By Ralph Wiley
Page 2

With apologies to Jim Mora Sr. (who should be apologizing to us), here are Unspoken Questions about the 2004 NHL and NBA playoffs. Can anybody tell our correspondents R-Dub and Dogman this:

Who in the hell is the Nashville Predators' team orthodontist, and how come he hasn't suggested doing something about that idiotic logo?

Nashville Predator
Check out the choppers on the Nashville logo!

That saber-toothed cat can't even close his mouth with those uber fangs. Is this a joke, or are they trying to make their fans jealous? It reminds me of the old Letterman line that Preds' fan Vince Gill resurrected the other morning on "Cold (Mike) Pi(a)zza:"

"It seems Nashville, Tennessee, has a hockey team now -- it's the only (NHL) team where the players have more teeth than the fans."

Think about it.

Wasn't the Colorado Avalanche supposed to be something this year? Something fast? Something exciting? Something to see? Something that wasn't Zoloft on Ice? What, did John Elway all of a sudden join the ownership group or something? Did Kariya get his ankle rolled and snapped on purpose?

I know, it's a stupid question. Everything in the NHL is done on purpose, crocodile tears notwithstanding. Weren't the 'Lanche supposed to rolling downhill on the ice at the Pepsi Center like Apache helicopters downwind, or like the old Edmonton Oilers? What's up with that?

When did Glen Sather lose his chops? I love this guy. Taught me everything I know about hockey. Does that explain a lot, or what?

How could we have felt sorry for a Goon Squadder like Brashear?

Who says we did? Hmm. Good question.

Does Jaromir Jagr expect anybody to care that he'll play in Russia next year? He's been playing in Russia for the last three years, as far as Ted Leonsis and Sather are concerned. Why did Leonsis jack up a fan when he could've jacked up Jaromir? In the dictionary next to "Stealing Money," there's a picture of the back of Jagr's retreating mullet. Shouldn't he, Courtney and Christian Laettner start a band?

Is there any way we can rig this so the Ottawa Senators and the Toronto Maple Leafs can play for the right to go to the Stanley Cup Finals? Can Canada get a minute in its own national game? If you have ice, you might as well skate on it, have a deep cultural embryonic relationship with the primary sport played on it, and make "Hockey Night in Canada" required viewing. Oh, and you might as well consider Conan O'Brien a major celeb for insulting half your populace, which would be okay if it was at least a funny insult. And one more: you might as well have a tool like Tie Domi with you as resident enigma.

Jaromir Jagr
Jaromir Jagr wasn't able to help the Rangers get back to the playoffs.

Is Domi constructed from leftover parts at a butcher shop? Ain't that many stitches per square inch on a big-league baseball.

Speaking of tiny little guys, where would Canadian Mike Weir rather be this weekend -- teeing it up in a playoff at the Masters against Tiger Woods, or skating center for the Leafs in the NHL playoffs? (Hint: He's Canadian, and he already won the Masters.)

If San Jose makes the Cup Finals, will Gary Bettman empty every pill bottle in his medicine cabinet, dress in his old Youth League hockey uniform, and lie down on his bed next to Glen Sather?

How many people in Tampa know what's going on out there -- even the ones who go to the game? Especially the ones who go to the game. When the red light goes on, do half of the people in the stands pull out their drivers' licenses and ask, "What'd I do?" (And are the other half like me and think "Martin St. Louis" is a mixed drink of some kind, involving gin, vermouth, and marinated vegetables?)

We won't even discuss Habibuhlin. Let alone try to spell it.

"ABD:" Anybody but Detroit or Anybody but the Devils?

If you think by that I mean the Duke Blue Devils, then without further ado, Adu, or fruitless, unintuitive stabs of hockey, we turn you over to Dogman for his NBA Playoff Unspoken Questions.


Took long enough. OK, Dogman here. Listen up, pilgrims.

What's easier, seeding the NBA Western Conference playoffs before this weekend, or solving a Rubik's Cube with greasy fingers?

Are the Lakers overrated this year? Hint: So overrated I cannot believe it. Dogman sees two teams, maybe three, able to beat the Lakers. Who are they? Who could actually beat them, not who does Dog fantasize could do it, like the Knicks in my dreams?

Hubie Brown
Some would say Hubie Brown has performed a miracle in Memphis.

If you said Sacramento, Houston and Dallas -- way off.

If you said Minnesota, San Antonio and (gasp) Memphis ... Bingo. As in Bingo Smith. You don't know Bingo Smith? You must be Canadian. That explains it. There's a section for you, up top there.

What does "(gasp)" mean in front of Memphis? It means Hubie Brown is up for not just Coach of the Year, but Pope. That's right, Pope Hubes the First, and he's got plenty of upside, too, pilgrims -- so much upside that Sinead O'Connor will sing a profane song about him at the Pyramid to kick off the first playoff season in Memphis pro basketball history, which is just one long Oxy-Contin, I know.

