From Sidelines to punchlines

beardsig

A different view of sports

Clearing my mind and notebook while wishing all the soccer haters would convene in Hawaii next week for a therapeutic hot lava bath:

Still kicking

I’m not ready to declare, as some have suggested, that this is the greatest World Cup of our lives. But it has been an entertaining fortnight of soccer with more drama coming from the group stages than I can recall.

Usually the focus for those of us in the United States is whether Team USA will advance to the knockout stages. Sadly, this time around as legit global sporting citizens, we didn’t even have that to capture our imagination.

All the good American players are battling it out on Major League Soccer fields, not the world stage in Russia.

As an old soccer soul who lives for these matches every four years, including that meaningless tussle between England and Belgium on Thursday in which both teams had the luxury of resting their starters, you have to cherish every moment.

I’ve played, coached and covered the game, so I think I know what I’m talking about (operative word, think). So yeah, I’ve got a few thoughts about what we’ve seen so far. And if you hit me up on Twitter, you can get more of my insights when games resume Saturday (@Randy_Beard11).

The fact that 83 goals have been scored  is good but hardly the best. In 2002 when South Korea and Japan co-hosted, 91 goals were tallied in the group games. And four years ago, Brazil treated us to 90.

A record 24 – half of the 48 matches – were decided by one goal, so there was plenty of drama to keep us interested throughout stoppage time every game. Only nine matches ended in a draw and only one of those was a nil-nil result.

The best of those ties came on the second day when Ronaldo completed a hat trick with a brilliant free kick in the final minutes to give Portugal a 3-3 result with rival Spain. That makes it the early contender for game of the tournament.

Alas, when group play was over, Germany became the third straight defending champion and fourth in last five tournaments to be eliminated before the round of 16. Jogi Low’s team only won one game and scored two goals to finish at the bottom of Group F.

Throw-ins:

  • Most meaningless hat trick: England’s Harry Kane with two penalties and a late first half goal as the Three Lions blasted Panama, 6-1.
  • Best late-game heroics: Germany’s Toni Kroos with free kick goal in fifth minute of stoppage time for 2-1 win over Sweden.
  • Most valuable goal: Marcos Rojo’s game-winner in the 86th minute for 2-1 Argentina result over Nigeria, punching Lionel Messi’s ticket to the next round
  • Most efficient stoppage time: South Korea with pair of goals to beat Germany to officially eliminate the defending champions.
  • Round of 16 expectations: France 2, Argentina 1; Uruguay 3,  Portugal 2; Spain 2, Russia 1; Croatia 1, Denmark 0; Brazil 2, Mexico 0; Belgium 4, Japan 2; Sweden 1, Switzerland 0; England 2, Colombia 1.
  • Favored Nation Status: Brazil.

Diego strikes again

Diego Maradona was caught using his hands again.

OK, technically, it was only his middle fingers.

After Marcos Rojo’s goal in the 86th minute against Nigeria secured Argentina’s Round of 16 matchup with France on Saturday, Maradona was caught on camera flipping off Nigerian fans.

If the game had finished in a 1-1 draw, Argentina would have been eliminated.

Read one newspaper headline in Argentina: “From the hands of God, to the fingers of shame.” Maradona scored a goal against England in the 1986 World Cup, getting away with punching the ball into the net. It’s been called the “Hand of God” goal, and shenanigans like that would never stand if video replay existed then.

They said it

Janice Hough of LeftCoastSportsBabe after ex-Stanford basketball star Reid Travis said he wanted to align both my academic and my athletic interests” in explaining his graduate transfer to play at Kentucky: “And he said the first part of that sentence with a straight face.”

RJ Currie of SportsDeke.com: “Scientists say in a maximum of 10 years they’ll be able to recreate dinosaurs. At which time, experts predict, they’ll join the few other beings on earth still watching MLB baseball.

Omaha comedy writer Brad Dickson on Twitter: “Those shirtless Arkansas fans with H O G S written across their bare chests still met the dress code at Applebee’s after the game.”

Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times: “The Milwaukee Brewers have secured new sponsorship with Johnsonville, ensuring that their famous racing sausages will continue beyond this season. To appease the kid demographic, how about adding a couple of little brats?”

Omaha comedy writer Brad Dickson, again on Twitter: “Why aren’t there more Triple Crown winners? Imagine Usain Bolt wins a 100-metre dash race. Then, a few weeks later, he wins a 200-metre dash. Then, you take him and stick him in a 5,000 metre race. That’s why.”

Janice Hough of LeftCoastSportsBabe.com, again: How long until the chants change from “Let’s Go Mets” to “Please Go Mets?” #Mets.”

Syndicated columnist Norman Chad on the United States not being able to qualify for the World Cup: “If it is any consolation, we also stink in math, civil rights, education, gun control, supporting the arts, climate-change awareness, electoral security and cable news.”

Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times, again; Phil Mickelson incurred a two-stroke penalty for hitting a moving ball at the U.S. Open. “You can hit a moving ball?” asked a Baltimore Oriole.

Los Angeles Lakers president Magic Johnson, saying he will step down if team doesn’t sign a max star free agent within two years, like Lebron James or Paul George: “We don’t know what people are going to decide, and we can’t control that. So if guys decide not to come here, it’s not a failure — we turn to next summer. Next summer, if nobody comes and I’m still sitting here like this, then it’s a failure. But if you judge us on one summer, that’s ridiculous.”

The Athletic’s Kirk Penton on Twitter: “That’s some stellar concussion protocol in this World Cup game. Dude got knocked out. His trainer is now slapping him in an attempt to eliminate the cobwebs.”

Comedy writer Alex Kaseberg, after a jockey in New Zealand was knocked from his horse, got back on and won the race: “The name of the horse was Don’t Wanna Be Glue.”

Bombs away

Best of SportsPickle.com’s headlines you’ll see in a nuclear war:

  • How does the entire NFL West being destroyed by flame impact your fantasy football lineup.”
  • “Kevin Durant announces he plans to fight for the United States: ‘They have the best chance to win a World War.’”
  • Study: NFL ratings down because millions of viewers have been killed and also Colin Kaepernick kneeling.”
  • Minor League baseball team holds Apocalypse Night, offering $1 tickets to anyone who is still alive.”
  • Roger Goodell stresses that playing football is safer than getting hit with a missile.”
  • Does baseball need to improve its pace of play so games end before the world does?”
  • “Nick Saban ignores mushroom cloud outside his office window: ‘Champions don’t give in to distractions.’”
  • “Washington Capitals knocked out in 2nd round of Stanley Cup playoffs by warhead.”
  • “Jerry Jones unveils plans for $15 million, tax-payer funded Cowboys Stadium/nuclear fallout shelter.”
  • “Gen. Tebow defies critics, leads late comeback victory over North Korea at the Battle of Denver.”

Headlines

TheOnion.com: “Child at baseball game lost in forest of cargo shorts, milky white calves.”

Fark.com: “Having started only seven games in his career, some NFL players think it might have been a bit early to include Jimmy Garoppolo in the Top 100 Players.”

TheOnion.com: “Every bar patron watching World Cup has different, incorrect definition of offside rule.”

SportsPickle.com: “ESPN promoting 6 p.m. SportsCenter ratings lift was self-inflicted PR wound that furthers ‘ESPN is too liberal narrative.’”

Fark.com: “They’re is definitely something wrong with you when Keyshawn Johnson says you have mental issues.”

TheOnion.com: “Co-worker following World Cup goes all-in on tenuous family connection to Portugal.”

Fark.com: “Diego Maradona tells Nigeria they’re No. 2.”

TheOnion.com: “TBS to revive 1990s Atlanta Braves.”

Fark.com: “Magic Johnson to retire in two years.”

Tweets of Week

Rehastagging my top Tweets from the week @Randy_Beard11:

  • So he first denied, now accepts punishment and apologizes. This ain’t kneeling. Kick his butt out of NFL: Jameis Winston suspended for three games, apologizes for Uber incident.
  • Way to not represent Arkansas. You were one out from winning it all. You hadn’t been blanked all season. But after letting Oregon State off hook Wednesday, you rolled over in surrender tonight. Here piggie, piggie, we got a Omaha barbecue to go to.
  • Indiana University swimmer Lilly King was named the 2017-18 Big Ten Female Athlete of the Year Thursday. The Evansville native becomes just third person – man or woman – to win the award in back-to-back seasons.
  • Wow! World Cup, you never cease to amaze me.
  • South Korea has obtained nukes, devastating Germany. Twice. And saving Mexico.

Clueless fashion

Floyd Mayweather Jr. is now the proud owner of an $18 million watch. More proof he may be hearing cuckoo birds in his head despite being considered the best pound-for-pound boxer.

Sure, he’s worth many more millions – at least $700 million – but does anyone really need a time piece with 260 carats of diamonds set on a white gold base that can’t tell time any better than a Mickey Mouse watch?

But it you want one, its made by Jacob & Company.

From Sidelines to punchlines

A different view of sports

Clearing my mind and notebook while beginning to get excited about another season of college football:

Final stand?

President Trump was back at it again on Friday, taking aim at NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell for allowing the pro football league to freeze its newly-implemented policy requiring players to remain standing during the national anthem.

