Three Point Play:
This Week in Sports
By V.R. BryantPosted Jul 20, 2011
As we say auf wiedersehen to soccer again until next year’s Olympic Games, America’s attention goes back squarely to the ever-maddening labor disputes going on in the NFL and NBA. I’m not exactly sure when people not playing sports became a hotter news item than the alternative, but that seems to be the place we’re in. Here’s hoping baseball’s got enough oomph to get us through the rest of the summer.
The All-Star break came and went last week, leaving people once again wondering why the outcome of an exhibition game has any effect whatsoever on the actual season. For the record, the Giants’ Brian Wilson entered the game for the National League with runners on in the ninth and – rather uncharacteristically – only needed seven pitches to get two outs and close the game out. The win means that the NL representative in the World Series will have home field advantage, regardless of overall record. Some people are crankier about that than others (count me in the former), but move on we must and move on we shall. Heading into the second half, the hot race is atop the AL East, with Boston and New York sporting the league’s two best records and Tampa Bay lurking just a handful of games behind. No team has been hotter of late, however, than the Texas Rangers who as of Monday morning had won eleven straight games. In the NL, there’s a razor-thin four-way race for the Central, the Phillies and Braves are battling hard, and the defending champion San Francisco Giants are holding serve out in the West.
While NFL players and league officials appear to be getting close to something resembling an agreement, the NBA waters are much murkier. Deron Williams of the New Jersey Nets appears to have started a disturbing new trend: indicating (threatening?) to go collect a paycheck overseas playing in Europe as opposed to being locked out. Williams actually had agreed to a contract worth roughly five million dollars before some sort of financial snafu with Turkish club Besiktas scuttled the deal, and reports now are that elite, superstar players like Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard are strongly considering foreign play as an option. The problem of course is that it really is a viable alternative for the players; foreign teams are ready, willing, and able to dump significant cash on these guys, and they can generally play right away. If you were Kobe Bryant, would you turn down what would effectively be an all-expense-paid vacation to sunny Spain? Fat chance. And while it’s unlikely that these guys wouldn’t come right back once a new bargaining agreement is in place, this added leverage of theirs – something NFL players don’t have – makes an extended lockout more likely. Should be a very interesting situation unfolding over the next few months.
When Rory McDowell rebounded from his horrifying collapse at the Masters to with the U.S. Open, I was pretty surprised. When Darren Clarke, 42 years of age and winless lifetime in major tournaments, stuck it out and held on to a three-stroke lead to with the British Open, I was shocked. With the Women’s World Cup final captivating most sports fans, I’m not terribly sure how many people were even tuned in to see this unlikely champion take the trophy, but I doubt it matters much to Clarke. Said the Northern Ireland native, “It’s been a dream since I’ve been a kid to win the Open, like any kid’s dream is, and I’m able to do it, which just feels incredible.” My dream as a kid was to eat cereal out of a mixing bowl and play Sega Genesis until rapture, but that was just me. In any case, the win nets Clarke a tidy $1.45 million—not a bad payday for a golfer known more for missing cuts than hoisting hardware.