Saturday, June 09, 2012

Sports Saturday: 6/9/12

Horse racing - Okay, so I wrote this nice long piece about the Belmont Stakes, before it was announced that Triple Crown contender I'll Have Another was scratched from the race due to injury. The whole thing is obviously obsolete now, and the Belmont is pretty much meaningless now. But I don't want my piece to go to waste, so I'm publishing it anyway.

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I'll Have Another goes for the Triple Crown in today's Belmont Stakes. It's been 34 years since a horse last won the Triple Crown, and no doubt, an entire country will be rooting him on...except for me. I always root against horses going for the Triple Crown.

Why? Well...in sports, sometimes the agony of defeat makes for the best television. The Triple Crown is one of those times. The elusive Triple Crown hasn't been won in 34 years! And that's what makes this such great theater. So many horses over the last two decades have come so close, and yet they all came up short, occasionally in heartbreaking fashion. (Smarty Jones in 2004 comes to mind.) And that's what makes this so interesting, to me. As soon as someone thinks they have it...nope, here comes Birdstone on the outside for the win! Too bad!

And if I'll Have Another wins the Triple Crown, then that would basically ruin that aspect of it, right? Next time a horse goes for the Triple Crown, it just won't be the same if I'll Have Another breaks through today.

"So, are you saying that you NEVER want to see a Triple Crown winner in your entire life?" Well...I wouldn't go that far. And I can't say I'll be terribly disappointed if I'll Have Another wins today. It would just make horse racing less interesting until we get another 20+ year Triple Crown drought. I think if/when the drought reaches 50 years, I may change my tune and start rooting them on. But for now...booooo! Belmont Stakes - Sat 6:30p, NBC

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To be clear, I never, ever root for these horses to get hurt. That is not what I meant AT ALL. This is all my fault, isn't it?

And to answer the question, "Well, are you happy now, jackass??? No. I am not. This isn't how it was supposed to happen!

That said, I look forward to the next Triple Crown contender, and I hope he (or she) actually gets to race in the Belmont...and loses.

NHL - While the possibility of the agony of defeat may draw me to the Belmont Stakes, the opposite is true for the Stanley Cup Final. The Stanley Cup presentation is the best trophy presentation in all of sports, and I make an effort to watch all Stanley Cup Final elimination games live, or at least the next day without knowing the outcome. (It's not the same if you already know going in that Team X is going to win the Cup.)

So I'm kind of torn here. On one hand, I want the Los Angeles Kings to ultimately win the Cup. And, it would be more convenient for me if they win it on a Saturday night when I can actually stay up for it, So I should definitely be rooting for a Kings win tonight, right? Except that the Stanley Cup hasn't been presented to the home team since Anaheim in 2007, and it always makes for a better trophy presentation when the fans are cheering instead of booing. (Yeah, given that this is New Jersey, I expect a healthy amount of booing if the Kings clinch the Cup tonight.) So ideally, I would want the Devils to win tonight and the Kings to win Game 6, right?

Either way...like the Belmont, this is must watch television, to me. The fact that the Kings are up 3-1 in the series doesn't matter. They still have to win one more. The amount of pressure on a team that was up 3-0, only to lose the next two, has to be huge. And it's not like the Kings are so much better than the Devils that their triumph is inevitable. This series is not over. Los Angeles at New Jersey - Sat 8:00p, NBC

Auto racing - It's time for my favorite Formula One race of the season! Not just because it's in Canada at a track I am very familiar with (and that I've actually been to, although not for a race), but because Circuit Gilles Villeneuve always puts on interesting races. Last year, Jenson Button passed Sebatsian Vettel on the last lap (which NEVER happens in F1!) for the win. It would be unrealistic to expect that to happen again, but my expectations are up. Formula One Canadian Grand Prix - Sun 2:00p, FOX