That didn’t make Trump happy, so he took to Twitter to let his base know what he thinks.

“The $40,000,000 Commissioner must now make a stand. First time kneeling, out for game. Second time kneeling, out for season/no pay!” Trump wrote.

Ol’ Donnie boy does enjoy stirring the pot.

Maybe he could stand to face such scrutiny. First time kissing Putin’s butt, issue America an apology. Second time kissing Putin’s butt, suspension of Twitter privileges. Third time kissing Putin’s butt, impeachment proceedings.

But then we’re past that, aren’t we?

The NFL had announced a new policy this spring following widespread player protests last year. Those protests made the NFL one of Trump’s favorite targets, calling former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick and others, mostly African-American players, SOBs. He said the league’s owners should kick players off teams if they knelt.

He even questioned whether they should be allowed to stay in the country.

So when Goodell bowed to pressure from the players union to review the new rule that would have required standing during the national anthem, Trump was back at it.

The NFL announced the policy freeze by stating, “Our shared focus will remain on finding a solution to the anthem issue through mutual, good faith commitments, outside of litigation.”

Meanwhile, when it comes to his own policies, Trump has been known to reverse field quicker than Ezekiel Elliott.

 Power struggle

Stewart Mandel of TheAthletic wrote a column handicapping the odds of an SEC coach not named Nick Saban winning a national championship. Interesting stuff, but it is guaranteed to disappoint South Carolina fans who have had to watch Clemson’s Dabo Swinney win one title and contend for several others.

Mandel rates Georgia’s Kirby Smart at 3:1, Auburn’s Gus Malzahn at 9:2 and Texas A&M’s Jimbo Fisher, who has won a title at Florida State, at 11:2.

The Gamecocks’ Will Muschamp places seventh on the “others” list at 35:1. And here is how Mandel assessed those odds, calling it “highly unlikely” and pointing out that USC has only played in one SEC championship game: “However, he’s probably only a couple of nine-win seasons from getting hired by an SEC school where he can.”

Speaking of jumping schools, Mandel rates Saban’s eventual successor at 6:1 and lists the favorites to replace him as Swinney, Smart, Malzahn and Fisher.

They said it

Janice Hough of LeftCoastSportsBabe: “Carmelo Anthony has been sent to Atlanta. So while we can’t yet cure cancer, apparently it can be traded.”

Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times: “Ex-NBA player Charles Oakley was arrested on a gambling-fraud charge at a Las Vegas casino after allegedly getting caught on camera trying to take back a $100 chip from a losing hand. Oakley apologists, though, say it’s no more than an over-and-back violation.”

RJ Currie of SportsDeke.com: “Glass half full: Mark Reynolds of the Nationals recently had 10 RBIs in one game. Glass half empty: that almost equaled his RBIs from the previous 35 games.”

Omaha comedy writer Brad Dickson on Twitter: “We’re just beginning hour 18 of the ESPYs.”

Janice Hough of LeftCoastSportsBabe.com, again: “Miami Dolphins could suspend players up to 4 games for kneeling during the anthem. Open note to PED users, if you know you’re going to be tested, kneel & take the same 4 game suspension without the drug taint on your record.”

Omaha comedy writer Brad Dickson, again on Twitter: “England not only lost 2-1 to Croatia in the semifinals, but the team was fined $70,000 for wearing “unauthorized socks.” Since when has Roger Goodell been in charge of the World Cup?”

Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times, again: “University of Michigan researchers have designed a computer that is smaller than a grain of rice. The screen is so tiny, we hear, that even the Orioles’ playoff chances won’t fit on it.”

Janice Hough of LeftCoastSportsBabe.com, again: “Cardinals Manager Mike Matheny fired for being 1 game over .500. Mets fans wonder if he was fired for overachieving.”

Game on

Esports are making inroads in college athletics.

In 2014, Robert Morris University of Illinois was the first college to offer scholarships to nerds, uhh …esports competitors. Less than two years later, there were several other schools onboard, which banded together to form the National Association of Collegiate Esports.

Utah is the first power-five school to have a team, although it is administered as an academic program rather than as part of the athletics department.

But that could be changing as the NCAA explores sanctioning esports teams. The big issues now are that current esports competitors aren’t convinced they need the NCAA’s involvement and realize that their ability to cash in on their gaming careers could be hindered if the NCAA begins its oversight.

Utah’s director of operations for esports, AJ Dimick, told ESPN, “…the NCAA brings a degree of regulation to kids who typically have a way of monetizing themselves in esports, making a little money, and that degree of regulation wouldn’t serve them very well … (But) NCAA involvement would legitimize this in a way that nothing else possibly could and offer a template to those schools to get involved.”

Title IX is another potential issue because of the male dominated world of gamers.

Play for pay

If gaming is on the verge of breaking through, can gambling be far behind?

The NCAA is already busy studying how the nationwide expansion of legalized betting could affect college athletics and its member schools.

Maintaining integrity of competitions is the main point of emphasis, but there are concerns that spin off from there — officiating, NCAA rules, federal and state laws, law enforcement oversight.

Blame the Supreme Court for this mess, which struck down a federal ban in May and gave states a right to venture into legal wagering on sporting events. West Virginia, Mississippi and New Jersey are considering plowing ahead by collecting integrity fees.

The NCAA’s ban on holding championships in states with legalized sports betting, a policy that previously only affected Nevada, has been temporarily suspended by its Board of Governors.

“Legalized sports gambling across the country is rather new, but the NCAA and its members have committed significant resources over the years to policy, research and education around sports wagering,” said Joni Comstock, senior vice president of championships and alliances. “With student-athlete well-being as the centerpiece, we will continue to build upon these efforts to assist members as they adapt to legalized sports wagering in their states and regions.”

Here’s an idea – scrap those debates about paying student-athletes. Forget about integrity initiatives. Let the players gamble on whether their teams will win or lose, but only allow the wagering to be done through NCAA-approved gambling centers.

The schools can track the monetary wins and losses and freeze individual accounts when necessary. And any gambling by student-athletes through unapproved sites will lead to loss of scholarships.

Meanwhile, legal wagering will not only be a way to for the athletes to make some money. They’ll probably also learn some tough life lessons and maybe improve their math skills, too.

Circle the date

From Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times: “The Class AA Montgomery (Ala.) Biscuits will hold Millennial Night on July 21, giving away “free things without doing much work” such as napping and selfie stations, participation ribbons and “lots of avocados.” So what’ll they follow up that brainstorm with, a special event for codgers called Get Off My AstroTurf Night?

Headlines

Fark.com: “UNC football coach thinks the sports is under attack and it will ruin America. He also said Duke sucks.”

TheOnion.com: “Peyton Manning’s wife asks quietly how much longer Papa John is going to crash on their couch.”

TheKicker.com: “How to embarrass losers of the All-Star Game.”

Fark.com: “ESPN ditches its comments sections, unfairly silencing thousands of morons.”

TheOnion.com: “Qatar unveils indentured mascot for 2022 World Cup.”

Fark.com: “Milwaukee Brewers pitcher apologizes for racist Tweets but remains silent about inexcusable mullet.”

Sporting News: “J.R. Smith thinks LeBron re-signed with the Cavaliers.”

TheKicker.com: “Remember when Miami had a pro baseball team?”

Fark.com: “Usain Bolt hopes to replicate (in soccer) the immense success of Michael Jordan’s baseball career.”

Best/worst manager?

The Atlhletic.com beat writers polled MLB players during the All-Star Game break, asking them to rate the best and worst of the pitchers, hitters, etc. They also asked which manager, aside from their own, they would want to play for.

The Cubs’ Joe Maddon topped the list with 27.1 percent of the vote.

But when the question was flipped and players were quizzed on which manager they wouldn’t want to play under, Maddon earned 20 percent of the vote. The only manager who polled worst was the Orioles’ Buck Showalter with 23.3 percent of the vote.

Battle of Scotland

Today is moving day at the British Open, so who’s going to move out of the house that Zach Johnson and Kevin Kisner are sharing this week in Carnoustie, Scotland?

The two, after all, enter the third round tied for the lead.

Johnson, who won this major at St. Andrews three years ago, is to blame because he knocked in a 30-foot putt on the 18th hole to record a 4-under 67.

Kisner, meanwhile, made a double bogey that cost him a two-shot lead. He finished with a 70 on Friday.

After two rounds, the two Americans both have 6-under 136s scores with three others just one shot behind. Five others, including Rory McElroy, are two shots back. And defending champ Jordan Spieth and two others are only three back.

Nine of the top 13 are Americans.

Should be a fun day of watching golf, even if the leaders do tee off a 10 a.m. ET today.

Lane violation

Lane Kiffen is at it again.

During his appearance at the Conference USA media day Thursday, Kiffin said Oklahoma quarterback Kyler Murray was more suited to play pro baseball than college football.

Guess who Kiffen and his Florida Atlantic team open the season against on Sept. 1? Murray and the Sooners.

Murray, who transferred from Texas A&M, was the ninth pick of the first round in this summer’s MLB Amateur Draft. But Murray has decided he wants to play one more season of football before taking to the basepaths.

