I doubt there are many folks who have more than a casual interest in sports who have not heard about Leicester City’s improbable season. They are the English Premier League champs sitting 10 points ahead of second-place Tottenham with only one game to play. The team has plans to reward its fans with a free beer and free Pizza Hut pizza; anyone with a ticket to the final game gets both. It is a great feel-good story but it masks the real drama that remains in the EPL season. There are deep feelings of unease, angst and apprehension down at the bottom of the table in “The Relegation Zone”. Here is the deal:
Aston Villa is guaranteed to be relegated to the English Football Championship next year. They have played 37 games this season and have won only 3 of them.
The bottom three teams get relegated; that leaves two more teams – and sets of fans – in a state of high anxiety. Here is the situation as of this morning:
Norwich City is next to last in the table with 31 points – but they have 2 games still to play
Three from the bottom at the moment is Newcastle with 34 points. They have only one more game.
Four up from the bottom – but not out of the woods – is Sunderland with 35 points and still 2 games to play.
In the EPL, a team gets 3 points for a win and 1 point for a draw. That means any one of these teams can make it out of the Relegation Zone when the day of reckoning comes in a week or so.
By the way, in case you are not familiar with the geography of northeastern England, Newcastle and Sunderland are about 20 miles apart. There is a long-standing rivalry going back more than 100 years. If things stay the way they are now, Newcastle will not be playing Sunderland twice in the EPL next year…
Greg Cote had this mention of Leicester City’s EPL champion ship season in the Miami Herald recently:
“Leicester City won the first EPL championship in its history against 5,000-to-1 odds. Coincidentally, those were the same odds against the Dolphins’ No. 1 selection being pictured draft-night wearing a bong gas mask.”
The Zika virus has gotten a lot attention by the UN World Health Organization and the Center for Disease Control here in the US. The consequences of a Zika infection are serious indeed and the prevalence of the virus – for the moment – is in warm climates because the mosquito that is the disease vector is a warm weather insect. The virus can cause pregnant women – or women who become pregnant after encountering the virus – to give birth to severely impaired children. Two countries – Brazil and El Salvador – have suggested to the women in those countries to avoid getting pregnant until at least 2018 so that eradication of the insects and medical advances can catch up to the consequences of the virus.
Earlier, that caused some female competitors to wonder if Zika was a sufficient threat to have them opt not to participate in the Rio Olympics this summer. Men too can be infected and some male athletes wondered aloud if going to Rio was a good idea. I have not read any reports of widespread “defections” from the Olympic ranks, but it was a subject that came up. I mention this because the Zika virus has caused a change of venue in another sport – MLB.
The Pirates and Marlins had scheduled two games in Hiram Bithorn stadium in San Juan Puerto Rico for 30-31 May. Puerto Rico has had confirmed cases of Zika; here is what the CDC website says about Puerto Rico:
“Local mosquito transmission of Zika virus infection (Zika) has been reported in Puerto Rico. Local mosquito transmission means that mosquitoes in the area are infected with Zika virus and are spreading it to people.”
The players, the MLBPA, MLB and the teams came to the decision to play those games in Miami instead of in Puerto Rico at the end of the month. As Shakespeare said:
“The better part of valor is discretion…”
Of course, Greg Cote of the Miami Herald took the announcement of the change of venue and wondered about its ultimate efficacy:
“Marlins’ May 30-31 games vs. Pirates will not be played Puerto Rico as scheduled because of threat of Zika virus there. Instead the games will be played at Marlins Park, because of course we have no mosquitos in South Florida (!)”
The FIFA Ethics Committee [/chuckle] has something called “the adjudicatory chamber”. If that does not sound like a “star chamber” then I must be seriously off mark here. In any event, that “adjudicatory chamber” handed down two edicts recently and banished for life two individuals who plead guilty in the US to charges of “racketeering conspiracy and wire fraud conspiracy.” The two men were senior figures in the world of Latin American soccer:
Sergio Jadue was formerly the VP of CONMEBOL (the South American Football Association) and the former President of the Chilean Football Association.
Luis Bedoya was also a former VP of CONMEBOL and the former President of the Colombian Football Association.
Without going into the details of what they did or did not do, the edict bans these men from virtually any association with football (national or international) for life. Presumably, they can still go and buy a ticket and watch a game if they so choose, but nothing much beyond that.
Finally, here is an item from Dwight Perry in the Seattle Times:
“Nebraska’s bowling team is ranked No. 1 in the nation.
“Who says the Cornhuskers no longer get to play in meaningful bowl games?”
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………