This Week in Sports Talk (TWIST) is our weekly recap to help you learn how to talk about sports right now. If you’re just starting to learn about sports, or need a quick summary, or even if you just want to fake some sports knowledge at work or at the bar with some semblance of credibility, read on. Here’s what you need to know to talk with a sports fan the week of April 14, 2019.
Sports Talk: What You Need to Know This Week
First, some short takes for those in a hurry to get to brunch.
Magic Johnson abruptly exits
The biggest shocker of the week in the world of sports was Magic Johnson stepping down as the President of Basketball Operations for the LA Lakers. He made the announcement abruptly, without having told anyone – including the team’s owner.
Johnson is leaving the team in a bit of a mess. After the dazzling move of attracting LeBron James to the team, the star’s first year was disappointing. Other changes followed swiftly. In a head-spinning turn of events, on Friday, the team parted ways with head coach Luke Walton after three years. Then on Saturday, Walton was hired as the head coach of the Sacramento Kings.
What’s next? Will the team keep its General Manager? Who is going to replace Johnson? For whom can the team trade to give James some help? Watch this space for further updates.
Dwayne Wade goes out on a high note
On a happier note, star player Dwayne Wade of the Miami Heat ended his NBA career on a high note. He’s been on a “retirement tour” all season, and this week he played his last game. LeBron James and a number of other basketball players were on the sideline to see Wade finish it out. He did so in style, with a triple-double. His wife Gabrielle Union was in the stands.
The most memorable photo of the night, though, is more about pop culture than it is about sports. During the game, Wade toppled into John Legend and his wife Chrissy Teigen, who had prime seats on the sidelines (in fact, right next to Gabrielle Union). Drinks splashed, and a quick-thinking member of the paparazzi captured it all. The price of good seats is quite high in some cases.
Happily, no one was injured and everyone was dry by the end of the game. And Gabrielle Union’s expression is truly priceless.
March Madness ends
On the men’s side, Virginia proved victorious, shaking off an ignominious loss last year to a #16 seed to go all the way this year. They beat Texas Tech in the national championship game on Monday night.
On the women’s side, Baylor defeated Notre Dame, 82-81, in a nail-biter to win the national championship.
In a March Madness side note, the feud between the Governor of Kentucky, Matt Bevin, and the Louisville women’s basketball coach, Jeff Walz, continued into this week. The beef started when Bevin recognized Kentucky’s men’s basketball Sweet 16 win, but did not congratulate the women’s team for its Sweet 16 win against Oregon State the same night. Walz called him out on the oversight. This week on talk radio, the governor taunted Walz, saying he was “out-coached” during the team’s Elite Eight loss to Connecticut. Excellent way to teach the kids at home about sportsmanship, Governor. Keep up the great work.
The Masters tournament ends today
The Masters tournament in Augusta, Georgia is on. The final round will be played this morning. Tiger Woods is in the hunt, and people are hoping he has one more Major left in him. The field was wide open at the start of the tournament, and our Sports Desk predicted lots of double-digit scores, with the winner probably being 14 under par (so far, that’s proven to be an accurate call).
On Friday, there was a scare when a well-meaning security guard, trying to keep the crowd at bay, slipped on wet grass and fell, hitting Tiger Woods’ ankle in the process. Given his history of injuries, fans feared an ACL tear or other injury for the golfer. Thankfully, both were unharmed.
As of this posting, Francesco Molinari sits atop the leaderboard at 13 under. Tiger Woods and Tony Finau are tied for second place at 11 under. Inclement weather is expected this afternoon, so the Round 3 tee time has been moved up to 9:20 a.m Eastern. Who will wear the green jacket? We’ll know later today.
the boston marathon is tomorrow
It’s Marathon Monday tomorrow. The 123rd Boston Marathon takes place with 30,000 runners and thousands of spectators gathering in the city on Patriots’ Day. Rain is in the forecast, so the organizers have moved up a couple of start times for some of the later waves of runners.
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 April 14, 2019:
The playoffs are set after a wild final day of the season in which the seedings flipped several times. The first games started yesterday afternoon and will continue through the end of the day today. Check the scores before heading into the office if you’ve got avid NBA fans in your midst.
The current consensus is that it will be the Golden State Warriors versus the Toronto Raptors in the final. But you just never know.
If you want to swagger into work or the gym sounding like a boss on this particular matter, you could say (in the inimitable words of our Sports Desk): “don’t sleep on the Milwaukee Bucks and the Greek Freak to beat the Raptors and the underachieving Celtics to win the East.” In English, that means you believe it will be the Bucks, not the Raptors, in the NBA finals. You might even stake a friendly wager on this, just to stay in the conversation.
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Here are the playoff match-ups in the West. The Golden State Warriors meet the LA Clippers (the Warriors are heavily favored). The Houston Rockets versus the Utah Jazz (Houston is favored). The Portland Trail Blazers versus the Oklahoma City Thunder (Oklahoma is favored). And finally, the Denver Nuggets face the San Diego Spurs (Denver is the favorite).
Game One results to date in the West: Warriors beat Clippers, 121-104; Spurs defeated Nuggets 101-96.
In the East, this is the first-round playoff picture. The Milwaukee Bucks play the Detroit Pistons (sadly for our hometown, Milwaukee is favored). The Boston Celtics meet the Indiana Pacers (Boston is favored). The Philadelphia 76’ers versus the Brooklyn Nets (the Sixers are the favorite). And finally, the Toronto Raptors face the Orlando Magic, with Toronto the favorite.
