Chargers lose first round in ‘Fight for L.A.’

cha mkltp 1 for gold bkgd rgbThe Chargers lost the first skirmish in their self-described “Fight for LA.”

Not only did the Los Angeles Chargers drop their NFL preseason opener, 48-17 to the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday, but the team’s first game at StubHub Center attracted less than a sellout crowd.

Not that a sellout crowd would’ve been all that difficult to produce. StubHub Center, in beautiful Carson, Calif., is a soccer stadium, home to the MLS Los Angeles Galaxy, and holds only 27,000. Perspective is everything here. To give you an idea of how big (or small) 27,000 is, it’s two Dodgers crowds.

But in their first game back in Los Angeles (the Chargers played their first season in L.A. in 1960 before moving to San Diego), didn’t even reach the 27,000 sellout figure. An announced crowd of 21,054 was on hand for the Chargers’ first game.

Note: Whenever they call it an “announced crowd,” it’s because it looks like considerably less than what they announced. The word “crowd” is probably a little suspect, too. “Gathering” or “assembly” might be more accurate. Or maybe “sewing circle.”

But when your “announced crowd” still isn’t even anything close to the capacity number at an NFL stadium that holds only 27,000, you’ve got problems. The next smallest NFL stadium is Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum at 53,286. The Raiders have announced plans to leave for Las Vegas after the 2018 season.

Like we said, perspective is everything. The night before the Chargers drew 21,054, the Galaxy had 25,667 see it lose 2-0 to New York City FC. This season, the Galaxy is averaging 23,167 in its 12 games at StubHub during one of its worst seasons in recent memory.

It should be noted that the Chargers have gussied up their new stadium as well as they can and certainly in a smaller venue, you are much closer to the action. There are premium locations to watch the game and even “cabanas” to go into in case you’re more interested in drinking than you are in watching the Chargers. Or in case watching the Chargers drives you to drink.

It should also be noted that on Saturday, the Los Angeles Rams, who returned to L.A. from St. Louis last season, drew 62,888 for their preseason debut against the Dallas Cowboys at the Coliseum. And the Rams were 4-12 last year.

The Rams and Chargers are both scheduled to inhabit a sparkling new 70,000-seat stadium in Inglewood in 2020.

In the meantime, three seasons may seem like 30 at StubHub Center to the Chargers, who went 5-11 in 2016.

I’ve covered a high school football state championship game at StubHub Center. Even high school football seemed like a stretch for the stadium then. The press facilities, obviously, have been improved since then, but back then there wasn’t even enough room for someone to walk behind a person who was seated in the press box.

Of the NFL’s 31 venues, 17 are called “stadiums,” as in Arrowhead Stadium or AT&T Stadium. Ten are called “fields,” as in Lambeau Field or Soldier Field. Two (L.A. and Oakland) are called “coliseums.” and one is called the Superdome.

Only one is called “center.”

“Center” is great if you’re an NBA team. In the NBA, 17 of its 29 arenas are called “center” (or in Toronto, “centre”). But in the NFL, you should play in a “stadium” or a “coliseum” or in something “super.”

The Chargers will, eventually. But if Sunday’s Los Angeles debut is any indication, not very many may care.

THE WEEK JUST PAST

Now, while counting my announced crowd on one hand, here’s a look at the week just past:

