The 2018 World Cup is upon us and if you’re anything like me, there’s only a few certainties that you’re hangin your hat on as far as general information:
The US Men’s team isn’t in it, because apparently despite growing the world’s most incredible athletes right here in our own back yard, we can’t seem to be remotely competitive when it comes to soccer.
Argentina’s Lionel Messi is still the best player in the world.
Christiano Ronaldo is still playing? And I’m assuming still the male-model version of a socer player?
Neymar…he’s the stud from Brazil with only one name – a name pronounced the way a drunk kid from Baltimore who’s attempting a Southie-Boston accent would sound: “Naaaaaaaymaaaaaaahhhhhhhrrrrr”
The 2018 World Cup is in Russia, so prepare for tons of political infused sports commentary from our “elected” president.
As a reference point, here’s what else you should know about the 2018 World Cup, just in case you happen to stumble into a bar where people are watching and you don’t want to sound like a moron:
Since the NBA Finals will be over in less than 6 hours, we need to discuss a topic that fuels the fire for competitive gravitas. Nick Young vs. JR Smith for the ultimate hoops-knucklehead crown.
The ultimate battle royale between Nick Young and JR Smith continues, moving into the topic of tattoos:
can you cut a guy during the playoffs, so they don’t get a ring?
Swaggy P comes hard with some random jibberish, a smiley face and an air plane. From this collage, I concur that Swaggy P’s favorite movie probably stars some kind of singing bear, snowman or bumble bee.
What is going on here?
JR Smith’s tat game takes the prize though:
I don’t get it.
Nothing says “I can hoop” like some other guy’s jersey and name tattooed on your tummy.
First they abort Seattle, then they lose Durant and Harden, now this? Hasn’t this franchise had enough bad news in it’s lifetime?
Even though LeBron James, Steph Curry, the entire Philadelphia Eagles organization, you, me and everyone else in the world has already said that no sports team is interested in visiting the White House, today Donald Trump tried to pretend like he wouldn’t have invited them anyway……cause that’s a normal reaction from a 71 year-old man in charge of literally everything this country has to offer.
The classic “well, you’re not invited to my party anyway” defense runs deep with 6 year-olds and drunk 20-something sorority girls whose ex-boyfriend slept with their best friend.
Surely the current NBA Finals basketball players will regret the opportunity to watch the round-mound of orange chicken slurp himself around the South Lawn in order to regurgitate more crazy-ass-old, white guy-propoganda and forget words to “God Bless America”.
LeBron James on Donald Trump disinviting the Eagles: “I know whoever wins this series, no one wants an invite.”
This is one of two insanely useless sports-related proclamations that Trump has made today. The other was his public consideration of pardoning the late boxer Muhammad Ali, who has no criminal record.
A consideration that is par for the course for Mr Trump, un-inviting people who don’t want to attend and then reinstating someone who’s already instated. Maybe the next trick for the President will be to get the troops out of Vietnam? Or perhaps ask Mr. Gorbachev to tear down his wall?
Somewhere Chris Webber is weeping tears of joy, because for a short time JR Smith has relinquished him from the throne of basketball-whoops moments in the brightest of spotlight-moments.
The battle between JR Smith, Nick Young and Javale McGee for the NBA’s #1 “can’t get-right” performer of the year was solidified last night in the Golden State Warriors’ overtime victory over the Cleveland Lebrons, 124-114.
After pulling down an offensive rebound off a free-throw, JR Smith couldn’t be bothered with trivial details like how much time was left on the clock, or what the score was or even what city he was in at the moment. Literally everyone in the building and watching on TV knew that the game was tied at 107-107 with four seconds left, but when he rebounded the missed free-throw, Smith opted to dribble out the clock rather than take a shot or make a pass or perhaps even accidentally do something right. You know how sometimes you can miss a shot so bad that you actually bank it in? Well, JR couldn’t even muster that kind of game ending heroics.
Once Smith reached half-court with the ball, all he had left was Lebron’s “wtf are you doing” face and the twitter universe drooling at the opportunity to take Smith down a peg or two-hundred.
