Here’s some reading material before you settle in for the U.S.-Belgium World Cup match (1 p.m., ESPN):
Dan Wetzel of Yahoo! Sports upset the Belgians with this column about why the U.S. can’t lose to Belgium.
Belgium has just 11 million people, which is like, what, a Dakota and a half? (Not certain since I was too lazy and distracted to look it up. You want worker productivity? Go hire a Belgian.)
These guys are Canada-Lite, one of these perfect, nice, polite, pretty countries that take pride in the fact they all ride bikes and recycle and don’t unilaterally invade other sovereign nations.
There is no place for someone like this on the global stage of the World Cup, where each match is life and death … literally in some places if you blow a critical assignment.
Jason Whitlock of ESPN.com writes about World Cup fever and the lessons our pro leagues can learn from it.
Again, the point of a season-end revival is to showcase a sport as the best. The World Cup, the Super Bowl and the Final Four are primarily gigantic marketing events. They entice fans and media to come and worship for a month, a week and three days, respectively. These events are impossible to ignore. They help grow and maintain soccer, football and college basketball congregations.
It’s puzzling, and counterproductive, that the NBA and MLB haven’t constructed a season-end revival. Eight years ago it was still fashionable to laugh at and ridicule soccer in this country. And now the World Cup is drawing NFL-size television ratings and a lifelong football groupie is analogizing Cristiano Ronaldo to Joe Montana.
Joe Posnanski writes about Raul Ibanez, who is back in Kansas City with the Royals.
Posnanski writes this about the 42-year-old ex-Mariner:
There are a million Ibañez numbers I could throw at you to blow your mind — here’s just one: He hit 276 of his 303 career home runs after age 30. That’s 91% of his home runs. That is BY FAR the highest percentage among the 137 players in baseball history who hit 300 home runs.
He hit as many home runs after age 30 as Harmon Killebrew, more (at this moment) than David Ortiz, more than Yaz or Frank Thomas or (how about this one?) A-Rod.
Or this stat: Ibañez is one of only 15 players in baseball history to have more than 1,000 RBIs after age 30. With one more RBI for Kansas City, he will tie a pretty good player named Willie Mays with 1,091 RBIs after 30.
Or this stat: Ibañez has scored almost as many runs after age 30 (945) as Derek Jeter (977).
Or this stat: Ibañez has hit more doubles after age 30 than Stan Musial did. Or George Brett. Or Wade Boggs. Or Barry Bonds.
And just because y’all can’t get enough of Richard Sherman and the Seattle Seahawks, here’s where you can check out Sherman columns for Sport Illustrated’s Monday Morning Quarterback (mmqb.si.com).
In his love letter to coach Pete Carroll, Sherm wrote:
I can’t imagine what life in the NFL would be like for me if he hadn’t used a third-day pick on a still-raw cornerback. I get texts from guys across the league which remind me how good we’ve got it in Seattle. They ask, “Is he really as cool as he seems?” and “I hear you guys have fun at practice?” Yes and yes. All he asks is that we be ourselves and protect the team’s reputation by not saying anything controversial.
In case you missed it, here’s Todd Dybas’ story on Mariners’ rookie James (The Jet) Jones. Don’t know if the nickname’s catching on, but don’t you think it should? Jones is now up to 17 steals after pilfering three on Monday night in Houston, when he went 4-for-5 at the plate.