I like to think of myself as an evolved sports fan. Growing up, I was just as passionate and stupid as every other meatball sports fan in existence, but once I got into sportswriting as a career, I thought I'd mellowed a bit. It's probably a combination of the job -- perspective changes when you get a better idea of how the sausage is made -- and becoming older, wiser, and dare I say, more mature. Whatever it is, the way I react to sports is different now than it was then.
Or at least it is most of the time. I'm still prone to some meatball tendencies, and boy, have they come to the forefront in the last few days. Last week, when Italy beat Belgium in the quarterfinals of Euro 2020, a lot was made of Italy doing what most soccer teams do late in a knockout match when they have the lead. They wasted as much time as possible, however they could. Media -- mainly English media -- made a big deal out of this as if the practice was criminal and that Italians should be ashamed of themselves.
I even read one column that was roughly 2,300 words long, admonishing the Italians for their behavior, and roughly 1,700 words into that column, the writer even mentioned that all teams do it. Well, then why are you writing a 2,300-word column about it?
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Then yesterday happened. England beat Denmark to move onto the final of Euro 2020 thanks to a penalty in extra time when England's Raheem Sterling dove while dribbling near the goal. Sterling dribbled into traffic with the clear intent to either get a shot off or go to the ground if a Danish player so much as brushed against him. He did the latter. The ref went along with it, England scored off a penalty and then won.
And all the English media members who were last week complaining about the way Italy played then said something to the effect of "I don't think it should've been a penalty, but I don't care! WEEEE!!"
It's amazing how things change depending on which team is doing something or having it happen to them, isn't it? Anyway, I was so triggered by this that I felt the need to write about it today, nearly 24 hours later. The final between Italy and England is on Sunday. You know who I'll be rooting for, and I hope they win in a way that will leave the English furious.
- A former U.S. Open and Masters champion was sentenced to two years in prison.
- There will not be any fans in attendance at the Olympics this summer.
- Who will be the team MVP for every team in the NFC this season?
- The most polarizing players in the MLB Draft.
Now that that's done with, let's get to the picks.
All times Eastern, and all odds via William Hill Sportsbook
🔥 The Hot Ticket
🏀 Bucks at Suns, 9 p.m. | TV: ABC
The Pick: Under 220.5 (-110): I'm of two minds when it comes to tonight's game. On the one hand, when it comes to the spread, I'm leaning in Phoenix's direction. Milwaukee played almost as well as could be reasonably expected in Game 1, yet still lost by 13, and we don't know how Giannis will react in his second game back compared to the first. On the other hand, I think there's more value to be found under the total than on the spread.
The first game finished at 223 points, but the Suns were a remarkable 25-26 from the free-throw line, while the Bucks shot 44.4% from three. I have a hard time seeing both teams repeat those performances. Plus, now that the first game is out of the way, there's more familiarity between the teams. Both sides have a much better idea of what to expect.
And, you know, I don't think the Suns could have anticipated Giannis looking as lively as he did in the first game. Nor do I think Chris Paul will go supernova in the third quarter again (Paul had 16 points, and the two teams combined for 62 of the games 223 points in the third). We're likely to see some adjustments from both teams tonight that will make points a bit more difficult to come by, so if you want to bet the spread, go ahead. I'm going under.
Key Trend: The under is 8-1 following Milwaukee's last nine losses.
Here's what SportsLine is saying about the game: The Advanced Computer Model doesn't like much of anything here tonight, but both SportsLine experts Mike Barner and Larry Hartstein are in agreement on which side of the spread you should be betting.
💰 The Picks
Royals at Indians, 7:10 p.m. | TV: MLB.TV
The Pick: Indians (-135) -- The Indians come into tonight's game having lost nine straight, and I appreciate that. The main reason for said appreciation is that I'm a White Sox fan, and the losing streak has helped the Sox open an eight-game lead in the AL Central.
The other reason I appreciate it is because it could be the driving force behind this line. Listen, the Indians aren't great. They're a team built on pitching who has seen too many pitchers hit the injured list lately, and it's catching up to them. But the Royals aren't good, either! Kansas City is 36-50 on the year, and it's only 15-28 on the road with a run differential of -66.
In fact, the Royals have their own losing streak, as they've lost nine straight road games. Oh, and they've lost five of six against Cleveland this season. Sure, Kansas City could win tonight, but not as often as the prices on our contestants require them to.
Key Trend: The Royals are 7-24 in their last 31 road games.
Phillies at Cubs, 8:05 p.m. | TV: ESPN
The Pick: Under 7.5 (-120) -- Seriously, it's too bad I wasn't available to write the newsletter on Tuesday because I'd have loved playing the total in all four games of this series. Sure, the under play we made last night didn't win, but I'm back for more for all the same reasons. The forecast for tonight's game calls for temperatures in the high-60s with the wind howling in from left field.
Key Trend: The under is 10-4-1 in the Cubs last 15 games.
🔒 SportsLine Pick of the Day: The Advanced Computer Model has an A-graded play on a side of the money line in tonight's divisional showdown between the Minnesota Twins and Detroit Tigers.
💸 The DFS Rundown
Top Three Starters
- Max Scherzer, Nationals
- Alek Manoah, Blue Jays
- Yu Darvish, Padres
- Adbert Alzolay, Cubs
Today's Top Stack
- Marcus Semien, Blue Jays
- Bo Bichette, Blue Jays
- Vladimir Guerrero, Blue Jays
- George Springer, Blue Jays
- Ryan Jeffers, Twins
⚽ MLS Parlay
Hey, our first MLS bet won last night, why not push our luck with a two-leg parlay paying +464?
- New York Red Bulls (+140)
- Atlanta United or Draw (+135)