Monday, May 30, 2011

Red Whines: It's Like Being in a Foreign Country

Did you ever get that feeling when you're at a friend's house watching Wheel of Fortune or [Insert Popular Reality TV Show Here] and you're flipping through channels during a commercial, and then you see a show you like and exclaim it and he/she [your friend] proceeds to look at you like an idiot? I've been there.

Sometimes when you are not in the comfort of your own home, it's sometimes difficult to get your message across and to win the right to not feel inferior. Think of it this way, I would much rather watch a Flyers game than watch something on the OWN Network. Then you have to helplessly suffer throughout the time period.

Then you think: Well don't you have something on your phone or laptop in which you can watch the game? Firstly, my dear people, that's rather disrespectful. Sure, you're going to be dying on the inside, but I'm not going to whip my phone out unless if the other person cares just as much. That's like if you're a dude in a movie theater watching the football game on your iPhone while your sitting through a chick flick with your girlfriend that doesn't ask for much from you. That's...just not cool, broski.
Secondly, some people don't have that luxury or capacity to have that stuff. End of story.

In the case of the other person not even understanding the sport, it's 100 times harder to gain understanding and appreciation for what you like. Their first defense is either "it's boring," or "I don't see the big deal about it." Then you nearly blow a gasket because they just completely miss the point and pretty much condescend every ounce of your love and belief. It's like that feeling you get when you're little and find out that Santa doesn't exist. You're like, "mm-mmmm sister (or dude), you don't know what you're missing," and you get into this argument of epic proportions and you turn into this Pentecostal-caliber sporting advocate.

It'd be nice if they'd start asking questions, you know.
When they ask you questions, it's like they're asking you to pretty much spill your guts very prettily all over to try to woo them into your obsession very smoothly. Of course it's like they're putting you on the spot, but in a way, this is like a sport itself; they're trying to knock you off your soapbox with these out-of-left-field questions and you must stay as immovable as the heaviest statue on Earth.
After the hubbub of that, you're thinking that you're reeling them in; they have that light of interest in their face and you hear that music from National Lampoon's Vacation when they're running toward Walley World. You're thinking, "Oh my God, I'm actually gonna win this argument. They're actually going to believe me. I'm going to convert them!" You start feeling the wind in your hair. They pick up the remote...

...and the phone rings.
Your friend goes, "I forget what we were talking about."
After all of that, they don't buy into you anyway.


Sunday, May 29, 2011

AZ's Slant on Sunday -- Breakfast with Conference Champions

Good morning, everyone. I hope you're enjoying your holiday weekend.

Ah, Ocean City, New Jersey...where I will eventually get my Mack & Manco pizza, Kohr Bros. ice cream, salt water taffy, and FUDGE. See you in August, wonderful boardwalk...

Meanwhile, in another part of town...

Two major sports leagues are entering their championship matches, and there have been some intense matchups and some complete blowouts. What I find interesting is that each league is alternating their play around each other, so Game 1 of the NBA Finals starts on Tuesday, and Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals is the night after, and so on, and so forth. Pretty awesome. There will be something good and worth watching on TV every night. I'm sorry, I don't really watch much television other than sports, Jeopardy, Wheel of Fortune, and The Big Bang Theory.
But enough about me...let's talk about our upcoming duels in the NHL and NBA this week.

Miami Heat vs. Dallas Mavericks

In one corner, you've had the all-season statistic favorites led by Bosh, Wade, and LeBron, and in the other corner you have the team led by Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Kidd that's looking for their first title in franchise history owned by the madness that is Mark Cuban.

During the playoff run the Heat had, they made quick work of the 76ers and last year's runner-up Celtics. However, the Bulls were believed to give the Heat a run for their money, but the Heat had begun to show how clutch they could truly be. The Heat could definitely be seen as a threat and an answer to the ratings issues that the NBA Finals may have had in the past.

