Category Archives: Sports

LeBron, NYC and the Right Decision

On Sunday night, the Dallas Mavericks won the NBA title. If you’re a casual sports fan (or not a sports fan at all) you may have missed this headline because most of the attention was not focused on the team that hoisted the Larry O’Brien trophy in victory, but rather on the team that lost.

Miami Heat superstar LeBron James is taking the brunt of the criticism, not only for his historically enigmatic performance in his first Finals appearance with his new team, but for ridiculous comments he made after the loss. You know, the ones that implied not so subtlety that he was happier and had less personal problems than any of his detractors.

The argument could be made that the criticism and attention that’s being paid to King James this week is overblown, the product of a 21st century sports media that amplifies the highs of professional sports heroics and digs the ditches to ensure athletes hit rock bottom. There’s certainly some truth in this, of course, but I’m finding it difficult to generate much sympathy for Mr. James.

After all, this is a man who couldn’t just walk away from the Cavaliers when he became a free agent. He had to turn his “decision” into a national spectacle and kick Cleveland fans in the crotch on his way out the door.

And when he joined Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in Miami, they couldn’t simply hold a press conference. They had to announce their presence with authority by throwing a monstrous celebration that employed more pyrotechnics than a KISS concert.

And during the infamous welcome party the Heat threw for South Beach’s Big Three, LeBron James spoke of championships; lots and lots of championships. Unfortunately, after talking the talk the King had a difficult time walking the walk. He only managed to score 17 points TOTAL in the fourth quarters of  the six Finals games and regularly looked lost and lethargic on the court.

In the aftermath, non-Miami fans cheered his demise. Columnists and pundits crushed him from every imaginable angle. And the Twittersphere became an open forum for all the haters to rant, rave and circulate cheesy jokes at LeBron’s expense.

Yet despite all the negative attention, drama and psychoanalysis, I would submit that things could be worse for LeBron James. Much, much worse.

He could be playing in New York City.

There was a time not that long ago when the New York Knicks seemed like the frontrunners in the LeBron Sweepstakes. Long suffering Knicks fans drooled over the prospect of having the world’s best basketball player come to Gotham. They saw him as their savior; the man who could lead them to championship glory for the first time in 38 years. And they would’ve expected James to accomplish this herculean task despite a lack of talented teammates and horrifically inept ownership.

Now imagine if King James had lived up to the hype and gotten the Knickerbockers into the NBA Finals. And imagine if he then disappeared the way he famously did in the last couple of weeks. And imagine if his response to the criticism of said disappearance was similar to the bomb he dropped in the American Airlines press room after Game 6.

Imagine.

New York City is not for the faint of heart. It is unrelenting and unforgiving. Especially when it comes to sports.

Had the Shakespearean tragedy that was LeBron’s NBA Finals performance played out under the white hot lights of Broadway, the fans would’ve destroyed him. The same people who cheered his arrival and wore his jerseys would’ve spent the majority of this week coming up with new and inventive ways to profanely scream his name.


The media would’ve chewed LeBron up and spit what was left of him onto the back pages of the tabloids. Pun-filled headlines featuring less than flattering pictures of King James would’ve lined newspaper stands all over Manhattan and columnists would’ve eloquently deconstructed his myth and served it to him on a silver platter.

Recently, Alex Rodriguez spoke out on the need for perspective when judging LeBron James. No one knows more about the scrutiny that comes with playing in the Big Apple like A-Rod. His personal and professional missteps have been fodder for public ridicule, and few people in New York City have used any measure of perspective when judging his career. The Hall of Fame slugger has won MVPs and a World Series ring for the Yankees, and yet it’ll never be enough to overcome his past mistakes.

In a year of questionable decisions, questionable statements and questionable play in the Finals, we should all take a moment to give LeBron James credit for coming to the very correct conclusion that NYC was not the place for him.

It’s quite literally the least we can do.


Party Crashers, Tiger Woods and the Price of Fame

You know what I’ve been thinking about lately?  Party crashers, Tiger Woods and the price of fame.

This past holiday weekend is usually one of my favorite times of the year.  In addition to the embarrassing amount of food I consume on Thanksgiving, I get to use my gluttonous behavior as an excuse to sit around for hours while my stomach slowly digests the excessive feast.  And as that simple act of biology takes place, I watch football and look for the Black Friday news stories that illustrate why allowing mobs of overzealous shoppers into your stores at dawn is a horrifically bad idea.

