Sunday, May 01, 2005

SPORTS: In my crystal ball ...

A week before the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament, aka March Madness, got started, I opined the final four would be North Carolina (winners of Illinois in the final, according to my prognostication), UConn, Louisville and the aforementioned Illini of Illinois. My only miss was UConn, who ended up in the same bracket as UNC. Felt pretty good about those predictions.

Unfortunately, had more than a few wrong picks on the road to the final four and went without winning a prize in the various pools I entered this season (One pool is still adjudging a tie-breaker, so there might be a Sony PlayStation afterall). But, for some reason, I just don't succeed in March Madness contests in odd-numbered years.

Enough complaining about the roundball, time to turn to rubber-necking.

The World Men's Hockey Championships started today (well, yesterday. This IS Sunday afterall. But I'm still on the Saturday clock). All four of my first-day picks won. And not ONE of them won convincingly enough for my tastes. I thought this was the easiest day of selection, only to watch Canada struggle against Latvia, the Russians need an empty-net goal and the Finns BARELY beat Denmark. Hunh?

Going into this tourney, I thought to myself that the prevailing winds were going to blow badly for two-time defending champion Canada. And today's contest seemed to back up my feeling that this squad was going to trip up somewhere before the gold medal game's anthem. The Czechs and the Swedes were popular choices to join Canada at the medal podium. But my gut told me Russia, Canada and Finland were going to be the medallists.

The feeling in my gut today? I hope it was something I ate, cuz right now, none of the three look particularly threatening. Still if Nash, Thornton and Gagne are the dynamite line they can be and Martin Brodeur shook all the rust off against Latvia, the Canucks will at least be PLAYING in the game for the gold. But those are no lead-pipe cinches. Maybe the Czechs, Slovaks and Swedes will look awful tomorrow. If not, this might be the final cruel blow of a cruel winter that has seen Canadian property, the world Junior Mens, Senior Women's and Under-18 Men's titles end up in the USA rather than there rightful place here in the Great White North.

Damn odd year.

TV: R.I.P. J.A.G.

It's been too long since I posted here, mostly because of a silly, insane work schedule. I told the big boss that this weekend was for lying flat on the back and digging into the six-week old hoarde of video-taped TV. Maybe a book (Al Sarrantanio's Haydn of Mars, if you are wondering).

I caught a couple of J.A.G.'s right off and decided that this was the time to jump ship and plough right through to the final. I just finished watching the series' last episode. Loved it. Schmaltzy and just a little left of predictable, but this Sam really did get his Diane.

Some confessions here. David James Elliott's mother plays bridge here in this area. I started watching the show mainly to not have to lie to her about seeing her son's exploits on any given Friday when I might find myself in Milton at her table. To be honest, I was more interested in his two co-stars that first year, Andrea Parker, who I was not familiar with, and Tracey Needham, the tall blonde goddess in the making, ex of Life Goes On.

The show was a so-so freshman and was actually cancelled, before moving from NBC to CBS and losing the two attractive co-stars to bring in Catherine Bell. I'd be lying if I said I remembered her from her brief first-season guesting role late in the season. And I was less than thrilled she was replacing Needham (remember, GODDESS in the making). But hey, I still had to answer to Patricia and I kept watching the show.

And, wouldn't you know it, Catherine Bell grew on me. And her character, Mac Mackenzie, grew on Elliott's character Harm Rabb. So much so, that as the show's end loomed ever larger, I felt like most loyal viewers, "Come on already, tear down the wall and get together!"

The series finale did not disappoint. It brought a fitting conclusion to 10 years of occasionally jingoistic TV that usually entertained while preserving it's commercial appeal to the American Navy and Marine corps. Bluntly, many of its tales of heroism were entertaining and spine-tingling as all get out.

My single favourite episode was the one early last season where Harm lands a big non-military plane on an aircraft carrier. Thought that was a big of TV bluster ... until the end credits rolled with some archival film footage. It had actually been done back in the 60's. The tingling reminded me of just how much stranger truth is than fiction.

JAG was not just Elliott and Bell. Patrick Laborteaux, who was always "Matt's brother" until he landed the coming-of-age role as Bud Roberts, regularly turned the sidekick role into an attention-getter. The last two JAG heads, John Jackson and the always fascinating David Andrews, were enjoyable curmudgeons. And the last in a list of good gunnies, Zoe McLellan, was fun to watch. Bud's wife Harriet, as played by Karri Turner, was the living embodiment of Mother Know's Best, a fact frequently alluded to in the finale. And no actor's list at JAG goes without listing the troubled Trevor Goddard, an Aussie pain in the butt on the show. His death by suicide was one of too many footnotes on the show honouring the dead.

I liked this show. I'll miss it. But it ran its course to a successful conclusion. Congrats to Don Bellisario and the crew for giving me so many hours of enjoyment.