Thursday, May 30, 2013

Unlike Cubbies, Blackhawks found a way to win -- not another way lose

If that had been the Cubs playing the Red Wings, they would have lost in overtime ... and "cursed" again would have been the word of the day, week, month, year, decade and century.

If that had been the White Sox playing the Red Wings, they would have lost in overtime ... and Hawk would have been whining about the dadgum dodobird who cost them the series.

If that had been the Bulls playing the Red Wings, they would have lost in overtime ... and conspiracy theorists would have opined that "of course, the NBA wanted the Red Wings to win."

If that had been the Bears playing the Red Wings, they would have lost in overtime ... and Jay Cutler would have shoved an offensive lineman after J.C.'s game-losing interception.

Thankfully, the Blackhawks were the Chicago team playing the Red Wings.

They weren't happy that a bad offsetting-penalty call nullified Niklas Hjalmarsson's apparent game-winning goal with less than 2 minutes left in regulation. But they quickly got over the disappointment, regrouped during the break before overtime and won it on Brent Seabrook's goal early in OT.

Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews, who is trying to lead his squad to a second Stanley Cup championship in four years, rallied the team after regulation, reminding his mates that the refs hadn't cost the Hawks the series. The Blackhawks, he said, still controlled their own destiny.

"Keep working," Toews said. "We were not going to go away that way."

Yes, it sucks to be victimized by a bad call. But every game in every sport includes hundreds of good plays and bad plays by both teams, good moves and bad moves by both coaches and good calls and bad calls by the officials. It's especially pathetic when a team caves after a bad call or an unfortunate bounce that doesn't even end the season -- yes, I'm talking to you, 1985 Cardinals, 1986 Red Sox and 2003 Cubs.

Many people forget that even after Don Denkinger's screw-up, Bill Buckner's blunder and Steve Bartman's foul play, the Cards, Sox and Cubs still had a chance to prevail. Each memorable moment came in a Game 6 and only tied the series. Instead, St. Louis, Boston and Chicago shrunk from the challenge and folded in Game 7. To this day, fans of those teams blame Denkinger, Buckner and Bartman.

If only those teams -- if only ALL teams -- took fate into their own hands, held themselves accountable and got the job done.

You know, just as Toews and the Blackhawks did.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Two years of fun with Simmie; hours of frustration with golf

Big day in the Nadel household.

It was two years ago today that we brought our beautiful pup Simmie home from the Humane Society.

That was Simmie then as a cute little girl. Here she is now as a mature young lady!

Simcha (her given name, which is Hebrew for "happiness") is smart and funny and crazy and adorable and curious and sweet. She'll chase a ball or a stick until we get tired of throwing it. She's got a real bark, not some kind of yippy sound, and she lets us know when something's going on in the neighborhood.

We love her so much, even more than we thought we would!

Of course, she can't completely replace Katie and Ben in our empty-nest home ... but then again, she never talks back or rolls her eyes at us!!


In unrelated news ...

I played golf the other day and, after an unremarkable bogey-par-bogey start, I went par ... birdie ... par ... par. I was keeping the ball in play off the tees, hitting my irons better than I had all season and striking my 3-wood superbly. I dropped tricky putts on 5, 6 and 7 to go birdie-par-par on arguably the most difficult three-hole stretch at Ballantyne Country Club.

I was 1-over through 7, on my way toward the best round of golf in my life ...

Until reality reared its ugly head.

Triple-bogey on 8. Quad on 9. Doubles on 10 and 11.

Oh well ... it was fun while it lasted.

Stupid game. And stupid me. I went back out and played the next day, too.

How did I do? Well, I wasn't 1-over through 7, that's for sure!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Today's High Five: Harper's face-plant, Arnie's return, NBA doings, softball drama

5. Hey Bryce, they call it a "warning track" for a reason!

I can't get enough of the video of young Nationals stud Bryce Harper running face-first into the right-field scoreboard at Dodger Stadium. After the play, he looked like he had encountered the Texas Chainsaw Massacre man.

