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Add-on posted early Wed. a.m.
--Sunday night, the Mets received some good news as Jacob deGrom had his first rehab start, facing six batters for the Single-A St. Lucie Mets, striking out five, and hitting 100-mph on his first pitch.
They beat the Reds Monday, 7-4, but then suffered a horrible 1-0 loss to Cincy last night, wasting Max Scherzer’s return from his long layoff, “Mad Max” going six innings, 2 hits, no runs, striking out 11.
The Mets were truly pathetic at the plate, 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position, an all too frequent performance the past few weeks.
So, coupled with Atlanta’s 7-1 win over St. Louis, and Philadelphia’s 11-0 pasting of Washington behind Kyle Schwarber’s two homers, Nos. 24 and 25, the NL East tightened anew.
--Two other notes from last night…the Marlins’ Sandy Alcantara has been the best pitcher in the game this season and he went eight scoreless, striking out 10, and improving to 9-3, 1.82, as the Marlins beat the Angels 2-1, Miami 39-40, L.A. falling to 37-45. At least Mike Trout broke his latest drought at the plate.
--And thanks to the Yankees being in town for a rare appearance, an historically cool matchup, the Pirates drew a near-capacity crowd of 37,700 and beat the Yanks 5-2. Love it.
--Here I wrote all I did about Juan Soto and he exited Sunday’s game with the Marlins with a left calf injury, but an MRI was clean and he’s “day to day.”
--After I posted the Astros completed their sweep of the Angels, 4-2, as three Houston pitchers struck out 20 Angels, equaling a major league record. L.A. was fanned 48 times in the three games.
Rookie Jeremy Pena, who replaced Carlos Correa at short, had two home runs, including the game-winner in the bottom of the ninth, giving him 11 on the season.
But for Los Angeles, one of the stories of futility of the weekend was Mike Trout, mired in another big drought at the plate, 0-for-14…0-for-11 in the three games with nine strikeouts. You’ll recall he had a career-worst 0-for-26 slump just about a month ago, before he got hot with the power bat.
--And I have to mention Philadelphia’s Zack Wheeler, who threw seven shutout innings in a 4-0 win over the Cardinals Sunday night.
Wheeler was 11-8, 3.96, in 195 innings for the Mets in 2019 and they didn’t want to give him the big contract he was seeking, so the free agent signed a five-year, $118 million deal with the Phillies.
And all Wheeler has done is earn every penny.
2021…14-10, 2.78, 213 innings, runner-up for the Cy Young
--Monday night, Seattle’s 21-year-old phenom Julio Rodriguez became the fastest of any player in history to hit 15 home runs and steal 20 bases by doing so in his first 81 games, Rodriguez with a 429-foot bomb in an 8-2 win over the Padres.
Ellis Burks is next at 82 games. He was a pretty fair ballplayer.
--I alluded to a new Scottish Open last time and it is indeed a big deal. Instead of just being another European Tour stop the week before The Open Championship, this is the first time it is a joint venture between the DP World and PGA Tours. There will be 75 golfers from the PGA Tour, and 75 from the DP World Tour, plus six others. The field is simply loaded. In fact, it is set to be the strongest non-major DP World Tour event in history.
The event is being held at The Renaissance Club, which opened in 2007 and has already hosted lots of championship events.
The Genesis Scottish Open also offers three spots in The Open to the top three finishes not already exempted, granted they also finish in the top at Renaissance.
As for the upcoming Open at St. Andrews, Tiger Woods played Monday and Tuesday at the J.P. McManus Pro-Am at Adare Manor in Limerick, Ireland, McManus an old friend and leading businessman and philanthropist on the Emerald Isle.
Tiger played poorly in the first round, 77. They say he drove the ball well, but his irons and short game were not up to speed. However, this is a pro-am and he’s known not to take them that seriously. He commented his team did well, the Smurfit family, another big name in Ireland and Europe.
In comments to reporters on Tuesday, Woods confirmed he wanted to play in the U.S. Open “but physically I was not able to do that… I had some issues with my leg and it would have put this tournament in jeopardy, and so there’s no reason to do that,” meaning St. Andrews, where he won in 2000 and 2005. But Tiger added, “Now if you say play at a championship level, well, that window is definitely not as long as I would like it to be.”
--On the LIV front, Graeme McDowell admitted in a presser at the J.P. McManus event that he had been a bit disingenuous when he first bolted to LIV. Now he admits it was about the cash.
“Selfishly, I’m 43 years old next month, and I’m disappointed that I don’t have the ability to play the Majors and to play the other big events in the world. But my schedule’s going to be just fine. I’m happy enough with what I’ve got to look forward to for the next 18 months from a golfing point of view. It’s financially a great opportunity for me and my family.
“I hate kind of where it puts me from a headline point of view and kind of what it makes it all look like. But you know, within the circle of LIV, I think the players, there’s a great camaraderie, players continue to get better and better from the point of view of the field to the point where you know, it won’t be ignored by the World Ranking federations and by the Major championships.
“I’m hoping there’s going to be a way back in because I feel like I’m still good enough to compete at a high level any week I play. It’s not like I’m saying, ‘I’m hanging up my clubs, off to LIV, all the best.’ It’s not about that.
“It’s about kind of sick of finishing 150th in the FedEx and banging my head against the wall on the PGA Tour. It’s hard. It’s hard every week. You know, I paid my dues. I’ve done the right things for 20 years of my life, and now I want to go and make some money in a fantastic opportunity.”
Well, that’s fine, Graeme. Just don’t expect us to give a shit about you.
Meanwhile, Billy Horschel, in a presser ahead of the Scottish Open on Tuesday, was spitting mad at the LIV players.
“I’ve been really frustrated by it because there’s a lot of guys that are hypocrites, that aren’t telling the truth, that are lying about some things, and I just can’t stand to sit here anymore and be diplomatic about it as I have been in the past,” Horschel said. “I don’t fault anyone for going to play the LIV tour. I don’t have any ill will for anyone going to play the LIV tour. I have ill will toward comments that they’ve made, comments saying that [PGA Tour commissioner] Jay Monahan doesn’t listen, the PGA Tour doesn’t listen to us.
“Jay Monahan and everyone at headquarters is the PGA Tour. They work tirelessly for us to reap the financial rewards and have all the opportunities that we have. At the same time, I am one of 200-plus members of the PGA Tour. I am the PGA Tour, just as 200 other members are the PGA Tour, so when you take shots at the PGA Tour and Jay Monahan, you’re not just taking shots at them, you’re taking shots at us.”
“I believe they made their bed. They decided to go play on a tour, and they should go play that tour. They shouldn’t be coming back over her to play the DP World Tour or the PGA Tour. To say that they wanted to also support this tour or the DP or PGA Tour going forward, while playing the LIV tour, is completely asinine in my opinion.”
“Listen, there is a little division in the locker room, and some are more upset than others,” Horschel said. “I have no ill will, but I’m just tired of hearing comments that aren’t truthful.”
Rory McIlroy weighed in again, saying players who joined LIV should not be “having their cake and eating it” by being eligible to compete on other tours.
Monday, Ian Poulter was informed he could play at the Scottish Open after an appeal against his ban was upheld, despite the DP World Tour barring him from playing.
“I think at this stage, if you go over and play on a different tour, then go over and play on a different tour,” Rory said.
