Friday, June 27, 2008

What a Difference...

This week, I got to do see a couple of things that just really make me want to shake my head. On one hand disappointed the hell out of me, but on the other end, I just kind of had to walk away and smile.

Summer Camp...

Earlier in the week, I had to go over to the “Allen Iverson” Crossover something or other camp in Smyrna, Georgia. Unto itself and from a distance a great idea, big time NBA basketball star holds a camp for kids who really need something to do and someone to look up to.

Here is where things start going wrong. First of all, Mr. Iverson didn’t exactly spend a lot of “Time” at his camp. In fact, he appeared for a grand total of about 45 minutes. It gets worse. He was expected at 2pm, showed up at 4pm and then while the campers were ushered to the bleachers to take a group photo with him, he and his boys spent 30 minutes shooting baskets, completely ignoring everything else around them. He eventually, changed into his camp T-shirt and posed with the kids, all of whom couldn’t get enough of being around him. After the photo, he got up and was immediately swarmed, kids asking for autographs and taking pictures. Again, not a bad thing except for him making a comment to his bodyguard “We gotta get out of here”. He eventually did and the kids eventually got there photo with a superstar.

Wanting to be there...

The contrast for me was the next day. The next day, I was at the “Todd France” NFL Players Camp in North Atlanta. You may be asking who Todd France is. Todd is an agent who represents a large amount of players from the North Georgia area who made it to the NFL.

Every year (4), they put on a free camp at a local school for any kid who wants to come. Well, they come alright, probably 300 strong and they get quite the workout. They get a workout because the players are probably more into the whole thing than the kids. Detroit Lion Linebacker Ernie Sims, they call the Taskmaster because he works them hard. But you know what, you should see the smile on the kids face, the smile on Ernie’s face and the hugs that happen every change of periods. All the guys, there were 15+ NFL players there the day I was, were running drills and just having a good time hanging out with the kids.

What is my point?

My point is this: While sitting and waiting for Iverson to show up I had a really interesting conversation with a teacher at Campbell High School. We talked for some time about kids and impressions. She told me how it used to be where kids wanted to grow up and be a pro athlete. They wanted to be in the NBA or NFL and be famous. Now they want to be hip-hop or rap stars, in the recording industry.

The difference is this, according to her; the athletes come in and preach about hard work and going to school, the people in the recording industry, nothing. Nothing about school, nothing about working hard. Just be rich, make money and you’ll be OK. That is all well and good except for the fact that the percentage of people who can do that: almost zero.

Yeah, this kind of gets away from what we were talking about, but at the same time it doesn’t. As much as I don’t like what Iverson did, I respect the fact the he was willing to do it. He did speak about working hard to be successful and not just mailing things in. He did talk about getting an education and how important it was and I can respect that. Same with the NFL guys, they couldn’t talk enough about education, hard work, staying and school in order to be successful.

Despite the athletes you hear about breaking the law and doing dumb things, the large percentage of them are guys who want to set a good example. Some don’t always do it the best way, but they do it the only way that they no how to. It may register with a kid, it may not, but at least they try.

--Phil Cantor

“The time has come, my song is over, thought I’d something more to say” Time (Pink Floyd)

Random Thoughts

Admittedly, there are weeks around here where we have too much to think about. And then there are some weeks where we have no idea what we’re going to talk about.

I thought about writing a side-bar wrap-up column about Fred Powers, the “human piñata,” that Mike James at called him in referring to his “journalistic style.”

But I thought that would be a bit of a downer- talking about the dead and all that.

I thought about telling you what it’s like turning 40.

But I thought that would be a bit of a downer- talking about the old and all that

So, I’ll just throw all of it into one, big pile this week.

Random Thoughts…

So the now-former Houston Astros pitcher Shawn Chacon felt compelled to, allegedly, choke and throw down his GM Ed Wade. Depending on who you talk to Chacon was eating dinner and didn’t wish to be disturbed. Or Chacon was eating dinner and didn’t want to do what was required in returning to the bullpen. Some people have compared Wade to Napoleon. Others say he’s a good guy.

Notice that no one inside the Astros clubhouse is talking about it…?

The MLBPA plans on taking the Astros to task if they decide to waive Chacon outright after his waivers period expires. I’m sure there a lot of people who like the idea of the plebeian choking the “man.” Problem is that if you’re getting paid seven figures to throw a ball into a mitt from 60-feet 6-inches, you don’t choke your boss. Insert your Latrell Sprewell joke here… it’s not the last we’ve heard of this.

I just wish Chacon would wear his hat the right way. Who does he think he is…? Chad Cordero…?

Indiana University Athletic Director Rick Greenspan is resigning/retiring at the end of the calendar year after all of the fallout from the Kelvin Sampson fiasco. The NCAA has also decided to pile on with a “failure to monitor” charge- which could add more recruiting restrictions and even more scholarship reductions than current Head Coach Tom Crean has to deal with now.

While “failure to monitor” isn’t a lack of institutional control, it’s pretty much on the same part of the cereal aisle at the college version of the grocery store.

Apparently, the University had a chance to fix what the NCAA thought was wrong, but never did. Greenspan, apparently, told compliance officers that everything was fine when it really may not have been… compliance officers were receiving the cell phone bills that Sampson’s assistants made. And when there were three-way calls made, the bill told you so. In direct violation of the sanctions that were imposed on Sampson at Oklahoma and Indiana…

Crean gets one scholarship player back for the new season- one. Good luck with that…

Rick Dutrow, the trainer with the Triple-Crown version of Foot-in-mouth disease, is wondering why everyone is making a big deal about a 15-day suspension he got for elevated steroid levels in one of his horses.

“It's my responsibility, but it's not my fault,” Dutrow said. “It's just a mistake that happened but it's not as big a deal as everyone is trying to make it out to be. I'm just getting flooded with everybody calling me all the time with negative stuff. I wish it would all stop.”

A little humility, instead of a lot of hubris, would have gone a long way during your horse’s run probably would have avoided all this, ya know…?

Just a thought…

Did you see that Davidson resigned Bob McKillop to a contract extension…? Good move…

What is an NBA Draft without the New York Knicks fans booing the idea of the sunrise…?

Danilo Gallinari didn’t know what hit him…?

11 foreign-born players were selected this time around. Outside of Gallinari, I don’t know a damn one of them. You know what…? Don’t really care, either…


Buffalo Bills running back Marshawn Lynch had his driver’s license revoked after hitting a pedestrian that he says he never even knew he hit.

“It was raining real hard, there was a dancing pedestrian in the middle of the street,” the 22-year-old Lynch said before the hearing. “I slowed down to let her go and continued on my way home. I didn't know my car had hit anyone or anything.”

