Not that there's anything wrong with that.

Monday, August 8, 2016


As he approaches the end of his career, I'm torn when it comes to Alex Rodriguez. At 41, he's a shell of the player he once was. And he was one hell of a slugger. However, every athlete whose shine has faded will attest that time will eventually get you out. Batting .204 doesn't strike fear in anyone.

Like many talented players before him attached to steroid use, you can't help but shake your head at the waste and recklessness expended in trying to go beyond great.

Babe Ruth, Willie Mays, Ted Williams, Hank Aaron, Joe DiMaggio, Cy Young -- that crowd -- is who they are because they didn't circumvent the path to baseball immortality. 

A-Rod had Hall of Fame potential without any supplemental assistance. The 1996 season saw him fully inserted at 20 years old into the Seattle Mariners lineup, which already had a darn good every day player in Ken Griffey, Jr. It didn't take A-Rod long to serve notice that something special had arrived. The numbers were eye popping for a lanky, 6'-3" kid playing shortstop. His .358 batting average, 54 doubles and 141 runs scored led the American League. Add to that 36 home runs, 126 RBI and 215 hits -- the latter being the highest single season total of his career. It was a 
no-brainer that Rodriguez was an All-Star selection, and yet, he finished second to Juan Gonzalez of Texas as league MVP.

The awe inspiring talent continued to grow in Seattle until December 11, 2000. A free agent, A-Rod had everyone holding onto their seats as the Texas Rangers triggered a 10-year, $252 million earthquake of a contract. At the time, it represented the most lucrative deal in sports history. When you shift the salary curve to that extreme, you'd better perform like the Incredible Hulk in a constant state of anger.

The charming, bilingual graceful performer with Madison Avenue looks did the unexpected. For three seasons he put up numbers in Texas that threatened to make a mockery of the game: 52 HRs, 135 RBI the first year; 57 HRs, 142 RBI the following season and finally 47 HRs, 118 RBI.

For all of A-Rod's individual amazement, the Rangers never finished above .500 and never smelled the post-season. The reason was simple. They didn't have enough money to fill out the roster with quality players because one guy was getting paid so much.

So coming off his first MVP award season and plenty of shelf life left, there was no shortage of potential trade partners but only two proved to be real contenders.  That they were bitter rivals only drove the price higher. A deal was in place to send Rodriguez to the Boston Red Sox, but the contract took a funny bounce in that the MLB Players Association stepped in and ruled the slugger couldn't take a voluntary reduction in salary. I guess once you're at the top, there are no discounts, not even for the sake of winning.

Enter the bank of baseball, the New York Yankees. An organization consumed with winning no matter the cost. A franchise who's motto could easily have been we make the rich richer and the hyped, well, you haven't seen nothin' yet. The Rangers were elated to get what they got, Alfonso Soriano and a player to be named later. The Rangers even foot the bill for $67 million of the $179 million left on A-Rod's contract. What a bargain!

In his previous stops, tradition wasn't a boss, but being a member of the Yankees means embracing folklore. One such aging legend was still active and held down the position of shortstop. It was made clear that A-Rod would not be supplanting The Captain, Derek Jeter. There was, however, a need at third base. A-Rod had also worn No. 3 his entire career. Not anymore. That had been Babe Ruth's number and he was now in the house that Ruth built. Rodriquez instead tried his luck with No. 13.

After a season of adjustment and pedestrian numbers by A-Rod's standards, he returned to form in 2005 leading the league with 48 HRs, a .610 slugging percentage, and 124 runs scored. And then, there was the 2007 season. Amazing, even for a Yankee. Rodriguez belted out a league pacing 54 HRs, 156 RBI, 143 runs scored and a blistering .645 slugging percentage, the best of his career. Those numbers paved the way for a new 10 year, $275 million contract. 

The bright lights were now high beams in the Big Apple and they revealed a much larger issue.  What had been quiet speculation in locker rooms and press boxes around the league began to seep out.

Whispers... Whispers... Whispers... 

Was A-Rod using PEDs? Had he joined Bonds, McGwire, Sosa, Clemens -- that suspected crowd.

Denying such use on 60 Minutes in 2007, two years later saw A-Rod admit he did in fact, start using PEDs when he joined the Texas Rangers. His excuse was he felt the pressure of having to live up to his enormous contract. 

