Friday, May 4, 2012

The Hippodrome: Life After The Scottsdale Surprise

Posted By on Fri, May 4, 2012 at 7:25 AM

This Week In The 'Drome: Late nights in the desert, Titans get drafty, LAZERZ, and more ...

By the time I get to Phoenix ...
  • 'By the time I get to Phoenix ...'

Opening Face-Off

The Clock v. The Cup : Back in September 2005, the travel section of the New York Times asked and exclaimed, "Where's the Party? Scottsdale!".

And so it seems Predators forwards Alexander Radulov and Andrei Kostitsyn are fans of, among other ladies, the Old Gray One. The Russian and Belorussian respectively were suspended for Game 3 of the Predators' second-round series against the Phoenix Coyotes of Glendale for "violation of team rules," which given Rads' comments and some "sources say"-heavy reporting, was a late night in the ballyhooed desert party town.

As I wrote in this week's dead-tree, the pair's dalliance in the desert was hardly the whole problem with the Predators' first two games in Arizona. NBC's Keith Jones excoriated Radulov in particular for "lazy play" (read: "Radulov is Russian and thus must be lazy") with a well-edited lowlights package during Game 2, then insisted to The Tennessean's Josh Cooper that the reel wasn't selectively edited. Mmmhmmm. Jones, good Ontario fella that he is, is clearly not a fan of puck-possession stats, which show Radulov in particular has been one of the better Predators during the playoffs.

In any event, without Radulov and the elder Kostitsyn, the Predators did slug out a win at home Wednesday, making it unlikely Barry Trotz will stick them back in the line-up tonight, my fancy Corsi numbers notwithstanding.

The Week Behind

The 94,329th Zac Brown Joke Youll See (but not the last)
  • The 94,329th Zac Brown Joke You'll See (but not the last)

Wants and Needs: The Titans headed into the draft with serious needs on defense. The conventional wisdom was that the Two-Toners would take a defensive end with their first-round pick. So naturally they didn't pick a defensive end until the fifth round in SMU's Taylor Thompson, who, of course, will likely play tight end on Sundays. Ruston Webster and crew finally got around to grabbing that DE in Rice's Scott Solomon in the seventh round.

Instead, the Titans used their first pick on Baylor wide-out Kendell Wright. He's a fine talent with skills to be a solid slot receiver in the NFL, but with the emergence of Kenny Britt and the collective up-stepping of the rest of the receiver corps after Britt's injury, the pick still seems a headscratcher. Sure, grab the best available talent, but it seems a real need could have been addressed here. (Caveat: maybe Britt isn't progressing from his injury with the speed the team hoped?)

Between Wright and Solomon, the Titans took Zach Brown, a speedy linebacker from UNC, a speedy corner in Coty Sensabaugh and a quick defensive tackle in Mike Martin. Sense a theme?

Odd, too, after a disappointing year running the ball, the Titans didn't shore up the offensive line in the draft.

But, hey, Mike Martin was once the nation's top junior dog handler (seriously) and now the team has more ex-wrestlers than the Vachon family. Who needs a center?

After Two Days In The Desert Sun, My Skin Began To Turn Red : There have been better trips to the desert in human history. Say, the exodus. Or when the devil tried to tempt Jesus. Or Napoleon's soiree into Syria.

After shaking off some rust, the Predators fought back in Game One only to lose in overtime. Game Two was barely better than total disaster. So back they came, to the more humid confines of Nashville.

Even with Radulov and the elder Kostitsyn cheering from the press box, the Predators played a more Predatory game back home in Game 3, their workmanlike, low-mistake effort dutifully satisfying the narrative.

After a five-game dismantling of the Red Wings, the Predators looked as if they had read their own hype in the time between series. This was a team suddenly thrust to the top of the Western Conference heap, expected to dispatch the 'Yotes with the same verve with which they sent the Red Wings golfing. Best laid plans and all that. Then came the pre-dawn dalliances of two top forwards and the resultant reset, which ended with the Predators clawing back into relevance into the series.

Sounds In Silence : Led by top pitching prospect Wily Peralta and journeyman outfielder Corey Patterson — whose fantasy value has fluctuated more than Lindsay Lohan's over the past decade — the Nashville Sounds rattled off four straight wins, including an extra-innings thriller against Omaha, which has a roster of top young players who the parent-club Royals will later trade to the Yankees.

Garbage Time: Vandy's already sold 12,700 or so season tickets for the fall, surpassing their 2011 total already. ... A couple of first-timers won the Country Music Marathon, run in brutal unseasonal heat. ... The Battle of the Boulevard will continue.

Halftime Entertainment

Laser Cats, Play Clean As Country Water: Predators game ops debuted a laser show for the pre-game before Wednesday's tilt with the Coyotes. Check it.

Also making a Bridgestone Arena debut Wednesday: 'Drome favorite Shaun Smith, Titans defensive lineman. Smith seemed impressed with the show and the fans, even though he had to miss the Knicks game. No word on the final decision in this serious existential matter, though.

The Week Ahead

Arizonans: Famed for hospitality
  • Arizonans: Famed for hospitality

After Nine Days, I Let The Horse Run Free: The Preds can cement their bounce-back in the series by holding the momentum seized Wednesday with another win at home tonight. No matter the outcome, they'll head back to the desert for a 9 PM face-off Monday in Glendale. If a Game Six is necessary — and the gold-clad faithful certainly hope it is — it's back here Wednesday at a to-be-determined time.

It's unclear if Radulov and/or Andrei Kostitsyn are back in after serving their suspension. There's a train of thought that if it ain't broke, etc. Then there's a train of thought that sees these two as the team's leading playoff scorers and jolts of skill into a lineup largely devoid of dangles.

Sometimes a good dose of adversity is enough to kick a team back into gear. The Predators certainly have the ability to beat the Coyotes, and maybe they just needed a jumpstart.

Worthless Prediction: A win tonight and this one ends with a six-game Nashville victory next Wednesday. Head back to the desert down 3-1? Get those prayers to St. Jude ready.


  • Seau

A Time To Mourn, A Time To Editorialize : Future Hall of Fame linebacker Junior Seau was found dead of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound Wednesday.

Beloved in San Diego, admired everywhere else, it took about 13 seconds before the suicide of the 12-time Pro Bowler became The Talking Point. We've seen this before. Former Predator Wade Belak's family had barely been informed of his death before it had become a favorite subject of editorial writers.

It's not that conversations about head injuries aren't worth having. They are. They are likely the most important conversations about sports we'll have over the next several years. Allegedly, Boston University's requested Seau's brain for its ongoing study of head trauma among pro athletes, and that's just fine. It's important research.

What we can do without — at least for 24 or 48 hours — is self-righteous handwringing, using Seau's death — like those of Belak and the other hockey enforcers of last summer — as a springboard to advance whichever side of the quote-unquote "violence in sports" debate we fall on.

Sports Illustrated's Andy Staples writes an important column about the future of football and its past; how in 1906, football was in danger of being banned, but Teddy Roosevelt held a confab to work out some problems (the forward pass was a result of these meetings). He makes well-reasoned points. Of course, they are all points that could have been made after Seau was buried. Or they could have been made last week.

The point isn't that we don't need to have a conversation about head injuries and sport and their effects and how to prevent them. We do. But we don't know yet why Seau killed himself. Maybe it was because of a head injury, or maybe he had other demons unrelated to the gridiron.

Have your debates. They're important. But don't have them standing in front of a corpse.

Parenting tips? Birthday wishes? Other news? Hit The 'Drome at jrlind[at]nashvillescene[dot]com

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