Friday, June 13, 2008

The Truest Test

And so, it is upon us.

In our opinion, the United States Open Golf Tournament is the most difficult golf tournament to win in the world. There is a special place in our heart for this tournament. Truth be told, we love The Masters. That is our most favorite tournament in our most favorite place in the world. However, the U.S. Open means so much to us in a different way.

First of all, we feel like The Masters is our tournament, so to speak. We have had the great fortune to witness the collection of the greatest players in the world on one golf course twice in our life. Also, if some homerism is to be permitted, The Masters is held in our home state, and The Masters is the only major golf championship to be contested on the same course year in and year out. There is a special connection we feel with that tournament. If you know anything about our background, then you will easily understand why. The Masters was founded by a local Atlanta boy made good; a man that grew up on the demanding layout of East Lake, graduated from both Georgia Tech (our favorite) and Emory, achieved everything that could be achieved as a gentleman golfer (that means amateur for those of you that are unfamiliar with the terminology from a time before success was measured in endorsements), and made a timely retirement from the competitive game, only to build his dream course in Augusta, Georgia, and start his own tournament that would become the ultimate goal of not only every professional golfer, but every young boy that ever lifted a club in the southeastern United States. If one grew up playing this beautiful, frustrating game in the sweltering heat of this region, then you always dreamed of playing your way into the U.S. Amateur, or the U.S. Public Links Championship, just so you would have a chance at maybe making a few putts and qualifying for The Masters.

The one thing that we didn't realize until very recently was the fact that the same dream we all shared about qualifying for The Masters, were you to achieve it, would also qualify you for the United States Open, which, as we said, is the most difficult tournament in the world to win, and a tournament whose final round is now traditionally contested on Father's Day.

After all, any of us who began our odyssey into the great abyss of swing thoughts and three foot putts were likely first introduced to this game by our fathers. We each owe our paters for this; without them, we would never have learned the immutable truths of honesty and integrity, much less how to conduct ourselves in a gentlemanly manner, and most of all, how this beautiful contest of man versus himself teaches each of us more about ourselves.

With all of that being said, the 2008 U.S. Open is upon us. Tiger Woods seeks to become only the sixth man in the history of this championship to win at least three times. Much has been made of his assault on Jack Nicklaus' record of eighteen major championships. Much more should be made of his quest to join the likes of Willie Anderson, Robert Tyre Jones, Jr., Ben Hogan, Jack Nicklaus, and Hale Irwin. These five titans of the game, underrated as some of them may be, hold a very special place in golf history.

So, as our national golf championship begins, we encourage you to enjoy every moment, drink in the sights and sounds, and when Sunday arrives, find your way into a place where you may spend a few hours watching this great spectacle with your father in mind, if not in presence. This is truly our tournament, and it is only fitting that it will be contested on a public course, much like the ones on which we all learned to play.

The people's favorite is, of course, Tiger Woods, who will no doubt carry with him thoughts of his father on his final round. Phil Mickelson is considered to be another strong contender, and he will also carry strong thoughts of not only the gravity of this great championship, but also what this game means to the sense of family, as he is a renowned family man, and as he witnessed on the eighteenth green at Pinehurst, when another great family man, Payne Stewart, bested him for the U.S Open Championship.

Our plea to all of you is this: find some time this weekend to spend with your father, and should that not be possible, make a telephone call to him, and if that is not possible, at the very least, tune in to the final round on Father's Day, and spend a few moments in thought, prayer, and appreciation of the man who, whether you realize it or not, helped mold you into the man you are today.

That my friends, is why this golf tournament is special.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

It's Amazing That This Guy Continues to Draw a Paycheck

This is really astounding. Bill Simmons, who at one time wrote as many as three items a week for's Page 2, is now able to perpetuate the myth that he is the voice of the fan by writing not three, not two, but actually what we consider to be at best 1.5 items per week on the four letter dot com.

