TWIST: This Week in Sports Talk is a weekly recap of the three (and only three) things you need to know this coming week to talk sports. Whether it’s with your boss, the gang at the office, your team, your barber, your barista, your secret crush, or your in-laws, do the TWIST and we guarantee you’ll be talking sports like a champion in no time.
It turned out to be Fight Night in Boston this week, as the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox reignited their long-standing rivalry with a bench-clearing brawl on Wednesday night at Fenway Park. The League responded by suspending two players for up to six games, and fining the Red Sox manager and the Yankees third base coach.
The Sox won the three-game series, 2-1, and fans of both teams are electrified by the prospect of a full-on grudge match all season long.
Here’s what our Sports Desk had to say about it all: “This was real fisticuffs, which is unusual for baseball (they generally just roll around a lot on the field in a big melee). One of the Red Sox players admitted that when he saw Aaron Judge running on the field, he ran the other way. Judge is 6’5” and 285 – you don’t wanna fight him. And now the Yankees are headed to Detroit, where their last regular season game featured 3 bench-clearing fights and 8 ejections. The fun may continue as they settle some old scores.”
Who says baseball is a dull game watched only by old folks? This thing is lit!
In happier MLB news, the LA Angels’ Shohei Ohtani is a 23-year old phenom with a passionate fan base (people are already calling him “Baby Ruth”). Before a home game last week, Leo Guastello – an elementary-school aged fan – asked for a pre-game autograph, and then boldly followed up with a request for Ohtani’s bat. A few minutes later, the player returned with a bat imprinted with his name in kanji and gave it to his young acolyte. OMG. What a mighty good man.
Meanwhile, for Those Who Do Not Follow Professional Sports, here’s what you need to know this week (and not a single thing more).
3 for the week of April 15, 2018:
1. MLB’s star of the West. Must know: The story of the season so far is Los Angeles Angels’ rookie Shohei Ohtani, who continues to amaze as a pitcher and a hitter. This week, he hit a bases-clearing triple for an 7-1 victory over the Kansas City Royals – their fifth straight win. It’s only 13 games into the season, and Ohtani already leads the league in slugging percentage. His only request? He wants more playing time, as he’s only played in 7 out of 13 games. Nice to know: Meanwhile, the New York Yankees’ expensive acquisition Giancarlo Stanton is making headlines for all the wrong reasons: he has struck out more in the first 10 games of this season than Joe DiMaggio struck out in the entire 1941 season. Striking out five times in one game is called a “platinum sombrero” (don’t ask us why) – and he’s earned two of them only two weeks into the season. Extra credit: It could be the year of the underdog in New York: as of this posting, the New York Mets are 11-2 for the season (a franchise record and second-best in the majors); they currently sit atop the National League East. Bonus round: Derek Jeter’s Miami Marlins are drawing fewer fans to the ballpark than their minor league affiliate – with Stanton gone, there’s no star power to draw people in. Plus they’re 4-10 for the season.
2. NBA post-season play. Must know: Wednesday marked the end of the regular season, and it was a wild finish: of the 16 playoff slots, only the top two in each division were decided. So 12 of the 16 teams didn’t know if they would be in the playoffs in some cases, or where they would be seeded. A photo finish like that is just what the League was hoping for — dynasties are only fun for one set of fans. Heading into the playoffs, all previous expectations seem likely to be upended: the preseason “lock” to win it all, the defending champion Golden State Warriors, could be in trouble. They may not even make it out of the Western Conference series (they’re on “upset alert” against the Spurs in their best-of-seven match-up in Round 1). Steph Curry is hurt again, and will miss the first round of the playoffs. Meanwhile, in the Eastern Conference, keep your eyes on the Philadelphia 76’ers – the Sixers finished the season with a franchise-record 16-game winning streak, and they may be the sleeper of the first round of the playoffs (last night they beat the Miami Heat 130-103). Nice to know: LeBron James played in all 82 regular season games for the first time in his 15 year career. King James has demonstrated incredible talent and durability, and as a result, there’s a media push for him to win Most Valuable Player over the favorite throughout the season, the Houston Rockets’ James Harden. Extra credit: Style icon Russell Westbrook is the first player to average “triple double” for two consecutive seasons (meaning he scored double digits in points, assists, and rebounds). The man plays every game like it’s his last, and while last year people felt that he deserved MVP for his feat, having done it twice in a row now has strangely generated a thunderous “meh” from the sports press. What’s up with that? Bonus Round: It’s worth it for you to invest in understanding the NBA Playoffs, as they go on for a long time and will be a topic of increasing interest for sports fans — the finals start at the end of May, and could run until mid-June. Buckle up.
3. NFL gears up for the draft. Must know: The draft of the best college players into the pros officially takes place on April 26th. Passionate NFL fans will spend the next two weeks speculating and gaming out how the picks will go. Our advice is to nod and smile when they do this, and don’t try to engage. It’s a pretty good bet that everything will go differently than anyone thinks – and trying to keep up is just going to make your brain hurt. Nice to know: Domestic violence continues to plague the NFL. This week, San Francisco 49’ers linebacker Reuben Foster was charged with three felonies for viciously beating his live in girlfriend. If convicted, he could face 11 years in prison. Extra credit: Former San Francisco 49er’s quarterback Colin Kaepernick was faced with the opportunity to potentially return to the NFL after not being picked up by any team last season due to the controversy over his “taking a knee” during the National Anthem. He was scheduled for a workout with the Seattle Seahawks (that’s a prelude to possibly being added to the team). But he refused to assure Seahawks management that he would stand for the national anthem this season, sticking to his principles even if it meant not playing. The team to postponed the workout, and presumably will not pursue him. Yes, this is America we’re talking about here, people. Is this what we stand for? Discuss among yourselves.
There’s so much going on this week that we’re adding in a few extra bonus/style point/street cred/stuck on a long plane flight with a sports fan facts that you can drop casually into conversation to look like a true superstar:
1. Kevin Durant (just say“KD”), forward for the Golden State Warriors, plans to decline his player option for the 2018-19 season and become an unrestricted free agent this summer. The nine-time All-Star and reigning NBA Finals MVP will be turning down a salary of $26.2 million, a figure well below that of a player of his caliber, in order to restructure a new deal with the team.
2. Also in the NBA, this week the New York Knicks fired their head coach Jeff Hornacek, bringing a final end to the Phil Jackson era (Jackson hired him). The team ended the season at 29-53.
3. New England Patriots QB Tom Brady will be in Qatar for his charity, so he will miss the first day of “OTA’s” – that’s Organized Team Activities for those who didn’t know (we didn’t). They generally take place in May and June, and can include practices, meetings, and team-building events (like bowling). Disgruntled players frequently skip them, and team members generally don’t take well to players who miss them. Hmm.
4. Ultimate fighter Ronda Rousey (aka “Rowdy’) decisively won her debut match in the WWF’s Wrestlemania tournament in New Orleans this week. After the win, the former UFC competitor told the press: “After my wedding day, this is my favorite day of my life I think!” Awww.
5. The NHL playoffs started this week, but you probably don’t need to know about them, unless your sports-fan friends and family members are die-hard hockey fans. In which case, click here.
Whew! That’s it. You’re good to go. See you next week.