LeBronchelorette.

WHAT was that.

Seriously, what WAS that?!?!

How many athletes could – would – commandeer over an HOUR of prime time ESPN programming just so people could watch him play pin-the-tail-on-the-team?  Or more appropriately, shove a knife in the back of your former team?

(Okay actually, Brett Favre could – and has – also done both.  Ew.)

LeBron:  the Decision.

If you had only heard the intro, knowing nothing about the situation, you might have thought you were watching

A.  LeBron deciding whether or not to run for President
B.  A dramatic reenactment of LeBron choosing to give a kidney to a dying relative
C.  LeBron admitting to steroid use though never having been accused, because his conscience couldn’t keep it from all those girls and boys in that club.

But you would be wrong about all of those.

No, what we just witnessed was this season’s most compelling episode of The Bachelorette yet.  This was ugly and heartless.  It was everything that good (Read: voyeuristic and terrible) reality TV should be.

Was it really between all 4 teams, LeBron?  All 4 teams were foaming at the mouth to be chosen, and you continued to give all 4 of them roses, week after excruciating week.  I do believe he was at least a little bit in love with all of them at some point, though for different reasons.  Chicago was the successful one who had its act together and knew what it wanted.  New York was the fun one, and he saw its potential but knew it was just too immature for him.

And then there’s Cleveland.  The lovable loser, the slightly socially awkward one who stuck around because it always managed to pull on his heartstrings at just the right moment, even though he knew he couldn’t see a future there.

And in the end, he did what they all do:  he picked the hot one.

There goes the neighborhood.

Chicago and New York will get over it – they know they’re hot stuff too (okay, New York is more of a hot mess, but close enough).  But Cleveland?  Cleveland will be wounded for decades.  Instead of sending it home graciously he gave it false hope.  Toying with the emotions of generations of downtrodden fans is the worst kind of cruel.

And like any good, bitter, spurned Bachelorette contestant, Cleveland shot back.  In case you missed this morning’s edition of LeBron:  After the Final Rose, allow me to provide a link to the Open Letter to Fans from Cavaliers Majority Owner Dan Gilbert.

Ouch.  (Athough no one in his right mind can take that font seriously, Dan.  Comic sans, really?)

“The good news is that the ownership team and the rest of the hard-working, loyal, and driven staff over here at your hometown Cavaliers have not betrayed you nor NEVER will betray you.”

…”If you thought we were motivated before tonight to bring the hardware to Cleveland, I can tell you that this shameful display of selfishness and betrayal by one of our very own has shifted our “motivation” to previously unknown and previously never experienced levels.”

Cleveland, maybe if you had made it abundantly clear to LeBron that you were in it for the right reasons, and that you would do whatever it takes to guard and protect his heart, he would have proposed to you.  Instead, like Nelson from the Simpsons, he pointed at you and said “Ha ha!” He shouted “If you liked it then you should have put a ring on it!” laughed at his pun, and hopped a plane for South Beach.

But everyone knows that by choosing “the hot one” he’s almost guaranteed a messy breakup in a couple years.  Sorry Miami, no one’s convinced you’re marriage material.

On the bright side Cleveland, we know that when the poor spurned lovable loser returns home…suddenly it’s a lot easier for him to get a date.

(Good luck, Cavs!  If I were a free agent, I would totally go out with you!  Er, sign with you.)

Get your head in the game!

Do you love hockey yet?  If you live in Chicago you have approximately 48 hours to get your act together – the Hawks are in the Stanley Cup Finals!

When the Sabres were in the finals a decade ago, you couldn’t set foot within a 20 mile radius of downtown Buffalo and not know.  Their logo was literally spray-painted on the pavement of every street.  (Yes, yes it was.)  I was beginning to feel a little disappointed in Chicagoans for seemingly not doing anything zany for the Blackhawks until on my walk home last night I saw it:  the Blues Brothers Blackhawks mobile.  A sedan painted black and white (like a cop car) with the Hawks logo on the side and a ginormous bullhorn roped to the roof blaring that “Do do-da-do” song. (What is that song anyway?)  There were two guys inside just cruisin around the block.  Twice.  My arms were too full of dry cleaning to take a picture, but thankfully you can find all sorts of junk on the internet.

If Dan Aykroyd can do it, so can you!

It was fabulous, and got me way more excited about Chicago hockey.  So go do whatever you need to do to get pumped!  Watch a plethora of hockey movies on Friday night, sing thedo-da-do song, go find that car, whatever!  But it’s time to get your game face on.

Let’s take a hockey survey:  What’s your favorite hockey movie?

(And if you say you’ve never seen one A. shame on you, B. you’d better re-open that Blockbuster account pronto, and C. Mighty Ducks D3 does NOT count because it’s utterly ridiculous and insulting to Joshua Jackson, the Olympics, and the entire world.)

The Buffalo Exacta.

One weekend.  Two teams.  The exacta.  Can they pull it off?

