Last 2 Weeks in Review
It’s September, and that means a lot of exciting things happening in the sports world! We have the start of the NFL season coming up, playoff news from the NBA and NHL, amazing player-led activism across all sports, and much more. Welcome to this week’s edition of State of Sports.
In the past few weeks there was plenty of fallout to the shooting of Jacob Blake in the NFL. Nine NFL teams cancelled at least one practice in response to the shootings and many made public statements condemning the actions of the police officers. The Baltimore Ravens were one of these teams putting out a very specific set of actions that should be taken that was very well received online by those who support the BLM movement. Specifically they call for the arrest and charging of the officers that shot Jacob Blake and killed Breonna Taylor, for Senator Mitch McConnel to bring the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act of 2020 to the senate floor for vote, and for prison sentencing reform. In addition, on August 3rd, the NFL-NFLPA put out a list of specific social justice initiatives. These include requiring NFL facilities be closed on Election Day to ensure NFL players can vote, working with NFL players and their families to establish polling places at NFL stadiums, ownership and teams meeting with law enforcement and elected officials to improve police-citizen relations, and more.
In other news, the season starts 6 days from today with a Thursday night bout between the Houston Texans and Super Bowl Champion Kansas City Chiefs. The rest of the games in week 1 will occur three days afterwards in the usual Sunday slot, followed by ESPN’s Monday Night Football. Rosters are getting smaller as teams prepare to keep 53 players which means many notable veterans, including Adrian Peterson, are being left on the curb. Many fantasy leagues are having their drafts this weekend and fans will have to choose players without seeing them in preseason games. The beginning of the NFL season will be exciting this year as nobody truly knows what to expect.
Holy crap, how fun are these playoffs? This week we witnessed two game 7s. Jazz vs. Nuggets ended with the Nuggets coming back from 3-1 to advance to play the Clippers. With time expiring, the Jazz had one final shot, but Conley’s potential game winning 3 rimmed out. You got to feel bad for Donovan Mitchell, who let it all out on the court. The second game 7 was between the Thunder and Rockets. Ofcourse, with Scott Foster being the referee, things were bound to get interesting. The Thunder had enough time to tie or win the game, but instead drew up a terrible play and lost. At least they got farther than most people predicted them to get at the start of the season. Refereeing was a huge topic during the Wednesday night games where Middleton was fouled by Dragic on a 3-pointer to tie the game. In my opinion, Dragic beat Middleton to the spot and went straight up – so no foul. As time was expiring, Jimmy Butler put up a shot and got fouled by Giannis. I do believe this is the right call, although it was soft. Giannis was in Butler’s landing zone and got him on the side while trying to evade his landing zone. In the end, the right team won. As we stand right now:
- Celtics lead the Raptors: 2-1
- Heat lead the Bucks 2-0
- Clippers lead the Nuggets 1-0
- Lakers and Rockets play G1 tonight
In other basketball news, Hall of Fame point guard Steve Nash was named the head coach of the Brooklyn Nets. This came out of nowhere. Last time I saw him on TV, he was a soccer analyst at Bleacher Report/TNT. I guess it kind of makes sense because I didn’t see him cover any of the Champion League games before COVID-19 happened. I was also surprised because I would have assumed Ty Lue, Jacque Vaughn or even Mark Jackson would have been in the running. But in all honesty, I know that people have been seeing this as a race issue and how these black coaches were not given a fair shot, but I would disagree. Nash worked extensively with KD during his Warrior days and is a basketball genius. For Nash to be hired, the organization would have needed the approval of the superstars – KD and Kyrie. And he played with the Nets GM, Sean Marks, who knows that Nash is a great leader. In the end, the Nets hope that Nash will be what Steve Kerr is – a first time head coach who can create a dynasty.
The trade deadline heats up as teams look to buy and sell in this shortened season. The Padres are looking to shift into win now mode off their hot start, as they acquire Cleveland ace Mike Clevinger in order to bolster up a pitching staff that will need to improve to complement the bats of Fernando Tatis Jr. and Manny Machado. Clevinger was shipped off in part due to conduct detrimental to the team in which he left the team hotel to go out to dinner with friends. While the Padres are hot on their heels, the LA Dodgers are shaping up to be the best team in baseball. An elite pitching staff featuring Kershaw, Buehler, and rookie Dustin May combines with a lineup featuring Bellinger, Betts, Turner and Pederson to make a roster that looks poised to finally bring a World Series title back to Los Angeles.
