Great Britain, Cross-Country Mountain Biking



I just found out: the team is called “Great Britain” rather than “The United Kingdom” because

(1) The people of Northern Ireland are free to represent either Team GB or Ireland. According to The Belfast Telegraph, 23 of the 31 athletes from Northern Ireland compete for team Ireland. I guess the high sheriffs of British sport thought calling the team The Disunited Kingdom might send the wrong message. Plus DK is already taken (by Denmark).

(2) People from the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man compete for team GB, but those areas are not legally part of the UK.

There will be beer.

The big fella also had 14 rebounds and five blocked shots. Man, that guy has game!

The Bucks won it on their home turf, spurring a joyous celebration for a franchise that last won a title when the point guard was ol’ number one, Oscar Robertson, and the big scorer was a certain Mr. Abdul-Jabbar.

Norway women’s beach handball team fined for wearing shorts instead of bikini bottoms

That’s how you maintain a brand. The high sheriffs of that sport know how to assure the quality spectator experience in anything called “women’s beach ____.”

I’m not totally resistant to change. After all, I’ve accepted the designated hitter, so I’d go along if the women decided to play naked. Then they could wear skimpy bikinis on nostalgia days, like when baseball players wear those old-timey loose flannels.

Once ranked #3 in the world, she fell on hard times in the past two years, but seems to be back on her game. She entered Wimbledon unseeded, but has already turned back two rivals in straight sets. She won three rounds in the French Open, two of them against seeded opponents, but then got slaughtered by Krejcikova, 6-2, 6-0, in the fourth round. Krejcikova went on to win the tournament, so Sloane’s loss to her doesn’t seem so bad in retrospect.

He achieved that by winning the French Open Sunday after losing the first two sets. He’s still one major shy of the record co-held by his rivals Federer and Nadal, but he has accumulated his titles in fewer years, and is the youngest of the Big Three.

Key facts:

1. Before the semi-finals on Friday, Nadal’s lifetime record at Roland Garros had been an unbelievable 105-2. Djokovic handed him loss #3 Friday, and was also responsible for one of the previous two. (The only other man to defeat Nadal at Roland Garros was Robin Soderling, an excellent clay court player who made the French Open finals two consecutive years in his brief, illness-shortened career.)

2. Djokovic has a lifetime winning record against both Nadal (30-28) and Federer (27-23). He has won his last ten non-clay matches against Nadal.

For the record, Nadal has dominated Federer 24-16, so their combined record in matches involving only those three players is:

Nadal 52-46
Djokovic 57-51
Federer 39-51

Nadal’s record is divided sharply by surface. Nadal is 14-2 against Federer on clay, compared to 10-14 on other surfaces. He is 19-8 against Djokovic on clay, 9-22 on other surfaces. There is no question that Nadal is the greatest clay court player in history, with an amazing record of 33-10 against the two greatest rivals of his era. That makes Djokovic’s win against him in Friday’s semi-finals seem to smell all the sweeter.

Nobody. Not Nicklaus or Snead or Watson or Boros. Not Harry Vardon or Old Tom Morris.

  • Vardon almost did it when he was 50. He was leading the US Open by five strokes with only seven holes to play, but a freak storm whipped out from Lake Erie and put a damper on his brilliant day. He was seven over par for the final seven – and still finished a close second!
  • Snead won tour events while in his 50s, but never a major. His most amazing effort was in the 1974 PGA, when he finished only three strokes back at age 62.
  • Tom Watson tied for the British Open lead at age 59, but lost in a playoff.
  • Old Tom Morris was about 46 when he won his final British Open, but he made the top five when he was 60.

All close. None with cigars.

But Phil Mickelson did pull it off. He won the White Owl. The El Producto. The Dutch Masters. The Phillies Cheroot.

This past weekend he was Older Tom Morris.

Quite a game. Not many pitchers get to hit in the #2 slot, but he’s not your average pitcher. He is leading the AL in homers!

(And as a pitcher, he has allowed only 11 hits in 26 innings. while striking out 40.)

He’s the most interesting player to come around in decades. One year in Japan (2016) he had an earned run average below 2.00 and an OPS above 1.000! The only pitcher I can remember who clearly could have been a star as an every day player was Don Newcombe, who led the NL in winning percentage one year with a 20-5 record while batting .359 with an OPS over 1.000.

