“The Take” for Monday, August 15

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The Gold Rush in Rio…

Rob Schumacher-USA TODAY Sports
Rob Schumacher-USA TODAY Sports

What we’ve learned in the first week of the Summer Olympic Games: Team USA is very good at swimming and in women’s gymnastics. Michael Phelps walks away from the pool (we think) with a haul of medals that most countries, much less athletes, would be thrilled to have. The breakout star of the games may be Simone Biles, with team gymnastics gold as well as the all-around top spot and individual gold and a back story as heartwarming as anyone’s. Women’s soccer (and Hope Solo’s comments) notwithstanding, this has been an impressive Olympics for Team USA with a week to go.

Why we care…

Expect little boys and girls (and their parents) across the country to catch Olympic fever and rush to the gym and the pool. It happened after Team USA’s success in 1996, so don’t be surprised if it happens this year.

The dark side of Rio…

After the International Olympics Committee denied it ever happened (really?) the U.S. Olympic Committee and Ryan Lochte’s mom confirmed that Lochte and three of his swimming teammates were robbed at gunpoint on the streets of Rio. The four were in a taxi on the way back to the Olympic village when a group brandishing a “police” badge pulled the taxi over, put a gun to Lochte’s head and took the Americans’ money. No one was hurt.

Why we care…

There have been reports of sporadic violence during these Games, including the Olympic security chief attacked after he left the opening ceremony by a knife-wielding robber and rocks and/or bullets aimed at a media bus. In fact, after two Australian rowing coaches were robbed on Ipanema Beach, the Aussie delegation put Ipanema and Copacabana beaches off limits for their athletes from 6 p.m. until 6 a.m. Yes, stuff happens in the big city, but you would think patrols would be stepped up for this once-in-a-lifetime chance to show of your city to the world.

The NFL is back…

And so is the list of injuries that every team seems to go through during the pre-season. Philadelphia Eagles rookie quarterback Carson Wentz is out with a hairline fracture in his ribs that could cost him the rest of the preseason at a time when he needs all the reps he can get. And Bills’ outside linebacker IK Enemkpali (he of the punch to Geno Smith’s face that broke the quarterback’s jaw) tore the ACL in his right knee during Saturday’s game against the Colts.  Add Cowboys backup quarterback Kellen Moore suffering a broken fibula on August 2 that will keep him out three to four months, and you can see the M*A*S*H unit growing in NFL camps.

Why we care…

Injuries, we know, are part of the game. Practices have been scaled back in training camp so they’re not so hard on players’ bodies. Does that put more stress on players who, when they get in the pre-season action, haven’t had enough reps in training camp to be ready to block for their quarterback? There’s no perfect system to prevent injuries–that’s why, with the exception of pre-season game #3, you don’t see the starters playing but one or two series. Keep ’em healthy by keeping ’em on the bench.

One star gone, another one back…

Former six-time All-Star reliever Jonathan Papelbon has requested, and received, his release from the Washington Nationals. Manager Dusty Baker said he wasn’t a fit any more with the team, especially with his 2-4 record and 4.37 ERA. You might remember Papelbon from his dustup in the dugout almost a year ago with star outfielder Bryce Harper, who returned to the starting lineup this weekend after missing almost a week with a stiff neck.

Why we care…

The Nationals are comfortably in the lead in their division and as they tweak the roster to get ready for the post-season, Papelbon became an expensive player to have, especially after Washington picked up another All-Star reliever,  Mark Melancon, from the Pirates. In the two weeks since the trade, Papelbon has made just two appearances, both in low-pressure situations. Meanwhile, Melancon has pitched in five games and allowed one hit over five scoreless innings while converting both of his save chances.

Speaking of playoff chances…

The Miami Marlins just saw their chance to claim a wild card spot dwindle, with slugger Giancarlo Stanton now out for the season with a groin injury. It’s the third year he’s not been able to play a full season because of injury. He leaves 2016 with a .244 batting average and 25 home runs.

Why we care…

When Stanton was injured in Saturday’s game, the Marlins were tied with St. Louis for the second wild card slot in the National League. The Mets and Pirates are two clubs that can challenge the Cardinals for the wild card, if the Marlins struggle without Stanton.

This week’s nice try award goes to…

The Pirate fan who was trying to catch a foul ball and instead tosses his extra-loaded nachos in his own face. And he misses the ball.

Featured photo courtesy of USA TODAY Sports, published August 10, 2016.

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