Investigators believe the woman Lynch struck was near the woman he saw dancing.

A longer written statement issued by Lynch's attorney after the hearing said police officers later came to his house and removed his car and that Lynch “was in disbelief” when told it had been in an accident.

Uh huh… “Woman disguised as speed bump gives running back first loss of the season…”

And he hasn’t even hit training camp…

Let’s finish with the rantings of Justin Gimelstob, probably-soon-to-be-former ATP muckety-muck…

I can’t even do any of these justice. They stand on their own before his massive apology:

Asked if he would ever have an affair with Anna Kournikova: “Definitely not. I have no attraction to her because she's such a douche. I really have no interest in her ... I wouldn't mind having my younger brother, who's a kind of a stud, nail her and then reap the benefits of that. She has a great body but her face is a five (out of ten).”

((Good for your brother, I guess…? Kournikova doesn’t do anything for me, either…))

He claimed there were fewer lesbians on the current women's tour than 15 years ago, explaining: “That's because they're all Russian chicks. And there's some other cute ones out there. There's some talent out there.”

Way to go…

My guess is none of them will be seen with you on their arm any time before, oh I dunno, the apocalypse…

Play it safe, everyone… I’ll talk to you soon…

--Jon Nelson

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Sergeant Stubler

“If you have to ask me how am I doing, I will probably cut you.”

Oh yeah. The hug filled days of fun loving Pinball Clemons coaching the Argos are long gone. After 36 years as a defensive assistant coach, Rich Stubler is finally a head coach. While the majority of the Argos knows Stubler well from his days as a defensive coordinator; now that he’s the head man, it’s a whole new experience. You won’t see Stubler dancing and joining hands with his players for a group chant. As a head coach, Stubler is all business.

For example. At the Wednesday morning practice, running back Tyler Ebell injured his left ankle. While the medical staff tended to Ebell, Stubler simply moved the practice up a few yards and continued on with his work. Turns out Ebell suffered a rupture Achilles tendon and he’s gone for the season.

The moment you see Kerry Joseph, the CFL’s reigning most outstanding player, on the field and running the offence; there is little doubt that he will be the Argos number one quarterback.

Quarterback Cody Pickett has received a long look at camp and has not only made some solid throws; but he’s also surprised me with his scrambling abilities.

Adriano Belli is, well, Adriano Belli. He’s hitting and kissing everything in sight. I have managed to avoid him so far.

Forget all the negative stuff that you’ve ever read or heard; Mike Vanderjagt is a good dude. I can only go by my own personal experience. I have always gotten along well with “Vandy” and he seems genuinely happy to be back in Toronto.

Mike O’Shea is still running around, making plays and directing the Argos defence like a drill sergeant. Despite a laundry list of various injuries he’s suffered over the years, O’Shea has only missed one game last 11 seasons. One freaking game in eleven seasons.

Under Stubler, Argos camp had taken on the personality of their new head coach. It’s direct, cut-throat, and straight to the point. Once you cross the white lines, Stubler expects a player to be all business. Even though he’s handing over care of his beloved defence to Kavis Reed; Stubler is very much involved in this incredible unit.

The key to the whole thing is the Argos secondary. Between them, the five man unit combined for amazing 21 interceptions and four defensive touchdowns last year. Of the five, Orlondo Steinauer, Byron Parker and Kenny Wheaton were CFL All-Stars in 2007.

Not only are they great, the five of them couldn’t be more different.

Chuck Winters – one of the teams most community minded players – grew up in the worst neighbourhood, located in the heart of the Detroit projects.

An incredible natural athlete, Byron Parker was the 2003 NCAA slam dunk champion.

Heavy into yoga and the martial arts, Khalil Carter bounced around literally every pro football league on the planet before finding a home in Toronto.

Mister reliable, Orlondo Steinauer is a four-time CFL All-Star and the glue that holds them together.

And then there’s “Dirty 30”. Former Dallas Cowboy Kenny Wheaton. One of the most feared hitters in the CFL, Wheaton loves playing the role of the bully.

The Argos secondary is a huge reason why the defence has been the best in the CFL the past five seasons.

As much as Stubler is all about working hard and getting prepared for the season; there’s a very relaxed side to his personality. Just before the Thursday afternoon practice, I stood there; sipping my Tim Hortons and just talked football and golf with Stubler and Mike Vanderjagt. You just got to love the CFL. I mentioned to Stubler how impressed I was with Cody Pickett. The first thing he says was how impressed he was with Reggie McNeal. A super-star high school quarterback in Texas, Stubler says McNeal is faster than Bethel Johnson. That’s saying a lot because the former Patriots receiver is a bona fide speed burner.

By early next week everyone will be pretty much sick and tired of two-a-days. June 12th in Montreal, Mike Hogan will be calling all the action on the Fan 590 as the Argos take on the Als in their first pre-season game.

That’s when Stubler and his staff will start ruthlessly cutting players and get closer to the opening day roster.

--Jim "Clubber" Lang
  • This blog reprinted with permission of the author.

One of Sportsnet's most versatile reporters, Jim covers the Leafs beat, can be seen regularly on Connected and can be read weekly on

Lovin' It!

Thursday – June 12 – It’s a typical start to my day. Wailing like a squadron of screamingclubberbiopic
banshees, the kids wake up around 6:30am. I help get them ready for school and then start the day. After walking the dog, I get ready and head downtown.

Tough assignment today, covering the red carpet at the NHL awards. If you were to compare the hotness factor of NHL players wives and girlfriend to other major sports; the hockey players would score big. The Flames stud defenceman Dion Phaneuf stole the show by strolling down the red carpet with his new girlfriend; Elisha Cuthbert. A woman who is far hotter looking in person that you can possibly imagine.

While covering the red carpet, I noticed a fan brought along his dog and his parrot. During a live hit with Brad Fay, the dude with the pets puts the parrot on my shoulder. There’s always a first time for everything. Nik Lidstrom wins his 6th Norris Trophy. Alexander Ovechkin wins practically every award the NHL hands out. The NHL did a first class job putting on the awards. It was a great event from start to finish. The cookies in the media lock-up room were award winning.

Friday – June 13th – Back up at 6:30am and back to the daily routine of getting the kids ready for school. After walking the dog, I head to the gym to work-out. While huffing and puffing my way through the gym, I wonder how in the hell Chris Chelios stays in such mind boggling shape at the age of 46? Hockey players are a special breed. Then it was on to the Jays and the Cubs at Rogers Centre. Hot, muggy night with the roof closed at the ballpark. I was able to interview one of my favourite people in baseball, Reed Johnson. Like a lot of people, I still can’t understand why the Jays didn’t want this guy around any more. The Jays are able to beat the Cubs for a rare win in June.

