On the surface it looked like just another Sunday evening Tiger Woods press conference. The Nike hat was there, the red shirt was there, and Tiger was there alone on his own island answering every question reporters fired at him. While seeing Tiger alone is nothing new, this time it seemed different. He wasn’t just alone on the podium, he looked alone in life. He had the look of man who was waiting on a life boat that wasn’t coming. For over a decade, Tiger Woods has been on an island by himself and every other golfer on another. As Tiger sat there alone answering questions about yet another poor performance, it looked like a great time to start building a bridge.
We all know the old saying, “no one is bigger than the game,” well Tiger is the exception to the rule. Tiger didn’t just play golf, he became golf. If you had a golf tournament and Tiger wasn’t in it, guess what? You didn’t have a golf tournament. Were there other golfers? Sure, just like there were other members of the Jackson 5. But there was only one that the entire world wanted to see.
Ever since Tiger exploded on the scene as a 21 year old phenom, his star power has created a separation from the rest of the golf world. It always seemed like there was the PGA and then there was Tiger on his own island. While the PGA has always carried a very high level of prestige, Tiger’s island was a little different. Tiger’s island was for the elite of the elite, the Michael Jordan’s, and Oprah Winfrey’s of the world. On Tiger’s island the streets were paved with gold, and private jets or million dollar yachts were the only way on or off. Other A-list celebrities bragged about trips to Tiger’s island. While his island had enough perks and goodies on it to make a king jealous, none of his fellow tour members were there.
Although the disconnect between Tiger and the rest of the tour was obvious, you would never hear another tour member complain. Tiger may have built himself a dream island but he had also single handily built the rest of the tour a very nice island too. While the streets of PGA island may not be paved with gold, none of its residents will be cutting their own grass or making their own mimosas anytime soon. When Tiger changed the landscape of golf, it was a win-win for everyone involved. Tiger became the reason that Ernie Els earned twice as much money on the tour in 2006 as the 10th ranked golfer in the world as he did in 1997 when he was ranked third. Tiger is the reason that Phil Mickelson earned more money than LeBron James last year. With Woods taking golf to unprecedented financial heights, there wasn’t a sole complaint. Tiger was never known as “one of the guys,” but his name alone made sure “all of the guys” were paid.
While living on Tigers island looked like the next best thing to heaven, just like any other island, it was surrounded by water. The problem with being surround by water is you’re one big storm away from losing everything. Last November, a storm hit Tiger island and it surely wasn’t pretty. It was a storm that would last months and destroy just about everything on the island including Tiger’s name.
Fast forward to last weeks Bridgestone Invitational and there was Tiger fresh off his worst 72 hole performance of his career alone on Tiger Island. The island that once looked like the best place on Earth now looked more painful than a day at the MVA. Watching Tiger’s press conference, you could tell he was the last man on the island and was looking for help. It was the first time Nike probably would have paid Tiger more money to take his Nike hat off than have their logo displayed by such a defeated man. With Tiger Island all but destroyed, what better time for Phil, Corey Pavin and the rest of the residence of PGA island to come pick Tiger up. It’s time to bridge the gap between Tiger and the rest of the golf world. It would be great for the members of the tour to step up and show Tiger the benefits of being “one of the guys.” In a time where Tiger couldn’t look more lost, some support from his peers could go a long way for not only him, but for golf as well. For Corey Pavin to come out and publicly say “Tiger has a spot on the Ryder Cup team. Of course, he is the best golfer in the world.” would be a step in the right direction. Tiger and golf both need each other. Although golf is not a team sport, everyone knows golf is much better with Tiger on top of his game then it is without him. How much better would golf be if Tiger got his game and life back in order with the support of his peers? It would be great to hear a tour member say, “Yes he made mistakes, but he is one of us and we are not going to let you keep beating him up.” With Tiger island temporarily closed, lets hope Tiger lands on the PGA island he helped build
One of the most over used words in the world of sports today is potential. Webster’s Dictionary defines potential as, “existing in possibility : capable of devolvement into actuality.” In most cases when you hear the word, you think positive thoughts. Every parent would love to hear that their child was full of potential. But while it is a word used to promote growth, potential has been costing people their jobs and crippling NBA franchises for over a decade now. Last week when the Memphis Grizzles sent the second overall pick in this years draft down to the D-League, it was just the latest example how the NBA’s obsession with potential has gone too far.
