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 March 3, 2019.
how to talk with a sports fan this week
we begin this week with two temper tantrums
We begin this week with an unusual confluence of public displays of temper. And a reminder for all you kids at home that nothing is private anymore.
Former Green Bay Packers Head Coach Mike McCarthy was observed following and cursing out high school basketball officials in the school hallway after his stepson’s game this week. The behavior was mostly shocking because it was so very unlike the mild-mannered coach that everyone saw on the sidelines of Packers’ games for many years.
Meanwhile, a video being investigated by Major League Baseball and the local police appears to show the CEO of the San Francisco Giants, Larry Baer, in a public altercation with his wife, Pam. The couple have responded with a statement reading in part “we had a heated argument in public over a family matter. We are deeply embarrassed by the situation, and have resolved the issue.”
For those of you working in PR and image management, sleep easy. There seems to be no imminent shortage of demand for your services.
On that note, Patriots’ owner Robert Kraft pleaded not-guilty to charges of solicitation in last month’s bust of a massage parlor/prostitution ring in Jupiter, Florida. Apparently, he plans to argue that whatever transpired at the Orchids of Asia Spa was consensual.
more sneaker fallout
The taunting of Nike continues apace in the aftermath of the epic shoe blow-out at the Duke game last week. A prominent ad in this weekend’s Wall Street Journal says it all: “Just Blew It. Skechers. We won’t split on you.”
In the annals of advertising snark, that’s actually pretty good. Well played, Skechers.
and on a happier note
Congratulations to Roger Federer! Yesterday at the Dubai Championships, the 20-time Grand Slam Champion became the second male player ever to win 100 tournaments when he beat Stefanos Tsitsipas in the finals. (We should note that Tsitsipas is nearly half Federer’s age). Jimmy Conners is the only other player to reach this milestone. And yes: we did notice that he’s wearing Nikes.
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 March 3, 2019:
The Golden State Warriors are only a ½ game up in the Western Conference as of this posting. The Denver Nuggets are right on their heels. The Portland Trail Blazers are hot right now, too. They’d won 5 in a row, including 4 on the road, before losing to the Toronto Raptors on Friday night. They’re tied for 3rd in the West with a 38-24 record. Our Sports Desk wants to point out that the Blazers are probably the highest ranked under-the-radar team in the NBA right now.
Nice to know:
The heartache continues in Los Angeles. If the playoffs started today, the Lakers and LeBron James (LBJ) would be on the outside looking in. As of this posting, they’re sitting at #10 in the West, with a 30-33 record.
Meanwhile, the “tank-a-thon” continues for several NBA teams. They’re losing so many games that fans are actually hoping that they fall all the way to the bottom of the barrel. Right now, the Chicago Bulls are 17-45. The Cleveland Cavaliers are 14-47. The New York Knicks are 13-48. And the Phoenix Suns are 12-50.
This standing of doom is important, as dismal as it may sound. The bottom 3 teams will have the best odds of getting the top picks in this year’s draft. The consensus is that Duke teammates Zion Williamson and RJ Barrett will be the first two picks. The only debate is over which one will go first.
2. Major League Baseball
Fast on the heels of star free agent third baseman Manny Machado signing a $300 million, 10-year contract with the San Diego Padres comes an even bigger deal. Right fielder Bryce Harper this week signed a 13-year, $330 million deal with the Philadelphia Phillies. “Super agent” Scott Boras brokered the deal. It’s reportedly the largest contract in baseball history. The deal does not include any opt-out clauses, option years, or deferred money. But there are some bonuses built in based on the player’s performance.
Our Sports Desk points out that pending MLB rules changes may make this 13-year duration look a bit more logical. If the Designated Hitter (DH) rule is made standard in the National League (as it already is in the American League), it gives teams more flexibility. In the out years of his 13-year deal, Harper would be able move to the DH role. That’s the norm already in American League, as players become older and less effective in the field.
