Friday, May 26, 2006

The Battle of the Fans

A week ago while many were sweating out the Pistons/Cavs series and wondering if the reigning Eastern Conference Champs could even make it back to defend their title, I was calmly awaiting the Miami series. Even though analysts/critics/fans were crying bloody murder and lamenting on how the Pistons weren't the same, I knew they would be back.

Easy to say now, Ms. Campbell, after they're back and tied 1-1 with the Miami Heat. Oh ye of little doubt my firm, uncontested reasoning....and so I bring you the Battle of the Fans.

I'm sure you've all played the Battle of the Mascots (what team will win based on a fictional face-off of each team's mascots), but the Battle of the Fans (what team will win based on a fictional face-off of each team's celebrity fans) is much more entertaining.

The thought occurred to me in game 4, as TNT shamelessly plugged Usher RaymondUsher) on the sidelines dancing like an idiot as LeBron lead the Cavs to another victory. With the series tied up at 2-2, my Pistons playing bad defense and even worse offense you would expect me to be worried. But after I saw the display by Usher I was more resolute in my belief the Pistons would win. Why? Our fan, Kid Rock, could most definitely beat up Usher.

Let's face it, Usher is an R&B artist who are known for the toughness, but underneath it all he's a pretty boy. He's more worried about keeping his 24 pack abs intact than anything else. Kid Rock could care less about that stuff I mean, just LOOK at him. Plus he's scrapier, and need I mention trashier? He could take out Usher single handedly.

So now that we've downed Usher, who's up next? Ah yes, the Miami Heat....and (since the first battle was music stars, we'll keep it that way) the Latin lover Enrique Iglesias. No contest. All Eminem or Kid Rock has to do is look at pansy mole man and he'd run the other way, or hide behind girlfriend Anna.

No need to worry Pistons fans, we're going back to the Finals!!

Thursday, May 25, 2006

She's Baaaaaaaaack!

Hello, dear readers, I have returned! The last semester of grad school leaves little time for my sports blogging hobby. But now that I have finished final exams, papers, and finally graduated, I will have gobs of time to devote to this blog. Let's call it the new and improved Stat Girl!

So just to recap, the month of April gave me much sports heartache with my beloved Red Wings losing in the first round of the playoffs. Many people blame Manny Legace, and I do believe he will not be coming back next year, but if I were running the team that would not be the case. Goaltending is a huge part of the playoffs, but we have to mention the listless sticks of many offensive players that gave Manny a padding during the season...among them my beloved Shanny. I think it is more of a team problem than a net problem. We'll see what next year has in store.

Meanwhile, I nursed my broken spirit back to health with the Pistons moving quickly through round one, but when I began to get an ulcer in the second round with the Cavs, it was the Tigers that let my spirits rebound. That's right, the Detroit Tigers HAVE THE BEST RECORD. Of all teams. I was praying for a season over 500, and now I have a playoff dream. Last year was my first year being a true fan of baseball, and I dare say after this season I may just become baseball crazy. I'm obsessed with studying scores and stats everyday on my lunch break. The funny thing is, I saw this coming, but not so soon. I never expected this kind of turn around in a year.

And so faithful readers, although this has been a busy, hard yet rewarding month, I am ready to take this blog back by steam. I must bid y'all adieu as I am typing between quarters of the Pistons game, but expect a post tomorrow!

Monday, April 24, 2006

NHL First Round Game 2 and NBA First Round Game 1

Yesterday was pretty bittersweet for the Stat Girl. Glad to see some of my boys getting a good start to their playoffs, sad to see my other boys continuing to struggle. Well, let's get to it, we'll start off with the bad.

Red Wings Wrap-Up (L, 2-4): I just want to say, what happened to my boys? The boys that were confident, had a swagger, and now are tied in their series with a team that could barely make the playoffs. SO frustrating. The Oilers were smart enough to find that the trap worked well enough to contain the Wings, and used it effectively. It was the worst display of puck dumping and far off shots I'd seen from them all season. What happened to rushing to the net and shooting at will? Hopefully the loss doesn't sit with them well and they come out punching in the next few days.

