Highlights of the week ahead in sports, both here and afar:
THIS WEEK’S BEST BET
XXX Summer Olympics, Opening Ceremonies from London, Friday from 7:30 p.m.-to-midnight (delayed), Channel 4:
Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da: All dressed up in Ralph Lauren ascots and berets — hecho in China — the U.S. team struts into London’s Olympic Stadium possibly mistaken for Team France. Unless you miss the giant USA logo on the front. Cigarettes anyone? The $43 million ceremony for these Triple-X Games, all full of anthems, oaths and torch lighting, begins appropriately at 20:12 GMT. The Daily Mail says a large part of the show will be based on “British rural idyll” (that is, local farm life). The Queen will see it in person. After that, you’ve got to assume there’ll be appearances by Sir Paul McCartney, Harry Potter, shepherd’s pie, Adele, a herd of cows, Susan Boyle, blood pudding, Rowan Atkinson, a gaggle of goats, James Bond and the Herman’s Hermits singing “I’m Henry the VII, I am.” Unless they’re saving some of them for the closing gala.
NBC NewsWire via Getty Images
U.S. women’s soccer team player Heather Mitts, left, poses with David Lauren and U.S. fencer Tim Morehouse in the Ralph Lauren-made Opening Ceremony uniform.
Back to those misfit U.S. outfits: Matthew Kitchen at NBCOlympics.com (linked here) has already described the one worn on “The Today Show” by soccer star Heather Mitts as looking “like a college student trying to fit in while studying abroad. She’s more likely to be chasing unshowered mustachioed men than gold medals and that’s an issue. … If we really wanted the outfits represent all of America our athletes would walk in to the stadium dressed in NASCAR T-shirts, cutoffs, red, white, and blue jester hates, Kanye glasses, and face paint. They’d be wearing the American flag as a cape, and instead of walking in order they’d just shove their way to the front while either telling other countries how much better we are than them, or simply talking loudly on cellphones and stuffing fast food in their faces. America the beautiful.” Rick Newman of U.S. News and World Report (linked here) adds: “Assume for a moment that those very same uniforms were made in America, which they certainly could have been (we do still make a few things here, believe it or not). Would everything seem to be just fine, then? Um, sure, if you send your kids to prep school and summer in the Hamptons. You’d feel right at home amidst people wearing blue blazers, white slacks, and for the women, white skirts and bobby socks. James, fetch me my riding whip. Ralph Lauren apparently hasn’t noticed, but a lot of Americans are a little touchy these days about the growing gap between the wealthy and everybody else.” Not sure who’ll tote the stars and stripes, but Spain has already said the Lakers’ Pau Gasol will replaced the injured Rafael Nadal. Must be nice to have limited choices.
MLB: Angels vs. Kansas City, Angel Stadium, 7 p.m., FSW:
Royals closer and Dodgers hefty castoff Jonathan Broxton (1-2, 2.34, 22 saves, 4 blown saves) could have made the AL All-Star team in K.C. recently — Billy Butler was the team’s lone pick instead. But by the time this series in Anaheim is over, Big Bad Jon could be property of the San Francisco Giants or New York Mets, according to trade rumors. The Angels may be interested as well. Watch how this develops Tuesday (7 p.m., FSW) and Wednesday (12:35 p.m., FSW).
MLB: Dodgers at St. Louis, 5 p.m., Prime:
After a three-game sweep in the Big Apple, the heat is on the Dodgers to perform in a four-game series in St. Louis, and it can be measured in Fahrenheit and humidity. Starting today, the forecast in degrees is projected to be 103, 102, 101 and finally cooling off to 96 with isolated thunderstorms. The humidity: 75, 79, 78 and 78. No sweat, right? Convert it all to Celsius and see if that makes it any better on the heat index. Especially if you’re Chad Billingsley (4-9, 4.30), who spent some time on the DL to rest a weary elbow after losing five starts in a row, giving up 20 earned runs and 41 hits in 29 innings over that stretch. He’s back in the rotation today (with an 0-2 record in four starts for his career at Busch Stadium, with a 6.41 ERA) against the defending World Series champs — it’s still hard to believe — who have hovered around the .500 mark with rookie manager Mike Matheny. He’s finally got Lance Berkman activated after missing 47 games with a knee injury, but the starting pitching staff is hurting. A hot day in St. Louis can produce a 12-run inning, which the Cardinals pulled off the other day against the Cubs, sending 17 men to the plate and hitting seven doubles. The series continues Tuesday (5 p.m., Channel 9); Wednesday (5 p.m., Channel 9) and Thursday (10:30 a.m., Prime).
