Monday, March 26, 2012

He's Back: Woods dominates at Bay Hill

Tiger Woods looked like the Tiger of old as he won the Arnold Palmer Invitational on Sunday. Tiger looked impressive as he made clutch putts and hit approach shots with laser-like accuracy. His victory reminded golf fans of how fun it is to watch him play well. I’m sure that Tiger’s victory also had TV executives smiling in their suits as the ratings on Sunday rivaled those of the NCAA tournament games. 

Tiger Woods is definitely not the same dominate player that we all remember from the past ten years. A ruined reputation and an aging body have taken their toll on the former number one player in the world. Throw in a new swing coach, new caddie, and several swing changes, and it all adds up to a 30 month official win drought.

Tiger’s win could not have come at a better time. Two weeks ago, he had to withdraw at Doral due to a nagging injury. That had people actually debating if he would ever win a tournament again. Now, it looks like Tiger is rounding his game into championship form two weeks before The Masters.

And oh yeah, did I mention the tell-all book written by former coach Hank Haney? Haney’s book comes out on Tuesday, and is said to paint a very negative picture of Tiger. What’s he really going to tell us? Tiger is arrogant, cold with the media, and loved to cheat on his wife. Really? Tell me something I don’t know. That’s all old news.

 I’ve said it once, and I’ll continue saying it- golf is just better when Tiger Woods is winning. Regardless of the poor choices he has made in his personal life, Tiger Woods has brought millions of fans to the sport of golf. Even the most casual golf fan gets interested when Tiger is in contention. Heck, my 2 year- old daughter chose watching Sunday’s final round over playing outside. (She pointed to the TV and yelled whenever I turned it off!)

Just imagine the scene on Easter Sunday if Tiger Woods is in contention on the back nine at Augusta. All of the doubters may have to fall silent as Tiger adds one more major and takes a step closer to breaking Jack’s record of 18 major titles.

  -Talk about “Must See TV.”

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Tebow Mania Heads to NY

With the signing of Peyton Manning, the Denver Broncos had no choice but to trade Tim Tebow. (That gust of wind you felt was John Elway letting out a sigh of relief) The Broncos are now stable at the QB position and do not have to worry about pleasing fans by playing Tebow. Tim Tebow has been traded to the NY Jets and will presumably run their version of the Wildcat Offense.

I think that this is a terrible move for both Tebow and the Jets. The New York Jets are the most dysfunctional team in the NFL. The last thing that they need is the hype and drama that comes with Tim Tebow.  Not to mention that fact that he is once again probably the third best QB on the depth chart behind Mark Sanchez and Drew Stanton.

The Jets already have guys in the locker room, as well as many fans that question the ability of starting QB Mark Sanchez. The addition of Tim Tebow will only add fuel to the fire. Can you imagine if Sanchez comes out and struggles mightily in the first 3 games? All of New York will be screaming for Tebow Time.

The Jets just committed to Mark Sanchez a few weeks ago by signing him to a contract extension. So what is the point of bringing in a backup QB (with terrible passing stats) who brings so much media attention? I just don’t see how this can work. I know that the Jets effectively ran the wildcat with Brad Smith a few years ago, but who cares. Tebow may end up being on the field 10 plays during a game. Is this really worth the attention that comes with bringing in a polarizing figure such as Tebow?

Tebow does have value in the NFL, most likely as a short yardage back. I love his story and really want to see him succeed. I just don’t think NY is the place that is going to happen. I feel Jacksonville (Tebow had the choice between NY and Jax) would have been a much better fit. That would have also benefited the league by greatly raising tickets sales for a struggling franchise. In the end I think this is going to turn out to be a horrible football move. It will, however, benefit the Jets financially through the sale of # 15 jerseys.

Who really knows how this will turn out? All I know is that I hope HBO brings back the acclaimed show, Hard Knocks: NY Jets. I can’t wait to see Tebow’s reaction the first time that Rex Ryan goes into one of his f-bomb laced rants.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Bracket Madness

  As you can see from my lack of posts, I have been pretty busy lately with all sorts of different things. (I’m on Twitter now! @barryleonardjr) I’ve had many opinions on different sports topics in the past month. I just haven’t had time to write them down.  That doesn’t mean there hasn’t been anything going on in the world of sports. In fact, this is one of the busiest sports times of the years.

