Saturday, May 2, 2009

VSR: A Great Day to Be a Sports Fan

We knew today was going to be a great day of sports, but who knew how great? The night just ended with the Dodgers getting their second walk-off win over the Padres (Andre Ethier with a monster single to RF). I’ll talk more about them tomorrow, but let’s recap this sports fan’s paradise.

(Technically it jumped off with Alexander Ovechkin vs. Sidney Crosby/Evgeni Malkin – I mean Washington vs. Pittsburgh in the NHL Semis. But since I didn’t see the Caps pull off the 3-2 win or both Ovechkin and Crosby score, I’m sticking to what I saw)

It started off with the Kentucky Derby. Now why would somebody like me watch the Derby? Never mind the fact that I’ve watched every one since 1997, it’s a great spectacle that is rich with tradition. And before you dismiss it as me watching a sport dominated by white owners, white jockeys and I’d be more out of place there than Asher Roth at a drug-free event, consider that the first jockeys to run the Derby were Black.

Former slaves who tended their slave masters’ barns knew the horses better than anyone and naturally they were best suited to race. Pretty soon, they found great success – none greater than Isaac Murphy, a three-time Derby winner who made quite a career. I had to look this up back in 2007 for a Black History Month story and I was fascinated by what I didn’t know beforehand.

Anyways, back to the Derby. Besides the laughter of seeing two members of Boyz II Men, Joey Fatone from N*Sync and Nick Lachey hanging out and minus the favorite I Want Revenge, we saw a 50-1 longshot take off from 14th place and win the race. Mine That Bird weaved his way through the crowd before zipping past everyone on the inside and leaving the rest of the competition in his hoofprints (largest win margin since 1946).

Kudos to jockey Calvin Borel for not just winning a masterful race but showing genuine emotion on his way to the winner’s circle. He looked like a kid and it brought some looseness to a typically stoic, high-class event. A $9,500 investment paid off dividends.

After that, it was time to get comfortable for Game 7 of the best first-round series I’ve ever seen. Boston-Chicago started off with Ben Gordon catching fire in the 1st quarter and showing why I’ve said for years he’s the Vinnie Johnson of our era. Now he was trying to be the new Boston Strangler as he had 17 points with ease before sitting in the 2nd.

But that’s before Boston took over. Despite a depleted bench, the Pac-10 got represented as Brian Scalabrine (USC) and Eddie House (Arizona St.) hit their shots. Scalabrine made up for getting swatted on a dunk by Derrick Rose with 9 pts and the C’s ended the half on a 22-2 run. Something told me, this game had a chance of not going to the wire.

The second half was back and forth and at times the Bulls got the lead within five. But Boston looked every bit of the hungry team that won two Game 7’s last year and they didn’t fold. My Celtics hate took a backseat for a moment as after this was done, you felt like you had to applaud both teams. We just witnessed the end of something we may never see again. Eddie House was Eddie Money tonight (5/5, 4/4 on 3’s) and whatever’s left of the Celtics heads to Orlando.

By the way, please give some respect to Rajon Rondo (19.4 pts, 11.6 assts, 9.3 rebounds). Us Lakers fans remember him nearly getting a quad-double in Game 6 so we know he’s nasty. Just imagine how he’d do with a good ankle.

I tried to scratch my brain to think of a better NBA series this decade. The 2002 WCF with the Lakers-Kings (Kobe’s food poisoning, Horry’s Game 4 winner, Bibby’s Game 5 winner, controversial calls, Game 7 in OT) was arguably the best before this. Dallas-Golden State in 07? But honestly, the only series that come close is the 2003 and 2004 ALCS with Boston-New York and the underrated 2004 NLCS with Houston and St. Louis. Just ridiculous.

Then it was time for the Manny Pacquiao-Ricky Hatton welterweight fight. A fast, tactical, powerful fighter in the Pac-Man versus a British Brawler in Hatton. Little did we know how crazy this fight would get. Pacquiao came fast, came hard and never let up. He knocked down Hatton twice before fans had a chance to get settled. Hatton must not have listened to Cool Breeze because he didn’t “watch for the hook” and after Pacquiao crushed him with a left to open the 2nd round, it was lights out – literally.

Crazy stat: Pacquiao landed 73 punches, Hatton threw 78. Simply overpowering. It reminded me of Punch-Out with Lil’ Mac vs. Glass Joe. That's 6 weight class titles for the Pac-Man.

We saw why Mike Tyson said that Pacquiao reminded him of him. And with Floyd Mayweather coming back to fight in July, don’t be surprised that if Mayweather wins, we wait for a superfight that should happen. It’s ironic that since MMA rose up in 2006, boxing has had some great fights and came back with a vengeance over the last three years. This just proves that the sport still has charismatic faces to rally around.

Throw in an extra bonus with the Dodgers scoring their 2nd walk-off win in as many nights and this was a great day. We can sleep happy, sports fans.

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