The Mavericks had a bulldozer-like run like the Heat. They not only gave the TrailBlazers and Thunder a shocking problem, but they even made Phil Jackson and the LA Lakers look like fools. With Nowitzki's brilliance and the team chemistry that has been proven unbreakable throughout this postseason, they're going to definitely deliver problems and make a good run.

Players to Watch:
Dallas: Jason Terry, Dirk Nowitzki, Jason Kidd
Miami: Chris Bosh, Dwayne Wade, LeBron James

Prediction: Miami in 7
Dallas is filled with skills and precision. However, Miami will definitely turn up the heat (no pun intended) and come in the clutch when absolutely necessary. That doesn't mean it'll be a clean sweep. It's going to be one heck of a series. If Miami doesn't get frustrated, they could gain control of the series very early on.


Vancouver Canucks vs. Boston Bruins
Champions: 20 Years in the Making

Vancouver, who has yet to win a Stanley Cup, has already made a good show by winning the President's Trophy and shown a strong resilience to letting a game slip by them. Boston, on the other hand, has a long legacy of being a threat in the NHL, but have yet to win a Stanley Cup since the 1971-72 season. In their only season meeting, Boston defeated Vancouver 3-1. Will the case be the same this time?

The Canucks have made a very strong showing all season. However, the Canucks have let sweet victory slip through their fingers many times this postseason, especially in games against the Blackhawks. It's been shown that Luongo isn't exactly a miracle drug despite the fact that only God saves more than him. If the Canucks want to win the Cup, they need to give their 100% in each and every game. No half efforts. It's happened way too many times already to count.

Boston had their brief ups and downs, but definitely came down in the clutch when needed. Based on the series already played, it seems like any player on the team is bound to be dangerous at any time during any game. Although it looked like that their clean sweeps and lack of problems in the playoffs make them look good on paper, their path here was not easy. Tim "The Tank" Thomas was an absolute monster in net, keeping damage control to a tolerable limit. Heck, I think he made a lot of game-saving dives and what have you as well. The whole team is well-rounded, and they could beat you on all ends if you let them sneak by you.
[Hey, maybe if they win, Mark Recchi the dinosaur will finally retire as a happy camper. Okay, that wasn't nice to say. He's still the man at the ripe age of 43.]

Players to Watch:
Vancouver: Daniel Sedin, Henrik Sedin, Ryan Kesler, Roberto Luongo
Boston: Tim Thomas, David Krejci, Nathan Horton, Patrice Bergeron, Zdeno Chara

Prediction: Boston in 6
The main thing that will keep the Bruins keeping up will be Tim Thomas in net and Zdeno Chara playing massive defense in the back. However, Roberto Luongo won't let lollipops of goals in as much as Antii Niemi (and basically every Flyers goaltender that played) did. Where Boston's defense excels, Vancouver's is highly lacking. If Vancouver wants to survive, they need to stick together as a unit and make sure that the walls are bolstered. This should be quite the show if every teammate decides to show up each game.


And that, my friends, is my Slant on Sunday.

Oh wait, I mentioned breakfast in the title....

Have fun with it. Enjoy the rest of your weekend.


Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Less is More - Champs are Overrated!

As I was watching ESPN on Sunday before the Red Sox/Cubs game, the guys were talking about how Cubs fans are still faithful even after 100+ years without a World Series win.

Why is that, you ask?
It's like a life application...everyone loves a winner, but aren't the losers and underdogs more fun to watch sometimes?
When I watch Little League games, for example, I always root for the small guys (think the little Hawaiian guys) because they always seem like the underdogs, and it's always fun to see them excel and beat the odds.

I guess that's why I have such a soft spot for guys like the Cubs, the city of Buffalo, the Detroit Lions (why do I keep coming back to these guys?), the Cleveland Indians, and the like. Over time, I have come to change my mind on the graces of being in a city with constantly winning teams. It's like the bulk of the pressure is put on the winning teams and it's way more sweeter to see the guys with the drought to step up and sweep everyone off of their sport-loving feet.

This is why I'm here to talk about why sometimes winning isn't exactly everything...

As their product says: "Less is more." ...Well, at least it was like, two years ago.

