And you thought that once the NBA Finals ended that sports would go into a deep sleep with the long slumber of the baseball season, oh what little you knew.
The annual conception of sports is that once David Stern’s rig-a-thon of a finals ends yearly in June that we just sit around and twitter our thumbs until the baseball trade deadline then football season begins.
Tennis isn’t as big as it once was, golf lulls you to sleep (Tiger or not) and NASCAR—well NASCAR isn’t a sport. So there is baseball and when you talk to people they all have complaints about the length of games, season, the lacking continuous wow factor and just the slowness of the sport in general. So honestly the 6 weeks between the end of the NHL and NBA playoffs and the beginning of NFL training camps are usually repetitive, slow and boring… then this week happened.
It looked like just a normal week for sports fans; two drafts (NHL and NBA), interleague baseball, Wimbledon Tennis, the U.S. Open and World Cup soccer. Nothing big, the names all match the faces, you know what happens, who wins, loses, etc. There was a huge curveball thrown this way this week, weird things were happening everywhere to the point that if you turned away from your TV you probably missed seven different things in an hour.
Tiger was in striking distance at the U.S. Open as was Phil Mickelson yet Dustin Johnson was the headliner heading into the final round. At 6 under, Johnson held a 3 shot lead over Grahame McDowell and a 5 shot advantage over a lurking Tiger. Then he threw it all away in three holes on Sunday and finished with a final round 82. Johnson buckled under the pressure with triple and double bogeys on no.2 and 3. He was so bad the NBC golf analyst caught fire this week for saying that Johnson wasn’t using his brain during his meltdown… OOPS!
McDowell wasn’t exactly stellar either; he finished at even for the tournament after a final round 74 to become the first European golfer to win the open since Tony Jacklin 40 years earlier. Yep Colin Montgomery never did it, nor Nick Faldo, or Paddy Harrington.
It was also the tournament that may have ended the notion that Tiger Woods is the most feared player on the planet. That tends to happen when you go from totally focused to whining about the holes to anyone that listens, and blasting your caddie in public. Apparently Tiger lost some since of class when he lost half of his money.
The Federer fiasco.
If Federer wanted people to pipe down about his fading skills, then this was not the way to do it. His near collapse is only topped by his opponents. Alejandro Palla had Federer beat, twice. He had the opportunity to break Federer for the match twice in the third set and he blew it. He eventually went on to lose in five sets including a 6-0 beat down in set five. Palla could’ve pulled off one of tennis’s biggest upsets; instead he is a great dinner date for Dustin Johnson this week.
Then there was the Phil Jackson conundrum in L.A. during their parade. Jackson skipped out on the festivities for a previous doctor’s appointment that he said he couldn’t reschedule. Keep in mind that he’s Phil Jackson; he could do whatever he wanted when he wanted. You couldn’t get a doctor’s appointment rescheduled? I’m broke and I get appointments redone all the time.
There couldn’t have been a more telling sign that Jackson is on way to retirement. This might be his way of riding off into the sunset like a lone cowboy. He could’ve done it in a less discreet way, maybe.
In a side note, the Yankees continued their plan to kill their young starters by skipping Phil Hughes because he’s pitching too many innings. Ask Joba Chamberlain how that worked out for him.
(Also Hughes is 10-1 with a 3.13 ERA! He’s the best pitcher on the staff right now. Yet he gets skipped for a start and A.J. Burnett continued his implosion by allowing 7 earned runs on Monday for his umpteenth unimpressive start lately. I’m starting to wonder if Jeffrey Luria knew what he was doing when he fired Joe Girardi…)
… Until he fired Fredi Gonzalez Tuesday after their win against the Orioles. Luria says that he feels that the Marlins have every necessary tool to compete in the NL East. Yes Jeff except that you have no bullpen, no reliable cleanup hitter and no reliable starters that are not named Josh Johnson. Very true.
Wednesday was exhausting. I had to start a new job Wednesday and the was the least exciting thing in my life on that day.
