In case you were out getting a terrifying vote of confidence from an eccentric Russian oligarch, here's what you missed in sports last weekend:
A rough day for the Manning family saw the Dallas Cowboys all but eliminate the Giants' scant playoff hopes with a 24-21 win at the Meadowlands. "The bad news is, we're probably headed home in December," Giants quarterback Eli Manning said after the game as he stroked his weird red mustache. "The good news is, Cooper said I can finally go to Space Camp this offseason. So it's all good news, because Space Camp is gonna be so worth it!"
A punt misplayed by Denver's Tony Carter in overtime proved to be the difference, as the New England Patriots beat the Denver Broncos, 34-31, in an instant classic. "At least I'm not that guy. At least I'm not Tony Carter," said world's saddest man Gary Pittson while watching the game's highlights from a motel room in West Memphis, Arkansas. The Ultimate Clarity: A Life-Changing Life System information session he had attended at the Memphis Airport Marriott had been a bit of a bust, if Pittson was being honest with himself. Sure, the day's speaker, former Denver Broncos offensive lineman Tony Jones, was possessed of Ultimate Clarity, but he couldn't see how the principles of confidence and serenity that Jones was espousing could apply to his life. Jones was a millionaire, and he was famous, and he was a Super Bowl champion. Pittson was a nobody. Also, the session was expensive, so much so that after paying for his flight and the fees and the books, Pittson certainly couldn't afford to stay at the Marriott, but being so far away made it hard to participate in the more social aspects of the information session. Pittson shook his head, looked back up at his TV, and took a deep breath as the highlight repeated itself. "At least I'm not that guy," Pittson said to no one. "At least I'm not Tony Carter."
In case you were busy confusing Jimmie Johnson, Jimmy Johnson, and a turkey sandwich, son, here's what you missed in sports last weekend:
Peyton Manning overcame an injured ankle and Kansas City's vaunted pass rush as the Broncos handed the Chiefs their first loss of the season, 27-17 in Denver. "Well, when you think Peyton, you think mobility," said Broncos interim head coach Jack Del Rio after the game. "So, it was definitely tough to deal with being forced to keep him in the pocket. But somehow, god bless him, he managed."
Indiana lost its first game of the NBA season as Derrick Rose's return sparked his Chicago Bulls to a 110-94 win. "D-Rose is going to make me broke," said Chicago fan Jesse Wilkerson while purchasing a brand-new Rose home jersey. When asked why he was buying Rose's jersey now, Wilkerson replied, "Look, if the guy's gonna play soft and miss games, I'm not going to not burn his jersey." Wilkerson, who once cried at a party at the University of Illinois when someone accidentally spilled his Corona Light, then added, "That's what fans do to toughen up their favorite players. Men gotta be tough, but they also have to be loyal."
In case you were busy frantically shorting Arian Foster futures, here's what you missed in sports on Thursday:
Mike Napoli hit a monster home run as the Boston Red Sox got to Anibal Sanchez and beat the Tigers, 4-3, to take a 3-2 ALCS lead back to Fenway Park. When asked how big a moment the home run was for him, Napoli shrugged, scratched his hairy face, and said, "Smallish? Scale of 1-10? I honestly don't care enough to rate it." When asked where he'd place the team's win in the context of Red Sox franchise history, Napoli yawned, drooled a little into his mustache, and said, "I couldn't care less about history. The only thing more boring than new baseball is old baseball." When asked why he has devoted his life to a pursuit he apparently thinks little of, Napoli stroked his beard and said, "Duh, beards." When told he didn't have to play baseball to grow a beard, Napoli chortled, filling his beard with spittle and sunflower-seed detritus, and asked, "Now who's being naive?" Napoli then ignored a text message from his girlfriend and said, "Now if you don't mind, my beard and I would like a little alone time," before walking into a supply closet at Comerica Park carrying a gilded comb.
You can't go very far these days without hearing a sports fan say, "I can't wait until college basketball starts." I'm not sure why they keep mispronouncing it as "football" — it must be a joke I missed, or a meme, or something — but the anticipation in the air is palpable. We're still a few months away from tip-off, though, so here are a few bits of news you may have missed during the long offseason. November's coming!
On a Scale From 1 to Johnny Manziel, P.J. Hairston's Idiot Ranking Is 8
With all his noteworthy teammates opting for the draft, P.J. Hairston was set to be North Carolina's primary star in 2013. You could argue he was last season, too, when the sophomore guard led the team with 14.6 points per game while averaging just 23 minutes, and shot nearly 40 percent from 3. Everything about his game improved from his freshman season, and he'll arguably be the best pure scorer in the ACC this year.
