Apologies

First off, an apology.  I have been woefully bad at posting of late.  Whole bunch of shit going on in my life, and none of it very good or interesting.

But I promise I’ll have a new post soon.  And in the meantime, I have two peace offerings:

First, one of the greatest hockey clips ever.  My beloved Buffalo Sabres, on the brink of elimination last night, pulled off a miraculous comeback to keep their slim playoff hopes alive.  Check out Sabres rookie Marcus Foligno take a beating from Toronto defenseman and all-around thug Mike Komisarek, take all he can dish out and still help his team score the tying goal.  (Foligno is the Sabre in blue to the left of the faceoff, Komisarek is directly across from him yapping like the punk he is.)

And second, a hottie for the day.  A drunk, angry hottie no less.

Alright, maybe two hotties since I’ve been M.I.A. for so long.

Have a good one!

My Sports Bucket List

I’ve been blessed to see some great sporting events in my life: two Final Fours; a handful of bowl games; and one of the most underrated college basketball rivalries, the Braggin’ Rights game between Illinois and Missouri.  I’ve watched the Chicago Blackhawks in the playoffs (although, sadly, before the greatest National Anthem singer of all time started performing).  And I was in the stands when Miami beat Florida State in the only overtime matchup of that storied rivalry.

I’ve never been to a Super Bowl, and wouldn’t want to if my Chicago Bears weren’t playing.  You couldn’t pay me to go to an NBA Final (unless maybe Kevin Garnett put on the T’wolves jersey again).  Baseball?  You call it the Great American Pastime, I call it the Great American Nap Time.  And if ANYONE suggests I attend a World Cup soccer game I will hunt them down and kill them.  This is a list of SPORTING events, not a list of reasons 3rd world people decide to riot.

So, with no further ado, here is my bucket list of the 10 sporting events I want to attend before I die.

10.  Louisville-Kentucky Basketball

Perhaps it’s because I grew up with the Illinois-Missouri Braggin’ Rights game, but I love non-conference rivalry games in college basketball.  Conference play is great, the rivalries are special, but there’s something about two teams located relatively close to each other but playing in different leagues, battling for regional pride.  When I lived in San Diego the best game of the year was between lowly San Diego State of the Mountain West and even lowlier University of San Diego of the WCC.  The cross-city matchup of Xavier-Cincinnati is another game that gets the respective fans’ blood boiling.

And Louisville-Kentucky might just be the best of these matchups.  Two historic programs (Kentucky has 14 Final Fours, Louisville has 8) in the same state, a coach (Rick Pitino) that has coached at both schools, what more could you ask for?  I don’t even have a rooting interest in this game (although I’ve never quite forgiven UK for stealing that Regional Final from the Illini in 1984), it’d just be a helluva game and event to witness.

9. Chicago Blackhawks-Detroit Red Wings hockey

Two Original Six franchises, winners of two of the last four Stanley Cups, and did I mention the greatest National Anthem singer of all time?  Even if you don’t like hockey this is a classic matchup, great teams with great fans.  Not to mention there’s always the chance you might get hit by an octopus.

I have to admit I would certainly have a rooting interest in this one.  While I’m not a Blackhawks fan per se, I’ve always hated the Red Wings.  I almost cried when the Hawks stupidly traded Chris Chelios to the Wings.  So if I ever get the chance I’ll be wearing my Chelios Blackhawks jersey, bangin’ on the glass and spewing hateful profanities at whatever commie Russian bastard is playing for the Wings that day.

8.  Monaco Grad Prix-

I don’t know anything about auto racing.  And I know even less about Formula-1 racing, which takes place almost exclusively overseas.  But I do know the Monaco Grand Prix in Monte Carlo is one of the wealthiest, snobbiest, most elitist events in the entire world.  And it brings girls like this to its week of festivities:

Oh, and the cars go really fast too.  ‘Nuff said!

7. Texas- Texas A&M football

Remember what I said about non-conference rivalries?  In state matchups?  Well, how about a bitter rivalry between teams that used to be in the same conference but now have gone through a nasty divorce and hate each other even more than ever?  If these teams ever start playing again (and it appears 2018 is the earliest possible) I would love to be there.  This was already an intense rivalry in the most football-mad state in the Union.  Now that they’ve parted ways it will be even nastier.

