--I nearly broke my ankle yesterday as I slipped on all the oil Justin Leonard was leaking at the FESJC. It was an epic collapse, to be sure, but what a catastrophe it could have been if David Toms had just made that birdie putt on 18. After playing so well, and playing aggressively for the first 63 holes or so, Justin got a little case of the tightened sphincter on the back 9. Meanwhile, David Toms was playing as loose as you could imagine, as I'm sure he never expected to end his round within even 4 or 5 of Leonard. Toms was tremendous--but Leonard held on (but couldn't quite stand up afterwards--he ended up lying on the green after he barely saved bogey on 18 for the win). According to the CA, Leonard said "I was under the gun those last two holes. ... Those two putts, I am more proud of that than the 62 on Thursday or anything else I have done this week." Agreed. He sacked up at the end. He's a good guy, too--always nice to see the tourney won by a nice guy, especially when he donates $50,000 straightaway to St. Jude after the tournament. Geoff Calkins talks about that, among other things, in his column today.
--The fairways looked really bad on TV. Clearly the dry conditions made it very difficult to keep the golf course in prime condition. I hated it for the folks at Southwind, but the patchwork, yellowish fairways were not good for the TV viewers. I like the fact that the conditions ended up being much more difficult than in years past, and the dryness of the course made for a much different style of golf than we're accustomed to seeing at the FESJC. Hard to imagine a year ago that this year's tournament would be compared with the British Open. With the dry conditions, and the bump and run possibilities, it is a fair comparison (to a small degree anyway). The crowd looked OK, but not overwhelming, although I can't blame people for not wanting to see Justin Leonard lap the field. I hope the fields for the FESJC continue to get better, because Phil Cannon and his staff run a great event, and they deserve to have success year in and year out.
--The celebrity Pro-Am was incredible. I was genuinely thrilled to see Bill Murray do his thing up close; to me, there's just no better guy than Bill. I mean, who would you rather be? He can play golf wherever he wants, whenever he wants, he's the man wherever he goes, and he's one of the funniest, most charismatic people alive. What's better than that? Special kudos to Terry Bradshaw, Andy Richter (also very funny), Tommy Tuberville, Bo Jackson, Tubby Smith, Dennis Haysbert, Brett Favre, and all the celebrities that made the event a big success. I hope this becomes a yearly tradition.
--Those of you that had penciled Detroit into the NBA Finals after they won Game 1 in Miami might want to use that eraser right about now. Miami won Game 3 last night 113-104 and t...wait, did I just write 113-104 as the score for a Detroit playoff game? An Eastern Conference Finals game? Bizarre. The Pistons didn't defend particularly well, but the big story in this one was that the Pistons hit the self-destruct button in the 4th. They played like a team of Dirk Nowitzkis, not a team of champions. Boo freaking hoo, Detroit. Be men, stop griping, and try not to give up 11 points from the foul line in one 13-4 Miami run during the 4th quarter next time. As great a coach as Larry Brown is, this is my one criticism of him--he's a whiner. His voice sounds whiny, he looks whiny, he's says things that sound like whining even when he's not trying to whine, the fact remains, he's just a whiner. Also, stopping Dwyane Wade should move up the To Do list right now. He's a freak. I love his demeanor--he had a rough Game 1 (7-25 FG), but didn't moan about anything afterwards. He said he had a bad game, said he would look at tape, call some of his past coaches, and be better. And he has been much, much, MUCH better since then. He followed up his Game 1 performance with 40 in the Heat's Game 2 win, then had 36 last night in Detroit. He's just relentless with the penetration, and his jumper in the clutch is starting to (just starting to, mind you, don't go overboard on me) resemble a certain Chicago-based shooting guard from the 80's and 90's. It's a great example to all the kids out there--instead of whining like Larry Brown and his team, just shut up, get better, and you'll see improvement...
Meanwhile, Shaq just continues to get better and healthier. He looked much more mobile in Game 3 than he did in Games 1 or 2. Detroit might be, just might be, in some trouble here--Game 4 now becomes a must-win for the Pistons. I stick by my prediction that Miami wins this series.
--In a related matter, Shaq has said that this Heat team is the best he's played for. Sorry, Shaq, I don't see it--the 2000-01 Lakers team that cruised through the postseason going 15-1 was better. For now. Although if you look up and down that roster, it's not as impressive as you might think. Which of Shaq's teams do you think was the best? 1994-95 Magic? 2000-01 Lakers? 2004-05 Heat?
--I was impressed with Danica Patrick over the weekend at the Indianapolis 500--she started 4th, finished 4th, and could have won were it not for the fact that she, uh, ran out of fuel late. I'm not a race car driver, but even I know that you need fuel. Dan Wheldon won the race, by the way, not that you or I care about Dan Wheldon. Danica is a hell of a driver with good equipment, something that no other woman at Indy ever was or ever had. Good luck to her. Did you see her pictures in FHM? You didn't? All right, don't ever say I didn't do anything for you.
--Ever wonder what the Top 100 TV Theme Songs of All Time are? Click here and stop wondering. Hard to argue with the top choice, really, although I think #4 should have been higher, as should numbers 30 and 66. Knight Rider was too low, also. Here's an interesting fact I learned in the article: Alan Thicke wrote the Diff'rent Strokes theme! But did he write the Growing Pains theme? No! Try finding information like that on some other jackass blog.