Newcombe was never an every day outfielder in MLB because he was just too good on the mound. One year he won 27 games. Newk did, however, have one season with the Reds late in his career when he appeared in more games pinch-hitting than pitching, and batted over .300 for the season. Newcombe did end his professional career as an every day outfielder, but not in the USA. He did that by pulling a reverse Ohtani and migrating to Japan where he posted a very respectable .473 slugging average in his final pro season. To put that in perspective, Ernie Banks posted a .464 slugging average over his final 12 seasons, encompassing the 60s and 70s.

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A statistical oddity: with the season almost a quarter over, middle reliever Heath Hembree of the Reds, who has never been an especially good pitcher, has not allowed a single hit. (OK, he’s only been in six games – but still!)

The Giants threw him a bash.

He’s now the oldest living player in the Hall of Fame, and many say he’s the greatest player ever to take the field. I don’t know about “ever,” but I think he’s the right choice among those who have played since WW2, and I can’t name a position player from any era who could do as many things as well.

You may not know: Willie’s home and road stats look like carbon copies.

Per 162 games 2b 3b HR R RBI Avg
Home 28 6 36 110 100 .302
Road 28 8 35 112 105 .301




Still capture of Dana Brooke’s wardrobe issue here

Carmella’s wardrobe malfunction is here

The umpire called this a HBP, which allowed the winning run to score, but he clearly made the wrong call. His error was not a judgment call, but an incorrect application of the rules.

Rule 5.05.b.2

“If the ball is in the strike zone when it touches the batter, it shall be called a strike, whether or not the batter tries to avoid the ball.”

The pitch actually and undoubtedly was in the strike zone, as shown from multiple angles. That however, is unimportant, because umpires miss ball and strike calls all the time. Those are judgment calls, and are part of the breaks of the game. What is important in this incident is that the umpire had already called it a strike before he realized it had hit the batter, so it was not an error in judgment – he called it correctly. What he did NOT do correctly was to follow the rules! I know that the rules of baseball are arcane and anfractuous, but the umps just have to learn them.

The ump did ultimately realize his error, but not until after the game. “The guy was hit by the pitch in the strike zone,” he declared to a pool reporter. “I should have called him out.”

Gonzaga only lost one this year – the wrong one.

Helluva sad way to end such a glorious season. Baylor was ahead 9-0 at the outset, and 33-14 at one point. Gonzaga was not competitive in this game, largely because Baylor totally owned the glass, with a massive 38-22 edge in rebounding, including an overwhelming 16-5 edge on the offensive boards. That means Baylor was often taking two shots and holding Gonzaga to one. That happened so regularly that the Zags only managed 49 shots in the entire game, to Baylor’s 67.

They won 54-53, using an unusual defense in the last six seconds, basically the hoops version of a goal line stand. They put three or four defenders on Arizona’s star point guard as she brought the ball up, harassing her at ever turn, but basically leaving everyone else open.

What can you say? It worked. The point guard (Aari McDonald) did somehow get off a shot, but it was a long, awkward shot that missed the mark.

In fact, the Stanford strategy against Aari McDonald worked pretty well in the entire game, as they held her to a 5-for-21 night. It was almost a perfect repeat of the previous two meetings of the teams, in which McDonald, double-and triple-teamed, shot 11-for-43. (Or, as they call 11-for-43, the full Iverson.)

It was still a great night for Arizona, despite the loss. They were not expected to take Stanford to the final seconds. Arizona was not especially competitive in their previous encounters. The first time they played it was 81-54. Arizona got closer the second time, but there was still a 14-point gap, so this final game can be considered a good night for both teams.

Just better for Stanford.

It was expected to be Connecticut versus Stanford, but Arizona upset favored UConn. This is the fourth consecutive national championship tournament in which UConn has lost in the semifinals, but overall they are the greatest team in the history of women’s hoops, with 11 championships. Arizona had never before made it to the Elite Eight, let alone the championship game.

It was so snowy in Detroit that he didn’t know the ball had left the park!

By the way, Miggy should finish the season with 3,000 hits and 500 homers. Only six players in history have done that. Nobody had ever done it until 1970, when Mays and Aaron crossed the finish line together, but it has become more commonplace in today’s slugging game.

A-Rod 3115/696
Mays 3283/660
Aaron 3771/755
Pujols 3236/662
Palmiero 3020/569
Murray 3255/504

Aaron is the only one with 3500/600, and he easily cleared that bar.

