No sign of Egon this week so we hand you straight over to several a/k/a Random .
Well, and let's see... the two 'biggest' stories in American sports last week had to do with (what else?) money issues. As the National Basketball Association's 81-game regular season began, the media eye was on an 18-year-old from Akron, Ohio named LeBron James, who was the #1 selection in the NBA draft last May. James graduated high school in June, elected not to further his education in college, and was selected by the nearby Cleveland Cavaliers, by virtue of their league-low 17-64 record last season as the nation's finest amateur basketball talent.
As if the multi-million dollar contract for playing basketball wasn't enough for the teenager, mere days after his June graduation, a world-wide shoe manufacturer signed him to a $90-million endorsement deal and he later signed to endorse a major soft drink and is featured in several NBA promotional adverts.
All this before the lad is old enough to buy a pint or so at the local watering hole. The sports media, naturally, ran amok, televising his first two games to the nation (and drawing great ratings) while virtually assuring the league of near-sellout crowds in every city in the league for Cavs games. Best of all, the young man acquitted himself well, scoring over twenty points each game in the opening week of play.
The other money story comes from baseball, where the Boston Red Sox basically offered their 30-year-old star slugger, Manny Ramierez, to ANY of the other clubs willing to take on the $100 million over the next five years of his contract, a figure so ludicrous even the money-rich Noo Yawk Yankers declined to take on. It appears that this is the 'shot across the bow' in the player-owner free agent negotiations that begin next week. In baseball, you see, with the strongest player association (read that 'union' as in union-management isues) in sports, once a contract is signed, it is in force until and unless the player and his agent agree to dissolve the agreement and re-do the contract. A free agent is one whose contract has run out and he can sign anywhere he wishes (his agent will insist on him taking the bigge$t buck$, $soa$ to increa$e the agent's fee.)
This is basically NEVER done and, with team revenues structured the way they are, owners are reluctant to spend some 30-40% of their total player payroll on just one man, especially one whose only skills are hitting a baseball, not fielding, running and throwing. Expect bombast, fireworks and percussion as the baseball drum-beat intensifies over the next month.
I have some notes on the Olympics qualifying tournament in the Americas, held this year in Panama City, Panama, but let me leave it that it's pretty silly to schedule an Olympic baseball qualifying tourney during rainy season. Second and third round games were washed out and are being rescheduled at Post time.
In Amfoot, none of the division leaders lost their spots and only four of eight have the second-pace team within a game of first. Last week's predicted marquee game turned out to be just that, with the Indianpolis Colts holding off the rival Miami Dolphins 23-17 to keep Indy a game ahead of the Tennesee Titans in the American North and the Dolphins a game back of the New England Patriots in the American East.
I see five games this weekend of interest, starting with the 6-2 Seattle Seahawks at the Washington Redskins (3-5). The 'Hawks hold a one game lead in the American West, but must travel across the country to face the 'Skins, who can't afford to lose and fall deeper under .500. The 4-4 Tampa Bay Buccaneers travel up the coast to visit the division-leading 6-2 Carolina Panthers and the 5-3 Dolphins make a similar trek the face the 6-2 Titans in a battle between clubs a game back in their respective divisions.
Also notable is the late game out of Kansas City, where the beloved Cleveland Browns (3-5) face the 8-0 Chiefs. Battered by injuries, the Browns have had a bye week to rest, and usually play their best when their backs are to the wall. KC is also coming off a week's rest, and the pressure on going unbeaten (a 12-1 longshot according to the money-changers in the temple of Las Vegas - or Lost Wages, depending on your luck) is starting to mount.
Perhaps the best game next week will be the national showcase Monday Night Football game between 5-3 Philadelphia and 4-4 Green Bay. The Eagles are a game back (behind Dallas) in the National East, while the Packers are coming off an upset win over division-leading Minnesota and cannot afford to drop further back in the race for the playoffs.
And now, in my personal-favourite 'sports' story of the week, may I direct your attention to something totally unique called 'extreme ironing' which, I gather, involves rock-climbing and an ironing board. The 'sport' originated in Britain, has an offshoot in Germany, among other places, possibly catching on in America. The website is www.extremeironing.com with a complete history and links to other sites that I shall investigate further in the days and long nights ahead.
So that's a wrap, as some say on one man's glimpse of American sports. Beam me up, Scotty.