What better topic to discuss than March Madness? This is the time of year where everyone, including myself, becomes an “expert” on college hoops. We all fill out our office brackets in hopes of winning the grand prize- bragging rights for a year (I wouldn’t dare suggest that we would get some sort of financial gain from it) It’s pretty comical that so many people, who know so little about the sport, get involved in this “national pastime”

No matter what bracket pool you join, you're bound to have the same characters in it: The guy who claims he knows everything about every team, the guy who picks all favorites ,the guy who is convinced his 13 seed sleeper will surprise everyone , and my favorite, the guy who lets his wife pick for him by using mascots or uniform colors. The reality is, no matter what anyone says, luck plays a major part in having a successful bracket.

Don’t get me wrong, I am guilty of entering at least one bracket pool every year for the last ten years or so.  However, I like to think that I do actually put some thought and research into my picks. Sure, I could pick with my heart and say that Syracuse will win it all every year, but I know that is not reality. (Of course I did pick them this year, even without Fab Melo!) I usually end up in the middle of the pack, often getting messed up by listening to the “experts” Jay Bilas and Doug Gotleib on Bracketology.

I am sad to say that I only have eight of this year’s Sweet Sixteen teams in my bracket. I am pretty proud of my Ohio pick though. (I only picked them from the start because they were playing Michigan!) Although my bracket was pretty much finished midway through the second day (thanks Norfolk St. and Lehigh!), I will still watch every game and cheer for my Orange to come through again.

I’m just embarrassed that somewhere out there sits a person with a 90% correct bracket who probably let their dog choose for them.
Oh well, better luck next March.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

"Linsanity" Brightens up Dull Sports Season

     There has been little to write about in the sports world over the past few weeks. The Super Bowl came and went, ending the season that most sports fans care about. We now find ourselves in sort of a sports lull. There is not much that goes on until March Madness begins in a few weeks. Sure, the NBA and NHL seasons are in full swing, but does anyone really beleive that those regular season games mean anything?

     Suddenly, an unknown, undrafted, asian-american kid out of Harvard has captivated the sports world over the last week. New York Knicks pointguard, Jeremy Lin erupted on the sports scene by scoring an NBA record 109 points in his first four starts. Something not even Kobe, Michael, or Shaq could do.

    This story would probably not make it on the radar of the average sports fan if not for the backstory of Jeremy Lin. He graduated from Harvard (not a typical producer of NBA superstars), spent last year in the minor leagues of professional basketball, and was cut by both Golden State and Houston this season. Lin is also the first american born, asian player to make it into the NBA.

    The struggling Knicks signed Lin to fill out their bench as a reserve. Last week he was thrust into action due to injury and other circumstances. All Lin did was put up historical numbers and help the Knicks to five straight wins.

     "Linsanity" has overtaken New York and has now become a national story. It doesn't hurt that he is doing all of this in the biggest media market in the country. Lin's #17 jersey wasn't even produced two weeks ago. It is now the highest selling Knicks jersey and highest selling NBA jersey of the week.

          American sports fans have always loved a good underdog story. Jeremy Lin is the epitome of what an underdog in sports is. In a weeks time he has gone from struggling to make his dream a reality, to the king of New York City.

      By March, the NCAA tournament and Spring Training will be the the main thing on the minds of fans. The Jeremy Lin story will probably be a distant memory. But for now, it's a great way to get through the humdrum of the winter sports season.
*As I was posting this on Tuesday night "Linsanity" continued to grow. Lin hit a game winning three with 0.5 seconds left to give the Knicks their 6th straight win. -Simply Amazing

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Thoughts from the Paterno Memorial

    On Thursday, January 27th, I was lucky enough to attend the memorial service for Joe Paterno with my wife Becky.
Being an alum, Penn State has always been a big part of my life. I attended games when I was a student there and now I have had season tickets for the last 6 years. Before the scandal,I always said that no matter what, I would be at Paterno's public service. Now more than ever, I felt it was important to show my support to my "Penn State Family"

   It was a surreal scene. I'm used to sitting in the BJC at "TailGreat" before home football games. The band is always playing and everyone is upbeat and happy. This was a totally different atmosphere. I saw people crying even before the service started.

