Amateurs

What do 1090 AM radio, Baltimore Used Appliances, and Pat’s Pub have to do with sports? We usually talk about the major sports and major sports teams, but what about going down past the minor leagues, past college, past high school to when we were really young, to elementary school.

We had different local businesses sponsoring our local little league baseball teams. The team I played on was the 1090s, sponsored by 1090 AM radio station which broadcast all the Orioles games and probably the Colts games as well. Continue reading Amateurs

PGA Championship 2015

The major golf tournaments have been really exciting this year. Although as with most sporting events on TV I only watch bits and pieces of the game or match here and there and hopefully catch the end if it seems exciting. Who has the time to watch four days of golf? I would rather be out playing golf or another sport or getting work done or work in the garden, whatever.

Day’s Day

In any case, Jason Day played lights out. He was just unstoppable and set an all-time record for the lowest score in any major throughout  history with a 20 under par. What a way to win your first major! He has been so close so many times and has been so frustrated.

On the last tee, he closed his eyes to visualize the shot. It is something he does fairly regularly to help him visualize what he is going to do. I can understand this because I often close my eyes to be able to concentrate better on the music when I am at a symphony concert. (No, I am not sleeping.) He hit it 308 yards and then finished it off ending the day with a 67. Over the four days he hit 68, 67, 66, 66. How is that for consistency.

He has been making strong efforts throughout this year. He could barely stand for part of the US Open due to headache induced vertigo. He fought through it and managed to finish. Then, he came so close in the British Open. He left the final putt short (so in actuality it was the next to last putt) and missed a playoff by 1 shot. He was not a happy camper and practiced even harder. In the PGA championship he was just in a zone the entire time and unstoppable.

DJ Dusted Again

Once again Dustin Johnson was in the thick of things but once again he couldn’t hold on, ending in a 3 way tie for seventh place.

Spieth the New Tiger?

But perhaps the most amazing player of the year has been Jordan Spieth. He won the Masters and then won the US Open. Then in the British Open, he was in it until the very end. Despite bogeying different holes, he kept coming back with birdies. Unfortunately he mishit his tee shot on the last hole and got a 4 when he needed a three to make the playoffs. His playing partner Louis Oosthuizen did manage to make a 3 and made the playoffs, only to lose by 1 to Zach Johnson.

So Spieth wins the first two majors of the year, then misses the playoff by one shot at the British Open and then is close all the way through the PGA Championship, finishing second. That seems like a pretty dominant year and we would be surprised not to see a lot more of Spieth in the future.

Phelps Regains Dominance

Michael Phelps is back! Phelps went through a rough stretch. He seemed to have lost focus and was no longer dominant as a swimmer. He had retired and came back and then retired and came back again, but without the same drive that took him to such heights originally.

Punishment

He also collected two DWIs or DUIs (whichever you prefer). The last one was this past fall and the powers that be in the swimming world decided he needed to learn a lesson and banned him from major competitions for 6 months. We wonder how many other swimmers who have had similar problems have met similar punishment? It is most likely part of what comes along with being famous and very visible.

Rehab Seems to Have Worked

However, Phelps may end up thanking them. He went to rehab and he seems to have come out focussed and with a passion for swimming again. He has been training like he did in the lead up to the 2008 Olympics and hasn’t done since. However, that training hadn’t been translating into performance in the swim meets he was allowed to take part in. Either his turns were off or something else would go a bit wrong.

But it was also because he wasn’t tapering and was probably tired at some of these meets. Tapering is when you shorten your practices and ease up some as you approach a meet. This allows your body to recover and you have more energy for the meet.

Sending a Long Distance Message

So they just had the World Swimming Championships in Russia. At the same time they had the US National Championships in San Antonio. Normally this would have our top swimmers but this year it was like the JV team because the top swimmers were all in Russia. Except for Michael Phelps because of the ban. But, they felt his presence all the way from San Antonio. On the women’s side, Katie Ledecky was in Russia and she made quite a statement as well. She won five golds from 200m to 1500m which is unheard of to win at such different distances.