Hasheem Thabeet made news for the first time in his NBA career when he was sent to the NBA developmental league. It was the first time a player drafted as high as second overall had been sent down. Thanks to being drafted so high, Thabeet was quickly labeled a bust, and seen as an isolated incident. To look at Thabeet’s NBA career and labeling him a bust is ignoring the big picture that is slowly hurting the league.
The NBA is no longer a league full of the players who can play, it’s a league full of players who may one day be able to play. Scouts and General Mangers all over the league have fallen so deep in love with the possibility of what players can be, that they have lost touch with reality and what these players actually are.
Since 1998, there have been 20 players 7’0” or taller drafted in the lottery. Each one of them were drafted with the vision of them being the teams anchor for years to come. The problem is it very rarely happens. Of the 20 seven footers to go in the lottery, only 3(Pau Gasol, Yao Ming, and Chris Kaman) have been all stars for the team that drafted them. The majority of them turned out to be projects that never panned out because scouts were to in awe with what they may one day be able to do to notice what they can’t. In today’s NBA, potential and height trump all, while skill and experience take a back seat.
In 1998, the draft was loaded with talented players who had already proven themselves at the collegiate level, but somehow Michael Olowokandi ended up as the number one prospect. While players like Vince Carter, Antwan Jaminson, and Paul Pierce may have wowed the scouts with their play, it was Olowokandi’s size that teams couldn’t ignore. Standing 7 feet tall and weighing close to 300 pounds, there were visions of another Shaq. Scouts knew he was a raw talent with very little basketball experience but he had the size and that’s all that mattered. The “Candy Man” never became the next Shaq, and is widely considered one of the biggest Draft day busts in NBA history.
While the Olowokandi project is one of the most scrutinized in NBA history, it was hardly the last one. In 1999, the Raptors used their lottery pick to select Alex Radojevic - not for what he had done on the court, but because he stood 7’3”. Radojevic had a NBA career in which he played a total of 15 games, averaging less than 2 points a game. In 2001, every NBA scout in the country flocked to Brunswick, Georgia to see a High School kid named Kwame Brown play. All the scouts were blown away with the 18 year old kid who stood 7 feet tall with the body of a 25 year old man. Somehow in the midst of drooling over his size, no one noticed or seemed to care that he couldn’t catch a basketball. While the experts saw his size and thought the sky is the limit, it turned 7 points and 5 rebounds a game is the limit when you can’t catch a basketball. In 2003, with Carmelo Anthony, Dwayne Wade, Chris Bosh still on the board, the Pistons selected a kid who was averaging 9 points a game in Serbia. Although his numbers didn’t jump out at anybody, the fact that he was 7ft tall and rumored to be able to shoot from anywhere did. Well it turned out the kid who was unable to dominate in Serbia was unable to dominate in the NBA either, go figure.
With the NBA, while General Mangers fall in the love with height and the idea of what one day might become of it, the on the court product is suffering. Teams that need players who can play right now are morgating the future on players who will never be more than average. With just about every team adding a “project” every year, veteran players who can still play at an NBA level are being forced out of the league before their time is up. Every team is scared to pass on a 7 footer with any kind of talent in fear that they might miss the next Tim Duncan or Shaquille O’neal. The way you make sure that doesn’t happen is if a player dominates College Basketball for three years with numbers like 25 points and 14 rebounds a game, you don’t pass on him. Teams need to stop falling in love with every 7 footer who picks up a basketball. While Darko had every scout thinking he was the next Dirk, everyone ignored the fact that Dirk was dropping 28 points a night in Germany and dominating every American camp he went to.
