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You Owe Me: Fear & Self-Loathing in Cheektovegas

January 20, 2013

They’re playing hockey today – which is great. I’m excited, and you probably are too if you’re reading this. All the teeth gnashing you did, all the cursing of Bettman, Daly, and Fehr, the threats of never watching this league again – they were all hollow. And you kind of knew it too, didn’t you? Deep down you weren’t walking away.

The sweet day those arena gates were flung open and you got the chance to get your grubby little hands on a minipack and a Grigorenko sweater you knew you were a lost cause.

And that’s fine – despite all my rage, I acknowledged early on that the minute this hilariously needless work stoppage ended, I’d be in front of my TV like the hopeless rube that I am. Maybe not buying tickets and merchandise but definitely giving the Sabres & NHL my full attention and mindshare. And in the age of trending topics and commercial self worth determined by facebook shares and likes – that’s almost as valuable, isn’t it?

The NHL & NHLPA kissed and made up, the fans cheered and most got in line to hand over gobs of cash…as fans are wont to do. But some haven’t been as compliant. Some still aren’t completely sated and, right or wrong, made their viewpoints made

Which, in turn, brought an avalanche of scorn from those who weren’t asking for a bit more.

You think you’re OWED something? This is a BUSINESS – they owe you NOTHING was the general refrain from those doing the shaming.

Which, is generally true – the NHL and its franchises all operate as for profit institutions. The end game is making money, not playing hockey. That is reality.

The fact that this was being communicated didn’t strike me as much as the widespread ferocity in which it was delivered. It was almost as if the people asking for half priced beer or car magnets as good faith gestures were posting YouTube videos of themselves wearing Bin Laden masks and burning American flags while Norwood’s kick sailed right on a 52” in the background for all the hostility they were met with.

And it made me think about the broader context of how American sports fans behave and view themselves, say compared to their counterparts in Europe or South America.

Last weekend Manchester City of the English Premier League traveled south to London to play Arsenal. As is the norm in English soccer, a few sections of every stadium are set aside for fans of the visiting team as to not have fans of opposing sides mingle together and cause potential crowd trouble (long story – google “The English Disease”).

Similar to the Sabres variable pricing model, Arsenal also prices games based on the stature of the opponent, competition, etc… Given that Manchester City are the defending EPL champions and that away tickets are normally higher in price than home fan tickets (supply & demand) – City fans were met with a staggering per ticket cost of 62 GBP or, in US dollars, $98.36.

Incensed City fans balked at the prices and over 900 unsold tickets were returned to the Arsenal front office as an embarrassingly large swath of empty seats was displayed prominently on televisions around the globe. The ones that did come down from the north of England brought protest banners and chants with them, winning the sympathy of not only fan groups across the UK but a game official who persuaded the Manchester City players to jog over to the away end and thank the fans for dishing out so much cash.

Think about that story – can you ever conceive of that happening in Buffalo? It’s absurd, isn’t it? The thought of Drew Stafford glumly skating over to the bench after a dull 2-1 Wednesday night loss to Winnipeg or Washington and thanking fans by the railings for having to plunk down the cost of a pretty damn nice meal at the Chop House to see what amounted to the hockey version of the dollar menu.

Can you ever imagine Sabres fans in the 100s unfurling banners reading “$180? WHERE DOES IT STOP?” WGR drive time show hosts clucking their tongues sympathetically at the extortionist nature of modern pro sports and exhorting listeners to action.

But that doesn’t happen here. Behind the high ticket prices, threat of relocation if public funds aren’t handed over and general disregard for those who make the whole system work lies this sentiment: “You’re lucky to have us“.

And the response, nearly universally from the great unwashed is nearly always “Yes, we know!”

Sports are a game – they’re entertainment; in the grand scheme they don’t mean anything of any true substance (or so I’ve been told). And, if, as a society this is how we want things to be that’s fine.

But it’s interesting to note that in the wake of this fiasco reaching a non-season killing resolution, the first scarlet letters handed out post-lockout weren’t to the perpetrators, but to those who wouldn’t let the frustration of the work stoppage die.

