Similar to the invincibility of a dominant fantasy running back, the window of opportunity is short. What may have been a lock, a guarantee last year is no longer. Father time may get a slow start out of the gate, but he is always running downhill and hits full stride just as your breathing begins to labor. However, this should not cause despair, unless your ARE a fantasy running back, because yesteryear’s LaDainian Tomlinson is this year’s Chris Johnson.
Both sports and life are constantly evolving, bringing forth the amazing with a small side of unintended consequences. For example, the spread offense in football has injected high scoring, excitement and evened the playing field so that dominant size and strength have been neutralized by speed and quickness. Non BCS universities such as TCU and Boise State can now compete at the highest level with any team in the country, but this parity has made the fullback, the I-formation and straight ahead power running a distant memory in college football. Sometimes the change we see is not necessarily new, but more a refinement and reawakening to the yesteryear’s past. Take for instance the recent success of Georgia Tech and its Option lead offense. Just as equal a departure from a pro-style offense and polar opposite in most respects to the Spread.
The point – constants are just that, until they are not. Always keep your feet moving because that pulling tackle may now be a slot receiver coming at you from behind.
- BCS. You want amazing – the BCS still exists. Division I(FBS) college football is still absent a playoff system, but I am not as upset as I was the year prior. Arguably every team in a BCS Bowl game is deserving, however one could argue there are two competing championship games. The true National Championship game between Texas and Alabama and the Fiesta Bowl featuring TCU and Boise State. TCU, Texas and Alabama have dominating defenses, while Boise State’s offense is to be feared. One of the larger arguments against a playoff system is that the other bowl games would be devalued. I can state unequivocally that we are already there. I have mad passion for all that is football and yet zero interest in any game prior to Jan. 1. The orange blood that flows throughout my body for the Longhorns is uncompromised, but I question strongly whether the winner of the National Championship game is truly the best team in America without first facing the winner of the “other” championship game. What’s the point of the “other” game, since its a long-standing truism that second place is the first loser. Who really wants or cares to be ranked second in the country at the close of the season?
- Tiger Woods. He is winner of Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year, the Associated Press Athlete of the Year and Best Male Athlete ESPY Award. Perhaps the most recognizable athlete or even individual in the world. Similar to Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant and Michael Vick, Tiger proved that no one is untouchable and personal transgressions can bleed into and impact an individual’s ability to compete. The question remains – to be a star athlete must you also be a decent, respectable person? Should the personal lives of our athletes impact our view of them as athletes or their ability to perform?
- Heisman. Mark Ingram is a fantastic football player and clearly deserving of being nominated for the Heisman award. Being nominated for such awards as an underclassman is an award in itself, but historically the Heisman is an upperclassman award for the best player in the country. The 2009 Heisman was a travesty and disrespectful to college football fans. Senior Toby Gerhart was the best running back in the country and we may never see a more dominating lineman in the sport than Senior Ndamukong Suh. Gerhart was my favored choice, but I would have been equally happy with Suh winning the award. Suh did continue on and make history as the first defensive player to win the Associated Press College Football Player of the Year. It has now been three consecutive years that a sophomore has won the Heisman despite of deserving upperclassman. The Heisman is on a slippery slope to floundering in the same pool the BCS has found itself. Perhaps what once was has come full circle again, but with a small twist. The National Championship will be determined by the AP poll and so to the best player may also be determined by the AP as well. Would not that be intriguing if TCU or Boise State is ranked number 1 in the AP poll this year following the “Championship” game. I will say this for Ingram, I do not recall seeing a better, more compelling Heisman speech.
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Vince Lombardi once said, “We would accomplish many more things if we did not think of them as impossible.” This begs the question, from a pure secular perspective, is there anything that is not possible? As Nike implies with the phrase, “Just do it.” It is not the question of whether it can be done, but instead whether you believe you can do it. As we labor through the last weekend of the year absent of football, I would like to examine some recent events in sports where the line of possible and impossible has blurred.