6. Kansas-Missouri basketball

A lot of rivalries like to call themselves the “Border War.”  In this case, it’s actually true.  Dating back to “Bleeding Kansas” and the atrocities committed by both Kansas free-staters and Missouri pro-slavers, these two states just have not seen eye to eye.  And like the Texas-Texas A&M rivalry, these schools are going their separate ways now, meaning if they do meet again it will have to be a non-conference matchup.  Think there will be some added animosity?

5. Florida-Florida State football

For the record, I love everything about Florida State.  I love their racist mascot, Osceola:

I love their ridiculously hot student body:

And Charlie Ward is my favorite football player ever:

So is it any wonder that I’d love to see the ‘Noles play their biggest rival?  (Personally I hate the ‘Canes more than the Gators, but I’ve already been to one of those games.)  It’s true, I suffer from Seminole envy and wish I had gone to school there instead of that school in the Midwest that caved to political correctness and gave away their 80-plus year mascot tradition.

4. Buffalo Sabres-Ottawa Senators hockey

The Sabres and Senators have been each others nemesis ever since the lockout ended in 2005.  The Senators were one of the best teams in the NHL in ’06, but the Sabres crushed their Stanley Cup dreams with a 4-1 throttling in the Conference Semis.  The highlight of the series was this shorthanded series-clincher:

Alas, the next year the tables were turned, as the Sabres were the favorites and were unceremoniously knocked out of the Conference Finals by Ottawa.  Since then both teams have pretty much sucked, but the games have still been passionate affairs, complete with plenty of hard hits.

3. Georgia-Florida football

Besides being a classic SEC rivalry, this game is the quite possibly the greatest sporting event around.  Played in Jacksonville every year (roughly halfway between the two campuses), it’s known as “The World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party.”  It’s a tailgaters dream come true.  Throw in one of the best mascots in sports, Uga, and usually two top-ranked football powers and you’re looking at one of the coolest weekends anyone could ever ask for.

2. Ohio State-Michigan football

You had to know my Midwestern, Big 10 roots would show up eventually.  Buckeyes-Wolverines is the ultimate sporting event.  It doesn’t have the flash of some of the trendier programs.  It doesn’t have the hot girls of southern schools.  It doesn’t even have that big of a tailgate tradition surrounding it (it’s too damn cold!).

Nope, this is just a football game.  No other reason to be there except to watch two of the greatest traditional powers slug it out in an old-fashioned slugfest.  I might even consider giving up drinking for a weekend if I were fortunate enough to attend this one.  Maybe…

1. Army-Navy football

If Ohio State-Michigan is all about the football, Army-Navy is all about most everything but the football.

It’s about “Duty.  Honor.  Country.”

It’s about “Don’t Tread on Me.”

It’s about our nation’s best and brightest, the men that will someday defend our freedom, playing a game they love for no other reason than a passion for competition.  And that’s good enough for me.

I had to leave a lot of great games off the list.  I could probably list a hundred without breaking a sweat.  What games would you put atop your list?

 

I Love Hockey

I love hockey.

Which is ironic because I hate the cold.  (Which reminds me, if anyone knows of any jobs in Phoenix or Vegas, please let me know…)

When I was a kid growing up in downstate Illinois nobody watched hockey.   And I mean nobody, despite being just three hours away from the Chicago Blackhawks and about the same from the St. Louis Blues.

To make matters worse, my family was one of the last in America to get cable TV, so I couldn’t even watch hockey growing up.   So although I was interested, I never really got a chance to watch the game, and as a result I formed no allegiance to either of the local teams.

When my family finally did get cable (while I was in high school), one of the first things I did was watch National Hockey Night on ESPN.

And that was how I discovered the Buffalo Sabres.

I had never even heard of the Sabres.  But they had a cool logo and a badass young Russian defector (yes, it’s all Cold War politics to me) named Alexander Mogilny, and after one night I had my favorite team.

It is a decision I have come to regret.  Over and over again.

It didn’t start out all bad.  Despite being the last team in the playoffs from the Adams Division, they swept top-seeded Boston 4-0 in the first round.  I thought it was meant to be.

But then they got swept themselves in the next round by Montreal.  And since then it’s been nothing but heartache.

–There was the no-goal in the 1999 Stanley Cup Finals.  Or the less-remembered 2000 “Six Hole” playoff game against Philly, where the puck went through a hole in the net and the refs counted it anyway.