Weaknesses: I'd have to say although they were pretty hard hitting and made their prescence known at times in the game, they still seemed like kittens at other points. They let Chris Pronger and Michael Peca run all over them. My hope is that they wake up and get tough, and someone steps up to the bar and gives Peca a shiner to match his other eye.

Strengths: Even with four goals allowed, the defense. They played very cohesive, smooth hockey. It was nice to see Lidstrom directing traffic so well, and Cheli and Schneider putting out good games as well. It's hard for a defense to overcome ridiculous turnovers in the neutral zone that almost guarantee a goal.

MVP: Henrik Zetterberg (1 goal, 4 SOG). For his perserverance at the net. Sure, his goal wasn't pretty, and if you ask Oilers fans, it was downright sketchy, and lucky to get in. But the point is it would have never gone in if he hadn't stayed patient at the net and kept poking at the puck, be it from his skate or his stick. The rest of the team should take to heart his aggressiveness at the net.

Honorable Mention: Steve Yzerman (1 assist). Although Stevie didn't have a stat packed day, he still was playing hard and also taking it to the net. He played a lot of minutes (for an aging guy) and you could sense his spirit trying to rally the team. Better luck next time, Mr. Captain.

Pistons Wrap-Up (W, 92-74): I am GLAD to say that my Stones started off the playoffs lookin' good. Late in the season they had a propensity to get a little lazy and let the other team build up a close game, then wake up and come back to win by a few points. The starters looked sharper after resting the last few games of the season, and I am excited for the rest of the games in this series.

Weaknesses: Perhaps they got a little big headed in the fourth quarter when they tried some spectacular shots (and failed) to widen their lead, which allowed the Bucks to rally back and score the first eight points in the fourth quarter. (Although I have to say I felt some pride when MSU alum Charlie Bell made 6 of those 8 from beyond the arc, and was the leading scorer of the game as a reserve...go green, go white!) Please guys, let's just play some good 'ol fashioned bball and bring home a trophy.

Strengths: The defense. They held the Bucks to just 36% FG, had 8 blocks, and led in rebounds. Perhaps the most impressive thing to me though was that the Bucks only shot 10 from the line. We all know that some of the guys can tend to get hot headed and do some silly stuff to cause costly fouls. For so few free throws attempted by the other team means they had some real control. That makes me VERY happy.

MVP: Rasheed Wallace (22 points, 1 assist, 4 rebounds, 3 steals, 2 blocks, 66% of 3 PT attempts made). Monster day for Sheed. And he stayed relatively controlled too, with only four personal fouls and one techincal.

Honorable Mention: Rip Hamilton (21 points, 2 assists, 5 rebounds). Pretty high stats for sitting out awhile after rolling his ankle. Officials assured that x-rays were negative post game (PHEW!). Hopefully this won't linger into any future games.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

NHL First Round Game 1

This being the first post of either playoff race, I will explain the format that these posts will take. I will give an overall recap of the game, highlight the strengths and weaknesses of Detroit in the game, followed by something I haven't done since I was Stat Girl of the Roswell Rayguns...pick an MVP of the game, and a player of honorable mention. You can be sure that I'd be sending my MVP some of Cassie's homemade cookies in the mail as well, if I had their address and fav kind of cookie.

I was expecting an easier game after I got fed a lot of confidence about my team (thanks for nothing, Brad! ;). But, it was good to see them not lose their heads while they were down in the third period, but surge back to send it into OT and battle out for the win. Manny kept his cool beautifully, but I have to say I'm disappointed in my boy Brendan for taking such a silly penalty late in the third that could have cost them the game. I hope that they have taken a lesson from this and are gearing up to play harder in game two.