First off U.S. soccer almost got jobbed again by a ref in their game versus Algeria. Clint Dempsey got the Maurice Edu treatment when a phantom offside call robbed him of a goal early in their match. Added to that was the pressure that England placed on the Americans. Jermaine Dafoe’s goal in the 23rd minute against Slovenia placed the U.S. squarely on the edge of elimination where it stayed until the extra time of the second half. Then after an amazing outlet pass from keeper Tim Howard Landon Donovan saved our hopes of a World Cup title with a rebound put back that put the U.S. up 1-0 and into the knockout round on Saturday against Ghana. Easily the greatest goal scored in U.S. Soccer history. The feeling was amazing for a nation that isn’t easily influenced by soccer but loves a champion. Even I was speechless as Donovan saved the U.S. in the second straight match when all hope seemed lost.
That reminds me; doesn’t this team reek of destiny? Let’s be real, the U.S. should easily be eliminated with one point as they are the winners of their group. Their slow starts against England and Slovenia could’ve easily been losses if not for Robert Green’s butter fingers or Michael Bradley’s right place right time goal. For all of the talk of the U.S. being screwed out of goals, we have just as easily lucked into two or three of them. Makes you wonder what will happen next on Saturday.
That brings us to after the match and the wonders of the American language. My buddy Will Whatley introduced me to a word called fooleywang a while ago. He uses it to describe certain instances of ridiculousness that you view on a daily basis. It’s a play on foolishness, and adjective, here it is used in a sentence; the match between John Isner and Nicolas Mahut on Wednesday was pure fooleywang. How does that happen? When Wimbledon instituted that they would have no tiebreakers in the fifth set of their men’s matches they couldn’t have possibly expected this.
I began paying attention to the match at around 30-29 Isner. Which turned into 34-33, 38-38, 40-39 and then I began to wonder, is this ever going to end?
It was pure will and endurance by both Isner and Mahut. They just couldn’t break each other to take control of the match. When Isner pulled back for an ace, Mahut followed. Winner after winner, ace after ace neither man was budging. Isner had three chances at match point but each time Mahut fought back with a great first serve and winner to keep his hopes alive. The crowd at the 18th court went from 100 people to 1000 with spectators stopping to watch the epic fifth set for hours, not budging for anything. They watched Isner and Mahut battle like prize fighters praying to make it to the next round.
The most telling point of the match came when Mahut dove for a ball well out of reach and watching his racket fly across the court in agony. He just wanted it so badly. He didn’t want to lose. Who would? When you’re on a court for ten hours and still at a draw you can’t lose. Both men took it to the extreme and both finally gave in as darkness set in and it was clear that they would need another day to settle this epic. 59-59 after two days, 150 aces and ten hours of tennis, still no winner. In other words I started a new job, wrote a blog, cleaned my room, Germany won soccer match, the Reds reclaimed first place and one tennis match didn’t end. Wow.
Then after that hockey just had to make no sense at all. The Blackhawks traded 3 of their most important role players due to financial restrictions Ben Eager, Brent Sopel and Dustin Byfuglien… DUSTIN BYFUGLIEN!?!?!?! You mean the guy that made Kane and Toews fly, the guy that scored eleven goals and five winners in the playoffs you traded him! Really?
I understand that the market isn’t great now and you have to save money, but to trade your third best forward and most important force on offense? Really Rocky? Byfuglien is going to command lots of money next offseason based on his clutch performing in these playoffs which meant the Hawks couldn’t afford him anymore. Byfuglien’s big body and presence will be missed but in these economic times you’ve got to do what you got to do to save money. I just don’t get trading one of your most beloved players. Makes no sense, sort of like Henrik Sedin winning MVP over Alex Ovechkin or Sidney Crosby, but I digress.
Lawrence Taylor was officially indicted on felony sexual assault charges for having sex with a 16 year-old prostitute; if this wasn’t rock bottom for LT then I couldn’t tell you what it will be. Funny thing is that two months ago at the NFL Draft Taylor was all smiles speaking about what the Giants needed to get back to on defense, and his legacy. Now Taylor’s latest misstep just punctuates what has been a mess of a post career.
I’ll never understand why Taylor continues with this type of behavior when it has caused so many problems including his Hall of Fame selection. He never learned when it was a good time to slow down. Even when it seemed like he was getting it, he didn’t. You’ve got to wonder if the judge will put an official end to this behavior with a lengthy sentence that will all but end with LT being a shell of the person that we once knew as the most feared man in football.