While he hasn’t locked down the starting job at Oklahoma, he’s the favorite to replace Heisman winner Baker Mayfield in his duel with sophomore Austin Kendall.

Kiffen obviously would prefer to face Kendall.

“(Murray) should change his mind and play baseball,” said Kiffen.

King dethroned?

There are reports that LeBron James’ move to the Lakers could have him moving to an unfamiliar position, too.

According to the Bleacher Report, the brain trust in Los Angeles is anxious to experiment with a small-ball lineup with James playing center, surrounded by Lonzo Ball, Josh Hart, Brandon Ingram and Kyle Kuzman.

James, who is 33 and entering his 16th season, only played the post 1.5 percent of the time last season with Cleveland, according to Nylon Calculus, a basketball analytics site. But the Lakers seem to be convinced the old dog can learn new tricks.

They’d be smarter trotting Magic Johnson on to the court to play point guard.

From Sidelines to punchlines

A different view of sports

Clearing my mind and notebook while proud I’m back home in South Carolina after being away for 19 years. Let’s prove them wrong, y’all:

Perseverance personified

Not many people give Croatia a chance to beat France on Sunday.

But that just means it’s the perfect time for Zlatko Dalic and his players to win it all, capping what has been a World Cup filled with surprises, right?

Never mind that Croatia has never won FIFA’s ultimate prize. They’ve never even won a World Cup semifinal, losing 2-1 to France in 1998.

Now the two nations meet again 20 years later.

France was considered one of the pre-tournament favorites, so it’s not a huge surprise the Les Bleus have made it to center stage in Moscow on the final day of the tournament.

Meanwhile, as good as Croatia has played, no one really thought the Vatreni (The Blazers) would make it this far.

They’ve had to play an extra 90 minutes to get here, being extended to extra time in their last three games.

They beat Denmark on penalty kicks after settling for a 1-1 draw through 120 minutes in Round of 16 match. They then went on to win another PK tiebreaker after tying host Russia, 2-2, in the quarterfinals.

They avoided spot kicks in the semifinals against England, but were living dangerously until Mario Mandzukic’s strike provided a 2-1 win.

In comparison, France outlasted Argentina 4-3, downed Uruquay 2-0 and dropped Belgium 1-0, so they’ve beaten their three knockout round opponents by a combined 7-3 score.

Didier Deschamps Les Bleus has been cruising through a blessed stretch of matches. It’s why the experts are predicting France will walk away with a two-goal win.

Croatia, as logic suggests, has been saddled with tired legs. And France hopes to take advantage with young guns like Kylian Mbappe and Paul Pogba.

But just when you give the Croatian players a standing eight court, they defy the odds and come to life behind Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic.

In a magical World Cup that has been filled with surprises, why shouldn’t Croatia provide the biggest stunner of all.

Prediction: Croatia 3, France 2.

Third place pick: Belgium 2, England 0.

They said it

TBS comedian Conan O’Brien after President Donald Trump tweeted that he is considering a pardon request made by Sylvester Stallone: ‘The pardon is for the guy who wrote Rocky V.’ ”

Janice Hough of LeftCoastSportsBabe: “Apparently new Carolina Panthers owner David Tepper is “contractually obligated” to keep 13-foot-high statue of Jerry Richardson outside stadium. Is he allowed to cover it in pigeon feed?”

Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times: Ex-NBA player Charles Oakley was arrested on a gambling-fraud charge at a Las Vegas casino after allegedly getting caught on camera trying to take back a $100 chip from a losing hand. Oakley apologists, though, say it’s no more than an over-and-back violation.

RJ Currie of SportsDeke.com: “The U.S. beat Belgium in the World Cup — of Quidditch. If ever there was a sport for the Washington Wizards.”

Omaha comedy writer Brad Dickson on Twitter:  “Starting a Go Fund Me to buy CWS umpires a copy of the rule book.”

Janice Hough of LeftCoastSportsBabe.com, again: “Damn, England loses World Cup semi. Could the week get any worse. Oh, Trump is arriving tomorrow. Never mind.”

Omaha comedy writer Brad Dickson, again on Twitter: “If ESPN keeps showing Cornhole I may renounce my U.S. citizenship.”

Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times, again: “Sorry about that, World Cup fans, but soccer’s save of the year occurred in Thailand, not Russia.”

Janice Hough of LeftCoastSportsBabe.com, again: “Serena Williams is bad ass. That is all.”

Scott Ostler of the San Francisco Chronicle on the Warriors signing DeMarcus Cousins: “It’s like you ask Santa for a bike and he brings you a Harley.”

RJ Currie of SportsDeke.com, again: “The Tampa Bay Times printed a list of “investigations, suspensions and allegations” involving Jameis Winston — a total of nine. If stupid was ice, Winston would be Antarctica.”

Apocalypse, now

Jacksonville Jaguars’ running back Leonard Fournette has been asked to be released from his contractual obligations. Not from his real life gig with the Jags, but from his the EA Sports Madden 19 video version. It seems he has a higher opinion of himself than the game-makers, who only gave him an 87 rating.

Headlines

Fark.com: “With LeBron James signing with the Los Angeles Lakers, should Kobe Bryant un-retire and play along with him.”

TheOnion.com: “Serena Williams stripped of title after it is revealed she’s been playing with a racket in each hand this whole time.”

TheOnion.com:  “Qatar unveils indentured mascot for 2022 World Cup.”

Fark.com: “Minor league baseball team to hold  ‘Millennial Night’ with participation ribbons and avocado toast.”

TheOnion.com: “Wimbledon grounds crew frustrated after learning about cement courts.”

Fark.com: “Tampa Bay Rays unveil new stadium plans. Billionaire owner generously offer to chip in 15 percent of the $900 million projected cost. Whattaguy.”

Tag team me

David Arquette is an actor who once made a movie about wrestling, Ready to Rumble. That led to  brief role in WCW storylines, including a short reign as heavyweight champ.

Did I say short reign? He held the title all of 12 days.

Now Arguette is back in the ’rassling headlines with a wrassler RJ City attacking him on the red carpet on Thursday. The two just happen to be scheduled to wrestle this weekend.

“I don’t know how much wrestling is going to happen,” said Arquette. “It’s going to be more of a fight. We really don’t like each other.”

Reads like a wrestling script to me.

From Sidelines to punchlines

A different view of sports

Clearing my mind and notebook while  relieved that my days of living out of a suitcase are nearly over:

Risky business

Neymar doesn’t have an Oscar, Emmy or Golden Globe and he won’t win a World Cup any time soon, either.

He’s a great soccer player and a lousy actor. But if you believe his critics, he could have a great future as a tumbling instructor.

Already, youth teams across the globe are working flops, drops, rolls and anguished cries for fouls into their soccer practices. And soccer haters everywhere are making him the poster boy for what they like to believe is a sport for sissies.

Of course, most of those couch potato critics haven’t been south of 300 pounds in years, couldn’t sprint 60 feet much less 60 yards, and would be begging to be red carded if they ever had to play in a parent-kid soccer game.

But I digress.

The criticism Neymar da Silva Santos Junior  has received isn’t undeserved, but its a shame because he does so much more than writhe on the field.

Yes, he’s overly theatrical, and its time someone sat him down and told him he’s doing the game harm when he barrel rolls 20 yards to get the attention of the ref.

You’d think with FIFA’s introduction of video reviews, particularly with contact in front of the goal, that he’d wise up and just play for the whistle. As crucial as set pieces can be, a little embellishment is to be expected in order to get a free kick. But acting like you have been hit by a truck three times a game can get tiresome.

To paraphrase former United States defender Alexi Lalas after Neymar failed to get a call against Belgium, if a player is constantly crying wolf when there is no wolf, he probably shouldn’t count on help when there really is a wolf.

In his defense, the 26-year-old Brazilian was fouled more times in this World Cup than any other player, including 10 times by the Swiss. That’s more fouls against one player since England’s Alan Shearer was knocked about 11 times by Tunisia in 1998.

One tracking of Neymar’s play during Brazil’s five games in Russia had him on the ground a record 14 minutes. That’s a lot of stoppage time. Or, floppage time.

South Africa’s KFC restaurants even produced a commercial featuring a player rolling across town and into one of the palaces of fried chicken, proclaiming, “Make a Meal of It.”

This, of course, is a World Cup that hasn’t given many breaks to the stars.

Lionel Messi. Gone.

Cristiano Ronaldo. Gone.

David Silva. Gone.

Carlos Vela. Gone.

And yes, Neymar. Gone.

The Brazilian star, if he can still walk in a few years, should have two more World Cups in his future. All of which means he should make his farewell appearances at the 2026 games cohosted by the United States, Mexico and Canada.

But we’ve got miles to go before then, including putting the wraps on the games in Russia.

Belgium  will next take on France in St. Petersburg on Tuesday.

England will face Croatia on Wednesday in Moscow.

It’s the fourth time the World Cup’s Final Four will be an all-European affair, matching the semifinals in 1966, 1982 and 2006.

Brazil, of course, was gunning for its sixth title and hoping to erase the memories of its embarrassing 7-1 drubbing by Germany on home soil four years ago.

Falling behind 2-0 at the half to Belgium proved to be too deep a hole for the South Americans who have never won a Cup in Europe.

