Monday, August 25, 2008

Monday Musings

The Olympics are now a distant memory, baseball is headed for the stretch run, college football starts this week and the NFL gets underway next week. It's a great time to be a sports fan.

  • The so-called "Redeem Team" won its gold medal after sweating through a spirited effort from Spain who gave the U.S. all it could handle. It wasn't the prettiest performance of the games for the NBA's brighest, but in the end they got the job done.

    I stayed up late to watch the game live and I couldn't help but think about why the NBA game in my opinion is suffering a bit right now. Despite showcasing some of the biggest stars in the history of the game in Kobe and LeBron, it was disturbing just how fundamentally deficient most of the American players are.

    Outside of point guards Chris Paul and Deron Williams who I thought managed the game well and played under control, the rest of the team did what NBA players do and relied too heavily on their stunning athleticism.

    Too often they got out of position on defense because of poor footwork and it cost them as the Spanish team was able to penetrate at will while the Americans gambled for steals. On the offensive end it was an endless stream of out-of-control dashes to the basket or ill-advised three pointers that nearly got them beat in the one game that mattered most.

    Like I said, a win is a win and bringing home the gold medal is the most important thing. However something needs to change about the way young American basketball players learn the game if we expect to get back to the type of utter dominance we all expect from the best players from the world's premier league.

  • Big props to the little league team from Hawaii who dominated the team from Mexico to take home the state's second Little League World Series title in four years.

    I was really impressed by the team's style and especially pitcher Caleb Duhay's strike zone pounding approach. Too often the 11 and 12 year old players rely on big breaking balls and have a hard time locating any of their pitches because of poor mechanics. But I have to give it up to Duhay and his coaches for stressing the importance of throwing strikes.

    I could have done without the big league home run trots from some of the kids, but hey, they were having fun with it so I can't really hate on that.

  • As it turns out the San Francisco 49ers may have been doomed no matter what when it came time to pick a quarterback in 2005.

    The prevailing thought that year was that if Heisman Trophy winner Matt Leinart had left USC early that he would have been the Niners' #1 pick. As it turned out he stayed in school and they picked Utah's Alex Smith instead.

    Fast forward to today and both Smith and Leinart have been passed over for starting gigs on their respective teams. Hey, maybe they could swap the signal callers for one another and see what happens.

  • Two of the NFL's fiercest defensive players have been hit with major injuries in the last week as Chargers' defensive end Shawne Merriman found out he has two ligament tears in his left knee, and Giants' end Osi Umenyiora is out for the season with an ACL tear.

    Merriman has yet to make a decision whether or not he'll try to play through the injury, but if I were him I'd take the season off and try to get healthy. It does make you wonder however if his past steroid use has anything to do with the sudden breakdown of a once unbreakable physique.

    For Umenyiora the injury is unfortunate, but reports are that it may have saved us from having to watch Michael Strahan yuck it up on Fox this season as he is considering a comeback.

    Fellow NFC East defensive end Jason Taylor escaped a potentially devastating end to his first season in Washington as he only sprained his right knee against the Panthers Saturday night. He'll be out 10-14 days and may miss the season opener.

    These types of injuries can of course occur at any time in a game as violent as football, but once again it has to call into the question the need for four pre-season games. When you add mini and training camps to the mix it seems to me that most teams would be able to make personnel decisions with just two of the meaningless contests. Of course then the poor NFL might lose out on millions in revenue, so we know that won't happen anytime soon.

  • If you like baseball even a little bit you have to be impressed with what's going on in Tampa Bay this season. Even without their two best players (Carl Crawford and Evan Longoria) the Rays have managed to hang onto a 4.5 game lead in the AL East with no signs of slowing down.

    Last week I wrote that they should be taking a closer look at Barry Bonds as a possible fill-in in the middle of their batting order, but the way they are playing right now makes have to re-think that. Hell, if it weren't for the non-hustle of center fielder B.J. Upton they might have an even bigger lead right now.

  • Cal head football coach Jeff Tedford finally came to his senses (sort of) and named sophomore Kevin Riley the team's starting quarterback after a heated competition this spring between Riley and and senior incumbent Nate Longshore.

    Of course Tedford wouldn't commit all the way to Riley, saying that Longshore would indeed play in the season opener against Michigan State. That of course is exactly what you want to do with a young quarterback, have him looking over his shoulder constantly. Just ask Matt Leinart how that is working out in Arizona.

  • Thanks to NBC's coverage of the Olympics, most of the world missed out on one of the best performances by one of the brightest young golfers on the planet, New Zealand's Danny Lee.

    Lee, who was born in South Korea, became the youngest ever to win the U.S. Amateur, wiping out one of Tiger Woods' myriad of amateur records. At just 18 years (and 1 month) old, Lee is the top-ranked amateur player in the world and he justified that ranking by steamrolling Florida State's Drew Kittleson, 5 and 4.

    Lee was an impressive 11-under par through the 32 holes played on Sunday on the famed and monstrously difficult Pinehurst No. 2. The Golf Channel broadcast every round of the event, but for a tournament that has seen its share of non-descript champions over the last several years, it was really too bad that Lee didn't get the network TV treatment the biggest tournament in amateur golf usually gets.

    Look out for Lee in next year's first two majors, The Masters and the U.S. Open, where he would be teeing it up with the big boys as long as keeps his amateur status. Lee was great to watch with his go-for-it style and Tiger-like ability to extract himself from trouble all over the course.

    When told of his possible pairing with Woods in the 2009 U.S. Open Lee was, lets say, a little excited.

    "Oh, my God. ... Yeah. That's a, oh, that's a special thing for me. ... Wow. I'm going to beat him."

    Good luck with that Danny.

  • The other U.S. Open starts today, begging the question, if a tennis tournament happens and no one hears it, does it make a sound?

  • The San Francisco Giants have won a season-high 5 straight games and Barry Zito has won back-to-back starts. Someone check on Hell to make sure no one down there needs a coat.

  • 7 Miami football players have been suspended for the season opener against Charlston Southern and the sun will rise tomorrow morning. So not much has changed really.

  • Had my first fantasy football draft last night and landed the #1 overall pick. I had to take LaDainian Tomlinson even though he's not who I really wanted. Not sure why exactly, I guess I'm just dreading a decline in his production at some point.

    The rest of my roster includes QBs Drew Brees and Davis Garrard, RBs Darren McFadden, DeAngelo Williams, Jonathan Stewart and Ray Rice, WRs Larry Fitzgerald, Calvin Johnson, Ted Ginn Jr., Nate Burleson and Ronald Curry, TE Vernon Davis and Ks Mason Crosby and Jeff Reed.

    Not bad, but I look at this team and I think I'm either going to win the whole thing or finish dead last. There will be no in between.

  • One last late note from today. Oregon QB Nate Costa will be sidelined for a minimum of 8-10 weeks after he re-injured his surgically repaired left knee. As you'll remember it was another knee injury that torpedoed the Ducks chances at a shot at the title last year when former QB Dennis Dixon was injured.

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