This was the first weekend without any football to watch (second in a row if you count last weekend, but I don’t since they did play the Pro Bowl). Still, there was plenty to watch. Enough for my version of The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly.
The Good: The Dunk Contest: All I can say is it lived up to the hype. For the second year in a row it lived up to its advanced billing. I say that knowing the dunk contest isn’t what it used to be. Nothing will ever beat the dunk contests that featured Michael Jordan and Dominique Wilkins. But it also wasn’t nearly as bad as the Brent Barry/Harold Miner years either.
Orlando’s Dwight Howard once again made us jump out of our seats and scream at the top of our lungs. Sure the phone booth bit was over the top, and sure he tried to go to the well again with the whole Superman cape thing, but bringing out the twelve foot rim was entertaining. Commissioner David Stern wouldn’t let Howard do it last year, but relented this year, and it was a good decision.
But the weird thing was that it wasn’t the hilite of the night. No, that would be what Nate Robinson of the Knicks did. The green uniform was creative (Kryptonite to Howard’s Superman). But, jumping over the 6’10” Howard and throwing it down was a moment we’ll remember for the next twenty years or so. It was ‘Nique winning the dunk contest in the mid eighties. It was MJ seemingly walking on air when he won his dunk title. Yes, it was that damn good. And let’s give Howard credit for it as well – after all there probably aren’t many players who would have been willing to do what Robinson asked Howard to do.
I’ve fallen out of love with the dunk contest in recent years. Saturday night made me fall in love with it all over again. And if Lebron James keeps his word and takes part in next year’s contest, then it really does become must see television again.
The Bad: The Daytona 500 Finish: Sure, the crash triggered by Dale Earnhardt Jr. took out Kyle Bush, who had the most dominant car on the track, was questionable. But for this casual NASCAR fan the finish was controversial.
No offense to Matt Kenseth, but if there was a luckier driver on the track when the rains came I couldn’t tell you who he was. There were 120 more miles to go when they called the race because of weather, and I’m not so sure Kenseth would have been able to keep the lead for those 120 miles.
The fact of the matter is, though, that we will never know. NASCAR rules called for the race to be called and it was. My problem is that this is the Daytona 500, not the Daytona 380. This is the ‘Super Bowl’ of stock car racing. For this race to end the way it ended left me unsatisfied. I felt the same way when weather forced race officials to halt the 500 early a few years ago, giving Michael Waltrip his second career Daytona 500 victory.
This is NASCAR, not the IRL. I would expect a boneheaded decision like that to come from the IRL, which managed to take open wheel racing, at one time very popular in the United States, and turn it into something less popular than Major League Soccer (with apologies to any soccer fans reading this right now). If a situation like this had happened with the Indy 500, the race would be run the next day. Is there any harm in finishing the Super Bowl of stock car racing Monday as opposed to Sunday?
I’m just glad I didn’t pay for a ticket. Those really are the fans that got the raw end of the deal yesterday.
The Ugly: The NBA All-Star Game (Tie): I laughed watching Sportscenter this morning. I laughed reading some of the accounts of last night’s All-Star Sham on the web. Everyone wants to wax poetic on how the combination of Shaq and Kobe performed. Everyone wants to point out how those two made beautiful music on the basketball court once again.
And, that may be so (even though Shaq played less than twenty minutes). But, it cannot hide the fact that last night’s game was about as ugly as you could get in a basketball game. First of all, it was a blowout – 146-119 isn’t really entertaining basketball. It wasn’t all that competitive in the second half.
And then of course there was the usual sloppy playground ball that the NBA All-Star Game is known for. I almost spit my beer out when Doug Collins commented on TNT that for a change there was some defense being played in an All-Star Game. I don’t know what game Doug was watching, but I didn’t see any defense. I saw 265 combined points. That’s a week for some Eastern Conference teams. I saw players driving the lane and opposing defenders getting out of the way like they were matadors.
The NBA All-Star Game used to be something I looked forward to every year. Now I only watch it because I have to. The NBA used to roll out their biggest stars on a Sunday afternoon, and these guys (Bird, Magic, Dr. J., etc.) would play like the game meant something. Now these guys come together and clown around. It’s nothing more than a pickup game now, albeit one that’s dressed up with more bells and whistles than your average pro wrestling pay per view.
The Ugly, Part Deaux (tie): Craig Sager’s suit: I know that Sager’s calling card is his loud wardrobe. but a pink plaid jacket with garish red pants is just too much. There are plenty of pimps who looked at Sager last night and said that he went over the line. All I can say is WOW! That was bad.