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Atlanta Braves' Orlando Arcia, right, celebrates with Kevan Smith as he returns to the dugout after hitting a solo home run off Pittsburgh Pirates starting pitcher Chad Kuhl during the fifth inning of a baseball game in Pittsburgh, Tuesday, July 6, 2021. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

One bleepin' run

There's a great scene in Major League — well there are a lot of them actually — in which Harry Doyle (Bob Uecker) is going through the box score and utters, "The Indians got one hit. (brief pause) That's all we got was one (bleep bleep) hit."

His sidekick covers Harry's mic and whispers, "You can't say (bleep bleep) on the air."

Doyle responds, "Don't worry, nobody is listening anyway."

Yeah, that should be the concern of the Braves brass right about now as the boys from the A-T-L limp into the All-Star break.

For the second day in a row, all the Braves could manage against a team with the third-worst ERA in the National League was one run — cue Harry, "That's all we got was one (bleep bleep) run."

So now, after two straight losses to a Pirates team that was 23 games under .500 before the Braves came to town, the Braves are teetering.

And know this friends: After today's series finale with the Pirates and three with the Marlins before the All-Star break next week, the Braves close the month with the Rays, Padres, Phillies, Mets and Brewers. Those five teams are a combined 49 games over .500.

And if they don't find a way to right the ship, they're not going to have to worry about too many of us listening come August.    

 

Rising Suns

OK, so my view that Giannis' season was done was wrong. Wicked wrong.

But my view that the Suns would roll in Game 1 was still solid despite the impressive return of Milwaukee's two-time MVP.

Despite 20 points and 17 rebounds in 35 minutes from Giannis Antetokounmpo, Phoenix cruised to a 118-105 Game 1 win.

It's a double conundrum for the Bucks — losing by double digits and with Giannis playing and playing well — and their title chances.

So, as Fat Vader hinted Tuesday, is this a "Suns in Four" kinda of vibe?

I don't think so, but this stat I saw is staggering in terms of match-ups and mismatches.

Milwaukee defensively is designed to allow the mid-range shot. The Bucks challenge all 3s and Giannis is a great weak-side defensive presence on drives to the rim.

That leaves the mid-range area wide open. In theory, this is the defensive equivalent of the modern "3 or lay-up" philosophy of the modern, analytics-inspired offensive game.

And it makes sense.

It also makes the Suns smile, because no team in the league shot better from the mid-range than Phoenix. Uh-oh.  

 

Hoops nightmare

So the ripples from the Rachel Nichols-Maria Taylor catfight that has been known for a year at ESPN but recently was leaked to the New York Times continue to grow.

Tuesday, on easily one of the five or so biggest days of the NBA year — Game 1 of the Finals and Adam Silver delivering his state of the game speech — The Jump, the ESPN NBA-dedicated afternoon show that Nichols hosts, was canceled for the day.

Nichols earlier was pulled as the sideline reporter for ESPN's coverage of the Finals.

It's been reported that the plans are for The Jump to return today, but would it shock any of us for Nichols not to be hosting?

We all know the details of the skirmish by now. Nichols said on a video that she was unaware was being recorded that Taylor's rise to hosting the ESPN studio show was about ESPN's poor record on diversity.

The video was made last summer in the NBA bubble. Nichols publicly apologized Monday in the opening segment of The Jump, and the backlash from colleagues and from outsiders has been swift and very one-sided.

I saw the apology. It was rather ham-handed, but I think Nichols was sincere. And yes, having two Black men there to comment on her apology and the video was awkward, but again, I've seen worse. (Like did you see the apology that was not an apology Jalen Rose issued for calling Kevin Love a token white guy on the USA basketball team because Rose factually bumbled his racial stance that the US would never send an all-Black team to the Olympics, which has already happened before?)

Which makes me wonder this on a Which Way Wednesday: Which is Nichols being punished for — the video or the apology — because ESPN's powers that be have known about the tape for almost a year? And if she's being punished for the apology, well, that seems rather nonsensical to me, because here's betting that the conversation went through multiple bigwigs to discuss the course of action on Monday's show after the New York Times story over the weekend.

So, ESPN did nothing about this for months and months and now is reacting because the public knows? Wow, who's making the command decisions in Bristol, Brian Snitker?

This is the organizational version of a celeb getting caught doing something untoward and then offering, "Well, I'm sorry you were offended" or even better yet, "Wow, I'm sorry this got out."

Just as puzzling is ESPN is making these moves under the umbrella of "We don't want anything to distract from the NBA Finals." What? Every next move continues to make this a story and grows the distraction as the network violates one of the primary rules of journalism — never be part of the story.

Not a distraction? Heck, Silver was asked about the sofa opera between Taylor and Nichols Tuesday before Game 1.

If ESPN truly did not want this to be a distraction, then go about your business and treat it the same way you have for the past 11-plus months.

No, now the faux outrage from all parts and corners has caused ESPN to discipline Nichols not for what she said but because it got out.              

 

This and that

— One more Nichols note: This whole thing is a disservice to Malika Andrews, the Black sideline reporter who replaced Nichols amid the storm. Andrews is awesome at her job — especially considering her relative newness in terms of years on the big-time stage — and now far too many will say she got bumped to the prime role because of ESPN's wokeness and her skin color. She's as good as anyone covering NBA sidelines.

— Is THE Ohio State now the answer to THE easiest Final Jeopardy! question ever? Some think so.

— I am the core demographic for The Match, and I'm also living proof that it likely has run its course. I watched next to none of last night's 18-hole, made-for-TV event as Bryson and Aaron Rodgers toppled Phil and Tom Brady. Heard some decent reviews of the experience — and by all reports the course was a-MAZE-ing — but if you can't lure me to something like that, well, that feels kind of telling, no?

— Speaking of The Match, though, DeChambeau's 480-yard tee shot at the 777-yard, par-five 8th easily topped the over/under of 459. So there's that.

— Megyn Kelly is back, this time on SiriusXM with a weekday talk radio show.

— This is pretty Boss. Bruce Springsteen's daughter made the U.S. Olympic equestrian team. (Provided she did smoke weed, of course.) 

— Man oh man, don't you know that college coaches are hoping all the Name, Image and Likeness can be as neat and as uniform as what Miami just landed. A South Florida company is going to spend more than $500K sponsoring all the scholarship Hurricanes. That's right, $6,000 per player per year. Man, that's a nice lick. 

 

Today's question

Which way Wednesday starts this way: Which will happen first, Rachel Nichols returning to ESPN's NBA coverage or a Nigerian distance runner beating Joey Chestnut in an eating contest?

Which is the Braves' biggest issue — line-up, pitching, lack of mental toughness?

Which pairs could make you interested in The Match 5?

As for today, July 7, let's review.

Ringo Starr is 80 today.

It's also 7/7, which has to be lucky, right? Rushmore of 'good luck' charms. Go.

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