The Doggiest of Dog Days

 

Barry Gossage/NBAE Photos

Barry Gossage/NBAE Photos

Shouldn’t baseball be over by now? I’m tired of pennant races that don’t involve actual pennants. I’m bored with hearing about the Yankees and the Red Sox as if they were the US and Russia during the Cold War and not a single other team – or country – matters. I’m sick of the speculation over whether this will finally be the year the Cubs win a World Series…Long streaks of championship futility only matter to me if we’re talking about the Suns finally bringing home the big trophy. I’m exhausted by trade deadlines and endless commentary over whether or not the acquisition of this middle reliever/fifth inning specialist will make the difference for Houston, trying to climb from fourth place to third, or whatever.

Isn’t it time to wrap up football as well? I say a final decision on whatever it is Brett Favre is going through should just be declared the Super Bowl for the year, the winner is either Favre or the Packers, and we all just forget the season and move right along. Honestly, I haven’t seen this many people so excited over the start of camp since my classmates hit the last day of school in fifth grade. [Read more...]

Why I Can't Work in Vegas Again

(Daniel Banks/Suns.com)

(Daniel Banks/Suns.com)

When I first set foot in Vegas this week I thought it was going to be the beginning of something beautiful. I’ve come to find out that God has a sense of humor, and unbeknownst to me before this weekend, I am the constant butt of all his jokes.

I haven’t seen an event like this backfire since Janet Jackson performed at the Super Bowl. It was supposed to be the best week of my life. An all-expense paid trip to Vegas, while getting to watch the Suns of the future develop before my eyes. And that would be enough for me, if I was a mature adult. But one thing I’ve learned about myself on this trip, a mature adult I am not…

That’s why I’m going to give you five reasons why I won’t be lured into Vegas again:

1. Pool at the Palms: When my co-worker and I entered our suite and saw that we overlooked the infamous pool, a rush of adrenaline pumped through our veins as the thought of us poolside made us as giddy as Tom Cruise on the Oprah Winfrey Show. But that boon would prove to be our vice. As the bass kicked into its ninth hour of bumping, the sound waves continued to crash against our window and the shallow end began calling to us like the voice in the “Field of Dreams,” my colleague and I could wait no longer; we had to know what all of the ruckus was about. [Read more...]

Watching A Game On Tivo Harder Than It Looks

For example, last week’s big game against the San Antonio Spurs started when I was 25,000 feet over Amarillo, Texas. That’s fine because nobody can use the Internet or the cell phones when you’re on a plane. The problems start when you’re plane lands. Usually the other people on the plane are too uncomfortable standing next to you waiting for their turn to leave to actually make conversation. No spoilers there.

The next stage was more difficult. I had to walk through Terminal 4 with Ninja-like discipline. I couldn’t look left or right for nearly a quarter of a mile because there are TV screens everywhere. Just to be safe, I put on my Mean Face just in case I ran into a friend and they unwittingly blurted out the score of the game. If you think this is a little extreme, you don’t understand that my friends would do something like this, and you also forget that this was the Suns/Spurs game–the first with big Shaq. This is playoff basketball two months early.

While I waited for my wife to pick me up, I opted to leave the massive crowds inside the airport and stand among a handful of smokers outside, because statistically, there was less chance that I’d overhear someone yapping about the game in progress. I smelled like smoke for the rest of the day, but at least I got to enjoy the game from beginning to it’s glorious end. (Even if it was technically three hours after the final shot of the game.)

I’ve spoken to my friends about this anxiety, and they know what it’s like. My friend Justin had problems–coincidentally–over last year’s final regular season game against the Spurs. His girlfriend’s parents were in town for the weekend, which would have been fine, maybe even fun. Welcome to Phoenix…now lets watch the Suns! Unfortunately, these folks didn’t care much for basketball.

He knew this fact a week in advance and decided that watching the game together was a bad idea. Something that could end the whole relationship. So he crafted an brilliant plan. He set the DVR to record the game, and then he took the family to the only event that he could find that would be absolutely insulated from the game: The Renaissance Festival. Genius! Shear genius! Give the man a trophy!

Think about it: it’s so hard to avoid hearing about the outcome of a big game. I almost punched a bag boy at Basha’s last year because he asked me if I bought all this party food to celebrate the “big win.” I looked at him sideways for five seconds and then slowly explained to him we hadn’t seen the game yet. He felt so bad he jumped to the next register to start bagging groceries for a lady who bought a pack of gum.

