3 sports figures: The young, old and hard to figure out

In the last couple of weeks, three people from the world of sports caught my attention. One is old when it comes to athletic participation. Another is very young in his sport. The third is “middle aged” and has the ability to inspire awe as well as making you want to pull your hair out. Let’s take a look.

Eric Jones. As a NASCAR fan and the commissioner of a racing fantasy league, I am amazed at the age range of the Monster Energy Cup drivers.You have veterans like Kevin Harvick, Ryan Newman and Jimmie Johnson.

Then you have the younger, yet still experienced drivers, such as Kyle Busch, Brad Keslowski and Martin Truex Jr.In a third category you can place the “young guns” such as William Byron, Chase Elliott and Austin Dillon.

And, of course, the Jones boy!

Eric Jones, the 23-year-old native of Byron, Michigan, has one of the most coveted rides in the sport as he wheels the No. 20 Joe Gibbs racing machine. His victory at Darlington the day before Labor Day solidified his chances of making some noise in the playoffs.

But a wreck at Vegas in the playoff opener made a solid performance last Saturday at Richmond a must. Jones performed admirably, finishing fourth behind his other Gibbs racing teammates. Then came the post-race inspection and his night was ruined.

Jones car was disqualified with a rear wheel alignment issue and he was regulated to last in the field. This likely will keep the No. 20 from advancing to the next round after the race this weekend. I can also say that it doesn’t help my fantasy fortunes as Eric Jones in on my team.

I wonder, though, what Eric Jones is thinking. He does not prepare the car, he simply drives it. Why did the car fail the inspection? Was it a simple mistake? Was his team trying to stretch the limits and went slightly too far? Were they adhering to the belief that if you’re not cheating you’re not trying?

I’d hate to think that the cheating was intentional. I feel bad for Eric Jones. I also feel bad that my fantasy team was hurt, though I’m sure no one else feels badly for me!

Tom Brady. Is the 42-year-old New England Patriots quarterback the best to ever play the position in the NFL? You could make a solid argument for the praise, though the question is very subjective.

Brady has his supporters as well as detractors. You cannot minimize his Super Bowl rings and his longevity. He has been amazing.Yet it is hard to forget about Deflategate.

However, it was a couple of tweets from Tom Brady that woke me up. In the first couple of weeks of the NFL season, I was unhappy with the number of penalties that were being called. An offense would take one step forward, only to take two steps back because of the yellow flags. Many of the flags were for offensive holding.

Now, I’m aware that offensive holding can be called on nearly every play. Which ones an official enforces and which ones he ignores is a topic for another day. All I knew was that the game was not moving along quickly enough for me. I felt like something had to give and then it did.

Last Thursday, the Tennessee Titans took on the Jacksonville Jaguars. As I watched the game, the same patterns developed. Flag after flag. The game was boring. Apparently, Tom Brady agreed.

While the game was in progress Brady issued two tweets. His first: “Too many penalties. Just let us play.” That was followed with a second tweet: “I’m turning off this game. I can’t watch these ridiculous penalties anymore.”

Then came Week 3. The head of the NFL officials contacted all of the zebras and “suggested” a little relief from the hanky dropping. Offensive holding calls dropped from an average of nearly six per game to less than three.

If Tom Brady’s tweets had anything to do with this change in officiating then that may be his biggest contribution to the game — all those Super Bowl wins to the contrary!

Yasiel Puig. The Indians outfielder, a Cuban defector and now a U.S. citizen, is 28 years old and will be a free agent at the end of the season. He has the ability to wow you with his bat and his arm. He also has the ability to make you see red as when he fails to run out a ground ball or trots on a long drive that stays in the park and results in a long single.

The Tribe is trying desperately to get to the playoffs. Losing two out of three to the White Sox this week could mean no postseason. Playoffs or no, a decision on whether to pursue signing Puig in the offseason will be forthcoming.

I’m not sure what to make of Yasiel Puig. He has a lot of talent, but there is something about him that makes me squeamish. I don’t like players that don’t hustle all the time. That is the one thing a player can control. There is no excuse to not hustle, yet you see it time and time again.

What should the Indians do about Yasiel Puig? I’m glad it’s not my decision and it may not be Cleveland’s either.

My guess is that we won’t be able to afford the salary that he will demand from other wealthier clubs. That’s not hard to figure out. Is it?

Al Stephenson is a sports columnist for The Advertiser-Tribune.

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