Wednesday, May 13, 2009

One for the Ages

Washington, D.C. has long been known as the political center of the world. A place where public servants meet to discuss policy within the limestone structures and carouse around to the many grandiose restaurants that require a sense of power to sit in.

Tonight, this town will go from a political epicenter to a red wearing, hockey-crazed town. Not since 1980s has this town seen a fever quite like this when the talk of the town was for a small time taken away from the Capitol Hill and focused in on an athletic team. Back to the days where Riggins, Monk, Theisman, Manley, and Green were the love of the town in the Redskins' glorious era, a new regime has taken over. A period where economic times are troubling and jobs scarce, a group of men have taken away the pain and given hope to an area devout of a championship in nearly 20 years.

Led by Alex Ovechkin, reigning NHL MVP, the Capitals have been embraced by a town that was once thought be only a football town. At a time where only a few years ago this team fell behind the DC United in the area sports heirarchy. When only a few years ago it looked so bad for a team whose own arena was clad with the colors of the Red Wings, Penguins, or Flyers. Not anymore. This team here is the hottest ticket in town. A team where you see all the young talent and can only say its a matter of time until a Stanley Cup is brought home.

Tonight's game 7 is an anticipated match between hockey's three best players in Ovechkin, Crosby, and Malkin. The whole hockey world will watch on the edge of their seats as the finale to one of the greatest hockey series is finishing up. A game where the hope of a city rests on the shoulders of those donning the red sweaters, for it has been too long without a winner. The final game in a series so epic that it will be looked at as the beginning of a new era in the sport. A chance for one team to pull itself closer to the final goal. A chance to redeem two decades of sports mediocrity in a city that demands the best from its political counterpart. A chance to keep the magic alive.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

The Last Stand

The Caps-Pens series has so far been one for the ages. Hat-tricks by both Ovechkin and Crosby in Game 2, OT wins by Pittsburgh in both game 3 and 5, and plenty of refereeing issues and claims of runs being taken at Russian players. Wow this series sure has lived up to the hype.

For the Capitals though, advancing to the next round would mean more to the city of DC than anything else right now. In a sports down void of any real winner over the past decade-and-a-half, the Capitals have been the closest thing to a champion since the Redskins won the Super Bowl back in January 1992.

What has plagued the Caps in this series is a defense that too easily gets sucked in throughout the neutral zone and gives up an odd-man rush leading to shots on goal and rebound chances for a Pens team that thrives on that. The speed of Pittsburgh seems to be overwhelming at times and to make up for getting beat the Caps tend to hook, slash, or trip the Pens on their way to the goal.

The absence of two of the Caps leading scorers, Alexander Semin and Mike Green, also doesn't bode well for their chances. The fact that these two have been non-factors throughout these games leaves on Alexander Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom as the only real threats to Pittsburgh. For being the NHL's highest scoring teams in the league during the regular season, the absence of the two drops point production dramatically.

It may be time for the Washington area to reload and hope that in the fall the Redskins can make a miraculous run to get to the Super Bowl but the chances of that are very slim. Looks like DC may be in for another summer of boring baseball and may once again have to pin their hopes on the Caps next year. Barring a change in play I'll most likely be hanging up my jersey's and getting ready for football season. It hurts me to say this but I wish our big name players could step up and give us hope. Game 6 hangs over us and so does our hopes of championship coming to town.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Steroids Claims Another

This biggest news in baseball up until the other day was the Alex Rodriguez steroids admittance that grabbed the headlines early in spring training. With the 50-game suspension doled out to Manny Ramirez by the MLB, baseball seems to be in an uproar about steroids chopping down another one of the games' current greats. Was anyone surprised by this? With the allegations swirling around other such greats as Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, and Mike Piazza (all of whom have not admitted to anything) Ramirez is another to actually fall to the testing procedures implemented by the league.

The reaction to the news of Manny is not all too surprising but is something that maybe needs to be re-looked at. The fact that many people still can't seem to wrap their heads around the amount of "cheating" that has occurred and still occurs is amazing. One of the things that has been said all along about steroids is that as long as they are testing people there will be ways found around the tests and newer performance enhancing drugs that aren't detected.

Another big thing is that these accusations and confessions will lead to a period in baseball where some of the games most prolific hitters and pitchers not being inducted into the baseball Hall of Fame. With the stance creeping closer and closer to not voting these players in we'll see a lull in the amount of player who actually with make it into the HOF. Does baseball need a period in which the amount of people inducted declines to levels never seem before? Or that the quality of the player that is inducted isn't as good in comparison to the rest of those in Cooperstown?

Part of me believes that even though these players cheated by using performance enhancers some of the blame needs to be put on commissioner Bud Selig for turing a blind eye to all of this. Selig is one of the reasons the Players Association got away with all they did. He did not pursue the right course of action until it was too late. He knew players were juicing and just turned the other way and basked in the glory of the home run battles. Baseball thrived in the years in a time when after the strike it needed fans more than ever.

