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We have threads for Major League Baseball, the NBA, the NFL, college football, etc. But there are other sports that, let's face it, not enough people follow for a thread of their own. Cycling, tennis, ice hockey, football/soccer, curling, that sort of thing. And we have the Olympic Games coming up soon.

 

So here's a thread where we can talk about some of those lesser-known / lesser appreciated sports.

 

Go nuts.

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I have to say I'm disappointed with how the Stanley Cup turned out this year. My team, the Colorado Avalanche, had the top overall record in the regular season. And after winning the first six games of the playoffs, they lost the next four and were out in the second round for the third consecutive year. I don't know what it's going to take to get this team over the hump. Time will tell, I suppose.

 

I have a friend and fellow teacher who's originally from Quebec; he naturally was rooting for Montreal. Once Colorado lost to Vegas, I started rooting for Montreal to. They had a heck of a run and made it all the way to the Stanley Cup finals, but couldn't find a way to beat Tampa. So the Lightning won their second consecutive Stanley Cup.

 

Every year when the Stanley Cup Playoffs roll around, if my teams not in, I will cheer for a team from Canada to Win It. It's been 28 years, the longest drought Canada has ever had for Lord Stanley's Cup. The last Canadian team to win the cup was the Montreal Canadiens in 1993, led by a future Hall of Fame goalkeeper named Patrick Roy.

 

But this season was inherently strange. The compromises for COVID-19 included dividing the league into four divisions, one of which was all the Canadian teams because the US-Canada border is still closed. (A special dispensation from the Canadian government was required to allow Tampa and Montreal to play each other in the finals.) As a result, teams only played the other teams in their division this year, kind of like what major league baseball did last summer but even more so. It is hoped that traditional division alignments and scheduling will return next year.

 

Thankfully, there was one thing that was not different about this season: the Red Wings still suck.

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I've been following the three cycling Grand Tours starting with the Tour de France particularly over the last decade.

In the Queen's diamond Jubilee Year 2012 Britain finally had a Tour de France winner in Bradley Wiggins who then also won a gold medal in the road race at the Olympics.

This kicked off dominance by Team Sky now known as Ineos Grenadiers. Chris Froome won in 2013 which was the 100th edition. He won again in 2015-17 giving him four wins in total.

Geraint Thomas who was Chris's team mate won in 2018. Egan Bernal who is also in Ineos won in 2019 without winning a single stage. But the team did not win in 2020 as Tadej Pogacar won at the age of 20 on the penultimate stage.

Froome is still recovering from a major crash in 2019 which prevented him from even taking part in 2019 and is not the main contender for his team in this year's edition.

Froome went into the Vuelta in 2017 and won that. Retrospectively he was awarded the 2011 edition after the winner was found guilty of drug offences.

Froome also won the 2018 Giro d'Italia so he held all three titles in a year but not in a calendar year.

 

Ineos won the delayed 2020 Giro with Tao Geohegan Hart and then Egan Bernal won the 2021 edition.

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OK...this is kind of tangential, but sports-related and is actively in the process of happening (to me)...and I find it interesting...and saw this thread.  So here goes:

I was working at the forge today (read: heavy exertion).  Not a sport yet...we'll get there next.

 

Came home and The Wife had gotten some new sports drink (Lit)...with, among other things, fairly high levels of β-Alanine (which is used to increase endurance by delaying neuromuscular fatique).  So now we're slightly sports related...and that's about as close as we'll come to this thread.


Not terribly interesting yet.  Pounded the drink (which tasted like and had the intensity of a green apple Jolly Rancher...not great, not horrible) and went outside to finish up a little work with an angle grinder.

Started getting a tingling/burning sensation on hands, chest, and face.  Thought I must have gotten something on me at the forge or when using the angle grinder so went up for a quick shower.  Sensation didn't stop with the shower, but rather spread...back, legs, feet.  Realized it wasn't anything I had gotten on me, but I must be reacting to something.

 

Back to the β-Alanine - turns out that ingestion of it in high levels can cause paraesthesia -- commonly described as a tingling sensation (like when you bump your ulnar nerve).  Locations that I have it are not common (at all)...but it's harmless.

So I'm sensitive to β-Alanine (with full-body paraesthesia for what I'm hoping is a relatively short time after ingestion)...I'm choosing to view this as an odd and not-immediately-useful super power, though it's more likely a Vulnerability.  We'll see if anything useful develops from it ;)

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The big story coming out of the Tour de France this year is not the fact that Pogacar is probably going to retain the title but what has happened with Mark Cavendish.

