Saturday, May 08, 2010

Sports Saturday: 5/8/10

Aside from a 42-mile bike ride, I have no plans for this weekend whatsoever. Let's watch some sports! Problem is, there really isn't a whole lot going on this weekend, it seems like. Yes, there is plenty of hockey, baseball, racing, and golf to go around (and I will cover all four, not in that order), but there are no "marquee events". So where do I start?

Well, let's start with this. The Kentucky Derby was last week, and since I didn't offer a take on it last week, I'll do that now. If there was ever a time to record a sporting event on the DVR and watch it later, the Kentucky Derby - any horse race, really - is it. The race only lasts two or three minutes! No need to watch two hours of pre-race coverage, or however many hours NBC devoted to this thing. On the DVR, you can skip all that stuff, and be over with the whole thing in no time at all. I guess the reason NBC devotes three hours of coverage to a two-minute race is because some people actually watch the whole thing, but still. Seems entirely unnecessary.

By the way, had the Bruins/Flyers hockey game gone past 4:00 PM last Saturday, the remainder of the game would have been moved to Versus so that NBC could begin their Kentucky Derby coverage, even though the Derby itself wasn't until well after 6:00 (source). Yay hockey! (And, yay segway to the next topic!)

NHL - I'm a week behind here, so let me start by saying that I am thrilled that Alex Ovechkin and the rest of the Washington Capitals lost in the first round of the playoffs. Ha!

That said, I can't lie. The playoffs - in particular, the Eastern Conference side of the bracket - are now less interesting with the Capitals out. Do we really want the Penguins to play in the Stanley Cup Final again? Boooring. That's kind of the feeling I got after the Canadiens finished off the Capitals. Ovechkin lost again! Wooohoooo!! But now this means the Penguins are going to the Stanley Cup Final again, doesn't it?

Or so I thought. The Montréal/Pittsburgh series is now tied 2-2. If you're a hockey fan, the remainder of this series is now must watch hockey if you ask me. I'm also very interested in the Chicago/Vancouver series, but I haven't seen too much of that one lately. Most of their games start late at night. And even though the Sharks seems to have things under control in their series with the Red Wings, given San Jose's playoff history (not so good)...you never know. Better watch that series, too. Every series now has some interest to it (to me), with the exception of the Bruins/Flyers series, which...whatever.

Sat 7:00p - Montréal at Pittsburgh, Game 5 (tied 2-2), Versus
Sat 10:00p - Detroit at San Jose, Game 5 (SJ 3-1), Versus
Sun 8:00p - Vancouver at Chicago, Game 5 (CHI 3-1), Versus


Golf - As said previously, I watch 5½ golf tournaments a year. Tournament #2 is this weekend: The PLAYERS Championship.

Every year when this tournament is played, the "fifth major" debate begins once again. Does The PLAYERS deserve to be a major? Is it still actually the fifth biggest tournament of the year? Personally, I don't really care about all that. There are two reasons I watch this tournament every year. One, the field is very deep and competitive, and golf is more interesting when the world's best players are playing. (And no, I'm not talking specifically about Tiger Woods.) Two, I've been to a few PLAYERS Championships over the years (it's held in the Jacksonville suburbs), and it's the only tournament I watch all year where I actually know the course they're playing. By that, I mean I could do a reasonable job drawing the course on a piece of paper from my head. (For example, here are the pars, from memory: 453444435 454344534.) I think golf is more interesting to watch when you know the "ins" and "outs" of the course. I guess I'm watching more for the venue than I am the participants. So, the less Tiger I have to endure, the better. I don't need to see him, and I don't want him to be the story. I was hoping he would miss the cut again like he did last week in Charlotte, because you just know that when he's on the course, he's going to get a disproportionate amount of coverage.

And in case you're wondering why there aren't any hockey games on NBC this weekend, this is why.

