From Sidelines to punch lines

 

Clearing my mind and notebook while still not caring who wins the much hyped fight between Conor McGregor and Floyd Mayweather.

Friday Night Light

The opening night of high school football on Friday was a non-event for me for the first time in four decades. I didn’t mind taking it easy.

I’m calling it Friday Night Light.

As many of you know, I’m now retired from newspaper journalism, having transitioned into the lifestyle of an inconsistent blogger.

That means my final Friday Night Misery memories are all from last season in Evansville, Indiana.

My routine was to arrive at the office by 1:30 for the start of a 12-hour shift. Never mind that most of the high school football production work for me was done during a hectic 45-minute span leading up to 11 p.m. CT. That’s when four to five staff writers would file their stories in the rush of deadline, which I then edited (some more than others).

Then came the final maddening sprint to complete a roundup of games that hadn’t been staffed. Most nights I had  help with the roundup, but that wasn’t a guarantee.

Finally, if I was lucky, the computer system hadn’t malfunctioned and the design center (located 100-plus miles away in Louisville) had received all the stories and photographs to complete the latest nightly miracle. (Note: before last year the Courier & Press had a local copy desk,

Regardless, it wasn’t until I had confirmation that the designers and copy editors could do their jobs that I could then move on to step nine: breathe.

Here’s what I won’t miss:

  • Agate clerks calling in sick an hour before the start of their shift.
  • Agate clerks who fail to check that the score by quarters and stats add up correctly.
  • Lightning delays that last longer than a half hour.
  • Writers who were assigned an early game but still missed deadline.
  • Team statisticians who didn’t bother to get an opponent’s roster, so all they have are the jersey numbers of players who scored against them in a 45-8 rout.
  • Coaches who can’t provide additional details on a player of the week candidate because the scorebook is at the office.
  •  Coaches who refuse tohelp you because they are miffed you didn’t send a writer to their game.
  • Coaches who can’t provide anything but a final score because they compile their stats while breaking down game film on Saturdays.

And then there are the additional headaches caused by the social media revolution  which now requires writers and editors to post to Twitter, ScribbleLive or Facebook. Oh yeah, writers also have to be part-time videographers with their smartphones.

Multi-media journalists have to be able to multi-task, but unfortunately the actual journalism can suffer as a result.

In reminscing about my career as a sports editor, I found myself viewing my time in Anderson, S.C. from 1988 to 1999 as the good ol’ days. All I had to do then was to produce three zoned editions with different stories and photographs on the section fronts and jump pages in a span of an hour.

So yeah, my Friday Nights are now light. I can sit back and watch TV, go to a movie, scream at Nazis on Facebook or play with my dogs. The closest I come to doing anything work related now is writing a blog for your reading pleasure.

Note: for more on how publishing giant Gannett is killing high school football coverage, and sports sections, go to end of this blog,

 

Buckeyes to rule?

The 2017 Beard Composite College Football Poll features six teams from the Southeastern Conference, five teams from the Atlantic Coast Conference (plus Notre Dame) and four teams from the Big Ten in the top 25.

But upon further review, the Big Ten wins the preseason pick as the toughest conference based on the fact that all four of its teams are ranked among the top 12 with Ohio State and Penn State both making the Top 5.

Which team will win the national championship? I’m going with a revamped Ohio State, with former Indiana head coach Kevin Wilson as Urban Meyer’s new offensive coordinator.

I’m foolish enough to predict that they’ll beat Southern Cal in the title game.

But yeah, Nick Saban will probably prove me wrong again.

Beard Consensus Preseason Poll: 1. Alabama. 2. Ohio State; 3. Florida State; 4. Southern Cal; 5. Penn State; 6. Clemson; 7. Washington; 8. Oklahoma; 9. Oklahoma State; 10.  Michigan; 11. Auburn; 12. Wisconsin, 13. LSU; 14. Georgia; 15. Florida; 16. Louisville; 17. Stanford; 18. Texas; 19. Miami; 20. South Florida; 21. Kansas State; 22. Tennessee; 23. Virginia Tech; 24. West Virginia; 25.  Notre Dame.

The Magazine Polls

Alabama is the consensus pick in the main preseason college football magazines.

Lindy’s: 1. Alabama, 2. Southern Cal; 3. Ohio State; 4. Florida State; 5. Oklahoma State; 6. Penn State; 7. Clemson; 8. Washington; 9. Oklahoma; 10. Auburn; 11. Wisconsin; 12. Georgia; 13. Louisville; 14. Michigan; 15.  LSU; 16. Florida; 17. South Florida; 18. Stanford; 19. Miami; 20. TCU; 21. Northwestern; 22. West Virginia; 23. Texas; 24. Boise State; 25. Utah.

Athlon’s: 1. Alabama; 2. Ohio State; 3. Florida State; 4. Washington; 5. Southern Cal; 6. Penn State; 7. Clemson; 8. Oklahoma; 9. Auburn; 10. Michigan; 11. LSU; 12. Wisconsin; 13. Texas; 14. Oklahoma State; 15. Georgia; 16. Florida; 17. Stanford; 18. Louisville; 19. Tennessee; 20. Notre Dame; 21. Oregon; 22. Kansas State; 23. Miami; 24. South Florida; 25. Virginia Tech.

Street & Smith’s: 1. Alabama; 2. Ohio State; 3. Florida State; 4. 9Southern Cal; 5. Clemson; 6. Oklahoma; 7. Penn State; 8. Washington; 9. Michigan; 10. LSU; 11. Oklahoma State; 12. Wisconsin; 13. Florida; 14. Georgia; 15. Louisville; 16. Auburn; 17. Stanford; 18. Virginia Tech; 19. Miami; 20. Kansas State; 21. Texas; 22. West Virginia; 23. South Florida; 24. Tennessee; 25. Utah.

