Today in sports: the New Jersey Nets announce a name change, the embodiment of the free-spending culture of European club soccer, and what separates the Redskins-Cowboys from the rest of the NFL's rivalry games.
- On September 4th, the Boston Red Sox had a nine-game lead over the Tampa Bay Rays for the final playoff spot in the American League. Flash forward to today, when the team is clinging to a one-game advantage with three games left to play. Even by Boston's standards, that's a staggering collapse, one that prompted some generous Yankee fans to buy drinks for the Red Sox supporters who made the trek to the Bronx yesterday, and not yell at them to take their hats off when they got into the stadium. We somehow doubt the good feelings will continue after Boston managed to eek out a 7-4 extra innings win in the second game. [The New York Times]
- New Jersey Nets part-owner Jay-Z confirmed today the franchise will be known as the Brooklyn Nets once the team relocates to the under-construction Barclays Center next fall. While dropping New Jersey for Brooklyn was never in doubt, since the new arena is located in Brooklyn, New York Times basketball writer Howard Beck writes there was "internal debate" among ownership about ditching the bland-but-serviceable Nets nickname. Considering the bewildered responses from bloggers to a report last December that the team would be confusingly rechristened the Brooklyn New Yorkers, the decision to stay the course was safe but probably shrewd. [The New York Times]
- Just how many stories were there about the influence of Oakland Athletics general manager Billy Beane leading up to the release of Moneyball last week? So many that our favorite piece--Jorge Arangure's ESPN.com profile of Damien Comolli, the Beane disciple now running Liverpool FC--didn't even crack Byliner's list of the top seven Moneyball-related stories. [Byliner]
- Anyone exhausted by reading about Beane's cost-conscious approach to building a pro sports franchise will enjoy hearing reading about about Sheik Mansour bin Zayed al Nahyan, who purchased Manchester City of the English Premier League in 2008. Since then, he's spent $1.5 billion on player salaries, which is at least partially responsible for UEFA instituting new spending rules requiring clubs across Europe to balance their books or risk being banned from the lucrative Champions League competition, a restriction pretty much all of the free-spending clubs like Barcelona, Real Madrid, Manchester United and Manchester City will find a way around. [The New York Times]
- The Washington Redskins are playing the Dallas Cowboys on Monday Night Football this week, and there's a case to be made that the rivalry has been diminished because both have only been sporadically competitive over the last, say, 15 years. Which isn't something to say in the company of anyone from Washington, writes Marc Tracy, where the game is bigger than the game: it's part of local mythology and the best example pro football has of the clean, old-fashioned hate a good rivalry can generate. Shockingly, former Redskins quarterback Joe Theismann does the best job of putting the game in its proper irrational context: "Until [the] generations have been completely wiped out," he says, "there will always be a need for this kind of a rivalry." [Grantland]