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, these are the top stories in sports this week. A sports page doesn’t have to be boring! Here’s what you need to know to talk with a sports fan the week of February 24, 2019.
how to talk with a sports fan this week
Our report this week comes with Trigger Warning – there was an unusual amount of drama in the world of sports this week. Sex, shoes, hundred million-dollar deals and a trip to the hair salon. It’s all right here. Who says the sports page is boring?
We begin with men behaving badly
You don’t have to be an avid sports fan to have heard the news that late this week, New England Patriots’ team owner Robert Kraft, 77, was busted as part of a sting in Jupiter, Florida. He’s been charged with two misdemeanor counts of solicitation for activities at the “Orchids of Asia” spa, reportedly along with over 100 others. The spa has quickly become a tourist attraction, and the case has become the talk of many a table this weekend. Kraft could face penalties from NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell for violating the league’s conduct policy.
Seen through one lens, it’s clearly an awful story: reports are that some of the women at the spa were underage. Many were apparently living in substandard conditions at the site, and were the victims of human trafficking from their homes in China.
However, your sports fan may (at least initially) see it through another lens, which is filled with puns. Many of which involve plays on “Deflate-gate” and takes on how many happy endings Kraft has experienced this year, including his team’s Super Bowl victory. We’re not making light of it – just arming you with the info you need to keep up, whichever way the conversation goes.
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 24, 2019:
1. NCAA Basketball
As the start of March Madness approaches, there is shoe news of the very worst kind in the world of NCAA basketball this week. Zion Williamson, the Duke Blue Devils star freshman, injured his knee 35 seconds into a big game on Wednesday night against University of North Carolina. He made a sudden stop and his shoe blew out — it came completely undone between the sole and the upper. Duke went on to lose the game in a lackluster manner, as the team was understandably distracted with worry. Williamson was diagnosed with a Grade 1 sprained right knee and didn’t play in last night’s game against Syracuse.
Now there’s lots of talk about how Williamson should quit college hoops right now and wait to be drafted by the NBA this June. Why risk being hurt again?
The episode has been a PR disaster for Nike, who supplied the offending shoe. It was a particularly bad time for an epic fail for Nike – the home game was sold out, with tickets going for $2,000 each. Former President Barack Obama and filmmaker Spike Lee were in the audience along with other VIPs. Nike is reportedly “looking into” the incident. Somebody definitely has some ‘splaining to do. In the meantime, social media exploded with many suggestions for Nike on the matter, including “Just Glue It.”
Nice to know:
Despite this injury, the experts believe that Williamson will still be #1 pick in the NBA draft. Or worse case, #2, as a number of scouts believe his teammate RJ Barrett will be the better pro player. The concern some have is Williamson’s size. At 6’7” and 285 pounds, he’s a big man. If you want to get a conversation going this week with your sports fan, you can ask: “Where does Zion play in today’s NBA, when the inside game is not as important as the outside in 3-point land?” No matter how they respond, just nod knowingly.
In tragic news out of Syracuse, after a decisive win against Louisville at the Carrier Dome, Syracuse Head Coach Jim Boeheim struck and killed a 51-year old male pedestrian in a car crash on his drive home. As of this posting, no charges have been filed and incident is being described as an accident. Reportedly, Boeheim was not driving while impaired. As of this posting, Boeheim has resumed his head coaching duties; he coached last night’s game against Duke (Duke won, 75-65).
2. Major League Baseball
Pre-season games are already starting, and the baseball season opening day is the earliest one ever this year. The 2019 Major League regular season will begin with the Japan Opening Series, featuring the Oakland Athletics hosting the Seattle Mariners at the Tokyo Dome in Japan on March 20-21. Traditional Opening Day, featuring all 30 Major League Clubs, will take place on Thursday, March 28.
