"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.

Monday, June 22, 2015

US OPEN RECAP: WHAT WAS GREAT, WHAT WASN'T

The U.S. Open golf tournament concluded last night in dramatic fashion, with Dustin Johnson first setting himself up for an eagle putt to win the tournament, then three-putting to lose it. After four grueling days, and I'm talking about watching, it was apparent some things were great and others fell a bit short.

Great: The Competition: When the back nine leader board includes many of the top players in the world and the tournament goes down to the last putt on the eighteenth hole, it's difficult to want much more. Combine that with the roller coaster finishes of the leaders and you've only added more icing on the cake. Jordan Spieth's birdie, double-bogey, birdie finish and Louis Oosthuizen's six birdies over his last seven holes, combined with Dustin Johnson's birdie on the par three seventeenth, setting up the drama on the final hole, was as exciting a conclusion I can remember since Tiger Woods' playoff victory over Rocco Mediate in 2008. Along the way, Sergio Garcia, Rory McIlroy and Adam Scott made runs to get into contention.

Not so Great: The Golf Course: Burned out and bumpy greens, inconsistent surfaces and blind shots all contributed to disrupt some of the players' ability to sustain birdie runs. While I liked the setup for Sunday, with the final hole playing as a par 5 and a couple of par fours set up to be able to drive the greens, the rest of the package at Chambers Bay left me desiring more traditional, well maintained golf courses. Perhaps they'll be back at the venue in the future and if they are, my desire is that the greens are in far better shape.

Great: The Scenery: Some of the shots of Puget Sound were simply magnificent. I've spent a lot of time in that region and it was nice to see the area so well represented. The views of Mt. Ranier were nothing short of spectacular. As much as I was disappointed in the course, the location piqued my interest to head out there for a few rounds of golf.

Not so Great: The Coverage: Fox, even though they improved every day, still fell far short in their ability to adequately cover such a high profile golf event. They didn't roll out some of their graphics until the weekend, making it difficult for the viewer to get a handle on the layout of individual holes. As is Fox's style, they seemed much more enamored with their own broadcast team than with the action on the golf course. And seemingly because of Greg Norman's relationship with Jason Day, we were treated to a minute and a half (or more) of his shot preparation instead of important shots and putts by the other contenders. It was almost as if Fox was concerned they would miss Day collapsing in a heap in real time. Fox needs to get more in touch with the desires of the golf viewer. It's not NASCAR where in depth coverage of the garage area before the race is of interest to the fans. The difference is, the race isn't going on in the background. While you're interviewing or showing Greg Norman standing around talking with Day and his coach, other players, like a charging Rory McIlroy, are actually playing golf. And finally, there were far too many instances where the camera operators totally lost track of the golf ball. Maybe they'll improve, but not if they only cover one tournament a year. Can you imagine next year, when the spotter says the ball's going toward the bunker at Oakmont? Oops. there are almost 200 sand traps at the famed layout. I can't wait to see a camera scanning ten bunkers, looking for a golf ball on, yes, you guessed it, pristine white sand.

Great: Future of American Golf: Six amateurs made the cut at Chambers Bay, all of them Americans. As Woods, Mickelson, Furyk and others fade into that no man's land before the Champions Tour, it's comforting to know that now two time major champion Jordan Spieth,  Dustin Johnson, Patrick Reed and others can compete at a high level. With so many talented amateurs ready to turn professional, it looks like the pendulum that had swung toward the European, South African and Australian players may be swinging back to the United States. I'm totally for global competition, but for the popularity of the game here, it's important for Americans to have our share of guys at the top of game. We need look no further than men's tennis to see how irrelevant a sport can become in this country when no one from the U.S. is competing.

Not so Great: Players' Criticism of the USGA: Golf is above all else, an honorable game. While I've been critical of a number of decisions the USGA has made regarding this U.S. Open, that's a role as someone that is in the sports commentary business is expected to do. I feel it's awkward and unseemly for players to publicly comment in a negative fashion regarding the course, the USGA, etc. While that may seem hypocritical, it really isn't. The players can have their voices heard privately and with leaders of the organization responsible for the course and the setup. My only input is through social media or my blogs and radio appearances. I also feel that Fox needs to be more sensitive to putting players on the spot for comments immediately after their rounds. Obviously, the network knew that Billy Horschel was very upset by the way he acted on the course. To provide him a publlic forum so soon after a round where he missed some make-able putts due to the bumpy greens was an obvious play to create controversy and sensationalize, in true Fox fashion, the issue. That may work in NASCAR, baseball and even the NFL, but there's no place for it at the US Open. For the record, Horschel has since apologized, but it's hard to put the toothpaste back in the tube.

