Hope everyone enjoyed their Father's Day, and a great Sunday from the sports world. We're back in the 423 and after a crazy weekend in the car and a brilliantly fun vacation, we're ready to go. (Side note: Why does it some times feel like when you return from a vacation, you need a vacation from your vacation? Does that make sense?)
Thanks to everyone who contributed to the flow last week and generated a ton of good discussion even though the 5-at-10
Happy to be back in the "Talks Too Much" Studios, here we go...
Webb Simpson survived a brutally tough test of golf to win the U.S. Open on Sunday. It was a crazy final round that almost assuredly featured all of the following:
— Simpson sitting in the clubhouse at 1-over waiting as the carnage unfolded on the obstacle course that was The Olympic Club course. When it finally became official after Graeme McDowell's birdie putt on the 72nd hole missed, he mouthed the words "I won" to his wife. The smile on his face was pure and the light in his eyes shared with the NBC viewing audience that Simpson knew his life just changed.
— Simpson moved into the top five of famous Simpsons. Here's our current top five: Homer, O.J., Bart, Jessica, Webb. Sorry to Marge and Lisa.
— There had to be a whole bunch of USGA guys fist-pumping and high-fiving after the best golfers on the planet finished something like 12 billion over par this weekend. We suspected it was going to be an obscenely difficult set-up, especially after the birdie-fest that was the US Open at Congressional last year. Well, the USGA guys re-established their smoochie-smoochie love-fest with par (and the players were forced to become well-acquainted with par's ugly friend bogey, who to the occasional punch-drunk golfer looked pretty dang good on a few holes). That said, the bounces, stances, lies and putts were so unkind, we're not sure if we want to play that course. (Side note: Many moons ago we played East Lake the week before it hosted the finals of the U.S. Amateur, and it was overwhelming. Balls that were a foot off the fairway easily were losable because of the depth of the rough. We're not a bad golfer, but that day was hard. Here's saying that most 10-handicappers would have been lucky to break 100 on Sunday at The Olympic.)
— What do we make of Tiger Woods? First, we know he is still the biggest star in golf by a wide margin (will this be remembered as Webb Simpson's win or Woods' weekend wild ride) and maybe the biggest name in all of sports, whether anyone likes it or not. Second, we need to take a deep breath — little deeper — and realize every 66 he shoots does not mean he's back and every 75 he shoots does not mean he's doomed. He's a very good professional golfer — with the physical skills to be the top-ranked player in the world — and we believe he'll win more tournaments and even a few more majors possibly. But we've said this before and we believe it more every time one of these rivers of "Tiger's Back" rush the game: Tiger Woods of the early 2000s will never return. And it's because of how great early-2000s Woods was then. No one will be that overwhelmingly dominant and intimidating and overpowering for a long, Long, LONG times. Woods' game looked top-shelf for the first 36 holes this weekend and while there were more than few miscues during the weekend, it's undeniable that the debacles in his rearview have changed his golfing persona inside and out. Think of it this way: Before the accident and the injuries and the destruction of his personal life, what would have been the odds of Woods winning this weekend after sharing the 36-hole lead at 1-under. Betting on Tiger at that point would have been 1-to-2 at best (betting $2 to win $1). Old Tiger would have refused to let this Open get away. And there were few golfers then that would have been mentally tough enough to chase him down either. This weekend he imploded — and saying he was between clubs all day Saturday was hogwash — with mental mistakes and physical ones alike.
Miami Heat forward LeBron James, left, prepares to drive against Boston Celtics forward Mickael Pietrus, right, during the first quarter in Game 6 of the NBA basketball Eastern Conference finals, Thursday, June 7, 2012, in Boston. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)
Regular readers know that the 5-at-10 is a fan of LeBron James. We enjoy the way he plays and believe a lot of the criticism sent his way is unjust. Hey, believe what you want, but that's how we see it.
While there is no denying that it will be difficult for James to deny his doubters until he wins an NBA title, he has come to play in this year's finals. He went for 29 points and 14 boards in Miami's rallying 91-85 Game 3 win. For the second consecutive season the Heat hold a 2-1 lead after three games of the finals.
Last year, the Heat and James collapsed under the pressure. This time? Well, it seems like the Heat are determined to avoid a similar meltdown. Miami is making clutch free throws. The Heat are playing with energy at both ends. And James, well, dude is doing work right now. He is the fourth player in the last 10 years to get at least 29 points and 14 boards in a finals game — and the only one under 7-feet tall. In addition to his game-high point total, James spent most of the game guarding Thunder star Kevin Durant, and limited Durant to a 1-of-5 showing in the decisive fourth quarter.
