Sunday, May 27, 2012

Year Of Underdogs


Although I'd still like to attend one Kentucky Derby before I die, I believe that the Indianapolis 500 is the better event. It's hard for me to fathom the thought that I would travel to see an event that lasts just a few minutes as the Derby does. The Indianapolis 500 generally lasts 3-5 hours, has accidents, close finishes and the speeds go over 200 miles-per-hour. Danger or risk can give anyone an adrenaline rush. I'm proud to have attended a couple with my lifelong friends George Eichorn and Stuart Bloom.

Speaking of the Indianapolis 500, I'll still watch the race but don't ask me to name drivers. Dan Wheldon passed away in an accident at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway last fall. Meanwhile, NASCAR lured Danica Patrick this season. Tony Stewart and Juan Pablo Montoya also used to be regulars in Indiana. Patrick was very competitive at "The Brickyard," has led laps, and now she gets to challenge NASCAR's longest race of the year, "The Coca Cola 600."

Last year Dale Earnhardt Jr. ran out of gas on the final lap of the Coca Cola 600. Now Earnhardt has gone 140 races in a row without a win. There have been 26 different drivers that have won since Dale Jr's last triumph. What's more pressure, snapping the winless drought, following in the footsteps of his legendary father Dale Sr. or driving for Hendrick Motor Sports?
Thus far, 2012 has been the year of "The Underdog." It began when the 9-7 New York Giants defeated the New England Patriots 21-17 in the Super Bowl. The Giants were the last team to make the playoffs.

I never thought I'd see the Los Angeles Kings reach the Stanley Cup Finals. But you can be rest assured that NBC is thrilled. Take note NFL, when you have a franchise in the No.2 Media Market, then the television ratings are destined to be excellent.

The No.8 seeded Kings shocked the No.1 Vancouver Canucks in the opening round. Los Angeles followed that up by stunning the No.2 St. Louis Blues then skated their way into the NHL Finals by ousting the No.3 seeded Phoenix Coyotes. The Kings haven't lost a road game in this year's playoffs.

Now they get to face the No.6 New Jersey Devils. If the Kings can at least win one road game, though I predict they'll win two, then they can beat the Devils. Since I'm a West Coast person at heart and I really enjoy Los Angeles, there is no doubt I'm rooting for the Kings to prevail.

New Jersey is accustomed to taking a bus on many of it's road trips since it plays in the Eastern Conference. Now the Devils will have to take an airplane and adjust to the three hour time difference in a 2-2-1-1-1 travel format. My Detroit Red Wings are used to the extensive travel schedule and they're in the Eastern Time Zone. No sympathy for the Devils here.

The Kings are accustomed to piling up frequent flyer miles and their shortest trip is to Anaheim to play the Ducks in Orange County.

No matter who wins this match-up, it will be the lowest seeded champion to hoist Lord's Stanley Cup. Ironically, the Devils with the No.5 seed were the previous lowest team to do it.

This series gives me chills down my spine when scrutinizing the nicknames.

We have the "Devils" versus "Kings" which would make any biblical religious buff's imagination cringe.

Speaking of underdogs, Doug Collins did his best coaching job ever as he led his Philadelphia 76'ers to the Eastern Conference semi-finals only to lose the series 4-3 to the Boston Celtics. This series saw two of the classiest people and coaches take entirely different teams in Collins and Doc Rivers. There was the youth of the 76'ers against the older and experienced Celtics.

The No.8 seeded 76'ers defeated the No.1 Chicago Bulls and in the process Collins squad piled up post-season experience. They were working on House Money as Collins squad figures to only get better with age.

Meanwhile, the Celtics made one of the classiest plays ever by taking a 24-second violation and not running up the score which was 85-75. To see Collins and Rivers hug the way they did shows that they are two of the finest people in basketball.

If you're a Philadelphia 76'ers fan, the sky is the limit with this young group and if they add a player or two, then I wouldn't be surprised to see them contend for an NBA title within three years.

Back to the Los Angeles Kings. Everybody thought the LA Clippers and Lakers would be playing longer in the spring. Instead, the Kings have the Staples Center all to themselves and Hall of Famers Marcel Dionne and Wayne Gretzky must be enjoying their former team's success.

I never thought I'd see the day that Los Angeles would get hyped up about hockey.

But winning changes that.

Scott Morganroth can be reached at

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