Consider this week's effort. Good ol' Billy Boy throws together a "links" item, which had to take all of 10 minutes, then he puts together what he calls a "Basketball Blog" post in which he makes up fake emails, and pretends to answer them. In a thinly disguised effort to counter this lack of zeal that first made him popular, Billiam posts three podcasts, which are, in actuality, phone call conversations with his buddies. The exception here, of course, is his podcast conversation with Jason Whitlock, the former Page 2 writer who was fired after writing too much of the truth. We view this episode of Simmons' podcast as a token effort to try to further his claim that he is anti-establishment. There was a golden opportunity here to discuss Whitlock's dismissal from the sports behemoth, or his feud with Scoop Jackson, or at the very least, JW's thoughts on controversial subjects such as Herm Edwards' weak leadership and submission to poor ownership in Kansas City, or Whitlock's opinions on Kelvin Sampson, or the increasingly sad state of character in the NFL.

To paraphrase Jack Black's character Barry from High Fidelity, how can a person who has no interest in writing about sports continue to write for the largest sports entity on the face of the earth?

In full disclosure, Simmons is still a regular stop for me when I'm perusing the net. However, he has continued to move down the list of sites or columns I check, and his new Sports Guy page has become my destination for items that I know I can lampoon with relative ease. All in all, I consider this a huge shame. I used to be a huge fan of Simmons, and he is part of the reason that I started this site. I can only hope that one day, he will sit back and survey his career, and realize that he willingly became a Sean Salisbury when he could have been a Ron Jaworski.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

This is just another reason we love college sports

If you have been reading Bill Simmons recently, or paying attention to the NBA at all, you probably know that the Seattle Supersonics are most likely on their way out of town, and the residents of Seattle are beside themselves. This is a truly terrible situation, and we certainly don't intend to make light of it. However, this does serve to highlight just one more difference between college and professional sports. True, sports at both levels are certainly a business, but life as a sports fan at the collegiate level at least guarantees that your team won't pack up and leave town. If your favorite pro team suffers through years of inept management, and the corresponding losing seasons, ownership might just see fit to tuck tail and run for the next green pasture with a shiny new publicly funded arena. At the college level, the Athletic Director feels much more pressure, and much more quickly if his teams don't perform, and he is much more likely to make a change in staff than his professional counterpart might be, especially since his job may be the next one on the line. For all of the criticism that boosters take for tainting the "purity" of college athletics, they are the ones who are primarily responsible for your favorite team remaining competitive, or for the rebuilding efforts put forth by your university of choice. After all, without these boosters, collegiate athletic programs would be largely unable to build state of the art facilities, recruit prized blue chip athletes, and secure the large paydays that come with playing on national t.v. or in bowl games. Yes, sports at this level are very much a business proposition, but at least you can rest easy knowing that as long as your favorite university exists, they'll never flee their home city. Unfortunately, the same can't be said for your local professional team.

The Beginning of the End of an Era?

With the retirement of Brett Favre this week, the NFL has officially entered the second half of the current Golden Age of Quarterbacks. A mere two years ago, the league was enjoying a phenomenal run of high profile, exciting to watch quarterbacks. Brett Favre, Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Donovan McNabb, and Michael Vick were all "Faces of the League", and all were helping to sell out road games in whatever city they happened to be playing in that week. The fact that guys like Carson Palmer, Daunte Culpepper, Drew Brees, Ben Roethlisberger, Eli Manning and even Philip Rivers were performing at a high level or at least seemed to add to the already high profile of the position just served to add that much more to the feeling that we were seeing an unprecedented level of league wide talent at the position. My, how quickly things change. Vick, as you know, is currently in prison, McNabb may or may not be on his last legs in Philly, and now, Favre has called it quits.

The retirement of number 4 has spawned an alarming amount of discussion on sports talk radio and the internet regarding just how good he really was. After being force fed years of man-love from Peter King and John Madden, the sports punditry has let loose with a backlash that's a little unsettling, to say the least. Is Favre the best quarterback in NFL history? That's not what we're saying. But, to reduce his 17 years to a series of poor decisions, forced throws, and avoidable turnovers is a tad over the top.

