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Harris English kisses the winners trophy after winning the Travelers Championship golf tournament after a playoff at TPC River Highlands, Sunday, June 27, 2021, in Cromwell, Conn. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

Weekend winners

Harris English. Duh. The Baylor School grad and former UGA star rallied from three back on Sunday to get into a playoff with a 27-foot birdie on the 72nd hole and then survived a roller coaster eight-hole playoff with a slew of clutch par saves before wrapping up the Travelers with a birdie on the 80th hole of the tournament. Kudos. English, who has two wins in 2021, is ranked No. 2 in the FedEx Cup race and No. 19 in the world golf rankings and is 100% in the Ryder Cup conversation. Harris is eighth in the Ryder Cup points standings right now, and the top six automatically make the Ryder Cup team. (Yes, it used to be top eight, but now it's top six with six captain picks.)

Willie Nelson. One, Willie always wins the weekend. I believe this. Two, he was on Jimmy Fallon Friday night and was asked why he wrote a book recently at the tender age of 88. His answer — "Someone told me there would be money involved" — was perfect.

The latest footnote line for the great and under-appreciated Shohei Ohtani last week? He hit for himself — duh — in an Angels home game against the Giants, which means we had the very rare situation that an NL team used the DH and the AL team did not. So there's that. How's this for awesomeness? Ohtani had six hits over the weekend in 11 at-bats vs. Tampa Bay. Yeah that's good, but this is great: He had two homers, a triple and two doubles; the sixth hit was a bunt single to beat the shift. Take that, analytics. He's at .277 on the season with 25 homers, 59 RBIs, 52 runs scored and 11 steals. As a pitcher he's 3-1 with a 2.58 ERA and 82 Ks in 59.1 innings.

Phoenix Suns. Hey, when you're one win from the finals and you're the healthiest team in the playoffs, how can you not be smiling? Would Chris Paul be the oldest "great player" to finally get a ring since maybe Elway?

Nelly Korda. The first U.S. women's glover to become No. 1 in the world since 2014 after winning the U.S. Women's Open over the weekend certainly merits a mention.

Bonus: Serena Williams. She enters this Wimbledon with her best chance to win her 24th major in quite some time after Naomi Osaki and Simona Halen have WDed.

 

Weekend losers

Mike Soroka. And whoever is in charge of his rehab. Dude tears his Achilles — again — walking in the clubhouse on one of the first days he's out of the boot? Someone has some 'splainin' to do. (Side note: Here's a fun angle from TFP ace columnist Mark Wiedmer about the importance of Kyle Muller's excellent start Sunday after the Braves learned that Soroka's leg tendons are as durable and tough as fettuccini.)

Gwen Berry. OK, the third-place finisher in the hammer throw of the US Olympics qualifier turned away from the flag on the medal stand during the national anthem. The details are being spun. But here are two simple thoughts: One, Ms. Berry, why represent a country you clearly hate? Two, if you know the rules going in, agree to the rules about not protesting, and then decide to protest anyway, that does not make you an activist. It makes you a liar. (Side question: Ms. Berry is the most famous hammer thrower in the history of hammer throwers and has her own sponsorship deal with Puma — as only the third-best hammer thrower in these United States of America. Hmmmmm, wonder how much of her "protest" is about politics and how much is about endorsement power?)    

Hawks. Great start. Philips was rocking. Yes, the Bucks made a run because it's the NBA, and almost everyone makes a run. Then Trae Young rolled his ankle after stepping on the ref's (seriously) foot and you could feel everything turning. Milwaukee prevailed in Game 3 Sunday night and reclaimed home-court advantage.

All of those impacted by the heartbreaking tragedy that is the collapsed building in Miami. My prayers to those folks.

 

Of course, NCAA

We have set an impossibly low bar for anything and everything the NCAA touches.

We do not expect much. Just don't completely bleep it up and let us enjoy college football March Madness and whatever championship storylines catch our eye.

Emmert and his emissaries can collect their seven-figure windfalls, and for the most part we don't really care.

Until we are reminded how truly awful and inept they are. At everything.

Oh, to be sure, the degree of difficulty of a COVID outbreak within the NC State program that caused the NCAA to rule Saturday's semifinal baseball game between the Wolfpack and Vandy to be a no-contest that ended NC State's season was off the charts.

