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THERE’S NOTHING LIKE A GAME SEVEN

Faith. That’s how the Nationals won the World Series earlier this week. It’s what they held onto when they were 19-31 nearly two months into this season. It’s what they believed in when they were down two runs late in the do-or-die Wild Card game. It’s what they remembered when the deciding Game 5 of the NLDS came down to extra innings. And it’s how they won on the road against the Astros. And then again. And again. And again.

We talked last week about the Baseball Gods, and in response, our co-founder Gotham Chopra said that the Nationals have that team of destiny feel to them. That’s code for saying that Washington had the Baseball Gods on their side. Ryan Zimmerman explained the victory in simpler terms. “We were just ourselves,” he said.

In the end, it was some combination of the two. The Baseball Gods have been breathing life into the Nationals since late May, and the Nationals never questioned it. They just let it happen. They believed. Every player did.

There’s Ryan Zimmerman, who’s been with the team since as long as it’s existed, back when they played at RFK Stadium, when they lost 100 games in a season.

There’s Stephen Strasburg, who was compared to Walter Johnson as a rookie, then told he was too fragile to be a true ace, and then pitched the most dazzling game of the playoffs in Game 6.

There’s Howie Kendrick, who hit the game-winning RBI, and has been in the MLB for a decade and a half. He tore his Achilles last year and was told he would never realize his dream of winning a World Series.

There’s Max Scherzer, who earlier in the week had such bad back spasms he couldn’t get out of bed, and then was on the mound days later in the pivotal Game 7.

There’s manager Davey Martinez, who had heart surgery in September and had to have a cardiologist stand beside him through every stressful moment of the postseason.

And there’s Daniel Hudson, who was a top prospect a year ago before blowing out his elbow and requiring Tommy John surgery, and then in his first start after recovering, blew it out again. He moved to the bullpen, and this spring, was cut by the Anaheim Angels during Spring Training. But somehow, he was the one who recorded the final out on Wednesday.

It was a team of players who never stopped believing.

Patrick Smith / Getty Images

STICKING IT TO “STICK TO SPORTS!”

Do you hear that? It’s a low sound, simmering most of the time, but on weeks like this, it boils over. It’s the sound of stubby fingers dialing into sports talk radio stations, of stuffy news anchors doing their best impressions of those callers, of Twitter armies preparing for war. That’s right, the “stick to sports” discussion has started again.

You thought you’d be safe this week, didn’t you? The NBA is back, the playoff-contender Oklahoma Sooners went down to lowly Kansas State, and then there was that little thing called “Game 7 of the World Series.” But just take a look at everything else that’s happened this week:

  • President Trump showed up at a World Series game in D.C., which led the crowd to boo, unfurl a banner supporting impeachment, and chant “Lock him up!”
  • The NCAA announced that it would allow players to profit off their likeness, and before you knew it, Mitt Romney was on ESPN warning of a future where star running backs drive Ferraris to class.
  • Defensive end Michael Bennett was traded to the Dallas Cowboys, and the Dallas Morning News reports that before completing the deal, Jerry Jones made it clear to Bennett that the vocal player would have to stand for the National Anthem.
  • Deadspin’s new owners sent a memo to its staff telling them to “stick to sports,” even though much of the site is dedicated to non-sports issues, and a day later, much of the staff quit en masse.

Phew. We’ve been doing this newsletter for about a month now, and already, we’ve spent lots of time discussing why “stick to sports” is nothing more than a myth, so we’re not going to get into that again.. We’d just like to remind you that it’s impossible to separate these things, no matter how hard you try. So take a deep breath and hang up the phone. Just listen to the sports talk, and when the subject inevitably turns to something happening off the field, know that the “sports” label still rings true.

Kevin C. Cox / Getty Images

HOLY WARS

Do we really need to hype this one up any more than it already is? Number one versus number two. SEC title chances on the line. National Championship chances on the line. Two Heisman quarterbacks. Two coaches, mythical in different ways. Both schools are known for defense (the last regular season game these teams were ranked 1 and 2, the final score was 9-6…after overtime), but with Joe Burrow’s arrival in Baton Rouge and Tua Tagovailoa’s likely return from injury, expect some fireworks this time around.