Certainly, the "Brett Favre just has fun playing football" notion has been beaten to death, but he did manage to bring a level of enjoyment to watching football that any of the other players mentioned above haven't done, and most likely, won't do. The reason that Favre resonated with the average fan is because he played the game the way that we would like to think we would play it, given the chance. The fact that he made a snowball and threw it at a teammate during the Divisional Round playoff win against the Seahawks underscores that point. Imagine if you were in the backyard, playing your own personal version of the Icebowl in a driving snowstorm. Doesn't that seem like something you would do to one of your buddies if you had just thrown a game turning touchdown pass? Sure it does. That's why Joe Sixpack loved watching Brett Favre. He seemed like one of us. A down to earth type that realized that playing quarterback in the NFL was a blessing and a dream come true. At a time when other players in the league were busy running around with models or pop starlets, Favre was content to live the married life on his farm in the offseason, and stay out of the blinding flash of the papparazzi. When you view him in these terms, it's easy to understand why Peter King and John Madden, as well as casual fans around the country loved to watch him play. As for his place in history, let's discuss that for a moment.

While Favre holds just about every meaningful passing record, he is probably just keeping the seat warm for Peyton Manning. And, yes, he only has the one Super Bowl ring. And, he's probably not in the top five quarterbacks that played in 2007 on the list of "If you had to pick one quarterback to start one game you had to win". With all of that said, Favre still sits at the top of our list for quarterbacks we would pick if we had to make one play to win a game. Time and time again, he seemed to make plays that nobody thought he could make, or should make. Whether it was forcing a pass into double coverage, stumbling out of the pocket and making one of those underhanded tosses like in the Divisional playoff game this year, or drawing up plays in the dirt in the huddle, Favre had a knack for making the most exciting and memorable plays over and over. One such play that defined his career took place in a playoff game that the Packers actually lost. In the fourth quarter of a close playoff game with his team trailing the 49ers, Favre led his team down the field, and threw a go ahead touchdown pass to Antonio Freeman on a play that Mike Holmgren later said was "drawn up in the dirt". With little time remaining, and his team knocking on the door of the endzone, Favre told Freeman in the huddle that he would "audible" at the line, but to run a different route than the audible called for. In fact, the route he told Freeman to run wasn't in the playbook at all. Since the 49ers ran the same version of the West Coast Offense that the Packers ran at that time, the San Francisco defense was extremely familiar with the verbiage and hand signals that the Packers were using. Coming to the line, Favre surveyed the defense, and used a hand signal to change Freeman's route to "Q18", a route in the West Coast Offense that called for him to break off his pattern if he saw the safety playing over the top. In the huddle, Favre told Freeman to break as if he was going to cut the pattern short, and then bolt behind the safety once he had bitten on the underneath route. Once the safety saw the hand signal for "Q18", he certainly knew the route, and was in what he thought to be perfect position to make the play. After the snap, Freeman ran his route as Favre had instructed him, and the safety made only one fateful step forward. Freeman slipped behind him, and Favre threw what Steve Young called "the ugliest duck" of a pass over the safety's head for six. Returning to the sideline, Mike Holmgren uttered not a word to his quarterback, furious that Favre had just run what amounted to a backyard play at a crucial time in a playoff game. If he had, one would imagine that he would paraphrase the manager in "Major League": "Nice throw. Don't ever fucking do it again." That's what made Brett Favre a fan favorite and frequent recipient of slurp jobs from many in the media. If the running soap opera of his will he or won't he retirement over the past couple of years, or the seemingly constant stream of obnoxious praise heaped on him by the media have served to make some talk show hosts or bloggers sick of him, almost everyone will miss watching Brett Favre make plays that he probably shouldn't.

Monday, February 4, 2008

I am ready to headbutt somebody!!! or How two teams I hate made Super Bowl XLII the most exciting one ever.

The above play literally made me jump out of my chair and look for someone or something to headbutt. I was so excited about the Patriots not winning the Super Bowl that as I perused this here internet earlier today, several thoughts came to mind. First, you can almost hear this guy crying. Priceless stuff. Also, another thought ocurred to me: what happened to Donte' Stallworth? Jabar Gaffney? And other than the pass interference call in the end zone, Ben Watson? Far too many names that weren't called last night for the Pats. All of that adds up to the result we all saw. Anyway, in keeping with the general theme of elation, this clip is good for a hindsight chuckle or two, and these guys have put together a pretty comprehensive compendium on the history of choking. All in all, a pretty good day for a Monday. I'm just glad that we won't have to listen to the Patriots for the next 35 years talking about how they are the only team to go 19-0. Mercury Morris is surely annoying, but Rodney Harrison (he of the HGH suspension), Tedy Bruschi (did you know he had a stroke?), Mike Vrabel (did you know that they sometimes use him as a goal line tight end?), Juniour Seau (pile jumper), Tom Brady (did you know he's dating a supermodel and fathered a child out of wedlock with his actress ex-girlfriend?) and Bill Belichick (cheater) would be much worse. Combine that cast of undesirables with the obnoxious Boston fanbase, and the NFL would be almost unwatchable for the forseeable future. Having to live in a world where Eli Manning is a Super Bowl MVP is a fair trade in my opinion.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Santana to the Mets...meh