Tale of the tape: Michigan had 14 turnovers and shot only 55% from the free throw line. One of their stars, normally a good shooter, was one for ten. Despite that, Michigan still had two chances to nail the winning three, but both failed to win the cigar.

The final four will be:

Baylor (2) vs Houston (1)

UCLA (11) vs Gonzaga (1)

Oh, yeah, you can play “one of these things is not like the others” with those seeds, but as I noted yesterday, I just can’t view UCLA, the 11-time champs, as a spunky underdog. In fact, I’m kinda hoping the Zags will pull off their undefeated season.

Since Mark Few took over as coach, Gonzaga’s conference record is 306-31, with six undefeated seasons. OK, I grant you that their conference sucks, but a .908 winning percentage is absolutely unreal. Mr. Few’s Gonzaga teams have gone to the NCAA tournament in every single year of his tenure. (There was no tourney in 2020, but their conference record would have assured them an automatic spot, and their 31-2 record probably would have merited a #1 seed).

Tuesday’s summary

Second-seeded Alabama lost to #11 UCLA. Kind of a crazy game. The first half – all UCLA. The second half – all ‘Bama. The OT – all UCLA.

Sunday’s summary.

Despite some upsets, the Elite Eight doesn’t really look anomalous. It includes three first seeds, a two and a three. Furthermore, one of the weaker seeds is UCLA, which is the greatest power in the history of college hoops. They did once win this thing 10 times in 12 years, so it’s hard to think of them as a spunky upstart, even though they’ve only won once in the past 40 years, and none at all in the past 25.

In other words, I’ll be pulling for the true underdog, Oregon State. At one time this year, they were 11-11, including an embarrassing home-court loss to lowly Portland. That debacle was Portland’s only road win of the year. To add to the embarrassment, Portland never won a single game, home or away, in their own conference, the WCC. Unless you are an absolute hoops fanatic, I’ll bet you don’t even know what Portland’s sports teams are called. (The Pilots, for the record. I had to look it up.) Well, Oregon State lost to those hapless dudes earlier this year – on their own court – and yet now they’re in the Elite Eight! Ya gotta love it.

Monday:

Third-seeded Kansas was utterly demolished and embarrassed by USC, 85-51.

Second-seeded Iowa was handily defeated by Oregon (95-80)

The kids from Abilene Christian had no more gas in the tank after their emotional defeat of the Longhorns on Saturday. They were pummeled by UCLA, which now finds itself in the Sweet 16 despite a mediocre 11th-seed.

Oral Roberts is the only long shot left in the South/West bracket. All of the others are seeded 7 or better, and both number 1s are alive. On the other hand, the East/Midwest bracket is filled with surprises, including a #1 left on the roadside. Surviving are two 11s and a 12.

Monday’s summary

———

Sunday: more upsets

Illinois became the first #1 seed to fail, as Loyola Chicago (8 seed) bested them handily. It was another great intrastate match-up won by the David against the Goliath.

West Virginia (3) fell to Syracuse (11)

Florida (7) became the second team to be upset by lowly, 15th-seeded Oral Roberts

Oklahoma State (4) wasn’t even competitive against Oregon State (12)

Two other teams with top seeds, Houston (2) and Arkansas (3), came very close to losing as well. Houston was down by 4 to Rutgers (!!) inside the two-minute mark. Arkansas only won because Texas Tech missed two routine layups in the last 37 seconds.

Summary of Sunday’s games

Saturday:

Virginia has had the most dramatic shifts of fate in recent years. In 2018, they suffered humiliation when they became the first #1 seed to lose a first-round match to a #16. In 2019, they basked in elation when they won the whole shebang. There was no tournament in 2020, so they entered the 2021 tournament as the defending champions. Given the up-and-down pattern that I began this paragraph with, you can guess what happened Saturday. As a #4 seed, they were upset by 13th-seeded Ohio.

Perhaps that wasn’t as severe a comeuppance as suffered by the Texas Longhorns, a #3 seed ranked in the top ten in the national polls, that lost to unheralded Abilene Christian.

Tale of the tape for the Longhorns’ coach:

What a thrill for the 5,000-student school to defeat the big dog of their own state (50,000 students) after falling behind early. Don’t underestimate Abilene. They play in a weak conference, but they destroyed their opponent in the conference championship game (79-45) after easily rolling over every other team they faced in the tourney. These kids got some game, and they have really peaked at the right time.

