I don't have the answers, folks. Maybe it's a question without answer, but I'm looking forward to the justifications. Feel free to go way back in time. If anyone says 'John Roberts,' though, I'll track you down to whatever country club restaurant you mistreat waiters at and slap you with your own khaki polo hat. Which I think is fair.
THAT BEING SAID.
This weekend is just a sugar-sweet killer, a tiny little gem of sports the likes of which you find only in the spring season. The stars have aligned, and everything is happening at once. The great part about May and June is that it could happen again in two weeks. Let's go through the rundown, starting with a trio of local events to satisfy my bloodthirsty North Carolina base. I'll be posting a picture of the current Supreme Court justice whose personality most closely suits each sporting event, but without further context or explanation:
Have you ever seen a high level college tennis match? It's almost always awesome, with a crazy amount of variety in player quality and drama that's practically inherent in the format. Real quick, a tutorial: it starts with three doubles matches, and the team who wins at least two of the three gets a point. After that, there are 6 singles matches, each worth one point. So 7 points are at stake, and the team who wins 4 points takes the match.
At a high level, the #1 singles match features players who may be low to medium level professionals some day (tennis being one of those sports where if you're really REALLY good, you typically don't play in college). It's fast, and it's awesome. The #6 singles, on the other hand, will be players you think you might be able to hang around with for a set. It won't be true (not even close), but it's fun to consider the possibility, and it's still fun to watch.
One of my best undergrad sports memories, non-basketball division, came at a Duke-UNC tennis match. The teams ended up tying 3-3, and the whole kit and caboodle came down to #6 singles, where one of my freshman dorm-mates, Pete Shults, was down a break in the third and deciding set. Everybody- fans, players, family- came to court #6 as the lights came on. Shults broke back and eventually took the set 7-5. His teammates stormed the court, we went a little nutty, and I was hooked into college tennis.
The only match I've seen this year was a regular season ACC showdown between Duke and UNC. Duke was up 3-2 and in the lead in both extant matches. I wandered down to #5 singles, and with the encouragement of the UNC fans, their player turned it around in the third set and won. The match came down to #1 singles, and UNC took that too for a dramatic 4-3 win. Theoretically, I should have just enjoyed the match and not cared who won. I go to both schools, and it's not like this is basketball. But I'll admit: I was a little annoyed that Duke didn't win, and was glad to see they beat UNC 4-0 in the ACC championship.
Okay, I've written possibly too much about college tennis. Here's the point: Duke hosts the first and second rounds this Friday and Saturday. At 1pm, the Dukies take on George Washington, and on Saturday at 3pm, they'll face the winner of Maryland-Michigan (who play at 10am Friday). I'm definitely heading over for at least the 1pm match Friday. If you go, say hey. I'll be the guy wearing the giant Uncle Sam hat and loudly berating anyone who looks foreign, because I'm stilled fired up about bin Laden and some things are more important than sports.
This is another sweet spectator sport, and this weekend Duke and UNC are each hosting a Sweet 16 NCAA tourney game. You can see the bracket here.
A - Duke vs. Delaware, Saturday, 5pm. Duke is ranked 5th in the tournament, and they just lost 11-9 to Maryland in the ACC tournament championship. This will be a fun 1-2 punch with the 3pm tennis match, though there will probably be some unfortunate overlap.
B - UNC vs. Maryland, Sunday, 1pm. The Terps beat UNC 7-6 in the semifinals of that same ACC tourney, but UNC came back in the next game to beat third-ranked Notre Dame at home.
Again, I will at both of these, and it will be awesome. After looking at these match-ups, is it sad that my main reaction is, 'man, I hope Maryland loses.'?
Yankee Stadium. Buchholz-Colon, Beckett-Sabathia, and Lester-Garcia.
For a while it seemed like Boston was righting their ship, but they've stagnated recently and remain 3 games under .500. It turned out that Tampa Bay was the team with the true false beginning; the Rays are now tied with the Yanks atop the AL East. A sweep in Yankee Stadium by the Red Sox would put them at 20-20 on the year, and possibly spur them to greater heights.
Needless to say, that would be annoying. For an early series, I don't think it's a stretch to call this one 'important.' It wouldn't be a death blow if we took 2 of 3 or swept, but it would slightly cripple the Sox. If we can't win, we should definitely consider a strategy I've been advocating for years but which Yankee management studiously ignores- attacking Josh Beckett with a baseball bat.
This is a tennis tournament, and you can see the bracket here. Normally I would not direct your attention to a non-major tennis tournament. I know how valuable your time is, and I'm not the kind of fellow to waste it. But we got some drama, gang.