Saturday – June 14th – After spending the day at kids birthday party for friends of ours, I was off to the studio to co-host the late edition of Connected with Jason Portuondo. Before I knew it, I was yelling so loud at the TV watching Tiger Woods weave his magic during the third round of the US Open that I almost blew out my vocal cords. Did highlights of Reed Johnson going yard against his old team as the Cubs beat the Jays. I get home just after 1:30am and discover that both kids have hopped into bed with my wife. All of a sudden I am loving the couch.

Sunday – June 15th – Father’s Day. At my request the family and I head off to Dairy Queen for a special treat. How can anyone not totally get amped up about going to DQ? After dinner with the family, I head back to the studio to co-host the late edition of Connected again with Porty. That means more magic from Tiger Woods. The newsroom went completely bonkers when Tiger drained that miracle putt on 18. Rocco Mediate was right, of course Tiger would make that putt.

Monday – June 16th - After taking the kids to school I get a call that Brad Fay is ill and they need to me to host the early edition of Connected. That means watching Tiger Woods and Rocco Mediate dueling with each other for 19 holes of playoff golf. It was one of those days that you shake your head in disbelief that someone actually pays you money to do this. Not bad for a guy who is borderline ADHD.

Tuesday – June 17th - I interviewed Bills safety Donte Whitner for the first time as the team unveiled their “Bills in Toronto” logo. I don’t hate the logo. I don’t love it either. It’s missing a beaver or a moose or something. I can never get enough beavers. Whitner turned out to be candid, bright and insightful. Whitner admitted that during a recent interview on ESPN, he predicted the Bills would make the playoffs. When I asked him to clarify his remarks, Whitner wouldn’t back down. Whitner told me he was stunned that closed to 95 per cent of the team attended all of the Bills off season workouts. And he meant both the voluntary and mandatory ones. In the words of Whitner, most NFL teams will only get about 50 per cent of their team to show up for voluntary off season workouts. This year, the Bills had only a handful of players not make it to every workout. I wouldn’t start printing Bills playoff tickets yet; but it’s a great way to go into training camp.

Wednesday – June 18th – My oldest daughter Adriana decides to wake up at 5:45am. What a great way to start the day. It was about to get even better. On my way to cover the Argos day before the game walk through; I get nailed with a beauty speeding ticket. The fine officer clocked me doing 87 in a 60 zone. I thought I was in an 80 zone. This was a good cop and he was nice enough to knock my ticket down to 75 in a 60. No points, just money. Rich Stubler says something very revealing when talking to the media. He said he felt there was no camaraderie between the offence and the defence on the Argos the last few seasons. Some might call that a shot at Pinball; but that’s Stubler being his typical honest self. You ask the man a question, you will get an answer. It is his belief that building a tight bond between the offence and the defence is key for the Argos this year. I manage to get home without any more speeding tickets.

Thursday – June 19th – Nothing special. I was on call. Adriana “slept” in until 6:15am. Took the kids to school, walked the dog, typical stuff. Since I was “on call”, my trophy wife handed me a list of things to do the size of the New York City phone book. It got so bad at one point that I thought I was going to have to pee in an empty Tim Horton’s cup as I drove around running endless errands. That’s the only downside to being a sportscaster. When you’re home, you’re working.

Friday – June 20th – Living the dream as always. Up at 6:30am. Get the kids ready for school. Off to the gym for a quick workout. Hooked up with my man Mario, Sportsnet’s senior ENG cameraman and my personal Consigliere. We head off to talk to Rich Stubler about the Argos cuts. I love the guy but I still can’t believe he won’t name Kerry Joseph as his starting quarterback. Mario and I head back to the station as we get ready to put our Argos story together. When we walk in, someone in the newsroom tells us the Jays have fired John Gibbons and hired Cito Gaston. After we pick ourselves up off the ground and stop laughing; we realize that it’s not a joke; Cito is back managing the Jays. Because Barry Davis is being sent to Pittsburgh to cover the Jays traveling gong show, I agree to do double duty and anchor the 11pm show.

Eight days of work over nine days. Every day was different from the one before.

--Jim "Clubber" Lang

  • This blog reprinted with permission of the author.

One of Sportsnet's most versatile reporters, Jim covers the Leafs beat, can be seen regularly on Connected and can be read weekly on

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Viva La Veto, or Grunge and All His Friends...

Three different events offering some sort of harmonic convergence in a whirling mess of legal mumbo-jumbo, double speak, and abject failure are giving us something to look at and remember just who exactly guys like John McLaren, Clay Bennett, and Kelvin Sampson actually are…
Who would have thought that the city of Seattle would be the center of the North American sports universe these days…???

Three different events offering some sort of harmonic convergence in a whirling mess of legal mumbo-jumbo, double speak, and abject failure are giving us something to look at and remember just who exactly guys like John McLaren, Clay Bennett, and Kelvin Sampson actually are…

McLaren had one of the best tirades of the year… and rightly so.

Here was a guy coming off an 88-win season and seemed ready to take on the rest of the American League west. But somewhere in the transactions involving Erik Bedard and Richie Sexson the M’s are already 22 games under .500 this year and fading faster than Barry Zito these days. McLaren and GM Bill Bavasi have already been let go. There is talk that Sexson won’t last the weekend or the upcoming road trip.

Jim Riggleman gets to take over now…

So much for the SoDo Mojo…

Look it up…

When is football season again…???

I Guess That’s One Way To Keep Them From Bodily Harm…

Indiana University Athletic Director Rick Greenspan didn’t want to be anywhere close to the Hotel Deca in Seattle. He had a statement drawn up that Senior Associate Athletic Director Tim Fitzpatrick got to hand out like a ditto sheet for an SAT Exam.

While he was doing that to the NCAA Committee on Infractions Milwaukee Bucks Assistant Coach Kelvin Sampson was headed out some side door somewhere on the premises. He didn’t want anything to do with IU, Hotel Deca, the NCAA, or the city of Seattle. Thing was, though, he kinda had to be there to answer questions about what he may or may not have done that the NCAA didn’t like while he was Head Coach at Indiana.

The NCAA is accusing him of “providing false or misleading information to investigators about more than 100 impermissible phone calls.” They also accuse him of knowingly violating recruiting restrictions imposed when he was the Head Coach at Oklahoma. In a month or so, the NCAA should figure out their judgment in the case. And it looks like new IU Head Coach Tom Crean will have an empty cupboard for the 2008-2009 season. There could be a post-season ban thrown in there for good measure…

And Crean still wants the job…

There are thoughts that then-Assistant Rob Senderoff and Sampson went around the ban by having Senderoff punch the digits on the phone, and then hand the phone off to Sampson for all the sweet-talk. After all, Sampson didn’t actually make the phone call then, did he…??? Problem there is that the NCAA thought they took care of that idea when they busted Sampson at OU in 2006.


