Tuesday, March 25, 2008

'Random Musings and Tidbits from the NFL'

As the NFL Draft approaches, there is a pile of various things that have occurred since the end of the season that are worth discussing. Free agent moves.. Or lack thereof... the pending draft..Chad Johnson acting like a virgin who get felt up at the prom...The Tuna in Miami.. and so on. Really I just miss football, any excuse I can find to talk about it works for me.

In Free Agency we saw a ton of money thrown at mediocre to good players. Asante Samuel and his almost 60 million dollar contract from the Philadelphia Eagles comes to mind. He’s a decent corner back no doubt about it, but he is not 60 million dollars worth of good. True he had a ton of interceptions with the Pats, but I firmly believe that’s a product of the defensive system that the Pats and ‘Hoodie’ have implemented. Look at the division that Samuel now plays in.. Multiple times a year he will be lining up against the likes of Plaxico Buress, T.O., Amani Toomer, and so on. These are all big receivers.. Samuel is a small guy..not even 6ft. He is going to get pushed around a bit and be susceptible to jump balls. The Eagles defense is good but he is not going to be the lock down corner back in the NFC. The Jets loaded up with a bunch of mid 30's players with the exception of LB Calvin Pace. They threw a ton of money at Alan Faneca.. A lot for an offensive lineman anyway. Calvin Pace may be a nice pick up...but he has been hurt a lot in his career and does not warrant the big money the Jets gave him. This is a make or break year for the not so ‘Mangenious’ Eric Mangini. If that team does not make the playoffs or back doors into the playoffs and gets bounced in the 1st round, he is a goner. The Patriots did very little in free agency, they let a lot of guys go (especially in the secondary), but the biggest priority on their off season list was taken care of, re-signing Randy Moss. True to their nature they got him at 75 cents on the dollar. 3 yrs, 27 million. It’s a steal. They also still have Wes Welker, and Jabaar Gaffney to keep the most lethal parts of their passing game in play. Still in need of a number one corner and some youth at the LB position..perhaps in the draft. Thats ok they have the 7th pick in this years draft...thanks SF.

I am very intrigued, as well as wary, to see Bill Parcells in Miami. Parcells no longer wants to deal with the grinds of being an NFL head coach. He still however knows how to evaluate talent, especially defensive talent, and that is his primary role as VP of Player Personnel and whatever the hell else he wants to do. The Dolphins are a total mess on both sides of the ball (sorry Meester Jeff), so Parcells needs to build this team from the ground up basically. He pretty much threw out all the trash, including long time favorite Zach Thomas. One thing that Bill Parcells believes in is that, your team is only as good as your offensive/defensive lines let them be. He will build this team from the lines out. I think he will use the 1st draft pick to get a dominating defensive lineman like a Chris Long or Glenn Dorsey. Solidify the lines and then work out into role players like running backs, receivers, Qb’s, linebackers, and so on. My bet? In about 3 years the Dolphins will back in contention and vying for playoff spots, playing Parcells football. Tough defense, solid special teams, and a deceptively good offense.

Last and certainly least in my mind, is Chad Johnson. What is this guys deal anyway? He’s a great receiver, a great talent, but his attitude sucks giant donkey balls. He is the stereotype for prima donna athletes (include T.O. who, in fairness, did seem to settle down a touch last year) who have great on-field accomplishments but let their mouth and ‘me!me!me!’ attitudes overshadow it all. Johnson is pissed at the Cincinnati Bengals because the team sucks and he really wants to win. Thats a fair point to be sure. Coach Marvin Lewis does not have the authority and backing from the front office to really assemble the team that he wants. Owner Mike Brown still has final say on all draft picks on personnel and draft picks. His record sucks, filled with David Klinglers, Ki-Jana Carters, Dan Wilkinsons, and so on. The offense on the Bengals is not the problem..it’s the defense. Its awful. Half the defense has pending court cases and the other half are just plain old not good. Let Marvin Lewis have more of a say in personnel matters and I promise you that team gets better. He is not a bad coach. So I understand Johnson’s frustration. The answer, however, is not to run around all off season, whoring yourself out to any team that will take you, while throwing the Bengals (and subsequently his team mates) under the bus. He has made this a very VERY public process and that is just lack of class. You don’t think Carson Palmer, TJ Houshmazolli :), Rudy Johnson, and the other non felons on the team, want to win? Of course they do. Take your issues to ownership, privately, and make whatever veiled threats and demands you want and see how it plays out. The only thing he is accomplishing right now is killing his team and making himself look like a horses ass in the process.

