Clips-Spurs, Deflategate, Romney v. Holyfield, B.B. King, Metal Gear Solid, and more: Monday Mashup

AP Photo/David J. Phillip

AP Photo/David J. Phillip

Welcome to the first edition of the Monday Mash-up. This weekly feature will cover several sports and entertainment items in brief.  The subjects of this week’s batch of unsolicited opinions include Clippers-Rockets, deflated balls, which politician would be most fun to watch in a boxing match, Bill Simmons, The Simpsons, and Hideo Kojima.


Derek: Man. The Clippers can’t catch a break. Or they got what they deserved. I guess it depends on how you look at it. They were up by 17, at home, with 90 seconds to go in the third quarter of Game 6. They proceeded to get outscored 40-15 in the fourth quarter with James Harden on the bench to send the series back to Houston. Then, in Game 7, they didn’t hold a lead for a single second before losing 113-110. And let’s not forget they were up three games to one heading into Game 5.

This brings up the age-old “Did the Rockets win it or did the Clippers lose it?” question. I’m planting myself in the “Clippers lost it” camp. The Clippers blew it, and the previous paragraph is my evidence. They had the Rockets on the ropes and stopped throwing punches. It would just be your run-of-the-mill choke job, but it’s the Clippers, and it’s Chris Paul.

Chris Paul isn’t the only great player who has never won a championship. That list is long and wide. But how many great players can’t even make an appearance in the Conference Finals, much less the NBA Finals? One of my co-workers compared him to Alex Ovechkin and, my lack of hockey knowledge aside, that seems like a fair comparison. I kicked it around for a bit and thought of Barry Sanders, though a running back makes less of an impact on a game than a point guard.

I perused the 50 Greatest NBA Players in NBA History, and even those who never won a championship have gotten farther than Paul. Charles Barkley, Patrick Ewing, Elgin Baylor, Karl Malone, John Stockton, and Nate Thurmond all played in the NBA Finals. Pete Maravich made the Eastern Conference Finals in his final season with the Celtics. The closest comparisons (to my knowledge) are Dave Bing and George Gervin.

Paul still has a few more years, so perhaps he’ll have another chance. This one will bother him for a while, though. The Spurs were out of the way and they blew a 3-1 series lead. I imagine nothing less than a championship would help you get over that.

Will: These playoffs have been tarnished by injury and calls to do away with conference seeding as we know it, but I have thoroughly enjoyed them in part because of all the weird stuff that has happened along with it (and because the Cavs are still alive). The Clippers-Spurs first round matchup may go down as the best series of 2015, and now both teams are watching at home as the buzzsaw Warriors and hate-them-or-loathe-them Rockets are set to square off in the conference finals.

I’m not sure what to make of the Clips. Doc Rivers has spoken out in saying that he wants to improve his team’s roster (he serves as head coach and GM), but he is also the one who sent away three players in exchange for his son. Austin Rivers played a little better than expected with the Clippers, and he won Game 3 for them almost single-handedly, but he also shot 6-of-23 in Games 5-7. I would love to be a fly on the wall as the Rivers family discusses this quote from Doc:

“I want to fix it,” Rivers told USA TODAY Sports. “I want to win. That’s why I came here. I knew when I came here that roster-wise it was going to be very difficult. The first thing I did before I took this job, I looked at the roster and we laughed. I was like, ‘What the (expletive) can we do with this?’ It was more the contracts. But we have to try to do it somehow. I don’t know how yet, but something will work out.”

Not to be a buzzkill, Doc, but, um, will it?


Derek: It’s the most skippable story in sports! But it’s also arguably the biggest, so I guess we have to address it. Just look at Pro Football Talk’s most commented posts:

pft comments

That’s a lot of deflation! And hashtags. And well thought-out comments, I’m sure.

As a Seahawks fan, some have asked me if Brady’s suspension makes me feel better about the Super Bowl. No, it doesn’t. I’m not going to revisit the Seahawks’ final play because I’m still not over it and I don’t want to talk about it, but let’s just say the Seahawks didn’t lose the game because Tom Brady cheated. There were several reasons, and that wasn’t one of them. All I could do is pretend that some other team before might have beaten them (like the Ravens) and maybe the Seahawks would have had better luck stopping another team. But I already have enough what-if’s in my head from that game. I don’t need anymore.

I guess I’d be lying if it didn’t make me feel slightly better that the Patriots won’t be able to enjoy the championship as much because of hatred from bitter fans of other teams. But if the Seahawks had won the Super Bowl, I probably wouldn’t care at all. So I guess that makes me one of them.

Will: Ugh, I don’t care. The NFL is as tedious and frustrating to follow as American politics with its scandals and liars, right down to the questionable allocation of our tax dollars. I’d be lying if I said that I’ll be paying less attention to pro football this season, but I almost wish I had the guts to do so.

Hey, speaking of the strange intersection of sports and American politics…

Romney vs. Holyfield

Derek: Mitt Romney and Evander Holyfield had a boxing match. It’s on tape and everything.

First, I’d just like to say that if Holyfield unleashed a haymaker during the “fight,” it would be the funniest moment of 2015. Not that I have any particular beef with Romney. I just think I would enjoy seeing the awestruck spectators as Holyfield stood over an unconscious former presidential nominee. Since it’s a boxing match, that wouldn’t count as assault, right?

