Previously, I told you about the surprisingly bad season that Leicester City was having in the English Premier League. After surprising everyone and winning the league title last year, Leicester City has been flirting with relegation – finishing in the bottom three of the league – this year. A league champion has only once been relegated in the following season and that was back in the late 1930s before it was called the Premier League.
The EPL season is two-thirds over; here are the teams at or near the bottom that will need to worry about relegation:
- Bournemouth 26 points
- Swansea City 24 points
- Middlesbrough 22 points
- Leicester City 21 points
- Hull City 20 points
- Crystal Palace 19 points
- Sunderland 19 points
Over the weekend, Leicester City lost a game to Swansea City by a score of 2-0; for the moment, Swansea’s 3-point lead over Leicester is a result of that victory. Even more ominous is the fact that Leicester has been shut out in its last 5 EPL games. Leicester’s coach is Claudio Ranieri and here is what he had to say after the loss to Swansea:
“We have two problems; we concede goals and don’t score. We have to stick together and find a solution. It’s not possible to continue this way.”
Let me break that down for you:
“We have two problems; we concede goals and don’t score.” That statement is an acceptable thesis for the degree of Master of the Obvious. The confluence of those “two problems” is THE definition of lack of success.
“We have to stick together and find a solution.” You do not really have much of a choice but to stick together – – unless they fire you as a coach in which case the team will go on without you.
“It’s not possible to continue this way.” Oh, but it is possible and if the team does that the result will be that you will be looking for work elsewhere.
Tonight, the UConn women’s basketball team will seek its 100th consecutive win. I know it is “fashionable” to point out here that the level of competition in NCAA women’s basketball is very thin and that this accomplishment needs to have an asterisk to put it in perspective. I think that is horse hockey. The Harlem Globetrotters’ winning streaks and winning percentages need an asterisk simply because no one should take those as serious games. The Globetrotters’ opponents are “part of the show” and are there to help put the act over with the audience. That is NOT the case with teams that take the court against the UConn women.
There is one very real problem with the dominance shown by the UConn women that I had not recognized until Bob Molinaro pointed it out in the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot last week:
“Tough job: How do sportswriters who cover UConn ever write a decent game story? What was the game’s turning point? When the teams got off the bus?”
I want to pose a hypothetical question here. Recall the latest dust-up between Knicks’ owner James Dolan and former Knicks’ player Charles Oakley and the announcement that Oakley has been banned for life from Madison Square Garden – – also owned by Dolan. Now, just suppose that another NBA team – – say the Brooklyn Nets – – hired Oakley as an “Assistant Coach for Intimidation”. On March 16, the Nets are scheduled to visit Madison Square Garden to play the Knicks. If Oakley were an Assistant Coach for the Nets, could Dolan actually ban him from entering the arena and sitting on the bench with the team that is employing him?
Someone would have to wake Adam Silver from his long winter’s nap to deal with that situation. If I owned an NBA team and wanted to needle James Dolan, I would be looking to see the next time my team had to go to the Garden so that I could set this up.
Speaking of things that the NBA Commish and the Front Office would prefer not to address, let me talk about tanking for a minute. The NBA acknowledged the existence of teams tanking to get the top draft picks when it instituted the draft lottery in the first place. When teams continued to play lethargically despite the existence of the lottery, the NBA moved to discourage that by adjusting the number of ping-pong balls allotted to each team in the hopper. There is no way that the NBA can represent that tanking has not occurred in their league or that it continues to occur. Fans in Philly need only hear the words “Trust the process…” to understand what happened with the Sixers for 3 or 4 seasons.
So, why is it that the NBA is worried about sports gambling possibly undermining the “integrity of the games” when it is clear to any rational observer that there are teams seeking to lose certain games on purpose in order to protect draft picks or to acquire more ping pong balls in the hopper for the draft this year. Moreover, it is going to happen again next year too. Just asking…
Finally, here is an observation from Dwight Perry in the Seattle Times:
“Several L.A. County businesses stepped forward to help bail out the struggling Lennox Little League, including a $1,200 donation from the Jet Strip club.
“What, you’ve never seen a baseball field with brass foul poles before?”
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………