They said it

R.J. Currie of SportsDeke.com: “Washington Nationals right-hander Edwin Jackson has changed teams 11 times in the last nine seasons. Now there’s a pitcher with location issues.”

Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel on troubled University of Florida receiver Antonio Callaway: “I keep hearing how Callaway is hanging out with the wrong crowd. After a while doesn’t Gator Nation have to come to the conclusion that Callaway is the wrong crowd.”

Brad Dickson of Omaha (Neb.) World Herald: “The Texas Rangers sold minor league pitcher Ernesto Frieri to the Seattle Mariners for $1. The good news is, there may be a Dollar General endorsement in his future.”

Janice Hough of LeftCoastSportsBabe.com: “Wouldn’t it be nice if biggest controversy on social media this summer was about if it’s really stupid to talk about “exit velocity.” in Major League Baseball?”

Steve Spurrier on a Daytona Beach reunion with  his former players at the University of Florida from 1990-2001: “John Wooden once said that if you’re a good enough coach, your players will want to come back and hang out with you someday.”

Joe Biddle of WKRN.com on NFL preseason games: “What you want to see is the projected starters from each team competing against each other. Fans need to look quick. They will be on the field about as long as the lunar eclipse.”

Simply criminal

It shouldn’t come as a surprise, but crime does pay. Especially celebrity crimes.

That appears to be all the motivation that Adam Papagan needed to start a cottage industry off the “trial of the century” in which O.J. Simpson was acquitted of the murders of his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ron Goldman.

Papagan’s latest venture is an O.J. Simpson Museum that will be on display at the Coagula Curatorial Gallery in downtown Los Angeles through Tuesday. The doors opened Friday with an admission price of $4.

The collection contains mostly pop-culture related items like books, apparel and board games that commemorated the trial. Some of the T-shirts that were sold outside the courthouse make up one display.

Papagan’s capitalistic shame doesn’t end on Tuesday. He also plans to still offer an O.J. tour around Brentwood in a white Bronco similar to the one the former football player/actor led police in on a slow highway chase.

While O.J. escaped a criminal conviction in those murders, he did lose a civil lawsuit to the families of Goodman and Brown.

Of course, Nevada granted parole to Simpson last month after he had served minimal time for his 2008 conviction on armed robbery charges. He will be incarcerated at Lovelock (Nevada) Correctional Institute until at least Oct. 1 and plans to move back to Florida.

Headlines

TheOnion.com: “Girlfriend surprises Rob Grokowski with relaxing couple’s CAT Scan.”

SportsPickle.com: “Divided America agrees that RG3 statue should probably come down.”

Fark.com: “Cristiano Ronaldo suspended five games for using his hands.:

TheOnion.com: “MLB unveils memorial for runners stranded on base.”

SportsPickle.com: “Andrew Luck expected to be out six weeks due to lice.”

Tough life

No one ever said balancing athletics and academics would be easy.

Neither is the debate over whether student-athletes should be paid a living wage.

UCLA quarterback Jeff Rosen is the latest to make the dual workload an issue, telling Bleacher Report that it’s “like trying to do two full-time jobs.”

Los Angeles Times columnist Bill Plasche pointed out that a 2015 study revealed that the average Pac-12 student-athlete spent 50 hours per week meeting the demands of their sport, which is why more than half of them contended they often didn’t have sufficient time to study.

The NCAA has slowly made revisions of its rules, allowing schools to pay the “full cost of attendance.” That opens the door for athletes at power conference schools to receive stipends of up to $5,000 in addition to tuition, room and board.

But at least you don’t have to feel too sorry for the star athletes who don’t mind bending the rules by willingly accepting $100 handshakes from unscrupulous boosters.

Former University of Texas quarterback Chris Simms told Dan Patrick that for him it usually would happen after he had been asked to sign several jerseys, hats or other memorabilia. For taking the time to sign his name, Simms said he’d be slipped cash.

“For people to think that doesn’t happen, that’s just stupid,” said Simms. “Get over it, it’s not a big deal. It’s happening everywhere. It’s happening at Harvard, it’s happening at Division II schools. It’s going on everywhere.”

Indeed, at the heart of the most serious of the alleged NCAA violations against Mississippi and former football coach Hugh Freeze is a booster accused of giving at least one recruit cash and free food.

Homer parade

Albert Pujols hit his 609th home run on Friday night to give the Los Angeles Angels an early 2-0 lead over Baltimore.

It also tied him for eighth on the all-time list with Sammy Sosa. He and Sosa are also tied for most homers by a foreign player in MLB.

Gannett strikes again

Sadly, as  many of you have discovered, the coverage of high school football is likely no longer included in your Saturday morning newspapers. Evil publishing empire Gannett made sure of that in Evansville and most of its other newspapers by going to 7 p.m. deadlines.

In Evansville, this has been going on since April (just in time for the NCAA Final Four), but this is the first  season its affected the high school football coverage. While you can still read game coverage online late Friday night using your smartphones, tablets or home computers, you’ll have to wait until Sundays to read it in print.

Sorry about your scrapbooks, moms.

And yes, the space high school coverage takes in your Sunday paper is going to reduce any coverage of college football. It’s a lose-lose situation.

We’ve known that day was arriving but it got here much quicker than I anticipated. I had planned on working another two or three years before retiring since I’m only 63. But with the earlier deadlines, who needs a sports editor who can also write award-winning stories and columns, right?

