The End of an Era & The Birth of a Fresh Start for Golf

The Past:

Tiger Woods has ruled golf since he won his first major in 1997.  Since then, Woods has gone on to win a total of 14 Majors, with his last win coming from the 2008 U.S. Open.  From 1997 through 2008, there wasn’t another athlete on the planet who dominated their sport more than Woods.  Unfortunately that all changed following the well-publicized split between Woods and his wife; which brought Woods’ personal life (which he had always kept from the public eye) and his indiscretions public.

Once Woods’ personal life became public knowledge in 2009, his professional life/career and never been the same.  With the exception of 2013 [where he had 5 PGA tour wins] Woods hasn’t come close to performing or even competing the way he had when he was dominant.  That mental edge that he once used to eradicate his competitors vanished.  The man that was once believed that the only way to be victorious is to crush your competition now believes that just being competitive is a victory in itself.

Anyone who’s an unbiased golf fan will agree with my next sentence; Tiger Woods is done.  He will never win another Major for one specific reason; he’s lost his mental edge.  Golf is more of a mental game than any other sport in the world.  Skill is obviously a factor, but if you allow a bad round, or even a bad hole get in your head, you’re done.  Woods is getting psyched out before he even walks onto the course; ironic because his competition used to do the same whenever they had to face off against him and now he’s become an afterthought.

I’m sick of the media coverage leading up to every Major with the headline of; “Will this be the beginning of the Woods comeback?”  Please, just stop.  Woods is done.  It’s time to stop wishing for Woods to return to his glory days, and start praising the impressive young talent that has taken ahold of the PGA Tour.

The Future:

With Woods’ poor play and “injuries’, the PGA [and golf fans] has been desperate to find his successor.  The two most likely are Rory Mcllroy (26 years old) and Jordan Spieth (21 years old).

Mcllroy has won 4 Majors since 2011 and is the current number one ranked player in the world. In 2013 after Nike signed Mcllroy to a deal worth roughly $200 million dollars, it was assumed by many, that he would become Woods’ successor; and challenge not only Wood’s majors but Jack’s [Nicklaus] as well.  A leg injury has sidelined Mcllroy for the remainder of the Championship season, so we’ll have to wait till next year to see if he can add to his already impressive major’s trophy collection.

Spieth is coming off a gut wrenching finish at the British Open, where he was trying to be the first player in over 50 years to win the Masters, US Open and British Open consecutively.  Spieth has caught fire this year winning his first two majors back-to-back and came within one stroke of competing [in a playoff] for his third straight major.  In his limited time on the PGA tour, Spieth has shown that he has all the raw talent (not to mention a ‘clutch gene’] to not only challenge Woods’ championships, but surpass them.

If I was going to bet my money on either player, I’d take Spieth over Mcllroy one hundred times out of one hundred.   Spieth’s performances this year have shown that he has not only the mental [clutch] makeup to win on the biggest stage, but he has all the skill and confidence to match.  Unfortunately, Mcllroy has shown that sometimes he will wither under pressure; like he did when he blew a four stroke lead during the final round of the 2011 Masters.  Not only did he choke, but he completed the greatest collapse ever at the Masters, shooting a putrid 80 and finishing tied for 15th place.  Now, I’m not saying that Mcllroy isn’t an incredible golfer who won’t win his fair share of majors, I just think Spieth [in his extremely early career], has shown me more.

Regardless of who you believe will be the better golfer, there’s no arguing that golf is in good hands.  There are many who believe that neither one will ever move the ‘needle’ the way Woods has, and although that might be true, I believe that golf is in just as good of a place as it was when Woods was dominating; maybe in an even better one.

*If you like what you’ve read, please check out my podcast The MC Sports Show (themcsportsshow.podomatic.com) with my partner Matthew Danieluk *

LA Clippers Sign Josh Smith; Still Not A Championship Contender

The Los Angeles Clippers continued their run of good fortune yesterday (at least according to the Los Angeles media) by acquiring former Houston Rocket, Josh Smith. Smith reportedly turned down a one year, $2.5 million dollar deal to return to Houston in favor of the Clippers who offered him the veteran minimum.

As far as I’m concerned, the signing of Smith doesn’t make the Clippers any more of a threat in the Western Conference. Call me cynical, but until the Clippers prove that they won’t choke when the playoff lights are on, I’m not going to buy into any offseason acquisition, as if it bolsters them as solid contenders for a NBA Championship.

For those that may have forgotten, the Clippers “lead” by Chris Paul, blew a 3-1 series lead against an inferior Rockets team last season. They completed one of the most epic collapses in sports history; and with the way this team has been covered throughout the offseason, you’d think their collapse happened years ago.

I hate to break it to all those die-hard Clippers fans, but just because you re-signed Jordan and acquired Pierce & Smith, that doesn’t instantly make you a championship contender. Jordan has been lauded after this offseason by the Mavericks and the Clippers as if he was Shaq or someone who’s averaged more than 8 pts & 9 rebounds in their career. Pierce is an aging veteran who has very little left in the tank; and Smith came off the bench last year for Houston and didn’t end up doing much of anything for them up until he played the Clippers in the second round of the playoffs. I’m sorry, but this isn’t a championship roster.

The Los Angeles Clippers have a lot to prove this year especially given the way they wet the bed during last years playoffs. Signing veterans who have very little left to give, isn’t the way to avenge last years horrific playoff performance. Doc Rivers needs to give up his GM duties to someone who is more qualified and knows what they’re doing. He’s going to turn this team into the NBA equivalent of the New York Yankees if isn’t careful.

