Thursday, May 26, 2011

Fringe Sports Extravaganza

The upcoming Memorial Day weekend might be the best weekend of the year for fringe sports enthusiasts. Here's a rundown of some of the fascinating events over the next four days:

Friday, May 27, 8pm ET - NHL Eastern Conference Finals Game 7: Boston Bruins vs. Tampa Bay Lightning

Ok, so I guess hockey is still technically one of the four major American sports, but since it's a distant fourth, I'll still consider it a fringe sport. I'm a Boston fan all the way, and a win would mean a chance of completing the quartet of Boston championships in my lifetime, something I would have never thought possible ten years ago and pretty much the pinnacle of sports fandom. Given the Bruins' Game 7 failures the last few years, I am not at all confident, but I hope the home ice advantage will carry them to the Stanley Cup Final.

If you're tuning in, remember to reserve at least 10 minutes looking for Versus on your cable lineup (at least that's how long it took me a few weeks ago). Plus - regardless of the outcome, remember to stay tuned for the handshake line at the end of the game, still one of the coolest traditions in sports (no pun intended). Go Bruins!

Saturday, May 28, 2:45pm ET - UEFA Champions League Final: Manchester United vs. FC Barcelona

Again, most of the world would not consider soccer a fringe sport, but here in the US, outside of the quadrennial spike in passion during the World Cup, soccer still lags big time in popularity. I happen to own a Manchester United jersey (kit?), so I guess I'm rooting for Man U in this one. So far I don't think Man U has been challenged much in the Champs League due to some lucky matchups like the semifinal against Schalke, so they are facing a tough task against Messi and Barcelona. Again, home field/country advantage may play a big part in this one. Go Chicharito!

This year's CL final match (fixture?) is airing on Fox in the US. Since Gus Johnson just left CBS for Fox, is there any chance of a cameo appearance on Saturday?? Gus calling soccer would be a wild change from the typically understated style of the British announcers. Based on the video below, apparently I'm not the only one who has considered this...maybe Gus is the key to moving soccer from the fringe in America??

Sunday, May 29, 12 Noon ET: Indianapolis 500
I don't think anyone can argue against IndyCar racing's status as a fringe sport. It's not even number one in auto racing anymore given the surge in NASCAR's popularity over the last couple of decades. Still, the finish of the Indy 500 each year is almost always exciting, so I usually try to catch the last few laps.

In my opinion, IndyCar's only hope to move from the fringe is if Danica Patrick finally sheds her reputation as the new Anna Kournikova and wins the big one. Danica's by far the most popular racer on the circuit (can you name another IndyCar driver?), and a win in the biggest race of the year would certainly give IndyCar the media boost it needs. Plus, if Danica continues on her gradual move towards NASCAR, who knows if IndyCar will ever have another chance at this kind of media boost from an Indy 500 victory?

The only problem is that auto racing really does seem to be about the cars more than the drivers, and it doesn't seem like Andretti Green Racing has been or will be up to the task. With a few timely cautions though, anyone can win.

Monday, May 30, 3:30pm ET - NCAA Division I Men's Lacrosse Championship: Teams TBD
Finally, closing out the Memorial Day weekend is the annual NCAA Men's Lacrosse championship. Somehow, 3 ACC schools made it to the Final Four (apparently, only 4 ACC schools even play D1 lacrosse) along with Denver, one of only two D1 lacrosse teams west of the Mississippi (along with Air Force).

Since I no longer have a rooting interest in the tournament, I gotta root for the underdogs, and I'm hoping for a Maryland-Denver matchup. Maryland was in the bottom half of the seeding for the tournament, and I'm hoping they'll go for a few more trick plays this weekend! Denver is the 6th seed in the tournament, and no team from the west has ever made it this far, so I guess they can be considered the Cinderella team. Here's another classic Gus clip to get us into the NCAA tournament mood:

Perhaps the best part of this weekend is that there's no Triple Crown race, meaning I won't have to subject anyone to my horrible horse picks! Sorry about the Preakness, Mok!


It should be Real Madrid vs Man U

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