Hells Bells, We Have A Series

Phillies-Padres Game 5 live updates: Philadelphia defeat San Diego 4-3 to advance to World Series - 6abc Philadelphia

It wasn’t supposed to work out this way.

The Phillies were 21-29 to start the season and it cost manager Joe Girardi his job. That’s when the town turned its attention to the state of their football team, figuring their boys in pinstripes were as done for as the Mudville Nine. And just when the team was starting to show some life under interim skipper Rob Thomson, Bryce Harper went out with a fractured thumb in a late June game against the San Diego Padres of all teams.

What happened from that point on is baseball at its most ridiculous.

Which means to say, in a division which housed the World Series champion Braves and the Steve Cohen super-funded Mets, the Phillies snuck in the back door and somehow ended up being the last act standing on the biggest stage.

They first had to get past the St. Louis Cardinals; an organization that knows October on a doctorate level. In the swan song seasons for two future Hall of Famers- Albert Pujols and Yadier Molina- the Cards were as formidable a bunch as any when the matchups were released. And all Philadelphia did was sweep them right out of their best of three opening round series.

From there it was on to Atlanta to take on the hottest team in the MLB over the last couple months. And did I mention they were the defending heavyweight champions? I don’t think the Phillies got that memo, because they took out the Braves three games to one in a series that never really felt that close.

And so it was up to the San Diego Padres to put the ghost of Balboa to sleep for another winter. The Padres were underdogs mainly because they were neighbors with the Dodgers, who kicked their asses all year long, until it counted most. But let’s face it, as much as I crushed on them, San Diego bought itself one hell of a chance to win it all. And in today’s game, that’s what counts.

When the Pads came from behind in Game 2 to tie the series at 1-1, I thought maybe the momentum had shifted. And then Ranger Suarez shut down that expensive San Diego lineup in Game 3 . . . and then the Phillies fought back from a 4-0 deficit in the first inning of Game 4 to win it .  . and then tonight. And those bells that just won’t quit.

“Listen for the bells tonight,” My friend Tye texted me this morning. It was in reference to the bells that chime at Citizens Bank Park when the home team starts impersonating that Balboa guy. The bells mean it’s the fifteenth round, they mean it’s time for the something extra to show itself before the lights go out. And this Phillies team, like them or loathe them (I’m somewhere in between), they’ve been ringing those bells since June. Every time they get knocked down, they find that something extra that gets them off the canvas just in time.

Tonight it was Bryce Harper, digging deep with the Phils down 3-2 in the bottom of the eighth. A runner on first and a chance to show the town and the baseball world that when you talk about the best players in the game, you’re gonna have to consider the guy who works just off I-95. Harper laid off a 1-2 changeup that had a return trip to San Diego written all over it. And then he got his pitch, and he knew exactly what to do with it, depositing it over the left field wall. Phillies 4- San Diego 3.

The rest became postscript. And now it looks like these Phillies will be going to Houston on Friday to take on arguably the best team over the last half decade in the Houston Astros. No trash can sign stealing nonsense this time, the Astros simply kill you with precision. And they’re not just dangerously talented, they’re hungry as junkyard dogs. Because of course it was never going to be an easy road to immortality. It never is with this Phillies team, and they seem to like it that way.

Those bells just got another round.

The Longfellow Rules

“(Baseball) breaks your heart. It is designed to break your heart. The game begins in the spring, when everything else begins again, and it blossoms in the summer, filling the afternoons and evenings, and then as soon as the chill rains come, it stops and leaves you to face the fall all alone. You count on it, rely on it to buffer the passage of time, to keep the memory of sunshine and high skies alive, and then just when the days are all twilight, when you need it most, it stops.” 

-A. Bartlett Giamatti

Bart Giamatti was the shortest tenured commissioner in the history of the game, and perhaps the last real one. Because while his predecessors- Selig and Manfred- have been prolific at pimping and gimmickry, Giamatti used a deep and abiding love for the game as his compass. He would’ve been in all four corners of the country this October, taking it all in and penning more of that good thing.

Expanding the postseason was a gonna happen dynamic that has prevailed upon our need for love and romance on the diamond. And this October fortnight has been swoon worthy:  In the span of a week’s time, the MLB saw not one, not two but three one-hundred win juggernauts go by the wayside: You could almost understand the 101 win Mets going belly up since it’s become their fall standard ever since Mike Piazza left the building. But then the Braves got outfeisted (my word) by the Phillies in an accidental prize fight that went Balboa in a hurry.

Surely the Dodgers would hold strong against the National League’s barbarians best efforts to tear down the gates. Hell, not even Poe could kill the corporate beast from Chavez Ravine. And the Padres really didn’t feel like the team that was gonna do the slaying, in spite of their drinking game deadline deals for the two Joshes, Bell and Hader, along with the sweet swinging Juan Soto. And did I mention the Dodgers went 14-5 against their neighbors to the south during the regular season? As Sam Rothstein woulda said, There’s nuttin to see heah. 

Umm . . . . Sam?