“You’re sort of basically leaving all your peers behind to go make more money, which is fine. But just go over there. Don’t try and come back and play over here again.
“This whole having your cake and eating it type thing is what the resentment [stems from] within the membership.”
Rory and Horschel are spot on.
--These next two weeks are also critical for PGA Tour players not making the trip across the pond for the Scottish and British Opens in terms of trying to get in the top 125 for the FedEx Cup playoffs. The Barbasol Championship, played in Kentucky this week, and the Barracuda Championship the following week, opposite The Open Championship. Someone like a Bill Haas, way down on the points list, could nonetheless make a big move with a top ten or five performance in one of the two. Actually for many of these guys, the next two weeks are make or break for them.
--In a quarterfinal Tuesday, top-seed Novak Djokovic recovered from losing the first two sets in his match with Jannik Sinner to win the next three 6-3, 6-2, 6-2. He will now face 9 Cameron Norrie in a Friday semifinal.
The other semi will have either 2 Rafael Nadal or 11 Taylor Fritz of the U.S., who square off in their quarterfinal Wed.
Also Wednesday, the controversial Nick Kyrgios will be in a quarterfinal against Chile’s Cristian Garin. He learned today that he will be making a court appearance next month in Australia to face a charge stemming from an alleged assault of a former girlfriend late last year.
Kyrgios has already earned a $10,000 fine in this Grand Slam for spitting in the direction of a heckling spectator at the end of his first-round match and $4,000 for an audible obscenity, during his tempestuous win against Stefanos Tsitsipas in the third round.
--On the women’s side, 20 Amanda Anisimova of Freehold, N.J., takes on 16 Simona Halep in a quarterfinal Wed., and, frankly, I don’t care about the rest of the women’s bracket. 3-seed Ons Jabeur of Tunisia will be in one of the semifinals on Thursday and I hasten to add, for a 3-seed, I never heard of her. Turns out this is her first semi in a Grand Slam, so I don’t feel so bad and won’t lose any sleep over it.
Halep, on the other hand, has two Grand Slam wins and was No. 1 in 2017 and 2018. So a tough matchup for Anisimova…however, she beat Halep at the French Open in 2019 to advance to her first, and only, semifinal in a Grand Slam.
--Trainer Bob Baffert was back at Santa Anita after his three-month suspension ended. He said “It felt like the first day of school.
As the L.A. Times John Cherwa put it:
“Depending on who you talk to, Baffert is either beloved or reviled, with more in the former than latter category. He has been a particular target of animal rights activists with PETA calling for his removal from the Hall of Fame. It’s because of his celebrity that he is a particularly valuable target. He is the one name non-racing people know.”
Baffert remains banned from Churchill Downs until after next year’s Kentucky Derby. And he can’t race in New York until January, “even though he has had no violations in the state for the almost three decades he has raced there.” [Cherwa]
--I noted that Tyler Reddick won his first NASCAR Cup Series race late Sunday at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wis. But nobody has won more than two races through the first 18 events on the Cup Series calendar, the first year someone hasn’t won at least three of the first 18.
--The Los Angeles Times had a story Tuesday that if UCLA wasn’t going to the riches of the Big Ten it faced the prospect of cutting sports, a la Stanford a few years ago. [Stanford later rescinded the move.]
UCLA’s athletic department has run up a $102.8 million deficit the last three fiscal years, in so small part because football attendance has fallen, let alone Covid’s impact on revenue.
But now the Bruins could receive $100 million per year from the Big Ten once the projected $1-billion media rights deal begins in 2024.
--Of course I was watching the Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest and I could tell the great Joey Chestnut was not going to break his record of 76 hot dogs and buns as he entered the arena at Coney Island. There was little doubt the ruptured tendon in his leg had him in pain, let alone a surgical boot, but he soldiered on to his staggering 15th win in the ultimate test of eating, one more than Rafael Nadal’s 14 French Open titles.
Chestnut ‘only’ scarfed down 63, but it was more than enough for another Mustard Belt, 15 ½ ahead of second-place finisher Geoffrey Esper.
Chestnut’s performance was briefly interrupted by an animal rights protester in a Darth Vader mask, who somehow got on the stage, with Chestnut and promoter George Shea taking him down before security arrived.
But because of the incident, FanDuel and DraftKings were among the sportsbooks that announced refunds on any straight bets for Chestnut to eat more than 74.5 hot dogs.
On the women’s side, Miki Sudo, after a one-year absence due to her pregnancy, won her eighth title in swallowing whole 40 wieners and buns.
--There were a few items I didn’t get to last time, and one was Adele opening up about the “brutal” backlash and guilt she faced after deciding to postpone her Las Vegas residency this year, saying she “was a shell of a person” in the months that followed.
In an interview with BBC Radio 4, the singer said that while she stands by her decision to reschedule her January-April stint at the Colosseum at Caesars Palace, the aftermath was gut-wrenching.
“I definitely felt everyone’s disappointment, and I was devastated, and I was frightened about letting them down,” she said, adding that all she could do was “wait it out and grieve.”
Adele took to Instagram to announce the postponement just 24 hours before she was to open, telling her fans “my show ain’t ready” and “it’s been impossible,” with her production team devastated by “delivery delays and Covid.”
While some were sympathetic, others, many of whom had booked flights from other countries – blasted her for the lack of notice.
“It was horrible,” she recalled in the interview.
Tickets for the residency had sold for a few hundred dollars to as much as $30,000 on resale sites, Forbes reported.
Adele told ticket holders this past Friday the rescheduled dates would be announced “very, very soon.”
I have to admit I would have been furious.
This weekend she had two concerts in London’s Hyde Park that drew 65,000 each.
--Good lord…there were two fatal shark attacks at an Egyptian resort area on the Red Sea, possibly within hours of each other. Two women were savagely attacked by a suspected mako shark, which is a vicious predator. Most of those who die in the Red Sea are victims of oceanic whitetip sharks.
The first victim desperately swam back to a pier after an arm and leg were bitten off and she died in the ambulance. Shortly thereafter, a second woman was pulled out of the sea after being located on a reef.
The water is extremely warm in these parts. I saw a story where Egypt’s Ministry of Environment said attacks in the area were seen as rare. Wrong. I’ve chronicled a lot of them in this area over the years.
Next Bar Chat, Sunday p.m.
Add-on up top by noon, Wed.
[Posted early Sun. p.m.]
NBA Quiz: Guard Ish Smith was part of a trade the other day from Washington to Denver and when he suits up for the Nuggets in the fall, he’ll be the sole recordholder for playing for the most teams in an NBA career, 13. How many can you name? Answer below.
--The Yankees continued to roll, sweeping the Guardians in Cleveland in a doubleheader Saturday. In the opener, the Yanks cruised 13-4, Gerrit Cole six innings, 2 runs, improving to 7-2, 2.99. In the nightcap, Nestor Cortes threw six innings of one-run ball, Yanks winning 7-3, Cortes 7-2, 2.44.
But in the opener, Aroldis Chapman made his first appearance since May and walked all three batters he faced. He knows he’s lost his closer role to Clay Holmes, who’s been spectacular, and for good reason, some in the organization are worried about Chapman’s fragile psyche.
The Yanks, though, were one-hit today by three Cleveland pitchers, losing 2-0. So they are 58-22.