Back on Thursday with the start of my MLB preview.

Monday, March 24, 2008

'Duke Feeling the Blues....... HA! HA!'

If you read my NCAA tournament preview...you may have noticed that I harbor quite a healthy disdain for all things Duke. Maybe it stems from my dislike of snotty, rich, preppy kids who have an unrealistic sense of entitlement. Because it is they, who seem to make up a very large portion of the Duke basketball squad every year for as long as I can remember. Tools like Christian Laetnner ( I don’t even care if I spelled his name right), Cherokee Parks, JJ Reddick (so not a secret weapon), Greg Paulus, Taylor King, and so on and so on. All led by their humble (note dripping sarcasm) coach Mike Kryslhjfdewopifhasvbriski. A coach who represents his merry little band of GAP shoppers, with the same sense of entitlement that they have. Ever see him work the refs? How dare they call a foul against one of his beloved Devils. ‘Do you know who I am?? I am Mike Krysjdksafbgjsahfski!!! I coach the whitest program in America and we are really really cool!!! How dare you!’ Something of that ilk.

So you can understand why I have a smile that is stretching from ear to ear today still. On Saturday the highly touted, second ranked Blue Devils got bounced out of the tournament by West Virginia University, 73-67. Normally a staple deep into the tournament, this is the second year in a row that Duke has exited stage left in one of the first two rounds of the tourney. Such glee this causes in me. On Thursday, they almost lost their first round matchup against little known Belmont. In a contest that could have been likened to David vs. Goliath, Duke took advantage of refs that were obviously afraid of Coach K’s homicidal temper (that might be a slight exaggeration) and a time keeper that seemed really interested in running the clock an extra second or two after the whistles blew, which ultimately allowed Duke to escape with a one pont victory. Not sure if they were able to recover their dignity or not though.

Saturday was a different story though as WVU defended, rebounded, and hustled their way to victory. The amusing part of that is that is how Duke used to win games. I talked to a friend of mine that I went to school with who has been suffering watching Duke as long as I have (except for his unhealthy love of Bobby Hurley...something about him being from NJ. NJ natives are obsessively rabid about supporting their own that make it to a national sports stage. I think its small penis complex being so close to New York and all). Cordell basically said that for as long as we have been watching Duke, he can’t ever remember them defending a back door cut so poorly. He can’t remember a time when nobody would step up to take a charge...remember Carlos Boozer? Can’t remember a time where they just launched threes and relied on that to get them out of a jam. Its as though they forgot how to do all the things that used to make them so maddeningly good. Defense, rebounding, hustling, crisp guard and low post play. I am not sure if its because Coach K is pulling double duty as coach of the US basketball team, which will be in Beijing this summer for the Olympics, or if its because of all my voodoo wishes finally coming home to roost.:) Either way.. I don’t care. Duke is no longer full of mystique and super powers. They are just another decent college basketball program. May their drudgery and early round exits from the tournament continue for a decade. May the refs finally start calling defensive fouls consistently on them. But cheer up Coach K, I hear Abercrombie and Fitch is having a really big spring sale soon....maybe you and the boys can head on down and grab some designer sweaters, polo shirts, and mens cologne. Just spend a little bit of money and that smug sense of entitlement will be back before you know it. And we shall see you next March. :)

Saturday, March 22, 2008

'Top Five Sports Movies' Part Deux

Before I jump into my top two movies, I would like to address a concern that I everybody I know seems to have about my list. Look, I like ' Hoosiers'..it’s a good flick..entertaining basketball yarn, loosely based on a true story. Great acting with Gene Hackman and the pace of the movie is pretty good. In fact, if I had a 6- 10 portion of this list, 'Hoosiers' would be on it. Basically I just don’t think it’s a top five movie. I have seen it a few times and just don’t get too fired up over it. The first time I saw it, I correctly predicted the end of the movie. Big deal, it was not hard to do, you say? I predicted the end 15 minutes into the movie. That automatically makes me less interested than I could be. So... when you all get your own blog and you make your Top Five Movies list, you can put 'Hoosiers' on it and all will be well. Until then please continue reading my top two movies...which, as you may have guessed, does not include 'Hoosiers' :)

