The Monday Morning Script: Where Things Other Than 'The Masters' Happened


For some of you, your Saturday started with the news that one of the 10 greatest basketball players of all-time had his achilles tendon cry "uncle" while Los Angeles Lakers fans began to cry tears in their Kobe Systems. For a few more of you, your weekend may have ended with the news that some Australian dude won The Masters, thus bringing home the only green jacket that Bishop Don "Magic" Juan doesn't own, to Aussieland for the first time. There are huge news stories and they obviously deserve your attention, however, we're not going to talk about that right now.

Therefore, just in case you had any inkling of going to work/class/coffee shop/barbershop and talking with your people about anything other than "Kobe's achilles" and "Adam Scott's putter" than allow us to deliver you The Monday Morning Script.

Previously: The Monday Morning Script: An Eastbay Magazine Appreciation Moment

Alex Ovechkin Washington Capitals Tampa Bay Lightning

The Resurgence Of Alexander Ovechkin

Four years ago this coming weekend, myself and three of my guys spent a weekend in Washington, DC for a long-awaited visit to Nationals Park. Like many red-blooded American men, we had planned trips to see Major League Baseball parks around the continent, and after attending the Nationals’ last game at RFK Stadium two years earlier, we knew that we needed to make a return trip for the new digs at the Navy Yard.

The trip itself was fascinating in so many ways, but what actually stood out to me during the former Florida Marlins 9-6 victory over the hometown Nationals, was the amount of Capitals paraphernalia worn among the fans. On April 18, 2009, the Nats and the greatness of Teddy Roosevelt were on their way towards another losing campaign, the Wizards were 24 hours from starting the third-straight first round series loss to the Cleveland LeBrons, and the Redskins were... themselves. Seeing a few dozen Caps sweaters and hats was a beautiful thing, especially because this Scribe had been introducing his non-hockey fan friends to the sheer brilliance of one Alexander Ovechkin.

For about two and a half seasons, some in hockey media have questioned the state of man rhythmically styled as The Great 8. The guy who did this, this, and this was being called a shell of his former self at 27 years old. It didn’t help that two of his rivals in Pittsburgh, Sidney Crosby and fellow countryman Evgeni Malkin, had found team success to go along with individual accolades; both at times at the expense of Ovechkin’s Capitals. Considering the breakneck pace he lit the lamp in the first six seasons of his NHL career, the points drop off in his last two years was as stunning, to say the least.

Since Dillon Friday wondered what the hell happened to Ovi back in February, things have certainly changed thanks to a return to form that has Washington back in the good graces of the hockey gods. He went from nine goals in this lockout-shortened season by mid-March to taking the league lead of 26 thanks to 17 in the last sixteen games.

He’s being dissected in the positive for once, and that there’s talk of him grabbing the Hart Trophy now is quite the reversal of fortunes. This can only lead to an uptick in interest on another team besides the Crosby-led Penguins and the Chicago Blackhawks, the presumed favorites to play for the Stanley Cup. It’s a bit timely for Washington to make this turnaround as the surprisingly well-viewed lockout season nears its end.

Ovechkin’s resurgence can undoubtedly bode well beyond the District, but only if the Capitals can a) lock down the Southeast Division and the third seed in the playoffs, and b) move past at least the first round. Assuming both happen, the NHL would love to hype up a possible showdown with the Penguins in order to fire up the Crosby/Ovechkin machine for old time’s sake.

Honestly, if Washington does follow the above script, you should be excited for it, too. About a year before that trip to Nationals Park, one of those friends had said in an email thread “my computer does not compute the NHL!” It wasn’t a surprise to see that, but it was disheartening because there was a refusal to recognize some of the best athletes in the world in their craft. Not long after that slight, I found that in explaining the game to the unfamiliar, I had to do what is safe to assume some NHL fans may dislike; use the style of other sports for context. With Ovechkin, it may be easy to look to soccer for the kinds of moves he put on hapless defenders. However, because of his flair and personality, it was much more appropriate to call him something basketball fans could truly ‘get’. He was ‘And 1 on skates’.

During that trip, as we noted all of the Caps gear in the stands, the Rock the Red posters throughout the Metro system, and the Ovechkin sweaters throughout the city, it was interesting to hear the friend who once said that his desktop was allergic to the blue line actually talk a little bit about the ongoing Eastern quarterfinals series versus our hometown Rangers. The mere mention of Henrik Lundqvist perked up my ears - Game 2 was taking place at the Verizon Center while the Presidents’ Race was going on - but all I could think of was how calling Ovechkin a one-man Mixtape Tour with the puck might have gotten his attention. -- Jason

Guan Tianlang

Child's Play

Forget the winner for a second, and ask yourself “What was I doing at 14?” No one but Guan Tianlang can say making the cut at the Masters. It’s utterly preposterous. When I was his age, I was working my way through algebra as well as a different relationship every three weeks. On the athletic front, I was running the flanks on my future high school’s second JV soccer.

Young Tianlang, a native of China, put many of us to shame with his performance this weekend. He demonstrated tremendous poise in his sport’s biggest event. Perhaps too much poise. Tianlang was assessed a one stroke penalty for slow play during Friday’s second round. In reality, he was doing what we beg of all young athletes. He took a few deep breaths, and composed himself before approaching a difficult shot on a windy day. Tianlang thought better of his club choice, and removed another from his bag. A mature move for a 14-year-old in his first Masters appearance.