Let's take a look at the four major sports--I'm not counting MLS because they've only been around for a little over 10 years and still growing--and see which teams have the most championships:

MLB: New York Yankees - 27 (SHOCKER.)
NHL: Montreal Canadiens - 24
NBA: Boston Celtics - 17
NFL: Green Bay Packers - 13 (This includes pre-Super Bowl stuff)

These four teams are responsible for creating dynasties among the players and within the management. If you come from a city that doesn't do as well as these guys, you most likely hate them for the name and how many times they grace their presence in the postseason.

The one bad thing about having a team with a drought is beginning to see the people come out of the woodwork and say they've been fans forever just for the sake of partying during the playoffs. It happens in a lot of places. I guarantee you that if the Washington Nationals make the playoffs (which would honestly make me wet my pants), everyone in the DC area is going to be running to the streets either going, "WE'RE ACTUALLY GOOD," or... "YES, PARTY!"
Aside: The latter is just from what I've seen when the Phillies won the World Series in 2008 after a city sport drought lasting for 25 years and people who didn't know any players except for maybe Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, and Cole Hamels were out at major street corners dressed like Frylock from Aqua Teen Hunger Force jumping on SEPTA buses, throwing beer, and climbing poles. [<-- Wow, that was a sentence of Biblical proportions right there.]

At any rate, it's nice to always see someone new in a championship game. It would be kind of boring to see teams like the Lakers or the Celtics or the Yankees or the Steelers (yeah I went there) or the Cowboys or the Packers or the Bears every year in the championship game. Sometimes you're lucky and get two teams that have never been there before. Unfortunately, some people don't give a flying flip and the ratings suffer (see my previous post about this). If people throw the word "curse" around the games, then people will most likely watch. Just think of the Red Sox back in '04 when they came back from an 0-3 deficit against the Yankees and later made a clean sweep to their first title in 86 years. I was the happiest 14-year old girl alive because I bet money on that postseason. See, I guess even then I was softee for the fighters.

...No, it's not because of the movie Rocky taking place in Philadelphia and he was an underdog against Mr. Carl Weathers, just to get this out of the way.

Another point I want to bring up is if there are a lack of personnel changes throughout the years of a dynasty, things get old and boring rather quickly to just about anyone living outside of the city. I think even Joe Buck himself wouldn't be able to come up with anymore zingers for his favorite teams. Maybe that's another day and another blog post. But anyway, diversity always keeps something fresh, and seeing the same team winning all the time would honestly suck. Plus, when they sweep a team in the finals it's even more boring.

Finally, the novelty of it all is always rewarding and such for people not involved. Just watching a bit of history take place and seeing the carnage that luckily isn't occurring in your area is always nice. Another thing, it's not like there's any pressure when they don't win or don't even make it to the playoffs. Like people say, "There's always next year." There's also the video gamer's point of view where you have unlimited continues--you just have to start from the beginning of the level.

When you're not a winner, you have nowhere to go but up, so the sky's the limit. When you win a bit too much, you have to stay at the top or you'll fall from the sky and look absolutely stupid doing so.

This is why being a loser is so much more awesome. Life can be full of surprises. Winning can't always get those surprises for you.


Saturday, May 21, 2011

The "Old Yeller Complex"

(Shout-out to Alex Hamell, a good guy and faithful reader. He's the reason why I started this one due to a certain tweet.)

Have you ever seen that tear-jerker of a movie Old Yeller? Well, to save about 90 minutes of your time, give or take a few, the dog ends up contracting rabies and the pre-pubescent boy protagonist ends up going to the shed and putting Old Yeller down with a shotgun. Sad, I know. But what's even more sad is when most fans and managers go to the point of figuratively walking to the shed and putting their own players down with the "shotgun." Bam. I just turned it around and made it relevant to sports. Excuse me while I do a dance.
Okay, I'm done.
Aww, they're so cute when they're old...