This would be sad if it wasn’t somewhat expected at this point. JR’s been on the Hennessey-hoop-game for quite a while and with JR Smith, Henny-thing is POSSIBLE!
Game 1 for the Cavs was the most important game of the series, which sounds ridiculous considering it was game 1. But when you’re playing the Warriors in Oracle Arena and you can somehow squeak out a win early in the series, you HAVE to take advantage of that opportunity. Lebron played what will probably be his best overall game of the series (NBA Finals Career) with 51-8-8, you can’t ask him to do that every single game, even if he may be the only man on the planet that could actually do it in the NBA Finals.
This was the Cavs’ game to steal in Golden State, but instead Cleveland fans and Lebron are left with a bitter taste in their mouth similar to a bad sunflower seed paired with a tall glass of expiration date-past-due milk.
“Honestly, I thought we were down two when I shot the ball,’’ Smith said then. “I started hearing Tyson [Chandler] say, ‘Noooo, don’t take the shot.’ Just a good shot, bad timing. I realized right after. Bad basketball IQ by me.”
So what lies ahead for the Browns? If the previous 12 seasons of “Hard Knocks” are any indication, there will be lots of drama, crushing injuries, ice cream socials, golf cart crashes and maybe even a brawl or two. Over the 12 years of the show, the average wins in a season for a participating team is 7.5, so the formerly 0-16 Browns have that going for them….which is nice.
Here are the most memorable highlights of “Hard Knocks” according to ESPN writers:
The defending Super Bowl champions dealt with the season-ending knee injury to star running back Jamal Lewis, and cameras captured the moment when coach Brian Billick received the phone call detailing the severity of the injury. The most memorable moment came during the rookie show, when linebacker Tim Johnson did a spot-on impersonation of tight end Shannon Sharpe. Johnson re-enacted the time Sharpe was locked in the meeting room by defensive tackle Tony Siragusa and wanted his “restitution.” The shot of Sharpe and linebacker Ray Lewis laughing uncontrollably remains one of the series’ most light-hearted moments.
Season result: The Ravens went 10-6 and advanced to the divisional round of the playoffs, where they lost in Pittsburgh.
The Cowboys were a team in transition with only Emmitt Smith remaining from the days of the team’s renowned “Triplets.” After a 5-11 finish in 2001, the Cowboys believed they were on to better things in Dave Campo’s third year coaching. The Cowboys definitely lived up to the made-for-TV moments: Chad Hutchinson, fighting for the starting quarterback job, spent time playing the guitar with receiver Richmond Flowers; receiver Anthony Lucas’ gut-wrenching call on Jerry Jones’ phone after he tore up his knee for the second year in a row; and George Foreman speaking to the team. The lasting image from this “Hard Knocks” season was Campo in a wet suit during a break in camp at SeaWorld in San Antonio playing with the dolphins.
Season result: The Cowboys finished 5-11 for the third straight year. Campo was fired and replaced by Bill Parcells.
Quarterback Casey Printers was incredulous when told by Ray Farmer, the Chiefs’ personnel director, that he would be released. Printers wasn’t good in training camp or the preseason, but he might have played better than any of the other Chiefs quarterbacks. “Hard Knocks” made a cult hero of Bobby Sippio, a journeyman wide receiver who joined the Chiefs in the middle of training camp after injuries struck hard at the position.
Season result: The Chiefs, after winning four of their first seven games, lost their final nine to finish 4-12.
— Adam Teicher
Season 4, 2008: Dallas Cowboys
The Cowboys took to Hollywood this season. After going 13-3 in 2007, they were viewed as Super Bowl contenders with quarterback Tony Romo, receiver Terrell Owens, tight end Jason Witten and linebacker DeMarcus Ware among 13 Pro Bowlers from the previous season. The Cowboys added cornerback Adam Jones and defensive tackle Tank Johnson, who both had faced legal troubles in Tennessee and Chicago, respectively. The Cowboys had memorable practices against the Denver Broncos that featured a back-and-forth between Jones and receiver Brandon Marshall.
Season result: The Cowboys finished 9-7 and were torn apart from within. It didn’t help that Romo missed three games with a broken pinky. The team closed with two losses, including a 44-6 debacle to Philadelphia in the finale. As he walked off the field, Johnson said aloud, “I’m a free agent, baby.”