Collectivist action just isn’t in our bones as Americans – for a nation that has prided itself on protest, modern sports fandom across the four majors seems to be a nervy game of musical chairs – no one wants to speak up or walk out in fears of the next guy on the season ticket waiting list taking your spot and effectively erasing your relevance to the team. Or worse – being called out for not being a REAL FAN.

Which, of course, all plays into the math the NHL and NHLPA literally bank on: that you can’t say no. That no matter what kind of farce they make of the game you love and fund, that you’d sooner trample the guy in the row below you for a ticket upgrade than EVER consider maybe talking to him about staging a meaningful protest or boycott to send the money men a lesson that what happened from October until earlier this month is NOT OK.

But, again, that’s not how we think. The first instinct is to accept the lot of ever increasing tickets, ever brazen ownership and ever shortsighted player representation. Fans – the people who genuinely hold all the cards- defeat, no, cannibalize themselves before the battle even begins.

Granted, nothing more terrible than some boring winter evenings and lean times at Cobblestone area pubs have come as a result of all this. This isn’t huge banks laundering money for cartels or drone strikes killing civilians in Pakistan. It’s hockey, it’s supposed to be a fun diversion, not the whole point.

I suppose it all comes down to what we want as a sporting society – is this all worth it? Is it still fun? Would you want anything to change?

Personally, I don’t know those answers. It’s late and the Sabres are playing tomorrow.

The Last Stop: 2012 Tour Championship and the FedEx Cup

September 19, 2012

After nine months of grueling golf, the PGA Tour season has come down to this: The Tour Championship at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta, GA.  So many storylines have been introduced this year and they all seem to be wrapping up at the exact same time, at the exact same tournament. The PGA Tour Regular season wraps up this weekend with someone winning the FedEx Cup, $10 Million dollars.Image

Here’s how the FedEx Cup Playoffs work for those who are unfamiliar with the format.   There are four tournaments in which the field gets progressively smaller after each event.  They start with 125, and then go down to 100, then 70, and then the biggest jump is down to 30 based on a points system.  Points are accumulated throughout the year and the playoffs.  This weekend is the final stop for the players at the Tour Championship.  Now, the top five players in the FedEx Cup standings control their own destiny with wins this weekend.  If they win at East Lake, they win the FedEx Cup.  The top five right now are Rory McIlroy, Tiger Woods, Nick Watney, Phil Mickelson and Brandt Snedeker.   There are so many different scenarios in which guys who are in the 14th spot can win, with loses from the top 5 or second place finishes of what have you, but those seem unlikely, as unlikely as the Bills going to the playoffs this year. There are some dark horses out there who can come close and who have all played extremely solid golf over the past 5 weeks that really anything can happen. 

The obvious story this year has been the comeback of the greatest golfer alive, Tiger Woods.  He has three victories under his belt, and has been “a part of the conversation” in three of the year’s four majors.  Woods seems poised to take the FedEx Cup this year with how well he has been playing but now, at the precipice of becoming the number one golfer in the world again, there is one man who stands in his way, his “frienemy” Rory McIlroy.  McIlroy is the other feel good story of the year and for good reason.  He’s maintained the world number one ranking even though many competitors were nipping at his heels, and after a dismal year last year, he has four victories; one of them being the PGA Championship last month and is currently riding a two tournament win streak.  This weekend also has some huge implications as to who will win Player of the Year honors.  It seems like a toss-up between McIlroy and Woods, both having multiple wins, McIlroy with the Major.  But If Tiger Wins the Tour Championship and the ultimately the FedEx Cup, I think he’ll be the leader to gain the Player of the Year Honors; If not, McIlroy wins it in a landslide.  To the untrained eye, McIlroy seems like the clear-cut favorite to win this weekend, but don’t think that there aren’t others ready to have their name engraved on the FedEx Cup and have their moment of immortality.

Phil Mickleson has made a huge charge up the leaderboard since the Deutsche Bank Championship and finds himself in prime position to take the FedEx Cup.  He played unbelievably at the BMW Championship two weeks ago to almost come back and win, but McIlroy was that much better.  Phil’s attitude and his new and improved short game and putting grip are proving to be the difference maker in his success.  Since winning the AT&T National Pro-Am at Pebble Beach early in the year, Phil has had an up and down type year.  He was there at The Masters, and then after that didn’t really perform well enough to be in anyone’s mind heading into a Sunday.  But the past few weeks, he’s really turned it on as far as his quality of play and has every right to be in the forefront of everyone’s mind.

