Thursday, June 12, 2008

Thursday's Starting Five

1. Portugal. Deco, the sexy Ronaldo (different from the fat Ronaldo) and co. have been playing the beautiful game at high level in the first round of the Euro 08 tournament being contested in Austria and Switzerland. The Portuguese powerhouse has won it's first two matches, becoming the first side to qualify for the next round. They are strong at the back (Carvalho) , creative in the middle (Deco and Moutinho) and terrifying up the wings and through to goal (Ronaldo).

2. Carlos Beltran. The soft-spoken and too often soft-hitting center fielder of the New York Metropolitans, by way of Puerto Rico, cracked a 13th inning walk-off home run last night to lift the Muts over the visiting Diamondbacks. Sounds Exciting. Right? Wrong. Even this team's highlights are depressing right now. After a sterling 8 frames of work by thus-far-underachieving-supposed-to-be ace-someday Mike Pelfrey, during which he outdueled actual ace Brandon Webb, the Mets handed the ball over to Billy Wagner with one man on and no out in the top of the ninth. The score was 3 to nil, Metsies (as Keith would say). The score was 3 to 3 by the time Wagner left the mound and my buzz (from several nice glasses of chianti with dinner) left me. Pelfrey didn't get the win he deserved. And, Wagner, formerly our most dependable player, blew another save. So, yeah, the Beltran homer was awesome but it won't be the lasting memory of the game. Which is weird and sad and sums up being a fan of this team right now.

3. Milton Bradley's Feelings. It was a big day for the inner thoughts, insecurities and emotions of the man leading the American League in batting average, raking at a .333 clip to this point in the season. Upon hearing a Kansas City Royals television announcer speak less than glowingly about him (there was a TV in the clubhouse) the Texas Rangers DH bolted for the home team's (the Rangers are on the road) broadcast booth to give this media fellow a piece of his mind and perhaps his fist. However, before Milton could confront the besmircher of his name he was himself confronted by his own team's General Manager, who proceeded to send Mr. Bradley back to his locker. Upon returning to the Rangers clubhouse, Bradley reportedly broke into tears and cried out, "I'm strong, but I'm not that strong" amongst other things. And then it got awkward.

4. Dan Uggla. Who plays more like Dan Ugly, as a certain novice heckler I know likes to say. Well, except for last night, when the second baseman for the Florida Marlins hit a walk-off grand salami to lead the Fins over the Phils in Miami. The blast was an absolute monster to left field. Uggla, likely an NL All-Star for the second straight year, led all second baseman last year in home runs (31), runs (113) and doubles (49). But, he's still got a funny name.

5. Gambling Scandals. Whether it's the infamous Black Sox scandal from the 1919 World Series or the impossible-to-believe point shaving incident with Tony from Western in Blue Chips, there is something wonderful, old-timey and larger than life about a full-on sports gambling scandal. And, it just seems awesome to me that we get to have one right now. To be honest, I haven't really had a chance to think too deeply about the significance of the Tim Donaghy referee-game-fixing brouhaha, but it feels like it's going to be a keeper. Like someday we're going to sit back and scrap-book this era. I can't wait until the Finals are over so we, as a basketball-watching public, can really dig into this. It's going to be FAN-tastic.

Benched. Games 1, 2 & 3 of the NBA Finals. They don't mean anything. Game 4 is all that matters. Everything hangs in the balance. The Celtics have woke up on the Left Coast for a few days now and should be acclimated. Paul Pierce should be over his home-town jitters and be ready to take it to the home-team. Unless of course he ends up in a wheelchair. Either way, this is the pivot point of the 2008 NBA Finals. If the Celtics win, they put a strangle-hold on the entire Los Angeles metropolitan area and have a realistic chance to win the Series in 5 games. Then Game 3 was an aberration, during which the Celtics almost won on an off-night. However, if they Lakers win then they have all the momentum and Boston hasn't won in close to a week. Then Kobe has likely been the best player for two night-games in a row, Odom and Gasol realized that you don't bring no ecto-kooler to an gin party (well, unless you're planning on drinking some fine ecto cocktails, but I digress) and the Lakers bench (led by the Boy Named Sasha) has become the strength everyone thought it would be before the Series began. Like I said, Game 4 is all that matters. Either way.

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