In case you were busy preparing for the first day of summer by getting all of your mosquito bites out of the way up front, here's what you missed in sports on Thursday:
In what can only be described as the culminating erotic explosion of basketball magnificence, the Miami Heat clinched their second consecutive NBA championship with a hard-fought 95-88 Game 7 win over the San Antonio Spurs. Wait, I'm hearing there are other ways to describe this NBA Finals: a roundball symphony, so hole-stuffingly great that the idea of playing another season next year as is currently scheduled is a dubious proposition only because hot damn, hot damn; the ascension of LeBron James to the status of a deity who shall hover over this great nation we call the United States of AmeriBron, shooting orange laser beams out of his eyeballs at our most vile criminals to keep us safe in a time of societal unrest; Tim Duncan's personal debunking of the Horatio Alger myth, which would suggest that any man can pick himself up by the bootstraps and reach the pinnacle of American society, because oh how does old Timmy D not leave that series with a ring in a world where hard work is given its just rewards; and a series in which Chris Bosh cemented his status as the player most likely to be enshrined at Springfield with a collective shrug so ambivalent that it dislocates the shoulders of every NBA fan and pundit alike.
Jhonny Peralta hit a walk-off ninth-inning home run as the Detroit Tigers stole a win from the AL East–leading Boston Red Sox, 4-3. "Oh I'll steal it back," said Boston closer Andrew Bailey, who allowed the home run. "By hook or by crook, I swear I'll get us this win back." But Bailey's attempts to do so, first by hiring internationally feared jewel thief "The Dingo," and then, after the Dingo was apprehended outside of Geneva, by dangling a wire hanger over sleeping Detroit manager Jim Leyland's head with no specific purpose in mind, both proved to be fool's errands.
In case you were busy waiting up for the Premier League fixture list to be revealed (and who wasn't?) here's what you missed in sports on Tuesday:
In an electric back-and-forth affair that will surely be remembered as an all-time classic, the Miami Heat stormed back from a late deficit to stave off elimination in the NBA Finals, forcing a Game 7 with a 103-100 overtime win over the San Antonio Spurs. LeBron James overcame a slow start and a number of late mistakes to lead the comeback with a triple-double, and Ray Allen's 3-pointer with 5.2 seconds remaining in regulation provided an iconic image for what is becoming an era-defining Finals. But I know why you all come to About Last Night, and it's not for the sort of game recap you can get anywhere else. It's for the big-time predictions. The sort of predictions that other people just won't make because they are too afraid. So here goes, ALN Game 7 prediction time: Game 7 will take place at AmericanAirlines Arena in Miami. Yeah, I said it. Both the Spurs and Heat will play in the game, which will be sanctioned by the rules of the NBA. You can take that to the bank, despite what the lamestream media would have you believe. The game they play will therefore be, wait for it, basketball. Nobody else will dare say it, so you have to hear it from me. The game will be televised on your local ABC affiliate. What? WHAT? I know. But it's going to happen. If you watch the game, you will see ads for White House Down starring Channing Tatum, and you will think to yourself, "Huh, I liked Independence Day, but should they really say, 'From the director of 2012?'" OHHHHH NO I DIDN'T. NO I DID NOT. But I did. Also, the Heat will win 132-65 when Gregg Popovich decides to rest his starters in preparation for the 2013-14 preseason opener against the Seattle Grizzles, leaving Tracy McGrady to play 48 minutes.
The U.S. men's national team is on the verge of qualifying for the 2014 World Cup after Jozy Altidore fired them to a 1-0 qualifying win over Honduras. America currently sits two points clear at the top of the so-called Hexagonal that determines which three of the final six North American teams in contention qualify for automatic bids to the World Cup. "We just have to keep the hexagon on its current side and we will be in great shape," explained U.S. manager Jurgen Klinsmann after the match. "Once it gets momentum and starts rolling off of its point, everything can go into disarray." When asked if he was speaking metaphorically, Klinsmann responded, "No, momentum is a very real thing with shapes, and even flat-sided polygons can roll like circles if put on a steep enough hill."
In case you were busy giving it just one more try in Lep's World 2, seriously, just one more, GODDAMNIT, here's what you missed in sports last weekend:
Overcoming a fearsome Merion course, Justin Rose secured his first major win, finishing the U.S. Open at 1-over and relegating Phil Mickelson to yet another second-place finish at the country's most challenging golf tournament. Mickelson, visibly disappointed by his finish, found himself alone at the driving range hours after the tournament, well after the sun had set. He was hitting ball after ball, trying to find the swing he would need to finally vanquish the tournament that had haunted him throughout his otherwise storied career. Suddenly, an ethereal figure emerged from the darkness, walking toward Mickelson's tee box. Mickelson shouted down the range, "Who's that? I coulda killed you out there." The ethereal figure calmly replied, "No sir. I set myself directly in front of you. Judging by how's you was hitting them balls I figured that's how I'd be out of harm's way." Mickelson then replied, "I was hitting fades," and ripped a drive right into the ethereal man's forehead, instantly knocking him unconscious, before saying under his breath, "Coulda used you on the putting green, motherfucker."
