What to Watch Fri. 5/30- Sun. 6/1

Friday May 30th

San Francisco Giants @ St Louis Cardinals – 5:15pm MLB.TV: A great pitching matchup, Madison Bumgarner (6-3) vs Adam Wainwright (8-2), and two teams who will compete to represent the National League in the World Series. Just like they’ve done the last four years.

Indiana Pacers @ Miami Heat – 5:30pm ESPN: Looks like King James and crew will get it done in Game 6 at home. But the Pacers were the best team in the East this year so, that’s why we watch the game.

Chicago Blackhawks @ Los Angeles Kings – 6pm NBCSN: Game 6 and the Kings can close it out at home. It’s a tall order for the struggling Blackhawks.

Saturday May 31st

UFC Fight Night Double Header – Noon/ 7pm: Since the UFC doesn’t have enough fights they decided to put two events on the same day. The first one features Mark Munoz vs Gegard Mousasi and the second one features Stipe Miocic vs Fabio Maldonaldo. Basically if you’re in the mood for a cage fight at some point on Saturday, odds are there is a live fight happening somewhere. See UFC.com for more info.

Real Salt Lake @ Seattle Sounders – 1pm MLS LIVE: Regardless if players are going to Brazil or not, this is a key match-up out West. Why? It’s the top two teams in that’s why.

San Antonio Spurs @ Oklahoma City Thunder – 5:30pm TNT: Yep, it’s a Game 6. Someone can close it out.

Sunday June 1st

USA vs Turkey – 11am ESPN2: Team USA’s second tune up game for the World Cup.

Vancouver Whitecaps @ Portland Timbers – 6pm MLS LIVE: A Cascadia Cup match-up and Portland looks like they are starting to find their legs (even though they may not have a lot left with this being their third game in eight days.)

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Greatest Day In Racing

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard

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The Sunday of Memorial Day Weekend (or as the rest of the world calls it ‘the last Sunday in May’) is an automotive fans dream. It starts at 8am Eastern and ends sometime around 10pm Eastern. From Monaco to Indianapolis to Charlotte, it is the greatest day in racing. What makes it great is not that there are races on all day but the remarkable combination or engineering, strategy, human endurance and tradition.

The Monaco Grand Prix began in 1929. It is one of the biggest races of the year in Formula 1(F1) and one the most prestigious in all of racing.  Won this year by Nico Rosberg, it runs right through the city, incorporates a nasty hairpin turn, and pretty much signifies the glitz and glamour that is F1. Throw in the fact that the cars are some of the most complex in the world and tit’s amazing that just about everyone finishes the race.

The Indianapolis 500 is the race for most people. If people watch one race all year it’s probably this one. It’s considered by some to be the sporting event of the year, in the best venue, and with the richest tradition.

This years Indy 500 was the second closes in history with Ryan Hunter-Reay beating out three time champ Helio Castroneves for his first ever victory.

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The Coca-Cola 600 takes place in Charlotte, NC and is the longest race of the year for NASCAR. It spans 400 laps and 600 miles (Indy is 200 laps and 500 miles). It’s been run since 1959 and wraps up the long day of racing. Jimmie Johnson took home the checkered flag this year, his fourth Coca-Cola 600 win of his career.

One of the great feats in racing is to attempt ‘the double’. That is where a driver races in the Indy 500 and later in the Coca-Cola 600. The best combined finish was Tony Stewart back in 2001. This year Kurt Busch gave it shot. He made it over halfway but his engine blew out in Charlotte. All told, Busch race some 900 miles on Sunday.

Sports is the greatest reality show on television. Race day 2014 was no exception. Close finishes with unexpected twists and turns along the way. From France to the Midwest to the Deep South, it’s a day where any sports fan can get their fill of racing and the rest can witness the amazing combination of engineering, strategy, tradition and human endurance.