2. ‘Raging Bull’- Who hates Robert DeNiro? I mean really..And who hates Robert Deniro when he is teamed up with Joe Pesci, and being directed by Martin Scorsese? Its an automatic win and so is ‘Raging Bull’. Based on the career and life of famed middleweight boxer, Jake LaMotta. The movie was filmed in 1980 but shot in black and white, a touch I always loved. Most of the film takes place in the 50's, so the black and white gives it a nice old time feel. The fight scenes are crisp, clean, and full of blood. Always a crowd pleaser. Pesci, as usual, is hilarious and good playing his stereotypical, hot tempered Italian self as Lamotta’s brother. Deniro? Well the bottom line is that I can not recall a movie of his from the 70's, 80's, or 90's that he sucked in. He does a hell of a job playing the physical aspect of LaMotta’s career in the ring, but he really shines showing the mental hang ups and character flaws of LaMotta. Scorsese (who should have easily won an Oscar for this movie...one of many hand jobs he was to get from the Academy) weaves the story extremely well back and forth between LaMotta’s career and his personal life and afore mentioned shortcomings. If you like boxing at all...this is a must see.

1. ‘The Natural’- I always get crap for this but, frankly, I don’t care. This movie is a fabulous story, with a Hollywood ending (which I did not accurately predict until the climactic scene..so there 'Hoosiers' lovers.. I kid I kid..), and a musical score that blends perfectly with the most important moments of the movie. It stars Robert Redford (I know, an odd choice for a sports related movie) as Roy Hobbs..a guy that is essentially born to play baseball. Most of this movie takes place in the late 1930's. As a young guy Hobbs is a phenom on the his way to the major leagues but ends up getting shot by some twisted skank, who gets her jollies by killing professional athletes. At that point the movie jumps forward 15 years, where it remains, with a middle aged Hobbs getting his first and likely, last chance with a major league team, the New York Knights. Naturally the manager (played by curmudgeonly Wilford Brimley) doesn’t want to play some middle aged rookie but stuff happens and Hobbs gets his chance. Of course he starts knockin’ the ever loving snot out of the ball and becomes one of the best hitters in the game. The rest of the movie is filled with a mid season slump due to dating a bad luck slut (a kinda hot and young Kim Basinger), getting his mojo back due to reuniting with a girl he knocked up before getting shot by the twisted skank in the beginning of the movie, having his stomach almost explode as a result of the bullet he was shot with eating away his stomach, and finally making an appearance in the final game to get his team to the playoffs. I’m tellin you there is a ton of stuff that happens in the two hours of this movie. The final game while essentially predictable, is still thrilling to watch and provides satisfaction visually, as well as mentally. There is just something about old time baseball that translates really well into movies. Great story, great acting, great cinematography, great score, great f’in movie and my favorite sports movie of all time.... no matter what all you nay sayers throw my way. My girl friend was even kind enough to by me a replica Roy Hobbs jersey from the movie and I wear it frequently. So there you have it folks..I’ll be back on Mon with a recap of the first weekend of the tournament.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

'Top Five Sports Movies' Part 1

Apparently I like lists because for the second time in two weeks, I am putting together a top five list. Truth be told, I am really tired and feel like dung. I could do a list like this in my sleep and it does not require much effort therefore making it a fabulous topic to write about. This list of course is Top Five Sports Movies. As with my Top Five QB’s post, its entirely subjective and worthy of debate. Bottom line? If someone put a gun to my head and said ‘You may only watch these five sports movies for rest of your life’ (an extremely odd premise, I know.)....these would be the five I would choose. I apologize in advance for what may seem to be a prevailing baseball theme. Off we go...