  • The real “fight for L.A.” came last week when the Rams and Chargers scrimmaged in Orange County. The large-scale brawl started when Rams cornerback Trumaine Johnson shoved Chargers receiver Dontrelle Inman. During that scuffle, Rams cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman ran onto the field to defend his teammate and was taken down by Chargers receiver Keenan Allen. It was a fight that would’ve been unlikely to happen in the regular season and never would’ve gone on that long.
  • Speaking (again) of the fight for L.A., it would be interesting to see which TV station had the biggest ratings over the weekend: Channel 2 for the Rams, Channel 7 for the Chargers — or Channel 5 for the Raiders. Only thing was the Raiders were tape-delayed. Apparently, they didn’t want to hurt the attendance coming in from L.A.
  • Chris Sale has had a great season pitching for the Boston Red Sox. It seems like so long ago when he was with the Chicago White Sox and was suspended for five games for cutting up a bunch of throwback jerseys merely because he didn’t want to wear one. If he couldn’t wear them, then neither could anyone else. Like we said, it seems so long ago, but it was just over a year ago.
  • The Washington Nationals are breathing a sigh of relief after their slugger, Bryce Harper, sustained only a bruised knee after slipping on the bag at first base over the weekend. The play looked like every ligament in his leg would wind up in Baltimore.
  • Scott Boras, Harper’s agent said Major League Baseball must take steps to ensure that wet, slick bases aren’t a safety hazard in rainy weather. They must do this, apparently, to make sure Boras doesn’t lose any money.
  • Speaking of the Nationals, it was great to see former Angel and Dodger Howie Kendrick hit a walk-off grand-slam home run in the 11th inning Sunday night to beat the San Francisco Giants.
  • Ben Zobrist of the Chicago Cubs said — after striking out, of course — that he would like to see an electronic strike zone in the major leagues. “If we want to change something like that, we’re going to have an electronic strike zone because human beings are going to make mistakes,” Zobrist told ESPN. He’s sure to get plenty of calls his way from umpires now.
  • Wisconsin and Notre Dame announced they will play football at Green Bay’s Lambeau Field in 2020 and at Chicago’s Soldier Field in 2021. This will be news in three years.
  • Boxer Floyd Mayweather fights mixed martial artist(?) Conor McGregor Saturday, Aug. 26 in Las Vegas. For those of you wondering, like my wife was, it’s a boxing match. No grappling. No judo. No pummeling. No artistry. Also, for those of you wondering, it will be an incredibly overblown event.

Bring your requests to God; accept His will and peace

Three weeks ago, I wrote about prayer instead of sports. Prayer is something I think about a lot these days, in my journey toward the next chapter in my life, so I hope you’ll bear with me. This week I want to sort of “fine-tune” a few things about prayer.

prayerDo you ever feel as if you don’t know what to pray for in a certain situation? Or even how to pray?

Sometimes it’s baffling. We want to pray the way God would have us pray, but it’s not always clear exactly what that means.

Should we pray for what we want, even though what we want might not be what God has in mind for us? Should we only pray for God’s will with no specifics about what we would like to see happen? And even if we do pray, does it really make any difference since God not only already knows what’s on our hearts, but how it’s all going to turn out anyway?

Sometimes even when we turn to God’s Word to try to find the answers to these questions, we can still come away not understanding exactly what we need to do.

Are you praying right now about serious health issues, either for loved ones or for yourself? How do you pray for something like that?

You quite naturally would hope for that person or for you to be fully restored to health and may well have the faith to believe God could do that.

In Philippians 4:6, the apostle Paul says, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

That’s a wonderful promise. Giving your anxieties over to God and experiencing His peace is a relief. Even in the darkest times, the peace of God surpasses all comprehension. With God, anything is possible. God can do anything within His will.

Here’s the thing we may not want to face: It may not be in God’s will for that health to be restored. It may instead be in God’s will for that person to be called home.

That’s a hard fact to deal with, but Jesus Christ, who underwent every kind of trial we could ever face, dealt with the same thing Himself. On the same night He was betrayed by Judas, Jesus was praying in the Garden of Gethsemane.

In Mark 14:34-36, Jesus had just told His disciples His soul was “deeply grieved to the point of death”:

“And He went a little beyond them, and fell to the ground and began to pray that if it were possible, the hour might pass Him by. And He was saying, ‘Abba! Father! All things are possible for You; remove this cup from Me; yet not what I will, but what You will.’ ”

Jesus acknowledges that God can do all things and then asks that He might be spared from having to die the gruesome death He knew was ahead. Then Jesus submits to the Father’s will instead of His own, knowing that God’s will is perfect, even for Him.

It’s the perfect example of how to pray in times of crisis. God, as Paul has stated, wants to hear our requests and wants to give us His peace. Even Jesus went to the Father with His desperate plea, but He received God’s peace by submitting to His will.

A perfect example for imperfect people. We often think we know exactly what God should do, or at least what we would do if we were God. But we’re not God. There is only one God and He is sovereign over us.

Why does God do the things He does? Why does His will sometimes seem wrong to us? We won’t know until we are with Him in heaven. We need to be content in knowing that God is in control of everything, that none of our crises are a surprise to Him, and that even if what we believe to be the absolute worst happens, God is still Ruler over all.

Be anxious for nothing. Pray and let God know what’s on your heart. Then accept the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, knowing it will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Hating to wait on the Olympics, but it’s for a good cause

Pourquoi devons-nous attendre?

(Why must we wait?)

Yeah. Pourquoi?

