Saturday, June 7, 2008

Day 1 Euro Thoughts

The Czech defeated Switzerland 1-0, and Portugal beat Turkey 2-0. Here are some observations from the first day of the tournament.

- Portugal has a really solid team, but I don't see how they can win without a real striker up top. Nuno Gomes has never really done anything in all of the games I've seen him, and they don't have Pauleta or Figo this time around to consistently score. Cristiano Ronaldo did look pretty good today, and should have no problem getting his chances in the group stages, but I think a physical team like Germany or Croatia could give Portugal's smallish midfielders a lot of problems.

- On the note of CR, please get off his balls ESPN. Literally every ball he completed was considered an "act of genius" by the 2 doofuses calling the game. Look we know Ronaldo had an awesome season for Man U and is one of the best ballplayers in the world, but lets slow our roll down before anointing him the savior of football.

- Turkey is a better team than i thought. Auerelio and Altintop are pretty damn good midfielders and Nihat was dangerous up top. Even though they lost today i don't think they are out of this thing. This is partially because the Czech looked very underwhelming today. Without Rosicky and Nedved in the middle there is no creativity at all in this side, and even the boring Swiss were running the play in the second half.

- I'm glad Sebastian Frei got hurt. The last thing we need is a bitch to cry after hurting their knee. Oh wait, isn't that what Paul Pierce did on Thursday?

-Pepe is a really damn good defender for Portugal, him and Carvalho could be the best central pairing in the whole competition.

Thats all i've got for today, I'm off to play tennis in 100 degree heat. Catch all you bitches tomorrow.

A Quick Belmont Stakes Preview

So a horse named Big Brown is going for the Triple Crown today. I guess that would be the first time its happened in 30 years or so, which makes it newsworthy somehow. What it really does is overshadow how a cruel sport has continued on for way too long without any sort of criticism. ABC probably won't mention these facts during their telecast, but GDB factors all the necessary information into our equation, regardless of whether its politically correct or not....

- Big Brown takes steroids, and has throughout his triple crown campaign. The horses trainer spouts off some BS about how it makes the horse get more endurance, which makes it more convenient for that same trainer to abuse the animal by running it way more than it should. The steroids they give to horses like Big Brown give them more mass, make them feel stronger and thus place much more stress on their very thin and fragile legs. We saw what happened to 8 Belles at the Kentucky Derby, and that sad fate was caused by practices like giving horses Winstrol becoming accepted.

- Its going to be about 100 degrees in New York today, yet the race will still go on. I'd like to see how all of the fat asses drinking all afternoon and all the stupid looking ladies in their retarded dresses would fare if they had to run a mile and a half in that heat. Happily ignoring that, these horses will be forced to run that entire distance in stifling conditions just to appease the owners of the horses and the jockey's who are beating them with barbed whips the entire time. But this isn't animal cruelty, this is a "sport".

- Those same owners who very obviously don't care much about their animals are a bunch of rich assholes who would rather spend their money parading their neighing toys around in front of other rich assholes then actually spending it on something worthwhile. And for all these horses they buy, only a few are actually sent out to stud and enjoy a normal life for a horse. The rest are killed so that there can be room for more new show toys in the owner's stables.

I could go on for hours about other problems with horse racing like the gambling issues, the mafia connections or the idiotic claim that horses are athletes, but I already feel like I've wasted enough time on this stupid topic that for some reason has become an event in the eyes of our nation. I just hope anyone that plans on watching the race this afternoon will remember that you are basically watching animal cruelty live on TV, and that it is being glorified right in front of your eyes. I guess Michael Vick should have invested in Bad Newz Stables instead.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Should MLB Expand

The other day I was reading an article on Deadspin or some other blog and it mentioned something about if Major League Baseball should expand or not. Seeing at how there are already 30 teams in baseball, it seemed unlikely. But I ask the question, why shouldn't it?

