Sullivan: Adams, Biles, Beasley miss the mark during busy week

Jerry Sullivan

Column as I see ‘em:

• Well, you can’t blame Kevyn Adams for trying to put the best face on a bad situation. The Sabres’ general manager said last Saturday that he’d be fine with having Jack Eichel on the roster when the team reports to training camp in September.

Adams had no choice, of course. He’s in a box, as trade talks for Eichel aren’t progressing as the team had hoped. Veteran NHL commentator Bob MacKenzie said it’s “dead quiet” on the Eichel front and characterized it as “not ideal” for the Sabres.

The Sabres have little leverage in the matter. Eichel’s agents want him out of Buffalo, where every lost season takes a chunk out of his hockey reputation. Evidently, every conversation the agents have with Adams is centered on getting Eichel out of town.

The Sabres, naturally, want a huge return for their superstar, a player they tanked to get. But it’s hard finding a team that’s willing to take on a player with five years remaining on a $10 million salary and is looking at surgery on his neck.

“But I think what’s critically important to make sure is clear is that we’re in control of this process,” Adams said. “We have a player under contract, we don’t feel any pressure.”

Sure, Kev. No pressure, when Eichel has expressed his disdain with the organization and demanded to be shipped out of town. There’s no pressure on the organization that essentially gave away Ryan O’Reilly and watched him win the Stanley Cup in St. Louis the following season.

Tell us another one.

The truth is, the player holds the big cards in these scenarios. Eichel did the team no favors by asking for a trade with his health in question. That doesn’t mean it’ll be good for the team to have a disgruntled Eichel around a bunch of impressionable young guys in a transitional year.

At some point, Adams will relent and trade Jack, maybe to Anaheim. No doubt, he’ll tell us the Sabres got great value in return. As always, Buffalo fans should brace for the worst.

• I’ll say this about Simone Biles: Never has an athlete been showered with so much credit and adoration for deciding not to take part in a competition.

I don’t know precisely why Biles pulled out of the Olympics. First, there was talk of an injury. Then she said it was about mental health and deciding “not to do what the world wants us to do.” She said she was nervous and gymnastics wasn’t much fun anymore.

Later, it was about the “twisties,” a phenomenon where vaulters lose sense of their place in the air and put their physical health at risk. Did anyone ask whether Biles could have scaled down her program, which likely would have been good enough for team gold?

What’s clear is that any criticism will not be tolerated. Kenny Mayne, the former ESPN host, now a “sports personality,” said the people who criticized Biles were “the same people who make apologies for Jan. 6, who deny climate change.” Wow.

My guess is the pressure of living up to the Greatest off All Time label got to Biles. She became a victim of the jingoism and flag-waving that has characterized the Olympic since the 1970s. She felt she would be doing it for someone else, as America’s great hope.

Whether that qualifies as a true mental health crisis is for the experts to decide. It's admirable that many athletes are now addressing their mental health. I just hope it doesn’t become a convenient way to explain away failure under pressure.

Biles brought some of it on herself by embracing the GOAT moniker. She wore a goat symbol on her leotard. She found that being the greatest of all time is a tough thing to live up to while you’re still competing. Do you suppose LeBron James or Tom Brady would have received the same patronizing treatment?

• Cole Beasley read a prepared statement on the first day of Bills training camp Wednesday, making false claims about the COVID-19 vaccine and, quite predictably, refusing to take questions from the media.

Beasley said he’s not anti-vaxx, but “pro-choice,” stealing a phrase from the abortion debate. He described himself as a selfless player who is standing up for less secure players who share his opinions on the vaccination.

He blamed teams for not providing sufficient information to the players. Beasley also claimed non-vaccinated, marginal players could get cut, “losing a dream they have worked their whole lives for over a vaccine that has proven to not keep people from contracting COVID, as we’ve seen.”

That last statement is simply false. No vaccine is 100%, and there are rare breakthrough cases in the vaccinated. But the vaccines have proven highly effective against infection and severe illness.

Contending otherwise was irresponsible. It’s too bad reporters couldn’t have followed up with Beasley. From the start, the Bills players have refused to take questions on the issue, while being only too willing to discuss it on their social media platforms.

• Joey Votto made history for the Cincinnati Reds by homering in his sixth straight game Thursday night. Votto’s historic run has overshadowed a recent surge by Jesse Winker.

Winker, who was born in Buffalo but spent the first seven years of his life in Niagara Falls, has been on fire since making his first All-Star Game. As of Friday, Winker had hit in seven straight, with seven doubles, two homers and six RBI in that stretch.

He is first in the NL in total bases, third in hits, sixth in runs, batting average (.306) and doubles. Winker, a 27-year-old lefty hitter, has had two three-homer games this season.

Oh, he’s also a huge Bills fan who is a good friend of linebacker Matt Milano from their time together as kids in Orlando.

• Buffalo native Tom Terhaar never cared for “The Unbeatables” tag that was put on his U.S. women’s rowing eight back in 2016. But after what happened in Tokyo, no one will be calling the Americans unbeatable any time soon.

For the first time ever, the U.S. didn’t win a single rowing medal in an Olympics in which it took part. All nine American boats fell short in the Tokyo regatta.

That included the women’s eight, which had won the three previous Olympic golds — thus the "Unbeatables" tag from Sports Illustrated — and went a decade without a loss in international races. They finished fourth in Tokyo.

Buffalo native Emily Regan, who was in the gold-medal winning boat in Rio, didn’t make the team this year after a bout with COVID.

Terhaar, a St. Joe’s Collegiate graduate, has coached the women’s national team for 20 glorious years. After two rough years that included a pandemic, there’s talk that he might be ready for a change — maybe executive director of the West Side Rowing Club in his hometown.

• Amhert native and Canisius High grad Peter Creighton shot 3-under 141 to stand in a tie for 35th place and make the cut halfway through the Birck Boilermaker Classic on the Purdue University campus in West Lafayette, Indiana.

Rochester’s Gavin Hall missed the cut at 145.

The Boilermaker is a stop on the Forme Tour, a U.S.-based alternative to the Canadian PGA Tour that was necessitated by border closings and quarantines due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

A week earlier, Creighton qualified for a Korn Ferry event for the first time. He played in his first two rounds with former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo and missed the cut.

Jerry Sullivan is a sports columnist with over 30 years experience in Western New York. Follow him on Twitter @ByJerrySullivan or respond via email at scoreboard@gnnewspaper.com.

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