Saturday, April 17, 2010

Sports Saturday: 4/17/10

In today's issue: NHL, Auto Racing, MLB. (I feel compelled to list the topics at hand up top, for those of you who like baseball but don't like racing, for example. Don't just stop reading as soon as you see the word "NASCAR"!)

NHL - Let's talk Stanley Cup Playoffs! I love the playoffs, and I've long maintained that NHL playoff overtime is the most exciting thing in sports. I'll be watching plenty of hockey the next two months.

My favorite team, the Carolina Hurricanes, did not make the playoffs. Neither did my primary backup teams (Florida and Tampa Bay). Does this mean I'm any less interested in the playoffs? Sure, a little...but I'm still going to watch. And I do still have rooting interests. I've separated the 16 playoff teams into various rooting interest categories:

Teams I would like to see win the Stanley Cup this year, if I were given the choice: the three remaining Canadian teams (Montréal, Ottawa, Vancouver), and also the Buffalo Sabres. Canada loves hockey far more than we do, yet it's been 17 years since a Canadian team won the Stanley Cup. Does that seem right to you? As for Buffalo, I know a lot of Sabres fans, and it's not like Buffalo has anything else going for it, right?

Teams I'm undecided on: Phoenix. Do I root for Phoenix as the "underdog story" (even if they're not really an underdog), or do I root against Phoenix based on the idea that a deep playoff run would make the franchise less likely to move back to Winnipeg in the near future? (I strongly favor a return to Winnipeg.) Either way, this I know: I certainly can't bring myself to root for the mighty Red Wings to beat the Coyotes. So, Go Coyotes! For now.

Teams I don't really care about either way: Boston, New Jersey, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Detroit, Chicago, Nashville, San Jose, Colorado, Los Angeles. If one of these teams wins the Stanley Cup this year, my official reaction will be "meh".

Teams I REALLY, REALLY don't want to win: Washington. I do not care for the Capitals. They're a Hurricanes division rival, for one thing. They also have Alex Ovechkin, the most annoying player in the NHL. (Yes, even more so than Sidney Crosby. At least Crosby is Canadian.) And, well, the Capitals just plain suck. Booooooooo!!! (Interesting how the Capitals are my least favorite NHL team but that the Nationals are now my favorite MLB team.)

So, while I may have created four separate rooting interest categories, really, there are only two: 1) the Washington Capitals, and 2) everybody else. Let's go, everybody else!

Sat 1:00p - Boston at Buffalo, NBC
Sat 7:00p - Montréal at Washington, Versus
Sat 10:00p - Los Angeles at Vancouver, Versus
Sun 3:00p - Phoenix at Detroit, NBC
Sun 6:00p - New Jersey at Philadelphia, MSG Plus
Sun 6:30p - Pittsburgh at Ottawa, Versus
Sun 8:30p - Nashville at Chicago, CSN Chicago / Versus JIP*
Sun 9:30p - San Jose at Colorado, CSN California / Versus JIP*

* - "Versus JIP" games are broadcast in their entirety on NHL Center Ice, and are joined in progress by Versus once the previous Versus game ends.

Auto racing - My interest in and satisfaction with NASCAR has gone up and down many times over the last few years. And,'s a little down again. While I have set up the DVR accordingly, watching this weekend's NASCAR races isn't really a priority.

Why? Well, let's talk about last week's race at Phoenix. The caution flag came out with three laps to go (somewhat legimitately). Everyone had old tires, so everyone pitted. Ryan Newman (who had been buried in mediocrity most of the race) was one of four cars who took two tires, and thus came off pit road in 2nd place. Newman then had a better restart than the "leader" (Jeff Gordon) and won the race. Great pit road strategy call? Sure. Well executed restart? Sure. Unsatisfying result? Absolutely. Can't honestly say that I feel Ryan Newman "earned it". Seemed pretty cheap and lucky to me. Yes, pit strategy is part of racing, and I have no problem with somebody who ran 8th all day going to Victory Lane thanks to pit strategy. My main problem is with double-file restarts. In my opinion, the 2nd place car should have to earn it, not be given a free shot at the lead as he is with the current rules.

I'm not big on the whole double-file restart thing. When Driver X passes Driver Y for 5th place halfway through the race, my reaction isn't "well, how about that", it's "whatever, everything's going to be shuffled around again on the next restart, so who cares?". And at some tracks (for example, Bristol, where the outside lane is faster on restarts), it's actually better to restart 4th than it is to restart 3rd. Does that seem right to you? It is my opinion that in racing, positions should be earned, not given. The 2nd place driver should have to earn his way along side of the leader. Drivers having to fight for every position throughout the race makes for good racing. On the other hand...if NASCAR wants to turn their races into 3 hour qualifying sessions followed by a 30 minute race, and if that's what the majority of the fan base wants, who am I to complain?

So...yeah. This weekend, I'm watching hockey instead. (I do plan on watching Formula One, however.)

Sat 3:30p - NASCAR Nationwide at Texas, ESPN2
Sun 3:00a - Formula One Chinese Grand Prix, SPEED
Sun 3:00p - NASCAR Sprint Cup at Texas, FOX
(By the way, I think it's really lame that Texas Motor Speedway was able to classify itself as a "West Coast Venue" even though they're in the Central Time Zone, and thus get a 3:00p ET start time instead of a 1:00p ET start time. Boooo! Now I'm definitely not watching the entire race.)
Sun 3:30p - IndyCar at Long Beach, Versus

MLB - My MLB discussion throughout the season will be almost exclusively about my newly adopted team, the Washington Nationals. I explain why at the end of the next paragraph.

The Nationals had to play six of their first nine games againat the defining National League champions (Philadelphia), and they're 4-5. Not bad! They're not even in last place! As of Friday afternoon, at least, when this was written. I didn't feel like updating this morning after Friday's games were played. That's the problem with baseball: too many games! It's hard to take everything in and really know what's going on unless you really devote yourself to it. This is why I've decided to pay virtually no attention to the other 29 MLB teams. I don't care about baseball enough, and I don't have the brain capacity for it. I have a hard enough time following just one team as it is. I can't possibly watch every pitch of every game, so to really know what's going on with the team, I need to rely on internet blogs more so than actually watching the games.

I have watched bits and pieces of a few Nationals games so far, and here's what I've learned: 1) Ryan Zimmerman is easily their best player; 2) their pitching isn't so good; 3) Adam Dunn is big; and 4) I like their broadcasting team of Bob Carpenter and Rob Dibble. I feel bad for Bob and Rob; they have to sit through every pitch of every game of what is probably going to be a bad season. As for me, I can't really justify watching a Nationals game over pretty much any NHL Playoff game. And therein lies the problem: if I wait until June to start following baseball, the Nationals will probably be out of it by then! Oh well.

While I personally don't care about the other 29 MLB teams, I will still list all FOX, TBS, ESPN, WGN America, MLB Network, and MASN games below:

Sat 1:00p: Milwaukee at Washington, MASN
Sat 4:00p: NY Mets at St. Louis, FOX
Sat 9:00p: Detroit at Seattle, MLB Network
Sun 1:30p: Milwaukee at Washington, MASN
Sun 1:30p: Tampa Bay at Boston, TBS
Sun 2:00p: Houston at Chicago Cubs, WGN America
Sun 4:00p: Baltimore at Oakland, MASN2
Sun 8:00p: NY Mets at St. Louis, ESPN

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