Hump Day Hot Takes: USA Soccer Messis itself, LeBron James will stay in Cleveland

Fire up the hot take machine

Tim Culverhouse back for the second installment (miss the first one?) of this midweek compilation of scorching hot takes, as the sports calendar has hit one of its slowest times of the year. The NBA and NHL are done, and games in the middle of June for the MLB don’t quite move the needle compared to playoff hockey and basketball we were subject to for the last two months.

But, the show must go on. So let’s dive into these six hot takes for your reading pleasure.

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1. Does USA Soccer shitting the bed really matter if it isn’t in the World Cup? 

Let me preface this scorching hot take by saying this: I like soccer. I enjoy watching (good) soccer on TV, and have tuned into the Copa America Centenario and Euro 2016 over the past couple weeks, and I’ll be up early on the weekends to watch the Premier League throughout the fall and winter.

But with all that said, USA Soccer and the MLS just aren’t very good. And, this embarrassing 4-0 loss to Lionel Messi and Argentina in the Copa semifinals on Tuesday night is a strong reminder of how far USA Soccer is away from becoming relevant on the world stage.

So, this debacle from the other night, what does this mean for the future of USA Soccer and the growth of this sport in the country? Not a God damn thing.

Here’s the thing, the Copa America is a second-tier tournament. It’s the championship of South America, with rare instances where North and Central American teams get to participate. It just so happens that the 100th edition of the tourney was hosted in the US of A, and the Americans had a good – not great – run. But this tournament and subsequent loss to Argentina won’t mean anything moving forward. Yes the stadium was rocking and soccer fans around the country were pumped for the game, but the average American sports fan wasn’t dialed in for the game, or this tournament. Having the game on Fox Sports 1 doesn’t help that narrative either.

Next up for the US are two games in the fourth round of the CONCACAF World Cup qualification, with a shot to move onto the fifth round hexagonal (what a name) and then to qualify for the 2018 World Cup in Russia. The US is in good shape to move into the next round with two games in August in September. Once the World Cup comes around in two years, that’s when USA Soccer will be back on the main stage in the American sports spectrum. Until then, it isn’t really that big of a deal.

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2. LeBron winning makes it tougher for him to leave Cleveland than ever before

Rumors are abound regarding the status of King James, and what he’ll do with his player option for next season with the newly crowned Cleveland Cavaliers. Had the Cavs lost the title, he could have left again and had the excuse of “I tried” in his back pocket as he went to a bigger and better market. But winning the NBA title and ending Cleveland’s championship drought cemented his place with that franchise and in that city.

I could be totally off-base with this, but James leaving Cleveland for a second time after delivering a title would be the ultimate dick move. And, the PR-conscious King couldn’t recover from betraying his hometown twice. He would go down as the greatest villain in NBA history if he did that, and I doubt he will.

If you’re doubting that take, imagine this scenario:

The home opener for the Cavs next season. Banner night. Ring night. The night most Clevelanders and defenders of “The Land” (what a dumb nickname) never thought would happen. Now imagine as the video plays on the Quicken Loans Arena scoreboard, showcasing the Cavaliers’ march through the God-awful Eastern Conference before their epic comeback against Golden State, with the unanimous Finals MVP nowhere to be found. How would that go over?

If James packs up ship and moves to Miami, Los Angeles or somewhere else, he would leave behind his greatest accomplishment with his middle finger in the face of every person in his hometown. I’m coming home, LeBron? It would be career suicide if he left town again, especially this summer.

Editor’s note: For once, Tim is right. Basketball fans should start accepting this offseason is not going to involve the movement of Durant OR LeBron. They both can make more money next year, for various reasons that they do not necessarily share,and have plenty of reasons for wanting to keep the current name on their chest for one more season. Let’s get real here.

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3. Jimmy Vesey’s trade to Buffalo means jack shit in terms of who he signs with

If you listened to the first podcast on the site, you would know that I’m a diehard Bruins fan, and that hockey is my No. 1 sport. I’ll try to stay away from a Boston-specific angle in this take, but this move is kind of a head-scratcher. The Sabers acquired the former Harvard star and Mass. native from the Nashville Predators earlier this week for a third-round pick in this year’s NHL Draft.

