There's a lot of sports news in the world and not all of it gets the attention it deserves. That's where Only A Game's “3 Stories You Should Know” comes in. It's our discussion of sports stories and subplots you might have missed.
1. FIFA president Sepp Blatter will not be attending the Women’s World Cup final in Canada.
Blatter says he has “pressing business” back home, but George Vecsey can't help but wonder if Blatter is simply unwilling to risk traveling to a country so close to the U.S., given the possibility of legal troubles following the recent arrest of several other FIFA officials.
GV: As soon as I heard that Blatter was not flying over North American territory, I was reminded of the great movie ... "White Knights" where [Mikhail] Baryshnikov is forced to land in Siberia. He's a Soviet defector and he lands in Siberia and they bring him into Moscow or Leningrad or someplace and say, "How would you like to do us a favor for your old home country?" And I could just see Blatter somehow landing in the United States on his way to Canada and [U.S. Attorney General] Loretta Lynch meeting him at the airport in Billings, Montana and saying, "Would you like to come with me? I've got a piece of paper for you."
2. After being suspended for an entire season for using performance-enhancing drugs, New York Yankees designated hitter Alex Rodriguez, 39, is quietly having a season worthy of All-Star consideration.
Through Thursday night, Rodriguez had 15 home runs and 45 runs batted in. His batting average stood at .280. He hasn't finished a season higher than that since 2009. Earlier this year, Rodriguez passed Willie Mays on baseball's all-time home run list, a feat that was supposed to result in a $6-million bonus from the Yankees. Citing the difficulty in marketing Rodriguez after his suspension, the team announced it was unwilling to pay the money. But instead of fighting back, Rodriguez and his representatives worked with the Yankees to come up with a plan to distribute $3.5 million to charity. Rob Neyer shares his thoughts on "A-Rod 2.0."
RN: Statistically, I think Alex Rodriguez deserves to be [in the All-Star Game]. There's little question about that. The only full-time DH with a better case is probably Prince Fielder, and I'm not sure it's better. But maybe we also should give him some credit, whether that's All-Star credit or just good karma that we all send his way, for having such a great year, such a great bounce-back, such a great comeback. We all love comeback stories.
This was a guy who was reviled in almost every quarter. Most people, including me, thought he'd never play again — or certainly not for the Yankees. And yet, he's done everything right this spring and summer, said all the right things, kept his nose clean, hasn't made a big fuss about the $6 million ... so, I'm all for it.
3. This weekend Daytona International Speedway is giving NASCAR fans a chance to turn in a confederate flag in exchange for a new United States flag.
NASCAR has discouraged fans from flying confederate flags but has stopped short of banning them. Officials at Daytona have said they couldn’t outright ban the confederate flags because fans had already purchased tickets for this weekend's event. One fan who chose to fly a flag this weekend said, "We're not doing it for hate, but we do have rights." Bill Littlefield asks Neyer and Vecsey whether this is a matter of free speech or if NASCAR's response has been too timid.
RN: There are t-shirts that you can't wear into sporting venues, so you could theoretically do the same thing. You could get rid of the flags and frankly, I think that's probably where we're headed. I just doubt if it's going to happen immediately. That would be a shock to everyone's system. It's probably five, 10 years down the road.
GV: I understand regional pride. I've lived and worked in the South. I just think that given the horrors that took place in Charleston [in June], ... I say NASCAR can't do it all at once, but anything they can do to move it along is certainly welcome.
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This segment aired on July 4, 2015.