Sunday, July 31, 2016

Golf's new age

Ding dong, the wicked witch is dead. Or at least one Eldrick Tont Woods appears to be on the ropes. Now 40, nobody, including Tiger, knows for sure if he'll ever even play competitive golf again -- let alone return to championship form.

They are many who said Woods was good for golf, and they have a valid point. During his reign, interest in the game seemed to spike. Tiger-mania spread like wildfire. His legions of groupies were everywhere.

But he was also bad for the game in the sense that tournament coverage seemed to revolve around him to the exclusion of other worthy players. See Tiger yawn. See Tiger eat a banana. See Tiger curse. See Tiger pound a club. See Tiger highlights even when he wasn't PLAYING in the particular tournament. It got to be ridiculous.

To his credit, Woods had arguably the most dominant decade in golf of all time. He was winning seemingly everything and few doubted he would easily pass Jack Nicklaus' mark of winning majors. Then his personal life, health, and game imploded and he hasn't been the same since.

Some thought the "demise" of Tiger would adversely affect the game of golf itself. They couldn't have been more wrong. Other stars have burst forth and golf remains as exciting, if not more so, than ever.

For a brief period a young Rory McIlroy appeared to inherit the throne. He would fall back. The Irishman is now 28 years old and scuffling with his game week to week.

Jordan Spieth set the golf world on fire last year by winning a couple majors (and almost a third). He has since cooled off a bit, still at the tender age of 22.

This year presented something unique. All four major winners were first-timers. And their ages are noteworthy as well.

Englishman Danny Willett surprised everybody (at least in America) by winning the Masters. He's 28 and long a fixture on the European tour but was unknown to most Yanks.

Dustin Johnson captured the US Open by overwhelming the course, and the competition, with his mammoth length. DJ has been around for a decade or so, and come close before, but this was his first major win at the age of 32.

Phil Mickelson put up a valiant effort at the (British) Open. Yet in a Sunday duel for the ages, Swede Henrik Stenson was able to stave him off. Lefty is now 46 and has won his share of majors in the past. This was the first for the 30 year old Stenson.

Jimmy Walker always seems to be on leaderboards, but winning this year's PGA tourney was his first major as well. Walker is 37, no spring chicken on the Tour.

The above four are all worthy champions indeed and yours truly would submit this is exactly the kind of thing golf needs as opposed to the Tiger Woods era.

When Woods was in his heyday the tournaments became boring to an objective fan. Tiger this and Tiger that, while he was the overwhelming favorite to win.

It's much better to have wide open competition. Brand new winners are always a good thing. Ask the hoops fans in Cleveland.

While celebrated in some quarters, dynasties are generally bad for the games. The vast majority of fans don't want to see the same team (or individual) winning time after time.

Tennis star Serena Williams certainly has her rooters, but many more take satisfaction in seeing her lose.

The Dallas Cowboys once pompously called themselves America's Team. They had far more haters than lovers. Same with the NY Yankees. Or the "showtime" Lakers.

It was much the same with Tiger Woods, but those that never much cared for him had to be careful lest they be called haters, or worse, racists. For whatever reasons, people root for those individuals or teams that strike their fancy. They are also free to root against whoever they choose, although this practice is frowned on in the name of political correctness.

It shouldn't be. Where is it written that a golf fan that has ponied up big bucks to attend a tournament is free to yell -- "GO IN THE HOLE" after a shot has been taken by one of their favorites -- but is NOT allowed to yell -- "GO IN THE WATER/DITCH" if the same short is taken by a player they are not fond of?

One can cheer tennis players, but it is taboo to boo them. Shouldn't paying customers have that right as well?

They do it at baseball, football, hockey, and basketball games. But I digress.

For now, let us enjoy the "new blood" we're seeing at the highest level of golf winning their first championships.

The game has been around for well over a century and was just fine when the likes of Hogan, Nicklaus, Palmer, Player, Trevino, Watson, and many others passed through. It remains fine without them. Same with Eldrick Tont Woods. He has his time and now it appears over.

And I, for one, find the game much more interesting to watch with the current crop of players.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Detroit Lions. That bad?

