"Roughing the Passer - A PK Frazier Novel"

My new book, "Offsetting Penalties - A PK Frazier Novel" is the follow-up to "Illegal Procedure" and "Roughing the Passer" and is now available in print and in e-formats at amazon.com, smashwords.com and iBooks. Follow me on twitter @kevinkrest.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

FREE AGENCY RENDERS DRAFT ORDER OBSOLETE

Way back when, like twenty years ago, about the only way for the NFL and NBA to achieve parity was to award the top draft pick to the team with the worst record. That was largely because the primary ways to acquire players were either by trading for or drafting them. Now, free agency is clearly a major factor in building a team, and in some cases, particularly in the NBA, quickly at that. Boston got Garnett and Allen to complement Paul Pierce and poof!...A championship. Miami surrounded Dwayne Wade with Lebron James and Chris Bosh and boom!...four Finals and two championships in four years. Lebron goes back to Cleveland to play with Kyrie Irving, they throw in Kevin Love and bang!...who knows? Peyton Manning goes to Denver, they make the Super Bowl. Carson Palmer finds his way to Arizona and the Cardinals contend. Randy Moss gives Tom Brady an outside threat and the Patriots were undefeated as they prepared to play the Super Bowl.

The NBA recognized the issue many years ago, adopting a lottery style draft order, complete with ping pong balls. The NFL has not seen the need to change, but I think the time has probably come to reward winning and penalize losing. Does anyone think the San Antonio Spurs didn't tank in 1997 in order to get Tim Duncan? Or how about the Colts deciding to forego the season that Peyton Manning sat out so they would be in position to draft Peyton the 2nd, Andrew Luck? Mike Greenberg on ESPN Radio's Mike and Mike in the Morning floated the idea that the first team not to make the playoffs should get the top draft pick in the NBA. I think it's a great idea whose time has come, and not just in the NBA. There are a number of organizations that are absolute train wrecks and they are getting a crack at top talent, yet they don't have a clue about how to utilize it. I don't care how many lottery picks the Philadelphia 76er's get. There is no way they can put a contender on the floor as long as there is the prospect of getting that one high draft pick to put them over the top. Can you imagine the excitement this year if Philadelphia, the top non-playoff team, had the number one pick? Do you think there is any way that current Eagles'  and former Oregon Duck head coach wouldn't be selecting Marcus Mariotta with the top choice in the draft?

The fans, who by the way are paying increasingly higher ticket prices, and the networks, who are paying increasingly higher rights fees, deserve to see a product that produces watchable action on a nightly or weekly basis. Forget concussions and domestic abuse for just a moment, because the biggest threat to the brands of the NFL and NBA is a lack of competitive balance. Who cares if Lebron James is great if a third of his team's wins come against glorified AAU squads? Really? Is that what Adam Silver wants? Why do you think most sports fans don't pay attention to the NBA until the playoffs start? Because that's when we know we'll see two teams that have talent and are playing to win. The NFL has largely built its popularity on the "any given Sunday" theory that no team can take any games for granted. That is in jeopardy of going away if teams are incented to lose instead of win. I can't remember ever seeing the number of double digit point spreads that I saw this past season in the NFL. It was ridiculous. Was the draft order totally to blame? Of course not. But it's certainly something that's worthy of discussion.

Don't forget to check out my new book, "Roughing the Passer - A PK Frazier Novel" and my first, "Illegal Procedure - A PK Frazier Novel", available in print and e-formats at Amazon.com, iBooks and Smashwords.