Needless to say I was disappointed this year.  Sure, the Turkey Day smorgasbord took hours and hours to make its journey through my digestive system and there was no shortage of football on TV, but apparently America’s shoppers were on their best behavior.  As far as I could tell, there were no significant reports involving parents engaging in hand-to-hand combat in order to get their hands on a Wii or a Playstation 3.  Nor did I hear any complaints from the wife after she ventured into a shopping mall and a Target on Black Friday.

I suppose this is actually good news.  Perhaps we’ve turned some kind of symbolic corner as a society.  Perhaps we’re on the verge of straightening out our collective priorities and committing to a way of life that isn’t all about rampant consumerism.  As I was pondering the idea of this new world order, I was introduced to the Salahis.

Mr. President... can you make me famous, please?

If you haven’t heard of the world famous Salahis, then you either haven’t checked in with a news outlet in awhile or you just didn’t bother to catch the surname of this newly famous couple.  These two yahoos are better known to the world as the White House party crashers.  These wannabe high rollers somehow managed to outsmart federal agents and infiltrate the Obama Administration’s state dinner thrown in honor of visiting Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

Breaches in Presidential security are a very serious matter.  So the fact that this couple managed to just walk in off the street should be very disconcerting for the American public.  However, what should be even more alarming is the media tsunami that’s about to crash upon all of us.

It’s been reported that Tareq and Michaele Salahi once aspired to be cast members on the Bravo reality show The Real Housewives of Washington, D.C. It’s also been reported that the Salahis have a publicist and are shopping “their story” to the highest bidder.  I think we all see where this is going.  As much as I’d like to believe in the concept of journalistic integrity, it’s pretty much inevitable that some network executive will pony up the cash to interview this couple.  I think it’s equally inevitable that they’ll have nothing of any substance to say.

Can’t we stop this from happening?  Isn’t there some subsection of the Patriot Act that allows us to waterboard these bottom-feeders?  Probably not.  That’s why the only hope our nation has right now is Tiger Woods.

The one thing that seemed to bump the Salahis off the front page of CNN’s website was the world’s best golfer crashing his car in the wee hours following Thanksgiving.  While alcohol was said not to be a factor, there’s been much speculation regarding what Tiger was doing driving at such a late hour and how he managed to bounce his very expensive car off a much less expensive fire hydrant.

Now don’t get me wrong.  I don’t dislike Eldrick Woods and I wish nothing but good things for him.  But in this case, I’m asking him to jump on the grenade and do America this one favor as a public service.  If he could just confess to doing something untoward it would really mean a lot to people like me who just can’t stand the thought of these party-crashing weasels becoming the next Balloon Boy family.

And perhaps in confessing to something even remotely newsworthy, Tiger could teach the Salahis and the Hennes and the Jon and Kates of the world a valuable lesson.  Be careful what you wish for.  Because while these oxygen-wasters seem to desperately want to feel the white-hot spotlight shining on them, I don’t think they’re in the least bit prepared for the consequences that come with worldwide fame.

Tiger Woods knows a thing or two about those consequences.  For him, being famous  means he’s never ever alone.  It means there’s always someone watching him, ready to capture his most vulnerable moment and post it on TMZ or YouTube.  It means even something as harmless as an insignificant fender bender is newsworthy and fodder for public debate.

It's not easy being Tiger. I mean, who wants to sign hats?

I’ve never heard Tiger complain, and I’m sure if asked he would rightfully say he was blessed.  Being the best golfer in the world has earned him the admiration of millions of fans and so much money it probably takes a team of highly paid accountants to keep track of it all.  But make no mistake about it, being Tiger Woods isn’t easy.  And why people with no discernable talents keep pursuing this lifestyle is beyond me.

Assuming Tiger’s crash is as it seems, much to do about nothing, the Salahis will probably get their fifteen minutes.  Then, once their lives are put on display and vigorously deconstructed, they’ll probably tire of the attention and slither away into sweet obscurity.  After a few years, perhaps they’ll appreciate their lack of fame and look back at their publicity stunt as a horrible mistake.

So as my weekend came to an end I decided I’m thankful I’m not Tiger Woods.  And thankful I don’t have the last name Salahi.  Hopefully, next year’s post-Thanksgiving news cycle will be a little more traditional, with stories of crazed parents elbowing each other in the face for vibrating Elmo dolls taking center stage.