I have two reasons why I think expansion should happen: first is the odd set up of the current league. Why does a division like the NL Central get 6 teams to battle it out for 1 (possibly 2) playoff spots, when the AL West gets 4? How are some of these teams even placed in these divisions? With many divisions having teams so spread out, it is hard to develop rivalries, not to mention the burden of travel. Second, what the hell is the abomination that is the wild card. What the hell is a "wild card"? What makes it so wild? How is it possible that a Wild Card team can have a better record than a division winner, and yet get "seeded" worse than them? Or, how is it that a WC can have the worst record of the four playoff teams, but avoid playing the best team because that team was in it's current division? Is this making any sense? I think not...

I answer these questions with a question of my own: Wouldn't it be easier to have 4 divisions in both the American and National Leagues (via the expansion of 2 teams), get rid of the wild card, and have the 8 division winners battle it out for the World Series?

A simple realignment of the leagues would do wonders for the league. I would propose that MLB divide the league into 4 divisions per league (North, South, East, and West), with 4 teams per division. This would get rid of the abnormality of 6 teams in one league and 4 teams in another and make it more fair for each team to gain a spot in the playoffs. Here is how it would look:



Philadelphia Phillies
Washington Nationals
New York Mets
Pittsburgh Pirates

Comments: This one was the easiet of them all. By getting rid of the Florida Marlins and Atlanta Braves (who, all things considered, have been a staple to the NL East for almost two decades), we have a bucket of teams that are all within driving distance of one another. Closer proximity amounts to more heated and interesting rivalries. Who cares about the Marlins-Nationals "rivalry" when you can spice things up by putting the Pirates in the mix and having the Phillies and Pirates duke it out to see who is the real champion of Steal Town.

NL North

Chicago Cubs
St. Louis Cardinals
Milwuakee Brewers
Cincinatti Reds

Comments: Another easy one once I figured out where to drop the extra two teams to get rid of. The NL Central actually isn't all that bad in the first place, except for the fact that it is the only division that has 6 teams in it. This way, you keep the Cubs-Cards rivalry and make it just as equal for every team in the league to get into the playoffs.

NL West

San Francisco Giants
Los Angeles Dodgers
Colorado Rockies
San Diego Padres

Comments: Boom! Very little changes here. You keep the California teams intact on the west coast and you keep the Rockies in the division they have been in from the get go. Easy enough.

NL South

Florida Marlins
Atlanta Braves
Houston Astros
Arizona Diamondbacks

Comments: The new division I created. How does it make sense to have the warm weather Astros playing cold weather teams like the Cubs, Brewers, and Reds? Furthermore, what is the point of having such a long distance between "division rivals" like the Marlins/Braves and the Mets/Phillies? Doesn't it make more sense to group all of these teams that are ALREADY in the south into a division named the South? I rest my case. This will keep whatever rivalry that the Marlins and Braves already have, and add in perennial contenders Arizona and Houston to make what could be a very exciting division.


AL East

New York Yankees
Boston Red Sox
Baltimore Orioles
Toronto Blue Jays

Comments: Obviously, you have to keep the Yanks and the Sox together. The only thing this does is bring these teams together and make it a more close-knit division. Now, the argument could be made that the Rays should stay in here, since they have budding rivalries with the Sox and Yanks. But I feel as though it makes more sense for them to be in the South since, ya know, Florida is in... the south.

AL North

Chicago White Sox
Minnesota Twins
Cleveland Indians
Detroit Tigers

Comments: Very little to explain here. These four have always been the contenders in this division as it is. You get rid of the Royals and this makes the division possibly the best in baseball in the coming years.

AL West

Seattle Mariners
Oakland Athletics
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
Kansas City Royals

Comments: You keep these West Coast teams together to continue their inter-division rivalries. The only stretch is putting Kansas City in the division. KC was the last team I had, I felt like KC would be more fitting in the West (like the Chiefs). The case could also be made to put them in the South. Plus, I don't think this team should be in Kansas City anymore as it is. I feel it makes more sense to move the franchise to a city that actually cares and can get behind it's team, say, Portland? Las Vegas? Tokyo? Boise, Idaho?