Behind another big game from Danny Green, the San Antonio Spurs grabbed a critical NBA Finals win over the Miami Heat, 114-104, and will head back to Miami for the final two games with a 3-2 series advantage. Noted Frenchman Boris Diaw, another key cog in the Spurs' win by effectively neutralizing LeBron James in limited minutes, said after the game, "To me, defense is not a denial, so much as it is an affirmation. There are baskets that have not yet been made, and never shall be, and my artistry comes about in their non-manifestation. Right now, I make art. As no one is making a basket. Also now. And now. And now. But not now, for on the streets of Roanoke, in the moment I said the word now, a young boy made his very first basket. And my artistry was denied as I was unable to stop it. But right now. Then, that now? That was art." Diaw then smiled smugly, before pulling a lit Gauloise out of Kawhi Leonard's nostril.
If you think the Heat-Spurs series is the most exciting championship being contested this weekend … well, you're fooling yourself. Out in Nebraska, eight college baseball teams will be vying for a trophy far less celebrated than the Stanley Cup, with a media presence a fraction of the size of the NBA Finals. But if you like baseball, or sports, or America, you'll love a week's worth of insane, high-intensity baseball, featuring some of the big leagues' stars of the future and some really likable kids with funny names. The College World Series combines the high skill of the professional game, the adorable unpredictability of Little League, and the insane intensity of March Madness. There's nothing quite like it in sports, and in a moment of great fortuitous corporate synergy, every game will be televised, live, on the ESPN family of networks.
Good, now that I've sold you, let's meet our contestants.
In case you were busy consolidating power by any means necessary to be prepared for the upcoming console wars, here's what you missed in sports on Tuesday:
In a series filled with future Hall of Famers, it was the play of Gary Neal and Danny Green, who scored a combined 51 points while going 13-for-19 from beyond the arc, that led the San Antonio Spurs to a 113-77 win over the Miami Heat in Game 3 of the NBA Finals. Somewhere out in the vast expanses of America, a curmudgeonly sports reporter sitting on his porch licks two fingers and holds them aloft. "The winds are turning again," he says to himself with a wry smile. "Oh, LeBron, your time has come." And the words will start coming together in his head, but he'll need a deeper source of inspiration. "Honey, can you throw some pretzels in a bowl?," he'll yell back into his two-story Craftsman home. "And throw some popcorn in there, too. And maybe some fish that hasn't been deboned." And his wife will pop her head out of the screen door and ask, "Is this what I think it is?" And he'll nod sagely, and whisper "choking season." And she'll ask if he's sure, and he won't turn to face her, but will say again, "LeBron choking season," and his words will be taken by the wind, and his wife will know that he'll be up working late, divining the perfect phrase to describe how the psychology of the world's greatest basketball player will always betray his talent. And the wind will sing "chokeastrophic" as it swirls through the branches of the oak trees of America. And maybe, just maybe, we'll get our values back.
Jozy Altidore and Eddie Johnson both scored as Jurgen Klinsmann's U.S. men's national team got a critical 2-0 win over Panama in Seattle as they moved atop the CONCACAF standings for World Cup qualifying. The match was the most complete effort by the USMNT during Klinsmann's tenure, leading the crowd to chant, "Klinsmann, a plan, a canal, pan nam snilk," in an ill-conceived attempt to honor the former German striker through palindrome.
After months of waiting on Andrew Wiggins, the best high school basketball player in the country, to make his college-destination decision and set off an aftershock throughout college hoops and beyond, we are finally (almost) there. On Sunday, his high school coach at Huntington Prep (West Virginia) announced the announcement (isn't recruiting fun?!).
Andrew Wiggins will sign Tuesday at around 12:15. He will not hold a press conference type ceremony. Just classmates, family and friends
Andrew Wiggins, for those unfamiliar with his work, is the Canadian basketball sensation who spent this season as the Gatorade West Virginia Player of the Year at Huntington Prep. He still has yet to make a decision on where he'll attend school (for six months), but I'd say this 2:55 puts him firmly next to Jadeveon Clowney among candidates for bypassing those pesky NCAA rules. If you don't have a free three minutes, skip to the 2:17 mark. I would describe what happens — if I had any idea how.
In case you were out all night looking for the afikomen, here's what you missed in sports on Tuesday:
Dallas got a crucial win in the Western Conference playoff race, beating the Los Angeles Clippers, 109-102, at home. Clippers forward Blake Griffin, who had a potential game-winning shot waved off at the end of regulation after he fouled Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki, said after the game, "Dirk, man, respect his game, but the guy's a real Batusi dancer." When told of Griffin's comments, a puzzled Nowitzki asked, "Wait, is he calling me old? Like Adam West? Or lame? Is he saying I cheated? I don't get it. We won the game. What the hell is this? Ask him what he meant by that." When asked, however, Griffin responded, "Nah, guy just dances the Batusi, you know" before winking at the gathered media and jutting out his mouthpiece with a half smile.
