Okay, yes, technically Barry Bonds hit 73 home runs in 2001. I get it. I also get that Mark McGwire hit 70 in 1998, and Sosa hit 66 that same year, and both of them broke the 60-home run barrier a couple other times.
But they were all juicing.
All of them. We know it, they know it, the world knows it. And I want to make something clear: I don't really care. I mean, nobody should cheat in any sport, but I can also see why they would, and of all the things to get fired up about in the world today, a few guys taking steroids in order to make more money ranks pretty low on my list.
But do you remember how much fun 1998 was? The Sosa-McGwire race has not been eclipsed in the American baseball memory in the 21 years since, and that's because it was something we could collectively share. It wasn't about a specific team, and you didn't have to root for the loathsome Cubs or Cardinals to win a World Series in order to enjoy it. You could just wake up every morning, watch SportsCenter, and marvel at the two juggernauts going toe-to-toe against each other and against history. It was terrific theater, before we learned that they were cheating.
And now, people seem to be cheating less. I know, I know—it's impossible to confirm, and they might just be cheating better. But it at least seems like MLB and other sports leagues have a handle on PED usage, and to me, it's a shame that we can't nullify all the old records in order to reclaim the joy of an honest-to-god home run race.
I write this now because the Brewers' Christian Yelich has 29 home runs in 70 games, and is on pace to hit 64 dingers before it's all said and done. He might not reach that total, and there's no way in hell he's getting anywhere near Bonds' mark, but as of this exact moment, it's entirely possible that he could hit 62 home runs. If Maris' record of 61 still stood, we'd all be talking about Yelich, and Pete Alonso and Cody Bellinger too, both of whom are vaguely threatening the 60 home run mark. Here's Yelich hitting a 462-foot bomb:
How great would it be if anyone actually cared, outside of Milwaukee? Why are we depriving ourselves of the terrific fun that a home run chase represents, and the way it buoys baseball in general? PEDs give us a great excuse to wipe the record clean and re-introduce that simple, innocent joy into the season. So what are we waiting for? Put Roger Maris back on his pedestal! Invigorate the sport! Up with dingers!
The Old Guy Athlete of the Week: Feliciano Lopez
It pains me that I'm now at an age, 36, where professional athletes are considered old. On Sunday, 37-year-old Feliciano Lopez managed to win the singles and doubles titles (with Andy Murray!) at Queens, a Wimbledon tune-up event, and some of the coverage makes it sound like Father Time himself hobbled onto the court and managed to win with a racket in his right hand a cane in his left.
After defeating teen phenom Felix Auger-Aliassime in the semis, he waxed Gilles Simon in the singles final:
And then teamed up with Andy Murray, who was making his triumphant return to the sport, and won the doubles title:
This is how good his week was: Andy Murray won a trophy IN ENGLAND after coming out of retirement, and Lopez's story somehow outshone him. Well done, old fella.
The Young Guy Athlete of the Week: Felix Auger-Aliassime
Yeah, he lost to Lopez in the semis at Queens, as mentioned above, but look at this:
That's pretty stunning, particularly on grass where Kyrgios thrives, and particularly from an 18-year-old who has yet to finish a main draw grand slam event. It was sad to see him miss the French, but Wimbledon will be his first chance to really show his stuff with the eyes of the whole sports world on him, and I can't wait. (A guy who can wait? Stefanos Tsitsipas.)
The "Hey, Here's Another Guy Who Could Sabotage Frank Vogel's Job as Lakers Head Coach" Assistant of the Week: Ron Adams
Back in May, I wrote that the Lakers were hilariously screwed in their coaching situation after hiring Frank Vogel as head coach, and then immediately hiring Jason Kidd as an assistant...the same Jason Kidd who is LeBron James' good pal...the same LeBron James who has spent a career undermining coaches he doesn't like, and has absolutely no relationship with Vogel. Since then, Jeannie Buss and the rest of the Lakers management somehow emerged from their dank underground lair of corporate incompetence to successfully trade for Anthony Davis (giving away a lot in the process, for what it's worth, and apparently bungling the financials too), which should at least make them a playoff team.
But now look what they're doing! They're trying to hire another top-level assistant that should probably be a head coach! Their latest target is Warriors assistant Ron Adams, and while Adams is a highly respected basketball mind and would normally be an asset to any organization, there's absolutely no evidence that his style or philosophy will mesh with Jason Kidd or Lionel Hollins (another assistant, and another former head coach), much less Vogel's.
It appears the Lakers are operating under the assumption that by throwing lots of money at lots of disparate coaches, the collective talent will at least equal, if not exceed, the sum of its parts. It would be like constructing the team itself by signing the NBA's five best point guards and expecting them to just figure things out. Instead, by failing to recognize that too many cooks can spoil LeBroth (sorry), they're creating a situation where every coach will be desperately trying to curry favor with the stars, especially LeBron, and competing against each other for job security, which inevitably leads to conflict. Even worse, Ron Adams is known as a "truth-teller" under Steve Kerr—a dynamic that only works if the head coach is secure in his position and abilities. How would that play on a team where the coach has a sword hanging over his head from the start?
It's an actual nightmare scenario, and Adams would be wise to reject the offer unless they offer him a wheelbarrow full of cash that he really needs. Career-wise, this is a trap—the Lakers franchise has become a viper's nest on the order of King's Landing, except that here, chaos is not a ladder, but an open manhole. I never thought I'd say this, but they're starting to make the Knicks look competent.
Possibly Bad Soccer Opinion of the Week: VAR Sucks
VAR stands for Video Assistant Referee, and it's basically the longest, most annoying replay system yet seen, seemingly in place to award penalty kicks based on insignificant fouls in the far corner of the box, or to take away perfectly fine goals. I've been watching a bit of the women's World Cup, and you can always count on me for a sub-par soccer take, so digest this one: Bad calls, even hilariously bad ones, should be part of soccer. It's already such a weird sport, so why not let the controversy live? Kill the ten-minute reviews!