Friday, May 7, 2010
Why not? I have plenty to serve up, here behind the bar, and in the world of sports.
HAWKY TALK: Now thats more like it. After a maddeningly inconsistent second half of the season and beginning of the playoffs, the Hawks finally showed us what we were hoping for. During the season, they played what would be considered more of a finesse game. Their talent advantage over most of the league allowed them to accumulate 112 points and the 2 seed in the West. As we know, the playoffs are going to require a little more. Thats why I was surprised in the last series against Nashville that the players actually openly talked about a lack of effort after one dismal loss. What? The Cup is on the line and you cant get up for it? Anyway, the 3 wins to end the series had obviously snapped them out of their funk, right? Then there was Game 1, against the Canucks, here we go again! The response has been two straight wins, but I still feel some uneasiness at the bar. The win in Game 3 though, is what it is all about in the Stanley Cup playoffs. On the road, in a very hostile environment, they brought their A-game. Neimi was huge early with some big stops. Then they drove the net and got into Luongos face, led buy Big Buff and his three goals. They played physical, but disciplined. As much as their turn the other cheek style of play would frustrate me during the regular season, its paying dividends now, as they are playing tough enough to frustrate the Canucks, but not taking stupid penalties in the process. (That is if you discount ANOTHER too many men on the ice infraction!) Were a long way from being done, but if they continue to put up the EFFORT that they showed on Wednesday night, I really like their chances to get where we all expect them to end up.
CUBBIE BLUE: What to make of the Cubs? Are they who we thought they were? 29 games does not a season make, but with close to 20 of it gone, you would think we would have an idea of what this team is about. Every year has hot starters who fade, and slow-pokes who catch fire. Does this Cub team strike you as one that is going to contend? The holes in the bullpen are still there. Does anyone believe a rotation featuring Gorzelanny and Silva is destined for greatness? And their ability to strand runners, almost 8 a game, is second most on the league and a cause for heartburn on a daily basis.
For me, 2 obvious things have to change. One, theres no way Lee and Ramirez can continue to hit this bad can they? Ramirez especially looks like hes in a fog, does he strike out every other at bat, or is that just me? Two, does this team seem like it has any energy? Excuse me, positive energy? It looked like they were about to turn it around when they ended their last home-stand with 3 straight wins over the D-Backs. Off to Pittsburgh and more wins in front of crowds of dozens, right? Oops! How do you get swept by the Pirates? Honestly! Closing out the series with a 11-1 loss to somebody named Brian Burres? My Roto league is NL only and I have never heard of the guy!! I wont even talk about losing to Charlie Morton and his 10.30 ERA. Of course that was after the 12.57 he brought into the game, and lasted until the seventh inning!! Theres 21 more weeks to go and if the sense of urgency on the field isnt cranked up soon, the summer could be over before it even starts.
BULL SEARCH: Honestly! This search has been going on for over TWO years and we have to listen to names like Phil Jackson and John Calipari being bandied about? Jackson will NEVER coach this team. Why are people wasting their time with even thinking it could happen? Calipari? Hes a college coach. He would be great if the Bulls want to manipulate the recruiting process and want to have seasons vacated after he leaves for another job. He had a shot at the NBA 15 years ago. He lasted 2 and part of a third season before he ran back to the college ranks. Is what the Bulls need is another guy who needs to learn on the job? (The league hasnt changed much in 12 years, has it?) Then again, if he brings LeBron with him, through his friendship with James and D-Roses agent Leon Rose, why not? I could probably coach those two together. Still, I believe what they need is someone with NBA head-coaching experience. Many, many names on that carousel, I know, and it pains me to type it. But a firm knowledge of coaching at the NBA level is whats needed now. Ill throw out the names: Van Gundy, Johnson, McHale and Cheeks as those that I would like to see get a shot.
HART AND SOUL: A great moment for yours truly when I found out that HBO was doing a documentary on the favorite team of my youth, The Broad Street Bullies. I was kind of surprised, being that their run ended over 34 years ago, still they were a team that changed hockey forever. For good or bad is up to debate. Getting to watch it on Tuesday was great. It brought back a flood of memories and rekindled many of the feelings I had for that team. In fact, I was soon in a E-Bay and Amazon frenzy later that night buying any item related to them. (Cant wait to see that bill! But you cant put a price on joyous memories!) I loved that they showed the team for what they were, or at least what the perception was. They reveled in their reputation, that was the point. But to have the success that they did, consecutive Stanley Cups, you have to have more than goons. Phil Esposito said as much, but I felt that part was glossed over. They were a very physical team that realized that physicality gave them an edge over any team that they played. In the end though, you still have to put the puck in to the net more than the other team, either by scoring a lot, which they did, or having Bernie Parent stand on his head for two years, which he did!
As much as it brought back a bunch of feelings, it also left me confused that HBO, who does an excellent job with just about every other documentary Ive ever watched, (The Bird-Magic one was awesome!) would miss a big reason for why that team was as loved in Philly as it was, and that was Hockey Hall of Famer, announcer Gene Hart. Hart was the voice of the team from their inception, staying 29 years until the end of the 1994-1995 season. For a city new to the sport, he was our fountain of information. As is any home-team announcer, he was our connection to the team. He lived and died with us. All while maintaining a level of excellence and professionalism that few I have listened to have ever matched. He loved two things: Hockey, and anyone who loved hockey. I can not fathom anyone telling the story of those Cup winning teams without also telling his. He was as much as part of what the Flyers did, and mean, as owner Ed Snider, coach Fred Shero and the stars and team leaders, Bobby Clarke and Bernie Parent.
What that team had was a passion to win and it did whatever it took to do so. The city of Philadelphia had a passion for that team that bordered on psychotic.
And the man that brought that team into our homes, on TV and radio, was a man that shared that passion with us. To us, he was hockey. Im stunned that HBO did not pick up on that connection.
Oh, and the items I purchased the other night? Of course the first thing was SCORE! My Twenty-five Years with the Broad Street Bullies, by Gene Hart. Even though hes no longer with us I cant wait to hear his voice again.
In honor of Gene, Ill leave you with his signoff, the last words he spoke on all of his broadcasts, you might like it: Good night and good hockey!