It's probably hard to remember last week, let alone almost five years ago. Tiger Woods drove into a fire hydrant on November 27, 2009.
In the life of an athlete, five years is a monstrous length of time. There's still this wonderfully positive group of people who follow Tiger's every move and still believe in him. Don't waste your time talking about how he's done in one small tournament once a year that pumps you full of hope. Name the Saturday or Sunday round in a major after the fire hydrant that looked like Tiger before the fire hydrant.
Tiger Woods is not the same guy. No one would be the same person if they experienced the self-inflicted problems of Tiger Woods at the end of 2009. The problem is that guy drew great confidence from the life he was leading. That confidence is gone. He has nothing to draw from in recent history.
Look at how few golfers are repeat winners in a major. It's easy to know why. There's too many other good golfers. Tiger has "raised" an entire generation of young golfers to understand the focus it takes to be great. The new Tiger isn't confident enough to beat all of the new Tigers he's created. For years, Tiger's talent dominated the first three rounds and his confidence was a blockade against any other golfer's ability to catch him on a Sunday. Those days are gone.
He's a man who has never come back when trailing on Sunday. In 14 majors that ended with Tiger holding a trophy, none of them started that day with Tiger trailing. If he couldn't come back when he was at the height of his game, it's too far a leap to think he can do it for the first time now.
Five years is long enough to say Tiger Woods is one of the better golfers in the game right now who will never live up to the old Tiger Woods. There's a lot of good golfers in the PGA and the current Tiger sits with them. It's the old Tiger that is the legend.
The SEC is implementing a "strike zone" for its players and I love it. According to the rule which will be implemented this season in the SEC, players can only contact a QB above the knee and below the neck when in a "passing posture, regardless of if he's in the pocket or out of the pocket."
I like the way this rule reads and think it will become a great way to teach defenders and train their competitive cognition. It's so simple to understand. Coaches can teach it and a "strike zone" is a great way the train the player to be aggressive and smart at the same time. Strike zone says, here's where you can hit the Q. Now go get him!
But there are some grey caveats.
The defender must be a) unabated to the QB, and b) the QB or offensive player throwing the ball must be in a passing posture.
Well, define unabated. The SEC says unabated means the defender is under his own power and not blocked into the Q. That sounds good in theory but sometimes it becomes very hard to ascertain when officials see it live.
Also, define passing posture? How does that posture look if the QB acts like he's running the ball and throws it late? Or pulls the ball down in the pocket moves around the pocket and then the arm suddenly comes up and you contact below the knee?
Those scenarios represent big, fat, grey areas.
No rule changes that restrict the way a football player can contact another are ever embraced immediately and that truth resonates with me. But the game is changing and instead of throwing up my hands and walking away from the best game the world has ever known, I'd rather accept the reality and re-think the way the game is taught and learned.
And that's why I like this teaching tactic from the SEC. It seems small and insignificant but frames up the new reality in football: be physical but smart.
The front of the National League starting lineup had MVP Andrew McCutchen, rock star Yasiel Puig, all-world shortstop Troy Tulowitzki, America's first baseman Paul Goldschmidt, and the Hulk, Giancarlo Stanton to lead off the game.
In the top of the 8th, with the NL down by two, its vicious lineup was Starlin Castro (batting 69 points below Tulowitzki), Freddie Freeman (batting 13 points less than Goldschmidt), Anthony Rizzo (20 points behind Stanton), Todd Frazier (who is two points above Ramirez so we're moving in the right direction) and then the great Daniel Murphy (the only token Met). Two on, two out and the National League pins its hopes for winning home field advantage in the World Series on the only player to come from a one-bid franchise who is five games under .500 and seven games out in the NL East.
With all due respect to the Murphy family, I thought it mattered?
I'm one of the few traditionalists who does not have a problem with home field advantage being the treasure of an All-Star Game victory. I don't have a problem with fans voting for their favorites and managers trying to get everyone into the game. I hate both happening at the same time.
If it matters, Goldschmidt is the best first baseman on the roster, so he should play nine innings. If you're pulling a double-switch (which managers don't need to do in an American League park), it's understandable to pull a great player for a really good player. However, playing participation baseball is not competition at its best.
The LeBron James domino fell Friday morning. Chris Bosh, Luol Deng and Carmelo Anthony have signed. Various sign-and-trades have been completed. Restricted free agents have signed offers and moved to different teams.
Eric Bledsoe waits.
He doesn't wait for a team to want him. Almost every team in the NBA wants him. He waits for someone to reach his price. No one is interested in paying it.
Either Eric Bledsoe has completely over-valued his production, under-estimated his "injury-deduction" or knows the moment of desperation has not yet arrived. The only way Bledsoe gets his big pay day is if another team wants to show their fans they're trying. The Suns not only have the right to match any offer, no other team can outbid Phoenix. Another franchise knows the Suns will match so the only reason another team signs is to get attention. Bledsoe will be playing 2014-15 for the Suns no matter what.
The only question is what the terms will be.
He's either a Sun because Phoenix matches an offer, Bledsoe signs long-term with the Suns or he accepts his qualifying offer. Even if Bledsoe's agent tries to say signing elsewhere was a way to increase money for his client, it still shows Bledsoe wanted out of Phoenix. If Bledsoe signs an extension, all is wonderful and it's time to talk about Goran Dragic's extension.
From an ego standpoint, accepting the qualifying offer is the only way this thing comes to a conclusion. Bledsoe can't be happy no other team is calling, so that proves he's not worth the big money extension he wants. If he signs long-term to stay in Phoenix, he's signing on the Suns' terms with no leverage. Clearly, other teams aren't willing to commit major dollars to a player with health concerns. Other franchises also have to clear the cap space to sign Bledsoe for the three days he's on their roster before the Suns match anyway.
If Bledsoe believes in his heart he deserves more, the only way is to prove it by taking less now and hit the ground next summer as an unrestricted free agent. Look for Bledsoe to accept the qualifying offer and gamble on himself. The Suns would have a tough situation on their hands with Dragic and Bledsoe entering unrestricted free agency in the same summer.
The best guess has Bledsoe and Dragic starting for this year's Phoenix Suns. The best guess is for Isaiah Thomas and Dragic starting for next year's Suns.
The Cleveland Cavaliers would have never won a championship with LeBron James.
The Cleveland Cavaliers will win a championship with LeBron James.
Name an athlete who has done what he has done. No athlete in American history has dealt with more hype from an early age. There was talk that he might leave school early for the NBA. HIGH SCHOOL!
A number one overall pick to his hometown team. Very few experience pressure like that. Although he struggled at times, he has learned from every mistake and become a better person. Very few can say that about themselves.
The list of failed athletes due to overrated talent, burned out, drugged up, self-centered is frighteningly longer than the LeBron list. He shouldn't have run off the court avoiding the Celtics. He shouldn't have burned the Cavs with a phone call from "his people" five minutes before his announcement on "The Decision." He shouldn't have tried to revive Jim Gray's career.
Other than Jim Gray, he's admitted every time he's wrong and comes out a better person. We've been able to sit back and watch a 17-year-old boy--under tremendous pressure to make mistakes that hurt his PR but not expose some tragic character flaw-- grow into the definition of a man.
It's not because he's going back to Cleveland that he deserves so much praise. It's his reasons. Remove any feelings you had about LeBron James before reading, and focus on two things: how he feels about leaving and why he said he's coming home.
When you're done reading, remember this...he's 29 years old.
What man can read that and not learn how to be a better man?