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Sports Week in Review (7/27/15 - 8/02/15)

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1) The Blue Jays and Royals win big in the days leading up to the MLB Trade Deadline.

At 4:00 pm on Friday, the MLB trade period officially came to an end. Teams were incredibly active in the week leading up to the July 31st deadline. Some sought to improve by landing key pieces in preparation for a postseason push, while others looked beyond 2015 and towards the future.

The Toronto Blue Jays and Kansas City Royals belong to the former group. They won BIG.

The Jays acquired five-time all-star and 2012 Cy Young winner David Price, and upgraded at the shortstop position by swapping José Reyes (.285 BA, 4 HR, 34 RBI) for Troy Tulowitzki (.300 BA, 13 HR, 56 RBI). Not to mention, they added serviceable outfielder Ben Revere and relievers Mark Lowe and LaTroy Hawkins. If the Jays can stay healthy—which is a big if for them, especially with Bautista and Tulo—they have a great chance of catching the Yankees and winning the AL East.

The Royals were already one of the best teams in the American League before July 31st. Now, they are serious favorites to win the World Series. The reigning AL champions acquired Reds’ ace Johnny Cueto and A’s veteran Ben Zobrist, each of whom have been impressive so far. Cueto gave up three runs over six innings in his first outing, while Zobrist has two home runs and four RBIs in three games. With Cueto significantly bolstering their starting rotation and Zobrist adding a much-needed bat to their lineup, the Royals won’t have to rely completely on their dominant relief pitching (2.27 ERA, which leads the MLB) to achieve postseason glory.

The AL West-leading Astros landed Scott Kazmir and Carlos Gomez to try to help make their World Series dreams a reality. The Mets finally picked up a few bats (Yoenis Cespedes, Juan Uribe, and Kelly Johnson), as well as A’s closer Tyler Clippard to give their phenomenal starting pitching some room to breathe.

The Cardinals boosted their bullpen by acquiring Steve Cishek and Jonathan Broxton, while the Angels added depth to their outfield with the acquisitions of Shane Victorino, David Murphy, and David DeJesus. And of course, the Texas Rangers traded for lefty ace Cole Hamels who will be a centerpiece in the team’s semi-rebuilding plan.

The Dodgers, who usually look to hit the jackpot during the trade deadline period, didn’t make any huge splashes. Instead, they acquired two low-risk, high-reward pitchers in Mat Latos and Alex Wood. Expect them to settle into LAD’s rotation nicely behind the dominant 1-2 punch of Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke.

The Yankees were surprisingly quiet before the trade deadline. Despite rumors that the Yanks would jump on a star reliever like Aroldis Chapman or Craig Kimbrel, no deals ever materialized. Instead, they acquired utility man Dustin Ackley. And that was it. Protecting their aging line-up and injury-prone (and unreliable) pitching stuff would have benefited the Yankees greatly. With the top American League teams getting better and the Yanks staying relatively the same, I don’t see the Yankees making a deep playoff run.

The Tigers are clearly in re-building mode after they unloaded David Price and Yoenis Cespedes. The Phillies are in a similar position, trading away Hamels, outfielder Ben Revere, and closer Jonathan Papelbon. Also looking to start anew are the Brewers who shipped Carlos Gomez, Aramis Ramirez, and Gerardo Parra elsewhere.

2) The NFL upholds Tom Brady’s suspension; “Deflategate” will be taken to federal court.

The ghost of last year’s AFC Championship continues to haunt the New England Patriots. On Tuesday, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell struck down his Thor-like hammer by upholding Tom Brady’s four-game ban. Brady was suspended for tampering (i.e. deflating) with footballs used in the Pats’ slaughtering of the Baltimore Ravens in the 2015 playoffs, and apparently for purposefully destroying potential evidence (his cell phone) in the NFL’s investigation.

Now the NFLPA will take Goodell’s decision to court in the hopes of receiving an injunction that legally permits Brady to take the field opening night.

The whole situation is a mess and has been from the start. It’s difficult to sort just how guilty the Patriots are of anything, which is due in part to the media constantly inundating us with news about “Deflategate.”

