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Thursday, June 19, 2008

A Tale of Two Titles



Wow, man. What a week. I mean what else can I even say? Well, I know a lot of things I could say, but being short on time this week I'm just gonna right right down to brass tacks...

There were two storied championships captured this week, and one of them was one of the most enbtertaining sporting events I've ever seen broadcast on TV. The other? Well it was supposed to be sick. But it somehow managed to fall flat, despite giving many their desired result. Here's my breakdown of said events...

I say we start with the second one first. Ya know, just to mix it up a little...


When the season started, I thought the Boston Celtics were a year of chemistry, and a new head coach away from seriously competing for the NBA Title. Well I was wrong. Congrats to the Celtics. They fought through a tough road to the get to the Finals, and really stepped up to take the hardware from the Lakers in a dominant 6 game clinic. It had all the look of a storybook ending that you'd think would create an electric atmosphere and a joyous aftermath. Only problem? It totally didn't...

"This is what happens with ready-made championships" was the thought running through my head as I endured the final 3 quarters of the no-doubter that was game 6. Again, not to take a single thing away from the Celts and their fans, but it just doesn't feel the same when the outcome was so inevitable, and the road to get there was so short. Sure, 22 years is a long time. But did this team go through 22 years of down times? Of course not. Matter of fact. Paul Pierce, the only "real" Celtic before the season started, had just been to the Eastern Finals a mere 6 years earlier. OK maybe that's not up to the standard set by Larry and Red, but as far as "suffering" goes, it's hardly of Red Sox proportions. And I'm not talking about how I felt, no, no, no. I'm talking about the reaction to banner 17 that I saw from a myriad of Celtics fans both during, and after they'd closed the series out...

It's like. "Yeah! We won!.....hey what are you doin' later?" As opposed to the wins of the Sox and Pats where you felt compelled to break down every aspect of their run to the title. Sure it was exciting, but I think new championship standard in this region has been set so high, that anything short of an epic or historic battle just wasn't gonna do. It was the Lakers, after all, and with all that hung in the balance, it just seems the series came out a little short on entertainment value. Basically. There was no real "curse" to be fought, or any underdog mentality associated with the Sox and Pats teams of recent memory. The Celtics were the best team, with the best players, and they took it down. For a city that often convinces itself it's the underdog, there was no denying early in this series that Boston was the superior team. I think that may have dulled the title a bit, and may have had fans thinking this was more of "another title", than cherishing it for the great single achievement that it actually was. And it certainly didn't help that game 6, the supposed culmination, had many surfing through channels and wondering when exactly they'd be able to go to sleep. This wasn't a team that we'd rooted for that finally pulled through, it was more a group of guys wearing Celtic jerseys, that thanks to free agency, were no more Boston Celtics than Spike Lee or Jack Nicholson...

But all 'n all you just have to give props and respect. Sure the traditional steps may have been missing in this teams march to glory, but to not give credit where credit is due? Damn, well then people might just start thinkin' I'm a Celtics hater or somethin'...

To KG, Pierce and Allen, for sucking it up and making it work together. It was all about their dedication to defense and their ability to share the rock that got each of them the title their resumes were so desperately lacking. It takes a lot to put your pride aside like that for the good of the team, and I commend them for it. They deserve everything they got. All of the Big 3 walk away with a ring, while the Truth and the Ticket also get their foot firmly in the door of the Basketball Hall of Fame. Not bad for a few months work...

To Doc, for not fuckin' shit up beyond the repair of the 3 previously mentioned gentlemen. I know I shit on this guy a lot in the past, but he did somehow manage to get the job done. Doesn't mean that all of a sudden I'm gonna change my mind about him. But maybe, just maybe, he's not quite as awful as I've thought. Even I have to admit he had a very positive influence on the team's chemistry throughout the season. And as much as it pains me to say, you also have to credit him for not being out coached by the Zen Master, Phil Jackson. I still think the talent was the overriding factor here, but he didn't blink once from the glare of Phil's 9 rings, and for that he deserves props. So while I've always hated on his in-game coaching ability, it was the galvanizing effect his leadership and example had on this group of established stars that was key to helping them bring home banner 17...

And to Danny Ainge. I still won't buy that this was his plan the whole time, but he made it work. He may have mortgaged the so called "future" for a 3 year window at a title or two, but now that they took it down in year #1, it makes it all worth it...

Maybe it's that I was looking for a little something more from the Lakers. Maybe it's that no matter how hard I try, I can't really fall in love with the NBA again like when I was a kid. Or maybe it's because I've just become way too spoiled. Whatever the reason, I just don't feel I'm nearly as excited as I should be, and I feel I'm not alone in my thinking. Sure it's good to win, but when the win itself has about as much drama as a PBS telethon, then was it really all that fun to watch? Not for this guy...

