Thursday, April 19, 2018

Do not poke the Man

Soooo. Remember the other day when the Blob said let's not get overheated about the way the Pacers made the Cavaliers look old and washed-up in Game 1? How we really needed to wait and see what happened in Game 2?

Well ... here's what happened in Game 2: Cavaliers 100, Pacers 97.

Here's what also happened: LeBron James strapped 46 and 12 on the Pacers.

Here's what we can glean from that: That all the talk -- from media, not the Pacers -- about how the Pacers actually figured out a way to slow down LeBron in Game 1 had the easily predictable outcome. Which is that LeBron took it as a challenge. And when LeBron takes something as a challenge, you pretty much just want to get out of his way, because he's going to do what he wants regardless of whether or not you do get in his way.

That's what happened in Game 2. And what clearly is going to have to happen for the Cavs the rest of this series to knock out the Pacers, who clearly have the superior team.

Which is why the Blob said if it comes down to a Game 7, LeBron will somehow find a way to keep the Cavs from losing, just as he did last night.

On to Game 3.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

The right to bear opinions

Let's put this out there right off, just so there's no confusion:

Gregg Popovich doesn't care what you think.

The San Antonio Spurs head coach is a Region guy from Indiana, and Region guys from Indiana cut through BS the way a machete cuts through ground fog. So when he hears Our Only Available President spew nonsense, Pop skewers him for the lying poltroon he is. And that doesn't sit well with some folks who, unaccountably, still think OOAP  hung the moon and stars.

So some of them have decided to quit supporting the Spurs until Pop quits pointing out that their Emperor has no clothes.

You know what?

That's fine. That's their right, poor misguided souls. Go with God, and here's hoping someday the scales fall from your eyes.

But if you think that's going to cow Pop into silence ... well, think again.

It won't. He'll keep telling you Your Boy is naked when it's appropriate to do so. Maybe someday the people who count the gate receipts will tell Pop to shut up about Trump already, but I doubt it. That's because I don't imagine the number of boycotters is all that high.

Of course, the fact Popovich is the most successful NBA coach of the current millennium probably insulates him a bit, too. He's earned the right to say what he wants about whatever he wants.

Which he no doubt will. Deal with it, America.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

A matter of will

Caught a few highlights from the Boston Marathon yesterday, and, like most of you, a couple of thoughts immediately popped into my head.

The first thought was "What's wrong with these people?"

The second thought was "Why don't they quit? 'Cause I'd quit."

Which is another way of saying marathon runners are different from the rest of us, in the sense that they are superior human beings. First of all, they don't even blink at the idea of running 26 miles, 385 yards, up hills and down dales, without stopping. Second of all, they will do it even in less than optimum conditions, which is what happened in Boston yesterday.

What happened was temperatures in the mid-30s, a muscular headwind and icy rain blowing sideways in their faces. This sounded like so much fun it made me immediately want to run right out and start training.

OK. So it didn't.

What it did, or should have, is make us marvel again at the limitless reserves of will human beings can summon when they're properly motivated. This includes the women's winner, Desiree Linden, who not only conquered the appalling conditions but actually went to the lead on the most infamous part of the course, the appropriately named Heartbreak Hill. And it includes the women's runnerup, Sarah Sellers, a nurse-anesthetist from Tucson of whom hardly anyone had heard.

This is because Boston was only her second marathon. Like, ever.

And remember: She's from Tucson. So she probably didn't train a whole lot in 36-degree rain with windchills that must have hovered somewhere between Damn! and I Can't Feel My Face.

Of course, there is a possibility that might have been as much a motivator as a deterrent. Like, maybe Sellers just wanted to get the damn thing over with.

I say this because, back when I was a kid who could chew gum and walk at the same time only sporadically, I, too, was a runner. OK, so I was a "runner" only in the loosest definition of the term. But I did run cross country as a high school freshman, albeit very slowly.  And I distinctly remember the last meet I ever ran, because the conditions were not great.

Mind you, they weren't as miserable as Boston yesterday. But it was 39 degrees and spitting snow, so it wasn't springtime in Aruba, either.

In any event, I've always felt that was why I ran the fastest time of my life that day -- "fastest," of course, being a relative term. Because all I remember now about that meet was being chilled to the bone, and wanting desperately to get it over with so I could crawl back in my sweats and get out of the wind.

