Monday:
Presumably, Burrows was hoping Kings goalie Jonathan Quick would be so mesmerized by his moves that he’d vacate the net entirely. Quick refused to bite, unlike some people we could mention.
So yes, the move was a disaster. (And be sure to check out this fantastic frame-by-frame breakdown of Burrows watching the replay.) But in a sense, you can understand what happened here. During regulation play, a breakaway is almost by definition a surprise play that develops in an instant. There’s a smart breakout pass or a great individual effort or a bad turnover, and suddenly someone’s in all alone. At most, that player gets a few seconds to decide what to do. Instinct takes over.
But when the actual hockey game is over and the convoluted individual skills competition starts, players suddenly have time to think about what they should do. And in some cases, as Burrows showed us, they can use that time to over-think things.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. By following just a few simple rules, players could avoid becoming the next Alex Burrows. All they need to do is know their history, learn from the mistakes of others, and observe the 10 Commandments of NHL Shootouts.
We’re roughly 10 percent of the way through the NHL season, and that means it’s time for some teams to panic.
Not really, of course. Even in this abbreviated season, jumping to conclusions based on four or five games would be downright irrational. So any of you hockey fans who are completely rational when it comes to your team can go ahead and stop reading right now.
The other 98 percent of you still with me? Good. Let’s hit the panic button.
One note: We’re focused here on teams that are struggling relative to expectations. The Blue Jackets may have been iffy so far, but they’re clearly in rebuilding mode, and just about everyone had already picked them for last place. A team like that can’t be considered to be in panic mode by any reasonable definition.
The same can’t be said for many of the early season’s other underachievers. Here’s a look at some of the teams that aren’t living up to expectations right now:
In case you were busy explaining to your family that you aren't a "doomsday prepper," you're just ready for anything, here's what you missed in sports on Monday.
Tiger Woods secured his first victory of 2013, easing to a four shot win at the Farmers Open at Torrey Pines. "Winning big tournaments — nothing's better. This is the best feeling in the world," Woods said, before snapping a rubber band on his wrist really, really hard. "Yup, no feeling in the world is better than this one."
In case you were busy writing the first part of a gritty 3-D trilogy reimagining the story of Humpty Dumpty called "HD Volume One: Sitting on a Wall," here's what you missed in sports last weekend.
The Baltimore Ravens topped the Patriots, 28-13, behind three touchdown passes from quarterback Joe Flacco. After the game, Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs reportedly said, "Tell (the Patriots) to have fun at the Pro Bowl." When told this, Patriots quarterback Tom Brady grinned ear to ear, saying, "Terrell said that? Really? I thought that guy didn't like me, what with the all the hitting and screaming today. I guess I learned a valuable lesson in judging. Tell Terrell congratulations on his hard-fought victory, and that we will have a great time at the Pro Bowl because nothing is better than chilling with friends in Hawaii. And then tell him aloha, because, hello, what a great competitor; goodbye, I'll miss his sweet face; and I just love that guy's attitude!"
With the NHL season finally getting under way Saturday, one of the most critical early factors will be conditioning. Who’ll be ready to hit the ground running on Day 1, and who’ll need some time to get back to his usual output level?
That doesn’t just apply to players — fans will also have to ease themselves back into regular-season shape. For example, the NHL is serving up 13 games Saturday. That’s just way too many for a typical fan who's still shaking off the lockout rust. Try paying attention to every one of them, and you’re going to tear a groin.
Pace yourselves, hockey fans. Here are five games to focus on during the NHL’s long-awaited opening day: