WEEK IN SPORTS–VOL. V

  • Attention citizens of the 513 area code:  The S.S. 2017 Cincinnati Reds is taking on water and taking it on rapidly.  After last Sunday’s game, the Reds had lost 13 of their last 15 games, including three in a row to the lowly San Diego Padres, and had dropped to last place in the National League Central Division.  During this 15-game stretch, they have been outscored 104-59 and there doesn’t appear to be an end in sight.  Changes are necessary and it should start at the top, with the firing of manager Bryan Price.  Since becoming the manager in 2014, the Reds are a less than impressive 239-321, showing no signs of improvement and in many respects regressing as a franchise over the last 3-plus seasons.  Watching the Reds play, it’s apparent the players don’t like playing for Price, raising the question whether or not they respect him as well.  If that’s indeed the case, then it’s time to move on and find another voice, such as former Reds icons, Barry Larkin or Eric Davis.  That being said, the magic number for the Reds to clinch the National League Central Division is 93.
  • The answer to the Volume IV scoreboard stumper was Frank Robinson, Johnny Bench, Tony Perez and Brandon Phillips.  Here is this week’s Scoreboard Stumper:  Since 1980, four pitchers have won the National League Triple Crown (led the league in wins, ERA and strikeouts in the same season).  Who are they?
  • As soon as the Chicago Cubs recorded the final out to win the World Series last fall, the sale and marketing of Cubs championship souvenirs and memorabilia began in full force.  Fast forward six months and it seemed there wasn’t anything you couldn’t buy that marked the Cubs historic world championship.  That is until last week.  The Cubs organization announced a limited sale of 2,016 (get the inference?) pieces of the ivy from the Wrigley Field outfield wall for the bargain basement price of $200.00 per leaf plus $15.00 shipping and handling.  Individuals are limited to 10 pieces person and each piece of dead ivy includes a special hologram to verity its authenticity.  Let the ridiculous purchasing begin.
  • The vast majority of those writing the post-script on the 2017 NBA Championship season of the Golden State Warriors will make the case that the reason why the Warriors were able to revenge their loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers in last year’s finals and regain their status as the league’s best team, was their addition of Kevin Durant during the off-season.  Given Durant’s regular season performance (25.1 PPG, 8.3 RPG and 4.8 APG) and the fact he dominated the NBA Finals on his way to winning the series MVP by averaging 35.2 PPG, 8.4 RPG, 5.4 APG and 1.6 blocks per game in the five games against the Cavaliers, it is a fairly sound argument.  Moreover, Golden State’s acquisition of Durant , while undoubtedly crucial to the Warriors regaining their title, has many NBA experts declaring that the true lasting legacy of the 2016-2017 Golden State Warriors  is that marks the beginning of the Superteam Era, where franchise players flee their current teams for a chance to win a championship with an already star-studded roster.  But if you look closer at the Warriors roster, the true impact Golden State will have on the NBA is a much-needed change to who is eligible for the league’s annual draft.  Three of the  Warriors’  four best players, Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green, all of whom are perennial all-stars and winners of an NBA title before Durant arrived, played a minimum of three seasons of college basketball.  Curry and Thompson played three seasons each at Davidson and Washington State respectively while Green played four years at Michigan State.  It’s proof that the more time a potential NBA prospect spends at the collegiate level, the better the game they bring to the NBA and the sooner the impact they have on their team’s success..  Golden State is indeed an excellent team and the cream of the NBA crop.  It seems if the league wants to establish parity and to improve their overall product then they need to convince the players union to modify the draft eligibility rules to mandate all prospects have a minimum of two years college experience.
  • Two storylines emerged from this year’s U.S. Open Golf Championship held at Erin Hills.  First, the tournament winner, Brooks Koepka, won his first major championship, continuing a streak of seven consecutive majors where the champion won his first career major.  Koepka’s final socre of 16-under par, tied Rory McElroy’s 2011 U.S. Open record for lowest score in relation to par and was due in large part to hitting more greens in regulation (86 percent) than anyone in the field.  Second, the USGA will never come back to Erin Hills for another U.S. Open.  The sanctioning body of the U.S. Open, the USGA expects the golf courses that host their most important championship to exact a pound of flesh or two from the field and to produce a champion who survives rather than wins the tournament.  A final score of 16-under par is fine for the folks who run the Houston Open.  A final score of 16-under par to the organizers of the U.S. Open means the golf course failed to do its job.  And like NASA, failure is not an option for the USGA.
  • The tweet of the week comes from John O’Connell, a devout New York Yankees fan, @jacko2323.  He sent this tweet during the jersey retirement ceremony of former Boston Red Sox great, David Ortiz.  Pay close attention to the upper case letters as they appeared in his tweet:  “Surely The fans of Everyteam Rejoice Over the Incredible David oritiz’s Special night.”
  • There’s no denying that Sidney Crosby is one of, if not the best, hockey player in the world.  His 382 goals and 1,027 points in the regular season, 3 Stanley Cup Championships, 2 NHL MVP awards, 2 Conn Smythe Awards, 2 Olympic Gold Medals, 1 World Cup title and 1 World Championship is a testament to his status as the league’s top performer.  What is surprising is that after watching this year’s Stanley Cup playoffs, it appears in the eyes of the NHL’s on-ice officials, Crosby’s talent and resume grants him an additional competitive advantage over his opponents and carte-blanche when it comes to defending his own space.  Seemingly every time Crosby was unable to make a play because of what appeared to be a solid play by a defender or simply because Crosby’s skills failed him, the officials called a penalty on the defender, placing the Pittsburgh Penguins and Crosby on the power play.  Meanwhile, when Crosby felt he was being defended too aggressively, he took matters into his own hands by slashing, holding and committing the same penalties his opponents were accused of when defending him but without any fear of repercussion from the officials on the ice.  This “Protection of Sidney Crosby” was in full effect in Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Finals against the Nashville Predators.  Within the first minute of the game, the Predators were penalized for holding Crosby, a penalty that was, to say the least, dubious and to say the most, a joke.  The Penguins scored on the ensuing power play and the eventual 6-0 Penguin rout was on.  Later in the same game, upset over what he felt was a missed slashing call on one of his teammates, Crosby threw a water bottle from the bench onto the ice while the lay was ongoing, a clear-cut delay of game penalty.  And yet, the four officials on the ice failed to see what everyone else had seen and let play continue.  At the next break in play, Crosby called one of the officials over to the Penguins bench and explained he didn’t mean to throw the water bottle on the ice, a mea culpa that seemed insincere and more importantly unnecessary since it appears Crosby’s actions are exempt from any kind of accountability.  Crosby’s free pass, however, was in full view near the end of the first period of Game 5 when he battled behind the Penguins net with his arch-nemesis during the series, Predator defenseman, P,K, Subban.  In the midst of their one-on-one scrum, Crosby grabbed Subban’s head and repeatedly slammed it into the ice.  Crosby was assessed a two-minute minor penalty for his MMA actions (for holding, of all things) but in a move that reeked of, “if Sidney was that mad, then there must be a reason”, Subban was also penalized two minutes for holding (The only reasonable explanation for a holding penalty was that Subban was “holding” on for dear life).  To further validate the NHL’s unwritten policy of the “Crosby Rules”, Mike Milbury, an analyst for NBC, the league’s national broadcast partner” proclaimed during intermission that Crosby’s attack “was cagey.  And Subban had it coming.”  What makes Crosby’s action against Subban even more galling and to a greater extent hypocritical is that he has missed a large portion of his career because of concussions due to inappropriate and illegal blows to the head.  Crosby and the NHL have campaigned and verbally railed against those players who commit penalties involving the head over the past few seasons.  But when Crosby does the same things the NHL wants to limit and remove, he is being “cagey” and his opponent “had it coming.”  Here is the bottom line–it’s time to expose the NHL’s long-kept secret that Sidney Crosby, the player they showcase as their best active player (how else to explain his winning the Conn Smythe Award as this year’s MVP of the playoffs even though he had one teammate score more goals and another who scored more points) is one of the dirtiest and the most coddled players in the entire league.
  • Hope everyone had a chance to listen to my radio interviews this week promoting my book, Legends of the Jungle.  You can purchase your copy at the online bookstore at iuniverse.com, online at Barnes and Noble and at Amazon.com.

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