What to Watch Fri. 5/23 – Mon. 5/26

Friday May 23rd

Sporting KC vs Toronto FC – 5:30pm MLS LIVE (Free Stream on MLSsoccer.com): Yeah there is no Michael Bradley, Graham Zusi or Matt Besler. However there is still Jermaine Defoe, Dom Dwyer and Claudio Bieler.

Saturday May 24th

Champions League Final – 11:30am FOX: The All-Star team that is Real Madrid will face off against Madrid neighbor and La Liga Champs Atletico Madrid. You’re welcome.

Seattle Sounders vs Vancouver Whitecaps – 4pm MLS Live: A Cascadia Cup match up is always fun to watch.

New England Revolution vs DC United – 4:30pm MLS Live: Battle of two of the top teams in the East. Who saw that coming?

Chicago Blackhawks @ LA Kings – 5pm NBC: Game 3 in LA. ‘Nuff said.

Indiana Pacers @ Miami Heat – 5:30pm ESPN: Paul George may or may not play for the Pacers. Without him it could be tough to steal a win in Miami.

Sunday May 25th (RACE DAY!)

F1 in Monaco – 5am NBC: Start the day with one of the coolest races in the World as Formula 1 heads to Monaco.

Indianapolis 500 – 9am ABC: It’s tradition like burgers on the grill this time of year. Indy gets center stage for a few hours.

Coca-Cola 600 – 3pm FOX: Finish off the race day with some NASCAR. See if Kurt Busch can complete the ‘Double’.

Montreal Canadiens @ NY Rangers – 5pm NBCSN: If the Canadiens can steal this game then this series could go the full 7.

Monday May 26th

NY Yankees @ St Louis Cardinals – 1pm ESPN: Memorial Day is for BBQ’s and baseball. Two of the most historic clubs in MLB history get center stage.

Indiana Pacers @ Miami Heat – 5:30pm ESPN: This is probably going to be the best series in the NBA Playoffs this year.

Chicago Blackhawks @ LA Kings – 6pm NBCSN: The last two Stanley Cup Champs head into Game 4.

 

 

Relying on the Dedicated Fan

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard

MLS recently announced a new TV deal with ESPN, Fox and Univision. Besides the money (MLS is looking at $90 million a year give or take) the two major points of the deal are 1) the Sunday night block of games on ESPN & Fox and 2) the digital rights.

MLS TV Press Conference

MLS is now going to get a Sunday night block of games. One on ESPN at 5pm EST and then one on Fox Sports 1 at 7pm EST. This will finally provide some regularity to MLS’s schedule.

Now for the bad news.

MLS and the networks believe that this will increase viewership for MLS. But it is asking a lot of the viewer. It may not seem like a lot to ask a viewer to change the channel from one channel to another but why should the viewer do all the work?

This is not ground-breaking or abnormal. Viewers have been conditioned over the years to flip around for the games or shows they want to see. But it’s getting beyond the pale. The NFL makes viewers jump between five channels, the NBA four, and the NHL between three during the regular season and four during the playoffs. Let’s not forget the NCAA Tournament that has games on four channels or the UFC which makes users jump from an online channel to a cable channel to a pay-per-view channel in a matter of hours.

You get the feeling that you’ll watch the first half of a game on one channel and then have to click over to another to watch the second half.

The digital rights are going to go to ESPN. This apparently is still in the works because it’s still pretty vague in the media reports.

Right now MLS has THE best digital deal. You can get MLS Live for around $60 a season and watch any out of market/non national TV game on any device from your Apple TV to your phone.

Now ESPN is getting that.

That means that DirecTV customers, who cannot get certain content on ESPN3 or the Watch ESPN app, are in big trouble. That’s 20 million subscribers MLS is leaving in the dark. Add that to the brilliant TV deal the Columbus Crew cut this off season and less fans will be able to watch games.

While the TV deal is a windfall for MLS a good portion of fans have good reason to be sceptical. ESPN and FOX do not bat 1000 however they will hopefully kick the ball off at the scheduled time unlike NBC Sports.

