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 shout-out to a man both athletic and dramatic: Brazilian soccer player Neymar. He gained global fame (and notoriety) this week for his theatrical responses on the playing field at the World Cup. Whether it was writhing on the field for 8 minutes or more, or grimacing in agony after having had his foot stepped on by an opposing team, fans and foes have marveled at – and critiqued – the player’s acting abilities. One New York Times article quoted a Manhattan acting coach as saying that Neymar was making the classic mistake of a novice: over-acting and hamming it up. The Mexican team manager lodged a protest after losing to Brazil about “so much acting.” Our take? The dude has got us all talking about him – so he’s clearly got the showbiz gene. Oh, and his team lost this weekend to Belgium – sadly, even high theater has its limits.
Wimbledon has seen a series of upsets in its first few days: top seed Simona Halep is out, as is defending champion Garbine Muguruza, No. 9 Venus Williams and No. 10 Madison Keyes. On the men’s side, third seed Marin Cilic is out. As of this posting, Serena Williams (who hasn’t yet dropped a set), Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer have all advanced.
For Those Who Do Not Follow Professional Sports, here’s what you need to know this week.
3 for the week of July 8, 2018:
1. World Cup is down to the Europeans. Must know: All of the remaining teams in the World Cup are based in Europe, after Brazil and Uruguay were knocked out in the quarterfinals. France, Belgium, England and Croatia have advanced to the semifinals. Nice to know: Only eight countries have ever won the World Cup, and two of the remaining teams have never won: Croatia and Belgium. So there’s a chance of a new, 9th champion coming out on top this year. Extra Credit: With England in the World Cup and playing Sweden on Saturday, several articles in English newspapers highlighted the dilemma of sports fans invited to (or participating in) weddings on the same day. It’s the equivalent of getting married on Super Bowl Sunday – everyone’s true loyalties are revealed by how many are surreptitiously watching the game during the ceremony (or who somehow don’t show up at all). Since England won (they’re in the semifinals for the first time since 1990), at least the Brits can justify their preoccupation with sports this weekend.
2. It’s all about the Sox-Yankees. Must know: In the MLB, it’s become really easy for non-fans or occasional viewers to join in the sports talk. All you need to know is that the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox continue their history-making seasons. It’s become a rivalry for the ages this summer. Nice to know: The Yanks are currently one game behind the Sox. Extra Credit: A third-string catcher for the Yanks – Kyle Higashioka – took a star turn this week. He was playing because the first two catchers in the rotation are injured, and he had been 0 for 22 since entering the majors last year. He now has gotten three hits, all home runs. So he has only hit home runs so far in the major league! Only 9 people have done this since 1900. That is just really cool. Talk about bench strength. Wonder what the number four dude could do.
3. NBA Free Agency Moves. Must know: The top story in the NBA continues to be LeBron James’ move to the LA Lakers. New reports this week say that manager Magic Johnson convinced James to play in a different way for his team, recognizing his age. The two seem to be kindred spirits, and Magic has subsequently recruited three players to be the surrounding cast for his new star, which will take some of the pressure off of James. Nice to know: Most people think it was a brilliant move for the Lakers to get LeBron, but the team’s subsequent trades are viewed as more questionable. Extra credit: Word on the street is that the Lakers are keen to trade for Kawai Leonard, but that he doesn’t want to go to LA and play second fiddle to LeBron. Watch this space for further updates.
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:
-The Tour de France started on Saturday, and four-time winner and defending champion Christopher Froome was cleared at the last minute to race after having tested positive for an irregularly high level of an asthma drug at a race last summer.
-In NFL news, Julian Edelman’s four-game suspension has been upheld, creating additional headwinds for the New England Patriots. Despite that, the Vegas line has the Pats as favorites to win the 2018-19 Super Bowl, at -1500. The next closest is Pittsburgh at -550. The worst odds are Arizona at +800, and the Jets and Cleveland at +600 are the second worst. Big money to be made if you’re a believer in underdogs.
-In an unprecedented move, Terrell Owens has announced that he won’t attend the Pro Football Hall of Fame induction ceremony in Canton, Ohio on August 4. Instead, he’ll deliver his acceptance speech at his alma mater, the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga. He was passed over twice by the selection committee, and last year said that he had “lost all respect” for the selection process. His snub of the ceremony is read by some as reinforcing the hall’s original reluctance to elect him.
-Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson are reportedly in negotiations to play a winner-take-all pro golf match for $10 million. The two have had a long rivalry that dates to their junior golf days in Southern California. But more recently, their relationship has mellowed, in part because of their work together on the U.S. Ryder Cup. Mickelson said the $10 million amount is enough to get their attention: “It’s a ridiculous amount of money. No matter how much money you have, this amount will take both of us out of our comfort zone.” If the match occurs, both will walk away with a nice sum after TV rights and sponsorship fees are added to the pot.
-Finally, in NHL news, the New York Islanders—having just landed Lou Lamoriello and Stanley-Cup winner manager Barry Trotz – this week lost their own John Tavares; he declared free agency and will join his childhood dream team, the Toronto Maple Leafs.
That’s it. You’re good to go. See you next week.