Game One results to date in the East: Brooklyn Nets surprise the 76ers to win 111-102; the Magic upset the Raptors 104-101.
For teams not in the playoffs, the guessing begins about player trades and head coaches. Actually, that speculation extends to those who are in the playoffs. For example, there’s speculation about whether Kawhi Leonard will leave Toronto after only one season. The Raptors forward reportedly told teammate Serge Ibaka that he “doesn’t know” whether he will return to the team after this season.
hot bats in seattle
The bats of the Seattle Mariners (13-2) are on fire right now. The team has hit at least one home run in each of their first 15 games, setting a new record. Said another way: 23% of their hits have been home runs. Will they set a new record this season?
If you want to toss around some fun facts on the topic, you can note that the New York Yankees just set the team home run record last season with 267. And could it be a coincidence that the 1997 Seattle Mariners held the previous mark of 264? Could be something in the water up there.
The MLB announced suspensions for the Cincinnati Reds-Pittsburgh Pirates bench-clearing brawl during a game last Sunday. Their sanctions: Pirates pitcher Chris Archer is suspended for five games; Reds outfielder Yasiel Puig for 2 games; and manager David Bell for 1 game. It all started when Archer intentionally threw a pitch at Derek Dietrich of the Reds. Yikes. There’s no hugging it out once you go there. The Reds ultimately lost to the Pirates 7-5, giving Pittsburgh a four-game sweep of the series.
The brawl has already been memorialized in a T-shirt for Reds fans. An image of the dust-up is framed like a piece of artwork, with the caption El Guerrero Rojo – the Red Warrior. Who needs Game of Thrones when you’ve got this gripping drama?
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The struggling arch-rival New York Yankees (6-8) and Boston Red Sox (5-10) are preparing for their first series against each other this season. It starts on Tuesday, and both teams are hoping to get back on track before this series begins. For those living across the Pond, note that the Yanks and the Sox will also be playing two games in London at the end of June.
In what fans hope is not a harbinger of the season to come, the home opener for the World Champion Boston Red Sox was miserable – cold and gray. The team celebrated last year’s World Series win, and the hometown NFL stars from the New England Patriots were there, which is kind of cool. Pats team members Gronkowski, Edelman and Gilmore all threw out the first ball concurrently. But the Sox still lost.
Consider this literally Inside Baseball. A beef has broken out between two members of the 1986 World Champion NY Mets team. In a new book called 108 Stitches, former pitcher and Met announcer Ron Darling claims that outfielder Lenny “Nails” Dykstra ranted obscenities and racial comments at Boston’s Dennis “Oil Can” Boyd. Darling says the comments made during the ’86 World Series that were “worse than anything Jackie Robinson heard.”
So far, no one else is backing up Darling’s claims. Former Mets Darryl Strawberry, Dwight “Doc” Gooden, Wally Backman and Kevin Mitchell all say they never heard anything close to this come from Dykstra. People are also saying that it is bad form to kick Dykstra when he’s down. He is bankrupt, and has spent time in jail. In news that should surprise no one, Dykstra is now suing Darling. And surely many books will be sold in the meantime.
And In Case You Thought You Had a Bad Week News, the Baltimore Orioles’ Chris Davis set a Major League record earlier this week with 47 consecutive at bats without a hit. The slugger signed a 7-year, $161 million contract in 2016. He has 4 years left, and he and his contract are now looking like an albatross for the Orioles.
Antonio Brown (AB) continues to mix it up with his former team, the Pittsburgh Steelers. Most recently, he got into an Instagram fight with former teammate JuJu Smith-Schuster. In a post that has since been deleted, Brown randomly attacked Smith-Schuster for a crucial fumble he had late in the Pittsburgh Steelers’ season. Everyone thinks that this is a very bad look for AB. One observer wrote that this episode could be an indication that AB is going to be a big problem for his new team, the Oakland Raiders. Time will tell.
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In the aftermath of last week’s stunning expose about the turmoil between the quarterback and head coach of the Green Bay Packers, both Aaron Rogers and Mike McCarthy are in damage control mode. This week, they professed their love and respect and said they wished they had handled certain situations differently. The article made they both of them look bad, and now it’s clean up in aisle 9 time.
The Packers and the Steelers were both considered top 5 franchises at one time, and are arguably two of the top franchises in the history of the NFL. But the drama on and off the field has damaged the reputations of both teams pretty seriously. They’re making the Pats look positively placid by comparison.
The NFL Draft is coming up April 25-27. On a related note, Heisman Trophy winner Kyler Murray visited the New York Giants this week. Could he be the solution for what to do about Eli Manning? Stay tuned.
The NHL playoffs have also commenced. Settle in, because this is a LONG process. There will be four rounds of best-of-seven series to determine the league champion and the winner of the Stanley Cup. If it’s like last year, this will go on until early June.
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The New York Islanders beat the Penguins in the first game of their first home ice series since the 1980’s. The game went into overtime, and Josh Bailey scored the game-winner to give the Islanders a 1-0 series lead. As of this posting, the Isles lead the Penguins in this series 2-0.
The Columbus Blue Jackets came all the way back for an unexpected 4-3 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning in their first playoff game. The Blue Jackets currently lead 2-0 in the series.
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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