Thursday, April 07, 2005

Champions of the TDI Washington, DC Darts League

My life in many ways revolves around sports. I started playing T-ball at a very young age and continued playing baseball until I was 18 years old, which has now turned into a few softball leagues here in Washington, D.C. Along the journey of life I became a pretty good basketball and football player - loving every minute of the each individual game, the competition, the camaraderie with teammates and coaches and the sure joy of success.

The best coach I ever had in any sport and in life is my Dad. He's taught me a lot about sports and has offered some one-liners that have been instrumental in my daily life. The night after I took an 0-4 and looked horrible at the plate he'd say, "Don't worry about it. Trust me, the sun will come up tomorrow." And he was right. Or when I hit 6 three-pointers in one game and led my team to the championship game he said to me as I was figuring out what I wanted to tell Mike Krzyzweski and Duke University, "Good game tonight, remember you've got another game on Tuesday night." But the one thing he instilled in me that I'll never forget is something I'm going to try to explain to the 13-15-year-old boys from the Washington, D.C., Boys & Girls Club baseball team that I'll be coaching this summer - "You win as a team and you lose as a team."

Last night, the darts team I play on won 'as a team' in the B Division Championship match. Not only did we win - we won in a spectacular, come-back fashion. It was a true example of how seven guys on one team can pull together, even on the brink of defeat, and bring it home. It was also the natural progression of what we had started a year ago when we won the C Division Championship.

Let's just say our season, which ended a perfect 10-0, has been an interesting one. We've had teammates' wives have first-born babies (Coby); as a result of that, we've had first-time uncles (Garth); we've got the best 301 average shooter in the B Division who wasn't awarded the crown for some crazy reason (Raj); we had an old teammate who finished law school and came back to become one of the top shooters in the league (Ben); we've got our captain who fights like heck to make sure we don't constantly get screwed by the league (Eli); we've got a player who's one of the hottest players in the league coming down the final weeks of the season and the playoffs (Jesse); and we have me - a guy who loves winning, loves being a good teammate and loves hanging with the boys.

But even with all of that, we still got screwed. We finished the regular season off by beating the Toss Offs 7-4 (every match has 11 total points). Each team plays the other teams in their division twice during the season and this was the second time we'd beaten the Toss Offs 7-4. However, we finished 1 game out of first place. The Toss Offs were 64-24 and we were 63-25. The other three teams in the B Division had losing records and we were clearly the best two teams.

Because of a forfeit to the worst team we were handed an 8-3 win to a team that we have destroyed for the last three years. How? I still would love to know the justice behind it - but I haven't gotten anywhere with my complaining. We beat this said team 10-1 in our other match (and they had a good night) and last season we beat them 31-2 in two regular season and one playoff match. So those 3 losses in that supposed forfeit killed us and we finished one game out of first place. When it all comes down to it, we knew we would have to face the Toss Offs in the championship - but I love shooting at our home bar. Oh well. After we beat the #3 seeded Save The Darts team and the Toss Offs beat up on the #5 seed, we set our sights on each other. One last match for all the darts ... err, marbles.

I rode to the match with the Dolan brothers, Coby and Garth. We shot around for about 45 minutes before the match would start. Jesse got there early, too. Four of our players were there before the other team even began to trickle in.

The first six games are 301 - and our team, RAM, does very well in 301. Of the 100+ players in the entire league, we have six guys in the top 31. Raj, our best shooter, had the best scoring average for the B Division for the second time in three seasons and was ranked 5th overall. Ben was ranked 14th and was also once a shooter of the season with the best scoring average in our division. Ranked 22nd was Garth and I followed ranked 25th. Coby and Jesse ranked 30th & 31st and our captain Eli ranked a solid 44th. We were as solid as they come. Jesse won his 301. But RAM put there backs against the wall with three straight losses from Coby, Raj and myself. We needed Garth and Ben and they both performed like they had ice water running through their veins. We were tied 3-3 going into the three two-on-two cricket games. Our combinations have been one thing we've tried not to fiddle with this season and Eli stuck to what has worked, unfortunately last night it didn't turn out the way we expected. Coby & Garth play great together - one of the best cricket combos in the entire league. They've been playing with each other since they were both in diapers and playing darts together their whole lives. Separated by a measly two years, you'd think they were twins the way they can read each other. They played a great game last night but barely lost. Eli & I have had some memorable games playing together. We are the two guys that have knocked off some of the best cricket teams in the league the last several years. After beating one of the better teams in the semis we fully expected we would have a strong game last night. Nope. I honestly can admit I was very erratic. At one point hitting four marks and then the next not hitting anything. It was uncharacteristic; I felt like I was putting pressure on Eli. Both legs of the best of three were close but we lost them both. I told Eli after we lost that I had blown it and he said, "You'll shoot lights out in 501."

