And the first rule of Summer League is ...
Okay, it’s that time of year.
What’s the first rule of Summer League?
(Anyone who answers “you don’t talk about summer league” is wrong but gets my undying affection)
No, the first rule of Summer League is that you do not find out who can play but you find out who can’t play and if you go in with that premise you will be much better off.
Look, I appreciate that so many of you think Summer League basketball is good. It’s the first live basketball many of you have seen since the end of the Finals and I’m sure it’s at some level nice to see pretend NBAers out there wearing jerseys and the like.
The NBA has done a masterful job making fans think it matters by putting it all on TV and tablets and computers and providing all the breathless analysis one can handle.
It’s nice. It doesn’t really matter.
Yes, some of the top picks play – this year the injured Anthony Bennett, Alex Len and Nerlens Noel are sitting it out – and I can see fans of those teams kind of disappointed that they won’t even get to see them in uniform.
But even for the top picks who are playing, there is one gigantic factor to take into consideration.
For the most part, they are playing against relatively inferior opposition and anything they do should be couched in those terms. Yes, the rosters are dotted with D League pros and guys who will eventually end up in Europe somewhere and that’s all well and good; we should never think anything but good about people who make a living playing a game they love.
But if you are thinking about translating what happens in Orlando this week or Vegas next week into some kind of omen for the year to come, please put that out of your mind.
Don’t worry if someone doesn’t score, don’t get excited about someone posting huge numbers. The real work of summer league comes in the practice gym hours before the games and in the practices on off-days. That’s when coaches can teach offensive footwork and defensive awareness, that’s where shots can be massaged, weights lifted, conditioning worked on.
The games are a mere addendum, they give over-matched referees a chance to call too many fouls, for the inevitable kid mistakes to make eyes roll, to give coaches a chance to see what kind of real work needs to be done.
Now, go enjoy. Tell me who looks good. We’ll figure out what’s real in October.
Have no clue why this popped into my head.
My head can be a scary place.
The Queen’s Plate was yesterday?
That kind of slipped under the radar, no?
Of all the sports with a dwindling fan base – loyal to a huge degree but dwindling nonetheless – I’d put horse racing right at the top, wouldn’t you?
Newspapers used to have a staffer dedicated solely to writing about it, I can remember covering the Breeder’s Cup up at Woodbine 15 or 16 years ago as part of a big team of staffers; now we send someone out a day or two before the race – if that – because it’s an event more than anything.
Too bad, too. There are all kinds of good backstretch stories, I’m sure, that go untold; the people are intriguing, a day at the races can be a lot of fun. Now? Now, sadly, it seems to be about the slots and the casino rather than the fillies and mares.
But if you go, one rule:
Always bet on the skinny grey one.
You won’t regret it.
Martinique 1, Canada 0?
Yeah, the folks in charge of soccer have some work to do on the men’s side.
Maybe they should let it slide and pour all the money in the women’s game? At least they get some results there.
So Canada’s junior team comes back from the world championships with a sixth place finish after losing to Spain yesterday and that’s a solid accomplishment.
Not nearly what they expected because they truly harboured hopes of getting into the top four and having a shot at a medal.
But they lost too often in the first round – two wins were a necessity, they got one – and it goes to a fact that’s present in almost every FIBA tournament.
It’s not who you lose to, it’s when you lose.
As long as the format stays the same – three preliminary round games and then three more in a second round with the first-round record carrying over except the result of team that’s eliminated (confused yet?) – it means if you don’t go at least 2-1 in the first round, it’s exponentially more difficult to get a favourable quarter-final matchup.
I’m not sure what the answer is, to tell you the truth, but the way things are set up doesn’t give a representative finish, I don’t think.
I don’t suppose I’m alone in this – at least I hope I’m not – but Wimbledon seemed to a lot of its allure on the men’s side when Federer and Nadal went out and even a casual (and by casual I mean Grand Slams only) fan like me paid more scant attention to it than I usually do.
But I am pretty glad I got to sit around loafing Sunday morning, folding laundry and daydreaming while watching that compelling Murray-Djokovic final.
That was raw theatre and great sport, tremendous emotion and history.
It was all the best things about sports rolled into one three-hour stretch when individuals pushed themselves to the limit and beyond and the tweeter was full of people wondering about the magic power of hats.
I joke, of course, about the hats. It was grand sports drama and it was exciting to see it unfold.
Can’t say I really cared about who won, can say I was totally appreciative of brilliant athletes giving all they had.
That’s what it’s about, right?