Monday After Madonna
It was a good game. Watched it. Enjoyed it. There was drama, some of it real, some manufactured, and this year's Super Bowl (sorry, can't do the Roman numerals) was indeed a hard-hitting, teeth-jarring contest that was generally well-played by both sides.
But it wasn't a great game. A classic? Not a chance. Sure seems like the overall hype of what was apparently a terrific week in Indy helped a few in the media get a wee bit carried away. It happens. It's happened to me. You want to write or broadcast on something meaningful in a sports world in which so much is not, so you see it that way. Plus, you want the boss to send you again, never guaranteed in a world of shrinking budgets.
It was better than the CFL's championship game to cap last season, but nothing as wildly exciting as the 2011 Vanier Cup or last month's Rose Bowl. There were lead changes between the Giants and Patriots, which always contribute to a sense of special competition, and the presence of two elite quarterbacks and two veteran coaches already in possession of Super Bowl rings gave the game a certain cache. A special catch by Mario Manningham provided a signature moment and Ahmad Bradshaw's oops-I-scored TD was a little unusual.
But to me, Giants-Patriots I was substantially better than Giants-Patriots The Sequel, just as Alouettes-Green Riders I (the 13th man) was better than Montreal-Saskatchewan II.
Sequels, as we all know, almost never are as good as the original.
Which brings us to some other Monday morning wanderings and wonderings:
• How about Sam Gagner, huh? He brings his personal three-ring circus to Toronto tonight as part of a collision between two of the NHL's fastest teams. But c'mon, Gagner doesn't become untradeable after his career game - only two points short of a record - anymore than Luke Schenn suddenly would be a top four D-man on most other NHL clubs just because he had a good week and scored on Saturday night.
At some point, Oilers GM Steve Tambellini will have to move one of his talented young forwards for help on the backend. Maybe that time is now, maybe it isn't. It's unavoidable, if only because within a couple of years, because the Oilers accelerated the progression of Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, all those players will be making $5 million or more per season and Edmonton will have to make some cap choices.
That all doesn't take away from Gagner's achievement, or the fact he followed it up with a multi-point outing against Detroit. But you don't hold on to a player because of one game anymore than you would trade away a player because of one game.
• The suspension of Sarnia forward Nail Yakupov, quite likely the No. 1 pick in next summer's draft, didn't get nearly the coverage it deserved. Imagine if the same had happened to Nugent-Hopkins in his draft year?
The Sting tried to hold Yakupov out of the CHL Top Prospects game in Kelowna last week because he had just returned from injury. Quebec Remparts owner/coach Patrick Roy felt the same about Mikhail Grigorenko, ranked No. 2 behind Yakupov, but allowed Grigorenko to go when informed by CHL boss Dave Branch that if he was too injured to play in the top prospects he must be deemed too injured to play for the Remparts and would miss the two games following the top prospects game.
Branch then had to deliver the same ultimatum to Sarnia, all the more so after Yakupov played three games last weekend. Now the Sting won't have him for a big match against Plymouth on Friday, and they've managed to surround the kid with some unnecessary controversy in his draft year.
• What to make of Tyler Bozak? He's 25 years old, will soon surpass his scoring numbers from last season and is plus-35 better than he ended last year, to boot. On Saturday, his spectacular second period goal showed his flair for the flamboyant. Yet all you hear is that he's not good enough to play between Joffrey Lupul and Phil Kessel, and how the future of Mikhail Grabovski is more meaningful to the future of the team.
But Bozak is scrappy, improving and competitive and has more points than Mike Richards or Derek Roy, and in fewer games. At $1.5 million this year and next he's very cap friendly.
In sum, there's lots there to like. But apparently not enough to love?
• Cap considerations in the CFL can squeeze the best teams, and certainly Hamilton had to make some moves after bringing in Henry Burris. But it's hard to imagine how cutting the ultra-competitive Avon Cobourne (presumably he wasn't willing to swallow a pay cut) makes the Tiger-Cats a better club. Martell Mallett better be awfully good his second time around.
