Summer sports spotlight

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The NFL inducted eight new members into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio on Saturday including Ray Lewis, Randy Moss and Brian Urlacher.

It may be because I am a biased Chicago Bears fan, but Urlacher seemed to steal the show in terms of the speech itself. Although “stealing the show” may be a more appropriate term for the theatrics displayed by Lewis, who paced the stage throughout the duration of a speech that lasted over half an hour. But much of Ray’s act unsurprisingly seemed over the top and repetitive to me. Writers prefer words and substance to flash and showmanship, and Urlacher did not disappoint a single fan in Chicago.

Along with two of the best linebackers, Canton introduced two of the greatest receivers to ever play the game: Randy Moss and Terrell Owens. Owens did not attend because he was unhappy with the Hall of Fame for keeping him out until now despite his magnificent career. Setting T.O.’s behavioral past aside, no one in their right mind can say he should not have been a first ballot selection.

Other members of the Class of 2018 were Brian Dawkins, Jerry Kramer, Bobby Beathard and Robert Brazile.

The irony of celebrating some of the most ferocious players in NFL history, namely Lewis and Urlacher, was the annual Hall of Fame game that preceded it. In the first preseason game of 2018 and first action since Super Bowl LII, the Ravens edged out the Bears 17-16 with most notable players on the bench.

The irony is that we seem to have entered a new NFL that will no longer welcome the aggression of a Lewis or an Urlacher. The new helmet-hitting rule was passed in March and met with confusion from the players, who were not sure how it would be enforced. With some questionable calls on Thursday relating to the rule, as well as some unnecessary roughness penalties, the confusion has not subsided.

The rule was praised by the league as a step-forward in player safety, but seems too broad for anyone to ever be on the same page. Each referee will define it differently in their own minds and enforce it as they see fit, which is all they can really do. Playing defense in the NFL will continue to be a frustrating task.

In baseball, the story continues to be the Boston Red Sox. After a neck-and-neck race in the AL East throughout most of the first half, Boston has flipped the switch and built a nine and a half game lead over the New York Yankees as of Monday.

The Red Sox demoralized the Yankees over the weekend with a four game sweep at Fenway Park to improve to 79-34. There are still two months to go, but any chance the Yankees have at winning the division is fading very fast. At this point, New York must concern themselves with securing a home game in the wildcard round.

In the AL West, the Oakland Athletics have quietly been one of the hottest teams in baseball since late June. The A’s have moved into the last wildcard spot, overtaking the Seattle Mariners, and trail the Houston Astros by just four games in the division.

Incredibly, the Red Sox, Astros and Yankees are all on pace to surpass the 100-win mark this season. It is still unlikely that this happens, but it would be the first time in MLB history that three teams from the same league accomplished the feat.

Despite Houston’s success, the west remains the closest divisional race in the American League. The National League remains razor thin.

In the east, the Nationals have played better baseball as of late but still find themselves six games back. The Phillies remain on top of the east with a one and a half game lead over the Atlanta Braves.

The Chicago Cubs have maintained the league’s best record, but led the Milwaukee Brewers by just a game in the central as of Monday.

The NL West remains as open as any. Predictably, the Dodgers have inched their way up the standings since the all-star break and are tied for first place with the Arizona Diamondbacks. In third and fourth place, the Colorado Rockies and San Francisco Giants are still very much alive, trailing by two and five games respectively.

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