All or Nothing

All or Nothing

Friday, May 14, 2010
1:29 AM

Game 7. Thats what it gets down to. Everything determined by the seeming flip of a coin. Its the thing that baseball, basketball and hockey have over football. Not much else, but they have that. The entire hopes of a season come down to being able to get it done one more time or its time to go home. The cumulative scores of the previous six games dont matter, a win is a win and a loss is a loss, but, often, the cumulative affect of those games does. Each game a chapter in a story that always becomes more compelling as it goes along. The pressure on the athletes is staggering. As one who only gets to watch these games being played, I often marvel at that. Do they know? You often hear players after such games say that the key was to treat it like any other game, to stay within themselves. That they must have the ability to block out all of the extraneous thoughts and play the game the way they have for their entire lives. WHATEVER! Game 7s drive me crazy! I often wonder if theyre worth watching. (Kidding of course!)

Something else Ive also heard athletes say is that it was harder on everyone else around them in their lives than on them. I can relate to that. It comes down to control: I have none! Im just along for the ride. Hey! Rooting for my teams is like being with my wife and kids! (Ill be here all week!) The thing about Game 7 is that the finality is staring you right in the face. The key phrase in any season is: Theres still time. Weve heard it a million times, and thats just from both of the baseball teams here this season! (Try the veal!) Patience is always preached, during the season and in the playoffs. One game does not a season make, until this one that is. My patience is gone!
What I have right now is a mix of trepidation and that dangerous thing known as hope. You follow your team for an entire season, watching games, checking box scores and getting any information on them from any source you can, its all part of the journey. Then as the playoffs start, if your team is good enough to get in, you realize there are only two ways for the journey to end. The elusive ultimate triumph, or having your heart ripped out, AGAIN! Sorry, Im conditioned to react that way. The key then, for a fan, is to have realistic expectations. No need setting myself up for heartbreak, I mean, what are the odds that one of my teams would win?

For me this year, in hockey, its a tale of two teams. In my adopted hometown of Chicago, Ive gotten caught up in the Blackhawk fever thats sweeping the city. Not that Im a newcomer to following this team, since Rocky took over Ive watched about every game, but my expectation finally mirrors what is going on around me. I realize how hard it is for a team to win the Cup, so to this point Ive tempered my enthusiasm, but this team is truly built to win THIS year. Developmentally and contractually, this might be their best shot. Im still concerned with the good Blackhawkbad Blackhawk thing that theyve been displaying pretty much since the Olympic break, but their good games lately have been the best hockey Ive seen them play. Definitely they have championship talent, but I think its going to be everything else that determines whether they can win eight more games.

Then comes the thing that I cant get off my mind. The beginning of the Flyers season was loaded with hype. No less than Mr. Hockey Hair himself picked them to reach the Stanley Cup Finals, against the Blackhawks no less. Then as the season progressed, the Flyers play was a source of constant grief for Melrose from his TV mates. Oh, well. When the Flyers lucked into the playoffs on the last day of the season, after a shoot-out, needless to say I was not expecting much. Knocking the Rangers out of the playoffs on that final day was going to have to be my source of enjoyment of a season gone wrong.

Well, its going to be more than that now. In spite of a rash of injuries, (Theyve lost their leading scorer, their hottest goalie and their top penalty killer: has that happened to anyone else? No! ) the Flyers find themselves one win from HOSTING Game 1 of the Eastern Finals. They have this chance after rallying from being down 3-0. Each of the three wins to get back in it have been excruciating, to WATCH! At any time the season could have been over. And even if they had a lead, which they did most of the time, it seemed like the clock was moving backwards! Now all of that will be for naught if they dont seal the deal. Close is never enough! Do I like and respect this team more than I thought I would? Absolutely! But to win this game, to come back, against Boston would be, short of winning the Cup and beating the Russians, one of my all-time hockey moments, not to mention a great way to stop the chowder-heads in their tracks when they start to babble at the bar.

It will only take one game, one game for them to be immortalized. I dont know if I can watch. And for Frankie O irony,(is there any other kind?) I wont get to watch it live. It seems game-time coincides with dinner and a movie with the Boss for her birthday. (Chick flick or Game 7? Now thats funny!) I think its a sign. Just in case, thank goodness for TiVo and an occasional restroom break with my Crackberry! Any way it will give me more time to dream: What if? That, and time to thank God Im not from Cleveland!

Rory McIlroy wins Tour Championship, FedEx Cup in dramatic fashion

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Rory McIlroy wins Tour Championship, FedEx Cup in dramatic fashion

ATLANTA (AP) -- Rory McIlroy finally won the FedEx Cup when he least expected it.

McIlroy was three shots behind with three holes to play Sunday in the Tour Championship. Nearly two hours later, he holed a 15-foot birdie putt on the fourth extra hole to win at East Lake in a playoff and claim the $10 million FedEx Cup bonus.

In its 10th year, the FedEx Cup never had a finish like this.

McIlroy won on the 16th hole, where his stunning rally began in regulation when he holed out from 137 yards for eagle and then made birdie on the final hole for a 64 to join a three-man playoff with Ryan Moore (64) and Kevin Chappell (66).

Chappell was eliminated with a par on the first extra hole.

Dennis Rasmussen looks to build off experience

Dennis Rasmussen looks to build off experience

The Blackhawks’ offseason moves have once again left holes, especially among the forward lines. Considering the experience Dennis Rasmussen gained last season, he could certainly grab the third- or fourth-line center spot.

But Rasmussen isn’t going to pencil in anything yet.

“I don’t really think that way. I always think I have to play as good as possible to earn a spot, and that’s what I think this year, too,” said Rasmussen on Day 3 of Blackhawks training camp. “But it’s really up to me. I have to play well to earn my spot here. That’s what I’m trying to focus on.”

After trading Andrew Shaw, Teuvo Teravainen and Bryan Bickell this offseason, the Blackhawks will be looking for several players to step up and fill voids. Center is one of those spots, and Rasmussen played 44 games there with the Blackhawks last season. Rasmussen spent the long offseason prepping for this campaign, focusing on one thing in particular.

“I always try to work on getting faster, that’s the part of my game I can really improve,” he said. “I can improve everything. But especially getting quicker, that’s what I’m trying to focus.”

Anything else Rasmussen has to do to take that next step?

“I think he’s got to be a little more proactive than reactive out on the ice,” Blackhawks assistant coach Mike Kitchen said. “Kind of be a little bolder in different areas whether it’s in the offensive zone if you’re down between the hash marks, hey, try and take a guy on 1-on-1. But if you’re a neutral zone, you got to be a little more responsible. If you got to pick up the wide winger and come back and play good defensive hockey, that’s what you’ve got to do.”

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Rasmussen showed that when he made his NHL debut last season. The Blackhawks recalled him in early December, when they were looking to bolster their bottom six; any offense added was a bonus. He scored three of his four goals in his first seven games – his first came in his NHL debut vs. Nashville.

“He can make more things happen out there,” Kitchen said. “I think he understands that too because he wants to do whatever it takes to make the team.”

Rasmussen wants to be part of this group. He gained some great experience last year, and he hopes it serves him well in trying to get that roster spot this season.

“It was great for me. I got to play a lot, think I played in some important situations sometimes and I was really happy with last year. It gave me a lot of confidence, a lot of experience too,” Rasmussen said. “So hopefully I can bring that into this year.”