In case you were busy clearing your name in the best place for levelheaded legal analysis: sports talk radio, here's what you missed in sports on Wednesday:
The Knicks failed to make a late lead stand up, as Paul George and the Pacers topped New York, 103-96, in overtime. "But dad," a young boy in Queens said after the game, as he held his head in his hands. "All they had to do was not foul Paul George on the 3. Why would they foul him, dad? Why?" His father sat on the couch, staring forward, his gaze extending through the television, out to infinity. "Because, son," the father said, mindlessly crushing a beer can in his left hand. "Because the world is a cruel and ugly place. Because the universe bends toward entropic chaos. Because man is nothing more than a wad of rotten flesh stretched over an angry skeleton." The boy was crying a little now, but he managed to mumble, "But I don't understand." The father turned to his boy as he said with profound clarity, "Because Knicks, son. Because Knicks."
Despite a season-high 33 points from Dwight Howard, the Houston Rockets
fell, 123-120, at the hands of the Dallas Mavericks, who improved to 6-0 at home. "Ha-ha, yes!" Howard said after the game despite his team's loss. "What a night! What a night!" When asked if he was talking about his own breakout performance, Howard replied, "Nah, man. Did you see when Dirk totally slipped and fell over? And I was all like, 'Nirk!' And he was all like, 'Nirk?' and I was all like, 'Yeah, Nirk D'oh-witzki!'" Howard then collapsed in hysterics before gathering himself and saying, "He didn't get it, but man, he got covered in Dwight-Out."
In case you were busy throwing your old iPad in the garbage like the trash that it is, here's what you missed in sports on Tuesday:
The University of Miami avoided major additional sanctions related to the Nevin Shapiro scandal, as the NCAA only revoked a small number of scholarships, deeming the school's self-imposed two-year bowl ban to be sufficient punishment. "Are you serious?" said former Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel when asked for comment. "Nothing? Weren't they having crazy sex parties? My boys just got a handful of free tattoos and we faced worse. Well, I want to be very careful with what I say here. Because I know NCAA procedure is complicated, and we were not in the right when I was let go. But fuuuuuuuuuuuudge that." Only Tressel didn't say "fudge." He said THE word, the big one, the queen-mother of dirty words, the "F-dash-dash-dash" word. Later, when asked by NCAA president Mark Emmert where he learned that word, Tressel refused to admit that it was from former NCAA president Myles Brand, instead blaming former Michigan coach Lloyd Carr, who is now himself under investigation by the NCAA.
In case you were busy preparing to take back a national park from the bears, here's what you missed in sports on Wednesday:
Jim Leyland's decision to move Austin Jackson down in the batting order could not have worked out better, as the Tigers outfielder broke out of his slump, reaching base in all four of his plate appearances in Detroit's ALCS-equalizing 7-3 win over the Boston Red Sox. Or could it have worked better? See, Jackson's suddenly hot bat raises this question: Why did Leyland demote his best hitter, costing him a valuable fifth plate appearance? Leyland clearly must now rectify his obvious mistake and move Jackson back up to the top of the order. However, because the outcome of every at-bat is at least somewhat dependent on the context in which it occurred, the question arises as to whether Jackson would have been able to succeed were he given a different set of at-bats. Which means that it's quite clear Leyland should bench Jackson for the remainder of the series lest he make another huge managerial blunder. But doesn't that theory apply to every offensive player on the Tigers' roster? Who is to say any of them can be expected to simply slot into a batting order and play baseball effectively? Which leaves Leyland with only one rational choice as manager: forfeit the remaining games of the series and resign in disgrace. So I think it's fair to say Leyland's decision to move Jackson down in the batting order could have worked out better.
Adrian Gonzalez hit two home runs and Zack Greinke threw seven strong innings as the Los Angeles Dodgers staved off elimination in the NLCS by beating the St. Louis Cardinals 6-4. "How dare they?" asked Cardinals manager Mike Matheny after the game, as his lip quivered with rage. "We go to their stadium and we expect to be hosted with a little bit of decency. But no. Instead we're treated to home runs and fast pitching and no winning! Don't they know we deserve to win? Isn't that a thing they know? How much winning we deserve? We deserve it. Because we care and we're better and we're the best and honor and America!" Matheny then balled his hands into fists and exclaimed, "Ri-ooo! Poon-toe! Puuu-eeg!" as if swearing in short high-pitched bursts.
