Let Rory McIlroy Play Soccer, People of the Internet

The 144th Open Championship is but ten days away, and one of the favorites-to-be at St. Andrews is (was?) Rory McIlroy. However, that changed on Saturday, and we found out about it at around 6:00 AM this morning.  From Rory’s Instagram:


Total rupture. According to a McIlroy spokeswoman, Rory has a “10% chance” of playing in next week’s British Open.  In the meantime, he is most certainly out of this weekend’s Scottish Open, and it would take a minor miracle for him to be back at the “home of golf” for the British Open starting next Thursday.

The injury, and the nature in which it was suffered, has understandably set off a debate on whether Rory should’ve been kicking around a soccer ball in the first place.  Reaction has been understandably mixed, and in the age of Twitter, the story has exploded.  Here are some takes:

However, the hot take of the day goes to this “fair and balanced” Fox News anchor, who called McIlroy a “leprechaun” and said that she “can’t stand him”:

But here is the real question: why can’t the internet let this go?

Weird injuries happen all the time in sports, and this case is no different.  Take the injuries mentioned in this excerpt from a legendary 2002 Denver Post piece from Mike Burrows:

Lionel Simmons was a rookie starring for the Sacramento Kings in February 1991 when he developed tendinitis in his right wrist and forearm. The injury was caused by Simmons playing his Nintendo GameBoy, and he missed two games.

“It’s not unusual for Lionel to be focused on something,” Jerry Reynolds, the Kings’ general manager at the time, told reporters. “But to hurt himself like that?”

You mean, like former NBA guard Muggsy Bogues, who once missed the second half of a game because he accidentally inhaled ointment during halftime treatment of a sore muscle and became dizzy?

“One of those fluke things you don’t even dream about,” Bogues said.

GameBoy.  Inhaling ointment.  Luckily for Bogues and Simmons, they played in the age before social media.  Both were good players (Simmons averaged 18 points per game in his rookie season; Bogues played 14 years in the NBA) but neither had to face the ignominy that social media would have brought them.

Sammy Sosa hurt himself in 2004 after a violent sneezing fit brought on back spasms.  The sneezes ended up putting Sosa on the disabled list.  Coincidentally, 2004 would be Sosa’s last All-Star Game appearance.

Were we supposed to tell Sammy Sosa that he couldn’t sneeze? Were we supposed to force a “No GameBoy Rule” on Simmons? Or, in the most famous example of a weird, overzealous sports injury, were we supposed to tell Bill Gramatica not to celebrate his field goals?

The point here is that McIlroy is entitled to do whatever he wants during his free time. I sincerely hope he and his buddies weren’t playing on artificial turf, but he can play soccer if he wants to.  Even if he got hurt in the process, what’s wrong with a little game of footy with your friends?

It would’ve been terrible, but Rory McIlroy could’ve hurt or burned himself barbecuing on our nation’s birthday.  (Don’t laugh: according to Men’s Health, grilling results in 17,000 injurious accidents per year.)  Rory McIlroy could’ve hurt himself walking down a flight of stairs.  And, worst of all, Rory McIlroy could’ve hurt himself by setting off fireworks at his own peril.  It could’ve happened to anyone, anywhere, and it happened to McIlroy in a soccer game on Saturday.

As for the theory that he should be training?  Well, he’s a normal person just like everyone else.  He trains to be successful and he takes breaks to enjoy he life he lives.  There’s nothing wrong with that.  Most people in this country don’t work on weekends; why should he, especially when he isn’t playing in a tournament?

Rory McIlroy is the best golfer in the world.  An ankle injury and the potential for yet another major win from world #2 Jordan Spieth could change that, but, in 99 out of 100 cases, playing a soccer game wouldn’t.  However, Rory happened to rip up his ankle in the process, and he is facing social media scorn for it. That’s a crying shame, especially for the best golfer in the world.

Why can’t we just leave him alone?

The Detroit Tigers May Be Finished Without Miguel Cabrera

In every full season of the stellar career of Miguel Cabrera, he has never played less than 148 games.  He has never been on the DL in his first 13 years in the majors.  Both of these are about to change after the events of Friday night, however.

With Cabrera on first base in the fourth inning and the score 1-0 in favor of the Tigers, Cabrera ran on a 3-2 pitch to Victor Martinez.  Cabrera pulled up lame between first and second and could not continue in the game.  It was later revealed that Cabrera suffered a Grade 3 Calf strain and is expected to miss six weeks.