We here at The Young Lefthander are unabashed Braves fans. The news yesterday of the Santana has greatly altered not only the NL East, but potentially the NL. Let's get this out of the way, Johan Santana is the best pitcher in the game. You will hear from rival teams a lot about how last year was a down year, and Santana is potentially regressing as a pitcher, "that's not true."

Over the last four years Santana has been early 2000s Pedro Martinez. His averages over the last four years have been:

228IP 246SO 3.10ERA

No one has been even close to that. He has also won two Cy Youngs, and probably should have won a third. His numbers for last year were pretty much in line with his career averages, the only number that really jumped was his HR total which went from 24 in 2006 to 33 in 2007. That would explain the mild increase in ERA, however, all of his other periphery numbers were in line with his career averages, including his WHIP (see ESPN).

The more distressing thing for Braves fans is the fact that the Mets did not give up anything regarding major league talent. We were all under the impression that the only way this trade would happen is if the Mets gave up Reyes and Heilman. Reyes is one of the best young SS in the game, though not the best, and a little overrated (that is a topic for another day). Heilman is an excellent reliever who has the potential to be a closer, and still relatively cheap. I am not going into all the prospects the Twins received, but none of them are considered upper tier prospects, with Carlos Gomez considered being the best of the bunch. The rap on Carlos Gomez is that he is the typical "toolsy" outfielder who many scouts feel may not hit well enough in the majors.

The Braves are going to have a potent lineup and the only seeminly week area would still be the back end of the rotation. The rotation has a lot of potential, but we are relying still on the health of a few aging starters (see Smoltz and Glavine). If you asked me right now I would have to say that the Mets are probably the team to beat with the Braves slightly trailing in the NL East. I reserve the right to change that assessment before the season starts.

Monday, January 28, 2008

The President's on! He's on every channel!

While you watch President Bush's last State of the Union address, here's a quick update on ACC hoops.

  1. Duke (17-1, 5-0) Not sold on these guys yet. Tough to take them seriously when Scheyer continues to see meaningful minutes
  2. UNC (19-1, 4-1) These guys are good. Hansbrough is a beast, and they'll be battle tested by March. Be prepared to see lots of them later in the season.
  3. Boston College (12-6, 3-2) Haven't seen alot of them, but haven't been impressed from what I have seen.
  4. Clemson (15-5, 3-3) Too much like their football team: fast start, fall apart late.
  5. Virginia Tech (12-8, 3-3) Athletically gifted, they seem to have a little trouble staying focused. Could have beaten Duke if they weren't so preoccupied with playing physical.
  6. Georgia Tech (10-9, 3-3) Left for dead after Young and Crittendon defected to the NBA after last year, they seem to have found their legs somewhat, playing Kansas and UNC very tough, and ripping off three straight conference wins over Virginia Tech, NC State, and Virginia.
  7. Miami (15-4, 2-3) Talented backcourt, but not sure they have all they need to make it to the tournament.
  8. NC State (13-6, 2-3) Probably better than most expected. Need to be able to steal a couple of tough road games before they are considered legit.
  9. Wake Forest (12-6, 2-3) Again, haven't seen much, but unless Tim Duncan's walking through that door (and he's not), it's not their year.
  10. Maryland (12-8, 2-3) Probably the most dangerous of the three loss teams. The win over UNC could signal good things to come.
  11. Florida State (13-8, 2-4) If they can't get Jenn Sterger on board, why should anyone pay attention?
  12. Virginia (11-7, 1-4) Trendy preseason "team to watch" hasn't lived up to expectations. Solid backcourt, but they need to put it together. Losing at home to a less talented Georgia Tech team is definitely not a good sign.

We'll try to be back tomorrow with more fun.