Let's just go straight into this. I don't want to jinx it. But finally, we might be free from it all.
Please, for the love of God, let this Dwight Howard trade go through.
For a second, forget about how good this trade could make the Nets, or how Howard may have ultimately managed to get what he wanted, and he's getting to Brooklyn without being involved in a trade which decimates their roster. This is all about Howard, as he's made things for the last six months. Now that LeBron James has a title, he's got grace from unwavering scrutiny.
Howard has no title and has set fire to most of the goodwill he built early in his career (sound familiar?). He's now seen as a diva. Now, he's got to live up to it. He's demonstrated a team can make the NBA Finals, primarily because it has him on its roster. But after all the drama and public displays that ranged from amateur to immature, he better have a career year wherever he ends up. He won't be in central Florida anymore. If the trade to the Nets goes through, he'll be in the big city, and he'll have a bullseye on his chest, one he painted himself. If Howard wants to be The Man, he has his chance. In fact, he has no choice.
In the words of Billy in "Purple Rain," he better kick ass or else.
Wait, who's the best tennis player in the world? Roger Federer is in a position similar to his buddy Tiger Woods. He's not as good as he was five years ago, nor will he ever be again. But after his seventh Wimbledon title, which returned him to the top of the world rankings, it's safe to say he's better than anyone else. That includes Rafael Nadal, long gone from the All England Club, and Novak Djokovic, of whom Federer made light work Saturday.
In the finals, on a slower surface than usual at Wimbledon, Federer changed his approach and still came out on top. We typically assume that, once the greats lose their grip on the apex of their games, a slide will begin. But after dispatching Andy Murray in four sets, the greatest men's singles player of all-time again looks like the best player in the world, something we never thought we'd say again.
A salute to the incomparable Serena Williams.
It doesn't feel like Williams' fifth Wimbledon title is receiving the praise it deserves. Surgery on her foot cost her the top spot in the world rankings in 2010. In 2011, she needed emergency surgery to fight blood clots in her lungs and only competed in six tournaments all year. Now, at 30 -- late middle-age in women's tennis -- and after an embarrassing first-round loss in the French Open, she's a champion at Wimbledon again.
Serena and her sister, Venus, have long been polarizing figures, especially in the eyes of the media, but her win Saturday deserves gushing praise. She overcame a life-threatening experience, hit a low unlike any other in her career, and managed to not just recover, but thrive. She's undefeated in her last 11 matches against top five opponents. She is, again, the best player in the world.
Combined with her unlikely beginnings in the sport, it's the stuff of Disney movies. And if she can stay healthy into her mid-30s, she may retire as the greatest women's tennis player ever. That deserves a standing ovation, one her home country continues to be reluctant to give her.
Poor Andy Murray.
At the very least, Murray didn't embarrass himself. He took the first set Sunday against Federer, the first time he'd won a set in a Grand Slam final. But, while carrying a greater burden than any tennis player at a single event in recent memory, he fell at Wimbledon like every other Brit has in the last 76 years.
If nothing else, Murray has an explanation for what happened -- he faced a superior opponent. His presence gave Centre Court a unique tenor, one reminiscent of a college football team playing a bowl game at home (think Miami in the Orange Bowl). He put up a helluva fight. But this was Federer's day. Great Britain, again, was just his host. And Murray didn't just fight a good fight. He fought the best one, with these stakes, of his career. Unfortunately for him, it just wasn't good enough.
Usually, I don't do this, but ...
I don't know a thing about MMA, but as soon as I saw this, I knew what came next. Chael Sonnen said he felt like a "doofus" after that ill-fated spinning backhand. That makes him a better man than me, for I would have felt like a dead man. Sonnen was merely on the wrong end of a TKO, and Anderson Silva the side of victory. And the side of right.
You pop off about a man's wife, whether for show or not, and falling down when facing him in the octagon becomes funnier than it usually is. And falling down is always funny. Thanks for the laughs, Chael.
But really, how do you resist something that hadn't happened yet?
We'll soon find out what happened between Adrian Peterson and a handful of off-duty police officers at a Houston night club early Saturday morning. In fact, "Bomani & Jones," P.I. is on the case. All this cameraphone video shows is Peterson in handcuffs.