Really, where do you go? Even if you took them on a hike up Camelback Mountain, there would be a group of girls from ASU laying out in the sun listening to the game on the radio…debating on who is cuter, Raja or Leandro. There’s no safe place. Three years ago, the priest at my parish ruined the outcome of a game during his sermon. How messed up is that? Isn’t that a sin?

Howdy Y'all

I hated “Tom and Jerry.”� When I was a kid, that cartoon about the perpetual struggles of a cat and mouse drove me crazy. Maybe it was because the family pet was a cat, or maybe it was because I was raised with a sense of justice.

 

Amaré Stoudemire blocks Tim Duncan in the 2005 playoffs. 

(NBAE Photos)

Tom the cat was only trying to do what comes naturally – chase down a prize – and every time he’d be thwarted in some ethically questionable way by Jerry the mouse.

Every…single…time. It simply wasn’t fair.

Having said that, I understand many Suns fans feel the same frustration towards a certain team from South Texas. That’s where I come in…

I spent the past four seasons with the San Antonio Spurs, and this summer I followed the light and made the move to Phoenix to work with the best organization in professional sports. While it was hard to leave Texas (literally, it took nine hours of driving just to get to the border), I am very happy to be here. Pardon the pun, but the future is bright with the Suns.

I’ll be part of the Suns.com team that is made of different members each with a unique skill (some might say superpower). My area of interest is design, graphics, and generally being a geek. Geek, however, is not to be confused with being a dweeb or nerd – no matter what my friends and family think. I’m getting to work on some very cool projects that you’ll see soon and hopefully y’all will forgive my Spurs experience.

During my time in San Antonio I experienced the heartbreak of Derek Fisher’s “Point Four,” the tension of two Game 7s, two NBA Championships, and even the romance of Tony and Eva. In fact, I was in the locker room to witness their first meeting. Eva was waiting to meet Tim Duncan (friend of her TV-husband, Ricardo Chavira) and explained this to Tony before blurting out, “But I like you too!” …and the rest was history.

Now I may be new, but I’ve already picked up on a sense unfinished business with San Antonio. The Phoenix Mercury can’t avoid questions about the rivalry as they prepare to face the San Antonio Silver Stars in the WNBA Western Conference Finals. I get grimaces when I show my license at the grocery store. My coworkers still suspect I’m leaking secrets back to Pop.
Let me start the healing with the story of how and when I became a Suns fan…

In late May of 2005, the Spurs were rolling through the playoffs. They’d grabbed a 3-0 lead over Phoenix in the Western Conference Finals and had a chance to sweep with Game 4 on their home court. But the Suns showed them they were not the kind of team to go quietly. Playing with the intensity of nothing to lose, they held a slim lead in the final minute. With 34 seconds remaining, Tim Duncan attacked the rim and Amare Stoudemire rose up to meet him – recording his only block of the game. That play – and that game – raised eyebrows around the league and sent the series back to Phoenix. The Spurs may have advanced, but to me, the Suns evolved during that series.

Ever since then, I’ve watched them play every chance I got.

How can you not love this team? They play a fast-paced style that has led me to yell, “Press B Button! Spin Move!” as if I was watching an X-Box tournament. Steve Nash navigates passing lanes so tight I swear he’s sending the ball through defenders like Patrick Swayze in “Ghost.” I am convinced Stoudemire has shoes made of flubber. Everything about this team is entertaining, and they exude an enthusiasm for the game that is simply refreshing. I’m not saying anything y’all don’t already know.

I cannot get by without discussing the most recent Suns/Spurs series. Early on, the matchup was billed as a gentlemen’s contest, a challenge between old friends, but by the end of the series it felt more like Hamilton versus Burr (yay history!). Game 1 was a near-classic marred by a bloody awful ending.
Game 3 gave Manu a black eye and gave the Suns a reason to be fired up for Game 4.

The “Horry Incident” was, frankly, a stupid move. It wasn’t diabolical, it was dumb. Even his teammates were angry about it. I can still remember a furious Tony Parker refusing to take questions about it after the game telling reporters, “You should ask Robert,” every time they brought it up. I was one of many basketball fans who wanted to see a full-strength Game 5, but that didn’t happen. I also was rooting for a full-strength Game 7, but San Antonio advanced in six games and the curtain closed on the story of the Suns’ playoff run – unhappy ending and all.