If both Senderoff and Sampson are then given what is called a “show-cause” penalty, they would ((and any future employer would as well)) have to petition the NCAA for reinstatement if anyone is interested in their services. Senderoff is already employed by Kent University. If he’s found guilty, Kent would have to either appeal the decision of fire him.

Sampson doesn’t have to worry about that. He’s escaped to the NBA…

I love this game...

Apparently, Sampson does, too…

The AP’s Gregg Bell reported at the time just as Sampson was found out before he left;

Sampson said the first seven hours of the hearing “went well. It's a process,” he said.

When asked if the initial questioning went as he thought it would, Sampson said:

“About what we expected.”

Good for you…


What do you do when you have a business in a town, but you as the owner, are lucky to have someone relieve themselves on you if you happened to be on fire standing on a street corner. That’s the question Clay Bennett is trying to answer as the head of Professional Basketball Club, LLC- the current owners of the now-Seattle Supersonics.

His answer is simple- move to Oklahoma City.

Not so simple…

The city thinks Bennett acted in poor faith and wanted to move there all along instead of putting on the public front of “We’d like to stay, but no one is going to help fund a new arena that we all know we need for things to stay successful. So we have to go now…”

The end result is a 6-day, non-jury trial that has their geographic and economic future at their fingertips. The city is bringing up all kinds of witnesses from talk show hosts to rabid fans to economic experts trying to strip the franchise from Bennett’s grasp ((twirl handlebar mustache now)). Bennett claims the Sonics will lose upwards of $60-million if they’re forced to stay through the remaining two years of their lease at Key Arena. He’d like to cut his losses and run.

The city would like to cut his throat.

Bennett has survived on the stand so far, and has even gone so far as to admit that he and the PBC went about the political climate poorly in their attempts to gauge how successful keeping the team around in Seattle might be. So, it was onward to Oklahoma City after a failed attempt to get an arena in the suburbs.

((Transcripts from the Court proceedings Day 3- courtesy:

Q What do you face in the way of -- from a financial standpoint in terms of the next two years? What are you anticipating in terms of the team's financial performance?

A Well, the studies that we have submitted suggest over the two years a $60 million cash loss to the business. I think that is perhaps reasonable, but certainly moving parts within that that we need to focus on and really take a look at it. I think that is probably a conservative estimate.

Q And how does that compare to what you anticipate for the financial performance of the organization if you are permitted to go to Oklahoma City now?

MR. LAWRENCE: I object as to relevance.

THE COURT: Overruled.

THE WITNESS: Our studies indicate and our projections suggest that we would see a 7 million --approximately $7 million cash profit in year one, and approximately a $10 million profit in year two.


Q What are the primary drivers of such a significant difference between the two?

A Well, the central driver is the building.

Q Wait a minute. You are still going to have to pay your rent here in Seattle, aren't you?

A We will certainly pay whatever we are required to pay.

Q Have you always stood ready to meet your financial obligations to the City under this lease for the last two years?

A Certainly.

Q I am sorry for interrupting. What are the primary drivers of this swing between a $60 million loss over a two-year period and upward of $15 million profit?

A The primary one that allows them all to happen is the building.

And away we go… just don’t let the courts see any e-mails from the last two years from your e-mail accounts…


Play it safe, everyone… I’ll talk to you soon…

--Jon Nelson

Tiger on the Prowl

To me its official, Tiger Woods is the greatest golfer I’ve ever seen. He can hit the ball out of sight. Can you recall the last time Tiger missed a clutch putt, especially in a major championship? What has put Tiger Woods as THE gold standard in professional golf was his performance last week at the U.S. Open at Torrey Pines. Tiger proved that he is the greatest golfer ON ONE LEG. Tiger Woods won the 2008 U.S. Open with a torn ACL in his left knee and a broken leg. He did it by playing 4 rounds plus an 18 hole playoff on Monday that ended with an extra “sudden death” hole to win it. And he walked the whole way.

Are you kidding me?

That’s like Jimmie Johnson winning the Daytona 500 with 2 flat tires throughout the race. Like Kirk Gibson, who had 2 bad legs at the time, hitting his walk off home run in Game 1 of the 1988 World Series with one arm. (And after looking at the video, I think he practically did.) Like Ron Jeremy pleasuring more than one woman during one night with one testicle.

Jack Nicklaus always said the U.S. Open is the hardest and most complete test in golf. He should know, he won 4 of them. Even the great Nicklaus had to tip his hat to Tiger. Nicklaus said, “In light of this week's revelation about Tiger's health, it makes his performance in the U.S. Open that much more phenomenal, I have always said that the U.S. Open is the most difficult and complete examination of a golfer, and for him to persevere with a damaged knee and stress fracture is a testament not only to his ability but his tremendously high level of competitiveness."

Nicklaus issued that statement after being buried by requests for a comment of this Tiger tale.

Of course the PGA Tour and the rest of the major championships, the British Open and the PGA Championship, just lost its top draw. Not to mention weakening the U.S. Ryder Cup team. U.S. Ryder Cup Captain Paul Azinger probably liked his chances this year at Valhalla with the #1 ranked golfer in the world on his side.

Sorry golf fans, after Tiger Woods' performance at Torrey Pines, there won’t be a curtain call. Take that in for the next time Tiger will tee off is 2009 at a site yet to be determined. But look on the bright side, that gives the rest of the field a fighting chance for the rest of the majors. But nothing can top Tiger Woods' performance at the U.S. Open.

--John Wilkerson

All Glove, No Love in MLB

Image Have baseball players found a loop-hole in the war against performance enhancing drugs?

With the NY Daily News reporting that Roger Clemens had a stash of Viagra hiding in GNC pill bottles in his Yankees' locker, Pandora's Box has been opened.

Viagra was obviously intended to aid men in the bedroom but are players really using it to... ahem... build bigger muscles or swing a bigger bat... on the field?

According to the report "Vitamin V" is rampant in baseball. In fact, athletes in many sports are said to be using the little blue pills because they can help build endurance and counteract impotence that can be a side effect of taking testosterone, another performance enhancer. Even BALCO founder Victor Conte, who worked with the likes of Barry Bonds and Jason Giambi, admitted all of his athletes were using it.