- Brett Favre. Last year we had Favre Gate, this year the football world waited on baited breath for whether he would take the helm guiding the Vikings, conveniently one of the Packers most hated rivals. Finally, we were informed by the first ballot Hall of Famer, “It was the hardest decision I’ve ever made. I didn’t feel like physically I could play at a level that was acceptable.” Favre would never play in the NFL again. It was impossible. But then August 18 happened. The impossible was again possible as Favre decided that he was not quite finished with his personal play box otherwise referred to as the NFL. I really like Favre or perhaps it is more accurate to say I really like watching him play the game of football. The Vikings had no shot of winning the Super Bowl this year. Now arguably the best defense and most fearsome running game now has an adequate passing game to complement them with Favre paired with the constant deep threat receivers of Bernard Berrian and Sidney Rice. The Super Bowl is now possible for Minnesota. Unfortunately, I think the incomparable Scoop Jackson identifies the mood of the football community with his article “What if Brett Favre were a woman?” I guess time will tell as to whether it worth dancing the dance with Mr. Favre.
- Tiger Woods. He is an amazing athlete and in the discussion as perhaps the greatest golfer of all time. He has been named Associated Press Male Athlete of the Year a record-tying four times, and is the only person to be named Sports Illustrated‘s Sportsman of the Year more than once. However, these facts have blinded the sports media during the past several years to pose the question at every PGA Major event: Tiger or the field. To be fair, his list of accomplishments at Majors are considerable. He is second all time in PGA Major victories, one of two players to win all four majors twice and the only player to have won multiple Majors in consecutive years. Starting from the first year Tiger won a Major in 1997, there have been 52 Majors. Tiger has won 14 or about 27 percent. This is a significant number, but during this time there were four entire years that he did not win a single Major: 1998, 2003, 2004 and 2009. The PGA Major tournaments consist of the top players in the world with varied and distinguished course terrains. It is irresponsible to suggest that one man should be considered the the front runner for every single tournament with no consideration to what players are playing the best golf at the time as well as those whose game is best suited for the current course in question. It is lazy journalism. Less than 30 percent odds is not something I wish to place my lot behind. Is it impossible that Woods could win every Major, no, but its highly improbable.
- The Diva Receiver. To make a list of the those that have fit this profile since the 80’s would quickly begin to look like the Bible’s Book of Numbers. Long. Recent events suggest that there is strong reason to believe that the final curtain is falling for the diva receiver in the NFL, though we still have the entertaining examples of Ochocinco and that of the embarrassing from Brandon Marshall. I believe the era will be capped by the imprisonment of Plaxico Burress. A remarkable interview by Jeremy Schaap with Burress on E:60 highlights that his current circumstances may not be those resulting from that of a Diva mentality, but instead that of the targeted athlete that was so well documented in the article in ESPN The Magazine titled Living Scared following the tragic death of Sean Taylor. So is the Diva wide receiver in the NFL on its way out? I have hope that it is possible.
- Eric Bruntlett. A post about the possible of impossible in sports would not be complete without paying tribute to Bruntlett’s unassisted triple play. It was only the second in major league history to end a game and the 15th overall. Sometimes overcoming the impossible involves just a bit of luck because as Lombardi once said, “Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection we can catch excellence.”
Posted in sports
Tagged 19th Hole, Brandon Marshall, Brett Favre, E:60, Eric Bruntlett, ESPN, Nike, Ochocinco, Plaxico Burress, Tiger Woods, Vince Lombardi
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:
What a difference a year makes. The U.S. may now matter in two global sports that in years recent, we were an afterthought. Favre Gate of ’08 is now mere nuisance and the NBA is filled with Conference altering changes. I also no longer loath the month of July as its significance in the sports landscape is quite plentiful.
I have been quiet on this site for exactly two months. This is to long for something meaningful not to result from my absence. Today is a very important date. It is the day I made steps to seriously pursue a passion, a direction. Today I began developing a site, and similar to GDGT it will be a least a few months before it is fully unveiled. July is an exciting month. Happy Birthday America.
- GOOAAALLLL! That is right. Its summer so it is time to discuss elite soccer again. For 45 minutes, a full half, U.S. soccer was on top of the world. The Confederations Cup saw the U.S. leading Brazil 2-o, unfortunately the game ended 3-2 in favor of the South American power house. Brazil winning the Confederations Cup was not unexpected. The U.S. playing in the final and competing drew comparisons for many to the Miracle on Ice. While in no way does the Confederations Cup have similar importance to the Olympics, this would have been an unprecedented milestone in American soccer. Even with the loss, it represents the first time the U.S. competed in the final for a significant global soccer championship. World Cup ’10, yeah U.S. soccer, you have piqued my interest.