It's certainly no secret the abrupt (and early) retirement of Calvin Johnson dealt the Lions a major blow. The Megatron was their "go to guy". When in doubt, heave the ball in the general direction of Calvin and hope he could make a spectacular catch. Often he did, even in double or triple coverage.

But as they say, Calvin Johnson is past tense this year. History. Thanks for the memories, and all that.

What IS somewhat surprising is where an early poll ranks the Lions in the NFL hierarchy. They have them pegged all the way down at #28. Only Cleveland, San Fran, Tennessee, and San Diego are projected as being worse teams than the Motowners.

Wow. Are they really going to be that bad?

Maybe. The loss of the Megatron was only the latest erosion of the team. In the last few years the Lions have seen other star players (by their standards) depart. Defensive linemen Ndamukong Suh, Nick Fairley, and Cliff Avril all took a hike to free agency and landed elsewhere. Longtime center Dominic Raiola hung up his cleats a couple years ago. He may have been a loose cannon and a loudmouth, but he anchored the offensive line for what seemed forever.

In recent years the Lions haven't really had a good running back, nor will they this year. They've always been far more dependent on the passing game with Johnson as the star attraction. Sure, they'll have other receivers, but the loss of the Megatron is compounded in another way.

CJ always drew at least double coverage from the opposing teams. With him gone, that frees up another defender to cover the other guys.

The offensive line remains unsettled. Nobody's quite sure who's going to play what position, and adding a couple draft picks into the mix doesn't make things any easier. Typically, it takes an O-line several games, if not a year or two playing together before they truly gel as a unit. The Lions will be flying by the seat of their pants trying to run block and protect quarterback Matthew Stafford. And Stafford was sacked an awful lot last year.

The linebacker corps looks to be decidedly average at best. Some of those guys could play for other teams -- and some likely couldn't. The same could be said of the Lions defensive backs.

The Lions have a reliable punter and place kicker, but these aren't the guys good teams want to see on the field overly often. That means a team isn't scoring touchdowns.

The rest of the special teams? What can you say about a bunch of kamikazes flying down the field? Sometimes they'll make a good play, Other times they'll miss and get burnt.

The head coach, one Jim Caldwell, is a major question mark himself. In years past for other teams, he was considered a terrific coordinator, but crashed and burned shortly after he inherited the head coaching position.

If the Peter Principle is going to smack down Caldwell like it has in the past, this looks to be the year for it to happen. With so many other ifs, the Lions without Calvin Johnson could spiral back down to the nether regions of the NFL yet again.

Even the Lions front office has undergone a major shake up. The old stalwarts were broomed and a young guy (Bob Quinn) from the New England Patriots organization is running the show. Of course, the Lions have always been a far cry from the Patriots from the top on down. When measuring standards of excellence, comparing Detroit to New England would be akin to lining up a cub scout troop with a Navy SEAL team. It just doesn't compute.

But dang. #28? For the record, the same poll had Detroit's division rivals ranked as follows:

Chicago Bears. #22.
Minnesota Vikings. #9.
And to no one's great surprise, the Green Bay Packers checked in at #3.

#2 is the Carolina Panthers, last year's Super Bowl runner-up.

On top of the heap are the Arizona Cardinals.

True, it's the NFL and anything can happen. No doubt we'll see our fair share of upsets along the way this year.

But the cream usually rises to the top in the end. And being ranked 28th out of 32 hardly constitutes cream.

More like sour milk.

Then again, it's the Lions.

What's another year?

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

The confounding Detroit Tigers

The Tigers have something in common with the team that plays across the street from them. The Lions. Both are named after large ferocious felines (or puddytats -- depending on one's point of view). They also both give their fans just enough of the fabled "hope" to keep them addicted and coming back for more.

The Tigers haven't won a championship since 1984. A lot of good (and not so good) players have come and gone along with a few managers and front office personnel. Thirty two years is a long drought by most standards, especially of teams that pass themselves off as being competitive, not to mention continually raising ticket prices.

The Lions? Well, they last tasted glory when a guy named Eisenhower was President (1957), fittingly enough about the same time the ill-fated Edsel made it's debut. In all those years, the Lions have won a grand total of one playoff game.

