Saturday, May 5, 2007

Best, Busiest Day in Sports?

1:30 am Update: Home from watching the Mayweather- De La Hoya fight (anlaysis below), what follows is a preview, then review (as they happened), of all of the big events in sports today, from the Detroit Red Wings playoff game, to the Kentucky Derby, Detroit Pistons playoff game, Detroit Tigers game (and more on that in my post on Joel Zumaya's injury). Enjoy.

10:00 am: After finishing finals and moving out of the Law Quad in Ann Arbor for the summer, I needed a day to relax, and just watch sports all day. And thankfully, I didn't have to wait long. Today may be the busiest, and most exciting sports day in a long, long time. Last weekend, for Detroit sports fans like myself, was pretty intense. The NFL Draft. Detroit Red Wings and Detroit Pistons playoff games. The Detroit Tigers were playing. But, today, locally and nationally, despite the lack of the draft, is even bigger, and I'm planning on watching it all. So what's the schedule look like?

2:00: Detroit Red Wings v. San Jose Sharks, Game Five: It all seemed over for the Detroit Red Wings, losing Game Four with just over half a minute to play, about to go down 3 games to 1 against a very good San Jose team. But as I wrote when I reviewed Thursday'sDetroit Red Wing Game Four victory, the Red Wings refused to lose, scored the game tying goal then won the game in overtime. Now, the series is tied at 2-2 and the pivotal game five is at Joe Louis Arena. The Wings do not want to have to go back to San Jose giving the Sharks the chance to eliminate them on the Sharks home ice. All the momentum, though, is with the Red Wings. The Sharks knew they had their chance to close out the Wings, and they failed to do so, allowing the Wings second life, and giving them a chance that usually the Wings don't fail to capitalize on. Look for another gritty, tough, hard fought game, and a Wings victory.

4:30 Update: Well, so far, so good. The Detroit Red Wings won a physical, exciting Game Six, 4-1, and now we head to San Jose with a chance to close at the Sharks at home and move on to what should be a very tough series with the Anaheim (no longer Mighty) Ducks. Let's not get too ahead of ourselves though. The Sharks aren't going to go away quietly, and even though the Wings have all the momentum right now, anything can happen in the Shark Tank (as we saw on Thursday).

Great game by the Datsuyk-Zetterberg-Holmstrom line, as always, as each had a goal. Holmstrom is so important to the Wings success, as we saw when they struggled quite a bit when he missed the first four games of the series. And Datsuyk and Zetterberg continue to mature, and continue to show they will show up in the playoffs if we just give them time. Datsuyk continues to play great hockey, and Zetterberg is matching him.

The only real concern is the arm injury to Mathieu Schneider. He suffered an arm injury in the first period and did not return. If he misses time, with the injuries on the defense to Brett Lebda (who may return for Game Six) and Niklas Kronwall, losing Schneider would be huge. Not to mention how important he is to the Wings special teams. The playoffs in hockey, though, unlike any other sport, is a war of attrition, so injuries are expected and anticipated. In any case, Game Six should be just as exciting and nail biting as the first five games of the series, which, with the Pistons Game II, Heroes, and 24 all Monday night, should make for a very busy night for my DVR.

5:00 Kentucky Derby: I am not a horse racing guy. But, I've gotta admit, the Kentucky Derby is always pretty entertaining. And I usually try to find a TV and watch it if I can. Maybe it's the thought of seeing a Triple Crown champion, because that would just be rare and cool and exciting. The chance of an unknown horse (like Funny Cide a few years ago) stunning the world. And so long as the Red Wings game doesn't go into overtime, we should be fine time wise.

6:30 Update: And the winner of the Kentucky Derby is Street Sense. Whom? Well, I'm no horse expert, but it was another exciting race with an interesting strategy by Street Sense. He laid back for most of the race, in 19th position out of 20, but with a half mile to go, he surged, passed the 18 horses in front of him, and won the Derby by two lengths. They call it the "most exciting two minutes" in sports, but it was actually "the most exciting two minutes and two seconds" in sports this year. Okay, time to ignore horse racing until the Preakness. Or is the Belmont next? I'm showing my horse racing ignorance here. Okay, time to grab dinner before the Tigers and Pistons games start in a half hour.

7:00: Detroit Pistons v. Chicago Bulls, Game One & Detroit Tigers vs. Kansas City Royals: Okay, so the Tigers/Royals tilt is probably low on the list of priorities today (despite my love of the Tigers) because the biggest Pistons playoff series in a while starts tonight. Even though we were in the Eastern Conference Finals last year against Miami, this series, in the Semi-Finals seems like the biggest and most anticipated series since the NBA Finals battle a few years back with San Antonio. The Bulls, led by Michigan State's Scott Skiles and former Piston Ben Wallace are the 'New Kids on the Block' and they are hungry to prove themselves against the veteran, established Pistons. And it is not going to be an easy series for the Pistons as I wrote in my Detroit Pistons vs. Chicago Bulls series preview. The Pistons are going to have to bring their "A" game against Chicago, and while I think they will be able to turn it on, and play a level and an intensity rarely seen this season, the Bulls will likely be able to match them game for game. It's why I think the series is going seven. The Pistons though, with their experience, should come out on top. And with Rasheed Wallace and Chris Webber, both able to shoot from the perimeter, it should keep Ben Wallace away from the basket, and limit his rebounding ability somewhat. The Palace should be rocking tonight and expect Wallce to get booed everytime he touches the ball. Should be a fun game.

