While there is much to like about the summer (long days, better weather and the prospect of exotic vacations) there is one obvious drawback to this time of year – there’s never anything worth watching on TV.
Because the networks conspire to force folks outside to be productive or some such nonsense (those bastards), we’re stuck with reruns and reality crap that I wouldn’t force my enemies to suffer through.
The reason I bring this up in a sports column is because this is where things currently stand for the NHL playoffs. After a wonderfully exciting season and an even better Stanley Cup playoffs, we’re now left with the one finals matchup no one wants – the Detroit Red Wings versus the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Nothing against these two obviously talented teams, but this wasn’t exactly the greatest series in the history of hockey when these same two teams faced off a year ago. Let’s be honest here – no one outside of those two cities is jazzed at the prospect of a repeat, and yet, that’s where we are. The only story line even remotely different from last year to now is Red Wings forward Marian Hossa, who left Pittsburgh during this past offseason to get paid in Detroit.
But really, is that enough to get casual sports fans to tune in? Uh … no. And really, it’s probably not enough to even get hockey fans (outside of Detroit and Pittsburgh) to watch more than the highlights, which is too bad. Like I said, this season has been a renaissance campaign for the NHL. It’s too bad this is how things played out.
Conversely, the NBA is firing on all cylinders these days. After a so-so season in which everyone assumed it was a forgone conclusion that the L.A. Lakers and Cleveland Cavaliers were a lock for the finals, things haven’t gone exactly according to plan.
When they’re not battling the WWE, the Denver Nuggets are actually fairing better than to be expected against Kobe Bryant and friends. Ever since Chauncey Billups came to town, the Nuggets have turned into a bona fide team. No longer are Carmelo Anthony and Allen Iverson seeing who can jack up 30 shots a game first. Instead, everyone now has a defined role and (for the most part), they’re able to remember that working together is much easier than five individuals all looking out for themselves.
And when Kenyon Martin isn’t e-feuding with Dallas Mavs owner Mark Cuban, he’s actually making things happen on the court. While the WWE was embarrassing itself trying to make fun of the Nuggets owner (a guy who most folks had never even heard of before all of this), Martin was making things happen on Monday night, posting 13 points, 15 rebounds, two blocks, two assists and zero turnovers in Denver’s 120-101 route of L.A.
Even if the Nuggets fail to close out the Lakers (they’re now down 3-2 in the series after the Lakers’ 103-94 win last night), they’ve already given us some of the most enjoyable basketball games of the year. And I’m not even sure if it’s possible, but the Eastern Conference finals have been even better than Denver-L.A.
It seems that every single game that the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Orlando Magic play has at least half a dozen can’t miss moments. The series already made history when the first two games were decided by just one point, but that’s only part of the story. Seemingly every game ends in dramatic fashion, whether it be a LeBron James buzzer beater or Dwight Howard simply taking over in overtime. I don’t want to take anything away from Kobe or ‘Melo, but King James and Superman are providing must-see TV every time they step on the court.
Without a dog in the fight, I just hope this series goes seven games. Not since Michael Jordan and the Bulls were throttling the rest of the league have I enjoyed watching a basketball series I have no emotional investment in this much. Just when you think won team has got a game all wrapped up, the losing team battles back and somehow steals a victory in the final seconds.
In the end, it doesn’t matter which of the final four teams advances. Denver, Los Angeles, Cleveland and Orlando have already provided us with more than enough excitement to help us pass the time until the fall when football and TV shows worth actually worth watching return to our lives. Anything from this point on is gravy.
Brian Murphy is an award-winning sportswriter who also goes by the name Homer McFanboy. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.