Cavendish is a sprinter who debuted at the Tour de France in 2008 and racked up 30 stage wins by the end of 2016. After this he got knocked out of the race in 2017 due to a clash with Peter Sagan and failed to make the cut in 2018 in a mountain stage. He was then diagnosed with Epstein Barr virus and also suffered from depression and it was thought he would not compete again as he had no team.

This would leave him No 2 on the all time stage wins list behind Eddy Merckx who won the Tour 5 times.

He had already been a World Champion and had won the Sprinters competition at all three Grand Tours Spain 2010, France 2011 and Italy 2013.

 

Then Sam Bennett the reigning Sprint winner of the Tour was out with a knee injury and so Belgian team Deceuninck Quick Step brought him in. Cavendish has equalled Merckx's record of 34 with 4 wins so far with a longer career at the Tour. he has two further opportunities to win but has to survive the mountains and his team has guided him through it so far. Mark has thanked the team for helping him which has included the World Champion Julian Alaphilippe.

However Mark has refused to discuss the record with the media particularly after he won stages 31-33. Mark may win the Sprinter competition as well if he reaches Paris.

The odd thing is that several of the sprint finishes were where Cavendish had won before but when the route was laid out last year Mark had no team.

 

Peter Sagan who has won the Tour de France Sprint competition a record 7 times competed at the Giro this year and won that Sprint competition but was largely eclipsed at the Tour before he left with an injury. And Caleb Ewan was injured in a crash and so his ability to contest the sprints was ended.

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I'd have to look through the record books, but I'm pretty sure the best regular season record often doesn't win the Cup.  A hot goalie changes everything, and unlike, say, a hot pitcher in baseball, can win multiple games in a row.  Believe the LA Kings a few years ago showed that nicely.

 

And best record doesn't translate to best team consistently...and certainly not come the playoffs.  I'm not thinking late injuries that debilitate the team in the playoffs...more like, relatively few injuries, coupled with other teams being notably understrength for much of the year...but get healthy for the playoffs.  (The Lakers could have been an example of this, but didn't get healthy enough, soon enough.)  Then there's the fact that not everyone plays the same schedule.  How often did the Colts ride a super-weak division to the best record in the NFL?  Or in some years, the Pats.  In the NHL this year, that got taken to infinity, because no one played outside their local group.  You can't compare between the groups at all, as there is no commonality to use as a basis.

 

And that's atop the continuing stresses from the pandemic, which are *still* showing up.  The Rogers Cup, or Canadian Masters, is a joint ATP Masters 1000 and WTA Premier (I think, the WTA's terms are confusing...but it's the equivalent) event, played uniquely in 2 different cities, Toronto and Montreal, with the men and women alternating the city.  It starts Aug. 7th.  Canada is holding onto its policies;  even limited attendance has NOT been approved so far.  (Wimbledon had full attendance for the last few days, by contrast, and Wembley's about 2/3 full for the UEFA final.)  That's on the field or ice;  it also suggests that players' personal lives haven't been affected equally.  I doubt it's possible to quantify that impact, but I also have no doubt that it was a factor.

 

The Tour...I used to have more interest, but every year it seems they just raise the bar on making it more and more insane.  And I stay up reading rather WAY too late most mornings (no, not nights, definitely mornings) and the race is over before I'm coherent.  AND, NBC has the rights, and they're moving it to the Olympic channel...which is a separate premium channel.

 

A sport I like to watch is lacrosse.  In 2018 and 2019, ESPN started showing some games on Saturday morning/early afternoon, in addition to the semifinals and finals on Memorial Day weekend.  There were no games last year, of course, and secondary sports got VERY little coverage this year.  We'll see about next year.  It's a cool game;  what a talented player can do with the ball in his stick is pretty amazing.  There's SO many more options than with, say ice hockey, for the shooter.

 

I also actually enjoyed the tactical aspects of curling, but it's not something I'd want to watch frequently.

 

Simon:  ugh!  doesn't sound fun at all.  Kinda sounds like, say, vitamin A toxicity.  "Normal" amounts are fine, even necessary, but Not Too Much.  Sports drinks are a product category where More is BETTER!!! tends to be the norm.  Then again, so is the aqua vitae known as coffee;  the market segment for brands whose entire selling point is their insanely high caffeine content is pretty substantial nowadays.  