By the way, the Yanks are chasing the 2001 Seattle Mariners, who went 116-46, but then lost the ALCS to the Yankees.
After 80 games, Seattle was 59-21. Next target for New York, Mariners were then 80-30.
--The Mets are struggling, losers of 6 of 9 (prior to today) after a 7-3 loss to Texas at Citi Field on Saturday. The bats have gone silent, the pitching is iffy, and the Braves and Phillies are on the move. At least Max Scherzer returns Tuesday and Jacob deGrom has his first rehab start Sunday, so hopefully he’s back after the All-Star break, but who knows what we can get from him after a one-year+ absence.
Mets fans are at least excited to learn that 20-year-old catcher/power-hitting phenom Francisco Alvarez was promoted to AAA Saturday, after hitting 18 home runs at AA. If he keeps hitting, he’ll be up after the All-Star break, unless the current two Mets catchers go on a tear at the plate. Alvarez could easily be a primary DH.
Big win today, though…4-1 to take the series, now 49-30, and 3 ½ ahead of the Braves, 46-34, who lost in Cincinnati 4-3. As Nelson Muntz would say, “Ha-ha!” Atlanta had won 23 of 29.
For the Metropolitans, the much-maligned Eduardo Escobar homered in all three games this weekend.
--The Phillies (41-38) are hanging in there, though they lost to the Cards 7-6 Saturday, as St. Louis hit four consecutive home runs off starter Kyle Gibson in the first to jump off to a 5-0 lead, the first one off the bat of Nolan Arenado, who had hit for the cycle in a 5-3 loss on Friday. Saturday, he hit a second homer, a tie-breaking shot in the top of the ninth.
According to ESPN, it’s the 11th time in Major League history the feat has been accomplished.
In a 14-4 win over the Braves on Thursday, Kyle Schwarber homered, his 23rd of the season (though he’s batting only .218) and it was his 47th in 458 career June at-bats. One every 9.74 at-bats for the month…tops in MLB history with at least 400 career ABs, ahead of Babe Ruth’s mark of a homer every 10.63 June at-bats. That’s a cool record to hold. [Most of these would seem to be against the Mets when Schwarber was a National last year…like 7 in five June games.]
--The Dodgers’ Tony Gonsolin won again, 5-1 over the Padres Friday night, giving up just one run in a career-high 7 2/3 to lower his season ERA to 1.54, his record 10-0, becoming the third pitcher in franchise history to get off to such a start. 73 of 92 pitches were strikes.
--Entering Thursday’s game against the Nationals, Pirates catcher Michael Perez was batting .129, 11-for-85. He then went 4-for-4, 3 home runs, 5 RBIs. Incredibly, the first Pittsburgh catcher in history to hit three.
He then went 0-for-4 Friday and is hitting .161, the Pirates getting drubbed 19-2 by the Brewers.
The Pirates bounced back Saturday, 7-4, Perez not playing.
--Last Wednesday, the Angels beat White Sox 4-1, as Shohei Ohtani threw 5 2/3 scoreless, running his scoreless streak to 21 2/3, and his record to 7-4, 2.68.
It’s going to be interesting. Last season the Angels were 77-85 and Ohtani was the unanimous MVP, going 9-2, 3.18 on the mound, while slamming 46 home runs and driving in 100.
This year he has 18 HR and 50 ribbies, with that pitching mark, and L.A. is 37-43. He’s doing what no one else thought was possible in today’s game, and at an elite level. But the Angels are so miserable, losing their last two to Houston, 8-1 and 9-1.
Aaron Judge is the most obvious rival for the A.L. hardware. We’ll see.
--The Washington Post’s Jesse Dougherty reported:
“The Washington Nationals made an offer to Juan Soto this spring that exceeded the 13 years and $350 million they dangled last fall, according to three people with knowledge of the situation. The exact timing and proposed terms were not known Thursday night. Soto declined the offer, but discussions between the player and team are active, according to two people with knowledge of the talks.”
Back in May, Soto’s agent, Scott Boras, and two of his employees had a long chat with Soto in the dugout at Nationals Park, it has recently come to light.
Soto is 23 and would reach free agency after the 2024 season, and as I’ve noted many times the Nats need to lock him up. But Soto has told ESPN he wants to go year-to-year and eventually test the open market. He signed for $17.1 million in arbitration for this season.
But at the same time, the Lerner family is exploring a sale of the team, and as Jesse Dougherty observes:
“Would the team be a more attractive commodity with Soto signed for the long term? Or would a new ownership group want to negotiate with him rather than inherit a massive financial commitment? And if General Manager Mike Rizzo doesn’t see a path to keeping Soto, does that increase the chance of Rizzo shopping the star in a blockbuster trade – if not at this early August deadline, then at some point in the future?”
Soto is gone.
The Nats did exercise the 2023 options for both Rizzo and manager Dave Martinez to show stability amid the questions over ownership.
For the record, thru Saturday, Soto is having a miserable season. 15 home runs, but just 33 RBIs, a .226 batting average, .827 OPS, and, get this, a .140 BA with runners in scoring position.
Last season he hit a staggering .396 with RISP, 95 RBIs, .999 OPS.
I can’t keep up on everything, nor do I care that much, but some moves for the record as NBA free agency opened up Thursday.
Denver’s Nikola Jokic, the two-time MVP, is signing a record five-year, $270 million extension.
Bradley Beal reached a five-year, $251 million deal with the Wizards, which is beyond absurd. It’s Bradley Beal, for crying out loud, not Oscar Robertson.
Minnesota’s Karl-Anthony Towns and Phoenix’s Devin Booker are agreeing to four-year, $224 million extensions.
Here’s another beyond absurd one…Zion Williamson, who didn’t play a single freakin’ minute last season, is going to ink a five-year, $193 million extension, which could reach $231 million. Just shoot me….
Zach LaVine is staying in Chicago on a five-year, $215 million deal.
Memphis’ Ja Morant is signing a five-year, $193 million extension that, like Williamson’s deal, could reach $231 million…
James Harden is completing a new deal with Philadelphia that is said to be in the $200 million range. This guy sucks. An incredibly stupid move for the Sixers.
So then Utah traded center Rudy Gobert to Minnesota for four players, the No. 22 pick Walker Kessler and four first-round picks…a staggering package. The Jazz, in Danny Ainge’s first franchise-altering deal since becoming Utah CEO midseason, picked up six first-round picks in a 24-hour span as they plan to retool the roster around Donovan Mitchell, their 25-year old All-Star guard.
Gobert is not young, 30, but he’s become a perennial All-Star, with three Defensive Player of the Year awards, along with his three All-Star appearances. He averaged 15.6 points, a league-leading 14.7 rebounds and 2.1 blocks last season.
The Jazz also signed 34-year-old Boston assistant Will Hardy to replace Quin Snyder as head coach after he resigned following their first-round playoff exit at the hands of Dallas.
Utah traded starting forward Royce O’Neale to the Nets for a 2023 first-round pick on Thursday.
The Celtics acquired veteran point guard Malcolm Brogdon, 29, who averaged 19.1 points, 5.9 assists and 5.1 rebounds in 36 games for Indiana last season. Therein lies the problem. Brogdon is injury prone. He’s a quality player, no doubt, but hasn’t played in more than 64 games in any of his first six seasons.