I could have moved on and started life as a sports editor at other newspapers, including one in SEC country, but The Wife and I decided we’d rather make a move for once that isn’t dictated by my career. Within six months, perhaps sooner, we’ll be resettling in Anderson, where our daughter and her family have relocated.

As much as I enjoyed the job and living in Indiana,  I actually consider myself fortunate to no longer be the sports editor in Evansville. Mainly, it means I’m not guilty of being an accomplice to delivering what I believe will be the murderous blow to what was once a solid sports section.

It’s bad enough that readers can’t get scores from professional and college sports on a timely basis in their morning paper. But local high school football coverage not being available until Sundays? That’s a broken promise, at least in my view.

The Gannett bean counters have won. The readers of some 100 newspapers have lost. But I  have my Friday nights back.

 

 

 

A late tribute to Tony DiCicco

 It’s been nearly two months since Tony DiCicco died of cancer, so I’m more than a little late in writing this tribute about the former women’s national team soccer coach.

I don’t even have a good excuse other than the fact I was selfishly focused on other things (retirement, family vacation) when DiCicco died June 19. However, my memory was jogged earlier today when I was thinking about  recent deaths of sports celebrities like Ara Parseghian, Don Baylor and Darren Daulton. When I went about my googling, I was reminded that DiCicco was  no longer with us.

I’m sure there are many of you who are wondering why I’d even bring it up after so much time has passed. Heck, as much as I love soccer, I only interviewed DiCicco a handful of times.

But that was enough to realize that he was a rare coach who always seemed to know how to get the best out of his players while motivating them to find ways to bring the best out of their teammates.

My introduction to DiCicco’s brilliance came during the 1996 Atlanta Olympics when he guided Mia Hamm & Co. to the gold medal at Sanford Stadium at the University of Georgia in Athens.

Before then, he had been the goalkeeper coach when Anson Dorrance led the U.S. women to the 1991 World Cup title in China. But as Dorrance said himself during DiCicco’s memorial service, very few people were paying attention to women’s soccer back then. 

If you were a female athlete, your best chance to be noticed was still basketball, golf, tennis or track and field.

“When we were given the reigns, the United States had never won a game in international competition,” said Dorrance.

Dorrance remembered that between 1987 and that ’91 Cup, he, DiCicco and Lauren Gregg led the women’s national team through a grueling 43 games on foreign soil in an effort to instill camaraderie and toughness in the players.

Even then, DiCicco was the one who always brought enthusiasm to the forefront. Never mind that the women’s national team players back then were not paid, wore hand-me-down men’s uniforms, traveled during that first World Cup via cargo planes, coal trains and run-down school buses and stayed in low-end motels where they chose to sleep on top of the sheets in their street clothes. Oh yeah, they practiced on fields that resembled parking lots.

“There weren’t any perks back then,” said Dorrance.

He joked that in choosing China as host ”FIFA tried to hide the first women’s world championship in case it failed.”

Dorrance also recalled that the team meals mostly included meat from dogs, cats and ox “which meant the players mostly ate Snickers.”  However, DiCicco didn’t use the abundance of the sponsor’s candy bars as his dinnertime pass.

“He pretended he loved the food, so he ate everything that he was served,” said Dorrance. “Lauren and I were also convinced that if it would have helped morale, Tony would have eaten the table.”

When DiCicco took over as the women’s head coach in 1994, Dorrance knew the squad was in good hands. Sure enough, after winning Olympic gold, he led the U.S. women to their second World Cup, also on home soil, in 1999.

If you don’t remember DiCicco’s brilliance, then think Brandi Chastain and her sports bra moment after scoring the decisive penalty kick against China.

DiCicco also led the U-20 women to a world championship in 1998.

While Hamm played for Dorrance at North Carolina, an argument could be made that she blossomed under DiCicco’s coaching, scoring 99 of her 127 national team goals when he was the coach.

“Tony never put us in a situation he didn’t think we could handle,” Hamm said at the memorial service. “He used words like us and we and never you and I.”

 

From Sidelines to punchlines

Clearing my mind and notebook while predicting Miami will stake an early claim to the ACC title when the Hurricanes play at Florida State on Sept. 16:

 Wisdom of Shaq

During an interview with Graham Bensinger on his YouTube channel, Shaquille O’Neal recalled how his lack of financial wisdom resulted in a bank overdraft of $80,000 not long after he signed a seven-figure endorsement deal in 1992 after being drafted by the Orlando Magic.

“When you are young and you don’t have a lot of business savvy, there are two words you forget about – FICA and sales tax,” said O’Neil. “I thought I was getting one million dollars straight up, but you forget about those things, and really maybe I got like $600,000.

“So I go and buy a $150,000 car (Mercedes) – no negotiations … The guy could have told me $200,000 and I would have bought it,” said O’Neil.

To make a long story short, he also bought expensive cars for his mom and dad. Then he went on another shopping spree for clothes, jewelry and accessories. And then came the call from his bank.

“I was real embarrassed, but (the bank manager) said I know you’ve got more money coming in so I’m just going to put this to the side for you.”

That was the wakeup call he needed to hire a financial advisor he could trust.

Headlines

Fark.com: “OMG Rally Kitty OMG Rally Kitty OUCH!

TheOnion.com: “Jim Harbaugh spends post-practice interview heaping praise on blade of grass that really impressed him.’

SportsPickle.com: “Jay Cutler on signing with Dolphins: ‘I couldn’t pass up one last shot at 8-8’ ”

TheOnion.com: “Report: Pickup basketball player too sweaty to guard.”

