From Sidelines to punchlines

A different view of sports

Clearing my mind and notebook while noting that dozens of high schools nationwide have announced they are dropping football because of low participation numbers. And so, the soccer revolution finally begins, right?:

Flurry of Aces

Some girls have all the luck.

Scotland’s Ali Gibb, who now lives in London, won the 36-hole Ladies Club Championship at Crohum Hurst Golf Club on Thursday when she compiled a two-day score of 163, following up her first round 81 with a closing 82.

But the bigger news is that she had three hole-in-ones on par-3 holes during the tournament in South Croydon outside London. She owned the 144-yard No. 5 hole twice and also aced the 190-yard No. 11, according to Golf.com’s Sean Zak.

The chances of an average golfer coming away with a hole-in-one in an 18-hole round is estimated at 12,500 to one, but three in 36 holes? Or three in five hours? The best guesstimate a Cambridge mathematician could offer was “in excess of 160 million to one,” according to the Sun.

We also should mention that she defended her title, but it wasn’t so easily done despite the three aces. On back-to-back holes that bridged the two rounds, she needed 17 strokes – giving her something to agonize over.

“On my card I had a nine, two eights, sixes, fives, fours, three, twos and three ones,” said Gibb, who began playing golf 25 years ago when she was invited to a corporate outing.

The 51-year-old amateur had previously aced the 151-yard No. 7 hole and also had pocketed two other hole-in-ones in her outings since 2009. But three in two rounds and three in one tournament?

“The club gives out a bottle of Champagne for every hole-in-one, so they gave me three,” she said. “We had a great night. It was just a weird, weird day.”

“My mother scored a hole-in-one at St Andrews in sixties,” she said. “So I guess it runs in the family.”

If it does, she’s taken it to a new level with a half-dozen in less than 10 years.

Marlins 101

ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick has reported that the Marlins have implemented an educational program for players and staff that is designed to create better communication and camaraderie.

It’s simple, really. If you speak English, you’ll be learning Spanish. And if you speak Spanish, you’ll be learning English.

No one gets off the hook. Not even Marlins part owner and CEO Derek Jeter.

“Everybody expects the Latin players to make an effort to speak English,” said Jeter. “Well, especially here in Miami, if you don’t speak Spanish, you don’t fit in. I think it’s important.”

The Marlins are also tutoring their younger players on budgeting, shopping and cooking.

But if the Marlins aren’t going to go shopping for veteran talent, the pressure is on manager Don Mattingly and his coaching staff to teach the young Marlins how to win. And that’s going to take a considerable investment in time.

They said it

RJ Currie of SportsDeke.com: “Browns rookie QB Baker Mayfield reportedly told Hard Knocks they couldn’t film inside his motorhome. To some guys an RV is prime wheel estate.”

Omaha comedy writer Brad Dickson on Twitter: If you aren’t planning to cash in your IRA or 401K early and take the penalty in order to afford more “Frost Warning” T-shirts YOU ARE NOT A REAL FAN.”

Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times: “Aug. 4 marked the 25th anniversary of White Sox hitter Robin Ventura charging the mound and taking a pummeling after Rangers pitcher Nolan Ryan put him in a headlock and delivered a series of quick punches upside the noggin. It’s believed to be the only bobblehead night in baseball history in which no dolls were given away.”

Janice Hough of LeftCoastSportsBabe: “Bud Light will be giving out free beer at 10 Cleveland-area bars when the Browns win their first regular-season game. Prompting the obvious question – so how long can beer age?”

RJ Currie of SportsDeke.com, again: “The NFL preseason opened with the Ravens beating the Bears 17-16 in the annual Hall of Who Cares game.”

Omaha comedy writer Brad Dickson on Twitter, again: “I was expecting the following first question at the Brooks Koepka presser after winning the PGA: ‘Can you get me Tiger Woods’ autograph?’ ”

Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times, again: “Antonio Callaway turned a short pass into a 54-yard TD in the Browns’ exhibition opener, just days after the rookie receiver was pulled over and cited for marijuana possession. Just one question: If the cops can catch him, why can’t the New York Giants?”

Bob Molinaro in the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot, trying to look on the bright side of Johnny Manziel throwing four interceptions in his CFL debut: “That did give him an opportunity to make two tackles.”

Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times, again: “Death Valley, Calif. recorded the hottest month on record with an average of 108 degrees in July. Though Urban Meyer’s seat at Ohio State already is threatening to break it.”

Hoops pioneers

Lindsey Harding is the latest former WNBA player to join the coaching staff on an NBA team after the Philadelphia 76ers hired her as a full-time scout for the 2018-19 season.