There's no doubt A-Rod had tremendous talent and more than likely was destined for a Hall of Fame career based solely on the talent that propelled him to a major league career. Three time AL MVP, 696 career home runs, 14 All-Star team appearances. An illustrious career without question. The Yankees aren't cutting ties with A-Rod. He'll stay on as a team ambassador, instructor and special advisor to owner Hal Steinbrenner. You just don't part ways with a guy that's owed $40 million. 

The true measure of greatness though as seen in baseball circles may forever elude Rodriguez. It should be interesting in the years ahead, especially considering there are no short cuts to the Hall of Fame.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016



If he'd never stepped foot on a major league baseball field, the story alone of Yasiel Puig's journey to the USA would be Netflix worthy. 

Puig was a Cuban national team star that had MLB scouts salivating at the prospect of landing a gifted, athletic player who filled a uniform like a Rottweiler in human form.

The road to the dream was paved with hurdles, setbacks and opportunists. Puig had several O-fer attempts at defecting, but, he never gave up on making his dream become a reality.

Puig must now draw on that same determination to keep his head above water. On the trade block, the Dodgers failed to make a deal for the right fielder before the clock struck midnight. Now it appears as if Puig, battling injuries and a .260 average at the plate this season, is possibly heading to the minor leagues for a stint.

But why?

The league is filled with guys who possess a lot less god given talent, but their position on MLB rosters are secure. They're team guys, clubhouse glue. Puig remains a curious case. He's a rock star without hardware, living off that debut hit of a season when he batted .319, chased fly balls like fences were invisible and ran the bases like Secretariat with blinders on. He followed that rookie year with continued promise, .296 average, 37 doubles, an All-Star selection. That was 2014. Two seasons later, he's trade bait.

Perhaps it was too much too soon for Puig. The 7yr/$42 million contract he signed in 2012, which included a $12 million signing bonus, put a target on his back. Instant fame. That he'd showcase his talent in Hollywood only stoked the flames of what could be.

Managers who inherit a phenom like to know he's coachable. Don Mattingly was once in Puig's shoes, wearing the famed Yankees pinstripe, playing under the bright lights in a city that can swallow careers like a black hole. He went on to have a stellar career, keeping it all in stride. There was no flash, just production.
So as skipper of the Dodgers, he recognized Puig's talent, but couldn't reign in what seemed like a me first personality. After five years at the helm, Mattingly was let go.

A veteran squad embraces professionalism. Some things are expected without the need for verbal cues. A few of the Dodgers have admitted they could have done a better job of reaching out and communicating with Puig in the early stages. In return, they expected him to meet them halfway by maturing and accepting criticism better.

The relationship has had its fair share of tests. Former teammate Matt Kemp and Puig once exchanged heated words in the dugout. Infielder Justin Turner and Puig had a spring training altercation. Standout ace Zack Greinke was reportedly not on the Puig bandwagon, going so far as to throw a piece of Puig's luggage off the team bus onto Michigan Avenue during a Chicago road trip in 2014. The two had to be separated. Greinke left for greener pastures in Arizona and perhaps a piece of mind.

There was optimism that new manager Dave Roberts, a player's coach and popular in the dugout during his own playing days, could help Puig become the player the organization desperately wanted him to be. The problem now is the Dodgers have other young, impressionable potential stars in Joc Pederson and Corey Seager to groom. Two guys who look like they'll be carded at bars for years to come. There can be no allusion of favoritism any longer. You either bleed Dodger Blue collectively, or get out of town.

There had to be reason for concern when the Bleacher Report ran comments from a former teammate that said of Puig: "He is the worst person I've ever seen in this game. Ever."

Puig's demotion could be a strong message to get his act together, but one thing is clear. The Dodgers brass has come to grips with the notion that addition by subtraction is a viable action in moving forward.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011


‘All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing’

A Painful Reflection

The outrage is far reaching.  The accusations are beyond shocking on a number of fronts.

Joe Paterno, a legendary coach who for decades has stood as a symbol of leadership for all things right in collegiate athletics, will see his career come to an end because he stood by and didn't do enough.

After Paterno reported a heinous act against a child up the chain of command, Penn State officials engaged in a cover up so despicable that it may haunt the university for years to come.

The winningest coach in college football history says he will resign at the end of the season.  With a huge home game looming on the Saturday schedule against No. 17 Nebraska, making that call should no longer be in Paterno's hands.  The University Board of Trustees needs to call an audible and tell Paterno, even at age 84, there is a lesson to be learned here.