–There was the magical run in 2006, brought to a screeching halt by injuries that forced the Sabres to play three minor-league defensemen in the 7th game of the Eastern Conference Finals.

–There was the brand new scoreboard falling to the ice in the brand new arena.

–There was the team owner and his son being indicted for embezzling more than two BILLION dollars in 2002.

–And now there’s this year.  It started off with much excitement: a new owner that for the first time in franchise history was willing to spend money to build a winner.  The Sabres entered the season with the highest payroll in the NHL… and currently sit in 11th place… in the Eastern Conference.  They’re 23rd out of 30 teams at the moment, and there’s no light at the end of the tunnel.

So it’s safe to say that the Sabres have been the bane of my existence for the past 20 years or so.  And yet, like an abusive spouse, I just keep coming back for more.

But this post isn’t meant to be an angry tirade against my poor decisions in sports teams.  No, this is my attempt to create a few more hockey fans.  So, in that spirit, I give you, the non-hockey fan, five reasons why you should give the sport a try.  (And I promise, “the fights” will not be one of my reasons.)

Chicago Blackhawks

#5- Best logos in sports — Maybe it’s because the logos are bigger in the chest of a hockey jersey than on a football helmet or on the shorts of a basketball player, but hockey logos are more stylish, more intricate, and just all around much, much cooler than other sports.  Here are just a few of my favorites:

Minnesota Wild

Columbus Blue Jackets

Winnipeg Jets

#4- Sudden Death — There is nothing more exciting than the drama of overtime playoff hockey.  By comparison, overtime basketball is boring, and the NFL’s farce of sudden death doesn’t come close.  It’s edge of your seat excitement from the first drop of the puck until it finally finds the back of the net, whether it takes two minutes or three extra OT periods.

#3- The Olympics — If the 1980 Miracle On Ice team doesn’t give you goosebumps then you’re no doubt a commie pinko spy.  And while that drama of beating the Evil Empire may never be matched again, the excitement of Olympic hockey is still pretty amazing.  This goal in the 2010 Olympics that forced overtime with Canada will forever be one of my favorite sports moments:

#2- Ice Girls! — Most sports have stupid kids wipe up the sweat or pick up the kicking tee.  But not hockey!

Need I say more?

#1- David Backes — Ok, I lied.  A little.  I don’t normally like hockey fights all that much, I think they’re way overrated.  (Let’s face it, the guys are on skates, it’s not that hard to knock someone off balance.  One lucky punch, or tug for that matter.  Doesn’t mean you whipped someone’s ass just because they fell down.)  But in 2010, in the weeks leading up to the Olympics, American David Backes decided to send a message to Team Canada before the games even started.  On January 2nd, he picked a fight with Canadian Olympian Jonathan Toews:

On January 7th he introduced himself to Canadian Olympian Cory Perry:

And on January 12th he let Canadian Olympian Rick Nash know the games were right around the corner:

Now if that’s not patriotism I don’t know what is!

So what d’ya say?  How ’bout you give hockey a chance?  Who knows, it might just grow on you.

Devastating Losses, Part II- The Patriotic Edition

My buddy Gotham and I were debating my post on the most devastating losses of our lives, and we decided that since not everyone who reads this is a Fighting Illini fan (and count yourself lucky if you’re not!), we should try to come up with a list of excruciating losses that most any sports fan could relate to.  Maybe we’ll even make a series of posts, with guest entries from all my readers.  But for Part II, I’ll limit myself to the worst losses for Team USA in the Olympics.  If these don’t get your blood boiling then get the &%^$ out of my country!

So with a big assist from Gotham (who, BTW, hosts the definitive site for everything Illinois sports, www.illinoisloyalty.com) here’s a few of the worst days ever in the life of American sports fans.

#4- 1988 Olympics, USA basketball vs USSR.

I’m a child of the Cold War, so my hatred for the Soviets will never leave me.  In my book they’re even worse than the Nazis.  So when you combine my passion for sports with my pathological hatred for a country that murdered uncounted millions of people (40-60 million of their own people, God only knows how many hundreds of millions more worldwide), it’s no longer just a game.

