The 19th Hole – 7/19/09

July has the unfortunate distinction of being the month right before football starts back up, but that does not mean we are without news for the U.S.’s top sport. America’s past time hits its midpoint of the season this week, but of course no one cares any more. Baseball could be on the verge of becoming America’s fourth sport. Sacrilegious you say – perhaps – but there is a rising tide that is undeniable.

A new champion in this rising sport helped provide more publicity in a week’s time than perhaps the last five years, again proving that all publicity is good, even if your champion is giving the bird directed straight at the fans that paid top dollar to see the sport’s Championship.

Not all is new. We nearly witnessed the crowning of the oldest Major champion in golf history. To bad 71 holes does not make for a tournament. Hole 72 is unforgivingly decisive. We also had incredible, albeit in a sport that will never take hold in America. For the staunch football fan, July continues to impress.

  • Michael Vick. His federal dogfighting sentence to end July 18, there is wide speculation regarding what team may pick him up, when or perhaps if the NFL commisioner will  allow him to play in the league again and thus if we will resort to playing in the fledgling UFL this upcoming season. The July 13 Sports Illustrated had an interesting piece title, “What’s Next For Michael Vick?” The article looks at past and current legal transgressions by other athletes and the punishment received, both through the courts and their respective leagues. What Vick did was wrong. He went to prison for 23 months. Should it not be obvious to all that he has served a very harsh concurrent punishment both legally and to his career. It is not any teams responsibility to sign him, but NFL would be in the wrong to extend his sentence. Perhaps the most interesting quote from the article came from esteemed writer Malcolm Gladwell: “Let’s see, Leonard Little got drunk and killed another human in a car accident. He served 90 days in jail and got suspended for eight games. Vick was cruel to some dogs. He went to jail for a year and a half. And we’re wondering if Vick can play in the NFL? Please.
  • MLB. This past week the league celebrated its All Star game and I do not know anyone who watched. Similar to the strike in 2004, the steroid inquisition via the George Mitchell report has destroyed fan interest. The past decade has completely altered the validity and accuracy of statistics. In a large sense, Manny Ramirez may have been the final straw, cleverly told in this fictional epic by Bill Simmons. Perhaps the greatest tragedy was uncovered in the July 13 Sports Illustrated-what can I say it was a good issue. The article looks at how Albert Pujols may be the most perfect player to ever play the game and this year has a chance to win the first batting triple crown since 1967. I fear it may fall on deaf ears, despite Pujols  strong, affirmative denial of ever taking performance enhancing drugs.
  • UFC 100. Brock Lesnar became the undisputed heavyweight champion and moments later attempted to restart a fight with the opponent he just pummeled, verbally assaulted his opponents wife, criticized the organizations biggest sponsor and flipped off the entire crowd. Sounds a little like a weekly WWE show at first glance, but MMA is now mainstream. This is not the Kimbo Slice circus from last October, instead this was the event and perhaps the champion that will push MMA to the third most popular sport in the U.S. Media attention was off the charts before and especially after the event and possibly more telling, UFC 100 had more than 1.3 million pay-per-view purchases. The most in its history.
  • The British Open(apparently now referred to as simply the Open Championship). Tom Watson at 59 was one shot away from becoming the oldest major champion in PGA history. It was not to be, mirroring the excitement and then honorable defeat by Greg Norman from the 2008 Open Championship. To bad. Maybe Jack still has one left in him. Wouldn’t that be a thrill. If the media comes away with one learning from this year’s Open Championship, please let it be that we no longer discuss taking Tiger or the field. This is just a plain dumb story angle and with Tiger missing the cut, perhaps it will never be brought up again. One could hope.
  • Indoor Brazilian soccer. Yep you read that correctly. This may not be the greatest soccer goal of all time, but it has to be the best of 2009:
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