Now that the the Stanley Cup finals are just around the corner, people may actually start paying attention to Canada’s obsession. Hockey doesn’t get a lot of love, but this final should be enough to please even the most skeptical fan. Both Pittsburgh and Detroit are very good teams that are poised to entertain. As I am getting ready for the series to start on Saturday there are a few things in the hockey world that are interesting and relevant:
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With about 29 percent of the MLB season played, you’ve got to wonder about a few things. Let’s consider a few teams when it comes to the Junior Circuit.
Manchester United rules the European soccer world after taking the Champions League final today over Chelsea. If you are North American then chances are pretty good that you don’t care. This was a pretty spectacular game, though, or at least the finish was. They were tied at one after the 90 minutes of regulation and 30 minutes of overtime. That meant that the game and the most prestigious club championship in the world would be decided in the middle of the night in Moscow in the puring rain by penalty kicks. Cristiano Ronaldo, Man U’s top scoring threat and one of the top players in the world, missed his kick and all looked lost. All Chelsea captain John Terry had to do was score and they won. As he approached the ball he slipped and fell, and the ball sailed harmlessly wide of the net. Man U went on to win in extra kicks, and Terry, one of the elder statesmen of English soccer, looked like he was going to hang himself with his consolation medal. You don’t have to like soccer to enjoy this – you just have to like human suffering and pure agony.
Well, I know one thing with more certainty than I did a couple of hours ago – I like the Bulls next year. I liked them anyway – they were going to have a much better coach (presumably), and they have the talent to be reasonably competitive if they are healthy. Don’t forget, at the start of the season they thought that they were just one player – Kobe Bryant – away. This year was a disaster, but it worked out just fine for them in the end. Against massive odds (just a 1.7 percent chance) they won the draft lottery, and they will have the top pick in the draft. They have three choices. They can adjust their perception of Kirk Hinrich and pick Derrick Rose to run the point. They can throw Michael Beasley into their front court and immediately improve their offense quite significantly. Or, they can trade the pick away.
Mondays aren’t supposed to be busy days on the sports front, but this one certainly was. Here are five things that caught my eye today:
1. It was covered here by someone else earlier tonight, but I have to touch on Jon Lester again. Impressive on a couple of fronts – Boston having two no-hitters in less than a year, Jason Varitek catching both games, Lester’s story. It would be an even better story if it had have been against a major league team instead of the Triple-A adequate Kansas City Royals. Based on what I wrote here last week I’ll be taking a very close look at Lester next time out.
In his third year with the Boston Red Sox, John Lester, cancer survivor, threw a no hitter against the Kansas City Royals. It was the first no-no by a Beantown lefty in 52 years. Last season, Clay Buckholtz threw a no-no. Lester’s no hit game made Jason Varitek unique. Tek is the only MLB catcher to ever anchor four no hitters!
It’s a long weekend up here in the Great White North, and I just got back into town, so I won’t take long here. I’ll get back to regular writing tomorrow, but today I am just trying to absorb what we witnessed yesterday at Pimlico. I love horse racing more than any other sport, and I have watched a whole lot of races in my time, but I have never seen a horse win as easily as Big Brown. He won by five and a half, but he could have won by 55 if he had been allowed to run. Absolutely incredible. It will be a long three weeks until the Belmont as I dream again and again of the very real possibility of a Triple Crown. Finally.
I’ll say this right up front – I think that Big Brown is going to win the Preakness handily and I am going to bet accordingly. Just to be contrary, though, here are seven reasons why you could choose not to bet on him if you were so inclined. As an aside, I can’t help but be haunted by the 2000 Preakness when I think of this race. Fusaichi Pegasus was a freak who was under-raced but had won the Derby impressively after a ton of hype. He was 3/10 in the Preakness against a field of largely uninspiring horses. Kent Desormeaux had that mount as well. Before the race was run everyone and their dog was looking ahead to the Belmont. He got caught at the wire by Red Bullet, a 6/1 shot who had tanked it in the Wood Memorial last time out. That was a bad year for Triple Crown watchers, and certainly not one I am anxious to relive:
If you haven’t been paying much attention to the lead up to the second jewel in the Triple Crown, everything you have missed can be summed up like this – There is one very good horse, two that might be alright, and a lot that have no business being in a race of this caliber. In order of preference:
Justine Henin retired suddenly yesterday despite the fact that she was number one in the world rankings. A couple of things arise from that. First, it’s sad where we have gotten to as a society of sports watchers – an athletes leaves suddenly and I can’t help but wonder what she was about to be caught doing. That’s probably not the case here, but we can’t help but wonder. Second, there goes one of the easiest bets in tennis. She had won three straight French Opens. The tournament starts in a couple of weeks. She hasn’t been playing well lately, but she still would have been an automatic bet for a few rounds.