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Post Half-a-Million per Hour: the Week in Sports
Created by John Eipper on 07/15/19 4:27 AM

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Half-a-Million per Hour: the Week in Sports (David Duggan, USA, 07/15/19 4:27 am)

Sports fans may be wondering where I've been in the last week since the US women's world cup soccer team won the whole thing, and as the picture I'm appending shows, I have been enjoying among other things Wrigley Field from the mouse's-eye level. That plus playing some tennis on my own and trying to rent an apartment sadly vacant for nearly a year, thanks no doubt to the lousy Chicago politics under disgraced-and-departed former mayor and current news talking head Rahm Emanuel. Oh, and dodging bullets sprayed from gang-banging hooligans several blocks from my house, which leads to a death-a-day from gunfire.

First up, soccer. Note pad in hand, I watched the US take on the Netherlands. I had seen some of the Rapinoe-and-Company victories over France and England and thought they should have no problem against the Oranges. A fellow parishioner at the church where I worship, however, said that morning that he had seen the Hollanders and they played dirty. That caused an instant remembrance of Nigel de Jong's World-Wrestling-Federation-worthy flying drop kick on Xabi Alonso which merited only a yellow card in the 2010 Dutch-Spaniard finals in South Africa. The Oranges were true to form, as Stephanie van der Gragt kicked Alex Morgan's shoulder in the penalty area (a tough trick) and after video review earned the US a penalty kick. Rapinoe lined up the ball, and somehow froze the goalie who barely moved, although the shot was well within her reach. The rest of the game was a snooze fest, as the Dutch could barely mount an offense. The US allowed only three goals in their seven games, an enviable feat which largely took the spotlight away from the Hope Solo-Brianna Scurry goalie controversy of recent years, not to mention the whining over the pay disparity between men's and women's soccer. Lionel Messi's and Cristiano Ronaldo's mega-million pay packages put fannies in the seats of Barcelona and Turin, not to mention the stadia of their opponents when they are visiting. Women's soccer, particularly in the US, is a once-every-four-years spectacle. Deal with it while enjoying New York's ticker tape raining down on you.

Of course, even though women play at best two-thirds of the sets that men play, women's tennis has no pay disparity at least at Wimbledon, where Serena Williams failed in her third-straight bid to tie Aussie Margaret Smith Court for the most grand-slam victories ever (24). Serena lost to Romanian Simona Halep in less than an hour on the All England Lawn Tennis Club's hallowed Centre Court, but nevertheless earned £1,175,000 for her efforts (half of Halep's winnings, and £497,000 more than had she lost in the semis). Nearly half-a million pounds for an hour's work certainly ranks with Messi's and Ronaldo's hourly take. Barca has 43 games scheduled from late July through May; games are 90 minutes for a total of 65 hours. Messi is reportedly paid $645,000 a week which at a 1.25-1 pound-to-dollar exchange rate is practically dead-on what Serena made for her Wimbledon work, for which she did not have to risk getting spiked, drop-kicked or clobbered with a ball to the head. Serena is now 23-9 in Grand Slam finals (she had been 23-6 before motherhood), and at 37 may not have many more chances. Her Wimbledon finals performance was utterly lackluster, and you have to wonder why she keeps coach Patrick Mouratoglou around. Although Mouratoglou brought Serena out of her 2012 doldrums being in the friends box for her last 10 GS victories, he's done her no favors lately. The US women's soccer team had a similar dilemma after losing in the 2011 finals to Japan. They canned the coach and the rest is two World Cups history. Other mothers have won GS titles in the "open era" (post-1968: Kim Clijsters, Yvonne Goolagong) and at least in my view, Serena will have to win another before properly laying claim to the Greatest of All Time.