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.


Saturday, June 20, 2015

WEEKEND MUSINGS: US OPEN COMMENTS AND A-ROD'S LATEST ACCOMPLISHMENTS

Young Guns Take Center Stage: As a depleted Tiger Woods and aging Phil Mickelson exit stage left, twenty-two year old Jordan Spieth and twenty-four year old Patrick Reed will be playing in the final group of today's third round of the U.S. Open. Even though it doesn't look like it, it's the year's second major and Spieth is the only one with a chance to capture the Grand Slam. No one has held every major trophy since Woods won the 2001 Masters to complete the Tiger Slam. Of course, it's only Saturday morning, so it's way too early to assume that Spieth and Reed will be battling it out come sunset on Sunday. But the point is that these two Americans are emblematic of the talent that will be the face of the PGA Tour for the next fifteen or twenty years. Dustin Johnson turns thirty-one on Monday and after a self-imposed hiatus last year, is in the mix along with twenty-eight year old Ben Martin. Unless Tiger Woods has some miraculous revival in his career, it's unlikely he will re-emerge from the horrendous trough he finds himself in. His 80 - 76 start at what I think is an embarrassing Chambers Bay layout, leaves him in search of a swing and any sliver of confidence that can propel him forward. If I was him, perhaps I'd be grateful not to have to play another two days at the Robert Trent Jones layout. By Friday afternoon, the greens looked like something at a miniature golf course, the fairways were baked brown and it was impossible to differentiate between the fringe on the putting surface. Add to that the amateurish coverage by Fox and this is by far the least attractive U.S. Open I can remember. That's significant because I've seen every one since 1964, when Ken Venturi battled the heat and a great Congressional Country Club course to win his only major championship. The only way to salvage this year's event will be for a couple of young guns to come to the back nine on Sunday, battling for the championship. For me, I'm looking forward to being at  Oakmont next year, a course that even the USGA can't diminish.

A-Rod Gets 3000th hit, 2000th RBI: Alex Rodriguez joined Hank Aaron as the only players to get 3,000 hits and drive in 2,000 runs in their career. It's a staggering accomplishment, except that it isn't. A-Rod's career has spanned the PED era, and along with Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, will probably not be voted into the Hall of Fame. Despite great talent that probably would have landed them in Cooperstown without the benefit of chemicals, the trio will forever be on the outside looking in. I'll reiterate my stance on the subject, as I've been consistent and forthright over the years. First of all, I don't feel that the baseball writers should be the group that determines admittance to the Hall of Fame. The PED issue aside, there are actually voters that will not vote for a player on the first ballot, no matter how great their careers. This is an asinine notion and any voter that voices that opinion should be stripped of their voting rights. It's really easy for the self-righteous bunch to deny admittance to the Hall, but only the players really know what transpired during an era when PED use wasn't even against the rules of Major League Baseball. By denying the issue for years, baseball itself was complicit in the practice, and now players like Bonds and Clemens, who were forced to stand by and watch guys like Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire put up huge numbers while juicing, are being unjustly penalized. Gaylord Perry, who admitted to throwing spitballs, is in the Hall of Fame. Really? How different is his brand of cheating from that of the players that used PED's? Different era's have differing circumstances, and players should be judged against others that played along side and against them. Bob Gibson, Sandy Koufax, Don Drysdale and Juan Marichal had the benefit of a higher pitcher's mound. Should their accomplishments be reduced in the minds of voters? And what about the batters that had to face those pitchers? And how do we know that Craig Biggio, Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez and John Smoltz, the HOF class of 2015, weren't taking something at some point in their careers? Because they said they weren't? They didn't look like they did? Their numbers weren't outrageous? Who are we to differentiate one from the other? I think it's tragic that the greatest players of an era will be excluded from the Hall of Fame, especially given the talent and drama they brought to the game.

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, June 14, 2015

USGA BREAKS WITH TRADITION AT THE US OPEN

This week's U.S. Open Golf Championship will be contested at a new golf course, broadcast by a new network and could very well be won by a first time major winner. Some would say that's probably a good thing, but I tend to disagree. While it's not tantamount to August National building a Phoenix Open style stadium environment at the sixteenth hole for the Masters, it seems to nonetheless smack of gimmickry by the venerable USGA. Chamber's Bay, the host course, didn't even exist ten years ago. It makes me wonder, with all of the great, tournament tested courses in this country, that they would feel compelled to have their premier event contested on such an untested and unknown layout. In addition, there is only one tree on the entire course. The tournament will appear more like the British Open. While I have nothing against the Open Championship, what  typically makes the majors golf championships so compelling is the variety of courses and styles the players need to overcome.