WEDNESDAY MUSINGS: MARSHAWN'S SLOGAN, LA STADIUM NEWS, KENTUCKY - ARKANSAS

Marshawn Lynch: I guess I better quote Seattle running back Marshawn Lynch before it costs me some royalty fees. "I'm just here so I won't get fined" may soon be trademarked by Lynch. Since the Super Bowl is now ancient history, I'll remind you that the sentence is what Lynch repeatedly stated during media day prior to the Seahawks' match-up with New England. Really? The guy has turned  tweaking the noses of the NFL and it's agreement with the players' union into a merchandising gold-mine. I don't fault the guy for attempting to cash in on his NFL success, but I find it pure hypocrisy that he would wear a hat sporting his own product line logo while maintaining that the NFL was some arm-twisting, exploitative body with commissioner Roger Goodell as its chief villain. I think after the latest revelation of how Lynch has profited from those appearances, it will be a bit more difficult for him to make anyone believe that he was being forced or exploited by the NFL and the Seahawks. I'd like to see Marshawn Lynch make it out there on his own with no NFL television package and without the league popularity that he had very little hand in generating. Prior to Lynch's blatant money grab, I was leaning toward his position of not having to sit for interviews if it was an uncomfortable situation for him. But that ship has sailed and any support I might have had for him has clearly dissipated, not for his great on the field performance, but specifically relative to this issue.

Raiders and Chargers To L.A.? Could it be that the NFL franchises in Oakland and San Diego will swing a deal to share a stadium in the Greater Los Angeles area? Both California teams have long been seeking better places to play and L.A. has been without an NFL team since the Rams left for St. Louis. Another deal seems to be much farther along that will bring the St. Louis Rams back to Los Angeles, one that was approved this week by the Inglewood city council. It would have an 80,000 seat stadium as part of a larger, $2 Billion project on the site of Hollywood Park and the old L.A. Forum. The beauty of this construction beast is that it doesn't involve taxpayer funding, something that's very attractive to me. Is it possible to go from no teams in the country's second largest market to having three by the 2018 season? I seriously doubt it, but the Rams appear to be the most likely to make the move. It would greatly surprise me if the St. Louis area can come up with a better deal than Inglewood, but the ball is definitely in their court in an effort to avoid losing their second NFL franchise to another city.

Kentucky Still Unbeaten: The top ranked Kentucky Wildcats (27 - 0) head to Mississippi State (12 - 15) in an effort to remain unbeaten and to get within a conference win of clinching the regular season SEC crown. But if they get by the Bulldogs, which they should, a very talented and athletic Arkansas team will come into Rupp Arena on Saturday with their sites squarely set on spoiling the Wildcats' perfect season. Although the Razorbacks allowed Texas A&M to make last night's contest in Fayetteville close at the end, there were times that the home team looked absolutely dominant in every phase of the game. Do the Hogs have enough to pull the upset? Definitely. Is it probable? No. The outcome could very well hinge on how well Arkansas can defend on the perimeter and make Kentucky work for open shots. At times this season, teams have been able to get a lot of clear looks at three pointers, most notably Ole Miss when they routed the Hogs 101 - 86, a game that prompted Arkansas coach Mike Anderson to revamp his defensive scheme. If Kentucky wins to go 29 - 0, the only game that would probably challenge them prior to the NCAA tournament would be a rematch with Arkansas in the SEC tournament. A 34 - 0 Wildcat team entering March madness would certainly ratchet up interest in an event that really needs no further hype.

Don't forget to check out my new book, "Roughing the Passer - A PK Frazier Novel" and my first, "Illegal Procedure - A PK Frazier Novel", available in print and e-formats at Amazon.com, iBooks and Smashwords.


Sunday, February 22, 2015

IT'S ALL ABOUT PERSPECTIVE

A story that's earth shattering on Friday is forgotten by Monday. The next great player in a sport is a has-been months later. The scandal of today is the redemption of tomorrow. Millions of dollars here, billions of dollars there. Sexual assault, performance enhancing drugs, substance abuse, social networking, exploitation, etc., etc., etc. What's more important, on the field performance or off the field behavior? And how much should off the field issues influence the legacy of a great player or performer? I think it's a lot about perspective: getting it and maintaining it.