The Celts traded five players and their 2023 first-round pick in exchange. Veteran forward Danilo Gallinari is also expected to sign a free agent deal with the Celtics.
--The Atlanta Hawks made a brilliant move in getting Trae Young some quality help in the backcourt, trading for San Antonio’s budding superstar Dejounte Murray for a bunch of first-round picks and Gallinari (who is expected to be waived…thus the Boston rumors).
I have to admit, I didn’t follow Murray all that much last season, but I kept seeing him fill up the stat sheets yet didn’t realize he had become the only player in NBA history to average 20-plus points, eight-plus rebounds, nine-plus assists and two-plus steals…21.1, 8.3, 9.2, 2.0…plus he’s a terrific defender.
As Ronald Reagan would have told Nancy, reading the Wednesday sports page in the Los Angeles Times, Nancy fixing him blueberry pancakes with Jimmy Dean sausage links, ‘Not bad, not bad at all.’
[Not everyone likes the Murray deal. And the Spurs seem to be going all-in on tanking and gunning for the No. 1 pick in the 2023 draft, which all are in agreement will be France’s 7-2 Victor Wembanyama.]
--But the big story in these parts is Kevin Durant demanding a trade from Brooklyn. Yes, barely 24 hours after Kyrie committed to the Nets for the 2022-23 season. Guess Durant finally got tired of Irving as well.
Durant wants a trade to Phoenix or Miami, and with Chris Paul 37 years of age, you’d think the Suns would go for it. Other teams, like the Lakers and Clippers, don’t have the talent to send to Brooklyn that the Nets will be demanding.
This is intriguing. Irving could also be traded.
But what does this say about the Brooklyn Nets and their management?
Mike Vaccaro / New York Post
“This is a basketball calamity, a basketball catastrophe, a basketball cataclysm. Ignore the spin that will be generated by all of this by all of the interested parties. Disregard the epic haul that is likely to start heading to Brooklyn sometime soon. This is not hyperbole. This is not overstatement.
“This is basketball Armageddon.
“Three years to the day after the Nets stunned the NBA by luring Kevin Durant to town, Durant and his business manager, Rich Kleiman, requested a trade. Three years to the day after Sean Marks, the Brooklyn boss, looked like the smartest kid in class – and didn’t exactly dissuade anyone from thinking that way – he agreed to Durant’s request. That is it. That is all.
“That is horrendous. It is disastrous. Any way you cut it up.
“For the Nets, it means the end of a basketball experiment that always seemed based on spec, always felt heavy on what-ifs and what-might-bes. They agreed to finance Durant’s year away from the sport as he recovered from Achilles surgery, seeing it as a small investment for a potentially huge payoff. They agreed to Durant’s terms of engagement, which included signing the mercurial Kyrie Irving and the glacial DeAndre Jordan.
“In return they got two years of brilliant basketball out of Durant. But they also played three playoff series in that time and lost two. They endured a year of chaos in 2021-22, much of it courtesy of Irving, and clearly that changed Durant’s mindset from all-in – he signed a four-year, $198 million extension less than 11 months ago, after all, a deal that still has yet to kick in – to get-me-out-of-here.
“The Nets will surely receive an unprecedented return from Phoenix or Miami or some other suitor, and there will likely be some useful pieces making their way toward Brooklyn, but that wasn’t the narrative that was supposed to define the Nets. They brought Durant here to win the franchise’s first title since the final ABA Championship in 1976. Period….
“(Durant) doesn’t escape unscathed… Part of the appeal of coming to Brooklyn (besides trying to replicate the ‘super-team’ blueprint copyrighted – twice now – by LeBron James) was to reverse the label he’d been slapped with when he jumped to Oklahoma City for Golden State. That maneuver stamped him a shameless front-running mercenary, a rap he couldn’t shake even after collecting bookend Finals MVPs with the Warriors.
“Now he wants out of Brooklyn. Surely, he has his reasons. If one of them is Kyrie – well, it was Durant the de facto GM who made Irving’s acquisition an essential part of his willingness to play at Barclays Center. If one of them is Steve Nash, who has looked overmatched (at best) and overwhelmed (at worst) in his first two years as a coach – well, it was Durant who made it plain (along with other prominent team voices) that they were less-than-enamored with Kenny Atkinson.
“If one of them is a quashed belief that the Nets can actually win a championship as presently constructed? Well, he’s probably right. And if he winds up somewhere like Phoenix or Miami, he will ride the coattails of established franchise alpha dogs like Devin Booker, Chris Paul, Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo precisely as he once did Steph Curry’s, Klay Thompson’s and Draymond Green’s.
“And folks like Charles Barkley – who recently argued that Durant needs a bus of his own to drive if he ever wants to be remembered among the sport’s rarefied elite – will be justified in hammering him forever….
“The lone silver lining was Durant’s brilliance across 90 regular-season games, and 16 postseason ones. No one can question his otherworldly skill. And he seemed to genuinely care about where the Nets were, and where they were going.
“Until he didn’t.”
--As for that other team in New York, my pathetic Knicks, they did indeed sign their man, point guard Jalen Brunson, four years, $104 million, and New York fans will like him. He’s just a very good ballplayer. But can he be a difference maker for RJ Barrett and Julius Randle? Will coach Tom Thibodeau find a way to get highly-talented pieces Obi Toppin and Immanuel Quickly at least 20+ minutes a game on a regular basis? The Knicks also, kind of surprisingly, came to terms with center Mitchell Robinson, who has immense talent but needs to overcome countless little injuries and a penchant for quick foul trouble. They also signed a very serviceable backup center, Isiah Hartenstein.
What the hell. Like a true jerk, I’ll be optimistic come the start of the season, watch a lot of their games and get all fired up as they get off to a 5-1 start, and then I’ll commit hari-kari after they go on a 3-19 swoon.
Actually, I can’t commit hari-kari until Wake’s football and hoops seasons are over, the Mets’ playoff run, either this year or next, and the hoped-for maturation of Zack Wilson of the Jets. So we’ll put that idea off until 2024. A good time for hari-kari might be like July, because I don’t know if I can take the 2024 presidential election.
Golf Balls…LIV and Let Die
--The poor folks hosting the John Deere Classic really got the shaft this year, between it’s being placed on the schedule after the U.S. Open and the nearby Travelers, that had a lot of top pros just heading down the road to play in that one, and then the big Scottish and Open Championships across the pond, let alone the second LIV event in Oregon that had some players in it that easily might have been at the Deere, and you ended up with the worst field of the year, including the Fall Series.
Heading into the final round….J.T. Poston, seeking his second win, was up by three shots.
And he closed the deal, winning by two, wire-to-wire. Good for him.
Christopher Gotterup, a New Jersey native who played at Rutgers and sought a sponsor’s exemption with a passionate letter, finished T4. What a performance.
--Justin Thomas, along with Rory McIlroy, have become the chief spokesmen, and defenders, of the PGA Tour and Thomas had more to say about LIV this week for the No Laying Up podcast.
“It’s tough,” Thomas said. “And I never thought I would be lying in bed so many nights thinking about this fricking tour and what’s going on and all this stuff.”
Thomas doesn’t know how caught up in it he wants to get.
“I go back and forth about how involved I should be, what I should say, what I shouldn’t say, what I want to say and what I know I can’t say and back and forth of all these different things,” Thomas said. “When it first happened and when it came out, guys, they’re going to do what they want to do, and yeah, do I wish they wouldn’t have, but they’re entitled to their own opinion and decision and so be it kind of thing.