Weaknesses: The intensity the Wings played with. They came out rather sluggish, especially in the second period. It was as if they had been lulled into some sort of complacent feeling and then woke up in the third period and said, "Crap! It's the playoffs! Maybe we should skate harder?" Their penalty kill showed this probably the most; the second goal made by Pronger was basically because the defenders backed way off their men and gave them a lot of room to shoot. They need to step it up a few notches for next game.

Strengths: The intensity the Wings played with. After Babcock woke them up in the locker room during the second intermission they came out harder and stronger in the third period to send it into overtime. They just need to keep this consistent throughout the game.

MVP: Kirk Maltby (2 goals, 6 SOG, 1 fight) Of course I'm gonna give the guy with the game winner in OT the MVP. But not only for that...he showed toughness throughout the whole game, probably the only player on the Wings that did. In the first period he showed some intensity by stealing some pucks in the neutral zone for a few short-handed SOG. And, of course he caused the fight at the beginning of the game, gotta love a fighter. And how sweet was that goal off of the handle of his stick? Kudos to Kirk for stepping up his game when his team was slumping and needed him most.

Honorable Mention: The Yzerman-Shanahan-Lang line (1 goal, 2 assists, 10 SOG). These guys were playing hard. Everytime they had a shift you could tell because there was more rushing to the net. Lang had two other near goals. This is a good combination that I am pleased Babcock has put together and is keeping together in the playoffs. Keep up the good work boys!

Friday, April 21, 2006

Stat Girl: Your One Stop Spot for Detroit in the Playoffs

So I must say I was INCREDIBLY excited to get out of bed this morning. After forcing my eyes open and staring at the evil clock that declared it WAY too early for any human to be awake, my mood changed instantly when I realized that today was the start of the NHL playoffs, and the NBA playoffs are *just* around the corner (meaning tomorrow). With a renewed vigor and excitement for life, I hopped out of bed, eager to start my day.

And so, dear readers, as this fabulous time is upon us, I have decided to dediate myself to watching, reading and blogging extensively when it comes to these two playoff races. Easy task for such a sports lover such as I, but you couldn't be more wrong! Since my sleep schedule has reached grandma status, it is hard for me to stay up past nine on week nights I get home at a decent hour (come on guys, getting up at 4:45am and not getting home till 11pm some nights reeeeeally drains you). But for these next few months I'm planning on being sleep deprived and cranky, depending on how long the Wings and Pistons stay in the playoffs. Here's hoping I'm cranky and sleep deprived well into June.

And so, without further adieu, here are the first round previews:

Detroit Red Wings (1) vs. Edmonton Oilers (8)
The season series between these two teams was tied 2-2. Both losses for the wings were in November, the two wins more recent. Any Wing fan can recall the incredible start to the season the Wings had, followed by the mid season slump (which was Novemberish) to the post-Olympic surge that has them playing their best hockey right now. Brendan Shanahan has been playing amazing hockey all season, Pavel Datsyuk is still crazy good (although he has a recent knee injury), El Capitan Stevie Y is stepping it up a few notches, and did I mention the five gold medals from the Swedes? The only question in the back of my brain is the goalie situation, which a lot of analysts seem to think is the Red Wings' biggest weakness and could be their achilles heal. And while I agree, I am not as worried. Why? I have been a Manny believer. Always and forever. Back in the CuJo era I screamed and cried to bench that yippy dog and put the REAL pit bull in the net. I know he's not flashy, got ten millions starts like Martin Brodeur, but he's solid. And that's what they need. As for the Oilers, I won't pretend to know anything about them, but after some study I know that they are good road team that's hardworking and fast. But not nearly fast enough for my Wings. My prediction: Wings in 5.

