I’m Dreaming of a Green Jacket

Tis the season for the world’s #1 golfer to be inspired by a Christmas classic.

 “Green Jacket”

Music and Lyrics by Rory McIlroy

I’m dreaming of a Green Jacket

Just like the one worm by Faldo

Where the azaleas glisten

And caddies listen

To hear the galleries call my name

 

I’m dreaming of a Green Jacket

With every autograph I write

May my clubs stay shiny and bright

And may all my golf balls be white

 

I’m dreaming of a Green Jacket

Better than thinking about Caro

Where Rae’s Creek glistens

And Amen Corner listens

To hear Tiger wince in pain

 

I’m dreaming of a Green Jacket

With every lawsuit that I fight

May my court case stay merry and bright

And may all my witnesses be right

Johnny Manziel Is An Underdog

This is a tough morning to be a member of the Johnny Manziel is going to be a successful NFL starting quarterback fan club. The haters and hot takers have lined up to serve some well deserved smackdown after Johnny Football and the rest of the Browns took a big old dump in the Dawg Pound yesterday afternoon against the Cincinnati Bengals. The rookie quarterback provided little for fans to cheer about as he looked overmatched and overhyped. His ability to improvise was severally limited by the Bengals defense and when he did hang in the pocket his reads were late and his throws inaccurate. The Browns defense deserves it’s fair share of the blame for final the result too but all in all after Sunday doubters have every right to question if Johnny Manziel is going to make it in the NFL. However, supporters should feel emboldened now too because for the first time since a then red shirt freshman led Texas A&M over #1 Alabama in Tuscaloosa, Johnny Football is an underdog.

And underdogs are fun to root for. So while there will still be plenty of grumps out there who want Manziel to fall flat on his face because they don’t like his style or confidence, fans will coalesce around the notion that nobody believes in him and therefore when he does succeed those that remained loyal will be able to take a great deal of pride in standing by their man.

Either that or the Cleveland Browns trade for Jay Cutler this offseason.

 

 

An Undefeated Season For Kentucky Is Good For College Basketball

I’m rooting for the 2014-15 University of Kentucky basketball team to remain undefeated this season and you should too. Unless that is you’re member of the ’72 Miami Dolphins and just hate fun or one of those overly nostalgic types who long for the days of Lew Alcindor when freshman sat out a year and players still shot at a peach basket. (Remember, back then there was also no such thing as a three point line and dunking was considered a sin so be very careful what you wish for.) Those days have long since passed and the swooshed-out mercenaries that Coach Cal brings into Lexington each year remain the most accurate representation of big-time modern day college basketball that we have. Therefore as fans we should celebrate their accomplishments not bemoan or belittle their ethics and character simply because we don’t appreciate the way they treat college like a 6 month long audition for the NBA.

If you want to blame someone blame the NCAA. Or the NBA. They’re the ones who perpetuate this system and unless they institute changes (two and done or retain eligibility after playing in the D-league) the Kentucky/Kansas/Duke/Carolina/UCLA’s of the world will keep on recruiting one and done talent.

Furthermore, an undefeated season for Kentucky is good for college basketball because we, and I use the term “we” liberally here because a lot of us weren’t even born back then, haven’t seen a team run the table since the Indiana Hoosiers in 1976. That’s a long time to wait for another undefeated college basketball team therefore the longer Kentucky goes without losing a game the more sports fans will take notice and celebrate the accomplishments of a group of players who, frankly, would be deserving of our praise.

So be like me and cheer on the Wilcats as they cruise through the mediocre SEC and on into March Madness. And no, the University of Kentucky basketball team would not beat the Philadelphia 76ers.

Maybe just the New York Knicks.

Kevin Durant, LeBron James and the Era of Minutes Restrictions

Kevin Durant is on a minutes restriction and this makes me sad. Ever since he came back from his foot injury the Thunder have scrutinized his every movement as if they were a group of NASA engineers observing the trajectory of the Orion spacecraft.

Part of the joy of watching Durant play basketball use to be that Scott Brooks could run him out there for 40 minutes a game, night after night, and he would be no worse for the wear. Now were stuck watching Anthony Morrow and Jeremy Lamb get significant minutes and, no offense to either Morrow or Lamb, they’re no KD. And the real bummer is that the old Durant, the one we knew and loved for nearly a decade, might be gone forever. Again, this makes me sad.

