Your morning roundup for June 14, the day we wished our father didn't love old comedians. (Thanks to Andy for the screengrab.)
What we watched: There are essentially three types of hockey games, and we will discard the first because it is boring: one team takes a 2-goal lead and maintains it, maybe giving one back, maybe scoring one, all the way to the horn. It is suspenseless and tells us little. But the other types, those are hockey at their most primal and most narrative.
There is the one-goal game, where the lead never becomes safe, where every shot and save and turnover and check could lead to a game-tyer or a game-putter-awayer, that's the classic hockey game. Because the importance of every insignificant play is magnified, should it be the first of a sequence that leads to the crucial goal, the minutes count down slowly. If you are a fan of one of the teams, you will spend two-and-a-half hours wanting to vomit. Those nailbiters tell a story, an entire self-contained performance on the ice, with all the appropriate acts and stock characters. Every Vancouver win in this series has been one of these games.
Then there is the blowout, where one team seizes and early lead and merely spends the remaining time building upon it. In terms of visceral excitement, it lacks. But if the series, or the entire season, can be seen as a roman-fleuve, then these statement games are the well-remembered dramatic chapters that punctuate the narrative. The momentum shifts significantly, forcefully, perhaps enduringly. Every Boston win in this series has been one of these games.
So tomorrow sees game 7, with the fate of our main characters still in the balance. If the series were a tale, whether copied from some ancient manuscript or punched out on some hack's IBM Selectric, a series like this would have to end in the most poetic fashion imaginable. There are a hundred ways it could end, each being a fitting final chapter, but there is only one outcome that will leave the mythmakers completely satisfied. What might it be?
What we're watching: What if there were a professional sport that banned a particular performancing-enhancing drug in almost every corner of the world? What if the only place that PED were legal were the United States, where the drug was used for legitimate medical purposes, only the athletes didn't need a doctor's note to approve? And what if the use of the drug became so standard in the industry, that if you didn't take it, you couldn't keep up, forcing every single athlete in the sport to take the drug on the morning of competitions, every single time? But what if the prevalence of this PED meant that inferior athletes could compete, watering down the level of competition and making the athletes weak and fragile? And what if the rest of the world took a good look at what's happening in the US, and decided our version of the sport is so artificial and twisted that they want nothing to do with us, sending our version into a death spiral?
Serena Williams may not know what literally means: "The queen is, if not quite back, then at least looming with convalescent intent. Nourished by south-coast breezes, Serena Williams will on Tuesday play her first competitive match since her victory in last year's Wimbledon final.
Williams, who will face Tsvetana Pironkova on the grass courts of Eastbourne, has spent nearly 12 months incapacitated by a cut to her foot sustained last July and by a pulmonary embolism discovered in March. On Monday she revealed that the clot in her lung had been a life-threatening condition. ‘I was on my death bed at one point – quite literally. I've had a serious illness but at first I didn't appreciate that,' she said." [Guardian]
Somewhere, Bobby Bonilla raises a glass: "The cash-strapped Los Angeles Dodgers must pay Manny Ramirez $8.33 million by June 30, a source said on Monday. The polarizing slugger is due the deferred money from the $42 million contract he signed with Los Angeles before the 2009 season. The Dodgers traded him to the White Sox last year but still owe him an additional $8.33 million in 2012 and $8.33 million in 2013. Ramirez retired in April after failing his second drug test in three seasons." [ESPN.com]
This is cool: "Back in March we attended our first MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference. We were fortunate enough to meet up with the awesome guys over at STATS who were showing off their revolutionary player tracking system. We recently reconnected and they were kind enough to lend us some of the data. We created a interactive display that animates the location data re-creating the game in navigable 3d space." [Hoopism]
Logical Clevelanders, for once: "Of course just because you have power doesn't mean you should use it, but we'd be able to enjoy this Mavaliers win a lot more if we hadn't so clearly (rightly or wrongly) viewed the Decision as a gross misapplication before it happened. We didn't need the Heat to lose to confirm for us that the Decision was largely revelatory and a result of LeBron's own personal weakness. We never saw anything but a scared child in the chair across from Jim Gray last July, and a Heat championship this June wouldn't have changed that picture in the slightest. Different strokes, different folks, but LeBron's weakness — the spectacular failure of a guy Northeast Ohio spent eleven-plus years pumping up — was never anything we cared to revel in, and certainly isn't now." [Cleveland Frowns]
Zizzy is not a giant dildo, he only looks like one: "Zizzy is modeled after the Ziz, a fiberglass sculpture, and stands 6 feet 6 inches tall in front of the Goodyear Ballpark, 1933 S. Ballpark Way. The $450,000 baseball-themed sculpture was designed by Donald Lipski, a Philadelphia artist. Sunday at a game between the Washington Nationals and the Arizona Diamondbacks, Zizzy joined other sports' mascots in the state to celebrate the birthday of D. Baxter the Bobcat, the Arizona Diamondbacks' mascot since June 23, 2000." [Arizona Republic]
Not going to lie, we'd pay to see this: "Given the current state of the economy, it comes as no surprise that many Egyptians are doing all that they can to revive international interest in their country. What is surprising, though, is that one man has somehow managed to convince himself - and a few others - that he can single-handedly "boost tourism in Egypt" by fighting a full-grown African lion in direct hand-to-paw combat, in front of the Pyramids at Giza." [Al-Masry Al-Youm]
The most ‘Sports' Pirates fans have seen in years: "As I perused the baseball box scores on Sunday, I noticed something peculiar at the bottom of the box for Saturday night's Mets-Pirates game. 39,273. As in the number of people that showed up for a Pirates game. In Pittsburgh. It was the team's fourth sellout of the season and the third-largest crowd in the 11-year history of PNC Park. What explanation could there be for this phenomenon?Could it be… the power of love?