Padres 5- Dodgers 3 FINAL

I woke up to that because I have the Padres in my notifications, like a side thing. My main men still reside in the Bronx, and they still have life thanks to Gerrit Cole’s balls to the wall seven inning samurai special in Cleveland that sends the divisional series to the fifteenth round tonight. Baseball royalty was my family seal, having been born in the Bronx and raised by a woman who used to talk shop with the likes of Mantle and Berra and Houk. But let’s face it, for the vast majority of baseball citizenry, rooting for the Yankees is akin to hoping Brad Pitt gets laid. It’s like being cool with Bill Gates winning Powerball. And I completely understand.

The Astros are baseball’s version of the smartest kid in class who decides to cheat on his SAT’s. It’s a damn shame their sign stealing went all fetishy because they have been Scarlett Lettered ever since. Nobody outside of Houston is going to love an October that ends with these guys on top and you know how I know this? Because most baseball Americans would gladly root for the Yankees to take them out.

That’s just sad.

It’s probably why I have such an affinity for the NLCS pairing. San Diego bills itself as “America’s Finest City” while Philadelphia . . . does not. And I think it’s adorable how both fan bases have a bit of an inferiority complex even if they would never admit as much. And it doesn’t hurt one Manny Mota of an iota that neither of these clubs was supposed to be here and yet, here they are.

That’s baseball theater at high tide right there. While most sports have to be broken down to their simplest elements, baseball is already there. It’s a game where the pitcher tells the ball what to do and the batter tries to talk that ball into doing something else entirely. It’s a game of hunches and hot streaks and quirks and yes, magic. That too.

I mean, if Bob Stanley or Calvin Schiraldi could’ve gotten any-fucking-body out on a crisp October night in Queens, Sawx fans wouldn’t have had to wait another eighteen years before the curse of the Bambino was lifted across town in the Bronx. And if Joe Carter’s wrists would’ve been a tick slower, the Phillies get to a game seven with Schilling in Toronto and I really would’ve loved their chances in that one. And if Johnny Damon doesn’t take third against the Phillies in 2009, maybe the Yankees World Series drought would be (Yikes!) twenty-two years instead of thirteen.

I watched the highlights of that Padres clincher against the Dodgers a couple times; once for the game highlights and once just to take in that magnificent engine of a crowd in full throttle. That sea of misbegotten browns and yellows that spun its mad rebellion as their princes slayed kings. And if you listened closely enough, you could almost hear them questioning all the answers.

Why not us?

 

The Ugly Truth Only Gets Uglier From Here

Well that was quick.

Less than a week ago, the Miami Dolphins were the feel good movie of the year; scoring king-sized kudos from even the hardest grading critics in the industry. Their offense was bringing disco back while their defense had achieved a James Bond rating for its ability to get its ass kicked for two acts before winning the final fifteen minutes. Add to that, their coach was the natty professor who had a knack for stealing the aces at winning time.

And then it all went dark last Thursday night when quarterback Tua Tagovailoa was thrown to the turf by Josh Tupou, the hulking defensive tackle for the Bengals. It was the kind of sum of all fears moment that hushes up 65,000 fans right quick. As Tagovailoa lay crumpled on the ground with his arms seizing up and his fingers pointing to the sky in a frightening gnarl as the result of his brain having been reduced to a pin cushion, shock prevailed.

That shock quickly turned to anger as the sports world focused its crosshairs on the Miami Dolphins organization. Players prayed in between cursing emojis and executives lashed out under cover of anonymity and then Baltimore Ravens boss John Harbaugh broke the seal by claiming that he was “astonished” at the Dolphins handling of their franchise quarterback. He was referring to the fact that Tua had been knocked out of a game briefly against the Buffalo Bills only five days earlier.

They’re not wrong, but that doesn’t mean I’m willing to accept their angst ridden diatribes as the kind of gospel that is actually going to change a damn thing. Because it’s not. The Dolphins followed the same blueprint as most NFL teams who send their players into harm’s way when it seems fairly obvious to those of us who don’t wear shoulder pads for a living that maybe they should keep them out. We would love to believe that our favorite teams abide by the Dalai Lama rules of fair play and responsible practices, but that’s not how the league works. Even with all the concussion protocols in place, the league still favors pennies on the dollar solutions to brain injuries; from pop-up tents on the sidelines that administer quickie in game evaluations, to a roaming herd of independent contractors signing off on player wellness with pencils.

For their part, the Dolphins front office only fed the fire by having their coach address the media last Friday. Mike McDaniel was clearly doing his best to stay out of social media jail as he came off in his usual awkward manner; now less charming seeing as how the subject matter was a frightening brain injury that leaves Tua Tagovailoa’s career in question. But here’s the thing. McDaniel never should have been the point man in this sordid mess to begin with. That responsibility has to go to someone who writes the checks in the organization, either literally or figuratively. Preferably, both.

When Mike McDaniel tells us he had every confidence that his guy was good to go on Thursday night, I believe he’s telling the truth. Any plus or minus I give to how much is actually true comes down to a couple of things: What Tua told him and how he looked, and the assurances of medical professionals. On both counts, I truly believe the coach would not have put the kid out there if he had any serious doubts. And if John Harbaugh wants to take time away from his Father Flanagan act, I would tell him the same thing.