If you think about it, it's not unlike Jose Theodore's situation a couple of years ago when he tested positive for a banned substance when trying out for Canada's Men's Olympic Hockey Team. The banned substance happened to be Propecia, a hair growth drug, something the goaltender had been taking for years. The IOC had no problem with Theodore's desire for a thick head of hair, but the trouble was, Propecia can also be used as a masking agent to cover up steroid use. Theodore applied for a TUE, a Therapeutic Use Exemption, and continues to be a poster boy for Vidal Sassoon.

So what if athletes are really using Viagra for its intended purpose? Would MLB or WADA be overstepping their bounds by banning it? How can you tell men, who potentially legitimately suffer from erectile dysfunction, who have finally been given a new lease on their love life: "No more Viagra. You can get to second base, maybe even third, but no more home runs."

Maybe, as it turns out, in more ways than one.

  • This blog is reprinted with permission of the author.

A guest to OSG, read the rest of Martine Gaillard's blog at!

Friday, June 13, 2008

The Thrill of Victory

You know, there comes several points in ones life where it finally dawns on you that you are getting old. Last week was one of them. You see, one of the voices of my childhood, Jim McKay, passed away at age 86. I always tell people that there are certain things, certain music and certain visuals that when they pop up, you can always remember something about the first time you noticed them.

The Agony of Defeat...

Jim McKay was one of the pioneers of sports broadcasting. By the time he had reached his 80’s, he wasn’t doing much broadcasting - but man, that voice; it always snapped me to attention.

McKay was the front man back in the day when ABC did the Olympics regularly, or for those of you who can remember the 70’s - When the Munich Olympic Terrorist incident happened, it wasn’t a news reporter who reported on it, it was the voice.

I can still to this day hear his voice over to begin ABC’s Wide World of Sports. The soaring trumpet music and the words, “The Thrill of Victory, and the Agony of Defeat. Bringing you the Constant Variety of Sports.” If ever someone will be remembered for a tagline, that was his.

Bringing You the Constant Variety of Sports...

Remember what I said earlier about identifying things with certain times in your life? Here’s what I think of when I hear his catchphrase: I’m 7 to 10 years old, sitting in the kitchen of our family house in Hollywood, Florida. My mother is there, asking me what TV dinner that I wanted and I would always respond “salisbury steak,” with tater tots I might add.

I don’t know why that stands out, but that was the point in my life where I began to discover the whole Sports thing. I can still visualize the Russian powerhouse Vasily Alexiev (I probably butchered the spelling), lifting untold amounts of weight. I can remember Franz Klammer, steaming downhill on his skis. And most of all I can remember thinking to myself, "this is so cool...sports from everywhere."


I think I can speak for all of us here at the OSG when I say “Thank You” to Jim McKay. Thank you for being the voice of reason, thank you for being the voice of knowledge and thank you for making us all what we are - complete and total Sports Geeks.

--Phil Cantor

“The time has come, my song is over, thought I’d something more to say” Time (Pink Floyd)

Owning the Diamond

When the Atlantic Coast Conference expanded to 12 schools a few years ago it was done so to upgrade football in the league. The first year of expansion everything worked out great but the last few years, the ACC has been at the bottom of the BCS leagues. The jury is still out for Men’s Basketball judging that only 4 ACC teams got in the NCAA Tournament last spring. One sport that has truly benefitted with the league expansion has been baseball.

This year, the ACC has the top conference in college baseball with Miami, North Carolina and Florida State consistently ranked in the Top 5 in the various national polls. Not surprisingly it’s that ACC trio that has made the trip to Omaha, Nebraska to play in the College World Series.

UnACCeptable Results

While Omaha is a nice, friendly Mid-American city but it’s not been a pleasant destination for ACC teams over the years. North Carolina advanced to the Championship Series the last 2 years only to lose to Oregon State each year. Miami does have 4 College World Series championships, one as recently as 2001 however, that was before the Hurricanes stormed into the Atlantic Coast Conference.


It’s been 53 years since an ACC team won the College World Series and that was Wake Forest back in 1955. That year the Omaha World Herald referred to the Demon Deacons as “the small Baptist school in North Carolina.” Lefty Davis was the Deacs ace on the mound but he didn’t make the trip so Head Coach Taylor Sanford used 3 pitchers in the Championship Game, not common practice back then. It took an RBI single in the 8th by Linwood Holt to put Deacs over the top. Wake Forest defeated Western Michigan 7-6 to claim the ACC’s first and to this point, only College World Series title.

You have to think the odds are in the ACC’s favor to break that streak.

3 Of A Kind


Florida State, North Carolina & Miami give the ACC a great shot to win the league’s 1st national championship in 53 years. Florida State has Collegiate Baseball’s National Player of the Year Buster Posey, who played all 9 positions in a 7 inning game a month ago. Posey is the real deal leading the nation in batting and slugging percentage. North Carolina has the best pitching staff in college baseball leading the nation in Strikeouts per 9 innings and Earned Run Average. It was pitching that carried the Tar Heels to the championship series the last 2 years. Miami appears to be the strongest. There are no easy outs in the Hurricanes line up 1 through 9. Junior 1st Baseman Yonder Alonso has been swinging some heavy metal during the post season. Alonso launched bombs out of Mark Light Field last weekend to power the ‘Canes past Arizona in the Super Regionals. Miami’s pitching has been fantastic as well. Freshman left hander Chris Hernandez has yet to lose a game in college, 11-0 and earned National Freshman of the Year honors. The ‘Canes could do it but it’s time for the ACC to end 53 years of frustration in Omaha and bring home a College World Series title.

--John Wilkerson

For Once in Its Life

For once in its life, the United States Golf Association decided not to monkey with its host course for the national championship. Torrey Pines, a public course in La Jolla, California, is from what I understand enough of a pain in the ass in the first place.

The rough is what you and I are used to when we go to our favorite hack-n-go track- gradual, but consistently unforgiving the more you decide not to obey the basics of swing form.

You hit it straight. The course has no qualm with you.
You as much as flinch the course takes out its ruler and finds your knuckles over and over again.

The only thing missing is the penguin.

The USGA is always looking for even par over 72 holes to be the yard mark for their champion. If you go under that level, then you have bettered Mother Nature and the USGA. Talk about a handicap match. If you don’t and you end up in black numbers, the powers-that-are shrug their shoulders, offer no forgiveness whatsoever, hand you a trophy, a long-time exemption, and a big check.

You’ve survived...

And Who Are You Again…???

