The weekend settles the Stanley Cup and NBA Finals matchups. The coming weekend may give us a Triple Crown winner, a new middleweight champion, and French Open victors.
Procul Harum Good, Boko Haram Bad
I much prefer Procul Harum to Boko Haram. “A Whiter Shade of Pale” just strikes a chord with me in a way that kidnapping school girls does not. The Islamic terrorists killed more than forty fans coming from a soccer match in northeastern Nigeria on Sunday. Sore losers. “Islam,” the late Samuel Huntington famously observed, is a “civilization whose people are convinced of the superiority of their culture and are obsessed with the inferiority of their power.” Blowing up soccer fans and other such occurrences demonstrate why people listened to Huntington like they listened to Procul Harum.
Stanley Cup Made for Nielsen Ratings
The hockey gods smiled upon the NHL this season. Apart from the winter spectacles of outdoor hockey that took place in Yankee Stadium, Dodger Stadium, the Big House, and beyond, the league finished the season with three of the Original Six fighting for a Stanley Cup berth. A finals featuring the continent’s two most powerful media markets, New York and Los Angeles, should make NBC happy. A four-seed and a six-seed battling it out for Lord Stanley’s silver cup adds further evidence to the proposition that the NHL’s playoffs play more wide open than the other leagues’. What happens here? Kings in seven. They just beat the defending champions. The Rangers beat a beat-up Canadiens without their goalie. Jonathan Quick should prove more stingy in allowing goals than a backup.
San Antonio and Miami aren’t exactly New York and Los Angeles as far as media markets go (though they’re not Oklahoma City and Indianapolis). Still, it’s what ABC wanted. It’s a repeat of last season’s show, which usually doesn’t make for good television. But with the winners of the last two championships facing a Tim Duncan/Gregg-Popovich-led Spurs that have won four rings since 1999, the NBA Finals airs as must-see television. The Spurs enjoy home-court advantage and the Heat appeared human this season. That said, Miami in six. They have too many threats (and the league’s biggest weapon) to effectively counter or contain.
The Next Big Thing
Heavyweight Stipe Miocic put away Fabio Maldonado in 35 impressive seconds at The Ultimate Fighter: Brazil 3 finale. But a ranked heavyweight is supposed to blow out an unranked, blown-up light heavyweight. More arresting were the two-plus rounds in which Warlley Alves absolutely manhandled Marcio Alexandre Jr. The middleweight winner of TUF: Brazil 3 appears as a complete fighter blessed with athleticism and boasting aggression. Chael Sonnen says Alves contends for a title within a year. He may lie. He’s not lying here.
Why do mundane observations about biology so infuriate?
When asked if he hopes his younger sisters enjoy careers on the professional tennis circuit after his third-round French Open win, Ernests Gulbis remarked, “Hopefully, they will not pursue professional tennis career. Hopefully, because for a woman, it’s tough. I wouldn’t like my sisters to become professional tennis players. It’s a tough choice of life.” He continued, “A woman needs to enjoy life a little bit more, needs to think about family, needs to think about kids. What kids you can think about until age of 27 if you’re playing professional tennis, you know? That’s tough for a woman, I think.”
If it’s not tough to juggle raising a child with rising up the tennis ranks, why did Billie Jean King and Chris Evert abort their unborn kids? If pregnancy meshes so easily with athleticism, why don’t we see any distended bellies on the clay at the French Open?
Competing at the highest levels of any sport requires a degree of sacrifice. Because the prime years of fertility correspond to the peak years of athleticism, the demands on women competitors can be a whole lot more than extra time in the film room or practice interfering with nightlife–commitment that has cramped the style of the active night-owl Gulbis. When Sports Illustrated and the Daily Telegraph call Gulbis’s comments sexist they’re telling their readers they wish to repeal reality.
After the media dealt with Gulbis, Gulbis dealt with Roger Federer. He faces Czech Tomas Berdych Tuesday morning in the French Open quarterfinals.
Pilgrimage to the Fight Mecca
I head to Madison Square Garden this weekend to cover the Miguel Cotto-Sergio Martinez middleweight championship fight. Both have beaten their share of elite fighters. In his prime, Cotto defeated Shane Moseley, Zab Judah, and Antonio Margarito in a rematch. In his prime, Martinez defeated Kelly Pavlik, Julio Cesar Chavez Jr., and Paul Williams in a rematch. But neither fighter appears in his prime anymore. Cotto has taken too many shots from big punchers and Martinez, though perhaps younger in ring years, celebrated his 39th birthday a few months back. What hurts the fighters doesn’t necessarily hurt the fight. From Ali-Frazier III to Leonard-Hearns II, old fighters make great fights. They’re generally eager to throw but unable to defend the way their reflexes once let them. Martinez has been down in his last three fights, which doesn’t bode well for a brawl against a heavy-handed Cotto fighting in the capital of Puerto Rico. Martinez enters the fight the naturally larger man and holds quality wins over two legitimately great fighters (Williams, Pavlik) in their primes. Martinez justifiably enters the contest a 2-1 favorite. But Cotto has elite power and Martinez doesn’t have an elite chin, so it could go either way. Don’t bet on boring.
A few hours before the Cotto-Martinez fight, New York plays host to the Belmont Stakes, where California Chrome runs as even odds to become the first horse to win the Triple Crown since Affirmed in 1978. The Kentucky Derby, Preakness, and Belmont Stakes have long since surpassed the century mark. Just eleven horses have won all three races. California Chrome races a group of fast horses on Saturday. He also races against ghosts long gone. It’s hard to beat ghosts.
Pork Chops and Applesauce
Saying goodbye to Alice proved difficult on The Brady Bunch, particularly when confronted with her cold and lifeless replacement Kay. Saying goodbye to Ann B. Davis, who turned her back on Hollywood for service to the Episcopal Church shortly after the cancellation of the program so tethered to her public identity, saddens more so. Like when Michael Jackson or John Hughes died, this passing leaves the world minus a person and minus a chunk of our childhood. The Brady Bunch was the best bad show ever aired. It’s a constant cultural reference point. Anyone between the ages of 35 and 60 surely knows what you’re talking about when you namedrop Buddy Hinton, whine “Marcia, Marcia, Marcia,” or complement one’s Johnny Bravo shirt.
What peyote did Bobby ingest to get lost in the Grand Canyon? What peyote did ABC’s executives eat to allow this show to run for five seasons? What peyote do network executives now dine on to exclude children’s shows from their programming?