Monday, June 30, 2008

Random Sports Reflections

Here's some quick reflections on some recent sports news items:

*First, the Shaq/Kobe deal. For those of you that don't know, last week Shaquille O'Neal was at a New York club and was taped doing a freestyle rap. The tape ended up on a tabloid website and then became headline news. In the rap, Shaq trashes Kobe and made some off-color remarks.

Now, anyone that knows me knows I don't like Kobe Bryant. I'm not a fan of his at all. However, I was totally disappointed in Shaq's behavior. Besides the fact that their feud was supposedly over with like two years ago, there really was no reason for Shaq to go off like that. To give credit where credit was due this year, Kobe's team did go farther in the playoffs than Shaq's (much to my disapproval). In my mind, this puts a tarnish on Shaq's reputation and in some ways elevates Kobe's.

*Next, the Jose Guillen situation. Last Friday, Guillen talked about how he was booed for not running out a grounder that was nearly an error in the previous game. He said, to put it mindly, to forget the fans and that he doesn't care what they think (he did throw in a few choice words in that). He has since apologized for that remark.

Me personally, I didn't take that remark seriously. I thought he was just frustrated and did what most people do when they're frustrated, lash out. So I don't necessarily fault him for that. It was nice to see that he apologized. I will say this, he's been way more vocal this year than he was last year in Seattle. I don't really remember him saying anything at all the whole year. It might have been that team was better than this one or there was more veteran leadership with the Mariners. I don't know. It will be interesting to see how the rest of the year plays out with him and the team.

Finally, football (aka soccer). Yesterday was the final of Euro 2008, the championship for all of soccer in Europe. The match between Spain and Germany was a good one which ended 1-0 with Spain on top. I watch that match and several others that led up to it when they were on TV. I'm in the minority I know but I do enjoy a good soccer match, even on TV and this was a good one. If you didn't see it, you missed out.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

This Post Brought to you by the Letters R and K and by the Number 3 (aka Third Royals Game...In Review)

I went to my third Royals game of the year yesterday. This time it was an interleague matchup with the Colorado Rockies (hence brought to you by the letter R). One thing I like about K.C. is that you can get cheap deals on tickets. I got an e-mail from the team after the last game I went to in May and as a "thank you" they had a deal where there was 50% off most tickets in June. So of course got to take advantage of that. So me and my friend and huge Royals fan Kyle got some really good seats in the Field Box section on third base side about twenty rows back.

It was T-Shirt Tuesday, which they do once a month. This time it was a navy blue shirt with a cool logo on the front. I ended up exhanging the XL they gave me for a Medium, which was nice. It was a kind of muggy night. There was a chance of thunderstorms but the line came through already so it ended up being a good night for baseball.

It was an interesting game. Some highlights:

*Zack Greinke in the first inning picked off a guy at first who was leaning too far towards second. The funny thing was he threw over to first about two or three times before that and I said to Kyle if he does it again he'll pick him off. Sure enough he did. Just the first of my "predictions" to come true.

*The home plate umpire got hurt by the bat of Miguel Olivo shattering. That made national news. When the play happened, I didn't see the bat shatter. I was trailing the ball. It was when I looked back and saw everyone huddling around the ump. They ended up having about a 15 minute delay with attending to him and getting one of the other umps ready to take over behind the plate.

*Royals pitchers had a huge performance as far as strikeouts go. Greinke had 10 himself and the crazy thing was it was in like he did it in six innings and probably could have had more if it weren't for some bloop hits and such. It was a really strong pitching performance. Overall, there were like 13 K's (hence the brought to you by the letter K).

*I finally saw my first home run by a Royal. After seeing two by the opposing teams (Kevin Millar back in May and Matt Holiday earlier in the game), Alex Gordon came up and crushed one over the right center fence near the fountains. Yet another event that I "called" prior to it happening.

*I was hoping to see the closer Soria come in but with a four run lead, that didn't happen. What did happen was the reliever Ramon Ramirez threw some wild pitches including two behind the first batter of the ninth Torrealba. They were teammates in Colorado last year and don't know if there was bad blood with them or not. At the time, I just thought Ramirez just lost his control in between innings. But then he "settled down" and got the rest of the guys blazing through and got the win.

The third time was the charm (hence the number 3) as it took the third time for me to go to a game this year to see them win. They are now 1-2 in games I've went to. So all in all a good night. Got a free t-shirt, got to see some home runs, some really cool strikeouts, some fireworks and a Royals win. Not a bad night at all...

