Links To The Present: Monday, November 16th (Featuring a mini-essay!)

November 16th, 2009 by John Krolik

I have a random basketball thought after one of the year’s more exciting weekends in combat sports, with a classic fight between Pacquiao and Cotto, and, even more exciting, the Mayweather-Pacman hype now officially a tidal wave.

(Boxing: I have been paid for one pay-per-view sporting event in my life. I do not see myself paying for more. If this fight happens, it is actually a no-brainer that I would end up paying for this fight with my friends. It just cannot be missed. Please, make this happen. Also, after the Pacman fight, me and two of my friends were in our kitchen. One of my friends said “There’s no way boxing can screw this up, right?” To which me and my friend simultaneously replied “Boxing can screw ANYTHING up.” Between combat sports and college football, I’ve gotta say that I’ve been taking sports that have the best teams actually play each other every year for granted.)

Sorry about that. Anyways, the point of talking about boxing was this: at some point this weekend, it occurred to me that rooting for a team with serious championship aspirations during the regular season is like watching a combat sport. Combat sports seem like the most straightforward thing in the world; two guys get into a ring or a cage, and the guy who gets less hurt or doesn’t give up wins. Refreshing after dealing with LeBron/Kobe arguments all day, right? Sometimes. But really, most of the time you end up with this.

In the eyes of combat sports fans, nobody really just fights their opponent-they’re fighting the ghosts of every other top contender at once. When a guy exists in the ring for an hour every few months but in people’s minds every day, these things can happen. Combat sports revolve around “pound-for-pound” rankings, which are something completely made up, ridiculous, and fun. It’s not enough to win the fight-if you decision an opponent another fighter knocked out, your stock can fall. If you win a mixed martial arts match by taking it to the mat, you’re vulnerable against a great striker. Listen to the broadcast of a Klitschko brothers fight sometime (they’re often free)-when I did, I saw the relevant KB (I can’t remember which one) absolutely destroying his opponent with jabs and straight punches, and the whole fight the broadcasters talked about what more the Klitschko brother could be doing to make the beating more cool-looking.

Manny beat Cotto on Saturday, but really he just won a round in his real fight against the ghost of Pretty Boy Floyd for the title of Best In The World. Fedor might not even have gained ground on the ghost of Brock Lesnar when he viciously knocked out Brett Rogers a few weeks back.

And this regular season, the Cavs are off to a great start for a normal team, but they’ve really been playing the ghost of the Lakers/Magic/Celtics/Team X every night. And in wins where the team’s defense looks lackluster in a tight win against a Deron-less Jazz team, they lose a round to the ghost. It’s not just about the game that was played-it’s about wondering whether or not those same tricks will work against the mythical “elite.” That’s what’s making this team so tough to analyze post-Shaq trade. Ideally, I’d love to just write about if the personnel did what they needed to do to win on a given night, but instead what must be considered is if the team beat the ghosts. And honestly, I don’t know the answers to those questions yet, and won’t fully know until this summer. I’m trying to adopt a “win this game, look good in the next one” attitude, but it’s tough with the ghosts lurking after every win and loss. Just something I thought might be worth sharing.

(By the way, if you don’t think that basketball lends itself to combat sports-like analysis, look no further than “power rankings,” which are pound-for-pound rankings in a sport with a playoff system that renders pound-for-pound rankings utterly meaningless. We love this stuff as sports fans. Don’t try to say that we don’t.)

Anyways, here are some quick links:

All good news on the JJ Hickson front: via Windhorst, LeBron has adopted JJ on and off the court and is trying to further his development as best he can. All I’ll say is that we’ve seen the “X is LeBron’s little brother” thing before with Boobie, and that more or less got forgotten after Boobie was given a very nice contract and promptly had a horrible year.

Also, according to Finnian, Delonte may be included in a Stephen Jackson trade. All I’ll say about this is that it would be one of the saddest days in Cavs: The Blog history if it did happen, for a number of reasons. One I’ll get into now: switching teams in general may not be the best thing for Delonte’s mental health, and entering that awful locker room situation certainly might not be. All of this is conjecture, of course, but if Delonte’s not going to be on the floor for the Cavs, I’d like it to be because people truly have his best interests in mind. I’m not going to flip out because of the slim chance it’ll actually happen, but rest assured that there will be some good old-fashioned flipping out if West-for-Jax actually occurs.

Shamless pimping file: you may want to check out my 1st massive MVP race column for SLAM.

Alright guys, that’s all for tonight. Until later, all.