    The service was exaclty what a memorial service is meant to be- a celebration of the person's life. Several videos showing Paterno through the years were mixed in between those who spoke. Players from six different decades spoke at the service. That to me, was amazing. Everyone who spoke had the same message-Joe Paterno was so much more than a football coach. He was a very charitable human being who cared for others as if they were family.

       The most poignant part of the service for me was when Jay Paterno spoke about his dad and gave us some insight into what it was like to be a part of his life. I felt that Jay was very well-spoken and held it together very well. Hearing him speak about his dad's final moments in the hospital and telling him, "Dad, we won, you can go home now" really brought me to tears.

       This was a historical event that I will never forget.  It was so great to be around so many Penn Staters who were all there to celebrate the great work that Joe Paterno has done. Penn State would not be half of what it is today without him.

       Now, I know that some people will say that Joe Paterno did not deserve a memorial service that praised him. There are plenty of people who feel he was an awful human being for helping to cover up the horrible child sex abuse scandal. 
The only thing I would say to those people is this- Joe Paterno reported what he was told and those above him dropped the ball.

     Paterno cared about Penn State and treated everyone that he coached as if they were family. No coach has ever done as much for their university as Paterno has done. The memorial service was exactly what I hoped it would be. A great celebration of a wonderful humanitarian.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

The Passing of a Legend

     The passing of Joe Paterno this morning will leave a void in the lives of thousands of people who were positively affected by him. The legendary coach leaves behind countless contributions to young people and a legacy of "Success with Honor"

    Sadly, I was not surprised by the news of his death. Can you imagine what this 85 year old man was feeling when he was abruptly fired in November? Paterno spent most of his life making Penn State one of the most prestigious universities and football programs in the country. It is not crazy to think that he simply lost his will to live. Penn State football was all Paterno knew for the last sixty years.
    Of course, Paterno's legacy will now be forever tarnished by the terrible Jerry Sandusky situation. Sure, a man in Paterno's position should have morally done more to make sure that the victims were being protected. But let's not forget, Paterno was cleared legally and it is well documented that he technically followed the correct protocol. What happened to those children is a horrible crime. However, Jerry Sandusky is the bad guy, not Joe Paterno.

     I had a brief encounter with Paterno while walking on campus one day during my senior year. I couldn't believe my eyes when I realized that the older man walking slowly towards me was actually the great Joe Paterno. Through my shock, I was able to muster a mere, "Hello Coach" as he approached me. He took five seconds out of his busy life to stop and say "Hello" back to me. Its moments like that that Paterno will be remembered for. He did so much for that university and meant so much to the people who attended it.

     The Penn State family lost its patriarch today. Alumni and fans alike will always remember the good times with Joe Paterno and everything he did to make Penn State football what it is today.

The coke-bottle glasses, blue windbreaker, khaki pants, and black Nikes is a memory that will live forever with all of us.
Rest in peace JoePa - you will live on in the hearts of Penn Staters everywhere.



Thursday, January 19, 2012

Ed Reed: Major Distraction or Master Motivator?

     As a Baltimore Ravens fan, I am looking forward to the AFC Championship matchup with the New England Patriots. However, instead of focusing on the game, the Ravens have had to deal with controversy all week. The team has had to answer questions about the comments star Safety Ed Reed made about Quarterback Joe Flacco.
     Reed, speaking honestly, said that Flacco was rattled by the Houston Texan's defense last week and he didn't seem able to handle the pressure. These comments were not a surprise to anyone who follows the Ravens. Defense has always reigned supreme in Baltimore. The offense has always been there to just "not screw up too badly."
     I have no problem with what Reed said.  A defense full of superstars is bound to get frustrated with an offense that struggles to find consistency. After Flacco's horrid performance last week, he needs something to wake him up. I just wish Reed's comments would have been kept private.
    The problem I have with this is now it has become a distraction to the team. Baltimore is gearing up for its biggest game of the year. They should be planning how to stop Tom Brady, not fielding questions about a defense that seems disgruntled with an ineffective offense. 
     Again, the fact that there is a rift between the defense and the offense is no real shocker. However, there is an unspoken rule in professional sports that a team's dirty laundry is not to be aired in public. Ed Reed later claimed that he was just trying to motivate Flacco. As true as his comments were, calling out a teammate days before a huge game is not the best motivation strategy.

Hopefully, this will be forgotten about by Monday morning and the Ravens will be celebrating an AFC Championship.