The Mount Rushmore of My Generation

What makes sports such an enjoyable medium are the [sometimes] healthy debates that arise from them. Every couple of years or so, the “Who’s on the Mount Rushmore of [insert sport]” comes up and intense debating begins.  Given how in last week’s post I wrote about how my generation was losing its athletes to retirement left and right, that this would be a good time to create a Mount Rushmore for my generation’s (I’m 28) top athletes in major sports.

Two quick points of order:

  • Michael Phelps would be on this list but swimming isn’t a major sport.
  • Jordan doesn’t qualify because he retired when I was in grade school.

My Mount Rushmore picks are:

Tom Brady

Tim Duncan

Derek Jeter

Tiger Woods

Brady is the most decorated (active) football player in the NFL. His 4 Super Bowl’s and 2 Super Bowl MVP’s are unmatched by any quarterback of my era. While Peyton Manning owns almost every passing record and won 2 Super Bowl’s in his own right, he never eclipsed Brady when it came to clutch performances. Since Brady became the starting quarterback for the New England Patriots in 2001 (15 seasons), the team has missed the playoffs twice (2002 & 2008); and in one of those years, Brady only played in 1 regular season game. He has an absurd postseason record of 22-9 (most wins all time) and has thrown for 56 postseason TD’s; which is a record that might never be broken. At the end of the day, if I had to pick one quarterback to win me a game, there’s no way I’d choose anyone other than Brady.

Duncan [Mr. Fundamental] is one of a handful of greats who have played every game of their career in one uniform. He just finished his 19th (and possibly last) season with the San Antonio Spurs, where he helped lead his team to a regular season [team] record of 65-13. Given the fact that San Antonio is in a small market within NBA circles, Duncan has been one of the most overlooked superstars ever, in any sport. It’s a damn shame too, given all that he’s accomplished. In 19 seasons, Duncan is a 5-time NBA Champion, a 3-time NBA Finals MVP and a 2-time NBA MVP. Now, I know that there will be plenty of believe that Kobe Bryant should be on this list over Duncan; and while I understand the argument for Bryant, I believe that Duncan has not only been more consistent but has found ways to make his team/teammates better. For my money, Duncan is easily one of the 10 best players ever and the best power forward to ever play the game.

Woods was the best golfer on the planet for over a decade and arguably surpassed Jack Nicklaus as the best of all time. I’ve never seen another athlete dominate his/her sport more than Woods dominated golf. Woods didn’t just dominate; he became his own brand, and made the sport relevant. Golf has never seen as a major player in the public medium in the same manner as baseball, basketball and football; that is, until Tiger. What he’s accomplished on the golf course is incredible; 79 PGA Tour wins (2nd all time), 40 European Tour wins (3rd all time), 14 Majors and was awarded PGA Player of the Year 11 times. Now with him [way] past his prime, commentators are constantly searching for the “next” Tiger. It’s a futile search because what he did, will never happen again.

Jeter [The Captain] spent his entire 20 year career with the New York Yankees where he won 5 World Series Championships, a World Series MVP (2000), and recorded 200 postseason hits (most all time). From 1996-2012, the Yankees never missed the postseason. In his career, Jeter played in only 1 game in which the Yankees were mathematically eliminated from postseason contention. He set the Yankees all-time record in hits with 3,465 (6th most all time), doubles (544), games played (2,747), stolen bases (358), times on base (4,716), plate appearances (12,602) and at bats (11,195). There’s no doubt that there have been better all-around players than Jeter; but in my lifetime, there has never a more iconic, marketable or likeable star in the game than Jeter. He’s one of the few athletes that were not just a spectacular player on the field, but a respectable ambassador off of it.

Honorable Mentions:

Kobe Bryant

Lebron James

Peyton Manning

 

If you like what you’ve read, please follow me on Twitter: @lavalleech

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 *