Yes folks, the reason for Saturday's sellout was none other than the legendary Huey Lewis & The News, who held a postgame concert. Actually, to get a sellout the Pirates not only had to get Huey in the building, they also shot off fireworks. And how can you beat that combination?" [Rumors and Rants]
Your freestyle canoe interlude, as seen on the Colbert Report:
The HuffPo is the only source you need for sports news and analysis: "'Before I began my crucifixion of LeBron James, I decided it was only fair to go back and watch the tape,' wrote Jordan Schultz. From Schultz's bio, I learned he started 'with the Los Angeles Times, leading their 2008 NBA Draft coverage.' Imagine my surprise. I thought I led our coverage. I emailed Jordan, who said he was an intern who did the live blogging and would adjust his bio." [LA Times]
Sporty and subservient!: "The sleek 'sports hijab' is customized for female Muslim athletes who want to take the field in full head-and-neck cover. The scarf is a tight-fitting hood that attaches to a high-collared T-shirt and is made of stretchy, fast-drying fabric. An internal pouch keeps hair away from the neck, and wearers can adjust their hair through an opening at the back. The company's tagline: 'Be yourself. Unveil your performance.' FIFA has included headscarves in a larger rule against players who 'use equipment or wear anything that is dangerous to himself or another player...' since 2007. How, exactly, a headscarf passes as dangerous is something of a mystery. (And never mind that by that rationale, FIFA might as well ban ponytails.)" [Fast Company]
The natural path toward working for Michael Jordan: "[Rich] Cho, the first Asian-American general manager in major-league sports, got here on an unconventional path. His family immigrated from Burma to the United States when Rich was 3. He earned an engineering degree from Washington State and worked for aircraft-maker Boeing for five years. But he had a dream of working in professional sports. People he met in the sports business noted that agents and team executives often have law degrees. So Cho quit his job at Boeing to attend Pepperdine's law school. From there, he did an internship with the Seattle SuperSonics that led to a front-office job. He worked there about a decade, as the Sonics moved to Oklahoma City and became the Thunder." [Charlotte Observer]
Portland Timbers coach John Spencer is delightfully Scottish:
It happened again: "In the bottom half, Calla Harter hit an apparent two-out, walk-off home run for the Knights. But Jessie Kish, mobbed by teammates ahead of Harter, was ruled to have missed home plate and was ruled out by an umpire on appeal by Tomlinson. 'I don't know what happened. I thought she won the game," Luther coach Mark Ross said.'" [Madison.com]
We are all Dave McKenna CXXX: Here's your daily link to Dave McKenna's brilliant "Cranky Redskins Fan's Guide to Dan Snyder," which we'll be posting until Snyder's dumbass lawsuit packs up the kids, sells the house and never comes back.
What's killing our young arms now?: "Baseball observers have taken so long to identify the inverted W because it is a relatively recent development-that is, it didn't come into being until the windup disappeared almost entirely from baseball. Go back 40 to 50 years and look at pitchers like Warren Spahn or Juan Marichal and ask, "Why is it that they could pitch 300 more innings year after year and not hurt their arms?" There are several answers to that question, but the primary one is that pitches used to throw out of a full windup, which took advantage of the momentum of their whole body to give velocity to the pitch. In recent decades, with pitchers more concerned about holding runners on base, the windup has largely gone the way of the two-dollar hot dog. The Inverted W is the result of a pitcher trying to add speed or finesse on a pitch by forcing the delivery-in other words, his arm working against his body instead of with it." [The Atlantic]