If there was one thing that stood out to me this weekend in the world of sports, it was the unreal athletic ability that athletes possess. Well, obviously, right? But I think we as a society of sports fans have started to take pro athletes for granted. So many people drastically underestimate the gift of athleticism needed to compete at the professional level. Hours of hard work and practice are also necessary, but sometimes you just have to be different. Sure, John Scheyer was fundamentally better at basketball than Blake Griffin, but the difference between the D-League and the All-Star Team is ridiculous athleticism. Blake has it, John doesn’t.
So without further ado, the weekend as seen by the SneakyGoodSportsGuy.
Third Degree Burn– I feel like I made the right pre-season selection for NBA Champions. The Heat are the best team in the NBA. They do everything well, and do most things very well. Chicago is very good too, and they are a much better team with Luol Deng (one of my favorite players in the league) in the lineup. Still, I don’t think they can possibly win a seven game series versus the Heat because Derrick Rose cannot beat LeBron. We saw it in last year’s Conference Finals and we saw it on Sunday, too. At the end of the game, when the ball is in Rose’s hands, and the Bulls are depending on him to win the game, he is going to have to get past or shoot over LeBron. If he gets past LeBron, like he did late in the game on Sunday, Udonis Haslem and Joel Anthony are more than ready to take a charge or block his shot. Derrick Rose can take Chalmers and Cole to the hoop all he wants for the first 45 minutes, but when the game is on the line he will have to beat LeBron, and it isn’t going to happen 4 out of 7 times.
I disregard what John Barry said about the Heat. He was saying they needed to find a way to get Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh to both play well instead of one or the other. Chris Broussard then made a good point, saying that that’s what is so great about having three stars on one team. Even if one plays badly, you have two other very good players still playing well. He’s absolutely right. How often do Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, and James Harden all play at the top of their game? Rose played very well yesterday, but Carlos Boozer was fairly silent. How about Carmelo Anthony, Amare Stoudemire, and Tyson Chandler? Okay I guess the Knicks don’t apply considering one of the five most talented teams in the league is currently in essentially a tie for 10th in the Eastern Conference.
And then there is LeBron. How do you grade what he did yesterday? For about 45 minutes, his play could be described as Thor, God of Thunder-like. He was ridiculous. He shot well from outside the lane, burying several mid range shots late in the shot clock as well as a tremendous ICBM off an inbound. Then there were the dunks. Do you realize that on those alley-oops his head is at the freaking rim? That isn’t normal. He jumped clear over a man and dunked with one hand. Forget the fact John Lucas is only 5-11, that isn’t normal either!
But that was just the first 45 minutes. The last 3 or so were a different story. With the game in his hands, he started to force shots. He drove for contact rather than the finish. And then he missed free throws. I don’t think it’s fair to say that nothing James does matters other than the Finals and the 4th quarter of any game. How can you disregard the Jordan-like numbers he has been putting up this year? He is on another planet entirely. But what good is that if he doesn’t close the games when they really matter? He had better prove he can finish in the Finals.
Because if he doesn’t, Kevin Durant will.
Novak Djokovic (and Rafa)- I started watching the re-air during the fourth set. From then on, I was riveted to the TV. I watched as the two men battled back and forth in a match that lasted nearly 6 hours. There were times for both of them when it looked like they might be down to their last out, but they both battled back. Even when they were well beyond what most of us would consider our limit, they exchanged frenetic volleys and hustled after shots that seemed to be well out of reach. I cannot imagine the sheer feeling of triumph that Djokovic must have felt when he sent home the winning shot (is that what you call it?) to finish Rafael Nadal and win the Tournament.