So, yeah. Maybe that element was at work for Sarah Sellers yesterday.

On the other hand ...  Second place in the Boston? In only her second marathon? In what amounted to the April version of a nor'easter?

Superior human beings. Superior, I tell you.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Sweep? You're talkin' about a sweep?

One game, folks. One. Game.

There is your Blob rebuttal to Game 1 of the Pacers-Cavaliers series, in which the Pacers made the Cavs look like yesterday's news in a 98-80 blowout in Cleveland. The Pacers were quicker, fresher, smarter and played harder. The Cavs looked like Clint Eastwood in "Gran Torino": tired and cranky and just wanting to be left alone to snooze on the couch.

Alarming note for the Cavaliers: They focused their D on Victor Oladipo and he still lit them up. V.O. went for 32 points and outplayed LeBron down the stretch, when the Cavs finally made a run and then essentially said "Ah, to hell with it."

Further alarming note for the Cavs: This was the first loss in a first-round series for LeBron since 2012. That's six years to you and me, kids.

Soothing note for the Blob, who predicted LeBron was not going to go out in a first-round loss to the Pacers: It is, again, just one game.

If we know nothing else about the NBA playoffs, it's that prior performance does not guarantee future results. Teams that get crushed in one game routinely return to crush the team that crushed them in the next. This in fact has happened to the Cavaliers more times than you can count.

And so: Before we bury Cleveland, I suggest we wait and see what happens in Game 2.

There's still a very good chance the Blob's prediction could be catastrophically, absurdly wrong. It certainly wouldn't be the first time.

On the other hand ... there's still just as good a chance I could turn out to be right about this.

For once.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Aaaand they STILL don't get it

I don't know what you do about Michigan State University now that doesn't involve a demolition crew. Maybe blowing the place up and rebuilding it from the smoking crater on up sounds extreme, but, really, are there any other ideas out there that haven't spectacularly failed?

This upon the news this week that John Engler, the former Michigan governor who was brought in as president to clean up the Larry Nassar/institutional sexual assault mess in East Lansing, instead has proved to be just another clumsy oaf.

The latest gem: One of Nassar's victims, 18-year-old Kaylee Lorincz, told the MSU board that Engler took a meeting with her and asked if he were to write her a check for $250,000, if she would drop her involvement in the civil litigation being brought against the university. When the shocked young woman demurred, he said, "Well, give me a number," claiming another of Nassar's victims, Rachael Denhollander, had done so in a previous meeting.

Denhollander says that's "a bald-faced lie," and that she never even met with Engler.

So now we've got the president who replaced the president who looked the other way on Nassar for two decades basically offering to bribe one of his victims. Which of course victimizes her all over again by implying she (and her fellow victims) are just a bunch of  gold-diggers who can be bought for the right price.

Nice goin' there, folks. Good to know you're still getting your recommended daily allowance of stupid.

Here's hoping the NCAA lands on Michigan State with both feet, and that the feet are shod in steel-toed Doc Martins. And that Engler, and the board that put him in charge of this mess, are gone before the next week is out. Because these people make the folks at Penn State look respectable,

And that's saying something.

Things we fail to comprehend

Look, maybe it's an education thing. Maybe there are things going on in sports right now that I don't understand, and maybe that's just because I don't follow them enough to have the appropriate working knowledge.

Although even if I did have the appropriate working knowledge, I still couldn't explain the Las Vegas Golden Knights, who didn't exist a year ago and are one of the top teams in the NHL in their inaugural season.

On the other hand, maybe someone can school me about some of the things that are going on right now in the National FOOT-ball League, as Howard Cosell used to enunciate it. Because I'm just not seeing what the plugged-in people are seeing, apparently.

For instance: Why would the Cowboys cut -- not trade, cut -- their all-time franchise leader in touchdown receptions when he's only 29 and still has a lot of football left in him? Did they sign Antonio Brown when I wasn't looking? Did they recreate Jerry Rice in a test tube in Jerry Jones' super-secret experimental lab (because I wouldn't put it past ol' Jer to have one)?