 

What to Watch Fri. 5/16-Sun. 5/18

Friday May 16th

Detroit Tigers @ Boston Red Sox – 4pm MLB.TV: Good looking pithing match up (Max Scherzer vs Jon Lester) and two perenial playoff teams.

Los Angeles Kings @ Anaheim Ducks – 6pm NBCSN: Game 7. Nuff said.

Saturday May 17th

FA Cup Final: Arsenal vs Hull City – 8:30am FOX: With all due respect to Hull City, Arsenal should run away with this.

Barcelona vs Athletico Madrid – 8:55am beIN Sports: At Camp Nou for all the marbles in La Liga.

New York Rangers @ Montreal Canadiens – 10am NBC: Conference finals get underway with two of the original six teams in the NHL.

New York Red Bulls @ Toronto FC – 1:30pm MLS LIVE: Michael Bradley may not be there along with Tim Cahill. However you still have Henry, Dafoe and the hottest striker in MLS in Bradley Wright-Phillips.

The Preakness – 3:10pm NBC: Alright, this is the one that matters. If California Chrome can win this one then hey, we may get a Triple Crown winner.

Houston Dynamo vs Los Angeles Galaxy – 5:30pm MLS LIVE: These two teams have a tendency to see each other again in MLS Cup. Just sayin.

 Sunday May 18th

Miami Heat @ Indiana Pacers – 12:30pm ABC: Here we go. The match-up in the East that we all wanted to see.

 

The Other Takeaway

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard

While the sports landscape is being dominated by Donald Sterling and Michael Sam one interesting detail flew below the headlines this past weekend. The University of Texas did not have a player drafted in the NFL Draft for the first time since 1937.

Texas Longhorns

The players that were eligible for the 2014 draft were part of the 2009 recruiting class (more or less). The 2009 recruiting class at Texas ranked #3 according to ESPN and #5 according to Rivals respectively. Not one of the them was drafted by an NFL team. In fact, that class had a 31-20 record at Texas.

This should be a clear indicator as to why former Texas Head Coach Mack Brown is out of a job. It should also point to why the new Head Coach is Charlie Strong was hired on.

Coach Strong’s previous team, Louisville, had three players taken in the first round of this years draft and four overall. According to Rivals.com,  the 2009 recruiting class at Louisville ranked 77th.

That brings us to the other major take away, recruiting rankings mean nothing at the end of the day. NOTHING.

 

What To Watch Fri. 5/9 – Sun. 5/11

Friday May 9th

NFL Draft – 5-8:30pm ESPN/NFL Network: It’s rounds two and three. Why not? It’s something to go back to during commercial break.

Indiana Pacers @ Washington Wizards – 5pm ESPN: The Pacers are making the playoffs much more interesting than it should be.

Chicago Blackhawks @ Minnesota Wild – 6:30pm NBCSN:  If Minnesota can pull off a home win in game four then this could go all seven games.

Oklahoma City Thunder @ Los Angeles Clippers – 7:30pm ESPN: Just go watch MVP Kevin Durant’s acceptance speech & then tell me you don’t want to watch this guy.

Saturday May 10th

NFL Draft – 9am-5pm ESPN/NFL Network: It’s rounds four through seven. Again, it’s something to go back to during commercial break.

San Francisco Giants @ Los Angeles Dodgers – 1pm FS1: One of the best rivalries in all of baseball.

Montreal Canadiens @ Boston Bruins – 4pm NBCSN:  Series is tied at 2-2. It’s everything we thought it would be.

UFC Fight Night – 7pm FS1: Matt Brown vs Erik Silva. This is a stand and trade in the middle of the Octagon fight. They should walk into the cage around 9pm.

San Antonio Spurs @ Portland TrailBlazers – 7:30pm ESPN: Game three in Portland. It will be loud and Portland needs all the help it can get.