- The NBA Draft. Where to begin. Blake Griffin was selected first in the Draft. The Timberwolves selected three point guards while still having Sebastian Telfair under contract. There is a reason some teams stay in the gutter. You heard it here- some where between first and last – Ricky Rubio will never play for Minnesota. Perhaps because some have suggested comparisons to Iverson, I am hoping for great things from Milwaukee’s Brandon Jennings. Here is a great counter criticism post regarding his recent trials. Oh yeah, inexplicably, the Spurs some how landed DeJuan Blair at pick 37. There is a reason some teams always compete for a Championship.
- Wimbledon. In Ladies singles, as anticipated, the Williams sisters will compete head to head yet again for Grand Slam title. The title game is on the 4th of July no less. Its America’s little way of reminding the British about a document we like to call the Declaration of Independence. The Gentlemen’s Singles final is a bit of a different story. American born Andy Roddick will face off against Roger Federer, winner of 14 Grand Slam titles. This is not the match the tennis world was expecting or possibly hoping for. Today Roddick took down Britain’s Andy Murray. I will not lie – a piece of me was rooting for Murray after watching the Hope of Dunblane, but I have moved on. Hopefully Roddick can bring relevance again to U.S. Men’s tennis this weekend.
With each December arrives two very important yet diametrically opposed events in the sports fan’s life. The beloved college football bowl season is always coupled with strong opposition to the dastardly BCS system and intense discussion for some form of playoffs to determine the National Champion. 2008 is without a doubt the worst conclusion to the BCS since its inception. There are as many as nine teams that have a legitimate argument for playing in the title game: Texas, Florida, Oklahoma, Alabama, Penn State, USC, Utah, Texas Tech and Boise State. Assuming you can put aside the discussion for a playoff system, it is incomprehensible how Texas Tech and Boise State have been left out of BCS games, while Ohio State, Cincinnati and Virgina Tech get the big pay days. In the end it is all about money.
We do not have a playoff system because the NCAA cannot figure out how to make more money from it than the current system. Cincinnati and Virgina Tech play each other because they each won their respective BCS conference. Boise State does not have that luxury and is solely dependent on an at large bid, which was given to Ohio State because their fans “travel well” meaning greater ticket sales and higher revenue for the host city. Texas Tech lost out because two Big 12 schools (Texas and Oklahoma) were already selected for BCS games. To come off as fair and prevent any one conference from receiving to large a portion of the BCS bowl revenue, the NCAA made a rule that prevents three schools from the same conference to receive BCS invitations. Texas Tech could very well be the second or third best team in the nation, but they are locked out of the BCS. NCAA – it is not about the student athlete, sports or sportsmanship – it is all about money.
- This week we all learned that head to head matchups are meaningless in college football. Texas beat OU in the Red River Shootout 45-35. It was decisive and on a neutral field. Texas’ only loss came on the road, after a miracle play with 1 second left. The BCS standings are a joke. Even more amusing is reviewing each Coach’s final votes in the USA Today poll. The media could have stepped up and voted Texas over OU to cancel out the computer rankings. Its a sad day for sports. Even the AP dropped the ball. UTs only hope is for a shared AP championship, though I would not hold your breath…
- Donovan McNabb. Since I am an Eagles fan, I can tell you unequivocally that he is one of the worst QBs in the league. This is due to the fact that his accuracy(not Philly’s WR play) is embarrassing for a professional. A few weeks back the Eagles tied the Bungles(Bengals) 13-13. McNabb quickly became famous afterward for declaring he did not know a regular season game could end in a tie. In a recent article Rick Reilly decided to quiz other NFL players about rules of the game. In his normal witty style, he presents the argument that McNabb may be in good company. This still does not alleviate my displeasure with McNabb as my team’s starting QB.
