TWIST: This Week in Sports Talk is our weekly recap of how to talk about sports this week like a pro. If you’re just starting to learn about sports, or need a quick summary of what’s up in your favorite league, or just want to know why your spouse keeps obsessively checking the sports scores during important social occasions, these are the top stories in sports this week. Here’s what you need to know to talk with a sports fan the week of February 3, 2019.
how to talk with a sports fan this week
We begin with trash talk of the highest order
You may bemoan the current level of discourse in the political realm. But the world of sports still holds the title for most over-the-top verbiage. This week, professional wrestler Ronda Rousey, the former UFC women’s champion, went totally gangsta. She told rival Becky Lynch: “You, me and everyone else here knows that I have the ability to kill you with my bare hands without even breaking a sweat.” Dang. We knew Rousey was a badass. That comes with her chosen profession. But really? Girl, count to 10 and have a cup of tea. Or watch some Seinfeld reruns. That always improves our mood.
On a much happier note, last night Patrick Mahomes, quarterback of the Kansas City Chiefs, was named Most Valuable Player and Offensive Player of the Year by the AP. The 23-year old has just completed his second season in the NFL. He led his team to its first AFC title game since 1993, and threw 50 touchdowns. He’s known for his ingenuity and is a huge fan favorite. Congratulations, dude! You make us proud.
what you need to know to talk about sports this week
For Those Who Do Not Avidly Follow Professional Sports and Want to Be Able to Talk to a Sports Fan, here are the happenings that you should know about for the week of February 3, 2019:
1. Super Bowl Sunday is here
Super Bowl must know:
This. Is. It. Super Bowl Weekend! The time when even the most casual sports fan pays attention to the NFL, even if for just one day. The Los Angeles Rams and the New England Patriots meet at Super Bowl 53 in Atlanta on Sunday, February 3.
Super Bowl nice to know:
The run-up to the Super Bowl is filled with annual rituals – some serious, but most fairly silly. There are lots of interviews with players and coaches, and lots of speculation about the game. Here are some of the key themes you can toss around pre-game with your sports fan.
Youth versus Experience
At 41 years old, the Pats’ Tom Brady is the NFL’s oldest quarterback. The Rams’ Jared Goff, 24, is the youngest quarterback ever to play in a Super Bowl. At age 66, the Pats’ Bill Belichick is the second-oldest head coach in the league. The Rams’ head coach, Sean McVay, now 33, was hired in 2017 as the the youngest head coach in NFL history. Interestingly, our Sports Desk reports that in NFL circles, the veteran coaches are hoping the Pats blow out the Rams and take this young star coach down a few pegs.
This is Tom Brady’s 9th Super Bowl, and many of his teammates have played in at least one Super Bowl. While many of the Rams are at this rodeo for the first time. Which one matters more? Experience or age? It’s the Proven versus the Prodigies. No matter who wins, it’ll be discussed for a long time to come.
Defense versus Offense
The truism in football is that “defense wins playoff games.” You can confidently repeat this statement throughout the early hours at your Super Bowl party, and nod sagely while the conversation swirls around you. Expect a lot of chatter about the Rams defensive line versus the Pats’ offensive line, and about the caliber of the Pats’ defensive backs versus the Rams.
Predictions and Prognostication
The Vegas line currently has the Pats favored by 2.5 points. But in any given random sample of fans, you’ll hear people confidently asserting all of the following: the Rams will win; the Pats will win; it will be a really close game; it will be a blowout. As our Sports Desk says: That’s why they play the game.
One notable prognosticator is Tony Romo. He was the quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys before retiring and taking a spot as a commentator for CBS Sports. He and Jim Nantz will be calling the game, and due to his accurate predictions throughout the season, his new nickname is Romostrodamus (as in Nostradamus). His predictions? Someone will win 28 – 24 and the team that has the ball last will not score and will lose. Ya heard it here first.
Gossip and fun facts
Based on numerous press interviews, here are some of the stand-out issues and beefs that you should know about heading into the Big Game.
Rams fans are worried about whether running back Todd Gurley is going to play.
He missed the final two games of the regular season with a left knee injury. But Gurley has continued to say that he was not injured, just playing poorly. There’s no official news, but the current expectation is that he’ll take the field for the Super Bowl.
The Pats are using bulletin-board material for motivation.
Being told you’re the underdog – or suffering the indignities of highly personal trash talk – can actually be helpful before a fierce competition like the Super Bowl. Coaches have used “bulletin-board material” to motivate players for decades. At the start, this took the form of unflattering or critical newspaper quotes posted prominently in the locker room (thus the name). Says one former coach: “It’s the oldest motivational tactic in the book: ‘This guy doesn’t respect you. He said this.’
In this case, Rams defensive back Nickell Robey-Coleman (the same guy who bulldozed over the New Orleans Saints wide receiver during the championship game in the play that ended with a blownand led to the Rams victory) struck the match. In a barrage of smack talk, he declared his “hatred” for the Pats, and said that Tom Brady is past his prime. Speculation is that head coach Bill Belichick will plaster those comments all over the Pats locker room. Come at me, bro.
