While we were away … sports news we didn’t see coming

The world (literally) according to Jim:

• Great time to take two weeks off for a family vacation trip, right? …

The timing – for a long-awaited 12-day trip to London, Paris and Dublin – was dependent on the whims of the grandchild’s school district. When spring break came up the weeks of March 18 and 25 … well, there went March Madness™.

And while we didn’t figure we’d miss much with the local participation in the men’s NCAA Tournament – and we’ll discuss Andy Enfield’s departure from USC below – it was obvious that locally, at least, the women’s tournament would be the far more compelling attraction. Which is exactly what has happened. …

• But a potential (rumored? Manufactured?) gambling scandal involving baseball’s most notable player and his (now former) interpreter? Who on earth saw that coming?

The question of and investigation into what Shohei Ohtani knew and when he knew it, regarding the $4.5 million or so that Ippei Mizuhara allegedly transferred from Ohtani’s account to that of an illegal bookie, is likely going to take a while regardless of Rob Manfred’s wishes. The IRS has questions, as well, and for the sake of everyone involved it’s hoped that Ohtani’s people – agent Nez Balelo, financial people, lawyers, etc. – have their act together far better than they did when this story first broke two weeks ago. …

• Maybe it was because we were in London at the time, but the way the the Ohtani matter has played out bears some resemblance to the tumult in England surrounding Catherine, Princess of Wales, before she announced her cancer diagnosis more than a week ago.

Rumor and uninformed opinion – the stuff that turns social media into a toxic wasteland – feed on an information vacuum. The furor about a retouched family picture morphed into a feeding frenzy when stories about a Kate sighting at a farmer’s market surfaced, and the frenzy didn’t subside until the princess herself issued her statement March 22, recorded and produced by the trustworthy BBC.

(The frenzy surrounding the Royal Family never truly subsides, of course. At most it’s reduced to a slow simmer.) …

• Now consider the Ohtani story. The first version was amended, apparently after someone in Shohei’s camp realized it could put him in jeopardy from his sport and the legal system. Ippei was quickly shoved under the bus, but it was five more days before Shohei met the media in L.A. and read a prepared statement without taking questions.

Understandably, he was limited in what he could say, but without those questions and potential answers there remain a lot of information gaps still to be filled, and remember what we said about rumor and uninformed opinion feeding on a vacuum. …

• The memes and rumors and accusations aren’t going anywhere for a while. And if you did a Shohei search on Google on Monday you might have run across this item: “Shohei Ohtani Caught Placing Bets On Penn State Baseball.”

It was, naturally, on the website of the Penn State student publication. And it was dated April 1 – or, as we like to refer to it, National Skepticism Day (in other words, be very careful what you believe). This wasn’t a Sidd Finch-level April Fool’s prank – Monday was the 39th anniversary of George Plimpton’s wonderful Sports Illustrated story – but it wasn’t bad. …

• Incidentally, among the many benefits of being in Europe the last two weeks was this: When the Dodgers and Padres played in Seoul, the games started at 10 a.m. London time. (Thanks to an MLB.tv subscription and efficient wifi, no problem.) …

• There are not many signs yet in Paris of Olympic fever, although the Games are still four months away (and we did see some partially-assembled bleachers near the Château de Versailles, where equestrian competition will be held). But there are official Paris 2024 merchandise centers, and those prepared to use a credit card were warned: It had better be that of the official sponsor. …

• As expected, Andy Enfield took the SMU men’s basketball coaching job on Monday, and this might be a case of a job candidate getting more mileage out of less achievement. It’s not that Enfield’s USC teams didn’t have their moments, but the coach’s frequent recitations of the program’s virtues after a while seemed desperate attempts to make Trojans basketball seem more prominent than it actually was. …

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