In today’s NBA, potential has come to mean, he can’t play now. Long gone are the days where being the number one pick meant you were suppose to come in, make an impact immediately i.e. Larry Johnson, Shaq, Chris Webber, or Glen Robinson. Before getting injured this season the reports were that Greg Oden was finally coming around. When did it become ok for the number one overall pick to be backing up Joel Przybilla? When you see what Kevin Durant did in his one year in college and want Oden did in his, is there any surprise how their NBA careers have gone?
It’s time the NBA stops drafting and signing players for what they may be able to do and start looking at what they can do. For those who want to ask the question is Thabeet a bust, the better question is what did you expect from him? He was a 7’3” center with zero offensive moves and terrible foot work - what did you think was going to happen in the NBA? How many more players who have no business being in the NBA, but have tremendous “upside” have to come and go before teams realize they are only hurting themselves? How many more times are we all going to act surprised that Chris Paul and Deron Williams turned out to be better pros than Andrew Bogut? It’s time teams stop dealing in the possibility and deal with the reality..
Once again, Alex Rodriguez has found his picture on the front every sports page in America. For A-Rod, being the talk of the town is nothing new...especially in October. However, this October is different. For the first time since joining the Yankees, A-Rod and clutch are being mentioned in the same breath. What started off as a nightmare season is turning into a dream come true.
A-Rod, who earned the nickname Mr. April for his quick starts to the season, opened the 2009 season on a different note. The leak that A-Rod’s name was on the long list of players who tested positive for steroids sent shockwaves through the entire sports world. Next, there was the apology many people didn’t believe, followed by news of everything being written about him from steroids to his tipping habits. If all of that wasn’t enough, he was forced to start the season on the Disabled List for the first time in his career. When he finally got a chance to return to play, he came back with a bang hitting a home run in his first time at bat. However, he did not do much other than that as he struggled to bat .200 in his first month back.
While A-Rod was the biggest story of the opening months of the season, his name all but fell off the radar as the season began to take fold. For the first time in his career, Alex was no longer mentioned as one of the best 2 or 3 players in the game. For only the second time since 1996, Rodriguez was not named to the All-Star team and had almost become nothing more than a baseball after-thought. With the Yankees running away with the division, there was very little pressure on the superstar to be his MVP self, but A-Rod got better and better with each month as he continued to shake the rust off. By the time the season was over, he had put together what would become a great season for just about anyone else, hitting 30 homers and driving in 100 runs in only 124 games.
After spending most of the season under the radar, the question was once again if A-Rod would show up in the postseason. So far, A-Rod has more than answered his critics as he has not only shown up, but he has stolen the show. A-Rod has provided his team with big hits when they have needed them most. For the first time since putting on pinstripes this postseason, A-Rod looks even better than regular season A-Rod. For years, A-Rod looked like a player with the weight of the world on his shoulders. He would swing at pitches outside the strike zone and make mental errors that he never made in the regular season. Come postseason, Rodriguez always looked like a guy trying to do too much; trying to live up to his MVP performance from the regular season. But this postseason is different. A-Rod is locked in and playing like a free man, a man who has just had a 400 pound weight taken off of his back. This postseason he didn’t come in as the MVP of the league and all the steroid skeletons he had in his closet had already been brought to light. During a time when we have grown accustomed to seeing an image driven superstar fail, we are now seeing a player who cares only about winning succeed. At this point, Rodriguez looks like a guy who has already seen his image dragged through the mud and destroyed and now has nothing left to worry about but baseball. Rodriguez, who admitted that he used to be overly concerned about his image, is now that learning that the best thing he can do for his image is to forget about it.
With A-Rod’s newfound internal peace, the New York fans have grown to love him. Now when he steps to the plate, fans cheer him instead of shaking their heads in disappointment for the team's highest priced player. With the title of choke artist now removed from his name, there is only one thing left to do to become a true Yankee: win a title. If A-Rod and the rest of the Yankees keep playing the way they have been, he might just have one more MVP trophy to add to his resume... the only one missing: World Series MVP.