HBO’s portrayal of the 2009 Bengals earned the team and the network a pair of Emmys. It was during this installment of “Hard Knocks” that football fans were more broadly introduced to receiver Chad Johnson (then Ochocinco) and his “child, please” and “kiss the baby” catchphrases. They also met Chris Henry, the embattled but up-and-coming receiver whose quiet personality endeared him to team president Mike Brown. In December of that year, Henry died when he fell off the back of a truck. Brown later said he thought the ability of “Hard Knocks” to tell personal stories about his players humanized the team and helped change people’s view of the Bengals.
Season result: Cincinnati went 10-6 before losing in the wild-card round of the playoffs to the Jets.
It’s still the highest-rated “Hard Knocks” in series history. Colorful coach Rex Ryan stole the show, entertaining many — and annoying some — with his R-rated vocabulary and nonstop sense of humor. The highlight was the “snack” speech. In a team meeting on the eve of a preseason game, the then-portly Ryan punctuated a tirade by barking at his players, “Let’s go eat a goddamned snack!” The season also featured cornerback Darrelle Revis‘ contentious holdout. In the final scene of the final episode, Revis — after signing a new contract — walked out to practice and rejoined his teammates, who greeted him with a “Rudy” clap.
Season result: The Jets went 11-5 and lost in the AFC Championship Game.
The seventh season of “Hard Knocks” was highlighted by the introduction of then-rookie head coach Joe Philbin and the sudden ending to the career of receiver Chad Johnson. Philbin came off as a stickler for minute details in his first year, including one curious instance in which he picked up trash off the practice field. Philbin also had a short leash on Johnson, who got into a domestic incident with his former wife. In a memorable scene, Philbin brought Johnson into his office and cut him from the team. It turned out to be Johnson’s final shot in the NFL.
Season result: The Dolphins went 7-9 and were mostly competitive in 2012 with a rookie coach and rookie quarterback in Ryan Tannehill. However, they failed to post a winning season for the fourth straight year. The streak would reach seven until the Dolphins finished 10-6 and reached the playoffs last season.
— James Walker
Season 8, 2013: Cincinnati Bengals
One of the most-asked questions as it relates to the 2013 Bengals is this: Does Giovani Bernard still drive the minivan? Thanks to “Hard Knocks,” viewers learned the rookie running back drove a van belonging to his girlfriend’s mother to training camp in Cincinnati as he started getting his bearings in the new city. He no longer drives it. This season also told the story of defensive tackle Larry Black. After a promising start to the summer, the Cincinnati native and undrafted free agent suffered a season-ending ankle injury in a practice. The injury gave a raw glimpse at how quickly dreams can be delayed in the NFL.
Season result: Cincinnati went 11-5 before losing in the wild-card round of the playoffs to the Chargers.
The most memorable moment from a rather dull season of “Hard Knocks” with the Falcons was the number of fights that arose, some of which appeared to be staged. It started immediately with linebacker Kroy Biermann getting into it with rookie offensive tackle Jake Matthews. Then-coach Mike Smith was more vocal and demonstrative than normal, particularly when it came to regulating the fighting. Joe Hawley, Ra’Shede Hageman and Jacques Smith were involved in the fight as well. Hageman was portrayed as an out-of-control, out-of-shape rookie who kept getting frustrated with himself, which he didn’t appreciate when the episodes aired.
Season result: The Falcons finished 6-10 and missed the playoffs for the second consecutive season.
Texans coach Bill O’Brien wasn’t delighted to be on the show but wound up one of its biggest personalities. The show documented a set of brawls during joint practices with Washington and also the Texans’ decision to choose Brian Hoyer as the team’s starting quarterback over Ryan Mallett. Cornerback Charles James and receiver EZ Nwachukwu became fan favorites who then were released by the Texans when they cut the roster to 53 players. James eventually returned.
Season result: The quarterback drama continued after the Texans stopped being filmed, and they started 2-5. They recovered to become a 9-7 playoff team but lost in the first round.
