Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The Match Play Preview

"Y'all want to come over to
play some Pictionary and
have some Key Lime Pie"
That was a fantastic finish at the Northern Trust Open on Sunday with Mickelson and Bradley both making birdie on one of the toughest finishing holes in golf to get into a playoff won by Bill Haas who dropped a 43 foot bomb on the second hole for the win but, from a writing perspective, that about covers it right?  Phil stumbled a bit down the stretch but he didn't have anything close to a Winged Foot level implosion and he made the clutch birdie on 18.  Keegan Bradley is starting to prove that he's no fluke but there's not much else to say about him at this point other than his preshot routine makes Dr. Bob Rotella* want to find a very safe place and start chanting "serenity now, serenity now . . ."

To top it all off, the winner was Bill Haas who drained the biggest putt of 2012 and followed it up with the kind of fist pump you see from a guy who just won free fries in a McDonald's scratch-off game.  Haas is so freakin' boring that his beautiful wife hasn't even posed for any gratuitous swimsuit pictures meaning I'm going to have to insert a completely random image later to keep the ratings up.  All of this adds up to an opportunity to hit a few random non-golf topics before we circle back for an Accenture Match Play preview.

The Worldwide Leader in Stupidity

"I know twas you who stole the stapler
from my cubicle.  Prepare to die!"
ESPN employees were recently reprimanded and, in one case, fired for using a certain offensive racial term in their coverage of Jeremy Lin.  It took me a couple of tries to find out what the offensive term was, presumably because some media outlets don't want to risk offending their sponsors by publishing that type of language.   Here at the FGR, however, we are not bound by such restrictions because we're pretty sure our sponsors don't read what we write so we're free to tell you that the language used by ESPN was "chink in the armor."  I found it on the L.A. Times website where they clarified the reference with the following explanation, "'chink' is, in certain contexts, a racial slur for a Chinese person" which led me to wonder if there are any modern contexts where "chink" would not be a racial slur considering that (a) "chink in the armor" is really the only other way it is commonly used and (b) not that many people are sporting armor these days (I know it's a metaphor but work with me).  It took a while but I came up with three groups of people who can inoffensively use "chink" in 2012: (1) characters on Game of Thrones, (2) members of the Society for Creative Anachronism (a/k/a amateur medieval reenactment freaks), and (3) employees of Medieval Times (a/k/a professional medieval reenactment freaks).                   

"I think he said the
point guard is a chick."
As for the human resources department at ESPN which I'm sure is in full court press mode this week, I'd recommend the following course of action.  Go out and buy about 100 copies of Blazing Saddles and make it required viewing for all employees with the instruction that they should avoid writing or saying anything remotely similar to anything uttered by the citizens of Rock Ridge.  And when it comes to discussing race, leave it to the experts at Saturday Night Live  (SNL - Jeremy Lin).  

The Worldwide Leader in Role Models

ESPN Magazine runs a feature called The Mag Minute in which they ask an athlete a few non-provocative questions and generally get generic answers with some dubious exceptions.  As you may recall, in December, Patriots' tight end Aaron Hernandez responded to the question, "what do you hate most about your job?" with "we have to listen to the coaches all the time and do what they say."  The message - "Hey kids, coaches are a drag!"  Then, in the February 20th edition of the Mag, University of Miami guard, Shenise Johnson decided to one-up Hernandez when she was asked, "what's the worst advice you've ever heard?"  Her response - "I hate general statements like 'stay in school.'  That's a myth.  Who says school will help you have a better job at the end of the day?"  Well Shenise, I'm glad you asked.

According to something called the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, full time employees with a bachelor's degree make 74% more, on average over their careers, than those whose highest attainment is a high-school diploma.  When you go beyond a bachelor's degree (you know, "stay in school"), that number rises to 84%.  A quick internet search on the subject might have enlightened Shenise but apparently her interests lie elsewhere because in the same piece she was asked "what's the last thing you Googled?" and her response was, "Beyonce.  I want to dance like her - her heels are like eight inches high, and she can still move."  The "U" just can't seem to catch a break these days.        

Little League Basketball Update 

Why do I feel like this
picture is a crystal ball?
My son has his last basketball game of the season this Saturday and his team is undefeated (we're not supposed to keep score but it turns out that 8 year olds can count by two.  Who knew?)  I was all set to show him Hoosiers, Glory Road or The Fish that Saved Pittsburgh on Friday night to get him fired up but those movies are about long shots.  Turns out Hollywood doesn't make too many movies about undefeated teams that close the deal.  I thought about showing him One on One with Robby Benson because it includes some lessons on hubris but I don't want to have to explain the scene where he takes some uppers before practice, freaks-out and goes on a hyperactive acid trip before being carried off the court by one of his teammates (that scene is inexplicably not part of the classic trailer for the movie - One on One Trailer).