Pete Rose: There has been endless debate about Pete Rose's Hall of Fame worthiness. According to Wikipedia, Rose, "a switch hitter, is the all-time Major League leader in hits (4,256), games played (3,562), at-bats (14,053), singles (3,215), and outs (10,328). He won three World Series rings, three batting titles, one Most Valuable Player Award, two Gold Gloves, the Rookie of the Year Award, and also made 17 All-Star appearances at an unequaled five different positions (2B, LF, RF, 3B, & 1B)." In 1989, he admitted to gambling on baseball when he was a player and manager for the Cincinnati Reds. Two years later, he was permanently banned from baseball and induction into the Hall of Fame. Really? I've been a proponent of Rose's Hall of Fame inclusion based on his play on the field. Here's a guy who went all out, all of the time, including a famous home plate play where he knocked over catcher Ray Fosse in the 1970 All Star Game. I believe the solution is simple: allow him to be voted into the Hall of Fame as a player, but continue the lifetime ban from involvement in baseball, including Hall of Fame activities. How legitimate is the Hall of Fame if one of the greatest hitters and players isn't there? Perspective.

Tiger Woods: Okay, so the greatest golfer I've ever seen cheated on his wife. I'm old enough to have seen Sam Snead, Arnold Palmer, Ben Hogan, Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player, Tom Watson, Greg Norman, Nick Faldo, Phil Mickelson and Rory McIlroy play competitively, not just on television, but in person. It's really not even close. For those Jack Nicklaus fans holding on to one stat that confirms his greatness, his eighteen major titles are what they believe to be the trump card. I can't argue with the number. Of course, at the time Jack was accumulating those major victories, he was just about the only one counting. But how about these? Tiger Woods won six consecutive United States Golf Association titles, the USGA Junior Amateur and U.S. Amateur, all of them in match play, which is the golfing equivalent to Russian roulette. He is an eleven time PGA Tour player of the year (Nicklaus 5), ten time money winner (8), nine time Vardon Trophy winner awarded for the lowest stroke average (8), fourteen time major winner (18) and has seventy-nine PGA tour victories (73). In addition, Woods played in an era of global golf, with deeper fields and far more interest in the game, for which Tiger  himself is mostly responsible. I won't argue that Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer are the two greatest individuals and golfers, but come on now. For anyone to argue that Tiger's accomplishments on the course should be diminished because of his personal indiscretions hasn't really been paying attention. Perspective.

LeBron James: Here is a guy who went to his home team out of high school, played through not one, but two contracts while his owner failed to surround him with any real NBA talent. Despite that, he still managed to carry the Cavaliers to a conference championship. James has probably been treated as unfairly as any athlete I can think of. He has no off the court issues. His play on the court is fantastic. Taking less money than he was entitled to, he went to Miami and was instrumental in taking the Heat to four consecutive NBA Finals appearances and winning two titles. After his run in Miami, he went back to Cleveland in a great gesture of loyalty to his home state. Exactly what is the issue with this guy? Exactly why can anyone who is watching train wrecks on and off the court getting paid millions in a number of sports have a problem with this guy?

Sometimes it's just time to take a deep breath and a step back. Perspective. Let's try harder to get it and keep it.

Don't forget to check out my new book, "Roughing the Passer - A PK Frazier Novel" and my first, "Illegal Procedure - A PK Frazier Novel", available in print and e-formats at Amazon.com, iBooks and Smashwords.


Monday, February 16, 2015

LUCK: HOW BIG A ROLE DOES IT PLAY IN SPORTS?

I was watching the Arkansas Razorbacks - Ole Miss basketball game on television Saturday night. It was played in Oxford, Mississippi and the home-standing Rebels had come back to take the lead and seemingly grab a victory in the final few minutes. But with a 125 seconds left. Arkansas was down by three and one of their more unreliable free throw shooters was at the line for two shots. In most situations, you would think it was likely for Alandise Harris to make one out of two, allowing Ole Miss to keep a two point margin. Instead, he makes them both to cut the lead to one. Still not a bad situation for the home team. However, unlike the shooting clinic Ole Miss put on in a victory over Arkansas in Fayetteville earlier in the season, the Rebels failed to connect, giving the Hogs a chance to take the lead. Arkansas has one of the twenty finalists for the John Wooden award in Bobby Portis and a human highlight reel in Micheal Qualls. Guess who scored what turned out to be the winning bucket? It was reserve guard Manuale Watkins, sinking a five footer with 6.4 seconds left. Still, the game was clearly winnable for Ole Miss, but instead of taking a timeout, coach Andy Kennedy let the team play on and ultimately couldn't sink a basket, losing by a point.