In the American League the Athletics and Rays, last year’s wildcard teams, both look to have taken a huge step forward as they each lead their divisions. Right behind those Athletics are the Asteri- I mean Astros who are performing quite admirably without their top two pitchers from last season. The Astros avoided any real punishment for the past three years of cheating as the lack of fans in stadiums has given them relief from all of the boos they were sure to get. The only player who seems to be negatively affected by not being able to cheat anymore is Jose Altuve who is having a horrid start to the season, slashing .211/.276/.316 which is well below his averages, and well below league average. The big surprise of the AL is the Chicago White Sox who are in position to win their first AL Central Division title since 2008. This young team is getting All Star caliber pitching out of Lucas Giolito who threw the MLB’s first no hitter of the season on August 25th. Behind him is an offense that is hitting home runs at a ridiculous rate. Jose Abreu, Eloy Jiménez and rookie Luis Robert all have at least nine homers through 34 games.
The Big 10 is a mess right now. President Donald Trump tweeted that he had a conversation with Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren and that things might swing in the direction many other power 5 conferences have been for weeks: playing football in the Fall. Other reports came out that there was a date in October that the conference was targeting.5 While there are early talks to have a return to football in late November, effectively every piece of information out currently is a rumor. This includes a report out of Penn State that claimed “30-35% of Big 10 athletes positive for COVID-19 had myocarditis symptoms.”6 That statement is apparently misleading and was hearsay from an ongoing study.7 What isn’t hearsay is that 46 student-athletes across 10 teams at the University of Maryland have tested positive for COVID-19 and all athletic programs have been paused.8 I wouldn’t expect Big 10 athletics this year, but what all the misinformation out there, who knows what is really true.
In Hockey, as of August 3rd, the Vegas Golden nights are leading the Canucks 3-2, the New York Islanders are leading the Philadelphia Flyers 3-2, and the Arizona Avalanche are tied 3-3 with the Dallas Stars all in the second round of the playoffs. The only team who has advanced to the Conference Finals at this point is the Tamba Bay Lightning who blew by the Boston Bruins 4 games to 1 on August 31st.
The entire soccer world and sports world was shocked when Lionel Messi decided he no longer wants to be a part of Barcelona. What led him to this decision? What are his possible destinations? Is there a chance he returns to Barcelona? Update: As of 11:00 AM today, reports have come in that Messi is deciding to stay at Barcelona against his will because he does not want to go to court against the team he loves and respects.
More on soccer news: the UEFA Nations League has started up for its second season. Personally, I was a huge fan of the first season because it gave meaning to international games, instead of having “friendlies.” It is also interesting that the Nations League is dynamic in the fact that the previous season will impact which tier you are in and how you are grouped the following year. The winner of last year’s Nations League, Portugal, are slated to be without Cristiano Ronaldo, who may be out with an infected foot. This week will feature each country playing 2 games in the group stages.
What we showed the lights on
The past two “Enter Your Week With Eli” blogs were about how the Big 10 and Pac 12 conference football seasons ending affect marching bands and misconceptions about Volleyball. The “What’s the Midweek Matter” posts featured stories about Luca Doncic (the Slovenian Sniper) and the terrible situation unfolding within the Washington Football Team organization. Our podcast last week featured Sam and Monty discussing the ‘Yips’ and interviewing friend of the show Matt. Monty also wrote a Podcast Summary about this podcast.
What’s coming up?
Next week’s “Enter Your Week With Eli” will feature an interesting look at the upcoming NFL season. “What’s the Midweek Matter” will look at an intriguing soccer story. We will spotlight how sports teams moving affects cities in next week’s podcast. Pay attention on Thursday when we will release a special edition of “What’s the Midweek Matter” where we predict the 2020 NFL season! We hope you are excited about what’s coming up because we are enjoying bringing you stories that might not be talked about as much as they should. Stay tuned, we’ll keep bringing you sports stories, even when the lights go out.