Currently the Tigers sit 4 1/2 games behind the AL Central division leading Cleveland Indians (5 in the loss column). Just close enough for hope. Also, they're within a couple games of qualifying for a post-season "wild-card" with about 60 games to go. Plenty of time and games remaining to make a move. Hope. As we know, when the playoffs start, anything can happen.

By most objective standards, the Tigers don't measure up as a serious "contender". Sure, they have lots of hitters that can pound the ball, but sometimes they go cold for long stretches. Their starting pitching is OK, not great, but passable. The defense is about average. Their bullpen is almost a joke and they lack overall team speed. For most of the year they've hovered around or just over .500 as one would expect from such a team.

They just concluded a three game sweep of the Boston Red Sox on the road. Few saw that coming. It was the first time all year the Bosox had been swept in a series -- and at Fenway, no less.

Sure, even last place teams can beat first place teams in Major League Baseball. It happens all the time. Sometimes luck enters in. In the final game, top of the ninth inning with two out and the score tied 3-3, Tiger Miguel Cabrera lofted a fly ball to right field. The ball should have been caught for the third out. The Bosox defender got turned around, or lost it in the sun. It wound up bouncing off the top of the rather short outfield wall and into the stands for what would turn out to be the winning run.

As the trade deadline nears, the Tigers could certainly use some pitching help (see bullpen above), but it might not be easy to get. Any other team will obviously want a player or players in return. The Tigers find themselves in the situation of having most of their core players locked up with long-term contracts. This is a good thing for stability -- if they're performing up to snuff. Not so good trying to unload one on another team is he's been playing sub-par. Taking on long term guaranteed contracts is risky business. Besides the performance aspect, one never knows when an injury, perhaps major, could rear its ugly head. Further, the Tigers don't have a whole lot of top "prospects" to offer, and the few they do have they dearly want to hang onto. So being "buyers" in the trade market is easier said than done.

On the other hand, the Tigers remain just close enough to contending where they don't want to wave the white flag and become "sellers", looking to build in the future.

Could they actually win the World Series this year? It's possible, but highly unlikely. Too many other teams in the AL are superior to them. Even if they make it into the postseason, the playoff gauntlet would be formidable.

Instead, they keep hanging around, winning a few and losing a few, never making a serious charge, but not falling by the wayside either.

There is always hope, some say. Truer words have never been spoken. But hope is the very thing shrewd people play upon to get rich at the hands of suckers.

Hope seems to bloom in Detroit like no other city featuring big time professional franchises. There's a difference between teams like the Tigers/Lions and those like, say, the Chicago Cubs. The Lions haven't won squat in 60 years? The Cubs have gone over a century. Thing is, their fans didn't EXPECT them to win. They were just the lovable sad sack Cubbies. The Detroit franchises hype their teams to the heavens as contenders every year, and their local media helps sell the kool-aid to the ever gullible fans. Up, up, up they go, shelling out money hand over fist to see games, buy paraphernalia, and root, root, root for their heroes. Inevitable, the house of cards will come crashing down -- again. Then it's -- wait until next year.

Hope. Sigh. You'd think they'd learn.

Friday, July 22, 2016

J.J. Watt and the knife

It could certainly be argued Houston Texan J.J. Watt is the best defensive end in the NFL. For that matter, it's not much of a stretch to claim he ranks right up there with the best of all time. Only the late Reggie White had more sacks in his first five years than Watt.

Further, such is Watt's revved up "motor" that he is viewed as a team leader. He gets the rest of the guys fired up with his sheer enthusiasm. No doubt about it, Justin James Watt truly loves playing the game of football.

That's what makes his current situation so tough to understand. Watt recently had back surgery to repair a herniated disk. OK, those things can happen to anybody and they're certainly no fun (I had one myself years ago).

Yet given Watt's passion for the game, the timing seems all wrong. Watt had the same injury last year and, to his credit and toughness, played through it.

His 2015 season was over last January -- a full six months ago. It's a given that NFL teams either have on staff or have access to some of the finest medical personnel, including surgeons, in the world. This also includes diagnosticians. They (and Watt) knew exactly what was wrong all the way back to last year. They likely also knew that surgery would be required to properly fix it. Life in the trenches of the NFL isn't exactly a desk job. Injuries are going to get aggravated if the player continues to play. And herniated disks are nothing to fool around with.