On the first day of the government shutdown, the Washington Capitals arrived in Chicago, looking to bring a momentous occasion to a screeching halt. Though the organization has long since dropped the ’90s look — a jersey featuring the Capitol building and two crossed sticks — the Caps, backed by a scorching power-play unit, had every intention of playing spoiler. Not that Blackhawks fans are particularly adversarial with this altogether random opponent. When the second Stanley Cup banner in four years is raised to the United Center rafters, one assumes a storied rival would be on hand. But such is the new normal in a realigned NHL featuring more conference crossovers.
The last Blackhawks banner raising, in 2010, was soured by a 3-2 defeat at the hands of the Detroit Red Wings, the team shoehorned into every ceremonial slot in Chicago since before I can remember — not that we had many before the Rocky Wirtz era. The 2010 home opener is something of a blur now, and Hawks fans sincerely hope the Wings enjoyed their sendoff to the Eastern Conference, courtesy of a floater from Brent Seabrook.
Here are 10 vaguely connected thoughts from six hours of opening-night hockey.
The good and the bad of pregame ceremonies
The first game on the schedule came to us from Montreal, so you know there had to be a pregame ceremony. And indeed, the new season was welcomed into existence by this:
I know I can lose my Canadian passport for saying this, but that was awful, right? It was a ceremony involving the Habs and dimmed lights and a torch, so we’re all supposed to nod reverently and pretend that it was fantastic (and most Montreal ceremonies are). But that one didn’t work.
The basic premise was apparently “What if we made every Canadiens player awkwardly hold a torch at center ice while everyone stared at them for 30 seconds?” As it turns out, a player in that situation has only a handful of options:
• Stare straight ahead like a badass (P.K. Subban)
• Try to stare straight ahead like a badass and fail (Alex Galchenyuk)
In case yinz were busy getting to Pittsburgh to wait, yinz? Who the hell are yinz? Anyway, here's what you may have missed in sports on Tuesday:
Oh my goodness, hockey's back? Hockey's back! And with it came a barrage of goals from defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago, which beat Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals, 6-4, in its season opener. "Ten goals?" yelled 58-year-old Blackhawks fan Gary Habermeyer. "What the hell is this garbage? Polo? What happened to hockey?" When his son-in-law Dan Nielson tried to explain that there were a number of offseason rule changes put in place by the NHL to increase scoring, Habermeyer slammed down the legs of his Barcalounger and shoved a finger in Nielson's face. "I'll tell you what the problem is," Habermeyer shot back. "It's your generation. A bunch of showboaters. No one willing to do the hard work. No one willing to play defense. Patrick Kane? That's just a child wearing skates carrying around a big stick. When things get hard he'll just shut down the government. Not like Bobby Hull. Now there was a real man. Don't look at your phone when we're having a heart-to heart conversation!" But Nielson didn't look up from his phone, as he was texting his wife, Bridget, to say that she owed him more than one for spending the evening bonding with her father, and also to ask what Patrick Kane had to do with the government shutdown.
Pittsburgh's battery of Francisco Liriano and Russell Martin made sure the Pirates' first postseason trip in 21 years would not be a one-game affair, as they topped the Cincinnati Reds, 6-2, in the NL wild-card playoff. "I just keep thinking, What could I have done differently?" said Reds manager Dusty Baker after the game. Baker then took a moment to think back over the events of the game, during which he managed to use seven pitchers without deploying superstar closer Aroldis Chapman, before adding, "And the answer is nothing."
Well, what can I tell you? Some nights, you just show up in the wrong arena. Up in Boston, the Bruins came roaring back to win a Game 7 on Monday night because the Toronto Maple Leafs picked the wrong night to stop sniffing glue or something. Meanwhile, here in Washington, his team already trailing 3-0 and with all of 13 seconds elapsed in the third period, John Erskine of the Capitals surrendered a chocolate éclair of a turnover along the left boards. Ryan Callahan of the New York Rangers accepted the gratuity and went sailing in to lift a backhand past Caps goalie Braden Holtby. At which point, Verizon Center became the quietest hockey arena in America. I am not kidding about this. There was more energy in the former Hartford Civic Center at ten o’clock Monday night than there was in this joint, and Pucky the Whale was livelier than the entire Washington bench. Meanwhile, on the TV, the Capitals broadcast crew ominously began using the phrase “played their hearts out this season” a lot, and opined that the Capitals defensive corps would be even stronger next year with a full training camp under their belts. All that was missing from the wake were weeping old ladies and a spray of flowers from the local Elks.