#1 LSU at #2 Alabama is Saturday at 3:30 PM EST on CBS.

SO LET IT BE WRITTEN…

‘You’re Starting From Scratch’: Does Chase Center House Warriors’ Future Or Past?

By Ramona Shelburne • ESPN

The Chase Center was supposed to be a palace fit for the king’s of the NBA. Ramona Shelburne takes us inside a stadium and a franchise that, removed from its former glory, is struggling to discover their identity.

“Baseball Became Secondary”

By Ryan Dixon • SportsNet

Ryan Dixon talked to dozens of players, executives, and journalists to capture this epic oral history of the 1989 World Series earthquake.

The Sports Betting Capital of New York Is…Eastern New Jersey. Meet the Fanatics Who Make the Journey Each Weekend.

By David Hill • Esquire

What would you do to place a bet on a game? For some, it’s worth hopping on a train and leaving the Big Apple. We can only hope that they win enough to afford a ticket home.

Mike Ehrmann / Getty Images

THE HUMANITY OF ROBO UMPS

The umpiring in this World Series was…questionable at best, especially when calling balls and strikes. It doesn’t help that the broadcast shows exactly where a pitch was thrown in relation to the strike zone. When the whole world sees a ball, and it’s called a strike, you have a problem.

And so, the great robo ump debate has begun anew. The logic is that if our broadcasts can show us balls and strikes, why not just have those pitches automatically called using the same technology? The thinking makes sense. And now, the MLB is testing electronic strike zones in the Minor Leagues. They need work, but that’s what the Minors are for, right?

Opponents say that getting rid of umpires calling balls and strikes would get rid of part of the human element of the game. At ROS, we’re all about the human element. But even we see that this isn’t a hill to die on. We’re not going to get rid of umpires; we’re just helping them do their jobs better, because when the whole world can see them mess up time and time again, it makes it nearly impossible for them to do those jobs without a game ending in a chorus of “UMP, ARE YOU BLIND?!”

Although as Game 6’s interference call shows, those aren’t going anywhere, with or without robots.

OLD SCHOOL

A Team Playing From the Rough (2000)

By Kurt Streeter • Baltimore Sun

Here is the story of, as one school administrator put it, Baltimore’s first golf team from the hood. Most members of St. Frances’ golf team had never swung a golf club before the season that Kurt Streeter chronicles here, and everyone knows they have no shot at winning. No matter. They still go to practice every day at their “course,” which includes a gallery of inmates watching from a nearby prison and shopping carts substituting for water hazards.

David Ramos / World Rugby via Getty Images

STAIRWAY TO SPORTS HEAVEN

Tomorrow morning, England will face South Africa in the Rugby World Cup finals. England made it there by dismantling the famous All Blacks of New Zealand in the semifinals—and because of a £325 ladder.

But before we can get to how a ladder has proven critical to this championship run, here’s a little rugby lesson for anyone who doesn’t know that much about the sport: when the ball goes out of bounds, there’s a throw in like soccer. It’s called a “line-out.” But unlike soccer, players lift teammates into the air, like a cheer team almost—to get the ball before the other team can reach it. You can watch an explainer here.

In the months leading up to the World Cup, rugby fan Tom Kitching saw footage from England practices where assistant coach Steve Borthwick was running line-out drills by tossing a ball from the top of a ladder, forcing the team to vault the player even higher in the air. Borthwick owns a ladder company, and so he especially noticed how Borthwick was wobbling on the step ladder, causing him to spray his throws all across the pitch. So Kitching sent the team a new model he’d been working on, one with a tripod-style leg that provides maximum stability. “Borthwick gave me a call to say how much of a difference it made to the forwards’ line-out practice,” Kitching told The Sun, and now, Kitching’s ladder has made the trip all the way to Japan with the team. Maybe it will join the victory celebration too.

Watch England v. South Africa in the Rugby World Cup championship at 5 AM EST Saturday morning.

LAST WORDS

“Persistence can change failure into extraordinary achievement.”

Matt Biondi

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