Thursday, January 17, 2008

All-night sports rundown

All right, folks, I know I’m first posting this an hour and a half after kickoff — consider it the equivalent of not showing up for the first half — but here it is. My all-night sports rundown. I’ll be up until I go to work at 5 Friday, watching hoops and tennis.

Below are random thoughts as the night progresses. Enjoy, and please comment when you feel like it.

10:45 — The Barn, as Williams Arena in Minnesota is known, is going nuts as the Golden Gophers take a one-point lead on No. 10 Indiana.

It’s pretty impressive what Tubby Smith’s been able to do in his first season with the Gophers. Sure, he inherited several upperclassmen. But he also inherited a 9-22 team. To have already succeeded that number of wins — impressive.

10:50 — Wow, just have to throw this out there. Serena Williams, in her match against Victoria Azarenka, just challenged a serve of hers that was called out. The official review revealed that it just barely — as close as can be — nicked the line.

Tennis’ replay system has to be the best in all of sports. It makes the sport almost entirely decided by players … and, of course, the flawless system.

10:54 — Just how whacky has this college basketball season been? St. Louis, after mustering a record-low 20 points the other night, scored 68 to upset ranked Rhode Island. Very, very interesting.

11:30 — Sorry about the delay. Was talking with my mom. Anyway, it’s time for Maria Sharapova’s third-round match against a player named Vesnina. Sharapova looked extremely focused in her domination of Lindsay Davenport in the second round. I’m still waiting for her to have a breakout year, to win two grand slams in a year.

Wow … her forehand is explosive.

11:48 — Another college basketball shocker. Cleveland “freaking” State took down Butler. Even on its own website, CSU is described as “a program in disarray for most of the past 20 years.” Last year, it was 10-21. Wow.

12:01 — This is turning into a grinder of a match. Sharapova just got broken to tie the first set at 2-2 in a match that’s already taken 31 minutes.

12:06 — Rafael Nadal’s having a rough time against Frenchman Gilles Simon, who’s up 5-2 on the No. 2 seed in the first set. Nadal just completely missed on a forehand. Could the Melbourne heat be getting to him?

12:09 — Another forehand choke job by Nadal. Watch out.

12:27 — Sharapova just pulled away for a 6-3 opening set. Still, it took nearly an hour. Also, it looks like Nadal-Simon is gonna be one heck of a match. There was a point the last game that lasted 38 strokes. Nadal's down 5-4 on serve.

12:33 — How feisty is Nadal? Down three set points, he comes up with back-to-back aces and then finishes off Simon to tie the first set 5-5. If Simon loses this set, he'll be devastated. Stay tuned. I, for one, can't leave the couch right now.

12:43 — After an hour and 10 minutes, Nadal wins the opening set 7-5. The announcers point out that Nadal's 51-1 when he wins the opening set in grand slams. Good luck, mate. And it's time for me to take a leak.

12:52 — Can L.A. make a comeback with Kobe on the bench? (Yes, we're back to the hardwood.) The Lakers began the fourth quarter down 79-61, but they've scored eight straight points in less than 2 minutes. And who scored all the points? That's right — Sasha Vujacic. As I used to scream in my newspaper's office, "Vujacic!!"

1:07 — Did I just see ESPN's Stephen A. Smith in the front row at the Staples Center? Ain't he supposed to be on press row? As for the game, Boris Diaw appears rejuvinated after an indolent 2006-07. He's hit a pair of midrange jumpers to help the Suns to a commanding 13-point lead. This battle of the Pacific Division appears headed in the Suns' direction.

1:17 — Despite Kobe's valiant efforts — knocking down 3s from all over the court with hands in his face — Diaw again has the last laugh, knocking down another jumper to give Phoenix an eight-point lead with 20-some seconds yet. I'm not penciling it in, but I'd bet my bank account on the Suns.