 

 

 

 

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In MLS, Seattle presently stands on a record of 8 wins, 5 ties, 0 losses, with their last game breaking the record so they are the only team in league history to have gone 13 games without a loss at the start of a season.

 

This is despite missing EIGHT starters at the moment, two to national squad duty (so they shoudl return in a couple of weeks), and six to injury (none of those are coming back anytime soon).

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12 hours ago, Cancer said:

In MLS, Seattle presently stands on a record of 8 wins, 5 ties, 0 losses, with their last game breaking the record so they are the only team in league history to have gone 13 games without a loss at the start of a season.

 

This is despite missing EIGHT starters at the moment, two to national squad duty (so they shoudl return in a couple of weeks), and six to injury (none of those are coming back anytime soon).

A a Portlander and Timbers fan, this grieves me sore, but it will make the next edition of the I-5 Riuvalry (aka "Cascade Cup" along with Vancouver) thatr much more of a challenge.

 

In most leagues in global soccer, MLS uses a playoff system to crown its champion, rather than the team that finishes at the top of the table being champ. That was how Portland won their title in 2015. Even to an American this sounds a bit bizarre.

 

To answer another of the questions aboveL Curling is a winter sport, and will be appearing in next year's Winted Olympics in Korea.

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the Tampa Bay Lightning win the Stanley Cup, and what happens? They break it.

 

There's a long standing tradition that during the off-season, the team that won the NHL Championship gets the actual, one-of-a-kind Stanley Cup to take around to their various homes. Usually this is a full display in which entire towns get together to back in the glory of their native sons. Well, the Lightning were celebrating as a team with a parade in the ocean just outside Tampa when somebody did something that seriously dented the Cip.

 

The trophy has been taken to Montreal for repairs. Once it's fixed it will continue its annual journey of adventure before returning to the Hall of Fame museum in Toronto until the 2022 playoffs.

 

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Things like this have happened numerous times in the Cup's long and glorious history. It's part of what makes the Stanley Cup special and unique among major sports trophies.

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The Tour fundamentally comes down to the next 2 days, both of which beyond any doubt (as if everything so far left any)...cyclists are absolute, utter, over-the-top insane masochists.

 

dbafd

The schedule has them completing this exercise in self-torture in about 5 hours.  Then do this the next day:

 

d499c

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That is for the GC contenders. It is more whether the Belgian team can shepherd the sprinter through it in the time limit for Friday and then Sunday. Also how and who the Intermediate sprint goes each day.

But the mountains competition is between four people at the moment.

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Cavendish is being shepherded by 3 teammates, but considering that team's actually leading the prize money earned so far...mostly due to Cavendish...that's the smart move.

 

He got into the house with about 12-15 minutes to spare today, but yes, getting through these 2 will be an achievement.  The sprint point tomorrow is before any serious climbing;  *if* Cav wants to, he has a decent chance to challenge for it.  Thursday, it looks like any time lost on the early climbs could be recovered.  But I believe Cav's not being interested;  he wants Mercyx' stage-wins record, which he's tied.  So rather than burn too much out of the tank on the intermediates, he may just save it to survive.  Especially Thursday;  tomorrow's stage suggests to me that an early breakaway will be allowed to have their fun...until the Peyresourde, probably.  But also perhaps not;  as always, it can depend on who's in the break.  The KOM is, as noted, *extremely* close.  The climbers might wait until the end;  it's an HC (beyond category) climb, worth twice the points of a Cat 1...and a summit finish doubles those.  That said, it's not likely that the top 4 will want to risk everything just there.

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7 hours ago, Pariah said:

Tadej Pogacar wins stage 17 of the Tour

 

That practically qualifies as damnation by faint praise.

 

Pogacar,, Carapaz, and Vingegaard *smashed* the rest of the top 10 on the last climb.  The three of em waged a private little war trying to shake each other...and never succeeeding for too long.  (Vingegaard slipped back about 15 seconds for a bit, but pulled it back.)  Gaudu did his own superb ride, doing much the same from further back to finish 4th, but the rest of the leaders lost 90+ seconds...including Uran, who dropped from 2nd to 4th, and well back of 3rd.  Pogacar's lead increased by another 20 seconds over 2nd place as a result.