The Tigers, manager Brad Ausmus, and Cabrera himself knew that the injury was bad, according to Craig Calcaterra of NBC Sports’ “Hardball Talk”:

When Cabrera came out of last night’s game with a calf strain you knew it had to be serious. Cabrera has played hurt in the past. He’s played injured in the past. He’s played when he probably shouldn’t have more times than I can count. But short of him literally missing a limb you never expect him to come out of a game.

That’s when Brad Ausmus knew it was bad, well before the MRI results showing a grade-3 calf strain came back.

“When Miggy says he can’t play, it’s serious, because Miggy plays through anything,” Ausmus said this morning. But he won’t be playing though this. Ausmus said he’s still waiting on a second opinion, but he doesn’t expect it to be any better. “I looked at the MRI. You can ask me about it,” Ausmus said. But even Dr. Ausmus is resigned to the fact that the best hitter in baseball will be out six weeks. And as he sat and spoke to the media this morning, he made it clear that the Tigers’ options are limited.

Alex Avila will get the start today, but he has played only three career games at first base. And, Ausmus reminded us, he was just activated from the disabled list himself. He’s worried enough about Avila playing back-to-back games at the position he knows, let alone one that’s mostly unfamiliar.

The Tigers are going to have a very hard time replacing Miggy for one simple reason: he is the best hitter in baseball.  He leads the game in three statistical categories: batting average (.350), on-base percentage (.456) and OPS (1.034).  J.D. Martinez leads the team in home runs, but Cabrera leads the team in the aforementioned categories, as well as hits and RBI.

While the Tigers rank first in baseball in batting average (.277), much of that success is due to Cabrera’s presence.  They also lead the league in hits (761) and on-base percentage (.335), but Cabrera leads the team in all of these categories.

So where does this leave the Tigers in the AL Central race? Answer: much worse than they already are.  With last night’s win, they moved to 40-39, but they are still 6 games back of the division-leading Kansas City Royals.  The Cleveland Indians have come on strong this week as well, and after a 5-game winning streak they are only two games back of Detroit.

In a crowded Wild Card race, the Tigers are only 1.5 games behind the all-important second Wild Card spot.  However, there are seven teams with 1.5 games of the Wild Card, and without Cabrera, the Tigers could be left in the dust.

The Tigers have two more games left with the Blue Jays this weekend.  Their next two series, with three games in Seattle against the Mariners and four in Minnesota to play the Twins, will be crucial heading into the All-Star break.  This is dire straits for the Tigers right about now, and they do not have the easiest schedule heading into the break.

The Tigers absolutely have to hit and score runs, as the pitching staff ranks 25th in ERA (4.16) and 24th in batting average against (.262).  The only great starting pitcher they have had this season is David Price, and he is easily the best starter on the staff. Shane Greene was magnificent early in the season, but was recently sent down to to Triple-A because he was struggling mightily. Justin Verlander made his season debut on June 13 and has limped to a 5.09 ERA in 3 starts.  Alfredo Simon has done a solid job and Jake Ryan has been okay in 4 starts, but the rotation will continue to struggle.

All things considered, the Tigers are very lucky that Cabrera is not going to be out for a longer period of time.  The rehabilitation from the injury might take a long time, longer than Cabrera is supposed to be out for, because injuries to the calves need to be shut down to heal.  However, the Tigers need to get it together without Cabrera, and soon.

Their season will be sabotaged if they don’t.


Why You Should Care About the Women’s World Cup Final

The above headline is absurd.  I know.

With the hopes of two countries riding on the result of Sunday night’s tilt between the United States and Japan, there are plenty of reasons to be interested in the game.  However, the question of how interested we should be is much broader and more difficult to answer.

I’ll admit something: I wasn’t initially interested in the Women’s World Cup.  I didn’t watch a single game during the group stage or the earlier knockout rounds.  That all changed, however, on Tuesday night.

With the USA playing Germany in the semifinal of the tournament, the action was gripping.  With double zeros registering on the scoreboard in the 59th minute, Germany was awarded a penalty kick.  With Celia Sasic taking the kick, this happened.

