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PostLockdown Sports Updates: NBA Title, French Open (David Duggan, USA, 10/13/20 3:25 am)
The sports world is emerging from the lockdown with championships played way out of season, the stands virtually empty, and old and new champions crowned.
Two weeks ago, hockey's Tampa Bay Lightning, last seen losing to the Chicago Blackhawks in the finals of the 2015 Stanley Cup, beat the Colorado Avalanche in a bubble-performance in Edmonton Alberta. Ten days ago filly Swiss Skydiver won the Preakness Stakes (with nobody other than trainers and owners watching), this year the third-leg in the Triple Crown, in which the order of the races and their lengths were rearranged beyond recognition. And on Sunday, the King James-led LA Lakers beat the Jimmy ("Buckets") Butler-led Miami Heat in the Disney World bubble in Orlando, FL for the NBA title. LeBron now has four rings, won with three different teams in two decades, one shy of the late Kobe Bryant (can it really be 10 months since his death?), two short of Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen, and seven short of the Celtics' Bill Russell. I don't think Bill has anything to worry about, and with LeBron approaching his 36th birthday. I think MJ and Scottie are safe, too.
In Paris on Sunday, Rafael Nadal won his 20th grand slam victory and 13th French Open, destroying No. 1 seed and convicted linesman ball swatter Novak Djokovic in three sets. He ended the first set and the match with an ace, kneeling on the cold French terre battue, then rising, stripping his trademarked headband, and raising his rippled guns and fists like Maximus in Gladiator. Sweat streamed down his thinning-haired forehead and he was the picture of pure elation. He has now tied Roger for the number of GS victories, and with no one to beat him at Roland Garros, he'll likely have eclipsed him next May when, God willing the next Coupe de Mousquetaires is awarded. On the women's side, newcomer Iga Swiatek beat Aussie-champion Sofia Kenin in straights also. Sporting a heavily wrapped left thigh, Kenin had a hard time maneuvering on the slick French clay. Serena had withdrawn the first week claiming a strained Achilles tendon suffered two weeks earlier at the US Open. Swiatek becomes the first Pole to win a grand slam in singles (although Wojciech Fibak, now known as an art collector, won the 1978 Oz-doubles with Aussie Kim Warwick).
Locally, both the Cubs and Sox were eliminated in their "wild-card" series games, the Cubs to the Miami Marlins and the Sox to the Oakland Athletics. In four post-season games over the last three seasons, the Cubs have scored exactly three runs and there are rumors that the Ricketts family is going to dispense with baseball guru Theo Epstein for the last year of his contract. Laden with high-priced "talent" that hasn't hit when it counts, the Cubs need to drain their payroll swamp and get some batters who can manufacture runs. Requiring your pitchers to throw shut-out ball in the post-season is not a career-boosting strategy. How quickly we forget those magic moments of October 2016 when the Cubs broke their 108-year streak of not winning a World Series. And in grateful recognition of leading the South Siders to their first post-season since before the election of their fan-in-chief Barack Obama, the Sox fired manager Rick Renteria. Maybe sports is the new politics, with nobody rewarding you for your performance.
And can you believe it, the Bears are 4-1, all their victories coming from behind in the 4th quarter. Last Thursday they beat the Tom Brady-led Tampa Bay Buccaneers with a field goal in the last two minutes. It was the first time this millennium that the Bears had beaten a Tom Brady team, though we still remember the one time that the Bears met the Patriots when it mattered. January 26, 1986: Bears 46-Patriots 10.
JE comments: The 19-year-old Swiatek is presently the Greatest Pole. The entire country is elated. Somehow I missed this year's NBA finals entirely. My brain is accustomed to such events in...June?
With empty stadiums and "Bubble" championships, 2020 will go down in sports history as the Year of the Asterisk.
Lewis Hamilton Ties Schumacher's Record for F1 Wins (from Ric Mauricio)
(John Eipper, USA
10/15/20 4:35 AM)
Ric Mauricio writes:
To add to David Duggan's list of recent milestones in the sports world, British driver Lewis Hamilton tied Michael Schumacher for Formula One Grand Prix wins at 91 at the Eifel Grand Prix held at the Nurburgring.
JE comments: And at a relatively youthful 35, Hamilton is almost guaranteed to beat Schumacher's record. Quietly and methodically, Hamilton finds himself with few rivals for Greatest of All Time. Fangio, Lauda, Senna, et al.--move over.