HERE COME THE DOG DAYS
For sports fans, this begins the dry season. The NBA playoffs are over, football is still two months away and once the College World Series ends on Tuesday we're left with nothing but the Euro soccer championships, a couple of major golf tournaments, a cycling race no one cares about anymore, Wimbledon and more baseball and NASCAR than most people can bear.....and of course the London Olympics beginning on July 27! That should give us some excitement to get us closer to football season!
Lebron, Lebron, Lebron: There has been so much said and written about Lebron James, the way he left the Cavaliers and the so-called arrogance of the Big Three in Miami. I guess I have a somewhat different opinion. Dan Gilbert, the owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers, had seven years to surround Lebron James with another quality player or two. He did nothing. He was naive or arrogant enough to think that a world class athlete, arguably the best in his sport, would stay with his organization out of some kind of team or civic loyalty. Really? In 2010? After seven years in the league with time running out? Sure, Lebron made a spectacle out of the exercise of leaving for South Florida. But how many 25 year olds do you know that do everything absolutely right? He fulfilled his contract, he told the Cavaliers what it would take to keep him and when they didn't come through, he left to fulfill the dream every team sport athlete has from the time they step onto the field, court or ice: Win a championship. So good for Lebron, good for DWade, good for Bosh. They won when almost every expert and commentator was calling the Oklahoma City Thunder the second coming of the 1990's Chicago Bulls. They won despite the criticism of fans. They won despite Bosh missing 10 games due to injury in the playoffs. They won despite falling behind to Indiana, Boston and OKC. They won despite the incredible self imposed pressure to win. And they won because it is a team game, and the Miami Heat played as a team to win their second NBA Championship.
Who cares?: There was a time not too long ago when the Tour de France was front page sports news. Lance Armstrong was winning 7 consecutive races. The Europeans were furious that the Americans had become dominant in a sport they considered their own. Sure, Greg Lemonde won couple of times two decades ago. But the Europeans countered that with a scandalous display of PED's and blood doping that turned the tide back in their favor for a while. Whether Armstrong participated in those activities or not, I find it preposterous and somewhat hypocritical that after so many years of no evidence against Lance, the battle continues to be waged against the 7-time champion. We all know it was a mess and I doubt many serious sports fans, despite Armstrong's repeated pleas of ignorance, would be shocked if he was found to have been involved in some way. My advice to the cycling community is to shut up and clean up the sport now, not worry about the past.
Wimbledon: What ever happened to tennis? Do Americans even play professional tennis? If so, I can't seem to find them anywhere. Oh sure, the Williams sisters are still around, designing clothes between sets. And Roddick is still around, getting to the quarters and then getting pummeled by the Nadal's, the Federer's, the Murray's and the Djokovic's. Oh, and there's this big guy Isner who seems destined to play in matches that last longer than it takes Kevin Na to hit a golf shot. I think I'm going to hire Roger Goodell to launch and investigation. At least that way it won't take very long and we'll have a decision based on a bunch of evidence we'll never see but will be told to take his word on it. At least that way we'll have someone to blame and punish.
College Football Playoff: It doesn't happen very often, but it appears someone may have been listening to me. For quite some time I've been advocating a four-team college playoff that incorporates the current bowl structure and produces a champion from a matchup that essentially replaces the BCS championship game. The advantages are that at least every other year it makes two of the four former BCS bowl games relevant, it doesn't require any additional time out of the classroom (like this matters but for some reason the university presidents have convinced themselves, and only themselves, that it does) and it will allow the regular season games to stay relevant. My only complaint is that we'll have to wait to two more years to see it.
Tiger Tease: Tiger Woods teased us again last week at the 112th US Open at the Olympic Club in San Francisco. Is he back? Not quite. Is there improvement? Absolutely. Will he win another major or two? Probably. Can he win five more to pass Jack? Doubtful. I think the most surprising thing about last week was not his collapse on the weekend, but that he was even on top after two rounds at a golf course that demands such accuracy off the tee. I really didn't think Tiger would be a factor last week. Not because he isn't back, but because the golf course doesn't suit his game, even when he was on top. I'm not sure if he would have completed the The Tiger Slam in 2000 -2001 if the 200 US Open had been at Olympic instead of Pebble Beach, although his 15 shot victory there was perhaps the highlight of his career.