Anyway, here are the funniest politician vs. boxer fights I could think of off the top of my head:

Strom Thurmond vs. Joe Louis – Sorry, Strom. It would be kind of funny.

Woodrow Wilson vs. Mike Tyson – Imagine them touching gloves before the fight.

FDR vs. Rocky Marciano – What’s more important: your fabled undefeated record or not beating up someone in a wheelchair? I would have put Mayweather here, but I think we all know which one he’d choose.

Teddy Roosevelt vs. Floyd Mayweather – I think Teddy could take him.

William Howard Taft vs. Butterbean – Heh.

Abraham Lincoln vs. Lennox Lewis – Lincoln has the reach advantage. USA! USA! USA!

Will: The idea of Holyfield going full Drago in an exhibition would have been my favorite moment involving a failed presidential candidate since the Nickelodeon show All That skewered Ross Perot even those most 10-year-olds had no idea who Ross Perot was. And how about Romney’s entrance?

On fight night, he walked into the ring in a red robe while the song “I Will Survive” blared over the sound system. His wife, Ann, joined him, wearing a Batman baseball cap turned sideways.

I’m so confused and titillated by this. Can we dispense with BS-laden debates and solve all of our presidential races in the ring? As for American politicians trading blows with boxers, give me the Kennedys — all of them, I suppose — vs. the Klitschkos. Let’s settle this Cold War thing once and for all.

B.B. King

Will: At risk of taking a more serious turn, legendary bluesman B.B. King passed away last week. He was a blues giant, which means that he was a giant in one of the most American art forms that there is. Blues music evolved from an acoustic genre rooted in the south to an electric, city-fied one, and King was at the heart of that development. He was rightly hailed as the King of the Blues.

I exchanged text messages with a close friend who grew up playing blues guitar. I played drums with him in college, and blues were the first music I could ever keep a beat for. He is one of literally countless guitar players who was influenced by King, and his response captured the gravity of the moment simply: “My heart’s broken.”

Bethlehem Shoals — a/k/a the guy who started the famous FreeDarko NBA blog — wrote a nice piece contextualizing King for GQ, while the New York Times proved once again why its obituaries are always must-reads. This lede sums it up as well as any can:

B. B. King, whose world-weary voice and wailing guitar lifted him from the cotton fields of Mississippi to a global stage and the apex of American blues, died on Thursday at his home in Las Vegas. He was 89.

On the bright side, 89 is like 300 in blues years.

Discovery burning the Penguins

Derek: I’ve got nothing to add. I’ll just leave this here.

penguins burnWill: Top draw, Discovery. Top draw.

Harry Shearer leaving The Simpsons

Derek: I don’t want to pile on the “Cancel The Simpsons” bandwagon. I still watch from time-to-time, and usually enjoy myself. But I would really have trouble watching without Harry Shearer. He’s Mr. Burns, Smithers, Flanders, Dr. Hibbert, and Principal Skinner, just to name a few. But while I’ve never wanted to pile on the bandwagon, I’m starting to change my mind. I can handle plenty of changes on the show, but I think I draw the line at Shearer leaving. Or any of the top cast members, really. Most people who still watch the show do so because of nostalgia. I don’t want to hear another Mr. Burns or another Flanders. It might be time.

Bill Simmons

Derek: News broke that Simmons would be leaving ESPN at the conclusion of his contract, and he promptly went on radio silence. I thought I was part of a minority who had soured on him a bit. I’ve been reading his stuff for years and I think it’s fair to say I count him as an influence. It’s just that while I used to look forward to reading his columns, I now find myself skimming them. The time may soon come when I skip them entirely. It’s tough to say if that’s because of me, him, or both. I just don’t find his recent work as entertaining as his older work. If Twitter is any indication, some other folks have soured on him as well. Maybe the split from ESPN will be good for him. At long last, we’ll get to see if he wants to join another company or try to parlay his popularity into starting his own.

Will: His writing has grown a little old and his schtick a little tired, but I absolutely count Simmons among the few writers who truly inspired me to take a hack at it myself. My relationship with him, if you can call it that, began over a decade ago.

There was a public computer in a common space at my high school. Virtually every day after lunch, I would commandeer the machine and load up ESPN’s Page 2 (R.I.P.). These were the days when Simmons was still penning three columns a week, and thus three times a week I would devour his column as soon as humanly possible. It’s risky to overstate the effect that he had on me, but his was among the first bylines I sought out at every opportunity (ironically, the first was Rick Reilly; he and Simmons are decidedly not friendly).

While I imagine he is an absolute pain to manage, it seems that he was a fine manager, at least based on the comments from his Grantland underlings. I look forward to seeing where, and how, he lands.


Derek: Lost in all of this sports talk is the fact that I consider myself a bit of a gamer. So it’s been tough to watch Konami slowly perish. My favorite game of all time is Metal Gear Solid, and I thank them for their part in its creation. But they’re parting ways with Metal Gear’s creator, Hideo Kojima, and focusing on mobile games. Not to mention they canceled Silent Hills, which Kojima was going to make with Guillermo del Toro. I’m not one to play horror games, but people who are were really excited for that one.

I don’t get it. Are there any gamers who play mobile games for any reason other than it’s the only thing they have available at the moment? Konami is practically going to print money with Metal Gear Solid V in September, and Silent Hills would likely have been a huge success as well. Yet they’re ditching those franchises for mobile games.

Don’t do it, Konami. Back away. You have so much to live for.

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