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Prayer and NASCAR

The one thing about this blog is it will cover a variety of sports. One of those being racing. This post is one that I've been mulling over for months and with it being kind of a "quiet time" in sports, I figured this was the best time to break it out.

I grew up in the South. With that, I grew up with NASCAR. Some of my fondest memories growing up was listening to a race on the radio as I was coming home from worship at church on Sunday afternoon and then watching the race on TV with my dad in the den. I know, to some people racing is not a sport. I tend to think it is. To be able to drive 500 miles in the span of a few hours with all the pressure takes something that few people have. When I was little, I did dream about being a stock car driver. To this day, when I'm back home on some of those back country roads, I drive like I'm racing at Daytona.

The last couple of years (probably three years) I didn't watch much racing. But moving to Kansas City (and with no cable), I got hooked watching it while it was on Fox. And one of the things I immediately noticed was how for every pre-race event, they had an invocation or prayer. And it wasn't just some 'prayer' that didn't really go to God but they had chaplins or pastors there who actually prayed in the name of Jesus. And I thought about this for a while and how rare that is. Now at some high school football games or such they still do prayer but there is no major sporting event other than NASCAR that does. As much grief as NASCAR gets about being a "redneck" sport, I'm glad that it still keeps that as part of the tradition.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

The NBA Finals: Where Retro Happens

It's June which means it's time for the NBA Finals. A time where given the last ten years there have been very few good series. But this year could be one of those good series. The Los Angeles Lakers vs the Boston Celtics. Two perenniel powerhouse teams. One of the most storied rivalries in all of sports.

It is a rivalry that spends decades. From the 60s with Russell vs West to the 80s with Bird vs Magic to today. Most people are calling this the dream matchup between Kobe and the Big Three (Garnett, Allen, Pierce).

Personally, while I think this will be a good series, I think it won't match in comparison the times in the 80s when the Lakers and Celtics were dominant. That was an era in basketball that was tremendous. I probably was spoiled as a child growing up watching such great basketball. The whole NBA was great but just to name players off these two teams with the "Showtime" Lakers with Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, James Worthy, A.C. Green, Byron Scott, Micheal Cooper, Kurt Rambis and the vaunted Boston Celtics with Larry Bird, Kevin McHale, Robert Parish, Dennis Johnson, Danny Ainge, Gerald Henderson and Bill Walton (who was just hanging on there at the end). But I named those guys off the top of my head without having to look them up and look how many guys I named some 20 something years later. I would be hard pressed to name the starting five for many teams in the NBA today.

Those series in the 80s were tremendous. Games where both teams scored well over 100 points. Several Hall of Famers on each team on the court at the same time. Great arenas like the Boston Garden and The Forum.

I say all that to say that while I'm excited about this year's finals for the first time in a few years, it doesn't compare to those years growing up watching guys like Larry and Magic. Then again, I'm sure there are kids now that say this is the best basketball. That's the thing about growing up.

Prediction: Celtics in 5

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Reflecting on Stanley Cup Hockey

I had some time last night to watch the Stanley Cup Final Game 5 (aka the NHL Finals). I enjoy watching hockey (maybe it's the latent Canadian in me) and I've been to a couple of games in my lifetime. So it was nice to sit down and watch a game and to have probably one of the best marquee matchups you could get. The Detroit Red Wings, the perennial team in hockey (aka the Yankees/Lakers) verses the Pittsburgh Penguins with the up and coming rising star in hockey with Sidney Crosby (aka Sid the Kid).

The series stood at 3-1 Detroit going into last night's game. I was rooting for Pittsburgh for two reasons. One, I didn't want Detroit to win the Cup (cause I'm a Nashville Predators fan and they're our big rival) and two, I'd like to see the series go to 7 games. Early on, it looked like it'd at least go to a 6th game as Pittsburgh went up 2-0 after the first period. Detroit fought back and later took the lead 3-2 in the third period and everyone in Detroit was getting ready to celebrate. But with less than a minute to go and with the goalie pulled, the Penguins scored a goal which forced it into overtime.

They then spent two overtimes with no goals and a lot of amazing saves by Fleury, the goalie for Pittsburgh. The third overtime saw the final goal by Pittsburgh as Petr Sykora scored and won the game. What was funny was during the second overtime, he spoke to the "sideline" reporter that he would score a goal, essentially calling his shot.

It was a great game, probably one of the best hockey games I've ever seen. I'm looking forward to seeing how Game 6 will go on Wednesday.