1:20 — Ballgame. Phoenix 106, L.A. 98. The Suns, 27-12, now have the best record in the West. Isn't it intriguing that the league's two-best records belong to teams in the East (the Celtics and Pistons)? But, yeah, it's only January. I'm sure Western supremacy will be felt later in the long season.

1:28 — Kudos to ESPN2 for showing doubles action at the Australian Open. Normally, we don't get to see four talented players on the court at the same time, but such is the case right now as the Williams sisters take on a team dressed in green and white. Doubles tennis is often more entertaining than singles and helps to keep my droopy eyes open.

1:52 — Boy, was I getting ahead of myself when I predicted Nadal-Simon would be a great match. Nadal cruised through the second set and is now just three points away from advancing. ... Make that two points. I'll stay with you here.

Random thoughts escaping me ... I could really go for a pepperoni pizza.

And Nadal's now a point away from the break and the victory. And, yes, he looks in peak form, ready to challenge Federer in '08.

Random thought ... man, I wish I was back in Australia now, biking down the pictueresque Ocean Road.

And Simon has rallied for deuce, but, oh, it's into the net. Another set point for Nadal.

But, yes! another winner for the Frenchman. But, no! Nadal gets another chance.

But, yes! yet another winner for the Frenchman (how much longer can he hold on?). And, there, another huge forehand gives Simon a chance to make it 5-4 Nadal. A chance to break Nadal to even the set.

But, alas, Simon's forehand sails just wide. Deuce #4 here we come. My fingers are getting tired.

... Simon long, adv. Nadal.

And, wow, what a final winner by the Spaniard. Nadal sails an absolutely beautiful lob shot over the charging Simon, concluding a match in which Nadal simply got stronger with each game. That's the sign of a great player — a player who peaks at the end of the match.

OK, my fingers (and brain) need a rest.

2:04 — OK, real quick. "Inside the NBA," TNT's post-game show, just concluded. And I just needed to say that it's the most hilarious, well-put-together show in the business. E.J., Kenny and Charles are a perfect trio. In tonight's final segment, E.J. read off Charles' new "schedule" — now that Turner Sports owns NBA TV — which included an hour segment called "How to build a franchise with Isiah Thomas."

Yesh, absolutely hilarious.

On a not-so-funny note, tennis is off the air until 3:30 — replaced by always-enthralling PBA action — so I think I'll go grab some late-night food and maybe do some sit-ups. Back in a while. Stay glued, folks.

3:33 — It's prime time, baby! At least in Melbourne, Australia, it is. The tennis is back on, and I'm back in front of my Apple. Mardy Fish, Andy Roddick, it's gonna be a patriotic night across the world. So grab a cup of coffee and a muffin, sit back, and enjoy my sleepy accounts of some early-morning tennis before work.

3:53 — I need to point out that "Mardy Fish" is the coolest sports name I've heard since Coco Crisp arrived in the majors. OK, I'll shut up now.

4:00 — According to ESPN2's Chris Fowler, they just felt the first rain drops of the Aussi Open. I'll take them for their word. In other news, it's supposed to be about 5 degrees in Green Bay Sunday night for the NFC championship game. That, my friend, is cold.

4:17 — Well, there is a break in the action. Apparently, the rain decided to stay for some kangaroo pizza — which, by the way, is a must-eat for all carnivores in Australia — and the Fish-Markko Nieminen match is being moved inside.

Unfortunately, this development is causing me to call it a day/night. I've decided to drive to work, sleep for half an hour, then get busy washing dishes — should be .... um, fun??

Anyway, thanks for staying up with me, folks. Send me some comments on the live column, and if the feedback's positive, I'll be sure to do it again — with a six-pack of Red Bull by my side next time.

Cheers, mates!


Sportsattitude said...

I saw Stephen A. Smith on MSNBC the other night talking politics. The man is everywhere. College basketball is just too ill to follow. Teams can't score 20 points in a half and then beat nationally-ranked teams. Yeah, filling out those early games in the March Madness pool this year will be a real treat...

J-bo said...

Nice blog-type entry, way to sacrifice sleep for the love of sports.