AL South

Tampa Bay Rays
Texas Rangers
Expansion Team 1
Expansion Team 2

Comments: Ok, here is the only real problem with all of this. The way teams are already laid out in MLB, the only way to divide this up and keep the rivalries is to move the Rays and Rangers into this new division and create two expansion teams to put here. A lot of people would say that there is no chance they can compete with two already established teams, to which I would argue look at the '97 Marlines or the '01 D-backs. Besides, when has Texas ever done anything and the Rays are FINALLY starting to show some signs of relevence. Top candidates for expansion cities: Indianapolis, IN (the Colts play in the south already), Louisville, KY, Nashville, TN, Charlotte, NC, New Orleans, LA.

Ok, so the biggest questions are what does this do to baseball and how does it help?

1.) It evens out the league to have 8 divisions with an equal amount of teams, thus creating 8 division winners and making things significantly easier for seeding in the playoffs.

2.) It elimates the wild card, which doesn't make any sense as it is and, as stated above, makes things easier for seeing in the playoffs. It also avoids potential playoff seeding issues.

3.) It eliminates unnecessarily long road trips and travel times for teams. Now, teams will not have to go on 7-10 day road trips all across the country just to play division opponents. They will play the majority of their games in the division and be able to take long road trips to crack out teams outside of their division.

4.) There is clearly a wealth of talent all around baseball, both in this country and outside of it, so this will do nothing but increase the parity in baseball (especially when you consider the effect this will have with the revenue sharing agreement). It also wouldn't hurt to elimate part of the farm system in an effort to get higher caliber prospects a shot at the big leagues sooner. It allows more players from outside the country to also get a shot and rewards the teams that are better at scouting (A's, D-backs).

5.) Baseball creates new fanbases in cities already capable of handling professional sports teams and, furthermore, creates more exciting and closer to home rivalries which, in turn, can only help make baseball more exciting and captivating for a younger audience.

6.) Makes interleague play/rivalries much easier and much more exciting. Baseball can institute a simple East vs. East, West vs. West, etc. situation, or go East vs. West, North vs. South.

7.) It could give baseball the shake up needed to return to America's Pastime.

Anyways, I think that this could have a potentially significant positive impact on MLB. I had been thinking about this for a while and thought it could raise some interesting debate on how baseball should and could shake up the league.

MLB Power Poll

I'm going to try to make these more consistently once my new computer finally arrives (which should be by next week). Thanks for bearing with me.

With the baseball season more than a third of the way through, the divisional standings are starting to look more true to form. The only leader that is really unexpected right now is the White Sox, and I'm still not ready to crown them yet considering they are on top of arguably the worst division in baseball. If I were to rank the Divisions from best to worst cumulatively right now it would be as follows.

1.) AL East
2.) NL Central
3.) NL East
4.) AL West
5.) AL Central
6.) NL West

You know things are bad in the NL West when there's only one team above .500 and that team is falling fast. Let's see how the poll looks in the first week of June.

1.) Chicago Cubs (39-22)- Another week, another number 1 on the Power Poll. It's hard to argue that Cubs are the most complete team in baseball...and it doesn't hurt when you've got the best record too. The Cubbies grace the top of the list thanks to just 1 loss in their last 10 games. They haven't lost by more than 2 runs since the end of April. They're tops in the league in Average, Runs, OPS, OBP, and Saves. Mad props to Kerry Wood for completely revitalizing his career. You've gotta be happy for this turnaround (unless you're an angry man from Quincy). He could become the next John Smoltz if things continue to progress according to plan. Speaking of Smoltzy, my best wishes go out to the guy, he's a class act.

2.) Boston Red Sox (38-25)- The Red Sox are back in the elite company after a great stretch that's seen them keep winning despite major injuries. David Ortiz joined Dice-K on the DL this week which could really put damper on the BoSox plans to go back to back as World Champs. If Big Papi is done for the year, a repeat is going to be extremely difficult (he leads the team in HR and RBI as usual). Still, you've gotta be impressed with their perseverence as they just swept the formerly red hot Rays. In the running for baseball's comeback player of the year has to be Big Fat Bartolo Colon. He currently sports a 3-0 record with a solid 3.50 era.

