It sounds like a cool little slogan. Like something ESPN uses when Duke plays North Carolina and Villanova meets Georgetown. Or maybe when it has five of those ridiculous and numerous bowl games in 24 hours. “I know”, they'll say, “let's call it Championship Week.” It's a hook. It's a gimmick. It seems like you always have to have one to hype an event amd make it more than it is. None of that compares to what has happened in the last seven days in the sports world.
To recap quickly, the Washington Capitals won the Stanley Cup, the Golden State Warriors took their third NBA crown in four years, Justify won horse racing's Triple Crown, and let's throw in French Open tennis titles for Simona Halep and Rafael Nadal. ESPN and their marketing genius, can make Championship Week last longer than seven days. If you do that, you can add the Indianapolis 500, or, to extend things further, the upcoming College World Series. That's a lot going on, and doesn't even include the biggest sporting event on the planet, which starts Thursday in Russia.
Sure, ESPN and Fox Sports run European soccer scores on the bottom of the screen all the time, but how many people really care? The United States didn't qualify for the World Cup this year, so ratings will be down, but it still is worth checking out. Most games will be fairly early in the morning Pacific Time, split between Fox and FS1. But we digress.
Of all of the championships just concluded, most around here are excited about the Warriors. My interest at the NBA is almost at an all-time low, but trying to put that aside, what they've done is remarkable. Golden State and the Cleveland Cavaliers faced each other for the title four straight years—something that has never been done in any other sport. They make a game look like an exhibition at times, and this is against the best competition in the world.
Part of me didn't want to see Justify win the Triple Crown. It's only happened 13 times ever, and Justify is a great horse, but American Pharoah (with one of the owners from Yuba City), did it in 2015. American Pharoah's run was terrific around here, complete with big screen TVs set up in the middle of the street for a Yuba City block party. I don't think Justify's win cheapens that, but another long dry spell would have added to American Pharoah's legend.
NBC's coverage of the French Open was terrible. That is, compared to when all four major tennis tournaments were on ESPN. It's the usual crew of announcers when they were on the air, and when they were on the air, they were fine. However, with the Today Show, local news, and other programming, virtually no matches were on during the week, and were shipped to the Tennis Channel, which nobody gets, or doesn't know the channel number if they do get it. It's too bad.
NBC did have the Stanley Cup Final, and that was a lot of fun this year. With the expansion Vegas Golden Knights, and the long-suffering fans of the Winnipeg Jets getting to the final four, it was fun to get into. Vegas won the first game of the best-of-seven final against Washington, but the Capitals, with MVP Alex Ovechkin and goaltender Braden Holtby won the next four to take the trophy. The ratings may not compare to the others, and I still think watching hockey in June is a little weird, but it was a fun ride. And, as I say every year, the skate with the Stanley Cup is the best celebration in all of sports.
The Great Eight: Ovechkin wears number 8 on his Capitals jersey, hence the nickname, and he has deservedly been omni-present lately. He brought the Stanley Cup to the Washington Nationals game against the San Francisco Giants Saturday, and can also be seen in one of ESPN's clever Sports Center promos. In it, anchor Steve Levy walks into a records room at ESPN headquarters and catches Ovechkin, in his jersey, going through some files. Levy jokingly asks Ovechkin if he's a spy, and then leaves. A Capitals teammate then appears from the ceiling, says “That was close” in Russian, and then hoists Ovechkin up on a cable.
Blue notes: The Los Angeles Dodgers have a winning record (33-32) for the first time this season, and they are doing it without healthy starting pitching. The opening rotation of Clayton Kershaw, Rich Hill, Alex Wood, Kenta Maeda, and Hyun-Jin Ryu has four of them on the Disabled List, and Wood lately has been shaky. Rookie Walker Buehler has stepped in nicely, but he's hurt, and Ross Stripling has been a godsend. He's bounced between starting and relieving, and finds himself as their ace now. The Dodgers hitters, though, have been crushing home runs, leading to a slew of victories. And don't look now, that mediocre record puts LA in second place in the NL West, and just three games behind Arizona for first.
Gooooooool: As mentioned above, World Cup soccer starts on Thursday, and with no Team USA this year, the American sentimental favorite, and the most rooters, will be for Mexico. Fox and FS1 have the games in English, but check out Telemundo for the Spanish language broadcast. Soccer is much more exciting that way (I'm rooting for Brazil. Those fans really know how to party, and the team is always good).