Anyway, as of late, there have been a lot of guys that have been really testing their wills and the wills of others to keep going. Guys such as Brett Favre, Peter Forsberg, Jamie Moyer, and several others have refused to step down and have decided to continue to share the wealth of their talents among their respective leagues. However, there might be a slight chance that they happened to get bitten with a raccoon filled with injury, age, and the art of being a philanderer during the offseason. So what are managers and teammates supposed to do in a time of dwindling roster spaces for them?

There's always that philosophy of "Survival of the Fittest" where only the ones in best shape will make it through, but there's also the philosophy that "with age comes wisdom" and these old-heads will teach the youth to be as fierce and eternal as they are. As a fan, which would you prefer? See an injury-stricken guy come back to relive the prime and glory days, or a player as a coach to the young guys?
Well, to save some time, I asked this on Facebook a couple of days ago and got some responses. Interestingly enough, most of them came from women. Take that, sports world.

Erin said: "I think that if they retire that should be it. Idk why their teams would let them back. To me it just looks like they are going through mid life crises and are completely desperate."

Andrew (yes, the Andrew that keeps popping up around here) said: "[T]hey have earned the right to play!"

Greg said: "They live their dream and it for most athletes it comes to an end early in life. I think the older ones who want to come back don't see as much to look forward to in their future just because they're dream has already come and gone." 

Bridget said: "I agree with Erin. They decided to retire. Why come back? Favre is a perfect example, he came back wayyy past his prime and ended up not playing like he did when he first started. Surprised? Not really. They aren't the same people they were when they started the sport at maybe 18-20yrs old. If you retire, stay retired no matter how much you want to come back."

Kaitlin said: "I think it can be looked at from both sides really. On one hand they show how much they love the game and how passionate they are about it, which in some cases actually makes the player better or at least more enjoyable to watch. However, on the other hand, they have long past their prime, and being out of the game so long and coming back at a professional level, their bodies are not ready to compete with much younger athletes."

Jennifer said: "If they can perform they should be allowed to play, regardless of age. And they should be mature and professional enough to know when that time is."

Robert said: "[I]f the teams want them than they are performing well my problem is teams paying them above average money just for there name but than again it is a business and jerseys bring in revenue. Brett Farve clearly wasn't past his prime a couple bad passes turned around and people would be saying he revived the vikings as a franchise They provide and experienced view for the team especially during the playoffs, and even better than that the younger players look up to them and will get more motivation from them than just some coach who hasn't really been there and done it." 

The interesting thing among this is, each response is explained with different reasons and some of them even have examples why. This is somewhat of a perennial struggle between what's best for the young-and-upcoming guys and the older-and-wiser guys.

This is what I like to call The "Old Yeller" Complex. Are these golden boys really doing their full justice by coming back in their later years, or are they poisoning their teams and being unfair to the young men that looked up to them in the past to get a fair shot at what they've trained and practiced to do?

It might sound mean coming from me, but it's truly unfair. As admirable as these guys are, and with the impact that they've already made in the sport, it's rather unnecessary to come back out of boredom or ideas of "unfinished business." It actually sounds rather immature.

There's also the problems with guys being pushed out of lineups due to someone younger and more fit for the job than they are. Many of these guys don't face the music and they automatically jump to conclusions saying "...oh, well they don't need me anymore. I'll just take myself out of the lineup and that'll show 'em who's boss!" Again, it's immature to do that in response. There are times where you shall assume that you can't talk to the coach or whomever is in charge because they will shut you out in the case and they won't compromise with you. Actually, that's 100% possible. Coaches are like your parents; they watch you develop and have another eye in how you're feeling and how you're living up to personal and team expectations. They shouldn't treat you unfairly due to age or injury. If you can do it, then well...just do it.

Arguments like this can go in many ways, and although there are problems in which you may have to incorporate age and hardship and the fact that this guy may be the "team leader," it makes the thought process that much harder to complete. Do you have to take this guy to the back and terminate him? Do you have to tie him down and tell him that "It's time?" I remember telling people to look at the small things that they have accomplished, other than thinking that they haven't won "the big one" or haven't completely finished their job. They as an athlete have to see that they were an influence. If they weren't a champion, they were a teacher, if they weren't the best out of all the rest, they were loved for being an underdog or a rebel to the sport.

