Jun. 21—Weekend winners
Jon Rahm. Went back to see who sent it for the mailbag, but tip of the visor to Jessica last Friday for the timely question about "the best player without a major."' Well, Rahm took his name off the list with easily the best round of a very forgettable Sunday at the U.S. Open.
Rahm was a worthy champion on the final eight holes — including back-to-back birdies on 17 and 18 to post 6 under — but everyone else looked like weekend hackers at your Wednesday morning low-ball for most of Sunday. Among the big names, well, Rory was rotten. Bryson was brutal. Mickelson mucked it up. DJ was a disaster. And here's an interesting wrinkle on this that comes from the cash these guys make these days: This was a major championship with a $12 million purse, and when those big-name players realized their chances were as dashed as Morse code, they looked as interested as intern Scott at his law office HR seminar on not calling anyone fat and the trending avoidance of pronouns. It was not a good look.
Walker Buehler. Yes, it was against Arizona, which barely counts, but Buehler's string of success would make even Jennifer Grey and principal Ed Rooney fans. Bueller has not lost a decision since before we ever knew what COVID-19 was. Buehler's last credited loss was September 2019, that's 23 straight starts. He's 11-0 in that time and 31-9 in his career. That's a 0.775 winning percentage with roughly half the 1,000 career innings needed to qualify among the all-time leaders. For comparison, Clayton Kershaw's winning percentage is 0.691, which leads all active players and is fifth all time.
Nate McMillian. And Kevin Huerter. And even John Collins. The Hawks willed themselves into the Eastern Conference Finals. When you win Game 7 on the road and your star has his worst game in maybe three months, there's a lot of kudos to go around. (Ben Simmons being unable to shoot heroin in a Singapore drug den helps too.) Gang, who among the Final Four should the Hawks be fearful of? Exactly.
Devin Booker. Is there a better basketball player in short pants right now than the Phoenix star who went 40-point triple-double Sunday as the Suns sans-Chris Paul toppled the Clippers?
Shohei Ohtani. Dude hit his 23rd homer of the season Sunday. Not since Barry Sanders has someone had this kind of dominant weekend in Detroit. Ohtani got the pitching win Thursday night by allowing one run over six innings to improve to 3-1 and lower his ERA to 2.70. In 13 at-bats Friday thru Sunday, Ohtani hit four homers and drove in seven runs. How hard is Ohtani hitting the baseball right now? On balls he put in play against the Tigers, he was 4-for-7 with four homers. Plus comes news that he's in the Home Run Derby at Coors Field. I heart all of this.
Sports action. OK, there was drama in the NBA and Saturday night's Nets-Bucks game featured a lot of highlight-reel moments. But, while both Game 7s over the weekend were close, they were not overly well played. And the U.S. Open was a snooze fest — as much as I love major championship golf, it was hard to watch. I have not seen that many bogeys since the final scenes of "Top Gun" when Maverick saves Ice Man's bacon.
My picks. Egad, we're in a tailspin. This weekend was capped by a six-leg parlay last night that had the first five legs of Joel Embiid at least one 3-pointer made and over 40 points, rebounds and assists, Tobias Harris over 25 points and rebounds, Seth Curry at least three 3-pointers made and Trae Young at least two three-pointers made. All hit. My +837 payout was dashed because the game failed miserably to go over. Alas.
Brian Snitker. Yes, the Braves took three of four from the hapless Cardinals who are tail-spinning like a confused puppy. But look at the big picture of the dynamics of the major league manager these days. The game flow is almost entirely dictated by numbers, analytics, pitch counts and matchups. The roster is managed by 30-something Ivy League grads with MIS and computer science degrees. It's science figures rather than sports feel. The A-No. 1 job of the MLB manager is to keep his clubhouse cohesive. And for the most part, I think that has been one of Snit's best qualities. But everyone this side of Snit's immediate family has to know this: You alienate Ronald Acuña Jr. and his team, your days are numbered. Period end of entry.