The Masters, with it's familiar layout and swift greens, unofficially opens the golf season. We know what to expect, with more often than not the tournament hinging on the final nine holes. Jim Nantz whispers his way through four days of almost religious reverence. Although not officially a major, The Players treats us to another familiar, yet completely different style of course, with railroad ties, water hazards and the famous island green on number 17. Major wannabees like Sergio Garcia, Matt Kuchar and Ricky Fowler tend to prevail. NBC, with its long history of airing the tournament, does its best to maximize the drama and tension created by the 17th. Generally, the U.S. Open is held on an older course, with narrow fairways, thick rough, small greens and fragile nerves the order of the day. Johnny Miller is usually at his acerbic best, criticizing everything from the club selection of the players to the condiments provided at the concession stand. The British gives us links style golf, a starter that goes ten hours between bathroom breaks and a glimpse into the birth of the game. ABC, now ESPN, handles the broadcast chores, giving us Curtis Strange and Paul Azinger as a break from Faldo and Miller. The rotation of sites is under ten courses, with the venerable St. Andrews a staple every several years. It's the most international of the majors, and always has been. In fact, until Arnold Palmer focused on the event in the late fifties and early sixties, few American golfers made the journey to Europe. And finally, the PGA Championship closes the major season. Although the numbers are down, there are still club professionals that have an opportunity to compete. The course selection is a little broader than the U.S. Open and the setups are more forgiving. Davis Love recorded his only major in a PGA, while Tom Watson and Arnold Palmer never got one, depriving them of the career Grand Slam.

So this brings me back to the USGA, which inexplicably has deviated from the long held traditions of the tournament. The most surprising, and maybe compelling aspect, will be Fox Sports' ability to broadcast a golf tournament. To my knowledge, the network has never covered even a putt-putt tourney, much less the biggest tournament in American golf. Are you kidding me? Greg Norman, the lead analyst, has been in the booth during his career, but never has he had to carry the broadcast. Unlike NBC, which owns the Golf Network, there isn't a lot of history or talent in golf. It's certainly disconcerting that the USGA would take such a huge risk. Golf is one of the more challenging sports to produce and direct, with action taking place over a huge eighteen hole layout. What to show live, the sequence of shots, the uncertainty created by someone unexpectedly making a charge all contribute to the reason that the PGA Tour generally has the same networks cover the same tournaments for years at a time. Yet the USGA brings in a total rookie organization, at least as far as golf is concerned, for the U.S. Open. It was a clear money grab for an organization that should be better than that. Golf, at it's core, is about integrity and honor. When one of the two organizations charged with protecting and promoting the game stoops to such depths, presumably just for money, it smacks of hypocrisy, something the game really can't afford at this juncture.

As a player and a fan, I truly hope next week's Open is a tremendous success. Given the risks the USGA has taken and what's at stake, I'm concerned that the gamble might just backfire.

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, June 8, 2015

AMERICAN PHAROAH, LEBRON AND TIGER: A TRIPLE CROWN, A TRIPLE DOUBLE AND TRIPLE BOGEYS



Finally, a Triple Crown Winner: In what was a terrific run by a fantastic horse, favorite American Pharoah finished off an historic Triple Crown run by pulling away for victory in Saturday’s Belmont Stakes. The horse’s owner Ahmed Zayat gave an emotional speech after his horse accomplished something last done by Affirmed in 1978. His trainer, the legendary Bob Baffert, had failed in three prior attempts when one of his horses entered the Belmont with two jewels of the Crown in the books. But on a glorious Saturday afternoon, American Pharoah went immediately to the front of the eight horse field and was never headed, increasing his lead to five and a half lengths as he crossed the finish line, with jockey Victor Espinoza standing in the saddle. Zayat says he’ll continue to race the horse and Espinoza is giving his Belmont winnings to a charity that is involved in the fight against cancer. All in all, a wonderful, feel-good horse racing story.  Is this horse among the greatest ever? He’s probably right in the pack that trails Secretariat. Why do I have Secretariat at the top? Because despite a strong run on Saturday, American Pharoah still would have lost to the great 1973 Triple Crown winner by 15 lengths. End of argument!