In 2002, Paterno made the mistake of putting the football program and friendship first.  He should have immediately been concerned about a then 10-year old boy labeled by a Pennsylvania grand jury as "Boy known as Victim 6."  Subsequently, it has come to light that former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky would be linked with "Boy known as Victim... 4... 5... 6... 7... 8...".

If Paterno is allowed to coach this Saturday, what should be the fate of Mike McQueary, the Nittany Lions' wide receivers coach and recruiting coordinator?  He was the once unnamed graduate assistant who witnessed Sandusky having anal sex with a pre-teen boy at the school's Lasch Football Building in 2002.  McQueary, 28 years old at the time, 6-5, over 230 pounds, didn't rush to the young boy's defense.  When he found a phone, he didn't dial 9-1-1.  He dialed his dad.  The next day, he told Paterno.  Eight years later, McQueary testified in front of a grand jury.  Eight years!

Why so long?  For that answer, the moral and ethical barometer falls squarely on the shoulders of former Athletic Director Tim Curley, former Senior Vice President for Finance and Business Gary Schultz, and current (as of this writing) President Graham Spanier.  Their 'handling' of the matter was banning Sandusky from bringing children to campus.  In other words, not on our campus.  He was still allowed, however, to maintain an office on campus.  The incident was never reported to police.

And why was Sandusky bringing kids to campus?  In 1977 he founded The Second Mile organization.  It started as a group foster home dedicated to assisting troubled boys.  It grew into a charity that helped kids with absent or dysfunctional families.  

Long before McQueary saw the unthinkable, there was trouble with children.  In 1998 it was reported Sandusky was taking showers with boys from the foster home.  The cases were brought to the attention of university police and the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare.  When questioned, Sandusky   admitted he had done wrong.  The cases were never brought to justice.

In 1999 Sandusky retired from Penn State but held emeritus status.  The alleged incidents didn't stop though.

In what should be the celebratory closing to an amazing career, Paterno has been hounded by the news media and surrounded by a student body, many of whom shout his name with unabashed support.

In speaking the other day, Paterno was correct in saying that at this time, all thoughts and prayers should be directed to the victims.  They are the one's that matter and finding ways to prevent something like this from ever happening again should be examined everywhere in which young people are the focus.

When I worked in Washington, DC, I had to cover my first pedophile case.  The year was 1994.  I will never forget it.  A six-year old Maryland boy was taken from his home while he slept at night.  He was eventually dropped off and found wandering around a cemetery, naked and alone.  Somehow, that six-year old kid found the courage to take the witness stand, describe the horrible things done to him and point out his attacker.  By the time he was done testifying, there wasn't a dry eye in the jury, which was made up of grandfathers and grandmothers.

I often wonder how that boy is doing as a young man today.  

I hope as fans cheer on Penn State Saturday, they take the time to wonder how Victim... 4... 5... 6... 7... 8 and so forth are doing.

Thursday, April 7, 2011


Heaven on Earth
It's day one of the famed Masters tournament and I'm up early - waiting!

Augusta National is America's version of royalty and we can't seem to get enough - only in my humble opinion - we aren't getting enough.  In this respect, the Masters has a lot in common with another pet peeve, Apple.  The makers of things we crave - iPhone, iPad, iMac, iPod.  Marketing geniuses, Apple reigns supreme in creating buzz about its products.  Make it exclusive, give 'em a taste, create an industry.

I'm watching the Golf Channel, which is reporting live from Augusta, but I'm left with lots of chatter and shots from the putting green.  Hey, I'm starving so anything is satisfying.  I had to wait until 10:45 AM to start seeing live coverage, not on television, but on the web!  The TV coverage doesn't begin until 3 PM Eastern!  If you have DirecTV, you then have the opportunity to watch the action unfold on several screens, covering multiple holes.  Sure would have been nice, however, to see Retief Goosen eagle No.1 live!

The demand is certainly there so why make the lovers of this event wait?  Sure, I could have leveraged my assets and bought a ticket, get a hotel room and flown to be there in person, but I figure if it's already a packed house, why not feed the masses?  Having covered a Ryder Cup & U.S. Open at Oakland Hills Country Club, I personally prefer watching golf on television more.  I get more out if that way.  I can follow the action better, not be restricted to a pairing or two, and the bathroom is reserved for my use.  Plus, when I hear "YOU DA MAN" shouted, chances are it's my wife.  Okay, granted, that's an exaggeration.