Why does France get to go first? Why do we have to wait and go second?

Los_Angeles_Memorial_Coliseum_(Entrance)
The Los Angeles Coliseum will host its third Olympics in 2028.

It was learned Monday the International Olympic Committee plans to take the unusual step of awarding two Summer Olympics at once, giving the 2024 Games to Paris and the 2028 Games to Los Angeles.

Originally, L.A. and Paris were competing only for the 2024 Games, but the IOC decided, with two strong candidates, it would give 2024 to one city and 2028 to the other.

As the Los Angeles Times reported Monday, “it has been expected that L.A. would agree to go second, if only because local bid officials expressed a willingness to consider the option. Paris officials, by contrast, had consistently pushed back against waiting another four years.”

First of all, it’s great that the Olympics are coming back to Los Angeles. After hosting them in 1932 and 1984, it will become only the third city to have hosted three Summer Games, joining London and, yes, Paris.

But it could’ve — and should’ve — been the second. L.A. is much more prepared to host the Games than Paris. Much of what is needed to host the Games is already in place in Los Angeles whereas Paris is likely to have to build a good share of its structures.

Doesn’t it make more sense to give the Games that are coming up sooner to the city that can be ready quicker? Doesn’t that seem like a formula to bring about the most success for the Olympics in general?

Leave it to the French to get all up in a huff, excuse me, soyez insulté, about not being first in line.

“Je sais quand je ne suis pas voulu (I know when I’ve been insulted),” said the French. “Je prends mes jouets et je rentre chez moi (I’m taking my toys and going home).”

The decision to make L.A. wait another four years — from something that is seven years from now to something that is 11 years from now — is difficult for people all excited about getting the Olympics here as soon as possible. But the practicality of waiting four more years is undeniable.

First, let’s not understate the idea that U.S. politics could be in a vastly different place than they are now. There are certainly plenty of people around the world who would find the vision of President Donald Trump opening the Olympic Games to be completely abhorrent. If Trump were to win re-election in 2020 and the Games were here in 2024, it would be he who would be at the Coliseum or at the new Inglewood stadium declaring open the Games of the XXXIII Olympiad. Waiting until 2028 could make the rest of the world feel much better about the Games being in the United States.

Or, as the French would say, “Votre président est un ninny.”

The biggest advantage to Los Angeles being willing to postpone its party is financial. The IOC is willing to give L.A. significant concessions in ways the IOC usually doesn’t do. For instance, it plans to contribute $1.7 billion of its broadcast and sponsorship revenues to Paris in 2024. That contribution could increase to $2 billion by the time we get to 2028.

The 1984 Los Angeles Olympics were famous for the legacy they left with the surplus they had after they concluded. Well, to be more to the point, they were famous just for having a surplus. “Vous plaisantez (You’re kidding),” said the French. The surplus was, and still is, used to fund youth programs in Southern California.

Ever since then, Olympic Games have operated in the red. The IOC has a contingency plan for host cities to help with overruns and are not available until the Games are over. But the Times said the IOC plans to give L.A. a $180 million interest-free loan right away to help the organizing committee’s operations for an additional four years and to start helping youth sports.

The actual contingency fund, more than $487 million, would become a surplus if the L.A. Games can once again come in at or under budget. That would bring even more money to the youth of Southern California.

So, while I’d selfishly prefer to see an L.A. Olympics in 2024 when I’d be 68, it’s much better for the greater good if I wait until 2028 when I’m 72.

Seventy-two?

Sainte vache!

Holy cow!

Kershaw’s injury is no reason to back away from Dodgers now

Clayton Kershaw looks on during batting practice.
Could the Dodgers’ dominant 2017 season be derailed by Clayton Kershaw’s back injury? (Arturo Pardavila III photo)

Maybe it was too good to be true. Is Clayton Kershaw’s back injury the thing that brings the Dodgers back to earth? Or will this just be part of an amazing story or perseverance that will culminate in their first world championship since 1988?

The Chavez Ravine feel-good movie of the summer took a sudden genre change toward horror in the past week. Not only did the Dodgers lose (gasp!) two games in a row for the first time since June 5-6 on Thursday and Friday against the 47-50 Atlanta Braves, but Kershaw (15-2, 2.04 ERA, 0.88 WHIP) is headed to the disabled list after reinjuring his back Sunday. Reports say he could be out 4-6 weeks.