I need a movie that predates the era of "everybody wins" with a more direct message about doing what it takes so I'm going with The Great Santini.  If you haven't seen it, you should.  It stars Robert Duvall as an over the top marine fighter pilot and Michael O'Keefe as his high school aged son.  (If you needed a semi-athletic white actor in 1979-80, apparently O'Keefe was your guy as he parlayed his part as Ben Meacham in The Great Santini into the iconic role of Danny Noonan in Caddyshack the following year.  Let's just say his golf swing was more convincing than his jump shot and, unlike Kevin Costner and Shia LaBeouf, you could actually imagine the ball getting airborne after he hit it).  It turns out the seminal scene in The Great Santini where O'Keefe beats Duvall in a game of one on one for the first time in his life followed by Duvall throwing the ball at his wife and then repeatedly bouncing it off his son's head while saying, "I bet you're going to cry.  Come on, squirt a few" is almost a perfect dramatization of a game we played in our driveway a few weeks ago.  (I'm kidding of course.  My son's only 8 years old.  It will be years before he beats me and I alienate my entire family by going on a post game emotional killing spree like this . . . The Great Santini).            

The Match Play Preview

"Hey look at that, another
 tap-in birdie.  Want to get a
Guinness after I close you out?"
I cranked-out a match play bracket in about five minutes on Monday and, based on the theory that you go with your first instinct, I'm sticking with it (see below).  I actually attended the second round of this thing back in 2000 and watched Tiger get taken down to the wire by an obscure South African guy named something like Retlef Goosefeather before pulling out the win on 18.  (Seriously, there were about 20,000 spectators that day, 15,000 of them were following this match and the only two people who knew who Tiger was playing were Goosen and his caddie.**).  The tournament would end with one of my favorite moments in golf history.  Tiger played Darren Clarke in the final and, at the time, both were being coached by Butch Harmon which led to an awkward pre game situation where Harmon chose to work with Tiger on the range before the match instead of Clarke.  At one point, Clarke yelled down the range to Harmon, "no need to come down here Butchie, I'm hitting it perfect."  He then birdied 12 out of 33 holes and smoked Tiger 4 & 3.

How many hole in ones on the
front nine today Your Excellency?
Day 2 of the Match Play is one of the most underrated viewing opportunities in professional golf.  By the second day, we've usually weeded-out a bunch of the European and Asian players that no one recognizes like R.C. Bello, Kyung-Tae-Kim and Kim Jong un (apparently he's a better putter than his father was but not as sharp with the irons as he only averages about seven hole in ones per round).  This year that leaves us with potential second round match-ups of: Stanley v. Snedeker, Woods v. Watney, Kaymer v. Fowler and Poulter v. Schwartzel.  That's top shelf.

In the bracket I posted yesterday, I went with a final of Martin Kaymer v. Webb Simpson and had Kaymer taking the title mostly because I thought they had the easiest brackets.  In picking the final pairing, I stayed away from the Gary Player bracket which is this year's answer to the World Cup's "group of death" with Rory Mcilroy, Jason Day, Charl Schwartzel, Sergio Garcia, Keegan Bradley and previous winners, Ian Poulter and Geoff Ogilvy.  I avoided the Bobby Jones bracket because I couldn't convince myself that anyone was going to take down Luke Donald in this format but I also couldn't bring myself to pick Luke Donald (use this advice at your own risk).  Of course as I'm writing this, Simpson is 3 down through 6 to Matteo Manassero which makes me that much happier that he was not one of my two weekly picks (I went with Kaymer and Schwartzel).  You'll have to trust me that this was not an effort to deceive my gambling competitors (at least not primarily).***

Endnotes
              
* In the interest of widening the appeal of these articles, I'm going to start elaborating on some of the references.  Dr. Bob Rotella is a famous sports psychologist who preaches among other things, "follow a mental and physical routine on every shot."  To the extent that Keegan Bradley has a preshot routine, it seems to be constantly interrupted with thoughts like, "do I have the right club?", "did the wind just shift?", "how do I know that chick in the gallery?  Torrey Pines?  Scottsdale?"

** Goosen would win the first of his two U.S. Opens the following year.

*** I actually did pick Simpson originally but then decided that he would be better for a stroke play tournament.  By then I had already filled-out and posted my bracket on the site.  Oops.

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