--I appreciate the First Tee of Memphis and the Mid-South Junior Golf Association for allowing us to use their tent at the FESJC last week for our coverage. It was a great experience, and I learned a ton about a great program that doesn't get the credit it deserves. The First Tee is really helping Memphis-area kids, most of whom have real socioeconomic disadvantages, mature into conscientious adults. It's not really about golf, it's about life. Having talked to a couple of kids and a parent who have been affected positively by the program, I would urge all of you to support the First Tee. They're trying to endow a $5 million golf facility in the New Chicago area of North Memphis, and I hope you will be able to help them get to their goal. Here's some information if you're so inclined.
--Anyone care about the French Open? Just checking.
--As Will Askew points out in his latest blog entry (subtitled, I believe, "I Love You Jake Peavy"), Jake Peavy is a fantastic pitcher, who simply does not get the attention he deserves. He's ten times the pitcher of Jon Garland, who everyone won't shut up about. Click on the MLB Standings link at the top of this page and you'll find out something you might not have known--the Fathers have a 2.5 game lead in the NL West. They've been red-hot, and they have a good chance to win that division--they've got young, solid pitching, veteran bats that are hitting well (although the Jason Bay/Oliver Perez for Brian Giles trade was still a very bad one), and a good manager with an enormous head (Bruce Bochy). I feel a kinship with Bochy, really.
--Sucks to be Mark Prior. He took a Brad Hawpe liner right off the ol' forearm and broke a bone. He's going to be out for a while. The Cubs' pitching staff is just snakebitten, or so it would seem. Kerry Wood's got a bum shoulder, Mark Prior's got a broken arm, Carlos Zambrano's got some kind of forearm injury from using the internet too much--it's a mess. To try and alleviate the problems, the Cubs traded LaTroy Hawkins (mentally fried in Chicago) to the Giants for Jerome Williams and David Aardsma, two 23 year old pitchers that still have work to do. It's a deal that had to be done, and Jim Hendry got pretty good value in return for Hawkins--still, the Cubs rotation is in trouble without Prior. However, Derrek Lee has just been DESTROYING the ball as of late, and the Cubs are winning some games as a result. Lee went 9-13 in the 3 games with Colorado over the weekend, hitting 4 HRs and driving in 7 runs in the process. He is a freak. Great defense, great hitting, he's the Cubs MVP by a mile this year. They'd be at least 5 games further back without him.
--And speaking of the Cubs, how could I forget Jeff Gordon: Wrigley Stadium's Finest He's still no Ozzy, but then again, who is? Incidentally, if you can pick out more than 4 actual words in Ozzy's "song" after the part where he says "Let's go out to the ballgame" , I would guess you are clinically insane and should seek help. After hearing those, how can anyone agree with Eli Savoie that this ritual should be killed off? Why would you not want to see Jeff Gordon make an idiot of himself in public and get booed mercilessly? This needs to continue forever. Also, on a personal note, if anyone has a copy of the Mike Ditka version of Take Me Out to the Ballgame, email it to me, please. Thank you.
--Ray Lewis apparently wants a $50 million signing bonus. This is the height of greed and jealousy right here--Ray Lewis can see, on the horizon now, but getting closer every day, the twin forces of Father Time eroding his skills and Ed Reed supplanting him as the best defensive player on the team, and it scares him. This is the act of a desperate man trying to reclaim his position as the most feared, most respected defensive player in the NFL. It's not going to happen, Ray. You're spectactularly overrated. Here's Mike Florio from profootballtalk.com:
Mike is absolutely right.
It's been no secret over the past year or so that Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis is looking for a new contract, even though he signed an extension in 2002, which contains more-than-fair salaries for the next four seasons.
According to Mike Preston of The Baltimore Sun, Lewis wants a signing bonus of (if you're not sitting down we suggest that you do so) $50 million dollars.
Fifty million dollars.
Even in his prime, Lewis didn't deserve that kind of money. Now that scouts see him on film getting blown up on the run by rookie linemen, the conclusion is that he's a slightly better than average player.
Ray seemed to acknowledge these concerns: "My job is not to take on offensive linemen, but to make running backs not want to play against me."
In commenting to Preston regarding his absence from involuntary voluntary workouts, Lewis might have inadvertently confirmed rumors of a rift with fellow Ravens defender Ed Reed. Addressing rumors that Lewis, Reed, and tight end Todd Heap could be colluding in their efforts to get extensions, Lewis said, "Last offseason I trained with Ed Reed, but this year I'm on my own."
Last year, of course, Reed became the NFL defensive player of the year, wresting the crown from Ray. And, as rumored, Reed's ascension is causing friction between these two Ravens.
Indeed, Lewis' semi-rambling quotes regarding his anticipation for the upcoming season suggest that the NFL's version of the Mean Machine hasn't demonstrated the kind of chemistry that propelled them to the Super Bowl five years ago.
"Last year, there was a lot of personal stuff going on, petty stuff, in the locker room. This year, I'm just going to play football. I don't want to be a GM, I don't want to be a coach. I'm going to be a player again, and end up being the Most Valuable Player, not just on defense, but for the entire league."
That last sentence indicates that Ray might be feeling a little threatened by Reed, who is still working under the back end of his rookie deal -- and who wants a big piece of the same pie from which Lewis wants $50 million.
Frankly, we don't see this one ending well. Reed, not Ray, is the future of the Ravens defense. And everyone knows it.
"When we reworked Ray's deal in 2002," said G.M. Ozzie Newsome, "that deal was done to allow him to retire as a Raven."
Key word: Retire. The team envisions that Lewis has four more years in the tank, and the last thing they're gonna do is invest $50 million (or even $15 million) up front in a guy whose best days can be found in Tony Siragusa's personal video collection.
--I'm in love with Elisha Cuthbert. That is all.