Speculation persists about the future for both Tom Brady and his teammate Rob Gronkowski. Gronk says he is only focused on the game. Brady says there’s “zero chance” of this being his last game. Team owner Robert Kraft says he would be very surprised if Tom Brady was not the Pats quarterback for some time to come, and would be happy to sign an extension with him.
A young boy asked Tom Brady how he copes with “the Haters.”
To which Brady replied, “you have to love the haters back.” You hearing this, Ronda Rousey? Pats player James Harrison left the Pittsburg Steelers last season and in an interview this week said he joined the team “wanting to hate Tom Brady. ” Instead, he found that he was the best person and teammate possible. So. Sweet.
don’t miss the puppy bowl!
And finally, if you cannot abide any more discussion of the Super Bowl, turn your attention to the Puppy Bowl. The 15th annual competition on Animal Planet will see 63 adorable puppies in need of new homes compete for the “Lombarky” Trophy. Who will take the title? Team Ruff? Or Team Fluff? Place your bets now, and don’t miss the halftime show. It’ll feature kittens playing with balls of yarn and other toys.
2. Other NFL News
nfl must know:
The drama of the Pittsburgh Steelers has continued through the post-season. Wide receiver Antonio Brown was notably absent from the team’s regular-season finale, and is likely to be leaving the team, based on his comments on social media. Ditto Le’Veon Bell, who sat out the entire season. The “coaching carousel” is slowing to a stop, with the new head coaches all finalized, except for the Miami Dolphins. They’re waiting to get Brian Flores from the Pats once the Super Bowl is over.
nfl nice to know:
Officiating is still a hot topic in the NFL. The league fined the Rams for helmet-to-helmet contact on the controversial play from the championship game against the New Orleans Saints, essentially admitting that officials missed the call. Despite that, bad feelings linger in New Orleans, with quarterback Drew Brees making his discontent clear. It seems even more likely now that the league will develop a new way to review “non-calls” in real time. And also that they’ll change the overtime rules so that each side gets a shot at the ball.
nfl extra credit:
In a final spate of Tom Brady news, Don Yee, the quarterback’s agent is reportedly working to set up a new football league. It would be just for college players who don’t meet the NFL’s eligibility requirements. Apparently, he has urged Clemson freshman quarterback Trevor Lawrence to quit school and join the new league. Lawrence is the phenom who won the College Football Championship this year in a dramatic upset of the Alabama Crimson Tide. Under NFL rules, Lawrence cannot go professional for at least a couple of years. But he could join a new league like this one anytime he chooses.
nfl bonus round:
In the Cold Cruel World Department, a few days ago a local TV news producer in Pittsburgh put up a graphic during a Super Bowl preview segment that read: “Tom Brady – Known Cheater.” The home of the Steelers is clearly not a bastion of Patriots fans, and it was meant as a joke. But the producer was fired as a result. Too harsh? Your call.
3. elsewhere in the world of sports
nba trade news
In the NBA, this week saw a huge trade between New York and Dallas. In a shocking move, the New York Knicks sent the talented 7-foot young player Kristaps Porzingis to the Dallas Mavricks. The 23-year old All Star has been such a phenom on the court that his nickname is “the Unicorn.” Stunned observers note that now the Knicks have an additional $75 million in salary cap room — potentially enough to attract superstar and soon-to-be free agent Kevin Durant. And maybe also Kyrie Irving? The Knicks may also be looking to get a top-3 lottery pick so they can draft the coveted Duke phenom Zion Williamson. Watch this space for further updates. Meanwhile, younger fans in New York are really disappointed by this news, while many of the more seasoned Knicks fans think Porzingis is a perfect match for Dallas owner Mark Cuban.
Meanwhile, All-NBA center Anthony Davis (known as “Unibrow”) has asked to be traded from the New Orleans Pelicans. The Los Angeles Lakers have made an initial offer that’s described as “underwhelming.”
And LeBron James (LBJ) is back in action for the LA Lakers after a 5-week absence spent recovering from a groin injury.
a retirement in ski racing
Lindsey Vonn, 34, has announced her retirement from ski racing after suffering another serious knee injury. She still plans to race next week at the World Championships in Are, Sweden. But those events will be the last of her career. “My body is screaming at me to STOP, and its time for me to listen,” she said. Vonn will exit as arguably the greatest female skier in history, with 82 World Cup victories in five Alpine disciplines (downhill, super-G, slalom, giant slalom and the combined). Sweden’s Ingemar Stenmark won 86, but only in two disciplines. Vonn was the first American woman to win an Olympic downhill at the 2010 Vancouver Games. She also has two bronze Olympic medals. She’s been a tireless advocate for women’s athletics and has significantly raised the profile of ski racing in America. In our book, that makes her the G.O.A.T.
Finally, in our friendly football pool, Team Dandelion holds a (distant) second place at the moment. We known it’s mathematically close to impossible for us to take the top prize. We’re just gonna try to hang on to our runner-up status in the final stretch. Go, Pats!
That’s what you need to know to talk with a sports fan this week. You’re good to go. See you next week!
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