Monday, June 24, 2013

As Blackhawks bring Chicago another title, Boston is a double loser

I'd have really been impressed with the Blackhawks if they had won the Stanley Cup while skating on a two-inch wire stretched between the Hancock and Willis towers.

But you know ... scoring twice late in whatever the Boston arena is called these days will have to do.

With titles in 2010 and now 2013, the Blackhawks are undisputed kings of the Chicago sports scene.

That's right ... ranked even ahead of DePaul basketball!

Seriously, it was a heck of a lot of fun watching Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews and Corey Crawford and Patrick Sharp and Duncan Keith and all of the fine supporting players this postseason -- a postseason that almost didn't happen because the season almost didn't happen because a collective bargaining agreement almost didn't happen.

Good thing the NHL solved that mess, because, if you haven't noticed, Chicago doesn't produce many championship teams these millennia.

Selfishly, I was hoping the Bruins would hang on to win just because I wanted to see a Game 7. Not only for the riveting hockey but for the incredible announcing of NBC's Mike Emrick.

Still, for all the Blackhawk backers I know -- including Ben and Katie, the fair-weather Hawkey fans I sired -- I'm glad the team in the Indian head "sweaters" won the Cup.

And to think: The Hawks have won two more titles in the first four years of this decade than the Cubs have won in the last 10 decades combined!


Rough week for Boston sports fans, who also lost their basketball coach to the Clippers.

Yes, the coach of the Celtics left for a better situation with the freakin' Clippers! If this isn't a sign the world is coming to an end, I don't know what is.

Doc Rivers, the guy I knew as "Glenn" when we were taking classes together at Marquette, decided he wanted to leave the sinking Celtic ship to take a stab at leading the young Clippers to prominence.

The Celtics landed a first-round draft pick in the deal, but I can't help but think they got the short end of it. Rivers is that good.

A couple of interesting tidbits here:

-- For the second time, Vinny Del Negro coached just well enough to be sent packing for being not quite good enough. The first time, he was dumped by the Bulls, who hired Rivers' top assistant in Boston, Tom Thibodeau. I guess it takes a Celtic to clean up after Vinny.

-- Though it hasn't happened often, this wasn't the first time a team has traded for an NBA coach. Thirty years ago, the Bulls did it, acquiring Kevin Loughery from Atlanta for a 1983 second-round pick that the Hawks used to draft ... wait for it ... Glenn "Doc" Rivers! Pretty cool, huh?

Friday, June 21, 2013

Special LeBron isn't Michael ... at least not yet

LeBron, what a stud. Clearly the best player of the post-Jordan era ... and, frankly, it isn't very close.

The ill-informed people who claim he's not a winner ... what do they say now? Two straight titles, three straight NBA Finals, four Finals overall (counting the one with an otherwise awful Cleveland team). Yeah, what a loser. If the haters would bother looking up LeBron's amazing stats for Game 7s and other elimination games throughout his career, they'd have a tough time being haters.

The man is special, and I found myself rooting for him because I like special. I've been watching sports pretty darn closely for more decades than I care to admit, and I still get a kick out of special because special doesn't come along very often.

And now, as the leader of a repeat world champion, LeBron haters have only two things left to rag him about: He was jerk for doing "The Decision," and he isn't Michael Jordan.

The first was silliness that has zero relevance today. And the second, well, that just puts him at the head of a very long line. There's no shame in being second to Jordan, and James still has five or 10 or however many years left to play catch up.

For me, it's pretty simple: I just like watching the dude play ball.

(Oh, and that Wade guy from Marquette ain't chopped liver, either!)

Monday, June 17, 2013

U.S. Open in 1 ... 2 ... 3 ... Fore!

1. I'm not sure which I liked better: Tiger's three duffed chips, Phil's bladed wedge or Steve Stricker's shanked iron.

I'll say they all were equal fun and give a big thumbs-up to the two big winners at the U.S. Open:

Justin Rose and Merion Golf Club.

2. As a teen amateur sensation, Rose finished fourth in the 1998 British Open -- right around the time a young Tiger Woods was taking the golf world by storm. Bursting with confidence, Rose immediately turned pro ... and then proceeded to turn into a golfing mediocrity. He eventually became a solid European pro and challenged in a few majors, but it wasn't until he made a bunch of ridiculous putts in last fall's Ryder Cup -- earning opponent Phil Mickelson's applause and carrying the Europeans to a sensational comeback victory -- that casual golf fans were reminded how good he could be.

