From Tiger To Kitty-Kat (written July 2010)

Throughout every new wrinkle in the story that has been Tiger Wood’s year of embarrassment and subsequent fall from grace there was always one thing the American viewing public could count on.  The simple, unabashed fact that the man would still dominate his competition on the course almost as well as he can dominate his competition in the nearby Perkins restaurant or Miami nightclub.  That seemingly irrefutable statement has been bashed to the ground since Tiger made his glorious return to golf.  Perhaps he was worried that his all-world persona was shot to kingdom come in one fell swoop, or maybe, more-so, he was worried how the crowds would react to him when being introduced, or in some crazy idea of the human emotion, maybe we all witnessed something that was able to take his invincible belief in himself away and make him realize that he is human.  Bobby Jones said, “The game of golf is played mainly on a five-and-a-half-inch course, the space between your ears”.  His game might not be gone but that belief that was ripped from him is more important than you might think.

Running into a fire hydrant wouldn’t be the biggest news of the day, let alone the story of 2009, but that hydrant, which was built to put out flames, started a firestorm of cover-ups and lies that Woods was never able to recover from in the public eye.  For a man who lived his entire life in privacy, away from the prying eye of TMZ and Inside Edition, he was thrust onto the front page in the matter of minutes.  Rehab, divorce, and custody battles followed, but we can’t forget that this is the man who won the U.S. Open on one leg, who has won countless player of the year awards while playing a third of the tournaments than the rest of the field enters and winning three times more.  His bust would be on the Mount Rushmore of sports.  Were we wrong in assuming that he can overcome anything and continue his supremacy on the links?  Something such as infidelity couldn’t possibly bring this man to his knees, right?  Maybe he needed to ask Kobe for some lessons, or perhaps even Michael Jordan.

The crowds have been more than accommodating to a man who hasn’t shown much remorse for his despicable conduct off the course, but Wood’s has done nothing to prove to us that he still has “it”.  The white light that the fans besieged upon him is no longer present.  The silent roar that created so much fear in his competitors is now gone.  He is no longer the man alone at the mountaintop, he is no longer the man everyone wants to see win the big trophy; he isn’t even the man that everyone flocks to see.

In this day and age witnessing a sports icon fall from grace is passé.  A majority of them walk through the other side and go on performing the same way they had in the past and usually up to the standards that defined them.  However, none of them had as far to fall as Tiger Woods did.  Maybe he’s still in the free fall and will pick himself up, dust himself off, and go right back to winning in the future.  Even still, for now maybe the moniker should be kept in a vault.  When Eldrick regains his form and remembers how to control the thoughts in his head to win golf tournaments it can be returned to him.


No Silver on the Table (written June 2010)

Witnessing a sports team, or individual for that matter, choke on a big stage is nothing new to most sports fans.  The streets are littered with papers of yesteryear in which countless people have made bonehead decisions that either lead to the team shattering or the playing cracking under pressure. The thought of a “choke job” is more common in golf than any other sport played, with players like Mickelson and Van de Velde topping the list. The idea of losing a series after having a 3 to nothing lead is more common in hockey than any other sport, but not unfathomable.  We’ve been on both sides in the past.  Sure there was Buckner’s mishap in 1986, but I know we haven’t forgotten about 2004 and the epic battle against the dark side already, right? Call it karma, call it dumb luck, call it whatever you want but it was inevitable that we would have to repay that amazing feat with one from the other side of the coin.

Our beloved Bruins were so kind as to grant us with another Boston sports catastrophe that we will undoubtedly be talking about for years to come, unless a Cup is bestowed on the TD Garden soon with the Bruins hoisting it.  If the Bruins came out flat in game seven and didn’t tease us with three first period goals the sting of defeat would not hurt so much.  It’s as if the team knew that a simple loss in the final game wasn’t enough, they had to make it epic.  They surely succeeded, but in doing so they created a buzz.  You can’t lose that way and not make waves.  The aftermath isn’t necessarily a bad thing.  The team feels that there is unfinished business to attend to, and the belief to go out and right a wrong can go far on the ice.

