Phil Mickelson For 2016 Ryder Cup Captain

When asked if he had a desire to be the next United States Ryder Cup team captain Phil Mickelson should have said yes. Then all of us who disagree with the timing of his vitriol could forgive and forget. But he said no. Actually his exact words were “Oh, no, no — I’ve been on eight losing teams”. This unfortunate mentality leaves the U.S. team with a void at the top where the current American player with the most Ryder Cup experience and influence is unwilling to accept more of leadership role. Yes, Mickelson will be a Ryder Cup captain eventually, (Bethpage 2014???) and yes, his performance at Sunday’s now infamous Ryder Cup press conference was blunt, honest and perhaps accurate. But in order for his opinions to carry significant weight he must be willing to support his words with action otherwise he runs the risk of coming off as shallow, bitter and petulant which, with the current tumultuous state of the entire U.S. Ryder Cup program, is the last thing anyone who professes to love and embrace the competition should desire.

Pods or no pods, the most unsettling and astounding aspect of this press conference was the overall lack of accountability by both the Mickelson and captain Tom Watson which has sadly become indicative of American athletes and athletic programs in general. (see University of Michigan football.) Athletes should be allowed to criticize their leaders. Public or private people in positions of power must be held accountable. Would it have been better for Mickelson to question Watson’s strategy behind closed doors and away from the glare of the cameras? Sure. But maybe he had already voiced his displeasure privately and after nothing changed he felt the need to air his and the other players grievances in a much more public forum. And Watson didn’t exactly take on the responsibility of this latest American failure when at the press conference he said that it takes “12 players” to make for a successful Ryder Cup.

Both Mickelson and Watson are to an extent correct but the real issue for the U.S. Ryder Cup team moving forward is a lack of leadership not just from the captain but from the players as well. The primary job of the coach/captain is to put their players in a position to succeed. Win or lose a leader must be willing to take responsibility for the final outcome. But players too must understand that a coach controls only so much and that ultimately success or failure is determined by their performance. Mickelson and Watson exhibited none of the characteristics of true leadership during that Ryder Cup press conference. It wasn’t Tom Watson’s fault that the U.S. teams three top ranked players Jim Furyk, Bubba Watson and Matt Kuchar combined for a total of two points during the competition. Conversely, his captain’s picks underperformed and his lineup decisions were curious at best. The blame needs to be shouldered by somebody and that usually means the captain and star player yet both Watson and Mickelson reluctant to accept that responsibility.

The concern is that the pool of future American players and captains doesn’t get it either which means that Sunday will not be the last time we watch a star player and a coach pointing the finger at one another. To bring it full circle, if Phil Mickelson were to accept the challenge of being the next U.S. team Ryder Cup captain/player at Hazeltine in 2016 then win, lose or draw he’ll have no one to blame except himself. Which is the way it should be.

Roger Goodell At The Ryder Cup

Sir Alex Ferguson, the retired legendary manager of Manchester United, will address Team Europe at the Ryder Cup Tuesday evening. So far U.S. team captain Tom Watson has been tight lipped about who, if any, guest speakers he has lined up for the Americans this week in Scotland. But if flight logs out of Teterboro Airport are any indication then a certain beleaguered commissioner of the NFL might very well be en route to Gleneagles at this very moment. And, as fortune would have it, we have obtained an advanced copy of Roger Goodell’s address to Team USA at the 2014 Ryder Cup.

Thank you all for coming today. I’d like to make a few points and then I will be happy to evasively answer any of your questions pertaining to things that I am now comfortable discussing. First, as I’ve said before, I made a mistake in the handling of the Ray Rice situation but even though as commissioner of the NFL I am the one responsible for the decisions being made I have not once considered stepping down from this exalted position and continue to maintain the support of the owners for whom I have helped make lots and lots of money. Phil, if things hadn’t fallen apart between you and the Chargers ownership group then you too would have come to understand where my true loyalties lie.

But back to my original point which is that as the person in charge of the most powerful, influential sports league in our country I take full responsibility for mishandling the Ray Rice situation so far but promise to make changes in the future to ensure that the next time there is an incident involving domestic violence that the facts and timeline of events are presented somewhat clearly and that the new special governing body charged with handling these investigations includes at least a few women who will ultimately be the ones I would like to see shouldering the blame should another coverup ever be exposed. [Read more...]