There are three events that Phelps is likely to swim in the Olympics, 200m butterfly, 100m butterfly and 200m IM. In all three Phelps put up the best time in the world this year. First he swam the 200m butterfly in his best time since 2009 and faster than the gold medal winner at the world championships in Russia who had won the event earlier that day.

In Your Face

Then there was the 100m butterfly. Chad le Clos won this event at the world championships in a very fast time and then mouthed off, saying Phelps could keep quiet because le Clos’ time was faster than anything Phelps had swum in the last 4 years. le Clos had also been a surprise winner over Phelps in the 200m butterfly at the 2012 Olympics. Wrong move. Don’t taunt Phelps. A few hours later, Phelps put up a faster time than le Clos.

To make it a trifecta, after the 200m IM was swum in Russia, Phelps went out and beat that time as well. Not only were the wins impressive, but so was the rest of the factors that go into leading up to a win. You can’t swim multiple events and go all out every time because there is a lot of swimming over the swim meet. You don’t just swim in the finals. You have to swim in preliminary heats in order to get to the finals and you have to do that in all the events you are swimming in. So you can’t expend all your energy in the preliminaries but you still have to swim fast enough to get to the finals. For the first time in a long time Phelps managed all these aspects very well.

The swimming events in the upcoming Olympics is starting to look very interesting.

 

British Open Exciting Finish

Jordan Spieth is definitely going to be the talk of the town in the years to come the way Tiger Woods was if Spieth keeps playing this way. He was in it to the very end of the British Open and almost was able to become the first person since Ben Hogan in the 1920s to win the first three majors of the year.  Unlike the US Open, this time we didn’t hear any griping about the greens but wow was that a lot of wind they had for a while.

It looked at first like Dustin Johnson was going to make up for missing the putt at the end of the US Open that would have given him the win or at least a tie and a playoff. He was playing incredibly well and in the lead. But it seemed like as the weather improved, he faded.

The story of the third round could have been Dustin Johnson fading, but instead it was the lights out playing of Paul Dunne. He is a amateur from Ireland who goes to college in the United States. Last year he was able to do well enough to be invited to play in the British Open but didn’t make the cut. This year, he not only made the cut but by the end of the third round was tied for the lead. Even more amazing, his score was 3 strokes lower than the lowest score by an amateur in British Open history after three rounds.

Tied with Dunne were Jason Day and Louis Oosthuizen. Jordan Spieth was one stroke back, Padraig Harrington was two strokes back and nine people were three strokes back, including Sergio Garcia, Adam Scott, Zach Johnson, Mark Leishman and Justin Rose. So it was still anyone’s tournament.

On the last day, unfortunately Paul Dunne fell apart. He was way over par and you had to feel for him. He almost looked like he wanted to cry by the time he got to the last hole. Here he was, in the final pairing, and was stinking up the course. On the final hole with the whole world watching he chipped past the green and onto the rough on a steep little hill that  then ended in a fence/building. He finally got it in the hole. But, he should be proud of what he accomplished through three rounds and the amazing improvement from the year before. For the first time in a long time, if he had scored one less on the last round there would have been 4 amateurs in the top 20 finishers.

Zach Johnson plugged away steadily all day and finished with 15 under and then had to wait and see what other people did. In the next to last pairing, Day also came in at 15 under but Spieth finally cracked slightly. He pulled his tee shot way left where he and almost no one else had been during the tournament. He ended up missing the playoff by one stroke so his chances of winning the first three majors was dashed. But it was an impressive attempt.

In the last pairing, while Dunne was imploding, Oosthuizen finished at 15 under as well. There was then a 4 hole playoff and Leishman quickly fell by the wayside. Zach Johnson was able to eek out the win over Oosthuizen. A very exciting tournament and finish.

Spieth Rules

Jordan Spieth and the US Open

What an amazing US Open. A lot of people panned it because of the conditions of the greens and the crazy slopes, but that made it interesting.

By winning the US Open at the age of 21, he became the youngest man to win the US Open since Bobby Jones in 1923. That is almost 100 years. Quite the feat. And that ain’t all folks. He is only the sixth person in history to win the Masters and then win the US Open as well. The last person to do it was naturally Tiger Woods in 2002.