Then I’ll really be thankful.

Author’s Note:  Less than 48 hours after posting this, Tiger Woods released a statement that basically (though not technically) admitted to having an affair.  Needless to say my sympanthy for his “situation” has wained  quite a bit.  But now that he’s revealed his “transgressions” my assumption is that the media will turn all their attention to Tiger and the Salahis will disappear from my television set.


College Football

You know what I’ve been thinking about lately?  College Football.

The summer came and went so quickly, I hardly had time to break in my new Speedo.  Seems like just yesterday I was laying out the many things I hoped to do before Labor Day.  I did very few of them.  But while the days get shorter and the temperatures get colder, at least there is one bright spot that accompanies the autumn months: Football.

football TV

Are you ready for some flat screen?

The arrival of fall means it’s time to fire up the flat screen and revisit the tradition of ignoring the family on Saturdays and Sundays.  Unfortunately, by the end of September reality kicks in and wives across America let it be known in no uncertain terms that spending an entire weekend firmly planted in the center of the sofa will not be tolerated.  Most of us can get away with one day of gluttonous sports self-indulgence, but certainly not two.

Which leaves most of us men with an arduous decision to make: College football or the NFL?  For me, it’s a no-brainer.  I’ll take the NFL, please.

Now don’t get me wrong, college football is very cute.  There’s lots of pageantry, rivalries and tradition.  And the crowd shots of drunken co-eds on TV make me fondly remember when I was young enough to drink my weight in cheap beer.

The NFL, on the other hand, is simply the cream of the crop.  It’s the best football players, playing the best football in the biggest cities.  But more importantly, the National Football League provides fans with the most exciting time of the sports year… the NFL playoffs.

How does college football thank their faithful followers at the end of a grueling season?  A football-less month followed by roughly three dozen meaningless bowl games and a championship game whose participants are selected by a computer.  Thanks, but no thanks.

WOPR

The BCS Championship computer.

The BCS isn’t a playoff system.  It’s political trickery that’s perennially packaged and sold to the public as if it were a playoff system.  It’s the kind of thing that’s usually created in a Capitol Hill committee room.  It’s toothless, watered down, and has the fingerprints of lobbyists all over it.  In the case of the BCS, the people lobbying in favor of an antiquated bowl system are the commissioners of major conferences and schools that reside in those conferences.

The BCS is actually very similar to health care in this country, as it currently exists.  The vast majority of people would like to see it changed, but unfortunately, there’s too much money to be made by the people running the system.  Insurance companies want to maximize profits and are willing to provide a sub par product in order to do that.  Sounds like college football to me.

Some BCS supporters claim the regular season acts as a playoff.  I find this allegation as hollow and empty as the claim that the United States has the best health care in the world.  It’s an insane argument that could only be made by someone whose alma mater is not regularly left out of the championship equation.  You’ll certainly never hear it come from the mouths of Utah alumni.

Is establishing a better playoff system in college football as important as reinventing the broken health care system that leaves almost 50 million Americans without coverage?  Of course not.  I just happen to think these two problems are cut from the same cloth.  They’re both dysfunctional arrangements that have been institutionalized for as long as anyone can remember and they both continue to disappoint those not born into a certain type of privilege.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to get on my high horse and prepare for a professional football season that’ll focus primarily on gambling odds, prima donna wide receivers and an aging QB who turns the question of his retirement into a running soap opera.

Go Giants!


Soccer

You know what I’ve been thinking about lately?  Soccer.

Without question, the most popular sport in the world is football.  Not American football, but rather the sport we here in the States refer to as soccer.  Anyone who’s ever seen footage of disappointed soccer fans rioting in the streets after a loss knows this to be true.

The world’s love of soccer is a source of amusement amongst us here in the U. S. of A.  We consistently look down our noses at our global counterparts and wonder how civilized, reasonable people could enjoy a sport that involves little scoring and players who regularly drop to the ground and roll around as if they’ve been hit by a sniper’s bullet.

Qwest-sounders2

Holy crap! Americans watching... soccer?

Despite playing soccer as a lad, and having a better than average understanding of the sport, I’ve nevertheless understood some of the animosity toward the beautiful game.

First of all, it’s a bit pretentious to refer to it as “the beautiful game.”  It’s a sport not the Mona Lisa.