As for all the sports talking heads and union poohbahs who are busy top hatting the Dolphins into a corner, here’s an illuminating observation to munch on. Heading into last Thursday night’s game, not a single one of these concerned individuals issued a peep of concern for Tua’s well being. So, I gotta ask. Is it a matter of doth protesting too much because they’re a part of the solution, or because they realize they’re a part of a much larger problem?

I know which one I’m going with.

 

The “Catch ’22” NFL Season Preview (See what I did there?)

The Funniest & Most Awkward NFL Photos Ever Taken

Another NFL season is going longhand, so Imma provide some expert analysis on what to expect. And before you give me shit for calling myself an NFL expert, have you watched a football talk show recently? It’s like watching kindergartners recite Macbeth, only much less adorable.

When thinking up ideas for this post, I tossed with sharing my fantasy football experience. But you guys don’t want any part of that and neither do I. And I figure it makes little sense to prognosticate on the pigskin when my football knowledge can fit into Bethany Frankel’s bikini. Instead, I’ll stream the consciousness out of this fucker and hope for the best.

Let’s hit it! . . .

The Rams Super Bowl win in Los Angeles was the second time in as many years that a team hoisted the Lombardi trophy in its own stadium, with Tom Brady and the Bucs having turned the trick the season prior. In the first fifty-four years of the big game, not a single home team won it in their crib. So thank God for the Cardinals, who will return us to the old normal since they ain’t getting close to Glendale in February without tickets. If you have a beef with my expert opinion, please lodge your complaint here.

The Creme de la Creme of the league this year? Imma give you the top five:

Buffalo Bills: In a couple months, the temps in Orchard Park will be colder than Melania Trump’s diary, so for the love of all things Scott Norwood, let these people dream!

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: For exactly nineteen seconds, I was actually feeling sorry for Tom Brady, what with all that unhappy wife goss that’s been harshing his football mellow? But then I realized that feeling sorry for Tom Brady is a bigger sin than watching a Netflix reality show on Sunday.

Green Bay Packers: Aaron Rodgers is the smartest guy in the room. According to Aaron Rodgers. But he’s a great player and he’s the QB on my fantasy league team so I’m rooting for the dude.

Kansas City Chiefs: We’re looking at a solid decade’s worth of the Chiefs being in the title conversation with Mahomes under center. You’ll know their window has closed when he starts going bald. Which will be a depressing day in Kansas City, and for men everywhere.

Los Angeles Rams: Outside of Cincinnati, I’m hard pressed to find someone who hates these guys. If they win it again, that’ll change.

So now that I’ve got the top five Vegas favorites accounted for, I think you would probably sleep like a baby if you were to place a wager on the sixth highest ranked club. Because the Los Angeles Chargers are my choice to win it all in the desert next February. I utilized the Porpoiserean Theorem in order to reach this conclusion.

It goes like this . . .

a

The Miami Dolphins passed on Justin Herbert in the 2020 NFL Draft, allowing the Chargers to grab him one pick later. In his first two seasons, Herbert has thrown for more yards and more touchdowns than any quarterback in NFL history. Of fucking course.

b

The Miami Dolphins have also swiped left on Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees and Joe Flacco since the turn of the millennium. Those guys have combined to win ten rings while the Dolphins were busy scheduling tee-times.

c

Being passed over by the Dolphins is the football gods way of saying “You’re welcome!”.

NFL Memes (@NFL_Memes) / Twitter

In the AFC, I expect the following to happen . . .

The Cincinnati Bengals were an offensive line away from winning it all last year thanks to Joe Burrow, but Super Bowl hangovers for the runners up is a thing and I know this to be true because I read the science. And they have a mosh pit of talented rivals to contend with in the Ravens, Jaguars, Raiders, Dolphins, Broncos and Colts. You know what happens in a mosh pit? Nothing good.

  • Did you know? . . .Drug lord Pablo Escobar built his own prison? Which sounds super impressive until you consider that the Cleveland Browns do that every season.
  • Did you also know? . . . The league produces “Super Bowl Champions” merch for both teams before the game is even played? Then they ship the losing team’s duds overseas. Which means that in some remote village on the other side of the world, they tell stories about the greatest football team of all the time . . the Buffalo Bills.
  • Oh, and here’s one more . . . Brett Favre’s first NFL completion was to himself.

Meanwhile, in the NFC . . .

Everyone is chatting up the Los Angeles Rams, San Francisco 49ers and Green Bay Packers. Which means some other team is going to be representing the conference. The ‘some other team’ list is less inspiring than a QVC flash sale. We have the Eagles, Cardinals, Panthers, Saints, Vikings and Cowboys and If I’m being honest, I don’t see any of them making it to February.

The Cowboys bill themselves as ‘America’s Team’ which makes them the football equivalent of that MAGA hat. The Lions are like the EV people who insist that everyone has to be on board with them even though it makes little sense. The Falcons are too liberal and the Seahawks are too conservative . . . and I just won a bet that I could tuck politics into this post and get away with it. Woohoo!

