LeBron James just announced that he is going back to the Cleveland Cavaliers. The announcement is surprising for various reasons; it means he is leaving Miami where he led the Heat to four NBA finals and two championships, because the Cavaliers are not exactly title contenders even with James, and because, well, it’s Cleveland.
This afternoon (or this evening in Manchester) Manchester United drew with Bayern Munich 1-1 in the first leg of their quarter-final tie in the UEFA Champions League. While Nemanja Vidic’s 58th minute goal may have had United fans dreaming of heading to Munich next week with a victory in this match, I think most of us would have taken this result if asked beforehand. It is now required to say that it’s all to play for next week but the reality is that for Manchester United it was all to play for today and the club did as well as could be expected.
If you follow English soccer (or football) then you no doubt are aware of the season that Manchester United is having. You are also likely either taking extreme delight in United’s poor performance or you are a fan of the club. There are very few neutrals with regard to Manchester United. As a United fan, I am disappointed, having been spoiled along with all the other United fans by two decades of excellence under Sir Alex Ferguson. Fergie’s hand-picked replacement, David Moyes, has done little to suggest there will be another two decades of excellence any time soon.
The news broke yesterday that the Atlanta Braves are going to be moving from Turner Field, their home since 1997, to a new stadium in 2017 to be built outside of the city in Cobb County. To people who have never lived in Atlanta, this is only the latest example in the obscene practice of billionaire owners of professional sports teams extorting money from taxpayers to finance a new stadium or arena. For those of us who have lived in Atlanta this news is also only the latest evidence of a discouraging trend.
Thought I might get a rocket ride
When I was a child but it was a lie
That I told myself when I needed something good
At seventeen, had a better dream
Now I’m thirty-three and it isn’t me
But I’d think of something better if I could
(from “All My Friends” by Counting Crows)
My earliest memory of the Red Sox is not knowing anything about the 1975 World Series, which they lost to the Reds in seven games. There were some older kids in the playground who were big Red Sox fans and they were talking about the World Series from the previous year and were dumbfounded that I had no idea what they were talking about. One of them reenacted Carlton Fisk’s dramatic Game Six home run and I was entertained but still in the dark.
Yesterday, Major League Baseball suspended 13 players for being involved with an anti-aging clinic in Florida. MLB apparently had over-whelming evidence that the players had used performance enhancing drugs (“PEDs”) and, as with the suspension of Ryan Braun last month, the players agreed to their suspensions without going through the appeal process that is available to them under the agreement between MLB and the players’ union. That is, all players agreed except Alex Rodriguez who has decided to appeal.
While I appreciate the intellectual argument that when you are rooting for a sports team you are basically rooting for a uniform, I have never been able to get my heart to agree with my head. As sports fans know, you don’t choose a team, it chooses you. You start watching a sport and you decide on “your team” but that choice only takes when something happens that binds you to that team forever. I’ve been a Red Sox fan since 1977 but it was probably the one-game playoff loss to the Yankees in 1978 that bound me to that team forever. With the Celtics, I don’t remember exactly but it probably happened sometime during the 1981 championship season. I’ve lived and died with the Celtics for over thirty years and I always believed the fantasy of Celtic Pride and all that. I was elated when they finally won another championship in 2008 and I was crushed when they fell one rebound short in 2010. I have conjured false hope during each of the past three postseasons. It doesn’t make sense but I have continued to have an emotional connection to the team. Now I think Danny Ainge broke me.
It is an old truism in basketball that rebounding and defense are about effort. (This implies that offense is about something else, which is probably not true.) I thought of this idea last night while watching game four of the NBA finals between the Spurs and Heat. While not intending to diminish anything about the Spurs so far in this series, it looked in the game as if the Heat decided to put forth more effort and the effects were most evident in rebounding and defense.
One of the mistakes that fans sometimes make when thinking about upcoming sporting events is the idea that if an inferior team knows how to counter what a superior team is going to do in some way implies that it’s likely that the inferior team will be successful. Does this make sense? In this case I am talking about the Indiana Pacers versus the Miami Heat. The Heat are a better team but Indiana plays them very well. Indiana won the season series 2-1, beat Miami in game two of the series and were within two seconds (and maybe a Roy Hibbert substitution) of winning game one. Indiana knows how to counter Miami and they were going back home for game 3 so I felt pretty confident that Indiana would win. I only forget to account for one thing: Miami is the superior team.
At some point during January 1978, I jumped on the bandwagon of the Dallas Cowboys. They were due to play in the Super Bowl and as my previous favorite team, the Minnesota Vikings, had lost the previous Super Bowl, I figured it made sense to switch to the Cowboys. I didn’t watch the Super Bowl that year but the Cowboys won and the following year I did watch when they made it back to face the Pittsburgh Steelers. In one of the most exciting Super Bowls to that point, the Cowboys lost and my lifelong fandom was sealed.