CREDIT: Associated Press
Welcome to Leading Off, a look at the week ahead in sports where we’ll let you know what to look out for this week, recap the weekend, and point you toward interesting sports stories to read. Let us know in the comments if we missed anything or if you want to let us know what you’re watching for and reading.
The Week Ahead
College football season begins. The NCAA’s summer of distress is nearly over, even if the distress isn’t. North Carolina travels to sixth-ranked South Carolina on Thursday, headlining a full slate of games and kicking off a weekend that includes marquee match-ups between No. 5 Georgia and No. 8 Clemson and No 12. LSU and No. 20 TCU. The NCAA hasn’t needed a season to start like this in a long time: it spent the offseason battling litigation from current and former players over compensation for college athletes and its alleged inaction on concussions, all while bungling investigations, ruling a Marine ineligible (then fixing it), and launching a much-criticized probe into its most high-profile player. It’s been a bad summer for NCAA president Mark Emmert, to say the least.
Women’s soccer finale. The Western New York Flash will try to win their fourth consecutive title in a fourth different league Saturday when they take on the Portland Thorns in the National Women’s Soccer League’s first championship game. The game will certainly have star power: U.S. National Team members Abby Wambach and Carli Lloyd lead the Flash in scoring, while the Thorns boast national team stars Alex Morgan, Tobin Heath, and Rachel Buehler, as well as Canadian star Christine Sinclair. The championship is at 8 p.m. Saturday in Rochester.
Nine For IX: The final film in ESPN’s Nine for IX series celebrating the anniversary of Title IX examines the branding of female athletes as sex symbols. Branded airs Tuesday at 8 p.m. on ESPN.
U.S. Open begins. The final Grand Slam of the tennis season starts Monday in Flushing Meadows, New York, where Andy Murray and Serena Williams will try to defend their singles’ titles. The most intriguing potential match-ups: Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal could meet in the quarterfinals, and Williams and Sloane Stephens, who haven’t played since the Australian Open, are slated to run into each other in the fourth round. For the first time ever, not a single American man is seeded in the top 10 of the men’s draw.
The return of Olbermann. Keith Olbermann’s return to ESPN officially begins tonight, when his hour-long show — aptly titled “Olbermann” — kicks off on ESPN2 at 11 p.m.
From The Weekend
Japan won its ninth Little League World Series title, knocking off a team from Chula Vista, California, 6-4, in the championship game Sunday.
Buffalo Bills quarterback Kevin Kolb suffered a potential career-ending concussion during a preseason game in Washington.
Pittsburgh Penguins star Sidney Crosby, who will play for Canada at the Winter Olympics, came out against Russia’s anti-gay law.
FIFA president Sepp Blatter still expects to move the 2022 World Cup hosted by Qatar to winter.
You Should Read…
ESPN ombudsman Robert Lipsyte examines the company’s motives in pulling out of its partnership with PBS on League of Denial, a documentary about the NFL’s concussion negligence.
Sports On Earth’s Will Leitch touches on Ryan Braun’s performance enhancing drug apology and how a press release has replaced the tearful apology tour.
The Shadow League’s Jason Woullard notes that while black quarterbacks have long thrived in college football, they now make up the game’s most elite signal callers.
Bylaw Blog’s John Infante considers potential ways to reform the NCAA amid the Johnny Manziel autograph investigation.