Many have reserved judgment in the case because of Peterson's pristine reputation. He's never been in trouble. That's kind of those who remember this is, in fact, America. But why should this be a courtesy only afforded to Peterson? Four years ago, Cedric Benson was taken off a boat -- where he was partying with, among others, his mother -- and roughed up by cops in Austin. That charge, plus one a month later for DUI, led to the Bears releasing him. In the end, charges in both cases were dropped.
All of that's to say, innocent until proven guilty. Or, at the very least, do better than just taking the police's word for things. That said, this was a great time to show such patience. Few things stink like when someone's charged with resisting arrest ... when they weren't being arrested for anything else.
You do think the U.S.A. will win gold in basketball, don't you?
Surprisingly great intrigue surrounded the official naming of the 2012 United States Olympic basketball team. While the U.S. is no longer the only power in international basketball, it remains the hegemon. The U.S. still has more elite basketball players than the rest of the world combined, and it will be the odds-on favorite in London no matter how much size the roster does or does not have.
Previous embarrassments for the U.S. were the byproduct of poor infrastructure, poorly constructed teams and college kids forced to deal with Arvydas Sabonis. Those problems either have been fixed or retired long ago. No longer are teams built like they're going on barnstorming tours. Arrogance has been replaced with a respect for the fundamental differences between NBA and international basketball. The players are coached by Mike Krzyzewski, who has been fully invested in USA Basketball since 2005 and somehow managed to defy lofty expectations on the bench.
It's fair to worry whether Team USA will win every game and bring home gold medals. Against countries like Spain, there will be matchup issues (especially since the Spaniards picked up ringer "Señor" Serge Ibaka). but there's no compelling reason to pick anyone else to win at the Summer Games.
Another SMH moment, brought to you by the NFL.
If you didn't have a chance to read Roger Goodell's eight-page letter reaffirming the suspensions in Bountygate, I can summarize it here -- you had your chance to defend yourselves, and now it's gone. Buried in that, though, is an interesting detail -- Goodell's admission that it was not Anthony Hargrove who said "give me my money" on video after Brett Favre was injured in the 2009 NFC Championship Game.
True, that doesn't necessarily invalidate the rest of the NFL's investigation into the matter, but isn't it enough to get the all-too-trusting football media to stop taking the league's word for things in this investigation? That tape was one of the NFL's smoking guns, a piece of evidence it could show the public that would definitively show the Saints had a pay-to-injure scheme. It was used to sell Hargrove's eight-game suspension to the public. Instead, it wasn't true.
Goodell said no evidence was used that was only corroborated by an unnamed source. But until we know who the NFL's unnamed witnesses are -- especially considering one might be a convicted felon who, for what it's worth, has denied he snitched on Jonathan Vilma -- and exactly what they said, how can anyone be expected to believe these allegations on their face?
The league says the evidence against Hargrove, Jonathan Vilma and others is overwhelming. What has been made publicly available has been anything but. If we're supposed to be OK with punishments that could end men's careers, we need to hear more before drawing any definitive conclusions on Bountygate.
I'm not sure about Ray Allen and the Heat.
Allen is a future Hall of Famer. Given the care he pays to his body, he may be effective for years. At first glance, he fills Miami's pressing need for a shooter. But can you imagine the smallish lineups the Heat will put on the floor with Allen? If he plays with LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, will Miami be able to play its characteristically smothering defense on the wings?
James is the ultimate wild card, and his versatility on both ends of the floor allows Miami more flexibility with lineups than any team in the NBA. But it remains to be seen just how Allen will help. Don't forget -- he was benched in Boston in favor of Avery Bradley's superior defense. This sounds like a great move for Miami, but it's on Erik Spoelstra to get full returns on its newest asset. That might not be as easy to do as it looks.
Does the All-Star Game count or not?
So, I get that America wants to see Harper in the All-Star Game. I also get that there aren't many players left who could play in Kansas City. But it's weird that someone, no matter how young, hitting .282 with eight home runs is an All-Star for any reason.
That wouldn't be a such a big deal if Bud Selig wasn't shamed into making this game "count."
Certainly, Harper's popularity justifies his place on the National League roster. But consider the fact a 19 year old who doesn't feel like an All-Star yet could be in a position to harm his team's postseason path.
The Nationals look to be contenders, and any team on a roll in October can get to the World Series --where homefield is determined, in part, by who's too busy or banged up to play in the All-Star Game, and who's too big of a draw to leave at home.
Yeah, that makes sense. But at least we get to see Bryce Harper in the All-Star Game.