Playoff Season

It’s nearing mid-June and the temperature is well up into the mid-90s, which means it’s about time to wrap up the seasons for our “winter” sports.

This year, I think I’ve heard more talk about the NBA playoffs than ever before. I faithfully listen to “Mike and Mike” on my way to work, and have several friends, including my dad, who are enthralled by the playoffs. So I’ve more or less been following what’s been going on. But I’ll bet I haven’t watched more than 60 seconds of NBA action this season.

I love watching college basketball, and I think the NCAA Tournament is one of the greatest sporting events out there. But compared to that, the NBA seems like the old-timers’ league.  And the game—or at least the coverage—is way too individual-focused, rather than the consummate team game of college hoops. I simply can’t bring myself to watch the NBA.

It doesn’t help matters that this year’s NBA final features the arrogant, universally hated Miami Heat, who assumed going into the season that they could cakewalk to the championship, against the Dallas Mavericks who are, after all, from Texas. I always root against the Texas teams, in any sport.

So for me, this matchup is kind of like the Reds meeting the Yankees; a pox upon both their clubhouses.

On the other hand, I’ve been watching an awful lot of playoff hockey this season, and loving it.

I’ve never been much of a hockey fan—after all, I live in St. Louis, where the season generally ends months before June. But 2011 has brought my future nephew-in-law to town; he’s a former Division I and minor-league defenseman and a rabid Bruins fan. And he doesn’t have cable, so he’s been coming to our house to watch a lot of the games in high-def. Hockey, it turns out, is gorgeous in high definition. Fortunately, the Bruins have managed to keep winning, so their playoffs have been extended, and as I write this they’re preparing to play Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Finals.

It’s been a great run for the Bruins, and, judging by the last two games, they’re peaking at just the right time. I’m really looking forward to seeing how they do in tonight’s game, when the series is back in Vancouver.

Playoff atmosphere? Check out this piece on what these playoffs mean to Bruins fans.

A few hours before Game 3 on Monday, my father was sitting in a Beacon Hill Starbucks when five couples walked in, all wearing Canucks jerseys, and ordered some drinks. A Boston local stood up, walked over to one of the guys and calmly stuck his fingers in the man’s face. With the implication being, “Why don’t you bite my fingers, isn’t that what you guys do?” Only he didn’t actually say anything. He just stood there waving his fingers in the guy’s face. And by the way, he was outnumbered five-to-one.

Nothing ended up happening — the Canucks fan laughed it off — but that gives you an idea of the bitterness spawned by Games 1 and 2, thanks to Vancouver’s two soul-crushing game-winners (18 seconds left in regulation, then 11 seconds into OT), and also because Alexandre Burrows bit Patrice Bergeron’s finger in Game 1, didn’t get suspended, then became Game 2’s hero. At gunpoint, I don’t know what makes Boston fans hate Burrows more: that he bit Bergeron, that he didn’t get suspended, or that his name is “Alexandre.”

So anyway, even though it’s swimming-pool season, I’m watching hockey. And looking forward to next fall, when, maybe, just maybe, the Blues will find some winning ways and make it to the 2012 playoffs…


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