CAUSE FOR CONCERN

How the Tokyo Olympics became a case of greed, lies, and propaganda

How the Tokyo Olympics became a case of greed, lies, and propaganda
Just give Simone Biles the gold medal in gymnastics. Photo by Getty Images.

The Tokyo Olympics start Friday. Big mistake. The IOCC already postponed the Games once from last year. They couldn't wait another year to stage a safer, more vaccinated Olympics with more fans and less COVID fear?

Tokyo is one of the world's largest, most educated cities, with a population of about 38 million people. Japan is a highly developed first world country with 126 million people. The vaccination rate in Japan is 21.6 percent, less than half the rate in the U.S., and COVID is rebounding big time here. Tokyo is in an official COVID state of emergency, with cases rising every day in the past month.

The most alarming statistic is this: a recent poll has 83 percent of Japanese not wanting the Games to be held. That's up 14 percent from three months ago. They really don't think hosting the Olympics during a health emergency is a good idea.

Some athletes, like rising American tennis star Coco Gauff, aren't attending the Olympics because they've tested positive for COVID at home. Some already have tested positive after arriving at the Olympic Village in Tokyo, where 4,000 athletes from around the world will live in close quarters. The Olympics could turn into a super spreader event. A public health official in Tokyo was on CNN this week urging organizers to call off the Olympics. The Olympic Village bubble already has sprung a leak, he said.

The world couldn't wait another 12 months to watch canoe slalom races? Bruce Springsteen's daughter in horse jumping? Artistic swimming? Three-on-three basketball shouldn't be an Olympic event. Three on three is when the other guys don't show up at the playground.

There was a rumor that Olympic organizers ordered fragile cardboard beds that would support the weight of only one person – to discourage sex among the athletes. First, how out of touch are the organizers if they think fit, world class athletes in their 20s need a bed?

Besides the rumor wasn't true. The beds are sturdy and recyclable.

It will look weird when athletes stand on the medal platform and put sanitized medals around their own necks by themselves. While wearing gloves. So stupid.

There won't be fans in the stands, but there will be fat cat sponsors, thousands of media and 11,000 athletes. You want to make money? Invest in cotton swabs. Everybody will be tested regularly.

Here's how to make the Olympics safer and nobody gets sick. Just give Simone Biles the gold medal in gymnastics and Novak Djokovic the gold in tennis and say good night. I am interested in the basketball competition because the U.S. men will be challenged for a change, and the U.S. women are fun to watch.

Tennis won't have Roger Federer (injury) or Rafael Nadal (rest). The top U.S. woman, No. 4-ranked Sofia Kenin, and the GOAT Serena Williams aren't playing.

Only six teams made the baseball competition and I'm rooting for Israel because I know one of the players who helped the Jewish State qualify. Jeremy Wolf was part of the 2016 Trinity national D3 champions.

Major Japanese corporations and Olympics sponsors announced this week that they won't be sending executives to the opening ceremony. Sponsors include the Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corp., Fujitsu and NEC Corp. No word from the Japanese TV network that airs the Super Terrific Happy Hour.

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Astros on the hunt. Composite Getty Image.

With the Astros' surge from 10 games out of first place to within two games of Seattle, catching and going past the Mariners has naturally become the top objective. It's no given to happen but it's right there. In the final series ahead of the All-Star break, while the Mariners are in the midst of four games with the lowly Angels, the last two World Series champions renew (un)pleasantries at Minute Maid Park.

The Astros enter the weekend five games ahead of the Rangers. They lead the season series with the reigning champs four wins to three. While the Astros can't quite finish off the Arlingtonians by sweeping them in this three game set, shoving them eight games back (even further back of Seattle and the current Wild Card teams) and clinching the tiebreaker would seem close to a death blow. Taking two out of three would be fine for the Astros. If the Rangers win the series, they are clearly still in the American League West and Wild Card races coming out of the All-Star break.