Still, Harper vows to "play like that the rest of my career."

That's admirable ... but if he doesn't start paying attention to the warning track, the rest of his career might be about an hour long.

4. Iced tea/lemonade pitchman Arnie Palmer and his grandson Sam Saunders are going to be playing partners Saturday in the pro-am of a tour event in South Carolina.

That's pretty cool. Palmer is 83 years old.

What's not cool: Arnie would still beat me by about a dozen strokes. Maybe two dozen on one of my bad days.

3. Even great athletes run out of gas eventually.

The Bulls have nothing left in their tanks. Nothing. They have competed valiantly against the Heat, but without Derrick Rose, Luol Deng and Kirk Hinrich, they are thinner than Calista Flockhart on an all-celery diet.

Jimmy Butler, my guy from Marquette, has played so many minutes in these playoffs that it's easy to forget that, going into this season, the Bulls weren't counting on him to be more than a mop-up player. He has played all 48 minutes in four of the last six games (and played 46 minutes in one of the others).

Nate Robinson, the gnat-sized ballhog who was signed to be the third-string point guard, is averaging 37 minutes a game.

The Bulls are so desperate that there was even a Rip Hamilton sighting in the last game. It was nice of him to show up in uniform on his 62nd birthday.

Too bad. As great as Miami is, a hard-working, well-coached Bulls team that included Rose, Deng and Hinrich would have had a real chance to win the series.

2. Speaking of ex-Marquetters ... whither Steve Novak?

The Knicks, who have shot atrociously all series in falling behind the Pacers 3-1, were 36% overall and 29% from 3-point range in Tuesday's loss.

Novak is one of the best pure shooters in basketball history and was the recipient of a huge contract from the Knicks last offseason.

Tuesday, he played one minute. He took one 3-pointer. He swished it. He sat back down.


1. Here come the Sons of Pitches!

After losing four of our first five games, with each defeat due to a late-game meltdown, my old-dude softball team has used late-game heroics to win two straight.

Tuesday night, we scored three in the last inning to take a lead and held on for a 12-10 victory.

Playing second base, I tried my darnedest to give the game away in the bottom of the last. For one thing, I failed to cover second base on a comebacker to our pitcher/coach Pat, so we recorded no outs on what probably should have been a game-ending double play. Our great shortstop, Tom, had been spectacular all night and I thought he was going to take the throw, but he was playing deep and in the hole; even though we uncharacteristically didn't communicate on the play, it was totally my screw-up. Also in the inning, I stumbled around like a drunken congressman chasing a pop-up slightly over the infield dirt. I somehow ended up with my back to the infield and the ball hit me on the shoulder.

Thankfully, my teammates picked me up big-time, as Pat snared a line drive and doubled off a runner on a fine, instinctive play by our first baseman Bob. Amazingly, it was our fifth double play of the game -- in slow-pitch softball, a team can go weeks without turning a single one -- and a stunning end to a satisfying victory.

With only two regular-season games left and the playoffs just around the corner, we're finding our stride at just the right time. There isn't a team in the league with fewer than two losses; nor is there a team with fewer than two wins. Pete Rozelle would love this parity.

It really will be a wide-open race for the championship and I can honestly say I haven't seen any team the Sons of Pitches can't beat ... especially if our second baseman remembers to remove his bald head from his rectum when the ump shouts "Play ball!"

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Bulls hammer Heat; also, rockin' with Roger Clyne

Call 'em the Thug-A-Bulls.

That's not a criticism at all. If I were coach Tom Thibodeau -- and with my rugged chubbiness and bulging bank account, we are often mistaken for each other -- I would do the exact same thing against the Heat.

Playing without Derrick Rose, Luol Deng and Kirk Hinrich (and, for all intents and purposes, without Carlos Boozer, who appears ready to do his annual postseason disappearing act), the Bulls pushed and shoved and hammered and stomped and hip-checked and elbowed their way to victory in Game 1.