Detroit Pistons (1) vs. Milwakee Bucks (8)
This year's season has been a dream for me. I keep waiting to wake up and have it be preseason, with doubts of a team that just couldn't get it done in game 7, a team that would have most likely not made it to the finals had Dwayne Wade been healthy, and an untested coach to pick up the championship pieces one of the most prolific coaches left behind. But when I pinch myself hard, I find that it is indeed late April, my Stones have the best record in the NBA, the previous questions are erased, and Larry Brown is coaching the biggest laughing stock of the NBA. No team, let alone the Bucks, can stand up against the five larger-than-life starters the Pistons put out, and some of their reserves aren't too shabby either. Their bench is perhaps lacking a little depth, but I think they are way too hungry due to missing a championship by minutes last year to let anything slide by them again, especially in the first round. My prediction: Pistons in 4.

So thankfully my playoff sleep strike is starting of kindly with a Friday night game (and a Saturday morning sleep-in). You can bet I'll be tuned in to OLN tonight to eat up all of my Wings' victory, and you'll be reading a recap sooner rather than later. Here's to my beloved Detroit, and twice the trophies and championship parades a city can handle!

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Gentlemen, It's Time to Step Up to the Plate

Many a times I have lamented on this blog the perils and trials it is to be a woman and to love sports as voraciously as I do. And I will continue to do so until no longer suffer hardships because of my lot, which I guess will be never, so get used to hearing about it.

So what's my bone to pick today? Men not holding up their end of the deal. Most women complain about men not being sensitive enough, not communicating well enough, not being motivated, among many other things. But my complaint today is that most men don't love sports enough for me.

In my history of knowing the male species (going on 25 years here), I can categorize men into three categories according to the sports knowledge and general sports enjoyment:

A. Men that don't like sports at all or don't watch sports at all. Generally gay men or men that for some reason don't enjoy sports, but prefer the music or arts. I tend to keep a good distance from these men; they baffle me exceedingly(especially if they are not gay, I tend to think there is something inherently wrong with their DNA). They probably make up about 10% of the male species.

B. Men that like sports and watch sports. These men only pay attention to sports because they are men, and they should. They know about their teams and can converse intelligenly about sports. These guys are nice enough to keep around as friends, but aren't the type a sportsaholic gal like myself could spend an eternity with. They probably make up 80% of the male species.

C. Men that live, eat and breathe sports. They watch sports, listen to sportstalk radio, or check out their teams online whenever possible. They know what's going on in all of the professional sports, and can talk intelligently about any sports team in any league. These are the best type of men. They are the remaining 10% of the male species.

Obviously, I am on the lookout for a man in category C. It would be just pure torture to date a man that is in category A, and mildly annoying and embarrassing to a man in category B to date me (who would want to be constantly schooled by their girlfriend in sports?). The biggest problem is that I run into the category C men very few and far between, and when I do, they generally already have girlfriends. And girlfriends that make me want to scream: the girls who pick teams because of the color of their jerseys or because the players are cute (not a bad thing to note as a woman sports fan, but you've gotta have some sort of team loyalty), the ones that ask SUPER annoying questions in the middle of an imporant game, the ones that think Joey Harrington was a good QB and still would love to have him in Detroit. Clearly we need men in category B to step up their game to become category C. It's not like I'm asking you to do something like go to the ballet, I'm just asking you to immerse yourself a little more into sports.

Where does this stem from? Recently, I met a fantastic guy: easy on the eyes, and once we began conversing I found out he was a category C man. I couldn't believe my luck! Then, he dropped the girlfriend bomb on me (and she happens to be the Joey fan). We still have amazing talks about sports, but it's too bittersweet for me to know these guys come across so few times and they're always already taken. Is it too much to ask for a guy (who himself is not a fan of the same teams I am) that can recall the Charlie Batch era? Or act like a kid in a candy store because hockey is back and the playoffs are around the corner? Or share a common love of Drew Bledsoe and hate of Tom Brady?

