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The Weekend Bellow — May 31, 2013

LOS ANGELES — It’s not the superfight boxing fans had clamored for, but this one will do. And it should be simply put, fantastic. Late Wednesday, Floyd Mayweather announced on his Twitter feed that he’s agreed to fight fellow unbeaten champion Canelo Alvarez this coming September 14 in Las Vegas at 152 pounds, putting his own unblemished 44-0 record on the line. It will without question be Mayweather’s toughest bout  in years and should smash his own pay-per-view record for his new home, Showtime.

“I’m giving my fans what they want,” Mayweather said in the Twitter release, and there’s no doubt that’s the case. Since Alvarez defeated Austin Trout in late April, he’s been the hot name for Mayweather’s next hand-picked opponent. Most thought their matchup would be next year at the earliest, given Mayweather’s recent layoff and hand injury suffered against Robert Guerrero, but that was put to rest Wednesday.

The fight will take place at Mayweather’s Las Vegas home, the MGM Grand and will take place on the same day as two-time defending NCAA Champion Alabama Crimson Tide battles reigning Heisman Trophy winner, and arguably the man having the greatest Spring Break of all-time, Johnny Manziel and Texas A&M. My calendar is already circled for that bound-t0-be epic sports Saturday.

If I was a betting man, I’d parlay the Aggies and Mayweather.

SPURS COAST, HEAT PUSHED BY PACERS
Tony Parker, in my mind, is the MVP of the NBA Playoffs to this point. The way he dominated the Memphis Grizzlies was remarkable and unexpected, especially considering how out-of-this-world Mike Conley had been playing in the first two rounds. Truthfully, I thought the Grizzlies would defeat the Spurs in 7 games and get blown out by Miami in the Finals, but now it looks like both maybe watching from their respective Italian leather couches. To the Heat/Pacers after one more point about Tim Duncan; what he’s been able to do this postseason has been remarkable. Talk about turning back the clock, applying the deer antler spray or whatever, to see TD just destroying the competition in the second season has been wonderful. And, it’s been reported, he’s been doing in all the while locked in a nasty divorce. Kudos.

Now, onto Indiana/Miami. Who saw this coming? Put your hands down. The Pacers are huge. Like skyscraper huge and it’s obviously posing seriously problems for Miami, whose biggest player (Chris Bosh) is a 6-11 jumpshooter (I’m not counting Birdman, I’m just not). When you get outrebounded by 19 in a playoff game, you have issues. And sure, that 6th foul on LeBron James in Game 4 was pretty dubious but you have to expect that kind of wishy-washy, make-everyone-think-the-game-is-rigged refereeing once in a while. I just can’t figure out the Heat. They should be rolling, and you saw that in Game 3 and then in Game 5 how badly they can dominate when running on fully cylinders, but it just seems like they coast too much. Though I really wanna see the Spurs dismantle them. Can’t get over how amazing San Antonio is playing. I think the Spurs are going to win the title, but I think they’ll end up losing Game 1 because of the long layoff, since it seems obvious to me Pacers/Heat is going seven games.

BLACKHAWKS ADVANCE, NO CLEAR CUP FAVORITE
I’ll be the first to admit I only pay attention to the NHL during the playoffs. I’m sure I’m not alone. And while I can name more than a few players on the Bruins, to say I’m a fan would be inaccurate. I was pumped when they won the Stanley Cup a couple years ago, and I want them to win again this year, but I don’t live and die with every line change and power play. I did get moderately into the Blackhawks/Red Wings series if only because my buddy Charlie is a die-hard Chicago fan, so it was nice to see them win so he could live a little longer only to have another heart attack when they go seven games against the defending Stanley Cup Champion Los Angeles Kings here. It would be nice if I could get to a game, but it’s looking highly unlikely.

Penguins/Bruins should be a fun matchup as well. Lots of good storylines with Sydney Crosby and what Pittsburgh has been able to do this season with their super-loaded team, and Jaromir Jagr facing his former team, the team he won a couple of Cups with when he was just a rookie. Now he’s on Boston trying to lead this team to a title for the 2nd time this decade. Read somewhere that the final four is the last four Stanley Cup champions. That’s pretty neat. Hope both series go seven games.

Rooting for Kings/Bruins.

EXTRA BUTTER SUMMER-MOVIE STYLE
I’m pretty disappointed in my movie reviewing the last couple years, and every time I pledge to bring back Extra Butter, I always fall short of my own expectations (lot of first person in that sentence). So here’s some seriously quick reviews of this Spring/Summer films that I’ve seen thus far. Please note, I have yet to go see Fast 6, which I plan on doing. So in the true spirit of brevity, here’s my one-line reviews followed by my ranking.