On Sunday, he again bested Mickelson to drop off the list of best golfers never to win a major. (Stricker, alas, remains high on said list.)

To say Mickelson choked late and blew yet another chance at an Open title wouldn't be very fair. Merion was an absolute demon that didn't give anybody anything. Sure, the bogey at 13 -- by far the easiest hole -- was a killer, but Phil battled the course better than most.

I mean, even Rose finished over par for the event.

3. In the last five years, Tiger has won exactly as many majors as Elin Nordegren has.

4. I loved that an old-school, less-than-7,000-yard course could tame the best golfers in the world thanks to tight fairways, brutal rough and amazingly difficult-to-read greens. Even on Sunday, the pros were missing 8-foot putts by 18 inches. That simply doesn't happen on the PGA Tour.

Yes, I enjoy watching sensational shots, and there were plenty. But I also enjoy it when Sergio gets a 10 and saying, "Hell, I could have done that!" When Tiger chunked back-to-back chips, I laughed out loud.

Been there, done that.

And to think: Before the tournament, the usually astute Johnny Miller looked at the rain-soaked greens and predicted that Merion would be putty in the pros' hands.

Ain't it great when the experts are wrong?

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Today's High 5: Asking politically correct golf fans and Game of Thrones nerds to chill out

5. Those who believe the PGA should have suspended, fined or punished Sergio Garcia in some other way for his racist "fried chicken" remark aimed at Tiger Woods, get a clue.

Garcia already has been punished in the court of public opinion. With his muted reaction, Tiger came off as classy while Sergio merely sounded assy.

And then there's this: Garcia punishes himself every time he plays a major by choking like the dog he is. The U.S. Open figures to be yet another failure for the whining Spaniard -- an "athlete" who is the diametric opposite of countryman Rafa Nadal.

Pro sports leagues shouldn't legislate political correctness. Society does a great job deciding these things.

4. I'm pretty sure the Spurs just made a half-dozen more 3-pointers. Which is incredible because, as I write this, Game 3 has been over for about an hour.

Look, the Spurs made every shot they launched toward the basket and the Heat pretty much stunk. Kind of the exact opposite what happened in Game 2.

LeBron & Co. are in no more trouble than the Spurs were after they were routed two nights earlier.

Now, if the same thing happens in Game 4 ...

3. The Sons of Pitches, the oldie-but-goodie-league softball team for which I play, closed out the regular season Tuesday with our fourth straight victory.

We are hitting the ball, making most of the plays in the field and taking care of business on the mound. We were especially sharp Tuesday, overcoming our few bad plays by playing sound fundamental softball and delivering timely hits. Afterward, nine of us went out for a beverage -- which is about three times as much as the typical turnout last season. That's what I call camaraderie!

The playoffs start next week and we have as good a chance at the title as anybody does. We will be missing our shortstop and best player, Tom, for the first couple of postseason games, but I still feel really good about this team.

We have fun, we like each other and we're playing well. That's what this is supposed to be about.

2. The Cubs and White Sox owe the Blackhawks big-time.

Chicago is ga-ga over its hockey team's second Stanley Cup Finals appearance this decade. The Blackhawks play the Bruins in a series that will last almost until the Bears start training camp. Baseball hasn't mattered this little in the Windy City since Mayor Daley was handing the Sox taxpayer money for Comiskey Park while telling the Cubs they couldn't spend their own to upgrade Wrigley.

On Monday, both the Cubs and Sox played home games in heavy fog.

A perfect metaphor, my friends.

1. Yet another fantastic season of Game of Thrones has concluded, and, speaking on behalf of all of us dummies who are watching the HBO series without having read all gazillion G.O.T. books ...

Hey, book-reading nerds: Stop telling us what is going to happen next!!

From what I understand, the show is quite faithful to the novels, which means every G.O.T. reader already knows all the stunning developments before each episode airs. I guess these folks just want to see how HBO pulls off the best scenes, but as a sports guy who will not watch a sporting event I have taped if I accidentally find out what happened, I like to be surprised.

Game of Thrones has had some of the most shocking scenes in recent TV history. Again, speaking for us television-watching dopes, I want to keep being shocked going forward.

Is that too much to ask for?

Friday, June 7, 2013

Salty dog makes Outer Banks super fun

Our first trip to the Outer Banks was a smashing success.

Robbie and I had a great time with our forever friends, Elizabeth and James.

The weather was mostly excellent, though windier than Chicago x 2. (Great for kite flying!)

And in the most shocking development ...

Simmie swam!!