Nick Watney has been a quality consistent golfer throughtout the entire year.  Everyone has always been saying that “they are waiting for his breakout moment”, his “major victory.”  And those moments and wins will come in time for the American, but not this weekend.  He showed tenacity and a never say die attitude when he won the Barclay’s (the first round of the Playoffs) and has remained a solid ball striker the past 3 weeks.  I don’t foresee him contending this week for the Tour Championship, but this year should be a great jumping off point for his career.

Brandt Snedeker is in the same category as Watney as far as the “break though moment.”  A lesser known name to the usual television viewer, but on Tour, he’s as fierce a competitor as they come.  He plays fast and his irons are as accurate as a professional dart player hitting bulls eye’s all day.  He won early in the year in amazing fashion, coming back from 8 strokes down on Sunday to beat Kyle Stanley, who got his revenge the very next week in a comeback win of his own.  But Snedeker solidified his place as a grinder in the golf world, and it’s shown over the course of the year and these playoffs.

In my opinion, the winner of the FedEx Cup will come from the Top 5.  It’s hard to bet against the best golfers in the world at this point of the year.  As for my pick to win, I’ve got to go with Tiger Woods.  He’s been playing like his old self the past 5 weeks, and looks as poised and dominant to take the Championship…right before the Ryder Cup. 

Recovery after the British Open? Sure thing says Adam Scott

August 2, 2012

For those of you who watched the epic collapse over the last four holes of the British Open for Adam Scott, your chance to see how he rebounds is upon you.  If you can peel yourself away from the awful NBC coverage of the Olympics, your chance to see Adam Scott perform for the first time since his disaster will come at 2PM on the Golf Channel.  With the PGA Tour stopping in nearby Akron, OH this week for the World Golf Challenge (WGC) Bridgestone Invitational this week, the headlines and scrutiny will surely be placed on one man, and that man happens to not be named Tiger Woods.

Two weeks ago we saw a collapse of almost Jean Van De Velde proportions at the British Open by Aussie golfer Adam Scott.  With a 3 shot lead going into the last four holes, Scott bogeyed the last four, falling short by one stroke to eventual winner, Ernie Els.  Els has been on the side of Adam Scott before, namely the 2004 Masters where he lost on the final hole to first time major champion Phil Mickleson.  Els said that he felt for Scott, because he’s been there before.  He also said he admired him as a person and golfer and said that he would eventually recover from this…in time.  Adam Scott himself even said he took away the positives from his performance and hopes to get back in the winner’s circle soon.  How soon has yet to be determined, and this week at the Bridgestone will be no exception.

The Bridgestone Invitational is played at the Firestone Country Club, and is known for having U.S. Open type rough and greens.  Adam Scott didn’t fare so well at the U.S. Open this year, and his recovery efforts will again be tested this week.  Scott says he feels comfortable and confident on this course layout, and it is the site of his lone win last year.  With veteran caddie Stevie Williams by his side, it should be pretty easy to get back into his winning ways.  Williams has won at Firestone a total of eight times, seven times being with his former boss, Tiger Woods.  So Williams is no stranger to this course, and should be as confident and comfortable as his current boss.  

In my experience, having good memories about a course that I’ve had success at is a big advantage, which Scott has about Firestone.  However, I’m no professional, and I haven’t thrown away my chance to win a professional major over the course of four holes.  Professional golfers are known to have short memories, not letting a past loss affect their current week.  However, I’m willing to bet my job that Adam Scott’s final four holes will haunt his memories for a long time, and eventually start affecting him in a negative way.  He won’t win the Bridgestone this week, nor will he compete at the PGA Championship later this month.  Maybe after this season he’ll be able to exercise the demons of major’s past and come back stronger next year.  But this year is a lost one for the Aussie.