I expected Neymar to get Brazil over that hump, but all he could accomplish was getting his name in the record book with the latest goal scored with a 97th minute tally against Costa Rico. No doubt he even bought some of those extra minutes with his time wasting.

Next up?

Now that Brazil is eliminated, I’m  putting my faith in Roberto Martinez and his survivors.  They’ve earned it.

Since he became Belgium’s coach, Martinez has guided the team to 19 wins, five draws and just one loss. That 2-0 loss was in his first game, and it came 22 months ago against his native Spain. Now Belgium is in the World Cup semifinals and all of Spain’s stars are back home.

Setting goals

Kevin De Bruyne’s game-winner against Brazil made him the 100th player to score in this World Cup.  The record is 116 individual goal scorers four years ago in Brazil.

That would seem to be a safe total now that we are down to four games, including the consolation match.

But with just a total of 157 goals scored so far, this tournament can surpass the record of 171 goals scored in 1998 in the United States and tied in 2014 in Brazil. That’s just 3.5 goals per game.

England’s Harry Kane leads with six while Belgium’s Romelu Lukaku has four and France’s Antoine Griezmann  and Kylian Mbappe have three each.

College life

It must have sunk in when someone told Matt McClain that he should enjoy the next four years of his life, that nothing is more valuable than a college education and the life experiences that come with it.

How else do you explain the graduate of Beckman High School in Irvine, Calif., turning down $2.63 million to play baseball for the Arizona Diamondbacks.

McLain is a second baseman the D’Backs selected with the 25th pick in the first round of the MLB Amateur Draft last month, convinced he was ready to begin climbing the professional ladder. So they offered him the full salary slot.

But after pondering the offer for a couple of weeks calculating how many pizzas he could afford, McLain decided he’d rather live out his dream playing baseball at UCLA for at least a few years.

The right-handed hitter is gambling that adding a few years to his resume won’t hurt his draft stock.

“While it has and always will be my ultimate goal to play in the major leagues, I also started dreaming in the third grade about playing collegiate baseball and getting my education at UCLA,” said McLain, who is 5-foot-10 and 175 pounds.

“I spent the last month thinking long and hard about this life decision and came to the conclusion that at this time in my life it is best for me to honor my scholarship to UCLA.”

Let’s just hope for his sake that wasn’t a beachball that blew past him like a 94 mile per hour fastball.

They said it

Janice Hough of LeftCoastSportsBabe: “Apparently over $1 million will be waged on Nathan’s Hot Dog eating contest, with Joey Chestnut the prohibitive favorite. So who needs the World Cup when we still have American supremacy in eating?”

RJ Currie of SportsDeke.com: “Reuters reports an India ATM stopped working because a rat got in and ate thousands of dollars in cash before choking. Probably how the Cleveland Cavaliers feel about JR Smith.”

Omaha comedy writer Brad Dickson on Twitter: “You know an analyst is not on the fast track at ESPN when she’s assigned to be the sideline reporter at Cornhole.”

Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times: “Jake Fromm, Georgia’s sophomore quarterback, broke his non-throwing hand in a freak boating accident this offseason this after previously landing in the ER with a fishhook stuck in his leg. Bulldog sympathizers are already passing the hat to get this guy a PlayStation 4 or something.”

Fox broadcaster Joe Buck, returning to the airwaves after a 15-minute audio failure during an interview with Jack Nicklaus on the U.S. Open broadcast: “The reviews are in — and we never sounded better.”

Omaha comedy writer Brad Dickson, again on Twitter: “The money quote from ESPN’s coverage of the hot dog eating contest: ‘Joey Chestnut owns America!’ ”

Janice Hough of LeftCoastSportsBabe.com, again: “Well, hope Luke Walton enjoyed his time actually coaching the Lakers.”

Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times: “Move aside, jumbo shrimp, and make room for the language’s latest oxymoron, courtesy of the Warriors’ Kevin Durant: 7-foot small forward.

Janice Hough of LeftCoastSportsBabe.com, again: “Eliminating teams from the World Cup on Penalty Kicks is like ending the World Series with a Home Run Derby.”

Steve Simmons of the Toronto Sun on LeBron James opting out of $46 million a year option to become a free agent: “For someone making $75,000 a year, you’d only have to work 613 years to equal what LeBron declined.”

Putting for dollars

Perhaps I’m oblivious to whether people really still care about a rivalry between Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson.

Seriously, is that still relevant these days?

I guess I can see it as the pre-tournament talk at The Masters when all the old greats congregate to make golfing hearts flutter. But the two are talking about organizing a $10 million winner-take-all, 18-hole showdown that they’d sell to some TV network to broadcast.

In this day of dwindling ratings (and advertising), I’d like to think that only The Golf Channel would be interested, but I’m sure I’d be wrong. Otherwise, discussion wouldn’t have gotten this far.

They started talking about this at The Masters this year and had targeted a July 3 date, but couldn’t get all their flags in a row.

But at least they agree on one thing. The prize money is extravagant. A get-richer-quick scheme between two millionaires.

Seriously, there are a lot more important things they could do with their time that I hope they’ll drop the winner-take-all concept and play for charities.

Alas, that doesn’t seem to have crossed either of the golfers mind.

Headlines

Fark.com: “The 2018-19 Warriors are officially more loaded than the Monsters were in Space Jam.”

TheOnion.com: “Does the World Cup enforce the false construct of borders imposed on us by the ruling elite?”

SportsPickle.com: “Colin Kaepernick announces he will no longer protest after reading your aunt’s Facebook post.”

Fark.com: “29 NBA teams to change their name to Washington Generals in 2019.”

Fark.com: “ESPN ditches its comments, unfairly silencing thousands of morons.”

Tweets of Week

Rehastagging my top Tweets from the week’s World Cup action @Randy_Beard11:

  • Croatia and Argentina are only teams to win back-to-back World Cup Games by penalty kicks.
  • Ivan Perisic must have carpentry skills because he hammered that post.
  • Not as many goals. Not the winner I expected. But Belgium was too much for Brazil, and Roberto Martinez just earned his biggest win in international soccer. Belgium 2-1.
  • France is through, now bring on what should be game of tournament. First one to 10 wins. #goalsgalore#brazilvbelgium
  • ENGLAND!!!! God save the Queen, and PKs too.

Fan boy

Lebron James may have just agreed to a  four-year deal with the Los Angles Lakers that will pay him more than $38 million a year, but that doesn’t mean he can’t be a fan of an up-and-coming athlete.

In another sport like soccer. James was spotted this week wearing a No. 10 Christian Pulisic jersey. That’s quite a shout out to the 19-year-old star of the United States National Team who plays foe German club Dortmund.

Quite a treat for Pulisic, too. He’s long been a fan of James.

From Sidelines to punchlines

 

A different view of sports

 

Clearing my mind and notebook while  relieved that my days of living out of a suitcase are nearly over:

Risky business

Neymar doesn’t have an Oscar, Emmy or Golden Globe and he won’t win a World Cup any time soon, either.

He’s a great soccer player and a lousy actor. But if you believe his critics, he could have a great future as a tumbling instructor.

Already, youth teams across the globe are working flops, drops, rolls and anguished cries for fouls into their soccer practices. And soccer haters everywhere are making him the poster boy for what they like to believe is a sport for sissies.

Of course, most of those couch potato critics haven’t been south of 300 pounds in year,  couldn’t sprint 60 feet much less 60 yards, and would be begging to be red carded if they ever had to play in a parent-kid soccer game.

But I digress.

The criticism Neymar da Silva Santos Junior  has received isn’t undeserved, but its a shame because he does so much more than writhe on the field.

Yes, he’s overly theatrical, and its time someone sat him down an told him he’s doing the game harm when he barrel rolls 20 yards to get the attention of the ref.

You’d think with FIFA’s introduction of video reviews, particularly with contact in front of the goal, that he’d wise up an just play for the whistle. As crucial as set pieces can be, a little embellishment is to be expected in order to get a free kick. But acting like you have been hit by a truck three times a game can get tiresome.

To paraphrase former United States defender Alexi Lalas after Neymar failed to get a call against Belgium, if a player is constantly crying wolf when there is no wolf, he probably shouldn’t count on help when there really is a wolf.

 

In his defense, the 26-year-old Brazilian was fouled more times in this World Cup than any other player, including 10 times by the Swiss. That’s more fouls against one player since England’s Alan Shearer was knocked about 11 times by Tunisia in 1998.

One tracking of Neymar’s play during Brazil’s five games in Russia had him on the ground a record 14 minutes. That’s a lot of stoppage time. Or, floppage time.

South Africa’s KFC restaurants even produced a commercial featuring a player rolling across town and one of the palaces of fried chicken, proclaiming, “Make a Meal of It.”

This, of course, is a World Cup that hasn’t given many breaks to the stars.

Lionel Messi. Gone.

Cristiano Ronaldo. Gone.

David Silva. Gone.

Carlos Vela. Gone.

And yes, Neymar. Gone.

The Brazilian star, if he can still walk in a few years, should have two more World Cups in his future. All of which means he should make his farewell appearances at the 2026 games cohosted by the United States, Mexico and Canada.

But we’ve got miles to go before then, including putting the wraps on the games in Russia.