Chambers Bay

The Chambers Bay Golf course became as much of a story as the competition. It took a lot of heat for the condition of the greens and the layout of the course. It was also interesting having trains going by the golf course. We  don’t remember ever seeing that before.

Morning vs. Afternoon

It was also interesting that the entire course played differently in the afternoon than it did in the morning. The grounds crew would water the course overnight and they would get the wetness such that the ball rolled at a certain speed designated by the person from the USGA who set up the course each day. However, the course was built on a sand and gravel quarry and the moisture would drain away during the day and by the afternoon, the ball moved considerably faster and the surface didn’t grip it as well.

Poa annua

The greens also ran differently in the afternoon. Apparently the greens are supposed to be fine fescue but poa annua invaded some of the greens. By afternoon it grew some and people said it was like playing on broccoli or cauliflower.  One woman commentator said she had grown up playing on Poa annua and preferred it to Bermuda grass. But a lot of others had a lot to say about the conditions. One person said it was the first time in history that people were happy to miss the cut and go home and not have to play the course anymore. Sounds a bit like sour grapes, but to each his own.

Roll on

Other people complained about the slopes. One person said it wasn’t reasonable to hit the ball within a yard of the hole and then watch it roll 50 yards away. There were some dramatic slopes, there is no doubt about that.

Fairways

The commentators kept talking about how the fairways were much wider than usual. It didn’t seem to matter. A lot of people still missed them and hit into bunkers, of which there were a lot, (why not make use of the sand from the quarry?) or they hit into the rough. And what a rough it was with tall grass that you wanted to take a scythe to.

Elevation

The course was also unusual because of the elevation changes. On several par 3s, the tee was 50 to 90 feet above the green which made judging the distance and what club to use that much more difficult.

Complaints bogus?

But, we ask ourselves, if the course was really all that bad, how did Louis Oosthuizen manage to tie for the lowest 9 hole score in US Open history on the back nine?

Fascinating Finish

So Oosthuizen finishes with four under par, but it seemed it wasn’t going to be quite good enough with the people still left to finish. Spieth had a birdie on the 16th hold and that put him 3. But that vanished on the next hole which he double bogeyed. That put him even with Oosthuizen who had just birdied the 18th hole. Dustin Johnson who was also in the last pair birdied the 17th hole. Then Spieth birdies the 18th putting him at 5 under. But, Johnson hits a great tee shot and has a chance to win with a putt for eagle. He misses and the ball rolls 5 feet past the cup. So everyone assumes that he will sink it and tie at 5 under and have a playoff the next day. But he misses the putt, makes the tap in and ties Oosthuizen for second. And Spieth makes history. You feel bad for Johnson, but it was compelling viewing.

Wizards Disappear

I feel sorry for Ted Leonsis. He seems like such a nice humble guy unlike some owners. His hockey team, the Washington Capitals, for the last several years seems about to win it all and then they don’t. This year going to Game 7 and into overtime. Heart rending. (Don’t you hate how people say heart rendering? What are they doing, cooking down the heart?)

Wizards Woes

Of all the people to get hurt, your star player crashes to the floor and breaks his hand and wrist in five places in Game 1. Yet, the Wizards had a chance in Game 4 without him. They trailed most of the game but at the very end, they passed to a wide open Paul Pierce to tie the game and take it into overtime.  He is usually a sure thing from that position. He lives for this sort of moment but this time it didn’t happen

Wall Returns

John Wall must be one tough dude. After missing one game with the broken wrist and hand, he comes back and plays in game 5. He played well, but it looked like this time Paul Pierce was going to be the hero after looking like the goat. It was looking good with the game tied and the ball in the hands of Paul Pierce with less than a minute to go. With 32 seconds left he got stripped of the ball and Atlanta gets a fast break and goes ahead by two points. Washington comes back down the floor and after several passes, Bradley Beal gets the ball to Pierce in the corner who drains the three point for the Wizards to go ahead by 1 with only 8 seconds left. Game over, right? Wrong. Atlanta gets a shot off that misses. There are Wizards all around but Horford crashes through, gets the rebound and puts it in to win the game at the buzzer.