Is it worse that we choked, or that we choked against one of the most poorly viewed hockey franchises ever?  Does it even matter?  We lost, and as a Bruins fan I have become pretty familiar with that feeling.  Yes, the Bruins have won the Cup five times in their history, but the last was in 1970, 15 years before I was born.  Would it have hurt a little more if it were deeper in the playoffs? Absolutely, because that hope would have built up to an even higher level, but the loss doesn’t mean that I won’t be cheering from the arena seats once again next October for the start of the season.

If it’s one thing that sports fans can hang their hat on, especially Boston sports fans, it is that we don’t give up.  We stood around and cheered for 86 long drought filled years, all the while blaming an inanimate idea of ‘the curse’, until finally our faith was rewarded with a World Series.  Our city is certainly not championship deprived.  In recent years we’ve seen the Vince Lombardi trophy held up three times, the Commissioner’s World Series trophy twice, and the Larry O’Brien trophy once, but lost in that shuffle are the underachieving Bruins.  It’s one thing to not contend, it’s another to continue to lose.  Perhaps the feeling was that they wouldn’t compete for airtime or television love if they just lost in a ho-hum manner.  Perhaps they just really couldn’t take the pressure that is growing every year they come home empty handed.  Whatever the reason is, we have to believe that there is a silver lining around the dark cloud that is the most recent “big-choke” for our city.

Flyers Offseason Moves (written July 2010)

The Philadelphia Flyers had a miraculous Stanley Cup playoff run this past season, but the true test for the administration was not how they ended up finishing, rather it was this offseason in which the team was sure to be busy with both re-signing current players while trying to bolster their lineup. After the team watched the Chicago Blackhawks hoist the Cup on their own ice the biggest question ahead of them was what to do about the goalie situation. After talks with Evgeni Nabokov, the unrestricted free agent goalie formerly of San Jose, fizzled, the team looked inward and decided to resign Michael Leighton, the goalie that took them to the Finals after being picked up on waivers mid-season, to a two-year deal worth $3.1 million. A move that didn’t make many headlines and was not the “hot” choice in the eyes of many fans.
Once the goalie situation was solved team officials looked to strengthen and youthen a back-line whose age showed in the long playoff run. In a trade with the Tampa Bay Lightning the team was able to add a significant defensive body in Andrej Meszaros, 24, in exchange for a second round pick in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft. In addition they were able to resign Braydon Coburn, 25, who is highly regarded as the best skater on the blue-line. The most intriguing acquisition of the summer for the Flyers was signing Nikolai Zherdev, a former top pick in NHL draft who had been playing in the KHL after leaving the NHL in 2009. Zherdev appeared in all 82 games and compiled 23 goals and 35 assists for the New York Rangers in 2008-2009, his last season in the NHL.
In one of the most shocking moves the Flyers brass decided to sign Jody Shelley, a player who boasts a long and woefully unremarkable history as an enforcer in the NHL, to a relatively expensive three-year deal worth $1.1 million per season. The fact that this deal sounds too good to be true has left a lot of Flyers faithful confused as to the direction of the team in the future. The signing of Shelley left many almost certain that Dan Carcillo, known as ‘Car-Bomb’ to the fans, and Darroll Powe, the two remaining free restricted free agents not yet signed at the time, were done in Philadelphia.
Carcillo, who was acquired two years ago in a trade with the Phoenix Coyotes, quickly became a fan favorite for his aggressive playing style and extracurricular activity after the whistle. However, he took a while to catch on with the Steven’s led coaching staff. Once Peter Laviolette took the helm Carcillo seemed to thrive and was viewed as an integral part of the teams turn-a-round. In a surprise move earlier this week the Flyers were able to avoid arbitration with the right-winger and sign him to a one-year deal worth $1.075 million. The move now puts the Flyers 23-man roster over the league salary cap by $2.5 million. The signing almost guarantees that more moves are yet to come for the Flyers, with the biggest name on the trading block being that of Simon Gagne; a player who is viewed as a top six forward on any team, but carries a substantial cap hit. For a cap strapped team like the Flyers, Gagne might be the answer to their financial woes.