You don’t love professional sports, but your livelihood and/or personal happiness depends upon your being able to converse intelligently about it. It’s a common dilemma with a simple solution: you need to learn a new language. You need to learn how to talk sports. And we’re here to help! The TWIST is our weekly Dandelion Chandelier guide to what’s happened on the field, on the court and on the ice — read it every week and we promise you’ll know how to talk about sports like a champion.
Every Sunday you’ll find the three (and only three) things you need to know this coming week to speak cogently about professional sports with the boss, the gang at the office, your barber, your barista, your secret crush, or your nephew or niece who dreams of being a professional athlete.
This week’s edition of TWIST: This Week in Sports Talk is dedicated to the fine art of trash talk. Our Sports Desk is gearing up for the start of the NFL season by tossing out some opening gibes just to get their juices flowing. If someone you know loves the New England Patriots, or hates them – which pretty well covers the entire universe of sports fans – then here’s an example of how to join the fun.
We mentioned last week that New York teams and Boston teams are always the fiercest of rivals. In the NFL, this means that Pats fans are still fuming because the New York Giants beat them by a score of 17–14 in Super Bowl XLII in February 2008 (considered one of the greatest upsets in sports history) and again by a score of 21-17 in Super Bowl XLVI in February 2012. Eli Manning was the Giants quarterback in both games. So this week, if you get your swagger on and say “the Giants didn’t look so good against the Browns in preseason; you sure they’re still favorites for the Super Bowl this year?” or “The Giants are being ridiculously over-hyped right now – have you seen them play?” you are likely to provoke a response from anyone who is hating on the Patriots and Tom Brady. And you are sure to get a high five from a Pats fan. Either way, you’re in the game!
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 August 27, 2017:
1. “Super-fight” night in Vegas has come and gone. Must know: Spoiler alert! The long-awaited bout between undefeated champion boxer Floyd Mayweather, 40, and UFC lightweight champion Conor McGregor, 28 – aka “The Money Fight” – is now in the history books. The fight between a man with a 49-0 boxing record who had been out of the ring for 2 years and a mixed-martial-arts fighter who had never before taken part in a professional boxing match was always more about hype and pay-per-view profit than it was about athletic prowess. Nevertheless, it was the talk of the sports world for months, and arguably an entertaining late-summer diversion. The match was held at the T-Mobile arena on the Las Vegas Strip (ringside seats reportedly sold for more than $23,000 each). Reports are that there were 6 times more $1 million bets placed in Vegas on this fight than on last year’s Super Bowl. As expected, Mayweather won: the fight ended in a TKO in the 10th round. McGregor fared better than most people anticipated (he was a better boxer and lasted far longer than most experts expected). With pay-per-view rates on Showtime at $100 and viewership expected to tally over 4 million, the fight purse is estimated to be worth over $300 million, with the proceeds rumored to be split 75-25 Mayweather-McGregor. Nice to know: Pre-fight hype included a four-day world tour to London, Los Angeles, Toronto and New York, during which there was epic trash talking. This included McGregor shouting “His little legs, his little core, his little head, I am going to knock him out inside four rounds,” with Mayweather retorting “You line them up and I will knock them down. On August 26, I’m gonna knock this b**** out too.” Kinda makes you miss the poetic banter of Ali-Frazier, no? (Kids, ask your parents about that one). Extra Credit: Mayweather’s win moves him ahead of former heavyweight great Rocky Marciano, who retired with a perfect 49-0 career record.
2. Big NBA trade creates a fan furor in Boston. Must know: For those just joining us, here’s what you missed. In a previous TWIST, we noted that nearly all the top players in the NBA are seeking to align with other top players during the off-season to form “super teams” capable of taking on the champion Golden State Warriors, and that Cleveland Cavaliers’ All-Star guard Kyrie Irving had shocked the league last month by bucking this trend and asking to be released from the Cavs. Asking to separate from superstar teammate LeBron James initially seemed like madness – but then rumors grew about King James’ desire to move to an LA-based team next season. Maybe Irving was crazy like a fox, trying to exit before the team implodes with the loss of James? In related news, last week we noted that since 2013, the Boston Celtics have also been going against the grain, rebuilding their franchise by using smart trades and draft picks rather than by buying expensive seasoned NBA talent. Nice to know: A shoe dropped this week, when the Cavs traded Kyrie Irving to – wait for it – the Celtics. In return, the Cavs picked up Celtics’ star point guard Isaiah Thomas. Does this make the Celtics stronger contenders this season in the Eastern Conference? It’s too early to say, but this is a perfect topic to discuss with your NBA-savvy acquaintances over a beer. Extra credit: Distraught Boston fans have been burning their Thomas jerseys in frustration (Utah Jazz fans did the same thing earlier this summer, when Gordon Hayward left to join the Celts.) Thomas was the “face” of the franchise and a beloved fan favorite since his arrival in 2015. Late last week, LeBron issued a Tweet-storm defending his new teammate and admonishing the fans for their behavior. We’re with King James on this one: it’s not fair for fans to hate on Thomas – he didn’t ask to leave Boston, he was traded. It happens. Gold Star Extra Credit: In late-breaking news, yesterday it was confirmed that at Thomas’ required physical exam a few days ago, it became clear that the player has a lingering hip injury, potentially putting the deal in jeopardy. Our Sports Desk thinks it will hold together one way or another. Watch this space for further updates.
