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Tuesday, July 17, 2012

This Week in Sports: July 17, 2012

It's been ten days since my last post.  And it's been eleven days since my last "weekly" update.  I know that's weak.  But, when I said that the sports landscape is sparse at this time of year, I wasn't kidding. There are plenty of free agency stories and contract discussions and arrest reports to talk about, but that's not the focus of this column.  We're coming up on the frenzy of the Olympics, so I figured I better get something published ... even if it isn't on the usual update day of the week.

The Weeks That Were:  I was right to recommend watching the Wimbledon finals.  The ladies' final was on July 7, 2012.  The gentlemen's final was played the next day.  I was wrong to recommend the NASCAR race on July 7, 2012.  And, I admit that I didn't even watch the MLB All Star game on July 9, 2012.

Wimbledon:  The ladies final at Wimbledon was a wonderfully entertaining match.  Serena Williams was clearly physically superior to the higher-seeded Agnieszka Radwanska.  And yet, Radwanska fought and clawed to make this a dramatic 3-set match.  Williams prevailed, due in large part to her over-powering serve.  After the match, Serena was gracious and charming and funny in her post-match, on-court interviews.  Serena is 30 years old, but she still has the exuberance of youth when she wins.

The gentleman's final was highly anticipated.  Roger Federer was matched up against Andy Murray.  Roger Federer is possibly the greatest player in tennis history.  But, there is no doubt that he is headed towards the downside of his amazing career.  Andy Murray had the weight of the entire nation on his back because he was the first British subject to play in the finals at the All England Club since 1938.  Federer won the first set.  Murray won the second set.  Then the London rains came.  This caused a delay while the roof was closed at Center Court.  Federer took control after the delay and won the match in 4 sets.  Murray gave an emotional and tearful on-court interview after the match.  Frankly, I failed to grasp that level of emotion in a loss for a guy with such a bright future ahead.  Federer, as always, was the picture of class.

Daytona Night Race:  The July night race held under the lights in Daytona is the race that I look forward to most all year.  But, I'll be honest.  Those who complain that NASCAR is just a bunch of guys driving in a circle for three hours, had plenty to complain about in this uneventful race.  And, those who complain that NASCAR has arbitrary endings that don't accurately reflect the way teams performed in the race had a valid gripe at the end of this race.  Tony Stewart won, and he was a deserving winner.  But, a big wreck on the final lap erased strong runs from ten or twelve cars.

Mid Summer Classic:  I admit, I was watching something else when the game started.  By the time I checked in, the rout was already on.  The National League scored five runs off the American League starter, Justin Verlander.  By the time it was all said and done, the National League won 8-0.  That means that the NL winner will have the home field advantage in the World Series.  Playing in front of the home fans may not be a huge deal, but this means that four out of the seven World Series games will be played by NL rules ... without a DH.

The Week Ahead:  Golf takes center stage this week.  Actually, it takes the whole stage.

The Open Championship:  For those of us who do not live in the British Isles, this tournament is better known as the British Open.  But, since the Brits invented golf, they do not feel the need to designate their national championship in that way.  The Open Championship was first played in 1860.  It was played continuously until 1870.  There was no Open in 1871.  It has been played every year since then except for the disruptions caused by two world wars.  This year's Open Championship will be played in England at Royal Lytham & St. Annes.  That is one course with two names.  This tournament is the most unique event on the PGA calendar.  This tournament features links style golf and usually involves nasty weather.  The seers in the desert have installed Tiger Woods as the favorite to win the event, but there are a whole slew of great players from the UK right now.  Darren Clarke, the defending champion of the event, hails from Northern Ireland.  Clarke finished in a tie for third the last time that the Open Championship was played at Royal Lytham & St. Annes in 2001.  Ernie Els and Miguel Angel Jiminez were part of that 6-way tie.

The tournament begins on Thursday morning.  Over the four days of the event, there will be 36 hours of television coverage on ESPN and ABC.  Coverage begins Thursday morning on ESPN at 5:00 a.m. EST.  The coverage schedule is the same for Friday.  Saturday coverage begins at 7:30 a.m.  Final round coverage begins at 8:00 a.m.  ABC will replay a condensed version of the final round at 3:00 p.m. EST on Sunday afternoon.

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