Sports Outside the Beltway

Former Ole Miss QB and NFL punter Eagle Day dead at 75

He was an all SEC QB in the mid-fifties. Quarterbacks who also doubled as punters were quite common when I watched football in the 70′s and 80′s. Dallas Cowboy Danny White, Tom Blanchard who kicked for the Giants, Bucs, and Saints. There were others, including Sammy Baugh back in the 40′s who was one of the leading punters in the NFL. Former NFL QB Dan Marino punted for Pitt his freshman year at the school. Once I remember a local television reporter making fun of a youth who made mention of Marino kicking. The boy was wrong, but the reporter was ignorant too. Marino was the Dolphins emergency punter.

Back to Day, he spent 12 years in the CFL and is fondly remembered by Ole Miss Football fans. RIP.


Tiger Woods wins Accenture Match Play

Stewart Cink played well but never had a chance. From AP-

MARANA, Ariz. – Tiger Woods still rules the world of golf, perhaps now more than ever. With a record-breaking victory Sunday in the Accenture Match Play Championship, Woods won his fifth straight tournament and captured his 15th World Golf Championship, holding all three world titles for the first time. Golf is not a fair fight at the moment.

Stewart Cink found that out at Dove Mountain, where Woods overwhelmed him with 14 birdies in 29 holes for an 8-and-7 victory, the largest margin in the final in the 10-year history of this tournament.


Woods has won four straight times on the PGA Tour, the third time he has built a streak at least that long. He has set the tournament record for margin of victory in his last three wins.

The next tournaments Tiger is likely to play in- Bay Hill, Doral, The Masters, Wachovia. The first three he has won 3 times or more. Tiger is the defending Wachovia champ. If I were to bet Tiger’s streak were to end, I’d say Bay Hill, Masters, Doral, and then Wachovia. Not that I’d any money on Tiger losing them.

This win sees Tiger pass Arnold Palmer on the all-time win list. Next up is Ben Hogan. Tiger needs one win to tie Ben, two to win. Barring an injury, Tiger will pass Hogan before summer begins.


NY Mets won’t charge fans to watch practice

The money was supposedly going to charity. From TC Palm-

PORT ST. LUCIE — The New York Mets have turned their mandatory charge to attend spring training practice into a donation.

To raise money for local charities, the team on Thursday began charging fans age 15 and older $2 to watch team workouts.

But after fielding angry calls from fans Friday morning, the team reversed its policy. Team officials said they no longer will charge fans, beginning immediately, although donations still can be made with all money going to local charities.

“We got some negative feedback,” St. Lucie Mets general manager Paul Taglieri said. “I think it’s still a good opportunity for us to be able to do something like this.”

Admissions from Thursday’s workout totaled $1,800, which will go to the Boys and Girls Club of St. Lucie County. Friday’s donations were set for the American Cancer Society, and today’s will go to the Exchange Club Castle program.

Being a cynic, I wonder how much of the money pre-protest would have gone to any charities. Fans get shaken down enough by sports franchises, the outrageous sums asked for food and drink, to parking, to almost anything. I give money to charity, volutarily. Given a choice of attending a practice or donating $2 I’d stay home. It is the principle, no one can require me to give to their chairty.

Update- I just remembered another S. Florida sports facility that wanted to collect money from fans supposedly to give to charity. The home to the Florida Panthers, the Bank Atlantic Center. The BAC wanted to charge fans $5 if they parked anywhere but on the grounds of the arena. It was bullshit then and it is bullshit now.


Tiger Woods’ tournament to stay at Congressional for 2009

The inaugural AT&T National was played last year and won by KJ Choi. From AP-

BETHESDA, Md. — Tiger Woods’ PGA Tour event will get an extra year at Congressional Country Club.

Congressional announced Thursday that its members have voted to host the AT&T National in 2009. The tournament will essentially replace the 2009 U.S. Amateur, which was moved because of concerns about the conditions at Congressional’s famed Blue Course.

Congressional had originally agreed to host Woods’ tournament in 2007 and 2008. The tournament had a successful debut last year, drawing large crowds during the Fourth of July week.

Woods has said he would like Congressional to be his tournament’s permanent home, but the club already had been awarded the 2009 U.S. Amateur and the 2011 U.S. Open. Ironically, it was last year’s AT&T National that spotlighted the bumpy greens and other problems that prompted the USGA to move the Amateur to Southern Hills Country Club in Tulsa, Okla.

Woods will likely have to find another venue for 2010 because course improvements will already be under way for the 2011 U.S. Open.

Congressional is one of the four or five best courses to host a PGA Tour event every year. Pebble Beach, Riviera, and Augusta National are the only courses I would rank above it.

Back in the 80′s I attended a couple of Kemper Opens played at Congressional. I’ve seen the course up close.