The juice went out of the place long before the 5-0 final closed the book on the first-round series and sent the Rangers along to an Original Six–a-palooza against the Bruins. Both Washington and New York looked tight and jittery at the beginning of the game, and no player more so than Holtby, who had the devil’s own time controlling rebounds and, at one point, completely lost control of the puck behind his own net. The comparison between the two goalies was striking, as we shall see. But whereas the Rangers managed to get beyond the early shakes, the Capitals never seemed to get fully organized, or entirely into the game.
In case you were busy trying to prevent the refrain from Close Encounters of the Third Kind from morphing into the theme from The Sting in your mind, here's what you missed in sports on Monday:
The Bruins overcame a 4-1 third-period deficit before completing the comeback with a Patrice Bergeron overtime winner as Boston eliminated the Toronto Maple Leafs from the NHL playoffs in a heartbreaking Game 7. While congratulations are in order for Boston, it should also be noted that the devastating loss was taken well by the people of Toronto, who, luckily, are fairly agnostic toward the game of hockey and have a very limited history of suffering with the town's most popular team.
LeBron James and the Miami Heat dominated the Chicago Bulls on both ends of the court en route to an 88-65 win at United Center. Diminutive Bulls guard Nate Robinson, who had starred earlier in the series, was held without a field goal in the defeat, which he attributed after the game to being, "Yeah, shorter than everyone else. That's why. Guess after all these years that finally caught up to me. It wasn't at all because of Miami's defense combined with a little bit of fatigue. It's my genes. Thanks, Randy Newman."
In case you were busy asking, "yeah, but when is Spoiled Only-Child Day?" here's what you missed in sports last weekend:
Tiger Woods won his second career Players Championship and his fourth PGA Tour event this year, finishing the tournament at 13-under. Woods benefited from Sergio Garcia's quadruple-bogey on TPC's iconic 17th hole. "I can't believe it," Tiger said after the tournament, "I thought for sure I was in trouble. You don't just stare down Sergio Garcia and live to tell the tale. I'm shocked that he made it easy for me. Shoooooocked." When told of Woods's comments, Garcia said, "Why? What's his problem, man? Guy has everything. He has a boat that holds other boats in it. He has a trophy case that is just all of the trophies he doesn't like melted down and turned into a trophy case. Why's he gotta come after me? What's he compensating for? What trouble has Tiger f-ing Woods ever had to deal with? Can we talk about that for a second? Can we talk about Tiger Woods's hypothetical personal troubles?" When told of Garcia's questions, Woods asked, "Wasn't he married to Greg Norman's daughter?" before winking provocatively at the press corps. When told of Tiger's wink, Sergio let out a frustrated scream. When told of Sergio's scream, Tiger let out a sarcastic chuckle. When told of Tiger's sarcastic chuckle, Sergio sighed. When told of Sergio's sigh, Tiger fist-pumped. When told of Tiger's fist pump, Sergio's lip began to quiver. When told of Sergio's lip quiver, Tiger didn't look up from his dinner of truffles and lobsters. When told of Tiger's feast, Sergio let one tear trickle down his cheek. When told of Sergio's tear, Tiger turned his laptop toward the reporter talking to him; the laptop had a really smug animated GIF playing on loop. When told of Tiger's GIF burn, Sergio asked, "Isn't that pronounced with a hard 'G,' like Garcia?" But it isn't, and when a reporter went to tell Tiger of Sergio's foolishness, he was too busy watching someone polishing his trophy case made of trophies to acknowledge the reporter's existence.
Even with Stephen Curry at less than full strength, the Golden State Warriors evened up their series with the San Antonio Spurs with a 97-87 overtime win. Spurs coach Gregg Popovich was concerned after the game, saying, "Now that Curry is banged up, Mark Jackson discovered he's allowed to rest him. That sprained ankle cost us a massive competitive advantage in this series."
In case you were out meeting the Mets, meeting the Mets, stepping right up and greeting the Mets, here's what you missed in sports on Monday:
The Golden State Warriors blew a 16-point lead, and San Antonio's Manu Ginobili hit a game winning 3-pointer with 1.2 seconds left in the second overtime as the Spurs took Game 1 of their Western Conference semifinal at home, 129-127. The final result overshadowed an epic performance from Stephen Curry, who played every minute of the game and scored 44 points. "It's too bad that I'm not allowed to come out of games," Curry said afterward. "I really could've used the rest at the start of the fourth quarter so that I didn't lose the accuracy on my jumper." He then paused and added, "It's weird that everyone else came out for at least a little bit. I wonder why the rules are different for me." Curry then shrugged, before collapsing in a fatigued heap under the weight of his own shoulder movement.
