Reid Fischer's World of Rants

Looking at the sports world through orange colored glasses

Archive for February, 2008

Why I might once again watch the NBA

Posted by mizzou1028 on February 20, 2008

Last night I spent my evening at the Pepsi Center, watching the Denver Nuggets host the Boston Celtics.  It’s not necessarily rare for me to attend an NBA game, but over the years, my interest in the NBA has generally declined compared to what it was in the mid-90s.  One reason for this is my interest in the college game has increased during that time, plus I rapidly became more of a fan of the NHL than the NBA.  I think a large part of my decline in NBA interest is the way ESPN continually shoves it down my throat whether I want to hear about it at that moment or not, and I have simulataneously come to resent the network’s lack of coverage of the NHL.  There isn’t one reason in particular for my NBA interest waning, but over the years I’ve come to appreciate the college game more.  There seems to be more team play, less emphasis on superstars (especially stars getting calls from officials), and certainly a more fun atmosphere in which to attend a game.  Half the time I would attend a Nuggets game at the Pepsi Center, and it seemed like a great environment for a nap.  Conversely, every college game I went to at Mizzou was a great atmosphere, even if they were playing some no name Division II school.

Now I don’t mean to imply that I stopped following the Nuggets altogether.  I’ve rooted for them and followed them as much as any of the other teams in this city.  In fact I’m probably one of the few that can say they attended at least 10 games during the memorable 1997-98 season when they threatened the worst record in league history, finishing 11-71.  I’m simply saying my interest over last 5 years or so doesn’t compare to what it was in the mid-90s.  That being said, what I saw last night gave me a feeling I hadn’t experienced at an NBA game in quite some time.  There was actual excitement in the crowd, much like a playoff atmosphere or dare I say it a college atmosphere.  There was quality play on both sides, and I’m not talking about three guys standing around observing the action while one guy posts up.  I’m talking actual team play, guys actually moving without the ball!  There were even signs of actual, genuine defense!  This is the NBA basketball I had remembered growing up, when the games were fast paced, exciting, and often times featured thrilling finishes.  It seemed like the game had evolved into a slow fest, where everything was one on one and traveling was seemingly allowed if you were considered a star. 

Last night the Nuggets didn’t win because of the effort of one or two guys, although it certainly helped that their star players Carmelo Anthony and Allen Iverson combined for 57 points.  Those two also combined for 14 rebounds and 13 assists, meaning they were interested in things other than scoring points for themselves.  They got nine (NINE!) blocked shots from Marcus Camby, who came oh so close to a triple double, and everyone on the bench contributed.  After last night’s win against the best team from the east, the Nuggets are 33-20, which is a very good record.    Thing is, it’s only good enough for 8th place right now in the Western Conference, and that’s what really piqued my interest in how the rest of the season could unfold.  There are so many good teams in the west, that it’s shaping up to be an amazing race.  The Nuggets record would be good enough for a three seed if they were in the Eastern Conference, but there are enough good teams in the west that it will be a dogfight simply for them to make the playoffs. 

At the top of the conference there are six teams within two games of one another: New Orleans (which has to be the surprise this year), Phoenix (having just acquired Shaq), the Lakers (who just swung a deal for big man Pau Gasol, a trade that may have more impact than Shaq going to Phoenix), Utah (which is quietly and consistently good), San Antonio (the defending champs) and Dallas (having just made a big splash by acquiring Jason Kidd).  Just two games behind that group you have Houston (owning one of the game’s best duos in Tracy McGrady and Yao Ming), Golden State (playoff darling from last year and only getting better) and the Nuggets.  If you do that math, that’s nine teams with enough talent to win the conference, all of whom are better than a majority of the eastern playoff teams, and only 8 playoff spots to divvy up.  That will shape up for a very exciting last few months of the season,  and that’s first time I can remember using the word exciting to describe the NBA in many years.  It should lead up to a playoff year that will be very interesting, a year in which there will not be much difference, if there is one, between any of the 8 teams in the western bracket.  Any of the first round matchups in the west will be a toss up, and seeds will have to be ignored with this much talent among all the teams.  It’s not enough yet that I would readily watch an NBA game over a college game, or possibly even an NHL game assuming I can find one on my TV, but I won’t be as likely to completely ignore an NBA game if I happen to scroll past one.  The bottom line is if what I saw last night at the Pepsi Center is any indication, I just may find myself watching more NBA games than I had planned on in the coming months. 