2012 British Open Preview: Tiger’s Year?

July 18, 2012

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We’ve come to the 3rd Major of the 2012 PGA Tour season, the halfway point if you will.  This year’s Open Championship promises to be full of high caliber play, problems with deep bunkers, wind, rain, and whatever else northwest England has to offer.  This year’s championship will be played at The Royal Lytham & St. Anne’s Golf Club in Northwest England.  As with every Open Championship, this course promises to play tougher than the pro’s expected.  Which is why it’ll take everything these professionals have in their bags to pull out a win.  Various shot shapes, accuracy off the tee, and stellar putting to hoist the coveted Claret Jug.

 

Royal Lytham is 205 pot bunkers strewn across a links layout.  Ball placement will be key off the tees this week in order to shoot a good score.  With the winds whipping in from the ocean and dunes, missing the various, yet well placed, bunkers will be the challenge with this course.  Like many other Open Championships played in England and Scotland, the winds are unpredictable and can change in an instant.  Usually the players expect winds to be in the 20-30MPH range and swirling during the course of their rounds, so that’s where keeping the ball low, and electing to either ride the wind or fight the wind will be essential to scoring well.  The greens are large and have extreme slopes and breaks when it comes to putting, and generally if a player tries to go right at a pin, the ball will skip past the hole, off the green and leave a tough pitch shot to save par.  Now, with that said, this week has presented different problems for the players.  There has been little wind, down-pouring rain, and thick rough instead of wispy blades of grass that usually accompany a British Open.  According to various players, this course is set up more like a U.S. Open Championship rather than a British Open.  So, the scoring should be interesting if a player finds himself in the thick rough.   

 

The last time this tournament was played at Royal Lytham & St, Anne’s in 2001, David Duval claimed victory and since then has not been the golfer he once promised to be.  That said, our old friend Tiger Woods hasn’t won a British Open since 2006, and seems poised to once again raise the Claret Jug in victory.  He is much more confident in his swing; he’s playing better golf all around, and says that the British Open is his favorite major.  Tiger also has history at this particular course.  He was low amateur in 1996 before he turned pro, and won that by shooting a Friday round of 66 back then.  Now, he’s a different player now then he was back then, but golfers tend to have great memories of courses they enjoy.  When he won at Turnberry in 2006, he only hit his driver once in four rounds of play, generally using an iron off the tee to keep the ball in play and avoid bunkers.  This course sets up similarly to Turnberry, so I expect Tiger to use more irons and three woods off the tee, shaping the ball to avoid bunkers and rough patches.  He’s my pick to win this week, although don’t count out the Englishmen in the field.  Lee Westwood, who is still looking for his first major, Justin Rose, and the current number 1 in the world, Luke Donald.  Rose has played unbelievably consistent over the past weeks and looks like he will quietly make a run for the Claret Jug.  Luke Donald however has faltered in recent majors, and seems a little out of sorts when it comes to being in big spots in big tournaments. 

 

All will be settled on Sunday afternoon when the winner takes the coveted Claret Jug and places it over his head capturing the 2012 British Open.  Side note, England is 5 hours ahead and the first tee times on Thursday will be at 4:30AM on ESPN.  I will be up watching from beginning to end…and that’s what makes me crazy. 

 

54th Porter Cup: Amateur Golf Tournament Preview

July 17, 2012
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2010 Champ David Chung celebrates victory

There is nothing better to get people excited for the British Open, then the amateur golf tournament known as the Porter Cup at Niagara Falls Country Club in Lewiston, NY.  This tournament is one of the better amateur tournaments in the country and has played host to many current and past PGA Tour Champions.  This year is the 54th annual edition of this amateur tournament and promises to have great play from Thursday until Sunday.

The Porter Cup is known for having hosting some of the world’s best amateur golfers throughout the years.  Some names include the likes of Phil Mickelson, who won in 1991, Tiger Woods, who has a hole in one plaque at the 13th hole, as well as David Duval, Davis Love III and many others who are now permanent fixtures on the PGA Tour.   This tournament usually hosts a top heavy load of Canadian players and local favorites.  This year is no different as out of the 8 players who qualified through the qualifier, 5 are from neighboring Ontario, CA, the other three hail from Buffalo and Rochester.