Already you can hear the millennial bandwagon jumpers at Dodger Stadium whining: “Oh, noooo! Nobody said people might get injured or that the Dodgers might actually lose a game I went to!”

Look, folks. The Dodgers were 68-31 going into Monday night’s game against the Minnesota Twins, the best record in the majors by 2½ games and the National League’s best by eight. In the NL West, they lead Colorado by 10½ games and Arizona by 11½.

Every conceivable break has gone the Dodgers’ way at this point. It would be foolish to think at least a little adversity wouldn’t pop up at some point.

But understandably, this isn’t just a little adversity. This is very significant. Kershaw is just about as close to a guaranteed win as there is in baseball. Even though his Dodgers teammate, Alex Wood, is 11-1 with a 2.17 ERA and an opponents’ batting average of .188 (Kershaw’s is .197), Wood still doesn’t instill nearly as much confidence in the Dodgers and their fans as Kershaw does.

(By the way, Wood’s record was 11-0 and his ERA was 1.56 before Atlanta beat him Friday.)

This isn’t the first time Kershaw has had back trouble. He missed 2½ months last season with a herniated disk. It’s noteworthy that the Dodgers played well in his absence and wound up winning their fourth straight NL West title.

After leaving Sunday’s game at the end of the second inning, Kershaw felt “just felt a little something in my back that wasn’t normal,” he said.

“I’ve done countless, countless hours of back maintenance and rehab just trying to stay healthy and felt really, really good up to this point. There’s definitely frustration, for sure.”

At the same time Kershaw goes on the disabled list, a second starter, Brandon McCarthy will join him there due to a blister.

All this happens a week before the trade deadline and even before Kershaw’s exit, the Dodgers were reported to have interest in right-hander Yu Darvish of the Texas Rangers.

The Dodgers’ ERA is the best in baseball and if Kershaw has to spend much time of the disabled list, that statistic will go up, but it will still be impressive. In addition, the offense has been jaw-dropping. It’s not a reach to say the Dodgers can keep up their safe margin in the standings even if they have to be without their ace for a while.

THE WEEK JUST PAST

Now, while checking the Billboard playlist to see if the Dodgers are singing I Only Have Eyes for Yu, let’s take a look at the week just past:

  • The Dodgers weren’t the only team to lose a starting pitcher Sunday. The Washington Nationals pulled Stephen Strasburg (10-3) with a 4-0 lead in the second inning because of “an achy forearm and tightness.” Of course, this potential injury isn’t as scary for the Nats as it once might have been because of Max Scherzer.
  • Perhaps it was only a matter of time, but the world champion Chicago Cubs finally overtook the Milwaukee Brewers in the NL Central standings after winning Sunday night. The Cubs’ margin, however, was only .001 going into Monday’s game against the White Sox.
  • As we said, the baseball trade deadline is looming next Monday. They say the best trades are the ones you don’t make, and almost none of the trades that are being rumored will be made. It takes a lot less to make a rumor than it does to make a trade.
  • Jordan Spieth’s remarkable turnaround in the final round of the British Open — one stroke behind after the 13th hole to a three-stroke victory — was one of the event’s most sensational performances. It certainly caught the attention of Jack Nicklaus:

  • I still believe The R&A is way too snooty when it insists on referring to its event as just “The Open.” There are too many “opens” out there, not the least of which is the U.S. Open. There’s no shame in calling it the British Open.
  • So there. Nyah, nyah, nyah.
  • Legendary Lakers coach John Kundla died Sunday at the age of 101. Legendary? Definitely. Kundla’s Lakers won six championships. And you never heard of him? You can probably be forgiven. Kundla’s titles came before the Lakers moved to Los Angeles, when they were still the Minneapolis Lakers. Those championships came not only in the NBA (1949, 1950, 1952, 1953, 1954), but also the league’s immediate predecessor, the National Basketball League in 1948. The star of the Lakers back then was 6-foot-10 center George Mikan.
  • Even though he was born in Pennsylvania, Kundla was a Minnesotan most of his life. The Lakers hired him from the College of St. Thomas in St. Paul and after coaching the Lakers from 1947 to 1959, he opted to stay in the state after the Lakers moved to L.A. and coach the University of Minnesota from 1959 to 1968.
  • No one should fault Kyrie Irving for wanting to be traded from the Cleveland Cavaliers so he can be the star somewhere else and escape from the shadow of LeBron James. However, making your request public when James himself knew nothing of it tarnishes your brand just a little bit.
  • It was downright comical to see the Lakers celebrate winning their Summer League championship as if it were the NBA Finals. But comedy right now is still what the Lakers do best.
  • By the way, if you see anything — anything — about LaVar Ball, Floyd Mayweather or Conor McGregor, don’t look at it. Just don’t look. Please.

