There was a lot of drama this week in professional sports, and now our talented panel of writers are going to dissect it. Staff Writers Duncan Slobodzian and Mike O’Donnell, as well as Correspondent Jason Cantor, will discuss Roger Federer and Serena Williams’ outbursts at the U.S. Open, the greatest baseball fight in history, and which NFL divisional matchup will be the most enjoyable to watch.
1. Both Serena Williams and Roger Federer lost their cools at the U.S. Open in varying degrees and cursed at the officials. Were they right to be so angry, or did they overreact?
DS: I’ll side with the latter option, and say they both overreacted. The foot fault call that cost Williams the match was questionable, granted. It’s comparable to refs whistling a questionable contact foul in the NBA — they may happen all game, but why call them in a big spot? The judge probably should have let it go and allowed the match to reach its organic conclusion. That said, the call in no way warranted the tirade that Williams unleashed. She has to do a better job managing her emotions and realize that her threat to shove a ball down the lady’s throat would later be close captioned on the 11 p.m. SportsCenter. Federer’s beef, on the other hand, had to do with the instant replay rules, and to me was reflective of the concerns sports traditionalists have with the replay rules in general. Not that it was more excusable though, because the 11 p.m. SportsCenter wound up playing that clip unabridged anyway.
MO: Williams more so than Federer should be reprimanded for her actions, as she was. Williams was fined $10,000 to Federer’s fine of $1,500. Both outbursts were certainly out of character, but the way Williams reacted was more reprehensible than Federer’s actions. Her tirade on the court was nothing short of childish. She apologized, and that takes some of the sting out of her actions. Federer’s choice words should not have been said either, and his classy aura lost some of its luster as well. But as much as it disgraces both players, I fully understand their actions. They’re competitors, and they are used to being at the top time and time again. They should definitely not be excused for the way they acted, but shouldn’t we as onlookers and fans understand and appreciate their winning attitude and drive to be the absolute best? Considering they were fined for their language, not to mention their continued dominance, there’s a good chance they won’t be doing this again anytime soon.
JC: Federer and Williams are arguably two of the most accomplished tennis players ever. It is understandable that they would both be unhappy and angry if they are not playing as well as they know they are capable of. If the question is, “Were they right to be so angry?” you have to remember they are both competitors and it is only natural to always strive for the best. However, that anger should be directed internally. Both athletes made a mockery of themselves by overreacting. Especially in Williams’ case, her ridiculous blow up was not only an extremely embarrassing moment, but it makes it impossible to ever root for Williams again. Throughout her entire career, Williams showed millions of young girls that it’s possible to be dominant in female sports and still maintain an elegant and graceful image. When she threatened to kill the line judge, the only thing really killed was Williams’ previously pristine reputation.
GRM: Everyone said the same thing so it came down to quality of argument. Duncan gets 3 for mentioning the role of the replay in Federer’s outburst. Jason gets 2 for discussing William’s reputation. Mike gets 1.
2. The New York Yankees and Toronto Blue Jays game on Tuesday erupted into a bench-clearing brawl. Which baseball fight is your favorite and why?
DS: This is a no-brainer. Let me take you back to August 1993, when a 46-year-old pitcher in his last year in the big leagues laid down some old-fashioned Wild West style justice. Nolan Ryan hit a 26-year-old Robin Ventura with a pitch in the third inning. Ventura took about two steps toward first base, then dropped his helmet and decided charging the Ryan Express would be a more honorable pursuit. Ryan greeted Ventura with an impromptu headlock and about six rabbit punches to the back of Ventura’s head. The video clip of the incident is of Hall of Fame caliber. Ryan didn’t for a second think about leaving the mounded area. And when Ventura had learned his lesson, Ryan calmly buttoned up his jersey — and finished the rest of his seven-inning, winning effort without giving up a hit. For those of you keeping score at home, that’s right — he didn’t get ejected. Classic stuff all around.
MO: The best one is the Yankees Red Sox brawl in the playoffs back in 2003 during the American League Championship Series. This bench-clearing brawl had all the elements of the perfect baseball fight. It featured the two biggest rivals in all of sports at the highest level they can compete against each other. Combine that with a 32-year-old pitcher in his prime hurling a 72-year-old bench coach to the ground by his head, and you’ve got the best “basebrawl” ever. The image of Don Zimmer lunging at and subsequently being tossed to the ground by Pedro Martinez is so recognizable and animated that it added fuel to an already heated rivalry. Prefaced by Martinez throwing high at a Yankee player, and later made more interesting with a Red Sox groundskeeper getting into it with Yankee pitcher Jeff Nelson, how can this not be the most interesting and classic brawl in baseball history? Nelson and first baseman Karim Garcia had to go to court for their part in the altercation. Even Mayor Michael Bloomberg got involved, going as far as saying Martinez should have been arrested for his action. Now that is one quality brawl.