So here's the question ---- why did he wait so long to go under the knife?

Had the procedure been done way back in January, he would have been completely healed by now and good to go. After all, training camps will be firing up soon. But now there is much question whether Watt will even be ready to go when the regular season starts. If all goes well, say the docs, it's going to be close.

Ah, but perhaps an ulterior motive lurks. By delaying the operation as he did, J.J. doesn't have to participate in the grind of training camps and the meaningless preseason games. In a perfect world for him, Watt will go back to work when it counts -- the regular season. While his teammates are beating their brains out for the next several weeks, J.J gets to rehab, likely in an air conditioned facility.

A pretty sweet deal, all things considered.

You have to hand it to him. J.J. Watt is not only a phenomenal football player -- a terror while on the field -- it appears he's a pretty slick operator.

So far, nobody has questioned the "timing" of this. The talking heads and fans are only concerned as to whether he'll be ready to go in Game 1.

And hey, if he was good walking around with a herniated disk for 6 months (it couldn't have been THAT bad) in order to skip out on all the drills and practices -- more power to him.

Smooth, but it doesn't necessarily smell right.......

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Detroit Tigers and the clock

The 100 game mark is quickly approaching and the Detroit Tigers remain as mysterious as ever. Game after game goes by -- win a few, lose a few -- but they seem to be in a rut. Tick, tick, tick.

The Motowners hover somewhere around 7-8 games back of the division leading Cleveland Indians and a few games out of a potential wild card spot.

They can score a bunch of runs one day, then have their bats go silent the next. Beat good teams, lose to bad ones. The longer this drags on, the worse their chances at making the post season get. It's unlikely Cleveland will go into a tailspin. They have too much talent, both pitching and hitting, to suffer a lengthy losing streak. Sure, it could happen, but the odds are highly against it.

In the east, the Red Sox are cruising along, and the Orioles and Blue Jays are both quality teams. Also with better records than the Tigers.

The same can be said for the Astros in the west, where Texas leads the division.

Assuming the Tigers won't catch Cleveland -- there will only be two wild card spots available. Throw Detroit in the mix with Baltimore, Toronto, and Houston, and their chances at reaching the post season don't appear good.

True, the Tigers could get hot and there's "plenty" of games left, but as each day goes by and they hover just over .500, the clock is working against them. Tick.

With the notable exception of J. D. Martinez, the Tigers have been relatively major injury free. They remain who we all know they are. Lots of good hitters in the line-up, mediocre starting pitching, not much team speed, and a disaster for a bullpen. Typically, they need to score a bunch of runs to win, because their beleaguered pitching staff is surely going to surrender a few on most days.

It is interesting to note manager Brad Ausmus, in the last year of his contract, has yet to receive a renewal offer from the club. If the Tigers make the playoffs, and a little noise once there, it's entirely possible BA will be re-upped. But not a sure thing. If they don't make the playoffs, he is almost surely history. It always seemed strange that, never before managing at ANY level, the Tigers tagged Ausmus as their skipper. Of course the players have to play the game and the general manager is in charge of procuring them, but losing typically falls at the feet of the manager.

Further, puttering along as they have been for the last few months isn't helping them any. There's too many other teams, as mentioned above, that remain ahead of them. And just like the Tigers could get hot, they could also swoon. If 7-8 games back turns into 13-14, with fewer yet left to play, they can pretty much kiss the season good-bye.

When the Tigers locked up several players for long term contracts, it was thought to be a good thing. Yet it might well be backfiring on them. They're stuck with what they have. Other teams are mighty wary of taking on a long-term mega-contract for a player that isn't exactly living up to his billing. And as the season winds down and several clubs are making a playoff push, they'll ALL be looking to add a key piece here and there. And, like the Tigers, such players won't come cheap or easy for them. They'll have to give up something, be it a good player another team covets, or a few top prospects. In other words, going for it now often means mortgaging the future.

The Tigers appear to be in limbo. Not terrible, but hardly great either. It's hard to imagine how adding a key player -- or even two -- to fill spots of need would propel them into being contenders. Again, they are what they are.

