The Sports Hangover recovers from last night’s national championship game, ponders the sanity of people who wagered on Wrestlemania, and compares Manny Pacquiao’s Saturday opponent Timothy Bradley’s strategy of not showering the week of the fight with Pacquiao rival Juan Manuel Marquez’s practice of imbibing his own urine.
DeAndre Daniels’ dunk two minutes into the national championship game displayed UConn’s swagger. James Young stepping a foot past the baseline at the 6:30 mark exemplified Kentucky’s nerves. Kentucky gained composure and UConn periodically lost control. But the game ultimately played out as a battle between experience and youth.
Kentucky, featuring five freshman starters, couldn’t keep pace with a UConn team returning three players from their 2011 national championship team. Even Kentucky coach John Calipari would concede as much. “He’s eighteen,” Calipari said of Julius Randle’s first-half struggles. “When you have that anxiety it’s hard to be aggressive.”
Kentucky lost a very winnable game. They missed 11 free throws, shooting 54 percent from the line. They shot 39 percent from the field. They didn’t capitalize during streaky UConn’s down periods.
UConn seemed tethered to Shabazz Napier’s ebbs and flows. When the guard played red-hot, as he did to start the game, so did UConn. When the Roxbury, Massachusetts native slept on the court, as he did during a Kentucky second-half steal following his steal, or when he played out of control, which was too often, UConn looked as lost as their star player did.
An unsung hero of the game is certainly Ryan Boatright. When Shabazz played as a spaz, Boatright kept his cool. He scored 14 points on 4 for 5 shooting from the floor and a perfect 4 for 4 from the foul line. Other players might have headed for the locker room after twisting ankles the way he did. Boatright remained. He said about playing through pain, “This moment was too big.” He was as big as the moment.
Napier deserved the game’s “most outstanding player” award. But had UConn ultimately lost the game that they never trailed, the hero could have been easily seen as the goat. The Huskies lived by Shabazz. At several points, they seemed ready to die by Shabazz.
Don’t Tell Vegas. Wrestling Isn’t Real.
The picture told a thousand words. The WWE shocked its fans by scripting Brock Lesnar to defeat the Undertaker at Wrestlemania. Las Vegas shocked me by taking bets on Wrestlemania. The Undertaker, who had won his previous twenty Wrestlemania matches, peaked at -$6000. That means a gambler would have to put up $6,000 to win $100 on an Undertaker win. For reasons quite predictable, I think, a flood of eleventh-hour wagers on Brock Lesnar temporarily depressed the odds down to -$1200 for the Undertaker. What do you get when you cross a gambler with a wrasslin fanatic? A degenerate gambler.
Sick of Peyton Manning appearing in every other commercial on fall Sundays? It looks like the NFL’s king of product pitches will have a competitor for his crown. Agent Erik Burkhardt tells the Sporting News that in the day following his most recent player acquisition he received 112 endorsement ideas, business propositions, and media inquiries. Johnny Football, whose nickname suggests he certainly knows a thing about marketing, hasn’t played a game in the NFL. But his spectacular follow-up season to his Heisman Trophy-winning campaign at Texas A&M pushed him from a mid-round pick to sure-bet first rounder. Some mock drafts even put him atop all picks. The short, scrambling passer remains a wildcard in his value to NFL teams. His value as a product endorser seems Manningesque for the time being.
Sweet Science, Silly Superstitions
Timothy Bradley, who faces Manny Pacquiao on Saturday, won’t shower the week of a fight. Juan Manuel Marquez drinks his own urine. Danny Garcia embraces a more familiar boxing superstition by shunning the sexual embrace of a woman. The undefeated 140-1bs champ tells TMZ Sports about his postfight ritual, “First thing I do is have sex. Not to the club. Not to the post-fight celebration. Straight to the hotel room.”
Not-So-Mixed Martial Arts
Jake Shields, prior to an unimpressive UFC 171 performance against Hector Lombard, went 3-0 with a fourth win thrown out due to a drug fail in his last four fights. He now finds himself out of a job with the promotion. Why? He’s a wrestler/submission specialist who puts opponents and knockout-hungry audiences to sleep. But Shields holds such notches as Carlos Condit, Dan Henderson, Yushin Okami, and Robbie Lawler on his belt. The Shields cut, like the earlier release of Jon Fitch and the non-signing of undefeated wrestler Ben Askren, shows a promotion less interested in showcasing mixed-martial arts in all its diversity than adding another highlight to the knockout reel. Give the people what they want, I guess.
Assault & Battery on a Police Officer
The ugly fight between the hockey teams of New York’s fire and police departments made headlines. But to read the news account from the FDNY, the fight never took place. The FDNY site pointed out that “both departments…paid tribute to veterans of the armed forces in a ceremony before the game.” But it never notes what everyone noticed about the game, a massive, gloves-on-the-ice, bench-clearing brawl. Who knew than Hanson Brothers scored jobs with the NYPD and Terry O’Reilly and Tye Domi work for the FDNY? The NYPD’s website never mentions the contest, which the boys in blue won. The fight? I think I saw a firefighter cold-clock a cop out of consciousness. Isn’t that a crime or something?
If You Stomped on Mickey Rooney He Would Still Turn Round and Smile
Mickey Rooney, who died yesterday, was famous his entire conscious life. His celebrity began during the administration of Calvin Coolidge. His last film appearance comes in A Night at the Museum 3, scheduled for Christmas release. When The Kinks paid tribute to old Hollywood in “Celluloid Heroes,” Rooney made a cameo in the lyrics alongside the likes of Rudolph Valentino and Greta Garbo. The song itself turns 42 this year. That gives an indication to just how old Mickey Rooney was.
Movie connoisseurs will remember Rooney as a cherubic forever-young child actor. Rooney etched an indelible memory in my brain housing group on the small screen and in an unfamiliar role as a despicable heel. Playhouse 90‘s “The Comedian” remains one of the best programs ever to air on television, and Rooney made it so as much as the script. It survives Rooney in kinescope. Like clowns, child actors make for diabolical villains. The diminutive ball of energy’s treatment of his fictional brother comes off as positively sadistic. The always-on, always-smiling real-life Rooney lent something to his character. The masks we wear hide something less appealing and actors always on “happy” switching on “mean” once the red light goes off appears as quite believable. All of Rooney’s past cheery roles set him up for this vile one.
You might be able to stomp on Mickey Rooney and “he would still turn round and smile.” But in “The Comedian,” Mickey Rooney smiled as he stomped on anyone who wandered onto his path.