Sat 2:00p - The PLAYERS Championship, NBC
Sun 2:00p - The PLAYERS Championship, NBC


MLB - I've been quite entertained watching the Washington Nationals so far this season. They're hanging in there! I have some thoughts on some of the team's more prominent players:
- Ryan Zimmerman: Supposedly the team's best player, both offensively and defensively, but I'd have no idea if not for the attention he gets on the broadcasts and local media.
- Nyjer Morgan: Your prototypical leadoff guy, whom I think are the most entertaining to watch. Reminds me of Juan Pierre from the Marlins teams of a few years ago.
- Ian Desmond: A developing talent, which means it's only a matter of time (maybe three years or so) before he's playing for somebody else.
- Matt Capps: The Nats' closer, who just so happens to be leading the majors in saves. But since most baseball games end after 10:00 PM, I haven't actually seen him in action all that much.
- Livan Hernandez and Ivan Rodriguez: These guys are still playing? Seriously? And what are they doing with the Nationals?
- Stephen Strasburg: There has been plenty of hype, even at the national level, surrounding last year's #1 draft pick. He's not in the majors yet (he was promoted to Triple-A this week), but it's only a matter of time. Even though he has loads of potential, I can't get all that excited about a pitcher, though. Pitchers get hurt, pitchers have surgery, pitchers can easily go from 16 wins one season to 2 the next. So, we'll see if he's the real deal, or if he's just another Mark Prior. (Can you tell I've been out of baseball for a while? As far as I'm concerned, the last four MLB seasons never really happened. I know nothing about them. All I have are memories of who was good back in 2004.)

Sat 1:00p - Florida at Washington, MASN
Sat 1:00p - Baltimore at Minnesota, MASN2
(I haven't seen the Twins' new ballpark yet, so I might turn this game on just to check it out.)
Sat 3:00p - Atlanta at Philadelphia, FOX (regional)
Sat 7:00p - Toronto at Chicago White Sox, WGN America
(Speaking of which, DirecTV is supposed to start carrying WGN HD as early as this month.)
Sun 1:00p - Chicago Cubs at Cincinnati, WGN America
Sun 1:30p - Florida at Washington, MASN
Sun 1:30p - Atlanta at Philadelphia, TBS
Sun 2:00p - Baltimore at Minnesota, MASN2
Sun 8:00p - NY Yankees at Boston, ESPN

Auto racing - Darlington (site of this weekend's Nationwide and Sprint Cup races) is one of my favorite tracks, but not because it puts on particularly entertaining racing. It often doesn't, and the race is one of the longest races of the season, which means laps 50 through 250 will probably be a tad boring. I like Darlington because it's unique, challenging, and "historic". They could never build Darlington today the way they did in 1950. If they did, the drivers would complain about how awful the race track was, and the owners would eventually give in and reconfigure the track. But because the track is "historic", it's okay! I actually considered going to this year's race (Darlington is a little over two hours from home), but was never really committed to the idea. I guess the idea of being bored for three hours while we wait for the inevitable late race caution flag, then getting home at 3 or 4 in the morning after the race ended, wasn't all that appealing to me.

Meanwhile...Jeff Gordon has to win a race sooner or later, don't you think?

Formula One is also back this week. Based on what I've seen so far, Sebastian Vettel has to be the favorite for the championship. I know he's currently 5th in points, but he's had the most speed so far this season (by far); the team has just had a hard time closing the deal. Mechanical failures, poor strategy, driver error...sure seems like Vettel has given away more races than he's won over the last three seasons. They'll put it together at some point, and when they do, watch out.

As for Lewis Hamilton...why is it that his teammate Jenson Button's race strategy is always so much better than Hamilton's strategy? Doesn't seem right. Come on, McLaren - give both of your drivers a chance to win! (Yes, some of the onus goes on Hamilton, but still.)

Sat 7:30p - NASCAR Sprint Cup at Darlington, FOX
Sun 8:00a - Formula One Spanish Grand Prix, SPEED

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