I’ve fallen way behind in the stories I’d like to comment on. Several of those stories seem to have now paired up, so that’s how I’m going to address them – as twofers.
Duke – Man, has it been a rough stretch for the Duke athletic department or what? You had the lacrosse scandal, AD Joe Aleva’s boat accident caused by his drunk son, JJ Redick’s drunk driving arrest and back injury and now the football team is losing their starting quarterback to a plagiarism charge. Without Zack Asack (Raise your hand. How many of you knew that was the name of Duke’s returning QB? I sure didn’t remember his name.), the Blue Devils now have to turn to sophomore Marcus Jones who mostly played receiver last year. I guess that means Duke will suck at football this year.
As for Asack, apparently he is off the team for one year, but if he stays out of trouble, he can return to school and the football team. It’s good to see that they are getting slightly tougher on cheating at one of the nation’s top universities. A few years ago, Greg Newton missed only two basketball games after he was caught cheating.
The other Duke story is the bizarre ripping of USA Basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski by espn.com writer Chris Sheridan. Sheridan wrote a whole article (admittedly, I haven’t read the whole thing. It’ll be a cold day in hell when I pay for ESPN content) about his outrage over K telling the US players that they should dominate every quarter that they play. Imagine K’s nerve! To Sheridan’s feeble mind, this sort of aggression and attitude constitutes “screwing up royally.” K is “dead wrong.”
What a tool. I don’t care what happened at the last Olympics or World Championships. We do still have the best basketball players in the world and it’s not even close. Our problem has been the team selection process and the lack of preparation. That has all changed now and there’s no reason to think that we can’t go out there and dominate every second of every game we play if we put our best team out there. Anyone who thinks otherwise is blind.
Talent and Performance – By no means am I big cycling fan. I sort of follow the Tour de France each year, but that’s about it. I think it’s amazing what those guys (and their pharmacists) do, but I just only keep up with so many sports. This year, I knew going in that American Floyd Landis was one of the favorites and that his odds increased when his two main challengers never started the race due to (shocker!!) a drug scandal. I followed his progress and was pleased when he grabbed the Yellow Jersey a few days ago. It looked like the best rider, an American, was going to win. Very cool. The story was even cooler for the fact that Landis has a degenerative hip condition and very likely will need a replacement after the tour. Who wins major sporting events just before a hip replacement?
Then Landis’ tour fell apart on Wednesday. He bonked, to use a cycling term (I think) and just couldn’t chase the lead riders. He not only lost the overall lead, but he fell to eleventh place, 8 minutes out of first. Even Landis said his tour was over.
Like Landis, Tiger Woods has suffered recently, going from the top of the world to failing miserably (by his standards) in the US Open. Tiger normally scares the bejeezus out of every golfer in the tournament, particularly in majors, but he didn’t even make the cut at Winged Foot. He hadn’t really played terribly well all year, then his dad died and he took some time off. When he came back, most people expected him to go right back to domination but when he failed instead, it led many to wonder if maybe he’d never completely dominate again. Maybe he’d lost his mental edge.
Then came Thursday. Landis was up first. It was the tour’s last day in the Alps and probably the last day to conceivably make up a big deficit. But not 8 minutes. Not on the top riders in the world. Not after flopping so miserably on Wednesday. But Floyd Landis is one stubborn and talented mother. He attacked the course largely on his own, dropping his challengers one by one. He went out without the protection of his team and completed one of the most amazing days in the history of the tour. At the end of his relentless attack up the hills and crazy flight down the backsides, Landis had lopped 7:30 off of that 8 minute deficit. He rose from eleventh to third and with only one time trial left, is once again the favorite to win the Tour de France. Incredible.
Tiger’s day wasn’t quite so dramatic. He started slowly and then caught fire late. When he eagled the 18th hole, he had gone to 5 under par on the first day of the British Open, good for second place. Whenever Tiger is near the top of the leaderboard after one day of a major, it usually means one thing – everyone else is fighting for second.
Tiger had an early tee time today. By the time I got around to checking the leaderboard this morning, he had already done his damage. Tiger dropped the hammer, absolutely tearing up Royal Liverpool, shooting a 7-under 65 to take a three-stroke lead on the field. By the end of the day, Ernie Els had risen up to only shot back, but I think we all know what that mean. Els is Tiger’s favorite bridesmaid.
I didn’t watch too much of the US Open last month, but I’ll be watching the British Open this weekend. There’s just something electrifying about watching an elite athlete on top of his game, dominating all around him. I don’t care if Tiger wins by 8 strokes, I’ll be watching. That is, when I’m not checking on the Tour de France.
Stupid – I like Marion Jones. I can’t help it, I just do. But Marion Jones may just be the dumbest athlete of all time. One of the most talented female athletes ever, she can’t seem to help but get herself mixed up in bad situations with shady characters. First, she started dating one of her college track coaches, CJ Hunter, and eventually married him. Hunter was later found to be a heavy steroid user. After leaving UNC, Jones went to work with track coach Trevor Graham, long suspected of being involved with steroids. While working with Graham, Marion went out to seek training advice (and probably much more) from Victor Conte at BALCO. She divorced Hunter (who later said that he personally injected her with steroids at the Sydney Olympics) and started dating sprinter Tim Montgomery. Montgomery later had his 100m world record stripped for his links to BALCO and implied steroid usage. Before Montgomery was nailed, he and Jones left Graham to go work with infamous Canadian coach Charlie Francis, the man who put Ben Johnson on steroids.
That’s quite a string of bad decisions, huh? And now this. Marion Jones, an athlete who made millions on endorsements, involved in a check-forging scandal? Are you kidding? How does she keep getting mixed up in this sort of crap? And just when she seems to be getting her career back on track! I just don’t get it.
BTW, I first wrote about Marion and her likely steroid usage here.