The United States Men's National Team earned a rare road point at the Estadio Azteca, holding Mexico to a scoreless draw in a World Cup–qualifying match. U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann credited his team's resolve to their prematch preparation, in which Klinsmann himself berated his team in Spanish and threw bags of unidentifiable liquids at them as they attempted corner kicks. When asked if his own experience winning matches in Mexico with West Germany led him to that training technique, Klinsmann responded, "Um sure. Yes. Let's go with that."
America rarely ever gets things wrong. It’s a country that's brought the world professional wrestling, the KFC Double Down, Kenny Powers, and America. But sometimes — daylight saving time, Taylor Hicks, pull-ups being included in the requirements for winning the Presidential Physical Fitness Award — America gets it horribly wrong. It pains me to say it, but Christian Laettner beating Tyler Hansbrough in a landslide to claim the title of the most hated college basketball player in the last 30 years is one of those times.
“But,” you’re probably saying, “Laettner winning this contest was obvious from the start. I’m not even sure why you guys bothered putting together the bracket. If Laettner had gone to North Carolina or Kentucky, there’s a good chance that they’d be the most hated team in college basketball. The man is almost solely responsible for Duke’s reputation, which is why if I were putting together a starting five of the most hated players in the last 30 years, Laettner would be all five.”
Look, I get it. Laettner's easy to hate. If you don’t hate him for being a pretty boy preppy who still somehow managed to be the best player in college basketball, you hate him for stomping on Aminu Timberlake’s chest. You hate him because of The Shot, or you hate him because this picture exists. All of these are valid reasons to hate the guy. And honestly, I might hate him, too, for all of these reasons. Except that I don’t hate him because one important thing trumps all of that: Christian Laettner was a benchwarmer for the greatest basketball team ever assembled, which makes him a demigod to guys like me.
In case you were busy trying to remember Della Reese's name (it's Della Reese), here's what you missed in sports last weekend.
Despite an off night from LeBron James, his Miami Heat got their 18th consecutive win, 105-91, over the Indiana Pacers. After the game, diminutive Heat point guard Mario Chalmers, who led his team with 26 points, said, "Finally, it's my Miami Heat." Chalmers beamed and pointed at himself with both thumbs until Heat forward Chris Bosh patronizingly patted him on the head, saying, "Sure it is, little buddy." Chalmers sulked away as both Bosh and Dwyane Wade laughed at his expense. "Why won't they let me have this?" Chalmers asked himself while crouched inside of his locker.
Indiana won a thriller in Ann Arbor to take home the Big Ten championship, beating the Michigan Wolverines, 72-71. Michigan point guard Trey Burke's potential game-winning layup hung on the rim, bouncing three times before falling out, costing him and his team a share of the Big Ten title in what might be his last regular season game as a member of the Wolverines. So in case you find yourself talking to Trey Burke at some point in the next 20 years, now you'll know exactly what he's replaying in his mind while he stares off into the distance with a glazed-over look in his eye.
Confession time: I have a bad relationship with GIFs. I'm 100 percent alone on this one, I know, especially among young Internet sports types. But to me, GIFs are like "Harlem Shake" videos — hilarious visual gag at first, until you become so inundated that you go numb and begin to hate the person who bought you your first computer and sent you on this horrible, soul-killing journey into the heart of the Internet. (Important note: This is for comedy GIFs only it doesn't go for the ones that are just meant to show a sweet dunk, a great goal, or any of the other sincere uses of the form.)
Watching a GIF, I get the weird sense that I'm being manipulated, as though I'm laughing begrudgingly at a stand-up comedian whose only bit is to hit himself in the face with a baking pan. The endless repetition is supposed to be what gives the image its humor, but something about it drives me crazy. It's like we're making snark-commodities out of human moments. (Actually, pretend I just said something along the same lines, but less pretentious.)
This is my only soapbox. I only care about destroying the GIF culture. But after all that big talk, I have to admit that I still laugh at the really good ones that transcend the medium, like Ben McLemore dancing. And the reason I'm mentioning it now is that I violated my own principles and yeah, made a GIF. I couldn't help it:
I know I should have stuck to my guns, but the way the cameraman went into soft focus on Kelly and readjusted to the fan doing the White Raven arms — it's like he was begging me to make a GIF. He was my serpent, and his comic shot was the forbidden apple. I hope this isn't the start of a slippery slope, but in three months you'll probably find me lying face down in a dark Internet cafe, dead from a GIF overdose.