Yes, the Spurs have been the “Jerry” too often to this town. Yes, they have gone through here on three of their four title runs. However, the Suns are poised for a little payback this season, and I’m thrilled to have a front row seat for the show.

When the Chips Are Down

John Paxson. Mario Elie. It’s stung for Suns fans
in the past, but never quite like this.

 

Jeter and Manning have been on both ends of monumental victories and defeats. 

(NBAE Photos)

Phoenix’s elimination to arch-rival San Antonio for the second time in three seasons was tough, but it doesn’t mean there isn’t reason to be optimistic.

I know what you’re thinking – here we go with another “rah rah” Suns.com blog justifying why next season will be different. I’m not here to predict anything but I did want to stop by and share a few stories with you.

It’s hard to call Peyton Manning the most underrated player in football. After all, how do you call a league MVP underrated? It’s simple, Manning carries that team and orchestrates that offense like no player we’ve seen this past decade. He makes reading an NFL defense look easy, and better than any player in the NFL (including running backs) allows his defense to rest on the sidelines for extended periods of time.

For whatever reason, however, Manning just could never seem to take his team deep in the playoffs, particularly when it involved getting beyond the New England Patriots. Even in 2005, after Manning shrugged off his 0-7 record in New England to help improve Indianapolis to an 8-0 regular season record, the Pro Bowler couldn’t appear to get over that postseason hump as the Colts fell, this time to the eventual World Champion Pittsburgh Steelers.

I’ll never forget the night Manning was officially able to get over the hump. It didn’t come in the Super Bowl, but rather the AFC Conference Championship Game against those Patriots. I was working a Suns game that evening and was unable to watch the memorable gridiron contest. I did, however, receive a number of calls from people who wanted to rub it in that my favorite quarterback on my favorite team was again about to come up short to a team which plays near a city I can’t stand. On this evening, I did make a guarantee. To everyone who called to update me on the Colts’ 18-point deficit, I spoke of the events which would follow.

In my best rendition of Paul Westphal’s 1993 Opening Round Series guarantee, I said, “We’re going to win the ballgame. We’re going to overcome the deficit and tomorrow everybody will talk about how Manning was finally able to get over the hump after doing the impossible.”

Manning indeed pulled off the comeback, riding the momentum to an eventual Super Bowl victory over the Chicago Bears. The guy who just couldn’t seem to beat Tom and his Brady Bunch did so when absolutely nobody gave him a shot – well almost nobody.

The tables were turned in 2004 when it was Boston doing what many felt was a mission impossible. Trailing their long-time rival Yankees in the American League Championship Series 3-0, all sports fans heard about was that fun little statistic discussing how no team in NBA or MLB history has ever climbed back to win a series when trailing 3-0. As if that wasn’t enough for the Red Sox, to mount a comeback would mean mounting one against the Yankees, the team which had provided them with a lifetime of wedgies and swirlies.

With the series suddenly tied at three games apiece, I again remained confident. Perhaps biased by my New York blood, I claimed that this was all a marvelous setup, constructed by the Yankees themselves. The team had seemingly ripped out the hearts of Sox fans in every way possible, why not get creative? What better way to hurt a sports fan than by taking one who has gone from hopeless to hopeful and punching them in the stomach?

On this night, however, it wasn’t meant to be as the Red Sox destroyed the Yankees in the house that Ruth built – Yankee Stadium. It was the first and only time in my life I actually had people calling me to see if I was alright due to the result of a sporting event. It should have been a sign that I had become too emotionally involved in the world of sports, but of course it didn’t.

Life as a sports fan is filled with hard times, but it’s those hard times which make climbing the mountain worth it. And there’s no better feeling than doing it when it appears you’ve had your last chance, just ask Peyton Manning or any of the players who were forced to wear Red Sox jerseys in 2004.

A lot of people feel the Suns had their best shot at winning a championship in 202007, but a lot of people also thought Manning could never get past New England and that the Red Sox could never get past the Yankees. When the clouds are darkest are when the great ones rise – and who better to rise next season than a team which calls Phoenix home?