NFL week 6 was not kind to the NFC East. The Giants, who many felt were the best team in the NFL, were blown out by the Saints, the Redskins lost to a winless team once again, and the Eagles lost to arguably the worst franchise in all of sports. While all three teams are looking for answers as to what went wrong on Sunday, the Eagles' coaching staff needs to look no further than the mirror for their answer.
On Sunday night, fans all over the country were asking themselves how the Eagles could lose to the Raiders. However, the real question concerns what Andy Reid and Marty Mornhinweg have against running the ball. After turning the play- calling over to Mornhinweg in 2006 it seemed like the Eagles had finally developed a balanced offense. Yet after the first six games of the 2009 season, it looks like Reid has reunited with his first love: passing.
The book on how to beat the Raiders defense has been out for awhile now and the answer is to run the ball. The Raiders, who rank 29th in the NFL against the run, have been allowing teams to run all over them this season. But this past week, the Raiders didn’t have to worry about stopping the run because Reid did it for them. For some reason that seems to make sense only to Reid, the Eagles chose to hand the ball off to their running backs only 12 times all day. Instead of pounding one of the worst running defenses in the NFL, Reid chose to drop back and pass for an eye-popping total of 54 times.
At first glance, 54 passing plays to only 12 running plays sounds crazy, but when you take a closer look, it is just flat out terrible play calling. Typically, the only time a quarterback throws the ball over 40 times is when the team has fallen far behind, which was never the case for the Eagles on Sunday. The Eagles were never down more than 7 points at any time in the game. Typically, the only other reason to completely abandon the run is if it's not working at all, which was surely not the case. The only thing that was working for the Eagles was the run. Brian Westbrook, the team's all-pro running back, was averaging over 8 yards per carry, while Donovan McNabb was averaging 5.8 yards a pass. Westbrook was well on his way to a big rushing day, just like every other back who has faced the Raiders this season, before Reid just abandoned the run all together.
There is no doubt that McNabb is one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL today, but it seems like Reid and the coaching staff do very little to make his job any easier. By abandoning the run and becoming one dimensional behind a beat-up offensive line, McNabb became little more than a sitting duck back there. Once the Raiders knew the Eagles had no intentions of running, they just dropped back in coverage and sent blitzes from everywhere as McNabb was sacked by everyone except Al Davis himself. As a result of passing on just about every down, the Eagles faced only three third downs all day in which they needed less than 4 yards and often faced third and more than 10. It’s no surprise that with the lack of manageable third downs, the Eagles only converted 2 of 16 of them. When teams don’t convert on the third down, it’s a trickle down effect that almost always ends in a loss. The Eagles' inability to pick up third downs and stay on the field led to what was almost 7 minutes in difference of time of possession. Ultimately, this inability led to a loss.
The Eagles are arguably one of the most talented teams in the NFL. However, as long as Reid and his coaching staff keep refusing to run the ball, they are only hurting themselves. Reid has a long history of falling in love with the passing game; as a result, McNabb has a long history of taking the blame for all of the Eagles' woes. It’s no secret that the way you set up a pass in the NFL is by running the ball and keeping the defense honest. The Eagles have finally gotten McNabb a talented wide receiver core; it’s time they do him one more favor and run the ball.
The biggest surprise of the start of last football season is once again the biggest surprise of the start of this season. Last season, the Titans took the NFL by surprise with their 10-0 start behind journeyman quarterback Kerry Collins. If last season was a Cinderella story for Collins and the Titans, this season is clearly the part about what happens after midnight. After starting the season on a short list of legitimate Super Bowl contenders, the Titans now find themselves on a short list of teams still looking for a victory. If the Titans still consider Vince Young their quarterback of the future, it’s time to go back to the future.
As bad as the Titans' season looks so far, it doesn’t look like it will be getting better anytime soon. With four losses already under their belt, the Titans will face the undefeated Colts this weekend and then travel to Foxborough the following week to take on the Patriots. The Titans, who lost three games all of last season, could easily be 0-6 heading into their week 7 bye.