5. 'Field of Dreams'- A pretty easy pick and a smooth way to start the list. Great movie filled with baseball history, relationships between fathers and sons, with a touch of the surreal. I am not here to summarize the movies... if you have seen them, then you know they are good and if you haven’t seen them...then get up off your ass and go buy, rent, or borrow these movies right now. They are great and you would not even be reading this if you did not like sports and subsequently sports movies. So there. Field of Dreams is unique in numerous ways. It starred Kevin Costner back when his career was worth more than a chewed up gum ball... also known as gum I guess. It also starred the always awesome James Earl Jones...can never go wrong with that guy. I liked the way the movie incorporated old time baseball from the early twentieth century with a touch of, what I called , mystical spooky. It’s the only way you can have guys who died decades ago, come back in their young athletic prime form and play ball in the middle of a corn field baseball diamond. Mystical spooky works. The cinematography is great and bonus points go to the portion of the movie where Costner and Jones end up going to Fenway Park to watch the Sox and end up seeing a mystical spooky message on the scoreboard. Ultimately, my favorite part of the movie is the end when Ray (Costner’ character) realizes that all the voices and the crazy things he has done has led him to the point where he was able to meet his Dad, who was a minor league player before Ray was born. Ray and his Dad had a falling out and his Dad died before they could reconcile. The movie ends with Ray and his Dad playing catch...while an endless stream of cars start arriving at the farm to watch the mystical spooky players from days gone by play. Good stuff.

4. 'Slap Shot'- Probably the best and funniest hockey movie ever. Made in 1979 and starring Paul Newman. Newman being the player/coach for an absolutely wretched minor league hockey team, the Charlestown Chiefs. In order to avoid the team being folded.. Newman devises a masterful way of putting fans in the seats..he turns his team into a bunch of feckless thugs on ice skates. They start fights and literally just bludgeon other players. The highlight of this team and the movie is The Hanson Brothers. Three crazy Canadian players who just like to do nothing but mug and beat the ever loving crap out of opposing players. They put aluminum foil on their knuckles to keep them from splitting when they are pounding on whomever. 'Puttin on the foil coach..' Even Newman starts a fight with an opposing goaltender by yelling at said goalie, that he knows his wife is a lesbian. But he uses much more colorful metaphors to describe what she likes to... um.... munch. The clothes are late 70's atrocious and thus amusing. Great movie...have watched it gillions of times and I do own a replica Charlestown Chiefs jersey.

3. 'Major League'- Essentially, the funniest baseball movie ever. So many quotable lines... 'Come on Dorn! Get in front of the damn ball! Don’t give me any of this oleeee bullshit!' or perhaps this one 'Well you may run like Mays, but you hit like shit'.Just one more? 'Ahhh Jesus.. I like him very much.. But he no help me with curve ball.' 'Are you tryin’ to tell me that Jesus Christ can’t hit a curveball?!?' 'Come on Harris lets not start a Holy War..' 'Well.. I wouldn’t leave that rum lyin around with this bunch...' 'Tis very bad to steal Joe Boo’s rum.. Tis VERY bad' (spooky voodoo music and.......... scene!) Ugh.. I could go on and on. Basically the Cleveland Indians are like the worst team of all time...the owner wants to move the team to Miami and if attendance is low enough she can exercise a clause in the lease with the city of Cleveland to let them go. She packs the team full of super craptastic players in hopes that they will stink it up and allow her to bounce the team to Miami. Naturally tons of hilarity ensues followed by the inevitable team unity, winning a bunch of games and winning the predictable but still entertaining playoff game against the scum of the earth Yankees. Charlie Sheen, probably his best role ever. If you have seen any of his other movies then you know I am right. But the total star of the movie is Bob Uecker as radio play by play announcer, Harry Doyle. I’ll just close out with a just a couple of gems: 'Haywood leads the league in most offensive categories...including nose hair' 'Give (insert unimportant players name that I can’t remember here) some credit for sacrificing his body on that racket...that guys got a family to think about' 'Vaughn into the windup....... Juuuuust a bit outside, tried the corner and missed. Ball 4, Ball 8, Ball 12, and Vaughn has walked the bases loaded on 12 straight pitches.' I giggled multiple times just writing this.
Coming tomorrow.. The top two movies. These movies are more drama oriented, just in case any of you think that I am a shallow huckster who thinks 'Beavis and Butthead' is the best television show ever made. :)

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

'Its Alive.... Its Alive!!' Welcome to the Madness.