Last year the Rangers had the best offense in the AL. So far in 2024 they rank a mediocre eighth in runs per game. Nathaniel Lowe is the lone Ranger (get it?!?) regular playing as well as he did last season. Corey Seager has been fine but not at the MVP runner-up level of last year. Marcus Semien is notably down, as is 2023 ALCS Astros-obliterater Adolis Garcia. Stud 2023 rookie Josh Jung has been out with a broken wrist since ex-Astro Phil Maton hit him with a pitch in the fourth game of this season, though fill-in third baseman Josh Smith has been the Rangers' best player. 21-year-old late season phenom Evan Carter largely stunk the first two months this season and has been out since late May with a back injury. Repeating is hard, never harder than it is now. Hence no Major League Baseball has done it since the Yankees won three straight World Series 1998-2000.

Chasing down the Division at a crazy clip

From the abyss of their 7-19 start, the Astros sweep over the Marlins clinched a winning record at the break with them at 49-44. Heading into the Texas matchup the Astros have won at a .627 clip since they were 7-19. A full season of .627 ball wins 101 games. If the Astros win at a .627 rate the rest of the way they'll finish with 92 wins, almost certainly enough to secure a postseason slot and likely enough to win the West. Expecting .627 the rest of the way is ambitious.

With it fairly clear that Lance McCullers is highly unlikely to contribute anything after his latest recovery setback, and Luis Garcia a major question mark, what Justin Verlander has left in 2024 grows more important. With the way the Astros often dissemble or poorly forecast when discussing injuries, for all we know Verlander could be cooked. Inside three weeks to the trade deadline, General Manager Dana Brown can't be thinking a back end of the rotation comprised of Spencer Arrighetti and Jake Bloss should be good enough. The Astros have 66 games to play after the All-Star break, including separate stretches with games on 18 and 16 consecutive days.

All-Star MIAs

Viewership for Tuesday's All-Star game at Globe Life Field in Arlington will be pretty, pretty, pretty low in Houston. One, All-Star Game ratings are pitiful every year compared to where they used to be. Two, the Astros could be down to zero representatives at Tuesday's showcase. Kyle Tucker was rightfully named a reserve but had no shot at playing as he continues the loooong recovery from a bone bruise (or worse) suffered June 3. Being named an All-Star for a ninth time was enough for Jose Altuve. He opts out of spending unnecessary time in Texas Rangers territory citing a sore wrist. This despite Altuve playing four games in a row since sitting out the day after he was plunked and highly likely to play in all three games versus the Rangers this weekend. Yordan Alvarez exiting Wednesday's rout of the Marlins with hip discomfort and then missing Thursday's game seem clear reasons for him to skip, though he has indicated thus far he intends to take part. Yordan is the most essential lineup component to the Astros' hopes of making an eighth straight playoff appearance.

Ronel Blanco should have made the American League squad on performance, but pretty obviously his 10 game illegal substance use suspension was held against him. As it works out, Blanco will pitch Sunday in the last game before the break which would render him unavailable for the All-Star Game anyway. Blanco is eligible to pitch, but given the career high-shattering innings workload Blanco is headed for, no way the Astros want him on the mound Tuesday. Just last year the Astros kept Framber Valdez from pitching in the game.

While waiting, and waiting, and waiting on Tucker's return, the Astros have also been waiting on Chas McCormick to get back to something even faintly resembling the hitter he was last year. McCormick routinely looks lost at the plate. He has four hits (all singles) in his last 32 at bats with his season OPS pitiful at .572. During the break the Astros should seriously weigh sending McCormick to AAA Sugar Land and giving Pedro Leon a try in a job share with Joey Loperfido.

*Catch our weekly Stone Cold ‘Stros podcast. Brandon Strange, Josh Jordan, and I discuss varied Astros topics. The first post for the week generally goes up Monday afternoon (second part released Tuesday) via The SportsMap HOU YouTube channel or listen to episodes in their entirety at Apple, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts.

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