A running theme throughout the show was the bizarre convictions of veteran defensive end William Hayes, who firmly disregarded any proof that dinosaurs ever existed and proudly clung to his belief that mermaids might actually be out there. It prompted a trip to the museum, where Hayes hilariously dismissed the fossils on display. It led to a training camp visit by a woman dressed in an Ariel costume. Said Hayes: “This is not something I just thought of a couple years ago. This is something I’ve always believed in.”
Season result: No mermaid or dinosaur, real or otherwise, could have saved the Rams in 2016. Their first season back in Los Angeles was a disaster. They had the worst offense in the NFL, lost their last seven games and finished 4-12. Their longtime head coach, Jeff Fisher, was fired before it was over.
Quarterback Jameis Winston took center stage as cameras followed him everywhere, including to his childhood home in Bessemer, Alabama, where he stomped on a cockroach and declared, “This cockroach havin’ a baby! This cockroach havin’ a baby, for real! Or they mating. It’s one of ’em.'” But the highlight of the season had to be when the Bucs decided they had to cut kicker Roberto Aguayo, a year after trading up in the second round to draft him. After a dismal rookie season, Aguayo’s struggles continued in training camp, and he was beaten out by veteran Nick Folk. GM Jason Licht said to coach Dirk Koetter, “(Aguayo) can make 20 of his last 20 kicks and then go to a game and nobody’s confident he’s going to make it — not even an extra point. … It’s just such a bigger mistake to keep holding on to him.” The young kicker fought back tears when he got the news from Licht and Koetter: “I let you guys down. I let myself down.”
Season result: The Bucs said all along the show would not be a distraction — and maybe it wasn’t — but the team that many believed would make the playoffs regressed in 2017, posting two five-game losing streaks on their way to a 5-11 season. Winston, who had never missed a game in his first two seasons, sat for five games because of a shoulder injury.
I’ll take the Browns to win the Super Bowl please…
There are wiser ways to start an article about sports betting than this but still, I have to warn you: Murphy v NCAA—Monday’s Supreme Court decision that freed New Jersey to allow casinos and racetracks to open sports books—is boring as hell. I’ll do what I can to overcome this burden, but there is only so much that can be done. Yes, this involves people being able to bet money on sports, and is definitely fun—word of warning to anyone whose interest has been piqued, you can actually lose money doing this—but the case itself turns on abstruse principles of federalism and not anything cool like odds or vigs or earth-shattering dunks. It’s just a bunch of nerds parsing things finely, after all.
To lay out the basics: Back in 1992 Congress passed, and President Bush the Elder signed, the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA), a cheerfully naive attempt to pretend that legal sports betting would “change the nature of sporting events from wholesome entertainment for all ages to devices for gambling.” At the time, just four states allowed sports betting—Nevada, obviously, but also Delaware, Montana, and Oregon, which ran state sports lotteries. Those states were grandfathered in.
New Jersey was considering allowing sports books to open in Atlantic City casinos at the time, so PASPA gave them a year to get their legislative shit together so that they might also be grandfathered in. Jersey ultimately passed on the opportunity, but after roughly 20 years of Atlantic City getting battered by tribal gaming and Donald Trump’s debt boondoggles and literal hurricanes, then-Governor Chris Christie decided that he wanted AC to have sports betting after all. Alas, the federal government was no longer keen to open up the law to any more betting on sports. Whether this is due to a strong moral conviction against vice or the aggressive and constant lobbying of the NCAA and professional sports leagues I will leave as an exercise to the reader, but also in case you are dumb, it was definitely the lobbying.
As even casual followers of politics already know, Christie has never let anyone say no to him without being a big baby about it, and so he and the rest of New Jersey went ahead and repealed the state prohibition on sports gambling anyway. The state did so in a very specific way that limited the right to run a sports book to people already licensed for gambling by the state. Finding their lobbying money suddenly and disturbingly squandered, the NCAA sued New Jersey to enjoin the repeal of their prohibition on gambling on the grounds that it was prohibited by PASPA. To be clear, because this comes up later, PASPA has two main provisions: Section 3701(1), which prevents states from sponsoring or permitting or promoting sports betting and Section 3702(2), which makes it illegal for individuals to do the same thing if a state ignores the first part and allows sports betting anyway. Because New Jersey law now “permitted” sports betting, the NCAA challenged New Jersey’s right to do that.