Prayer: So personal, so powerful

(No sports today, folks. Instead, please read my essay on prayer. Thanks!)


It’s so amazing that God wants to hear from us. He wants us to pray, to come to Him with our needs, our wants, our joys, our sorrows. He wants to hear about our day, to hear about all the news, about what the kids are doing, about how much your parents are actually starting to make sense now that you’re all grown up (what a concept!). He wants to laugh with us, to cry with us.

prayerGod clings to every word we say to Him. Try to wrap your mind around that for a moment. The God of the universe wants to hear from us. Us, with all our imperfections, all our foibles and follies.

He certainly doesn’t have to. He could be a God who, after creating everybody and everything in the universe, might just sit back on His heavenly throne and spend His time looking down upon it all with pride. If you were God, wouldn’t you do that? I’m sure I would.

But that’s not our God. Our God is not only so infinite that He created the earth, the sun, the solar system and every planet in it, every star, every galaxy and the entire universe, He’s also so infinitely personal that He has numbered every hair on your head and knows about every care on your heart.

He cares about us as if we were the only thing He ever created.

Do you feel alone? Do you have things going on in your life you feel you can’t tell anyone about? Tell God. It’s not as if He doesn’t already know about it, but He longs to have you come to Him with it. He is your safe place, your shelter.

Max Lucado, in his book, Facing Your Giants, writes about the Psalms that David wrote and how often he uses the word “refuge” in them, more than 40 times:

“But never did David use the word more poignantly than in Psalm 57. The introduction to the passage explains its background: ‘A song of David when he fled from Saul into the cave.’ Lost in shadows and thought, he has nowhere to turn. Go home, he endangers his family; to the tabernacle, he imperils the priests. Saul will kill him. Here he sits. All alone. But then he remembers he’s not. And from the recesses of the cave a sweet voice floats:

“ ‘Be merciful to me, O God!

“ ‘For my soul trusts in You; and in the shadow of Your wings I make my refuge.’ (Psalm 57:1)

Lucado concludes with this: “Make God your refuge. Let Him be the foundation on which you stand!”

Joni Eareckson Tada, the founder and CEO of the Joni and Friends International Disability Center, was left a quadriplegic by a diving accident 50 years ago this month at the age of 17. Since then, she has used her experience and the skills she learned after a long rehabilitation to help others in similar situations.

In one of her recent daily devotions, Tada remembered how much she leaned on Jesus Christ, especially in the time immediately following her injury:

“I recall times long ago in the hospital when Jesus came through as my friend. There were times when He was my one and only comfort during dark lonely nights after visiting hours. Friends or family weren’t allowed in, so I soothed my pain by imagining a visit from another Friend.

“I pictured Jesus — walking through the open doors of my hospital ward, His figure a silhouette against the light from the nurses’ station down the hall. My mind’s eye saw Him walking softly past the beds of my sleeping roommates. I’d comfort myself, imagining His standing at my bedside. The sharp pang of loneliness was eased as I thought of questions He might ask: ‘Tell me what happened in therapy today. Was it nice to see your sister earlier in the evening? Tell me all about it.’

“Talking with Jesus strengthened my confidence in Him, a friend who would ultimately see me through months of suicidal depression at the prospect of permanent paralysis. He was the one who lent a sympathetic ear, His eye contact never faltering.

“What a friend I have in Jesus. But I wonder … what kind of a friend does He have in me?

“Too often we stay at an arm’s-length distance, pulling back from the full intensity of an intimate friendship with the Lord. We satisfy ourselves with ‘less’ when it comes to our relationship with Him. But His love explodes our selfishness when we hear Him say, ‘I have called you friends [John 15:15].’ His love breaks our hearts as only an intimate friend can.”

Maybe you want to talk to God, but aren’t sure what to say. Or maybe your grief, despair or anger is so completely painful and debilitating, you don’t know how to express them. It’s important that you know this: The Holy Spirit is there for us, pleading our case before our Heavenly Father.

In Romans 8:26, the apostle Paul tells us, “the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.”