And as the games keep going by with no movement of note, their chances get slimmer and slimmer.

Tick, tick, tick.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Phil and Henrik

By all rights, Phil Mickelson should have won the British Open. I mean, good grief, he was only one shot off the lead heading into the final round, then went out and blistered the course with a 6 under 65. But on this day, Lefty would come up short.

As in three whole shots worth. In an amazing display of golf, his Swedish playing partner Henrik Stenson shot an incredible 63 -- eight strokes under par. Mickelson would later say he played about as well as he could, but just got beat.

What made Stenson's round even more impressive was it included two bogies. That means he played the remaining 16 holes in a jaw dropping 10 under.

Henrik Stenson has been a touring pro for almost two decades (he's 40), but this was the first major championship he captured. Oddly enough, it was also the first by any Swede. His final tally of 20 under par was the lowest score -- ever -- in the Open.

On the other hand, Lefty is now 46 years old. He was aiming to match Jack Nicklaus' record of oldest player to win a major. He might still best it in years to come, but this was a chance that didn't exactly get away, but was rather snatched by Stenson and his round for the ages.

Hats off to Henrik. He da Man. Also a gentleman's gentleman. It couldn't happen to a nicer and more deserving guy.

Maybe Phil can dial up some of that old magic down the road in another major, but 46 is 46 and it won't get any easier in years to come. Especially with all the young guns that inhabit the tour. They keep popping up like dandelions in the spring.

But he shouldn't feel too bad. After all, 17 under par at any major championship is quite the impressive score. And he got paid handsomely, to the tune of 675,000 bucks, or Euros, or pounds sterling, or whatever currency it is they use in the British Isles these days.

Still, this was Henrik Stenson's time to shine. His performance will long be remembered as one of the greatest ever in a major championship. And the final round duel between him and Mickelson was absolutely epic. The nearest other competitors finished over 10 shots behind. That's a bunch.

An aside. Many thanks to the readers of this blog and your patience and understanding while I was off for a while -- no cracks, LOL -- due to the death of my mother.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Death in the family

My mom has passed away. I will be taking a few days off from the blog.
Thank you.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

The insane NBA merry-go-round

Well, let's see. Dwayne Wade pulled a Lebron and went home. (He's from Chicago and played his college ball at nearby Marquette.)  He'll slide into the place vacated by Derrick Rose, who left Chitown to go to the Knicks.

Rose will team up with Carmelo Anthony in the Big Apple. It's doubtful Rose can stay healthy and Melo still can't play any defense. The Knicks aren't going anywhere. Nor are the Bulls. Decent, but the addition of Wade hardly makes them a title contender.

The Detroit Pistons gave center Andre Drummond a super-duper max contract. This for a guy who can't handle the ball, has no outside shot, and his free throw shooting is legendary -- as in pitiful. Motown wisdom rolls on.

Everybody knows Kevin Durant left OKC to team up with Draymond and the splash brothers on Golden State. OKC looks to be in big trouble. They let All-Star guard James Hardin dash off to Houston a couple years ago. Now Durant's gone. Fellow superstar Russell Westbrook's contract is up after next year. He'll probably be gone too. Pity the poor state of Oklahoma. The Thunder are their only major professional sports team, and it looks to be coming apart at the seams.

Lebron James is technically a free agent. Would he dare sign anywhere else but with Cleveland again? If so, that whole bit about leaving Miami to go home would ring quite hollow. With Lebron, the Cavs remain a serious threat to repeat as champions, Golden State notwithstanding. Without him, they can kiss it goodbye.

Quietly, as has always been his nature, San Antonio big man Tim Duncan is rumored to be strongly considering retirement. Hey, he's 40, and not near the player he used to be. Perhaps it's time. Thing is, Manu Ginobelli and Tony Parker are becoming "senior" citizens as well. They ain't what they used to be either. Kawhi Leonard is an extraordinary talent, but when the Big Three go bye-bye, the Spurs years of being a top flight team might very well end. Nothing lasts forever. The Los Angeles Lakers are Exhibit A.

