In case you were busy investing heavily in Kyle Field grass futures, here's what you missed in sports on Thursday:
Justin Verlander threw a gem and Miguel Cabrera broke out of his slump with a two-run home run as the Detroit Tigers advanced to the ALCS with a 3-0 win over the Oakland Athletics. Earlier in the day things were not looking good. On a cartoon baseball field on a faraway planet, Mike Trout and a team of misfits made up of one male bunny, one attractive female bunny, a duck, a devil, a skunk, a hunter, a chicken, a pig, a cat, and Dan Aykroyd were down to their last at-bat in a baseball game with the fate of the world at stake. Their alien opponents, led by Pog, who had stolen Miguel Cabrera's essence, had surged to an early 66-run lead in the game. However, the plucky toons had battled back behind Trout's 16-for-16 game with 16 grand slams, along with an Aykroyd solo home run. The score was 66-65 with Trout at the plate, the bases loaded, Pog on the mound, a full count, and two outs. Trout called his shot to Pog, yelling, "I'm swinging for the fences," which caused the fences to briefly have cartoonishly bulging eyes. Pog smiled at Trout and reared back to throw; it was a looping breaking ball, exactly the pitch Trout had been sitting on. Trout winked and swung, but Pog had deviously thrown a spitball and it drooled all over his bat making him miss. "Strike three!" yelled the ump. Trout was crushed, the game was over, and Earth and Cabrera were doomed … Or were they?
Eli Manning's poor season continued as the quarterback threw three more interceptions and his New York Giants fell to 0-6 with a 27-21 loss to the Chicago Bears. "I don't ever lose confidence," Manning said after the game as his cell phone blared out "Rocky Top." "Sorry," he said as he muted it. "Someone's trying to get a hold of me. Asshole. Anyway, as I was saying, I don't ever lose confidence as—" but Manning was interrupted as his cell phone began to ring out "Rocky Top" again. "I'm so sorry guys," Manning said. "Some jerk set a personal ring on this phone, and I don't know how to change it." Manning then turned from the podium and saw a new incoming text message: "should I let the jags win? then you guys can be the best at being bad. pick up ur phone and let me kno brah. ciao, pey2kpounds."
The management at my apartment complex guaranteed that I would have a good time Thursday night. They offered each resident complimentary tickets to Game 1 of the Sparks-Mercury Western Conference semifinals. Being a huge sucker for free sporting events and grabbing desperately for any reason to avoid doing the dishes sitting in the sink, I knew I had my night planned out for me.
A friend and I made our way inside, grabbed some nachos, and headed to our seats. Section 105? Row F? As in … floor? The closest I had sat prior was the second level, where everything on the big screen is much clearer than the action on the court.
I walked in just as Candace Parker was announced as the league's MVP. I took a look at the roster and saw more than a few familiar names. As someone who covered Duke's women's basketball team in college, the names Lindsey Harding, Alana Beard, Nneka Ogwumike, Kristi Toliver, Brittney Griner, and Krystal Thomas all brought back a feeling of nostalgia and pride.
The WNBA draft never looks like a sports event. It looks like a scene from a hotel jazz club. There is none of the beery pandemonium and emotional overkill that happens every summer when the men have their draft. The league's president, Laurie Richie, doesn't have to read the players' names over a chorus of boos. There aren't 20 people reaching for hugs and half-hugs and there's no irrational sense that, despite the financial bonanza, a bunch of guys are going to fight for all of Panem. Indeed, the presiding mood at the WNBA draft is less Hunger Games and more "Ladies and gentlemen, put your hands together for Dee Dee Bridgewater."
The basketball centerpieces and matching tablecloths notwithstanding, the women treat you to a classier, more straightforward evening.
In case you were out living a life of leisure, here's what you missed in sports on Thursday.
Blake Griffin tore his meniscus at a Team USA scrimmage and will miss the Olympic Games in London. Which is particularly sad when you consider that, aside from Dwight Howard, Russell Westbrook, Christopher Paul, James Harden, and maybe, maybe Tyson Chandler, he had the team's most British name.
The Minnesota Lynx beat the Atlanta Dream on Friday to claim the organization’s first WNBA championship. The 15th WNBA season, in the books. So now what? While this assuredly isn't true for all of the players, I'm assuming some members of the Dream and Lynx will join the rest of us in what could be a long fall … and winter … and spring full of non-stop banter about the NBA lockout and the present and future condition of the fractured league.
Fortunately for the players of the WNBA, there is another option. An option that not only keeps these talents on the hardwood, but also irreversibly transforms the league from something that is oft overlooked to to a profitable, wildly popular enterprise.
There is some great basketball being played by gifted athletes right now. I’m not talking about the games at Rucker Park or in the lockout-free gyms of L.A., Houston or Philadelphia, where the likes of Melo and La La are speed-dialing their press agents following every neo-conversation … No, these contests are on live on network TV from Minneapolis and Atlanta: the WNBA Finals. And it’s now way past the time that news media get hip and give these women their due. The league has teams in 12 cities, and most hometown dailies don’t assigns a beat writer to all of the teams' games. Well, it’s time to wake up, dudes. (And don’t blame this on the fact that the sports world is run by men.)
But why change now? The WNBA (in my opinion, by far the most meaningful legacy of the ballsy and ingenious NBA commissioner David Stern) needs to survive and thrive. The fact is, thousands of women and families attend games in major cities every year, and that means there are consumer products to be hawked and revenue to be generated. But the “old way” of selling the league needs to die.