Now, me being from Grand Island, NY, there were 3 local guys who I played golf with in high school who unfortunately didn’t make the cut.  The last one was John Edwards who in 2008 managed to qualify for the Porter Cup, and was a media staple for the first two days of the tournament.  Unfortunately, that was a rain shortened event in which a cut was implemented for the first time ever, and John missed the cut to play on the weekend.  There are some local favorites this week that will be looked at intently to have a possibility to capture the Cup this year.  One is Chris Covelli.  In the qualifier, which is one 9-hole round played at NFCC, managed to shoot a 69 and finish second behind Daniel Kim from Toronto, Ontario, CA.  Covelli is a 2005 Nichols graduate who has tried to take his golf career to the next level after high school, but lost struggled with his play and lost the passion for the game.  Now, with this qualification, he has a renewed drive to compete and after this year’s Porter Cup, he plans on attempting to qualify for the U.S. Amateur tournament, and possibly going on to the Web.Com Tour with dreams of making it to the PGA.  If he can keep his competitive spirit, he’ll be one of the contenders for sure this week.

Another local favorite is Brian Jurkiewicz, from Hamburg, NY.  He shot at 70 in the qualifier to finish in 6th place.  With great course knowledge and a caddy who is the assistant green’s keeper, you’d think he would have an edge at this year’s tournament.  Jurkiewicz played his High School golf at Canisius High School, and currently attends Saint Bonaventure.  He’s had plenty of amateur and junior amateur exposure at a young age, so tournament play is nothing new to him and he should be a contender.

This is a free event to watch as a spectator, and is located in Lewiston, NY at Niagara Falls Country Club starting July 18th and ending July 21st.  As a side note, you can bring your own adult beverages to the course.

June 20, 2012

Originally posted on In Towards McBride:

With a shock upset of (now former) division leaders AFC Cleveland on Saturday, Greater Binghamton FC rolled into Buffalo on an overcast Father’s Day afternoon brimming with the confidence of a side that saw a prime opportunity to wash away the trauma of a disastrous first half of their maiden season with a statement win that would put them in pole position for the final spot in the Great Lakes playoffs next month in Erie.

Photo courtesy of Nate Benson Photography

FC Buffalo, reeling from a demoralizing and thorough defeat to Detroit City FC the previous evening were simply looking to stop the bleeding from several weeks of key injuries, suspensions and poor results. The Great Lakes basement battle, however, did nothing but prolong the questions and tension of the final few weeks as the two struggling sides battled to a 1-1 draw at All High Stadium.

GBFC looked the…

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2012 NHL Draft preview for the Buffalo Sabres

June 20, 2012

Heading into the 2012 NHL draft the Buffalo Sabres appear to be in a great situation with four picks in the top 44.

Well as college football analyst Lee Corso famously says “not so fast.”

On paper Buffalo looks to have a great opportunity to improve its team immediately through the draft, but the only problem is this year’s first round prospects are shaping up to be the weakest in over a decade.

The growing consensus by many draft experts is that beyond Nail Yakupov and Ryan Murray there are no sure fire picks in the top five. This doesn’t directly affect the Sabres because they pick at 12 and 21, but it lessens the chance of them trading up into the top five to grab an elite prospect.

From everything I’ve heard from both Darcy Regier and Kevin Devine they aren’t enamored with any one prospect strong enough to move up in the draft. If I had to take a guess right now, my money is on Regier burning up the phone lines looking to package some of their top four picks into a NHL player.

In the case that the Sabres do keep both of their first round picks here are some players to keep an eye on this Friday night. (I don’t confess to be a hockey scout, these prospect write-ups are based on several hours of draft research)

Forwards

  1. Radek Faksa: A 6-3 center most like to go in the 7-10 range. Would be a good addition for the Sabres, but they will most likely miss out on him.
  2. Teuvo Teravainen: A 5-11 winger who has seen his draft stock soar over the past few weeks. Like Faksa, Buffalo will most likely miss out on him unless they trade up a few spots.
  3. Zemgus Girgensons: A 6-1 center that should be on the board when Buffalo selects at 12. Considered a safe roster player that projects as a third line center.
  4. Brendan Gaunce: A 6-3 center that uses his size well. Will most likely go in the mid to late teens, the Sabres could consider trading up from 21 to get him.
  5. Thomas Wilson: A 6-4 winger that fits the mold of a power forward. Like Gaunce would improve Buffalo’s toughness and should go in the late teens range.