LeBron’s Magnificence:  How much more can the Ohio native do to lead his team to an improbable championship run? Not much. In two NBA Finals games, LeBron James has 83 points and put up ridiculous numbers in the Cavaliers’ overtime victory last night. Thirty-nine points, sixteen rebounds and eleven assists created a stat line that had never been seen in the NBA Playoffs that began way back in 1947. Even though they gave up thirty-six points to Warriors’ guard Klay Thompson, the Cavs’ scrappy Matthew Dellavedova was able to chase league MVP Steph Curry around and limit him to 19 points on 5 of 23 shooting from the floor. Can a team that only goes seven deep after losing all star guard Kyrie Irving for the series pull out the series against a deeper and, after James, more talented team? Probably not. But after extending the Warriors to overtime in both games at an arena that was the most difficult for visiting teams this past season, perhaps James has some magic left in the tank. It was his twenty-third straight series where his team claimed a victory on the road. But if Curry finds his shooting touch and Klay Thompson stays hot, I just don’t see how the Cavs can score enough, unless J. R. Smith can pour in some threes and keep them close. 

Tiger’s Diminishing Skills: After shooting an 85 on a course where he’s won eight tournaments as an amateur and professional, it’s pretty apparent that the one-time dominant golfer has lost his swing, his confidence or both. After swing changes, injuries and personal issues, Tiger seems to have lost his way. I think it’s interesting that a couple of his high scores have come on Saturday, after making the cut pretty close to the number the day before. It’s been rumored that he is back to some of his former womanizing days, which may be jeopardizing his once legendary focus. Don’t get me wrong, I really don’t care what he does with his personal time, but I’m merely speculating on why he seems to play so terribly when it’s evident he’s out of the running in a tournament.  As Tiger approaches his fortieth birthday, it’s becoming fairly obvious that his lifelong goal of challenging jack Nicklaus’ eighteen major championship titles is no longer a possibility. Will he be satisfied with being relegated to another guy in the field, trying to make cuts and occasionally get into contention? That’s a question that only he will be able to answer, but at this point it doesn’t look like 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.



Thursday, June 4, 2015

NBA FINALS MATCHUP

Golden State Warrior guard Steph Curry and Cleveland Cavalier forward LeBron James finished first and third respectively in this season's MVP NBA voting. Tonight, they will lead their teams in Game 1 of the best of seven NBA Finals. After long seasons and three playoff rounds, both squads have had well over a week to recover and prepare for the Finals. Cavs guard Kyrie Irving is still hobbled by tendonitis in his knee and Warriors guard Klay Thompson has had some symptoms of a concussion suffered in the last game against the Rockets. Contrary to reports and most of  teams that were in the playoffs, I'm at full strength and will be able to view all of the games with a beer in one hand a remote in the other.

Seriously, though, this should be a very interesting and exciting series. We have unquestionably the best player of his generation playing in his fifth consecutive Finals against a jump shooting team led by MVP Steph Curry. It seems like a year ago when the Warriors fell behind the Memphis Grizzlies  2 -1 before rebounding for three straight wins. What's important about that series is that the Grizzlies were able to take Curry and his running mate, Klay Thompson, out of their games and bring into doubt their ability to shoot their way to a championship. If I'm Cavaliers coach Dave Blatt, the game film of those two Warriors losses would be must see TV for him and his team. The Grizzlies were able to use a great defender, Tony Allen to disrupt Golden States' long range shooting. Unfortunately, Allen sustained an injury and was unable to contribute in the same way for the remainder of the series.

For Cavs to be successful, I believe the key is for them to control or limit Klay Thompson's contribution from the outside. That could potentially put additional pressure on Steph Curry to carry the team, one that has no players with Finals experience. LeBron James, making his fifth appearance in a row and sixth overall series to win it all, has exhibited the ability to lead a team by putting them on his shoulders and taking them to victory.  One thing that's especially worth noting is that James' teams have won a road game in 22 consecutive series. If that history holds, then the Warriors will have to win at least one game in Cleveland. The Warriors haven't shown much difficulty in winning away from home, so I think they can do that.

A lot of people are picking Cleveland in six games, predicting a Cavs' clinching victory at home. I believe this will be a very close and entertaining series. If the Cavaliers don't control Curry AND Thompson, I think they'll go down in six. However, I can also see it going the other way if LeBron James shuts down Thompson and J.R. Smith is able to knock down threes. I'm hoping to enjoy it either way and rooting for James to get his third title.

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.