Back in the days of Mike and Mike in the Morning on ESPN Radio, the hosts would come back from breaks and say they were “back and better than ever”. Well, I have been on an extended break and the best I can say is:
- I’m back – – and I promise to be as crabby as ever.
When I went off the air, the Caps and Lightening were tied 2-2 in the NHL semi-finals while the Golden Knights led the Jets 2-1. Congratulations to the Caps on their first Stanley Cup championship in franchise history.
In the NBA, both Conference Championship rounds were tied at 2-2. The Cavaliers prevailed in the East and then were swept by the Warriors in the Finals. Over in the Balkans where I was for much of my hiatus, the NBA is a big deal and lots of people were watching various NBA games at bars and outdoor restaurants. There were also lots of people wearing NBA “gear” and just about every school we saw had basketball hoops installed on the grounds for kids to use.
The NBA presence and awareness in Europe is significant. Taking a cue form the NFL, the NBA will play another regular season game in Europe again next season. In January 2019, the Knicks and the Wizards will face each other in London. I wonder if the NBA selected those teams because of the diverse presence of European players on both teams:
- Wizards’ Center Marcin Gortat is from Poland
- Wizards’ Center Ian Mahinimi is from France
- Wizards’ Forward Thomas Satoransky is from the Czech Republic
- Knicks’ Forward Kristaps Porzingas is from Latvia
- Knicks’ Guard Frank Ntilikina is from France
- Knicks’ Center Enes Kanter is from Turkey
And as icing on the cake, Knicks’ Guard Emmanuel Mudiay is from the Congo.
In the NFL, Tom Brady and Odell Beckham, Jr. were not attending OTAs. For some reason, that was considered newsworthy. Somehow, I believe both of these guys will still be on NFL rosters come September…
The NFL is simply not a big deal in the Balkans. In that part of the world “football” is a totally different game…
In MLB, the Phillies and the Braves were tied for first place in the NL East. This morning the Braves are still in first place. Last year, I said that I thought the Braves were back as contenders; that was premature. However, the Braves’ team in 2018 looks pretty good to me.
The Yankees and Red Sox were running off with the AL East. They continue to do so. The surprise in the AL East is not that the Orioles are out of contention but that the Orioles have the worst record in MLB and the team is not trying to tank for a rebuilding process.
The Indians were sitting at .500 and still led the AL Central. They now lead the division by 5 games partly because every other team in the division is still below .500.
The Astros led the Mariners by 2 games when I left. Back then the Astros had only allowed 125 runs in 49 games. The Astros lead is now 3.5 games and they are still very stingy with runs allowed. In 76 games, they have allowed 233 runs; the next best team in terms of runs allowed is the Cubs giving up 253 runs in 73 games.
The NL Central race was a 4-way affair when I left. Today, it appears to be sorting itself out into a race between the Brewers and the Cubs.
The NL WEst had the Rockies, D-Backs and Giants setting the pace. Today the Dodgers have inserted themselves in the race and trail the D-Backs by only 2.5 games.
MLB is not much of a deal in the Balkans. I saw a few folks wearing Yankees’ caps and a young man and a young woman decked out in KC Royals hats and shirts. Other than that, …
Back when I left, the US Supreme Court had just declared PASPA unconstitutional. Lots of folks were opining on what this might mean in the future. Former Senator Bill Bradley – who was one of the proponents of PASPA back in 1992 when it was passed into law – obviously thought that the Court’s decision was wrong-headed. I have a great deal of respect for Senator Bradley – not because he was an excellent basketball player but because he is generally thoughtful and reasonable and pragmatic. Nonetheless on this issue, he and I fundamentally disagree.
Senator Bradley dipped into a line of argumentation that was once labeled “the parade of improbable horribles”. He said that legalized sports betting could lead to gambling on high school games and even into in-game betting on those events. Indeed, that could happen, and I agree that it would not be a boon to high school sports to have lines posted for the games. HOW-EVAH … [/Stephen A. Smith]:
- Sports wagering has been ongoing in Nevada for decades and in all my visits to sportsbooks there have never been any high school sporting events available for wagering.
- What the Supreme Court said is that the Congress could act to regulate sports wagering but PASPA was not a permissible way to do it. If the several States and/or the Congress wish to assure that there are no legal wagers placed on high school sports, the door is open for those entities to do so.
- Please note that I said “legal wagers” above. If a local bookmaker wants to take action on a game between Rocky Mountain High and Secondhand Smoke High, there are already laws on the books to prevent such action – – but the local bookie can probably still do that with impunity.
Finally, the College World Series started whilst I was gone and here is a comment from Brad Dickson, formerly with the Omaha World-Herald about the weather in Omaha at this time of the year:
“Torrential downpour, dangerous lightning strikes, flooding, 60 mph winds. And still, this is pretty nice weather considering it’s College World Series time. CWS visitors are learning that ‘Omaha’ is an old Indian word meaning ‘rain delay’.”
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………