Some other forwards to keep an eye out for include: Stefan Matteau, Tomas Hertl, Sebastian Collberg and Scott Laughton.

Defense

  1. Olli Maatta: A 6-2 rock solid defenseman who should be available when Buffalo picks at No. 12. It has been reported that the Sabres were the only team to bring him in for a visit.
  2. Cody Ceci: Another 6-2 prospect, Ceci is considered one of the top offensive defenseman in the draft.
  3. Hampus Lindholm: At 6-3, Lindholm is considered a solid two-way defender. Will almost certainly be there at 12.
  4. Matt Finn: A 6-0 reliable defender. If the Sabres go forward at 12 they could try and trade up in the late teens to grab Finn.
  5. Derrick Pouliot: At 5-11, Pouliot is considered one of the top skating defenseman in the top of the draft. He could fall to Buffalo at 21.

Some other defenseman to keep an eye on include: Ludvig Bystrom, Slater Koekkoek and Brady Skjei. If the Sabres don’t trade both of their first round picks don’t sleep on a goalie either.

When listing the prospects I didn’t bother profiling the consensus top prospects at both forward and defense because like I discussed earlier I don’t see Buffalo trading up into the top five. One situation to keep an eye is if Mikhail Grigorenko falls and is there at No. 12. The 6-3 Russian center is considered the biggest question mark of the first round because of questionable intangibles. If he pans out for which ever team takes him he has elite talent if he commits himself.

Here are my projections if the Sabres keep both of their first round picks:

12. Olli Maatta

21. Brendan Gaunce

Check out the site tomorrow and I will dive into some possible trade scenarios and give my thoughts on what the best route for Buffalo to take is.

2012 US Open Wrap Up

June 19, 2012

The 2012 US Open concluded on Sunday, fittingly Father’s Day, like it has every year since 1962.  And this year,
 was filled with storylines to keep the golf community abuzz for at least a month, until the British Open kicks off.  First off, who is Webb Simpson and where did he come from to capture his first major victory?  What happened to the top two golfers in the world?  Can a 17 year old high school junior named Beau Hossler win golf’s toughest test, all while waiting to get his braces off this week?  And would Tiger Woods finally silence the critics and win his 15th major?  All these questions would eventually be answered by the end of the weekend.  Let’s recap:

The US Open is referred to as “Golf’s toughest test.”  I read a quote that I couldn’t help but reiterate.  It was said that “Olympic club is harder than the LSATs” and I should know, because I’ve taken the LSATs three times.  However, that is just a testament to how difficult that course plays during US Open week, and how precise a player needs to be to score well.  Last year was a fluke in the way the US Open was played.  Webb Simpson’s score of +1 is how one should win the US Open, Rory McIlroy shot a -15 last year at Congressional Country Club, and the USGA was determined to make sure a score like that would not be shot again, and they succeeded.  With that said this course ate up the best players in the world and made them feel like they were playing their first round of golf ever.  Rory McIlroy played his way out of the championship on Thursday, as did the top ranked golfer in the world, Luke Donald.  This course punishes missed fairways, and missed greens.  When you do hit the green in regulation, you better be delicate with your putt or you’re going to have a longer one coming back for par.  In true US Open fashion, the golf course was the winner this week.

