Frantic, fantastic finishes

first_imgWas watching the Daytona 500 on Sunday when an NBA game broke out … The last two minutes were all you needed to see of The Great American Race. Same deal as hoops. The first 400 miles were for snoozing – and so many commercials it made me nostalgic for the Super Bowl. The next 100 miles were for momentum-killing, time-consuming, contender-eliminating wrecks. Credit David Gilliland, pole sitter and former Inland Empire racer, for the presence of mind to drive across the infield, after surviving that final wreck, to finish eighth. The Nextel Cup circus moves to Fontana this week. And the great local subplot is this: Can track president Gillian Zucker & Co. finally sell out the race? Can they scrape up 90,000 people willing to see guys drive in circles for 500 miles? Sounds like a hard sell, until you remember the Dodgers can move 150,000 tickets in a weekend, and USC put 90,000 in the Coliseum six times last fall. It’s ludicrous now, but Roger Penske’s original idea was to circle the California Speedway with stands, taking capacity to 200,000-plus. Zucker couldn’t get 200,000 to her track at the point of a gun. The NBA’s half-speed star showcase reminded us: Baseball’s all-star game is the only one worth watching because it’s the only one with players trying to win. If New Jersey veteran Jason Kidd is available, the Lakers have to trade for him. Even if it puts them into luxury-tax territory. Kidd is 33 but still averages nearly a triple-double: 14.3 points, 8.0 rebounds, 8.7 assists. The current Lakers won’t survive the first round of the playoffs, and their biggest need is at point guard. Kidd makes $18 million, so the Lakers would need to send Kwame Brown and a couple of others (Chris Mihm, Aaron McKie?) to the Nets to make the trade finances work. Doesn’t it seem as if the Lakers ought to have two superstars? Yes, they should. West and Baylor, West and Chamberlain, Kareem and Magic, Shaq and Kobe, Kobe and Kidd? And, no, Lamar Odom doesn’t count. In case you’re wondering, NBA All-Star Game “Viva Las Vegas” crooner Wayne Newton, who looks mummified, is only 64. Yeah, I thought he was older, too, but he was 21 when he did “Danke Schoen” in 1963. Just saw Shaquille O’Neal miss a dunk in the first few minutes of the game. What is Shaq’s vertical leap these days? About the width of a doughnut? The only man-made objects astronauts can see from outer space: The Great Wall of China and the Day-Glo suits worn by TNT courtside reporter Craig Sager. The NBA seems open to the idea of a franchise in Las Vegas. Which would be a big mistake. The League’s young millionaires don’t need to live and work in Sin City. Then there’s the idea that Las Vegas can be to the NBA what Los Angeles is to the NFL – the perpetual threat to current franchise cities who won’t put up a new building. That’s OK. If you saw that dark and weird basketball commercial with all the people weeping and in anguish … it’s about Nike’s new Air Jordan XX2 model. The music is from Mozart’s “Requiem Mass in D Minor,” specifically the section entitled “Lacrimosa” – so-called because it moved the composer to tears – and is supposed to represent Michael Jordan crushing the home team with a last-second shot. (Thanks to the shoes.) By the way, when Jordan hit the late shot to lift North Carolina over Georgetown in the 1982 NCAA title game, the final score was 63-62. Same as in the commercial. Gerry Wright deserves to keep the San Bernardino Valley College basketball job, now that he wants it – and has led the Wolverines to the Foothill Conference title and a 26-6 record. “Sir Jamalot,” as he was known at Iowa and San Gorgonio High School, may be a better coach than player, and that’s saying something. Phil Mickelson blew a tournament victory on the 18th hole? You could knock me over with a feather. Tiger Woods skipping a tournament he never has won in 11 tries (the Nissan Open) tarnishes his winning streak. Count on Landon Donovan to say what he thinks about Mexico’s national team players, who refused to exchange jerseys or shake hands after their latest loss (2-0) to Donovan and the “I guess there’s always an optimistic part of me that hopes they will somehow have changed but it never happens,” Donovan wrote in an e-mail. “It’s despicable, disrespectful and inhumane … unfortunately we’ve come to expect that from them and I don’t see ever that changing.” USC’s basketball team has more physical talent than does UCLA. But the Bruins are mentally tougher and better-coached (by Ben Howland). Which explains their two narrow victories over the Trojans, and their escape at Arizona State – three days before the Trojans lost there. USC could be the Pac-10 team to beat, a year from now, if it keeps its underclassmen and adds O.J. Mayo while UCLA loses Arron Afflalo and Darren Collison to the NBA. If Humboldt State wins the CCAA men’s basketball title by a game over Cal State San Bernardino or Cal Poly Pomona, and the NCAA Division II West Regional gets dragged to the soggy woods of Arcata, we may want to reflect on The Photo – the pictorial evidence that Grayson Moyer’s “buzzer-beating” shot that gave Humboldt a 65-64 victory over Dominguez Hills on Jan. 6 shouldn’t have counted. The Photo shows the ball on Moyer’s hand and nothing but zeroes on the game clock. Kudos: To the Lakers, who free up $15.6 million in salary cap space this summer as Brian Grant’s contract expires. Condolences: To the Lakers, for paying Grant $15.6 million two years after they waived him. Lookalikes: Wayne Newton, King Tut. Where are they now? King Tut is in Cairo’s Egyptian Museum. Wayne Newton will appear at the Yavapai (Ariz.) College Performing Hall on Friday. They said it: “The last 40 laps were insane.” – Jeff Burton, after finishing third in the Daytona 500. And finally: Was watching the Daytona 500 when a demolition derby broke out. 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!center_img If you tuned back in (as I did, after a nap), during the 15 minutes of red-flagged dead time, you saw all that mattered – the two-lap sprint to the finish won by Kevin Harvick. While half the field wrecked and Nextel Cup officials sat on their yellow flags until Harvick hit the finish line. Mark Martin, leader when the crash occurred, was robbed. But NASCAR fans probably are fine with it thanks to the last-lap wrecks and because a guy (Clint Bowyer) crossed the finish line on his roof, and on fire. Yeah, that’s great racin’. And some people say Ultimate Fighting won’t catch on. H.L. Mencken knew his audience when he wrote, 80 years ago, “Nobody ever went broke underestimating the taste of the American public.” Too many cars, going too fast, in too little space, with everyone crazy to gain a single car-length, and mayhem a certainty. NASCAR at Daytona? Sure. But the I-10 at rush hour, too. last_img read more