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.

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