Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Isiah's legacy, Oscar's future and my puck reawakening

The Bald Truth

Are sports yakkers actually debating Isiah Thomas' legacy now that he's taken a college coaching job at some nondescript Sun Belt school? What is there to debate?

One of the great point guards ever.

A mediocre coach when his team had good talent and a bad coach when his team had mediocre talent.

As bad an executive as anyone who hasn't run the Clippers.

There. That's Isiah's legacy.

The Balder Truth

Boxer Oscar De La Hoya has retired because he has pretty much done it all.

Except come out of retirement to win a title.

Translation: His unretirement press conference will take place in eight months. Ten tops.


Once upon a time, I watched hockey. Lots of hockey.

For most of a decade, as the de facto national hockey writer for The Associated Press, I witnessed every big event the sport staged - Stanley Cup Finals, Olympics, All-Star Games, NCAA Frozen Fours, Minnesota prep puck tourneys, strikes, lockouts. You name it, I covered it.

Then I came to Chicago in the mid-'90s, when the Bulls were the big story and the Blackhawks were a punch line. The NHL started sticking teams in every city that had a population larger than that of the LaSalle-Peru Greater Metro Area and started scheduling work stoppages just for funsies.

As a result, I completely lost my puck mojo.

It's a little too early to say that it's completely back, but now I at least can watch a game all the way through - especially on HDTV. I'm starting to enjoy the entertaining sport again and to re-educate myself about the NHL's top players and best teams.

I'm not going to pretend I know enough about today's NHL to predict which team will win the Stanley Cup, but I do know enough to say this:

Expect playoff upsets. 

Why? Two reasons:

1. The luck factor. In the NBA, the ball doesn't go off somebody's backside and into the hoop. In baseball, nobody hits a home run while diving through the air, his body parallel to the ground. But in hockey, the Cup-winning goal can be scored in overtime on a shot that deflects off of eight people.

2. The goalie factor. Baseball comes close, because one pitcher can dominate the opponent and lift an ordinary team (see: 1988 Dodgers), but that's pretty rare because said pitcher only can work three World Series games max. The NHL goaltender is in the net for every second of every game ... and if he's hot, he's hot. Almost every year, one goalie makes the folks in Canada say: "He's really standing on his head, eh?"

While it's impossible to predict who will be lucky, it's a little easier to forecast which teams might benefit from otherworldly goaltending. 

Watch out for the Canucks and the marvelous Roberto Luongo. It's possible that the neophyte Blue Jackets could steal at least a couple of games from the heavily favored Red Wings thanks to remarkable rookie Steve Mason. There is no better gamer in net than the Devils' Martin Brodeur. The Bruins' Tim Thomas led the league in save percentage and goals-against average.

Or maybe some decent goalie will catch fire at just the right time - a la Jon Casey with the '91 North Stars - and carry a sub-par team all the way to the Finals.

I guarantee that the North Stars won't pull off a repeat. Otherwise, it would be folly for me to try to predict the team that will be drinking from Lord Stanley's Cup. 

I'd have a better chance to score a date with Anna Kournikova while standing on my head, eh?


  1. Hockey just doesn't do it for me. I've tried over the years to follow it, but it never held my interest. Now I just ignore it.