But we do know a few things. Apparently, Aaron Rodgers is also guilty of messing with footballs. He’s admitted that he likes to over-inflate them, but clearly has never been “caught” or punished by the NFL. So even though what the Patriots are doing is wrong, many other teams and players tamper with footballs as well. If this is the case, then it seems Commissioner Roger Goodell, who’s notorious for mishandling important disciplinary issues (relating to domestic violence, drug use, and certain on-field indiscretions) may be attempting to set an example for those who violate the rules.

Either way, it’s not just the Patriots who lose because of “Deflategate.” The NFL and its fans do too.

3) The Arizona Cardinals hire Jen Welter to be a team coach; the Sacramento Kings hire Nancy Lieberman to be an assistant coach.

The movement continues!

Monday witnessed a major breakthrough for women in sports when the Arizona Cardinals brought on Jen Welter to be the first female coach in NFL history. While this is truly a landmark moment for the NFL, Welter is no stranger to taking a “men’s football league” by storm.

In 2014, the IFL’s (Indoor Football League’s) Texas Revolution signed Welter to be a running back. That’s right, a running back in all-male football league. Then in 2015, Welter became the Revolutions’ linebacker and special teams coach, making her the first female ever to coach in a professional men’s football league.

Now, she’s bringing her badassery to the NFL.

A few days after Welter revealed her good news, Nancy Lieberman announced that she’d been hired as an assistant coach for the Sacramento Kings. Lieberman, a member of the Basketball Hall of Fame, is the second female assistant coach in NBA history and only one of three female coaches in all of America’s major professional sports.

Lieberman follows in the footsteps of assistant coach Becky Hammon who joined the San Antonio Spurs’ staff last summer. It was Hammon’s hiring and Summer League success (leading the Spurs to a title), Lieberman believes, that encouraged an NBA organization to “take a chance” on her.

Welter, Lieberman, and Hammon—as well as their affiliated teams—deserve celebration. They’ve served as vital catalysts to a movement (i.e. the integration of women into professional sports) that will truly diversify American sports and add a fuller, more nuanced perspective to them.

Although it’s going to be a gradual process, expect more and more female coaches to emerge in “male sports” in years to come.

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4) NBA Africa Game

On Saturday morning in Johannesburg, Team World played Team Africa in the NBA’s first ever exhibition game in Africa, with Team World coming out on top, 101-97.

This was much more than a simple exhibition. The NBA was trying to build bridges with African teams and players, and was hoping to strengthen its relationship with a new emerging basketball market. This was evident when Hakeem Olajuwon and Dikembe Mutombo shed their business suits and checked into the game. Adam Silver, the NBA Commissioner, even hinted at the possibility of real NBA games being played on the African continent at some point.

5) Premier League Football

The EPL began today with Chelsea and Arsenal playing for the Community Shield. The match pitted last year’s F.A. Cup winner against the Capital One Cup winner. It was a decent match even though it was early in the season.

Arsenal controlled the first half, with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain scoring in the twenty-fourth minute on a beautiful left-footed shot. After that, the momentum swung in Chelsea’s favor, with the Blues raising their energy level trying to tie up the game.

Besides an Oscar free kick in the sixty-ninth minute, Petr Cech (who was making his debut for Arsenal, after playing for Chelsea last season), wasn’t tested much by Chelsea. Falcao made his debut for Chelsea, coming on at the half, but had little effect on the game. Arsenal won, 1-0, and retained the Community Shield.

6) Soccer Transfer Talk

The transfer window has warmed up, with more deals being finalized and less rumors flying around. The latest moves include Arturo Vidal being signed by Bayern Munich for €35 Million from Juventus, and Angel Di Maria leaving Manchester United for €63 Million to play for PSG (pending a physical).

There are also reports that Louis van Gaal has agreed to sell his prized goalkeeper, David De Gea, to Real Madrid, so details of that transfer should be coming soon. A pair of strikers have left Manchester City, with Stevan Jovetic going on loan to Inter Milan and Edin Dzeko being sold to Roma for €23 Million.

Finally, Didier Drogba completed his move to MLS, signing with the Montreal Impact.

Other Tidbits of News:

Ronda Rousey defeated Beth Correia at UFC 190 in thirty-four seconds.

Wrestling legend “Rowdy” Roddy Piper died of a heart attack on Friday. RIP Hot Rod.

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