3.) Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (37-24)- Chalk up a 5 game winnign streak for the suddenly surging Angels. They don't even miss former Cy Young Winner Colon as their pitching has been phenomenal this season. Joe Saunders and Ervin Santana are a combined 17-4 on the year and John Lackey is back in the groove with a sub-2 era. He's just 1-1, but the wins will come. On the opposite end though, what the deuce is up with LA's hitting. Besides steals, they rank in the bottom half of every offensive category in the AL. The Normally vicious Vlad Guerrero is batting just .249 on the year. What's up with that?

4.) Tampa Bay Rays (35-25)- The Rays couldn't be stopped...that is until they ran into the defending champs. After getting swept by the BoSox, the Rays actually look human. James Shields lasted just 1 inning in today's start (he had a complete game shutout against them earlier this season) and they were outscored 19-6 in the 3 game set. Look for the bats to wake up in a 3 game road trip in Texas this weekend. Also, on the plus side, they had the number 1 pick in today's draft and picked Tim Beckham, a high school SS from Georgia. He's got no relation to International Football Star David, but his skills are supposedly out of the this world.

5.) Philadelphia Phillies (36-26)- The Phillies are one of the fastest risers on the Power Poll and could keep leaping if they continue this torrid pace (8-2 in their last 10 games). After a couple of shaky starts Cole Hamels has righted his ship in a big way with a 3 hit CG Shutout against Cincy today. After hamels though, the pitching is a muddled mess. That's very fortunate for the NL, because otherwise this team would be the runaway favorite in the Senior Circuit. The offense is arguably the most Swole in baseball right now with Chase Utley leading the charge (MLB leading 21 HR). On top of that, he leads the team in pretty much every category as well. If only he could pitch...

6.) St. Louis Cardinals- (36-26)- It's too bad the Cards are in one of the most competitive divisions in baseball because they are playing great ball right now. Unfortunately, the teams getting the press are the Cubs and the suddenly on fire Milwaukee Brewers (more on them later). The Cards don't care though, they don't need to be in the spot light as long as they keep the consistency going. The Pittsburgh Pirates have been giving them serious trouble (Whaaaaa?!!?) but outside of the Buccos, St. Louis hasn't dropped a series in a month. I know I mention him a lot but how can you not love what Albert Pujols is doing. He's top 3 in baseball in OPS, OBP, Slugging, Average, and Walks.

7.) Chicago White Sox (33-26)- I'm sure the Cards would love to switch spots with the White Sox, because they'd be running away with the AL Central. The South Siders
currently enjoy a 2 and a half game lead on the second place Twins after a sweep of the hapless Royals. Speaking of the Twinkies, they're in the Chi for a 4 game series at US Cellular. If Chicago continues their solid play, this division could have a gap the size of the Grand Canyon come next week. Thanks to Javier Vazquez and friends, it's been the White Sox pitching that's shutting down opponents with the best ERA and second best WHIP in the AL.

8.) Milwaukee Brewers (32-28)- The only team hotter than the Cubs right now is their division rivals to the North. Milwaukee is not only 9-1 over the past 2 weeks, but they also own a 6 game winning streak (current longest in the majors). The Cheese-chompers have been eating their foes alive during the current unblemished stretch to the tune of a 40-8 run differential. Ryan Braun is finally starting to match his highly impressive rookie campaign with top 5 totals in the NL in HR and RBI. And how bout my boy Ben Sheets. If he can finally stay healthy for a whole season (knock on wood!!!) he should get some votes for the Cy Young with a 6-1 record, 2.71 ERA and 60 K even after missing two weeks.