Secondly, it doesn’t exactly translate well to television.  It’s slowly paced and doesn’t have strategically placed breaks in the action for networks to fill with erectile dysfunction ads.  And if there’s one thing Americans won’t tolerate it’s a sport or sport-like product that can’t be easily hyped, commercialized and consumed by mass audiences.

Despite these flaws, I’ve recently found myself more interested in soccer than I have been in years.  This spring my newly adopted hometown of Seattle joined Major League Soccer.  And with no established rooting interest in the MLS, it was easy for a carpetbagger like myself to adopt this new franchise as my own.

But after attending the inaugural game and watching subsequent games on TV, something unexpected happened.  Not only have the Seattle Sounders become a remarkably good team by expansion standards but for the first time in my life, I’m watching soccer… and truly enjoying it.

And while it started with the Sounders, I’ve also found myself watching English Premier League matches, European cup competitions and World Cup Qualifying.  I’m even considering playing soccer again, provided my legs are still capable of that much running.

So why have I embraced a sport I’ve had little interest in for such a long period of time?

Perhaps it’s all part of Barack Obama’s fiendish plan to socialize our country.  Perhaps some toxic additive has been put into our drinking water and it’s slowly turning our brains into Euro-mush.  If I find myself – a non-smoker and avid fan of daily showers – buying cigarettes and bathing less, I’ll know something sinister is afoot.  And if I start using the metric system and traveling by train, I’ll know the days of free market capitalism are numbered.

sounders-fans

This could be me in a few years.

Or perhaps, now that I’m in my mid-thirties, my subconscious is desperately trying to find some way of reconnecting with my youth.  And since the Star Wars prequels sucked and I couldn’t possibly bring myself to drink Milwaukee’s Best again, soccer has become that connection.

Watching the sport has certainly reminded me of playing the game as a teenager.  During those glory days the Corcoran High varsity squad lost the vast majority of our games and had a jackass for a coach.

On the bright side, I was far skinnier back then and as healthy as I was naive.  I assume this is really what my subconscious is trying to get at; telling me I need more exercise.

Regardless of the reason, I’m enjoying soccer again.  It may ultimately be a fad – kind of like that time I experimented with hockey in college – but if it’s not, I look forward to my inevitable future as a drunken soccer hooligan.  If I end up setting your car on fire, I apologize ahead of time.


The Internet

You know what I’ve been thinking about lately?  The internet.

The past couple of weeks of my life have been consumed with the consumption of basketball games as March Madness has taken center stage in the Metrick household.  I’ve been cheering for my beloved Syracuse Orangemen, running my annual tournament pool and watching my 2-year-old son work on slam dunking a ball through his mini-hoop in the hallway.  Unfortunately for him, he appears to have his father’s ups.

As a basketball fan, I’m always happy to see March roll around, but I’ve been particularly pleased about it the last few years.  That’s because in our brave new technological world I don’t have to hope against hope that the game I want to watch will be broadcast locally.  No sir.  Nowadays I can watch any NCAA tournament game I desire simply by logging on to NCAA.com.

This development is, in a word, phenomenal.

On Friday night, as I sat at my computer watching SU lethargically self-destruct against the Oklahoma Sooners, I started thinking about all the modern day technology that has utterly changed the course of my media-consuming life (Tivo, Ipods, YouTube, Facebook, etc.).  All of these gadgets brighten my daily existence because of the internet; that wonderful information portal that comes into our homes through a wire in the wall.

commodore64setup1

You've come a long way, baby.

Ten years ago, the worldwide web (does anyone even use that term anymore?) was in its infancy and being brought into most American homes via a standard phone line, which made logging on sound much the way I imagine death sounds.  Now, it’s a high-speed tsunami of information that makes no unnerving noises and presents us with the world.  It has changed the way we do everything.

At this point, one of the few daily activities that isn’t enhanced by the presence of the internet is using the bathroom, but something tells me there’s a start-up out there working around the clock to change that.  Needless to say, I’m looking forward to E-Pooping in the near future.

Well, I love the internet and I don’t care who knows it.  I love it wholly and completely.  I love the internet the way the Dharma Initiative loves jumpsuits.

In the last couple of weeks, I’ve used the internet to find countless pieces of valuable information, buy baseball tickets, watch TV shows, listen to radio stations, pay bills, rent DVDs, share photos and waste time in more ways than I ever thought imaginable.

Along with oxygen and donuts, the internet has entered the pantheon of things I can’t live without.

