While we all enjoyed a relaxing summer away from our beloved Swarthmore, the world of sports continued to rage on. It was difficult, but I decided it’d be best to pick out the four stories in sports this summer that were, in my opinion, the most important to be aware of.
4. The Sepp Blatter saga continues: Although FIFA and its president, Sepp Blatter, have made it clear that they will continue to make headlines in the foreseeable future for their corrupt ways, there were a few notable events that took us on quite a ride. The first was Blatter’s re-election on May 29th, 2015. He originally did not receive enough votes to win against opponent Prince Ali ibn Hussein. However, Hussein dropped out before a proposed second round of voting. This on its own was enough for the public to dwell on, but, three days later, Blatter stunned the world with an announcement that soccer fans had only dreamt of until that point: he would resign as president. He then called for an extraordinary congress to be put together to pick his successor. A month later, he added to the mayhem by saying he had not resigned but rather “put his mandate in the hands of an extraordinary congress.” Confused? You’re not the only one.
I thought I would be glad that Blatter gave in to the pressures of the ongoing corruption scandals by stepping down. Unfortunately, his statements regarding his resignation are so vague that the only clear thing is his adamant refusal to acknowledge the problems that have led to all this trouble. This was affirmed by his statement only a few days ago that he is an “honest” and “clean” man and that FIFA is not corrupt. Based on a couple of decades under his control where FIFA was best characterized by words like “financial mismanagement” and “bribery”, it’s fair to say most soccer fans would disagree with him. For adding fuel to a raging fire of universal hate towards him, Sepp Blatter’s antics earned the fourth spot on my list.
3. Tom Brady breaks his phone, screws up big time: This is another story that has stayed strong for months on end. It began with the Deflategate scandal, which emerged after Tom Brady and the Patriots were accused of deflating the footballs used in the 2015 AFC Championship game against the Colts to give themselves an advantage in a game which they ultimately won. As a result, Brady was suspended for the first four games of the 2015-2016 season. Before the summer, everything that followed consisted mainly of a battle between those who believed Brady was innocent and those who did not. All of a sudden, a stream of articles debating things like the science of footballs and deflation were published and began to trivialize the issue. The most one could say was that Brady was generally aware about the deflation, but even that wasn’t fully certain. After the initial escalation, the whole issue lurked in the background while Brady fought out the decision in court.
On July 28th, however, we learned that Commissioner Roger Goodell upheld the suspension after Tom Brady had destroyed his cell phone, which was believed to potentially have had communications with the crew and others regarding the deflation. Although Brady still pronounced his innocence, he lost quite a bit of credibility. The ensuing suspicion was inevitable, and all that Brady’s actions did was escalate the issue. Some argued that the decision was harsh, but, if he was innocent, he should not have destroyed his phone knowing that he was being investigated. I normally have immense respect for Brady (even though he regularly tears up my team, the Jets) because of how he started off as an underdog but worked his way up to being a favorite in every game he plays, serving as an inspiration for almost everyone. Unfortunately, this phone business makes the vitriol directed towards him much more reasonable. His ruling is expected to arrive this week, and, unlike before, I would not have anything against his suspension being upheld. This story has been dragged out to ridiculous lengths; it has earned this spot because of how it has polarized public opinion of Brady, who is otherwise one of the greatest athletes currently active.
2. Ronda Rousey: Unlike the other two stories, this one was quite new. As a matter of fact, before this summer, I had never heard of Rousey at all. Now, she regularly shows up on any sports-related media outlet. How did this rapid rise to fame happen, and why is it so important?
Truthfully, I don’t know. She had done plenty of notable things in the past to cement herself into professional fighting history. She was the first female fighter to sign with the UFC back in 2012 and became famous over the years for ending her fights in record times. The only highlight of her fighting career this summer was her awe-inspiring 34 second rout of Bethe Correia at the beginning of August. Regardless, it’s clear now that she’s well on her way to becoming a household name.
This development with Rousey is so high up on my list because she successfully rivaled the media hype that Pacquiao vs. Mayweather received just before the summer in May, which is probably the biggest fighting-related sports story of the year. I’m personally not a big fan of Mayweather because, although he is the highest paid athlete in the world, he is an extremely unlikeable character. He is known for violent behavior outside the ring, and also just isn’t very nice in his interactions with reporters, fellow fighters, etc. Rousey, on the other hand, became a media darling not just for her fighting success but also her personality; she quickly gained a reputation as a loveable geek in her daily life (she became one of my favorites when she cited Dragon Ball Z, my favorite show, as one of the things that inspired her to fight and that she follows fanatically to this day.) She’s even staved off shots from Mayweather, who’s claimed to not know who she is and disputed her ESPY awards a month ago for best fighter and female athlete. Unfortunately, she’s started getting a bit too wrapped up in Mayweather’s stupidity and informally challenged him to a fight. Despite this recent spat with Mayweather, Rousey is still so high up on my list for adding a clean, genuinely likeable personality to the otherwise bleak media surrounding fighters. I simply hope she doesn’t ruin it by stooping down to Mayweather’s level, and I’m sure she won’t disappoint.
1. The rise of U.S. women’s soccer: Many might disagree with this choice, but this unexpected trend was, in my opinion, the most notable story of the summer for American sports. The U.S. women’s national soccer team had always been known for being among the best worldwide, unlike their dismal male counterparts. However, their path to winning the World Cup this summer, their first since 1999, received more excitement from the public than anyone had foreseen. To put it in perspective, the final against Japan was the most viewed English-language US broadcast of any soccer match ever. However, the team’s popularity throughout their campaign also had strong roots in social media, with numerous celebrities reaching out and declaring their support for the team. This comes close to rivaling the phenomenon that Tim Howard’s heroics last summer developed into and definitely generated a more pronounced following than anything the men’s team had received. The team especially captured the hearts of those who normally weren’t fans of women’s sports or sports in general. There isn’t much more I can say to capture the sheer magnitude of the support and encouragement that the team received; for the surprise factor and for providing women’s sports in the U.S. with a tremendous boost, I believe that the women’s soccer team resoundingly earned the rights to top sports story of the summer. Here’s to hoping that the year to come will have more stories just as intriguing!