Of course, no NFC representative means that Fox Sports will have to use a holographic roster for the Super Bowl. This could work out really well if they can get Rob Lowe to take a break from brushing his hair so he can play QB. Jamie Foxx as diva receiver feels totally right. Jeff Bridges as the ornery old coach trying to score that elusive ring before the lights go out?

Sold!

 

 

 

A Personal Football History

Marc and I not only love sports, we are also loyalists who relish in the joy of victory and hurt with the pains of disappointment. With one of my teams having unexpected success this year, Marc asked me to weave a story.

Growing up in southeastern Ohio in the 1960s, most people in my area were either Cleveland Browns fans or followers. The Browns were the closest team to us – a time long before cable – a time when an antenna delivered three television stations. The Browns were the weekly game that I watched, but I most enjoyed watching the upstart AFL games while rooting for Charlie Tollar, Billy Cannon, George Blanda, Charley Hennigan, and the rest of the Houston Oilers.

In 1968, the AFL expanded into Cincinnati. Many friends hooked up with the Bengals, others stayed loyal to the Browns. Me, the contrarian, latched onto the Miami Dolphins – a team with Flipper as a mascot – a team with my favorite Dolphin: Howard Twilley.

In the fall of 1971, I went cross-state to college where I would be around many Browns fans – but I stuck with the Dolphins. Before the 1972 season started, I told my friends that the Dolphins would not only win the Super Bowl, they would do so going undefeated (17-0). They laughed, then astonished when it happened.

After graduating in 1976, I went to a different corner of the state for my first job in the Cincinnati area. Already a Reds (baseball) fan – a lifer, I quickly gravitated to the local Bengals. Finally, an opportunity to root for nearby team.

At the end of the 1980 season, I suggested to a friend that we get Bengal season tickets for the following year because I felt something special on the horizon. We purchased them, and I still recall the ticket price per game – $9.75.

The 1981 season was unbelievable, finishing 12-4 and winning the division. Locals realized that most of the games were over by halftime. Those Bengals were more than good. They were very good! They ran their West Coast offense for many years before anyone knew that term. Plus, the defense was superb.

That season’s AFC Championship Game was a classic – and I was there. It’s known as the Freezer Bowl – the coldest NFL game on record with a raw temperature of -9F (-23C) and a wind chill of -59F (-50C). That was very cold, and I stayed the entire game to witness history.

The win gave the Bengals their first trip to the Super Bowl. My team lost that game, but I still say they were the better team.

I was still a season ticket holder in 1988 when the Bengals made their second trip to the Super Bowl. Two evenly matched teams hammering each other. The Bengals lost late in the game.

The Bengals would win a playoff game in 1990 before losing in the second round. Then came what Bengal fans call The Lost Decade – an era of ineffectiveness and a lot of losing. It took the Bengals 15 years to return to the playoffs. From there, they made it seven of the next 11 years – but losing every time – losing when favored. Finding a way to lose the game in 2015 that was ready for the taking – a win to break the streak. But no – a win didn’t happen. Losing marked the franchise and the city. Losing hung on the fans.

Losing continued – and many times ugly. 2020 delivered the bright light of a new young quarterback named Joe. One from an Ohio town 3 hours away. One from my home area of the state. The season had some bright spots but still many losses. One with Joe missing many games after a devasting knee injury.

Nonetheless, 2021 had a glimmer of hope. But they were still the Bengals, and we were Bengal fans. We’ve been there, done that. While hopeful, we waited for the other shoe to drop. That’s what Bengal fans do.

While some early games provided hope, some mid-season games delivered ugly reality checks. Facing a difficult closing schedule, the light of hope was a meager flicker. Suddenly, Cool Joe led a dismantling of the dreaded Ravens then beating the vaunted Chiefs. Suddenly, the Bengals were playoff-bound and hosting a first-round game. Then Cool Joe delivered! The team broke the 31-year streak and released the fans from bondage. The local radio call says it all!

The reward for winning round 1 was a trip to Nashville to face the top-seeded Titans. History shows that the Bengals have NEVER won a playoff game on the road. NEVER! Led by some guy known as Cool Joe, another streak was broken. The Bengals were suddenly the darlings of the NFL. (Video will say click to watch on YouTube – so it’s viewable).

Winning or losing this week in Kansas City doesn’t matter. With two streaks broken and Cool Joe leading the way like a seasoned veteran, the franchise, the city, and the fans are winners again. Bengals fans are hopeful again. Bengal fans are proud again. Bengal fans are believing again. The Bengals are relevant again. This is something young Bengal fans have never experienced. At least I’m a seasoned fan who has.

Can the Bengals win one more? Maybe or maybe not. Then again, why not! Why not us! After all, we have Cool Joe.

The Big Business Of Name Calling

NFL Fines Washington Football Team $10 Mil After Sexual Misconduct Probe

Remember when winning made headlines? Yeah, that shit’s over.