Harding joins three other women making inroads in the NBA – San Antonio Spurs assistant Becky Hammon, Dallas Mavericks assistant Jenny Boucek and Los Angeles Clippers assistant Natalie Nakase.

“Your gender shouldn’t even matter,” Harding said. “It should be about if you can do it, if you’re good, you’re experienced, if you know what you’re doing and what you’re talking about.”

Harding was the WNBA’s No. 1 overall pick in 2007, but retired after last summer after nine seasons with six teams. Harding told ESPN her goal is to parlay her scouting position into a coaching or front office job in the NBA.

“I would love to be in the front office and really understand how to put a team together,” Harding said. “I still love being on the floor and having the opportunity to coach. But I really just wanted to get my foot in the door.”

Cutting edge

Cleveland Browns safety Jabrill Peppers, who played for suspended Maryland head coach DJ Durkin when he was the defensive coordinator at Michigan: “His tactics were different. It felt extreme a times … I thought once he became a head coach that he would calm down a little bit, become more of a people person, a player’s coach.”

Omaha comedy writer Brad Dickson on Twitter: “I know. To really punish Urban Meyer make him the new head coach at Maryland.”

Serena Williams on how she reacted after coach Patrick Mouratoglou told her a few months ago she needed to put tennis first and quit breastfeeding her daughter Alexis, who was born last September: “He’s not a woman, he doesn’t understand that connection, that the best time of the day for me was when I tried to feed her. I’ve spent my whole life making everyone happy, just servicing it seems like everyone. And this is something I wanted to do.”

Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel: “Urban Meyer would tell you anything just to get through the next 5 minutes of the press conference. It didn’t matter if it was true or not…he’s probably the most disingenuous coach I’ve ever covered.”

RJ Currie of SportsDeke.com, again: A sure sign the Montreal Alouettes already consider this a lost CFL season? The Als gift shop is selling cushions in the shape of a toilet seat.

Janice Hough of LeftCoastSportsBabe.com, again: “SF 49ers now say there’s nothing they can do about the intense sun & heat faced by fans on east side of Levi’s Stadium. But they will lower the price of bottled water from $6 to $2 so fans can stay hydrated. The NFL equivalent of ‘thoughts and prayers.’”

Comedy writer Alex Kaseberg: “Swimmer Ryan Lochte has been banned for a year after posting a picture of himself getting injected with a performance-enhancing substance. The number of Olympic medals Lochte has is 12. The exact same number of his IQ score.”

Unruly changes

ESPN the Magazine’s Steve Etheridge provided “The Unwritten Rules of Baseball – Written” in a recent column. My top five favorites:

  • Don’t hit a home run if they opposing team has already hit a home run. Find your own thing.
  • If a pitcher hits a batter with a pitch, he has asserted his dominance and is now the father of the batter’s children.
  • If a bunt is rolling down the line teetering between fair and foul, do not use a leaf blower to change the ball’s trajectory in your favor.
  •  Never question why your uniforms have belts. Just go with it.
  •  If it’s been a while since the third-base coach had gotten to do the “Run home!” windmill gesture, call timeout and let him go wild for a minute or two.

Minor accomplishment

According to Seattle Times’ Dwight Perry in his Sideline Chatter column, two pairs of minor league baseball teammates, Gio Brusa and Jalen Miller of the Class A San Jose Giants, and Kevin Newman and Jacob Stallings of the AAA Indianapolis Indians, have managed to hit for the cycle this season in the same game. That’s a remarkable accomplishment – even more so since no MLB teammates have ever done it.

Headlines

TheOnion.com: “Should the MLB ban infield shapeshifting.”

SportsPickle.com: “Nick Foles looks bad. Time to end this experiment and return him to his natural position of wide receiver.”

Fark.com: “Kobe Bryant must be good at investing, where a $6 million investment turns into $200 million.”

SportsPickle.com: “It’s time for the NFL to ban shots to the head in training camp fights.”

TheOnion.com: “Bill Belichick announces this final season he will coach in current mortal form.”

Fark.com: “You’re 3-12 this season, and your  opponent’s first batter is a hot rookie who has homered in 5 consecutive games. What do you do?”

TheOnion.com: “If Urban Meyer didn’t want to get up in an abuse scandal, why was he hanging around college football.”

SportsPickle.com: “Being placed on paid administrative leave is the American Dream. Congratulations to Urban Meyer and DJ Durkin.”