Sunday May 11th

Championship Sunday – 7am NBC Family of Networks: This is impressive. Every Premier League game will be broadcast on NBCs networks. This should be impressive. When has that much soccer been on TV at one time in this country? Hats off if you watch West Brom vs Stoke on Oxygen.

San Francisco Giants @ Los Angeles Dodgers – 1pm FS1: One of the best rivalries in all of baseball and today will be Tim Hudson vs Clayton Kershaw.

Seattle Sounders @ New England Revolution – 3pm MLS LIVE: See the best player in MLS (Seattle’s Clint Dempsey) and the best young player in MLS (Diego Fagundez for New England).

Falling in Love on Paper

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard

The NFL Draft is upon us and without fail teams, analysts and the media in general will fall in love with players who look good on paper. Not players who did well on the field or played in the biggest games but ones who jumped high or had a good shuttle time at the draft combine.

Bortles

Let’s take one of the top quarterbacks in the draft, Blake Bortles. Bortles “looks” like an NFL QB. He fits the part. However the more important part, or logical part, was how he played at UCF. He played in 37 games at UCF throwing 56 touchdowns to just 19 interceptions. Those are pretty good numbers. So doesn’t that mean more than how high he can jump?

Map-Bortles

On another note, the blog AwfulAnnouncing.com had a great post about the absurdity of it all. Basically, one QB’s hands were too small while another’s were just fine. Funny thing, their hands are the same size! 

The draft is become more of a stock market. Players are companies and the teams are the investors. A players value can increase or decease on a daily basis while the teams look for, not only the best player, but also for the best value.

There is no solution for this. It is just a fact of life. People will continue to fall in love with a players “measurables” vs what they actually did on the field of play just like how some investors buy the hot stock vs the best value. Either way, it’s great theatre.

Respect

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard

In the wake of the Donald Sterling incident, the NBA Playoffs have almost become an after thought. While it is a shame that the game itself gets overlooked, times like these also allow us to appreciate some of the things that do take place in sports. Things like the handshakes at the end of a Stanley Cup Playoff series.

Handshake

It is tradition that at the end of a playoff series the two teams line up and shake hands. It’s a tradition that pre-dates the NHL and an important one at that. It shows respect. Even players who went toe-to-toe and smashed each other into the boards over seven games still shakehands.

The world isn’t perfect and neither are sports. But we will continue to watch sports especially when respect is shown between teams. It doesn’t have to be extravagant. A handshake will do.

What to Watch 5/2 – 5/4

Friday May 2nd

Washington Nationals @ Philadelphia Phillies – 4pm MLB.TV: Great early season pitching matchup with Stephen Strasburg going up against Cliff Lee.

Houston Rockets @ Portland TrailBlazers – 7:30pm ESPN: A big sports weekend in the PDX as Portland looks to close out the star studded Rockets.

Saturday May 3rd

Everton vs Manchester City – 9am CNBC: Believe it or not but Liverpool will be rooting for their cross town rivals because Man City has a game in hand on the Reds and is only three points back.

Montreal Canadiens @ Boston Bruins – 9:30am NBC: This could be the best series of the second round.

Kentucky Derby – NBC 3:20pm: It’s NBC and you know what that means, all day pregame for a race that lasts two minutes.

Atlanta Hawks @ Indiana Pacers – TBD NBA-TV: The top team in the East is fighting for its playoff life against the upstart Hawks.

Memphis Grizzlies @ Oklahoma City Thunder – TBD NBA-TV: Only one game in this series hasn’t gone to overtime.

Golden State Warriors @ Los Angeles Clippers – TBD NBA-TV: Set aside the soon to be ex-Clippers owner. This is a good series and game seven should be something to see.

Sunday May 4th

Minnesota Wild @ Chicago Blackhawks – Noon NBC: This, like all second games in a best of seven series, is pivotal.

Sporting KC @ Columbus Crew – 1pm NBCSN: The Crew don’t make it on to national TV a lot even though they have a quality club. This will be the MLS game of the week for sure.