And for that, the ruling body slapped the teenager with a one stroke penalty. The extra stroke put Guan in jeopardy of missing the cut. He could have been upset; he could’ve refused attention. Instead, he gave a remarkably honest, yet gracious interview in his second language. Tianlang said he respected the ruling, and admitted that if the penalty had cost him the weekend, it still would have been a wonderful experience.

So many young stars burst onto the scene only to fade into adulthood. We don’t know what to expect from Guan Tianlang in the future - golf is hard after all - but his performance this weekend both on and off the course augurs well for the young man going forward. -- Dillon


Fan Etiquette During The NBA Playoffs

This time next week, playoff basketball will be on the menu making way the always entertaining 40% decrease in work productivity nationwide. Blame this on staying up late the night before catching Steph Curry drop 50 in the late game (which will happen). But mainly blame it on being stuck on G-Chat arguing with your friend(s) about whether or not Knicks/Celtics has the potential to turn extremely violent. Before heading into the tipoff of the NBA's second season, however, the week leading up is equally as critical, if not more. Mental preparation is vital, as well as ironing out where you'll be taking in Game 1 of (damn near) every series. The fact of the matter is the NBA playoffs are a big f*cking deal to most people. One of my closest friends told me he won't even have sex with his wife while the Bulls are playing, and if they lose, well...I told him to stop the story there because I didn't like where it was heading.

The point being, there's rules to this NBA playoff life. And like the legendary Christopher Wallace aka The Notorious B.I.G. aka Frank White aka Biggie Smalls so eloquently waxed in 1997's "10 Crack Commandments," I composed a manual. Consider this the cliff notes version; an extremely abbreviated cliff notes version. Feel free to read the entire list in my book slated to be released sometime before 2015 (that's not a joke either).

1. Take your significant other on a date. If you're single or one of the lucky people whose significant other is equally as pumped about the playoffs, feel free to skip this and move to point #2. The NBA postseason is highlighted by dedication. In the early stages, there's pretty much a slate of games every night. And even in between games, scouting reports must be analyzed because we're diehard basketball junkies and somehow our level of commitment to the game manifests itself in our favorite team and/or player. This takes a lot of time, more than we're probably aware. So how does a person butter up to their boyfriend/girlfriend for the next two months of the most important basketball possible? Cook them dinner every night. Volunteer to go grocery shopping and wash their car. Go to that boring ass office party on Friday they've been not-so-cleverly mentioning for the past month. Take them to a movie. Put the toilet seat down. Do whatever needs to be done to show them this week is about them and only them. Because trust me, come Saturday afternoon, everything changes.

2. Always see the bigger picture. Here's the thing. It's so easy to lose your shit when your team loses and wins, but we've got to exhibit some sense of maturity here. Being down in a series doesn't necessarily mean you're on a death bed (unless you're down 0-3, in which case start counting down the days until NFL training camps open). And likewise, being up doesn't mean those pearly gates of postseason heaven are as close as they appear either. Yes, the days in between losses are going to feel like an eternity, but remember we're in a marathon, not a sprint.

Bonus: Don't be that guy who celebrates or wishes other players get injured either. What type of wolves were you raised by?

3. Operate Twitter at your own risk. If having thick skin when it comes to sports isn't your finest quality, chances are taking a sabbatical from Twitter until - A) your team/player is eliminated or B) late June - is the best option. Trending topics will be born in the blink of an eye; meanwhile meme's and .gif's stand to take on an entirely new role in NBA playoff vernacular. People are going to do everything in their power to draw a reaction out of you, especially if you're one of those vocal fans. They want to see you flip a table and Latrell Sprewell/PJ Carlesimo someone via 140 characters. Navigate these Twitter waters carefully because many a rocky nights are on the horizon. Or not. Everyone loves an epic Twitter rant. Myself included. -- J. Tinsley


The Numbers Game

The life and legacy of Jackie Robinson was in the middle of the spotlight this weekend with the release of the film 42, and rightfully so. It’s safe to say that there has been no more important single figure in sports history than Robinson, and his taking the field for the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947 was an equator of how sports has come to be known today.

While his impact receives lots of notice, exactly how good of a player he was as well gets lost in the shuffle sometimes. He wasn’t just the first African-American to play, but he also was the first to win Most Valuable Player, Rookie of the Year and a six-time All-Star in his 10-year career. He was an incredibly adept player that not only changed the way the game looked, but played with a style that moved the game itself forward as well. But there is no sport where legacy is more tied to numbers than baseball, and because of the fact that Jackie had a rather brief career in comparison to other greats, he has none of the “magic numbers” that greatness is often associated with (3,000 hits, 500 home runs, etc).

Yet, looking closer at what he accomplished during his prime shows he was an extraordinary player in context. He made his Major League debut at 28 years old, which is late in context of a rookie season, yet he quickly acclimated himself to the game. He never hit for an average under .296 until his eighth season when he was 36 years old. In his first six seasons, he finished in the top 10 in MVP voting four times, including winning the award in 1949.

As a matter of fact, that 1949 season is still one of the finest years any second baseman has put together. He led the MLB in hitting with a .342 mark, stole a National League best 37 bases, drove in 124 runs and complied 38 doubles and 12 triples. He was at the height of his powers at this point at his 30th birthday, yet one of the great “what if” questions in the game’s history is just what could he have done with a full career on the field. Considering the fact that he racked up 1,500 hits, 734 RBI and 197 stolen bases in a career where he was basically declining in ability for 75% of it, what he could have been with an earlier opportunity is a truly remarkable thing to consider.

So while his civil impact is incredible, his ability as a ballplayer is only slightly surpassed by what he did. Never let that part of the story get lost in the mix; Jackie was the real deal. -- Matt

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