A fistful of comments, asides and quick hits on the state of sports.
While wondering: As Carolina plays for its second-ever Super Bowl appearance in a dozen years, how long will it be before the Falcons are even positioned to get their return ticket? Could it possibly be before their other NFC South brothers – New Orleans and Tampa Bay – are? Will it be before some new team in L.A. arises? Will it happen before the sun dies?
Down under, in the alternate universe of Australia, there brews quite a kerfuffle. Players at the Australian Open are being covered up in questions about a BBC/BuzzFeed report of match-fixing in the upper ranks of professional tennis.
According to the report, the leaders of the game have tried to pave over certain unnamed top-50 players being paid off to throw games, sets or whole matches for the benefit of Russian and Italian gambling syndicates. Possible suspect abound.
There reportedly have been 18 lesser players disciplined, and six banned, for suspicious activity by something called the Tennis Integrity Unit (imagine CSI: Wimbledon, picture a forensic unit spraying luminol on a player's tennis bag). Beyond that, other questionable losses have been dismissed, the report said.
This kind of issue, of course, strikes at the credibility of any sport, hinting at the ultimate corruption of competition.
But there’s something even more troubling about this story:
There are people who seriously bet on tennis? Are you kidding me? That’s like risking the mortgage payment on a somewhat gussied-up version of jai alai.
Doing something about the weather
Short of building a dome over the Atlanta Motor Speedway, there is little track officials can do about the vagaries of weather during their one Sprint Cup race.
For the Feb. 28 Folds of Honor/QuikTrip 500, though, AMS president Ed Clark has issued a “perfect weather guarantee.”
“It’s pretty aggressive. It has not been done before in this business,” said Clark of the plan. If the high temperature doesn’t reach 50 degrees in Hampton on race day, ticket-holders who decide to stay home can trade in for a ticket to any AMS event up to and including the 2017 Cup race. Ditto if rain postpones the race until Monday.
Clark, whose race last year was delayed, but not postponed, by rain, remained optimistic that weather will not prove to be a crippling factor for this winter race.
“We wouldn’t do that if it was a 50-50 chance (of the guarantee kicking in) – the odds are more like 12 percent. The annual high for that day is 61. We wouldn’t be going off doing this if we thought it was going to happen half the time. I’d get run out of my job,” he said.
Well, um, I still like the dome idea. What’s one more extravagant stadium project in this town?
Good news: There is a market for good, solid, charismatic, substantive athletes.
Take the recent report from the NBAStore.com people, who report that Steph Curry’s jersey was the top seller over the last holiday period (Oct.-Dec.). Why, I’d be proud for my kid to wear his stuff – as long as he paid for it.
Curry edged out LeBron James for the No. 1 seller. Kobe Bryant, the Knicks Kristaps Porzingis and Kevin Durant finished out the top five.
Curry’s Golden State Warriors also were the top sellers in team wear, followed by Chicago, Cleveland, the Lakers and the Knicks. When any of those teams show up at Philips Arena, you really gain an appreciation for the magnitude of those sales.
You will be shocked, I know, to learn that the Hawks were not among the top 10 in team wear, and that no Hawks player ranked among the top 15 in sales.
So, then, why isn’t their stuff deeply discounted, like the off-brand Tees at Wal-Mart?
Gronk no like knee talk
Rob Gronkowski was understandably put off this week when Denver cornerback Chris Harris Jr. started talking about the necessity of hitting the Patriots mutant tight end around the knees. He is not anxious to schedule any more surgery.
But, then, Gronk’s never tried to tackle himself (well, maybe late at night, but that’s a different issue). He is such a load, even by the warped scale of the NFL, that bringing him down is a complex effort. You don’t fell a tree by pruning the top limbs.
It is rare that a player comes along who dwarfs his out-sized profession, but Gronkowski is that character. He is such a singular presence on the field and he adds such value to a game that from a fan standpoint you want to watch him play forever. But with so many defenders trying to chop him down, that sadly is not going to happen.
And on the subject of trying the exploit the vulnerabilities of the team across the way, you don’t think the Patriots will be looking to snap that last rubber band holding together Peyton Manning?
Plumbing the shallows of an NFL enigma
Actress Ann Dowd plays a character on HBO’s “The Leftovers” named Patti Levin. We won’t get into a full plot summary and character description here. But in brief, Levin is a silent, rumbled, sweatshirt-wearing cult leader, as expressionless and stoic as an unfinished statue.
And who would be a perfect model for such a publicly bleak character?
“After about the third episode or so, Patti kept reminding me of someone and I couldn’t figure out who it was,” Dowd, a Massachusetts native, explained, in an e-mail to The Boston Globe. “Finally it dawned on me that it was Bill Belichick, whom I watched countless times during Patriot games and always liked. And for these reasons: his stoicism, that he seems full of secrets, that he doesn’t care what anyone thinks of him.”
What is inspiration to one person is a recurring nightmare to another.
For I have this terrible vision: I die and am sentenced to sportswriter’s hell – an eternal Tuesday press conference with you-know-who.