There are many things that make me extremely nervous in my life. For example, when I stand in front of a large group of people to give a speech, that causes my blood pressure to rise ever so slightly, or when I walk down a dark alley at night. I never know who is lurking around the corner to rob me. Also included in this list is watching my favorite sports teams participate in the playoffs. Yes, that is right! Being a sports fan around playoff time is not kind to your heart health to say the least. I know many fans know exactly what I am talking about. It can be extremely excruciating to sit through an overtime in an important playoff game. Sometimes we fans are more nervous than the players and coaches themselves!
I don’t have a real strong passion for any of the NBA or NHL playoff teams, but I can just tell from watching the games on television that passion is extremely strong in those cities. During a recent closely contested NHL playoff game that I watched, the camera zoomed in on some of the fans and it seemed like some were an absolute nervous wreck. Unfortunately, the home team lost in overtime and one shot of a fan really caught my attention. It was a young female fan, perhaps 20 years old. She was crying uncontrollable after the loss. I kept thinking how her evening most of been completely ruined by the sudden loss. Hopefully she did not jump off some nearby bridge on her way home. It was a very touching camera shot to say the least. When you invest in so much time and energy to support a particular team during the season and they come up short, it can be a very difficult emotional trauma to deal with. On the flip side, when your favorite team makes a big playoff run, it is the greatest thing in the world. You are overcome with the franchise fever and that is a good fever to have!
I have to admit that I tend to fall into the category of overly passionate sports fan. There are times when I cannot sit and watch an important playoff game when my team is playing. It is just too stressful especially if I am watching it myself. I have to remind myself that the world will still exist even though my team may lose. If my team does lose a big game and are knocked out of the playoffs, I always look ahead and think about the future. Maybe this wasn’t the time for them to advance deep into the playoffs. They are too young. As a sports fan, you always have to have hope for the future. That is the number one way of getting over a huge playoff disappointment.
In the grand scheme of things, there are far more important things to get nervous about than some stupid game played by extremely wealthy individuals. But don’t tell that to those rabid sports fans who live and die on the success of their teams, especially come playoff time. For them, nothing else matters in the world. It is funny how sports team tend to influence people in that matter. Especially when those fans have absolutely no control over how their team performs. I cannot stand at the free throw line and knock down some free throws. Or stop a shot in overtime. Perhaps we as fans including myself should take a step back and realize how much fun those games are instead of going through the emotional torture chamber of sitting and watching a crucial playoff game. Our heart may thank us for it.
A few years ago. someone asked me why I enjoy watching sports on television so much. It took me all of about 2 seconds to give her the answer. There are very few things on television that match the drama, excitement and entertainment of a huge playoff game. Sure there are good mystery shows on, but you can usually predict what will happen. Not so with sports; the past few weeks only reinforce why I love to watch sports. The last few weeks of NBA and NHL playoff action have been off the charts with high drama and excitement. I cannot recall a better playoff season with several close, nail-biting games in both leagues.
The NBA’s first round playoff matchups are normally about as exciting and predictable as watching grass grow. Every once in a while, you will see a random upset, but for the most part, the better teams usually do not have much difficulty in wrapping up the series. That is not the case this year. The number one seeds in both conferences, Indiana and San Antonio, have been stretched to a 7th game in their best of seven game series. Indiana was on the verge of being eliminated the other night before they staged a nice rally to force a game 7. I cannot recall both number one seeds ever being stretched to a game 7. Many of the other playoff games have been close, hard-fought battles with several going into overtime. Last night’s Portland, Houston game had a finish that will be talked about for years. Today is a historic day for the NBA as three game 7 deciding games will take place. That has never ever happened in one day. Tomorrow, 2 more game 7’s will take place. I know the NBA brass must be licking their chops at main headquarters. Having that many game 7’s in the opening round is unbelievable!
The NHL playoffs have not been lacking in their share of thrilling moments and finishes as well. Our hometown team here in St. Paul, the Minnesota Wild just got playing a spectacular and thrilling 7 game series against Colorado. The final game, which was won by the Wild in overtime, was one of the best hockey games that I have ever seen. Other games and series have produced memorable moments as well with several overtime games. Who can forget the L.A. Kings dramatic comeback in their series against San Jose? The NHL always has great drama in their playoffs and that is why this casual fan enjoys their playoffs almost as much as the NBA’s.
