POWER RANKINGS: SPECIAL EDITION
June sports extravaganzas ranked on a complicated watchability and anticipation index*.
1. America's Cup playoffs
Growing with each day
Verdict: Appointment viewing. It's a wee bit of a shame that appointment isn't, say, an hour later each morning but the action is so invigorating you'll soon feel as smug as all those neighbours whose alarm goes off at a similar time to do crossfit, boot camp, or some other fitness fad that works on the theory that only in pain can you find absolution.
This edition of Power Rankings is no fan of the ludicrous Oracle Rule - dreamed up no doubt by Lazza Ellison and Rusty Coutts while they were tipping tractor tyres during said crossfit session - and feels there are more suitable venues than a tax haven in the mid-Atlantic, but in terms of a televisual spectacle they have scored a slam-dunk and hopefully created a broad template from which all America's Cup should be contested henceforth.
BREAKING NEWS ALERT - As the ink on this column was being blow-dried, Team New Zealand pitch-poled into the Great Sound in dramatic and frankly terrifying scenes. All crew are safe and the boat appears to be repairable. Human nature being what it is, there'll be a few hundred thousand more rubber-neckers around the world tuning in for the rest of the regatta now.
2. Stanley Cup playoffs
High (just don't tell your boss)
Verdict: They (don't ask me who "They" is, just roll with it) reckon there is no drama like a Stanley Cup game seven and we're just one favourable result from it happening on Thursday, June 15. There hasn't been a game seven since 2011 when the Bruins of Boston went to Vancouver and beat the Canucks on their home ice. That result went down so badly the locals rioted - spectacularly.
Making this edition even better, one of the teams is from that ice hockey mecca, Nashville. There hasn't been this much excitement in the Tennessee town since Garth Brooks took "Ropin' the Wind" to the Grand Ole Opry. The Nashville Predators' success has got locals so worked up they've taken to throwing catfish onto the ice... which is actually so gross.
On the Pittsburgh side of the ice you have Sidney Crosby and Evgeni "Metallurg Magnitogorsk Mauler" Malkin, two of the greatest players to have strapped on skates. No big deal.
3. Lions tour
It's your patriotic duty
High, but falling
Verdict: It feels like we've been waiting for this tour from the moment "Go Beaudy" scooped up the bouncing ball and secured the All Blacks third Webb Ellis Cup. There's been the usual North v South bullcrap and jellybeans, most of it a little tired to these ears, so at the risk of sounding typically dismissive: "Geez the tourists were diabolical in Whangarei."
That was a statement game right there and the statement the Lions made was: "How long before we can be on the beach in Marbella?" If they're not going to take this tour as seriously as we are, it not's going to be much fun, is it?
Can the real Lions please stand up tonight. If you do, you'll immediately move up to No 2.
As an afterthought, you'd be a fool to write off the Lions on the strength, or lack of, one poor, jet-lagged performance. It is worth noting, however, that of 38 tests the Lions have played in New Zealand, they have won six, with three drawn.
4. Champions Trophy
Close to impossible outside of shift workers and insomniacs
Growing at the pace of grass
Verdict: It doesn't help that it just keeps persisting down. It's a shame because compared to its hopelessly bloated older brother the Cricket World Cup, the Champions Trophy is a tight, potentially terrific tournament that offers second but no third chances.
England's early summer has not played ball and the incessant rain and unfriendly timeslot means this tournament will sail by with some outstanding performances (re: Kane Williamson 100 against Australia) and little fanfare.
5. NBA finals
Verdict: It might just be that the 2017 Golden State Warriors are the most complete NBA basketball team ever assembled. Which is great if you live in coastal Northern California, but sucks if you're a neutral who just wants to see a contest.
The Warriors of Steph Curry, Draymond Green, Klay Thompson and Kevin Durant - yep, four bona fide superstars on the starting five - have re-written the record books with 14 straight wins to start, and nearly end, the playoffs. And yet, yawn.
King LeBron James and his band of Cavaliers need to win the next two to make this series even remotely interesting.
6. State of Origin/ NRL
Verdict: For the first time in close to a decade, Mike the former TV weatherman did not contact me ahead of the opening State of Origin clash to arrange a visit. This can mean one of three things: he has finally installed Sky (unlikely); he is still recovering from last time when the log burner was pumping out dehydrating levels of heat (possible); the magic is gone (probable).
As a non-partisan league fan whose interest in the sport wavers between indifferent and engaged, 2017 is just not doing it for me. To be frank, 2016 wasn't a whole lot better. It's tempting to write that the ongoing issues of the Warriors plus the new and exciting problems of the Kiwis are the major reasons, but it's something deeper than that. The game just feels over-coached and formulaic. And Channel Nine's hype machine has started smothering everything with cheese.
Verdict: To be fair to the oft-maligned travelling roadshow that is F1, this season has been better than recent ones. The cars look and sound more like they should and in Sebastian Vettel's Ferrari there is a genuine challenger to the Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton. This ranks low because the Canadian and Azerbaijani GPs might be fine races, but the classic European tracks like Monza, Spa and Silverstone are not visited until July and later.
In terms of actual racing, the V8 Supercars might lack the showbiz and bizbiz elements of F1, but it's more entertaining to watch.
8. French Open
A sleeping pill in televisual format
The Nadals have been looking forward to it
Verdict: Wake me up in time for match point in the two singles finals please. Roland Garros might be steeped in history but it is steeped also in interminable Spanish-style baseline rallies and decibel-bending grunts. It is also a fact that staring at clay for long periods of time can cause retinal damage**.
* These rankings are the personal opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of this multi-platformed media company, the people of New Zealand or, in fact, any other human, living or dead.
** Not an actual fact.
THE WEEK IN MEDIA ...
This, from ESPN, is long. Maybe do it in a couple of sittings. The Greatest would insist you read it.