As for professional major championships, I think Congressional is pretty mediocre. With courses like Pebble Beach, Shinnecock, Winged Foot, Balustrol, Pinehurst, Olympic, Oakland Hills, Southern Hills, Merion, Inverness, to name just some, I have a hard time putting Congressional in the top 20 courses for majors. Hazeltine site of the 1991 US Open, 2002 and 2009 PGA Championships, once said to be only missing 88 acres of corn and a few cows, I think is a superior course compared to Congressinal when it comes to hosting a US major.


NFL Reverses Call On Church Parties

It took an uproar from Congress for the football league to change course.

The NFL, which found itself on the receiving end of protests and controversy after it objected to churches showing the Super Bowl on big-screen televisions, has reversed course and will now permit the viewings.

In a letter to Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah), NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said the league would not object to “live showings — regardless of screen size — of the Super Bowl” by religious organizations.

In response to questions from Hatch, Goodell said in the letter, dated Feb. 19, the NFL will implement the policy starting with next year’s Super Bowl.

A story in The Washington Post about churches — most of them evangelical — canceling their Super Bowl parties because they were afraid of lawsuits from the NFL if they showed the game on their jumbo screens kicked up a storm of protest on Capitol Hill and among some conservative leaders.

The NFL sent two churches a letter last year saying they violated the league’s policy. I don’t know what the law says, but to me if someone isn’t charging admittance to view the sporting event, the church should be allowed to do so.


Wayne Huizenga sells half of the Miami Dolphins

He will remain Miami’s managing general partner. From the Sun-Sentinel-

FORT LAUDERDALE – Miami Dolphins owner Wayne Huizenga said Friday he has sold half the team to real estate developer Stephen M. Ross of New York and Palm Beach.

Huizenga will remain the managing general partner while Ross will have a chance to buy the entire team in the future.

Ross is chairman of the Related Cos, a New York-based real estate development firm. He helped develop CityPlace in West Palm Beach.

Financial terms of the partnership were not immediately available. A press conference is set for 4:30 p.m. at Dolphin Stadium.

The deal includes the team, the stadium and surrounding land.

Huizenga, 70, purchased the Dolphins from the Robbie family in 1994 for $138 million. In 2000 he considered selling a minority stake, but eventually abandoned the idea, despite receiving interest from, among others, Internet entrepreneur Raul Fernandez, who is a part owner of the Washington Capitals.

Huzienga reportedly did this for estate tax reasons. It won’t effect the franchise. Miami will be very lucky to go better than 4-12 in 2008.


Golf Declining as American Pastime

Americans Giving Up Golf America’s love affair with golf has been fading with fewer men willing to devote a huge slice of their free time to the sport, forcing club owners to scramble for new ways to hook customers.

“We have to change our mentality,” said Richard Rocchio, a public relations consultant. “The problem is time,” offered Walter Hurney, a real estate developer. “There just isn’t enough time. Men won’t spend a whole day away from their family anymore.”

William A. Gatz, owner of the Long Island National Golf Club in Riverhead, said the problem was fundamental economics: too much supply, not enough demand.

The problem was not a game of golf. It was the game of golf itself.

Over the past decade, the leisure activity most closely associated with corporate success in America has been in a kind of recession. The total number of people who play has declined or remained flat each year since 2000, dropping to about 26 million from 30 million, according to the National Golf Foundation and the Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association. More troubling to golf boosters, the number of people who play 25 times a year or more fell to 4.6 million in 2005 from 6.9 million in 2000, a loss of about a third. The industry now counts its core players as those who golf eight or more times a year. That number, too, has fallen, but more slowly: to 15 million in 2006 from 17.7 million in 2000, according to the National Golf Foundation.

The five men who met here at the Wind Watch Golf Club a couple of weeks ago, golf aficionados all, wondered out loud about the reasons. Was it the economy? Changing family dynamics? A glut of golf courses? A surfeit of etiquette rules — like not letting people use their cellphones for the four hours it typically takes to play a round of 18 holes?

Or was it just the four hours?


The disappearance of golfers over the past several years is part of a broader decline in outdoor activities — including tennis, swimming, hiking, biking and downhill skiing — according to a number of academic and recreation industry studies.


But golf, a sport of long-term investors — both those who buy the expensive equipment and those who build the princely estates on which it is played — has always seemed to exist in a world above the fray of shifting demographics. Not anymore.

Jim Kass, the research director of the National Golf Foundation, an industry group, said the gradual but prolonged slump in golf has defied the adage, “Once a golfer, always a golfer.” About three million golfers quit playing each year, and slightly fewer than that have been picking it up. A two-year campaign by the foundation to bring new players into the game, he said, “hasn’t shown much in the way of results.”


Surveys sponsored by the foundation have asked players what keeps them away. “The answer is usually economic,” Mr. Kass said. “No time. Two jobs. Real wages not going up. Pensions going away. Corporate cutbacks in country club memberships — all that doom and gloom stuff.”