It got me to thinking about just how close some of these contests are, and it's not just a basketball game now and then. Luck, which a number of fans would maintain is not real, seems to have an effect on sports a lot. First, of course, I should define what luck is, or perhaps what it isn't. Luck isn't Phil Mickelson yanking a tee shot into the rough, then making another bad decision to lose a U.S. Open. But Luck is being the guy who is the beneficiary of such a high-profile meltdown by a prominent opponent. I would maintain that over a period of time, however, we could have expected Phil Mickelson, like Nancy Lopez and Sam Snead before him, to have prevailed in at least one U.S. Open. But they never did, despite an overwhelming number of victories in other tournaments. The odds would dictate that  it would have happened, at least for one of them. That's bad luck.

And what about the Minnesota Vikings and Buffalo Bills in the NFL? Both teams lost four Super Bowls and in a fairly short number of seasons, at that. The Vikings lost four times in eight years and the Bills were beaten in consecutive seasons. Of course, one could maintain that Minnesota went up against four of the premier franchises, thus those defeats were likely. However, I can also maintain that those teams were deemed great after they defeated the Vikings. Had Minnesota won just one of those games, the legacy of Bud Grant, Fran Tarkenton and company would surely have been viewed differently, and perhaps the Steelers and Dolphins wouldn't be viewed in the same light. The same can also be said for the Bills. An argument could be made that the Bills were fortunate to have even been in at least two of those games. But they definitely had the better team in 1991 when Scott Norwood's potential game-winning field goal against the Giants bounced off an upright for a miss instead of going through for three points. Was the miss unlucky? Probably not, since the Bills were a couple of yards outside Norwood's range. But the result surely was, considering that ball could have bounced either way.

And the list can go on. How about Ivan Lendl failing to win at Wimbledon, Bjorn Borg shut out in the U.S. Open? Arnold Palmer and Tom Watson never winning the PGA Championship? The Detroit Lions not even getting close to a Super Bowl, much less winning one? Of course the greatest run of bad luck has to go to the Chicago Cubs, 107 years removed from their last World Series crown and 70 years since their last appearance in the event. Really? How is that even possible? At least during their run of futility, the Red Sox had some flashes of brilliance and specific instances of bad luck. But the Cubs have just pretty much stank for the duration of their drought, with the exception of the 1969 team that blew a 9 1/2 game lead over the Mets in the last six weeks. Not only did they blow the margin, they ended up eight games behind New York, a monumental collapse.

I could surely go on, perhaps even write a book on the subject, but you get my point. Luck plays a role in sports, and it makes it more entertaining for all of us, even if you're a Cubs fan.

Don't forget to check out my new book, "Roughing the Passer - A PK Frazier Novel" and my first, "Illegal Procedure - A PK Frazier Novel", available in print and e-formats at Amazon.com, iBooks and Smashwords.





Wednesday, February 11, 2015

WEDNESDAY MUSINGS: TARKANIAN, LITTLE LEAGUE AND WOODEN AWARD FINALISTS

Jerry Tarkanian: For the second time in less than a week, the college basketball world is mourning the loss of one their great coaches. Jerry Tarkanian, best known for his 1990 national championship UNLV Running Rebels team, has died at the age of 84. Unlike former UNC coach Dean Smith, Tarkanian's career was fraught with controversy. However, he seemed like the perfect coach to lead a team that played in Las Vegas. Although he was often accused of impropriety, especially with alleged organized crime figures, there was never anything concrete enough to warrant significant action against Tarkanian. What was lost in a lot of the controversy was the way he was able to recruit, coach and win. His teams were offensive machines, scoring a lot of points and wearing down opponents. After winning the national championship by humiliating Duke in the final, they returned to the final four the following season undefeated and apparently impossible to beat. But in one of the biggest upsets in my memory, the Blue Devils knocked off the Running Rebels and went on to win the title over Kansas. Tarkanian coached for thirty years at the Division I level, won 729 games and appeared in four final fours.