“I just, to be perfectly honest, I just wish one of them would have the balls to say I’m doing this for the money. Like, I personally would gain a lot more respect for that. But it’s just the more the players keep talking and saying that this is for the betterment of the game, the more agitated and irritated I get about it.”
On the issue of what seems inevitable…a future lawsuit by LIV against the PGA Tour:
“If any of those guys that left to go play the other tour sue the [PGA] Tour, they’re suing me, they’re suing Rory, they’re suing Tiger, they’re suing every single one of us that they’ve looked in the face,” Thomas said. “So like, to me, that’s where a little bit of the betrayal and the upsetting and sad feelings come from.”
Barry Svrluga / Washington Post
“Let’s go to Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club outside Portland, Ore., for the latest on the upstart LIV Golf series. Charl Schwartzel, lugging around the $4 million he won earlier this month outside London, lost the first ball he hit, opened with a double bogey and, well, who really cares that he finished the day buried near the bottom of the leader board? Graeme McDowell, captain of a team somehow known as the Niblicks, was 4 over par before an hour had elapsed, further forging his path to irrelevance. Brooks Koepka debuted for Team Smash, which has a logo that looks like, um, flatulence. Edgy!
“Golf always has had a silly season. It has never before straddled June and July, when major championships are strung together with meaningful tournaments in between. The renegade series is, of course, trying to brashly change all that. It has high appeal as being both lucrative and stress-free for the players.
“But as a product that raises the hairs on the backs of necks? It feels like second-rate reality TV, properly relegated to, say, the CW. (Or, actually, streaming on LIVGolf.com or YouTube.) In golf, iron has long sharpened iron. No one ever said gold sharpens gold. The most malleable of metals might, indeed, soften all who have stuck their snouts in the trough.
“It’s important to constantly keep in mind the source of LIV’s extensive – indeed, almost endless – wealth and funding: the Saudi Arabian government. Sure, it’s lightly laundered through something called the Public Investment Fund, which bills itself ‘sovereign,’ a laughable notion given that the chairman of the board is none other than Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and the board consists of members of the Saudi establishment. Each of these players has signed up to take money from a murderous regime, and that colors the entire entity.
“But put the moral qualms aside for a minute, and what are you left with? It would seem a tricked-up mess of a product. That’s not just because it’s different. On the face of it, different isn’t bad. But start with that fact, and go back to what Jon Rahm – the Spaniard ranked second in the world who has pledged his loyalty to the PGA Tour – said before the U.S. Open. It rang true at the time. As LIV Golf stages the second even in its torch-the-establishment existence, it seems more pertinent now.
“ ‘Part of the format is not really appealing to me,’ Rahm said. ‘Shotgun, three days, to me is not a golf tournament. No cut. I want to play against the best in the world in a format that’s been going on for hundreds of years. That’s what I want to see.’….
“It’s a shotgun start, with all the disorder that implies. The leaders play the course as it’s meant to be played: The starting hole means something: the finishing hole means something else. Except for everyone else, who finishes not on the 18th but on the fifth or the seventh or wherever.
“That doesn’t feel like a championship event. It feels like a Monday-morning shotgun to benefit the Four Counties Foodbank. Which, come to think of it, would do more good for the world than lining, say, Pat Perez’s pockets with $580,000 for finishing ninth….
“There’s some procedural stuff that lessens the LIV luster, too. Koepka, for one, has long said he cares most about major championships, of which he has four. That’s an admirable way of thinking, one shared by Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods, to name a few.
“But by joining LIV Golf, Koepka has – at least for now – potentially boxed his way out of the majors. His tickets to the 2023 Masters is punched – assuming Augusta National doesn’t ban LIV players – because he won the 2018 U.S. Open. Winners of the U.S. and British Opens and the PGA Championship get invitations to Augusta for the following five years.
“The path back to the Masters in 2024 and beyond, though, is harder than it was two months ago. Players who win a PGA Tour event in the year since the last Masters gain entry. Koepka and the others can’t win PGA Tour events if they can’t play in them, so that avenue is locked.
“Players who are in the top 50 in the Official World Golf Ranking at the end of the previous calendar year, as well as the week before the Masters start, are granted entry to Augusta. But right now – and perhaps forever – LIV Golf events don’t allow players to rack up OWGR points. That’s a coming crux point: LIV players currently play in tricked-up, irrelevant events. If the current rules don’t change, they may have trouble relying on the majors to maintain their relevance.
“What’s true about this weekend outside Portland: Someone will win $4 million for coming in first, and the first loser will cash out for $2.125 million – nearly a million more than the John Deere champion. That matters to the players and their investment advisers, regardless of how dirty the money might be.
“What matters to the golf viewer is the test provided and the tournament that follows. LIV players have pushed the idea that golf can be a force for good. That’s suspect at best, particularly when the golf being produced feels more like a second-rate carnival than a first-class competition.”
Meanwhile, a number of LIV golfers have threatened legal action against DDP World Tour CEO Keith Pelley, who fired back at the bastards.
In a letter that the defectors sent to Pelley and DP World (formerly European) Tour board members that was leaked to multiple Euro outlets last week, the group took umbrage with Pelley’s decision to suspend those who participated in the inaugural event in London, a la what the PGA Tour did to its now former members. Lee Westwood and Ian Poulter were among the 16 who signed the letter.
In response, Pelley wrote an open letter which was published on the DP World Tour’s website Friday morning.
“There has been a leak to the media of a letter we received on behalf of a number of LIV Golf players which contains so many inaccuracies that it cannot remain unchallenged,” Pelley wrote. “Before joining LIV Golf, players knew there would be consequences if they chose money over competition. Many of them at the time understood and accepted that. Indeed, as one player named in the letter said in a media interview earlier this year; ‘If they ban me, they ban me.’ It is not credible that some are now surprised with the actions we have taken.”
Pelley addressed the idea that the defectors “truly care” about the European Tour. “An analysis of the past participation statistics on our tour in recent years of several of the leading players named, suggests otherwise,” Pelley countered. Though he didn’t specifically name any player, Pelley pointed out “One player in particular named in the note has only played six Rolex Series events in the past five years. Another one, only four. I wish many of them had been as keen to play on our tour then as they seem to be now, based on the fact they have either resigned their membership of the PGA Tour or, if they are still in membership, have been suspended indefinitely.”
Pelley also noted that one LIV Golf individual had signed a commitment to play at this week’s Irish Open, and that player’s participation in LIV Golf’s event in Portland calls into question how much said player truly cares about the DP World Tour.
“With that player currently in action at Pumpkin Ridge, you can imagine the allegation in the letter that we are in the wrong, is hard to accept,” Pelley wrote.
As for the LIV event this week, Dustin Johnson shared the lead after 36 holes with Carlos Ortiz.
Branden Grace then won it, beating Ortiz by two strokes, DJ four back in third with Patrick Reed.
Grace picked up $4 million for the win and $375,000 for the team competition.
Crowds were described as “modest” Thursday and Friday. But Saturday’s, we are told, was a sellout, though LIV Golf would not reveal how many tickets were sold.
How exciting was the play? In a 54-hole tournament, only four players were within 5 shots of the lead.