Ian Poulter tweeting from Augusta
In this technological, social networking age, it's nice to get Twitter updates from the likes of Ian Poulter.  He just tweeted: "In my Masters Thursday outfit just on my way. buzzing"  (10:11 AM).  Here's the accompanying picture he posted.

I suppose I should be thankful for what I get because it wasn't that long ago that Augusta National eased coverage restrictions.  We didn't used to see live action from the front nine at all.  Still, forgive me for wanting wall-to-wall coverage.  There's just something about Augusta that makes a grown man salivate.  My golfing friends admit we'd pay a grand just to play a round there.  When you consider that my wife would gladly fork over the same amount to get a pair of  Christian Louboutin shoes, I don't feel bad at all.

Oh, well, let me go check the leaderboard online.

Thursday, March 31, 2011



Over 400 days and counting.

Tiger Woods' winless streak has become a black hole of futility, sucking in more greatness at each tour stop.  Instead of laser accurate iron shots into the green, we're now left with "average".  For all the body of work we've witnessed of this golfing legend, "average" was a label that didn't fit.  It's now become part of his tournament experience.

Even at courses he's dominated in the past, Woods now struggles for consistency.  You'd like to believe him when he extols that his game is coming around.  But, the leaderboard don't lie.  Much like Austin Powers, Tiger has lost his "Mojo".  He desperately needs a win to get his swagger back and no better stage to accomplish that than at Augusta National next week.

I know golf has somewhat lost it's luster when my wife pauses at the television and asks, "Oh, my, who is that wearing an orange outfit?"  For the record, it's Rickie Fowler, one of golf's young, free swinging talents.

The PGA doesn't like to admit it, but it's a better golfing world when Tiger Woods is on top of his game.  Tiger in the hunt on a Sunday is TV ratings gold.  Parity is a wonderful thing and there are a number of young talented golfers making an ascent, but a rotating champion structure week after week isn't a ratings bonanza.  Baddeley, Laird, Barnes, Mahan, Johnson - all nice pieces - just not show stopping material yet.  The NBA needs the Lakers & Celtics, MLB the Yankees & Red Sox, the NFL the Patriots & Colts.  Teams with marquee talent or storied pasts.

Though he was not in contention during the final round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational, Woods played host to the largest gallery.  Tiger at your event translates into bigger profits.  Quietly, a number of Tour professionals are rooting for Tiger to exorcise his demons.  For the good of the sport, he needs to start winning again.  Lately, though, it looks like Tiger needs to re-fit his bag with game improvement clubs.  And he's experimenting.  NBC golf analyst Johnnie Miller let the cat out of the bag at Bay Hill by revealing Woods was playing with new irons.  Add that to the lack of confidence he's exhibited in his Scotty Cameron putter, in rotation, out of rotation.

Who is this guy?

Tiger's swing wasn't broke once before when he tinkered with it and came out shooting dart golf.  He was younger then, seemingly untouchable, his world intact.  He's in his 30's now, totally exposed, a divorced father of two, and much like Humpty Dumpty, trying to put the pieces back together again.

It's as if Woods is trying to remake himself.  Determined to prove to the world he's a born again golfer.  What he has to come to terms with is, what's done is done.  He's absorbed all the punches and shots naysayers have thrown his way.  Yes, it was embarrassing and incredibly stupid.  It's now time to stand up and be counted again.  If the golfing public loved Woods before, they'll love him again, perhaps even more so because he's proven to be human.

You can't be all things to all people.  Granted on numerous levels, Tiger has to evolve, but he should also look in the rear view mirror to remember what made him a dominating force on the golf course.  If it ain't broke, don't fix it.

Go out and play with all the freedom and confidence
of a champion many times over.


Thursday, February 10, 2011


Enough Is Enough

"Hello darkness my old friend, I've to come talk with you again."

Jerry Sloan is old enough to appreciate the finer things in life.  For a man who never backed down from a basketball court challenge in his life, not from Rick Barry, not from Pete Maravich, not from Oscar Robertson, Sloan was smart enough to recognize when it's time to leave with your dignity in tact.  After 23 years of coaching and more than 1,200 wins, Sloan walked away from the Utah Jazz, escaping an avalanche of discontent.