Oh ... Dub says it ain't Oxy-Contin, it's Oxy-Moron. Speaking of moron, why keep "Grizzlies" in your name if you're Memphis? Why not just steal "Blues" from St. Louis of the NHL? After all, they stole it from you. It should be the Memphis Blues. Unless they're the Memphis You-Ain't-Nothing-But-A-Hound-Dogs, which I'm sure would make people in Nashville happy, at least.

Why does Kobe Bryant look so strange in motion out there this year, his pajamas flapping about his legs, making them look so gaunt, like one of those flying Valkyrie vampire thingies literally trying to pick up Hugh Jackman in "Van Helsing"? Why do we hear the strains of Wagner's "Ride of the Valkyries" every time Kobe slices into the lane and forces up another prayer? I say it's the fabric of the uniform. Looks like he's playing in a gossamer ensemble created for Elsa Lancaster in "The Bride of Tie Domi."

Having said all that, is Kobe still money, or what? Less money than before, much less money, but still money. Right? ... Right?

Has The Glove become The Sieve, or what? It's been coming for quite a while now, or don't you remember that stop-up-fake-and-go move Jason Williams hit him with a couple of years ago?

As we say on the playground, or as Abe Pollin said to Michael Jordan in the boardroom -- Left Him There. Daieyyummmnnn!

Can you say "Exposed?" and not think of Glove and Mailman?

Still, a Half-Glove on the hand is worth two Fishers on the bench.

Does Mailman realize having marginally nicer abs than Charles Barkley is going to get him zero points and boards in the playoffs?

Most Valuable Missing Piece? Bobby Jackson of Sacto. Him not being there kills them. Along with C-Webb being there, of course.

Kobe Bryant
Despite all the distractions, Kobe Bryant has had another fantastic season.

Who are the teams the Lakers want to avoid in the upcoming playoffs? Can you say, "All of them?" How about Minnesota, San Antonio, and Memphis, maybe throw in Houston and Sacramento.

Would Phil Jackson turn down a bye all the way to the Finals?

Do you think he wouldn't?

Did Jerry Buss say Kobe was Laker-For-Life or Laker-Facing-Life?

Can Dogman ever get back in the Laker locker room now?

Does Dogman particularly care? Hint: No.

Why do we sleep so hard on Shaq being hands-down the best media interview personality of any superstar in any major sport?

If the Lakers don't make the Finals, will David Stern empty every pill bottle in his medicine cabinet, dress up in his Boys & Girls Club uniform top (too embarrassed to wear the shorts, he never picked them up) and lie down on his bed next to Isiah Thomas?

Is this the last NBA column written without the words "LeBron James" in it? Hint: This is the signing-your-name part of the test.

Who is Dogman picking to win the West, and the East?

Well, let's do it like a reality show and eliminate teams first.

Throw out everybody in the East except Detroit (actually, throw out everybody but Detroit) Indiana, New Orleans, and Brooklyn.

In the West, throw out Dallas, Portland, Utah, Denver, and, outside of the Laker matchup that L.A. wants to avoid, Houston.

What you have left is reality.

Yao Ming
Houston and Yao Ming could pose a threat to Shaq's Lakers in the playoffs.

The playoffs are the real reality show. Why do you think we're so fascinated by the NCAAs, or the Super Bowl tournament, or the NHL and NBA playoffs, or the MLB playoffs and World Series?

Because they're real. Unscripted. Not already in the can. Not already bought and paid for, and politicized up the wazoo.

Do you really think "Average Joe" or "The Bachelor" or "American Idol" or "The Apprentice" or the network evening news or any of that stuff isn't scripted? Totally scripted. More scripted than the WWE, or whatever letters Ric Flair, Vince McMahon and them are using to separate children and the eternally young and the autistic and the unsuspecting from their entertainment buck these days.

The playoffs are about true reality.

Well ... they are to me, anyhow.

Signed, Your friend and confidence,

(OK, OK, confidant, Dub. Happy now? Didn't think so.)


Ralph Wiley has written articles for Sports Illustrated, Premiere, GQ, and National Geographic, and many national newspapers. He was one of the original NFL Insiders on NBC. His many books include "Serenity, A Boxing Memoir," "Why Black People Tend To Shout," "By Any Means Necessary: The Trials and Tribulations of the Making of Malcolm X" with Spike Lee, "Dark Witness," "Best Seat in the House" with Spike Lee, "Born to Play" with Eric Davis, and "Growing Up King" with Dexter Scott King and the children of Martin Luther King Jr. He contributes to many ESPN productions, and bats cleanup on a weekly basis for Page 2.