Soccer: Galaxy vs. Tottenham Hotspur, Home Depot Center, 7:30 p.m., ESPN3:
What are the chances that the 41-year-old Brad Friedel, the former UCLA and U.S. National team standout, puts on the big oven mitts and gets the start in the nets for the Spurs? For the fourth season in a row, and second consecutive season against an English Premier League club, the Galaxy hosts a major international friendly. They played to a 1-1 draw with Manchester City last year. Not great timing for this, though: This means the Galaxy will have five matches in 15 days in the middle of one of the toughest part of the MLS schedule. More friendlies taking place this week: Liverpool FC vs. AS Rome at Boston’s Fenway Park (Wednesday, 3:30 p.m., ESPN2), Liverpool FC vs. Tottenham Hotspur in Baltimore (Saturday, 10 a.m., ESPN2) and Chelsea FC vs. AC Milan in Miami (Saturday, 3:30 p.m., ESPN2).
Hockey: Kings’ Stanley Cup Championship DVD/Blue Ray release:
It’s official: They’ve made a video about the whole thing. For $34.99. With a Bob Miller and Jim Fox call of the championship included (we’re told).
Soccer: MLS All Stars vs. Chelsea FC in Philadelphia, 5:30 p.m., ESPN2:
The Galaxy’s Landon Donovan and David Beckham are scheduled to make an appearance, with fans in the stands supposedly being given out T-shirts that read: “Let’s kick them in the crown jewels.” Only in Philly. When they had these two in a midseason exhibition, the MLS Stars outlasted Chelsea 1-0 before some 21,000 in Bridgeview, Ill., in 2006.
XXX Summer Olympics: Women’s soccer, qualifying rounds, 8:30 a.m., NBC Sports Network:
Shhh. The Olympics officially begin a couple of days before the Opening Ceremonies, with, among others, the U.S. and Alex Morgan entertaining France in women’s kickball.
XXX Summer Olympics: Men’s soccer, qualifying rounds, 4 a.m., NBC Sports Network:
A couple more men’s soccer games as well at Wembley Stadium to get it rolling.
MLB: Dodgers at San Francisco, 7 p.m., Prime:
During the Dodgers’ ugly seven-game losing streak last June, Barry Zito, Ryan Vogelsong and Tim Lincecum shut them out on back-to-back-to-back nights at AT&T Park. For Lincecum, it was his first win in nearly two months and brought the Giants even with the Dodgers for the NL West lead. The importance of this series, which continues Saturday (1 p.m., Channel 11) and Sunday (1 p.m., Prime), could set the tone for the team’s meeting nine more times — three in L.A. in later August, three in San Francisco in the second weekend of September, and the last three of the season back in L.A. on Oct. 1-3.