Derek Jeter Must Retire Now

Derek Jeter must retire now. Effective immediately. Before these final four home games against the Baltimore Orioles. His season and career over. For good. No more farewell tour. No more parting gifts. No more self indulgent sports drink commercials. No more out of character photo essays in local magazines. That’s it. Time for everyone to move on. Jeter. The Yankees. And the fans. Because at this rate, if he plays out the final week of the season then someone is going to get hurt. Like seriously. We’re talking broken limbs, fractured skulls, bruised egos you name it. And it it can all be avoided if manager Joe Girardi does what’s right, what’s required, and keeps his legendary shortstop out of the lineup.

The proof that something seriously wrong could and will happen if the situation is not resolved immediately is in the posh Yankee Stadium stands and bleachers where several incidents have already occurred demonstrating the severity of the threat. Fans, ushers and vendors are in jeopardy of a catastrophic injury every time Derek Jeter comes to the plate. Since it was announced way back in spring training that this would be Jeter’s final season in pinstripes, people have been lining up to grab a slice of history and in recent weeks the most prized piece of memorabilia has not been an autograph or picture but a foul ball off the bat of the Yankee captain.

Innocent bystanders have turned to cautionary tales as this battle for super fandom has been raging for some time now. Two weeks ago when the Yankees hosted the Kansas City Royals a man nearly lost both life and limb in pursuit of a Derek Jeter foul ball. The incident occurred during Jeter’s 5th inning at bat when on a 0-0 count he fouled a fastball straight back over the screen towards the broadcast booths. The ball ricocheted off the facade of the Delta Sky Suites directly into the outstretched hands of a husband and wife who were visiting Yankee Stadium with their two kids for the first time this season. As the happily married couple secured the baseball, their beautiful children rejoicing at their good fortune, another man, perhaps 45, with headphones covering his ears, body slammed the husband to the ground and pried the baseball from the wife’s hand. Boos rang through out the section as this overzealous man-child retreated to his seat with his new prize tucked safely in a fanny pack while the family of four was reduced to tears as they gently bandaged the husband’s bloody knee with leftover napkins from a Lobel’s roast beef sandwich. The Yankees did their best to cover up the ugly affair by offering the family the alleged baseball Derek Jeter warmed up with before the game, which was a nice gesture yet will not make up for the pain and suffering associated with coming this close to history only to have that memory dashed like the 2014 Yankees playoff chances.

And just think, all of this could have been avoided if Joe Girardi and the Yankees front office did what was right and kept their captain on the bench. Baseball writers and some disgruntled fans have been calling for Jeter to play less due to on field performance which is not enough of a reason especially when the roster was so clearly overmatched and outclassed by more formidable teams like the Baltimore Orioles. No the only reason why Derek Jeter’s farewell tour and illustrious career must end now is because the longer he plays the more likely it is that some fan, perhaps a father, maybe a mother, gets seriously injured while trying to catch a foul ball.

It’s the right thing to do, for the fans.

A Ryder Cup Referendum

Oh Ryder Cup, how golf fans have missed you. Two years is too long between visits. When we last saw one another on the outskirts of Chicago the Europeans had just completed one of the most remarkable and improbable comebacks in the history of sports thanks to the inspirational leadership of captain Jose Maria Olazabal who effectively channeled the spirit and charisma of fellow Spaniard the late great Seve Ballesteros. Of course we can’t forget about Ian Poulter either whose standing as the greatest match play golfer of his era was only enhanced after his exploits at Medina. Watching Europe celebrate their come from behind victory on American soil was a disheartening experience for team U.S.A who have waited quietly and patiently for a chance at redemption.

So much has changed since 2012 however that many of the names and faces traipsing about the hallowed grounds of Gleneagles might strike the average sports fan as unrecognizable. After all, the Era of Tiger has been eclipsed by the Reign of Rory and while an injured Woods convalesces on his Jupiter estate, the responsibility of bearing the Stars and Stripes through the Scottish countryside falls on the worldly shoulders of guys with the last names Walker, Reed and Spieth. Team U.S.A is not completely void of veterans as seasoned patriots like Jim Furyk and Phil Mickelson continue to wear the red, white and blue with great pride and distinction even if, in the case of Mickelson, the season to date has been a major disappointment.