Besides all the spine tingling games, one of things that I have enjoyed seeing, especially in the NBA playoffs is the amount of parity that seems to be developing in both leagues. The gap between the lower seeded and higher seeded teams is a lot less this year than in previous years thus so many series stretched to the limit. I think parity is a great thing both leagues. The unpredictability of a series makes it so much more enjoyable to watch. I don’t see any of the remaining playoff teams to be locks to make it to the finals and that is a good thing. Personally, I would rather see different teams make it to the finals rather than seeing the same old teams always playing for the championship. Wouldn’t it be great to see the Toronto Raptors make it to the NBA finals?
Despite all this talk about parity and having new teams play for the championship, I expect and predict that we will see a repeat of last year’s championship series in both leagues, with the Miami Heat winning the NBA for the 3rd year in a row and Chicago Blackhawks repeating as the NHL champions. But in the meantime, grab some popcorn and a cold beverage because there are certain to be many more breath-taking moments to come in these unforgettable playoffs. I don’t know if I can take any more excitement!!
If you have been noticing that certain people have been missing in action for the past month or so, you are absolutely 100 percent correct. It is playoff time and many sports fans like myself are always hard to get a hold of. We find little excuses to get out of certain chores or social events so we can sit down and watch that hot playoff game. I have been holed up in my man cave for the past month with a huge “Do not disturb sign” on my door. Text messages to my cell phone have gone unanswered and phone calls go directly to my voice mailbox. Well I am exaggerating a bit but you get the point. Anyways, after watching some of the action in both the NBA and NHL playoffs, I have some random thoughts about what has taken place and what may lie ahead. Just a word of caution for all those NHL puck guys who may be reading this post. I am not a huge NHL guy even though I live in Minnesota. Just a casual fan so bear with me. I follow the NBA a lot more but I enjoy your league as well. So without any further delays, here are some random thoughts of what I have seen since the playoffs started.
1. MVP’s so far. For hockey, my vote goes to the goalie of the L.A. Kings Jonathon Quick. The goalie is the most important position on the team and a hot goalie can take a team deep into the playoffs. Quick carried the Kings to the championship last year and his play this year has not dropped off a bit. Where would the Kings be without him? The obvious pick for the NBA is LeBron but nobody talks about Tony Parker of San Antonio. He might be the most underrated player in the league. He totally dominated Memphis during the Spurs sweep and I expect him to have a huge finals as well.
2. Biggest surprises. The run of the Detroit Red Wings has to be the biggest surprise in the NHL playoffs so far. They beat a number 2 seed and nearly beat maybe the best team in the league, Chicago. Every year, a lower seeded team in the NHL playoffs always overachieves and Detroit was that team this year. The run of the Golden State Warriors was somewhat of a surprise to me. Unlike the NHL, the NBA playoffs always seem to offer few upsets and most of the higher seeded teams advance. Golden State gave San Antonio all they could handle and the injury to Steph Curry in that series may have prevented them from knocking off the Spurs as well. They are definitely one of the up and coming teams in the NBA. I am becoming a huge fan of Curry and that team.
3. A network executive’s plea. I know many executives over at ABC are rather nervous about tomorrow night’s game 7 between Miami and Indiana. Imagine if Indiana wins and you have a San Antonino, Indiana series? Can you say boring and low ratings?!! No Lebron in the finals? Say it isn’t so!! I wonder how those people who say the NBA is fixed will try to explain that one! There is no question that NBC, the network carrying the NHL finals will want to have a Chicago, Pittsburgh final. It would be a fitting end to a season which started with a lockout and would draw in many casual fans like myself. Both teams are two of the marque teams in the league with plenty of superstars.
4. Please end the playoffs before Memorial Day. I know the hockey season was delayed due to the strike and the season was stretched by a few weeks. But it is a typical thing to have the playoffs in both leagues go into June. Why not have the seasons start a few weeks earlier like in the old days? The only ice I want to see in June is the one in my beverage while I recline pool or lake side on a nice, sunny day.
5. Predictions. Despite their injuries, I see the Miami Heat pulling off the the title in the NBA but I am very unsure about that pick. They are very ripe to get beat right now and it would not surprise me to see Indiana knock them off tomorrow night. In the NHL, I think Boston will upset Pittsburgh in a classic 7 game series, however, I believe Chicago has too much going for them right now and I see them beating Boston in 6 to win the cup. By then, it might be time to celebrate the 4th of July!!