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The hair up there

May 16, 2002|BY DAN KAUFFMAN

My colleague Al Ditzel tried to rally support for the cause in his column Tuesday, but I'm taking it one step further.

Given the lack of responses to sports editor Mark Keller's bet, pitting the Orioles' lack of ability to finish the season at or above .500 against what's left of his hair (and I know a little something about hair loss, folks. I may look young ... OK, I am young ... but my hair didn't get the memo), I turned to Herald-Mail graphic artist Ryan Harpster.

With Harpster's help, below is a current shot of Keller's hair-covered cranium on the left (OK, it's slightly doctored ... Ryan had extra time on his hands), and below it, what his melon would look like come October if the Orioles pull off a miracle.

There's nothing like visual representation to motivate the public into taking up a bet. At least, that's my hope. Because if Mark loses this bet, I'm gonna laugh at his visual representation for weeks.

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n For the last two weeks, I've taken in either an NHL or NBA playoff game almost every day, which has led me to the following verdicts:

1. I still dislike the NBA as a whole. Maybe final scores in the 80s (or 60s) do something for you, but they leave me scurrying for the remote.

The Kings-Mavericks series, however, was nothing short of phenomenal.

This is basketball the way it should be played - at a fast tempo and a high level, with scores in the 100s every game. Well-played, entertaining ball.

I realize teams stress defensive effort, and that's fine. But when was the last time anyone enjoyed a game where the teams walked the ball up the court every time, played their same halfcourt sets, shot mostly outside jumpers and combined to make 40 percent of their shots? That's my problem with NBA playoff basketball: It might win a title, but it's just no fun to watch.

But the Kings and Mavs have one gear. Fifth. And it made for some edge-of-your-seat entertainment. As ESPN.com columnist Bill Simmons would say, good times. It's just a shame NBA basketball isn't always like this.

1a. Which brings me to the San Antonio stinkfest. I've seen more heart in junior league basketball.

Forget the jokes here. The Spurs should have beaten Los Angeles in four games. Period. They blew fourth-quarter leads in Games 1, 3 and 4 - the last two coming at home - and they didn't blow them because the Lakers played well. The Lakers and Kobe Bryant made some plays down the stretch of those games, sure. But the truth is, San Antonio choked.

It was ugly, it was inexcusable, it was heartless, gutless, spineless and whatever other negative adjective you can throw at the Spurs. They deserve it.

n So how do I really feel?

That the NHL still has the best playoffs anywhere.

I love the Stanley Cup playoffs. I love the rivalries, the intensity, the bad blood, falsified injury reports, swift-skating forwards and the enforcers waiting to crush them or whoever comes their way. I love the prospect of any overtime becoming a second, third, fourth or fifth overtime. I love Game 7s, especially overtime Game 7s between rivals, played with intensity, bad blood, fast forwards and snarling defensemen.

And I love that every single year, the Stanley Cup playoffs give us ALL of this.

The Washington Capitals - who I've cheered since Dino Ciccarelli was in D.C. - didn't even make the playoffs this year. And still, I'm drawn to a series like the one between Colorado and San Jose, who played Game 7 of their fantastic Western Conference semifinal series late last night.

Playoff hockey. There's nothing like it. And that is how I really feel.

Dan Kauffman is a staff writer for The Herald-Mail. His column appears every other Thursday. You can contact him at 301-733-5131 ext. 2311 or by e-mail at kauffman@herald-mail.com

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