Brooks Koepka was T16, earning $223,600 (plus any team winnings) for shooting 70-70-76, 13 off the lead.
Bryson DeChambeau finished 10th (72-69-73), 11 behind Grace, and earned $560,000.
Pat Perez, T29, earned $153,000 for his 69-73-80.
Ian Poulter, 75-77-74, and Phil Mickelson, 75-75-76, finished T40 each, 23 shots off the lead, and picked up $133,000 apiece.
That is so exciting!!!! I want to see this so badly.
By the way, Alan Shipnuck appears to have cleared up one issue. No one really seems to know the details on how the money is being paid out. Brandel Chamblee tweeted the prize money is being applied to signing bonuses, but Shipnuck says this is not the case. The money is on top of any bonuses.
Also, the lower-wattage players were guaranteed nothing beyond the last-place money of $120,000.
Finishing last this week was Jediah Morgan, who shot 76-84-77 (+21), 34 shots off the lead in just 54 holes. Bye-bye, Jediah. [“Just follow Mohammed over there…he’s going to show you the Pacific Ocean in his private chopper.”]
LIV did announce that it will transition next year to the LIV Golf League and hold 14 events, more than the 10 initially slated for the league’s second year. LIV also plans to have 48 players contracted to play all 14 events next year, with permanent team captains that can recruit their own teams and make trades!
Wow, immensely thrilling! A real winter ‘Hot Stove’ league for golf chat. [I hope you can detect the dripping sarcasm.]
I have to ask, for the umpteenth time…no one has explained to me, or anyone else, what happens to the guys who played in the first event, nine of whom didn’t then play in the second, and how many others are being dropped by the wayside as Liv inevitably recruits, say, 5 or 6 more decent names…or 8 to 10. [More on this later.]
Anyway, get this. The idea is for the 12 teams to develop their own identity! LIV officials view this as crucial to their business model and the sustainability of the product.
You have got to be kidding me. Who could possibly give a rat’s ass about this concept?!
Thankfully, Will Zalatoris took to social media to allay any fears that he would jump, despite his comments earlier that he fully supported the moves PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan was making.
Zalatoris tweeted the other day: “There have been a lot [of] rumors surrounding LIV Golf and of specific guys leaving. Now, I have begun to hear rumors that I might be going to LIV. I’d like to clear this up and say that I am fully committed to the PGA Tour and DP World Tour…. I have dreamed of winning on the PGA Tour and winning majors since I was a little kid… I cannot wait for the rest of the PGA Tour season and the Race to Dubai. See everyone in Scotland the next two week.”
Phew. If there was one guy LIV should want, it’s him. A guy with immense talent and the ‘It’ factor.
Lastly, the new LIV golfers recruited for the second event, DeChambeau, Ancer, Wolff, Reed, Perez and Koepka, all had their obligatory opening press conferences and Koepka was a total [cue Jeff Spicoli.]
Koepka said he did not have discussions with LIV Golf until after the U.S. Open, and when asked what changed from when he vehemently supported the PGA Tour, he simply said “my opinion.” When asked to give specifics on that, he declined. When asked if he’s concerned about future access to the majors, he said that playing well will take care of itself but didn’t seem too bothered either way: “I made a decision,” he said. “I’m happy with it, and whatever comes of it, I’ll live with it.” The most illuminating part of his presser came when he discussed his injuries and how the lighter schedule will benefit his word-down body.
“I came back to play three weeks after surgery on a knee where they’re like you’re not going to play for six months,” Koepka said. “Just because I didn’t feel like I was going to miss the whole season next season. It was just bad timing. Where now, I mean, got, what, seven more events to play? I mean, you’re not doing a month on the road anymore. You know, life does go on even though when we’re not playing golf. So being away from home for a month. I don’t have any kids that I know about. So being at home is not really a thing for me, but life does go on. And like there’s some things we miss at home, being with friends, family, a lot of birthdays. It would just be nice to be home a little bit more. I think that’s a big thing that everybody, every one of these 48 players will say the same thing.”
This is such B.S. …guys like Dustin Johnson and Koepka were never playing four events in a row, at least not since they started winning and for DJ, that came immediately. Abraham Ancer said he didn’t want to have to play so much, which they all say, but the elite were never playing more than like 20 events a year…or if they did, it was because they wanted to.
So I went back to 2018, when both Koepka and DJ were at the top of their games, DJ #1 in the FedEx Cup standings, Koepka #3.
Guess how many tournaments they played in that year. DJ a whopping 16…Koepka 13. Justin Thomas, who was #2 that year, played in 19.
Patrick Reed, in his presser, said the FedEx Cup schedule forced him to play for weeks on end and he spoke of the burnout that comes with multiple weeks on the road.
“We have a smaller schedule,” Reed said of LIV. “We actually have an off season where not only can we get healthy, work on our bodies, but we’re basically allowing ourselves throughout the year to, you know, try to peak at the right times is when you’re playing rather than feeling like you have to play every single week. And on top of it, just the quality of life for us as players now, you know, having less events, being able to spend more time at home with the family, if you have kids, being able to spend time with your children, and not sitting there and having to play three, four weeks in a row, then have a week off, and during that week off you’re preparing trying to get ready for the next week. You’re able to actually now set out a schedule, to go out and put all you have in every single event. You’re not having to conserve energy ever.”
[The LIV schedule is set for you, Patrick, do you not get that? You will have no flexibility.]
You know how many tournaments Reed played in during the 2020 season, when he was #6 in the FedEx Cup standings? Try 17. Seventeen! #1 that year, JT, played in 15.
These guys are all so full of it, and they have to know we know it, though I have literally not seen the stats I just gave you anywhere else, and I read every golf column. I will just add that most of the elite play 2 or 3 other events overseas, but that is their choice, and they receive hefty appearance fees for doing so!
So what’s the difference when they are asked to play 14 events next year, plus the majors, and mandated to play in those 14? [If they qualify for the majors.] Why that’s 18 events!
Just say “I’m here for the money, I couldn’t give a damn about any legacy, and I feel like I just robbed a bank and I’m getting away with it.”
If you haven’t figured it out yet, yes, I really, really want these guys to suck in the majors. They’re all dead to me.
LIV did make another player announcement Saturday. Paul Casey, 44, a 15-time winner on the DP World Tour, with three PGA Tour titles, is bolting for Saudi riches he once heavily criticized as a former ambassador to UNICEF, citing “22 million people (in Yemen who) are facing starvation, 11.5 million of them kids.”
Yet another largely washed up 40-year-old, who missed the first three majors this year due to back issues. He says he wants to play in the Open Championship, but otherwise will participate in the next LIV event, July 29-31, at Trump National Golf Club in nearby Bedminster, N.J. The New York media mob will be out in force and Donald Trump will no doubt be highly visible, blasting the PGA Tour, which pulled his World Golf Championship event at Doral.
--In the Irish Open today at Mount Juliet, Adrian Meronk became the first Polish winner on the DP World Tour and qualified for The Open Championship. Cool story. But a very weak field, most of the big guns, internationally, playing both the Scottish and Open Championships the next two weeks. Some top Americans, including Jordan Spieth, Sam Burns, and Scottie Scheffler, played my club at Lahinch over the weekend.
More on the Scottish Open in my midweek Add-on…it is totally revamped, and important.
--Fred Couples has had a good relationship with Phil Mickelson, but he said that’s over now that Lefty went to LIV.