Little League Scandal: It's disappointing that a team which created so much positive energy by winning the U.S. championship at the Little League World Series has vacated their title due to rules violations concerning ineligible players. It's been confirmed that the team used players that did not live within their jurisdiction. I find it hard to believe that this was an honest mistake, although I guess that possibility still exists. Unfortunately, it just serves to taint another sport, this one involving kids. I've maintained for quite some time that just because we can, it doesn't mean we should turn pre-adolescents into media stars and give the adults that run the leagues and teams an inflated reason to cheat. I'm obviously a big sports follower, but mainly because I like the action. At the end of the day, if my team wins, it's great; if they lose, not so great, but it's not worth cheating to alter that result. And these are kids we're talking about here. Mike Greenberg on ESPN's Mike and Mike show commented that he hoped the kids weren't involved or knowledgeable of the infraction. That's nice to hope for, but I find it a little difficult to believe. What's the message to those kids? One of them is surely that it's okay to do anything, even cheat and lie, to win. But a more subtle message is that the kids really don't matter at all. Because if they did, there's a whole lot more to learn about life when you give it your best shot and don't win than there is by cheating and winning.

Arkansas Razorback on Wooden List: Although I live in Northwest Arkansas and have some ties to the University of Arkansas, I rarely blog about the sports programs. But the top 20 in the Wooden Award list that picks most deserving player in college basketball have been announced, and the Hogs' sophomore center Bobby Portis was included. I don't know the young man, my only familiarity coming from what I see on television or those rare time when I'm in the arena during a game. He plays with intensity and passion, clearly with the team's performance utmost in his mind. That's not to say that his individual numbers aren't superb and along with Michael Qualls is part of one of the most potent duo's in college basketball. I doubt he'll win, but in this case just being a part of a very talented group of players is a great accomplishment.

Don't forget to check out my new book, "Roughing the Passer - A PK Frazier Novel" and my first, "Illegal Procedure - A PK Frazier Novel", available in print and e-formats at Amazon.com, iBooks and Smashwords.

Monday, February 9, 2015

WHY SPORTS?

I've been an avid sports fan for as long as I can remember. I guess at first, when I was perhaps four or five years old, it was just the action that drew me in. But when I happened to come upon alpine skiing on the Universal Sports Network last night, my wife threw up her hands and asked what it was that made me interested in yet another sport? I explained that way back in the sixties (okay, she's quite a bit younger than me), although there was less sports programming, we actually were exposed to more sports. ABC's Wide World of Sports showed a variety of different athletic endeavors, one of which was skiing. Now, we tend to watch skiing only during the Winter Olympic Games. I can still remember such legends as Jean-Claude Killy, racing down mountains in distant countries when they were still very far away.

But her question got me thinking beyond just my fascination with what is considered a lesser sport in the United States. It also prompted me to ponder my own attraction to sports in general, whether it be the popular ones such as football and basketball, or the more peculiar offerings of curling or cricket. As I was coming home from work today, I realized that for me, it was because sports represents a microcosm of culture and the world in general. Many of the issues, whether domestically or internationally, that our societies deal with, are many times played out during games or over the course of off the field debates.

The Role of Government: As we grapple with the pros and cons of big government and programs such as the Affordable Health Care Act (more commonly referred to as Obama Care), sports has actually been affected by this issue for decades. The most visible is that of public funding for football stadiums. Is it really the role of municipalities to fund the construction and maintenance of stadiums where billionaires' can pay athletes millions of dollars to play, when almost every other business in the country has to pay for their own places of business? If one takes the emotion out of this argument, there is almost no way to justify the public expenditure in land and infrastructure for a building that will host at most twelve games a year. In addition, those high salaries are actually put on the shoulders of the tax paying public. Ludicrous, yet we still see it happening.

Societal Woes: Is it okay for a man to beat up his girlfriend and leave her lying in a motionless heap in a casino hotel elevator? Probably not, unless the man happens to be a top running back in the NFL. If your next door neighbor beat up his wife and left her on the porch of their residence, do you think he'd get a pass? Well, guess what? Probably so. And it took the Ray Rice incident, which I and many in this country still find reprehensible that the brutal coward is not behind bars, to shine the light more brightly on domestic violence.