After watching the NCAA Tourney Selection on Sunday night and subsequently all the coverage on tv and in print media for the past two days, I decided that if I wrote everything down that has gone through my mind on this years tourney... then this post would rival 'War and Peace' in its length. Not really shooting for that record right now. So I am trying to condense my thoughts by breaking it down by region, with the occasional editorial on teams I like or disdain.

EAST: With UNC being the number one seed, fully healthy finally, and on a bit of a roll its hard to see how they do not make it to San Antonio for the Final Four. Tyler Hansbrogh is developing quite the legend for himself as a big time and clutch time performer. Just look at the ACC title game against Clemson..chases down a rebound and then turns around to hit the game winner. UNC is playing well on both sides of the ball right now and while I used to hate Dean Smith (and his huge nose and crappy four corners defense) and subsequently UNC... I always liked Roy Williams, so I now can stomach them. There are a couple stumbling blocks on the way Final Four for UNC though. The 2 seed Tennessee and the 3 seed Louisville. With Tennessee you have a well coached team that plays very good defense. Their offense can be a touch streaky but is generally solid. That would be a great Elite Eight match up Although someone should tell Tennessee head coach Bruce Pearle that those sherbert orange blazers he wears are absolutely hideous.. Louisville.. While I listed them as potential trouble for Carolina... I just don’t think they are. They are a good team.. Another one of Rick Pitino’s pressure teams that always create havoc and turnovers for opposing offenses with quick and speedy guards to facilitate transition. I think Pitino has just never been the same legend that everyone thinks he is since he came back from driving the Celtics franchise to deepest depths of hell. He was great, pre Celtics, at Kentucky and he is good, post-Celtics, at Louisville but does not seem quite the same. But one thing is for sure.. If you don’t protect the ball against his teams, they will get a grip of points off of your mistakes. Other teams in this region include George Mason, from 2006 Final Four Cinderella fame, Butler..winners of 13 of their last 14 and Indiana, who just seem headed for a first or second round defeat. Look for UNC to come out of the East.

SOUTH: Memphis is the 1 seed here and I know they have been arguably one of the top two teams all season, only losing once to Tennessee. There is no logical reason for me to not pick them to make it to the Final Four. However, their free throw shooting is just atrocious. I think this is going to cost them either in the Sweet 16 or the Elite 8. Inevitably every year, a top team gets involved in a dog fight with an unlikely opponent and free throws will be huge. And since Memphis really sucks with free throws, I see it as a potential Achilles heel for them. All the quickness and suffocating defense in the world if you can’t take advantage of free points. The 2 seed, Texas, does not scare me at all. They have had a decent year but were easily handled by Kansas in the Big 12 Championship..they don’t have the muscle to hang with the big boys. Same feeling about Stanford. However here is who I do like to come out of the South region... Pitt. Don’t forget they were playing really well earlier in the season, had a mid season swoon of sorts, and then picked it up again at the end of the year and in the Big East Championship, where they had a convincing victory over Georgetown. I like their combination of youth and defense. If they can get by a really hot Temple team in a potential second round match up, then I think they can make it to San Antonio.

MID WEST: A two or three horse race in this region between 1 seed Kansas, 2 seed Georgetown, and 5 seed Clemson. Kansas seems to be peaking at the right time..playing smooth and with ease. Georgetown was on quite a run until they ran into Pitt in the Big East Championship. They are anchored by big man Roy Hibbert in the middle giving htem a nice post presence on offense and defense. They have seasoned guards and young forward Patrick Ewing Jr..not much of a scoring threat but a good defender and passer off the bench. Clemson is playing really well taking out Duke in the ACC semi final and within a few seconds of doing the same to UNC in the final. Nothing makes me happier than seeing Duke lose. Coach Krykweoiwpmcxmski and his merry little band of preppies and over achieving do gooders have always made me sick. Is there any correlation between all the preppie goofy white kids he recruits that excel in college and the fact that those same preppie goofy white kids totally suck balls when they make it to the NBA? But I digress.. Back to Clemson..playing really well right now. I see them making it to the Sweet 16, possible a regional final. Btw.. I see a lot of talk about Davidson and Gonzaga. I say phooey. I see Georgetown and Kansas playing for a spot in the Final Four......with Georgetown pulling it out in a squeaker.