MLB: Angels vs. Tampa Bay, Angel Stadium, 7 p.m., FSW:
Luke Scott’s at least got the muttonchop look going for him — a flashback to George Scott (no relation, apparently) and drawing as much attention to the Rays outfielder/first baseman since maybe Brady Anderson was called “90210″ for his Luke Perry look in the 1980s. It was only a matter of time until the sideburns got their own Twitter account. Over @LukesSideburns, you can find things like: “Batman would look so much more badass if he could find a way to work me into his costume.” Scott, in his first year at Tampa after two seasons in Baltimore, is hitting only a meager .225 but has 12 homers and 45 RBIs in 67 games, and that’s after a 9-for-16 four-game stretch against Cleveland last week. The rest of the Rays are in contention for the AL wildcard, second in the AL East. This series continues Saturday (6 p.m., FSW) and Sunday (12:30 p.m., FSW)
XXX Summer Olympics: Swimming, beach volleyball, gymnastics, basketball, 5 a.m. to 6 p.m.; 8 p.m. to midnight (delayed), Channel 4:
Everyone into the pool for the first of eight swimming days in a row. Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte are locked in at the start in the 400m individual medley. Lochte, the reigning world champion in the event, held off Phelps, the reigning Olympic champion, at the recent U.S. Olympic trials. Lochte, above left, pulled away during the breaststroke leg, winning in 4 minutes 7.06 seconds as Phelps touched the wall in 4:07.89. On the women’s side, Natalie Coughlin and Missy Franklin are part of the U.S. women’s 400 freestyle relay with gold at stake. Other medals up for grabs on the first day: men’s road racing in cycling, archery, shooting, fencing, weightlifting and judo. More highlights: U.S. women’s soccer vs. Columbia (9 a.m., NBC Sports Network); U.S. women’s basketball team starts out against Croatia (11:45 a.m., Channel 4); U.S. women’s volleyball vs. Korea (3 p.m., Channel 4); first round tennis matches from Wimbledon (4 a.m., Bravo).
MLS: Galaxy at FC Dallas, 5 p.m., NBC Sports Network:
The channel doesn’t have Olympic events? The Dallas franchise just signed a new deal with a nutrition company that will have its name splashed across the red-and-white striped jerseys, starting with this game. In case you aren’t familiar with who the Galaxy is playing.
ATP: Farmers Classic at UCLA Tennis Center, singles final, 1 p.m., ESPN2; doubles final, 7 p.m. (delayed), Tennis Channel:
Sam Querrey and James Blake aren’t in London for Olympic tennis – they’re instead among the headliners and on course to go from Monday’s first day to this finish in the 28-man event. Thousand Oaks’ Querrey, seeded second behind France’s Benoit Paire, won here in 2009 and ’10, but missed last year with an injury. On the doubles side, Mike and Bob Bryan, who won this six times in the last 11 years, are at the Olympics In its 86th year, the event saw Ernests Gulbis win the singles last year (he isn’t in this year’s field) and Mark Knowles and Xavier Malisse take the doubles title (Malisse is back, playing with fellow Belgian Ruben Bemelmans. Querrey is also playing doubles, with
NASCAR: Sprint Cup Brickyard 400, 10 a.m., ESPN:
A year ago, 138,000 saw Paul Menard, who qualified 15th, celebrate his first career victory in 167 starts, passing defending champ Jamie McMurray with three laps left and holding off Jeff Gordon. Menard’s billionaire dad, John, owner of the family’s hardware chain store and former Indianapolis 500 car owner, seemed more excited. “I’ve been waiting to kiss these bricks for such a long time. I’m ready!” John Menard yelled. We were under the impression this was still called the Brickyard 400, but then we’ve seen it also called “Crown Royal presents the Curtiss Shaver 400 at the Brickyard.” The Nationwide Indy 250 is Saturday (1:30 p.m., ESPN). Whatever they’re calling that now.
XXX Summer Olympics: Swimming, beach volleyball, gymnastics, basketball, 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.; 8 p.m. to midnight (delayed), Channel 4:
The debut of the U.S. men’s basketball team comes at the expense of France (6:30 a.m., NBC Sports Network), followed by Pau Gasol and Spain against China (8:30 a.m., NBC Sports Network). In swimming, the men’s 400-meter freestyle relay usually requires split-second attention as the U.S., France and Australia top-guns go full speed ahead, while the women’s 400m freestyle and 100m butterfly are at stake for medals as well. Diving hands out its first medal as well. And women’s gymnastics starts with team qualifications (delayed in prime time). Other highlights: U.S. men’s volleyball vs. Serbia (11:45 a.m., Channel 4); U.S. men’s water polo vs. Montenegro (2:40 p.m., Channel 4). Somewhere in there is Kim Rhode going for gold again in the women’s skeet. The 33-year-old can be the first U.S. athletes in an individual sport to win a medal in five straight Olympics.