Gang, we have a couple of open mailbag slots, so if you have a question, shoot. If not, well, read and comment and enjoy the sunshine. (Side note: If you were complaining about the rain or the cold snap, then you can't complain about the heat until at least mid-June. As Uncle Buck would say, "That's in the books." Well, unless you are over 60, complain about how the Braves announcers are not as good as Skip Caray and eat lunch around the time you're reading the 5-at-10. Then you have earned the right to complain about almost anything, so get your gripe on.)
From the "Talks too much" studios, let's round up the usual suspects.
We got into this BID-ness because we grew up a sports junkie. Sometimes the Lord guides your career into places it's supposed to go. We got lucky.
And we became a sports junkie because of moments like last night's Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals. Miami beat Indy 103-102 in overtime. The Heat won despite a huge, Huge, HUGE game-tying, final-second 3-pointer by Paul George in the fourth quarter and a brutal foul call on a George 3-pointer with 2.2 left in OT that gave the Pacers a 102-101 lead.
The Heatles won a crucial game because the best player on the planet was at his best in the big moments. LeBron James, who finished with 30 points, 10 assists and 10 rebounds for his ninth career playoff triple-double, caught the in-bound pass, went hard left and delivered a lay-up that fell through the net as the horn sounded.
It was a money play. It was a superstar play that a few years ago we doubted that James would or could make on a consistent basis. It was quite simply what Michael would have done.
And when James gets to the point that we expect him to deliver in those moments — not unlike how we expected Jordan to deliver or pre-2009 Thanksgiving Tiger to make every meaningful 5-footer — then he will be on the pantheon that we expect for him and the level at which he was destined to attain.
Last night, we wanted LeBron to make that shot. Hey, we like LeBron and the Heat deserved to win that game considering the brutal call that gave the Pacers the lead. We wanted James to make the play, but we were not sure.
We're starting to feel pretty sure that the King is going to deliver, time and time again.
Four quick tidbits:
First, we think this series could be excellent and Game 1 did not disappoint.
Second, Paul George is a legit star in the making.
Third, having Reggie Miller do this series — yes, Reggie Miller, Mr. Pacers, who is almost openly rooting for Indy — do the commentary on this series seems about as fair and balanced as having Chipper work national Braves games.
Fourth, when LeBron goes to the rim, it may be the single most unstoppable NBA move since Kareem hung up his hook. In fact, dude gets the reverse of the Jordan calls because he absorbs contact and keeps going.
Anyway, Game 1 was why we watch. And why we love it.
Canseco slide continues
At one time, Jose Canseco was the best bet to be the most accomplished baseball player ever. He went 40-40 in his third full season in the bigs, and through those three full seasons and at the age of 24, Canseco had 105 homers and 71 stolen bases and already had a rookie of the year award and an AL MVP. Carried over a career of any length and his numbers would have been unbelievable.
He finished with 462 homers and 200 steals in baseball career that was dotted by spectrum-ranging, eye-popping, must-rewind highlights — the 1,000-foot homer at SkyDome that still is going; the home run that bounced off his head and over the fence. Of course Canseco will always be remembered as the face and whistle-blower of the steroids generation in baseball.
After making more than $45 million in his baseball career, he declared bankruptcy last year, reporting he had less than $21 K in assets and more than $1.7 million in debt, including $500,000 in back taxes.
It's a duplicitous image for sure. He wrote a tell-all book for money about the PED culture in baseball, a move that betrayed trust among friends and in the locker room and revealed his blatant disregard for the rules or the laws. He also was one of the few in that time that has stepped forward and told the truth about his use and the use of others — which in almost every case has proved to be true.
Now, his plummet into the puzzling abyss took another head-scratching turn Wednesday when he announced on The Twitter that he is being accused of sexual assault, a charge he disputes and one about which he challenged the accuser to take a polygraph test.
It's impossible to know what to expect with Canseco or how to view him. Is he one of the few honest violators of the steroid debacle or was he the genesis of it? Is he a victim of the times or on the Rushmore of all-time talent wasters?
We do know this, just about every time his name pops up in the news, we feel the need to take a shower.
After being released in the offseason because of an escalating salary, Chicago Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher retired Wednesday. He left the game after 13 decorated years with the Bears, and leaves us with a couple of points/questions.
