Summer sports spotlight

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Summer brings multiple storylines from across the world of sports and can sometimes be difficult to keep track of, especially with so many offseason moves in the NFL and NBA. I will touch on multiple headlines that have been prominent of late:

The summer’s main focus has been in a land far from home. Russia, to be exact. The 21st FIFA World Cup concluded at Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow on Sunday with a 4-2 victory for the French over Croatia.

32 hopeful nations (none of which were the United States) qualified for Russia and competed in a group stage with three other countries. The top two squads from each of the eight groups advanced to the knockout stage, or single elimination. The final 16 teams standing battled it out for the championship.

France advanced from Group C with a pair of victories over Australia and Peru and a draw with Denmark. They would defeat Lionel Messi and Argentina, Uruguay and Belgium to advance to the World Cup Final.

The small Republic of Croatia quite literally shocked the world by meeting France for the title match. The Croatians defeated Nigeria, Argentina and Iceland to top Group D and their three-game march to the finals was the stuff of legends. They prevailed via penalty kicks in their Round of 16 and Round of 8 victories over Denmark and Russia. In the semifinals, Croatia decided not to wait for penalty kicks and instead beat England 2-1 in extra time before they fell to France on Sunday. The French became just the sixth nation to win the World Cup more than once.

While I do not pretend to be a knowledgable source for professional soccer beyond a box score, I did decide to try my hand at a bracket once the field of 16 was set. I knew it would likely be bad, but I was wrong. It was pitiful. I blindly put all of my faith in superstars Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo to advance past the first round, which they failed to do. I had Ronaldo and Portugal taking the title, but they fell to Uruguay in the Round of 16.

The marathon season of Major League Baseball came to a brief halt for the All-Star break after Sunday’s action. The Home Run Derby was on Monday night followed by the All-Star game on Tuesday at Nationals Park in Washington D.C. The Houston Astros were represented by Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman, George Springer, Gerrit Cole, Charlie Morton and Justin Verlander (Verlander was an All-Star but did not participate due to a Sunday start).

The Texas Rangers were represented by Shin-Soo Choo.

The Astros took advantage of a Seattle skid right before the break to build a five game lead in the A.L. West with a record of 64-35, good for second best in baseball along with the New York Yankees.

No one had a better first half than the Boston Red Sox, who surged into All-Star week with 19 wins in 23 games. They lead all of baseball with an incredible record of 68 wins and 30 losses. Still, the Yankees have weathered the storm admirably over the last month or so and remain just four and a half games behind Boston in the A.L. East.

Meanwhile, the N.L. has taken a back seat due to the superiority at the top in the A.L. with three teams over the 60-win mark. The Chicago Cubs finished the first half with the N.L.’s best record at 55-38. This means that the two current A.L. wildcard leaders, New York and Seattle, enjoy a better record than anyone in the N.L. The A.L.’s sole blemish remains the American League Central, which the Cleveland Indians lead by seven and a half games with a record of 52-43.

The Nationals, who hosted the All-Star game, continue to disappoint with a record of 48-48 and a third place standing in the N.L. East after the usual preseason hype. The Philadelphia Phillies lead the division with 53 wins and a half game lead over the Atlanta Braves.

While the A.L. is stacked up top, the N.L. is full of parity throughout and could make for some fantastic divisional finishes and October surprises. Chicago enjoys the largest divisional lead with just a two and a half game advantage over the Milwaukee Brewers.

The East is not the only division with a half game separating the first and second place squads. After a slow start, the defending N.L. Champion Los Angeles Dodgers now sit atop the West with as many wins but one less loss than the Arizona Diamondbacks. Meanwhile, the Colorado Rockies are two games behind the Dodgers and the San Francisco Giants trail by four games in fourth place.

The Brewers and Braves currently hold the two wildcard slots in the N.L., but the Diamondbacks, Rockies, Cardinals, Giants, Nationals and Pirates are all within five and a half games or less.

In the National Football League, Buffalo Bills running back LeSean McCoy was in the news after he was accused on Instagram of being behind a violent assault of his ex-girlfriend Delicia Cordon. The post, which was accompanied by a disturbing photo of Cordon’s facial injuries, also accused McCoy of beating his son, animal cruelty and using performance enhancing drugs.

Cordon was the victim of a home invasion early last Tuesday, where the robber reportedly beat her in the face with a firearm and demanded her jewelry. When Cordon phoned the local police post invasion, she stated that she suspected McCoy was involved indirectly because her jewelry, presumably a gift from the running back, was taken from her.

On Thursday, Cordon told a reporter that she was “no longer certain” of McCoy’s involvement in the incident. Her lawyer later clarified the statement, claiming her client was “not backtracking” and “still suspected McCoy,” but is not directly blaming him without further evidence.

McCoy quickly took to Twitter to deny all allegations made. His statement in full:

“For the record, the totally baseless and offensive claims made against me today on social media are completely false. Further more, I have not had any direct contact with any of the people involved in months.”

The NFL is obviously launching an investigation into the claims of violence and steroid use. Whether McCoy was involved or not, domestic violence continues to plague the league. Also last week, former NFL cornerback Brandon Browner was charged with attempted murder and robbery of his ex-girlfriend who had a restraining order against him after a previous domestic violence incident. Authorities say he also stole a Rolex watch worth about $20,000. Browner was a critical member of the 2013 Seattle Seahawks and 2014 New England Patriots, who won Super Bowls 48 and 49. He retired in 2016 after one season with the New Orleans Saints.

Lastly, former Dallas Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray hung up his cleats after seven seasons in the NFL at the age of 30. Murray began his career with four seasons in Dallas before he was traded to Philadelphia and finished with two seasons as a Tennessee Titan. He had a number of productive seasons, but his breakout campaign came in 2014 with the Cowboys. Murray won the rushing title, scored 13 touchdowns and led the league with 115.3 rushing yards per game. He helped lead the Cowboys to a 12-4 record and a run to the divisional playoffs.

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