Thursday, June 5, 2008

Plethora of Sporting Events Over the Next Fortnight

As my friend Sam Cashio exclaimed at prayer breakfast yesterday morning, “What a great time to be a sports fan!” And in fact he is right. It’s one of those special times when the sports calendar coalesces into a major climax of events; so many that you can hardly take them in.
It started last night, when the Detroit Red Wings finally conquered the Pittsburg Penguins to win the Stanley cup. The Penguins had beaten Detroit earlier in the week in a triple overtime affair that extended their series but only postponed the inevitable. After the game, Captain Nicklas Lidstrom had the privilege of being the first Detroit Red Wing to hoist the Stanley Cup. It also allowed him to lug the 35-pound trophy wherever he wanted. "It's heavy, but I don't mind it at all," Lidstrom said as he walked away from a news conference gripping the NHL's towering symbol of excellence. "It's a great problem to have." Indeed. Henrik Zetterberg also earned the right to tote a trophy, scoring the Cup-winning goal and adding an assist to lift Detroit to a 3-2 win Wednesday night over the Pittsburgh Penguins and seal the Conn Smythe Trophy.
Following a 21-year separation, pro basketball's pillars of power will revive their bitter rivalry starting tonight at TD Banknorth Garden (that’s just the GAHDEN for Boston fans) for Game 1 of a best-of-seven series drenched in nostalgia and stuffed with enough history to fill every playground hoop from Springfield to Southern California.
The famed franchises, who have combined to win 30 of 61 championships, are squaring off in the finals for the 11th time and first since 1987. These finals figure to deliver a needed jolt of excitement to the league, which began the 2007-08 season entangled in a gambling probe involving one of its referees and whose signature event has strained to recapture the sporting spotlight since the '80s, when Celtics vs. Lakers, Bird vs. Magic was a rite of spring.
Saturday afternoon, Big Brown attempts to be the first horse in 30 years to win thoroughbred racing’s Triple Crown as the “Sport of Kings” reconvenes at the Belmont Racetrack in Elmont, New York for the running of the Belmont Stakes. The Belmont is the third race of the Triple Crown, after the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes. Having won the Derby and Preakness, Big Brown heads into this year’s Belmont with a chance to become the first Triple Crown winner in 30 years. In that time, ten horses have won the first two legs but fallen short in the “Test of a Champion.”
And if that’s not enough, just about the time that the Belmont stakes race caller announces, “They’re off!” the No. 7 national seed LSU Tigers will open play on against UC Irvine at Alex Box Stadium on ESPNU in the Baton Rouge Super Regional. Two more wins and the Tigers will advance to their first College World Series since 2004. The best-of-three series will continue on Sunday at 3 p.m. (ESPN), with the "if necessary" game scheduled for 6 p.m. on Monday (ESPN2).
While the NBA championships continue to play out, Next weekend in LaJolla, California, Torry Pines golf course hosts the US Open. At the same time, the aforementioned College World Series will reconvene in Omaha, Kansas.
So for those of you who are still bummed out over the conclusion of the Hattiesburg Dixie Youth T-ball season, don’t despair. There will plenty of sports to watch.

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