Everything involved with the NBA officiating. The refs are bad. The reactions to the bad refs are bad. In fact, I'll offer this as someone who almost assuredly watches way more youth sports than you do: the unintended side effect of all this bellyaching about calls has trickled down. Yes, youth sports parents complaining about calls — yes, I have at times resembled that remark in years past — are the primary culprit, but when Joel Embiid and Trae Young act like every whistle is a crime and a personal insult, well, it's not a good look.
Ben Simmons. How can a max player be a max player when said player can't be on the floor in crunch time? What a mess. How shot is his confidence? Dude was afraid to dunk the ball.
Arizona. If we're asking this on the level of weekend losers, well, the D-Backs need to be much higher on this list. Gang, they've lost 17 straight — and 23 in a row on the road. Egad.
Chasing the rings
While I was disappointed with most of my sports viewing over the weekend, I was impressed with NBC. The decision to show prime Olympic qualifying was genius heading up to the most confusing Olympic Games since the Russian-led boycott of 1984. (Side note: That was confusing because without the Russians and some of their East European comrades, the U.S. had no competition in almost every event.)
The best way to make us care about any Olympics is to connect us to the athletes from sports we know very little about before they get to the games to represent America.
In the years before now, the way America learned of our Olympic heroes was at the games and they were celebrated after the fact on the "Today Show" for 15 minutes.
Now we know more about our 15-year-old swimmers or the female sprinter from a family of 11 kids whose parents had to convert a Marriott airport shuttle bus into their family truckster.
Yes, the qualifiers were aired in previous years, but it was like a throwaway program opposite big events in the very forgettable slot of 2 p.m. on a summer Saturday. This was a great decision, for the athletes and the network.
(And it's doubly true in summertime programming when the other options are "To Tell the Truth" and a mid-March rerun of "FBI." And triply true when NBC is going to have to juggle some real scheduling difficulties since the Games will be halfway around the world next month. In Tokyo, it's 8 a.m. when it's 7 p.m. on the East Coast.)
So count me in, NBC. Kudos.
This and that
> UT baseball was a consideration for losing the weekend, but everything has been so much fun with Tony V's crew that the "loser" tag felt harsh. Yes UVa has a legit ace, but the excitement around this bunch was palpable and to offer a floater like that in Game 1 is extremely disappointing.
> The New Zealand transgender weightlifter is headed to the Olympics. I think this is completely unfair. Side question: If a 23-year-old athlete identifies as a high school sophomore so he can play quarterback or she can fulfill her dream of being a point guard, are we OK for that, too?
> Going to be a long day for MLB umpires as the commissioner's office has directed them to crack down on foreign substances tonight. So there's that.
> So Tom Brady and Patrick Mahomes will be on the cover of Madden 22. See, we can all get along.
> For my money, the second-best golfer on the course Sunday was Baylor School grad Harris English, who closed fast for a 3 under and finished third and made $829,084.
> For my money, the third-most-entertaining golfer on the course Sunday was this loony fan who ran into the middle of the 13th fairway, dropped a ball and hit it before security tackled him. And the social media comments were priceless, from critiques of his swing to the predictable "I remember my first beer" jokes to the very clever "Rickie?" in a reference to Rickie Fowler, who did not qualify for this U.S. Open.
> Consider me not a fan of what appears to be this inevitable trend. But colleges look to be heck-bent on doing away with ACT and SAT testing requirements for admissions. Big picture, my issue centers on how you can make anything more fair by increasing the amount — and the importance — of unspecified criteria needed for admissions.
Weekend winners and losers. Go.
Multiple choice Monday goes here: What grade would you give the watchability of the US Open?
> A — I loved it
> B — It was good
> C — Average
> D or worse — I turned it off
In truth I went D, friends, because I was in and out for a big chunk of the afternoon — the weather was aces too — and was gone for good after Louis' three-jack on the 71st hole.
As for today, June 21, let's explore.
Chris Pratt is 42. First, that dude is funny. Second, "The Lego Movie" is the most underrated kids movie of the last decade. I think that movie is aces.
Heck, let's not overthink this. Chris Pratt's Rushmore. Go.
(Side note: Did you know that Pratt is older than Prince William, who is 39 today? Prince William is on the Jim Furyk All-Stars — the folks who age 15 years when they take their hats off.)