Game 6 Heartbreak

Despite John Wall being out games two, three and four, the Wizards were only down 3-2 in games. If they had protected their 9 point lead at the end of game 5 or boxed out and not allowed Horford’s last second shot, they would be in the lead and looking to close out the series. It didn’t help that Marcin Gortat was sick and couldn’t play much. Atlanta went after the 37 year old Paul Pierce to see if he could keep up with the younger guys. Washington was down in the third quarter and fought back. Then it came down to Paul Pierce once again. He hits a three pointer from way downtown as time expires and Washington and Atlanta huddle for overtime. BUT! The refs review Pierce’s shot and determine his fingertips were still barely touching the ball as the shot clock went to 0 and they nullified the shot. Atlanta wins game and series. Unfortunately the Wizards have an uncanny ability to pull off losses like these. Hopefully next year will be the year they truly break out.

 

Triple Crown Fever

American Pharoah – Next Triple Crown Winner?

It has been 47 years since a horse won the triple crown. Yet again, we have a horse that has won the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness. (Love those Mint Juleps) The Kentucky Derby was exciting with the three horses expected to be in the top three finishing one, two, three and it being a tight race the whole way. But then there was the Preakness. It was a beautiful day and then the heavens opened and the track became a soggy mess and it was still raining at start time. American Pharoah had the number one post position and with all the mud, didn’t want to get boxed in and eat mud the whole way. He bolted out into the lead and stayed there the entire way, finishing an impressive 7 lengths in the lead in all that muck.  The  jockey Victor Espinoza was spotless during his post race interviews, not a trace of mud.

Why no Triple Crown Winners?

There are many theories. Some people feel the horses are pampered too much and don’t build up the muscles and stamina while they are two year olds.  American Pharoah ran 3 times as a two year old and most other horses these days don’t race much more. Before starting the Triple Crown attempt, Affirmed had started races seven different times with only one or two weeks rest. Before Secretariat went for the three Triple Crown races he had raced three times in five weeks two different times plus he ran four races in under six weeks.

Also, horses have gotten so expensive that people want a fast payback so the theory says that horses are bred more as sprinters now and less for distance. And because they don’t run as much as two year olds, they don’t have the conditioning for the longer Belmont.

You also have horses that race in the Derby, sit out the Preakness and then race in the Belmont, so they are much fresher. You even have horses who only race in the Belmont. So it isn’t exactly a level playing field.

Not much talked about, but drugs could also be a factor. Many medications such as Lasix are now commonly given to the horses. Lasix is a diuretic that is given to control bleeding. But the drug has side effects. Many old timer trainers feel that it is affecting the durability of horses and should be banned.

Belmont Jinx?

And sometimes, shit happens. Spectacular Bid is considered the best horse to have not won the Triple Crown. Just before the race he stepped on a pin that went into his hoof. He had a large lead but was caught. Some people don’t think it was the pin but a poor ride by his jockey, who took him out too fast and hard in the beginning of the race. Then there was Big Brown who also looked promising. He cracked his hoof while winning the Preakness. During the Belmont his jockey pulled him up saying he “had no horse left”. You think that wasn’t second guessed.

And What About American Pharoah?

American Pharoah was the top two year old and the last 4 Triple Crown winners were also as well as two earlier Triple Crown winners. None of the other horses going for the Triple Crown over the last 47 years except Spectular Bid had that distinction. Also, he won the first two races in entirely different conditions. One reason American Pharoah raced so little as a two year old is that he injured his leg in one race and was recovering. Some people think the may just be peaking now. If horses are stressed or worn out, they lose weight. That is why Firing Line was pulled from the Belmont after doing well in the Derby and Preakness. American Pharoah has been in good spirits, eating well, hasn’t lost weight and in his last workout had really fast times. We may have a winner here.

Capitals Collapse

How frustrating for the owner, the players and the fans to be up 3-1 in the series against the Rangers and to lose 3 straight games and lose the series 3-4. The teams were obviously evenly matched. They won or lost each game by one goal and two games went into overtime. Exciting hockey.