A Hall of Famer, it's ironic that Sloan reached his boiling point while coaching against the Chicago Bulls, the team he earned his hard-nosed reputation with as a backcourt bookend alongside Norm Van Lier.  At halftime of Wednesday's game, Sloan and point guard Deron Williams' rocky relationship reportedly hit the point of no return.  Sloan, upset that Williams ran a different play than he called for from the bench, blew a gasket in the lockeroom.  The old Jerry Sloan would have probably opted to settle the matter with his fists, but this is the kinder, gentler NBA.  The Williams-Sloan relationship has been percolating for quite some time.

    "Fools" said I, "You do not know, Silence like a cancer grows. 
Hear my words that I might teach you, Take my arms that I might reach you."
But my words like silent raindrops fell,
And echoed, In the wells of silence ."

There's no question Williams has got serious game.  He's certainly in the discussion of the top five point guards in the league, but has he earned the status to force a legend like Sloan out the door,  three days after Sloan signed a one-year extension?  Williams becomes a free agent in 2012 and sources indicated he was leaning toward bolting if Sloan wasn't gone.  Seems the Jazz players banded together and decided Sloan didn't know who they were anymore, the familiar chant of  "lost the team" being thrown around better than his "flex" offense was being run.

Despite losing some key components from last year's squad, the Jazz, as of this writing, are 31-23 and second in the Northwest.  When Sloan realized ownership was listening more to the inmates than the warden, it was time to take his last charging call.

Replacing Sloan, for at least the remainder of the season, will be assistant Tyrone Corbin.  I hope Williams is pleased because if memory serves me right, Sloan achieved a measure of success with a little point guard named John Stockton.  Oh, yeah, he's in the Hall of Fame too.

"And the people bowed and prayed, To the neon god they made.
And the sign flashed out its warning, In the words that it was forming.
And the sign said, "The words of the prophets are written on the subway walls
And tenement halls." and whisper'd in the sounds of silence."

Saturday, November 27, 2010


Time to make the call?
The University of Michigan football program was never this suspect under Lloyd Carr and yet, he was forced out the door like an aging sheriff who could no longer protect the townsfolk.

At least under Carr the Wolverines were competitive.  This current product on the field every Saturday for the maize and blue is at times head shaking.  Let's face facts, this isn't Purdue we're talking about where every blue moon you get good.  This is about a storied program that used to be part of the conversation when talk centered about a national title run.

This is not column calling for Rich Rodriguez's dismissal.  It's more about being in place when opportunity knocks and whether someone gets up to answer the door.  In order to be fair, a coach should get a full recruiting class to prove his value, to implement his style of play, with his kind of players.  Rodriguez has been at the helm for three years.  His record is unimpressive at 15-21.  He's 0-3 against both Ohio State and Michigan State -- huge measuring sticks for survival.  Earle Bruce lost his job at Ohio State because he couldn't win that last game of the regular season.  Jim Tressel has beat Michigan in seven straight games and is 9-1 all-time.

The Wolverines were 7-5 this season, but they came up short in big games to Iowa, MSU, Wisconsin and Ohio State, all ranked teams within the conference.  The offense has at times been exciting for Michigan, but the defense, once built upon immense pride, now has more holes than Swiss cheese.  And then there is the embarrassment of NCAA investigations and probation -- not the way Michigan does business.

So what's a program to do?  Stay the course, hoping as Rich Rod said after today's 37-7 loss that "I think the worst is behind us. I know it is."

Or is it time to roll the dice and look elsewhere?  Is it time to get a Michigan man in Schembechler Hall?  If that's the case, former Wolverine quarterback Jim Harbaugh should be on speed dial.  After blanking Oregon State 38-0, the coach of the Stanford Cardinal guided his team to an 11-1 regular season record.  Caution though.  Remember I mentioned a coach often needs a full four years.  In his first three seasons at Stanford, Harbaugh was 4-2, 5-7 and 8-5.  But, it's Harbaugh's resume that also merits attention.  His brother has achieved success coaching the Baltimore Ravens and Jim was a starter for several teams in the NFL.  Harbaugh is a solid recruiter and his players seem willing to run through a wall for him.  If the call isn't made this year, he might not be available and even now, it could be a long shot because he is a hot commodity.

