By Tim Baffoe-
(CBS) I consider myself a realist/pragmatist for the most part, especially when my thoughts and emotions are applied to sports. Usually that is considered negativity or pessimism, at least according to much of the feedback on my writing or conversations I get in person. I’m used to people disliking and/or not understanding my refusal to look at the sports world through rose-colored glasses.
Easter Sunday, though, really had my sports heart swelling, try as I might to not get caught up in the pageantry or superficiality of it all. And that felt good, damn it.
The day began with excitement over Derrick Rose’s return to play after missing twelve games with a groin injury. Twitter was full of “He has risen” jokes about it, and coupling his return with playing in Madison Square Garden in a potential first round playoff preview brought some added intrigue.
The game started off about as awful as possible with the Bulls shooting terribly and lacking their trademark defense and finding themselves down 31-19 after the first quarter. Rose was rusty, and it was evident that the offense had trouble getting back in sync with one of the league’s best players back on the floor.
But the Bulls almost never get blown out wire to wire and have a habit of bouncing back from ugly first halves, with or without Rose. They completely turned the tables on the Knicks in the third quarter, almost doing an exact 180 by outscoring New York 30-19.
The second half was great basketball theater (even if the fourth quarter involved less-than-stellar overall play). Such an up-and-down game demanded a spectacular finish, and that game had two of them. Unfortunately they were both provided by the Knicks’ Carmelo Anthony.
Overall, the Bulls loss means nothing. They will likely hang on to the number one seed heading into the playoffs, and the outcome is not indicative of what they should be able to do in a seven-game series versus New York (I would guess five games for the Bulls to move on). Tuesday night’s rematch most likely will show more Bulls domination.
But the game was a joy to watch, a thoroughly entertaining last two-plus quarters of hoops. I did not feel bad whatsoever after Rose could not hit the final shot. It was more, “Wow, what a game. Thanks for that.”
The Bulls game overlapped with a full boat of sports going on. The Cubs were trying to avoid being swept by the Nationals in a series the North Siders should have been looking to sweep were it not for Kerry Wood and Carlos Marmol, both of whom will be a major reason the Cubs will end up with a mediocre record at best by season’s end.
Jeff Samardzija was starting for the Cubs, and besides his abomination of a hairstyle, the big storyline was whether he even belonged outside of the bullpen let alone on the big league club at all and could be a viable starter after a few years of being one of the sketchiest guys to take the mound at Wrigley Field. Few if any prognosticators believed coming out of Spring Training that The Shark could swim in a starting rotation.
In typical Cubs fashion, where what is wrong is right and what is right is wrong, Samardzija astounded almost everyone by going 8 2/3 dominant innings, giving up just four hits and one earned run while striking out eight, overcoming Starlin Castro’s best efforts to literally throw the game away and eating up enough of the game to prevent the bullpen from having a significant impact. While a minute sample size, the performance gave hope to Cubs fans and the organization that Samardzija may have this pitching thing finally figured out and will no longer be a “Oh, @#$%, they’re bringing in him?!” guy. That was very enjoyable to see, even for this jaded Cub fan who has no great expectations for this season.
And for good measure, there were two potential no-hitters being thrown at Citi Field and Camden Yards that I was following online with one eye just to ramp up my heart rate a tad.
And then there was The Masters. Holy Peeps-overdose-chewing-off-your-own-face-sugar-high golf.
Two hole-in-ones and a double friggin’ eagle should have been a clue as to what Sunday at Augusta National had in store (even if we had to learn of Bo Van Pelt’s record-tying round of 64 online for the most part because of the terrible broadcasting format). Phil Mickelson was faltering early, there was some guy whose name nobody could pronounce (even though he won the 2010 British Open by seven strokes) leading, and the march of the Bubba.
Watching Bubba Watson scratch and claw through a very difficult course that his South African playing partner seemed much more at ease with was some of the best golf I have ever had the pleasure to watch. The look on Watson’s face after missing what could have been the winning putt on the first sudden death playoff hole—one that broke left when Louis Oosthuizen’s putt on the same line just before broke right—had my swollen heart almost cracking in half.
Then, the shot. Somehow this guy who never had a golf lesson and who says he practices minimally threaded a needle off of pine needles amid a suffocating cavern of trees and gallery and this-is-only-the-most-important-moment-of-your-professional-life-coming-minutes-after-the-last-most-important-one and dropped a shot that video game makers thought to themselves, “How the hell did he do that?”
Watson was overcome with emotion on the green after his victory and again when receiving his green jacket, and while I enjoy mocking lots of things, I always appreciate genuine expressions and release after victories and losses. I could be nothing but happy for the guy.
Yeah, then the White Sox got shut out by the Texas Rangers later that night, but there was too much sports overload and honey ham pressing on my heart to let that decrease the awesomeness of such a sports day.
I will not stop being that “negative” guy, or “realistic” as I prefer, even if that craps in everyone’s happy punchbowl. The Cubs and Sox will disappoint anyone who thinks they can win a trophy this season, the Blackhawks are not the best team in the playoffs with Toews or not, and the Bulls probably can’t beat the Heat in seven games, for example.
But I have no problem with a day like Sunday helping to remind me that sports can be so, so great and cathartic and heart-swelling once in a while, resurrecting why even crusty-ass people who tend to use logic over pathos like myself fell in love with sports in the first place when we were too young to care about VORP and salary caps and not every sports story being a PG movie.
Tim Baffoe attended the University of Iowa and Governors State University and began blogging at The Score after winning the 2011 Pepsi Max Score Search. He enjoys writing things about stuff, but not so much stuff about things. When not writing for 670TheScore.com, Tim corrupts America’s youth as a high school English teacher and provides a great service to his South Side community delivering pizzas (please tip him and his colleagues well). You can follow Tim’s inappropriate brain droppings on Twitter @Ten_Foot_Midget , but please don’t follow him in real life. He grew up in Chicago’s Beverly To read more of Tim’s blogs click here.