Kicker.com: “Saddest bro in world practices cornhole alone.”

For Pete’s sake

A planned roast of Pete Rose in Philadelphia was cancelled this week after it was alleged that during the baseball great’s playing days in the 1970s, he had a sexual relationship with an underage girl.

That didn’t stop comedian Steve Hofstetter from appearing on the “DA Show” on CBS Sports Radio to share with host Damon Amendolara what he had planned to say about Charlie Hustle.

“I had the opportunity to meet Pete Rose at the MGM in Las Vegas, where I stood in line to get his autograph for zero minutes,” said Hofstetter. “There were more people standing in line at Starbucks, but Starbucks isn’t as bitter.”

Also, Hofstetter revealed this gem of a jab.

“Pete Rose learned his ethics from his mentor, Marge Schott and now as he gets older he’s starting to look more and more like her.”

 Say what?

Malik Zaire, a graduate transfer from Notre Dame who is confidently contending for the starting quarterback job at the University of Florida doesn’t fear failure but he’s not taking anything for granted, either.

But with the season-opening game against Michigan fast approaching on Sept. 2 in Arlington, Texas, Zaire went metaphorical with his thoughts, describing the competition like being thrown into a fast-flowing river.

“You can see at the end of it there’s a waterfall and at the end of the waterfall you know that’s death,” said Zaire. “That’s the end of it. You’re going at a fast pace, but at the end of the day you see there’s a rock that you can grab onto.

“I just focus on grabbing the rock. I don’t focus at the end of the waterfall. … For me it’s just one day at a time.”

 They said it

Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel: “How do you become a voter on the Amway Coaches Poll? Do you have to recruit 10 other voters who then recruit 10 other voters and so on?”

Janice Hough of LeftCoastSportsBabe.com: “The NBA will have the Brooklyn Nets play two regular season games in Mexico City this season. And if it works well, next year the league might send a professional team.”

RJ Currie of SportsDeke.com: “AOL.com puts the Ole Miss debacle — NCAA violations and a coach gone for “patterns of personal misconduct” — as the No. 1 college scandal ever. Ole Miss is a big ole mess.”

 Wrong way

Here’s one own goal that’s hard to explain.

In an Estonian Cup match, professional club Levadia Tallinn scored its first goal in a 3-1 win over Paide Linnameeskond just 15 seconds into the match. And yes, not one Levadia player ever touched the ball.

Yes, you read that right.

Paide began the game with a series of four back passes. But after  goalkeeper Magnus Karofeld distributed the ball to left back Martin Kase, he was caught off guard when Kase pushed it back to him. Karofeld tried to chase it down but his sliding attempt to get to the ball was unsuccessful and it rolled into the right corner.

Kase had three of the five touches for Paide, which went on to lose 3-1.

http://uk.pressfrom.com/news/sport/-193086-estonian-soccer-team-scores-own-goal-in-14-seconds-without-opponents-ever-touching-the-ball/

 

From sidelines to punchlines

 Clearing my mind and notebook while realizing that MLB freaks may never run out of statistical oddities they can name after learning what constitutes an “immaculate inning:”

Driving skill

Some guys, like German golfer Marcel Siem, really do have all the luck.

Siem recently won a 2017 Porsche Panamera Turbo Sport Turismo when he made a hole-in-one on a par-3, 170-yard hole at the Porsche European Open in Hamburg. Not only that, his tee shot made a “slam dunk” landing into the No. 17 hole at the Green Eagle Golf Course.

The car is valued at $150,000, which was a nice complimentary prize considering Siem finished in a tie for 60th and took home a check for only $5,700 for his overall golf skills for the week.

But here’s where his overabundance of luck comes into play. Amazingly, this is the second time Siem’s driving ability on a golf course has awarded him something he could drive off the course. In 2014, he made his second shot on a par-4 hole at the Nedbank Golf Challenge in South Africa to win a Volvo V40 T5.

A check of Siem’s sponsors shows there’s not a car manufacturer on the list, but Porsche should act quickly to do something about that.

Real Fake News

Orlando Sentinel sports columnist Mike Bianchi will moonlight as a ringside manager for a Global Force Wrestling show on Aug. 17, squaring off against fellow 96.8 FM sports talk radio host Brandon Kravitz.

Bianchi admits to being a lifelong pro ‘rassling fan, which is another way of saying he was dropped on his head as an infant, but he definitely has the gift of gab to do the job.

“As Dusty Rhodes used to say, ‘I am the tower of power, the man of the hour, too sweet to be sour!’” said Bianchi.

Bianchi is an industry friend from my Florida days, and I’ve frequently used his column quips in this blog, so here’s hoping he isn’t blindsided by a folding chair.

 Headlines

Fark.com: “NCAA rules player ineligible for making money on YouTube as NCAA makes money off player.

TheOnion.com: “Kirk Cousins draws up cap-friendly contract extension in dirt.”

SportsPickle.com: “District attorney clears Alabama football players of all future charges.”

TheOnion.com: “Dale Earnhardt Jr. submits paperwork for gas reimbursement.”

TheKicker.com: “USPS inducts Karl Malone into Mailman Hall of Fame.”

 Uber opportunity?

Despite the Chargers decision to move north to Los Angeles, quarterback Philip Rivers is keeping his home in the San Diego area and says he will hire a driver to take him on the nearly 90-minute commute to work.

At least that’s the plan this season.

The 13-year veteran said he wants to keep things as normal as possible for his wife Tiffany and their eight children, so he is reluctant to uproot them from their home in Rancho Santa Fe, which is just north of San Diego.