Belgium  will next take on France in St. Petersburg on Tuesday.

England will face Croatia on Wednesday in Moscow.

It’s the fourth time the World Cup’s Final Four will be an all-European affair, matching the semifinals in 1966, 1982 and 2006.

Brazil, of course, was gunning for its sixth title and hoping to erase the memories of its embarrassing 7-1 drubbing by Germany on home soil four years ago.

Falling behind 2-0 at the half to Belgium proved to be too deep a hole for the South Americans who have never won a Cup in Europe.

I expected Neymar to get Brazil over that hump, but all he could accomplish was getting his name in the record book with the latest goal scored with a 97th minute tally against Costa Rico. No doubt he even bought some of those extra minutes with his time wasting.

Next up?

Now that Brazil is eliminated, I’m  putting my faith in Roberto Martinez and his survivors.  They’ve earned it.

Since he became Belgium’s coach, Martinez has guided the team to 19 wins, five draws and just one loss. That 2-0 loss was in his first game, and it came 22 months ago against his native Spain. Now Belgium is in the World Cup semifinals and all of Spain’s stars are back home.

Setting goals

Kevin De Bruyne’s game-winner against Brazil made him the 100th player to score in this World Cup.  The record is 116 individual goal scorers four years ago in Brazil.

That would seem to be safe total now that we are down to four games, including the consolation match.

But with just a total of 157 goals scored so far, this tournament can surpass the record of 171goals scored in 1998 in the United States and tied in 2014 in Brazil. That’s just 3.5 goals per game.

England’s Harry Kane leads with six while Belgium’s Romelu Lukaku has four and France’s Antoine Griezmann  and Kylian Mbappe have three each.

College life

It must have sunk in when someone told Matt McClain that he should enjoy the next four years of his life, that nothing is more valuable than a college education and the life experiences that come with it.

How else do you explain the graduate of Beckman High School in Irvine, Calif., turning down $2.63 million to play baseball for the Arizona Diamondbacks.

McLain is a second baseman the D’Backs selected with the 25th pick in the first round of the MLB Amateur Draft last month, convinced he was ready to begin climbing the professional ladder. So they offered him the full salary slot.

But after pondering the offer for a couple of weeks calculating how many pizzas he could afford, McLain decided he’d rather live out his dream playing baseball at UCLA for at least a few years.

The right-handed hitter is gambling that adding a few years to his resume won’t hurt his draft stock.

“While it has and always will be my ultimate goal to play in the major leagues, I also started dreaming in the third grade about playing collegiate baseball and getting my education at UCLA,” said McLain, who is 5-foot-10 and 175 pounds.

“I spent the last month thinking long and hard about this life decision and came to the conclusion that at this time in my life it is best for me to honor my scholarship to UCLA.”

Let’s just hope for his sake that wasn’t a beachball that blew past him like a 94 mile per hour fastball.

They said it

Janice Hough of LeftCoastSportsBabe: Apparently over $1 million will be waged on Nathan’s Hot Dog eating contest, with Joey Chestnut the prohibitive favorite. So who needs the World Cup when we still have American supremacy in eating?

RJ Currie of SportsDeke.com: “Reuters reports an India ATM stopped working because a rat got in and ate thousands of dollars in cash before choking. Probably how the Cleveland Cavaliers feel about JR Smith.”

Omaha comedy writer Brad Dickson on Twitter: You know an analyst is not on the fast track at ESPN when she’s assigned to be the sideline reporter at Cornhole.

Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times: “Jake Fromm, Georgia’s sophomore quarterback, broke his non-throwing hand in a freak boating accident this offseason this after previously landing in the ER with a fishhook stuck in his leg. Bulldog sympathizers are already passing the hat to get this guy a PlayStation 4 or something.”

Fox broadcaster Joe Buck, returning to the airwaves after a 15-minute audio failure during an interview with Jack Nicklaus on the U.S. Open broadcast: “The reviews are in — and we never sounded better.”

Omaha comedy writer Brad Dickson, again on Twitter: “The money quote from ESPN’s coverage of the hot dog eating contest: ‘Joey Chestnut owns America!’ ”

Janice Hough of LeftCoastSportsBabe.com, again: Well, hope Luke Walton enjoyed his time actually coaching the Lakers.

Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times: “Move aside, jumbo shrimp, and make room for the language’s latest oxymoron, courtesy of the Warriors’ Kevin Durant: 7-foot small forward.

Janice Hough of LeftCoastSportsBabe.com, again: “Eliminating teams from the World Cup on Penalty Kicks is like ending the World Series with a Home Run Derby.”

Steve Simmons of the Toronto Sun on LeBron James opting out of $46 million a year option to become a free agent: “For someone making $75,000 a year, you’d only have to work 613 years to equal what LeBron declined.”

Putting for dollars

Perhaps I’m oblivious to whether people really still care about a rivalry between Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson.

Seriously, is that still relevant these days?

I guess I can see it as the pre-tournament talk at The Masters when all the old greats congregate to make golfing hearts flutter. But the two are talking about organizing a $10 million winner-take=all, 18-hole showdown that they’d sell to some TV network to broadcast.

In this day of dwindling ratings (and advertising), I’d like to think that only The Golf Channel would be interested, but I’m sure I’d be wrong. Otherwise, discussion wouldn’t have gotten this far.

They started talking about this at The Masters this year and had targeted a July 3 date, but couldn’t get all their flags in a row.

But at least they agree on one thing. The prize money is extravagant. A get-richer-quick scheme between two millionaires.

Seriously, there are a lot more important things they could do with their time that I hope they drop the winner-take-all concept and play for charities.

Alas, that doesn’t seem to have crossed either golfer’s mind.

Headlines

Fark.com: “The 2018-19 Warriors are officially more loaded than the Monsters were in Space Jam.”

TheOnion.com: “Does the World Cup enforced the false construct of borders imposed on us by the ruling elite?”

SportsPickle.com: “Colin Kaepernick announces he will no longer protest after reading your aunt’s Facebook post.”

Fark.com: “29 NBA teams to change their name to Washington Generals in 2019.”

Fark.com: “ESPN ditches its comments, unfairly silencing thousands of morons.”

 

Tweets of Week

Rehastagging my top Tweets from the week’s World Cup action @Randy_Beard11:

  • Croatia and Argentina are only teams to win back-to-back World Cup Games by penalty kicks.
  • Ivan Perisic must have carpentry skills because he hammered that post.
  • Not as many goals. Not the winner I expected. But Belgium was too much for Brazil, and Roberto Martinez just earned his biggest win in international soccer. Belgium 2-1.
  • France is through, now bring on what should be game of tournament. First one to 10 wins. #goalsgalore #brazilvbelgium
  • ENGLAND!!!! God save the Queen, and PKs too.

Fan boy

Lebron James may have just agreed to a  four-year deal with the Los Angles Lakers that will pay him more than $38 million a year, but that doesn’t mean he can’t be a fan of an up-and-coming athlete.

In another sport like soccer. James was spotted this week wearing a No. 10 Christian Pulisic jersey. That’s quite a shout out to the 19-year-old star of the United States National Team who plays foe German club Dortmund.

Quite a treat for Pulisic, too. He’s long been a fan of James.

 

From Sidelines to punchlines

A different view of sports

Clearing my mind and notebook while pointing out that morning and afternoon World Cup games, that’s soccer y’all, is drawing better TV ratings than baseball’s College World Series:

Bad boy, bad boy

Jameis Winston was often the best player on the field when he played at Florida State, which is why he won the 2013 Heisman Trophy and finished sixth in voting in 2014.

But he also had to navigate the kind of public relations crisis no Heisman winner should ever face. And now he’s dealing with the kind of allegations you would hope a starting quarterback in the NFL would never experience.

While that may sound Pollyannaish, the truth is Winston can’t stay out of trouble. He’s his own worst enemy.

The latest incident, which is expected to earn him a three-game suspension from the NFL, is the alleged groping of a woman Uber driver in Arizona last November. Winston denies he’s guilty. But the NFL, after conducting its own investigation, believes otherwise.

With a history of misdeeds, not all of which are misdemeanors, Winston has left a trail of warning signs.  Whether it’s stealing cups of soda from a fast food restaurant, shoplifting crab’s legs from a grocery store, causing thousands of dollars of damage with a pellet gun at a residence hall, or shouting an obscene meme in a student union, Winston is no stranger to trouble.

Boys will be boys, ya know?

But by mid-November of 2013, Winston was being investigated for an alleged sexual assault a year earlier. The fact he was never charged speaks to the impact of football at FSU, although he did settle a civil lawsuit out of court and FSU had to fork over a small fortune in a Title IX lawsuit.

Now we know that in March 2016, less than a year after the Tampa Bay Buccaneers drafted him No. 1 overall, Winston was apparently behaving like a Donald Trump understudy.

You know, grabbing women by the p—ssy.

I’ve never been prouder that Winston didn’t get a Heisman vote from me in 2013 or 2014.

The Bucs still consider him the face of the franchise, but they’d be smart to start trying to squeeze some trade value out of Winston before its too late.

Mixed signals

There’s no crying in soccer.