9.) Arizona Diamondbacks (32-28)- I had to do a double take myself after putting the D-backs at #9, but that's where they deserve to be. The only team to top the poll for more than 2 weeks (they were the kings of the castle for the first 7) are in danger of falling out of the top 10 completely. Why you ask? They're just 4-12 over the last couple weeks and have really failed to get their offense going. I think I put a hex on Justin Upton by giving him and his brother BJ the Poll Picture a month back. Since then, BJ has continued to rake while Justin is barely hitting above the Mendoza line (.200). During their current 2-8 slump, they've scored more than 4 runs just once. Really this wasn't that unexpected as they were the only playoff team last year to post a negative run differential. Poor Micah Owings is probably their best hitter right now. Ouch.

10.) Oakland Athletics (33-27)- The A's find themselves back in the Top 10 after a short hiatus. Oakland didn't really do anything to deserve falling out, but there were just other teams playing a little better than they were. That can't be said now and many teams have sunk back to mediocrity. They're now on a 4 game win streak after a big sweep over the Detroit Tigers, but is that really all that eye-catching anymore?? Damn you Kittens! Still how the hell is this team winning anyway? I give up. Go figure their top hitter Bobby Crosby isn't even ranked in the Top 50 of the AL in average at .265. Whatever, wins are wins and the A's have more than 2/3 of the league right now.

Also Receiving Votes: Florida Marlins, Atlanta Braves, Houston Astros

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Euro 2008 Group B Preview

Now its time to move onto Group B in our Euro 2008 Preview, which features prohibitive favorites Germany, and a bunch of other weak sauce teams. Somehow Germany always seems to get the easiest draw of any team, but will anyone step up and really challenge them. Lets take a look.

Germany - As the favorites to win the tournament, everyone is expecting Germany to make a deep run in this tournament thanks to a talented roster and being on the easy side of the draw. All of these players will remember their failure in World Cup 2006, when they lost to Italy at home in the semifinals. This will drive a deep and talented team towards their ultimate goal of lifting a trophy at the end of the tournament. While German teams in the past were known for their physicality and alleged boring tactics, the new Germany is an attacking team that does not simply grind their opponents down but instead attacks mercilessly from the opening kick. With forwards like Miroslav Klose, Lukas Podolski, Mario Gomez and Kevin Kuranyi, the Germans should have no problems scoring goals. They also boast a solid midfield and a good defense which gives them one of the best lineups of any of the squads in the tournament. The only question i see is their goaltending. With Oliver Kahn retired the reigns are turned to Jens Lehmann who is rarely known for making solid saves, but instead incredible mistakes. If he can simply do his job and not let in idiotic goals, then Germany is going to be extremely tough to beat. They should have no problems advancing out of this group and have a great chance to win it all.

Croatia - The Croats appear poised as a possible dark horse in this competition. For one of the smaller countries in Europe, Croatia has had amazing success in major competitions. Past greats Davor Suker and Robert Prosinecki have passed the torch to a new generation of Croats who have the talent to continue the country's great string of success. This is the team that prevented England from making Euro 2008, by beating them 3-2 on the final day of qualifying. And while most will think its a fluke that they beat the English, this tournament should help to prove otherwise. Young players like Luka Modric and Niko Krancjar will combine with captain Niko Kovac to create a fast starting 11 who are also reliable on defense. Croatia's chances in this tournament appeared even brighter until striker Eduardo suffered one of the most horrific leg injury's in history, a double compound fracture and dislocated ankle. He had led Croatia with 10 goals in qualifying and without him they have a big hole up front. However, if they can finish enough chances, then this could be the unexpected squad that goes on a deep run in the tournament like how Greece was in 2004.

Poland - The Poles have improved in recent years, as witnessed by qualifying for World Cup 2006 and qualifying for this year's Euro, but overall there is still not enough quality to reasonably expect this team to escape the group stages. They are actually pretty similar to US Soccer in that they don't have much offensive creativity and are more well-known for their goalies. All of this combines to make them a long-shot to defeat either Germany or Croatia, which will be required of them if they want to advance. And while striker Ebi Smolarek is a really good player, there isn't a whole lot else around him to help when defenses focus on shutting him down. Poland got lucky to draw a weak group, but even then its going to be a tough battle to make the knockout stages.

