Winning & Musing…Volume 4.18

So after taking the entire month of June off from publishing anything here (an unplanned hiatus but refreshing nonetheless) I’m back…locked, loaded, & ready to rock n’ roll. The truth is that I have still been writing, but it has mostly been prep work for a project soon to be unleashed upon the masses…stay tuned. In addition to doing the necessary homework for that task, working for Da Man, & living my normal mundane yet blessed life I have…as always…been keeping up with all the sports news, and now I have a few thoughts.

 

 

 

 

 

 

My man Phil Mickelson recently found himself in a bit of hot water after losing his cool during the third round of golf’s U.S. Open. A clearly frustrated Mickelson incurred a two stroke penalty on the 13th hole after hitting a ball that was still moving. If Mickelson hadn’t ran to catch up with the ball and hit it back toward the hole it was going to roll off the green and possibly add several more shots to his already dismal score. He made things worse afterward, declaring that he took the peculiar course of action on purpose figuring that the penalty would be better than what was going to occur otherwise. The talking heads & sports media made a big deal out of the situation, as if Phil had committed a grievous sin. A few of his fellow players even suggested that he should have been disqualified from the tournament. First of all, I don’t buy for a second that what he did was a calculated risk. I don’t think there was any thought put into it at all. He was having a bad tournament and went nuts for a minute, then tried to cover by saying it was a conscious decision. In my mind that weak attempt at revisionist history is worse than the act itself. It made Phil Mickelson look like an idiot. Secondly, to those that said that he should have been disqualified, all I can do is shake my head in bemused derision. I realize that golf is a “gentlemen’s game” with a strict & quirky code of ethics, but the man was so far down the leaderboard that nothing he did was going to make any kind of significant difference. The two stroke penalty was an appropriate penance…anything else would have been egregious. There seemed to be some hand wringing about the possibility that this single error in judgment could somehow tarnish Mickelson’s legacy, which I think would be a real shame. The man has won five Majors, including three Masters. He has been one of the best golfers in the world for over two decades and by most accounts is a decent guy. He had a dreadful tournament and a brief moment of madness. Haven’t we all suffered the occasional bad day??

 

 

 

Former ESPN and current FS1 talking head Skip Bayless tends to talk out of both sides of his mouth and says a lot of wacky things with which I disagree. However, Skip has always referred to former All-Pro wide receiver Terrell “TO” Owens as Team Obliterator, and I wholeheartedly occur. Sure TO never ended up in jail, used drugs, or smacked his woman around, but he was a cancer that sowed seeds of discord everywhere he went in the NFL. And now his diva attitude & behavior is following him all the way to Canton, OH. Well…kind of. After the Pro Football Hall of Fame made Owens wait a few years before finally voting him into their exclusive club a few months ago the perpetually disgruntled malcontent found a way to ruin what should have been his shining moment by announcing that he will not attend the ceremony in Canton this August but will instead hold his own ceremony at UT-Chattanooga, his alma mater. No one knows exactly why Owens has made this asinine decision, one that he’ll inevitably regret someday. I realize that it is thought to be cool & hip to march to the beat of a different drum, be rebellious, fight the system, blaze a unique trail, & be a non-conformist, and I agree that there is a time in one’s life when that is a neat option if it can be pulled off. However, Terrell Owens is a 44 year old man that, despite all the upheaval & controversy he was in the midst of during 16 seasons in the NFL, has achieved the highest honor reserved for a football player, one that only the best of the best get to enjoy. It is beyond pathetic that instead of finally acting like an adult and humbly accepting the accolade the right way Terrell Owens is taking one last opportunity to be a self-absorbed, petulant, childish, disrespectful, defiant assclown.

 

 

 

I would be remiss if I didn’t give kudos to trainer Bob Baffert and jockey Mike Smith for leading Justify to The Triple Crown. Justify is the 13th Triple Crown winner in history. Baffert has won fifteen Triple Crown races (5 Kentucky Derbies, 7 Preakness Stakes, & 3 Belmont Stakes) and previously led American Pharoah to the Triple Crown just three years ago. Smith has won two Kentucky Derbies, two Preaknesses, & three Belmonts. A Triple Crown is a rare & exceptional achievement in sports, but sadly I feel like what used to be “the sport of kings” nowadays gets lost in the shuffle while we indulge arrogant punks whose athletic prowess earns them hundreds of millions of dollars playing football, basketball, & baseball. I’m sure there are a lot of reasons why horse racing isn’t as popular now as it was a century ago, but it’s nice to see it back in the spotlight occasionally.