The men's final was a five-hour epic, and featured the first out-come determinative 5th-set tiebreaker in Wimbledon history. Ten years ago in the finals Roger Federer beat Andy Roddick 16-14 in the 5th, and a year later John Isner outlasted Nicholas Mahut 70-68 in a match that lasted over 3 days and more than 11 hours. The 138 games of their last set are more than twice what any other grand slam final could be: 13 games times five. Novak Djokovic won three-tiebreak sets, the last 13-12, but because there were multiple service breaks in the sets Nole did not win, Federer can't complain that he'd lost a final without having his serve broken (it's happened). As I have found out in my own matches, tiebreaks are a bitch: you have to play every point as if it's your last, and if you lose one point you have to put it out of your mind. Easier said than done. Regardless of what you think of tiebreaks, what is terrible is that Wimbledon is no longer broadcast on network television and there's no longer breakfast at Wimbledon with Dick Enberg and Bud Collins (now deceased). As a firm believer in the freedom of the airwaves I have refused to pay hundreds a month to cable, and no wonder American (men's) tennis is in such a sorry state (10 years since any American male has been in a GS final). You can't hope to build the sport from the country-club set for whom their cable bill is simply another inconvenience, like insurance on their BMW or Mercedes.

And on this Bastille Day, the Tour de France heads into the Pyrenees next week with a Frenchman Julian Alaphilippe wearing the Maillot Jaune for overall leader, and the Cubs are in first place in their division (NL Central). Vive La France and Go Cubs.

JE comments:  We're a day late with Bastille, but a joyeux congratulations to our French friends and colleagues.  Happy Birthday as well to my father-in-law Eugeniusz Bialowas, who came into this world on Bastille Day, 1943--not the happiest times for France (or Poland).

David Duggan appears below in America's favorite ballpark, Wrigley Field.  Just a year ago I had the good fortune to join him for a game.  Naturally, the Cubs won.

David Duggan at Wrigley Field, Chicago

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  • Pay Equity in Sports (Francisco Ramirez, USA 07/17/19 3:25 AM)
    Whining over pay disparity?  (See David Duggan, July 15th.) Really? There are no Messi/Ronaldo superstars in the United Soccer League. You may want to distinguish between whining and activism, ultimately legal action. "Deal with it" sounds a tad too flippant.

    Why do you think that pay disparity at Wimbledon has faded? The profound British sense of fair play miraculously materialized? Think activism.

    Still, I am glad you paid attention. I confess that soccer is the only sport in which I fully root for the American side, both the women and the men. The men's game has improved over decades. I no longer refer to the league as the secret witness protection program for over-the-hill stars (though there are some notables and I would not be surprised if Ronaldo ends his career with the Galaxy in Hollywood.) I actually saw World Cup matches at the old Stanford Stadium in the early nineties. July 4 was the US Brazil game. If you thought the Dutch women played defensive soccer (what the Italians call Catenaccio) you should have seen The Wall the US team put within the penalty area. I was with my daughter who played soccer in grade school (I coached both my daughter and my son) and she innocently asked why is the US team not moving up. My response: this is a high school team playing against a professional team. They (We?) are shamelessly playing to get to the penalties (the was a round of sixteen match). It was scoreless at half time and we played one up in the second half because a Brazilian paler was ejected for throwing an elbow at the American player who was grabbing his jersey. Alas, Tab Ramos was the only payer who actually had a serious attempt to score. One up was not enough, and the game ended with Brazil winning 1-0. I saw the final match between Italy and Brazil while I was in Germany. That game went into penalties and ended when Roberto Baggio missed his penalty shot. I followed the game through television in Spanish and the announcer chanted Se Lo Comió Baggio. Se Lo Comió Baggio. (JE can translate.)

    For Eugenio: in São Paulo there is a museum dedicated to soccer. Perhaps you have one in Italy as well. You can see video of the best shots, the best saves, and the best penalties. Baggio's over the cross bar is in there for all to see. There are no references to Paolo Rossi who nailed Brazil a World Cup in Spain. In another room one can experience the tragedy of the loss to Uruguay in Maracana. Pele's voice-over translated into English: at the memo net the heart of Brazil stopped. I teared up. These people really care.

    I also tear up at the prospect of the UK losing its foreign players and coaches. Pray assure me this will not happen. How can I do the treadmill if the Premier League becomes the Sub Prime League?

    More on what Catenaccio really means in practice. Hint: Check out what the Spanish women's team did to Alex Morgan every time she touched the ball. That was a collective effort and not just a single player doing a high kick.

    I favor pay equity.

    JE comments:  Billie Jean King was at the forefront of the struggle for pay equity.  The women's prize money for major tennis tournaments used to be in the three digits.  Yes, activism changed this.

    Francisco, I agree with you, but how would the economics work to bring equity to the "big" sports?  I'm thinking basketball, and particularly, soccer.

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