 Iron Man 3: Gwenyth Paltrow appears for a moment wearing a sports bra and Robert Downey is very polished now in his 4th go-around, if you count “The Avengers” but I thought it was a nice conclusion to the trilogy, however it made too much money not to make a 4th; as always, stay through the credits and if Jon Favreau happens to see this, eat a salad. 3.75/5

42: Harrison Ford was a little over the top as Branch Rickey, but it was a cool to sorta re-live” history” through this film, though it wasn’t as great as I was hoping it would be. 2.75/5

Pain & Gain: This film had 3 things going for it from the get-go with me: Marky Mark, The Rock and Michael  Bay, that meant there was going to be wicked awesome one-liners, probably some big dudes doing cool stuff, and shh blowing up with gratuitous sex where applicable. Check. Check. Check. Thrown in Ed Harris and University of Southern Maine’s own Tony Schalub and you got a success, despite its stupidity. 3.25/5

Olympus Has Fallen: The first of our “let’s blow up Washington D.C.” films this year featured Gerard Butler basically doing what he should be doing in all his movies: kicking ass and taking names later, but it was nice to see Dylan McDermott getting work again despite it being this insanly over-the-top, non-believable, there-must-have-been-1,000-body-count, flick. 2.5/5

The Great Gatsby: I went in thinking this was going to be a 2-hour rap video since that’s what the previews made me think this film was, and I left thinking that I could’ve done without the Jay-Z and Beyonce songs since they, ya know, weren’t alive in 1920, but I did enjoy it, and made me think for a minute that I wanted to read the book like I was in 10th grade again. 3.25/5

GI Joe: Retaliation: A movie that knows what it is, its audience and what it wants to accomplish; fun, explosive and wrapped up with the good guys winning and The Rock kicking some serious ass; it didn’t hurt that Bruce Willis made an appearance. 3.5/5

Star Trek Into Darkness: Hands down the best flick of the season thus far, and it’s so good I don’t even want to say anything about it, just go see it and then when it’s over, see it again. 4.25/5

Oblivion: Remember when Tom Cruise went insane and everything he made was tainted? Me too, and I hated that because I really like Tom Cruise and make it a point to see all his films, so with this one I really wanted to like it and the first half was pretty awesome and then it just got weird. But Morgan Freeman is in it, so there’s that, too. 3/5

NFL OFFSEASON IN FULL SWING
I was taking some heat on Twitter when it was announced that 49ers receiver Michael Crabtree would be missing most of the 2013 season after suffering an achilles injury, those blaming me for my line of questioning to him a couple months back on the Rich Eisen Podcast. While I stand behind my simple query, I wish injury on no man, let alone someone on the cusp of greatness like Crabtree. How this affects the 49ers offense in 2013 has obviously yet to be seen, but Anquan Boldin, Vernon Davis and Mario Manningham now carry a larger burden than before. No question Colin Kaepernick was counting on heaving the rock #15’s way 125+ times this coming season and such will have to look elsewhere on fourth and goal in the Super Bowl.

Glad to see Charles Woodson land somewhere, though it proves that the one thing that drives these athletes is the all mighty dollar, as reports had C-Wood with several other offers with franchises with more favorable odds to advance in the postseason than Oakland.

Am I the only one who doesn’t hold Brian Urlacher in such high esteem for his middle linebacking of the last 13 seasons? Because it seems that way. Let’s say we give 54 his due for the Arizona “You Want To Crown Them?” game, because most seem to agree that was a seminal moment for him given how well he played in the second half against Matt Leinart and Co., but name me another quintessential Brian Urlacher moment that would beseech him such a title as Hall of Famer? I can’t think of one. He was a very good player for a considerable period of time who also seemingly was hurt more often than not. That’s how I’ll remember him. That and his flings with Paris Hilton and Jenny McCarthy.

Enjoy the weekend, everyone.

Two Cities, Two Playoff Games, One Week: A Recap

Paul Pierce, center,  is looking for one last championship run with this group of Celtics.

SACO, Maine — Playoff games, by definition, mean more than regular season contests. First, in the sense that there are less of them (duh), which adds to the anxiety in the building; two, there’s a sense of urgency, at least among the fans, because the end could come at any moment; and finally, if those involved fail to win, they lose their jobs.

The playoffs are a BFD*.

It’s also important to remember all sporting events mean more to “us” than it does to “them.” “Them,” of course, being the athletes (see Beckett, Josh). Coaches probably care as much as we do, at least it appears so, but since I am neither a professional athlete or coach, it was just straight up pretty cool to attend NBA playoff games in both Los Angeles and Boston in the span of a week, recently.

The Celtics and Clippers. The complete opposite of the basketball spectrum. Seventeen championship banners hang in the Boston Garden; Los Angeles’s second basketball team has eight playoff appearances in 42-year history in three different cities. On the drive back to Maine after the 76ers’ 82-81 win I thought about the differences between the two venues, the crowds, the styles of the games themselves and, of course, the teams involved.

I had a parter in crime for each game and how we came to attend both started the same way: a simple IM/text which more or less read “game tonight?” For the Clippers, my buddy Eric and I decided to go at 10 a.m. the day of. It didn’t take much convincing on my part to get him on board. Once we got to downtown Los Angeles, we were full-fledged members of Clippers Nation.