Saturday summary

Friday:

Ohio State, second-seeded and ranked #7 in the nation, dropped a close OT game to … wait for it … 15th-seeded Oral Roberts.

The other institutions in the fine family of Roberts colleges, Anal and Genital, did not advance.

Also advancing in upsets:

  • 11-seed Syracuse won easily
  • 12-seed Oregon won easily
  • 13-seed North Texas won in OT

Friday summary

The top seeds are Gonzaga, Illinois, Michigan and Baylor. Gonzaga has no losses, Baylor only two. They were supposed to play each other on December 5th, but the game was called because of COVID problems. Gonzaga’s 26-0 record is impressive, but their last 19 wins have come against unranked opponents.

Those four #1 seeds are the four highest-ranked teams in the polls as well as in Sagarin’s computer rankings.

I love to write about the obscure underbelly of baseball, about guys like:

Bob “Hurricane” Hazle, a mediocre minor leaguer who had a miraculous dream-come-true season in the majors.

or

Frank Saucier, an amazingly accomplished man, and a potentially great baseball talent with a .380 lifetime minor league average, who had an embarrassing major league career, the highlight of which was that a dwarf pinch-hit for him.

I have planned other similar stories that sit as yet incomplete. I set aside tons of research to write about others like Floyd Giebell, Moonlight Graham (I assume you know who he was, thanks to Field of Dreams), and a certain Chicago schoolboy legend named Randall Poffo.

As you can see from the article below, young master Poffo was a serious and handsome lad who was once considered the best high school baseball player in the entire Chicago area. Some say he might have become a great star, except that a serious injury forced the right-handed kid to learn to throw left-handed, and therefore forced him to switch from catcher to first base or the outfield. (No catchers throw left-handed.) After the switch, his White Sox coach told him he threw like a girl. In spite of those obstacles, he managed to last four seasons in the minors.

image host

What made him so friggin’ interesting? Well, it was the fact that he eventually became a household name, one of the greatest all-time superstars in a very different form of athletic endeavor. He is better known to the world as The Macho Man, Randy Savage.

I actually kinda knew him because he was the main man for Slim Jims and my company (7-Eleven) was their biggest customer. I took a picture with him at the Slim Jim hospitality suite of a convention, but he never came out of character then. Later that night, I ran into him in a strip club when he was in civvies and de-machoed, and we had a great talk about baseball!

I also spent a lot of time one evening talking to The Ultimate Warrior (and his beautiful girlfriend). Mr. Warrior appeared to be a very pleasant, intelligent and laid-back man, although some fans and some of his colleagues didn’t care for him. Maybe I got to him before ‘roid rage kicked in. It was kinda weird to talk to him because he was dressed in character with the face paint and the bare bulging muscles, but he walked up to me and introduced himself as “Jim.”

Ol’ Jim has shrugged off the mortal coil now, as has Randy. Neither lived to blow out the candles on his 60th birthday.

You have to love what the Mets really said if you read between the lines:

From the author:
“Tebow played 77 games at baseball’s highest minor league level in 2019, batting .163 with four home runs.”

From the Mets:
“By reaching the Triple-A level in 2019, he far exceeded expectations when he first entered the system in 2016”

That’s right – hitting .163 with no power in triple-A is FAR better than they expected!

(I would love to see the scouting reports. What exactly were those expectations? My guess is that they said something like this: “With a bat in his hand, Tebow couldn’t hit a beachball tossed underhand. On the other hand, lots of conservative Christians will pay to see him play, and will buy plenty of beer, hot dogs, and branded merchandise. The amount of profit he will generate is greater than the amount we will pay him, so what do we have to lose? Sign the sumbitch.”)

I guess it only seems like a thousand. The real number is seven, which is amazing enough.

Only one other regular player, (Gronk) has won as many as four rings in this century, and he has done that as Brady’s teammate. The only other player to win four in the current century is a place kicker, Adam Vinatieri, and three of those were behind Tom Brady.

Brady has won more super bowls than any NFL TEAM – not just in this century, but ever! (The Steelers and Pats have won the most, six each.)

It was a surprisingly easy victory, thanks to Tampa Bay’s fine defense. KC never scored a touchdown, and Mahomes tossed two interceptions.