You look at the last few years of winners and it’s almost a “Who’s Who” of “Who’s Who.” Angel Cabrera smoked three packs wandering around his last 18 on the way to a title. Geoff Ogilvy…??? He had a great shot pulled out of his bag to deny others a title. Michael Campbell survived and was the first Kiwi to win a Major. The only thing missing was a disrobing and a Haka dance. The last time anything was normal was 2004 when, going backwards, you get Retief Goosen, Jim Furyk, Tiger, Goosen again, and Tiger again in 2000.

They decided to pair the Top 12 players in the world with each other in the first two rounds worth of threesomes. Everyone looking at the Tiger, Phil, and Adam Scott grouping for either one of three reasons:

1) Gee, that Adam Scott is a cutie…
2) When is the first time that Phil is gonna say, “God, I was so stupid!”
3) Tiger’s quest to distract everyone from knee surgery with his wife and child wearing red
on a Sunday...

That’s cool and all, but it’s not what the National Championship is about.

It’s about a guy like Rickie Fowler, an amateur, who has played in Walker Cup competition, but not the US Open. No big deal- he shot a first-round, one-under par 70. He’s also the youngest guy in the field.

Kyle Stanley is another amateur, from Clemson University, who was in line for a collegiate title. That was until a final-round 82 blew that idea. Pro golf…? Not yet. Maybe in a few years… but that didn’t stop a Top-20 performance in his first 18 holes- a one-over par 72.

That Tiger guy…? He also shot 72.

What’s a Derek Fathauer…? He plays golf at the University of Louisville with his twin brother, Daryl. He wrapped up with a two-over par 73. So did some guy named Adam Scott.

Enough about the guys hanging around in the Top 31… look at the top of the leaderboard… The guys up there remind me of the year at that-golf-tournament-in-Augusta when Mike Donald was in the last pairing- before he imploded worse than Greg Norman ever could.

Justin Hicks had only been in the US Open once before- 2004. He missed the cut. Hicks has played the mini-tours in Florida. Apparently, one of his winner’s checks bounced ((I think I know what tour that was on)). That kind of a mentality leads to the idea of going for every pin on every hole. You have to take someone’s idea of the Country Club ((and someone else’s idea of a tour stop)) and beat the hell out of it to win. His first day resulted in seven birdies…

Seven… on Torrey Pines… He and his caddie decided they were going to catch a movie Thursday night. There was no way they were going to watch the highlights.

Who are you again…??? That Hicks guy led with a 3-under par score until someone else came along.


Kevin Streelman got into the Buick Invitational as the third alternate. He was even paired with that Tiger guy until his Saturday and Sunday rounds went 75-77. He’s a tour rookie and a Dookie. Try not to hold it against him. He hadn’t finished any higher than 14th in any of the events he’s played in this year.

Like that stopped him…

Five birdies on his front 9 ((the back nine on the course)) added with two bogeys gives him an out of 33. He birdies his 11th hole to go to four under par. Four under par… at the US Open… at Torrey Pines. But then you could see that the gravity of the situation was grabbing at him a little bit…

Okay… grabbing at him a lot…

The 7th Hole is a par-4 of 477 yards on Round One. He hits his drive into the first cut which means his second shot is a punch out. He needed a good angle for an up and down. The pitch was less-than-standard if you listened to the TV-types broadcasting. He needs to sink a putt that had to go about 18-feet, clear a ridge, and make a hard-left turn at the end… all for a PAR!!! So, what happens…? The ball takes the hard left ((like a 90-degree left)) and heads home. Streelman pumps his fist like he just nailed a birdie on the 71st hole instead of his 16th hole on a Thursday.

Dude’s entitled…

Some nervous chipping and putting gets him through the 9th hole ((his 18th on the day))- the 612-yard, par-5. And you could tell it was really getting to him by then. If he had a few more holes to play I think the wheels would have come off and rolled across traffic. But he was safely in as long as his math checked out and he could remember his name in the clubhouse.

So, while the rest of you go for seeing Tiger and Phil challenge each other in Mickelson’s back yard give me a Streelman or a Hicks going for their moment where the marine layer clears just in time for a putt that really means something by Sunday…

Play it safe, everyone… I’ll talk to you soon…

Friday, June 6, 2008

The NFL is Stupid (and Chad Johnson is, Too...)

Okay, this is one of those things that are just kind of nagging at me; sort of like a gnat buzzing around your face for no particular reason other than to be annoying.

Can someone please explain to me why everyone associated with America’s so-called “Favorite Sport” just acts stupid during the spring and summer? No, I’m not just talking about the players here, I’m talking about the owners and the league too.

Screw you guys, we’re striking...

No, there isn’t going to be a strike this season, it’s going to be in 2011! Why you ask? Well, it has something to do with labor negotiations, salary caps and structure; or to put it in English for the rest of us...everybody wants more money.

A couple of weeks ago the league and its owners met in Atlanta to discuss a myriad of issues (yeah, myriad is pretty big for me). Among them, such gems as fan behavior and the length of players hair - the “oh by the way” part is this; the owners have decided to opt out of the current labor agreement. They, being the owners, want to keep more of their money and don’t want the players to get as much as they do.

That unto itself is not sheer lunacy, the biggest problem with this; the owners are the ones who agreed to all this in the first place. So, to solve this problem, the 2010 season - not the next one - will be played without a salary cap. Of course as we all know, everyone will totally play fair in that!

More Caps...

Okay, for a few seconds, lets suspend reality and by into all this bullsh*t that the billionaires need more money and the millionaires need less. Hard to be sympathetic there...isn’t it?

The other “cap” issue that came out recently, unlimited rookie salaries. The NFL Players Association came out swinging against the Falcons and their top pick, Matt Ryan, for agreeing to a record setting rookie contract. I think it is something like 6 years for 72 or 78 Million with 34 Million guaranteed. Okay, I can buy the veteran players being upset about a bunch of unproven rookie players getting all that money without ever taking an NFL snap, that ain’t right...or fair. Here’s the problem, who agreed to “No rookie Salary Cap”? Uh, hello, Bueller? Bueller?

Guys, the only people who can put such things in place are you! Don’t hate Ryan for that, if someone is going to wave that in front of your face, are you going to say no?


I’m not talking about “Organized Team Activities” here; I’m talking about “Off-season Team Arrests.” Yeah, I’m talking about any number of players here, the list grows yearly. The NFL of course has decided to “NOW” do something about this by instituting a “Team” fine system for teams with a track record of troubled players. Neat. Let’s see you enforce that, Rog.

Chad, Chris, Adam and Travis...

I know we are getting long-winded here, but I really want to mention this fine group of guys. No, Chad...or “Ocho-Stinko” as he is quickly becoming known...hasn’t been a habitual rule-breaker, but he has been a little, well, cheap. Seems 8-5 has developed a habit of not paying people the money he owes them, this list seems to grow by the week. He eventually does pay-up, but you apparently have to dog him for the money. Not good when your income is 7 figures a year.