To take advantage of all that commute time, Rivers said he will create a mobile quarterback room with televisions for film study while he leaves the driving to someone else.

Still, he might should consider having his agent negotiate a mileage reimbursement bonus into his next contract.

 Late Night Sports

CBS comedian James Corden: “Hospitals in Chicago have seen the number of baby deliveries double this month. Which would be remarkable, until you realize that’s exactly nine months after the Chicago Cubs won the World Series.”

NBC comedian Seth Myers: “A pair of New England Patriots players were kicked out of practice this week after getting into a fight during drills. Wow, even the New England Patriots hate the New England Patriots.”

ABC comedian Jimmy Kimmel: “We have the Olympics in 2028. Only 11 more years, and then volleyball! I feel like between climate change and Kim Jong Un it’s optimistic to think we’ll still have a Los Angeles in 2028.”

 High hopes

Looking to get on the cutting edge of pain management, the NFL has written to the NFL Players Association in hopes of working with the union to study marijuana as an option for players.

The league currently suspends players who test positive for the drug but did increase the threshold for what constitutes a positive test for marijuana to 35 nanograms per milliliter.

In other news, running back Ricky Williams has announced he is coming out of retirement.

They said it

— Brad Dickson of the Omaha (Neb.) World-Herald, after Cowboys D-lineman David Irving lost a nipple ring during practice: “You think athletes feel stupid down on all fours looking for a lost contact lens?”

— Janice Hough of LeftCoastSportsBabe.com: “Alabama football coach Nick Saban won’t suspend Da’Shawn Hand for his DUI arrest last weekend. Saban says it’s because his potential starting DL was found asleep in car & not actually driving when police found him.
Well that and the Tide open against Florida State.”

— RJ Currie of SportsDeke.com: “Cycling’s Tour de France was won by Chris Froome. For North Americans wondering how to pronounce Froome, remember what it rhymes with. Whom?”

— Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times: “The annual preseason rankings are out, and to no one’s surprise Alabama is No. 1 in the SEC, tops in the coaches’ poll and second in the NFC South.”

— L.A. Clippers forward Blake Griffin on Twitter after Houston Rockets GM Daryl Morey said the NBA might be better off scrapping individual awards: “Honestly, we should do away with championships too. … Participation trophies for everybody.”

 Blocked kicker

Not surprisingly, the NCAA has let its rule book get in the way of common sense again.

University of Central Florida kicker Donald De La Haye has been ruled ineligible because he has refused to abide by the terms of a successful appeal to the NCAA that would have allowed him to play football and still profit from his popular “Deestroying” YouTube channel.

Unfortunately, the NCAA nut jobs wanted to micromanage the content De La Haye could have on his channel, stipulating that he could not have any references to being “a student-athlete or depict his skill as a football player.”

Ironically, I guess he can live by that edict now. He’s decided that if he has to give something up, football will be it. After all, the money he makes from his channel is used to help his cash-strapped family in Costa Rica.

“I feel like they’re making me pick between my passion in what I love to do — make videos and entertain, be creative — and my other passion, which is playing football,” De La Haye said.

UPDATE: King rules FINA meet with 4 golds, 4 world records; rivalry with Russia’s Efimova now ‘friendly one’

Lilly King capped off a dominating week at the FINA World Swimming Championships in Budapest, Hungary on Sunday by winning the 50-meter breaststroke in world record time and then being part of a women’s 4×100 medley relay team that set another world record.

“I couldn’t imagine a better finish to this meet,” King said after she closed out her week.

Overall, King won gold and set world records in four events during the week including two relays. Her golden haul included the 100-meter breaststroke (1:04.13), 50 breaststroke (29.40), 4×100 mixed medley relay (3:38.56) and 4×100 women’s medley relay (3:51.55).

In Sunday’s 50 breast final, King beat Russian rival Yulia Efimova (29.57) by .17 hundredths of a second with USA teammate Katie Meili (29.99) finishing third. Lithuania’s Ruta Meilutyte, whose world record King shattered, was fourth in 30.20, followed by Sweden’s Jennie Johannson (30.31), Great Britain’s Sarah Vasey (30.62), Italy’s Ariana Castiglioni (30.74) and Canada’s Rachel Nicol (30.80).

In the mixed medley relay, the Evansville, Ind., native posted a 100 breaststroke time of 1:04.15 that was just two-hundredths of a second off her world record. On Sunday in the women’s 4×100 medley relay, King wasn’t quite as fast, but her time of 1:04.48 did give her yet another performance under 65 seconds.

Last summer in Rio the Indiana University swimmer set the Olympic record with a time of 1:04:93 in winning gold in the 100 breast. That means that since last summer, she has trimmed 0.80 hundredths of a second off her time.

Rio de Janeiro is also where a heated rivalry began with Efimova, when King criticized the last-minute decision to allow Efimova to compete despite two previous failed drug tests.  But while swimming’s Cold War may not have ended this week, it did enter a stage of swimming détente.

There was a sign the feud had cooled when King, 20, complimented Efimova, 25, for nearly equaling the world record in the 100-meter breaststroke during the semifinals before King broke the record in the finals.

They officially buried the hatchet during Sunday’s interviews.

“Obviously, we are not best friends, we are rivals, but I was having a good time racing her,” said King. “We have definitely been a lot more civil than we were last year, so I’m enjoying that.”

Added Efimova: “… She told me she loves to race with me because it makes her race faster too and makes it more interesting to watch.”

In addition to all the international acclaim she has earned over the past two summers, King returns for her junior year at IU as the two-time defending champion in the 100- and 200-yard breast events.