Does that describe how you feel? We can still come to God even in our weakest, most defeated, most ashamed moment and even when we know we can’t possibly even lift our heads before God, the Spirit will communicate for us to Him.

Two verses later, in Romans 8:28, Paul continues: “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.”

An important thing in prayer is to turn ourselves over to God’s will. Prayer isn’t an Amazon wish list. While it’s perfectly fine to present our needs and even our wants to God, we need to understand that God is sovereign and that it is His will that will be done.

Even Jesus, when He prayed at the Garden of Gethsemane shortly before His arrest, submitted to the Father’s will. Jesus “fell on His face and prayed, saying, ‘My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as You will.’ ” (Matthew 26:39)

Jesus, being as human as you and I, did not want to suffer the pain of His beatings and crucifixion and asked that if it was possible, to have it taken away. But He still recognized He should submit to His Father’s will.

Back in Romans, Paul sums up his point by saying this in 8:31: “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us?”

Indeed, who could stand against us if God is for us?

Romans 8 concludes with this powerful statement in verses 35-39:

“Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Just as it is written,

“ ‘For Your sake we are being put to death all day long;

“ ‘We were considered as sheep to be slaughtered.’

“But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Prayer, such an intimate, personal thing, brings us in contact with the most powerful Friend we could ever have.

Finally! All-Star Game goes back to being an exhibition

This time it doesn’t count! This is a time of great rejoicing and merriment, with dancing in the streets, parades and hoopla.

Well, all right. I suppose that might be going a little bit overboard, but there should still be at least some quiet celebration. Major League Baseball has finally come to its senses.

Mlb-asg-2017This year’s All-Star Game will have absolutely nothing to do with which team gets to host Game 7 of this year’s World Series.

At long last. Our long national nightmare is over.

For the first time in 15 years, the All-Star Game will once again be what it was truly meant to be: an exhibition. Nothing more, nothing less.

In every one of those 15 years, I’ve written columns (you know, back when I got paid for doing that) condemning the idea of giving home-field advantage in the World Series to the league winning the All-Star Game.

You can tell how much impact I had. Hey, you give me 15 years to champion a cause and eventually the people in charge will listen to other more prominent people and make a change. Don’t mess with me, buster.

In case you’re not familiar with this whole journey, in case you’re not a big baseball fan, in case you’re reading this column just because you’re one of my friends and you’re being nice, here’s the backstory:

In 2002 at the All-Star Game in Milwaukee, the American and National leagues played to a 7-7 tie in 11 innings. At this stage of All-Star Game history, it had really devolved into becoming more important to get all the players into the game than to win it. In fact, much of the time, once a player had been in the game and replaced, they were gone. Gone out of the dugout, out of the clubhouse, out to the airport to catch a flight home.

In Milwaukee, AL manager Joe Torre and NL manager Bob Brenly had run out of pitchers after the 11th inning and so commissioner Bud Selig declared the game would end in a tie.

This was a source of embarrassment for Selig, who lives in Milwaukee and was instrumental in bringing the Brewers to the city. MLB and the players union came to an agreement that, starting with the 2003 game, home-field advantage in the World Series would be given to the league winning the All-Star Game.

Of course, this still didn’t guarantee the All-Star Game wouldn’t end in a tie, but managers were instructed to hold back some players in case the game was still in doubt in the late innings.

The World Series rule did make the All-Star Game more competitive, but integrity and pride should’ve made it that way all along.

In its publicity for the ’03 game, Fox started using the phrase “This time it counts,” as if to say, all the other All-Star Games before this one were meaningless. Why did you even bother watching them? What saps you were!

The All-Star Game was created in 1933 by, of all people, a sportswriter. Arch Ward, the sports editor of the Chicago Tribune, put the game together as part of the 1933 Chicago World’s Fair. It was literally an exhibition at an exhibition. While a natural rivalry grew between the two leagues, it was never meant to be super competitive in the first place. The All-Star Game was, and is, just a little higher in competitive significance than a spring training game.

Of course, being Americans, we want a winner, and so the members of Tuesday night’s winning team in Miami will each receive $20,000. The losers get nothing. Don’t worry: They’re professional athletes; it’s not as sad as it sounds.

As for the World Series, before 2003 the leagues simply alternated home-field advantage. That was also a lame idea, one made back when travel considerations couldn’t be as spontaneous as they can be now. So starting this year, the team with the better record will have home-field advantage, a concept used in every other major pro league and one that should make the World Series better.