With all that was said about the course, just as much if not more was said about the players.  Random first round leaders coming out of relative obscurity to shoot a -4 first round, to a 17 year old who thought the free dry cleaning service was the coolest part about the US Open experience.  Regardless of what happened at the end of the weekend, the US Open is about the players and how they manage to dance around danger on a course built to demoralize them.   A lot of people had high hopes for Phil Mickleson, but after a first drive on Thursday ended up in a Cypress tree and didn’t come down, his mood and emotional high were shot, and he finished +8 for the tournament.  This year’s Master’s Champion Bubba Watson didn’t survive to play the weekend saying “this course is too tough for me.”  Then there is the main storyline for this tournament, Tiger Woods.  Tiger woods was the 36-hole leader and looked poised and ready to win his 15th Major, and 4th US Open title.  But come Saturday, he was erratic, and unable to gauge the speed of the greens, and faded out of the lead to eventually finish +7.  A lot of writers already gave the tournament to Tiger after his Friday performance, but the pressure to win was ultimately his undoing.   Perhaps the biggest story on the weekend was 17 year old Beau Hossler, who just finished up his junior year of high school in Texas before playing the US Open.  His original goal was to be the low amateur for the tournament, which was feasible with this kid’s game.  He seemed to change his goal once Sunday morning came around and he found himself 4 shots off the lead, but the inexperience and difficult course took the wind out of his sails and his game came unraveled.  But can you really fault the kid for playing at this level at 17 years old?  I can’t, and I think it’s great for the game of golf that someone so young can compete with the world’s best.

This year’s victor was Webb Simpson, a Wake Forest Alum who played golf there on an Arnold Palmer scholarship.  Simpson has been in contention a lot this past season, with his solid play and care free attitude, he has the mental capacity and competitive tenacity to compete for multiple majors.  He is a true southern grown guy who prays to God more than anyone on Tour. It could have been divine intervention that helped Simpson to the winners circle, but I think it was his game through and through.  From tee to green, he had everything going on all cylinders on Sunday.  One of the few people to actually finish his final round under par, and that’s all it took for him to capture his first major.  He’ll continue to perform at an extremely high level, and he should be a shoe in for the Ryder Cup this year. 

Golf has been in a fragile state for the past couple of years due to flip flopping number ones, and no real standout to capture the hearts of golf fans everywhere.  Tiger Woods achieved that feat since he started playing, but since he’s gone 4 years without a major, the game seemed to wane and the interest in it wasn’t as high.  But with the resurgence of Tiger, the young up and coming players, the game of golf has never been more popular in my eyes.  More coverage on TV, even for the lesser known events, and even if Tiger and Phil aren’t playing.  People want to see the good guys win, and compete week in and week out.  The next major is the British Open in July at Royal Lytham  & St. Anne’s a mere 29 days away.  Tiger will be playing in two tournaments prior to the Open this year, the AT&T National at Congressional, and the Greenbrier Classic, and then he’ll take a week off and play in the Open.  Will he be able to capture his third Claret Jug?  Only time will tell, and may the storylines continue on into this year’s major season.

Surrendering to the Bull Shit

June 14, 2012

Although many people have suggested trying to take a little bit more of a national approach with this blog on occasion, I’ve resisted. I’m a big fan of the national sports scene but I’ve always wanted this site to have an exclusively Buffalo feel. With that in mind, something happened yesterday that I just can’t help but write about. No, I’m not talking about Matt Cain’s 14 K perfect game masterpiece or R.A. Dickey’s contentious 1-hitter, even though they were both spectacular. I’m referring to the captain of all bullshit, Jim Rome’s interview with NBA Commissioner David Stern.

I’m never quick to take the side of Stern and honestly he’s my second least favorite commissioner in all sports (congratulations Bud Selig) but there’s a point when assholes can be outshined by even bigger schmucks. Stern agreed to go on Rome’s ESPN radio show yesterday and of course the results of the NBA Draft Lottery was the biggest topic discussed. Understandably the results of said lottery were somewhat questionable with the NBA-owned New Orleans Hornets landing the number one overall pick which will garner them Kentucky big man and potential superstar Anthony Davis. There’s been an outcry of ‘CONSPIRACY’ and understandably many fans were upset by the results. With an ace in a hole like that Rome had plenty of gasoline to toss on the fire.

Yahoo sports writer Dan Devine was kind enough to put the entire transcript from the conversation on his Ball Don’t Lie basketball blog this morning. The largest point of contention from the interview occurred within the first few minutes of the conversation:

“You know, New Orleans won the draft lottery, which, of course, produced the usual round of speculation that maybe the lottery was fixed,” Rome said. “I know that you appreciate a good conspiracy theory as much as the next guy — was the fix in for the lottery?”

