Delivering American University's news and views since 1925. | Saturday, September 22, 2018

Football, futbol and the power of sports

From lawsuits to tennis victories, athletes around the country put on a show for sports fans this week. Here is one writer’s take on five of the biggest stories in sports news right now. 

1. It looks like Deflategate isn't going anywhere. 

  Please, make it stop. For the past seven months, the biggest headline out of the NFL has been this mess between NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady. For the complete summary and timeline of events, follow this link.

   According to the Wells report, it was “more probable than not” that the Patriots deflated footballs before the AFC Championship in January, and that Tom Brady was “generally aware” of the entire situation.

   Goodell handed Brady a four game suspension, but the Patriot’s quarterback appealed the decision. Last Wednesday, Judge Richard Berman ruled in favor of Brady, stating multiple legal deficiencies in Brady’s suspension which are all explained here. Brady’s four game suspension is no longer, and we can all forget about this fiasco which has lasted far too long.

  Hold that thought. It’s not over yet. A week removed from Judge Berman’s ruling, ESPN reported that Goodell’s harsh punishment of the Patriots in Deflategate views as a makeup call for covering up Spygate, a previous controversy that involved the Patriots taping other team’s signals. After the Spygate accusation, Bill Belichick, the head coach of the Patriots, received a $250,000 fine from the NFL. Additionally, the Patriots were fined $500,000 and lost a 2008 first-round draft pick. On top of the fines, Commissioner Goodell ordered the destruction of all tapes involving the scandal. According to the Outside the Lines report, the commissioner’s poor handling of Spygate is the main reason why the NFL strongly pursued Deflategate.

  The NFL’s most successful franchise over the past 15 years is under scrutiny once again, and we all have to hear about this annoying storyline for at least another week. I think I speak on behalf of most NFL fans when I say that I want this debacle to be over with. Let’s get out of the courts and back to football!

2. Roberta Vinci pulls out a historic victory against Serena Williams.

  Serena Williams, the top ranked female tennis player in the world, came up short in her quest to secure the first ever calendar Grand Slam, losing in the US Open semifinals to unranked Italian Roberta Vinci 2-6, 6-4, 6-4.

  Williams, who had just beat her sister Venus in the quarterfinals, had won her previous 26 matches in 2015. ESPN is calling William’s recent loss one of the biggest upsets the sport has seen.

  The last four times Vinci played Serena she lost, including a loss in straight sets in Toronto a month ago. Vinci, in the twilight of her career at 33-years-old, called this “the best moment of her life.”

  Not only is this the first time that Vinci ever beat Williams, it was the first time that she had ever taken a set from her.

  “It’s amazing, like a dream” Vinci said. She will face off against Flavia Pennetta, another Italian, in the final tomorrow at 3 p.m.

3. Jurgen Klinsmann has some explaining to do.

  The U.S. Men’s National Team faced a turbulent summer this year. In May, the team delivered upsets to world powerhouses Holland and Germany in back-to-back friendlies. They initially carried their momentum into the CONCACAF Gold Cup, the yearly regional competition that takes place every summer, but fell in the semi-finals.

  The USMNT started the Gold Cup strong, defeating Honduras, Cuba and Haiti, but eventually lost to Jamaica 2-1. The loss marked the first time in 46 years that the US has lost to a Caribbean team on home soil. The U.S. team then dropped the third-place game to Panama on penalty kicks.

   Over the weekend, the USMNT played two friendlies against South American powers Peru and Brazil. U.S. forward Jozy Altidore scored both goals in a 2-1 U.S. Victory over Peru, but the Stars and Stripes did not fare as well against five time world champion Brazil, losing 4-1.

  Jurgen Klinsmann, the head coach of the USMNT, has some serious issues on his hands. After great showings in the beginning of the summer and in last year’s World Cup, the USMNT has taken a step back. Klinsmann has tinkered with his starting lineup and has seen mixed results. For instance, young players like Gyasi Zardes and DeAndre Yedlin thrived in their initial roles, but after changing positions under Klinsmann, they have struggled to produce the same success.

   Yedlin showed promise in the World Cup as a wing back, using his speed to tear up and down the right flank. However, Klinsmann recently shifted Yedlin to right midfield, where he has looked a bit out of his depth in a more advanced, attacking position. Yedlin’s instincts and athleticism are best suited for a defensive role. Zardes, a natural striker, has played a left wing role and has not been as effective. At the beginning of the Gold Cup, Zardes scored a goal from a central position. Once he was shifted out to the wing, he has not been the same player.

   The next big game for the USMNT is against Mexico on Oct. 10 for a spot in the Confederations Cup. If the USMNT lose this game, do not expect Klinsmann to have a job.

4. Patriot fans should thank Roger Goodell.

  Last night, the NFL season kicked off in Foxborough, Mass., home of the defending Super Bowl champion New England Patriots. The pre-game building was nothing short of a spectacle, with T-Pain performing “All I Do Is Win” and the unveiling of the championship banner.

  Tom Brady looked especially motivated, after everything that happened in the offseason (see #1). He played near perfect football, going 25-32 with four touchdowns in the opening game against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Three of those scores went to Rob Gronkowski, the Patriots’ mammoth of a tight end.

  If this is going to be the Tom Brady that we’re going to see for the rest of season, then the Patriots are going to be in the hunt for another Super Bowl. Patriot fans should thank Roger Goodell for giving the defending Super Bowl champs -- along with one of the best quarterbacks in the history of the sport -- extra motivation heading into the season.

5. Remembering 9/11

  Today marks the 14th anniversary of 9/11.  As the tragedy shook the nation 14 years ago, Major League Baseball halted operations.

  Six days later, baseball resumed. On Oct. 30, 2001, President George W. Bush threw out the ceremonial first pitch for Game 3 of the World Series between the New York Yankees and the Arizona Diamondbacks in an act of patriotic spirit.

  As President Bush walked out to the mound in a FDNY jacket, the stadium appeared to shake. Chants of “U-S-A” rang down from the stands as the crowd gave the President a standing ovation. Bush stepped out to the plate and delivered a perfect strike to the approval of the Yankee faithful and millions watching around the country.

  Today, ESPN released a short documentary about that pitch, and what it did for the nation.

  “Standing on the mound at Yankee Stadium was by far the most nervous moment of my Presidency,” President Bush said in a feature article by Louisa Thomas on Grantland.

   The unity of the fans at Yankee Stadium illustrates the healing power of sports. Bush's first pitch helped New York City and the rest of the nation recover from one of the biggest tragedies in our nation.

mholt@theeagleonline.com


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