Everybody wins. That should count for something.

THE WEEK JUST PAST

Now, while wondering what I’ll write about before next year’s All-Star Game, here’s a look at the week just past:

  • If you’re like me (and already this is unlikely), you’re marveling at the Dodgers’ 61-29 record at the All-Star break and at the same time, you’re a little horrified by it. How is this possible? How can there be stories at this point of the season wondering if the Dodgers — the Dodgers — can win 110 games?
  • Mariners 116 wins
    The 2001 Seattle Mariners won 116 games, but didn’t even get to the World Series.

    However, here’s a cautionary tale: The 2001 Seattle Mariners tied the major league record, winning 116 games. They led the league in most runs scored and fewest runs allowed. They beat Cleveland in the Division Series — then lost to the Yankees in the Championship Series, four games to one. I’m not telling you to be a pessimist, I’m just warning you to never be too optimistic.

  • It is nice, however, to see the Dodgers get six players onto the NL All-Star team: Clayton Kershaw, Alex Wood, Justin Turner, Kenley Jansen, Cody Bellinger and Corey Seager. That’s just what they deserve.
  • It’s especially nice since it came after Jansen called out Dodgers fans last week for not voting for his teammates. Jansen, who later clarified that the Dodgers have great fans, never otherwise backed away from his comment. And while he’s still right, it did play a part in getting Turner in as the winner of the Final Five vote.
  • The Home Run Derby is Monday night in Miami and Chris Berman won’t be calling it on ESPN. Berman has semiretired, spending most of his network life on the NFL. Taking his place will be the more subdued Karl Ravech. Maybe we can watch with the sound up this year.
  • Still, if Ravech doesn’t do just one “Back, back, back,” as a tribute, he’ll be missing the mark.
  • They call the second Monday at Wimbledon “Manic Monday.” That’s because the tournament takes the second Sunday as a day of rest and has to play a lot of matches the next day to catch up. Just like the rest of us.
  • This whole 2024 or 2028 thing between the Los Angeles and Paris Olympic committees is coming to a head. I hope L.A. gets the ’24 Games. I’d just like to see the U.S. host the Olympics again in my lifetime. Literally.
  • Vin Scully will be honored at Wednesday night’s ESPYs with its Icon award, according to Sporting News. The Icon Award goes to “individuals whose careers have left a lasting impression” on sports.
  • The SEC is staging its football media days this week, before any other conference. The Orlando Sentinel says, “No other league can even come close to the buzz generated” by the media days. That’s just what the SEC needs: more buzz.

John McEnroe, you cannot be serious about Serena Williams

Shyness is something from which John McEnroe has never suffered.

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John McEnroe had to backpedal after his comments about Serena Williams. (ESPN photo)

Last Sunday on NPR’s Weekend Edition (not a place you usually go for sports news), McEnroe got into a little hot water over his comments about Serena Williams.

McEnroe told host Lulu Garcia-Navarro, as he also says in his new book But Seriously, that Williams is the “best female player in the world.” But “if she played the men’s circuit she’d be like [No.] 700 in the world.” That prompted a Twitter rebuff from Williams and criticism elsewhere.

In a conference call with reporters this week in advance of ESPN’s Wimbledon coverage, which starts Monday, McEnroe said he could have chosen his words more wisely.

“It would have been better not to have said it. I didn’t realize it would create something like this,” he said. “It would have been easier to leave it. Look, she’s a great player and it’s apples and oranges.”

He’s right. It’s different. Men and women both play tennis, but it’s obviously a different game with different styles, different strategies, different levels of power, even different rules with men playing best of five sets and women best of three.

Still, Williams’ play has been so dominant, it’s hard not to think she could beat quite a few men. However, McEnroe could’ve found a better way to express his opinion. In addition to shyness, McEnroe has also never suffered from an overabundance of tact. While trying to compliment Williams, he wound up belittling her.

“This is not something that has been earth-shattering, that I feel there’s a difference in the level of the women and the men,” he told the reporters, “though I was trying to say how great I thought Serena was and how good she’s been for American tennis.

Tennis, of course, had its famous “Battle of the Sexes” at the Houston Astrodome in 1973, in which Billie Jean King, 29, defeated Bobby Riggs, 55, and it seems as if tennis — even with its mixed doubles format — has always been interested in comparing men to women.