WEST: Last but certainly not least. UCLA is the 1 seed out here. The evil and totally lame Duke Blue Devils deservedly the 2 seed (even a backhanded compliment to Duke feels like I need to shower with a wire brush). U Conn is a 4 seed. This seems to me like a weak region that will come down to UCLA and Duke. Georgia, who made a great run in the SEC tourney, will not last. Arizona was 50-50 chance of even getting in the tourney and not playing well. If a no name team is going to make some noise this year it might be the 5 seed Drake...cruised through their regular season and demolished the competition in their conference tournament en route to a championship. U Conn could interject themselves into this mix but I think it will be UCLA and Duke for regional final. And I pray to the basketaball gods that UCLA extinguishes the life out of Duke and I see the Blue Devils cry on the bench while wiping their tears with Tommy Hilfiger t-shirts.

So there it is my Final Four: UNC, PITT, GEORGETOWN, UCLA. Oh.. You want my picks too? Pushy you folks are...... In the first Final Four semi I like UNC over Georgetown in a nail biter. In the second semi I like UCLA over Pitt. National Championship Game: UNC 72- UCLA 64. Hansbrough cuts down the nets and then rides off into NBA obscurity. I love this time of year. :)

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Tuesday Thunder in Thunder valley

Being that yesterday was St. Patrick’s day, I did not have the requisite time to put together any coherent thoughts on the NCAA Tourney...another 24 hours and I should have a better handle on it all. There are a lot of teams and players to review and I can’t combine that with the unbridled, beer drinking joy that is St Patrick’s day. Therefore we are going to chew a little NASCAR fat, after a damn good race on Sunday.

Sunday was the Food City 500 (save your sponsor jokes) at Bristol Motor Speedway in Tennessee. Now for someone who does not like country music or moonshine, I don’t have much use for Tennessee. However, twice a year they put on two of the better races of the NASCAR season (the second one is in August under the lights). Bristol is short track racing at its finest. It’s a half mile, high banked, concrete oval. Its referred to as a bull ring and when you put 43 cars on that track you can see why. 43 cars taking 500 laps around (turning lap times around 15 seconds or so) this track, beating and banging on each other all day long. All the while surrounded by 160,000 fans. 160,000... no other professional sport in the United States can plant that many butts in the seats for one of their events. It was at Bristol in 1999 that the late Dale Earnhardt (my favorite driver of all time) gave us one of his many signature moments by dumping Terry Labonte (that means wrecking somebody else, for you newbies) on the last lap to win that race and then had the gumption to tell the camera that 'I didn’t mean to wreck him...just wanted to rattle his cage a little bit', all the while smiling like the Cheshire Cat.

Bristol is known for good racing, wrecks, spin outs, fights between drivers, and last lap drama. Sunday’s race provided all of that, except for the fights between drivers. There was lots of good racing but basically the race for the win really came down to two teams: JGR (Joe Gibbs Racing) who are represented by Tony Stewart, Denny Hamlin, and Kyle Busch, and RCR (Richard Childress Racing) who has Kevin Harvick, Jeff Burton, and Clint Bowyer. Those six cars were the class of the field and truth be told, much to my chagrin, the Joe Gibbs Toyotas were the dominant cars of the field. Harvick, Burton, and Bowyer were able to keep up with them..they just could not stay in front of them. Between Stewart and Hamlin...they combined to lead almost of 400 of the 500 laps in the race. Yeah...that’s a team that has their stuff together. Stewart is really the only guy I like on that team. Hamlin is a cocky little prick, who thinks he is entitled to everything because he is Denny Hamlin. Kyle Busch is just a meathead...hot headed with a tendency to wreck himself. That being said...the kid can wheel. I have to give it to him... I don’t want to but it’s the truth. He can do some things with a race car that not a lot of other guys can do. But he bugs me a lot, so I do tend to snicker tremendously when some misfortune crosses his path. Tony Stewart is an old school driver. Says what he feels on live tv, can drive anything on four wheels, and will turn a fellow racer into the fence if they mess with him on the track.. All three of those guys have had cars capable of winning every race so far this year...but with the exception of last week in Atlanta (Kyle Busch won), a series of circumstances seems to keep from actually closing the deal. Works for me. Gives my guys (Harvick, Burton, Bowyer in that order) a chance.

