Big talk these days over on the NBA side of the sports world regarding teams taking a dive in order to better their draft status. Or not playing hard because they don't care all that much because their team has been eliminated from the postseason.
The lack of effort sure seems to anger those fans who ponied up the big bucks to attend such games.
Hockey -- more specifically the NHL -- has plenty of problems. Their players tanking games or not giving optimum effort on any given night, well, aren't part of them.
Just look at the final week of the 2006-07 regular season. Teams like the Panthers, Hurricanes, Coyotes, Kings, Blues, et al, had nothing really to play for. Yet they played. Pride, it seems, means something in hockey. Giving your best means something too.
Take the Panthers for instance. They went to Tampa Bay with nothing to play for, yet the game was still important -- for other teams. A Tampa Bay win meant the Lightning and Thrashers would play for the divisional title in the season's final game. Yet the Panthers came ready to play and beat the Lightning, ending Tampa Bay's divisional hopes and gift-wrapping the title to Atlanta. Talked to Olli Jokinen and a few other players about this afterward and they said they owed it to the game to give everything they had. It was refreshing to hear such things. The Thrashers didn't know what kind of effort Florida would bring that night, but they expected the Panthers to give their best. The Panthers did just that.
I only bring up that example because I was there. There were plenty of other examples of teams giving their fans -- the ones laying out their hard-earned money -- something to cheer about in a season that may not have gone right.
-- Being the sports dork I am, I always like to hear what music players use during their introductions. This is a big deal in baseball more than other sports because the music is played either during a pitcher's warmups or prior to a guy coming to the plate. I've heard some good songs over the years, like Juan Pierre's music during his Marlins years.
But Tuesday night, I about choked on my hot dog when I heard Ken Griffey Jr.'s music at a game at Cincinnati's Great American Ball Park. Griffey's song? The music from the fake commercial for 'Soul Glo' in the movie 'Coming to America.' It just came out of nowhere, a theme you're not expecting to hear at a ballgame. Trust me, a classic moment. Good job, Junior.
-- Speaking of Cincinnati, nice ballpark. I also visited the new Busch Stadium on this roadtrip, and that was nice too. Got to see two good games and try out the different tastes at both. At Busch, had some garlic fries; Cincy, a Skyline-chili covered hot dog.
-- On an unrelated note, I find that Tums and Rolaids both get rid of heartburn if you take them in large quantities.
-- Since I was at the ballpark last night, I missed that exciting Atlanta-New York tilt. And I once thought this Atlanta team could go far in the postseason. Don't know what happened to them in the second half of the season, but it's been a dramatic downturn for the Thrashers.
-- Big win for the Luongos last night, as Vancouver is one win from moving on to the second round. Looks like the coming out playoff party for Luongo, but how much grief does Marty Turco get if Dallas loses? So far, looks like Marty has played well enough to win. He just needs some offensive help.
-- Looking forward to tonight's games. The second period of that Isles/Sabres game Monday was pretty exciting. San Jose/Nashville should also be pretty good. I say a Sharks win tonight marks the end of the Sabretooths for another season.
-- Speaking of the Sharks, has anyone wondered why the Panthers don't skate onto the ice through the giant Panther head anymore? I've been told it's in rough shape and the players are scared of it collapsing on them. That giant shark the San Jose players skate out of is pretty tight. The Panthers might want to look at this again.