The Play by Play
Traditions and Superstitions
You may have noticed that at the conclusion of every Stanley Cup playoff series the two teams head to center ice for a handshake. This does not happen during the regular season or really in any other of the four US professional sports (you will see it in soccer however). As each player proceeds through the line they appear to express sincere congratulations, sometimes even offering a pleasant pat on the back while passing. It’s a recognition of respect and the fact that “at the end of the day [they’re] all out there trying to do a job and play the game [they] love.” No one is quite sure when this tradition started but it certainly isn’t the only one in the sport. A few other notable traditions are: fans throwing hats onto the ice following a player scoring a hat trick (3 goals in one game), playoff beards (there are plenty of these on display currently), goalies leading teams onto the ice at the start of a game and being the first congratulated afterwards (in recognition of their crucial role on the team), and never touching the Stanley Cup unless you’ve just won it.
The Cleveland Cavaliers are facing off against the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals. Sound familiar? That’s because it is the fourth consecutive year (a feat never before seen in the modern sports era) these two teams battle it out for the championship. True, between 1962 and 1969 the LA Lakers and Boston Celtics met in the Finals six times in eight years. However, they were never paired more than three times in a row (The Celtics played the San Francisco Warriors in 1964 and in 1967 the Warriors played the 76ers). It is also the eighth straight season that LeBron James makes an appearance in the Finals. Having played for the Miami Heat (with Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade) and the Cavaliers (with Kevin Love), this season gets James one step closer to Bill Russell’s record of 10 consecutive finals (he was a member of the Celtics during their 1957-1966 run). Some question whether a Golden State win would cast doubt on LeBron’s legacy but this statistic alone (along with the fact he essentially carried an unlikely team through the postseason), might cement his position as one of the greatest players in NBA history. And just in case all of this isn’t impressive enough, LeBron’s pregame outfit (that included suit shorts) cost a measly $46,000. That’s a pretty penny.
The Faces and Facts
Featured Female: Ding Ning (Table Tennis): The most well known female table tennis player in China and considered the 15th most famous female athlete in the world (ESPN). She won gold (team) and silver (singles) at the 2012 London Olympics and also won the World Table Tennis Championships in 2011, 2015 and 2017.
Bryan Colangelo (Basketball): The President of Basketball Operations for the Philadelphia 76ers who finds himself in some seriously hot water. In recent days five “burner” accounts on twitter were traced back to Colangelo. While the possession of these is not newsworthy itself, the fact that the accounts repeatedly criticize Philadelphia players and coaches certainly is. Especially if they are actually written by Colangelo. While at this point it’s all only alleged, it’s looking like Bryan will soon be sending out his resume. And in case you were wondering what his tweets looked like (grammar mistakes and all), you can check them out here, along with what some Bostonians guess a Belichick burner account would look like.
Ben Simmons (Basketball): A star player for the 76ers and Rookie of the Year candidate. Now dating Kendall Jenner (recently split from fellow NBA-er Blake Griffin) we’re left wondering if he’ll be the next victim of the supposed “Kardashian Curse.” Apparently, athletes (or men in general) who date one of the sisters end up with less than stellar careers. Think Lamar Odom, Reggie Bush and most famously Chris Humphries (It would appear they have a penchant for sporty guys!). None of them returned to the spotlight (at least not for their play) following their stints as a Kardashian boyfriend. We’ll see what’s in store for Simmons.
Have you ever seen a baseball player move to the next base without anyone getting a hit or stealing? Turns out there’s a whole laundry list of reasons why a base runner is allowed to advance a base (or two or three) and this week I’ll cover a few of the most common.
- A Walk: Definitely the most common but not technically considered an “awarded base” by officials. During every at bat, a player gets 3 strikes (pitches that enter the strike zone, an area inside which it’s considered hittable or when a batter swings and misses) and 4 balls (those that fall outside this hittable zone and at which the batter doesn’t swing). If a pitcher throws 4 balls, the batter is awarded one base and thus advances to first. Sometimes additional players on base are also advanced because they occupy the base that the batter is awarded. This is called being “forced” to advance.
- Batter hit by pitch: Any time a batter is hit by a pitch, he or she automatically advances to first base. Other runner on base advances only if forced.
- Pitcher balks: Once a pitcher’s standing on or makes contact with the pitching plate (“the rubber”), there are a handful of actions that become illegal. A pitcher cannot make any motion associated with a pitch and then not complete it. A pitcher, while touching the “rubber” cannot fake a throw to first or third base and not complete it. A pitcher cannot throw a pitch toward a batter while not facing him. If he does any of these things it is called a balk and the batter advances to first along with all those on base who are forced to advance.
- Defensive (catcher) Interference: If the catcher interferes with the batter’s ability to hit the ball, the team’s manager can choose to either: accept an awarded base and send the batter to first OR if the batter got the ball in play, accept the result of the play. Again, any other base runner advances if forced.
There are so many more instances that warrant an awarded base (or even multiple bases). If you’re curious, check out a comprehensive list here.
The Belmont Stakes (Horse Racing): Justify’s chance to go down in history as the 13th horse to complete the Triple Crown. His jockey, Mike Smith, has won twice previously (in 2010 and 2013) which bodes well. However, three of the last four horses to win the Stakes have been fathered by the stallion Tapit, and his most recent son, Hofburg, is set to compete in this year’s race. So it certainly won’t be a sure fire victory for Justify. The race is scheduled for Saturday, June 9th.
Cleveland Cavaliers v. Golden State Warriors (Basketball): With two games down and the series at 2-0 for Golden State, you can look forward to a few more basketball games this week. Let’s see if the Cavaliers can finally recover from JR Smith’s less-than-stellar move at the end of Game 1 (which led Warrior fans to give him a standing ovation at the start of Game 2). Sometimes telling time is just too hard. Tune in Wednesday and Friday at 9pm EST for Games 3 and 4 respectively.
Washington Capitals v. Las Vegas Golden Knights (Hockey): In a 2-1 series in favor of the Caps, there’s definitely at least two more games before a champion is crowned. You can watch Monday June 4th and Thursday June 7th for certain and possibly Sunday the 10th depending on the outcome of the earlier two. Don’t miss out on the final games of the season!
Houston Astros v. Texas Rangers (Baseball): Battle of the Texas teams. Despite claiming the same home state, no real rivalry existed between these two teams until recent years. Cue a bench clearing brawl in 2015, the Texans going 15-4 against Houston and subsequently winning the AL West by 11 games in 2016, and Alex Bregman’s 2017 tweet announcing “Operation #BTSOOTR” (Beat the s*** out of the Texas Rangers). We’ll see what this season has in store on June 7th.