Austria - The Austrians are co-hosts along with the Swiss, but its quite possible that they have the weakest team in the entire tournament and therefore are highly unlikely to even get a win in the tournament, let alone advance beyond the group stages. They are littered with scrubs up and down their roster. Leave soccer to the rest of the countries Austria, and keep kicking everyone's ass at skiing.
Group Prediction - Look for Germany to easily skate through the group. Their matchup against Austria will probably be the ass-whooping of the tournament. While Croatia has lost their best striker, they still have enough talent to get past Poland and become the runner-up in the bracket, where they will probably face Portugal in the quarterfinals.

Euro 2008 Group A Preview

With the European Championships beginning this Saturday, now is the time to preview the tournament and find out who will lift the trophy in Austria in a mere three weeks. We start with a preview of the four teams that make up group A.

Portugal - The Portuguese are definitely the favorites to win this group, and have the talent to make a run deep into the knockout rounds. They have successfully moved on from the "Golden Generation" and are now a squad built on young and creative players, who have the potential to become household names around the world during this tournament. Portugal's obvious star is Cristiano Ronaldo, who had a spectacular season for Manchester United and seems to be supplanting Ronaldinho as the world's most famous soccer player. However, it is highly possible he could be a huge distraction to Portugal in this competition because of his craving of the spotlight and his lack of a commitment to play for Manchester United next year, which has led to rampant speculation that he could transfer to Real Madrid. Even if Ronaldo is at his best, Portugal will need to find another scorer to support him. Its unlikely any of their forwards will provide much, they are either too old or too inexperienced. Thankfully for Portugal, their sublime midfield players can easily help out Cristiano. Ricardo Quaresma is basically a right-footed Ronaldo, Sabrosa Simao is one of the most underrated players in the world, and central midfielders Deco and Nani provide quality and reliability. Portugal's defense is average and unspectacular, but usually do not make huge mistakes while allowing the midfielders to do their thing.

Czech Republic - The Czech was the revelation of Euro 2004, playing beautiful football and looking like a tournament favorite until falling against Greece against the Semifinals. However since then, key players have either aged or stayed unhealthy causing the Czech to fall from darkhorse champion contender to middle-0f-the-pack team. Without Pavel Nedved and Tomas Rosicky in midfield, the Czech striking options lose much of their punch, and it is quite possible that they will rely on tight defensive tactics as opposed to the more free-flowing style they have employed in the past. The Czech has a very solid goalie in Peter Cech and several quality defenders, but without their best midfielders, they probably don't have enough to pose a threat to the best teams in Europe.

Switzerland - It always seems like the host nation of a major tournament gets a huge boost from the home support and plays way over its head and advances much further than expected. And out of the 2 hosting countries, it would seem that Switzerland has a much better chance of going on a run than Austria. It can definitely be argued that behind Portugal the entire group is up for grabs, and the Swiss have some talented players who could push them to the quarterfinals. The key for the Swiss will be to score goals, and if Alexander Frei is healthy enough to give them enough offensive punch, then their tough defense could shut down the other teams in the group, besides Portugal that is.

Turkey - Oh those wacky Turks. When they aren't playing wildly inconsistent soccer, they're getting in fights with their opponents. They have some decent attacking options in Nihat and Sukur, but quite possibly one of the worst defenses in the entire tournament. Their matchup with Switzerland will bring up memories of a fight between the teams in 2006 when they last met, and even though both teams aren't that good that match will be emotionally explosive. Unfortunately for the Turks, they dont have enough to advance beyond the group stage, and will actually be lucky to get a win against any of their three opponents.

