Greetings all. It’s been awhile since I’ve gotten the chance to sit down and write an article for this website, something I always look forward to doing and take pleasure in doing so. Between working 35 hours a week, rushing fraternities for college, and trying to get a few college credits knocked out in the process, I’ve had little time to sit down and do what I enjoy almost more than anything else: writing about sports. And boy, has a lot changed in the sports world in the last couple months. So here it goes folks.
During my 2-month hiatus, 2 sports have crowned champions. The Los Angeles Kings won their first Stanley Cup in franchise history in late May, defeating the New Jersey Devils in 6 games. The Kings playoff run was possibly the most improbable, yet one of the most impressive runs in NHL playoff history. They became the first 8th seeded team in NHL history to win a Stanley Cup.
The Kings lost just 1 game away from Staples Center all postseason, thanks in large part to the play of goalie Jonathan Quick. Quick seemed to stop everything – and yes, I mean everything – that came his way in the playoffs. Captain Dustin Brown provided the scoring, as he scored almost 50 percent of the team’s playoff tallies. The Kings proved once and for all that no matter how efficient and talented you are on offense, goalie play wins games in the postseason. Just ask the Canucks and Blackhawks, the 2 highest scoring teams in the NHL this past season. Both failed to make it out of the first round.
The NBA also crowned a champion in the last 30 days. Not to take anything away from the Stanley Cup Finals, because nothing beats playoff hockey, but the 2012 NBA Finals were probably the most anticipated and intriguing finals since the Lakers/Celtics matchup in 2008. It was Durant against LeBron, prodigal son vs. villain. Thunder vs. Heat, a final many predicted would transpire before the season even started. And after 5 thrilling, well-contested games between the Thunder and Heat, LeBron James and the Miami Heat were crowned champions. The ring less king was no more. All criticism of James, many of it being unjustified, hushed to a slow murmur rather than shouting, obnoxious television pundits over-analyzing James at every turn (see Bayless, Skip.)
The importance of the Heat’s championship should not be overlooked. LeBron finally got off the snide, Dwayne Wade wrote his ticket to the hall of fame, and Chris Bosh’s importance was finally realized by all. Not to mention the all-important 38 year old Eddie Curry getting his first championship. More importantly, Miami hoisting the trophy has ignited NBA free agency this summer.
Teams are now attempting to construct their own “big 3” in order to compete with the Heat, among others. The newly located Brooklyn Nets resigned Deron Williams and added Joe Johnson and Gerald Wallace, giving them a big 3 of their own. The Lakers made perhaps the biggest splash of all trading for Steve Nash to pair him up with Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, and Andrew Bynum. Los Angeles is now likely Oklahoma City’s biggest competitor out west.
The mystery still remains as to where Dwight Howard will end up. Brooklyn is maxed out on the cap, so they are no longer a possible destination. The only 2 teams in play for Howard at this point are the Lakers and the Magic. If the Lakers were to acquire Howard, they would have to give up 22-year-old Andrew Bynum in the process. That’s a risk I’d be willing to take if I were Los Angles, considering Kobe himself recently admitted his years in the league are numbered. Regardless of where Howard lands, parody in the NBA is slowly improving. Although the league is still driven by big markets, Oklahoma City has proven winning in a small market can be done.
The All Star Break is here in major league baseball, and what a first half it was. The first half of 2012 has been about complete games, young superstars, 38 year old knuckleballers, and the overachievement of several teams. 19 year old Bryce Harper, who became the youngest position player to ever play in an All Star Game Tuesday night, has the upstart Washington Nationals on top of the National League East. Harper has a rare combination of raw power, blazing speed, and extremely advanced baseball instincts for a 19 year old. However, Harper isn’t the only young stud that has made a mark on the first half of the season. 20-year-old Angels outfielder Mike Trout has also impressed the baseball community with his immense talent. A few have even made the case for Trout being the AL’s MVP.
With Trout in the lineup, the Angels have gone 38-22, overcoming newly acquired star Albert Pujols’ struggles and battling their way to a 48-38 record at the break, good for 2nd in the American League West. The Yankees and Rangers are tied for the best record in baseball at the break, and the surprising White Sox are atop the American League Central. White Sox DH Adam Dunn is the leader in the clubhouse for the Comeback Player of the Year award, slugging 25 HR’s and 61 RBI’s in the first half.
In the National League, Pittsburgh Pirates’ centerfielder Andrew McCutchen has the Buccos atop the National League Central at the break for the 2nd time in the last 29 years. If the season were to end today, McCutchen would get my vote for NL NVP. McCutchen finished the first half with a .360 average, best in all of baseball, adding 19 HR’s and knocking in 61 RBI’s. It was one hell of a first half for him and the Pirates, a team I’d like to see stay in contention deep into September.
The 1969 Mets were dubbed the “Amazin Mets” after winning their first World Series Championship in franchise history. The ’69 Mets were young, inexperienced, and were expected to be the worst team in baseball in 1969 (or so I’m told.) What does this have to do with 2012? Well, the Mets are amazin again in 2012, as they have a 46-40 record and sit atop the National League Wild Card standings. Many were picking the Mets to lose 100 games this season. Now they’re on pace for 90 wins, and if the season ended today, they’d be playing the Los Angeles Dodgers in the playoffs.
New York’s success can be attributed to 38 year old knuckle baller R.A. Dickey leading the National League with a 2.37 ERA and 137 strikeouts, and David Wright returning to his pre-knee surgery form, batting over .350 and knocking in 60 runs in the first half. This team might not be the most talented, but their character and heart are second to none.
I haven’t even mentioned Matt Cain and Philip Humbers perfect games, Josh Hamilton’s 4-homerun game, Robinson Cano being mercilessly booed at the HR derby, and Johan Santana’s no-hitter, the first in Mets history. It’s been an exciting first half on the diamond. Why not expect more of the same in the second half?
Outside of hockey, basketball, and baseball, 26-year-old Webb Simpson won his first major championship, hoisting the U.S. Open crown at famed Olympic Club. The win was not surprising in the least to golf fans, but more surprising was Tiger Woods’ collapse on Saturday and Sunday. Woods entered the 3rd round with a 2 shot lead over the field, a lead nobody thought he would yield at a major. Woods went on to shoot 8 over on Saturday and Sunday, finishing an underwhelming tie for 29th.
Rodger Federor won his 7th Wimbeldon Championship this past weekend, a win that bolted him into conversation for the best men’s tennis player in history.
Looking ahead, the 2012 Summer Olympic games are set to begin in London within the month. Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte should represent the U.S. well in the pool, Tyson Gay looks to become the most decorated runner in U.S. history at the summer games, and the “new dream team” will attempt to bring home the gold behind LeBron James and Kevin Durant. The summer Olympics are always enjoyable to watch, and I recommend you tuning in the mellifluous voice of one Bob Costas and enjoying the games. Not to mention training camp beginning for most teams in the next 4 weeks. Those crisp fall Sunday afternoons are right around the corner.
Most people think summer is the death for sports. Unless you’re a baseball fan, it can be a tad boring. But the Olympics should give those non-seam heads something to watch this summer. And if you’re not into the Olympic games, as I sit typing this, there are only 64 days until the Super Bowl champion New York Giants face off against the Dallas Cowboys in the NFL season opener.