Nice to know:
MLB 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.
The LA Dodgers may need to look for a starting pitcher as perennial All-Star and Cy Young winner(and candidate) Clayton Kershaw is not even throwing “long toss” at the beginning of Spring Training. The team may turn its focus to the still-unsigned pitcher Dallas Keuchel.
The NFL “Combine” is underway in at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. That’s the annual ritual in which the college players show their stuff in advance of the NFL draft in April. The only significant news so far is that Heisman Trophy winner Kyler Murray of Oklahoma surprised everyone with his stature. He clocked in at 5’10” 1/8 and 207 pounds, similar in size and girth to Russell Wilson, and also in the same range as Drew Brees. This will clearly help his draft position and as the actual draft gets closer. The ongoing concern around Murray is whether or not he’s tall enough to be a winning NFL quarterback.
Interestingly, there was also a lot of talk about the size of Murray’s hands. And some mention of the length of his fingers, too. In this context, size matters. Because the quarterback has to be able to see and throw over the offensive linemen. And his hands have have to be large enough to support a regulation-sized football.
Fortunately, Murray passed the test: as far as NFL quarterbacks go, he’s small. But not too small to be a contender. The quarterback received an offer to join baseball’s Oakland A’s with a $4.66 million signing bonus, but his heart seems to be in football. Watch this space for further updates.
Nice to know:
The Pittsburgh Steelers drama continues. On HBO’s LeBron James (LBJ) show The Shop this week, Antonio Brown continued to throw shade on Steelers quarterback “Big Ben” Roethlisberger. He repeated his claim that the quarterback “had an owner’s mentality.” And accused him for calling him out after the game for mistakes that Ben had made. “He said I should have run a better route, well, he threw it to the D-line, how am I gonna run a better route?”
When asked if Brown might go back to the Steelers, LBJ answered for him: “He’s not going back to the Steelers.” Meanwhile, the Steelers are trying to trade Brown, but its unclear what he will go for. Brown’s former teammate Le’Veon Bell is also shopping himself around. So, the “Killer B’s” of Pittsburgh (Big Ben, Bell, and Brown) are no more. Perhaps LeVeon Bell will join the New York Jets? Watch and see.
Future Hall of Fame tight end Jason Witten is coming out of retirement. He’s leaving his post at Monday Night Football to return to the Dallas Cowboys for the 2019 season. In other Cowboys’ news, the team’s owner did not extend Head Coach Jason Garret’s contract. So he is a lame duck, which is a little unusual. He is either on probation, or they don’t intend to bring him back. Usually these matters are handled more definitively than that.
Meanwhile, on the East Coast, it appears that quarterback Eli Manning will be back with the New York Giants for the 2019 season. The question is whether the Giants will pick a quarterback in this year’s draft. And whether or not they’ll trade Odell Beckham Jr (OBJ) for a larger draft pick haul.
Johnny “Football” Manziel has been released by the Montreal Alouettes in the Canadian Football League (CFL). The player has also been barred from the CFL for undisclosed contract violations.
In related news, Manziel’s wife has been accused of cheating in a race. In her first half marathon – the Run Like A Diva Half – Bre Tiesi-Manziel clocked in at 1:58, which is incredibly fast for a first-timer. However, on further inspection, it turns out that she ran the first 6 miles at a pace of 14-minutes per mile. Her overall time would dictate, then, that she ran the last 6 miles at a 4-minute pace. Hmmm. She denied any untoward behavior, but it doesn’t look good. Maybe that’s just how divas run.
Manziel is now eyeing a role in one of the upstart leagues, either the XFL or AAF. So far, the reception for the new AAF has been better than expected. Some avid football fans are tuning in when there is something of interest. For example, fans of the New York Jets watched when Christian Hackenberg played. There haven’t been many highlight reel plays yet. So the verdict is still out. If Manziel joins, it might bring some much-needed spice to the new league.
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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