IndyCar races at its first high banked 1.5 mile superspeedway (Texas) since the tragedy at Las Vegas last year, so I'm wondering how aggressive drivers are going to be with that in mind. That, and truth be told, this is usually the most entertaining IndyCar race of the year. IndyCar at Texas - Sat 8:00p, NBCSN

Finally...the NASCAR race at Pocono has been shortened to 400 miles! Hooray! NASCAR at Pocono - Sun 1:00p, TNT

College baseball - This weekend are the NCAA baseball tournament "Super Regionals", also known as the Round of 16, and Florida State is once again in the mix. I haven't followed the team all that much this year, but I know that they were ranked #1 for at least some of the season, and might have earned the overall #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament if not for an 0-3 showing at the ACC Tournament a couple of weeks ago.

So the team is good. Their opponent this weekend, Stanford, is also good, and from what I understand has a couple of pitchers who were drafted fairly high by MLB teams this week. This could go either way. You have to be really, really fortunate to even get to, let alone win, the College World Series, which helps explain why Mike Martin has never been able to win one in all these years of outstanding teams. Stanford at Florida State (Game 2 of 3) - Sat 6:00p, ESPN2; Sunday's Game 3 time/network TBD, if necessary

MLB - As of press time (Friday afternoon), the Washington Nationals are still in first place! And this weekend, they play an interleague series at Fenway Park. I'm certainly not a fan of the Red Sox, but I appreciate Fenway Park, and I am looking forward to seeing the Nationals play there, especially because it doesn't happen every year.

As for the Nationals themselves, they've had some injury problems, but last year's biggest offensive threat Michael Morse is back (finally), and the starting pitchers have remained healthy as well. I think this team is for real. (Now please, please don't lose 10 of 12 now that I've said that.) Washington at Boston - Sat 4:00p and Sun 1:30p, MASN

Soccer - No World Cup (or even Women's World Cup) this summer, but we do get the European Championship, a.k.a. Euro 2012. As is often the case in events involving European teams, I'm rooting for France. They don't play until Monday, though.

But there are some potentially outstanding games this weekend, if you're into 1-0 games, that is. (Seems like that's usually what happens when two major European powers face off...if we're lucky.) The weekend's headliners are Germany v. Portugal - Sat 2:45p, ESPN and Spain v. Italy - Sun 12:00p, ESPN.

NBA - The Miami Heat and Boston Celtics have a Game 7 tonight, winner moves on to the NBA Finals. Lots of people will be watching, but it's only the third priority in the evening timeslot, for me. Like many, I'm not a fan of the Heat (or especially the ESPN-led hype surrounding the team), but...whatever. I'm not emotionally invested in this sport. Boston at Miami - Sat 8:30p, ESPN

Tennis - And there's also the French Open this weekend! One point I don't think I've ever made about tennis: I think the women's game is more interesting than the men's game. Why? Because the women's game is more random. Part of that is because women play best-of-3 instead of best-of-5, but I think there's more to it than that. I mean, when was the last time the men's final of a Grand Slam involved somebody other than Nadal, Federer, or Djokovic? (I looked it up: 2010 Wimbledon. That makes the 2012 French the 7th consecutive Grand Slam final featuring only those three men.)

Despite this, I only occasionally watch the men's Grand Slam finals and never watch the women's Grand Slam finals. This weekend, I'm changing that: I'm recording the women's final and will make watching it a priority.

Boxing - Finally...I've heard there's a major fight this weekend, or something. I completely ignore boxing because the big events are all on pay-per-view, so why bother? Except that I must not be completely ignoring it because I'm mentioning it here. I guess the "boxing people" (Do they even have a governing body? How does that all work?) decided that they could make more money being a niche sport with devoted fans who are willing to pay for pay-per-view fights, rather than have widespread appeal and be on broadcast television. If you're boxing, it doesn't matter that the majority of the country doesn't care about you as long as you still have enough people willing to drop coin every time there's a big fight, right?

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