The one way to let go of this "Old Yeller Complex" is to stand back and to look at the small accomplishments.

[Much thanks to Erin, Robert, Bridget, Greg, Jen, Kaitlin, and Andrew.]


Monday, May 16, 2011


(In homage to ESPN's Skip Bayless, whom Andrew pretty much got me into.)

Remember that Star Power post I wrote a couple of months ago? Well, let's just say there's going to be a lot less star-driven talent that may be gracing their presence for the rest of the NBA Playoffs.

I read a statistic a few days ago stating that we won't be seeing either Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan, or Shaq included in the finals for the first time since 1999. This goes to show who makes it to the big dance often and who ends up dancing quite well. However, a lot of people are scared about whether the NBA Finals will dare to get the ratings and attention that it did last year.

Right now, we have the NBA Conference Finals going on. In the East, you have the Heat (which have the LeBron, Wade, and Bosh) and the Bulls (sans-Michael Jordan but have Derrick Rose, a surefire MVP winner). have the West. You have the Oklahoma City Thunder (formerly the Seattle SuperSonics) and the Dallas Mavericks. Note how there isn't anything overly special about the two West teams?
Anyway, the past ten-or-so Finals have had at least two major star players that sport-watchers were familiar with. With the way things are going at this point (as of 5/16/2011), the Bulls (and whomever wins the West) may only have viewers coming from their home states.

After watching ESPN a few weeks back, they noted that the 2003 NBA Finals had the lowest ratings in NBA history compared to past match-ups (up until 2007, that is). We had the Spurs, which had a pretty good team, and...the New Jersey Nets. I could make so many New Jersey jokes right here, but I won't do that because it'll seriously cut the flow of the post. Nobody really knew or cared about the Nets, because the Spurs were just so much more well-known and people just assumed right away that the Spurs would win. Same thing as in 2007's finals; again, it was the Spurs, but this time they were facing the Cavs with a not-well-known LeBron James. Because nobody cared (and the Cavs wound up getting swept anyway), the ratings tanked. It's not just that nobody cares about how good the Spurs are, but the Lakers are so heavily stereotyped as "America's basketball team" and are thought that they will reach the finals every blessed year that Jack Nicholson (and now his daughter) sits in the front row at the Staples Center.
Speaking of the Lakers, just think of last year's finals...They were up against the Celtics, one of their biggest rivals. Huge rivalry=huge ratings. Simple as that.

What NBA officials fear is that if the television isn't filled with a familiar name this year during the finals, nobody will care to watch and money will be wasted on coverage. I'll admit just from my viewpoint that now that the big teams like LA are out, I'm dying to see what the new guys on the block will bring to the table. However, it doesn't seem like I'm in the majority of this debate. People will be saying, "Hey, who's that guy," and then turn on Glee or Jersey Shore to see things they're more familiar with. People will not watch a championship unless if there's some controversy, a major rivalry, or if some dangerously good-looking playe--I mean...singer (so butchered) happens to make their presence known during a game. It happens. You can't please everyone; the NBA just needs to please the people who actually do want to watch the game.

Here's the big issue, however... Can there be a "passing of the torch?" Can we get the spotlight off of the common star-driven teams like the LA Lakers or the Boston Celtics or the San Antonio Spurs and give other teams a chance? Going back to the teams competing in the West: although the Mavericks have taken part in the NBA Finals within the past ten years, they have never won a Championship, and in the Sonics/Thunder franchise, they have won one Championship--in 1979. Although certain games are broadcasted nationally on ABC, there is massive competition between hockey games being shown on NBC and baseball games on FOX during the weekends. My guess is that unless if you've played the sport or if it's a way of life in your area/region, you're more likely to watch basketball over the others mentioned.

