"Sports Summer" is upon us. "Sports Spring" ended last night, as both of our sports that occupy our time during that season ended in the span of 48 hours.
First, on Friday, the brilliant Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals was played, and the Pittsburgh Penguins pulled off a most unlikely upset of those hated Red Wings in Detroit. As I said Friday, I sure pulled hard for Pittsburgh, but I wasn't really counting on a happy ending.
Win a Game 7?
Win a Game 7 on the road?
Win a Game 7 on the road in Detroit?
The odds seemed pretty stacked against the Penguins and our old buddy, Billy Guerin.
But, a gritty effort in Game 7 that included a wonderful save with 1 second left on the clock secured a very exciting Game 7 victory in Detroit, just the 3rd time in the history of the sport (Det 1945, Mon 1971) that a road team has won a Game 7 on the road. Truly historic stuff.
Kevin Allen from USA Today reminds us the reality in Pittsburgh : Sidney Crosby won't be 22 until August. Evgeni Malkin is also 22, and Jordan Staal is only 20. Marc-Andre Fleury seems like an old man at 24. If there was a NHL team set up for a long run of success, it is the Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins.
It reminds a lot of us who follow this sport of the 1984 Edmonton Oilers. In 1983, the Stanley Cup Finals gave us the New York Islanders versus the Oilers. The Oilers in 1983 were a young group of talent that included Wayne Gretzky (22), Mark Messier (22), and Jari Kurri (23). The Islanders had won the Cup in 1980, 1981, and 1982, and were a veteran dynasty that knew what to do. They swept the young Oilers with great ease, but the story goes that when those young kids from Edmonton walked by the Islanders winning dressing room, they saw the ice packs and the tired old men celebrating and they knew that next year would be their year.
1984 was. And so was 1985. And 1987, 1988, and even 1990 (after Gretzky was gone). 5 Cups in 7 seasons for Edmonton, a perfect storm of insane talent all hitting its prime at the same moment,.
And now, with a salary cap that would make it more difficult, the Penguins have been to the Finals 2 years in a row, and have their first Cup with Sidney Crosby just 21, Malkin 22, Fleury 24, and Staal is 20. Could they go on a run that rivals Edmonton's? I guess we must stay tuned.
I will say this, though, I got a great kick out of a reader/listener who sent me a email who tried to position the Penguins as a darkhorse, and claimed that he was the only one who believed in them.
No offense, sir, but Crosby was a #1 pick overall ('05). Malkin was the #2 ('04). Fluery was the #1 overall ('03). And Staal was the #2 pick overall ('06). The Penguins are a lot of things. Darkhorse is not one of them. They were in a position to draft superstars-to-be, and they didn't screw it up.
Now, we shall see if they can string a dynasty together. Meanwhile, their resident graybeard, Billy Guerin, wins his 2nd Cup as a pro. Guerin was the first guy to get the cup after Crosby, and it was a special moment to see our old buddy hit the jackpot again. Phillippe Boucher also shared in the Cup, so it was very nice to see two Dallas Stars (who were both all-stars in the 2007 Game played here) get their names engraved on the holy grail.
Detroit was a worthy champion, and if one thing goes different, they are winning another Stanley Cup. The one person I would like hear from is Marian Hossa. He turned down a fabulous offer from Pittsburgh and left to sign in Detroit to win a Cup, only to find that the more money in Pittsburgh may have included a Cup. He went scoreless in the Finals for the Red Wings and is probably annoyed by how this has all gone down.
Phil Jackson wins #10. Kobe Bryant wins #4. And the Lakers? #15. And in 61 years of the NBA Finals, that would make trip #30 to the final round.
We wanted Kobe vs LeBron, and when the upset went down in Orlando, we suspected that the Finals may be a mere formality. It was.
The Magic showed moments in this series where it appeared they would compete hard for the crown, but by the time a very casual Game 5 came to a close, it seemed as if the Lakers could name their score. I think that is the way I will remember this Lakers team. They seemed to play with their food. They needed a challenge along the way, and I guess Houston, Denver, and Orlando all tried to provide one, and at times they grabbed a win here and there. But when push came to shove and Kobe and the boys needed another gear, they found it with ease.
The close-out games against those 3 teams were all terribly one-sided and not even close to competitive. Once the 2009 Lakers locked in to an objective, they left no doubt. Was it because the worthy opponents were tougher to find this year? I think we would all like to see what the 2008 Celtics would do against the 2009 Lakers, but they played who was placed in front of them, and their toughest opponent may have been boredom this season.
So, now Red Auerbach has been passed by Phil (just ask him) and Kobe now has a ring that he can call his own. Phil's count is especially mind boggling, as he has won 10 titles in 19 years in the NBA. The ultimate dynasty coach and anyone who doesn't recognize his greatness must not appreciate the value of a strong general.
As for Kobe, there is no question how great he is. The question is, "how many titles could he and Shaq have won had they stayed together?" I wonder. There was going to come a time where Shaq would have had to defer the Alpha-Male spot to Kobe, but, since there was a 7 year period when Kobe was not a champion, I am left to wonder what could have been.
Fun from Baseball: I want to make sure here before I am done to make sure you enjoyed the 3 baseball side items from the sport that now gets center stage for the next few months (unless Tiger takes it).
Item #1: Luis Castillo drops a pop up off the bat of A-Rod, and the Mets lose a game on one mistake. They were up 8-7 and if Castillo secures the pop-up the game is over, but he drops it, and the runner from 2nd ties the game and the runner from 1st (Mark Teixeira) is hustling around the paths and actually scores the winning run. Teixeira deserves big marks for running hard and not taking anything for granted. Video is below:
Item #2: The very same Teixeira is in another situation involving Twitter and Red Sox owner John Henry . Henry, who tweets, offered a jab at Tex after another Red Sox sweep of the Yankees, when he suggest that it might be the "MT Curse" that is allowing the Red Sox the advantage.
Teixeira, who never has said things just right, offered a defense where he basically admits to being a mercenary for the highest bidder: "I was completely up front with everybody (during the free agent season)," Teixeira said. "I was totally honest with everybody. This is a business, guys. Everyone knows the Yankees paid the most. This is a great place to play. This is the greatest organization in the history of baseball. If somebody had a problem with the decision I made, because it was a family decision and a business decision, they can have their opinion. That's fine. I made the best decision for me and it's worked out great."
I guess you have to respect his honesty, but nothing endears you to your fans like admitting you would have gone anywhere to play for the highest bidder. Of course, we also wonder why Henry is stirring things up on Twitter, but I guess he is just catching the wave of fun. (Oh yeah, you can find me on twitter at www.twitter.com/bobanddan)
Item #3: Milton Bradley pulled off one of the legendary mistakes in baseball this weekend, too. He caught a fly ball and then tossed it in the crowd. Problem? There were only 2 outs. Cubs lose. Bradley embarrassed.