Apparently the type of injury that Durant sustained to his foot was stress related, the byproduct of repeated motion not some sort of freak one time occurrence. In other words, the very things that made Durant 1A to LeBron’s 1, his rangy athleticism/explosive first step, are also the reasons for him missing the first 18 games of the season. And there’s no guarantee that he doesn’t re-injur this same foot in the future which is exactly why Oklahoma City is being so mindful of his minutes right now.

Speaking of LeBron James, the same thing’s going on with him in Cleveland right now, although to a much lesser degree than with Durant. Ever since carb-free LeBron came back to the Cavs he has been weaker, slower and not as explosive which offers a stark contrast from how he use to look just going back to last year’s NBA Finals when he played for the Miami Heat. Watch the tape. We’re talking about two different body types here. And before you think that I’m just reacting to some sort of popular internet theory here know this, LeBron sat out last night’s game against the Thunder with a sore knee. LeBron is not supposed to miss games with injury. He and Durant were supposed to be indestructible.

Deep down I know that it’s smart for both the Thunder and Cavaliers to take every precaution with their star players. They are valuable investments after all and as an NBA franchise you want to maximize both short and long term returns. The Thunder are in the unenviable position of needing Durant to play as much as possible because they’re so far behind in the Western Conference standings right now due to, of all things, the injuries to Durant and Russell Westbrook. And while the Cavs can probably afford to give LeBron the occasional night off every once and a while I’m hoping that David Blatt doesn’t suddenly morph into Gregg Popovich and leave us with more court time for Matthew Dellavedova. Again, no offense to Dova, I like his game, especially for a rookie, but LeBron was not supposed to wear down like others players. Neither was Durant. This makes me sad.

I’m not trying to eulogize either Durant or LeBron. They still have a lot of life left in those legs and we should look forward to watching them for years to come. However, it will take some time to get use to minutes restrictions and DNP-REST for two players who were always such a joy to watch play basketball in part because of their energy level and the fact that they didn’t ever need a break. Until now. And this, makes me sad.

 

LeBron James, ‘I Can’t Breathe’ and the History of Race in America

For all the controversy LeBron James may or may not have started Monday night when before the Cleveland Cavaliers game at the Brooklyn Nets he warmed up with a shirt that said ‘I Can’t Breathe’ across the front I think at the very least we can all agree that it continued our ongoing conversation about Ferguson and Eric Garner and, for some, especially younger people who might not be following the news as closely, was an engaging way to raise awareness that could, if handled properly, open the doors for wider discussions about the history of race in America. Now it’s up to us, the parents and teachers of young people to add context to these important moments in our history.

As a former high school history teacher I can tell you with complete confidence that most teenagers aren’t watching CNN or reading the New York Times but they are following the likes of LeBron, DRose, Kyrie and Kobe on social media and while we socially conscious adults may find it hard to believe that any person, regardless of age, living in the digital age could have missed the events of the past few weeks you’d be amazed at what does and doesn’t permeate the bubbles of young people in this country. So while many of us adults who follow the news and understand the larger, contextual issues at hand dismiss the influence of athletes like LeBron on young people in this country we are potentially missing out on an opportunity to introduce and engage younger generations on of a very difficult, complicated topic in American history. Call it a hashtag with a context.

My hope is that in classrooms and living rooms across America, teachers and parents are taking the pop-culture momentum created by LeBron and company and using it to frame the events in Ferguson and Staten Island in a much larger, deeper historical context of racial injustice in America. The discussion can start with the sharing of other examples of athletes promoting social justice like Tommie Smith and John Carlos at the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico City before morphing into a much deeper conversation on the Civil Rights Movement and all of the challenges that this country counties to face as we strive for greater equality and tolerance.

The good news is whatever young people lack in historical context they make up for with an overall absence of racial prejudice. For the most part kids nowadays do not see color. They do not see sexual orientation or religion. They are poised to become the most tolerant generation in American history and it is our responsibility as adults to educate and teach them about how we got to where we are today. Sheltering them from this difficult discussion is not the way to promote and sustain long term progressive changes to our society because they’ve got to understand where we came from in order to understand where we’re going. Talking about things like Thurgood Marshall and the Jim Crow South, race riots in Chicago and Boston, LBJ and the Great Society, these are all important moments in the history of racial injustice in this country that can help young people better understand why the recent events in Ferguson and Staten Island make old wounds feel so fresh and for all the progress we have made as a society we still have a very long way to go.

Like it or not, athletes are role models and if all it took to start the conversation on racial injustice in America were a few Cleveland Cavaliers breaking the NBA’s dress code then I think we can all agree that that is a small price to pay for progress.