Group Prediction: Look for Portugal to win the group rather easily. It is very important they do so because the runner up in the group will most likely face Germany in the quarterfinals. The battle for the second spot will come down to Switzerland and the Czech Republic, and because they are at home and the Czech has been struggling recently, I give the edge to the home Swiss.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

An NHL Classic

Sports fans have been treated to some pretty amazing games in 2008. We had the Giants defeating the evil Patriots in a classic Super Bowl, and we also had Kansas defeat Memphis in a compelling NCAA final. And for anyone who watched last night, they know that Game 5 between Pittsburgh and Detroit was one for the ages. It also reaffirmed that an overtime hockey game is the most thrilling and intense sports action a fan can ask for. Lets break down some of the highlights from a spectacular night of hockey.

- Swole didn't get to see much of the first 2 periods because I was busy watching UGA eliminate Georgia Tech in a college baseball regional, but I was shocked to see the Penguins leading the Wings 2-1. For such a young team to put forth an effort in a game they could have mailed in is a great sign for the future. There is no doubt that Crosby and co. are going to win a title, and very soon.

- As the third period began, it looked like the Wings were playing about three levels above the Penguins in their quest to tie and win the game. They began the period by outshooting the Penguins 12-0, completely controlled the tempo of the game, and for long stretches didn't even allow the Penguins to get across the center line, let alone the Wings zone. I began saying to myself "This is the perfect hockey period." The Wings could do no wrong and were playing the best hockey i've ever seen in my life. It seemed over when they went ahead 3-2, but somehow the Penguins tied it up in the last minute and forced overtime. And even though I am from Michigan and rooting for the Wings because they are the hometown team, a large part of me was happy to see the Penguins tie the game, because I didn't want to see this spectacular game, and the season end so quickly.

- Overtime began the same way the 3rd period ended, with the Wings absolutely dominating the play. The only reason the game wasn't over in the first 5 minutes of OT was because of Marc-Andre Fleury. While he has always been a good goalie and certainly worthy of his Number 1 selection when drafted, last night he turned in a performance only rivaled by legends of the game like Ken Dryden, Dominik Hasek and Martin Brodeur. The Wings were simply blasting him with shots and yet he held strong and kept the Penguins season alive. It reminded me a ton of when JS Giguere did the same long ago in the Detroit, keeping his team alive in overtime despite a Red Wings barrage simply by the force of his will and determination. Fleury turned in the greatest performance in an epic match, and has earned my respect big time.

- As the game stretched into 2 and 3 overtimes, it came back to me how great overtime hockey is in the playoffs. Between the combination of sheer excitement level, fear and anxiety, and lack of commercials, I would say that an overtime playoff game is the best sporting event in sports. Every time the Penguins passed the Wings blue line, I would gasp. When Ruutu hit the post, I nearly dropped a lung. And every time the Wings carried it into Pittsburgh's end, I would rise up in anticipation of the Stanley Cup winning goal. And because there were no commercial breaks in which to catch my breath, the excitement and anticipation was unparalleled in anything i had seen for years. You can argue other sports are more exciting in general, but there is no event that combines such a withering pace of action with the immediate finality of an overtime playoff game, which is why I love it.

- When the 2nd OT period ended, I told Young Knuckleballer that this seemed like one of those games that the Wings would completely dominate and yet lose. I turned prophetic in the 3rd OT, when a Jiri Hudler high stick led to Peter Sykora's game winning goal. I was drained and exhausted from the event, but as time has gone on I became almost excited that the Penguins won, despite rooting for the Wings. Not only did I get to see an amazing game filled with drama and excitement, but I will get to see at least one more game between the 2 best teams in the NHL. After the strike a couple years ago, I vowed never to watch another pro hockey game as long as Gary Bettman was commisioner. Between non-existent TV appearances and general apathy I had succeeded in my promise for years. But like a moth to the flame it was inevitable i would return, and I'm so glad i did. I love other sports like football and soccer, but nothing could compare to last night. And while this series will soon be over and I'll have to see Bettman give the trophy to one of the teams, I'll be happy with my decision to watch the Stanley Cup Finals. As he brings out the best trophy in pro sports, I'll give him the middle finger and mumble some curse words, then salute the winners, and finally cherish the memories of a sublime Game 5 and the NHL's return to my heart.