So back to the race on Sunday. So the JGR cars are all taking turns at the lead... with Stewart leading the most, avoiding wrecks and lapped traffic along the way. Towards the last portion of the race Busch came up and took the lead and then subsequently loses his power steering. Goes a few laps then his car spins out and hits the inside wall..taking him out of contention. I laugh heartily to myself and thank the NASCAR gods for my good fortune. All the while Harvick and Burton are just lurking in the top five. When the race resumes, Stewart goes back to the lead and then trades it back and forth with Harvick a few times. All I notice is that Harvick can’t stay in front of Stewart for more than a few laps. Stewart has the better car. As my friend Thomas 'The Tank Engine' would say ‘No satisfaction’. Now Hamlin is barnstorming through the field..he had pit troubles and fell way back..but now he is on a march to the front and takes the lead. With about 12 laps to go a caution flag came out for a wreck. Stewart and Hamlin stayed out, while everyone from third place back came in for tires. On the restart with less than ten laps to go.. Hamlin and Stewart got out front but were being chased by Harvick and Burton with their fresher tires. Harvick was trying to pass Tony Stewart for 2nd place underneath him when he drifted up the track a little and knocked Stewart into the wall but Burton gets by Harvick. Caution is out and we will have a 2 lap shoot out for the win. When the race restarts Hamlin is leading, Burton and Harvick in 2nd and 3rd. Half a lap into it...Hamlin just slows up and Burton rockets past and ends up beating. Harvick to the line by a half second..with Clint Bowyer coming in third. That’s right..1st, 2nd, and 3rd place went to RCR. Now THAT is satisfaction. Apparently, Hamlin had a problem with his fuel pick up and that’s why his car all of a sudden resembled a 1981 Honda on the restart. It couldn’t have happened to a smarmier prick.There was much rejoicing on my part, along with some colorful metaphors thrown Hamlin's way(normally I save my venom for Jeff Gordon or Jimmie Johnson but they are pretty much sucking it up so far this year). Great race...with a really great ending.

Now you may wish that you had chosen to read an article about theoretical physics instead of my NASCAR musings and that’s ok (thanks for reading this even if you hated it)... but if any of what I described above piqued your interest in the slightest bit, then you should watch the Bristol night race in August. Its one of the best. There is a seven year wait list for tickets to that race. I am not kidding. On that note.. I think I am off in search of some moonshine...suddenly Tennessee does not seem like that bad of a place after all. :)

Monday, March 17, 2008

Break Down On Why Tiger Is Dominant

I know I told you that I would have an NCAA Tourney preview on Monday but a couple of things prevented that from happening. One, I went out on Sunday night to my favorite watering hole in all the land, Maloney’s. If you are ever in downtown Albuquerque, swing by 4th and Central and stop in for a Viking sized beer. No really, it’s a liter of beer in a mug. So delicious and thirst quenching. Second, and more important reason for pushing back the tourney preview is one Mr. Eldrick 'Tiger' Woods and it is he that we will be discussing today. So give me one to two days to review all the regions, match ups and so forth. Then I shall provide you with a tidy little preview to the 'Madness.'

So this past weekend was The Bay Hill Invitational, a yearly PGA Tour event held at Arnold Palmer’s course in Florida. Now, you may recall in my introductory post I fawned over Tiger Woods pretty heavily. Some of you might have thought it to be a bit much but if you, by chance, happened to watch the final round at Bay Hill on Sunday then you now know what I was talking about. First of all Tiger has not lost a tournament since last August. He has won the last six tournaments he has entered in. I mean how ridiculous is that? Most of the schlubs and lifers that currently make up the PGA tour would kill to have a season where they win a couple of events, maybe a few top tens. I mean that really is a good season. Now I swing back to Tiger . . . he has won the last six events he has been in. He’s won the last two majors and is the odds on favorite to win The Masters in three weeks. He is playing golf at such a stratospheric level right now that the other guys on tour would be better off bludgeoning him with a pitching wedge to keep him under control. Scary thing is he would probably still find a way to win.