An injury-ravaged Chicago Bulls team shocked the defending champion Heat in Miami, 93-86. The Bulls closed the game on a 10-0 run, which once again raises the question: Can LeBron get it done in the postseason? Hold on. Let me watch some tape of LeBron from last postseason really quickly oh oh, wow, yeah, he totally can. Never mind.
The Hockey Gods are capricious. The Hockey Gods are cruel, but they are fair. The Hockey Gods giveth, and then they taketh away, and then they giveth again, occasionally right in the chops. (The Hockey Gods also get mysterious and nasty rashes for which they take a lot of guff from the other gods, which is when the Hockey Gods drop the gloves. That’s how we wound up with Hudson Bay, which used to be a nice piece of forest land before the bench-clearing brawl among the gods broke out.) And Thursday night at Verizon Center, the Hockey Gods had some fun with Steve Oleksy of the Washington Capitals.
In case you were busy making a new nonalcoholic mixed drink that's half soda water, half tonic water called the Van de Velde, here's what you missed in sports on Thursday:
Playing without Luol Deng, Derrick Rose, and Kirk Hinrich was too much for the Bulls, who fell 95-92 to the Brooklyn Nets. Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau regrettably informed his team of their depleted forces before the game, adding, "I didn't know the games were optional." He then proceeded to drink straight from a bottle of Gilbey's gin, tell Taj Gibson that he wanted to sleep with his sister, and unleash a barrage of awkwardly profuse "real talk about love and pain" upon the injured Hinrich. Bulls forward Carlos Boozer then yelled out his signature catchphrase, "Can you smell the booze stank in the room?!" before being told by Bulls assistant coach Adrian Griffin that games are not optional. A visibly intoxicated Boozer fouled out of his team's defeat in the fourth quarter.
Even though he had another solid outing, Atlanta starter Kris Medlen fell to 1-4 as his Braves lost to the Washington Nationals, 3-1. Medlen, snacking on biscuits after the game, blamed his spotty start to the season on fatigue based on his home life. "I've got young boys, and they're up at all hours," he said. "I've only been a little off, which just makes me think I could be 5-0 if it weren't for those Medlen kids!"
This week, Grantland's Katie Baker will be previewing the NHL playoffs' first-round series. Today: Senators-Canadiens and Rangers-Capitals. Read Tuesday's installment here and Wednesday's here.
Ottawa Senators (7) at Montreal Canadiens (2)
Backstory: While it might not have been all that much of a stretch to predict that Ottawa and Montreal would both make it to the playoffs, no one could have expected that things would unfold quite like this. The Senators, who took the Rangers to seven games last year in the first round, lost three key players (captain Jason Spezza, goalie Craig Anderson, and golden child Erik Karlsson) to major injury, but managed to remain in postseason contention through focused play by a merry and motley band of guys. Get coach Paul MacLean that Jack Adams Award already, will ya?
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 living on easy street wait — OH, I FORGOT ABOUT MY TAXES — here's what you missed in sports on Tuesday:
The Boston Red Sox rode a seven-run second inning to cruise to a 7-2 win over the host Cleveland Indians. Red Sox starter Felix Doubront, who got the win after throwing five solid innings, said, "With everything that happened yesterday, I was just out there pitching for the name on the front of the jersey today, not on the back. Which really helped, because even I have trouble pronouncing my last name. It's Doo-Braunt, by the way I think. I'm pretty sure. Like 99 percent. Don't hold me to that until I call my ma, though."
Veteran starter Dan Haren gave up seven runs in 4⅓ innings as the Washington Nationals fell to the Miami Marlins, 8-2. After the game, a shell-shocked Haren said, "I gave up a home run today to Adeiny Hechavarria. I got shelled by the Miami Marlins. Sometimes it's hard to know when it's over. This is not one of those times." He then announced the immediate opening of Haren Buick, Haren Chevrolet, and Haren Kia/Hyundai, which he hoped would become the Southern California destination for peoples' Buick, Chevrolet, Kia, and Hyundai needs.