The Americans came into the game as underdogs. That miss, in that moment, changed the entire game. The U.S. women gained confidence out of dodging the bullet and the Germans became stagnant on both sides. In the 67th minute, a questionable penalty kick was awarded to the United States, on this foul against Alex Morgan:

Carli Lloyd was chosen to take the penalty kick, and she scored.

As the game progressed, the U.S. got more opportunities, and in the 84th minute, Kelly O’Hara converted for the second goal, which proved to be the dagger for Germany.

There would be another game the next day to decide who would play the United States in Sunday’s final. Japan and England were tied at 1-1 in the 92nd minute; there were 3 extra minutes of stoppage time, so the game was nearing its conclusion.  Japan tried to complete a pass that would’ve ended up right in front of the England goal.  British defender Laura Bassett made the right play in breaking up the pass, but would not get her reward.

And just like that, England’s World Cup run was over.  Bassett has gotten widespread sympathy across the world today (as she should) and the level of shock from everyone involved when the play happened is one that is rarely reached in sports. People seem interested.  This is good.

However, the level of worldly interest is not the same as it was in the men’s game a year ago.

The double standard regarding the treatment of men’s and women’s soccer players was never more evident than in 1999, when the United States played China in the Women’s World Cup Final.  The game went to penalty kicks, and the U.S. was in position to win the game on the last kick, which was to be taken by Brandi Chastain.

You probably know what happened, but for those that don’t, Chastain scored.  After the goal, Chastain ripped her shirt off in celebration, revealing only a sports bra underneath the jersey. It was awesome.  It was wonderful.  And it became the defining moment in the history of women’s sports, for better or worse.

This country was enthralled with the team in 1999, much like it is now.  However, the controversy surrounding Chastain’s actions at the end of the game was widespread and stunning. Some felt that she overreacted in ripping off the shirt, but those same people have no issue with men’s players when they take off theirs.

I’m not saying it isn’t okay to do it, especially when the moment warrants.  In 2012, when Manchester City needed to defeat perennial basement dweller Queens Park Rangers in order to take the Premier League title away from rival Manchester United, Sergio Aguero scored in the final moments of the game. Manchester City would win the title.

Aguero took his shirt off after the play, and the moment, the roar, and the call from legendary soccer voice Martin Tyler (AguerOOOOOOOOOOO) were all absolutely perfect.

However, there is also another element of this debate that needs to be examined: Sepp Blatter.

In early 2004, Blatter made the following comments about the women’s game, as reported then by the British newspaper The Guardian:

Football’s most senior administrator attracted the wrath of the women’s game last night by suggesting female players wear tighter shorts to promote “a more female aesthetic”.

Sepp Blatter, the president of the world governing body Fifa, said women should have skimpier kit to increase the popularity of the game. “Let the women play in more feminine clothes like they do in volleyball,” he said.

“They could, for example, have tighter shorts. Female players are pretty, if you excuse me for saying so, and they already have some different rules to men – such as playing with a lighter ball. That decision was taken to create a more female aesthetic, so why not do it in fashion?”

Blatter’s comments outraged leading European female footballers, and have threatened to undermine the sport, which has 30 million registered players worldwide.

That was, and probably still is, Sepp Blatter’s attitude on women’s soccer.  He obviously does not care too terribly much about the women’s game, and doesn’t care whether or not the rest of the viewing public cares either.  He won’t be attending the Final on Sunday, and that shouldn’t come as a surprise, considering the fact that he is under investigation by Swiss and American authorities.  The New York Times reported on this on Tuesday:

“He’s not going to go to the finals in Canada,” Cullen said, according to the Reuters report. “He has informed the organizers of that and cited personal reasons.”

FIFA later confirmed that Blatter and his top deputy, Jérôme Valcke, would not attend because of “their current commitments in Zurich.” Cullen said that the FIFA vice president Issa Hayatou of Cameroon would preside at the trophy ceremony after Sunday’s final in Vancouver, British Columbia, in Blatter’s place.

Blatter has taken a personal interest in the growth of women’s soccer during his tenure as FIFA president, including the expansion of this year’s World Cup to 24 teams. In May, he declared himself a “godfather” of the women’s game.

But with Swiss and American officials looking into other cases involving FIFA and refusing to rule out charges against Blatter, he has been keeping a low profile by speaking mostly to Swiss newspapers and appearing at private, FIFA-controlled events in Zurich. He hired Cullen, a former federal prosecutor, to advise him in those cases.

