Monday Mayhem

Congratulations!  You have just survived a very unusual weekend in early May.

A Star Wars-themed Saturday called “May the Fourth” (be with you) has been growing in popularity in recent years.  Cable television station TBS used “The Force” to bring sci-fi fans a non-stop run of Star Wars movies all day Saturday and into Sunday evening.  If that wasn’t enough excitement for your weekend, Sunday’s Cinco de Mayo (May 5th) celebrations may have distracted you away from the big sports stories over the past few days.

As a public service, I will try to bring you up to speed on the headlines from a busy sports weekend.

Horse racing – Is this year’s Kentucky Derby winner the next talking horse?

Look out, Mr. Ed!

After winning Saturday’s 150th running of the Kentucky Derby by a nose, there is concern that that the winner may skip the second leg of horse racing’s Triple Crown.  The Derby champion, Mystik Dan, earned his oats for a long time with a $3 million payout for his owners.  After the win, Mystic Dan, true to his name, will now be telling tell his trainer and owners whether he intends to run in the Preakness coming up in two weeks at the Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore.

That’s right!

Kenny McPeak is the trainer for Mystik Dan and is planning to listen to his thoroughbred to see if he’s too tired to run again in a couple of weeks.

“We’ll just watch him over the next week”, said McPeak.  “It’ll be one of those [situations] where we’ll probably take it up to the last minute.  We’ll let him tell us.”

If the Kentucky Derby winning horse is anything like television’s Mr. Ed in the 1960’s, this trainer better watch out.  He could be playing straight man to another equine comedian soon.

I hope that we get to see Mystik Dan at the Preakness in two weeks.  Surely, someone on his team will use some good horse sense in arriving at the proper decision.

NBA news – Time to give Cleveland’s Donovan Mitchell a day off! 

On Friday night, Donovan Mitchell of the Cleveland Cavaliers scored 50 points during his team’s 103-96 Game 6 loss in Orlando.  The teams then flew back to Cleveland and played Game 7 on Sunday afternoon.  Mitchell added another 39 points in leading the Cavs to a 106-94 final score.  The Cavaliers and Orlando Magic series was the only first round match-up which needed all seven games to produce a winner.

The jubilant home crowd in Cleveland was partying like it was…2018?  The Cleveland fans have not seen the Cavaliers win an NBA playoff series in six years.  They even chanted “We want Boston!” during the final quarter.

The #1 seed Boston Celtics had the best record in the NBA this season, beat Cleveland two out of three games, and will now have home court advantage in Game #1 beginning on Tuesday night (6PM on TNT) in Beantown.

After scoring 89 points in the past two games to get Cleveland into Round 2, Donovan Mitchell’s shooting arm must be tired.  He deserves to take Monday off.

WNBA news – The Caitlyn Clark Experience begins

After recently completing her college basketball career at the University of Iowa, Caitlyn Clark was taken with the #1 draft pick by the WNBA’s Indiana Fever.  There has been a serious case of “ticket fever” as fans scramble to watch the top player in women’s college basketball history take to the floor in the WNBA.

In Caitlyn Clark’s first preseason game of the year Friday night in Arlington, Texas against the Dallas Wings, a sell-out crowd of 7,000 showed-up to provide vocal support for the visiting team’s star.  Dallas won the game 79-76, but Caitlyn Clark scored 21 points to lead Indiana and send the customers home happy.

Next Tuesday, May 14, Indiana’s first regular season game will be played on the road against the Connecticut Sun (who names these WNBA teams?).  Though all other WNBA opening night basketball cities have tickets available at reasonable prices, good luck trying to get a seat to watch Caitlyn Clark play in her first regular season game in Connecticut.

As of today, a nosebleed seat will cost $109 to get into the arena and watch Clark’s first WNBA regular season game.  Perhaps it might be a better idea just to stay home and watch the game on ESPN 2 at 6:30PM (Central) next Tuesday, May 14th.

NFL update – J. J. What?

In one of the more surprising sports stories of the weekend, former NFL defensive end J.J. Watt said that he would give consideration to suiting up to play football again this year – if the Houston Texans should need him.