(This is the part where I whine about how my teams are about to break my heart.)

In the next 36 hours, Buffalo has a chance to drive stakes into the hearts of both its hockey fans AND its football fans (that’s TWO stakes in most peoples’ hearts, including mine, if you’re keeping score, which I am because it’s the only thing left in Buffalo worth keeping score over).

All of Buffalo’s playoff hopes could be decided this weekend.  Not only are the Sabres poised to hand over the first series to Boston and head home, but with the NFL Draft beginning tonight the Bills too might effectively show us that they still consider the  playoffs to reside in the far distant future.

The Sabres treat the playoffs like an illness.  Instead of a chance to prove their stuff, playoffs make the Sabres take an otherwise promising season and throw up all over it.  A team who was 31-0 in the regular season when leading after 2 periods has lost such leads TWICE in 4 games.  Yes, officiating was a factor in last night’s game and Buffalo took two VERY questionable penalties in the 3rd, but they had plenty of opportunities to win it later on and didn’t.  They lost.

As for the Draft…I have written about this before.  Buffalo’s inability to draft impact players (or even players that EVER become starters) is astounding, and whereas a playoff-less decade should indicate some solid rebuilding years, theirs looks more like a game of pickup sticks.  Someone please jab me in the eye with one if we draft Jimmy Clausen.

Nooooo!!!!!

As an eternal optimist, I will not throw in the towel today (although I am winding up).  The Bruins just won 3 games in a row, so can the Sabres.  The series is not over.  The draft is not over.  Maybe the Bills will do something shocking to set themselves up for future success.  But I am on pins and needles going into this weekend, and I might not come out in one piece.

All I can say is, thank goodness Buffalo doesn’t have a basketball team.

My 2010 scapegoat.

I know I know, I’m supposed to be 110% focused on next week’s NFL Draft, and I am.

90%.

Maybe 60-40.

I can’t help it…it’s the NHL playoffs!  And my Sabres are currently out to prove they’re as good as Kansas basketball when it comes to losing games they should win.  (Yep, low blow.)

Game 1 was a beauty.  A 2-1 victory, solid play in 2 out of 3 periods, basically enough happy moments to give us cause to joke around about how silly the Bruins’ last names are (Boychuk) or how ridiculous defenseman Zdeno Chara looks in his goalie mask (seriously – wild animals couldn’t break through that cage).

But now, down 2 games to 1 in the series, the Sabres look like they’re back to their old ways.  And who is the captain of their old ways?  Tim.  Connolly.

There’s always one.  There’s always a player on your favorite team that makes you cringe every time he steps on the ice/field/court.  I learned this at an early age from my dad as he railed against Bills cornerback Nate Odomes.  Odomes might have had great moments – I honestly have no recollection – but I only knew him as the player against whom you yell “ODOMES!  EVERY time!  WHY don’t they get RID of this guy?!”

A couple years later, I found my own Odomes in Sabres defenseman Richard Smehlik.  I won’t mince words:  the guy was a disaster.  His failings seemed to rub off on his defensive linemate as the duo of Zhitnik and Smehlik quickly became the pair I loved to hate.  (I just shuddered even remembering it.)

Although other Sabres have vied for this position, I haven’t yet found anyone on par with Smehlik who I despise with equal disdain, but Tim Connelly is now on my short list.  He is a series of hypes and hopes, polka-dotted with injuries and half-played seasons.  He looks to pass instead of shoot.  He consistently underperforms, except when he’s performing, at which point we re-elevate him to ‘potential missing link’ status, at which point he underperforms again.

As Larry Sullivan of the Buffalo News points out, Connelly’s most memorable playoff moment was a game winning goal in 2006 against Ottawa.  2009-10 is by far Connelly’s most productive (and healthy) season in 5 years, but he has yet to show up in the playoffs, and thus far it is his lack of hustle getting back for a 4 on 2 leading to a Boston goal that is most memorable.

Surviving on reputation and potential, coupled with a few blips of glory in an otherwise lackluster tenure in Buffalo…Dick Jauron, is that you?

Raef LaFrentz is my homeboy.

I don’t care what you say.  Read every article you want about bracketology.  Read every footnote about every player and how he’s fared against the box-and-1 and how high his 3pt. percentage is on Fridays when tipoff is 7:15pm or later.  Knock yourself out.  Some of it will help you; some of it won’t.  Just don’t pick the wrong team name for your brackets.

No, I don’t think you will win or lose based solely on your name, but your name sets the tone.  For instance, my fantasy team name “The Burke Conspiracy” is 2-0 (once in hockey, once in football).  First off, it’s got “Burke” in it, which indicates knowledge about or attachment to a specific player from a specific era.  “Conspiracy” sounds mysterious.  (Maybe even edgy?)  Preceding your team name with “The” adds an element of elitism.