The marathon took its toll on both of them, as they could barely stand during the trophy presentation (someone finally brought them chairs and water). I cannot imagine playing any sport like tennis for 6 hours even casually, let alone at that level. Djokovic did that only two days after playing five sets with Andy Murray (he also had one day less rest than Nadal). These guys are millionaire celebrities because they are at another level athletically than 99% of the world. Even on the brink of collapsing, they are able to maintain the strength and dexterity to send their shots where they want. I understand NASCAR drivers have training and trials of their own, but for Jimmy Johnson to win the ESPY for best male athlete is not right. Drivers and Djokovic are on totally different levels.
One question I have about the match: Why was the crowd so overwhelmingly in favor of Nadal? I don’t follow the sport that much, but Rafa has always struck me as being kind of arrogant and annoying. Correct me if I’m wrong. Djokovic seems like he is way easier to cheer for (I was cheering for him). He’s from a tiny little country (Serbia) rather than Nadal’s large and popular Spain. He’s also a pretty funny guy who is extroverted but doesn’t seem prideful. Truly, if the Packers had lost to KC and this match had happened before the voting on AP Sportsman of the Year, Djokovic would have had a real chance at winning. It would not have been undeserved.
These People Are Out of Their Minds– I still have a lot of the winter X Games DVR’d and I’ll get around to watching them eventually. I like the summer X Games more, but some of the things in the winter version are just too insane not to appreciate. It amazes me how close these guys (and girls) are to death while they are competing. If Colten Moore lands just slightly differently he could have broken his neck and died. In spite of the danger, these incredible athletes flip and fly through the air in unbelievable tricks. How do they figure out how to do that? How many times does a snowboarder have to launch himself into a pool of those foam blocks to figure out how to spin around in the air that many times, or how do you learn how to do a front flip on a snowmobile? Sal Masekela and Tony Hawk talked this summer at the X Games about how extreme sports have not met their ceiling yet and might not for a long time because athletes are constantly pushing the limits and finding ways to improve. Only a few decades ago it was thought insane to fly 20 feet in the air on a skateboard, now some guys are spinning 900 degrees.
Amazingly, X Games athletes contradict the title of this article. Sure, Travis Pastrana and Tony Hawk make millions of dollars, but the average guy is making less than the average NFL kicker. I suppose that’s only fair, because the Winter X Games just went over its 1 millionth attendee this year (its 15th year), while the Bengals, who had to give away tickets to “sell out” games, still had 394,009 attendees this year alone. Honestly though, I don’t think they really care. They get to do what they love for a living (a nice living at that) and while they still compete they have a great camaraderie with their fellow athletes and I think they just basically enjoy every minute of their careers.
Who would ever want to play basketball for Bob Huggins? He is such a yeller and I don’t know how players can function with him as a coach. What is the draw? It’s not like West Virginia is a perennial national champion contender or even a Big East powerhouse. West Virginia isn’t the nicest state to live in (although it isn’t the worst either). I don’t know why any kid would want to play there unless they lived close by and wanted to stay near family. That’s not the case with this year’s roster. Only one player is from the state of West Virginia. I would think if you are good enough to get a scholarship to WV you could get one to play someplace else with a good program, right?
Now I’m going to take Bob Huggins’ side. What the heck were the officials thinking when they missed the goal tend at the end of the Syracuse game? Not one of them saw it happen? I guess that’s why officials don’t make millions.
The Pro Bowl is a waste of time, but I think people need to not be so critical of the way the players play it. Do you really think a lineman wants to exert all of his energy after a long season for a meaningless game just so he can go take another ice bath to quell the pain of playing in the trenches? Do players really want to blow out a knee and ruin the big contract they have coming their way? Besides, I thought it was kid of fun to see things like onside kicks, laterals, fake punts, and a drop kick. Why not? Also, what a terrific catch by Brandon Marshall. If that was in a meaningful game that’s one of the catches of the year.
The SneakyGoodSportsGuy is an amateur sportswriter hoping to be noticed by someone some day. If not, he still has fun watching, playing, and writing about sports. Like, comment, post to facebook, tweet, follow on twitter @TheSneakySports, email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you!