Couples, a PGA Tour loyalist and frequent critic of LIV, told Golf.com that Mickelson and the other defectors have effectively been muzzled by the new series and it shows in their press conferences.
“These guys – you’ve seen their interviews, right?” said Couples. “Have you ever seen Phil look so stupid in his life? They know it’s a joke.”
Any past collegiality between Freddie and Phil is history.
“I don’t think I’ll ever talk to him again,” Couples said. “What for? I’m not in the same boat as him anymore, and probably never will play golf with him again. I’m not saying that to be mean. We’re just in different orbits.”
Freddie probably doesn’t have to worry about Billy Walters’ book and details on Phil’s $40 million in gambling debts.
--On a lighter note, Nick Faldo said he is not joining the LIV Golf broadcast team after he retires next month from CBS. He calls LIV the “54 tour.”
In a two-minute Twitter video message last week, Faldo said:
“One little thing that’s been talked about a lot of course is the 54 tour. And I thought I would just say, No. 1, I am retiring because of travel, I don’t want to travel. No. 2, if I do call anything, I would like to call some championship golf. And No. 3, do you think Greg [Norman] wants to see my face around for about 10 weeks a year or more. I don’t think so.”
Norman, 3 years older than Nick, was the No. 1 ranked player in the world for a long time – 331 weeks total to Faldo’s 97 weeks.
But Faldo won six majors, to Norman’s two. And of course one of those was the 1996 Masters when Norman blew a six-shot lead, Faldo winning his third green jacket.
--As part of the big revamp of the PGA Tour, starting in late 2023, the top 30 finishers on the Korn Ferry Tour points list (including the KFT Finals) will automatically get their PGA Tour card for the following season. That’s up from 25. Another good move…you have to give the kids a reasonable target…they are the future!
Also, as part of the new arrangement between the PGA Tour and DP World Tour, the top 10 finishers on the DP World Tour each season will receive their PGA Tour cards for the following year.
And, beginning in 2023, Q-school is back! 2012 was the last year the top Q-School grinders got a PGA Tour card, and then after that, it was the way to get on the KFT. But now, the top five finishers at Q-School will earn a PGA Tour card.
--According to the National Golf Foundation and Physical Activity Council/SFIA data, the most popular participatory sport in the United States is golf – by a wide margin. In 2021, 37.5 million people either played on a golf course, practiced on a driving range or attended a golf venue such as Topgolf. A distant second at 27.1 million was basketball in the form of playing in a league, pick-up or just shooting in the driveway. Rounding out the top five were tennis (22.6 million), skiing (19.2 million) and soccer (17.9 million).
UCLA and USC shocked the college sports world in announcing they are headed to the Big Ten Conference, as soon as 2024, after the Pac-12’s current media rights contracts with Fox and ESPN expire, and increase the size of the Big Ten to 16 schools.
The decision comes a year after Oklahoma and Texas accepted invitations to join the SEC in July 2025.
The Big Ten will now stretch from the Pacific to the Atlantic and will build on previous expansion into the nation’s largest media markets (in case you forgot why Rutgers is in the Big Ten).
Bill Plaschke / L.A. Times
“Every football Saturday could feel like a Rose Bowl.
“USC visits Michigan one week, Ohio State comes to UCLA the next week, are you kidding me?
“Every basketball weekend could feel like March Madness.
“Indiana and Michigan State play UCLA at packed Pauley Pavilion in the middle of February on national television, are you serious?
“The move by USC and UCLA from the Pac-12 conference to the Big Ten, which was announced Thursday and will take place beginning in 2024, is a bold and brilliant one worthy of the city of champions.
“Face it, USC had long since outgrown a decaying Pac-12 that had deteriorated into the home of late-night TV games, half-empty stadiums, and national irrelevance.
“And face it, USC wasn’t going anywhere without UCLA.
“The athletic departments of both schools are packing up and moving from what had become an increasingly isolated West Coast sandlot to a national playing field where the lights are brighter, the crowds are bigger, and the buzz is better.
“Can you blame them?
“They just increased their market penetration from one corner of the country by adding a 1,500-mile swath from New Jersey to Nebraska. They just expanded their surroundings from a largely ignored 12-team league to a powerful 14-team group in some of the most visible markets in the country….
“The players are now being paid, the big-time programs have essentially become professional sports teams and so their accompanying schools must follow the money. If that means giving up an after-dark duel in Palo Alto for a prime-time showdown in Iowa City, you make that deal. If that means a trading a quaint Friday night in Pullman for a nationally celebrated Saturday afternoon in State College, you do it.”
The Big Ten is setting itself as the rival to the SEC and by the 2025 football season, the two conferences will have 32 of the biggest programs…from Alabama and Georgia, to Ohio State and Michigan.
As to how this will impact the College Football Playoff, well, worry about that down the road.
Alan Blinder / New York Times
“The Power 5 could formally survive, but the existing gaps between leagues, such as in fan obsession and competitive strength, are becoming far harder to hide.
“The Big Ten and SEC swagger in one tier. Not all of their members are championship contenders, but enough are. And plenty of seats are filled, and the television riches rain down. The future, enshrined in a contract the SEC has already signed and a rights package that the Big Ten is expected to announce soon, is lucrative on a scale unimaginable not all that long ago. The leagues’ expansions are central to their ambitions.
“ ‘We made this move for us at this time because it was the best move for us,’ Gene Smith, Ohio State’s athletic director, said in an interview on Friday, insisting that the SEC’s maneuvering last year ‘wasn’t our motivation.’”
UCLA and USC, Smith said, aligned with the Big Ten’s philosophy and culture from a competitive perspective, but he acknowledged that, “considering we’re in the middle of our television negotiations, adding them enhanced the opportunities in that space.”
“The fear of leagues like the ACC, the Big 12 and the Pac-12 is that they’ll be relegated, even informally, toward the college sports muddle, leaving them forever unable to keep up with the conferences that distribute the largest payouts and use those dollars for best-in-class coaches and facilities that help them stay atop the ecosystem.”
--The Pac-12 presidents and chancellors on Friday morning authorized the conference “to explore all expansion options” following the decisions of USC and UCLA. Apparently, “it’s wide open” as far as who the Pac-12 would consider inviting, but they are looking at the Big 12 and ACC. There is also speculation Washington and Oregon want to go to the Big Ten.
I wonder what Bill Walton is thinking these days. I loved watching him do Pac-12 games and his constant mentioning of the “Conference of Champions.”
And UCLA and Rutgers in the same conference? Just a wee bit of a road trip for these “student-athletes.”
As for the ACC, when the Big Ten signs its next mammoth TV deal, the sums those schools will make will tower over what Miami, Florida State and Clemson are getting, and that’s what has ACC officials tossing and turning all night.
Dan Wolken / USA TODAY
“It’s hard to predict how exactly it will happen, but it will happen all the same. The Big Ten’s addition of USC and UCLS…opens the door to the future that everyone in college sports figured was coming but hoped might somehow be averted. It may go fast, or it may come in drips and drabs, but the free-for-all to get into either the SEC or the Big Ten is going to make ‘Squid Games’ look like child’s play.
“When there’s potentially $100 million annually on the line, climbing over dead bodies is just part of the deal.”
Yes, what we appear headed for is two super conferences and they will be the only ones allowed to compete for the college championship. But I’ll be dead by then. The rest of you can deal with it.