It's not cheating. It's not even dirty. There are three refs on the floor, and it is their job to make the calls. It's the job of Thibodeau and his players to win the game.

The Bulls also outhustled their more-heralded opponents. And down the stretch, the Bulls -- not the Jordan/Pippen/Grant Bulls, mind you, but the Robinson/Belinelli/Gibson Bulls -- made all the clutch plays.

Playing all 48 minutes for the third straight playoff game, my Marquette homie, Jimmy Butler, had 21 points and 14 rebounds and, more importantly, made LeBron James work hard for every inch of space on the court. Sometimes that involved Butler fouling LeBron. Hard. That's why the MVP gets the big bucks.

Yes, the Bulls did more than beat the Heat -- and even did more than beat up the Heat. They flustered and demoralized LeBron, Dwyane Wade & Co., got them to do things they normally don't.

A few examples:

-- After taking a 76-69 lead that seemingly put the Heat in command with 6:22 left, the next two minutes go like this: Norris Cole fouls Nate Robinson, who makes both FTs ... 24-second violation on Heat ... Wade fouls Butler, who makes both FTs ... Ray Allen badly misses 3-pointer ... Marco Belinelli makes 3-pointer ...  Mario Chalmers misses 1 of 2 FTs for Miami ... Taj Gibson makes jumper to put Chicago ahead. Neither James nor Wade even attempt a shot during this stretch.

-- With 2:21 left, James hits a FT to give Heat an 86-83 lead. Miami doesn't score again. LeBron misses his second FT ... Joakim Noah rebounds Chicago miss, leading to Belinelli's tying 3-pointer ... Chris Bosh misses jumper ... Robinson scores to put Bulls ahead to stay.

-- With Miami down 2 and the clock ticking close to the minute mark, a defensive switch leaves Belinelli on James, who immediately goes to the post for a pass that never comes. Instead, Wade, a career 29% shooter from 3-point range, launches a brick from way outside. Noah grabs the rebound, Robinson scores again and Miami players look like they've lost their best friends. Fans start heading for the exit even though their team is only down 4 and plenty of time remains.

-- James then misses a short jumper from the baseline with 29 seconds left and doesn't bother going back on defense. Again, the Heat is only down 4. Instead of trying to do something -- anything! -- to get his team back in the game, the MVP is sulking. It's one of several times either he or Wade react that way, usually because they're whining about fouls not being called.

I love watching LeBron do his thing and believe he is the best player in the world since Jordan's heyday. But Michael never would have reacted the way LeBron repeatedly did. And I've always liked Wade, another fellow Marquetter, but these days he spends almost as much time complaining as he does playing.

So there you have it ... the best player on the planet and another in the top 10 let the battered, beleaguered Bulls get into their heads and steal home-court advantage.

I still think the Heat will win the series, but only if they stop feeling sorry for themselves and stop thinking the NBA owes them another title.

I'm sure they spent the better part of a week hoping and praying that the Nets would beat the Bulls because the Heat wanted no part of this scrappy, hard-working, physical team.

Sorry, BronBron, you've got the Bulls. Deal with it.


Robbie and I had our most fun weekend of the spring.

We took in two concerts by Roger Clyne & The Peacemakers -- one in suburban Washington, the other in Philly; yeah, I guess that officially makes us freakin' groupies!

The scene in Falls Church, Va. If you click on the photo to expand it and look very, very carefully, you can see me and Robbie in the very center of the picture, about three rows back.

Robbie, Roger & Me after Philly show

In Philadelphia, we introduced my brother Al and his girlfriend Sandy to our favorite band, and like all others we've indoctrinated, they had a blast. We also played bad golf, ate good food, drank a few Yuenglings (America's oldest brewery, by the way), and enjoyed the company of another brother, Lee.

Grub, grog, great tunes and family. As Roger sings (with gusto):