At Bay Hill, Friday night found Tiger seven shots off the lead heading into the weekend. He wasn’t playing poorly . . . but he wasn’t playing very well either. Oddly enough, despite the seven shot deficit heading into the weekend I found myself thinking that if Tiger heats up there is no reason he can’t steam roll the field. Well it didn’t turn out exactly the way I thought. It was more like a combination of events that propelled him to a five-way tie for the lead by the end of Saturday’s 3rd round. A number of players that were above Tiger on the leader board just simply fell apart. On the front nine Saturday, Vijay Singh dropped five shots over a four-hole stretch. I am no Vijay Singh lover at all, in fact the only he thing that he does that I like is that he smokes, but players like Vijay Singh do not drop five shots in four holes. A number of other players were not playing particularly well either. Tiger however, went out and shot -4 under 66, with two ridiculously good iron shots at 15 and 16 that resulted in a 2-ft putt for birdie and a 3-ft putt for birdie on two of the toughest holes on the course. Hard to describe unless you saw them but he knocked them stiff.

Sunday found Tiger in the final pairing, wearing his famous Sunday red 'money' shirt, tied with four other golfers at the start of the round. On the second hole, he bagged a 15-ft putt for birdie to take a lead that he would never relinquish. That does not mean the victory or the lead was assured. On 10, Tiger had a mystifying three putt which resulted in a bogey and a tie with relative unknown, Bart Bryant. I don’t know where this collection of no name stiffs, like Bryant, come from to challenge Tiger every once and a while. They probably come from central casting for all things warm, fuzzy and full of inspirational goodness. Bryant and Woods basically matched each other on the back nine..birdie for birdie, par for par. The announcer’s glee at the proposition of someone 'challenging' Tiger was growing by the hole. Which brings us to 18, a very challenging and difficult hole to close on. Bryant plays it (he was in the group ahead of Tiger) and comes up with solid par. Nice drive..nice iron shot...nice putting. A well played hole by Bryant. So if Tiger pars the 18th hole, he and Bryant will have a playoff, if he birdies then Tiger wins. Simple enough. Tiger steps to the 18th tee and bombs one down the left side of the fairway. Before his 2nd shot into the green..the wind really picked up, making an already difficult shot over water even more treacherous. My guess is that things like that only embolden Tiger to execute a perfect shot. Which is exactly what he did. He took his five iron and launched an approach shot that landed about 25 ft to the left of the cup...which is the only safe place to land a shot if you can’t afford to bogey the hole. Now the announcers spent the next 5 minutes talking about how Tiger had not made a putt of over 19ft all tournament long.....which is exactly the moment that I started thinking that this one was going in. You just get feelings like that about Tiger if you watch him enough. Anyway he was 0-21 all tournament long on putts of 19ft or more and this was a 25 ft putt. But it was for the win. So Tiger takes his requisite time, studies the putt from 5 gillion angles and steps up to the ball and taps it. Right off the bat, I can sense it is on line and I as I watch it approach the hole and slow down, I scream at the tv ' Get in f’ing hole!'.. The ball, as if on cue, stops right at the edge of the cup for a split second....and then drops in. Pandemonium ensues. Tiger has always been an emotional guy on the course when he makes big putts and such but he was extra pumped today. When the ball dropped in, a yelling Tiger took his hat off and spiked it on the ground like a football and then turned to the crowd and gave them his trademark fist pump with both arms. Crowd going wild, Tiger going wild and in the background, Arnold Palmer stood smiling with a bemused look on his face that basically said ‘I knew that was going to happen’. This is why I love to watch golf anytime that Tiger Woods is playing, because for the last seven months it has been nothing short of must watch tv and a talent like this only comes around once in a lifetime. I certainly want to watch and be able to tell my kids that I saw, arguably, one of the most dominant and best athletes of all time. See you in three weeks at Augusta, Tiger. :)