The Vice President of FIFA, Cameroon’s Issa Hayatou, will preside over the trophy presentation. This is basically like President Obama making Vice President Biden forge his signature on the Affordable Care Act; it’s ridiculous.

Second of all, Blatter is not a “godfather” of the women’s game, either.  If he was, then why is he making the women play on artificial turf, which is historically worse on the knees than natural grass? There may be more to the story, but the issue reeks of gender equality and women being treated in an inferior manner as opposed to men, at least in soccer.

About a month ago, comedian John Oliver, on his HBO show “Last Week Tonight”, took the time to hilariously deconstruct FIFA in light of the investigation regarding allegations of corruption and racketeering from high-ranking officials.  It is 13 minutes long, but good God, is it worth your time.

The segment perfectly illustrates Blatter: the hard-to-like, corrupt, and yet incredibly powerful overseer of soccer. However, Blatter announced that he was resigning on June 2 and the reaction was predictable:


FIFA, everyone.  An outright joke.  Now, let’s move back to women’s soccer.

The players in the NWSL (National Women’s Soccer League) are making anywhere between $6,000 to $30,000 a year, while MLS players make a minimum of $50,000 (h/t to Alicia Lorene Johnson at bustle.com for the numbers).  This has led some teams to set up host family programs; an example of a sports league doing this is the Cape Cod Baseball League in Massachusetts, which hosts summer baseball for college players.

One of these teams is the Houston Dash, and two of their players, Morgan Brian and Meghan Klingenberg, are also playing for the USWNT. However, they stay with a host family during the Dash’s season, and this has led to a crazy story about them and their famous hosts, per USA Today’s For The Win:

OTTAWA — Sunday mornings mean pancakes at Jeff Van Gundy’s house.

Jeff cuts fresh fruit, his wife Kim flips the pancakes, and Meghan Klingenberg fixes bacon.

Yes, the same Meghan Klingenberg who has played every minute on the United States national team’s back line this World Cup has “Pancake Sundays” with the Van Gundy family in Houston because she lives with them while playing for the Houston Dash in the National Women’s Soccer League.

When Van Gundy learned of the team’s host-family program last year, he jumped on the opportunity knowing little about soccer. The former NBA coach and current ESPN analyst didn’t realize his family received an “absolute blessing.”

Then this past spring, U.S. midfielder Morgan Brian moved in, too.

“I can’t tell you how fortunate we are,” Van Gundy told For The Win. “You don’t know when you have people, but the example they set and also for me having been in the NBA for a long time, they just have a different perspective because they’ve never had it easy. And it’s interesting to watch them. They’re just really excited about the opportunities and how they go about it is impressive.

“The utter lack of sense of entitlement was actually startling for me. For professional athletes, I always think about it in these terms: the most difficult diva of women’s soccer would be the easiest NBA player ever.”

Yes, that Jeff Van Gundy.  The NBA coach that coached the Knicks from 1996-2001 and the Rockets from 2003-2007.  Two world class athletes are relegated to having to stay with a host family.  Two world class athletes had to be taken in by “The Notorious J.V.G”.

The reason why this is appalling for women’s soccer is that the games are so exciting.  The NWSL is the fourth attempt at an American women’s soccer league in the last 20 years; the other three (W-League, WUSA and WPS) all folded.  If the games at the club level are even half as exciting as they are at the national level, the league has the potential to be really, really good.

Women’s soccer is very similar to men’s soccer.  The game is played the same way, and the drama, excitement, and emotion of the games are the same as they are in the men’s game.  There is no reason why American sports fans cannot get behind the U.S. women and cheer them on at 7:00 Sunday night.

So yes, you should care about the Women’s World Cup Final. Unlike in the men’s game, this is probably the only chance you will get to see stars like Abby Wambach, Lloyd, Morgan, Hope Solo, and others. The people are different from last year to this one, but the cause is the same: to win a World Cup.

In spite of FIFA, Sunday’s game should be a great exhibition of soccer, the way it is supposed to be played.  However, and most importantly, both countries will be behind their teams to win the game.  Of course, I’m rooting for the U.S., as most, if not all, Americans probably are.  And this is why you should care about the game: the hopes of a country are riding on it.

I believe that we will win.