Tom Hanks didn’t say it, but Brazil’s largest newspaper, O Globo, did when star Neymar Jr. was seen sitting on the field covering his face with his hands as he shed tears following a 2-0 victory over Costa Rica on Friday.

The camera lingered on him uncomfortably long, capturing the emotion the win generated.

Both goals for Brazil came in stoppage time, including a forceful tap-in by Neymar, so it was a hard-fought victory against a well-organized Costa Rica team.

But for Brazilians, who like to dance in the stands to their soccer, the sight of Neymar breaking down is a cause of concern. Especially when the team has only played two games.

“A team needs to demonstrate mental strength, not fragility. Genuine or not, Neymar’s crying is worrying,” wrote 0 Globo.

Brazil is tied with Switzerland atop Group E with four points each, but it hasn’t cleared a path to the knockout stages going into Wednesday’s match with Serbia.

They said it

Omaha comedy writer Brad Dickson on Twitter: “I had a dream last night that Phil Mickelson shows up at the College World Series, races onto the field during a slow roller back to the mound, and bats the ball twice.”

TBS comedian Conan O’Brien after President Trump said the North Korean dictator was invited to the White House: “Unless, of course, Kim Jong Un wins the Super Bowl or the NBA championship.”

RJ Currie of SportsDeke.com: “Packers QB Aaron Rodgers was given an honourary doctrate from the Medical College of Wisconsin. And like many a doctor in private medicine, he can really hurt you in the pocket.”

Omaha comedy writer Brad Dickson on Twitter, again: “CWS visitors are learning that “Omaha” is an old Indian word meaning “rain delay.”

NBC comedian Seth Myers on the Golden State Warriors championship parade: “And to add insult to injury, they held it in Cleveland.”

Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times: “Wake Forest, citing an undisclosed violation of team rules, has suspended starting quarterback Kendall Hinton for the first three games of the 2018 season. Or as Demon Deacons apologists tried to spin it, three-and-in.”

Janice Hough of LeftCoastSportsBabe: “Argentina and Messi would like to thank Melania Trump and her jacket for making sure they weren’t the most embarrassing story of the day. #WorldCup”

RJ Currie of SportsDeke.com, again: “Happy Father’s Day. My dad died when I was young, but taught me to swim “army-style” by tossing me into a lake. I got to shore, but had a tough time getting out of the duffel bag.”

Janice Hough of LeftCoastSportsBabe.com, again: “Red-hot Nationals rookie Juan Soto debuted on May 20. Today in continuation of a May 15 interleague game against NY, he hit a 2 run game winning homer. So the hit and RBI count before his actual first game..AND against the Yankees?!   Amazed MLB didn’t somehow disallow it.”

Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times, again: “If Avis is looking for a modern-day spokesman for a tried and true ad campaign, Gronkowski was No. 2 in Belmont Stakes as well as No. 2 in the Super Bowl.”

NBC comedian Jimmy Fallon: “The U.S. will host the 2026 World Cup with Mexico. Players can either travel from the U.S. to Mexico by plane or just walk past the wall that still won’t be built.”

Comedy writer Jim Barach: “San Francisco Giants reliever Hunter Strickland broke his hand punching a door after a blown save. Since he forgot to open the door first, he officially loses his status as a closer.”

Brady bunch

Tom Brady has negotiated playing at least two more years. It’s in his contract with the New England Patriots, and sealed with a kiss with wife Gisele Bundchen.

But while Brady, 41, playfully suggested during an interview with Oprah Winfrey on Sunday that he’d like to stick it out in the NFL until he’s 45, there are other voices who may get a vote. His three children.

“I don’t want to be a dad that’s not there driving my kids to their games,” Brady said. “I think my kids have brought a great perspective in my life, because kids just want the attention.

“You better be there and be available to them, or else they’re going to look back on their life and go, ‘Dad didn’t really care that much.'”

Fire sale

Dick’s Sporting Goods stores in the Cleveland area are selling LeBron James jerseys at half price, gambling that the time to unload King James merchandise has arrived.

Thus, a No. 23 jersey that normally retails at $110 can now be had for $55.

We won’t know if Dick’s is correct in believing that the four-time league MVP is prepared to bail on his hometown Cavaliers for the second time in eight years until after July 1.

The last time he left – taking his “talents to South Beach” – Cleveland fans burned his jerseys. So by buying the discounted merchandise it may make it easier to torch a few more jerseys.

World Class Tweets

Rehastagging my top Tweets from a week of watching World Cup soccer @Randy_Beard11:

  • Iceland, you don’t need more fans to do the wave. You need more skilled, quick defenders who don’t just wave at attacking players going to goal.
  • Nigeria’s Musa > Argentina’s Messi. At least in this World Cup but they can settle it on field when they play each other Tuesday.
  • World Cup update: Ronaldo 3, Messi 0.
  • Croatia: “Don’t cry for me, Argentina.”
  • Diego Maradona looks worried. Argentina needs “Diego” Messi to arrive because Lionel Messi isn’t getting it done at moment because Iceland’s defensive focus

Headlines

TheOnion.com: “Overly enthusiastic Cristiana Ronaldo accidentally rips off upper-body skin after scoring goal.”

Fark.com: “Tom Brady has given a hint on his retirement age. Let’s just say it’s an age most of us want to retire at.”

TheOnion.com: “Ovechkin hopes to inspire other athletes to power through month-long bender.”

Fark.com: “A new contestant for sports injury of the year: Brandon Morrow goes on the DL for throwing out his back taking off his pants.”

TheOnion.com: “Lionel Messi pissed after forgetting to wear Fitbit during last game.”

Fark.com: “Mikal Bridges was drafted by the Philadphia 76ers, the team his mother works for. Then he was traded.”

TheOnion.com: “Has the U.S. Men’s Soccer Team earned the right to watch the World Cup?”

Real whopper!

Hey, it could be argued that Russia’s Burger King division was only trying to do its part in helping to build a stronger national soccer team.

With the country hosting the World Cup, the burger joint had ads on social media offering 3 million rubles and a lifetime supply of Whoppers to women who were impregnated by members of one of the World Cup teams.

To quote the ad: “For these girls, it will be possible to get the best football genes, and will lay down the success of the Russian national team on several generations ahead. Forward! We believe in you!”

Burger King’s Russian division is no longer running the ad on social media and has apologized.

Family affair

Meanwhile, rather than focusing on the act of impregnating, Denmark’s players turned their attention to the finished product. When defender Jonas Knudsen’s wife, Trine, delivered their daughter ahead of schedule, his teammates took up a collection to pay for him to fly home.

“We wanted to look at the human side,” said goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel. “There are lots of fathers in the squad. You have to remember we are human beings as well as footballers.”

So, after Denmark beat Peru 1-0 last Saturday, Knudsen made a quick trip home courtesy of a private jet. He was back in Russia on Monday.

Ratings game

The web site, newarena.com, likes to rate the greatest players in various sports and skills, like their recent rankings of the 25 greatest hitter in baseball: 1. Ted Williams, 2. Babe Ruth; 3. Stan Musial; 4. Ty Cobb; 5. Rogers Hornsby; 6. Lou Gehrig; 7. Roberto Clemente; 8. Mickey Mantle; 9. Willie Mays; 10. Tony Gwynn. 11. Hank Aaron; 12. Barry Bonds; 13. Pete Rose; 14. Honus Wagner; 15. Ichiro Suzuki; 16. Rod Carew; 17. Joe DiMaggio; 18. Frank Robinson; 19. Jimmie Foxx; 20. Ken Griffey, Jr.; 22. Alex Pujols; 23. Shoeless Joe Jackson; 24. Alex Rodriquez; 25. Mike Trout.

Maybe baseball really is America’s PASTTIME.

From Sidelines to punchlines

A different view of sports

Clearing my mind and notebook while wondering if FIFA colluded with Russia in scheduling the host nation’s 5-0 rout of Saudia Arabia in Thursday’s opening match of the 2018 World Cup:

Thrice as nice

For a World Cup that doesn’t include the United States, Holland or Italy – half the teams I expect to see something special from every four years – I’m good.

That’s because the world was treated to something truly special Friday when Ronaldo and Portugal clashed with rival Spain in a Group B game Friday afternoon at Fisht Olympic Stadium in Sochi, Russia.

Ronaldo finished  a hat trick outing with a tremendous free kick goal in the final minutes of regulation to secure a 3-3 draw. It was his first spot kick goal in a major international tournament, and it sent a message that he’s looking to secure his legacy on the world’s greatest stage.

Ronaldo delivered with a penalty in just the fourth minute when he was taken down  by Nacho Fernandez. It wasn’t the worst of fouls, but it was enough to get the match off to a frenetic start.

Spain’s Diego Costa made it 1-1 just  20 minutes later by asserting himself in front of goal. But just before halftime, and after another 20 minutes, Ronaldo made it 2-1.

Costa equalized again 11 minutes into the second half and Nacho redeemed himself to give Spain its only lead three minutes later with a canon blast inside the left post.

Then it happened. Ronaldo made certain Portugal left the field with at least one point from its opener by tucking an incredible  shot over the wall and inside the upper right post. For new Spain manager Fernando Hierro, it had to be a crushing blow for his debut on the world stage.

But for Ronaldo, it was pure joy.