- Joey Porter. You have to respect players that can intelligently address a topic and not provide the pre approved statements given by their PR staff. Last week Plaxico Burress accidentally shot himself in a club with a unlicensed gun he was carrying for protection. Since then he has been attacked and labeled an example of what is wrong with today’s professional athlete. Today Porter spoke back, “Everybody has their mistakes, but that’s exactly what they are … Until you’ve been in that situation, when you’ve been robbed at gunpoint or you’ve had a gun waved in your face or had your house broken into before or been carjacked, you really don’t know what it’s like. For a person to carry a gun, I mean, you’re not carrying a gun to show that ‘I’m tough.’ It’s safety, it’s nothing but safety. They’re making [Burress] out to be such a bad guy but you look at all the guys that’s been robbed this year, all the home invasions, all the guys that’s been shot, like Collier, look how many times he got shot. I’ve had my house broken into before … I know Plax had been robbed before … But it’s tough for us to say we’re professional athletes so we’re not supposed to protect ourselves.” Here is a strong article on fear many athletes still have following the horrific death of Sean Taylor titled Living Scared.
- Lastly, this week is the Jimmy V Classic. I wanted to honor that with his famous speech at the 1993 ESPY Awards. “Don’t give up, don’t ever give up.”
Can you smell it? Are the withdrawal symptoms that began in early February beginning to subside? Are you ready for some football? That is right – it is time. The NFL kicks off on September 4 with the Redskins taking on the New York football Giants. It is pleasing to the soul. Here are a few other highlights from the week:
- Chad Pennington. Poor Chad. Everyone knows Brett Favre is a member of the Jets, but few people mentioned the unceremonious release of 2006 NFL Comeback Player of the Year. A great leader, fan favorite and statistically one of the franchise’s best quarterbacks of all time. His one great downfall being injuries, he deserved a little bit more. Excitement now builds for the Jets opener against the Dolphins, Pennington’s new team.
- Padraig Harrington. Once can be viewed as luck. Twice and we are starting to see a trend, but three PGA major golf victories in 14 months and I think we may have a Tiger hunter. It is important to put into perspective the enormity of Harrington’s PGA Championship win. It has been 78 years since a European has won the tournament and he is the only European in history to win back to back PGA majors. All that and he has a cool name. Count me in on the bandwagon.
- Redeem Team. I am not sure I can get on board here. I bought into the hype and decided to be one of the estimated billion plus people to watch the U.S.A versus China. It was a good first half, but a bad game. Moreover, I found myself rooting for China. Either I like underdogs, am disgusted with the NBA or am simply a pinko. Overall, I am just not into the Olympics this year, but did love watching the U.S.A. 400 freestyle relay team put France in their place.
- Caleb Campbell. The U.S. Army just shot itself in the foot. It stated it had a new policy that would allow cadets with exceptional skills to forgo their military commitment and serve through a recruitment capacity. After all the publicity and positive PR surrounding the first West Point cadet drafted in 11 years, the Army learned it did not have the authority to do this. The Lions lost a draft pick and time will tell if Campbell lost his opportunity to play in the NFL.
So how does sports fit into Connected? Beyond the internet and technology overall, I believe two other areas that connect people around the world are our sustainable future and sports. That and I am a huge sports enthusiast, so I have decided to include a new post series called the 19th Hole that will casually comment on sports topics and top links I come across. Here goes:
- Perhaps the NBA should go back to the drawing board with its latest ref scandal. I am getting tired of explaining to my parents on the phone why something is a foul. Seems it always involves time of game and if the guy passed or shot vs actual contact. Lets face it…fouls in the NBA are completely arbitrary and there is a clear star system. That said…I do not believe the latest allegations by Donaghy. We have to hope it is not to that level.
- Ah Kobe Bryant. I remember loving him when he first entered the league, but you are a team killer. It is ridiculous how he has been hyped to finally be a great teammate. Unfounded, just look at his demeanor during the finals. A team leader and worthy role model Kobe is not. See Curt Schilling’s first hand comments on the topic. This is not what a MVP is made of.
- It is slowly happening…I am becoming a soccer fan. Does not get more global than that. I was all over the Champions League final and now I find myself watching the Euro 2008. Turns out I just needed world class soccer to get into it. Yeah I just called you out MLS
- Lastly, there is reason why Rick Reilly is the best. His most recent article discusses why we all need to cheer for Phil instead of Tiger at the US Open. And I quote…rooting for Tiger is like “rooting for erosion.” Rooting for Phil “is like rooting for the salmon to eat the bear.” Enjoy.