9:30 Update: Wow. Well, that was not at all what I expected from Game One of the Detroit Pistons Chicago Bulls series. In a series I expect to go seven games, where the Bulls should be giving the Pistons all they can handle, Chicago forgot to show up tonight. Maybe they were distracted by all of the other sports goings-ons today. The Pistons sure looked like one of (if not) the best teams in the NBA tonight, dominating the younger, greener, in-over-their-heads Chicago Bulls. Not only did the starting five play some great basketball, but the Pistons got great play from their bench, especially from Jason Maxiell and Lindsey Hunter. Antonio McDyess' 10 rebounds despite his foul trouble also was a big help. As Charles Barkely said during TNT's halftime show, the Pistons are just so deep right now. Where their bench was a huge liability last season, not so this year. And the maturation of Jason Maxiell continues to impress. He is going to be a star once he starts to get regular playing time.

One of the most telling moments of the game was, up 20 in the fourth quarter, Rip Hamilton was still drawing charges. The Pistons just seemed to want it more then the Bulls tonight, and if this is the effort we are going to see from Chicago in this series, then it surely is not going be a seven game series as I predicted. I don't expect the Bulls to struggle and lose by 25 or 30 every game like they did tonight, but I may have not taken their youth and inexperience into account as much as I should have when analyzing this series. We'll see. I still think there's some life in the Bulls yet.

AP Photo

Okay, time to see if the Tigers can come back against the Royals after the bullpen couldn't find the strikezone in the sixth inning, leading the Royals 5-4 lead as Wil Ledezma tries to get out of the 7th inning without any more damage done.

10:05 Update: Do not sleep on the Detroit Tigers. It looked ugly early, with Mike Maroth not having his best stuff, and the Kansas City Royals taking the lead early, and regaining it late, but the Detroit Tigers continued to battle back, and had a big three run 8th inning to come from behind and take the lead. Magglio Ordonez continued his hot hitting with a home run and a key RBI double in the 8th, and Craig Monroe's two run single gave the Tigers the lead again. The game continued to show the Tigers character. They may fall behind early, their starting pitcher may not have the best stuff, their relievers may walk in a few runs, but their offense will come through, and when the bullpen is really needed it comes through too.

Now, it's heading into the bottom of the 8th inning and the Tigers could still blow this game, but as I leave to go watch the Mayweather-De La Hoya fight, I choose to have confidence that the Tigers will hold on to win.

11:00 Floyd Mayweather vs. Oscar De La Hoya: I have never ordered a professional boxing event on Pay Per View. And so long as I don't end up at a bar or restaurant tonight to watch the fight there, that streak will end tonight. I have not looked forward to a boxing match this much since Rocky Balboa was coming out in theaters, and it should be a great, great fight, the shot in the arm the sport of boxing desperately needs. The heavyweights are so boring, both in personality, and in the ring, but when you get boxers like Mayweather and De La Hoya together, its a rumble. Fights like these make me upset I was so young (or, in fact, not even born yet) when you had the great battles with Tommy Hearns and Marvin Hagler and Sugar Ray Leonard and Roberto Duran. I've seen highlights of those fights, and that's just boxing in its purest form. Sort of what I expect tonight. Boxing, when done right, and with the right fighters, can capture America's interest, like it did with Hearns and Hagler and Sugar Ray and Roberto Duran. A lot has ruined boxing over the last decade, but it can still be redeemeed, and tonight may be the first step in that direction.

1:30 am Update: Back from watching the fight that will save boxing, and it was, well, solid yet unspectacular. It was fun watching it at a bar, with a few hundred patrons yelling and screaming at every punch, a lively atmosphere to be sure. Sadly, there wasn't much to be lively about. The fight, while not a two round sham which would have ruined boxing, was not a Hearns-Hagler or Leonard-Duran classic which would save and resurrect the sport either.

Floyd Mayweather won in a split decision, which was probably the right decision. Oscar De La Hoya threw a lot of punches, but he didn't land very many, and Mayweather seemed to bounce around the wing, just a step faster then the older De La Hoya. Neither fighter dominated, and neither had a knockdown or anything even close. De La Hoya seemed to control the tempo of the fight, but he went to the body too often, seemingly to wear down Mayweather, but Mayweather never got worn down, and he just kept punching away. By the end, neither fighter looked like they had a scratch on them, and while the fight went the whole 12 rounds, it was a rather pedestrian affair. The last 10 seconds of the 12th round was a flury, but other than that, tame stuff, neither fighter really getting a chance to really get anything going.

Oh well, guess I'll have to find some of the Leonard and Hearns fights on DVD to see truly classic boxing.

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