New Jersey defended its new law primarily under the “anti-commandeering doctrine.” At its simplest, the anti-commandeering doctrine says that while Congress can pass laws within its enumerated powers that preempt state law in various ways—say, through exclusive regulatory authority on immigration or pensions—they can’t literally direct a state to do something. This is why Trump can go ahead and get really mad online about sanctuary cities but can’t actually do anything about those infuriating sanctuary cities beyond live-tweeting Fox News segments about how infuriating they are. Basically, San Francisco can’t keep ICE from arresting people, but also ICE can’t force SFPD to arrest anyone on an ICE warrant. The last time this made it to SCOTUS, it was when the federal government tried to pass off the responsibility and expense for doing background checks on gun purchases to local police. Good federalists that they are, the anti-commandeering doctrine is the kind of thing that the current SCOTUS majority likes.
Anyway, the NCAA and the feds tried to defend PASPA by saying that the law didn’t require New Jersey to do anything, because sports betting was already illegal. It only required New Jersey to freeze its laws and never change them. This distinction without a difference is exactly as stupid as it sounds, but for some reason the lower courts bought it. Even Justice Ginsburg’s dissent doesn’t bother arguing that this is a reasonable reading of the anti-commandeering doctrine. The NCAA made other similar arguments along these lines, but you don’t want to hear them and also the Court brushed them off for roughly the same reasons.
After this, the case gets a even more obscure, because once the Court decided, more or less by acclimation, that after striking the part of 3702(1) keeping New Jersey from “allowing” sports betting, the next question for the Court was what about the rest of the statute, like whether states could “sponsor” sports lotteries, or Section 3702(2), which said “even if the states happen to make this legal for an individual to do this, you still definitely can’t.” This part broke the Court into four different opinions, and friends if you think anti-commandeering doctrine is tedious, wait until I tell you about severability. I will do this one in bullet points:
Alito, with Roberts, Kennedy, Thomas, Kagan, and Gorsuch agreed that if Congress knew the challenged parts of 3702(1) were unconstitutional, they never would have passed the rest of the statute, and therefore the whole thing is also unconstitutional. The analysis the majority engages in here is an extended counterfactual hypothetical that is effectively SCOTUS saying “nah.” Six votes, though.
Thomas, in his quirky tricorn-hat way, concedes that Supreme Court precedent operates basically the way Alito says it does, so he joins the majority opinion, but then spends the better part of five pages on an interesting philosophical argument that the entire doctrine of severability and the ways in which courts invalidate statutes—and have done since roughly the late 1800’s—is incompatible with textualism, standing, and the separation of powers. It would make a good law review article but also even the rest of the Supreme Court will never care, so let’s just consider it noted.
Breyer agreed with Alito on everything but the severability of 3702(2), so he wrote about that for a little bit, but he basically just agrees with Alito on the main challenge but with Ginsburg on severability.
Ginsburg and Sotomayor argue that since the federal government can clearly prohibit sports betting under the interstate commerce clause, 3702(2) is a reasonable exercise of that power, has an independent logic, and is therefore severable and constitutional.
One thing everyone agrees with, though, is that if Congress wanted to make sports betting illegal—which, contra whatever tweets you’ve seen, this decision does not do—it absolutely could. Some justices would quibble about what constitutes interstate commerce, the same way they argued about it in the context of intrastate marijuana farming for legal medical use, but in general, the federal government can make sports betting illegal, but it can’t make the states make sports-betting illegal under state law.
The upshot here is this: after the decision, two types of lawyers immediately sprung into action. First, every casino and racetrack operator in New Jersey started working on a license application to the New Jersey Gaming Commission to add a sportsbook. Second, the NCAA and every professional sports league in the country—possibly over Mark Cuban’s objection—have reengaged the lobbyists that pushed PASPA through the first time. This time, though, the ask is bigger: they’re going to ask Congress to pass a broad federal anti-sports gambling prohibition. For the integrity of the game. For the children. For … well, you already know why.