“I am very happy. It’s a personal best, which is beautiful,” said Ronaldo. “It’s one more record in my career.”

But Ronaldo also knows that he alone can’t deliver the goods, as evidenced by Portugal’s European title two years ago when the team had to find a different way to squeeze out the right combination of  wins and draws.

“It’s more important to highlight what the team has done, playing against a favorite for the World Cup,” said Ronaldo. “In my opinion it was a fair result … and a hard fought game.”

If nothing else happens in this World Cup, at least we were treated to something remarkable by two of my other favorite national teams to follow.

We’ll have to wait until Sunday to see if Brazil can work out the organizational kinks against Switzerland.

Viking power

I should confess that with the United States sitting out this World Cup (further proof of no collusion with Russia), my underdog loyalties will switch at least briefly to Iceland.

They’ll need to possess some of their Viking spirit with Lionel Messi and Argentina providing the opening round test in Group D test Saturday.

Athlete rights

The revolution is gaining steam.

Two rules were passed this week that will give student athletes more control of their futures starting this fall.

It’s a huge change for college football, which arguably has been impacted more than any other sport by NCAA participation rules as it affects redshirting as well as unfair transfer rules.

With the changes, football players can now participate in as many as four games and not lose a year of eligibility.

That means that if a player gets injured within the first four games, there will be no need to petition for a medical redshirt. It also means that if a player who was being redshirted is forced into action in the final four games of a season, they won’t lose an entire year of eligibility. Or, if an injury to another player happens early in the season, a redshirted player could be activated for as many as four games while the coaching staff manages the roster.

The player would still have four full seasons of eligibility as long as he didn’t participate in more than four games.

The other change oversees the transfer process.

Previously, a student/athlete had to ask permission to transfer and also abide by restrictions that might limit where he or she could transfer. Thus, a school could prevent a player from transferring to another conference school or to a state rival.

It’s a petty policy that too many schools abused without any concern for how it affected a student-athlete, who might  just wish to transfer to another in-state school to remain close to home.

Now any student-athlete who wishes to transfer only has to inform their current institution of their decision. Starting Oct. 13, the student-athlete’s name will be entered into a database that other schools can see. Then any interested schools may contract the player.

That said, players will still have to sit out a season abd conferences can still choose to restrict a player from transferring to another conference school.

But putting up a nonsensical roadblock isn’t likely to happen with the way student-athletes rights are evolving.

They said it

Janice Hough of LeftCoastSportsBabe: “Tiger Woods made a triple-bogey on his first hole today. Does this mean ESPN is likely to give up this weekend’s U.S. Open coverage?”

RJ Currie of SportsDeke.com: “Serena Williams said a pec injury affecting her arm forced her to pull out before a French Open match with Maria Sharapova. Surprising. I thought she only needed one arm to beat Sharapova.”

Mike Bianchi of Orlando Sentinel: “Alabama football coach Nick Saban says he didn’t run out of gas while spending an afternoon on the lake with some of his Alabama players last week, the boat just had a faulty fuel pump. Personally, I think UCF AD Danny White drained the tank!”

Omaha comedy writer Brad Dickson on Twitter: “Dennis Rodman has arrived in Singapore for the North Korean summit. OK, there’s another in a looooong list of sentences that I never thought I’d be typing.”

Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times: “In NFL news, Coastal Carolina bestowed an honorary doctorate on alumnus and Washington cornerback Josh Norman. It was reportedly a Doctor of Humane Letters with a trash-talking minor.”

Norman Chad on Twitter: “I once was at a drive-in one car behind James Harden and they called a foul on me while he was ordering.”

RJ Currie of SportsDeke.com on the Golden State Warriors’ Draymond Green’s habit of running his mouth: “I’m thinking he must have been vaccinated as a child with a phonograph needle.”

Janice Hough of LeftCoastSportsBabe.com, again: “Thanks to Steve Chapman for this comment last night ‘Justify turned down an invitation to the White House. When asked why, the Triple Crown winner said, “If I wanted to see a horse’s ass I would have finished second.”

Comedy writer Alex Kaseberg: “Yale beat Duke to win the NCAA title for lacrosse. It was a hard-fought game. At one point, a fight broke about between the players’ butlers and chauffeurs.”

Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times: “Warriors star Steph Curry has twice headed to the links between games of the NBA Finals, GolfChannel.com reported, and shot a 71 both times. Which is even more impressive, golf wags say, when you consider he’s wired to shoot every 24 seconds.”

Golfer  Tim Herron to the St. Paul Pioneer Press on what he may do with the more than $160,000 he won after tying for 11th at the Fort Worth Invitational: “Probably put it in my kids’ college fund – it might cover a year when they’re all going to school.”

Bucks’ forward Giannis Antetokounmpo on Twitter after trying some American junk food: “Just tried a corndog for the first times … Man, God bless America!”

Royal pain

We can debate all summer whether LeBron James broke a hand punching a white board in Game 1 of the NBA Finals, but that certainly isn’t why the Golden State Warriors won another title.

I am convinced, however, that King James banged his head against a locker room wall. Why? Because after being swept in the finals, James still has an inflated sense of self.

No, not financially. Egotistically.

He used ESPN in 2010 to announce he was “taking his talents to South Beach” when he left Cleveland for Miami. Then he struck a deal with Sports Illustrated in 2014 to let it be known he was headed back to Cleveland.

Now, another four years later, the rumors are flying that James may again be on the move. Los Angeles? Philadelphia? Boston?

Or will he stay put in Cleveland?

The Ringer’s Bill Simmons is floating a theory that James is filming a documentary to announce where he will play next. The natural landing place for that documentary is on James’ own podcast site, UNINTERRUPTED.

Mark me down as UNINTERESTED.

Headlines

TheOnion.com: “Moscow officials deny accusations of money laundering after World Cup game played in $1.2 billion gravel lot.”

Fark.com: “Super Bowl champions finally get their rings, 30 years later.”

TheOnion.com: “Ovechkin knocks out rest of teeth while kissing Stanley Cup.”

Fark.com: Gronkowski bet $69 on Gronkowski He won $950.”

TheOnion.com: “Cash-straped FiveThirtyEight lays off dozen of top algorithms.”

Fark.com: “Russia’s World Cup corruption is so massive, it can be seen from orbit.”

TheOnion.com: “Justify, Bravazo get into skirmish during Belmont Stakes weigh-in.”

Fish tales

Records are made to be eaten.

At least that’s the mindset Ahmed Majeed had after he caught a channel catfish last Saturday at Green Lake in the Seattle area. He knew he had a big fish by just looking at it, but it also weighed in at a whopping 45 pounds.

Only one problem. He weighed it on a home scale.

The Washington state record for a channel catfish is 36.2 pounds. To officially beat that, Majeed was told by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife that he had to have the fish’s weight confirmed by a certified scale.

Majeed had other priorities that a listing in a record book.

He told Q13 Fox that he chose not to wait because he didn’t want the fish to spoil, so he carved the fish into fillets.

“I gave some to my mom, my brother and I still have a bunch in the freezer,” Majeed told Q13 Fox.

Despite his meal plans, Majeed, 35, says he hasn’t given up on his record quest.

The WDFW has shared photos of the catch on Instagram.

Dripping sarcasm

Now we know Tom Brady will do anything to have his way.

During an interview with Vogue, Gisele Bundchen revealed how the New England Patriots’ quarterback proposed to her.

“He made up this whole story how my apartment was flooding and I ran over there to try to fix the situation,” she said. “When I got there the whole apartment had candles and rose petals everywhere.’’

Pretty snarky of ol’ Tom.

But the real lesson from that confession is that if you ever have any plumbing issues, you need to have Giselle on speed dial.

Checking in

It’s been rather hectic two weeks, which explains why I didn’t blog last week.

I split the week between Indiana and South Carolina.

Sold the house in Evansville, although closing isn’t for another month.

Learned our banker in S.C home purchase was fired, so our paperwork is behind. Bank assigned new mortgage loan officer, and we’re making up for lost time.

And because of a bulging disc that has me on meds that make me drowsy, I’m having my car transported from Indiana to South Carolina.

But I will have a blog post this week. So good news, right?

 

 

 

 

 

 

From Sidelines to punchlines

A different view of sports

Clearing my mind and notebook while noting that we still have to wait another week to find out if Justify can win the Belmont Stakes and join the exclusive Triple Crown club:

Untypical owner

So, let’s get this straight. The Carolina Panthers were in the market for a new owner because their previous owner, Jerry Richardson, was an older white guy who was prone to making sexist and racist remarks to office employees.

Now they are owned by another white rich guy, not as old mind you, who has a history of making his own sexist remarks, including this comment about his wealth to a writer for New York Magazine. When pondering how to spend his money, the 60-year-old David Tepper said he could buy an island, a personal jet or “a 22-year-old.”

A Pittsburgh native, he previously owned a 5-percent share of the Steelers. He has a net worth that is around $11 billion dollars, which makes him the second richest owner of an NFL team behind Seattle’s Paul Allen.

Allen rarely gets into public spats and mostly stays out of the way as the NFL conducts its business. That won’t be Tepper’s style. He doesn’t often think before speaking and when he feels strongly about something he can be rather loud and forceful in expressing his opinions. He once kept a large set of brass testicles on his desk at Appaloosa Management.

