Spring thoughts for the sports world

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It’s almost that time of year where we hit a pre-NFL season lull in the sporting world, so I thought I would look at some of the comings and goings in other sports.

Don’t Cry for KD: I am surprised at how much finger pointing there is going on over who to blame for Kevin Durant’s injury. If you want to lay the blame on anyone, lay it on KD. Durant is a professional athlete who loves to compete against the best. To think he became one of the top players in the world without having a continuous desire to compete is ridiculous. He wanted to play in game five and you can bet he loved the thought of being the lone player who could turn the Warriors struggles against the Toronto Raptors around and then cash in on free agency. He got injured doing what he wanted to do.

Anthony Davis will fetch a high price for his services next season. If he comes to the Lakers expect to see some fan favorites get traded

As for next year, don’t feel sorry for him either. Durant holds a player option to return to the Warriors or seek a new long-term deal. He can remain with Golden State and rehab his injured Achilles while sitting out the entire season and will make over 30 million dollars. No one would blame him if he does this and then next year signs a long-term deal with the team of his choosing.

Durant Fallout: Now that next year is out for Durant, the chain reaction of his injury will affect the plans of almost every team and NBA free agent. Durant’s injury stands to impact what other free agents decide. There is no secret that NBA players collude to pick a franchise hoping to form a super team. What do players with player options decide to do who were linked to Durant? Do they remain with their current teams and wait another year knowing they risk a big injury like Kevin or do they sign long term deals with teams closer to their heart, knowing they may not be part of a new super team?

What about the teams held hostage by these players? Do you think the Boston Celtics are thrilled by the idea of the divisive Kyrie Irving returning when they have already placed his team jersey on clearance?

The Toronto Raptors’ Kawhi Leonard, named the MVP of the 2019 NBA Finals.

Kawhi is Different: One player who will continue to go on with a business as usual approach is Kawhi Leonard. He might be the only NBA free agent unaffected by Durant’s injury. At this point, he is either coming home to play in L.A. or he remains in Toronto. It comes down to whether he prefers life in a smaller market with fewer distractions or being the next big thing in the L.A. market. Whatever he decides, don’t look for him to change his enigmatic ways.

WWC: Don’t get too excited over the start of our national team’s 13-0 rout of Thailand in the Women’s World Cup. If it says anything, it is there are several teams in the cup who have no business playing on the world stage. This is not a knock against Thailand. Maybe in a decade or two they will be among the best. However, both the men’s and women’s World Cups end up with teams that do not belong in the tournament. However, in the name of profits, more teams in mean more money made by the host nation and FIFA.

USA Women’s Soccer Team celebrating after their win against Thailand in the 2019 World Cup (YouTube)

As for the U.S. Women, many believe this is the deepest team they have ever fielded. It certainly has the most firepower of any. However, the inconsistent play of their back line and a new goalkeeper makes them far more vulnerable. Our women could repeat as champions or they could get beat in an early knockout round match against a sound defensive minded squad.

Basebore: Baseball is in trouble. Not even the explosion of home runs and strikeouts is enough to draw fans to games. Attendance continues to drop, and it is just a matter of time before this affects the game’s long term prospects. When the only baseball news that makes a big headline involves the shooting of a retired player, the league has a major problem.

The game has become boring. Strikeouts and home runs are exciting during a nail-biting post-season game. However, when you no longer see teams bothering to attempt executing a hit and run, squeeze play, or even a stolen base, the game becomes a wait and see fest during the regular season. Batters don’t seem to know how to hit to the opposite field anymore which results in defensive shifts that all but place six guys to one side because scouting reports show exactly where a hitter will hit a ball.

LAPX Sports reporter Claudia Gestro speaking with baseball legend Rod Carew

Where are the Ricky Hendersons, Lou Brocks, or Roberto Clementes of the game? Teams have no use for a Pete Rose, Rod Carew, or Manny Sanguillen. Instead, the league is littered with players who sport a singular swing, similar build, and same beard. The game, more than ever, is filled with robotic players who lack personality or a signature style.

This is what happens when you mass produce any product while discouraging outside the box thinking. Baseball has become much like the rest of this nation, boring, incapable of anything that is not data driven, and left in the hands of a few to profit from.

Season Length: Basketball may have a long season, but the NHL has a longer one. Both need to be revamped into shorter split seasons with a tournament at the midway mark replacing their all-star game. With so many of their teams making the post season, the more regular season games played, the more meaningless they become.

Dodgers Pitcher Walker Buehler

Baseball just needs to be shortened. I know it won’t happen, but I would turn the game into a weekend series only league. By eliminating work week games, you decrease travel fatigue, wear and tear on the body, and most of all, starting rotations. The five-man, strict pitch count, and pure power pitcher is not working primarily because pitchers cannot stay healthy. A three-man starting staff eliminates a lot of arms that do not belong on rosters.

For those who want more football, shortening games to 48 minutes while adding four more games results in the same number of total minutes played over a season. In the process, the NFL could eliminate preseason games, see better TV revenue, and add more product without adding to the hits a player takes.

Show Us The Money: Serena Williams is the lone female on Forbes list of the 25 highest paid athletes. This should not surprise anyone.

Worldwide, like most everything else, sports are male controlled and driven by male athletes. Men’s professional leagues are older and far more ingrained in societies around the globe. With just one woman to crack the top 25 list, it tells me there is a long way to go before we reach a point where we enjoy women competing as much as we enjoy men.

However, it takes a nation to lead and when ours refuses to pay their women’s national soccer team the same salary as the men, especially when the women consistently get great results, we not just insult women, we reward mediocrity over results. World Cup matches sell out no matter if it is a men’s match or woman’s. Our women deserve the same pay for their work as the men. In fact, they deserve more.

That said, this does not mean a top pro in a female league deserves the same pay as a man. Professional sports are driven by popularity. A WNBA game fails to generate the same profit margin as an NBA game. If male leagues bring in more profits, greater sponsorship, and more fan interest, women will always lag in salary. Correcting these issues is a much larger task.

Serena Williams celebrating her win at Wimbledon in 2015 (YouTube)

Serena Williams is well paid because men and women alike see her as among the best on the planet at what she does. Her playing an individual sport instead of a team sport also goes a long way to her landing on the list. Add in her race and her ability to be marketed to a group of people long thought as not being part of the tennis world, and you have a well-paid athlete.

Somehow, all of this makes me think of how Tom Brady jokes about his low pay by NFL standards. He is the first to point out how his wife, Gisele Buendchen, is the family bread winner.

Maybe by the time we see more male models paid like the top women are paid, we will see female athletes paid like men. In either case, I don’t see it happening in my lifetime.

Photos by Claudia Gestro unless otherwise noted
Top photo: Kevin Durant

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Editor’s Note: Be sure to check out our YouTube channel for great sports reporting from Claudia Gestro, as well as some reggae music provided by Stephen Cooper.