TWIST: This Week in Sports Talk is a weekly recap of the three (and only three) things you need to know this coming week if you want to know how to talk about sports. Game on.
We begin this week with a global competition. The topic de jour amongst the international crowd is the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) World Cup, which is held every four years. The 32 participating teams earn their spots by winning matches against other teams from their region during a qualification process that begins about three years before the actual competition. Team USA is not on the field this year – they failed to make the cut for the World Cup for the first time since 1986. On the bright side, a coalition of Canada, Mexico and USA (“Team United”) this week won the rights to host the 2026 World Cup. Happily, each World Cup’s host country qualifies automatically, so Team USA has that to look forward to.
Congratulations are in order for Rafael Nadal, who won his 11th French Open last Sunday. Believe it or not, that wasn’t enough to keep him at the top — longtime rival and 20-time Grand Slam winner Roger Federer has returned to being ranked number one in the world after reaching the Mercedes Cup final in Stuttgart, Germany this weekend.
For Those Who Do Not Follow Professional Sports, here’s what you need to know this week.
3 for the week of June 17, 2018:
1. PGA US Open. Must know: This weekend, all eyes in the world of men’s golf are on the Shinnecock Hills Golf Course on Long Island, where the annual US Open is being played this year. Nice to know: The course is notoriously difficult, and conditions on the first day were brutal: strong winds and slick greens made for a tough day. Tiger Woods was expected to do well, but didn’t make the cut for the final round. Our Sports Desk notes that Woods is still TV ratings gold – he’s a bigger draw than the next 10 players combined – we wonder why that’s still the case? Maybe everyone just loves a potential comeback story. Extra credit: As of this posting, there’s a four-way tie for the lead: former US Open champions Dustin Johnson and Brooks Koepka, along with Daniel Berger and Tony Finau all sit atop the leaderboard. Bonus Round: On his 48th birthday, Phil Mickelson caused a serious uproar when he hit his moving ball out of frustration on the 13th green, and then told “a counterfeit tale” about his intentions. The consensus among the experts seems to be that he basically had a melt-down. He was on his way to shooting his worst U.S. Open score in more than a quarter century, and he snapped and did something, as his playing partner Andrew “Beef” Johnston said, “you might see at your home course with your mates or something. … I think it’s just a moment of madness.” Be sure to check out the final scores before you head into the office on Monday.
2. Yankees-Red Sox Race Still Tight. Must know: The New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox continue to have the two best records in the majors right now. The AL East is on fire. Currently, the Las Vegas odds favor the Yankees to win the World Series, with the Houston Astros close behind and then the Red Sox. Nice to know: At the midpoint of the season approaches, the TV ratings for the MLB have taken a nose-dive. This may be because there are four teams playing extremely well – and six doing really miserably. Or there may be other factors at work – some are blaming the weather. The Commissioner, Rob Manfred, has said publicly that it’s starting to be a concern. Extra Credit: Our hearts are broken – the adorable 23-year old LA Angels super-rookie pitcher and hitter Shohei “Baby Ruth” Ohtani has an injury that could keep him out for the rest of this season and all of 2019. Ugh!!! After a stunning performance until early June, reports are that he’ll require “Tommy John” surgery, however, the Angels have not yet confirmed that. Get well soon, Baby Ruth!
3. LeBron May be Gone. Must know: The talk of the NBA is what LeBron James will do now that the Finals are over and the Cavs succumbed in an ignominious sweep to the Golden State Warriors. He can declare free agency next month. Nice to know: The teams who seem to be in serious contention to land him are the LA Lakers, the Houston Rockets, the Philadelphia 76’ers, and the San Antonio Spurs. Or will he stay in Cleveland? Extra Credit: The NBA draft is this Thursday night.
For those looking to demonstrate some serious street cred, here are a couple of Ph.D.-level sports facts to casually drop into the conversation this week:
In Major League Baseball, 40 years ago this week Nolan Ryan pitched a game where he threw 235 pitches – 16 strike outs and 10 walks – and won the game. He pitched again 3 days later. But these days, no pitcher is allowed to exceed 100 pitches in a game. The new norm is that pitching a complete game is almost unheard of – a good outing now is considered to be 5-6 innings. Our Sports Desk does not approve of this development. We hope that you’ll discuss this pressing issue among yourselves over a couple of beers (or glasses of rosé) this week — if you do, please let us know what you conclude.
In the NFL, training “minicamps” kicked off this week, with some notable holdouts failing to show up. Atlanta Falcons star receiver Julio Jones and Oakland Raiders star DE Khalil Mack are both looking for contract extensions. On the other hand, the New York Giants’ Odell Beckham Junior did show up, and demonstrated professional behavior, even though he’s also seeking a significant contract extension. Nice job, OBJ.
Meanwhile, in Patriots Nation, head coach Bill Belichick abruptly cancelled the last 2 days of camp. This is uncharacteristic behavior from the man who – after winning the Super Bowl against the Atlanta Falcons – was heard chanting at the victory parade: “No days off, no days off…” Hmmm . . .
That’s it. You’re good to go. See you next week.