I'm just happy I don't have to make the decision or make the call.  I went to Purdue and last I checked, this isn't a blue moon year.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010


The curtain rises tonight for the debut of The Three Basketeers!

LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, together for the first time, ready to conquer the world for "Not one, not two, not three, not four, not five... "

Whew... not even Richard Pryor could have pulled that joke off.  Ease off the hype throttle a little big fella. The fact that James and Bosh have to date won "Not one, not one, not one..." championship, makes me hold off on getting the popcorn ready.  They're used to the heat in Miami, but fans have been drinking SPF 70 ever since James and Bosh decided to join Wade.

Tonight's game at Boston needs no introduction.  The Celtics have added the Big Leprechaun in Shaquille O'Neal to fill a void in the middle that clearly cost them a championship last season.  That's the same O'Neal who won three championships with Kobe Bryant, one with Wade and zero with James.  The Celtics are long in the tooth with Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen, but they are all battle tested veterans who've tasted the ultimate prize as a unit.  You don't have to convince James that experience matters down the stretch.

One of 82.  That's really all tonight's matchup means.  The outcome won't give either squad an edge over the other for later matchups.  Only a number of games will reveal if the Heat's bench is adequate enough to give The Three Basketeers a lift.  Injuries have to be avoided for both the Heat and Celtics.  The same can be said for other contenders.  The Lakers can't lose Paul Gasol and the Bulls can't have Carlos Boozer or Joakim Noah sidelined for any measurable length of time.

It should be an interesting race to the finish and if the Heat manage to pull of a championship, they will have done so before packed arenas and the best even the lowly Timberwolves can muster night in and night out.

So I have a front row seat for tonight.  The beer is perfectly chilled, not six dollars a bottle and there is no line to the men's room.  Bring on the 2010-11 season!

Sunday, July 18, 2010


Woods at British Open

Muhammad Ali was toward the end of his career when you just couldn't stomach to look anymore.  He should have shocked the world and walked away after the 1975 'Thrilla in Manila.' 

For Tiger Woods,  there has been no Joe Frazier.  Sergio gave it a run and Phil continues to chase.  Unfortunately, Woods has proven to be his own Trojan Horse, imploding from within.  No one was allowed into his private sanctuary until he C4'd his own fortress, leaving a gaping wound for the entire world to see.

2010 has been brutal.  Seven tournaments.  Zero wins.  His wife and children moved out, sponsors moved out, his swing coach exited and Woods' golf game is better on EA Sports.

Prior to the start of the British Open at St. Andrews, a course Tiger has tamed twice (2000 & 2005), he switched from long-time ally Scotty Cameron to a Nike Method putter.  His reason?  The greens were too slow.  On the course for the final round, guess who was back in the bag.  So now we have a Tiger Woods that is second guessing himself.  Who is this guy that is not remotely in contention on red shirt Sundays?

I made a $30 bet with a co-worker before the British Open.  Not to win the Open per se, but for Tiger to win any tournament for the rest of the year.  I was dancing like Mr. Bojangles when he accepted the conditions.  Tiger not win at all in 2010!  Get real! I jumped all over that wager.  I'm a little less confident now, but there's still plenty of time.

However, Tiger Woods and Eldrick Woods need to have a sit down.  When you've lived on top of the mountain known as Tiger for so long, Eldrick tends to get lost.  Eldrick can't get a word in.  Magic Johnson experienced the same thing during the heyday of Showtime in L-A.  He said Magic was a whole different person than Ervin.

Happy Days
For Woods, I can relate to one of the most difficult times in his life.  I'm not talking about right now-- I'm talking about losing his father Earl.  When you're that close, when you lose the one person in the world whose opinion carried a great deal of weight, you wake up a little broken.  Tiger went on to handle the golf part easily enough.  It was the one place he could find peace, the one place he could continue to make his dad proud.  It was the off the course stuff that Tiger handled badly.  For that, perhaps he needed to be more like Eldrick, the man few of us know.  With Earl gone, there was no one to keep Tiger grounded, no one to remind him how hard the journey to now was, and what it still could become. 

To some degree, I imagine Tiger thought marriage would help keep him grounded, but by then, it was probably too late.  As Woods admitted himself, it seemed as if Tiger could do whatever he wanted without there being any consequences.  It's a hard to lesson to learn that we all put our pants on the same way.  Some pockets are lined with more stuff, but the process is the same.

