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Vin Scully was more than the gentleman Voice of Baseball – he was an inspiration

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The voice resonating from the next booth was unmistakable. It was loud, and in this moment, agitated.

This was more than a decade ago, in one of my early seasons covering the Mets for The Post, and the voice belonged to Vin Scully, my boyhood hero. It was obvious on this day at Dodger Stadium that Scully’s irritation stemmed from receiving pressure to attend a meet-and-greet with a sponsor (or some such event) that didn’t fit his schedule.

“I’m like a ride at an amusement park,” Scully said, his voice rising and falling as if describing a deep fly ball to right field.

Scully, then in his 80s, was still a rock star, especially in Los Angeles. I found it amazing he was so accessible and approachable, even as a sign in the press box – likely instituted by the Dodgers on Scully’s behalf in the hallway leading to the TV and radio booths – read “broadcasters and engineers only beyond this point.”

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As the World Focuses on Soccer, a Women’s Team in Exile Aches to Play

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“We must address a message of hope that sports is possible for women when it is quite difficult or impossible now in Afghanistan,” Lappartient said. “I just want to give this idea that the light is still on.”

Without similar support from FIFA, the Afghan women’s soccer team is now looking for somewhere to play as an official national team. It’s considering joining the Confederation of Independent Football Associations, or Conifa, said Popal, the longtime Afghan women’s football program director. According to Conifa’s website, the organization “supports representatives of international football teams from nations, de facto nations, regions, minority people and sports isolated territories.”

But the level and depth of competition at Conifa is not what the Afghans have been used to at the FIFA level, where 187 women’s teams compete. In comparison, Conifa’s website listed only three women’s programs in its rankings from July: FA Sapmi (from the Indigenous Sami people who inhabit part of Norway, Finland, Sweden and Russia), Northern Cyprus and Tibet.

For the Afghan women, the goal is to return to play under FIFA’s umbrella. To get there, Popal, who lives in Denmark, has sent multiple emails to FIFA officials asking them for help reinstating the Afghan team. For months and months now, she has yet to receive an answer.

Last month, she also filed an official grievance with FIFA, writing, “All the coaches and players need to have their right to play respected and FIFA has the responsibility to guarantee our right to represent Afghanistan, even in exile.” At least a half dozen current and former players have also filed grievances, she said.

Again, no response.

“Men took away the players’ right to play football in Afghanistan, and now FIFA is taking away the right for the players to play football anywhere else,” Popal said. “I’m so frustrated that women have no voice. Why do the women of Afghanistan always have to pay the price?”

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College football Saturday predictions: TCU vs. Kansas State, plus more picks

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Here are Pigskin Profit’s college football picks for Saturday’s games:

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Ohio (+1.5) over Toledo

Ohio, looking for its first MAC title since 1968, has exceeded expectations all season, going 9-3 — both overall and against the spread — after being picked to finish fourth in its division. The Rockets enter with back-to-back losses as heavy favorites. The fact Toledo lost quarterback Dequan Finn last week in a season-low 14-point effort will be too much to overcome. 

Quarterback Max Duggan #15 of the TCU Horned Frogs
Quarterback Max Duggan #15 of the TCU Horned Frogs
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Running back Deuce Vaughn #22 of the Kansas State Wildcats
Running back Deuce Vaughn #22 of the Kansas State Wildcats
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Kansas State (+2.5) over TCU

A perfect record means TCU deserves to be in the playoff regardless of who wins the Big 12 title, but the Horned Frogs’ penchant for slow starts and late sweats makes them difficult to trust against the streaking Wildcats, who held an 18-point lead over them in a game during which Kansas State’s top two quarterbacks were both injured. After TCU’s 12-0 regular season — including a 9-2-1 record against the spread — Vegas is still begging you to take them. 

TROY (-8.5) over Coastal Carolina

The Post’s deadline means I have to make this pick now, but there is no need for you to pull the trigger until Grayson McCall’s status is revealed. Right now, it looks like the Chanticleers will be without their star quarterback for a third straight game. A meeting with the Sun Belt’s best defense doesn’t bode well for an offense that scored 7 points in a 40-point loss to James Madison last weekend. 

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Fresno State (+3.5) over BOISE STATE

Ignore the Broncos’ 40-20 win on Oct. 8, when the Bulldogs played without future NFL quarterback Jake Haener. Since that loss, Fresno State has won seven straight games, averaging nearly 40 points over the past six games. An overrated Boise State defense has suffered its three losses to the highest-ranked offenses it has faced this season, while the blue field isn’t what it used to be. Boise State has dropped five home games over the past three seasons. 