Responsibility: So Seattle Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch doesn't feel like appearing before the press after football games. I get that, I really do. Except for one big fact: Lynch signed a contract for a lot of money to play football for the Seahawks, a franchise in the National Football League. As a player in the NFL, Lynch is a member of the National Football League Players Association, who on his behalf collectively bargained for certain contractual benefits provided by the teams and the NFL in exchange for him signing to play. It should be the end of the story, but it's not. For some reason, Lynch has taken it upon himself to make a mockery of the aforementioned obligations, seemingly forgetting about the benefits afforded himself and some 1600 or so fellow players. What kind of message is he sending to future generations, many of which already have a problem with authority? The wrong one, that's what. But this isn't just a problem in sports, so is Lynch just an example of a broader problem, or is he, by his fame and notoriety, contributing to the problem?

The Haves and Have Nots: Economically, we are seeing a widening in the gap between the wealthiest and the middle class. Sports mirrors this trend. The best players, regardless of the sport, command salaries in the $20 million range and higher. The bottom of the scale is $120,000 to maybe $500,000, depending on the sport. And those are just the players. The Los Angeles Clippers changed hands for around $2 billion, yes with a B, when Donald Sterling was forced by the NBA to sell the team (that's an entirely different issue). Is this healthy? Does it make sense for a CEO of a Fortune 500 company to make $10 or $15 million when the company loses money? All good questions.

Free Speech: Is there really such a thing anymore? I think not. Chris Paul was highly criticized this week for voicing his opinion about a rookie referee. The only problem was that he referred to the ref as "her", which in this case was totally accurate, given that she's a female. He in no way alluded to her gender, beyond saying "this might no be for her". What was he supposed to say, "this might not be for 'him''? He was ultimately fined $25,000, which for you or me is like a traffic ticket. I maintain if it had been a male referee, no fine would have been forthcoming, because we would never have been made aware of the comment in the first place.

Don't forget to check out my new book, "Roughing the Passer - A PK Frazier Novel" and my first, "Illegal Procedure - A PK Frazier Novel", available in print and e-formats at Amazon.com, iBooks and Smashwords.


Friday, February 6, 2015

NBA GAMBLING CONVERSATION - FORMER COMMISSIONER STERN ADVISING CASINO EFFORT

In an Associated Press story, it was reported that retired NBA commissioner David Stern is advising a group looking to locate a casino resort in New Bedford, Massachusetts. In the past month, current NBA commissioner Adam Sterling has been talking about changes in and regulation of the sports gambling industry. I find it fascinating that the only Big Four American sport that has really been hit by a gambling scandal in recent years is at the forefront of the controversial issue. It would seem to me that David Stern's involvement in a casino licensing effort might raise some eyebrows over what his involvement may have been while he was still with the NBA. My impression of Stern was always pretty positive and I would think there would have been a lot of opportunities for him following his retirement that had nothing to do with gambling.

All sports leaders tend to agree that the biggest threat to popularity is a loss of credibility or trust in the outcomes of their games or matches. Even the hint of impropriety is taken very seriously. We need to look no farther than Pete Rose's lifetime ban from baseball, including his exclusion from the Hall of Fame, to see how far a sport will go to distance itself from gambling. On the other hand, there is a lot of hypocrisy demonstrated by sports league's that appear to support the interests of the gaming industry. The best example is the injury report mandated by the NFL. I've always questioned the practice, more than once in posts on this very blog, and the rationale for it beyond informing gamblers of the health status of teams they want to bet on.

Don't get me wrong, I am not against gambling. I regularly buy lottery tickets, participate in betting pools, bet on games and occasionally visit casinos. But I'm not naive enough to think that in some instances, it's possible for gambling money to be used to influence the outcome of a game or match. Not so much for the players, as they're paid pretty handsomely for their efforts. But the same can't necessarily be said about the officials or other lesser public participants. The NBA's scandal involved referee Tim Donaghy using his ability to make calls to influence the point spreads of games. Are we to believe that he's the only one that ever did that in any sport?