1988 was supposed to be payback for the ’72 Olympics (more on that later).  After losing our first Olympic basketball game ever in 1972, and a US boycott in 1980 followed by a Soviet boycott in ’84, this would be the first chance at redemption.  Unfortunately, the US had the misfortune of having possibly the most overrated coach of all time, John Thompson.  Besides only putting one true shooter on the roster (Hersey Hawkins), Thompson’s ego also compelled him to constantly berate and belittle a young center you might have heard of, David Robinson.  When Hawkins went down with an injury early in the semifinal matchup with the Sovs, they were toast.  The commies packed in the paint, daring the US to shoot, while using 7’4″ monster Arvydas Sabonis to rough up the younger, slighter (and now short on confidence) Robinson.  The result was a demoralizing defeat to the Evil Empire.

In retrospect, there is small consolation in the fact that this was about the last thing the Soviets would ever win in anything, sports or geopolitics, and by the next Olympics most of the Soviet players the free world despised so much would be wearing the uniform of their newly freed republics and disavowing everything the Evil Empire stood for.

#3- 1988 Olympics, Roy Jones vs. Park Si-Hun

The most blatant case of bribery in Olympic history.  Jones outpunched Hun 86 to 32 in three rounds and dominated every second of the fight.  The referee admitted he was “dumbstruck” by the judges’ decision.  Legend has it Hun even apologized to Roy for his undeserved victory.  This fight led to massive reform in international boxing; reviews of how judges are selected, a new scoring system, and investigations into bribery of judges.

The silver lining to this travesty was it no doubt helped contribute to the fire in Jones’ belly that made him the most dominant fighter in the world for a good 14 years.  For my money he’s the greatest pound-for-pound fighter ever, and watching him claim titles from middleweight all the way through heavyweight was a true joy.

#2- 2010 Olympics, USA Hockey vs. Canada

At the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City nobody really thought the US had a chance.  But playing in their home country, they pulled together and made a great run to the gold medal game against the Birthplace of Hockey, Canada.  Unfortunately, the amazing run came to a screeching halt against one of the greatest teams ever assembled.  (Even non-hockey fans will recognize names like Lemieux, Yzerman, Brodeur, Iginla and Sakic.)

After Team Canada celebrated Olympic Gold on our home ice, 2010 loomed large as a chance for payback.  This time it would be on Canadian ice, and although Canada would again be the most talented team in the world (most people didn’t think the US even had a shot at a medal), GM Brian Burke assembled a group of gritty, gutsy youngsters that would capture the hearts of all American hockey fans.  When they beat Canada 5-3 in the preliminary round, you could just sense it was going to be a magical ride.

The Gold Medal game was a rematch with the Canadians, and it was everything it was hyped up to be and more.  USA goalie Ryan Miller stood on his head, making 36 saves and keeping it close until Zach Parise could tie it up with just 24 seconds remaining in regulation.  Parise’s goal, and Doc Emrick’s call, to me is still one of the greatest moments in sports history:

Unfortunately, it wasn’t meant to be.  After the emotionally draining comeback, the US came out flat in overtime, and although Miller made several big saves, he couldn’t stop Sidney Crosby from putting the clincher in the back of the net.

A sad day to be sure, but I’m already counting down the days to 2014!

#1- 1972 Olympics, USA Basketball vs. USSR

Without a doubt the greatest travesty in the history of sports.  Kind of like the United Nations, the Olympics are rife with politics, and this game was a shining example of anti-American zealots banding together to steal our victory.

It would take pages and pages to adequately describe everything that happened in this game.  The short version is the Soviets, down 1 with three seconds left, were given three tries until they finally managed to score the winning basket.  The officials bent, broke and made up rules to hand the game to the commies.

Here’s a fairly good video of all the BS that transpired in order for the Soviets to steal our Gold:

But even that doesn’t do justice to the full extent of the conspiracy involved to steal our Gold.  In 1972, the US was undefeated all time in Olympic Basketball, 63-0 and 7-for-7 in Gold Medals.  The biased officiating, the corrupt scoretable crew, the 3-to-2 jury of appeals (three commies vs. two free-world), it was a perfect storm of corruption and indecency.

I don’t often have much nice to say about President Richard Nixon, but I’ll give him credit for his restraint on this one.  If I had been President there would have been a nuclear war that night.

*If you would like to make a contibution to future “devastating losses” posts, share your pain with the world, contact me and we’ll see what we can do to “put you on the therapy couch.”*