 

And it was just a power play of impressive proportions.  Pogacar had only 1 teammate with him on the last climb.  The teammate spurted hard with around 8k left;  Pogacar followed.  Carapaz and Vingegaard were able to mark the, along with one other rider...but he couldn't maintain the pace and slipped back relatively quickly.  The gap at the front just grew and grew.

 

Pogacar has one more brutal day to get through, but he's also got a respectable margin at this point, and realistically only 2 riders to mark.  So if the climbers want to decide the King of the Mountains, which is wide open...he'll be fine with that.  It's important to note that stage 20 is an individual time trial...and Pogacar *won* the earlier time trial by 19 seconds (in a 32 minute race...3rd plane only beat 7th place by 17 seconds, so that gives you an idea.)

 

The Tour is never over until it's over.  You have to complete the event to win, and freak accidents happen.  But the only way Pogacar can lose the GC is either an accident, exceptional bad luck during the TT (even something like a flat wouldn't cost him that much time), or if he's really, really drained tomorrow and has a very bad day.  

 

What might be more amusing is Pogacar has a very decent shot at a *triple*.  Yellow jersey and white jersey (best young rider)...Vingegaard is second in both.  Pogacar is up to 2nd in King of the Mountains.  If he can repeat what he did yesterday, and Wout Poels can't match him (he was *way* back in the pack today)...it's his, potentially by a mile.  Winning 3 jerseys has only happened once...that was Mercyx, not surprisingly.  Granted, the white jersey was created in the 70s, but still.  (And it's basically inconceivable now that anyone will pull off the green jersey-yellow [or white] jersey double again.)

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12 minutes ago, Cancer said:

So how likely is it that this year's Tour will be found to be dominated by doping?

 

In all seriousness, I fear that, because it's happened too often.  It is a cloud that still hangs over cycling.  BUT, Pogacar is repeating what he did last year (yellow, white, and polka dot) so based on what they can test for now, it seems unlikely.

 

And with today repeating yesterday by and large...Pogacar, Vingegaard, Carapaz at the summit again...KOM is over, there's only 1 more point left.  Pogacar has an insurmountable lead.  The podium is also set;  Uran had a mediocre day, and dropped from 4th to 10th, I believe.  So now 4th is about 2:20 behind 3rd.  It might be possible to make that up at the TT but that's quite a bit.

 

Tomorrow's course is fairly flat...a little undulating.  The pundits anticipate a sprint finish, as the green jersey is very much in play, and that's probably the most likely.  It's still plausible to have a large breakaway, particularly for the intermediate sprint...but they probably won't be allowed to stay away.  One other issue:  the route runs largely due north.  It's in the far southwest, starting near the Spanish border, and ending a little east of the town of Bordeaux.  (Which suggests the views might be spectacular...wine country!)  The Bay of Biscay...AKA the Atlantic...is about 50-odd miles, looks like, to the west.  Makes me wonder...crosswind?  A strong crosswind could wreak havoc.

 

But odds are the drama will predominately be in the last few miles.

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Question on doping: how long do you think until it's generally accepted?  It's always portrayed as "giving an unfair advantage"...largely because it's only those who break the rules that do it.  If the rules change to allow it, then it gets back to the origin of the rule...which, as I understand it, is meant to prevent the athletes from damaging their bodies in order to achieve peak performance.

That whole argument against performance-enhancing drugs has never rung true for me.  I was a competitive gymnast throughout high school and college.  Even without going to the national level, in order to compete at the level that I was at you put your body through hell (I'm paying for some of that now).  Professional athletes, in order to be competitive, are destroying their bodies (without drugs).  There are a number of banned drugs that will help alleviate some of that damage. Others that will allow for increased performance with less damage...and some that will increase performance at the risk of increased damage.  Where is the line that you draw? Most of the lines that are currently present seem arbitrary and based on false logic.

To take the Tour as an example, most of the banned substances that the riders are testing positive for are focused on increasing oxygen utilization and heart function. Some of the truly gifted riders come by these benefits naturally (larger heart capacity, etc.). The damage/risk that those taking the performance enhancing drugs face are not really any different from the damage/risk that those with a naturally larger heart/greater blood flow face.  We're talking about people that are going to push themselves to the utter limit, with or without the drugs to help them get there -- the damage is going to be done through the performance of the sport itself at that level of competition (regardless of the sport).

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