Basically, your options for team names are either some well-crafted composite that demonstrates a level of knowledge, sport investment, passion, and arrogance in what you are about to embark on, or else something completely and utterly absurd.  Some general rules to follow when naming your team are:

  1. Don’t use a name that is tied to any of this year’s tournament teams or players.  If your team loses in the first round, you will regret this.  That rules out any team names having to do with Cole Aldrich or Old Dominion (not advised anyway).  I don’t care how much you want to use “Cuse is loose!” or “Pullen down da nets!”  Don’t.
  2. Don’t use an actual team mascot, like “Terrapins” or “Flying Dutchmen.”  It’s cheesy, and the above rule applies.  (You may, however, make up your own.  I kind of like the sound of “Santo Domingo Flamingos.”  It’s meaningless, but you can do a little dance when you say it.)  Bringing me to my next point –
  3. Even if the name is a meaningless jumble of garbage, if it’s catchy or kitschy, go for it.  If you can sing it or do a little dance to it, even better.  If you’re going to be ridiculous, be all the way ridiculous.
  4. Now hear me clearly on this:  do NOT make your team name YOUR OWN NAME.  The only acceptable versions of this are:
  • if my grandma were to name her team “Grandma’s team”, only because it’s cute, and because Grandma kicks our butts at least once every 5 years.
  • if you name your team someone else’s name, but only in an attempt to mock them.
  • if your name is prone to some witty pun, but only if it’s not the same witty pun you use on every team name.  We’re looking for creativity here people!

The man-child in action.

For instance, last year my brackets were named “Raef LaFrentz is my homeboy.”  This demonstrates some old-school attachment to Kansas basketball (old-school for a twentysomething, that is), and adds an element of ownership (the arrogance).  Of course, what really makes this work is that even though Raef is no longer a household name, Kansas was good in the Raef days, and so was Raef.  You cannot, for example, name your team “LeBron James is my homeboy” (too good, too famous) or “Derrick Davis is my homeboy” (not famous enough).

You should probably know I won our brackets last year as well.  I am totally shooting you straight on this naming thing.

Huge on the Luge!

Did you know?  There are only 3 luge tracks in North America:  Lake Placid, Park City, and Muskegon, Michigan, and Muskegon just happens to be a quick 3 hour jaunt from Chicago (what luck!).   So on Saturday 3 friends and I drove over for a 3-hour Beginner’s Luge Clinic.  Was is terrifying?  Yes, on the first run, but then my need to excel kicked in and overrode (most of) my fears.

I learned 4 things about myself in regards to the sport of luge on Saturday:

  1. I will not be going to Sochi in 2014 as an Olympic luger.
  2. I do not luge well in the clutch.
  3. I am a menace to lugeing.
  4. I am not entirely sure how to spell the conjugations of “to luge.”  (Lugeing? Luging? Luge-ing? Unclear.)

I had decent runs all afternoon until the last 2 runs of the day, which were timed for group competition.  On my penultimate run I hit a curve wrong and almost wiped out, managing to barely hold onto the sled with one leg enough to stay on…but by that time I was careening back and forth off the walls and lost so much speed I almost had to be towed across the finish line.  The guys standing by the finish asked if I needed a push.  There goes my medal.

And, in my proudest moment of the day, I accidentally dropped my helmet and gloves onto the luge track just as my friend was about to push off for his last run, prompting “HOLD UP!!!” calls via walkie talkie from the luge coaches, one of whom had to slide down to the crime scene to retrieve my mismanaged items.  My friend proceeded to not luge fast enough to medal (ribbon) either, for which I sheepishly take the blame thanks to my accidental “icing the kicker” actions.  (Possibly I should pursue a career as an NFL head coach.)

And now, for “Things you never knew you wanted to know about the LUGE”!!!

  • People CHEAT at luge!  The sled runners have to be within 5 degrees either direction of the ice temperature and are constantly monitored at competitions.  Our female luge coach, Madison, told us that once, in some competition somewhere, the Russians used hollowed-out runners and filled them with chemicals that mixed when they put the sled flat on the ice and reacted to create heat that would make them luge faster.

Personally, I would like to know who sits around spending his time developing ways to cheat at luge.

  • There is a minimum weight for female lugers:  160 lbs.  Anyone under that weight must wear a lead vest, another deterrant for me and luge-ing.

On the plus side, if I did become a luger I would also apparently be protected from any trigger-happy rabid luge fans trying to knock me out of the competition. Of course I jest, but I probably wouldn’t put it past whoever figured out how to cheat at luge.

  • Luge sleds look frighteningly scant.  As in, “I’m about to go down a sheet of ice at breakneck speeds on 2 pieces of metal with canvas stretched over them.”  Then you pick up the sled, and it’s wicked heavy – like 50 lbs. – and you think “what the heck IS this thing?”

All in all, we most likely didn’t exceed 30mph on the track…and I think I’m cool with that.  Actually, I know I am.

Receiving our "Certificates of Insanity." I kid you not.