Tiger Woods is not back. In a lot of ways he never left.
Tiger Woods is not the new No. 1. He has always been the dominant player of his generation.
Tiger Woods is not a lead-pipe cinch to win at least one major this year. He still will be the most frequent top pick in every major pool, though. Such is the dichotomy that is the game's biggest star and its biggest shame.
Tiger Woods' fall from the pinnacle of the world of pins and Pinnacles that started that Thanksgiving weekend night with a South Florida car wreck has been one of sports' biggest scandals. It helped birth Twitter and left the most individualistic of all sports in search of a face.
Whether you think Tiger is the best thing to happen to golf or the worst, there is no doubting the PGA Tour is infinitely more interesting with him in the mix. That's how singular sports work; they reach their apex when there is a lightning rod — the player that generates a rooting interest and a passion whether it's for or against. That was Tiger. That still is Tiger, and maybe even more dramatic and intense.
As great as Rory is and could be, and as talented and gifted as the next generation of golfing savants surely are, none of them are Tiger as a focal point. How can your root against Rory, unless you're pulling against him winning by 12 shots and taking the drama out of it? Who's the foil in the under-30 crowd? Rickie Fowler, because he dresses in the Sherbet collection and needs a haircut? Jason Dufner, because he makes a mannequin look excitable?
No, what the game needs from Tiger has never left, it's only been a few pages back on the leaderboard.
Sure, Tiger's game looked sharper this weekend at Torrey Pines during his 75th career win. Yes, he stayed supremely controlled through 67 holes — the late hiccups Monday more a result of slow play and an even slower tournament — and looked as much like Tiger as we've seen in five-plus years. You bet, his swing — is this his fifth or 50th swing adjustment? — looked rock solid, compact and consistent. And when he puts it together, there's still no one that stares down 5-footers and rolls them in the center better and more expectedly than Tiger.
But don't say he's back, because Tiger the player will never be back to what he was. Tiger's place in golf, though, remains firmly unchanged.
The all-powerful NFL
Golf is not the only sport that is need of support and star power.
Buckle up gang, because these numbers are both eye-popping an potentially frightening depending what your favorite sport is.
According to the numbers collected by the guys at awfulannouncing.com, the Pro Bowl drew 12.7 million viewers Sunday night. Sure, that's a paltry number compared to the roughly 25-30 million viewers that most NFL Sunday night games get, but it's nothing at which to sneeze. In fact, the NFL is such a monolith, it reportedly had 31 of the top 32 most watched TV broadcasts this fall. The only party crasher was the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, which was 23rd with more than 22 million viewers.
Yep, the 22 most watched shows last fall were all NFL games. Read that again.
Is that because of the wide array of options for eye balls? Is that because of DVRs and Netflix? Is that because of the over-saturated reality market? Is that because the NFL is the most popular thing — not just sport, thing — around and it's not that close? Yes, Yes, Yes, and a MONSTER Yes.
Now, to further extend the reach of the NFL's dominance in the sporting consciousness, remember that the Pro Bowl — the borderline joke exhibition that many folks (including some of the players) have debated whether they should do away with — drew 12.7 million viewers. Want to know what other sports failed to top that number of viewers? Of course you do.
