A summer review, a fall preview

This column is for all those sports fans that were too busy backpacking around Europe, touring Southeast Asia or working those 12 hour-a-day i-banking internships to keep a keen eye on the world of sports – not to worry, here is a crash course in summer athletics. Truth be told, other than the World Cup, which had few highlights, and talks of an MLB player’s strike that was ultimately averted, there wasn’t very much going on in the realm of sports this past summer. But here are few noteworthy sports developments to remember as we embrace the fall season.

World Cup

This summer’s World Cup was a disappointment on many fronts; these include overall quality of play, general atmosphere, event organization, match officiating, you name it. It might sound cynical, but it’s true.

I’m not making excuses for the likes of Italy, Argentina, Spain and especially France, but it’s certainly not a coincidence that all these traditional soccer superpowers had abysmal performances. European competitions concluded a scant two weeks before the World Cup, which started a month earlier than is customary in an attempt to avoid the dreaded monsoon season in Japan/Korea. Naturally, the teams with more stars playing in European competitions were adversely affected. The Senegals and United States’ of the world have unquestionably improved their standard of play, but let’s not read too much into these upsets.

Meanwhile, the officiating was so atrocious that questions of conspiracies loomed. There were hundreds of empty seats at most games, including the quarterfinals, which is totally unheard of in World Cup play. Thankfully, at the end of the day we all saw flashes of breathtaking futbol in the Cup, and the world’s favorite team to watch won it all in fine style. Brazilia!!

College Football

After loosing a record 11 starters to the NFL draft, the Miami Hurricane’s superior talent pool still has them poised to return to the big dance. If they want to get there, however, they probably will have to go through Oklahoma, which is returning 15 of its 22 starters from last season. Also, keep a close eye on Ohio State and Notre Dame.

Pro Football

Speaking of making noise, Ricky Williams should be doing just that down south for the Dolphins, as should Warrick Dunn who is now an Atlanta Falcon. It should be an interesting AFC East clash when Drew Bledsoe, now a Buffalo Bill, suits up against his old team, the Patriots. While the Redskins offense has been getting all the attention – due to Steve Spurrier, naturally – what we really should be talking about is the fact that the Redskins defense might be the League’s best on paper, and that the Redskins also boast the man who is probably the best defensive coach in football, Marvin Lewis. It will be interesting to watch the Redskins week to week this season. After putting together a formidable expansion team, the Houston Texans could be in a position to turn some heads this season.

NBA

It wasn’t hard to predict how this past June’s playoffs were going to unfold, and if you still don’t know who won, you should probably just take a wild guess. Once again the Sacremento Kings found a way to lose, and consequently, Shaq and the Lakers found a way to win. Later on in the summer, Yao Ming and Jay Williams were selected one and two in the draft, going to the Rockets and the Bulls, respectively. Also this summer in the NBA there were myriad trades: Dikembe Mutombo is now with the Nets, while Keith Van Horn got sent to the Sixers. The Knicks got Antonio McDyess. The Kings got even better with the signing of Keon Clark, and after drafting college stars Jared Jefrries and Juan Dixon, the Wizards made serious backcourt improvements, bringing in Larry Hughes, Bryan Russell and Jerry Stackhouse. While we all know the deal in the West while Shaq is alive and well, the eastern conference got even more unpredictable, especially if MJ decides to play one more season.

There you have it, world sports 101 in its entirety. If you retained all of that, you have passed, and you are now back in the sports fraternity, and, more importantly, sufficiently prepared for this fall. If not, just start over.