Every June, students wrestle with finals, before either graduating or going off to their summer jobs, waitressing in places that specialize in fried full-belly clams. Since sports is our bailiwick, June also brings us the final leg of HORSE RACING'S TRIPLE CROWN, the Belmont Stakes. What a letdown that proved to be this year, when I'll Have Another, a three-year-old that had won the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes, had to withdraw the day before the race with tendonitis. The horse's owners immediately retired him to life on the stud farm (thoroughbred owners are all equine pimps). All and all, the stud farm isn't a bad way to go, but I was surprised at how many people were upset by I'll Have Another's withdrawal. Honestly, I know two people who truly care about horse racing. One was a racing correspondent, and the other was from Louisville. I know that America hasn't had a Triple Crown winner since Affirmed, in 1978, and a horse completing the trifecta would be a cool thing to see, but come on! Most Mainers don't give the proverbial rat's ass about horse racing of any kind. They can't be coaxed out to Scarborough Downs unless Brad Paisley is singing his dopey fishing songs in concert, so why all the teeth-gnashing (or in the case of some of those Brad Paisley fans, tooth-gnashing)?
The NHL's STANLEY CUP FINALS are going on, too, and a team from LA is in it. What, you say? Lewiston/Auburn is in the Stanley Cup Finals? The Lewiston Manieiacs are in the Stanley Cup Finals! Holy shit! No, gentle reader, not that LA. And yes, the City of Angels has an NHL team. In fact, they've been there since 1966, and luminaries like Terry Sawchuk, Luc Robitaille, and the Great One himself, number 99, have skated for them. I know that the NHL has teams in places like Miami, Dallas, Tampa, Phoenix, and Anaheim now, but the Stanley Cup going to Los Angeles seems incongruous. I'm rooting for them, though, because I have never forgiven their opponents, the New Jersey Devils, for popularizing the uber-boring neutral-zone trap. Watching hockey on television has enough impediments, but the neutral-zone trap was the worst! So, long live the Kings!
Whom do you root for in THE NBA FINALS? That's easy: the Oklahoma City Thunder, and not just because the Miami Heat are the Celtics' bete noir, nor because the political hacks who supervised the hanging chads of the 2000 Florida recount seemed more impartial than the Eastern Conference Finals referees. Watching the officiating in those games made me long for the return of Tim Donaghy, the ref who received a 15-month prison sentence after pleading guilty to charges stemming from the 2008 FBI investigation into his manipulating games that he had bet on. Does that sound like sour grapes? I don't care if it does. It's true. So I think we should all pull for OKC, the Sooner State's first chance at a champion since Tommy Morrison's 1997 loss to Lennox Lewis.
Last, but not least, this is my FINAL COLUMN for this newspaper, since I have done the unthinkable and moved to Massachusetts. I thoroughly enjoyed being able to share my thoughts on sporting events both big and small, and have enjoyed (most of) the feedback I received during my five-year tenure, so I want to sincerely thank anyone who took the time to read this column. Good luck, God bless, and keep it 'tween the ditches.