501 is the 'team game' in which you take all of your players and split them onto two teams versus your opponents. Unfortunately after Eli & I lost we had to rely on Jesse & Raj to win or the championship would be over. They had us on the ropes and we started to wobble when Jesse & Raj lost the first leg. One more and they would have us. I just stood there almost dazed. How was this happening? I wasn't in my daze very long when a funny thing happened. Jesse & Raj caught fire. The two guys that they played were probably the other team's weakest cricket combo, but they were still a formidable duo. Jesse & Raj blew their doors off in leg two and three and took the game.

I said to Jesse, "That was huge - now we must win."

Eli set the 501 team lineups: Ben, Coby and Garth on one team and Jesse, Eli, Raj and I. Two separate games and winner wins, but we needed to win both of them.

I honestly can say that I wasn't paying any attention to the other game while we were playing. We were behind from the start and needed to get into it and shoot well. Down by more then a hundred I did my best and dropped an 85 to cut their lead. The next time around Jesse left me with an odd number so I figured why not try to leave Eli then Raj with the double one for the out.

As I stepped up to the line I heard the excitement from Ben and Garth because Coby had just nailed the game winner in their match. It was time to be a champion. I threw my three darts and set us up for the kill. After their shooter didn't hit, Eli stepped up. His first two darts sailed a bit high and his third was low. The Toss Offs had the chance but also couldn't convert. Up to toe the line was Raj. Raj has been one of the top seven or eight players in the entire league since he joined our team over two years ago and he's flat out great. I was standing next to Coby and Ben on the side and leaned over and said, "He's going to hit this."

One dart - one double one out. One team the champions of the B Division. I'll also admit that when he hit it I jumped up and pumped a fist. Jesse and Eli had already grabbed him and Coby, Ben and I rushed in. Garth was having trouble taking the pressure of watching and about five seconds later came running in. The Toss Offs were in utter shock. They needed just one leg of that last cricket game to beat us and then couldn't win either of the team games. Eli, Coby and Garth are all huge Boston Red Sox fans - and last night's come-from-behind win was eerily reminiscent of what Boston did to the N.Y. Yankees in the American League Championship Series last October."

You win as a team, and you lose as a team." Those words ring through my head every time I play a team sport. And last night - the RAM came from behind and won the Championship as one great team.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

The Crystal Ball of the NBA Playoffs

Last night the Lady Bears of Baylor beat up and out-played the ladies from Michigan State. Now that the college basketball season is over it’s time to focus on the NBA playoffs and what is sure to happen over the next couple of months.

A lot of signs are pointing to an entertaining post season with several match ups that are sure to go the full 7 games. I’m not in the business of reading palms or telling fortunes but I know how the first round of the playoffs this season will shape out…come along for the ride and you’ll be amazed to find out what happens.

Eastern Conference First Round:

#1 Miami Heat vs. #8 New Jersey Nets
That’s right, you heard it here first the N.J. Nets are going to squeak past the Philadelphia 76ers for the 8th and final playoff spot in the East. After the last game of the season Allen Iverson is going to get into a fight with one of his teammates in the locker room – not sure who it is just yet, but I’m thinking a fellow starter. Back to the Nets. Jason Kidd and Vince Carter will take the Nets back to the playoffs for the fourth consecutive season but this time it’ll be nice and painless. They’ll be butting heads with Shaq, D-Wade and the Heat in the first round that will only go 4 games. 4-0 as Shaq dominates the interior and Dwayne Wade dazzles the Nets with his awesome all-around play.

