Atlanta Braves' Ronald Acuna Jr., right, celebrates with Freddie Freeman (5) as Pittsburgh Pirates catcher Jacob Stallings, left, looks on, after hitting a solo home run off starting pitcher Wil Crowe during the third inning of a baseball game in Pittsburgh, Wednesday, July 7, 2021. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

COVID in sports

It's hard to have meaningful conversation without politics becoming paramount and division being discussed.

It's where we are, and it's frequently where we fall back to in most cases.

Consistency would be a useful tool to battling the cause and the crisis generated by the above.

Take the varying circles and viewpoints on COVID-19. Granted, the numbers differ from place to place and, because of that, universal approaches in wide areas are nonsensical.

For starters, I hope you, like all the eligible members of the 5-at-10 clan, are vaccinated. It's the best step to fighting this thing.

But the political circles have converged, and when the passion overpowers the power points, well, it often feels like a real-world example of Twain's glorious observation: "Who's the bigger fool, the fool or the person who argues with the fool?"

That said, a couple of the biggest sports events of the summer happen later this month with serious concerns.

News from Tokyo is less than good on the COVID-19 front. Numbers are rising. The incredible proximity in Japan's major metropolis is clear. There has been a declaration of a state of emergency as cases rise.

This is a multibillion-dollar event for the organizers and the International Olympic Committee bigwigs, never mind NBC, which has poured nine figures into this event with an expectation of 10 figures in advertising revenue.

Across the globe, next week's British Open is drawing ire from players for its extremely strict testing policies and interaction guidelines. They are pretty strict, but if that's how an organization that stands to lose hundreds of millions or forever have an asterisk next to its crown-jewel event if a 54-hole leader was DQ'd, fine.

It's clearly a business decision as much as a health decision.

Tokyo almost assuredly will ban fans, with an announcement coming as soon as today. The R&A is planning on putting the players in a figurative bubble but letting as many as 32,000 fans storm the grounds.

Again, different strokes for different parts of the world, of course, but seems puzzling, especially for the players at The Open.

(Side question: Should almost every pre-tournament news conference with every contending golfer include the question of whether he is vaccinated?)


Braves call

OK, the Braves' bats responded and got more than one (bleep bleeped) run. Yay.

(Side note: Ronald Acuña Jr. is still must-watch TV. Like at the peak of Must-See Thursday on NBC. I tape most of the Braves games now and fast-forward to Acuña's at-bats. Would do the same for Shohei Ohtani, too, but the Angels are harder to find on the cable dial.) 

(Side question on the side note: Let's deal with some grown-up stuff right here. If I ask for the best front-to-back Must-See Thursday night TV lineup from NBC, who you got? You going 1985-86 with Cosby, Family Ties, Cheers, Night Court, Hill Street Blues? What about 1993-94 with Mad About You, Wings, Seinfeld, Fraiser, L.A. Law? Then there is the mid-1990s that featured a top-heavy lineup of Friends, Seinfeld and ER with some other sitcoms sprinkled in?)

Anywell, back to the Braves. Wednesday's elongated day-game should have been the theme of this series with a downtrodden Pirates pack rather than the outlier. Whatever.

That said, my biggest takeaway was listening to the game on the radio as I ran a slew of errands Wednesday. Locally the Braves play on ESPN 105.1 the Zone, and Joe Simpson is part of the broadcast team.

And for more than an inning Wednesday, Simpson blasted everything about the MLB office — even commissioner Rob Manfred directly — and was clearly still outraged about the league's decision to move the All-Star game to Denver.

"Our commissioner doesn't know anything about baseball, so I'm not sure why I'm surprised," Simpson said during his passionate soliloquy.

He talked about how much he used to love the All-Star game but how he will not watch a single second of next week's event. He railed against how the commissioner and his advisers are prisoners of the moment and make rule changes or host decisions because of the way the wind blows after one injury or one political hubbub.

He questioned the sense it makes of moving an event that would help that many small businesses around a city that is majority minority to one that is more than 90% white.

He was direct and clearly invested.

And I agreed with almost every point.


Game 2

The Suns and Bucks face off in Game 2 tonight.

It will be interesting to see what adjustments the Bucks make and if they can make enough to handle the clear ideological mismatch of the Bucks encouraging mid-range jumpers and the Suns craving mid-range jumpers.

And one of the reasons I have watched more NBA this postseason than most is the gambling aspect.

Forget picks and rolls; daddy's looking for picks and parlays.

So, I think going under on Robin Lopez's stats is an intriguing play tonight because he is the biggest liability defensively for the Bucks and will again be the go-to target for the Suns in their high-screen game.

Lopez was very good in Game 1, but can he be good enough to keep on the floor for significant minutes if the Suns exploit him in the half-court? (Bobby Portis may get an increase in minutes, accordingly.)

As for the game, I expect Jrue Holiday to play better, but I still think the Suns have too many options. Pick: Suns and lay the number. (If you are parlaying, Chris Paul over 21.5 points, with Ayton over 16.5 and Lopez under 12.5 and Holiday over 18 as well as the Suns minus-5 past handsomely.)



This and that

> So USA Today will put its content behind a paywall. So there's that.

> Today is National Video Game Day. Trying to think of or categorize the video games I've played on my TV the most makes my head hurt. Best guess would be Madden, EA Sports college football, Intellivision baseball, Tecmo Bowl. And that's leaving off a ton. Yes, I should have received better grades in college.

This story about Val Kilmer's struggles with throat cancer gave me pause.

> The Dodgers have pulled Trevor Bauer merchandise from their team store.


Today's questions

OK, because I am now ate up with a clear side track to my rants today, this is weighing heavy on my mind.

Best one-night, one-network lineup?

There was a run of Sunday nights in the 1970s on CBS that was eye-poppingly great. It went 60 Minutes to a run of game-changing comedies like All in the Family, The Jeffersons, Mary Tyler Moore, and The Bob Newhart Show, but that was a smidge before my time.

I remember the Tuesday night roll on ABC quite well that included Happy Days, Laverne & Shirley and Three's Company.

I can also recall the Friday night fun on CBS of The Hulk, Dukes of Hazard and Dallas at the height of its powers.

That Must See TV listed first above was magic.


As for today, in addition to it being National Video Game Day — more on that in a moment — let's review.

The Spice Girls released their debut single on this day 25 years ago. Wow.

Ferdinand von Zeppelin was born on this day in 1838. His descendent Led Zeppelin was born many years later.

So back to national video game day. Wow, this one hits home. I am from the original Nintendo generation, and Mike Tyson Punch-out got me hooked. (Yes, RBI Baseball, Tecmo Bowl and Contra kept me hooked but there is only one first love.)

What was the name of your neighborhood arcade? Do they still make arcades since my son can game in our sunroom on three different devices and do so without a roll of tokens? (Side question: Is the arcade dividing line between Baby Boomers and Gen Xers, tokens or quarters?)

What's the Rushmore of arcade video games? Is pinball a video game?

We got a lot to cover gang, and don't forget the mailbag.