So how can Woods recover?  Clearly there is a ton of stuff on his mind.  Reports and details of his marital status, true or fabricated, make the headlines.  He has to sit and at least listen to questions never before asked by the media at golf tournaments, knowing full well the deck is stacked against him.  How he answers is scrutinized just as much as club selection on a tricky hole.  Woods has to get his personal life in order and decide what kind of man he's going to be.  He should know all too well the importance of being a father.  Doing it right can enrich one's life beyond words.  It makes all the superficial stuff seem ridiculous and mundane. 

In other sports, when a great player is in a slump, they manage to work it out.  A shooter in basketball is told to keep shooting, it will come back.  A baseball player in a hitting slump has to keep swinging, take extra batting practice in fact, and maybe even take a day off to analyze.

For Tiger, with no swing coach, he's trying to figure it out all by himself.  Eventually, he'll get there.  His DNA will see to that.  It's just painful to watch at times now.  On some level, maybe he feels this is part of his penance, to painfully fail before the masses.

When the pain finally subsides, Tiger will be back.  I'll bet you $30 on that.

Monday, June 14, 2010

GOING TO NEED MORE THAN ZEN... or how the Lakers can beat the Celtics


The Motrin challenged Boston Celtics are primed to deliver a knockout blow right at the doorstep of Hollywood's elite.  For Game 6 in LA, I wouldn't be surprised to see Homer Simpson sitting courtside.  For the Los Angeles Lakers, the finals have certainly reached the "D'oh" point.

So far, Celtics Head Coach Doc Rivers has not only out-coached The Zen Master, he's won the motivational battle as well.  The Celtics have bought into the team concept, content to live with contributions from whichever player in green and white steps forward to capture the moment.

For the Lakers, no matter how much he tries to get his teammates involved, it seems to always come down to Kobe Bryant time.  The bad news is, Bryant can't do it alone and the Celtics are making him work very hard for the majority of his points.

As each game passes, the Celtics seem to expose more and more of Ron Artest's basketball IQ.  He has mental lapses and lacks confidence in his shot.  His free throw shooting has become almost Shaq-like.  For Game 5, Paul Pierce made him look like the Invisible Man on defense.

Rajon Rondo's athleticism has been a nightmare for the Lakers.  He pushes the ball up the floor, plays sneaky tough defense and his rebounding skill for a 6-1 point guard is just sick.  Bryant gives him a license to kill from the outside but somehow Rondo still manages to make it to the hoop, giving the Lakers bigs all kinds of problems. 

The Lakers are certainly a different team with 7-footer Andrew Bynum in the lineup, but his bum knee limits his time and production and drastically changes the method by which LA can attack and defend.

So what is Phil Jackson to do?  First off, he has to get more comfortable playing his bench.  To mix it up and give the Celtics a different look, I would start Lamar Odom in favor of Artest and let the agile 6-10 forward chase Pierce around.  Pierce is not overly quick and when he tries to back a defender down, it's effective but not pretty.  That step back or turnaround jumper would have an added degree of difficulty over the outstretched arms of Odom.  At the opposite end, I'd either clear room for Odom to take the 6-7 Pierce to the hole or post him up.

How to handle Rondo?  He's an excellent leaper as well but the Lakers have 6-4 Shannon Brown who can get up as well.  If nothing else, I'd combine him with Jordan Farmar in order to throw bodies at Rondo to wear him down.

The Lakers also need to clear space in the middle.  Boston only respects Bryant and Derek Fisher from the outside, but Sasha Vujacic has demonstrated confidence in his long range shot and Brown and Farmar have been known to nail a 3-pointer.  With the Celtics spread out, Pau Gasol becomes a dangerous piece down low and if Bynum can play through the pain, the Lakers would be in position to exploit the inside.

Spell Odom with Artest and then let him get physical with Pierce.  Also, to get Artest going offensively, the Lakers need to set back screens so he can break free for layups.  Artest hurling up trays only reduces the Lakers effectiveness in the paint.  He's a space eater as well and should be playing more inside where his physical nature will have more of an impact.

Now add in a lethal dose of a not so worn out Bryant and the Lakers have a blueprint for winning back-to-back titles.

That, at least, is my two cents worth for getting the Lakers over the top.  Is the Cleveland job still open?

LeBron lets talk...