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…]

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.

Bethpage Black: Existing to Outlast

Bethpage Black #4Take your Reds and Greens and Yellows too. It’s The Black we want. Membership dues need not apply. The course is open to all. Fireman. Financiers. Teachers too. The Black cares not what you do or who you are so long as you have the courage to step foot on one of golf’s ultimate exercises in futility. Your wits will be strained. Your legs fatigued. Your soul crushed. Punishing. Unrelenting. Unyielding. The Black will make you question a lot of things. About golf, and about yourself. Is your game good enough to survive 18? Is your heart strong enough to overcome a lover’s rebuke? Is your mind disciplined enough to stay the course, to endure the undulating ups and downs? The only way to find out, the only way to know if you’re up to the test is to play.

The Black knows your frustration. The Black hears your words. You are not the first to travel cross the threshold full of high hopes and desires only to have those dreams turn to a nightmare that you cannot escape, that you cannot avoid. The clubhouse is nowhere in sight. The 19th hole an oasis on the horizon. Your playing partners will offer words of encouragement but their support, their empathy, will fall on deaf ears. It’s just you and your thoughts.

The Black will speak to you. But are you willing to listen, are you patient enough to understand? Will you lay up on a par 4? Will you take iron instead of wood? Will you accept the reality that you are nothing more than a transient here on a brief stay and that the hills and trees that block your approach will remain long after your visit has expired. Those rocks. That heather. Reminders that the sports of golf is more nature than nurture. All the lessons in Long Island won’t help you solve the eternal, evolving mystery of The Black.

If you are one of the lucky few to cross that finish line, body and spirit still intact, take a second to look back down the hill, across the fairways and bunkers that fit together like pieces of a puzzle waiting to be solved. That view, that sense of accomplishment regardless of score is one of the greatest satisfactions the game has to offer. The Black knows this, The Black has seen it all before. It knows you’ll come back again, confident that the next time will be different. But the challenge remains. The challenge will not succumb. Bethpage Black exists to outlast.

 

Sports For Breakfast Not Dinner

If you were one of the roughly 2% of households tuning into to ESPN’s Sunday final round coverage of The Open Championship you were witness to history. No not Rory McIlroy becoming only the 3rd golfer ever to win three major championships by the age of 25 (move over Jack and Tiger). An impressive feat but not the kind of accomplishment sports fans will be talking about years from now. No, what Sunday, and Saturday for that matter as well, proved is that major sporting events are much better when served in the morning as opposed to their traditional afternoon or evening time slots.

As the entire state of California shakes their collective head in agreement, it is not often that us folks on the East Coast are privileged to such an enjoyable viewing experience. Outside of The Open Championship what other major sporting events can be seen in the morning on the East Coast? Wimbledon? Premier League Soccer? An occasional Olympics? The point being, watching sports in the morning is a much more enjoyable experience for viewers because you don’t have to wait and when it’s over you still have an entire day in front of you.

What needs to happen now is for television networks and sports leagues to get together and agree to broadcast more of their weekend games in the early morning on the East Coast. And we’re not talking about just sporting events that occur across the pond in Europe and Asia but big time college and pro basketball, baseball and football.

But why would television networks and leagues agree to such an absurd change when they’re already making obscene amounts of money? What’s in it for them? Fair point. Television networks are motivated by two things: eyeballs and advertisers. But is it the time of day the games air that make them so attractive/lucrative or is it the games themselves?

For the sake of logic, let’s just say that major sporting events will be popular regardless of what time they air. By moving big games away from the evening/afternoon East Coast time slot to the morning the audience should follow. And if there is an audience then it’s only a matter of time before companies like Proctor & Gamble and Pfizer will rush to showcase their latest elixir for low “T”.

But what about the West Coast? Why would networks essentially sacrifice half their audience? Two reasons:

1) California has been spoiled for years now what with NFL games on at 10am so they can keep quiet. Plus people who live in Los Angeles are all vampires anyway who can subsist without much sleep and as long as they’re fed plenty of fresh squeezed pomegranate juice and e-cigarettes they should be able to catch the 6am start of most games.

2) Currently since networks like to start the really big games at 9pm EST most of the entire audience on the Eastern seaboard is asleep before the game is halfway done. Unless these people are falling asleep with their tv’s on this inactivity has to affect ratings. Also, why would advertisers continue to market their really popular products late at night if they know that a good portion of potential consumers are snoring on the couch?

Clearly the networks and advertisers will agree to move games to an early morning start on the East Coast but what about the athletes, the ultimate creatures of habit? Well since these professional are being paid ludicrous amounts of money to play a game they will eventually do as they’re told. And before player’s unions begin threatening any grievances they better check with their night owl members who will love this new schedule because no night games on the weekends means they’re now free to hit the clubs or read their Bibles much much earlier in the evening.

The big winner in all these changes are going to be fans on the East Coast who will now be able to wake up and watch all of their favorite sporting events in the morning instead of wasting all day waiting for the games to begin. Parenting will improve significantly because no true fan can focus on being a mom or dad when their favorite team is scheduled to play that night. And the counter programming in the morning is much more educational than what’s on in the afternoon so real progressive parents can watch the games in peace knowing that their kids are staring at a screen that may have some minor intellectual value.

Changing this system will be a massive undertaking involving television networks, professional sports leagues, athletes and fans but if enough of us sports addicts on the East Coast stand united, a revolution will follow and it will be televised. In the morning.