“Uh, you know, I have two answers for that,” Stern said. “I’ll give you the easy one — no — and a statement: Shame on you for asking.”

Rome goes right for the jugular with his first question and it’s nothing out of the ordinary for him. He’s quick to back off when conflict arises however:

“No, it’s ridiculous,” Stern answered. “But that’s OK.”

“I know that you think it’s ridiculous, but I don’t think the question is ridiculous, because I know people think that,” Rome said. “I’m not saying that I do, but I think it’s my job to ask you that.”

Rome is quick to put his tail back between his legs when Stern calls his question ridiculous and claims that it’s his duty somehow to try to humiliate a man who agrees to do his show because his pack of “clones” demands it. He’s even quicker to take the high road when Stern asks him the following question:

“Have you stopped beating your wife yet?” Stern asked.

“Yeah, I don’t know if that’s fair,” Rome responded. “I don’t know that that’s fair.”

By no means was Stern insinuating that Rome actually beat his wife but rather putting the question he initially asked into terms Rome could understand. Asking the commissioner if the draft was fixed was a simple yes or no answer which the commissioner could only answer one way: “No”. Even if it was true Stern would never admit that he fixed a lottery on a radio show. Stern flipped Rome’s argument on his head by asking him whether or not he had stopped beating his wife. This on the other hand is a loaded question with no correct response. By answering “yes” Rome would be admitting that although he wasn’t doing it anymore he had at one time assaulted his spouse. By answering “no” he of course would be insinuating that there was domestic abuse still occurring. At this point Rome probably realized he was bringing a knife to a gun fight by trying to out-argue a man with vastly superior intelligence.

From that point on Stern went on the offensive and exposed Rome for what he really was:

“Well, you know, it’s good copy, and you do things sometimes for cheap thrills,” Stern said.

“I did not do that for a cheap thrill,” Rome answered.

“Well, that’s what it sounds like,” Stern said.

Stern continued on the offensive:

“Well, no. But listen, you’ve been successful at making a career out of it, and I keep coming on, so …” Stern said.

“Making a career out of what, though, commissioner?” Rome interrupted. “See, I take great offense to that. Making a career of what? Cheap thrills?”

“What offense are you taking? You’re taking offense?” Stern asked.

“I am. Now I am,” Rome answered. “If you’re saying I’ve made a career out of cheap thrills …”

“… taking on the world, and now Jim Rome is pouting? I love it,” Stern said.

“I’m not pouting; I take offense,” Rome said. “There’s a difference between pouting and taking offense. I take offense like you took offense to the question…”

Stern sums up Rome’s entire career in a simple sentence by inferring that he’s made his career out of cheap thrills. Rome appeals to the lowest common denominator because he harps on what’s trending at that point in time and takes the opinion of the vast majority. He claims he’s controversial and “edgy” but in actuality he spits out a few turns of phrase and idiotic taglines to appeal to the people who actually have the ability to listen to his radio show at noon on a Wednesday. Some people would argue that Rome got the better of Stern because he got him riled up but in actuality Stern exposed Rome for the fraud that he is. Keep in mind this is a man who first gained notoriety for antagonizing former NFL QB Jim Everett to the point that Everett actually punched him in the face on live television in 1994. Since then Rome’s been nothing more than a tabloid sports journalist who wouldn’t know good journalism if Bob Costas walked up and punched him in the face with it.

Unfortunately my pleas for good journalism will again fall upon deaf ears. Rome will still be on the radio today at noon, preaching to his herd of clones about how he got the better of David Stern yesterday and there will certainly be drones of supporters who actually believe he did. Sift through the bull shit though people and try not to go down the path of a ring judge in last week’s Manny Pacquiao fight. Understand what you’ve heard and what was said to realize that Rome is good for nothing more than cheap thrills. If you’re looking for something to fill up your noon to 3 timeslot this afternoon do yourself a favor and read a book or go outside to enjoy the summer weather. For those of you who need your sports fix download Bill Simmons’ podcast or Football Today with Ross Tucker and enjoy quality journalism instead of embracing ignorance.

June 13, 2012

Originally posted on In Towards McBride:

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