Maybe category C men are settling for non-sports fans because they don't believe my kind exists. Men, we do, and it's far fewer than your numbers, but we're still out there. So I'm hoping they're holding out for girls like me, because I'm holding out for guys like them. Perhaps I'll die old and gray watching Sportscenter alone, but that's gotta be a heckuva lot better than dying old and gray with a guy who would be rather watching Antiques Roadshow.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

LAX Blue Devils: Guilty or Innocent?

It is very few times that my two true loves, sports and forensic science, ever mix into one story, and when they do, it is generally NOT good news. Any time a sports team or figure runs into the criminal justice system is never a good thing. And so here we are with the recent allegations of a gang rape of a North Carolina woman by several Duke lacrosse players. Being well read and haven widely studied both topics, I have been eager to post on this story, yet cautious to form an opinion before hearing the evidence. And after weeks I can tell you that I STILL have not formed an opinion, but still want to post my feelings and views thus far.

My first thought upon hearing the story report for the first time, the woman in me got the better of the sports fan and the forensic scientist in me. I sympathized with the woman who had apparently been taken advantage of by those snobby Duke athletes that feel they own the world just because they can play a sport really well. I was outraged at the university and especially the coaches for not having a tighter rope on these kids. What was going on? And so I cried out with the public.

Then, the more analytical forensic scientist emerged when reports from the examination of the woman came out. Since I've dedicated the past two years of my life to becoming a forensic DNA analyst, I was VERY intrigued to hear what the SANE (sexual assault nurse examiner) had found upon her examination, and eventually what the DNA analysis would show. The SANE produced evidence of a sexual assualt. Having taken a class with a SANE guest lecturer, there are tell tale signs that an assaulted woman exhibits to prove an assault. Also, the fact that they were collecting DNA from the LAX team to me meant that they found a DNA source on the victim. DNA analysis is costly and can be time consuming, so they would NOT be collecting samples unless they found some sort of DNA that was not hers on her person. Additionally, the SANE takes a blood sample from the examinee for toxicology purposes so that one could tell if her "drunken state" at the time of her discovery by the police was really from alcohol or from date rape drugs. I was becoming more and more convinced of their guilt. Then the DNA results came back...none of them matched. I was shocked. DNA does not lie. If they had performed DNA analysis, and not one of the forty some athletes matched, just whose DNA was found then? A boyfriend? Another gentleman from earlier in the evening? Perhaps this was just a woman-who-cried-rape case. I was baffled.

Then the sports fan in me came out enraged in me as I heard on Tony Kornheiser's ESPN radio show that the DA in this case is running for reelection, and there are thoughts he's pushing this case along because of the public outcry of race/class disparities. It's clear the community of Durham wants him to prosecute. And prosecute he will, as yesterday two sealed indictments were filed in the case, presumably against two LAX players the victim clearly identified as her attackers. How much is this a faux case of a woman crying rape and a prosecutor trying the high profile players just to get reelected? How much are they using sports to get names for themselves? It is clear we don't know that answer now, and we may never know that answer, but the sports fan in me is increasingly skeptical of the case.

This is what I do know:
After taking a few law classes, I know the DA would (hopefully)not file charges unless he is confident that he has enough evidence AT THIS POINT to convince the jury these two young men are guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. He is not waiting on evidence to trickle in, he's got all he needs.
The forensic case seems week. If in fact a sexual assault occured, it is more than likely that there would be PHYSICAL evidence linking the LAX players to the woman. It is possible that they guys took precautions to prevent this, but they would have to be knowledgable of these efforts, and not to use stereotypes, but it seems improbable that a drunken party thrown by a bunch athletes would be so thought out to utilize these precautions. Date rape drugs, yes, but not other physical means.

So after all my experience as a sports fan and forensic scientist, I still have no answers. We may NEVER get the real story. But what I do know is that there are fishy aspects to both sides of the story, and I feel that we aren't getting the whole truth from either end. My hope is that the truth will really come out, and the right thing can be done, in the name of justice and sports.