Weekly Nickel 7-4-2011

Photo courtesy of loop48.com. Joey Chestnut (pictured above) looks to win his 5th consecutive Nathan's Famous International Hot Dog Eating Contest today.

By Josh Kramer

Happy 4th of July to all of you. It is time for another big week in the sporting world.  What should you be watching for?  What should you be in the known about?  Have no fear, because the “Weekly Nickel” is here.

The following are the top five sporting events for the week ahead.

5.  At least the NHL is having some positive action.  Despite the current lockouts in two of the four major professional sports leagues in the United States, at least the NHL is still doing its normal thing.  Lots of action in the past couple of days.  And do not expect that action to stop.  Brad Richards signed with the Rangers for 9 years and 60 million dollars.  Goalkeeper, Tomas Vokoun is now a Washington Capital.  And of course one of the greats of all time, Jaromir Jagr is returning to the NHL for one last go around.

Jagr claims it wasn’t about the money.  Yet he decided to join the Philadelphia Flyers?  Go figure.  Sorry Penguins fans.  This will without question tarnish Jagr’s legendary status with the Pittsburgh Penguins.  I do know one thing though.  With the NBA and NFL current suffering through massive labor issues and the possibility of missing regular season games, this is a big chance for the NHL to increase its popularity level.

4.  “The Captain” is finally set to return to the big team tonight.  As much as the past few week’s have been Jeter’s worst nightmare, he now rejoins the hottest team in baseball and is still just six hits away from joining the very prestigious 3,000 hit club (only 27 members currently).  Jeter of course is not a man who cares about the records.  All he cares about is winning.  Just ask Grantland writer, Mark Lisanti.  But who would not want to become the first Yankee of all time to join this stellar club?  Also, does anybody else find it crazy that no New York Yankee, a franchise with 27 World Series championships, has reached the 3,000 hit milestone?

3.  The FIFA Women’s World Cup continues on through pool play.  And though this marquee event has been a bit overshadowed by NBA/NFL shenanigans and the best tournament of them all, Wimbledon, the Cup is about to pick up the intensity.  Pool play finishes up on Wednesday, and the quarterfinals are set for Saturday.  This is where we find out who the real contenders are to bring home soccer’s most prestigious event.

Wednesday’s matchup with Sweden is a must tie/win for the American.  Sure the US has already clinched a spot in the quarterfinals, but they want to win Group C.  There is no way Wambach and the girls want to take on Brazil in the quarterfinals.  Sure they could defeat the very tough Brazilian squad, but they for sure would like to avoid this duel until the later rounds.  Thus far the contenders appear to be Germany (2-time defending champions), Brazil, France, Japan, and of course the red, white, and blue.

2.  The All Star break is creeping ever closer.  Despite their Captain’s extended stay on the DL, the Yankees are now the hottest team in baseball and are continuing to separate themselves from the hated Red Sox in the AL East.  Philadelphia continues to thrive on what seems to be one of the greatest pitching rotations of all time.  And the Pirates continue to shock the baseball world as they remain in striking distance in the NL Central.  But the majority of my attention this week is focused on one matchup.  I am talking about none other than what is turning into one of the best rivalries in baseball, the Cardinals and Reds.

Cincinnati Reds at St. Louis Cardinals:  So the Reds have vastly underachieved this year while the Cardinals continue to keep pace in the NL Central despite the “Machine” currently sitting on the always fun disabled list.  These teams sport the top two offensive attacks in the National League and also have a strong disliking for each other.  You better believe that the scoreboard will be getting a workout at Busch Stadium starting this evening.  This series is more important for Cincinnati than St. Louis in my eyes.  There is no better way to gain games on teams you are chasing than to beat them head to head.  Sure Cincinnati was able to sweep the Cards in Cincy earlier this year, but now it is July.  And the stakes have risen.  I fully expect the Reds to begin their run at the NL Central tonight, by taking 2 of 3 from their hated rival, the St. Louis Cardinals.

1.  Today marks our nations 235th birthday.  And without question, it has been amazing run.  On this most important day in our nation’s history, something that we do best has become an important piece of the day.  You of course probably know what I am talking about.  Americans love to eat.  And every July 4th, the Nathan’s Famous International Hot Dog Eating Contest takes place in Coney Island.  Not only is this a time to relax and eat, but it is also a time to get behind one of our nation’s favorite sons, Mr. Joey Chestnut.  Chestnut is looking to secure his 5th consecutive title this afternoon.

And as seems to be the case in all our favorite sports lately, there is of course turmoil within the business of the sport.  Legendary eater, Takeru Kobayashi, will once again be absent from the competition due to disputes with Major League Eating.  Kobayashi refuses to sign a contract with the MLE, since he desires to be a freelance eater.  Therefore, he has been banned from this contest.  It seems like contract disputes and conflicts over money seem to be an issue with all sports these days.

Either way, make sure to tune in and watch Chestnut try to keep the belt in the United States for a 5th consecutive year.  It should be another great day for the red, white, and blue.

Stay tuned for the next edition of TheSportsKraze.

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