Weekly Nickel 7-18-2011

Photo courtesy of myhero.com. How many people pay attention to cycling in the post Lance Armstrong (pictured above) era.

By Josh Kramer

We watched Japan shock the USA in the Women’s World Cup final yesterday.  In addition, we got to witness a first time Major champion in Darren Clarke at Royal St. George’s.  Lastly, baseball came back in a big way following a dismal All Star Break.  It was a fantastic past week.

Here is what to watch for this week.

5.  The NBA shenanigans will continue.  Do not expect anything substantial to occur in terms of negotiations, but do expect to possible watch some stars entertain the prospects of playing in Europe.  Sadly, this is what the NBA has come to.  With an outstanding playoffs in the rearview mirror, the future prospects of the world’s greatest basketball league do not look great.  We now have to watch for players to sign contracts.  But these contracts will not be with NBA teams, they will be with international squads.

4.  Finally there appears to be light at the end of the tunnel in terms of NFL negotiations.  The “cautious optimism” has finally turned into “actual optimism.”  Both sides are making moves, and we appear to be on track for training camp to start on time and for the preseason to be played in its entirety.  If this all ends up happening, it would be like a happily ever after fairy tale.  Exactly the ending that all parties involved want to see happen.  A full NFL season.

3.  I am not sure if you are all aware, but cycling’s most prestigious and popular race is currently going on right now.  The once supremely popular event will head into Stage 16 on Tuesday and conclude on Sunday.  It is weird how little attention this always huge sporting spectacle gets in the post Lance Armstrong era.  Lance Armstrong was cycling.  When people ever heard the term cycling, they immediately thought of Lance Armstrong, the yellow jersey, and “Live Strong.”  Now people do not know what to think when the sport gets brought up.  So they keep it simple, and ignore the sport in general.

2.  The MLB trade deadline is rapidly approaching.  It is officially set for July 31st, but for the time being, expect teams to begin to determine their strategy.  Which teams are buyers?  Which teams are sellers?  And which teams just want to stay put?  We will find out all of that and more over the course of the next two weeks.

1.  We are now officially in the second half of the MLB season.  The Midsummer Classic (All Star Game) is in the books, regardless of how dull and uneventful the weekend was.  Now we really start to hit the heat of the MLB season.  This is really the only game in town at this time.  There is no NBA, NFL, NHL, or NCAA athletics going on at this time.  The MLB is the BMOC (Big Man on Campus).  And rightfully so as we creep closer to the Fall Classic.

Here is the matchup of the week.

St. Louis Cardinals at Pittsburgh Pirates:  I never thought I would see the day, or at least in my lifetime, where the Pirates were in a marquee series in July.  During the course of the past two decades, the Pittsburgh Pirates have been arguably the most inept franchise in professional sports going over 18 years without posting a winning record.  Well that is not the case this year.  And sure, the clock could strike midnight at any time on the lovable team out of Pittsburgh, but it is a fantastic story.  If you have a heart, you are probably pulling for the Pirates to at least finish the year above 500.

But this three-game series set to take place in Pittsburgh this weekend has heavy implications for the jam-packed NL Central.  Not only is the NL Central the largest division in baseball, it is also arguably the most unpredictable.  No team has laid a real claim to the top spot.  Heading into Sunday, there was a three-way tie atop the division, with the defending champion Reds sitting just three games back.  This series will pit the Pirates great pitching versus the lethal lineup of Larussa’s Cardinals.  I am going to go with experience though.  St. Louis knows what a pennant race is like.  Pittsburgh does not.  Expect St. Louis to claim at least two of three on the road, and end next weekend alone atop the NL Central.

Stay tuned for the next edition of TheSportsKraze.

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