And before the Europeans run about the local distilleries screaming that the 2014 Ryder Cup is theirs to lose, match play as you know has never been decided on paper and captain Paul McGinley will be rolling out just as many rookies as the Americans. Even if the top of their roster remains a veritable who’s who of the games elite: McIlroy, Garcia, Rose, Stenson, Kaymer, pressure is a tangible thing at the Ryder Cup and expectations can weigh down even the best in the world. The United States has embraced the role of underdogs before and captain Tom Watson would be wise to instill in his team this year a healthy commitment to the mantra ’Us Against the World’.

Now that the people of Scotland have let their voices be heard it’s time for golf fans to choose sides and while rooting interests may vary, what remains consistent regardless of the referendum is a love for match play and the Ryder Cup. Whatever happens at Gleneagles, however these three days in late September play out, memories will be made and passions will be stoked. Because two years is too long.

Champions League Soccer: A Perfect Excuse For A Pint

Champions League soccer, a perfect excuse for a midday pint. Preferably Guinness. But from the looks of this Irish pub few got the memo. Was all the momentum for more soccer in this country following the World Cup a ruse perpetuated by young, liberal hipsters or do Americans have more important things to tend to at 2:30PM on a Tuesday afternoon in September? Possibly work? Maybe exercise. Could be family. Still, bartender seems nice enough even though she hasn’t been around this joint long enough to learn how to lower the ambient 90s rock which now threatens to drown out the Dortmund crowd. Borussia Dortmund vs Arsenal, first leg of the group stage. Live from Germany. Not Russia. Two well known sides. Even the two college kids are familiar but can’t trust them, they’re from New Jersey.

This guy sounds like he knows a little but more about the game. Maybe it’s the English accent. Could be the old school iPod shuffle. Nope, it’s definitely the English accent. Just finished a workout. Liverpool fan. Change channels? Why sure? Kids, you don’t mind do you? No. Ok, bye bye Dortmund/Arsenal hello Liverpool vs Ludogorets. English so happy that he decides to celebrate with an ice cold…Corona??? You’re English for crying out loud, aren’t you supposed to have better taste than that? Clearly ashamed, he redeems himself with an Americanized and Americansized portion of fish n’ chips. The English, so predictable.

First half transpires without incident, accident or any goals which is fine if you’ve got nothing personally invested in the Champions League but incredibly angst ridden if like English you’re a Liverpool fan and nervous because Ludogorets is playing an inspired brand of football even though few outside of Bulgaria have ever heard of the Eagles from Razgrad.

Halftime. Still no score. Kids order wings. Not too spicy. English has a second Corona. One Guinness good for me, it is a work day after all. Make the next one a seltzer please. Hold on hold on…with lime.

The second half goes by with limited drama. A few cooks come out of the kitchen to mingle with the bartender. One fills up a tupperware container with beer. Must get real thirsty standing by the oven. Either that or it’s for a recipe. English has been outside talking on his phone for the last few minutes. And you call yourself a serious Reds fan, Liverpool not Cincinnati? Back just in time for a well placed volley from newly acquired striker Mario Balotelli. Fists pumps from English. Cheers to the kids. Wink and a nod to the bartender who’s now busying herself with a celebratory Irish whiskey. Not for her, that would be against the rules. Must be for English. College kids are too young for coffee. And whiskey. But not cheap beer. Have another fellas, next one’s on English.

Ludogorets with the equalizer? How’s that possible? There’s like no time left on the clock. English silent, coffee mug pressed gently against his lips. Going to need to pace around the bar for a few moments while us other patrons do our best to blend in with the dark oak. Don’t want to upset the already distressed. Dinner crowd should be arriving momentarily and with only a few minutes of extra time remaining it does not seem like Liverpool is going to come out of this one with three points which has English sweating through his workout clothes for the second time this afternoon.

Leave it to a soccer referee to call a questionable foul in extra time. Wait, UEFA and FIFA are two separate entities? The goalie had an angle and the contact was of an incidental nature. Must be playing to the home crowd. Anfield. If this game were being played in Bulgaria it might have been a different story. But that’s not reality as Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard calmly strikes the ball in the back right corner of the net. Final score: Reds 2 Ludogorets 1. English takes a deep sigh of relief. Finally he can have a sip of that Irish whiskey. Major props to the Bulgarian side who might prove to be the thorn of this group. What’s that? Next game against Real Madrid the reigning kings of the Champions League? Fun while it lasted Ludogorets.

Settle the tab. Thanks for your kind, considerate company Ms. Bartender. Kids, get back to your books. English, congrats on the win and enjoy that whiskey. It is 4:30 in the afternoon after all. A perfect time for soccer in America.