#2 Detroit Pistons vs. #7 Cleveland Cavaliers
The defending NBA Champion Detroit Pistons are going to wish they never got the #2 seed this year. Talk about walking into a great series. The Cavs sputtered into the playoffs but will catch their second wind after going down 2-0 to the Pistons. The series turns into a slugfest in Cleveland with the Cavs winning both games 3 & 4. After four very physical games these two teams won’t like each other very much heading into a very important Game 5. As much as LeBron James tries to carry his team the Pistons will win this game and go into the sixth game trying to finish off the younger Cleveland team. Not so fast – LeBron goes for 48 points and leads the way to a rout. In the fourth quarter you’ll see some more pushing and shoving and the techs will be flying around. The final game will be an exciting game but in the fourth quarter Rip Hamilton and Rasheed Wallace will both make several clutch jumpers and lead the way to a Piston victory. The excitement and bad blood from this series is sure to be something to watch in coming years.

#3 Boston Celtics vs. #6 Indiana Pacers
The Celtics earned the third spot for one reason – the Atlantic Division stinks. The Pacers got the sixth seed for one reason – David Stern. This series is sure to have some great energy and some wonderful trash talking (Antoine Walker and Reggie Miller are two of the best ever) and will go seven games. Games 1-4 will be split right down the middle, Boston going 1-1 at home and Indiana going 1-1 at home. To the pivotal final three games we go. Boston will win Game 5 in convincing fashion and look as if they’ve locked the series up but their confidence will lead to their doom. In the sixth game point guard Jamaal Tinsley and forward Stephen Jackson will both go off – combining for 65 of the Pacers 95 points leading them to a nice win. Game 7 will be a two-man shoot off between Boston’s Paul Pierce and Indian’s Hall of Famer Reggie Miller. With the score knotted at 87 and less than ten seconds remaining Miller will put the dagger in the Celtics. A three-pointer from the corner will put them ahead before a last second 3-pointer from Ricky Davis falls clangs off the rim to send the Pacers on to the next round. Boston can’t have everything go their way this year can they? The BoSox, Patriots and Boston College even had a good year.#4 Washington Wizards vs.

#5 Chicago BullsLet’s just call this the ‘Rookie Round’. This 4-5 match up will have everything you want to see and everything you wished you’ve never saw on a basketball court. At times these two young teams will be dazzling and at other times you’ll be tuning into re-runs of ‘Who’s the Boss’. The bottom line is simple – the Wizards Gilbert Arenas and Larry Hughes will be the difference. The Bulls will try to stop Arenas with Chris Duhon, Kirk Hinrich and Ben Gordon but none of them will have much success. The Wizards will have a 3-1 lead in the series only to play sloppy and watch their lead evaporate. A seventh and deciding game in the Nation’s Capital will spark the Wiz and lead them to the biggest win in almost 30 years. Arenas will score 33 and get plenty of support from Antawn Jamison, Brendon Haywood and Hughes. Wiz to the next round.

Western Conference First Round:

#1 Phoenix Suns vs. #8 Denver Nuggets
The Nuggets fell into the eighth spot on the last day of the season and run into the buzz saw know as the Phoenix Suns. Surprising to many the Nuggets win game one in Phoenix behind a great shooting effort from Carmelo Anthony. ‘Melo scores a game-high 37 points and gets good backing from Marcus Camby and Andre Miller. This game will be a quick wake up for the Suns and they will roll to three straight victories over Denver led by Amare Stoudemire and Shawn Marion – needing just one more to finish them off. After two straight dreadful scoring games Carmelo gets it going in the second quarter and drops 33 points and gets plenty of help from Miller and Nene Hilario as they both score 25 apiece. The Suns will take Game 6 a little more serious and will beat the Nuggets 119-87 to walk into the second round.

#2 San Antonio Spurs vs. #7 Memphis Grizzlies
Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker will be the difference in the series as the Spurs will win the series 4-1. The only game that Memphis wins is the third game at home in front of their fans. Bonzi Wells gives the Grizz much needed life in this game as he goes for a game-high 26 points leading the way to a victory. In games 4 & 5 the two big men for the Spurs will dominate. Tim Duncan and Rasho Nesterovic act as if the Memphis big men didn’t even show up for the final two games and Tony Parker puts the nail in the coffin from the free throw line in Game 7.