For now, the ACC tinkered around the edges of its existing conference in scrapping divisions and announcing a 3-5-5 format for 2023 in which each team has three permanent rivalry games played annually, with the other 10 opponents rotating on an every-other-year basis.
So, for example, Boston College’s three permanent rivalries will be Miami, Pitt, Syracuse.
Florida State’s: Clemson, Miami, Syracuse
Wake Forest: Duke, Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech…nice break for us, given the current trajectory of the programs.
North Carolina, N.C. State and Duke all get to play each other, which is good for them, but Wake’s long-time annual rivalry with N.C. State is out the window, which blows.
--Top-ranked Iga Swiatek saw her 37-match consecutive win streak end in the third round Saturday, 6-4, 6-2 to 37th-ranked Alize Cornet of France. The 37 in-a-row was the most since Martina Hingis had a run of 37 in 1997.
11 Coco Gauff lost her third-round match to Jersey girl Amanda Anisimova, the 20-seed.
--On the men’s side, fourth-seeded Stefanos Tsitsipas grew frustrated by what he called a “circus” atmosphere and “bullying” tactics by Nick Kyrgios, one of sports’ (all sports) biggest assholes.
Kyrgios repeatedly berated the chair umpire and insisted that Tsitsipas should be defaulted for hitting a ball into the stands near fans after dropping the second set. Kyrgios won it 6-7 (2), 6-4, 6-3, 7-6 (7).
And there were some contentious moments as Rafael Nadal beat No. 27 seed Lorenzo Sonego in straight sets. Nadal objected to Sonego’s elongated grunts and called him up to the net to discuss it; Sonego objecting to that sort of face-to-face confrontation.
Afterward, Nadal apologized, saying he shouldn’t have tried to engage his opponent in that fashion.
Today, in the Round of 16, 10 Jannik Sinner beat 5 Carlos Alcaraz, and top-seed Novak Djokovic advanced to the quarterfinals over Tim van Rijthoven in four sets.
2 Nadal guns for a quarter’s berth tomorrow.
--Carlos Sainz of Spain won his first Formula One race today at the British Grand Prix in Silverstone, England. In an exciting race for second, Sergio Perez took second and Lewis Hamilton was third, edging out Charles LeClerc.
“Yes! We did it! Yes! Vamos!” Carlos shouted over the radio after crossing the line, securing his first win in 151 F1 attempts.
But the race will be remembered for a horrific crash on the first lap. Alfa Romeo rookie Zhou Guanyou was vaulted into a terrifying barrel roll at Turn 1 which left his car upside down in the tire barrier and prompted a red flag race suspension. Guanyou was OK. Years ago, before the invention of the Halo over the driver’s head, he’s dead. And if there wasn’t a catch fence, non-existent years ago, 20-30 spectators would have died.
--And in NASCAR, Tyler Reddick won his first at Road America, holding off Chase Elliott.
--My Tottenham Spurs are going all in. They signed a solid striker/winger from Everton, Brazilian international Richarlison to join Harry Kane and Son Heung-min up front. Lots of firepower as the Spurs gear up for the Champions League, as well as what they hope will be a season-long battle for the Premier League title. I’m pumped. They’ve also made some other signings that only improve the team.
--Joey Chestnut is injured…repeat…Joey Chestnut is injured. He showed up Friday at the Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest weigh-in on crutches.
He looked like a Civil War hero, returning home after the long war. [Just playing up the legend of Chestnut.]
Would Joey really be able to compete? And at a high level?
We’ll get an answer to the latter on Monday, but this is no Zion Williamson, sports fans. Joey WILL compete, and as he put it, “I’m gonna eat like a madman.”
It turns out Chestnut has a ruptured tendon. “It’s all right. I’ll be able to stand up and eat. I’m excited.”
That’s right, the great Chestnut is playing hurt with an injury that would keep Zion out for 16 years.
Last year, the Indiana native broke his own world record by consuming 76 hot dogs and buns in just 10 minutes, which many equate to Bob Beamon’s long jump at the 1968 Mexico City Olympics, or Mickey Mantle’s 565-foot home run at Griffith Stadium.
Meanwhile, on the women’s side, Miki Sudo, who won seven straight titles from 2014 to 2020, will go up against last year’s champ Michelle Lesco. Sudo couldn’t compete last year because she was pregnant with Max.
--Did you see the Texas fisherman, out with his father and 3-year-old son on Father’s Day at Lake Cherokee when he reeled in a massive alligator snapping turtle?
Justin Broomhall, 25, was fishing for catfish, who at first seemed to be biting.
“All of a sudden, they just vanished,” Broomhall said. Then he noticed a trail of bubbles moving across the water and assuming it was a large catfish, threw his line in.
Then he caught it, a massive turtle that is a threatened species, according to Texas Parks and Wildlife. Broomhall knew this and he had to let it go.
“I went to reach down in the water to grab him behind his head on his shell and the line broke,” Broomhall said.
Even though the turtle was no longer on his line, Broomhall still wanted to remove the hook from its mouth, which could give the turtle an infection, he said.
To make sure he got the turtle on shore, Broomhall stepped into the water and grabbed the turtle’s leg and tail – while his dad grabbed the belt loop on his pants.
“He pulled me back up to land, and I pulled the turtle up there and that’s when we realized how big he really was and how old he really was,” Broomhall said.
Broomhall estimated the alligator snapping turtle weighed between 150 and 160 pounds and could have been 100 years old, if not older.
The pictures of this beast are impressive.
I can’t believe Broomhall got the hook out of the turtle’s mouth and released it back into the lake, not before his father snapped off the photos.
“To see him return back into the wild and knowing he still lives back in that cove, I look forward to seeing him in a couple more years,” Broomhall said. “Just to see him in the wild and see how he’s doing.”
--And then we had the team searching under dense vegetation in the pine flatwoods of the Everglades the other week when they came upon a slithering sight, a record Burmese python…215 pounds!
Previously, the largest one ever found in Florida had been 140, according to the Conservancy of Southwest Florida. The snake had 122 eggs inside her, another record.
I’ll probably have a nightmare about either the turtle or the snake tonight.
Top 3 songs for the week 7/2/66: #1 “Strangers In The Night” (Frank Sinatra) #2 “Paperback Writer” (The Beatles) #3 “Red Rubber Ball” (The Cyrkle)…and…#4 “Paint It, Black” (The Rolling Stones) #5 “You Don’t Have To Say You Love Me” (Dusty Springfield) #6 “Hanky Panky” (Tommy James and The Shondells) #7 “Cool Jerk” (The Capitols) #8 “I Am A Rock” (Simon and Garfunkel) #9 “Did You Ever Have To Make Up Your Mind?” (The Lovin’ Spoonful) #10 “Barefootin’” (Robert Parker…B+ week…)
NBA Quiz Answer: Former Demon Deacon guard Ish Smith will be suiting up for his 13th team this fall with Denver. The other twelve are:
Smith was undrafted and started his NBA career in 2010 for the Houston Rockets, and in his first season got traded to Memphis. Then Golden State, Orlando, Milwaukee, Phoenix, Oklahoma City, Philadelphia, New Orleans, back to Philly, Detroit, Washington, Charlotte, back to Washington, and now Denver.
Brief Add-on up top by noon, Wed.