Soccer Fever: Interest in the world's most popular game has been steadily growing for years in the United States, but last week's Women's National Team's third World Cup triumph followed by the Men's Gold Cup being staged in the U.S. might just give the sport another jolt of adrenalin.The women were dominant, going more than 500 minutes without giving up a goal, a streak that was broken only after surging to an insurmountable 4 - 0 lead over Japan in the deciding game. Television ratings were comparable to NBA Finals numbers, far exceeding the World Series. Last night, the men, led by Clint Dempsey's two goals, continued the American momentum by holding on for a 2 - 1 win over a game Honduras team in their opening Gold Cup match in Frisco, Texas, just north of Dallas. As usual, the men's back line was suspect, but goalie Brad Guzan made some nice saves to bail out the U.S. team's predictable porous defensive performance. Dempsey was spectacular and the mid-field played their usual stellar game, but if coach Jurgen Klinsmann is going to get this squad to the world's elite level, he needs to find a way to keep their opponents from making runs at the goal. But all in all, it was a great three days for American soccer, demonstrating the present is pretty good and the future is even brighter.
Tiger Woods Sees Some Improvement: Three rounds in the sixties and one of them bogey-free had the former world's best golfer showing signs of life. Despite finishing six shots out of the lead, he was really just a bad Saturday round away from getting into contention. But is his game in good enough shape to contend for the Open Championship at St. Andrews next week, a place where he's won twice before? Probably not, but he'll at least be in the discussion. That's not likely to be the case for top-ranked Rory McIlroy, whose own soccer fever resulted in torn ankle ligaments sustained while playing a pickup game. It's unfortunate timing, with Jordan Spieth making a run at the Grand Slam. A victory by the Masters and U.S. Open champ would be a bit tainted by the Irishman's absence, but there are 154 other players to contend with. The Old Course has produced winners such as Bobby Jones, Jack Nicklaus, Seve Ballesteros, Nick Faldo and Tiger Woods. But it's also had the likes of Kel Nagle, John Daly and Luis Oosthuizen hoist the trophy. The birthplace of golf, depending on the weather, can be brutal or benign. When Woods set the scoring record at nineteen under par in 2000, the second leg of his Tiger Slam, he took advantage of good conditions and unbelievably avoided hitting into any bunkers for four rounds. But he's a very diminished version of that dominant player who appeared poised to blow by Jack Nicklaus' eighteen major championships, making him a longshot this year. But Woods has comeback from injuries and swing changes in the past, so there is a slim possibility that he could find something to build on from his performance at the Greenbrier Classic.
All-Star Controversy: For a town that probably can't agree on the best barbecue joint, it's interesting that Kansas City fans could band together to totally disrupt the fan voting process for the Major League All-Star game. Royals faithful essentially used technology and lax rules to stuff the digital ballot box, sending four members of lasts year's AL pennant winners to the Midsummer Classic. Although it's caused a bit of concern among baseball's ultra traditionalists, I believe the game has lost significant interest among fans and the whole thing will probably be forgotten by, well, football season, which is what all of us are really waiting for anyway. On the "Lou in the Morning" radio show this morning, the host and I talked about the effects of free agency, interleague play and television saturation on the popularity of the All-Star game. On the flip side, there are 28 first time All-Stars, creating a lot of interest in a new crop of very talented and athletic big leaguers. A sport that a few years ago appeared headed for a very slow ride to extinction has suddenly been bolstered by athletes gravitating to baseball because of a concern of head injuries in football. Now all MLB needs to do is to figure out how to bring back some better offensive numbers that have been declining since the end of the PED era.
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