Here's the catch though, if you've never played the sport, you might not like the fluctuating transitions between a fast and slow game of basketball; people either want a slower-paced game (like baseball) or a fast-paced game (like hockey)--not a mix. There aren't any statistics supporting this, but from playing the sport myself, it's a game of momentum. Basketball could be a really quick buzzkill and may no longer be fun to watch after the first quarter or so. If there are unknown teams not sharing the wealth in momentum, there might not be a huge chance for them getting any attention or recognition from outsiders regardless of how many commercials are shown on television or seen on the Internet.

If there is going to be a successful torch-passing so to speak, there has to be faith put into the other teams themselves. Glitz, glamor, and advertising are not going to save the league's ratings. Keep the playing grounds interesting, and you're going to get a following. I can't put it any simpler than that. Sure, there are probably other underlying factors that are keeping this problem from being resolved, but if you want to keep things fresh and interesting in the NBA, the league itself has to put their faith in their underrated and under-appreciated teams. Who knows? You're going to find more rising stars like Derrick Rose out there that will bring you attention and more revenue. I don't mean to make this sound like it's all about the money, but don't you want to make an impact in the fans' lives? Don't you want little kids to have as many role-models in the sport as possible? That's what I thought.

Stop drinking the Hatorade on your lowlier teams and PASS THAT TORCH, NBA!


Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Red Whines - Big Brother

While watching the Everton/Manchester United game on April 23rd, there was a quote that: "There's cameras everywhere these days." After my previous blog entry stating that there's often an invasion of privacy involved whether these people are small-scale athletes or professional athletes, there are actually more current stories coming up in lieu of this. Everything they say or do is highly publicized and rarely taken as a grain of salt.

Two prime examples as of late have been Kobe Bryant of the LA Lakers and Wayne Rooney of Manchester United. Since a camera was right on their face whilst saying something questionable (i.e. a homophobic slur) and they get a fine slammed on them. Believe me, if I had a camera on me while I was driving, I don't think I'd have money anymore and I wouldn't be allowed outside of a jail cell. Just because these athletes are at celebrity status doesn't mean that every action they do or word they say should be thrown out into the open. Has anyone ever heard of "human nature" or anything else like that? We're blurring the line again, people! It's absolutely natural for someone to scream large amounts of explicatives and what have you when he or she is angry. There's actually scientific evidence that if you swear loudly when injured (i.e. stubbing one's toe) it'll decrease the amount of pain experienced. It's also normal for someone to hit a pillow (or one's father-in-law, ha ha ha...not) or scream absolute gibberish when one is angry and is trying to get an overall message across. Sometimes it doesn't work, but boy does it feel good.

The point I'm trying to get across is: why do we care about what comes out of athletes' mouths? I guarantee you that not all of it is crucial to our survival and relevant to what we actually care about in our daily lives. Of course some of it isn't very nice stuff to say, but c'mon, don't we all say it to ourselves at some point? If everyone watched us on TMZ on or ESPN, we would all be hated upon and we'd all be getting fines. Homophobic slurs are a very touchy subject, but I bet you as much money in my savings account that there are other athletes, celebrities, politicians, and human beings that say the same (if not worse) stuff than Rooney and Bryant have said in the public eye. It might diminish the idolization by younger children, but does that mean that the people who said the slurs are bad people? No! Everyone makes mistakes. You shouldn't have to shun them along with the fining.

Does anyone remember this?? He got in trouble for it, but does that mean he's a bad person for saying that? He's a humanitarian, for cripes' sake. One f-bomb isn't going to turn him into Bin Laden (ha ha ha, I just made a relevant current event comparison).

Anyway, we're making senseless news stories about extraordinary people making ordinary mistakes. I'm pretty sure people are being forced to care about stuff like this just because it's on the news or something. It really does irritate people like me though. I honestly don't think anyone truly cares about my opinion--nor should people really care about what athletes have to say about an issue unless if they're incredibly familiar with it. Okay, people swear too. They're people. Move on with life.

You people make me want to roll a wheel of cheese down a hill and watch you chase after it.