Take the Washington Football Team (I’m thinking they stole this moniker from the classic video game, Tecmo Football), which has announced they will have a new name in 2022. Last year it retired the nickname Redskins; a name it carried since 1933 when they were still based in Boston. After years of refusing to do the right thing, team owner Dan Snyder finally came to his senses. Or maybe it was because his reign as King of the Iron Deficient Throne was being threatened and he needed him a positive news day . . either or.

Washington Football Team vs Eagles - Week 1 | Tecmo Super Bowl 2021 - YouTube

The once perennial contenders have won a single playoff game since the turn of the millennium. Which is one more playoff win than the Washington Sentinels. Seeing as how the Sentinels are a fictional team from the Keanu Reeves movie The Replacements, that’s no bueno.

None of this matters because the football team in Washington (the realish one) is as relevant now as it was back in the time of Gibbs and Theismann and Lombardi trophies. Don’t get me wrong, they’re a decent football team as things currently stand. But for most of the past two decades they’ve been winning headlines without winning much of anything else, which, come to think of it, makes them a perfect fit for that town.

Game of Thrones' 101: Who's Left from House Bolton?

We’re talking about an organization whose work environment was on par with anything the Fox News skirt hounds had going on. Washington was fined $10 million in January of this year for its “highly unprofessional” treatment of women. Which makes all the talk about banishing the derogatory nickname Redskins quaint in comparison. But since this post is about a more positive form of name calling, I will stay on message. For once.

A few ideas? On it . . .

Filibusters- Because the games will feel as if they’re never going to end, and yet . . nothing gets accomplished.

Vetos- For the team that has delivered rejection to its fan base for more than a quarter century. It’s perfect, really.

Scandals- I’m sorry, but it’s a slow news week without a good scandal in our national’s capitol.

Pork Barrels- It’s more dramatic than “The Hogs”, which was under consideration.

Motions- I really dig this one. It merges Congress with Motown.

Parliamentarians- Okay, maybe it’s a tad long, but it can always be abbreviated. Call them “The Parliars”.

Presidents- When they lose, they’ll make a federal case out of it. Never mind.

Luncheons- If you want to pack the stadium, this name will get ‘er done.

Monte Cristos- Can you imagine the concessions? It would be the best part of the game!

Hashtags- It merges a contemporary term used on social media with the term for lines on a football field. As an added bonus, slap a hashtag on the helmet and you’re trending, just like that.

Buckaneers- Add the k so as to avoid any legal hassles, and maybe . . just maybe, someone will confuse them with a Super Bowl champion this year.

Hollabacks- It’s a song from back in the aughts of 2000, fashioned in brass knuckle pearls by the great Gwen Stefani. I’m not gonna lie, I always thought this would be a cool team name. If I ever play Fantasy Football again, Imma go with it. And as the Pina to this Colada milkshake, an homage to girls wouldn’t be the worst idea for this franchise.

Of course, this entire exercise is a moot point since the new nickname for the team formerly known as the Redskins has already been chosen, probably. In the event there is still time and someone from the Washington front office is reading this and sees something they really, really dig? Have at it. All I ask in return is that you don’t offer me season tickets in return. I’m good.

Washington has some company when it comes to name changes, as the Cleveland Indians will also roll out a new nickname in 2022. Unlike their gridiron counterparts, however, the Tribe didn’t wait to unveil theirs. They will be going with the Guardians, and I cannot wait until they play the Angels for the first time. Think about it . . .

If you’re wondering what happened to all the Redskins merch, check Trump’s website.

 

 

 

 

Olympic Heroes Of The Week!

Simone Biles wins bronze medal on balance beam at the Olympics

Of course the lovely Simone Biles is gonna score my billboard capture in this week’s special Olympic edition. Because she just won the best damn bronze medal in the history of ever. After removing herself from the final three events in the women’s all-around last week, her team held on for a silver medal while this young lady held onto her mental well being. It was a win merging with an even bigger win. And it was made all the more beautiful when Simone was the first American to congratulate Russian gymnast Angelina Melnikova after her team won the gold.

And then this week happened and Simone came back. She competed in the balance beam and while she wasn’t quite her championship self, she was plenty good enough to gain the podium yet again. And I have to think this bronze medal is going to mean every bit as much as all the other medals she has earned in her career. Because this one is representative of her every day struggle, where winning and losing take a backseat to peace of mind.

“I was just happy to be able to perform regardless of the outcome,” Biles said. “I did it for me and I was proud of myself for being able to compete one more time.”

The result was worth its weight in gold.

It is the true spirit' - Olympics athletics gold shared for the first time in 113 years

What’s the only thing better than a gold medal at the Olympics? How about two gold medals? That is how it went down when Mutaz Essa Barshim of Quatar and Gianmarco Tamberi of Italy ended up tied in the men’s high jump finals after four jumps each. An Olympic official informed them they had two choices: They could take part in a jump-off, or they could share the gold. Moments later, Tamberi was jumping into the arms of his friend and rival when Barshim decided on the latter.