So this brings me back to the NBA's current and past commissioner, by their comments and actions,  appearing to be in support of gambling. I'm in no way accusing them of anything, but I do find it curious. Certainly, Adam Silver's motives are to bring the practice out into the open, hoping to minimize the involvement of illegal operations. By the same token, David Stern is retired and presumably has no further direct involvement in league activities. I would certainly be interested in hearing comments from readers on whether these recent events make you at least pause and wonder what's really going on.

Don't forget to check out my new book, "Roughing the Passer - A PK Frazier Novel" and my first, "Illegal Procedure - A PK Frazier Novel", available in print and e-formats at Amazon.com, iBooks and Smashwords.


Thursday, February 5, 2015

BACK TO THE PGA TOUR: IT'S STILL ALL ABOUT TIGER AND PHIL

With football over, baseball not yet started and basketball in mid-season, it's time to catch up with the golf action on the PGA Tour. Since the beginning of the year, Patrick Reed, Jimmy Walker, Bill Hass and Brooks Koepka have posted victories. All of the names on that list are accomplished American golfers, with Reed and Walker coming off appearances on the U.S. Ryder Cup team. Haas is a former FedEx Cup winner and Koepka has finished in the top ten in all three of his 2015 tournaments. Along with players like Bubba Watson, Ricky Fowler and Jordan Speith, they are all in a position to take over leadership of the pro game among Americans.

Aging American Stars: Despite the success of the young guns, most golf fans and viewers tend to be attracted to the performances, or lack thereof, by Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson.Woods is attempting, at age 39, to resurrect both his swing and quest to match or surpass Jack Nicklaus' record eighteen major championships. If last week's finish at the bottom of the standings in Phoenix is any indication, he has a long way to go. As for Phil, five years older than Tiger, he's only a year and a half removed from his last major win, the 2013 Open Championship. But is it realistic to expect him to excel in his mid-forties against a young crop of American and international talent, which also includes Rory McIlroy, who at 25 is already a four-time major champion? Probably not.

Will There Be A New Tiger?: For several generations, we got a new golf star about ten years apart. Snead begat Hogan, who led us to Arnie, then came Jack, next we had Tom Watson. We really didn't have a standout in the mid-eighties and into the nineties in terms of major champions. Greg Norman was popular, but flamed out on Sundays. Nick Faldo was a tremendous finisher, but didn't really attract an audience. Davis Love III and Fred Couples emerged, but ended up with two majors between them. Phil hardly had a chance to get going before Tiger erupted onto the scene. Since then, we've been waiting, at least from a media perspective, for that next guy. So far, not much luck, thus the continued fascination and focus on Tiger and Phil.

Caddies Sue Over Bibs: A number of PGA Tour caddies have filed a class action lawsuit against the Tour for requiring that they bibs with tournament sponsor logos, limiting the ability of the caddies to display logos for any sponsor relationships that they have personally negotiated. Their primary point is that while the Tour benefits from the bib sponsorship, the caddies don't. That may be true from a direct perspective, but indirectly any revenue the Tour finds it way to purses, which ultimately ends up in players' pockets and should get to the caddies in increased pay. I understand that the caddies want the opportunity to make more revenue and a judge may rule that there's merit to their case. Unfortunately, the men and women carrying the bags aren't exactly at the top of the talent totem pole when it comes to professional golf.

Don't forget to check out my new book, "Roughing the Passer - A PK Frazier Novel" and my first, "Illegal Procedure - A PK Frazier Novel", available in print and e-formats at Amazon.com, iBooks and Smashwords.




Tuesday, February 3, 2015

NBA AND COLLEGE BASKETBALL COMMENTS

Cavs Surge Forward: Don't look now, all of you Lebron haters, but Cleveland is currently on an eleven game winning streak and only three and a half games out of second place in the Eastern Conference. The Miami Heat hold the seventh spot, so a playoff match-up between the two teams isn't out of the realm of possibility. James hasn't even played in every game of the run, with Kyrie Irving playing some great basketball to make up the King's absence. For fans of the Hawks, Raptors, Wizards and Bulls, I think the Cavaliers will only get better as Kevin Love rounds into form.

