April and May Sports Update
There's only a few times a year that I clear my social calendar, plant myself on the futon, and devote an entire weekend to sports and a six pack. With the NBA playoffs and pro baseball in full swing, April and early May is one of those times. Simply put, this is a fantastic time to be a sports fan.
With all the great sporting events on the tube during April and into May, getting a personal assistant to organize your weekend TV schedule may not be as frivolous as it sounds. On the other hand, if the corporate office grunt you once ordered to do your bidding was long ago downsized, this brief update will help guide you through what's been happening and what you should be prepared to watch this weekend. Either way, don't let the warmer spring weather dissuade you from reacquainting yourself with your couch on this sports weekend.
Is this the best week in sports or what?
Even the least-interested fans have a reason to tune in. Here's a rundown of what to watch for if you decide to stay indoors with the lights off and the TV on:
Now that the first round is nearly over, it's time to start watching the NBA playoffs. If you have any interest in basketball lore, start paying attention to Lebron James. King James' play in the 2009 playoffs relative to last year is uncannily similar to how Michael Jordan's role evolved from 1990 to 1991. That shift netted Jordan his first ring at 28. James is only 24 and he's begun passing out of double teams and emphasizing defense like a wily old veteran. Not only is Lebron utilizing his skill passing the basketball, but he has finally cemented his role as the team leader, and the Cavaliers appear ready to follow. Jordan's changes ended up carrying the Bulls to six championships in only eight seasons. James' ability to pull off something similar is unlikely. Still, if Lebron can stay healthy, he's the only person who can come close to what Jordan did a decade ago.
Meanwhile, the Chicago Bulls will be squaring off in Boston for a deciding game 7 this Saturday. Without Kevin Garnet, the Celtics and exuberant Bulls are equally matched. The series has already produced multiple overtime, double overtime and triple overtime affairs, so expect nothing short of a spectacular finale tomorrow on TNT.
On the other side of the country, Kobe Bryant's ambitions for a ring of his own (i.e. without Shaq) is fading as he gets older. If he's ever going to get a championship of his own, this is the year. The Lakers are arguably the best team in the league. It will be interesting to see whether the Lakers can make it past a streaking Denver Nuggets team being led by the playoff tested Chauncey Billups.
Don't be disappointed if the heavily favored Cavaliers and Lakers end up coasting their way into a final's duel. Both teams are hungry for a trophy, and the two best players in the NBA are leading each of these two teams through their playoff opponents with surprising ease.
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MLB Baseball in full swing:
All these playoff games shouldn't divert you from baseball. The season began with more steroid allegations. Now with most Major League Clubs twenty games into the season, we have a sense which teams are worth watching and which aren't. The New York Yankees new ballpark hasn't brought them any good luck. This is particularly true at Fenway, where Boston swept the three game series against the Yankees last weekend in stunning fashion. Manny Ramirez is, once again, being Manny for the LA Dodgers. The Dodgers are leading the NL West, in a large part because of Ramirez's .360 average.
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Nothing says that spring is here like the Kentucky Derby. Big hats, tradition, and money mark this annual sporting event held in Louisville. This year, the best odds go to "I Want Revenge", who is a three-to-one favorite. Still, analysts and gamblers alike are treading cautiously on who they're picking for '09. This is partly because of the 2008 Derby flop, but also because there just isn't any clear favorite at Churchill Downs. It all boils down to this Kentucky Derby and it is likely to be a close race. Couch potatoes like me are salivating with anticipation.
Here's a more complete look at the odds and the event calendar for this year's Kentucky Derby.
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If you live for game sevens, you've got to love the 2009 NHL playoffs. Now that the first round is nearly over, we have some fantastic match-ups to look forward to. The defending champion Detroit Red Wings will face an Anaheim team who surprised everyone by knocking off the top-seeded San Jose Sharks.
The Pittsburgh Penquins' young standout Sidney Crosby continues to be a joy to watch on the ice. His team will face off against the Washington Nationals - who also have a star in Alexander Ovechkin. Both these guys would put Tanya Harding's skating to shame. Harding could teach Crosby a thing or two about breaking a leg, though. This series is destined to stay exciting. The major questions lingering in the 2009 Stanley Cup Race: Can Roberto Luongo give the Canucks enough to make it past the young Chicago Blackhawks? We'll just have to tune in this weekend to find out.
If you've never watched hockey, consider checking it out this weekend. Playoff emotions are running high, and that means more fights. And who doesn't enjoy watching two grown men on skates try to beat the crap out of one another? Either way, some serious hockey is being played up north, and those North American folks who say "eh" at the end of every sentence are on the verge of going bananas as we approach the conclusion to the NHL season.
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The French Open
So what if Roger Federer is on the verge of a mental breakdown? Since he fell from no. 1, we've once again found ourselves in a position to watch some stellar tennis between Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and the up-and-coming Andy Murray. Nadal is the clear favorite to win the French Open, which begins May 24th, but don't count out the Scotsman in Murray or the solid Serbian in Djokovic. Both men have shown they can compete with Nadal, but whether they can compete against him on his best surface and favorite stage is yet to be known. What is certain is that Nadal and Federer set the bar for tennis in their intense rivalry over the last two years, and professional tennis hasn't looked back since.
If you think the golden age of tennis left with Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi, think again. Nadal, Djokovic, and Murray's precision and court intelligence would have beaten Sampras' powerful serve or Agassi's strong return game any day of the week.
Can Djokovic withstand the grueling nature of the French Open? Can Murray maintain a strong serve throughout Roland-Garros. If both Djokovic and Murray can overcome their primary liabilities as tennis players, this French Open will be one for the ages.
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PGA Tournament GOLF:
Augustus came and went without the excitement we expect from the Masters, but that doesn't mean the PGA has nothing to offer this weekend. Tiger is back from his knee surgery, and the Quail Hollow Tournament is going on in Charlotte. There are rumors swirling that Tiger and his swing coach are not on good terms. As of now, Tiger is in the lead with Mickelson two strokes behind. If the two can stay close, then the Quail Tournament will be memorable.
More details about the Quail Hollow Tournament are available here.
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NFL draft recaps:
They're both amazing, but between College Football and the NFL, most of us have a preference. Since the NFL Draft gives you both, it's really no wonder this event holds such a special place in the hearts of Americans everywhere. Unless you've been living in a cave the past month, you know that the winless Detroit Lions picked Quarterback Matthew Stafford with their first overall draft pick. Stafford has been everywhere from 'football skeeting' on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon to his hilarious top-ten rendition on David Letterman.
They say it takes three years to accurately evaluate the quality of one's draft picks, but that didn't stop analysts from grading the NFL team's 2009 choices. As usual, Oakland befuddled fans and journalists alike, leaving us all saying "WTF, (Oakland) mates?". Among the big winners of the 2009 draft were the Packers, Patriots and the Baltimore Ravens.
Guy gifts like Personalized NFL Locker Room Signs will remind you that September - and football season - are just around the corner.