Try these, again, according to awfulannouncing.com:
•Games 1-3 of the World Series - 12.2, 12.3, 10.5 million viewers
•Kansas vs UNC Elite Eight - 11.7 million viewers
•LSU vs Alabama football - 11.4 million viewers
•Games 1-6 of the NBA Eastern Conference Finals - Max 11.1 million viewers
•Orange Bowl (NIU v FSU) - 10.5 million viewers
•Final Round US Open Golf - 9.6 million viewers
•NBA Western Conference Finals - Max 9.6 million viewers
•Michigan vs Ohio State football - 9.5 million viewers
•Olympic Men's Tennis Final - 8.6 million viewers
•Belmont Stakes - 7.7 million viewers
•Coca Cola 600 - 7.4 million viewers
•Indianapolis 500 - 6.8 million viewers
•Ryder Cup Day 3 - 5.5 million viewers
•Stanley Cup Final - Max 4.9 million viewers
•NASCAR Chase for the Cup - 4.2 million viewers
•Baylor vs Notre Dame WBB National Championship - 4.2 million viewers
•UFC on Fox 6 - 3.8 million viewers
Super Bowl's superness
We all know there will be 100s of millions of folks watching the Super Bowl come Sunday. It has become a cultural phenomenon that has reached the level that the Super Bowl is the pinnacle for NFL football teams, TV networks, advertising and arguably parties. It has even become it's own brand, as in being an adjective of something being the ultimate... the Super Bowl of motorcross events; the Super Bowl of business meetings; the Super Bowl of Super Bowls. You get the idea.
And with all that's on the line, this Super Bowl has huge, Huge, HUGE meaning for these four folks. It's the Super Bowl XLVII Rushmore — the Super Bowl of Super stakes:
Joe Flacco: Dude has had a big month, outplaying the future (Andrew Luck), the master (Peyton Manning) and the best ever (Tom Brady). If he wins Sunday, there are reports he's going to ask for $20 million per year. That's the Super Bowl of paydays.
Beyonce: She is supremely talented, but her rep took a pretty big shot with the whole lip sync hubbub. This is the Super Bowl of stages. (Here's saying she kills it.)
Randy Moss: Is he a bit player in this theatrics of hysterics? You bet. But we all know what a ring means to a player's legacy, and while he'll never pass Jerry Rice in the receiving hierarchy, a title could all-but secure him the No. 2 spot in the game's list of wide outs. Call it the Super Bowl of legacies.
Ray Lewis: Like him or loathe him, he's a monster story. Or he's a monster depending on your view. This could be the Super Bowl of exits or the Super Bowl of So Close.
As for today's gambling tip, well, let's defer to the folks at caseyhead.com who spent entirely too long breaking down the odds of the familiar "Super Bowl squares" board http://caseyshead.com/2013-super-bowl-squares-odds/. Suffice it to say they spent several hours to tell us the best squares are 0, 3 and 7.
This and that
We're super proud of the stuff the TFP sports staff does on a daily basis, but reading today's TFP sports section was especially rewarding — and took a little longer — considering the number of local stories that abound.
Here's a taste:
— UT ace Downtown Patrick Brown shares the story from late last night about UT's financial hurdles. The Sports Business Journal compiled all the reports and stories that have been written about the depth of the financial hole UT finds itself.
— Ace columnist Mark Wiedmer dishes on Pat Summitt's ceremony last night in Knoxville. Here's the best way we know to describe Pat, she's one of our heroes. Seriously.
— Prep ace Gene Henley tells us how high-scoring and high-volume Ole Miss guard and goof Marshall Henderson is good for college hoops. Know what? We agree. We're going to watch Marshall and the Rebel Black Bears against UK tonight, and normally that would have the same 5-at-10 interest level as an Antiques Roadshow.
— Marshall is just part of the Ole Miss massive revival, as SEC ace David Paschall writes here.
—An energetic bunch of Braves fans met some of the team, as North Georgia ace Lindsey Young shares here.
— UTC ace John Frierson gets us ready for a supremely important Southern Conference meeting.
There’s a ton to discuss.
Is this the jumping off point for Tiger?
Is the Super Bowl going to be Super?
Is chas9 going to break his TV tonight when his Cats visit Marshall and the Black Bears?
Here’s another story that slipped under the radar: The fake-throw-to-third-spin-and-look-at-first move that every pitcher from 12 and up has tried at least a dozen times is now officially a balk. We support this change, if for no other reason than perception fits reality now. Granted, the reality is that the definition of a balk is trying to fool a baserunner, which is the purpose of every great pick-off move.
We’ve talked about this before, but let’s try to be specific: If you had one rule you could change, what are you addressing first?
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 ...