Oh, by the way, Mr. Stinko has, along with his quality agent Drew Rosenhaus, decided to make life miserable for the Cincinnati Bengals until they get a new contract. Not that the old one was horrible, they want a better one. It seems “Ocho” is not going to do any voluntary work, but at this point will show up for camp, but he won’t be happy about it. Right now, Coach Marvin Lewis has just kind of ignored him, which is probably the best way to deal with this kind, gentle, team oriented soul.

Speaking of the Bengals, they finally parted ways with Receiver/Hoodlum Chris Henry this spring. After 7 arrests and various issues that were near arrests, they decided that Henry was “Too much of a distraction." Wonder why they thought that? Surprisingly, nobody has tried to sign Mr. Henry as we get close to training camp, though I suspect someone will, after all in the NFL, you never run out of second chances.

Real quickly, I have to mention Adam “Pacman” Jones and his attempt to rehab his image and get back into the league. Pacman was traded this summer, even though he isn’t eligible to play for anyone yet. Adam has tried to make himself over by handing out food and supplies with “Feed the Children” here in Atlanta. Nice gesture, but prove you mean it by coming back. Until you prove that you are a changed guy, you are going to have a hard time convincing anyone that you mean it.

Oh, can’t forget Travis (9 kid) Henry, now formerly of the Denver Broncos. Travis, dude, you can’t have drug issues, multiple children from multiple women and expect to support them on an NFL salary if you aren’t in the NFL. You can’t mail it in at work and expect to keep your job and seems that is exactly what happened to you. Now what are you going to do?

That is a lot...

Yeah, that’s a lot of stuff; the scary thing is that I only scratched the surface. I’m really curious how this whole long range strike thing is going to work. I believe the NFL thinks that people won’t care, they are the NFL. I would argue that the arrogant folks who run that business are going to have a hard time getting anyone to sympathize with them over money. Most of us normal people…really can’t relate.

--Phil Cantor

“The time has come, my song is over, thought I’d something more to say”- Time (Pink Floyd)

Got a Bridge in Brooklyn...

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman had an interesting exchange with “Hockey Night in Canada” host Ron McLean the other day. McLean was doing his standard heavyweight tête-à-tête with him ((as he always does)) and the subject of William “Boots” Del Biaggio came up.

For those of you behind the curve a little bit, Del Biaggio is the third in a current list of NHL owners or minority partners that have run afoul of the American government in the last month or so. Henry Samueli of the Anaheim Ducks and Eugene Melnyk of the Ottawa Senators are now joined by “Boots.”

And it ain’t pretty...

But if you take The Bettman at his word, pay no attention to the man behind the curtain. All that is missing is your standard Kevin Bacon-Dressed in military garb-on a street corner screaming;


Got A Bridge In Brooklyn Up For Sale...

Del Biaggio is now under investigation for allegedly working $17-million in loans with fake paperwork. Did he slide someone else’s finances in so he could get three separate loans for his own workings...? It’s being looked into...

Bettman told McLean that if you were a Nashville Predators fan, you had nothing to worry about. I call “B--- S---!” at this very moment. But that’s just me and my Chicken Little mentality where the fastest sport on ice is concerned.

Del Biaggio, apparently, put in close to $30-million to be a minority investor in the Preds since he couldn’t secure ten times that amount to buy the team and move them to a new arena in Kansas City that is screaming for a primary tenant. Everything’s fine, right...?

Right…??? Stay calm…??? All is well…???

If memory serves, the Preds barely made their self-imposed quota for an attendance figure to keep the team afloat in town. If they didn’t make it, the owners ((in whatever shape or form they’re in currently)) could bail on the agreement with the city and seek another fortune elsewhere. They haven’t done that...


And you’d think that if the confidence the rest of the group is showing were to amount into something, they’d already have someone ready to take over in Del Biaggio’s slot. But I haven’t seen Vince Gill, Amy Grant, Kenny Chesney, or Garth Brooks’ names mentioned as suitors- potential or otherwise. Little Jimmy Dickens...??? Anyone...???

Or no one...

The Bettman hasn’t flinched in Anaheim, Ottawa, or Nashville.
I think he needs to...
But I know he won’t unless it’s kicking and screaming...

But I do know someone who could be on the table if the commissioner could take some ego ((probably more like super ego)) off the table, and think about what’s best for the league.

Enter Jim Balsillie...

A report came out in the Toronto Star newspaper that, according to Balsillie spokesman Richard Rodier, the genius that invented the Crackberry has had contact from as many as eight different teams about becoming their owner- future location be damned.

The roster includes, but is not limited to, the Atlanta Thrashers, the Carolina Hurricanes, the Tampa Bay Lightning, and the Dallas Stars. I would venture to guess the Florida Panthers and the Phoenix Coyotes are in there. For the sake of argument, let’s throw in Columbus and Nashville. Balsillie wants no part of moving a current-Canadian franchise to move them to a Hamilton/Waterloo location.

We’ve been through this dance before, but the dynamic is a little different now. To no one’s surprise a report has come to light claiming that the franchises north of the border are carrying the league’s profit margin these days. If they weren’t around, growth would be in the neighborhood of only three percent- the standard rate of inflation.

With the strength of the Loonie and Toonie against uncle Sam these days, it would be silly not to consider one of the world’s richest men ((and hockey fans)) if he wants to continue the potential growth in a potential growth market. Balsillie offered $175-million US to buy the Penguins, and $238-million US to take control of the Predators.

He’s proven that he’s more than willing to overpay for a product to get a starved area another outlet for entertainment- and for Balsillie fun and profit.

Analyzing for a second...

  • Atlanta’s ownership group hasn’t shown a willingness in the current marketplace to spend the necessary money to succeed.
  • Peter Karmanos won’t sell a majority stake…unless seats continue to stay empty.
  • Tampa might be a contender if the new owners can’t get their act straight.
  • Tom Hicks won’t sell a majority stake, either.
  • Wayne Huizenga uses the Panthers as a write-off for the Dolphins.
  • Phoenix is hemorrhaging $30-million a year in the middle of nowhere...
  • Columbus putters along...
  • Nashville is Nashville...

So, then, the contenders would be Atlanta, Nashville, and Phoenix...

Each ready for the owners to exit through the tunnel…and each franchise south of the Mason-Dixon line...

Send the guy in Ontario a text message...
I’m sure he’ll answer...

Play it safe, everyone... I’ll talk to you soon...

--Jon Nelson

Like Father, Like Son...

