I returned from vacation late Sunday night pleased by two developments:
First, the Cardinals continue to win despite more injuries to an already compromised starting pitching staff. Still no word on Adam Wainwright's finger as of 6:30 pm Monday night. Should we be fearing the worst? Let's not think about how devastating that would be. The fact that the Cards are 11 games above .500 once again demonstrates Tony LaRussa's ability to contend with overachieving teams. The LaRussa bashers will slam me for that statement but name me another manager better at guiding his team through adversity. And I mean no disrespect to the Cards by calling them "overachievers" but clearly there are more talented and healthier teams in the National League. Sometimes grit trumps talent. It did in 1996 with Laussa's first team here. This team is starting to remind me of that one. No Kool-Aid drinking here: I know there's a long way to go.
Second, MY Boston Celtics are halfway home in the NBA Finals. I got home in time last night to hear Phil Jackson whining about the officiating. I didn't see the game so I checked the stats. I don't blame Jackson--a 38 to 10 difference in free throws is extreme. He has no choice but to send a message for game three and I suspect that because Jackson has won nine championships, the refs will listen. Expect the Lakers to get the benefit of the doubt for four quarters in game three. I expect the Lakers to win big tomorrow night. If the Celts do win it all it will debunk the myth that no defense is played in the NBA. The Celtics made LeBron James look ordinary in five of the seven games in that series. And, they made Rasheed Wallace, Tayshaun Prince and Chauncey Billups look bad at times in the Pistons series. The Celts play the kind of defense the Pistons used to play.
One belated hockey note--last Monday's game five of the Stanley Cup Finals was a classic. Hockey fans and analysts will be referencing that triple overtime thriller for years. Nothing beats overtime playoff hockey for drama and anticipation. Not even a great Super Bowl. I know some sports fans just don't get or like hockey. I don't get that. NHL players are highly conditioned, tough as nails athletes who lay it all on the line for a chance to win sports' most symbolic trophy. I can only hope the Blues are back in the chase sometime soon.