Peaks And Valleys …

Life has its peaks and valleys.  The sports world is a slice of life and likewise has its peaks and valleys.  Let me begin today with one of the peaks.

Venus Williams at the age of 37 is in the women’s finals at Wimbledon.  The last time she won one of the tennis “majors” was in 2008; her run to the finals this year has been amazing for reasons other than her age:

  • About a month ago, Venus Williams was in a car accident that resulted in the death of the passenger in the “other vehicle”.  Police originally said she was responsible for the accident; only recently did they announce that further evidence and further investigation showed that Williams was “not responsible” for the incident.  At the start of Wimbledon, Williams broke down in a press event and had to excuse herself when that subject came up.
  • For several years now, Williams has suffered from an autoimmune disease, Sjögren’s Syndrome.  Symptoms of this condition include “numbness in the arms and legs”, “feeling tired”, “muscle and joint pain”.  I am certainly not a physician, but it would seem to me that any or all of those symptoms would be problematic for someone playing tennis at the top level of the sport.

The fact that she has reached the finals is impressive.  If she wins the championship, it will be her 50th win in tournament singles in her career – if I have done accurate accounting on her career.  This is a “peak story” in the sports world this morning.

Dwight Perry had this comment in the Seattle Times regarding Venus Williams and an “issue” she had during the first round of this year’s Wimbledon tournament:

“Venus Williams wore a pink bra during her first-round Wimbledon match, violating the tournament’s strict all-white dress code.

“The NFL fashion police, simply out of habit, fined her $10,000.”

Just to create juxtaposition, let me go down in the valley now and comment on something that I would normally – and preferably – ignore.  The McGregor/Mayweather “fight” is in the promotional tour phase and it is predictable, stupid and ugly.  How’s that for a trifecta?

  1. It is predictable because the combatants are going from city to city in staged events to insult one another to each other’s face.  I guess I am supposed to admire the self-control of these warriors as they avoid conflict prior to the event itself.
  2. It is stupid because this is what pro ‘rassling has done for the last 50 years or so – – except ‘rassling does in on TV and not in staged events from city to city.  Listen to the two fighters when they have microphones in their hand.  Close your eyes and you can imagine Hulk Hogan and/or Rick Flair and/or Bruno Sammartino and/or “The Moose-Jaw Mangler” doing his thing on camera.  To me, UFC is nothing more than pro ‘rassling where the blows actually land and the blood is real.  This tour de force simply adds boxing to that mix.
  3. It is ugly because the insults have blatant racial remarks at the core.  They have not come out and said it explicitly, but one of the tired angles to this fight is McGregor as “The Great White Hope” with Mayweather as the “Black Menace”.  That sort of thing has happened before; Jack Johnson vs. Jess Willard about 100 years ago; Jerry Quarry vs. Muhammad Ali and/or Joe Frazier about 50 years ago; Larry Holmes vs. Gerry Cooney about 30 years ago.  In almost any other circumstances, people would find this sort of interchange distasteful at best; for some reason, it is acceptable in this setting.

I noted recently that MLB Commissioner, Rob Manfred, mentioned Mexico City as a possible baseball expansion site one of these days.  I also noted recently that the NFL hopes to open the 2019 season with a game in China.  The NBA has not announced its latest outreach toward globalization.  In early August, the NBA will stage a game in Johannesburg, South Africa in the format of Team Africa versus Team World.  The proceeds will go to UNICEF and the Nelson Mandela Foundation.

Team Africa will feature players born in Africa or players with parents born in Africa; the team captains will Luol Deng and Thabo Sefolosa.  Team World will consist of players whose family roots are somewhere other than Africa.  Probably the most recognized names participating for Team World are Dirk Nowitzki, DeMarcus Cousins and Kristaps Porzingis.

The world of fantasy sports delivered some bad news to sports fans this morning.  The proposed merger of FanDuel and Draft Kings has been called off.  If you really care about the whys and wherefores of this decision, you can read the report here.

Why is this bad news for sports fans?  Well, recall a couple of years ago when these two entities were competitors how many times you had to sit through the same commercial trying to lure you to one site or the other.  In the last year or so, those ads have disappeared for one simple reason:

  • If the companies were going to merge, why spend money advertising to get fans to play at one site as opposed to the other; they would be the same company.

Therefore, I expect each of the two fantasy sites to go back to their ad agencies and to produce two or three ads for the upcoming football season and that the handful of ads will be run and re-run to the point that it will make you want to wash your eyes out with Clorox when you see the opening scene in the ad.

Finally, Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times had this item in his Sideline Chatter column recently.  It fits in here because it has to do with tennis and with an issue that has garnered great attention outside the world of sports:

“TBS’s Conan O’Brien, on reports that Russia interfered with voting systems in at least 39 states during the 2016 elections: ‘Which finally explains why the new governor of Wyoming is Anna Kournikova.’”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………