 

 

 

A few NBA thoughts:

  • I didn’t watch hardly any of the NBA or NHL Finals. Neither series turned out the way I’d hoped, so I really have nothing to add to the discourse.
  • A few years ago when Lebron James was preparing to jump ship from the aging Miami Heat I became convinced that he’d be joining the Los Angeles Lakers. Instead he pleasantly surprised me and many others by returning to the Cleveland Cavaliers. He led Cleveland to multiple appearances in the Finals and won a championship, but eventually it became obvious that the Cavs weren’t on the same level as the Golden St. Warriors and had no opportunity to change that. And so now…better late than never…LBJ is finally a Laker. But, while it is undoubtedly a positive development for Los Angeles, I feel like it is a lateral move for James. Perhaps his relationship with Cavs owner Dan Gilbert was so bad that he just wanted out. I don’t know. Maybe he is looking beyond basketball and feels like L.A. is a better environment for his future plans. That makes a lot of sense. However, from a pure basketball perspective it doesn’t seem to put him in any better position than he has been in, and it’s probably worse. I just don’t see his new teammates as being an improvement over his old ones, and now he’ll have to contend with the Houston Rockets and the Warriors just to make it out of the Western Conference.
  • Lebron may have been expecting Paul George to join him in Los Angeles, but that’s not going to happen. George stunned just about everyone by re-signing with the Oklahoma City Thunder. I suppose a four year contract worth $137 million is difficult to turn down, but I really don’t understand why he would pass up an opportunity to go to the Lakers and almost certainly win a title with James.
  • The lone remaining wildcard in the NBA is disgruntled Spurs star Kawhi Leonard. I’m not a fan of San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich, a self-righteous blowhard who really should focus on his job instead of pontificating on issues way above his pay grade. However, I don’t think Leonard has handled his situation all that well either. No one in this little drama comes off looking particularly good. Maybe Leonard will end up helping Lebron James win a championship with the Lakers. He could possibly play a significant part of an 18th title reign for the Boston Celtics. The Thunder might figure out a way to bring him aboard and make Oklahoma City a legit powerhouse. Perhaps Leonard could be the final piece of The Process for the Philadelphia 76ers. Who knows??
  • Speaking of the Celtics, a few years ago I offered some thoughts on the hiring of head coach Brad Stevens, opining that there was a “possibility that Stevens will fail spectacularly and end up back in college”, but predicting that “it is just as possible that Stevens will be a solid NBA head coach that leads the Celtics back to the top of the ladder someday”. I also opined that Boston “ended up with the better end of the bargain in the trade that sent Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, & Jason Terry (all 35 years of age or older) to the Brooklyn Nets in exchange for three 1st round draft picks in the next five years”. Those three first round picks have turned into up n’ comers Jaylen Brown & Jayson Tatum, and helped Boston trade for Kyrie Irving. Now that Cleveland will be an afterthought again the Eastern Conference looks like it could come down to the Sixers & Celtics for the next few seasons, so the possibility of Stephens leading his team to a championship looks good…if they can figure out a way to beat Golden State.

 

 

 

Not only is pro wrestling promoter Vince McMahon bringing back the XFL (which flamed out after one tumultuous season in 2001) in a couple of years, but next spring will see the launch of the Alliance of American Football. I am a huge football fan, and really believe that now more than ever, with so many media outlets available to air the product, spring football is a viable idea. However, something struck me one night as I was channel surfing. I ran across a Canadian Football League game on ESPN and began to ponder. I’ve always rather enjoyed the CFL. There are some differences in the rules between Canadian football and the NFL, but nothing too crazy. Several successful NFL players have started out in the CFL in the past, including Warren Moon, Joe Theismann, Doug Flutie, Rocket Ismail, & Jeff Garcia. The CFL has been around for about sixty years, but their league consists of only nine teams that play 18 regular season games. There were nine other teams that are now defunct, with the majority of those being United States based franchises that only played for a season or two in a mid-1990’s attempt at expansion. So my question is this…why are two other spring football leagues on the horizon?? Wouldn’t it be smarter for McMahon and whoever the powers-that-be are behind the AAF to invest in the CFL and help turn it into the powerhouse league that it could be?? That mid-90’s expansion failed partly because the American teams were located in places like Baltimore, Vegas, Birmingham, & San Antonio. Wouldn’t it be smarter for the CFL to target northern U.S. cities like Portland OR, Boise ID, Rochester NY, Providence RI, & Tacoma WA?? Even Anchorage, AK could be considered. A CFL with 16 teams that plays 14 regular season games and has the power, influence, & financial backing of Vince McMahon makes infinitely more sense than three separate spring football leagues.