Barshim explained it this way. “He is one of my best friends, not only on the track, but outside the track. We work together. This is a dream come true. It is the true spirit, the sportsman spirit, and we are here delivering this message,”

A cynic might scoff at the idea that the medal wasn’t settled on the field, but I really can’t blame the guys for choosing to share gold after watching the sheer joy on their faces. Let’s face it, they did something most athletes can only dream about.

They won a tie.

Belarus' Krystsina Tsimanouskaya 'won't return' home after Olympics

Krystsina Tsimanouskaya of Belarus has a story that puts everything in perspective. In her homeland, opposition leaders disappear and dissidents are threatened with assassination. Freedom of speech doesn’t stand a chance in a country that will silence anyone who speaks out about the government’s business in general, or president Alexander Lukashenko in particular. And it is in this vein that Tsimanouskaya found herself in the crosshairs of a “higher up”. And while I’m not saying this individual was the guy currently serving a sixth-term as President, I ain’t saying it isn’t.

The trouble began after the sprinter complained on Instagram that she had been forced to run the 4×400 relay by team officials, even though she had never competed in it before. She was subsequently banned by the team from participating in the 200 meters; a decision she tried to fight legally, but lost.

Tsimanouskaya was then told she needed to take the next flight home, where she would face “punishment” for her outspoken behavior. Thankfully she was intercepted and taken to the Polish embassy in Japan, after which she was flown to Vienna. Upon hearing the news, her husband travelled to Ukraine and hopes to be reunited with her soon. This ordeal has changed Krystsina’s definition of ‘home’.

Now, it’s wherever she can be reacquainted with her family.

Heading into Tokyo, American Lily King was the prohibitive favorite to defend her title as queen of the breaststroke; the defending Olympic gold medalist and two-time world champion hadn’t lost the event since 2015.

But that’s why they play the games. Because South African swimmer Tatjana Schoenmaker had something else in mind. And if breaking the world record (held by King) wasn’t an expectation, guess what? It happened. As a result, Schoenmaker is bringing home South Africa’s first gold medal in a quarter century.

But the reason this story makes it to Friday is because of what happened next. If you want the cheat code on this video, fast-forward to 2:42 when she touches the wall, followed by King. And then a group hug that reminds us why we watch the games, and why we love them so.

Tokyo Olympics: U.S. Runner Helps Competitor to Finish Line After Fall | PEOPLE.com

Imagine being thisclose to realizing a life long dream, and then in the next moment, it’s gone just like that.

Isaiah Jewett doesn’t have to imagine this scenario, seeing as how he experienced it in the men’s 800 meters. As the runners were kicking up their heels for one final push around the curb, Jewett could feel it. He had a top two run within his reach, which was going to put him in the finals. And then Botswana’s Nijel Amos clipped him from behind and the two men were collapsing to the ground, taking that Olympic dream with them.

“I just felt like when I was starting to lift, somebody hit the back of my heel and that caused me to fall,” Jewett said. “It was devastating. I’m not going to lie.”

Out of this stunning loss came something you can’t practice. When Jewett got to his feet, he helped his opponent up and then the two men embraced as Amos offered his apologies before they set off once again, buoyed by a spirit that defines what these games truly mean. Because while winning and losing belong to the headlines temporarily, sportsmanship has keep. When they arrived at the finish line, Amos yielded so that Jewett could finish ahead of him.

It was the kind of moment not even a podium could top.

 

Yesterday Once More

Canadiens-Golden Knights Game 6 score, live updates: Artturi Lehkonen's OT goal sends Montreal to Stanley Cup Final - The Athletic

There’s a line from the movie Miracle in which the legendary Olympic hockey coach Herb Brooks lets his young troops know what’s really at stake inside the sixty minute crucible of the biggest hockey game of their lives against the Russians. He tells them the name on the front of the jersey is a hell of a lot more important than the one on the back.

The Tampa Bay Lightning may not be confused with the Soviets powerhouse of a hockey team, but the Bolts are pretty damn good in their own right. And it’s going to take everything this young Canadiens team has to raise that Cup. And unlike that American hockey club at Lake Placid, these Habs have to do it four times in a couple weeks. So where you might be helped by a lucky bounce or a bad game by a superior line in a single game elimination, those chances dwindle when you’re talking about a seven game series.

These Canadiens are good with that. They came into this Stanley Cup playoff season with 500-1 odds to make the finals. Of the four Canadian squads with a dance card, they were given little to no chance of being the first team north of the border to get this far since Vancouver did it in 2011. And when they fell behind to the favored Toronto Maple Leafs three games to one in the first round, you wouldn’t have blamed their fans for toasting to last rites. And then the Canadiens pulled an Ali and got up off the canvas and punched their way through the Leafs, the Jets and the Golden Knights. And now you’ve got a group of kids with a whole bunch of tomorrows in their back pocket, intent on making today the beginning of a brand new chapter in their proud history. It’s been twenty-eight years since the Canadiens were last in the finals, and yet their twenty-four titles are still far and away the most of any team in the sport. Where some might find such a task daunting, this group seems to feed off of it.

