Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Kurt Busch, NBA, and more

I said on Saturday, and I will say it again.  I want to see a former Cup series champion do well, but when he behaves the way he has, those feelings go out the window.  I am talking about Kurt Busch, a guy that can be as charitable and giving on one day, and down right ornery the next.

Busch is suspended this week after taking a reporter, Bob Pockrass of The Sporting News, to task after a question following the Nationwide Series race at Dover.  The question, regardless of Kurt's opinion at the time, was racing related, and Busch fired off a terse reply.  The reply was unnecessary, and unprofessional, and NASCAR called him on it.  Busch was on probation at the time, and that probation has been extended through to the end of the year.

Was Kurt wrong?  Absolutely.  Should he have been suspended?  I don't know.   In my opinion, Kurt did not threaten the reporter.  He just acted like a jerk.  There are no rules or laws in place for people behaving like the back end of a thoroughbred, provided no one is physically injured.  NASCAR is protecting its brand, however, and that is likely why Busch got the weekend off.

The harsh reality is this: Busch has moved from Hendrick Motorsports to Roush-Fenway Racing, to Penske Racing in his career.  Three highly respected organizations within stock car racing.  He left Hendrick to go to RFR to begin his Cup career, left RFR (on shaky terms to put it nicely) for Penske, and was let go by Penske.  He is burning bridges left and right.  Will another high profile organization bring him on?  Looking at it now, the odds are long that it would happen.

I want to see him succeed, but when he behaves the way he has, those feelings go out the window.  Kurt, shut the window for me.

The NBA playoffs have gotten to the conference finals, and at long last, we have outstanding action.  Oklahoma City and San Antonio have played some of the most entertaining basketball I have seen all season long.  Miami and Boston is turning into a grudge match, and that, too, is entertaining.  In the last post, I picked the Heat in 6, but I'm not so certain of that anymore.  Tied at 2-2 after four games, Boston is showing some veteran savvy, and Rajon Rondo has been exquisite.

In the west, Oklahoma City is on the brink of the NBA Finals, after handing the Spurs their first three-game losing streak since Gregg Popovich had dark hair.  OK, it's been more recent than that.  Still, the fact that the Thunder has responded the way they have could signify a changing of the guard in the West.  No, I am not anointing the Thunder as the next dominant team in the West, but the make-up is there for this team to be a contender for a while.

The NCAA baseball tournament has provided some thrills and spills.  First off congrats to Appalachian State on their best season in program history.  They finish 41-18, after falling to Oklahoma twice in the regional final at Charlottesville, Va.  The Mountaineers had an impressive year, and this could be the start of something very special on the mountain.  Also, congrats to North Carolina.  Their season came to a disappointing end, but credit Mike Fox and company for recognizing that their run over the past, say decade, has been nothing short of incredible.  Making it to Omaha is not as easy as they have made it look.  Props to the Heels on the direction of the program.

NC State remains alive, thanks to a performance that would have made Jim Valvano smile.  Trailing 7-3 into the top of the 8th, the visiting Wolfpack (on their home field--strange), managed a 3-spot in the 8th, and tacked on three more in the 9th for a 9-7 win over Vanderbilt.  The win keeps their season alive, and a weekend series with the Florida Gators is on tap.  If the Wolfpack can manage to upset the top seeded Gators, they head to Omaha.  Having known Elliott Avent for a long time, it's tough not to pull for him.  He's a good guy, and runs a good program.  Would be nice to see the Pack dancing in Nebraska in a few weeks.  First things first, the Gators.

Finally, the Los Angeles Kings are one win away from their first Stanley Cup.  I called it a five game series before it started, and now I fear it will be a sweep.  The Kings have been just a little better in all areas against New Jersey, and that was the difference in the first two games.  The 4-0 final in game three was all about Jonathan Quick and the Kings speed.  This has been an impressive playoffs for L.A.  They will be deserving champs.

Let's just hope that Game 4 isn't the last hockey we see for an extended period of time.  NHL labor talks have yet to begin with their Collective Bargaining Agreement set to run out in September.

Mike Solarte

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