For reference, the Bruins traded a third-round pick to the Flyers for Zac Rinaldo. WTF happened there?

Ok, back to Vesey. Buffalo has until August 15 to sign Vesey to a deal, and if he doesn’t sign with the Sabres, he becomes a free agent. He was perfectly clear with Nashville that he wouldn’t sign his rookie deal, so the Predators got something out of nothing.

The interesting angle with this move is that the Sabres offer a youthful core, and the opportunity for Vesey to skate alongside another Mass. kid in former BU star Jack Eichel. A top line of Jack Eichel, Jimmy Vesey and Evander Kane would be quite a formidable trio for Buffalo, but I doubt it will happen.

All the rumors surrounding the Hobey Baker Award winner suggest that he’ll sign with either his hometown Bruins, or the Toronto Maple Leafs, where his dad is a scout and his brother is in the minor leagues. If I had to bet on it, I think he goes to one of these teams instead of the Sabres. It’s an intriguing offer for Vesey to play alongside Eichel, but the trade from the Predators doesn’t force him to sign with anyone until August 15. I would be STUNNED if he makes a deal before that.

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4. The Boston Red Sox are in DEEP trouble if their offense continues to suck

I know this is more of a Boston-specific take/bitch, but the recent struggles with the Red Sox impacts a lot more teams around the MLB than you think. First and foremost, Boston blows in games where they score less than three runs. And I’m sure your first thought after reading that is, “No shit Tim.” Fine, be that as it may, the Red Sox really, really suck when they don’t score four runs. After Tuesday, Boston is 3-17 in games scoring three runs or less. Every other game? 36-14.

David Price has pitched better of late, but he’s still not the guy they expected when he inked that massive contract in the offseason. Steven Wright has been nothing short of outstanding, but his knuckleball can flop right in the middle of the season and he would fall off the wagon. In April and May when the Red Sox were pounding teams and winning by seven-plus runs, all the talk in Boston was “Who cares about pitching when this team can rip the ball over the ballpark?”

The proverbial other shoe has dropped, and the Red Sox are falling fast. Sure they’re eight games above .500, and only a game back to the Orioles in the AL East, but this recent trend is of major concern to Boston. A 7-11 start to June is just the beginning of this swoon if the Red Sox don’t find their record-breaking offense again. I wouldn’t be surprised if this team fell below .500 before season’s end, and misses the playoffs for a third consecutive year after winning the World Series in 2013.

As far as the impact on the rest of Major League Baseball, Red Sox President of Baseball Operations and big-swinging-dick and basically general manager Dave Dombrowski won’t sit by and let this season flush down the toilet. He’s not afraid to make a blockbuster move and sell the farm for some top-flight talent. The Red Sox are flush with young talent in Boston and in the minors, so if this team nosedives, dealin’ Dave might make some calls for some big names (Jose Fernandez, Gerrit Cole, Sonny Gray) and do something drastic to salvage this season. And if he does, look out. The recipient of said deal is going to restock their minor league system for years if Dombrowski pulls the trigger on something major.

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5. New York does something smart (for once) and moves forward on allowing daily fantasy games

Huzzah! People of New York rejoice, as your long nightmare has almost ended!

Earlier this week, the Empire State passed a bill that would allow daily fantasy sites like DraftKings and FanDuel to operate in the state once again, but with regulation and an 18-year-old cutoff. It’s about fucking time.

As I pointed out last week, not being allowed to play a daily fantasy sport because it’s considering gambling is absolutely ludicrous. If that’s the case, I’ve been “gambling” since I was 16 years old and doing an NCAA tournament bracket with my friends in high school at lunch. This just makes sense, and allows for these companies to run their business in a legitimate way, and also for sports fans to do what they want when their games come on.

The two caveats to the bill, other than the minimum age, are that advertisements need to show accurate representations of odds when participating in the game, and that the state government gets a 15% cut. Fine, and eh, fine. Advertisements for smoking need to show that they cause cancer. You probably aren’t going to win a million dollars playing daily fantasy, and the odds say you’ll lose more money than you put in. No shit right, that’s how these businesses exist and why they were able to put out so many ads during the last year. So if that’s what needs to happen, go for it.

New York readers, it’s just about time to set your fantasy baseball lineup for the day, might as well jump in while you can.