In 2006, the Titans drafted Young third overall with plans of him replacing Steve McNair as the franchise quarterback. Thanks to poor play at the quarterback position, Young was thrown into the fire early, making his first NFL start in the fourth week of his rookie season. Young responded by winning 8 games, including 6 in a row with 4 fourth quarter comebacks, on his way to winning rookie of the year. His sophomore season, Young struggled like most young quarterbacks, but still led the Titans to a 10-6 record and a playoff berth. After a shaky off-season and a mental meltdown early in his third season, Young was benched in favor of the more stable Collins. The Titans, who had one of the best defenses in the NFL last season, didn’t ask Collins and the offense to do much other than not lose the game. The veteran Collins did just that to the tune of 13-3.
When the Titans made Collins the starter, they knew he was not the long term answer to their quarterback situation. Rather, they wanted to use him as a bandage until they felt it was time to hand the team back over to Young. The thinking was that the team was good enough to win now and didn’t want to miss out on the opportunity while waiting for Vince to mature. While that move might have been the right one for last year's campaign, this year is a totally different story. The Titans' defense, which was among the elite last season, is now giving up 27 points a game and Collins is throwing the ball almost 40 times a game. You show me a team with a bad defense and Kerry Collins as the quarterback and I will show you a team that will not be winning many games. It is clear that the Titans now need more than just a game manager at the quarterback position and at this point in his career, that’s all Collins is.
So where does that leave the Titans? It’s time for coach Jeff Fisher to go back to the team's future. If they still believe that Young is going to be their leader for the future, it’s time to get that future started now. Collins has already been in the NFL for over 15 seasons and the Titans know what they have in him. Vince, on the other hand, is still young with tons of talent waiting to be developed. The Titans already know that at 37, Collins is not the future, and with the season all but over, it’s time to see if Young is.
To have Young sitting on the bench collecting big checks every week while Collins goes out there and plays poorly means that the Titans are not just losing, they are now losing out in the future. If you’re going to get bad play from your quarterback, it makes much more sense to get it from your young quarterback. At least it goes towards the learning process all quarterbacks go through. At this point, Collins has learned all he is going to learn and is flat out playing bad football. In the loss this season to the Jets, Collins finished the game with 13 consecutive incomplete passes, a feat that not even Jamarcus Russell has pulled off. In just 4 games this season, he already has 6 interceptions after throwing only 7 all last season. As the Titans' playoff hopes slip further and further away with every loss, it’s time for Fisher to take the bandage that is Kerry Collins off and see what they have in Vince Young. The Titans need to use these remaining 12 games to see just how much Young has matured as a football player and if he can be trusted with the future of the team. There are two ways you never want to end a football season: with a bad record and with questions at quarterback. The Titans are already well on their way to one of those and if we don’t see Young soon, they will be on their way to both.
We all can recall at least one time in our lives where we have bought something we knew was too good to be true. For some it’s that all inclusive vacation that really doesn’t include anything, for others it’s the workout machine that is suppose to have you looking like Terrel Owens just by using it 15 minutes a day. No matter what the sales pitch was, we have all been outsmarted by a marketing genius who knew how to use our emotions against us. While most of these marketing gimmicks are fly-by-night companies, Dan Synder has been running a billion dollar marketing scheme on Redskins fans for the last 10 years.
The fact that the Redskins have become the second most expensive team in the NFL, while having very little recent playoff success is a testimony to their owner. Snyder, the Redskins owner, was smart enough to drop out of college at the age of 20 and run a million dollar marketing company out of his parent’s house. By the young age of 32, thanks to his marketing abilities Snyder was worth over 100 million dollars. It’s now 10 years later and Snyder has moved up from millionaire status to billionaire status while the product he is selling has gotten worse.
To say that Snyder doesn’t care about the Redskins would not be fair. While how much he loves the team may be up for debate, how much he loves money is not. In his 10 year tenure as owner, Snyder had turned the Redskins into nothing more than his biggest marketing project yet. Snyder, who grew up in the DC area, is well aware of the loyalty of Redskins fans, and is not only profiting off of it, he is taking advantage of it by selling them dreams they were all to eager to buy.