These Habs bring a solid mix of veterans and kids to the party. From Brendan Gallagher to Cole Caufield, Tyler Toffoli to Nick Suzuki. And then you have Carey Price in goal, who happens to be in the middle of a playoff run for the ages. He’s been around long enough to know what to expect, and it’s a fine hockey blessing that he gets to sit at the high stakes table now. You want to see guys like Carey Price doing their thing on the sport’s biggest stage, getting his chance at immortality. And now Carey Price has the one thing, the only thing, a competitor really wants. He has his chance. And so does a Canadiens squad that doesn’t know what it doesn’t know, playing for history.

The Canadiens have made June a magical place to be, awakening the echoes of a once mighty empire as they topple the modern day giants of the sport. And now there’s one heavyweight champion left in front of them, looking to defend their belt, after having dispatched the Islanders in a seven-game nail biter.

Tomorrow in Tampa is where past meets present, and all that’s at stake is every single thing these guys play for. It’s when the names on the back of the jerseys get known and it’s where the name on the front of the jersey counts most of all. For this Habs squad, it’s a halcyon dose of recognition for what they have achieved thus far. And they’re well aware tomorrow isn’t promised.

It’s earned.

Winning By Pinocchio’s Nose

Medina Spirit | 2022 Kentucky Derby & Oaks | May 6 and May 7, 2022

With Medina Spirit’s Kentucky Derby win now being called into question after traces of the steroid betamethasone were found in his system, it’s clear the sporting world will stop at nothing in pursuit of glory. Trainer Bob Baffert claimed the horse has never been treated with the stuff because most sports figures are just frustrated politicians.

Pete Rose has been telling and re-telling a thirty year lie that changes with each new book deal. Dopers everywhere- from the four major sports to the Olympics- always play it like that guy in the show Cops who insists the drugs aren’t his. College recruiting reads like an episode of Law and Order. Little leaguers pretend to be smaller while college players pretend to be bigger and the Patriots . . . well, yanno.

Back inside the brutally simple time known as the ’70’s, NASCAR driver Richard Petty issued a sporting proclamation that has proven to have more lasting power than his hat . . or his legendary career for that matter.

“If you ain’t cheating, you ain’t trying,”

Without a twenty-four hour social media dragnet to collect every last dangling participle of an athlete’s most innocuously lonesome thoughts, the checkmate of a raging morning after headline was still a twinkle in every sports voyeur’s eye. Petty’s southern drawl was saved the slings and arrows of our current day claw machine which would have issued the “Breaking News” headline at three in the morning. After which Twitter would’ve split in two like the Titanic, sports debate shows would’ve argued over whether Petty should be suspended and Petty would’ve read a PR crafted apology that was about as heartfelt as a zombie flick.

The thing is, his simple syrup was a sporting truth long before he let it pass go. Need some proof? Okay why not . . .

Fred Lorz's lift and the rat-poison runner – Tale Runners

Fred Lorz lapped the field at the 1904 Olympic marathon in St. Louis by completing the race in three hours and thirteen minutes. Only problem was, he hitched a ride with a passing car for 11 miles of the race. When reading about Lorz, my question was, “There were passing cars in 1904?”

ECC | [New York Giants baseball player John J. McGraw, walking on

Before San Francisco Giants outfielder Barry Bonds’ noggin grew to twice the legal limit in the name of bad science, there was John McGraw. The New York Giants third-baseman played the hot corner like a gangster. A middling player who would later make his Hall of Fame bones as a skipper, McGraw was notorious for slowing opposing runners down by whatever means possible; from tripping them to latching on to their belt loops. How much fun would instant replay be with this guy around?

Michael Beschloss on Twitter: "Black Sox Scandal emerged from 1919 World Series, which ended 95 years ago today: http://t.co/BrVVhglnZF"

 

Several key players on the 1919 Chicago White Sox canoodled with New York mobster Arnold Rothstein, after which they threw the World Series against the Cincinnati Reds. The worst part of it is, the infamous Black Sox scandal kept one of the all-time greats- Shoeless Joe Jackson- from reaching the Hall of Fame after his ban. The second worst part of it is they made a movie about it in 1988 called Eight Men Out in which John Cusack proved he is not nearly as good at throwing a baseball as he is at holding up a boombox.

Dora Ratjen - Wikidata

Dora “The Explorer” Ratjen finished fourth in the women’s high jump at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin. Turned out, Dora’s real name was Hermann. Those fun loving kids known as the Hitler Youth talked Hermann into hiding his balls in order to compete as a woman. I’m thinking their game plan didn’t include a fourth place finish . . .

From Heroes To Villains': CCNY Basketball's Dramatic Fall From Glory | Only A Game

The 1951 CCNY point-shaving scandal involved seven college basketball teams, with the Beavers squad leading the way. The players involved prevented their clubs from covering the spread until one player refused to play along, after which the jig was up. To think, today’s college coaches- whose cheat sheets are part of the recruiting process- would shrug at this quaint little racket.