TheOnion.com: “Scouts highly doubtful Tim Tebow will ever make it to heaven.”

Fark.com: “Ryan Tannehill kicks rookie RB out of Dolphins’ huddle, forces him to eat lunch by himself.”

Tortoise torture?

No one can accuse Maryland interim head football coach Matt Canada of being a cruel and heartless taskmaster.

”The focus of our player’s health and safety is No. 1, and our players are feeling that and understanding that,” Canada said Wednesday.

Yeah, good job reading the tea leaves, Matt.

Canada is seemingly taking credit for having two tents installed at the Terrapins’ practice fields to provide relief for players needing to escape the heat, take a drink, get some ice and cool off in front of misting fans. Most practices are also now limited to two hours.

Of course, school officials mandated such corrective actions after the death from heat exhaustion of freshman offensive lineman Jordan McNair.

McNair collapsed on May 29 while running 110-yard sprints and no one on the training staff immediately diagnosed him with heat exhaustion. Thus, the treatment protocols that might have saved him – fluids and ice – weren’t provided in a timely manner. He died in the hospital on June 13.

With former players and athletic staff leveling accusations that suspended head coach DJ Durkin had a “toxic environment” in his program, the university’s athletic department will be sliced and diced under the microscope for the foreseeable future. There’s no way Durkin isn’t fired after an independent investigation is completed.

Already Durkin’s choice of strength coach, Rick Court, has been forced to resign – if you can consider it a resignation when someone receives a $300,000 parting gift.

Durkin and Court should be joined in the unemployment line by University of Maryland President Wallace Loh, who chose one year ago to reject a plan that would have had all athletic trainers receiving training and guidance from the UM medical school in Baltimore.

Friendly fire

When Furman University serves as the sacrificial lamb for Dabo Swinney’s powerhouse Clemson program on Sept. 1, Paladins’ quarterback Harris Roberts could be staring into the familiar faces of a classmate or two.

There may even be a few Clemson students in the stands cheering him on if he steps on the field.

When Roberts chose to play football at Furman, he knew that in order to accomplish his academic goals that he would have to enroll in a cooperative educational exchange program that would allow him to obtain a mechanical engineering degree at Clemson.

So after earning his pre-engineering degree at Furman in three years, he took aim at receiving a second bachelor’s degree from Clemson, which is 30 miles away.

“The drive back and forth sometimes gets a little monotonous,” said Roberts. “That takes a lot of time out of the day that I could use for studying for class, studying film or taking a nap. Being able to manage my time is the most difficult part, but it’s been going well.”

According to sports information director Hunter Reid, Roberts would be the first Furman player enrolled in the co-op program at Clemson in at least 30 years who is on track to play against the Tigers.

Follow the DNA

For now, the days of David Stockton dribbling in his dad’s footprints are over after he was waived by the Utah Jazz.

The son of Hall of Fame guard John Stockton finished the 2017-18 season with the Jazz but only played three games as a backup. Like his father, David also played in college at Gonzaga, helping add to the Zags’ NCAA tournament history.

Stockton, who spent most of the past four years playing for the Reno Bighorns of the NBA G League, plans to play for Medi Bayreuth in Germany this season. His older brother Michael has played for several German teams.

My takes

Rehastagging this week’s top Tweets from @Randy_Beard11

  • In addition to being an alleged serial wife abuser, former Ohio State assistant Zach Smith reportedly had sex in coaches offices with a OSU staffer and also took photos of his genitalia, including possibly during visit to White House in 2015. Hey, he was an OFFENSIVE assistant.
  • newarena.com‘s Top 5 NFL quaraterbacks:
    1. Tom Brady, Patriots; 2. Aaron Rodgers, Packers; 3. Drew Brees, Saints; 4. Carson Wentz, Eagles; 5. Russell Wilson, Seahawks.
  • So, Eagles’ Nick Foles isn’t one of the 32 best QBs in NFL in listing by http://newarena.com? He’s just the returning
    Super Bowl MVP even if he did chose to be Carson Wentz’s backup. Foles led Eagles to win over Patriots and Tom Brady, who is No. 1 on list.
  • Marlins are taking a bilingual approach to baseball, requiring English-speaking players to learn Spanish and Spanish-speaking players to learn English. But wHich language does Taiwan pitcher Wei-Yin Chen speak?
  • IU’s Lilly King finished 2nd to fellow American Micah Sumrall in 200m breaststroke at Pan Pacific swimming Sunday. The Evansville native had .05 lead at 100m but finished .71 hundredths behind her U.S. rival, posting final time of 1:08.88.

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.