Nice to know:
After a prolonged period of silence and inactivity, MLB free agency is finally seeing some action. This week, star free agent third baseman Manny Machado signed a $300 million, 10-year deal with the San Diego Padres. The team hasn’t won much in a long time, so fans are hopeful. The other big-name player, outfielder Bryce Harper, remains unsigned and is reportedly still debating where to go. Now the speculation is that Harper will probably sign a contract in excess of Machado’s. He’s represented by “super agent” Scott Boras. So everyone is expecting a $300+ contract now.
Baseball legend and ace Don Newcombe passed away this week at age 92. He is arguably the best pitcher never elected to the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. Newcombe played in both the Negro Leagues and Major Leagues, most recently for the Dodgers. During his prime playing years, he served his country for 2 years during the Korean War. He was the first pitcher to win the trifecta of Rookie of the Year, an MVP and a Cy Young Award. (The next pitcher to accomplish this feat was Justin Verlander). Don Newcombe, as dominant a pitcher as anyone during his playing days, was never inducted into the Hall of Fame. Huh??? This can still be fixed posthumously, MLB – all eyes on you.
The Pittsburgh Steelers are still in a tailspin. This week, they finally released Le’Veon Bell to free agency. The team also “confirmed” that they are finally ready to move on from Antonio Brown, who asked to be traded. Can the team win without them? Time will tell.
At least one root cause of the turmoil is the players’ relationships with quarterback “Big Ben” Roethlisberger. General Manager Kevin Colbert ham-handedly defended his QB, saying that the “52 kids” (out of the 53 person roster) need to follow Ben and should do so. Brown had previously accused Roethlisberger of having an “owner’s mentality.” The QB is known to publicly criticize his teammates, but they are not allowed to return the favor. Most people would agree that he’s not a great leader. For better or worse, the Steelers will be a very different team next season.
Nice to know:
In other, far more mundane news from Patriots Nation, the NFL schedules for the 2019-20 season is out, and the Super Bowl Champion Patriots have the second-easiest schedule of any team. The schedule is matched to how well each team finished the prior season. So it’s meant to be harder for the better teams. But the Pats’ competition in the AFC East did not do particularly well last year, so it appears to be an easy schedule. Time will tell.
Meanwhile, Pats’ safety Devin McCourty says he’ll return for a 10th season, ’cause why not? Only Tom Brady, Stephen Gostkowski, Matthew Slater and Julian Edelman have been in New England longer than McCourty has.
Here’s an important Programming Note. The Season 2 premiere of LeBron James’ The Shop on HBO on March 1 will feature the NFL’s Antonio Brown and New Orleans Pelicans star Anthony Davis (aka Unibrow). The episode was filmed in Charlotte during the 2019 NBA All-Star Weekend. Other guests include Jamie Foxx, Meek Mill, and 2 Chainz. Each episode of the show assembles a mix of personalities in a local barbershop for “un-constructed, frank talk” while the cameras roll.
elsewhere in the world of sports
In hockey, the Carolina Hurricanes (based in Raleigh, North Carolina) are causing a bit of a stir. The team hasn’t had a winning season for quite some time. But their current roster of young players is performing well this season. They have a 16-6-1 record since New Years Day and currently hold a Wild Card playoff slot. Perhaps most notable for the casual fan, though, is their elaborate home-ice victory celebrations, a new tradition just started this season. For example, after one win they played limbo on the ice. After another, it was a game of “duck duck goose.” Some purists see this as inappropriate and undignified. We say let these dudes and their home fans have a little fun! Who doesn’t love a good game of duck, duck, goose?
The NBA is back from the All-Star break, and the Lakers are back in the playoff hunt. LeBron James (LBJ) pulled the LA Lakers to a 111-106 comeback win over the Houston Rockets on Thursday night. During that game, James Harden fouled out and is likely to be fined for calling out the official who called the penalty. Nevertheless, Harden – the reigning MVP – has extended his streak, scoring at least 30 points in 32 consecutive games.
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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