The East German women’s swimming team dominated the sport from the late ’60’s through the early ’80’s. Which . . I mean . . it took the IOC that long to figure out these gals were loading up on their carbs by filing them with steroids? Of course it did, because they were even dirtier than the culprits!

Like it or loathe it, as long as there are sports to be played, cheating is going to be a part of the equation. Because the risks are always going to be outweighed by the rewards for a whole lot of athletes who don’t care how they become somebody, just so long as they do. And I don’t much give a shit if they choose notoriety over nobility.

Just leave the horses out of it.

 

When Football Meets Festivus

Miami Dolphins 2020 Draft - 1st Round Draft Picks Since 2000 - The Phinsider

This Thursday night, the NFL will prove once again that professional football is playing chess while all the other sports are playing checkers. More fans will tune in to watch an event where no game is being played than will watch the World Series or NBA finals. From its humble beginnings, the NFL Draft has become America’s second most favorite sporting event behind only the Super Bowl. And the added bonus is that Tom Brady can’t win this one . . I don’t think.

The first NFL Draft took place in 1936 at the Ritz Carlton Hotel in Philadelphia, inspired by an all out bidding war, a mayoral candidate out of Inver Grove Heights, Minnesota and the Brooklyn Dodgers. The NFL was comprised of nine teams at the time, with Stan Kostka- a star running back for the University of Minnesota- being the coveted prize. Rather than signing right out of school, Kostka decided to hold out. He even ran for mayor of his hometown before inking a deal with the Brooklyn football Dodgers for the princely sum of $5,000 dollars. When some owners cried foul, a selection process by which college graduates were chosen by teams was agreed upon, and the draft was born.

The presumptive top pick in the 2021 NFL draft- Clemson QB Trevor Lawrence- will sign a four year contract for somewhere in the neighborhood of $35 million when the Jacksonville Jaguars make their selection. And he won’t even have to run for mayor to get it.

I just figured out who Trevor Lawrence looks like | SECRant.com

The only Vegas lock is that Trevor Lawrence will be the first overall choice as God, Central Casting and Mattel intended. After which a quarterback feeding frenzy will ensue since the prevailing opinion is that getting the quarterback right is more important than electing a President. Don’t take my word for this, just ask 2016.

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Quarterbacks are the belles of the ballers, since every club dreams of plucking the next Tom Brady out of a bag of maybes. Of course, back in 2000, nobody knew Tom Brady was going to be Tom Brady, seeing as how he was selected with the 199th overall pick. But that doesn’t stop teams from trying, and usually failing. And this year, no fewer than five quarterbacks . . and perhaps as many as six or seven, will be chosen in the first round alone. It’s the Waiting For Godot Theory, where teams let Jesus take the wheel . . . so long as he can sling the ball, use complete sentences and stay out of trouble for at least ten minutes.

The Odell Beckham Jr revival tour: How a flashback to New York supremacy has left NFL wanting more | NFL News | Sky Sports

Historically speaking, wide receiver is another popular position even though the failure rate for first round receivers is higher than Snoop Dog was last Tuesday. Choosing a first round receiver is akin to buying the latest Apple product. You’re going to pay way too much for something you want but really don’t need. The Odell Beckham Jr. Rule states that a first round wide receiver should possess more playoff wins than hair colors in order to be worth the investment. The Browns did make a playoff run this year . . . after OBJ got injured and was out of the lineup, so there’s that.

NFL mock draft 2021 (4.0): Oregon's Penei Sewell prepares for a reunion and the 49ers make a surprise QB choice; trades and other first-round predictions - oregonlive.com

If you’re looking to maximize your Maximus, you gotta go big or you might as well go home. Offensive linemen are like the dorky girl in that eighties teen comedy who gets a makeover during the musical montage. When most of the popular girls- quarterbacks and wide receivers- have already peaked, the O-linemen are just getting started. If the Miami Dolphins selected Oregon left tackle Penei Sewell based entirely on the image above, I would be totally on board. He’s the winner of my Rick Ross Boss Award. I mean, he’ll beat the Jets twice just by fixing that stare on their asses!

NFL Draft Preview: Florida's Kyle Pitts headlines deep, but not elite, tight end class

Then there’s Kyle “The Unicorn” Pitts. He’s a tight end/receiver hybrid who is currently the “IT” player this football holiday season. He wins the Johnny Come Lately Award for this year’s event since he’s the new kid in town and everybody loves him most of all because there are only a couple days to the draft and not enough time to hone in on some other can’t miss prospect. The only critiques I can offer as far as this kid is concerned is that he doesn’t play quarterback, and he didn’t play for the U in Miami. I would be over the moon excited if Miami ends up grabbing him at 6, but please . .don’t tell Penei Sewell I said that.

None of this matters, of course. Because trying to predict how a college player’s skills will translate to the next level is akin to teaching a cat how to wake you up in the morning without using their claws. It’s why your guess is as good as the so called experts who write up dozens of mock drafts over the course of a year . . each one wronger than Khloe Kardashian’s Instagram page.

As long as the Dolphins don’t select Stan Kostka, Imma chalk it up as a win.