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We (Mostly) Never Doubted Team USA

First, we wrap up the Summer Olympics — with only six months to go until the Winter Olympics begin! It is mostly due to the heroics (and the depth) of the women on Team USA that America came away atop the medal count. While we don’t watch the Olympics with a particularly jingoistic mindset, that American edge with female athletes was important because doping penalties did not slow Russia — excuse us, the ROC — down at all. The slow start for the U.S. men’s basketball team did not turn out to spell disaster, but that doesn’t mean doubters were wrong to be worried. Basketball — hot take incoming — requires teammates to practice together and build a rapport. It’s really a credit to the greatness of Kevin Durant on the Olympic stage that Team USA was able to get up to speed as quickly as it did, against an increasingly competitive field.

Next, we’re joined by FiveThirtyEight video producer/fan of PSG kits Tony Chow to discuss the big news out of European soccer: Lionel Messi is leaving Barcelona for Paris Saint-Germain. It’s a similarly momentous shift to Tom Brady leaving New England after so long with the Patriots, but maybe even wilder. The French Ligue One is not likely to eclipse the English Premier League, which is also starting off its season with a thriller of a match this weekend between Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur (and Harry Kane’s agents). But PSG’s new front three of Messi, Neymar and Mbappé is the most exciting and dangerous collection of strikers since … well, since Messi, Neymar and Luis Suárez at Barcelona a few years ago. It may be a bittersweet end to his time at Barcelona, but Messi hopefully has some great soccer ahead of him.

Finally, in the Rabbit Hole, Neil shines a light on the trend of super slow pitching, reaching new highs (lows?) with Brock Holt of the Texas Rangers throwing a 31 mph eephus pitch. More slow pitches from players who aren’t pitchers are happening because analytics staffs on teams are starting to avoid wasting good pitching arms on games that aren’t super winnable. But that doesn’t mean these slow pitches can’t be fun or interesting. The next step, we’ve decided, is for an actual pitcher to go up (or down) by increments of 10 and throw balls at 100 mph, 90 mph, 80 mph, 70 mph, 60 mph, 50 mph and on down the line in a single inning. Accept our challenge if you dare, Max Scherzer. 

What we’re looking at this week: 

Sarah Shachat is Hot Takedown’s producer.

Sara Ziegler is the former sports editor at FiveThirtyEight.

Neil Paine was the acting sports editor at FiveThirtyEight.

Tony Chow is a video producer for FiveThirtyEight.