“I don’t think it’s relevant,” McEnroe said. “That’s part of the frustration that I’m having, that people keep talking about it. It doesn’t seem like we hear about it in other sports. I know Bobby Riggs played Billie Jean [44] years ago, but I continue to sort of not understand why this is such a topic of conversation. If so, have the men and women play together. If the women want to do that, if that would be good for tennis, I’m all for trying things that would be good for tennis. I don’t understand why tennis seems to be the only sport that this is talked about.”

CHANGING LANES

NASCAR telecasts shift over to NBC this weekend for the Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway. The race starts at 4:30 p.m. PDT Saturday on NBC, but it’s a good idea to tune in a little earlier at 4.

NBC will have a prerace essay on Dale Earnhardt Jr., who will be in his final race at Daytona. The essay will be voiced by Ken Squier, legendary NASCAR broadcaster and 2018 NASCAR Hall of Fame member.

You know Earnhardt, but you may not know that Squier helped convince CBS executives in 1979 that people would watch wire-to-wire coverage of the Daytona 500.

“It was a tough sell,” Squier said then. “There was a general feeling that this was more of a novelty thing and that it wouldn’t work on a national level.”

But January was a slow time for sports back then and the ’79 Daytona 500 was helped by an East Coast snowstorm that kept people inside. Also helping was an infamous postrace fistfight between Cale Yarborough and Bobby Allison. It was fascinating television and helped cement NASCAR as a TV staple.

WINNING THE WORLD

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Florida swept LSU to win the College World Series (ESPN photo)

The College World Series finals, with Florida sweeping LSU, drew an average of 1.9 million viewers in “total live audience” (TV and streaming), according to ESPN.

The network said it was the second most watched sweep in finals history and the most watched since 2014.

The viewership is up 72% from the 2016 finals, which went to a decisive third game, and up 32% from the last finals sweep in 2013.

The entire 16-game CWS averaged a total live audience of 1.1 million viewers, the highest since 2014 and up 56% from last year.

BETTER THINGS TO DO

Times are getting rougher for sports cable networks as audiences dwindle.

SportsBusiness Daily reports a big majority of the networks had declining viewership in the second quarter of this year. The only network to increase from last year was NFL Network, which was boosted by its coverage of the NFL draft.

NBCSN had total-day increases, but its prime-time audience was down 5% and at its lowest level since 2012, despite NHL playoff game coverage.

ESPN had its lowest second-quarter viewership since 2013, despite NBA playoff coverage. The network was down 9% from last year, but was still the No. 6 cable network overall. ESPN2 was down 17% in prime time and down 31% overall, ESPNU was down 10% and 19%. Fox Sports 1 was down 30% and 15%.

UP & DOWN THE DIAL

The BIG3 three-on-three basketball league had 398,000 viewers in its first national telecast Monday on FS1. … The NBA draft had 3.42 million viewers Thursday on ESPN, up 14% from last year, according to SBD, but 9% below the top viewership record from 2015. … The NBA Summer League starts Saturday with four games from Orlando on NBA TV at 8 a.m., 10 a.m., noon and 2 p.m. … Yahoo Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski is joining ESPN as an NBA analyst. … Showtime announced the start of a project on the NBA’s “impact on global popular culture,” to be shown in 2018, headed by LeBron James, Maverick Carter and Gotham Chopra. If nothing else, it’ll at least have three of the most interesting and/or strangest names in TV history. …

The Tour de France starts at 6 a.m. Saturday on NBCSN with a 5 p.m. repeat. … The U.S. Swimming Championships will air at 10 a.m. Saturday and Sunday on NBC. … The Manny Pacquiao-Jeff Horn fight from Brisbane, Australia, will be shown at 7 p.m. Saturday on ESPN and ESPN Deportes. It’s the third of three fights. … The World Cup of Softball starts Wednesday and ESPN has just signed a multiyear contract to show it. The first U.S. game is at 4 p.m. next Thursday against Canada. … Where’s Joe Davis this week? In San Diego with the Dodgers on SportsNet LA. The Fox Saturday Baseball” game this week at 4 p.m. will be Yankees-Astros, shown to 73% of the nation. …

NESN, the regional network that shows Boston Red Sox games, had originally intended to show taped coverage of the roast for the retired David Ortiz, but the jokes told by the roasters, including New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski, were so filled with profanity, vulgarity and extremely poor taste (including about former Patriot Aaron Hernandez, who recently committed suicide in prison), the network had to cancel it.