#3 Seattle SuperSonics vs. #6 Houston Rockets
The best series of the Western Conference First Round by far. Head Coaches Nate McMillan and Jeff VanGundy will match wits in this series while these two teams go blow for blow and go the entire seven games. As was the case in the East’s 3-6 series the first four games will be split down the center with both teams winning and losing at home. But once the ball starts bouncing in the fifth game it is clear to everybody who’s going to win the game. Tracy McGrady scores 44 points and Juwon Howard cores 26 points leading the way for the Rockets and giving them a 3-2 lead in the series. Game 6 is all about two guys: Luke Ridnour’s shooting and passing and Jerome James’ defense on Yao Ming. Ridnour scores 28 points and dishes 12 assists and J-James limits Yao to his lowest point total of the series at just 7 points. McGrady and Bob Sura combine for 59 points but the lack of scoring from Yao leads the Sonics to a series tie.Game 7 starts off great and than fizzles. Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis give the Sonics a 2 point lead at the half and then the bottom drops out of their season. With Jerome James, Danny Fortson and Vitaly Potapenko all in foul trouble in the 4th quarter the Rockets ride Juwon Howard and Yao to victory. Yao scores 12 of his 26 points in the final quarter and Juwon chips in with 17 points overall. 4-3 Rockets.

#4 Dallas Mavericks vs. #5 Sacramento Kings
This series will have a whole bunch of scoring and no defense. Every game will feature one team (and in several both) scoring in triple digits. Dallas’ hold of the home court will be crucial. The ebb and flow of this series will be incredible with the home team winning the first six games…several by ridiculous blowouts. The final game is one for the ages. The defense is putrid and the Mavs beat the Kings in OT 142-137. Dirk Nowitski (36), Josh Howard (31), Jerry Stackhouse (29) and Michael Finley (24) all go scoring crazy and outscore Peja Stojakovic (33), Mike Bibby (29), Cat Mobley (25) and Brad Miller (23). After the series Mavs head coach Avery Johnson says that he thought about inserting himself in the final quarter to play defense. Mavs survive 4-3 and send the Webber-less Kings home.

Second Round …coming soon to theatres everywhere

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

March Madness Ends with May

This was the championship game that everybody was hoping for. Well, those of us that were rooting for Illinois might not be happy with the final score, but we can’t argue the play of both teams and the excitement of the second half. This game had the look and feel of the original Rocky …UNC got off to a fast start and was dominating the game through the first 24 minutes. Just when you might have thought that the Illini were finished they came roaring back ferociously. But in the end it was the better team that clung to victory, celebrated a National Championship while taking a big piano off of Coach Roy Williams’ back. Two great teams in one fabulous final.

There was one significant difference between the Tar Heels and Illinois last night. One important distinction that picked up North Carolina and led them to victory. Sean May looked and played like a man possessed last night. The feeling you got from him was that he could not be stopped, and he couldn’t. The look in the Illini defenders was one of despair, because they knew deep inside that they wouldn’t be able to stop him too. Sean May was incredible – 10 of 11 from the field with ten boards. Sure he got help in the first half from Rashad McCants, and the overall play of point guard Raymond Felton was very good but this game belonged to May. The Illini had no answer for his inside play and couldn’t match his toughness under the boards. Jack Ingram and Jim Augustine, both 6’10” gave up strength, weight and quickness to May as he carried the Tar Heels to victory.

Luther Head and Deron Williams’ hot shooting in the second half brought Illinois back and had them on the verge of a historic comeback…but in the end, their shots fell just short as did the valiant comeback. Illinois amazing season ended sour last night, but in fairness they played a great game and lost to a more talented team.

And so it goes, the kid who carried the tape of his father’s NCAA Championship game in his bag for the last several months has a tape of his own now. Sean May’s Dad – Scott May was the Most Outstanding Player of the 1976 Indiana Hoosiers undefeated championship team. Sean did his Dad a little better in his title appearance, matching his 26 points but grabbing two more rebounds than the old man did. In what most likely was his last game in Carolina Blue he walked from the court a true champion and the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player. A long way from the 8-20 season when he, Felton and McCants were freshman.

The third time is a charm in the title game for Coach Roy. Roy Williams finally can say that he’s a championship coach. 16 trips to the ‘Dance’ in his 17 seasons as a head coach and 5 Final Four appearances didn’t really mean much until the clock showed zeroes and UNC was National Champions. Roy said during the interview discussions last night, “I'm no better a coach than I was three hours ago." – Yes, Roy you are. Now you can be held up there with your mentor, the great Dean Smith and coaches like Jim Boeheim, Mike Krzyzewski and Bob Knight. You have finally proven that you are a Hall of Fame coach and April 4, 2005 was your crowning moment. Congratulations.

