Speeding into the holiday weekend, we have a spot or two open in the mailbag. Whatcha got?
From the "Talks too much" studios,
Despite an epic performance from keeper Tim Howard, the U.S. lost to Belgium 2-1 in extra time.
Howard was sublime. He had 16 saves — the most in World Cup play in 50 years — and kept an otherwise overwhelmed U.S. team in the game.
It was a fun ride, our every-four-year swing into soccer. We got to giggle with Jurgen, Jurgen, Jurgen. We got to share in the energy of an American underdog story, which is rare and special. We got to see a true artist in Howard, who was awesome throughout.
We also got to see that as a side, the U.S. is underskilled and outmanned. If Howard had not been standing on his head, the Americans would not have made it through the Group of Death. In truth, the best match for the U.S. was the tie against Portugal, and there were extended periods in every match where the opposition dominated play.
Still, it was fun and it leaves us wondering where soccer goes from here. Will this be a springboard for soccer to be more than every 48 months social lightning rod? Will it generate a legion of American fans, who currently if pressed on their favorite soccer team would say the U.S. and their 8-year-old's squads in various order? Will it take the momentum of the moment and multiply that with the multitudes of mini-sized match minions?
We'll see. So the ball is in soccer's pitch or court or field or tundra. It's part of the discussion today. Will it be next month or will this fade and in four years we'll rekindle these same discussions and hope Jurgen and Howard and the boys can keep re-ignite the moment?
We'll see, but we're far from confident.
We do know this: This was fun and if nothing catches from this springboard, we'll see you in four years, soccer. Take care and hurry back.
Your Atlanta Braves have a season-best six-game winning streak. Good times. Let's review.
The Good: The Braves bullpen in relief of a sluggish Mike Minor was simply outstanding. Four Braves relievers combined for 4.2 innings and allowed one single, no walks and fanned eight. The shutdown firm of Walden and Kimbrel recorded the final six outs of the game with Ks. Atlanta leads the NL East by half a game, and the team's overall ERA of 3.27 ranks fifth in baseball.
The bad: Not too much, especially right now. The Braves are winning in a variety of ways — heck, they stole three bases last night off Dice K — and have done a lot of this surge without Evan Gattis, who is on the DL with a bulging disk. (Side question: If your disk bulges for more than four hours, should you see your doctor immediately?)
The Uggla: Man, this is getting painful. Heck, clubbed baby seals feel sorry for Dan Uggla at this point. Dude is at .163 for the season after striking out (naturally) as a pinch-hitter in last night's win. Since April 22 — Happy Earth Day — Uggla has five singles in 57 at-bats and 21 Ks. Wow.
Whatcha doing Johnny
Johnny Football was partying with Justin Bieber.
You done yet Johnny?
We have been a Johnny Manziel supporter. We thought Cleveland made a good pick taking him — he has the most upside of any QB in the 2014 draft. We think he has a special gift and he's squirting it away (regardless whether he has a Porsche already with a quadraphonic Blaupunkt).
Hey, it's prerogative. He's of age. He's got his own money. He's a man, he's not yet 40!
But at what point is enough enough? At what point is this about the game that made you famous rather than playing the game of being famous?
And we'd have to believe that those questions are not confined to newspapers, sports talk shows and F-O-I-B sports rants. We'd bet those same questions are being asked in the front office of the Cleveland Browns, who suggested from the start that Manziel embrace being Johnny Back-up rather than Senor Football. We'd bet those same questions are being asked in the coaches' office and in the locker room.
Take Brett Favre, who was painting the A-T-L all shades of red early in his career before being run out of town. Dude was out every night, and if he had not been shipped to the quietest town in the NFL, he'd been out of the league inside of three years.
But he buckled down and became a Hall of Famer.
We're not saying Johnny Football is Brett Favre — Favre had one of the five or seven best arms in the history of the league for crying out loud — but we are saying Manziel has next to no chance in the NFL at his current pace.
This and that
Umpire Kader Nouni talks to Serena Williams, right, and Venus Williams of the U.S during their women's doubles match against Kristina Barrios of Germany and Stefanie Voegele of Switzerland at the All England Lawn Tennis Championships in Wimbledon, London, on Tuesday July 1, 2014. The Williams sisters retired after 3 games.
— The NBA free agency carousel is spinning. Tick, tock, Mr. Riley. And Senator, love the suit.
— Happy 50th birthday Jose Canseco. And in the craziest and filth that is the steroids era in baseball, Canseco actually may be the biggest truth teller in the whole mess. And yes, we need a shower after typing that.
— July 2 is an amazing date. On this date, Canseco, Lindsey Lohan, and Larry David among others were born. Also on this date: Marconi obtained a patent for the radio on this date 117 years ago; First Wal-Mart opened in 1962; LBJ signed the Civil Rights Act in 1964; Nostradamus died in 1566 (he knew it was coming right?), and Jimmy Stewart (1997) and Mario Puzo (1999) also died on this day. We're dealing with a lot of stuff.
— We're not the biggest tennis nut, but here's hoping Serena Williams is OK. She had to WD from a doubles match Tuesday with some sort of virus. She was unable to perform even the most basic tennis feats and it looked like some strange blend of illnes, three-sheets to the wind and vertigo.
With so many interesting tidbits on July 2 — it's also the birthday for Richard Petty and Bret Hart, so we could do nicknames, because The King and The Hitman are pretty good ones (although Thomas Hearns and Harley Race may have something to say about who gets which name).
We could Rushmore inventions — the radio is a pretty good one — or child star flameouts — Ms. Lohan is a contender.
If that's you feel, then feel away.
Still, here's another one, and we may include this in Thursday's TFP:
Finish this sentence (and you can have multiple sentences to explain your point):
Four years from now, U.S. soccer will be __.
Jay was named the Sports Editor of the Times Free Press in 2003 and started with the newspaper in May 2002 as the Deputy Sports Editor. He was born and raised in Smyrna, Ga., and graduated from Auburn University before starting his newspaper career in 1997 with the Newnan (Ga.) Times Herald. Stops in Clayton and Henry counties in Georgia and two years as the Sports Editor of the Marietta (Ga.) Daily Journal preceded Jay’s ...