ESPN’s Scott Van Pelt is fond of saying “I don’t watch reality TV. I watch sports.”
Usually I scoff at the implication that you would have to exclude one entirely for the other, which to me is as ridiculous as saying, “I don’t eat chicken. I eat pork,” or “I don’t listen to music. I listen to talk radio,” or “I don’t watch iCarly. I only watch Degrassi reruns.”
I, for one, am happy to watch both reality TV and sports (and comedies and dramas and Letterman and infomercials), but this weekend it was easier to make the argument for an all-sports TV diet.
There was so much sports-wise going on that I didn’t watch Sunday’s season finale of one of my favorite reality shows, The Amazing Race, until about 12:30 in the morning, and that was a program enjoying one of its best seasons. (I guess I can’t get enough of watching stressed-out travelers getting completely hosed by incompetent cab drivers.)
So what did I (and presumably, Van Pelt) watch this weekend?
NBA playoffs. Thank goodness for the Cleveland and Boston series. While the other three Conference Semifinals either wrapped up as sweeps (Phoenix/San Antonio) or appear headed that way Monday night (Orlando/Atlanta), the Cavaliers/Celtics series has had more drama than Charlie Sheen’s personal life.
Just when it seemed that the heavily favored Cavs were going to take control following a blowout game three victory Friday night, Boston came right back to tie the series 2-2 in a highly entertaining game Sunday.
Intriguing story lines are everywhere in this series: The Celtics fighting the “too old” label with major help from Rajon Rondo, who has quickly developed into the best player on the team. LeBron’s supposed injured elbow. The fact that everyone believed the Cavs would have an easy time with Boston, ignoring the Celtics’ far deeper and far more experienced supporting cast. The fact that the time for Cleveland is NOW; a team with zero NBA championships. In addition, there is James’s free agent status at the end of the season, and his likelihood to upgrade from Drew Carey’s hometown to Jerry Seinfeld’s hometown.
But thankfully for the NBA, even the lopsided series have some intrigue. The Suns’ vengeful (and surprisingly thorough) beat down of the celebrated Spurs, who now seem as old as everyone thought the Celtics were, portends what should be a great Conference Finals match-up. And in what should be a very busy NBA off-season, it now looks like the Spurs will need to make some deals in order to get back to their first NBA Finals since 2007.
And the Suns and their owner Robert Sarver stirred up all sorts of controversy by publicly denouncing Arizona’s new immigration law. Whether you agree or not with Sarver’s position, you have to admire the way that Sarver decided to take a stand. In a world where people in power are often afraid to say anything (except for Trey Parker and Matt Stone), Sarver’s desire to stir public debate is impressive.
Locally, the humiliating way that Orlando has been destroying Atlanta (winning by an average of 29 points) has made me temper my enthusiasm for the Milwaukee Bucks. I still think the Bucks – especially when healthy – have a very bright future. But if they can be beaten by an Atlanta team that one week later looks as bad as a 1990s Chevy Chase movie, then I’ve clearly overestimated them.
I’m taking Boston and the Lakers to repeat the finals from 2008 and Lakers to repeat.
Tiger Woods: What was even more bizarre than Tiger Woods pulling out of the Players Championship on Sunday after six final round holes was the fact that he apparently did so to make a symbolic gesture of protest to NBC, the network televising the event, about their treatment of Conan O’Brien.
“I’ve had it with NBC,” Woods reportedly said in private to his caddie, Steve Williams. “It was bad enough when they forced Charlotte Rae off The Facts of Life and cancelled Friday Night Videos. But screwing my man Conan, I can’t tolerate it.”
But Woods insisted his hiatus would be short-lived. “I’ll play any tournament shown by CBS. Especially if I can meet that girl on The Mentalist. She’s crazy hot.”
All right, I made that up, but really, can Tiger’s world get any stranger? But no matter what his medical obstacles are, I have to believe that his personal obstacles are more significant for him right now. Hope he returns to consistent form soon. I’m still guessing he does.
MLB: I don’t know what was more shocking over the weekend. Dallas Braden’s perfect game or the play of the Milwaukee Brewers.
Any perfect game is amazing (there have only been 19, after all), but when accomplished against the team with the best record (after Sunday’s loss, the Rays are 22-9), and the team with the third-most runs scored in baseball, it’s nothing short of a miracle.
But maybe not as sweet as the week the Milwaukee Brewers had.
After getting shut out three times in a embarrassing four-game sweep against the San Diego Padres, Milwaukee stormed back by winning five out of six in Los Angeles and Arizona, and scoring over eight runs a game.
And despite an offensive barrage highlighted by Jody Gerut’s hitting for the cycle on Saturday, and Prince Fielder waking from his April slumber to hit safely in seven of eight games in May, the real delight has been the Brewers’ pitching.
Chris Narveson has won his last two decisions since replacing Jeff Suppan in the rotation. Doug Davis had his best game of the season on Wednesday, while Randy Wolf continues to be solid.
And Yovani Gallardo has completely bounced back from his rough first week, winning his fourth straight start and dropping his ERA to 3.07.
It’s hard to completely trust these Brewers given how erratic they’ve been, but this much is inescapable – the Brewers lead all of baseball in hits, runs, and runs batted in. If the pitching can settle into anything like they’ve had in the last week, we might be able to start talking about the Brewers as a viable Wild Card candidate without giggling.
And hey, it wouldn’t be as shocking as Jerri Manthey winning Survivor.
Yep, just like there’s always room for Jello, there’s always room – no matter how packed the TV sports weekend is – for reality TV.