Whether you’re a fan of the New York Yankees or not you had to respect them under Joe Torre’s watch. Torre didn’t take crap from George Steinbrenner and protected his players from the boss’ wrath. Now Torre is gone, enjoying the laid back lifestyle in Los Angeles. His old team is reverting back to its pre-Torre ways and the boss is yelling at the employees. This time George Steinbrenner isn’t micro-managing the team into chaos, it’s his son Hank.

Hank’s first act was a low ball offer to Joe Torre and off he went to L.A. Now Hank is imposing his will on player personnel issues. Case in point, Joba Chamberlain.

Joba Chamberlain

The Yankees has arguably the best bullpen in the American League if not baseball and Chamberlain was the perfect set up man for Marino Rivera. That wasn’t enough for Hank Steinbrenner, Boss, Jr. wanted Joba Chamberlain to start so, Joe Girardi did just that Tuesday night against the Toronto Blue Jays. Chamberlain’s night, he threw 62 pitches in 2 and 1/3 innings and gave up 2 runs. But the Yankees lost a big element to their bullpen which reared its ugly head later in the game. The bullpen imploded because of Chamberlain’s absence as the Blue Jays pounced on Edwar Ramirez for 4 runs in the 7th to blow the game wide open.

Hank Steinbrenner called it a work in progress. You think. This is how papa George ruined the Yankees in the 80’s with the low point being a last place finish in the American League East in 1990. Interfering with his employees who know baseball and not letting them do their jobs. This kind of micromanagement usually gets you mediocrity at best (sound familiar Washington Redskin fans). ((Editor's Note: Wilkie, that was cruel - yet totally true.)) Where are the Yankees right now? Next to last place in the American League East.

Already this move is being questioned in the Yankee clubhouse. Johnny Damon was asked by John Harper of the New York Daily News if he would have kept Chamberlain in the bullpen. Damon’s response was “You know what, it’s not up to me but I like winning ball games.”

So go ahead Hank, keep imposing your will. You might drive the Yankees to a finish not seen in 18 years in the Bronx - last place. What a hell of a way to close out Yankee Stadium.

That's it, I'm spent.

--John Wilkerson

Koo-Koo For CoCo Crisp...

OK, shoot me later for the cheesy title, but it is unerringly appropriate. BoSox outfielder Crisp has been a loose cannon over the last two days, and finally went snap, crackle, pop against Tampa Bay pitcher James Shields.

(Photo courtesy Michael Dwyer, AP, June 5, 2008)

Nice photo – for a print photographer. (insert photog joke here).

See, what had happened was...

Crisp came into Thursday’s game looking for a fight anyway. Crisp jammed his thumb on shortstop Jason Bartlett’s knee during a stolen base headfirst slide into second base Wednesday night. A few innings later, Crisp retaliated by wiping out Rays’ second baseman Akinori Iwamura – causing words between Crisp and Rays' manager Joe Maddon.

After the game, Crisp said something to the effect of, “They’re mad at me? Well, we’ll see who shows they’re mad at me.”

Ultimatums shouldn’t be thrown down to people who thrown 90mph BB’s at your head. Just my $0.02.

The ultimatum was answered when Shields plunked Dustin Pedroia in the very first inning of last night’s game. The sh*t really hit the proverbial fan when Shields beaned Crisp a short time later. Raise your hand if you didn’t see that coming. Anyone?

Then the benches cleared, people started swinging at each other (refer to above photo), and people were ejected (Crisp, Shields, and Rays’ outfielder Jonny Gomes). I gotta give props to Crisp for ducking out of the way of Shields’ out-of-control roundhouse swing...

But We’re Not Done...

Something else happened in the BoSox dugout, and I’m not sure why. Kevin Youkilis and Manny Ramirez got into a shouting match at one another, and had to be restrained. An Offspring song comes to mind here...”You gotta keep it separated!”

I have no idea why those two got into a battle of words, but I’m sure it was for something very trivial. Manny pointed at Kevin, Kevin shouted at Manny, Manny was escorted out of the dugout. Terry Francona said after the game that the “emotions were still running high after the brawl.”

Wait a minute, I thought they were fighting the Rays…not each other.

Anyway, baseball has always had the understood reaction of “You plunk my guy, I’m gonna plunk your guy.” It’s the nature of baseball. Chin music is a part of the game, like it or not.

But retaliating for a jammed thumb?

Dude, get a grip. You’re not Pete Rose.

If you can’t handle the slide, stay at first base.

I’m not usually this deep, just deep in it. Trust me.

--John V. Wood

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Celtics/Lakers Rivalry Renewed

All is right now in the NBA. The league’s two cornerstone franchises, the Boston Celtics and the Los Angeles Lakers are facing each other in the NBA Finals. The old-timers will recall the battles between Bob Cousy and Elgin Baylor then later Bill Russell and Wilt Chamberlin. Those from my generation remember the great rivalry in the 80’s with Larry Bird and Magic Johnson continuing a battle that began in college.

While it’s great to see Celtics and the Lakers back on the big stage playing in prime time for the NBA Championship but to me it’s just not the same.The 2 teams back in the 80’s were polar opposites.Boston was blue collar, tough and physical.The L.A. Lakers were flash and style, it was Showtime.The Celtics played in the Boston Garden. Built in the 1920’s it was small, uncomfortable and unaccommodating for the opposition.The Lakers played at The Forum, The Fabulous Forum with the courtside seats aligned with Hollywood Stars.Each building, like their teams, was unique.

Today the Celtics play in the T.D. Bankworth Garden and the Lakers play in the Staples Center. If it weren’t for the floor with the teams colors you could not tell the buildings apart. They are cookie cutters.

Those games in the 1980’s were a turf war. Remember when Ray Williams threw down Kurt Rambis after a hard foul or Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Larry Bird shouting out each other. The Lakers wanted to out run the Celtics while Boston wanted to play a physical half court game to slow down Showtime. I don’t see Paul Pierce and Lamar Odom shoving each other on the floor or Pau Gasol and Kevin Garnett wrestling after the play is over. That’s not today’s NBA.

There are some things similar to the ‘80’s first and foremost is star power.Back then it was Bird and Magic.Now it’s Kobe and Garnett.Second Boston again has the Big 3.Then it was Bird, Parrish and McHale, now it’s Garnett, Allen and Pierce.Third the Celtics still were green and the Lakers still were purple and gold.

I’m sure the NBA is thrilled for this match up. It might bring the older fans back to the league who remember the hey day of the NBA in the 80’s to rediscover and reinvest in the league. I will be watching because it is Lakers vs Celtics and they are the best teams in the league and the NBA’s gold standard franchises. Still, it’s just not the same.

--John Wilkerson