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Random thoughts

Posted by mizzou1028 on February 14, 2008

Is it me, or there something wrong with the picture of Congress getting involved in steroids and more specifically the investigation of Roger Clemens?  Now, I certainly want to see baseball, and in fact all sports, be played on a even field as much as possible.  There is no doubt that steroid use was at least common if not rampant during the mid-90s and early 2000s in baseball, and there are a number of players who used and will not get caught.  That is a reality of the situation.  I would like to think that efforts have been made in recent years to clean up the game, and to make sure that no one is gaining an unfair advantage.  Particularly in the cases of Bonds and Clemens, it would be unfortuante if records were set while utilizing the advantage of steroids That being said, does it really matter at this point if Barry Bonds or Roger Clemens used steroids a decade ago?  What I’m most concerned with is whether the game is clean now.  It is fair to say that Congress’ involvement in this issue, at least to some degree, has helped MLB clean up its steroid policy.  But really, shouldn’t Congress have better things to worry about?  I couldn’t help but notice while watching some of the hearing involving Clemens that many of the politicans asking questions seemed to be playing to the camera as much as or more than Clemens and Brian McNamee.  Now I realize that one of the biggest reasons for Congress to get involved in this issue is MLB’s antitrust exemption, and they would certainly have an ability to revisit that issue.  I just think Congress should have better things to worry about than MLB and steroids; it’s not like the rest of the problems are solved and there aren’t things where Congress might be better served to spend their time.  It is unfortunate that MLB and the players union couldn’t police themselves, forcing Congress to step in. 

 As as side note, it will be interesting to see how Clemens, as well as Bonds, are affected when their time comes for Hall of Fame consideration.  We’ve already seen the issue adversely affect Mark McGwire, who was thought to be a shoo-in prior to not exactly giving himself a ringing endorsement at a Congressional hearing several years ago.  McGwire has only garnered 25 percent of the vote each of the first two years he’s been eligible.  It will be interesting to see if Bonds and Clemens, or anyone else who may be clouded by this issue, gets the same treatment.  I’m not sure if I believe Clemens or not, just as I’m not sure if anything will ever be proven against Bonds.  The point is that the issue will certainly continue to cloud these players and others. 

 ………………………..

As for some leftover thoughts on the Super Bowl, I think that game really reminded me why I love sports so much.  It’s not just because the underdog won the game, or because it was competitive or even because the Patriots got what many (including me) thought they probably deserved, which was to not be the first team in history to go 19-0.  It’s because of guys like David Tyree.  The Giants receiver had all of FOUR catches during the regular season for a total of 35 yards.  In the regular season meeting between the Giants and Patriots, he caught two passes for three yards.  He did not tally a catch and barely played in the Giants’ playoff wins against Tampa Bay and Dallas.  He caught one pass for four yards in the NFC Championship game against the Packers in the freezing cold at Lambeau.  He had a disastrous practice the Friday before the Super Bowl, with reports of no fewer than six dropped balls.  Yet in the fourth quarter of the Super Bowl, against a New England team that was on the verge of history, Tyree came up with not only a touchdown catch that put the Giants up 10-7, but also came up with what might ultimately go down as the greatest catch in NFL history, holding the ball against his helmet while Rodney Harrison was viciously trying to rip the ball away.  Not to mention the fact that on the same play Eli Manning escaped from what seemed like three sacks on the play.  Sports is all about guys like Tyree, who can shine under the lights when the pressure is on. 

Tyree’s performance and confidence was a reflection of the team’s attitude heading into the game.  Everyone got all over Plaxico Burress when he predicted his Giants would win 23-17 (which incidentally was much closer than my final score of 34-31, although I was one of the few who actually picked the Giants to win).  It turns out Burress was too generous.  The Giants’ pass rush really has to be commended, as it was clearly the difference in the game.  The Giants were able to do what many teams could not, which was put pressure on Tom Brady.  As the game wore on it became easier and easier to feel that the Giants might actually pull it off.  Even when the Patriots took a 14-10 lead with 2:45 to play, the Giants still showed confidence in their body language.  The poise they showed on that final drive, trailing an undefeated team, in the biggest game of any of their lives, reminded me of why sports is so great.  It makes me want to fast forward to early September so we can get the next football season underway.  Thankfully, there is the NCAA tournament and baseball season between now and then.  But the next time someone tries to tell me that sports is not a worthwhile endeavor, I will simply pop in a tape of the 4th quarter of the Giants-Patriots Super Bowl, to show them that every game is truly unique and you can never ever be totally sure of what we’re going see when a game is played. 

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