Lucky for me there was the 2008 US Open. This thing didn't promise nearly as much, but boy did it ever deliver...



The whole tournament was just magical. Not only did Tiger Woods battle through pain to lead after 54 holes. But just when it seemed like he had his 3rd Open, and 14th major well within grasp, he was thrown to the brink only to bounce back yet again. It unfolded unlike any Tiger drama we'd seen before, but had all the nuances of an Elderick win that we've come to associate with the greatest player ever to pick up the sticks...

On Friday, just when it looks like he's aggravated his surgically repaired knee, he goes on a run. He rallies to make 5 straight 3's on his way into the clubhouse, and makes it into the back end of the Saturday pairings. Well within striking distance...

Then there's Saturday. And oh was there EVER Saturday! After another double on the 1st dropped him off the leader board's first page, he began a charge for the ages. While limping around Torrey Pines, Tiger was able to stand upright just long enough to stick a chip, and drain an eagle. Two shots we won't soon forget, even if I only saw the first one as a taped highlight. Two eagles on the backside helped mask some of the bumpier moments in his round, but they were still good enough to give Tiger the 54 hole lead in yet another major championship. It was something he had never relinquished, and it was a thought that had most of us looking at the 4th round as more of a culmination, a formality...

Oh, but not so fast my fortune telling friends. While Tiger may have been "Big Brown" (yes, hysterical pun intended), set to make history, Rocco Mediate was that pesky Belmont horse out to ruin the day, and keep sacred the Triple Crown. But this long shot wasn't just there to ruin your trifecta, he was there to put on a show for the ages...

Good ole' Rocco. Guy just oozes Freddie Couples, doesn't he? He's got all the talent in the world, he loves and is great at relating to the fans, and he has a love for them game that can be seen by anyone watching him play. Too bad for him, much like Freddie, is that he's been hampered by back problems through the last 20 years that have kept him playing limited events, and held him to only 9 world wide wins. Ahhh, but he was the healthy one this time around, and after notching a top 10 in last year's Open, seemed poised to give Mr. Woods everything he could handle...

He fought hard enough to force Tiger to make birdie on 18 to send the Open to a Monday playoff. And he fought hard enough to make the World's #1 ranked player have to birdie 18 again on Monday just to force sudden death. All the while, he was crackin' jokes with the gallery, and making facial expressions that would make Jim Carrey jealous. Not only was the guy a walking "golf buddy", but he was putting the screws to the best player of All-Time! He came back from the dead, down 3 after 10 holes in the Monday playoff, only to fall just short in the most entertaining golf tournament in recent memory. It was his ying, to Tiger's yang that made the drama and the tension palpable. Yet it was also his likability that allowed you to cheer for him, while at the same time still cheering for Tiger. It was like you wanted the match to go on forever, you wanted them both to keep the clutch shots pouring on in...

But in the end, David wasn't able to slay Goliath, and a gimpy Tiger walked away with his 3rd Open, and 14th major championship. They took us to the brink of Cinderella, only to put another stamp on what's destined to be the best career of all time. Oh, and did I mention Tiger had to call it a season in favor of surgery after gutting out this epic win? Yeah, he's that good. And so was the 2008 US Open. One for the ages. Truly an event we won't soon, if ever, forget...

I just think from an event standpoint, for the sake of entertainment, the US Open takes it hands down. If you wanna talk simply Game 4 of the Finals against the Open, you might have an argument. But otherwise I think it's rather lopsided. One event had all the promise of a heavyweight prize fight, only to end like you're average...well...heavyweight prize fight. One fighter was clearly the better man, while all the tasty Don King like pre-fight story lines fell by the wayside. The other championship didn't have any such promises for history, yet delivered it in instant-classic fashion. The outcome didn't surprise anyone, yet everyone was left shaking their head, wowed at the way it had all gone down...

I'm tellin' ya, my bias against the NBA aside, the US Open was just a batter event to watch. Even with all that was on the line for the Celtics, Tiger and Rocco were able to flat out put on a better show. Does it speak to how weak the NBA is? Maybe. Does it speak to how high the standard is for sports teams in New England? Definitely. The bar is set high, kids. And I can't say that bothers me even the tiniest bit...


Now believe me, I wish I had more time but I don't. Between Willie and Javon gettin' knocked the fuck out!, and the surging Sox and Yanks starting to turn on the summer juice, I could go on for days. Lucky for us all I just ain't gots the time...

Time for me to chase those papes, and I suggest you get back to doin' the same. Catch you next week. Until then...

Peace in the Middle...

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