The scene during warmups from The Mo and mine seats on the 200 level.

I’ll let @TheGhostMo take it from here:

Walking into the men’s bathroom at Staples Center, minutes before tip-off, I almost collided with three Orthodox Jewish men.  These weren’t your Larry David-esque Jewish men.  I’m talking real orthodox, complete with long curly side burns, yarmulkes, and formal suits.  I would have thought I was on the corner of Beverly and Hauser, except for one thing: all three wore bright red “LAC RISEN” t-shirts over their suits.  4,000 years of religion couldn’t beat out Clipper fever on this night.

These three gentlemen weren’t the only ones wearing the complimentary garb.  The entire men’s room bled red to the point that it wouldn’t look out of place on The Game’s album cover.  There was only one person who wasn’t wearing the shirt, who instead had it slung over his shoulder, trying to look cool.  That person was me.

I’m from Milwaukee. I grew up thinking it was commonplace to tailgate before every baseball game.  I remember seeing a woman wear a Green Bay Packers Mark Chmura jersey…to the courtroom for his sexual assault trial.  Every stadium in Wisconsin reeks of barley and hops and that’s the way we like it.

Since moving to LA, I’ve seen the Lakers play at home for every round of the playoffs, save the Finals. For the most part I’ve been disappointed.  Everyone at Lakers games wishes (or incorrectly thinks) they’re part of the spotlight, that they’re on par with Jack Nicholson.  People dress like they’re going to a club and stay hunkered on their cellphones like Obama is sexting them.

That’s why I hadn’t put on my shirt on yet.  Because I figured the Clippers’ playoff scene would be more of the same.  I couldn’t have been more wrong.

As I exited the bathroom, an almost certainly intoxicated man grabbed my shoulder.  “You’re putting the shirt on, right???”  At that exact moment, I felt something hit my shoe.  I looked down and saw an empty plastic bottle of tequila rolling past.  Smiling, I threw the shirt on with glee and gave the stranger a massive high five.  I’ve never felt more at home in this city.  #LobCityBaby

That the Clippers won in overtime only added to the hysteria. It almost felt like we were back in the 315, head-to-toe in blue and orange; it was that type of crowd, which hasn’t been said for a Clippers game in, I’m guessing, ever. Sadly, there were no more LA games for us. Baby Brother edged the Grizzlies in 7 games only to be swept at the Spurs’ hand in the next round. Oh to what next year will bring, and if Chris Paul and Blake Griffin stay with the team beyond then, there could be many more years of postseason chances for the Lobbers.

A week later, in Boston, on the other hand, I expected 19,000 Sullys, Tommys and extras from “The Town” to be drunk, loud and drunk. I also didn’t expect to get a free T-shirt upon arrival. Matt, whom I called upon to attend the day before (along with my bro-in-law, who I convinced to call out sick from work) and is as just a big of a Celtics fan as me, said we’d get towels. He was correct. We also got placards with a gigantic “3” on it, presumably to hold up after someone on our team hit a 3-pointer. Fans are such sheep. I grabbed two of each.

@mrouellette and I had seats almost as good for Celtics/76ers Game 2.

It didn’t matter that we were sitting in the upper deck behind the basket, just being part of a legendary Celtics playoff crowd was something to behold. From the “Dee-Fence” chants on big possessions, to “Let’s Go Celtics!” on others, it was beyond loud at times and abrasive at others. A hot start by the home team became a faded memory by the third quarter when the 76ers took the lead. By the time the 4th quarter rolled around there wasn’t a butt in a seat and the roar when Avery Bradley hit a 3 with just over two minutes left to put the Celtics up 1 could be heard all the way in Worcester.

But, in the end, the sea of green couldn’t will the home chaps to victory, as the 76ers eeked out the one-point win — Kevin Garnett drained a meaningless 3 with no time left that surely only the gamblers cared about. I always enjoy the scene after games in Boston; everyone bitching about this and that, and the T-shirt vendors selling rubes at LeBron James, the Heat and my favorite, an homage to Greg Steimsma, the Celtics enthusiastic backup center. They’re cheap, and I’ve bought some in the past after Red Sox games. Matt got a couple and we made our way home.

The 90-minute or so drive back home after game in Boston, especially after a loss, is a lot like driving home from Las Vegas. You and your buddies usually just sit in silence, maybe make a Dunkin stop and it isn’t until you hit the Maine border before someone speaks up. Usually it’s an expletive about the game; kinda like how you curse the tables in Vegas by the time you hit Barstow.

Back in Los Angeles, the games start three hours earlier and those wearing Green are few and far between. With Game 7 vs. Philadelphia set for Saturday, and the Lakers car flags replaced by finger pointing for their early exit, I’ll take solace that we have at least one more game.

I’ll be there in spirit.

* – Big. Fu^king. Deal.