Stuff is starting to come in the mail from the Rockies about spring training tickets and regular season renewals, and I could not be more excited (especially due to the fact that said renewal will be rather significantly discounted from last year thanks to all the tickets to playoff games I paid for in September that didn't end up getting played). I suspect the Rockies have a good chance of having a better fundamental season than they did in 2007 and winning rather fewer games, but nonetheless they can no longer be discounted as a contender and fewer of the games I go to in '08 will be played in front of empty houses. Knock on wood.
Since the Rockies' offseason plan of not. doing. anything. is proceeding in perfect order, let's today take a look at some of the inferior sports being played during those months placed on the calendar only to remind us by negative example of how vital to life March through October are.
I'm watching the NFL playoffs somewhat fitfully and I was wrong on at least one count: There will end up being more than two interesting games in the AFC playoffs (which are the de facto NFL championship), and perhaps as many as four, since to me watching New England crush a San Diego team with injuries to its three best offensive players into a fine powder will be interesting. It must be said though that both of the games Jacksonville was involved in this January were very entertaining and today's Chargers-Colts contest was a keeper too (hit of the year by Marlon McCree to keep Reggie Wayne from converting a first down on the Colts' last drive). So I underestimated the number of good playoff games by at least one.
But the NFC... oh my goodness. This conference makes the NBA's East look mighty. Dallas was 13-3? They're terrible! I just watched their entire secondary whiff on an Amani Toomer catch-and-run touchdown. Eli Manning and Tony Romo are the best quarterbacks the conference has to offer after Brett Favre, who should have retired five seasons ago? Weak. I feel like the lone voice in the wilderness screaming as I do at a league that continues to grow in popularity year after year while the quality of play has descended to the point where you might as well be watching NAIA ball. Oh, well. Contrarianism is kind of my stock in trade anyway.
The NBA, on the other hand, is going through a renaissance, not that anybody except we few diehards appreciates it. You just have to throw your hands up on the double standards that exist between the MLB and NFL (where is the steroid controversy in the National Football League? You're telling me none of those guys are using human growth hormone?) and the NBA and the NFL ("I don't watch the NBA because all the players are thugs, but I love the NFL... uhh, you can't see cornrows under a helmet"). There sure are a lot of teams playing attractive five-man basketball in the NBA this season, from the Celtics (where the sheer force of Kevin Garnett's personality has led to Paul Pierce and Ray Allen playing actual defense for the first time in their careers) to the Trail Blazers (LaMarcus Aldridge is exactly like Rasheed Wallace except for the threes and the crazy) to the Warriors (who are just an absolute gas to watch run their offense, even if a small nagging voice keeps telling me they would win more games if they slowed it down and posted up Andris Biedrins).
What's more, the good teams from the last few years -- Detroit, San Antonio, Dallas -- are still good, only biding their time for some playoff series that are going to be very hotly contested indeed. Sure, the regular season is too long, but a weird thing has happened -- because there are so many new teams that consider themselves contenders without the old contenders apart from Miami necessarily having given up their thrones, hardly a week goes by without at least two or three games on the schedule that are grudge matches. Detroit and Boston legitimately seem to dislike each other, Dallas obviously has its issues with the Warriors, Phoenix and the Lakers always get up to play, and even though it's been one-sided to this point, there isn't a Nuggets fan in Denver who won't expound at length about their abiding distaste for Tim Duncan and the Spurs.
Unfortunately, the NBA team I still root for is completely terrible and needs to be blown the heck apart. I watched the Bulls get blown out by the Atlanta Hawks this morning and I can't help but feel like everybody except Luol Deng needs to go -- watching Joe Johnson swish threes over helpless six-feet-nothing guys like Kirk Hinrich, Chris Duhon, and Ben Gordon is not my idea of a pleasant Sunday. Not to mention any time one of the Bulls' mighty-mite guards got into the lane the inevitable result two seconds later was the resounding SMACK of a Josh Smith block moving very rapidly away from the basket. It seems like a deal with the point guard-starved Cavaliers is made to order, but unfortunately there isn't a single guy on the Cavs' roster available for trade whose contract isn't hilariously awful.
Update: I totally spaced on the news item that I began this entire post in order to mention. The Hawks, who beat Chicago so soundly earlier today, have to replay the last 51.9 seconds of a game they won December 19th against Miami because the official scorer in that game accidentally disqualified Shaquille O'Neal with his fifth foul instead of his sixth. Unfortunately (if you like crazy sports logistical stuff like the classic Expos-Marlins series in Chicago), Atlanta had another home game left on the schedule against Miami so they'll just make up the lost minute right before their other game starts. It would be hilarious if the whole Heat team had to make a trip to Atlanta just to play less than a minute of basketball. Too bad the Philips Center scorer couldn't have flaked in a game against a Western Conference team.