Each week, The Reporters put their thumbs out to the good and the bad in the world of sports. This week, they discuss the American support of the World Cup, the passivity of NHL GMs, the clubhouse issues of Bryce Harper, and the career of the retired Alex Kovalev.
Bruce Arthur, Toronto Star: My thumb is up to American soccer fans, who have been much maligned over the years. Americans don't like soccer, people say - the same people, of course, year after year. Too little scoring, too much diving, too many ties, blah blah blah. Americans, the laziest critics have said for years, are too good for soccer. That typically mindless braying resurfaced during this World Cup, but a funny thing happened: it was overwhelmed by a tidal wave of support, of enjoyment, of commitment to a U.S. team that didn't have the most talent, but that rewarded its fans with everything it had. TV ratings? Through the roof. Online support? Inescapable. Americans embraced soccer, and it was so much fun. If they can't accept the metric system, they can at least love this.
Steve Simmons, Sun Media: My thumb is down to the passivity of NHL general managers, who are sometimes too polite for their own good. The GMs missed out on the opportunity to make an offer to restricted free agent PK Subban and now that Subban has filed for arbitration, his rights are protected by Montreal for the coming season. But if I'm a GM, I would have made a monstrous offer to Subban, more than $10 million a year, and not just because he was the only game changing player available. I look at this two ways. If I throw huge money at Subban, I have a shot to get him - albeit it's a long shot. And if Montreal matches, which is usually the way these things go, then I'm messing up their payroll. Either way, I have nothing to lose. Even if the GMs don't agree.
Michael Farber, Sports Illustrated: My thumb is down to Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper, for more unwelcome Washington punditry. After missing 57 games following thumb surgery, the uber-talented 21-year-old returned this week full of enthusiasm and suggestions. He critiqued the batting order - he was hitting sixth - and, more tellingly, the personnel. Harper was in left field, not his preferred position of centre, implying that Denard Span, the Nats' centre fielder, should have been on the bench. Great for clubhouse chemistry. In publicly slagging first-year manager Matt Williams' lineup, the prodigy wasn't breaking one of baseball's murky unwritten rules. He was violating basic workplace etiquette. Everyone has bosses and co-workers, even Harper, the young and the restless.
Dave Hodge, TSN: And my thumb is sideways - that's right sideways - to the hockey career of Alex Kovalev, who announced his retirement this week at age 41 after playing last season in Switzerland. Why is my thumb sideways? Well, because like a lot of people, I can't decide whether Kovalev had a great career or is one of the great underachievers in the sport of hockey. The term enigma is thrown around too loosely in sports, especially at Russian hockey players. But how else to describe a player would could appear to be the most talented of any in one game, and then invisible the next, a pattern that existed throughout his career. Fans and even Kovalev's teammates used to debate how hard he was trying on any given night. Which, more than anything he accomplished on the ice … seems destined to be what we remember about him most.