• Hard to hate the French. We're not talking politics or culture or even history. Just tennis. And it's not easy to portray the French Davis Cup team as a bunch of bad guys as they arrive in Vancouver this week to take on Milos Raonic and Canada in Canada's first World Group tie in eight years.
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga is a gentleman. Gael Monfils is wildly entertaining. Julien Benneteau and Michael Llodra are anything but controversial figures.
Still, Canada and Vancouver will have to try. Half the job of winning a Davis Cup contest is using home court advantage, and unlike regular tour events, this is a competition in which screaming for the home team and AGAINST the visitors is not only part of the scenario, it's encouraged.
For Canada, it may be necessary. The French are huge favourites. Those that gather at UBC arena for the matches beginning Friday need to understand making the French uncomfortable is just the start of trying to manufacture this upset.
• Interesting how Ted Leonsis was perceived as a very successful hockey owner until he decided he wanted to own the whole enchilada once controlled by Abe Polin and added Washington's arena and the NBA Wizards to his portfolio. Now, the Caps are shockingly sitting out of a playoff berth after a turmoil-filled season, and the Wiz are, well, even worse than the Raptors.
Leonsis had more competitive success when he limited his reach to hockey.
• Haven't read a lot of good hockey fiction over the years. Maybe it's because I never considered it worth the effort. But Gare Joyce has pulled it off with "The Code." If you know the industry, you'll see through a few thinly-veiled characters and recognize some well-known NHL personas. That makes it fun, the good writing makes it more than readable.
• Best decision of the weekend? Joey Crabb electing not to drop 'em with hulking Ottawa D-man Matt Carkner. Smart choice by the Alaskan Crabb.
• Ron Wilson will be happy today because his team's penalty killing is so much better. But he has to be distraught over Gisele Bundchen publicly ripping New England's receivers after the Super Bowl or Archie Manning discussing his sons and their health all week in Indianapolis.
Wilson made it clear early this season after the James Reimer/mother controversy that media must never, ever, ever talk to family members of star athletes.
Or was that just self-serving crap?
• As of today, five teams in the Eastern Conference - Philadelphia, New Jersey, Pittsburgh, Ottawa and Toronto - have more points than the Florida Panthers, but all sit behind the Panthers because that team leads the Southeast Division.
This is a giant hole in the NHL's playoff qualification process that has never been addressed. Sure, guarantee division winners a playoff berth. But don't necessarily give them one of the top three seeds.
• Leaf prospect Greg McKegg is ripping it up with the London Knights after being traded to the Knights from Erie. Leaf management, however, is still unsure whether McKegg skates well enough to make it to the NHL. He'll get his shot in the AHL.
• Those same Erie Otters, by the way, might look to shift operations to Hamilton if the owner of the AHL Bulldogs, Michael Andlauer, looks to move that team when its Copps Coliseum lease expires in 2013. Andlauer has publicly denied speculation he's looking to move the team to Laval.
If a junior team did move to Hamilton for yet another kick at the can, it would be wise to do so only in a new, smaller area, and if possible, in conjuction with McMaster University, which ices neither a men's or women's varsity hockey team because of the absence of a usable facility.
The other team theoretically eyeballing Hamilton might be the Mississauga St. Mike's Majors. They can't survive much longer at the Hershey Centre drawing flies. Sadly, hosting the Memorial Cup last spring didn't do much for the franchise.
• Finally, Madonna. Too bad some idiot singer destined for nowhere had to steal the moment with an obscene gesture.
Otherwise, the Material "Girl" - she's 53 and, like us all, doesn't quite shimmy the same way any more - put on quite the spectacular show. It was more Cirque de Soleil at times than rock concert. But pretty entertaining. Sadly, it was lip synched, as usual. Still, it was wild enough and long enough to make you wonder if the two teams were still in the building when it was over.