No, they did not. Instead, they cut Dez Bryant and signed, um, Allen Hurns and Deonte Thompson, who, last I looked, are not Dez Bryant. They're also looking hard at all the top receivers in the upcoming draft. But for the time being, they've gotten exponentially worse at wide receiver, with nothing certain on the horizon that suggests they'll soon get better.

True, they did make their cap space roomier. But to what end?

Someone way smarter than I am needs to explain this.

Also, someone needs to explain to me why some of the gurus have as many as three quarterbacks going in the five in the upcoming draft. Did I fall asleep and wake up in 1983? Is there really a John Elway and a Dan Marino and a Jim Kelly in this draft?

Maybe so, but I'm not seeing it. I think Sam Darnold's pretty good. I think Josh Rosen's pretty good, and I like the way his mind works. And I think Josh Allen is pretty good for a guy who played at Wyoming, and who didn't exactly make me grab my head in amazement the couple of times I saw him play.

Yet I don't see a franchise QB in any of them, which would justify all three going in the top five. Don't see one in Baker Mayfield, either, although some people smarter than I am think he's the best of the lot from a physical standpoint.

Me?

I look at Baker Mayfield and see Ryan Leaf all over again: Million-dollar talent, ten-cent head. That whole grabbing-the-crotch-and-dropping-F-bombs-on-the-sideline thing? That was straight out of the Ryan Leaf playbook, boys and girls. And against Kansas, no less.

So ... yeah. I'm clueless.

I am, in fact, so clueless that the one quarterback prospect no one seems to be enamored of, I'm enamored of. That would be Lamar Jackson from Louisville, whom everyone seems to think should choose another position. But I look at him and see someone who, in the right hands, could be exactly the kind of mobile, multi-skilled quarterback the NFL more and more leans toward these days.

So what am I missing?

An inquiring but apparently uninformed mind wants to know.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

A discouraging word

So I hear all this talk now about how it's going to be different this time between the Indiana Pacers and the Cleveland Cavaliers, how the Cavs are ripe for the taking and the young, new-look Pacers are just the team to do the taking, how LeBron is 33 now and, even though he was even more fabulous than ever this season, perhaps this is a bridge too far for him.

It's David vs. Goliath all over again, these same people say. And look how swell that turned out for the pluck little Israelite.

Know what the Blob thinks when it hears this?

It thinks a new appreciation for Goliath might be in order.

It thinks perhaps we are forgetting LeBron James is still LeBron James, and Victor Oladipo 'n' them, joyous and skilled though they may be, are not. The best player of his generation (and maybe of all time) is not going to lose to the Pacers in the first round of the playoffs. The Blob has tried that narrative on for size, and it just doesn't fit no matter how much you try to make it.

Being of a provincial nature, I would love to see the Pacers knock them off, and if you go strictly by the cold numbers it not only seems possible, it wouldn't even be a David vs. Goliath sort of deal. The Pacers did, after all, take three of four from the Cavs during the regular season. They finished just two games behind them in the standings, winning 48 games to Cleveland's 50. And it is abundantly obvious by now that this is as flawed and weak a team as LeBron's had around him since he came back to Cleveland four years ago.

And that the Pacers are much, much better than the team that got swept by the Cavs in the first round last year.

I don't think that's going to happen again.

I do think Cleveland wins anyway, because if LeBron's going to go down after the kind of season he's had, it's not going to the Pacers in the first round. Again, that narrative just doesn't seem to fit.

Let's try a for-instance, for instance. Let's say the Cavs struggle in this series and the Pacers don't, and the series goes the distance. Suddenly it's Game 7, in Cleveland. Do you really think, in your heart of hearts, that LeBron's going to let the Cavs lose a Game 7 at home in the first round? Especially when you consider it would likely be his last game in Cleveland if he did?

LeBron James is not going to lose Game 7 to the Pacers in his final game in his adopted hometown. Not going to happen. Especially given what happened the last time in Cleveland, when he was accused of tanking the series against Boston because his heart was already in Miami.

(This is, by the way, ridiculous. That last game in Boston? LeBron went for 27 points, 19 rebounds and 11 assists trying to stave off elimination. Yeah, he barely showed up.)

In any case, there's just way too much motivation for LeBron to go out in that scenario. And we all know what the man's capable of when he has sufficient motivation -- and even when he doesn't.

Sorry, David. Says here you can't beat Goliath every time.