All the while, the salaries have gone insane for star players. You're just not cool unless you're making over $20 million a year. Once upon a time, yours truly was all for the advent of free agency. After all, a worker should be able to shop his talents and hire on with whatever company he chooses. But this has gone WAY overboard and is out of control. A guy making 20M is knocking down north of $250,000 -- per game. For playing basketball. It's outrageous. And the contracts are guaranteed. If a guy gets hurt (see Derrick Rose above), even long term, he gets paid the same anyway. Shouldn't they have some sort of lesser sick-leave pay like manhy other employers? If a guy can't produce, why should he get the same salary?

Here's the scary part. With even more huge TV dollars set to roll in next year, the salary cap will go up quite a bit. Today's 20 million might well become 30 million next year -- or more. Ticket prices will go up -- again.

Round and round it goes, and where the insanity will stop nobody knows.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Durant, Detroit Tigers, and Williams sisters

Most think Golden State's acquisition of Kevin Durant make them a lock to win next year's NBA title. They might well be right. After all, the Warriors made it all the way to the Finals THIS year and were up 3-1 on Cleveland before Lebron and the Cavs came roaring back. Adding a superstar like Durant to an already formidable team would seem to be a no-brainer.


The Warriors had to get rid of three players to make salary cap room for Durant. And those three -- Harrison Barnes, Andrew Bogut, and Festus Ezuli -- logged a lot of minutes. While GS opted for shock and awe power in their starting line-up, they also sacrificed depth. And as great as Durant may be, he can only take up one spot on the floor at a time. Further, he can't play every minute of every game. He's going to have to sit for a breather here and there. Further yet, how the whole "chemistry" thing works out remains to be seen.

Dropping a mega-talent onto a team that already has a few others doesn't always pay off immediately. Remember when Lebron left Cleveland for the Miami Heat to join Wade and Bosh several years back. Though they made the Finals their first year together, they were also bounced by the Dallas Mavericks once they got there. And there's the tricky part. Durant signed a two year deal but the second year is a player option. If the Warriors don't pull off a championship next year, KD could bolt and go yet somewhere else. To boot, sources are saying Dwyane Wade has become unhappy with the Miami Heat. So what might happen if he rejoins Lebron in Cleveland?  True, the Cavs would have to shed a few players of their own, but a Finals rematch would become even more likely, and GS might not be the lock they appear to be now. It will be interesting to see how it plays out.

The Detroit Tigers offer up an unusual statistic. Currently, they're 7 1/2 games back of the Cleveland Indians in the AL Central. Might as well call it eight (they've played one more game and lost it). Amazingly, Cleveland has played Detroit 11 times so far this year -- and won all of them. So against all other competition the Tigers are actually 3 games better than the Indians. A local sports columnist recently cited the "ABC" factor when it came to the Tigers. All But Cleveland. How right he was. Very strange stuff.

In this year's Wimbledon tennis tournament, both Serena and Venus Williams have made it to the semi-finals. Though few notice it at the time, the way the tournament is seeded before it ever starts can make a difference as it winds down to the end. Of course, Serena would be seeded #1 going in, but Venus' spot is pretty much at the whim of the tournament officials. There's not a whole heck of a lot of difference between players ranked, say, #6 and # 10 in the world. But exactly where they slot Venus before the tourney starts will determine whether or not the sisters can meet each other in the finals, or have to square off in the semis.

In years past, their father has strongly protested when one of his daughters had to eliminate the other before the finals. If the tournament organizers want to eliminate the possibility of an all Williams finals, it's as easy as sliding Venus up or down a spot in the brackets.

Turns out this year, daddy might get his wish. Their semi final matches are against other players. True, when it gets down to the final four, everybody's really good and there's no guarantee either S or V will move on.

But at least we won't hear any more whining over some kind of self-perceived prejudice out of the old man this year. Dude needs to shut up.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

A weird golf ruling

Dustin Johnson, recent winner of the US Golf Open, added another doo-dad to his trophy case by bagging the Bridgestone/Firestone championship in Akron, Ohio. The sponsors and hypesters call this tourney the "World Golf Championship", but it hardly looked the part. Several of the top golfers in the world didn't even bother to show up.

DJ's title came about by an unlikely scenario. Aussie Jason Day, the #1 player in the world, was cruising right along on top with just a few holes to go. Day is certainly not known as a choke artist, but in this case he made a bad shot, then compounded it with some horrible decisions. He would wind up tied for third place.

