Young Sweezy has returned from his Award Tour (c. Tribe) through the midwest and is now ready to deliver many shipments of delicious brew to the millions of faithful readers out there. Along the way The Swole One saw famous sports landmarks such as Indianapolis (home of fantasy villain Marwan), Louisville (home of Muhammed Ali and the decomposing remains of 8 Belles who is still chilling in the first turn at Churchill Downs), and Nashville (where Sweezy stopped at one of Pac Man Jones' old strip club hangouts). Now I'm back in Dixie, ready to catch sports fans up on the news that needs to be told.
NBA - Last night the Lakers clinched a finals berth by defeating defending champs San Antonio. Kobe Bryant was incredible down the stretch, and Pau Gasol is finally receiving the attention he deserves for being such a good player for so long. The Lakers should be the favorites in the finals regardless of who they play because they will have the best player in the finals and the deepest team in the finals. Two things kept crossing my mind as I watched the celebration. One was how damn good are the Lakers going the be next year when Bynum comes back healthy. The second was how much i'm going to miss TNT Inside the NBA over the next 5 months, it simply is the best sports show on TV.
Tonight we get Game 6 of the Celtics-Pistons series. Because of my travels i've only seen about 30 seconds of this series so I don't really know how its unfolding, but I do know what Rip Hamilton means to the Pistons and if he isnt healthy than the Pistons have no shot. Between him and Billups still suffering from a calf injury, the Pistons greatest advantage over the Celtics has been negated. Rajon Rondo can't get abused in the post by the stronger Chauncey and Ray Allen can completely focus on offense now that he doesn't have to chase Rip City around on offense. With that said, I don't see the Pistons losing tonights game. Their bench guys are going to play with a ton of energy and Boston has not exactly been stellar on the road during the playoffs. Game 7 may be another story, but at least for one more night Detroit Basketball will get the job done.
NHL - I was finally able to catch some NHL action, now that games are being televised on channels that America can actually see. What i witnessed was Pittsburgh getting a huge Game 3 win and making this into a series. Sidney Crosby did what superstars are supposed to and led the Penguins to a big win and finally overcome the brutal Wings defense. Now Game 4 becomes the tipping point in the series. If the Wings win its over in 5, but if the Penguins can get this one then the series turns serious. I'm hoping for the second option, because i feel cheated out of watching all of these playoffs and want to at least see a few hockey games before the sport dissapears into 'Bolivian until next June once again.
MLB - There are still a lot of suprising teams leading the standings in baseball such as the Marlins, Rays and White Sox but now these teams and the other suprising teams throughout the AL and NL must avoid the dreaded June Swoon. There are three really good matchups this weekend in baseball, even though ESPN will probably ignore them completely. First up is Florida heading to Philadelphia. Florida has done it with offense all year and is staying remarkably competitive in the toughest division in baseball. Philly's offense has exploded recently thanks to Jimmy Rollins and Shane Victorino returning from injury and Ryan Howard finally starting to hit for power. This will be a good test to see where both teams stack up and to see who has the better chance of staying in the division battle for the long haul. The second series to pay attention to is the LA Dodgers versus the NY Mets. For some reason Joe Torre returning to New York seems to be worthy of our attention, even though he hasn't had any sort of connection with the Mets since he played for them 40 years ago. If we leave that bullshit aside there are many better reasons to focus on. Both teams are playing below their expectations, and this Met homestand may be a make-or-break one for manager Willie Randolph. The Dodgers are also strugg-a-ling, but send rookie phenom Clayton Kershaw to the mound tonight. The third series to pay attention to this weekend is the White Sox visiting the Tampa Rays. Tampa has been the surprise of the season, and boasts the best young quartet of starting pitchers in the majors. And despite subpar seasons from most of their big hitters, Chicago is on a roll and has moved to the top of the AL Central thanks to an unhittable bullpen and unexpectedly reliable starting pitching. Look for a low scoring series and close games all weekend in Tampa.
World Soccer - With only one week remaining before Euro 2008 gets underway, the 16 squads in the field are finalizing their rosters and playing tune-up games to prepare for the start of the tournament. Among the games played today include teams like the dangerous Czech Republic, World Cup 2006 winners Italy, and co-hosts Austria and Switzerland. Tomorrow's slate has games featuring tournaments favorites France-vs-Paraguay, Spain-vs-Peru and Germany-vs-Serbia. Sunday has games featuring The Netherlands and Greece among others. All of these tune-ups are critically important since national teams rarely play together and must have game time to find the chemistry between players.
(By the way, if you search Bafe Gomis in Youtube, you can see the sick goal that this young superstar pulled off in the image at right against Ecuador last week. He will be one of the young superstars of Euro 2008.)
Whats on Tap - Next week brings the full preview of Euro 2008 including predictions from Young Sweezy and Young Knuckleballer. The French Open will be analyzed and predicted by the same 2 brewlords and we will select our Tennis Betty of the tournament. There will also be extensive coverage of both Major League Baseball and College Baseball as the NCAA Tournament swings into high gear. Finally the NBA and NHL finals will be analyzed and predicted along with any other news that needs to be covered and which isnt mentioned by the East Coast-Centric sports media.