Sure, we can all question why the Wolfpack players were not universally vaccinated with this much at stake. Or if they felt strongly enough not to get vaccinated, then they should have been left at home.

There's also the questions and inclinations that some players tested positive after getting vaccinated, which is a whole different kettle of fish.

But even in a scenario where all of the facts and factors could make every decision at least somewhat sympathetic, the NCAA gonna NCAA.

First, why announce this at 2 a.m.? Seriously? Who is the NCAA SID, Baghdad Bob?

Second, why the turtle treatment, NCAA? This is an intricate, layered issue that fans and especially the NC State players deserve to hear the reasoning behind. And to hide behind the HIPAA angle is malarkey. Saying what ailment or injury someone has is HIPAA — unless of course the NCAA decides to release injury reports because of the nine-figure infusion of gambling dollars coming in the near future, that is — protocol.
Discussions about your decision making and your reasoning are not HIPPA. It's the baseline requirement for competent leaders and administrators in times of uncertainty. Which is exactly why the NCAA would never do it.

Finally, to even hint that this is anything like the previous protocols is short-sighted at best and more likely simple dishonesty.

We are not dealing with the same levels of COVID. We are dealing with huge increases in vaccinated athletes. Plus, the VCU hoops, the Notre Dame and Michigan hockey and the Rice volleyball teams all played INSIDE.

Yes, everyone involved could have handled this better. NC State coach Elliott Event said this about not having his team 100% vaccinated: "My job is to teach them baseball, make sure they get an education and keep them on the right track forward. But I don't try to indoctrinate my kids with my values or my opinions. Obviously, we talk about a lot of things, but these are young men that can make their own decisions. And that's what they did."

Sure they are, and that's their right. But it's also Avent's responsibility to make sure his team has every advantage possible, and in terms of competition, having his kids vaccinated could be as easily compared to making them wear a cup as a political talking point when it comes to chasing a baseball championship.

COVID has made losers of all of us in one way or another over the last 16 months. But only the NCAA could find a way to make COVID a bigger mess than it already is.  

 

This and that

— My ESPN.com feed on my phone sent a headline that read "Japan to tighten airport security." Which is fine and understandable. My phone is cracked, so the first part of the headline was blurred and at first glance I thought it said, "Saban to tighten airport security" which made me think, "Good. And if anyone can crack down on airport security, it's Nick Saban."

— You know the rules. Here's Paschall on the two latest UT players to engage the transfer portal. Wonder Twins power activate. Form of an eagle. Shape of a bucket of ice water. Side note: I actually think Greg Emerson is a dude and if Kaidon Salter can rearrange his priorities, he has the skill set to be an electric college QB.

— Going to let the details play out in court, but had to be a stressful weekend for LSU coach Ed Orgeron, who was named in the latest lawsuit against the LSU football program for Title IX violations stemming from the nastiest that was/is Derrius Guice. The suit alleges that Orgeron knew about and did not report rape allegations against Guice.

— I often wonder how MGT and AOC got elected, and then I read a story like this and weep for the people we have tabbed for leadership in this nation. And it's no wonder we're flailing friends. How about this controversy? MGT says AOC was not born in this country; AOC shoots back, "I'm taller than she is." Excellent. The Halls of Congress are just like the halls of my middle school 35 years ago. Perfect. And until we are in a place that we all see both are crackpots and both partiers should demand better, then there will not be progress. There will not be meaningful change.

 

Today's questions

You know the drill. Weekend winners and losers. Go.

As for multiple choice Monday, how about this angle:

When will high schoolers start asking for NIL freedom?

> Within the next year?

> Done deal in the next three years?

> Shut up, Jay, it's high school sports for Pete's sake.

As for today, June 28, let's review.

"Amos 'n' Andy" premiered on this day in 1951. Yeah, that would not fly today.

Happy birthday Mel Brooks, a true legend. Feel like we've done multiple Brooks Rushmores, but still major league visor tip to a bonafide all-timer who is 95 today. Kathy Bates is 73 today and John Elway is 61.

The saxophone was patented by Adolfe Sax on this day in 1846.
Rushmore of horns, and be creative.

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