Will Manny be the last big name to fall? No. There is no chance when watching a game that there are players out there who got as big as they did without the help steriods. Guys like Albert Pujols, Mark Texiera, CC Sabathia, Dustin Pedoria all put up insane numbers and all would be no surpise if they too were linked to some sort of enhancer.

At this point I'm over it. I don't watch baseball wondering whether or not players are juicing because to be honest I don't really care. I'm there to be entertain and as long as that happens I'll be happy. It's those baseball purist who are hurt most by this but in this era where seemingly everyone was doing it the playing field may have been in fact level the whole time.

Monday, May 4, 2009

A hat-trick without hats?

After tonight's game between the Capitals and Penguins, one in which the NHL's two stars recorded hat-tricks, one of them was upset about the amount of hats being tossed on the ice after the other recorded a game deciding goal. To no ones surprise, Sidney Crosby had yet another thing to whine about with Alex Ovechkin. This has seem to become a normal occurrence in the saga between the two, one in which the NHL will certainly prosper from, and may soon begin to taint the image of one of the budding stars.
This is what Crosby had to say;

"People kept throwing hats, I was just asking if he could make an announcement to ask them to stop"

Really? I mean c'mon Crosby are you really going to complain about a tradition of hats being thrown on the ice after the home team's star gets a hat-trick?

This has been typical from Sid as we've seen him also complain about Ovechkin jumping into the wall after he scores and how he plays hard and hits the other teams star. Much like Don Cherry, Crosby has taken an approach to the game that is very business-like and no-nonsense that seems to be very rigid. For a sport that needs as many fans as it can muster, Sid is not to appreciative about boisterous play and excitement that Ovechkin brings to the ice. Were it not for Ovechkin and his antics hockey may still be on a downward spiral towards mediocrity.

As we've seen in the first two games, the two superstars have seemed to not only dominate the media attention but the stats on the ice as well. Each have scored 4 goals and seem to give their team an edge any time they are on the ice. This series will continue to warrant all the attention it gets but this added bonus of the shots that Crosby seems to take at Ovechkin and vice-versa will also be interesting to continue to watch.

As for me, "LET'S GO CAPS!!!"

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Pacquiao's Stardom

The 2nd round knock-out that surprised everyone has vaulted Manny Pacquiao into a stratosphere unseen by any of his countrymen over the course of their history. He is know the face of boxing, the "pound-for-pound" champion who has won a title at six different weight classes and has beaten two of the most recognizable faces in the past few years in Oscar De La Hoya and Ricky Hatton.

In Pacquiao's first marquee fight of his career, one that had the industry reveling in meaning, Pacquiao dismantled "The Golden Boy" and forced him into a long overdue retirement by mercifully picking apart the guard that De La Hoya tried to present. Quickly De La Hoya was outmached and Pacquiao toyed with him until De La Hoya's camp threw in the towel for the final time in a glorious career. This marked the first big name fighter Pacquiao would face on a big stage and he would follow with an encore so stunning that even he was surprised.

The fight between Pacquiao and Hatton this past Saturday night was to be the biggest fight of the year pinning speed versus brawn. Pacquiao, the speedy Filipino, against Hatton, the brawler from Britain. Two opposing styles meeting in the ring which was destined to be a battle. Though Pacquiao was the favorite, many saw Ricky Hatton as a person who could in an instant put "Pac-Man" on his back in slumber so deep it would take months for him to awake. Only this fight happened to turn out the opposite. In the five-minutes and fifty-nine seconds that the fight lasted, Pacquiao knocked-down Hatton three times the third of which stoned Hatton so hard he may retire. It was pure brilliance and something unseen in and of Pacquiao's fights that it brings to new light whether or not Pacquiao now has the power to knock someone out as well as wear them down.
On the same day, the previous "pound-for-pound" champion, Floyd Mayweather, Jr. came out of retirement setting up an intriguing situation should Mayweather beat Juan Migel Marquez in his upcomming fight. Should this happen, many believe this would set up a Pacquiao-Mayweather fight that could rival some of the major heavyweight fights this past decade.
Two men with similar styles trying to best one another could be the most anticipated fight in years. Who would be the favorite? Its hard to tell now since Mayweather hasn't fought in nearly two years and Pacquiao has yet to meet someone with the caliber of Mayweather. It would be an interesting fight and probably one with as much hype as any Tyson fight late in his career. Will this save boxing, probably not since fans really flock towards the heavyweights, but nonetheless it would be one of the highest selling pay-per-views in years.
When this fight happens, count me as one of the millions who will watch this fight on the edge of their seats, watching as two technicians scrap their way to a victory. For now though, Pacquiao is the darling of boxing, and until someone dethrones him he will be the premeir fighter for all to watch.