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LOOK AGAIN Recent developments in the world of sports that caught my eye:
  • Three Canadian teams among the final four Eastern Conference contenders for the Stanley Cup. It’s hockey sacrilege that Winnipeg and Quebec City no longer have NHL clubs, while Phoenix and Denver suit up teams in this sport, a veritable religion north of the U.S. border. Not since Vancouver fell to the Rangers in 1994 has a Canadian club reached the Stanley Cup finals. Here’s hoping the Toronto Maple Leafs bounce back against the Carolina -- long live the Hartford Whalers! -- Hurricanes. (By the way, why is Toronto’s team not called the Maple Leaves?)
  • Open mike for whining millionaires. The only reason to pay attention to the recent public comments of Allen Iverson and Ken Griffey Jr. is because of the honesty in their tear-jerking gripes. Forget all the modern sports cliches about how “it’s all about the team.” No, with self-centered superstars like the Answer and Junior, “it’s all about me.” Count the number of championship rings between these two. Losers, both of them.
  • Ironing Tiger. Had to do a double-take when I recently read a sports headline claiming Tiger Woods is “considering” switching his irons to a model manufactured by, surprise, Nike. (You’ve got to be kidding me. Might as well make news of Fred Smith choosing to ship his packages via FedEx.) I know Tiger’s the king of the links these days, but does anyone care which irons he uses in bludgeoning the PGA Tour? (By the way, this is a fundamental problem I have with golf. You don’t read news about Sammy Sosa switching bats to gain more distance, more speed through the strike zone. An athlete’s performance should be about what his body does, not his equipment.)
  • 48 minutes . . . and they all count. The NBA’s conference finals have provided the most riveting playoff basketball since Mr. Jordan started dominating things this time of year in the early Nineties. The Celtics’ epic comeback in Game 3 against New Jersey, then Robert Horry’s buzzer-beating trey to complete the Lakers’ season-saving Game 4 win over Sacramento made for an NBA weekend unlike many we’ve ever seen. It’s been more than two decades since both conference finals went seven games . . . anyone betting against it this year? (And is there a basketball purist anywhere who wouldn’t love to see a Boston L.A. Finals reunion?)
  • Hornets fly the nest. What’s the big deal about yet another professional sports community divorce? Because this will finally rectify a 23-year violation of dignified team-naming laws. When Charlotte’s runaway NBA franchise lands in New Orleans, the Big Easy can seize back its name from Salt Lake City’s thieving hoop powers. The Jazz belong in Utah every bit as much as the Nordiques belong in Denver. The NBA can once again have its New Orleans Jazz, and Salt Lake -- home to the Pacific Coast League’s Salt Lake Stingers -- will be more than comfortable with their “new” Utah Hornets.
  • Frank delivers for Redbirds. Upon his promotion from Double-A New Haven, Mike Frank picked up three hits and drove in four runs on May 12th, as Memphis split a doubleheader with Calgary. He crushed his first PCL homer two days later. Could it be that the answer to the Redbirds’ hitting prayers all along was a sweet swinging outfielder named Frank? (I’m first in line for his game-worn uniform at season’s end.)
  • Baseball standard in Seattle. As the Mariners again pull away from the American League West, Lou Piniella’s outfit solidfies itself as the best team story in sports. Three greedy future Hall of Famers fly the coop and Seattle merely wins 116 games. If there’s any hope for baseball, any chance the owners and players can come to agree on a longterm future of the sport, the Mariners should be the example used. (And keep this in mind, home run lovers: Seattle won those 116 games without a single player hitting so much as 40 dingers.)
  • The perfect sport? No contract gripes. No finger pointing between coaches and players. No strikes or lockouts. No speaking about yourself in the third person. You gotta love horse racing. Here’s hoping War Emblem can become the first Triple Crown winner in 24 years when he leaves the gate at the Belmont June 8th.
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