At the meeting here, there was a consensus that changing family dynamics have had a profound effect on the sport. “Years ago, men thought nothing of spending the whole day playing golf — maybe Saturday and Sunday both,” said Mr. Rocchio, the public relations consultant, who is also the New York regional director of the National Golf Course Owners Association. “Today, he is driving his kids to their soccer games. Maybe he’s playing a round early in the morning. But he has to get back home in time for lunch.”

Steven Taylor and I managed to play nine holes just about every week when we were teaching together and had the luxury of a cheap university course within half a mile of our offices. But I’ve hardly played since leaving academia. Finding the time is difficult.

While our lifestyles are almost immeasurably more comfortable than most experienced generations ago, they’re different. We’re seldom truly off work, even on weekends or vacations; that’s the nature of the information age. We’re simply expected to be within Blackberry reach during waking hours.

It may be that the pastimes of yesteryear will simply fade away as a result of this changed consciousness.

We can find a few minutes to play video games, taking a quick mental break. But to change into golf gear, drive out to the course, hit a bucket off the practice range, and spend four hours playing 18 holes? Let alone coordinating to find a partner or three, all of whom have to be able to do these things at the same time?

While I still follow baseball, for example, I don’t have time to watch 162 two-and-a-half hour games and the passion’s not the same if you just catch a game now and again. Its appeal is the slow evolution of a long season. Even great teams will lose fifty or sixty games a year, so none of them matter all that much, but the drama is the off chance that you might see something truly special.

Football, by contrast, is an event rather than a pastime, with a relative handful of games that are action packed and crucial to the success of a season. It has long since become our most popular spectator sport.

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Yankees: What I’m reading

- The Yanks are doing more running this year because apparently it builds the hamstring (which was a major problem last year) – who woulda thunk it?

- Was Joe Girardi responsible for the Marlins plague of pitcher injuries?

- AL East preview, with a short piece on Phil Hughes.

- An interview with Hal (the other) Steinbrenner.


Michelle Wie confident but says injured wrists will never be the same

She gave a press conference yesterday two days before teeing it up in the Fields Open.

KAPOLEI, Hawaii — Michelle Wie is healthier, stronger and determined to succeed but concedes her injured wrists will never be the same.

“I just accepted the fact that it’s never going to be 100 percent ever again. After a major injury last year, it’s never going to be the way it was before,” she said Tuesday as she prepared for the LPGA Tour’s Fields Open, which begins Thursday.

The 18-year-old Wie said she’s accepted that her wrists are as good as they can be. She’s hoping to get her career back on track after a troublesome season of injuries, missed cuts and withdrawals.

“Obviously, it’s not 110 percent, but I feel pretty healthy,” she said. “I feel a lot stronger. I feel like I can be a lot more aggressive with the ball. I feel more like an athlete right now.”

Wie is starting the season on her home island of Oahu for the fifth straight year on a sponsor’s exemption.


She injured both wrists last year but kept playing, and struggling. She made only three cuts. In nine starts, she withdrew twice and only broke par twice in 19 rounds against women.

2007 was an unmitigated disaster for Michelle but the warning signs came early. Her poor play in late 2006 and reports of wrist problems early in 07.

I’ll go out on a limb, by sticking to my prediction that Michelle returns to form in 2008. Tomorrow we’ll get the first clue as to if I’m right or wrong.


Miami Dolphins cut linebacker Zach Thomas

The end of an era in Miami Dolphin history.

Thomas, a seven-time Pro Bowl linebacker and one of the most popular and productive players ever to wear a Dolphins uniform, was released Thursday, the biggest move yet in Miami’s massive rebuilding project.

“I have a tremendous appreciation and admiration not only for the Dolphins organization, but for the fans as well, for all of the support that they have given me,” Thomas said in a statement, in which he thanked owner Wayne Huizenga, new football operations head Bill Parcells and general manager Jeff Ireland.

The 34-year-old linebacker said he plans to play with another team next season, more than likely one that can contend for a Super Bowl title — and give Thomas a chance at winning his first championship.

“I am healthy and look forward to playing in 2008, but will always consider myself a Miami Dolphin,” Thomas said.


Thomas was the 154th player chosen in the 1996 draft, and many observers didn’t give the 5-foot-11 player from Texas Tech much chance of making the Miami roster.

Thomas was a classic overachiever and he will be missed in Miami. His recent concussions though make me think it would be wiser if Zach were to retire. One or two more years of football isn’t worth the injury that could result from a far worse head injury.

Miami trimmed about $9 million in 2008 base salary on Monday, when it parted ways with quarterback Trent Green, wide receiver Marty Booker and seven other players. Thomas was slated to make just over $5.6 million in base salary this coming season.

Booker was an over paid underachiever and Green is 37 years old now but will be 38 before the next season begins, and has a history of concussions. Miami was wise letting Booker and Green go. Green could be back as a emergency backup, but Miami would be crazy to give Trent another shot at the starting quarterback job.

Rebuilding the Dolphins is going to be a slow process. Four wins in 2008 will be a good year.


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