Major European soccer (or what they call football) is ramping up as Europe returns to sports and there was no bigger story this week than Liverpool winning their first England Premier League title in 30 years. Thirty. Years. Led by stalwart forward Mohamed Salah, they breezed by punch less Crystal Palace by a 4-0 score. Salah struck what might be considered the back-breaking blow just before halftime in scoring his team-leading 17th goal of the season. That ties him for 3rd in the league to date, but Liverpool made a mockery of the league, now standing at 28-1-2 and 26 points ahead of second place Manchester City. A big win for the town of Liverpool and a worthy Sportsman of the Week!
We're going to go back to back on golf, but there have been two great finishes the past two weeks. This week, Webb Simpson surged ahead of a crowded field to win the RBC Heritage at Hilton Head, South Carolina by one stroke at an incredible 22 under par. Down the stretch is when he specialized, with birdie on 5 of the last 7 holes as well as a bogey free round with par or better on the last 29 holes. The victory on Father's Day was special for Simpson, a father of five and someone who lost his father less than 3 years ago. The American Simpson notched a tournament record by two strokes and continues the return to sports as a worthy Sportsman of the Week!
Another week, another American sport returns. Golf. No fans of course, but most of the top players in the world gathered to compete at The Charles Schwab Challenge at the Colonial Club in Ft. Worth, Texas. And through a thrilling back nine with as many as 8 golfers in contention, our Sportsman of the Week emerged. Daniel Berger had been one of the hottest golfers before the 13-week hiatus with several Top 10 finishes. Add a championship. Berger outdueled young phenom Collin Morikawa in the first overtime hole (at 17) to secure the victory with a par. Several golfers had a chance to join the playoff at the 18th hole with birdie putt after birdie putt being missed. The American's steady hand on the last few holes and on the playoff secured his third PGA tour victory, but his first since 2017. After a devastating wrist injury that nearly derailed his career in 2018-19, Berger is back, Baby. And our Sportsman of the Week!
It's clear who the greatest MMA female fighter of all time is. And she might be the best fighter of all time regardless of gender. Amanda Nunes once again showed why she is the standard when it comes to MMA in defending her UFC women's featherweight title to keep both of her belts (the other being bantamweight). She beats all comers, this time Canadian upstart Felicia Spencer who courageously took Nunes the full five rounds but was no where close on points (did not win a round). Nunes pieces together style and strength in dismantling her opponents either strategically or by brute force. It was the Brazilian Lioness's 11th straight win and probably more to come. Overall 20-4, note her first bout was a loss and no losses since 2014. It's going to take a special talent to beat 32 year-old Nunes and she is a deserving Sportswoman of the Week!
In a limited sports environment, the sports that are running for real have the advantage. And running multiple times a week helps. NASCAR put together an aggressive "return from COVID" schedule that resulted in two Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series (MENCS) races per week through the end of May, with lower series races on the other days to boot. And the TV viewership has been high. Enter one of their young stars, Chase Elliott. Chase can be a polarizing figure. Son of a champion racer Bill Elliott, some think he's too entitled. Others are craving a new generation of drivers to challenge ones they don't like. Like Kyle Busch. Either you love Kyle or hate him. The saga started with a major wreck to cost Chase a win in the Toyota 500 on Wednesday 5/20 in Darlington (Busch wrecked Chase so bad he actually apologized) and it was revenge time. Chase first exerted it in the Gander RV and Outdoor Truck Series which is raced predominantly by aspiring, younger drivers. But Kyle Busch has always flexes his muscle by racing and usually winning, what being a champion driver against much less experience. To the point that Kevin Harvick put together a fun bounty for any MENCS series driver willing to race Kyle and win, he'd pay them $100K. Then Chase did it (money went to charity). Chase avenged the 5/20 wreck to beat Kyle at the North Carolina Education 200 at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Truck race on Tuesday 5/26. Then he went on to win the MENCS race two days later on Thursday 5/28 at the Alsco Uniforms 500 at Charlotte Motor Speedway (securing his playoff spot). All in all, had he won the wreck race (5/20), another race in which he had an ill advised pit strategy (5/24), and even the Sunday race this week in which he was running top 2 before a wreck (5/31), could have had 4 MENCS in a row not counting the Truck Series. As it was, he got his MENCS win, beat Kyle, and is our Longhorndave Sportsman of the Week!