Georgia (-17.5) over LSU

The Bulldogs have predictably fallen victim to the lulls attached to most repeat efforts, but they have been at their best in their biggest games — most memorably dominating Oregon and Tennessee — and an SEC Championship would hold extra meaning after Georgia lost the crown last year. Coach Brian Kelly may want to print out the bevy of clips praising him after his Tigers’ win over Alabama. In a few weeks, he’ll be staring down his fifth loss of the season. 

LSU head coach Brian Kelly
LSU head coach Brian Kelly
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UCF (+4) over TULANE

The Green Wave own the better story — flipping last year’s 2-10 mark to move one win from their first conference championship since 1998 — and the momentum after ending Cincinnati’s 32-game home win streak last week. The Knights own a head-to-head road win from three weeks ago, the 11th-ranked offense in FBS, and most importantly, a few extra points in their pocket. 

North Carolina (+7.5) over Clemson

The Tigers enter another title game as favorites against an undeserving representative from the Coastal Division, but DJ Uiagalelei’s latest shaky performance (8-for-29 for 99 yards in a playoff-killing loss, which doubled as Clemson’s first home defeat since 2016) — and coach Dabo Swinney’s stupidly stubborn decision to keep the struggling quarterback as his starter, gives the Tar Heels an important edge in sports’ most important position. By rule, one team must be declared the ACC champion. 

Michigan (-17) over Purdue

Don’t be concerned about a letdown after the Wolverines won their first game at Ohio State in 22 years. An even more emotional win over the Buckeyes wasn’t an issue last year in the Big Ten title game — a 42-3 demolition of Iowa — and won’t have an impact against the third unranked Power Five team to play in a conference title game in the past decade. A Big Ten championship is plenty of motivation. 

Best bets: Fresno State, Georgia, Michigan 
This season: 92-97-6 
2014-21 record: 1,030-970-19

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United States vs. Netherlands prediction: World Cup picks, odds

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The United States men’s national team has a golden opportunity on Saturday morning in the World Cup. With the entire country behind them, the Yanks could qualify for the quarterfinals for the first time since 2002. 

Team USA is an underdog against the Netherlands (they’re +375 to win), but the Americans relish the role of being outsiders going up against a very vulnerable favorite. 

As we saw against Wales and Iran, the USMNT can struggle to break down defensive teams. The Yanks are an athletic, creative and quick team, but they’re not all that comfortable in possession. Against Wales and Iran, they dominated possession and struggled to break through enough times to feel comfortable. 

U.S. vs. Netherlands pick: U.S. +375 (PointsBet)

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But against England — easily its best performance of the tournament — the USMNT was able to use its athleticism, team speed and talent to give the Three Lions a lot to think about. England tore through both Iran and Wales, but struggled mightily against the Americans because it couldn’t dominate the midfield. 

Tyler Adams, Yunus Musah and Weston McKennie have turned into one of the best midfield trios in the tournament. Their ability to make life difficult on opposing midfielders is a huge factor against a Dutch midfield that should be terrific on paper, but has struggled through the first three matches. 

Betting on the World Cup?

In fact, outside of Cody Gakpo, you could say that about the entire Netherlands team. Even though they won Group A with two wins and a draw, Clockwork Oranje have been relatively disappointing compared to their pretournament expectations. 

Drawn into a soft group with Qatar, Ecuador and Senegal, the Netherlands posted a +4 goal differential, but its expected goal difference was -0.4 and it was -1.8 before its 2-0 victory against Qatar on Tuesday. In other words, the Netherlands was a bit fortunate to post the results it did. 

Christian Pulisic of United States
Christian Pulisic of United States
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That doesn’t mean that the Dutch can’t grow into this tournament. The history of the World Cup is littered with teams that started slowly and went on to do big things, so there’s no reason to count them out just yet. 

That said, it’s also hard to feel confident about backing them as an odds-on favorite against a team that punches up in competition very well. England is a stronger team than the Netherlands, with a better midfield, and the USMNT gave it fits in a nil-nil draw. 

Winning the battle in the midfield would give the USMNT a serious chance to win this match, and it’s a fair argument to make that the Yanks have the edge in the middle of the field with Adams, Musah and McKennie going up against some combination of Frenkie de Jong, Davy Klaassen, Teun Koopmeiners and Marten de Roon. 

The Netherlands may have advantages in other parts of the pitch, and the U.S. defense has looked a bit vulnerable at times against less talented attacks than the Clockwork Oranje, but the Dutch, aside from Gakpo, just haven’t really looked all that threatening. The Netherlands only created 0.8 expected goals against Senegal and Ecuador. 

Sportsbooks around the country will be a little tepid about how they price the USA, given how much money will come in on the Yanks, but this number is still well worth a bet on a team that profiles extremely well as an underdog. 

U.S. vs. Netherlands pick: U.S.A. +375 (PointsBet)

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