Then there was a bore of a NBA Draft, well except Wesley Johnson’s pants those were the most exciting things of the evening. Except for Utah reaching for Gordon Haywood at 9 (insert racial joke here) and the Grizzlies reaching even higher for Greivis Vazquez at 28 the draft was highly irrelevant because it was just a set-up for free agency.
Think about it, Miami traded out of the first round to save money as did Chicago. The Knicks did their prep work by packaging deals out of the next two drafts for this year’s free agency period. Really all the draft was, was just an appetizer for July 1st. teams close to contention clearing room for Bron and Wade or Bosh or Amar’e or Dirk. Teams don’t just want one star they want two because they believe that will put them over the top.
David Stern for all of his lauding about how he wants Bron to stay in Cleveland because it would be better for the league is facing a huge problem, and that is the competitive balance of the league. Really the league is just 6 good teams with everyone else there for fun factor. You don’t expect Golden State or Indiana to contend for anything anytime soon, it makes the league less relevant and makes the draft a sham.
Think about this for a second; Dwyane Wade and LeBron James set a precedent by signing shorter deals 3 years ago to get to free agency with no strings attached quicker, pretty much they now dictate who they want to play for. Who’s to say 6 years from now John Wall DeMarcus Cousins and Wesley Johnson won’t do the same and put Minnesota, Sacramento and Washington in similar situations like the one they are in now? Stern has to find a way to make the league more competitive so teams like New Orleans and Memphis won’t feel like they can’t compete with larger scale teams because of their attraction.
(But will Stern do it? Of course not. He’s more concerned with that $400 million dollar debt his league is in. not knowing that spreading the balance will help alleviate some of that debt.)
Oh and Isner-Mahut just ended 70-68 Isner. Eleven hours, 220 aces, 1000 points won, 183 games, an 8 hour 30 minute fifth set and finally a winner.
- Quickies from weeks end: Clijsters-Henin match setup for Monday
- Rasheed Wallace retires. Referees rejoice.
- Carlos Zambrano threw a fit in the dugout after getting hammered in the first inning against the Chisox. He got suspended and rightfully so. I love Zambrano but his temper is ridiculous. The guy has to find a way to slow himself down and regain his form before he finds himself out of baseball.
- Taylor Hall was the number overall pick for the Edmonton Oilers in the NHL Draft. Tyler Seguin was second for the Bruins.
- The Toronto Blue Jays host the Philadelphia Phillies… in Philadelphia. So you couldn’t play in another stadium in Canada, really? C’mon Son! You know that’s three extra home games for the Phils Bud. Don’t lie.
Oh yeah and Edwin Jackson threw a no-hitter against the Tampa Bay Rays— WITH 8 WALKS! Ok what should be the story here; a. the no-hitter itself, b. the fact that this is the fifth no-no of the season (yeah I’m still counting Armando Galarraga’s) or c. the fact that Tampa has been no hit three times in the last year?
I understand that no-hitters are a big deal, but come on 8 walks? That’s eight base runners plus a hit batter, that takes away from the luster of the no hitter big time. It’s still an accomplishment to not allow a hit over an entire outing but Jackson’s wildness makes it less of a big deal. The same goes for Ubaldo Jimenez’s 6 walk no-no in April. They weren’t great performances like the Halladay, Braden or Galarraga games because those guys were in complete control from start to finish. I think we make a big deal out of no-hitters because we never used to see them a lot, but now that were entering a pitcher’s era in the sport maybe we should hold up a higher standard of how to celebrate no-no’s because Jackson’s to me isn’t that big of a deal.
What is a big deal is the fact that there are all of these no-hitters flying around like hotcakes. With the steroid era being cleared away you have to wonder that the use of PED’s really did amp up the last 15 years of baseball’s run production, who knows how many more of these things we’ll have this year, 2? 4? It is highly possible.
And please Tampa, learn some plate discipline. 3 times in 140 games? You get a big Ed Lover C’mon Son!
Oh and today, Saturday there’s another A.J. Burnett start, U.S. versus Ghana, Rafa trying to avoid another five set meltdown and whatever else could possibly happen as a crazy happenstance in this crazy week of sports. Just stay tuned because you might miss something special.