JC: Hands down, it’s got to be Nolan Ryan vs. Robin Ventura. Ryan was 46-years-old and in the final season of his storied career. Ventura was 26-years-old and at the time an up-and- coming-prospect. Ryan plunked Ventura, who promptly charged the mound. Ryan proceeded to put Ventura in a headlock and beat down the young hitter with headshot after headshot. His team initially feared for the old man’s safety in the brawl, but wound up having to pull him off Ventura. It’s embarrassing enough to get beat up by the pitcher when you’re the one charging the mound, but it’s downright pathetic if the pitcher is almost double your age and old enough to be your father. Forget the strikeouts, seven no-hitters, and 100-plus miles per hour fastballs, this is how I will forever remember Nolan Ryan.
GRM: Despite the special place in my heart for the 2003 fight, Duncan gets 3 for the Nolan Ryan fight. Jason gets 2 for pointing out how great it was to see a 46-year-old beat up a 26-year old. Mike gets 1, only because the quality of the Ryan fight can’t be matched.
3. There will be two big divisional games in the NFL on Sunday as the New England Patriots face the New York Jets at the Meadowlands and the Dallas Cowboys christen the new stadium against the New York Giants. Which game will be more fun to watch?
DS: To me, the AFC East matchup has endlessly more intrigue and bang for the rabid football fan’s proverbial buck. The Giants/Cowboys rivalry is a heated divisional rivalry, but the two teams don’t trade players and coaches in the same way the Jets/Patriots has become a two-way pipeline of interchangeable parts. New Jets coach and savior Rex Ryan made it painfully clear from the beginning that he’s not here to kiss any rings. Nor is he here to kiss any rings belonging to Bill “Hoodie” Belichick. Ryan’s brand of football is old-school, it’s smashmouth, it’s nothing if not physical. Belichick and his staff espouse many of the same values, but their defensive machine lost many of its most recognizable cogs during the offseason. The playing field in the AFC East is remarkably flat right now (ask a Miami fan), and the Jets would love nothing more than to assert themselves as the team to beat by beating the team that’s still seen as on top of the mountain.
MO: You got to go with the Giants/Cowboys matchup at the new Texas Stadium on Sunday night. This rivalry is obviously quite a doozy, and with that division being as tight as it should be, every single game, especially those versus divisional opponents, will matter much more than those in the AFC East. The Pats are predicted to run away with that division, and when was the last time a Tom Brady-led team faltered within the division? New England has got that division taken care of. But this game at the new Texas Stadium is going to be a barn burner, and has huge ramifications within the NFC East. All four teams are so very even, and these games also matter as statement games. With Tony Romo’s reputation for being awful toward the end of the season, the Cowboys need to win now. The house is going to be rocking, and should be very fun to watch, especially with that eyesore of a video screen hanging from the roof. The Giants need to show its receiving core can do it as well. While the Jets/Pats game will result in a handy New England win, the Giants/Cowboys should be electric on the grand stage of Texas Stadium on a Sunday night. Doesn’t get much better than that.
JC: The Jets looked great against the Texans. However, with a rookie quarterback, an unproven coach, and a poor track record against the Patriots, this game doesn’t deserve the hype many Jets fans are giving it. While the Patriots do have exciting players to watch such as Randy Moss and Wes Welker, there is also the potential for this game to be a rout, and for that reason it couble be a snorefest. The Patriots have been too good for too long to expect the Jets to put up a good fight. Expect the Patriots to have Mark Sanchez wishing he stayed his senior year at USC. Conversely, the Giants and Cowboys always tend to play each other close and the two teams are much more evenly matched than the Patriots and Jets are. The NFC East is wide open now that the Giants do not have a proven receiving core, the Cowboys have finally gotten rid of the locker room distractions, the Eagles have a ton of offensive fire power, and with the addition of Albert Haynesworth, even Washington is a dark horse to do some damage. Every game is going to count in this stacked division. Brandon Jacobs is also one of the most exciting players to watch, and he’ll be hungry after a lackluster performance versus the Redskins. Although the Giants are probably a better team, it will take Eli Manning a while to get on the same page as his new receiving core. The Cowboys will be fighting to win in the new stadium and this will be a very close smash mouth game. Nick Folk will be the X factor in this close game because has a way stronger leg than Lawrence Tynes.
GRM: Jason gets 3 for talking about how the NFC East is wide open, so this game has bigger ramifications for the division as a whole. Duncan gets 2 for bringing up the exchange of personnel between the AFC East teams. Mike gets 1, but I still love him.
Duncan wins again, 8 – 7 – 3