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Can't-miss favorites miss badly

By Jeffery Armstrong

How about May and June 2004 in the sports world? Three sporting events in those two months show why sports is the best thing going outside of those peanut butter Girl Scout cookies (they used to be called Do-si-do's).

It just goes to show that no matter how much hype an individual or team gets, it's not set in stone that they will win.

Boxer Roy Jones Jr. was the light heavyweight champion of the world, favored to knock out opponent Antonio Tarver, whom he beat months earlier. But Tarver pulled off the upset May 15 by knocking Jones out, although most boxing fans think Jones threw the fight. Despite the fans' feelings, the truth is Jones lost the second fight of his career after winning several fights in a row, including one as a heavyweight. As Chris Berman of ESPN says, that's why they play the games.

Another Jones, the thoroughbred racehorse named Smarty Jones, was the "cant-miss" horse of the season. Smarty couldn't lose. Smarty was undefeated on the year, whipping other horses by a whole length or better. He was going to win the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness and the Belmont Stakes, horse racing's "Triple Crown." One young girl in Philadelphia even said she wanted to be like Smarty when she grew up. (No lie!) Smarty won the Derby and the Preakness, but he got smoked in the Belmont Stakes by an unknown horse named Birdstone, denying him the Triple Crown.

That's why they play the games.

Then you have the Los Angeles Lakers. The NBA's version of The Osbournes. Four future Hall of Famers in the lineup. Championship players on the bench and a head coach with nine NBA title rings. The 2004 championship was theirs before the season started. Blah, blah, blah.

Tuesday night, that collective bunch of jokers got smacked around by the Detroit Pistons and the Lakers looked pitiful in the process. The Pistons, after losing game two to the Lakers for a 1-1 series tie, whipped the Lakers three straight times at home to win the NBA championship in five games.

That's why they play the games.

The Lakers losing in the NBA Finals was great for me, a die-hard Lakers Hater. I can't stand this version of the Lakers and I've felt this way for a long time.

When Derek Fisher of the Lakers made a game-winning shot with only 0.4 seconds left against the San Antonio Spurs in the playoffs, propelling them to the series win, one thought came to my mind: God must be a Lakers fan.

It turns out I was wrong n God just wanted me to rejoice a little bit later. And believe me, I did rejoice in the Lakers thrashing Tuesday night while I was in the office working. You can ask my co-worker from Detroit. When the Pistons started rolling over the Lakers in the second half, I rolled into him, grabbing him and hitting him on the arm in jubilation.

This has been a wild couple of months in the sports world. Three huge favorites lost n and lost badly. That's why they play the games.

Jeffery Armstrong is a sports writer for the Daily and his column appears on Thursdays. He can be reached at jarmstrong@news-daily.com.