'Fixes' in Super Bowl, global soccer, Davis Cup

 

 
 
 
 
Head coach John Harbaugh of the Baltimore Ravens shakes hands with his brother, head coach Jim Harbaugh of the San Francisco 49ers, after winning Super Bowl XLVII. Neither Harbaugh exactly covered himself with glory in Sunday's NFL championship game.
 

Head coach John Harbaugh of the Baltimore Ravens shakes hands with his brother, head coach Jim Harbaugh of the San Francisco 49ers, after winning Super Bowl XLVII. Neither Harbaugh exactly covered himself with glory in Sunday's NFL championship game.

Photograph by: Ezra Shaw, Getty Images, The Associated Press

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Items that may grow up to be columns, Vol. XV, Chapter 2:

WE’VE MADE IT! — How pervasive are the tentacles of the match-fixing syndicate that’s allegedly behind many of the nearly 700 soccer matches found to have been perverted by bribes, in the latest revelations by a joint Interpol-Europol investigation that could do incredible harm to the sport?

Put it this way: a New York Times report cites suspicions of bribes paid to fix World Cup and European championship qualifiers, Champions League games, including one played in England, and matches in Asia, Africa, Central and South America, Italy, Turkey, Germany, Switzerland, Belgium, Croatia, Austria, Hungary, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Slovenia ... and Canada.

Really? How deep into the barrel would those Singapore-based fixers have had to look to find a game in Canada that was worth fixing? Someone wagered? Please raise your hand, if you were the guy.

BROTHERS GRIM — Nobody is downplaying the significance of two brothers coaching against one another in a Super Bowl, but it wasn’t exactly a clinic the Harbaugh boys put on. John, the Reasonable One, calling for a fake field goal at the end of the first half, costing the Ravens three points, should have come back to haunt them. And Excitable Jim has to take some of the heat for the 49ers’ failure to complete the comeback in the dying moments. Second-and-goal, the end zone five yards away, three cracks at it, and he refuses to use one of the most productive, varied, clever running attacks in football to get there — and take as much time off the clock as possible? Brutal.

THEY ARE THE WORLD — It’s not entirely accurate to say that Canada’s historic World Group tennis victory over Spain in their Davis Cup tie at the University of British Columbia was buried by the Super Bowl — it did make the front page of The Vancouver Sun, and some other Canadian dailies, in picture form at least — but it’s a fact that everything else is in danger of asphyxiation on the day of America’s greatest spectacle.

“World Champions!” — that go-to headline for news outlets the day after an American team wins a title game of an American league, playing an American sport — pretty much guarantees that anything less is not worthy.

Phil Mickelson’s wire-to-wire victory at the Waste Management Phoenix Open, which drew more fans on Saturday, nearly 180,000, than the Masters does for its entire tournament, was pretty impressive. But it got lost in the day-long Super Bowl buzz, as did Milos Raonic’s overpowering of Guillermo Garcia-Lopez, who basically threw up his hands and said “No mas” on Raonic’s service games.

A-TEAM, B-TEAM — So now Spain knows how Canada feels when it has to put together a rag-tag hockey side of warm bodies to play in the Spengler Cup or the world championships because its best players are otherwise engaged. The Davis Cup powerhouse’s five biggest names — Rafael Nadal, David Ferrer, Fernando Verdasco, Feliciano Lopez and Nicolas Almagro — were either hurt or not interested in showing up, and that meant two “gimme” singles points for the rising star, world No. 13 Raonic, and only a point from any of the other three matches needed to send the Spaniards home.

Veteran Frank Dancevic provided it with a stirring upset of Marcel Granollers on Friday night, and it was all but over before the weekend even began.

ROONEY, SCHMOONEY — Say what you want about the NFL and its cynical world view, but what a masterpiece of politics it engineered for Super Bowl Sunday.

After not a single member of a minority was hired to fill a post-season head coaching vacancy in a league where around 60 per cent of players are non-white — rendering the NFL’s “Rooney Rule,” meant to be an affirmative-action mandate to promote hiring of minorities for coaching positions, ridiculous — the league balanced the books the only way it knows how: shiny objects.

On the frivolous side of the ledger, where the heavy brainwork that (white) coaches do is not required, Jennifer Hudson got to share a tear-inducing moment with the massacre survivors from the Sandy Hook Elementary School choir, singing God Bless America, Alicia Keys performed the Star Spangled Banner (bet you hadn’t realized it was a dirge) and the fabulous Beyonce put on what must have been the most riveting halftime performance in SB history.

So there.

ZEBRA FOLLIES — Oh, and a relatively unfabulous referee, Jerome Boger, was handed the season’s biggest assignment after (according to multiple reports) the league allegedly rigged the system and changed his regular-season grades.

Via Deadspin, the sports blog site that broke the Manti Te’o non-existent dead girlfriend story:

“Jim Daopoulos, now an NBC analyst after a long career as both an NFL referee and a supervisor of officials, tells The New York Times: "To be honest, this has happened before. Grades were adjusted. I know the league is very interested in having diversity in the rank and file, and they've done a great job of doing that. And for that reason, they've tried to work this thing out so that Jerome could have the Super Bowl.

“An unnamed official told Yahoo! sports that the league wants diversity on its biggest stage, and inflating Boger's grades ‘is a way to take care of that.’”

They’ll get around to coaches and general managers in another generation or two.

ccole@vancouversun.com

Twitter.com/rcamcole

 
 
 
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Head coach John Harbaugh of the Baltimore Ravens shakes hands with his brother, head coach Jim Harbaugh of the San Francisco 49ers, after winning Super Bowl XLVII. Neither Harbaugh exactly covered himself with glory in Sunday's NFL championship game.
 

Head coach John Harbaugh of the Baltimore Ravens shakes hands with his brother, head coach Jim Harbaugh of the San Francisco 49ers, after winning Super Bowl XLVII. Neither Harbaugh exactly covered himself with glory in Sunday's NFL championship game.

Photograph by: Ezra Shaw, Getty Images, The Associated Press

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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