Game 6

But game 6 was inexcusable. Did the Capitals think they had it all wrapped up? How could they, they had just let the Rangers back in with an overtime win in game 5 to bring the series to 3-2.  You knew the Rangers were going to fight back. Scoring goals in hockey is tough compared to a lot of sports. So when the Capitals found themselves down by 3 goals, there was serious questions about the ultimate results of the series.

But suddenly they came alive. First Evgeny Kuznetsov flipped a puck from close range up into the top of the net to start the scoring. Then forward Joel Ward poked a rebound back into the goal. So in three minutes they had turned things around and only needed one more goal.

With 2:44 left, there was a penalty called and the Capitals pulled their goalie and put 6 men on the ice. They had 2 shots on goal but both were blocked. The Capitals didn’t get another chance and they lost by 1.

Game 7

It was a sad ending to a great season. New coach Barry Trotz had taken a very good team and made it even better over the season. All the players were playing some of the best hockey of their lives and their record showed it, giving them home ice advantage for the start of the playoffs.

Not only were all the games decided by one goal, but the Rangers only scored one more goal than the Capitals for the whole series, 14 goals to 13 goals.

It didn’t help that the Capitals were playing in Madison Square Garden and not at home. The Rangers had won six straight game 7s at Madison Square.  The Rangers also had the best record for the season by a good margin.

The Capitals star, Alex Ovechkin, took first blood with a goal in the first period. But then they had to spend a lot of energy killing several penalties. With only a few seconds left killing their 4th penalty, defenseman Brooks Orpik messed up a clear attempt. The Rangers took advantage and with some sweet passing got it to Kevin Hayes on the back side who tapped it in for an easy goal.

The Capitals were not able to convert on a power play against the Rangers in the second period. The third period was scoreless for both theams. And then there was overtime. It ended when there was a faceoff in the Capitals end after an icing penalty. They had been great at faceoffs, but lost this one. A shot was taken, a rebound straight to Derek Stepan with an open net and the season was over.

Deflategate appeal

Check out Deflategate and Deflategate Rubuttal.

Rebuttal

Patriots put out a rebuttal. They had an interesting explanation for the text by one of the equipment managers who called himself The Deflator. They said he was just referring to losing weight because he was chunky and wanted to lose weight and Deflator was the term he used.

Rebuttal to Rebuttal

In Wells’ rebuttal to the rebuttal he seemed to be saying that The Deflator had even threatened the Patriots with going to ESPN with the story. And if The Deflator was just talking about losing weight as the Patriots say, why did the Patriots suspend him and another equipment manager indefinitely.

Will Patriots appeal?

Apparently it is common for the players’ association to put out a rebuttal, but rare for an owner to buck the league. Normally everything is done behind closed doors. After all, the 32 owners have to get along. The Patriots had one week in which to appeal the decision. Brady appealed. But  why would the Patriots put out the rebuttal if they were going to appeal? It is more likely that this was put out to save face and that Robert Kraft won’t appeal. But why put in things that are so ridiculous as mentioned above that that is what people are talking about and not the reasonable points. And why put it out at all since being defiant and devious is what got the Patriots and Brady slapped much harder than they probably would have otherwise. Judy Battista wrote an interesting article about this.

View different in Boston

Of course, people in Boston don’t see it the same way as the rest of the country. A law professor from Northeastern University wrote an article saying that it would be uncalled for the the first game of the season which is always played by the Super Bowl champions at home to be played without Tom Brady. He felt there was little evidence and that Brady should have been fined but not suspended as punishment for not cooperating with the investigation.

Bob Ryan of the Boston Globe feels that the league is out to get the Patriots for past transgressions and that the punishment far outweighs the crime.

Deal in the Works?

Some of the other owners feel the punishment was excessive as well and there is now speculation that there will be some compromise at the coming owner’s meeting. If a deal is reached, what effect would that have? One article thought it would imply the Patriots’ guilt and it would make the NFL look like it had no valid discipline guidelines. And how would the fans react since the NFL is very publicity conscious? How could they explain a reduction that made sense and didn’t just look like spin control?

The issue with Brady is separate from the Patriots, but we have read reports that the Patriots are quietly looking for compromise and that might include an understanding that Brady’s suspension would be decreased if he dropped his law suit. We will see what happens.