Monday, August 11, 2008

Monday's Starting Five

1. The NBA on NBC Theme. What a way to start a Sunday! Hoping for soccer on Sunday morning I found basketball and a dulcet tune that I had not heard coming from a live(ish) television broadcast in far too long. It was the sweet strains of John Tesh's classic NBA on NBC theme. Obviously there are inherent difficulties in broadcasting the Games from so many time zones away and on so few channels. Obviously NBC is better at certain things (pomp and pompenstance) than others (allowing me to actually know what will be televised when) and are just as draconian as the host nation when it comes to allowing footage of the events to be widely disseminated. We can talk about that stuff for the duration but it is very, very important to take a moment to give recognition where recognition is due: Great, great job by whomever dusted off the Tesh LP and decided to include it in the men's basketball coverage. It brought a smile to my face instantly. It got me to hit record on the DVR when the game itself probably wouldn't have. Well played NBC.

2. Jason Lezak. I must admit that I missed this live (or, rather, I missed the original tape-delayed airing) and it was my fault and not NBC's. And the fact that I missed the finals of the men's 4x100 swim relay and still was totally hairs-standing-on-neck excited while watching and in total disbelief proves that this is a great sporting moment. Even when you know what's coming you still can't quite believe it. Lezak's comeback on the last 50 meters of the anchor leg in of the 4x100 relay is amazing. When this highlight makes it way before you eyes years from now you will still think that Lezak can't possibly do what he does. You will tell yourself as they turn over for the last 50 meters that the only hope for the US is for the Frenchman to falter. Because there is nothing short of torpedo that could possible catch him. This clip is what the games are always about for me: Incredible athletic talent, a preternatural grasp of the moment and an unsurpassed desire to win in a forum (ie swimming) that would otherwise be ignored. And, of course, this miraculous and record-setting gold-medal finish plays into the Phelpsinization of the Olympics as it keeps alive his chance to win 8 gold medals.

3. Cliff Lee. The surprise pitching star of the 2008 baseball season and everyones favorite member of the 2007 Triple-A Buffalo Bisons squad just keeps the hits not coming. Lee tossed eight shutout innings for the Cleveland Indians on Sunday against the Toronto Blue Jays to record his 16th win. Most impressively, he threw 61 of his first 71 pitches for strikes and threw just nine balls through six innings.

4. Threatening to play in Europe. There was a time when contract-angling European football (soccer) players would hint to newspaper reporters that they'd be willing to go play in the US or Asia for a big pay day rather than resign with their current clubs who are A) not paying them enough or B) not playing them enough. The local news in those locales would go nuts for such proclamations. Just look at the way people around NYC got excited (or at least as excited as anyone around here gets about soccer) when FC Barcelona striker Thierry Henry mentioned in an interview how much loved New York City. The tabloids grabbed the quote and treated it as a binding promise and I actually overheard two people (who also happened to be incredibly annoying and self-righteous in the worst ways that a know-it-all sports can be) at the Red Bulls/Barca exhibition at Giants Stadium last week talking knowingly about Henry's sure-thing status as a future Red Bull. Anyway, it seems that NBA players have finally grasped the uses of the international marketplace. If you pick up a newspaper or read a sports blog these days you'll likely be greeted by an article about the latest player saying they'd go to (insert Euro league here) for (insert number of millions of dollars here). Of course, most of these guys aren't likely going anywhere. Least of all the superstars but there is no denying that threatening to go to Europe is the new NBA hotness. And, you have to wonder what the eventual salary cap ramifications are if teams from Greece and Spain and Whereeverelse are able to offer upwards of $25-50 million PER season.

5. The Angels in the Los Angeles Outfield South of Disneyland. Maybe it just seems like this is happening quietly because we're all the way out here on the East coast. Maybe. But the Angels just swept a Series off the Yankees out left and are still chugging along as the unimpeachably best team in the Major Leagues. Next up, the woeful Seattle Mariners.

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