3. LA Dodgers’ pitcher gets close, but no cigar. Must know: Dodgers’ pitcher Rich Hill was a mere three outs away from throwing the major leagues’ first perfect game since 2012 – and the first by a Dodger since Sandy Koufax in 1965 – last week against the Pittsburg Pirates. Instead, due to a 9th-inning error by a teammate, he had to settle for nine no-hit innings (still quite an achievement). But when the game went into overtime, Hill gave up a home run – so instead of a perfect game and a place in the record books, he ended the night with a 1-0 loss. Nice to know: Hill became the first pitcher in major league history to lose a perfect game on a ninth-inning error. In terms of disappointing finales, this puts him in the company of Harvey Haddix, who threw 12 perfect innings for Pittsburgh in 1959, only to lose in the 13th Extra credit: This was the second time in 11 months that Hill, 37, lost a bid for perfection. Last September, he threw seven perfect innings against the Miami Marlins, but Dodgers manager Dave Roberts took him out of the game because the pitcher had been on the disabled list due to blisters and the manager was concerned about his hands. Hill accepted his recent defeat with true sportsmanship, saying “Tomorrow, you put in the work, and it’s a new day. You just keep moving forward. That’s all there is.” Man, we really hope there will be another opportunity for him, and that the third time will be the charm for Mr. Hill. He’s earned it.
It turns out that this was Fight Week in a lot of different places – in addition to the Vegas bout, last Thursday at a baseball game between the New York Yankees and the Detroit Tigers, three separate bench-clearing brawls with real punching broke out. No pay-per-view, no multi-million dollar purse – just a donnybrook that lasted for nine innings. Four batters were hit by pitches, and six players and two managers were ejected from the game. Subsequently, the MLB Commissioner announced that the Yankees will lose catcher Gary Sanchez for four games and catcher Austin Romine for two, which puts the team in a bit of a bind, since they’re the only two healthy catchers on the Yankees’ roster. Both players can appeal their suspensions, and the club could also try to stagger the suspensions to avoid losing both catchers at the same time. It was a bone-headed move on the part of the Yankees – they are currently in the lead by 3 1/2-games in the wild card rankings, and they are racing to catch the Red Sox in the AL East. The Tigers, on the other hand, are one of the few teams already out of the running for a division title. One commentator surmised: “If Derek Jeter was still with the Yankees, this never would have happened.”
Is this the Madden Curse at work? In late-breaking news, yesterday it was announced that New England Patriots’ wide receiver Julian Edelman will miss the entire season because of a torn ACL. He suffered the injury during Friday night’s 30-28 preseason win over the Detroit Lions, causing some to question the wisdom of playing top talent in these August games when they can result in season-ending injuries like this one. It’s a big blow to the team’s offense. But the silver lining might be the opportunity for newcomer Brandin Cooks to show his stuff. He’s said to be “a younger, faster version of Edelman.” And while he doesn’t have the deep rapport with QB Brady that Edelman has – yet – perhaps this will be the catalyst for that to grow.
For those on Colin Kaepernick watch, the player remains a free agent as of this writing. A protest was held at NFL headquarters in New York last week to highlight what is being perceived by some as unfair consideration of the quarterback’s candidacy by NFL teams due to his silent protest against police brutality last season during the National Anthem. At a game a few days ago, several Cleveland Browns players of all races convened in prayer during the Anthem– some kneeling, some standing with a hand on the shoulders of their teammates.
11 days until the start of the NFL regular season. That’s it! You’re good to go. See you next week.
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