If you can call it that, King’s only disappointment this week came with her fourth-place finish in the 200-meter breaststroke that was won by Efimova. But even then, her time of 2:22.11 helped her improve from a 12th-place Olympic finish in the event.

For the week, King won two of the three individual showdowns with Efimova, who is the most decorated woman swimmer in the history of the world championships with 13 total medals.

Efimova added two silver medals to her total Sunday in the 50 breast and 4×100 women’s medley relay. But yes, that’s two more times King was able to finish ahead of Efimova.

But as far as the world stage, we now know that King was just getting started last summer at the Rio Olympics when she won two gold medals and set an Olympic record in the 100-meter breaststroke. This was King’s first time at the world meet, which is second in stature to the Olympics

She is the first IU swimmer to set a world record in an individual event since Jim Montgomery in the 100 freestyle at the 1976 Olympic Games. And King did it twice.

She has established herself with Katie Ledecky and Simone Manuel as the stars of the United States women’s national team. Ladecky, a distance freestyle swimmer, earned five gold medals, including being part of  two winning relays.  Meanwhile, freestyle sprinter Manuel claimed three golds, including two relays. Manuel also earned a bronze medal in the 50 freestyle.

Overall, the United States finished with 18 gold medals and 38 overall, more than doubling the number of gold medals (8) from two years ago when the Americans only claimed 23 total medals.

The star for the U.S. was men’s swimmer Caleb Dressell, who tied Michael Phelps for most gold medals in one world meet with seven. Phelps had won seven gold medals 10 years ago.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

From Sidelines to punchlines

 Clearing my mind and notebook while hoping someone will splash water in my face after  staying up late several nights to watch the FINA World Swimming Championships:

Head shaking

The medical journal JAMA delivered a devastating hit on the National Football League on Tuesday with the revelation that 99 percent of the brains of deceased players who had numerous concussions showed evidence of chronic traumatic encephalopathy.

The fact that CTE damage was found in 110 of 111 brains in the clinical study was a wake-up call for dozens of players, including Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. Knowing the health risks of  extending his career much longer, Roethlisberger has indicated that 2017 may be his last season.

“If you want to mess with your brain, you can’t put a new one in, you can’t have a brain transplant,” Roethlisberger said. “If you want to mess with your brain, go ahead. I’m not going to. I love my family and kids.”

A 13-year veteran, the Steelers QB said his greatest fear was suffering from depression and dementia at some point.

“I want to play catch with my kids. I want to know my kids’ names. As much as I want my kids to remember what I did and watch me play the game, I also want to remember them when I’m 70 years old,” he said.

 Overall, CTE damage was discovered in 177 of 202 (87 percent) cases when the brains of college and high school players were added to the study.

 Headlines

TheOnion.com: “Area man installs home pull-up bar to absentmindedly tap while passing through hallway.”

SportsPickle.com: “NFL offers 10% off all merchandise on NFLShop with promo code “CTE.”

Fark.com: “LPGA star deemed too sexy for golf.”

TheKicker.com: “Cavs fans stockpile lighter fluid to prep for LeBron leaving again.”

TheOnion.com; ‘Area stingray dreaming of making it to Tropicana Field touch tank.”

 War of words

No doubt Conor McGregor is one tough dude. But there’s also no denying the Irish mixed martial arts fighter will find himself on the green side of things when he steps into the ring next month with boxer Floyd Mayweather.

But no, not that kind of green. While McGregor may believe he has Hulk-like punching power, he’s sadly mistaken, according to former boxer Paulie Malignaggi.

Malignaggi, who was the IBF junior welterweight champion from 2007-08 and held the WBA welterweight belt from 2012-13, has sparred with McGregor. But more importantly, he knows how it feels when an opponent lands a punch hard enough to make your ears ring, teeth rattle and your eyes grow heavy.

“(McGregor’s power is) definitely above average. I wouldn’t say it’s ‘Oh my God’ power,” Malignaggi said. “… With small fight gloves he will hurt you. But it’s not ‘Oh my God’ power where every time he touches you you’re like, ‘My goodness, this is very uncomfortable.’ It’s not that kind of power, but it’s good enough.”

The two fighters have been on a world tour of boxing hyperbole, dancing and weaving on stage while throwing dozens of verbal shots at each other, many below the waist. But come Aug. 26 in Las Vegas, the only thing that will matter will be the judges’ scorecards.

As for the war of words, here’s a sampling from their trash-talking promos:

McGregor: “There’s no other way about it. His little legs, his little core, his little head — I’m gonna knock him out inside four rounds, mark my words.”

Mayweather: “I’m an old man. I’m not the fighter I was 20 years ago. But I got enough to beat you.”

  They said it

— Washington State football coach Mike Leach, revealing that he prefers rollerblading over running for exercise: “I don’t know what my top speed is. Fast enough you don’t want to fall down, I know that.”

— CBS comedian James Corden on people being upset that swimmer Michael Phelps only raced a computer-generated image of a great swhite shark during Discovery Channel’s Shark Week:  “What do people expect? You can’t get a shark to have a race on command. It’s a shark.”

— R.J. Currie of SportsDeke.com: “I told my wife to buy Tom Brady’s upcoming self-help book: not because it’ll make me a gifted QB, exceptionally handsome or very rich, but because I live with a supermodel. She said: “We’re still not getting an 80-inch TV.”

— Janice Hough of LeftCoastSportsBabe.com: “Lamar Odom has written about his drug struggles & nearly dying for Players’ Tribune. Title summed-up in four words? – Don’t date a Kardashian.”

— Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times: “The perfect golfing foursome for a par-5 hole? Donald Driver, Chip Kelly, J.J. Putz and Eddie the Eagle.”

— Brad Dickson of the Omaha World-Herald, after Forbes ranked the Dallas Cowboys as the world’s most valuable sports team. “I believe No. 7 is a high-school football team in Texas.”

 Girl trouble

After his girlfriend was pulled over for speeding, Los Angeles Clippers rookie Sindarious Thornwell told a police officer in Columbia, S.C. that he “don’t have a job” when the officer asked where he worked.

We should point out that Thornwell signed a $3.8 million contract earlier in the week and was wearing a Clippers T-shirt, which he tried to hide by leaning over his car. While he may have been trying to avoid publicity, Thornwell was back in the capitol of his home state where he’s quite the celebrity after leading South Carolina to the Final Four three months ago.

With the traffic stop shown on a local access channel, “Live PD,” Richland County Sheriff’s Department lieutenant Danny Brown reported that the woman had some of Thornwell’s clothes and personal belongings in her car and that she was following him because she didn’t want him to go to a party. But if that’s the worst run-in Thornwell will have with police now that he’s an NBA player, the Clippers will be quite happy.

Foul Ball

The entitlement syndrome is deeply rooted within LaVar Ball’s psyche.

That’s to be expected, I suppose. He’s the father of the Los Angeles Lakers’ prized draft pick Lonzo Ball. And yes, he has two other talented sons, LiAngelo and LeMelo, who are projected to be NBA-bound after one season at UCLA.

But then again, anyone who has seen the elder Ball’s frequent appearances on ESPN, knows his ego needs no stroking. It has long been out of control, but he apparently believes that having three basketball phenoms living under his roof gives him the currency to promote himself and his fledgling shoe company.

Having spent several months saying that Lonzo was better than Stephen Curry, Ball has now proclaimed himself the “best coach ever … because I said so.’’

Would a “best coach ever” forfeit a game his team was winning because of poor officiating? I don’t think so.

Ball has done that twice in the past couple of weeks, including at a Las Vegas AAU tournament where his troubles began when he forced sponsor Adidas to replace a woman referee after he was given a technical. Then near the end of the game he got a second technical and refused to leave after being ejected. He tried to suggest that he was being tossed as payback because the referee was a woman.

“I get that she’s trying to break into the referee thing. But just giving techs and calling fouls, that’s no way to do it,” Ball told Yahoo sports. “I know what she trying to say: ‘I gave LaVar, I gave him a tech, I’m strong.’ That ain’t got nothing to do with it. Just call the game.”

 

 

King, Efimova remain on collision course

Evansville’s Lilly King will be favored to claim her third gold medal in Sunday’s finals in the 50-meter breaststroke after posting the fastest semifinal time of 29.60.

The clocking allowed King to improve her own American record by another six-hundredths of a second. The Indiana University swimmer posted a 29.66 at nationals in June in Indianapolis to beat a mark that had been held by Jessica Hardy (29.80). That also allowed King to come to Budapest with the fastest time of 2017.

As expected, her top threat will come from Russian rival Yulia Efimova, who won Saturday’s first semifinal in 29.73.

King set a world record in winning the 100 meter race on Tuesday. On Thursday, Efimova won the 200-meter race to become the first woman to claim 11 total medals in her career at the FINA World Swimming Championships.

This is King’s first appearance at worlds.

USA’s Katie Meili (30.12) was third followed by Lithuania’s Ruta Meilutyte (30.40), Jennie Johansson (30.41), Italy’s Arianna Castiglioni (30.46), Great Britain’s Sarah Vasey (30.46) and Canada’s Rachel Nicol (30.49).

King competed against Johansson, Castiglioni and Nicol in the second semifinals.

King won the 100-meter breaststroke race on Tuesday by shattering the world record with a swim of 104.13. That beat Meilutyte’s record of 1:04.35 set in 2013.

Efimova, who won bronze in the 100, took gold in the 200 in a race that saw King just miss the medals stand with a fourth-place finish.

So on Sunday, the two swimmers who have been feuding since Rio last summer when King won gold in the 100 while setting an Olympic record, will have another showdown.

The relationship appears to have slightly cooled since Brazil, although the fact that Efimova has twice failed drug tests for using performance-enhancing substances still raises suspicions. Still, King complimented Efimova for nearly tying the world record in the 100 in the semifinals. Then King went out in the finals and broke the record.

Sunday will give King at least a shot at a third gold medal of the met, and possibly third world record, since she was part of the USA’s winning mixed 4×100 medley relay team. The Reitz High graduate also could be chosen to swim in the finals of the women’s 4×100 medley relay since it is scheduled six events after the 50 breast.

Sunday’s action begin at approximately around 12:30 p.m CT.

The results can be followed online at http://www.fina.org or http://www.usaswimming.org.

Or you can just check my Twitter feed and return to my blog later Sunday.

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Rivals Lilly King, Yulia Efimova each win prelim heats in 50-meter breaststroke to get top seeds for semifinals

In the buildup for their final breaststroke showdown in Budapest, Lilly King and Russian rival Yulia Efimova won their preliminary heats to earn the top two seeds entering the semifinals later today.

King, an Evansville native, won her 50-meter heat — the last of the morning — at the FINA World Swimming Championships, clocking a 29.76 effort. Efimova swam just ahead of King in the fifth heat and won in 29.99.

Italy’s Arianna Castiglioni (30.33) was third overall and USA’s Katie Meili (30.37) was fourth, Sweden’s Jennie Johansson (30.40) was fifth, Lithuania’s Ruta Meilutyte (30.58) was sixth, Australia’s Jessica Leigh Hansen (30.59) was seventh and Great Britain’s Sara Vasey (30.71) was eighth.