Winning & Musing…Volume 3.18

October is often thought of as the best time of the annual sports calendar because the NFL, NBA, World Series, hockey, & college football are all available to us. However, late spring & early summer…with the NBA & NHL playoffs, a little golf, the Indy 500 & Coca-Cola 600 both on Memorial Day weekend, & baseball all happening…ain’t too shabby. Let’s discuss.

 

 

 

 

At the beginning of the NBA playoffs my only wish was that two of three teams not advance to The Finals. Things got off to a good start when the aging San Antonio Spurs were eliminated in the first round. Heading into the Memorial Day Weekend it seemed plausible that my hopes would be fulfilled and we’d get a fresh & interesting championship matchup. Sadly that dream died in two Game 7s, and now…for the fourth year in a row…we’re stuck with Golden State vs. Cleveland. I realize that many basketball fans are excited about this, but I am not your average NBA fan. For a variety of reasons I will not be watching one single second of the series. Maybe next season Philly, Boston, New Orleans, Houston, & Minnesota will figure some things out and break up the monotony.

 

 

I am surprisingly ambivalent about the NFL’s new anthem policy. I once called kneeling during the national anthem a “meaningless exhibition of symbolic rage” and stand by that opinion, but I also opined that it is within players’ Constitutional rights to do so. It isn’t something I would do, the original intent of the protest is foolish, & its stated purpose had been hijacked into a political game of chicken…but as disrespectful as I believe kneeling is I’m not sure the NFL has handled the situation all that well. They did nothing at the height of the controversy last season, and it felt like the whole circus had sort of diminished much like a hurricane eventually loses steam…until the NFL stirred things up again for no reason. Young parents are often taught the Ferber Method in which a crying infant is to be left alone and eventually they’ll quiet down. In the same way, I think if fans & the media would stop paying attention to anthem protests the players would get bored with it and move on…and even if they didn’t stop atleast they & their “cause” wouldn’t be receiving any validation. Unfortunately the NFL decided to poke the whiny, spoiled, & sanctimonious bear.

 

 

Y’all know that I’m a really lukewarm hockey fan, and whatever interest I did have in the NHL playoffs pretty much disappeared when the two time defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins were eliminated. That being said, I am rooting for Vegas to bring home The Cup in its inaugural season. Former Penguins’ goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury now plays for the Golden Knights, and I also think it’d be fun to see an expansion team win because it would tick off hockey “purists”. There’s also my longstanding love of Las Vegas, a city I hope to visit someday. I’m not actually going to watch any of the games, but for what it’s worth…Go Vegas!!

 

 

How insane is it that we went 37 years between the last two Triple Crown winners, but now we could see another one just three years later?? Of course it must be noted that between Affirmed’s achievement in 1978 and the 2015 trifecta of American Pharoah there were 13 horses that won the Kentucky Derby & Preakness Stakes only to fall short in the Belmont Stakes, so it’d be premature to assume that Justify will wear the proverbial crown. Not only is Belmont the longest of the three races (the Derby is 1.25 miles, the Preakness is 1& 3/16 miles, & the Belmont is 1.5 miles), but there are always fresh horses entered that didn’t run in the previous two races. As a matter of fact, it is fairly common for only a few horses to run all three Triple Crown races, with several in the Belmont field having skipped either the Derby, the Preakness, or both. For this reason the “smart money” might lean toward one of those horses instead of Justify.

 

 

Perhaps I am missing something, but I don’t understand all the hype and/or consternation about The Supreme Court’s recent decision against the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act. That 1992 law “barred state-authorized sports gambling with some exceptions”, making Nevada the only state where it was legal to wager on games, but now all bets are off (pun intended) and it’s a free-for-all gambling frenzy. But wait!! Haven’t we had The Internet for the past quarter century?? I’m not a big gambler, but I have bet on the Triple Crown horse races online for several years, and could have bet on just about anything else if I’d chosen to do so…so what’s the big deal?? Are casinos suddenly going to pop up everywhere now?? I suppose that’s possible. Will all of those little “gambling cafes” that litter the landscape of my small hometown now offer sports betting in addition to slot machines?? That would actually make such establishments somewhat more interesting. I’m not completely obtuse here folks…I get it. But let’s not pretend that this new legality suddenly allows people to engage in some sort of forbidden activity that they’ve been dying to try but have been prohibited from doing. The truth is that gambling has been a huge business for decades, and not just in Vegas or Atlantic City. The Supreme Court has just brought it out of the shadows…probably so the government can get a piece of the action.