But while I sit here and wax poetic about the glorious glory that is the online world, there are clearly some downsides to this wonderful invention.  For instance, it has much – if not everything – to do with the collapse of our nation’s newspapers.  Long running publications like the Seattle Post-Intelligencer and the Rocky Mountain News in Denver have bitten the dust and there are countless other dailies staring down the barrel of the same gun.

Combine this trend with the fact the internet helps keep publicity seeking pinheads like the OctoMom in our daily public discourse and it’s clear to see this technology possesses a dark side.

And there are probably a myriad of ways in which the internet might ultimately screw us in the end.  Part of me is deathly afraid there will be some Phillip K. Dick-like twist in which our information superhighway  leads to a purge of the human race and makes those of us who survive realize it was all too good to be true.

That’s gonna suck.

But until that day arrives, I’m just going to sit comfortably on my rump looking for meatloaf recipes while listening to a podcast of “Meet the Press” and checking NBA box scores.  It’s an excellent time to be alive.


The Greatest

You know what I’ve been thinking about lately?  The Greatest.

This past Sunday was no ordinary Sunday.  It was Super Bowl Sunday.  And for the second year in a row, the game lived up to the ridiculous amount of hype – as much as that’s actually possible.  The underdog Arizona Cardinals stormed back from a 13-point deficit in the fourth quarter, to take the lead with under three minutes left.  But alas the Pittsburgh Steelers answered with their own monumental 78-yard touchdown drive, securing their record sixth Super Bowl Title.

Minutes after the game ended, commentators, columnists and pundits were lining up to proclaim Super Bowl XLIII “the greatest” Super Bowl ever, a mere year after collectively declaring the New York Giants upset win over the then undefeated New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLII “the greatest.”  Pittsburgh’s interception return at the end of the first half was being hailed by some as “the greatest” Super Bowl play ever, Santonio Holmes’ acrobatic game winning touchdown was, according to some, “the greatest” Super Bowl TD catch in history and I even heard a few voices proclaim Jennifer Hudson’s rendition of the national anthem as “the greatest.”

80670228ZZ310_Super_Bowl_XL

The greatest confetti ever!

Apparently, if you missed this year’s Super Bowl, you missed out on a lot of greatness.

So much greatness, in fact, that if anyone at home was playing a drinking game which required participants to consume their alcoholic beverages of choice anytime one of the myriad of post-game talking heads threw around “the greatest” moniker, they most certainly found themselves suffering “the greatest” hangover of all-time Monday morning.

What’s wrong with simply basking in the glow of a very, very good game – maybe even a great game – and leaving its true greatness to be figured out at some point down the road?  Why the rush to declare it and everything associated with it “the greatest” right away?  Was there a cash prize awarded the person who most definitively and decisively convinced football fans that last Sunday’s championship game was “the greatest” ever?

This recent obsession with labeling anything that’s highly above average “the greatest” is not just a sports cliché, but rather a trend that is slowly eroding the very foundation of our society.  Okay, that might be overstating it somewhat, but it is, at the very least, starting to get really annoying.  Let’s look back at this past year.

Michael Phelps?  Greatest Olympian ever.

Barack Obama?  Greatest campaign ever.

The ShamWow?  Greatest infomercial ever.

While I can’t argue with the greatness that is the ShamWow, I do wonder when all these pointless declarations might come to an end.

And yet as I sit at my keyboard and throw stones, I must admit I’m no better than the rest of the country.  Just a few weeks ago, after my son did something both intelligent and adorable, I declared him “the greatest” kid ever.  Now don’t get me wrong, he’s really, really great.  But the greatest kid ever?  Hardly.

Perhaps our real problem is a deep-rooted societal need to prove our worth by outdoing (or at least thinking we’ve outdone) those things that came before.  So by constantly referring to things as “the greatest” or “the best ever,” we’re in essence convincing ourselves that the exact time we live  in is vastly superior to the years, decades and centuries that have past.   As if things like Tivo and the internet didn’t already accomplish this.

Well, I for one, will no longer take part in this national inferiority complex.   In the future I pledge to refrain from using overblown hyperbole.  All I’m asking is that the rest of America follow my lead and do the same.  We’re better than this.  We’re a nation that collectively put our checkered past behind us and found it in our hearts to elect an African-American President.  We should have no problem shedding the overuse of an obnoxious adjective.

And when we do, well, I just think it’ll be “the greatest.”