King set a world record in winning the 100-meter race in which Efimova was third. But in the 200, Efimova claimed gold and King was fourth.

 

UPDATED: King fails to medal in 200 breast, finishing 4th as Efimova wins race

Russia’s Yulia Efimova squared this week’s unofficial FINA World Swimming Championships Breaststroke Challenge at one victory apiece Friday.

Efimova, who was always going to be the favorite at the 200-meter distance, made good on that promise with a blistering 2:19.64 effort. It might not have been the world record she sought — that still belongs to Denmark’s Rikke Pederson (2:19.11) from 2013 — but she did have the satisfaction of keeping American rival Lilly King off the medal stand.

King, who led after 50 meters, couldn’t quite pace herself over the longer distance and  finished fourth in 2:22.10. But compared to her 12th place effort in the 200 at the Rio Olympics, which didn’t qualify her into the finals last summer, King’s improvement has been encouraging in an event that is still a work in progress for her.

The Evansville native and Indiana University swimmer even beat Efimova in one of the 200 breast qualifying heats on Thursday in Budapest when they were drawn into the same group.

And, of course, there is King’s world-record gold medal performance of 1:04.13 in the 100 breaststroke at the world championships on Tuesday where Efimova finished third in 1:05.05  behind American Katie Meili (1:05.03).

The two breaststroke rivals will square off again Saturday and Sunday in the 50-meter breaststroke qualifying, semifinals and finals. Qualifying begins overnight, around 2:30 a.m. CT Saturday. So check back here later to get an update on how the favored King does in her qualifying heat.

On Friday, it was another Indiana native who kept the pressure on Efimova. But when the distance was covered, even Bethany Galat of Mishawaka was more than two seconds slower than the Russian. Galat, who swims at Texas A&M, took second with a time of 2:21.77 and China’s Shi Jinglin was third in 2:21.93. King was another 18-hundredths of a second slower.

A Texas A&M swimmer, Galat did open eyes with her closing speed. She was seventh at the 150-meter mark, which is the point Efimova finally moved into the lead. Over that final 50 meters, Galat claimed the silver medal.

At the NCAA championships in March, contested at yards rather than meters, King won the “A” final. Galat didn’t make that final, but she did win the “B” final (but was more than 3 seconds slower than King).

NOTE: Efimova’s win was part of a sweep for the Russians. The men’s gold was won by Russia’s Anton Churkov, who swam a 2:06.96 race. Americans  Nik Fink and Kevin Cordes were fifth and sixth, nearly two seconds slower.

 

UPDATE: King barely qualifies for 200 breaststroke final; Efimova first

UPDATED: Lilly King nearly blew it in the 200-meter breaststroke semifinals, claiming the eighth and final spot for Friday’s finals with a time of  2:23.81 at the FINA World Championships in Budapest.

That made the Evansville  native and Indiana University swimmer just one-hundredth of a second faster than Great Britain’s  Joceylyn–Kate Ulyett in Thursday’s semifinals.

King’s Russian rival Yulia Efimova will be the top seed after rallying from sixth place in her semi heat to post the top time of 2:21.45. King’s USA teammate, Bethany Galat, had the second fastest time of 2:21.86, followed by Australia’s Taylor McKeown (2:22.10), China’s Jinglin Shi (2:23.17), Canada’s Kierra Smith (2:23.18), Spain’s Jessica Vall (2:23.49) and Great Britain’s Molly Renshaw (2:23.51) with King another three-hundredths of a second slower.

EARLIER

An anticipated showdown between rival breaststroke swimmers Lilly King of Evansville and Russia’s Yulia Efimova turned out to be a dud early Thursday morning.

Paired next to each other in Lanes 4 and 5 in a 200-meter heat, King jumped out to an early lead and only briefly faltered when she was overtaken by Japan’s Reona Aoki after 150 meters. However, the Indiana University sophomore powered through the final 50, finishing in 2:24.28 to win the heat at the FINA World Championships in Budapest, Hungary.

It was a nice and easy swim for King, allowing her to conserve energy for the semifinals later today with the finals slated for Friday. King’s personal best in the 200 breast is 2:21.83.

Czech swimmer Martina Moravcikova (2:25.26) and China’s Jinglin Shi (2:25.39) finished second and third behind King. Efimova was fourth best (2:25.63) in the heat, but only 11th overall.

In the semifinals later today, Great Britain’s Molly Renshaw will be top-seeded after a 2:24.03 clocking. King will be second followed by Australia’s Taylor McKeown (2:34.31), Spain’s Jessica Vall (2:24.41), USA’s Bethany Galat (2:24.56), Canada’s Kierra Smith (2:24.57), Denmark’s Rikke Pedersen (2:24.69) and Moravcikova.

Efimova will be in the second semifinal behind Canada’s Ashley McGregor (2:25.31) and Shi. The second semi will include  Aoki (2:25.94), South Korea’s Suyeon Back (2:26.45), Great Britain’s Jocelyn Kate Ulyett (2:26.50), Japan’s Sotomi Suzuki (2:26.78) and Finland’s Jenna Laukkanen (2:28.59).

Halfway through the world championships, King already has a pair of gold medals and two world records, winning the showdown with Efimoa for the 100 breaststroke title and then being part of the top 4×100 mixed individual medley relay.

The world record for the 200 breast is 2:19.10 and its expected that King and Efimova will be bearing down on that standard by the time the starter gun fires in the finals.