The road of life curves; curve with it. Here we go!
1. The Kings win the Stanley Cup
Perhaps the greatest thing for the City of Los Angeles was that the Lakers and Clippers got bounced out of the NBA playoffs, because it set the stage for the Kings to win the Stanley Cup. LA is not a hockey town, but the Kings, who had never won the Stanley Cup, became the last hope for a town where not one but both NBA teams were expected to do well, and both of them went down hard. The city rallied around the Kings, and were greatly rewarded for it.
The Kings overpowered the Devils, who were seemingly poised to become the first team to win the finals after being down 0-3; the Kings came out of the gate and smothered them, winning game six 6-1. Their goalie, Jonathan Quick, who was their savior for the whole of the playoffs, was named NHL Playoffs MVP.
Perhaps, though, the greatest moment wasn’t the game; it was the roar of the crowd at the Staples Center as the players hoisted the Stanley Cup and skated around the ice; you wonder why there is all the nonstop talk about an NFL franchise in Los Angeles, that is it; the crowds there get excited and into it. If NBA fans riot, and the NHL fans are screaming so loud it sounds like the Staples Center roof is going crack, imagine what an NFL fanbase there would be like.
2. OKC vs. Miami Heat: The Finals approach
This whole NBA postseason has been about the wonder of hanging the banner; of playing full tilt and sacrificing everything for the game; playing for your teammates, your fans, the whole she-bang; and it leads us to here.
This isn’t the Boston Celtics vs. Los Angeles Lakers; these are two young and really hungry teams. Perhaps more interesting is that neither team was playing at full capacity until their conference finals, which should give us an idea of how high their potential is.
Of course, there are the major plotlines: LeBron going up against Kevin Durant; how will the Heat react to the Thunder’s faster offense; will the extra rest the Thunder had give them an advantage?
This is LeBron’s third finals, the second with the Heat. He is coming off of an MVP season, and there are questions about him as a player. Let’s get a few things straight: he is not vindicated; vindication comes when he retires and is inducted into the Hall of Fame; everything between now and then is media fodder, since reporters and analysts need to make a buck, and the best method of second-guessing the game’s best player.
3. While we’re on the topic…
The good news for LeBron is the Heat got past the Celtics. The bad news, as Jim Rome has said, is that it took them seven games to get past an aging, gassed Celtics squad (which isn’t to diminish the Celtics’ achievements, it’s just true). LeBron’s love/hate dynamic with the media only gets worse as the pressure mounts, and that’s something he is well aware of.
In contrast to last season, though, I doubt that the Thunder will have universal backing off all the LeBron haters out there. A lot of people still don’t like him, but more of them are indifferent; a look back reveals how bad it was, hell, they rooted for Mark Cuban to be hoisting the Larry O’Brien Trophy over LeBron James. The Thunder, even though they are more likeable, won’t have that support; to be fair, though, they don’t need it. The Thunder fans are stunningly loyal, and their fidelity has been awarded this past season.
LeBron liked to play the bad guy last year; he’s over that. Kevin Durant seems pumped to contend for a title. This goes beyond unstoppable force meets unmovable object; this is two bullet trains headed for one another, and we get to see which train doesn’t get derailed.
4. The Pacquaio – Bradley Fight
Someone did a half-assed job at rigging the fight; seriously who pays off two out of three judges? This needs to be investigated.
5. The Wonder of the Stanley Cup
The Vince Lombardi Trophy is commissioned every year, as is the Larry O’Brien Trophy. The Stanley Cup is the same one that’s been passed around for over a century; each player not only gets his name on it, but they get a day with it. The Cup spends 300 days a year away from the Hall of Fame, and because of that, it is one of the greatest traditions in sports.
The tradition runs far beyond that, though. Just look at the Kings when they won it; they adhered to the tradition of passing the Cup around, hoisting it in front of the crowd; it is something cathartic that drives NHL players, that moment makes their careers, it makes all the sacrifice worth it.
6. The UFC kicks start the Flyweight Division
The UFC is starting up their Flyweight division, and is currently going through a tournament to determine who will be their first champion. For anyone who doesn’t know, Flyweight has a maximum weight boundary of 125 pounds; it is a weight class that relies more on speed than strength, and the recent fight between Johnson and McCall demonstrates that; more often than not, when one guy would take the other guy down, he was fast enough to roll straight out of it.
I think that the expanding into the 125 pound division is good for the UFC, even though it is far from being a really popular division. People want heavyweights more than lightweights, and as a result, I see the flyweight division serving more as a co-main event that augments the heavyweight divisions.
The UEFA European 2012 Championship
ESPN is the primary channel for soccer fans in the United States. They air the World Cup, and currently are airing the UEFA Euro 2012 football (soccer to us Americans) tournament.
I recognize that American football is far more popular in the United States, and there is a good reason for it: it is easier for many Americans to pay attention and appreciate the NFL than soccer. Soccer is a more subtle sport that requires you to remain tuned to your TV for 45+ straight minutes.
However, soccer is a great sport. It can be quite enjoyable to watch when you pick up the subtlety and nuances of the game, and you start to appreciate physical toll the players and even coaches have to go through to survive just one game, let alone a tournament of them.
Of course, there’s parts that amuse and/or annoy many people: the Oscar-nominated performances, the seemingly endless passes when a team is trying to set up an offensive series, and the question of exactly how the referees assign yellow and red cards.
However, it is worth it. The game is fun, it is exciting, and most importantly, it is artful. The duels between countries are awesome, since the players are playing for pride and country, something Americans can truly relate to.