ClXJUijUsAAkj6c6. The Golden State Warriors choke-job in the NBA finals was the worst choke in the history of sports

Ah yes, the other major storyline from the finals other than Cleveland and LeBron taking home the title. Not only did the Cavs become the first team in NBA history to erase a 3-1 deficit in the finals, they did so against the best regular-season team in NBA history. 73-9 wasn’t a fluke, but to even sniff the consideration of the best team of all time conversation, you can’t gag in two games at home where you were nearly unbeatable from October through April.

In comparison with other sports, the Bruins and Sharks losing 3-0 leads in the NHL is pretty damn inexcusable, and the same can be said about the Yankees in the 2004 ALCS (sorry Brendan, I know it brings you painful memories). But, those teams weren’t the 2016 Golden State Warriors, who won home games by a margin of 13.7 points and went 50-5 at Oracle between the regular season and playoffs. Yes the league helped out by suspending Draymond Green, but losing Games 6 and 7 were complete gags by the best team in the league.

I think this even takes the cake from the 2007 Patriots and their demise in the Super Bowl against the New York Giants (see Brendan, I have your back) because it was simply one games. Yes, the Pats were undefeated, but in a one-game instance anything can happen. New England had one chance to make history and they shit their pants. Golden State had three chances to slam the door, and they blew it.

It’s weird that none of these teams ended up winning the title. That’s sports for you.

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Editor’s Note: That graphic brings me great joy. See: The New York Yankees of 1998 (still the most wins by any World Series winning team) and 2001 (knocked out those Mariners), and the New York Football Giants of2007 (I WAS THERE).

7. Brendan’s Camel of the Week: Jimmy Murphy and dumb sports writers everywhere

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Listen, I get it. Despite the perceptions and the “I could do your job” hot takes, sports writing isn’t always an easy gig. Any time you’re writing for daily publication, and often times sports writers are writing multiple pieces each day, along with several tweets and other social media posts, there are going to be some rumors or stories that you print or acknowledge that aren’t exactly fact. I worked for a daily publication site for about half a year on the news front, and there is no doubting that some stories were stronger than others.

So, I get it. But, if you’re going to put a rumor out there, it should be based in some type of reality. Take this as an example of one that wasn’t:

Now, is it necessarily fair to pick on Mr. Murphy? Probably not. He will be far from the only hockey (or basketball) (or football) writer with somewhat sketchy trade speculation passed off as something on the verge of being done. But as an Islander fan living in Boston, that one was tough to ignore, so ol’ Murph takes the title this week.

As a general rule, (pointed out in this guide to the hockey off-season) fans should take rumors about their team started by non-national writers that report on teams outside of either team involved in the trade. And this is one of those times. Does Murphy have any idea what went on this season with Hamonic? Does he really think that Garth and co. would trade him after that whole saga?

I don’t ask just to be an asshole. I ask because he makes literally no mention of it. Seems to me, that even if this was a trade that could happen, it would be worth mentioning that a player who requested a trade to Western Canada, then rescinded it, to much organizational fanfare, is now once again going to be traded to Western Canada. I’m not a professional, but that seems worth mentioning. Again, I’m probably picking on Jimmy Murphy here, especially considering he also couched it with this tweet:

Now, this to me says the Isles and Oilers are having more general talks regarding Hall and an Islander defenseman. And considering the Isles need and stated desire for a top line winger to paly with Mr. Tavares, and Hall seems like a pretty good fit. My most likely explanation for this saga is that Hamonic was involved in those talks before he rescinded the trade offer, and maybe Boychuck has been a later addition to the talks (FWIW, I could live with the idea of a Boychuck-Hall trade, especially how nervous Boychuck has me this offseason.)

So if Hamonic was an old part of this trade and may have been replaced in talks, why would Murphy put this out? Maybe Murphy got outdated or bad info from a source. Maybe he got the right info, but he’s trying to use the information he has strategically to get some extra notice. Obviously, I could be completely off-base, but despite my bitching neither of those theories would be particularly original sins or dastardly ones.

Just annoying.

That’s it for Tim this week. He’ll be back next Wednesday for some more flaming hot takes. Follow Tim on Twitter @culvey13 and Brendan at @MurraySportTalk for more, or to tell me us we’re morons. Either way, have at it.

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