Rafa Nadal is still #1, and still considered the king of clay, but Novak Djokovic has started the year 33-0 (second best all time), and even beat Nadal in a tense final at the final of the Madrid Open last week. ON CLAY. However, Nadal did make this shot:
Now the players are in Rome, again on clay, in the last tournament before the French Open. Who's going to win the men's draw on Sunday? Nadal? Djokovic? Federer? Someone else? The final will be well worth watching.
And I'll just say this: I can take many disappointments as a fan and human being. But Djokovic beating Nadal at the French Open? That would destroy me. It can't happen. Am I terrified? Yes. This sumbitch can't lose. And this quote from Rafa after the Madrid final was particularly soul crushing:
While Nadal holds a healthy advantage over Djokovic in the world rankings, the Spaniard said it's only a matter of time before Djokovic takes over the No. 1 spot if he keeps playing like this.
"The No. 1 ranking is not in danger -- it's finished. Let's not lie to ourselves, that's the reality," Nadal said. "Nobody likes to lose. I have to see what's missing and working with a cool, open mind to decipher things and find the solutions. To try to do a little better next time."
This past week, I've been taking up golf and loving it. I played a par-3 course on Monday and managed to shoot an 87, which is kind of bad but not terrible. I had several very good holes, though, and even came close to making a birdie once. There is very little more satisfying, at least in the beginning, than a precise iron shot. I'm not saying I'd take a glorious 5-iron over great sex or anything, but...I would take a glorious 5-iron over great sex.
Anyway, actually playing golf, I've found, makes me more likely to watch it. I sat through like an hour of a playoff between Lucas Glover and some other guy last Sunday, which is pretty unprecedented. The Player's Championship is called the 5th major by some folks (FDR was the first, I think), and it's cool because it has an island green on the 17th hole. They have to take the players out in little rowboats after their shot.
That's actually not true, I don't think, but it is basically an island hole, and it sets up some good drama. Could be fun to watch come the weekend.
I was too much of a tired old man to stay up for the entirety of game 4 at Memphis, when the Thunder had an incredible comeback to save their playoff lives in overtime. After the start of the game, I'd somewhat written OKC off. They blew a very important game 3 because Westbrook went into crazy egotistical ballhog mode, Durant got super passive, and the Memphis crowd did its job. When it looked like Game 4 was a bust too, I figured the Grizzlies would win in 6. Then the incredible gritty-gutty-scrappy win, and last night the Thunder defended at home with ease to take a 3-2 lead. I do not see them losing this series now, but I still think Game 6 will be pretty great. Can Memphis hold serve at home and at least give itself a chance in Game 7? Will Durant and Westbrook go in for the kill?
I'm pretty sure this would happen if the Bulls win in Atlanta tonight. It's fairly clear to everyone involved that Chicago is better than the Hawks, so hopefully it all ends tonight rather than dragging things out to a Game 7 in Chicago.
Anyway, the Bulls-Heat series is going to be spectacular. I'm so excited that I think I'll write a preview next week, which is a presumptuous move since my knowledge about these teams, or the NBA in general, couldn't fill a thimble. But here's the great angle for the series: it's a team who went through a fairly normal evolution (Bulls), with young guys who gelled over a couple years and gradually improved until they became legitimate title contenders, against a manufactured team (Heat), constructed to be instantly great and defy the usual progression. Fascinating.
I gave in to the monster inside myself and pulled hard for the Heat against the Celtics, and now I'm in the awkward spot of having to pull a 180, because I really, really want the Bulls to win. Watching this a few times should get me in the proper mood.
Hell yeah I'm watching! It's Manchester City, who beat Manchester United in the semis, against Stoke City, which is a place where English people go to have sex. The FA Cup is the best thing you can win in England short of the actual premiership, and Man City hasn't won anything in quite a long time. I'm thinking the 1970s, but I will not deign to look it up. Anyway, it's a perfect way to start a Saturday. I plan to get up early, do some exercise so I don't feel horrible about myself, and then settle in. Soccer, tennis, lacrosse, baseball. What a day!
Hockey is a sport that, on its face, essentially bolsters AND undermines a quality of life so often ignored, the glaring yet hidden substrata which we trod lightly upon lest the lesser angels of our nature bring forth such hobgoblins as would shatter our very conceptions of-
Oh God, I can't do it. There's hockey on, somewhere. Probably on like VH1 now, or something. Find it if you like.
Damn, I was really hoping to get to 10 things so I could include a picture of Harriet Miers. If anybody can fill in the last one, I'll be obliged. Tomorrow is Week 1 of Pick 6, plus a quick treatise on the most exciting positions in sports. That's right, I said positions. How do you even define that?
How indeed, my friends. How indeed.