The Miami Heat couldn't have picked a better time to wake up. Down 89-76 to the Dallas Mavericks in Game 3 Tuesday, six and a half minutes away from falling behind 3-0 in the NBA Finals, the Heat went on a tear and saved the season.
Dwyane Wade led a furious comeback, Shaquille O'Neal hit a huge pair of free throws and we have ourselves a series after Miami's 98-96 win.
The Heat still have a big hill to climb. Can O'Neal really be counted on to keep hitting big free throws in big situations? He says that's what he does, a dubious claim, but he did it Tuesday. Can Wade really be counted on to score 12 points in the last half of the last quarter, 42 for the game, night in and night out, to save the Heat's bacon?
Can the Mavs be counted on to fall apart down the stretch, the way they did Tuesday? How often will Dirk Nowitzki, a great foul shooter, miss a key free throw, as he did Tuesday when he missed one that would have tied the game with 3.4 seconds left?
We'll find out. None of the above is exactly unprecedented. But having them all come together on one night is asking a lot. Having them all come together on four out of five nights, wow.
Wade started the comeback by hitting a little bank shot. The Mavs turned it over on the next possession, a Jerry Stackhouse charge negating some slick ball movement. Then came a baseline drive for a layup by Wade, and one. Then Devin Harris hit a jumper for Dallas, which was at the end of a hot shooting run.
When James Posey hit a three-pointer to bring the Heat to within seven at 4:55, you kind of knew something was up. James Posey.
It kept going. There was Wade hitting another jumper, then making a spectacular play, driving to the left side of the bucket and hanging in the air, "Matrix" style, while Dallas center Erick Dampier jumped up, swatted, came back to earth, went out for coffee, came back, retied his shoes, called his broker, adjusted his headband, and jumped and came down again. Wade banked it in for 91-88.
Others contributed too. O'Neal hit those two free throws. Udonis Haslem made a big steal. Gary Payton, with one field goal in the series to date, calmly nailed a 20-footer to give Miami a two-point lead with 9.3 seconds left.
Nowitzki went to the rim on the subsequent possession and was fouled. Having hit 26 of 28 free throws in the series after making the first, he missed the second. After Wade was fouled on the rebound and made one of two, the Mavs had exactly one second left to tie the game, but Wade knocked away the inbounds alley-oop pass to Josh Howard, putting the exclamation mark on his performance.
Now all he has to do is repeat it three times. And hope for some more help.
Univision, international World Cup ratings [PERMALINK]
Several readers in the letters section correctly pointed out that the World Cup ratings I mentioned Tuesday only told part of the story because I failed to mention the Spanish-language broadcasts on Univision.
I wrote that World Cup matches have been pulling ratings in the 2.0 range -- a ratings point representing roughly a million households. The New York Times and others have reported that Univision has been outdrawing ESPN2's broadcasts by about half a million people when the games are on simultaneously.
So we can think of the games as drawing ratings in the 4.0 range.
That includes some remarkable spikes. The Los Angeles Times reports that Mexico's 3-1 win over Iran Sunday drew a combined 17.4 average rating on L.A.'s ABC and Univision affiliates, an audience of about 1.8 million people. And three-quarters of that audience, a 12.9 rating, watched Univision.
The game drew a combined 40 share in Los Angeles, meaning about 40 percent of available TV sets were tuned in. Nationally, Mexico-Iran averaged 5.4 million viewers on Univision alone, making it the most-watched sporting event in U.S. Spanish-language TV history, according to Nielsen Media Research. ABC's coverage of the game averaged a 2.7 rating.
Of course, even that pales compared with international numbers. Variety reports that Germany's tournament-opening 4-2 win over Costa Rica Friday drew a 75 share, while in England, the broadcast of the 1-0 win over Paraguay pulled an incredible 84.
And neither of those numbers counts the people watching in pubs or at large outdoor screenings such as the one at Hyde Park in London.
An 84 share means that about 17 of every 20 TV sets in use in England at the time were tuned in to the game. The highest-rated Super Bowl of all time, in 1982, got a 73 share in the U.S.
Milton Berle pulled down shares in the 80s in the late '40s. But back then when you talked about 17 out of every 20 TV sets, you were talking about all of the TV sets. And Uncle Miltie's competition was mostly test patterns. With the benefit of hindsight, I'd say those test-pattern people had the right idea.
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Bud Selig defines "everyone" [PERMALINK]
Even though Fox is again using the slogan "This Time It Counts" in its advertising for the All-Star Game, the 3-year agreement between Major League Baseball and the players union that ties the Midsummer Classic to the World Series has not been renewed for this year.
USA Today reports that the two sides are still talking about extending the agreement, which gives the league that wins the All-Star Game home-field advantage in October.
I've said my piece on whether I think letting the All-Star Game decide the home team in the World Series is a good idea or not -- short version: no -- but what I found interesting about USA Today's report was a quote from commissioner Bud Selig about it.
"We're still hopeful," he said, "because I think it's really good for the game. Everyone likes it, the owners, the players, the sponsors. It just adds a lot of meaning."
Everyone likes it.
OK, fans, here's a pop quiz. Any of you fans notice anybody missing from Selig's definition of "everyone"? C'mon, fans, I know you can do it. I'd drop a hint or two, but you don't need one. You're a bunch of tough customers.
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Table Talk chat today [PERMALINK]
The first monthly Table Talk chat will be today, Wednesday, at 1 p.m. EDT. Join me in this column's thread for at least an hour, and maybe more, of talk about whatever you want to talk about.
After this one the chat will be on the first Wednesday of the month.
Previous column: U.S. World Cup pratfall
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