“He’s not afraid to speak his mind. That’s for sure,” Steelers owner Art Rooney told the Washington Post’s Kent Babb.

Still, his purchase of the Panthers was approved unanimously by the other owners.

Tepper joined the billionaire club by 2003, cashing in on distressed companies such as Enron and WorldCom. In 2010 his company pocketed $7 billion on a single deal. According to Babb, prior to gaining attention of cable financial news shows, Tepper was known to verbally abuse employees and fling breast implants around the office.

“I’m just a regular upper-middle-class guy who happens to be a billionaire,” Tepper told New York Magazine.

He also said he has “a great appreciation for how stupid I am.”

Need proof. He sometimes lets his grudges get the better of him — at least financially. He once bought a beachfront mansion of a Goldman Sachs supervisor who had passed Tepper over for a promotion. Tepper paid $43.5 million for the home and had it demolished. He also once considered buying a restaurant so he could fire a waiter who had been rude to him, according to the Post story.

And when it comes to politics, he’s not afraid of President Trump, as NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell appears to be. After the recent flap over whether NFL players are disrespecting our flag and anthem by kneeling to protest criminal injustice, the players may have another owner on their side.

That’s not certain since Tepper hasn’t weighed in publically on the NFL’s new policy, that wasn’t negotiated with the player’s union. But he has made his feelings known about Trump, who has so far managed to spin the debate for his supporters, claiming the players are un-American if they don’t stand for the anthem.

Those are largely black players, we should note.

In 2016, he said of the then Republican nominee as someone who “masquerades as an angel of light, but he is the father of lies.” He’s also said Trump is a “demented, narcissistic and a scumbag.”

It should be an interesting, bumpy ride.

Best crossover

Former Atlanta Braves pitcher John Smoltz, an MLB Hall of Famer and current TV baseball analyst, has qualified for the U.S. Senior Open golf tournament at a qualifying tournament in Peachtree City, Georgia.

Smoltz, 51, won his spot by winning a three-man playoff at Planterra Ridge Golf Club. He shot a 69, and then earned his ticket on the third playoff hole.

The U.S. Senior Open Championship will begin June 29 at the Broadmoor-East Course in Colorado Springs.

Tweet of week

From the Vegas Golden Knights’ official account on May 19:

“On this day in Golden Knights history: Actually, not much happened. We didn’t have a team yet. Probably just had meetings.”

They said it

RJ Currie of SportsDeke.com: According to a new study, getting extra sleep on Sundays can help prevent premature death. Finally, some good news for Cleveland Browns fans.

Orioles Hall of Famer Brooks Robinson on whether he’s still capable of playing Gold Glove defense at third base at age 81: “I can still dive and catch ‘em, but I can’t get up.”

Mike Bianchi of Orlando Sentinel: “No (Steve) Clifford is not a sexy hire, but, let’s be honest, the Magic don’t exactly have a sexy job. As far as sexiness goes, the Magic job is Chris Christie.”

Omaha comedy writer Brad Dickson: “Sports gambling may soon be legal. Millions of Americans will abandon playing the Powerball Lottery to bet against the Cleveland Browns.”

Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times: “Cowboys offensive line coach Paul Alexander says he judges his players’ mental acumen by the way they pour ketchup out of a bottle. Our condiments to the coach.”

Janice Hough of LeftCoastSportsBabe: “Warriors do live a charmed life. In 1015, Kyrie Irving was injured in Game 1. In 2017, Kawhi Leonard was injured in Game 1. And in 2018, JR Smith WASN’T injured in Game 1.”

Omaha comedy writer Brad Dickson, again, after a Japanese kayaker was banned for eight year for spiking a rival’s drink: “I’m pretty sure that’s legal at the Tour de France.”

Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times, again: “Georgia quarterback Jake Fromm wound up in the ER after he got a fish hook stuck in his leg. Bulldog apologists immediately blamed it on his line.”

Currie of SportsDeke.com: “The U.S. Supreme Court legalized sports gambling across all states. This just in from Pete Rose: “It wasn’t cheating. I was ahead of my time.”

Norman Chad of the Washington Post on Twitter: “Jerry West dribbling should be replaced as the NBA logo by LeBron James with both arms extended questioning a non-call.”

Seahawks broadcaster Steve Raible on late Chuck Knox’s superstition of changing hotels if his team had lost there during previous seasons: “We stayed every place but the YWCA (in) Kansas City.”

Comedy writer Argus Hamilton: “The NFL has just slapped a 15-yard penalty on players who don’t watch Fox News in their hotel room.”

Janice Hough of LeftCoastSportsBabe.com, again: “Lakers indicating they won’t draft LiAngelo Ball. Gosh, wonder why they wouldn’t want a mediocre player who’s already been arrested for theft and would double the team’s fun with dad LaVar.”

Bolt denied

Usain Bolt, officially, won nine Olympic gold medals. But he’ll only be credited with eight by the International Olympic Committee after it stripped Jamaica’s 4×100 relay team in 2008 of its gold medal because of a failed drug test by Nesta Carter, who ran the first leg of the race.

But here’s the thing: Carter’s failed test came during retesting in 2016. Carter’s sample allegedly contained the banned substance methylhexaneamine, a stimulant.

Carter appealed but on Thursday, the IOC’s Court of Arbitration for Sports denied his challenge.

Bolt participated in the 100-meter, 200-meter and 4×100 relay in the 2008, 2012 and 2016 Olympics and won each of the events. It gave him a perfect gold medal record – nine for nine – until the CAS stripped Jamaica of its world record win in 2008.

Eight years, and one Olympic Games, after the fact.

The IOC now says Bolt wa 8 for 9 in his golden attempts.

Meanwhile, now that Bolt is retired from his career as a world class sprinter, he has turned his attention to soccer. He currently is training with Norwegian club, Stromsgodset, for a charity match he will participate later this month in Manchester, England. His end game is to  attract attention from a top European club.

The 6-foot-5 Bolt, 31, has already trained this year with Borussia Dortmund of Germany and Sundowns in South Africa.

“It’s something I really want to do and pursue,” Bolt said. “That’s why I’m really training to make sure when I get to this charity match, I’m at my best and focused. And hopefully everything will come together, a team will see what kind of talent I have.

“You never know, I might get picked up. We’ll see what happens.”

To the rescue

Deliah Cassidy was stuck. Traveling home to Arizona from London, she was about to board a connecting flight in Los Angeles when an American Airlines gate agent told her she needed to pay a $50 baggage fee for a carry-on.

The college student didn’t have the cash, and was maxed out on her credit cards. So she begged. And begged. And kept being told, “No.”

She was at wit’s end, and tearing up, when a stranger stepped forward to offer to pay the fee. She tried to decline, but he insisted. And then he boarded the flight.

When she boarded, she saw him sitting in first class, and stopped to give him a hug.

Cassidy, 22, tweeted about it during the flight even though she didn’t know who he was. She later learned from a flight attendant that the “her angel” was a professional football player.

An aspiring sports lawyer, she was able to identify him as Arizona Cardinals tight end Jermaine Gresham.

Once they landed in Phoenix, she approached Gresham again, told him she knew who he was and asked to take a selfie with him.

“He said, ‘If I was in that situation and I was gonna miss my flight, I would hope someone would do the same thing for me,’ she told People magazine. “I was stunned. I want everyone to recognize how amazing it was that this guy did this! He didn’t expect anything to come from this. He never told me his name. He did it anonymously. It was so honest and pure.”

Headlines

TheOnion.com: “Puma researcher has nagging feeling he left Usain Bolt running at office.”

SportsPickle.com: Second quarter layup pushes LeBron James past Michael Jordan as best player of all-time.”

TheOnion.com: “Supreme Court votes 7-2 to legalize all wordly vices.”

SportsPickle.com: “Kevin Durant silences all the critics who said he could never help a 73-9 team win a championship.”

Fark.com: “1-31 Browns to be on HBO’s ‘Hard Knocks.’ Seems appropriate.”

TheOnion.com: “Yankees fans pack stadium for ‘Asshole Heritage Night.’ ”

SportsPickle.com: “Roy Moore reminds voters that many of Alabama’s top recruits have also tried to have sex with teenage girls.”

 Signs of time

Top Five Snarky Signs from NFL fans from Tiebreaker.com:

Cleveland Browns: “Rebuilding since 1964.”

Green Bay Packers: “We’re going to the Super Bowl Pro Bowl! Go Pack Go!

Baltimore Ravens: “Don’t strike, where else can I get 6 beers 4 $35.”

Detroit Lions: “0-16 … We did it first.”

Pittsburgh Steelers: “My dad says run the ball.”

Stick with me

My wife and I are living out of suitcases, stuck in a suites hotel with two maltese, while we make our move to South Carolina.

Closing on the home we are buying has been tentatively set for June 25. We stiil have a home for sell in Evansville, Ind,, and I’ll be making at least one more trip north to take care of some things.

Anyway, I mention this because my blogging time has been limited. But fear not, when the move is complete I will have a writing cabin out back where I can be alone with my thoughts. May even  churn out the next great American novel.