Thursday, June 11, 2015
The NBA Finals, featuring the Cleveland Cavaliers against the Golden State Warriors, are surprising close, and surprisingly entertaining. You can thank the refs for that.
Without their calls--or non-calls-- the Warriors, by far the most talented team, would have cruised to a four-game sweep But, with help from the refs, all three games have been competitive, with the first two going into overtime. The underdog Cavaliers, even without two of their three best players, Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving, are leading the Warriors 2-1. That's amazing since nearly all experts picked Golden Sate to romp in four or, at the most, five games.
Fans are loving it. So is the ABC TV network. These Finals have the biggest ratings in years. At first the Finals looked to be a low-rated, mismatched loser, with most fans outside the San Francisco Bay Area not caring to see Golden State be Goliath. But, with the undermanned Cavs playing David, they are whipping up on the Warriors.
How is this possible? It's very simple. The refs have set a rugged tone, beginning with the first game, that overwhelmingly favors Cleveland. While an excellent defensive team. the Warriors are basically an offensive juggernaut that relies on the jump-shooting skills of guards Stef Curry and Klay Thomspon. They play a fast-paced style that uses bullet-passing to get their shooters open shots. But that's not what's happening in this series.
With the aid of the refs, the Cavs, a thuggish half-court team, are bullying the Warriors, beating up on them at every turn. The Warriors are best at a high-scoring, wide-open, fast-paced style. But these games are low-scoring, slow-paced, wrestling matches. They're much like those Eastern Conferences playoffs back in the day, with teams like the Knicks, Bulls, Pistons and Celtics locked in bruising defensive battles, with scores in 80s..
What the refs are doing now is not calling penalties on the Cavs when they are roughing up the Warriors. There is so much Cavalier hacking and clobbering that goes on with the refs looking the other way. The refs are subtly encouraging this pro-Cavs style of play.
There was one play in the third game where Cleveland's LeBron James barreled into slender Curry from behind, bowling him over, without a whistle on James. It was shocking. Meanwhile the refs are letting James be in freight-train mode, without penalty. On many of his many drives to the basket, where he'll plow into two or three Warriors, he could easily be called for charging. But he almost always gets by with no penalty.
James' constant pounding and extra-rough tactics of other Cavs take their toll on the Warrior players, who don't have the energy to make their offense run more smoothly. This tiring style of play is a boost to the Cavs. The result is a bunch of ugly games, with the sleek, race-horse Warriors sinking into the sludge with the rhino-like Cavs.
How is it all going to play out? It's possible that the Warriors may get down and dirty and beat the Cavs at their own game. Or maybe this wrestling-style of play is so wearying that the Cavs, who aren't very deep, may wear down in the last few games.
It may not be pretty but the games will probably be close, which will attract fans. This series will probably go six or seven, unless the Cavs shock the world and win in five, which is unlikely. Even if it ends in five it's already been a much more entertaining series than expected.
Whatever happens you can bet the refs--the puppeteers pulling the strings with ABC in mind--will be guiding the action in a direction favorable to ABC. Naturally the network, as usual, will deny any hanky-panky.
But knowledgeable folks in the gambling and gangster underworld will tell you that the network, in this case, is full of crap.
Posted by Dennis Hunt at 2:06 PM
Thursday, June 4, 2015
This fall, after a year layoff, RB Adrian Peterson will be back terrorizing defenses, most likely for his old team, the Minnesota Vikings. But when he's bulling through the line, knocking over defenders like bowling pins, that's not what I'll be envisioning. What I'll be seeing won't be pretty,
I'll see Peterson running, all right, but not through defenses. I'll see him not carrying a football but a switch, which is a thin, bare tree branch about a foot long. He'll be chasing a four-year-old boy, looking to grab him and whip him with the switch..Whenever I see Peterson playing ball that's the image that will dominate.
I won't see Adrian Peterson, the great running back, the highest paid RB in NFL history. I'll see Adrian Peterson, the child abuser. I saw pictures of that youngster after a brutal Peterson whipping. It was ugly.
He sat out nearly all last season after being indicted September 11 by a Texas grand jury for severely beating his four-year-old son in May of last year. Following a media furor and a laughable Vikings penalty--a puny, one game suspension--Peterson got a more suitable punishment. He was placed on the commissioner's exempt list, ending his season. For months all we got from Peterson was a lot of whining and bitching, like he was being mistreated and misunderstood. He kept saying he made a mistake. But what he did, violently whipping his little son, is much more than a mistake. It goes much deeper than that.
Reinstated by the NFL in April, Peterson is back with Minnesota. Yeah, yeah, he's apologized and said some of the right things, about therapy and parenting and discipline and blah, blah, blah. Funny, but I don't believe him. His apologies don't right true. He claims he's a changed man. I don't believe him. What he's saying sounds rehearsed and insincere. Something is haywire deep down in his core, something that allowed him to viciously punish his son in the first place. My sense is that what was wrong hasn't been repaired.
I had the same problem with QB Michael Vick, when he was reinstated by the Philadelphia Eagles in 2009 after serving a 21-month prison sentence for his role in operating a dog fighting ring. When I watched him play I couldn't get those horrible animal-cruelty images out of my head. It tainted any game I saw Vick play in. But Vick worked hard to show the world he had changed his thinking about dogs. Gradually those gruesome images faded for me. After a while I could see Vick the football player again, and not that other monster.
Now Peterson will taint Vikings' games for me the same way. Maybe he'll eventually convince me and other doubters like me that he really is a changed man and finally close the book on that dark chapter of his life. The Christian thing for me to do is to be forgiving and him a second chance.
I'm working on it.
Pardon me, but, like many other Peterson haters, I'm not there yet--not even close. Will I ever get there? In this case, I'm not so sure.
Posted by Dennis Hunt at 3:38 PM