Thursday, February 12, 2009

Rivalry Week Hasn't Exactly Been What You'd Call Riveting

When ESPN calls it “Rivalry Week” I definitely feel that that means there will be a few larger-than-normal matchups and that I will be spending a lot more time than normal watching sports. So what happened this week?

Sure Duke hosted North Carolina on ESPN and USA hosted Mexico in soccer Wednesday night (two of the Best Rivalries In Sports that I named last February on – I will update that list here soon). But other than that, what big rivalries are there?

Louisville vs. Notre Dame and UCLA vs. ASU are supposed to excite me? Besides being league opponents and being pretty good, are either of these games actual rivalries? Is this the best they could do? Michigan State vs. Michigan was a decent one on Tuesday, but did anyone outside of Michigan care?

And even UNC-Duke and USA-Mexico were both a little lackluster.

Watching basketball at Cameron Indoor is often worthwhile and watching UNC play there is nearly always worthwhile. But this one never really grabbed your attention and refused to let go. It was a game of spectacular streaks (UNC’s red-hot start and then Duke’s I-wonder-if-they’re-cheating-somehow answer from behind the arc). But in the end, Carolina just out-ran Duke and slowly wore them down. No big shot, no real drama down the stretch. Great basketball, but nothing for the history books.

USA vs. Mexico was similar. The U.S. team was just better. They controlled the time of possession and wore down the Mexicans methodically. Mexico had a few decent chances to get a dumb-luck goal and steal a tie (exactly why soccer blows), but ultimately there was very little drama. There wasn’t even any of the normal US-Mexico unbridled hatred. Sure, the Mexican captain made one half-assed dirty play to kick our goalie and got red carded, but that was it. It was very hard to hate Mexico and normally that is really easy. They didn’t go for cheap shots and they didn’t take dives on every other play. In fact an American (Dempsey) was the most obnoxious player on the field. There weren’t even any really good soccer hairdos. Boring.

Is the Daytona 500 supposed to fire me up for the rest of the week? It isn’t even a sport and the only story I have even heard coming out of this is that Jimmie Johnson is going to drive without a brace on his injured finger. Really? Unless you have a broken leg, a broken arm, or a bladder problem, there really is no physical problem that a racecar driver should complain about.

The rivalry between Elgin Baylor and reality is a decent one. Right now, the two are set very far apart from one another. Seriously Elgin, we all appreciate what you did as a player (on and off the court). We all think that your firing was a little unceremonious. But ageism? Racism? You were underpaid during your tenure? How many winning season did the Clippers have in your 22 years? How many sub 30-win seasons? They had more sub-20 win seasons play playoff appearances. You should have been fired years before you were and thus were overpaid in that you even had the job!

Brett Favre vs. Retirement has been quite a rivalry over the past four years. It appears that while Brett was 2-0-1 going into this year, but retirement finally got a win. Last year he retired and unretired, so that counted as the tie.

Manny Ramirez vs. the Dodgers is a good rivalry playing out this week (though that will likely not go final by week’s end). For a while now it had begun to look like Manny had waited himself into a shorter, smaller contract but after Bobby Abreu and Adam Dunn have now both signed elsewhere and the Dodgers are left with just one slugger on the market, it looks like Manny may get closer to what he wanted all along. Was this Scott “Satan” Boras’ plan all along?

Speaking of Manny, Tommy Lasorda said yesterday that the Dodgers will be fine with or without him. I would like to follow this up with a snappy, funny comment, but it is pretty funny in and of itself, so I will leave it alone.

The L.A. Galaxy vs. Some Team In Europe. I don't really know what team David Beckham wants to play for because it is soccer and I can't believe I am bringing up two soccer stories in one post. Anyway, apparently he can't handle playing in the U.S. and wants to go back to play in Europe. What will American sports do without him?

Adam Morrison vs. Vladimir Radmanovic. A showdown for the ages. I think you have to say that Morrison wins this matchup because he was traded from basketball purgatory to the best team in the league on the virtue of being a terrible defender and an average shooter.

Perhaps the rivalry coming this week that will affect the most people for the longest period of time is Fantasy Baseball vs. Free Time. With pitchers and catchers reporting to Spring Training, many fantasy sites have opened for business and I for one have already opened my league. I opened up the league within hours of Yahoo!’s page going active and my league is #46065. I don’t know if that started at #0 or not, but either way, this amount of man-hours spent researching can’t be good for the economy.

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