The San Antonio Spurs, Oklahoma City Thunder and Golden State Warriors are all looking to create {or in the Warriors case, maintain] a younger roster, while the Clippers roster continues to get closer to an AARP membership. Since all three of the above mentioned teams have made it to the NBA Finals in the past few years, maybe it’s time the Clippers start adopting the philosophies of their successful contemporaries and stop making the same mistakes that have continued to cost this team and fanbase a championship.

Wilson Doesn’t Deserve Top QB Money

Russell Wilson’s contract has been the lead story (outside of deflate gate) in a relatively quiet NFL offseason.  Wilson’s agent has made it known to the Seahawks and the rest of the league that Wilson wants to be the highest paid quarterback in the NFL.  The Super Bowl winning quarterback’s contract is up at the end of this season and the Seahawks haven’t given any indication that they’re willing to pay Wilson the money that he believes he deserves.

With a championship and two Super Bowl appearances already under his belt, Wilson’s young career is off to an incredible start.   With that being said, Wilson is not the best quarterback in the league; therefore he doesn’t deserve top quarterback money.  He’s a great quarterback who’s had the advantage of playing with the best defense over the past three seasons, not to mention one of the top three running backs in the league.

If you’re an honest sports fan, the best way to objectively decide whether or not Wilson deserves to be the highest paid quarterback in the league is by asking yourself the following questions; and no, they’re not rhetorical.

If you were to take Wilson off the Seahawks and replace him with another quarterback in the league, are the Seahawks still one of the top teams in the NFL?  The [correct] answer is yes.   Now, if you take Brady, Rodgers, Luck or Manning (arguably the top quarterbacks in the league) off their respective teams, are their teams still Super Bowl Contenders?  The obvious [and correct] answer is no.

Wilson isn’t in their class, at least not yet.  He deserves to be paid, but his contract shouldn’t exceed Rodgers’ contract (5 years, $110 million, $54 million guaranteed).  I think a fair deal for Wilson would be something in the ball park of a 5 year, $105 million, $65 million guaranteed.  He’d get 5 million more guaranteed dollars then Cam Newton [who singed his 8 year, $103 million dollar contract earlier this summer] and be one of the top quarterback contracts in the league.

There are going to be many who disagree and point out the quarterbacks who have received better deals and haven’t come close to accomplishing what Wilson’s accomplished in his early career (hello Jay Cutler).  Those points are valid however, just because other franchises were stupid enough to make obscure deals to quarterbacks who didn’t deserve it, doesn’t mean the Seahawks should have to match those ridiculous contracts.

Wilson has yet to prove that he deserves to be the best quarterback in the league.  If he can follow up last year’s Super Bowl gaff (yes I’m one of the few who actually blames Wilson for that horrendous interception that lost the Seahawks the Super Bowl) with a return trip this February, he’ll without a doubt deserve to be the highest paid quarterback in the league.  Three straight trips to the Super Bowl in the leagues’ toughest conference; there won’t be a valid argument to make otherwise.  But since I don’t see that happening, Wilson’s going to have to eat some humble pie and realize that his a great quarterback, but he sure as hell isn’t the best.

The King’s’ Court

There’s no debate, Lebron James is the best player in the world.  He singlehandedly brought the Cavs to within two games of winning a championship with minimal help.   James isn’t the first superstar player to want total “control” of his team (Kobe Bryant & Michael Jordan come to mind); however he is setting a trend on how to not only publically disrespect one’s coach, but how intimidating and controlling a front office can get you everything you want.

It’s been common knowledge since midway through the season that James didn’t have high regard for his new coach.  Now, no one would ever confuse David Blatt with Phil Jackson, but you sure as hell can’t compare him to the likes of Mike Brown (James’ first coach in Cleveland).  Blatt in his first year as a head coach took his team to the Finals and almost pulled off one of the greatest upsets in NBA history.  The media has done their best to undermine many of his accomplishments to favor James.  But no matter how hard they try, they can’t criticize results.

The running joke this season had been that James is the GM and head coach.  Some have a problem with this, I (surprisingly) don’t.  In regards to being considered the coach; James is the best player on his team therefore he should be the defacto coach on the court.  As the leader of the team [which he continues to remind us he is at every opportunity] his teammates should look to him in that way.   Where I lose respect for James is when he visibly disrespects his coach, like he did (in excess) during the playoffs.  He’s never “said” anything inflammatory against Blatt, although his body language has made his feelings pretty obvious.

Lebron James wants it all.  He wants to be the coach, GM (which is why he left Miami, don’t let the ‘feel-good’ story fool you), and the highest paid player on the team.  He knows that the Cavs will do practically anything to appease him in order to keep him in Cleveland; and he’s using that to his advantage.  Personally, I don’t have a problem with any player flexing their muscles and doing what they can to try and succeed both on and off the court.  With that being said, if James never wins another ring, the argument that “he’s the best player on the team and they haven’t surrounded him with the help he needs” is no longer valid.  If you want to be the GM and force the Cavs to make acquisitions that you like, you can no longer make excuses when it doesn’t go your way.

With ESPN and Yahoo sources confirming that Love, Shumpert and Thompson all agreed to contracts on Wednesday, the self-appointed “king” is getting everything he wanted.  It’s evident that James has control of every aspect of this team; and that will continue for as long as he remains in Cleveland.  The success his team has over the next few years will fall solely on his shoulders, and the media won’t be able to save him form the scrutiny if they come up short.  James is no longer allowed to get a pass if he team(s) come up short [especially in the personnel department] since he’s the one calling all the shots.

In closing, to all you LeBron supporters and diehard fans just keep in mind one thing; “With great power, comes great responsibility” (Spiderman).

If you like what you read or have any comments/criticism’s you can find me on twitter : @lavalleech