But something very unusual happened and yours truly can't figure it out. Day had driven his ball far into the left rough and found it to be behind a large evergreen. He was able to hit the ball out but then found himself in the right hand rough with his ball square behind the trunk of a large tree. He would have to waste a shot to go around it. Or so it appeared. Play it where it lies or take a penalty stroke -- right?

Not so fast.  After conferring with a rules official, Day was allowed to pick his ball up and drop it to the side of the tree. No penalty stroke. How could that be?

It got stranger still. After a "drop", the ball landed in a poor lie. Day was allowed to re-drop. Huh? The same thing happened yet again. Another bad lie. Incredibly, Day was then allowed to place his ball as he saw fit.

What the hell was going on here? Since when do PGA players get a free drop, then another, then be allowed to choose what sort of lie they have to hit their next shot out of?

Almost fittingly, Day would whack the next shot into a lake. Good-bye championship.

This is nothing against Jason Day. Besides being currently ranked the top player on the planet, the Aussie is a world class gentleman as well. It's almost impossible NOT to like him.

Unlike most other sports, where players try to get away with whatever they can (cheating), golf has long held itself to a much higher standard. The players will call penalties on themselves if they inadvertently commit an infraction. So no, this is not to say Jason Day cheated in any way. After all, he called a rules official over, and it was THAT guy that allowed the above to transpire.

Still, yours truly remains at a loss. How was this allowed to happen?

Anybody know? If so, please enlighten me by posting a comment below.

Friday, July 1, 2016

Coastal Carolina and monsters

Hats off to the Chanticleers, newly crowned college baseball champs. They done the small town of Conway, South Carolina right proud.

Idle thought: The U of South Carolina calls its teams the Gamecocks, right? A chanticleer is a rooster. They must have a thing for male chickens in the Palmetto State. Regardless, it's a pretty good bet they get woke up fairly early in the morning.

Yessiree, CCU can crow, sorry, as kings of the hill. They slew the might dragon, sometimes known as Arizona. They got a little help with an apparent bad call at home plate where one of the Wildcats appeared to have slid in safely. Also an error committed by an Arizona infielder that led to four unearned runs. And they barely held on at the end as the Wildcats threatened in the bottom of the ninth. They were one hit away from an entirely different outcome. But it didn't happen and CCU sits on top of the NCAA baseball world. Three cheers for roosters.

One Dustin Johnson is quite happy himself. The laid back recent champ of the US golf Open is an alumni of CCU. What are chances of that happening? Maybe that will put a little more oom-pah in his next 350 yard monster drive.

Speaking of which, a few other monster shots happened earlier in the world of Major League Baseball. Guys hit someone ridiculously long home runs, not the least being Yoenis Cespides clouting one an estimated 460 feet. Hitting a baseball that far is impressive indeed.

Or is it? Consider what has happened in the past. Among others, some pudgy first baseman for the Detroit Tigers named Norm Cash hit homers that supposedly traveled well over 500 feet. Mickey Mantle supposedly hit the longest recorded home run ever -- some 585 feet. Reggie Jackson drove one into the lights high above the roof in Tiger Stadium. How far did THAT go? These days players have custom made bats, workout regimens (see stronger) and the balls themselves are reputedly juiced. The pitchers are throwing as hard or harder than they ever did. So how come nobody can even approach 500 feet anymore? Even during the steroid days, the super-brutes didn't hit balls as far as some of the old timers.

It defies logic when you think about it. Could they have had it all wrong back then and overestimated the footage? But by THAT much? Maybe. Still, that ball crashing into the light tower....... Given the technology available today, it's a pretty safe bet they can nail down the footage on any home run fairly accurately. And the comparison between then and now isn't just a matter of a few feet. We're talking well over 50, and approaching 100 in a few cases.

The old Yankee Stadium measured 465 to the left-centerfield wall. Balls were hit over it. What's considered a "monster" shot nowadays might well have been caught for just a long out.

Something definitely doesn't add up.

Nonetheless, congrats to the Chanticleers of Coastal Carolina. They can strut like the roosters they're named after. Hey, a national championship ain't exactly chicken feed.