The Other Cavaliers: Number 12 North Carolina led second ranked Virginia 33 - 32 at the half last night, and the Heels hadn't played a particularly good first half. Unfortunately, they continued their spotty performance, while the visiting Cavaliers overwhelmed them at both ends of the court to bounce back from their only loss of the season Saturday night against Duke. Virginia is tenacious on defense and efficient on offense. Despite the setback to the Blue Devils, they certainly look like a contender for the national championship.

Jayhawks Prevail: Eighth ranked Kansas trounced  number 11 Iowa State last night to stay on top in the Big 12 and send a message to the Cyclones that they better bring something more to the party if they're going to play with the big boys. As god as the Big 12 is this season, it's hard for me to understand how the Jayhawks are barely ranked in the top ten nationally. The RPI has them number one, so when it comes time for NCAA tournament, we'll probably see them as a number one seed if they keep up their current performance level. Of course, the nice thing about basketball is that they'll get to play it out, first in the regular season, then the conference tournament, followed at last by March Madness.

Games to Watch Tonight: Indiana, unranked, travels to number 5 and 19 - 2 Wisconsin, who leads the Big Ten. Kentucky, still undefeated, hosts a dangerous Georgia team in an effort to keep their spotless record. Louisville heads to Miami, where the Hurricanes need a win to stay relevant in the NCAA tournament picture. Number 15 West Virginia heads to number 21 Oklahoma in a Big 12 showdown.

Don't forget to check out my new book, "Roughing the Passer - A PK Frazier Novel" and my first, "Illegal Procedure - A PK Frazier Novel", available in print and e-formats at Amazon.com, iBooks and Smashwords.




Monday, February 2, 2015

SUPER BOWL REACTION

It's hard to remember a better Super Bowl game. It was hard fought and well played, with few penalties and more than its fair share of big plays. But most of the emphasis will undoubtedly be placed on Seattle's decision to throw the ball on second down and goal from inside the two yard line with over twenty seconds left and one timeout remaining. Sure, Seahawk head coach Pete Carroll made a great case for why they called the play, but this was clearly a case of over thinking the moment. It happens to everyone, from the kid who pulls down the ball from three-point range when he's been hitting that shot since he was eight years old, to the manager who decides to pull a dominant pitcher so he can get the reliever in there to go after the lefthander. And admit it, you've probably done it yourself in whatever line of work you're in or whatever situation you've found yourself when a split second choice can really make a difference.

But we're not a coach in the NFL, whose decision was played out in front of 150 million worldwide viewers. Nothing that Carroll said in the post-game interview will convince me and the other 149,999,999 viewers that he didn't totally blow the call. Are you kidding me? Patton's 3rd army couldn't stop Marshawn Lynch from inside the two, and everyone from Sardinia to Berlin knew that tonight. Don't get me wrong here, I'm a big Pete Carroll fan. But it doesn't matter how big you are, sometimes the moment can overwhelm you. But enough about that, which has been the topic of conversation since 9:00 pm last night.

We all have heard about the Belichick - Brady era and the three previous Super Bowl wins and five previous appearances, but what hasn't been mentioned enough is that there were 52 other guys on that team (counting the practice squad) that had never been a member of a Patriots' Super Bowl Championship team. Not Gronk, not Edelman, not Amirola, not Blount, not Revis and definitely not Malcolm Butler, the free agent rookie and hero of the moment. Sure, Brady rode into the history book when Butler jumped the route and preserved the New England victory. But it had been eleven long years between titles for the dynamic duo, punctuated by disappointing losses on freakishly crazy pass completions by the Giants.

So here's a big shout out for all of those other guys, the supporting cast, so to speak. They got their moment in the confetti, their time to watch Katy Perry fly off to the stars and a night of terrific football to remember.

Don't forget to check out my new book, "Roughing the Passer - A PK Frazier Novel" and my first, "Illegal Procedure - A PK Frazier Novel", available in print and e-formats at Amazon.com, iBooks and Smashwords.