Sports continues to expand post pandemic, especially football in Europe. Where the Bundesliga (Highest League in Germany) storms on, albeit to empty stadiums. But the goals still count. Especially this week, where phenom Kai Havertz scored four of them in two decisive victories for Bayer Leverkusen. The first two came in a relatively easy go of it disposing of bottom dweller Werder Bremen in Bremen, but followed it up with a big win over Borussia Monchengladbach on the road to pull them into fourth place in the league. In each case, he scored the initial goal to take the lead, then followed an opposing goal against with a tiebreaker for which his team never looked back. The 20 year-old wunderkind is a name you're going to see surging in the national renown and is already being pursued for elite leagues throughout Europe and will be able to write his own way. For now, he's a worthy Sportsman of the Week!
Sports in the United States and the world continues it's comeback. The second half of 2020 will be awesome. This week, it was NASCAR that returned to live events. Sure, no fans in person, but over 6 million tuned in to the Real Heroes 400, recognizing front line heroes in the medical field who have helped us through this pandemic. And the race was fun. Nobody had even a practice lap in Darlington, but once the engines roared, it was on. The ultimate winner was one of the best drivers and teams of this generation. Kevin Harvick from Stewart-Haas racing took the checkered flag for the 50th time in his career. As he edged Alex Bowman off of the last yellow flag restart, it wasn't close. Before that though, the race was fraught with strategy and adjustments as teams adjusted their car to the conditions. But Harvick prevailed and it was a small step to normalcy. Even if no fans were there to cheer.
Our society is inching closer and closer every week back to live sports at least on television. A preview was on Saturday night, as the Ultimate Fighting Championship staged a fan-less event and it worked. In the lightweight event, Underdog (+160) Justin Gaethje punished Champion Tony Ferguson through five rounds for a TKO that would have thrilled a crowd had it been in attendance. After a couple of rounds that were pretty close including big blows by both combatants, Gaethje really turned the tide in the third round and a battered Ferguson never seemed to recover. By the 5th round he was done, with just 82 seconds left before the final bell it was all but over and the ref stopped the fight justifiably. A new champion emerged. And more importantly, it showed sports will go on and sooner than later. Justin Gaethje is the Longhorndave Sportsman of the Week!
World records in weightlifting have a physical limit of how much the body can endure, but this week a new record was broken. Hafþór Björnsson / Hafthor Bjornsson deadlifted 501 kg; over 1100 lbs on his way to breaking the prior world record. By 1 kg. The 6'9", 425 behemoth Bjornsson is known in pop culture for playing Ser Gregor Clegane aka The Mountain on the Home Box Office (HBO) captivating series Game of Thrones but has been an elite power lifter for years having won the World's Strongest Man Competition in 2018. The 31-year old Icelandic hulk felt like he could have gone for more, but scoffed at the notion at this point. With the world and his country locked down due to the social restrictions, it's a gift he gave his country and the world. Bjornsson is the epitome of Sportsman, and this is his Week.
I would have lost a bet that I would have had an eSports entry into my Blog as Sportsman of the Week, but not all bets are sure things. And this week's winner is a legitimate athlete when they let him play. Or drive. A car that is. Alex Bowman is one of the younger favorite drivers in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series and pulled a big upset on Sunday in winning at Talladaga. Or at least, virtual Talladega. In a spectacular 70 lap race on the fastest track in NASCAR, Bowman survived several late wrecks and outdueled Corey Lajoie in overtime for his first iRacing win. Bowman is a fan favorite and finally scored a reality win at Chicagoland in 2019 and now becomes only the second driver to win both a real and virtual event on the NASCAR Cup Series circuit. The eNASCAR/iRacing events are a fun way to spend a Sunday and our Sportsman of the Week is a big reason why!