Monday, May 5, 2008

Monday's Starting Five

1. Big Brown and Eight Belles. I know that the story for the next few days is going to be, legitimately, about the death of Eight Belles (who suffered a catastrophic injury to both front legs a short time after crossing the finish line in second place). And, it should be. It was terribly sad. The veterinarian that told viewers on NBC that the philly (the only female horse in the race) had been euthanized clearly had tears in his eyes. I'm not a) an animal doctor, b) a member of PETA reflexively using this to get my message out and c) a hard-core horse racing devotee trying to assuage fears that my sports is inhumane. I'm not any of those things so I'm just going to say that what happened was sad and that I do hope that it was as random and unpreventable as early reports have indicated. I'm going to say those two things and then try not to feel heartless when I start talking about the winner of the race. I'm going to try. Here goes: Big Brown was flat-out dominant. Starting out in the far 20-hole he had to run much farther than every other horse and he still won going away. There was a point early on when I thought that Big Brown's trip to the inside seemed to stall as the pack condensed. I thought that was it. I thought the distance to the rail combined with the distance to the front of the pack would prove insurmountable. Boy was I wrong. This horse came around the outside of the leaders like he was shot out of a cannon. And then he passed them. After the race was over he still seemed ready for more (which bodes well for the Belmont) and as if he would have won be an even greater stretch had the track allowed it. Sometimes you can get so caught up in rooting for 30-1 upset to come in that you lose sight of the fact that the favorite is the favorite for a reason. I know we've seen a few near misses in recent years but I've already talked myself into two things: 1) Big Brown will win the Triple Crown. 2) I need to bet more than five dollars on this horse at the Preakness.

2. The Big Three. With their backs to the wall (or more appropriately, with their backs to the banners that hang above their heads in the new Boston Garden), Garnett, Pierce and Allen emerged from their suddenly serious first-round series with the Atlanta Hawks. They thrashed the Hawks four times at home and got beat three times on the road. Up next, the Lebronaliers. It's worth noting at this point that the Cavs are the, in fact, the defending conference champs. They are better than the Hawks. This should be interesting. At least, I hope it is. I hope that Hawks series wasn't the wake-up call moment for the C's team who we'll now have to watch steamroll through to the Finals.

3. Kobe "I Make My Teammates Better "Bryant". This guy is good. He's great, even. Bryant is one of the best technicians on the court that I'll likely ever see in person. He is ruthless in attacking his opponents (and some would in attacking hotel employees). All that being said, he is not the MVP. This entire storyline about him "being a better teammate" and "making his teammates better" this season is as foolish as saying that I make my apartment cleaner. Yes, I do occassionally clean it (and yes, Kobe does sometimes have fine assist numbers) but at the end of the day I am the one also making it a mess. Kobe is not a better teammate this season. He just has better teammates. There is a big difference. Either way, Bryant scored 38 points yesterday in leading the Lakers over the Jazz. Although 21 of those came at the free throw line.

4. The New York Metropolitans "Opening Day" Lineup. It took 34 days after Opening Day. It took that long for the New York Mets to field the team that the planned on fielding this season. With ageless, pee-hands himself back in left field and Brian Schneider back from his thumb infection, the Mets threw their A-lineup (including Johan) against Dan Haren and the Arizona Diamondbacks yesterday. And they won, taking the 3-game series from the high-flying, first place D-backs.

5. Chris Paul, David West and the New Orleans Hornets. Remember how the Mavericks were going to beat the Hornets? Remember how Jason Kidd's playoff experience was going to trump Chris Paul's lack thereof? Well it didn't. And, neither did the Spurs. At least in Game 1. Chris Paul was as dominant as he's been all year and David West scored a career playoff-high 30 points while helping (though most of the credit must go to Tyson Chandler) to completely shutter the doors on Tim Duncan, who had a career low 5 points and 3 rebounds. The Hornets just blew the doors off the Spurs after routing the Mavericks. They are for real! And, that MVP showdown between Kobe and CP3 in the conference finals seems to be around the corner.

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