For decades the Washington Redskins have had one of the strongest fan bases in the NFL. Week in and week out, no matter what, they show up and route for the team. As long as you give a Redskins fans something to believe in, they are going to believe and that’s just what Snyder has been doing. Ever since he has taken over the team, Snyder has made big move after big move, most of which make very little football sense, but all of them have made great marketing sense.
After Norv Turner had gained a reputation of being too soft, Snyder went out and got one of the toughest coaches in the game in Marty Schottenheimer. Skins fans loved the moved and bought the hype - only problem is a disciplinary is only as strong as the support he gets from the higher ups and in this case that was none. After one year, Marty was gone. When the team’s offense looked completely dead, Snyder sold the fans on one of the best offensive minds in football. Only problem was the coach was given no offensive talent to work with. Snyder hasn’t just sold his fan base on coaches alone - he is way to smart for that. He has brought in Hall of Famers but it’s unfortunately at the end of their careers. He has brought in big play receivers, despite not running a big play offense. Snyder has brought in SuperBowl role players and sold them as starters. While most of these moves did very little to help the team on the field, each one of them was just enough to bring fans back the next year, and at increased ticket price of course.
While the most successful teams in the NFL have used the off-season to address their problems, Snyder has made millions by putting a band-aid on it or ignoring it all together. After last years 8-8 season, it was clear something had to change if the Redskins wanted to become an elite team. The offense struggled, finishing 28th in the NFL in points scored, while the defense was more than solid finishing 4th in yards allowed. So when the off-season rolled around, Danny boy was up to his old tricks. Instead of addressing the struggling offense, Snyder shelled out over $60 million in guaranteed money to two defensive players, and then used the teams top draft pick on another defensive player. That’s like your child coming home with an A in math and F in English and you then deciding to get them a math tutor. Snyder didn’t bring in his new toys because they could fill the teams biggest holes, he brought them in because they were the biggest names on the market. The more you break down the moves that have happened in the Snyder era, they look much more like marketing moves and less like football decisions.
To say that the Redskins don’t have good football players would be inaccurate. The problem is they are all over hyped. The players who are merely role players are sold as good, while the players who are good are sold as great. When each one of the players is individually over hyped, fans are left trying to figure out why the sum doesn’t equal the total number of its parts, when in actuality, it does. If you look at the Redskins team through an objective lens, they are exactly what they should be. Jim Zorn looks like a guy who went from quarterbacks coach to offensive coordinator to head coach in a matter of weeks. Jason Campbell looks like a young quarterback who has played in more offensive systems than he can remember. Clinton Portis looks a good running back playing behind a mediocre offensive line, while Santana Moss looks like a deep threat receiver playing on a team that doesn’t throw the ball deep. Antwan Randel El looks like a great slot receiver playing the role of a number two receiver. The defense looks like a solid unit with good cornerbacks playing with a line that creates no pass rush, which equals good play but no turnovers. When you add all that up, you get an offense that has no identity and a defense that is good but doesn’t create enough turnovers to be dominant -- exactly what the Redskins are.
While Snyder has made millions over the last decade and so have many under achieving players, the real loser has been the fans. The fans have watched ticket prices soar and have been forced to watch a team that lacks chemistry and an identity. Last weeks loss to the Lions has forced many fans and analysts to call for the head coach’s job which is just fine Snyder. Snyder will no doubt have a new head coach to sell Redskins fan next season, which once again will not be dealing with the real issue. The real issue with Redskins is not Jason Campbell or Jim Zorn, it’s the owner and the way the team is ran. As long as the Redskins are run as a marketing firm and not a football team, they will keep running into the same problems. Over the last 10 years, the coaches have changed, the quarterbacks have changed, and so have the star players. The only thing that has not changed is the owner and the results. As long as Skins fans are going to keep buying the hype, Snyder is going to selling it as it’s his nature. Fans all over DC are now wondering if it is possible to support the team you love without supporting the owner. Snyder appears more than ready to bet that it’s not.