In fact, if there was one moment that signifies the difference in LeBron this June compared to last, we'll take the video clip from early in Game 3. The Heat made three passes and hoisted an errant shot. Last year, it would have been just another meaningless possession for a team that had announced it was going to win "Not one, not two, not three...." NBA titles. Sunday night, amid three Thunder rebounders, James tipped the ball into the air, grabbed the loose ball and scored. It was a hustle play normally reserved for the third guy off the bench, not the best player in the world.
OK, we did not watch a single lap of the NASCAR race. In fact, driving back from vacation, we more resembled NASCAR than observed NASCAR.
Anyhoo, if we had been part of Team Dale Jr. after Little E ended a much-ballyhooed 143-race winless streak, we would have been compelled to ask Junior on the radio if he needed directions to Victory Lane. Granted we may have been looking for a new job, but as Joel Goodson told us in Risky Business, sometimes you have to say what the flip.* (Edited for family-oriented, Interweb-based sports column consumption.)
In truth, Junior's win at Michigan does more than get the monkey of the back of NASCAR's most popular driver. It also puts him in serious position to make a run at a points title. Junior has been running among the leaders all season, and he has been firmly entrenched in the top five of the points.
But Junior was without a win, and when the points get reshuffled for the Chase, wins play a big role.
Now, Junior has one. And that's a much bigger deal than ending the streak.
It also means NASCAR heads into the dog days of summer with its most popular driver right in the mix of things. Good times all around for NASCAR.
This and that
— Former USC safety Kevin Ellison was arrested for arson after setting fire to his bed with a marijuana-filled cigar. Read that again. Now know that Ellison told authorities God "told" him to do it. Quick question: We all know the Lord can take on a slew of images and personas — the burning bush for example — but what image does he take if he's asking someone to commit a crime with a blunt? Is it Tommy Chong? Is it Carrottop? We'd like to think it was more Matthew McConaughey's David Wooderson in "Dazed and Confused."
— We had a tie atop the 5-at-10 Open contest leaderboard. Perennial contest contender Jefe and Weena share the top spot at 56. (Great pick with Furyk, Weena.) We'll get back to each of you two and see what kind of tie-breaker we need to install. And everyone please check your scores and if you see a math mistake, please share. It worked for Deboman earlier this month.
— Sadly, Stony Brook was bounced from the College World Series. Good run Seawolves, good run.
— LaDainian Tomlinson has announced he will retire from the NFL. OK, dude is a no-doubt Hall of Famer, but where do you rank the running back version of Dan Marino — big-time numbers, no titles — among the best RBs in NFL history?
— Will someone please wake the 5-at-10 when the Braves score again. Man, the offense has been ravaged by a string of nagging injuries to one player or the next, and the Braves have not scored in 20 trips to the plate. (Not so coincidentally, Freddie Freeman has missed the last four games.) Now, the Braves head to NYC to face the Yankees and their ace CC Sabathia. Baseball's regular season is a marathon not a spring, but managing the down turns can be huge in staying in a divisional race.
— Rest in peace Rodney King. Happy Birthday Paul McCartney.
As always it's free-for-all Monday. Got something on your chest? By all means get it off and then shoot us a question.
If you need a starting point, we're going quick answer stuff today.
Here's a quick back-and-forth start:
What songs do you think the following star athletes were listening to early Sunday morning/afternoon?
Tiger Woods? ("Turn the Page" by Bob Seger)
Dale Jr.? ("Eastbound and Down" by Jerry Reed or "I'm)
LeBron? ("All I Do is Win" by a host of dudes)
Kevin Durant? ("Thunder Rolls" by Garth Brooks — and yes, we know there is no way Durant could ID Garth with a road map and a CMA program, but go with it)
Or in honor of Father's Day, who is the best TV or movie Dad? Who's the harshest? Who's your favorite? (We'll go Heathcliffe Huxtable, Bull Meecham in "The Great Santini" and Clark W. Griswold). Happy Father's Day, Pop.
Jay was named the Sports Editor of the Times Free Press in 2003 and started with the newspaper in May 2002 as the Deputy Sports Editor. He was born and raised in Smyrna, Ga., and graduated from Auburn University before starting his newspaper career in 1997 with the Newnan (Ga.) Times Herald. Stops in Clayton and Henry counties in Georgia and two years as the Sports Editor of the Marietta (Ga.) Daily Journal preceded Jay’s ...