First, a situation like Urlacher's is one of the only bad parts of a pro sports salary cap. Because the league forces each team to stay under the same salary limit, the ability to pay a former All-Pro player his contract for a farewell tour is to all-but wreck an entire season. So it goes.
Second, is Urlacher a Hall of Famer? We say yes. He was a four-time First-Team All-Pro in his 13 years and an eight-time Pro Bowler and won the defensive rookie of the year in 2000 and the NFL defensive player of the in 2005. Was he the dominate linebacker of his generation? No, that was Ray Lewis. But to be on that many All-Pro teams playing in the same era as a transcendental talent like Lewis only helps his resume.
Third, Urlacher was arguably the best first-round pick in a supremely strange 2000 NFL draft. It was a crazy draft that actually featured four players — Tom Brady, Marc Bulger, Brian Waters and Adalius Thomas — that had first-round careers despite being picked in the sixth round or later. It also was the first year since 1966 that a team took a kicker in round one when Oakland took Sebastian Janikowski. (Side note: As badly as the Raiders over-spent for a kicker in round one is as much value as they got with punter Shane Lechler in round five.) Hey, we love the draft. You know this. So if you were to re-pick the top of 2000 first round, it would look something like this (Team — actual pick — player they should have picked):
1) Cleveland Browns — Courtney Brown — Tom Brady, who went 199th overall
2) Washington — LaVar Arrington — John Abraham, who went 13th overall
3) Washington — Chris Samuels — Marc Bulger, who went 168th
4) Cincinatti — Peter Warrick — Jamal Lewis, who went fifth
5) Baltimore — Jamal Lewis — Shaun Alexander, who went 19th
6) Philly — Corey Simon — Brian Urlacher, who went 9th
7) Arizona — Thomas Jones — Brian Waters, who went undrafted
8) Pittsburgh — Plaxico Burress — Julian Peterson, who went 16th
9) Chicago — Brian Urlacher — Keith Bulluck, who went 30th
10) Baltimore — Travis Taylor — Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila, who went 149th
Another interesting tidbit about that 2000 draft: There were seven Vols picked in the first two rounds. Seven. Feels like roughly seven Vols have been picked in the last four drafts, no?
This and that
— Congrats to Silverdale baseball for a hard-fought 2-1 win over Riverside to advance to the winner's bracket final in the Class A state baseball tournament at Spring Fling. Keep an eye on all of the Spring Fling coverage from the blanket firm of Hargis, Henley and Smiddie.
— Your Braves swept the Twins and have won six straight. As our ace columnist Mark Wiedmer shares here, the legend of Evan Gattis continues to grow. In fact, we like to view it not unlike the old SNL "Cowbell" skit, and just about any problem can be solved with the answer "We need more Gattis."
— One more Braves note: We like the cut of Paul Maholm's jib. Dude is 6-4 with a 3.38 ERA, meaning he goes deep into games and gives his team a chance to win almost every start. He threw 112 pitches Wednesday, and while the five-run cushion helped too, he was able to help rest a stressed and stretched bullpen. Other than a blip at Detroit and an unfortunate development at S.F, Maholm's ability to give the Braves a chance every start is the anti-Derek Lowe, who either threw 8 scoreless innings or allowed 8 runs in 2 and a 1/3.
In honor of the newest Chattanooga-area attraction — the much-anticipated water park known as Soakya at Lake Winnie — we want to hear your best worst water park titles.
That's right, what are the most quickly rejected water park names?
We love a good top-5 list. Not as much as the draft, but still so we'll start with this top-five of rejected water park names:
5) Urine Heaven
2) Wedgie World
1) The Runs
Discuss, and here's hoping the folks at Soakya do not sell Baby Ruth bars at the snack counter.
Jay was named the Sports Editor of the Times Free Press in 2003 and started with the newspaper in May 2002 as the Deputy Sports Editor. He was born and raised in Smyrna, Ga., and graduated from Auburn University before starting his newspaper career in 1997 with the Newnan (Ga.) Times Herald. Stops in Clayton and Henry counties in Georgia and two years as the Sports Editor of the Marietta (Ga.) Daily Journal preceded Jay’s ...
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