Monday, April 04, 2005

Wonderful Weekend of Sports

Oh my, what a weekend for sports. So much to watch and it was all worth it. NCAA Final Four games (both men’s & women’s), Yankees-Red Sox, NBA season winding down with some great games, Anna Kournikova, Alex Sanchez and David Terrell…I’m going to try my best to get to it all.

Let us begin with tonight’s NCAA Men’s Championship game. For the first time in thirty years the #1 and #2 teams in the country will face-off for all the marbles. Bruce Webber’s Fighting Illini will take the court tonight with a 37-1 record but are in many people’s eyes the underdogs to UNC. The Tar Heels have the most talented team in the country and are looking to cut down the nets for the first time since 1993, all the while taking the piano off of Roy Williams’ back.

I see this game being a lot closer than the Final Four games were. Don’t be surprised when Illinois runs with UNC – because they’re a very athletic team too. The difference maker in this game for Illinois will be the interior defense on May. Can they stop this guy? And for North Carolina it will be keeping the three-headed monster of Head/Williams/Brown from taking the game over.

LeBron James (who would only be a college sophomore) went for 37 points, 10 rebounds and 7 assists yesterday leading his Cavaliers to a 100-80 victory against the Dallas Mavericks. The Cavs scored 39 points in the 2nd & 3rd quarters combined before dropping 40 points in the 4th quarter. Is this kid the best player on the planet already? Yes.

38 points, 9 assists and 6 steals. Allen Iverson’s 76ers may or may not get the 8th seed in the Eastern Conference but this guy deserves MVP recognition. AI led Philly to a 97-93 win over the Boston Celtics yesterday and has the 76ers in the 8th and final spot in the playoffs right now. Samuel Dalembert had 18 points and 15 rebounds for the Sixers while Ricky Davis and Paul Pierce went for 27 and 26 respectively for Boston. If the Sixers get in they’ll be playing the Miami Heat – but any way you look at it AI has been incredible this year.

Hardy-har-har. Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers aren’t going to make the playoffs this year. With a 33-40 they look just flat-out awful. They can’t catch Denver or Memphis and better rethink the idea of having Kobe lead the team. Lakers management and Kobe drove Shaq out of town…idiots.

The New York Yankees beat the Boston Red Sox 9-2 last night to start the Major League Baseball season. David Wells wasn’t sharp in his first start with the hated BoSox and the Yankees Randy Johnson looked good in his pinstripe debut. Jason Giambi got a near standing ovation when he stepped to the plate for the first time and promptly singled to right field. Although this was just the first of 19 meetings between these two teams it almost felt as if it was Game 15 of the ALCS (2003 & 2004). Forget what people are saying about how A-Rod is going to have a great year, I bet Derek Jeter has one of the best years of his career.

Michigan State vs. Baylor. One of them will win their first NCAA Women’s Championship on Tuesday night. MSU came back to beat the Tennessee Lady Vols and Pat Summit last night 68-64. Summit, in her 16th Final Four, lost the opportunity to play in the championship game for the 12th time. Earlier, LSU was beaten by Baylor. After the murder of Men’s player Patrick Dennehy in the summer of 2003 this was truly what Baylor University needed. Sophia Young led the way and the Lady Bears 3-2 zone defense just confused LSU. It should be a great match up.

Wide Receiver David Terrell signed a one-year contract to play for the two-time defending Super Bowl Champion New England Patriots. The 6’3” Terrell gives the Patriots a nice down field, deep threat and reunites the Michigan Wolverine star with his former college quarterback Tom Brady. After several sub-par years in Chicago Terrell finally will get the chance to shine and Brady will love having a big target to throw to.

Anna Kournikova took the stand against a crazed man that has been stalking her…and had to answer questions from him because this lunatic represented himself. He was found naked on a beach chair of a next door neighbor of Kournikova’s last month. Dude, put your clothes back on, get some serious help and get a life.

Alex Sanchez probably never imagined that he would go down in Major League Baseball history…especially since he’s not really that good. 4 career homers and a leadoff hitter that was released earlier this spring by the Detroit Tigers. The newly acquired Tampa Bay Devil Rays’ outfielder is the first player to be suspended for breaking the steroid abuse policy. He will begin his 10-game suspension today as the D’Rays start their season.