The 35-year old J.J. Watt was in Houston for his annual charity softball event on Saturday.  The future Hall-of-Famer has been out of the NFL since December, 2022.  However, he seems intrigued with the idea of playing football again for the Texans’ current head coach, DeMeco Ryans.

During his rookie year in 2011, J.J. Watt and DeMeco Ryans played on the same defensive unit in Houston.  After retiring as a player, Ryans is entering his second year as head coach for the Texans.

A three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year, J. J. Watt told the assembled press, “I told DeMeco [Ryans] last year: ‘Don’t call unless you absolutely need it, but, if you ever do call, I’ll be there.'”

For the coach of the Texans, it’s nice to know J.J. is available to him this year – no matter what!

UFL – Birmingham Stallions have clinched a playoff spot – with four weeks to go?

The latest iteration in spring professional football for this year is known as the United Football League.  The UFL still has four more weeks to go in their 10-game regular season schedule.

After starting with a perfect 6-0 record to begin the season, the Birmingham Stallions just clinched a playoff position in the four-team USFL division of the United Football League.

In both the USFL and XFL divisions (four teams apiece), the top two teams in each division will quality for the playoffs.  After the conclusion of play in Week #6, undefeated Birmingham is now five games ahead of both the 1-5 Houston Roughnecks and 1-5 Memphis Showboats.

Birmingham has won the USFL’s championship title in each of the last two seasons.  This team has now won 13 games in a row – when looking back into the 2023 season.   It will be interesting to see if Birmingham remains sharp over the next month prior to the start of the UFL’s inaugural playoffs in early June.

Golf – Mr. and Mrs. SwampSwami cover the Greats of Golf event in Texas

On Saturday afternoon (in between a couple of days of some badly-needed but torrential rain), the TPC-The Woodlands hosted a PGA Champions Tour event plus a special exhibition from some of golf’s greatest players.

Getting to see 84-year olds like Jack Nicklaus and Lee Trevino, Gary Player, Tom Watson and Annika Sorenstam play in the same group for a 9-hole exhibition match was absolutely priceless.

This group poked fun at one another on every hole as they entertained the gallery and still managed to shoot 7-under par.  The amazing 88-year old Gary Player can still out-drive most of us off the tee.  The short game of Jack Nicklaus remains magical.  Lee Trevino’s golf game and wit remain quite sharp, too.  Bravo to the organizers of this event for bringing them together!

Note to PGA golfers – smiling a bit more and occasionally showing a bit more of your personality with the crowds at your golf tournaments can only help your sport gain in popularity.

Hockey – Salt Lake City’s new team is looking for a new nickname    

After floundering in the state of Arizona over the past decade, the National Hockey League’s Arizona Coyotes franchise is moving to Salt Lake City, Utah this fall.  The Coyotes nickname served the Arizona desert region adequately, but we should expect a new nickname for the hockey team as it starts play in Utah this fall.

Sports fans in Louisiana are still bitter at the state of Utah for taking New Orleans’ original NBA franchise away beginning in 1979.  Not only did Salt Lake City snag New Orleans’ NBA basketball team, the ownership kept the nickname of “Jazz”!

The Utah Jazz remains one of the most unlikely nicknames in all of professional sports.

One Salt Lake City newspaper columnist recently provided a list of possible nicknames for the incoming NHL hockey team.  Among the writer’s suggestions included the Bighorns, Scorpions, and the Slap Shots (not bad!).  Another name on the list which I liked was the Salt Lake City “Skateful Dead”.   Now that’s really clever!

However, there was another possible nickname for the hockey team which was mentioned in the article.  That name would make Louisiana sports fans boil hotter than a crawfish cooking in a big pot during the springtime.

The Salt Lake City Saints?

No, way!  WhoDat say they gonna steal another Crescent City nickname?   Let’s hope that the Benson family in New Orleans has the Saints nickname protected by various trademarks, copyrights and a group of hungry attorneys ready to pounce.

Don’t try to push your luck again, Salt Lake City!  In case you may have forgotten, the Jazz basketball team is 0-2 in the NBA Finals.  They haven’t returned to the championship round since 1998.  Are you starting to feel a bit jinxed?

Your city may still have the Jazz, but New Orleans has the voodoo!