There is an old adage that says a bad penny always turns up. The fact that I am back at the keyboard would tend to emphasize the truth in that adage. My long-suffering wife and I have returned from 11 days in Northern Italy. Normally, flying from east to west is an easier adaptation for me regarding jet-lag, but somehow, this morning feels as if I have been beaten about the head and shoulders with a baseball bat. Whatever …
As we left, Hurricane Florence was menacing the eastern US; we read and heard about that event while in Florence, Italy; even the Italian papers had reports on that. What I did not have access to was a lot of information about US sports. There is no ESPN in Italy – notwithstanding the myriad niche networks in the ESPN family. Sports news in Florence and in Bologna (the two cities where we spent the most time) seemed to focus on the fortunes of the Serie A teams representing those cities. Fiorentina (the team from Florence) is doing well and is near the top of the standings early in the season. Bologna fans are far less happy; their team is in the relegation zone now standing in 18th place out of 20 teams.
- [Aside: I scanned the Serie A table one afternoon and noticed that the last place team – Chievo – has a negative total point. They have not won any matches, but they have two draws. Normally that would give them 2 points in the table, but they had negative 1 point. I checked the paper the next day and it was the same – so I assume it was not a misprint. I asked a waiter at a café what that was about, and he said the club “did something bad”. I have nothing else to add there…]
To demonstrate the intense interest in Serie A news there, there were feature stories about every day – not that I could read them effectively – dealing with a single subject:
- Cristiano Ronaldo’s lack of goal scoring for Juventus (an Italian team in Torino)
Over the summer, Juventus acquired Ronaldo from Real Madrid (in Spain’s La Liga) for a transfer fee of 100 million euros (approximately $120M). Then, the club did a long-term deal with Ronaldo to the tune of 30 million euros per season (approximately $36M per). During his stay with Real Madrid, Ronaldo averaged a goal per game; in soccer, those are Ruthian numbers. Since coming to Juventus – hold your breath here – he went scoreless for his first 3 games and has only scored 3 goals in his 6 games there. I imagine that when Galileo first posited the heliocentric theory of the solar system, the collective confusion of the Italian population could not have been significantly greater.
I asked the same waiter who told me that Chievo had “done something bad” what he thought about Ronaldo’s lack of goal scoring. His answer was stated with full confidence notwithstanding the fact that it requires mind-reading abilities to corroborate. Here is the waiter’s explanation:
- Ronaldo is homesick.
- He is Portuguese and was playing in Madrid – which is right next door to Portugal – and now he is away from home and misses playing in Spain or Portugal.
So, there you have it… Someone in the hierarchy of Juventus spent 100 million euros on a player transfer and never considered the “homesickness angle”. And here in the US, we think the Cleveland Browns cannot find their way out of a phone booth even with a map…
I have had a chance to look over the MLB standings as the regular season draws to a close and there are plenty of games left that will be meaningful. In the AL, we know the playoff participants but the site of the wild-card game (between the Yankees and the A’s) is still in doubt. The Yankees are in an excellent position leading the A’s by 2.5 games – and holding the tie-breaker between the teams – with only 4 games left for the A’s and 5 games left for the Yankees. Yes, the Yankees have a much more difficult schedule (Rays and Red Sox) than do the A’s but still …
In the NL, only the Braves are assured of being in the playoffs. None of the other teams in the NL East will participate. Here is this morning’s look at the rest of the NL:
- NL Central: Cubs lead the Brewers by half a game. The Cubs have 5 left to play and the Brewers have 4. Both teams have won 91 games. The loser of this division race is currently the lead wild-card team in the NL. Meanwhile the Cardinals have won 87 games so far and are not mathematically eliminated from the division race albeit they are hanging on by a thread. The Cards finish the season with 3 games in Chicago against the Cubs and are very much in the wild card race.
- NL West: This morning the Dodgers lead the division with 88 wins and 4 games left to play – – all of them on the road. The Rockies are a half a game back in the division race with 5 games left to play – – all of them at home.
It is highly unlikely, but it is still possible that all five of these teams (Cubs, Brewers, Cardinals, Dodgers and Rockies) could end the season with records of 91-71. That would require a bunch of playoff games to precede the “official playoffs” that lead to the World Series. We can only hope…
Tiger Woods won a golf tournament playing against other real PGA Tour professionals over the weekend. Hopefully, that will put an end to the horribly lazy reporting by the golf media saying that Tiger Woods shot better than his score and standing would indicate. That sort of nonsense has been making the rounds for at least 5 months now and it is high time it got put away. The tournament win was a big deal for Woods and for golf itself; he got back to the winner’s circle for the first time in next-to-forever and golf got its ratings-booster back at the same time.
Sadly, I suspect that the new “Tiger Trope” in the golf media will be how every shot he takes between now and next Spring will be crafted in such a way as to hone his game for The Masters where the media will install him as the favorite and follow him around like puppies follow children. I would love to be wrong about all of that…
Finally, here is Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times commenting on a dust-up between the Detroit Tigers’ radio broadcast team:
“Tigers analyst Rod Allen allegedly assaulted play-by-play broadcaster Mario Impemba, grabbing him from behind, but Allen’s agent says it didn’t happen.
“Flummoxed Elias Sports Bureau types can’t decide whether to credit Allen with a blown hold or a no-hitter.”
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………