Sunday, September 28, 2014
We'll start with what is clearly the most important story in sports right now, that being the California Golden Bears. No doubt about it, fans with a heart condition (or fans with a special appreciation for defense) should not watch this year's version of the Bears. Sure, they're highly entertaining, but they're also hazardous to your health. Last week, it was the Hail Mary in Arizona, made possible only after the team had allowed the Wildcats to score two touchdowns in the span of about 3 minutes. This week, it was the double-overtime 59-56 survival contest against Colorado, featuring seven touchdown passes by both quarterbacks.
Clearly, the "Bear Raid" offense of the Bears can score a lot of points, and it is likely to keep them in every game they play this year. Progress is clearly being made, and with the two Washington teams coming up in the next couple of weeks, 5-1 is possible. After that, the Bears face one of the toughest stretches that any team outside the SEC will face this year - currently, 5 of the 6 teams are in the Top 25. But you know what? I'll be shocked if we don't beat at least one of them.
And then, we go across the pond to the biennial disaster also known as the Ryder Cup. If it's late September in an even-numbered year, we must be getting our asses kicked by the Europeans. And not a lot of it makes sense. Sure, right now the Europeans have more players at the top of the world Top 50 ranking, but even that doesn't explain the disastrous performance of the Americans in the foursomes (alternate shot) matches year after year after year. A friend called it "baffling," but you have to wonder whether it calls out a lack of strategic thinking on the part of the U.S. players. And that could be a function of the courses they have played most of their lives; the majority of which lack the strategic elements that you find on many of the British/European courses. Whatever the cause, we suck at foursomes.
And let's face it, with Tiger and Phil in full decline mode (and even at their best, they were never world-beaters in the Ryder Cup), the U.S. players near the top of the World 50 ranking are, shall we say, less than intimidating. At #4 you've got Jim Furyk, as great a guy as one can imagine - but also the player above all others who has demonstrated a glaring inability to close the deal under pressure. Then there's Bubba Watson, who if it weren't for John Daly would probably win the title of most inconsistent and maddening two-time major winner in golf history. With Watson, you get all or nothing. After that there's Matt Kuchar, another great guy but also another guy who is streaky and not likely to strike terror in the hearts of his opponents. Then, a bunch of young guys like Jordan Spieth and Rickie Fowler who are definitely on their way up, but who also lack the experience under pressure to dominate in a contest like the Ryder Cup.
As far as I'm concerned, the kerfuffle around the selection of Tom Watson as Captain and Phil Mickelson's backhanded criticism of Watson's strategy in selecting his teams (which admittedly - he even admitted it - was less than stellar) is a red herring. Hell, pick me as Captain, and I'll make the smart choices in the team play, as well as in the singles. In the end that doesn't mean a damn thing, because the Captain isn't out there making the shots.
How about some baseball? Can the Giants continue their streak of winning World Series in the even-numbered years of this decade? It certainly doesn't seem likely, but hell - this is the streakiest team in the world, and all it takes to win a title is to get hot at the right time. There's really no dominant team this year, and you can make a decent case for about six of the teams in the postseason. Should be fun.
And finally, the San Francisco 49ers. Jim Harbaugh may be in Michigan by this time next year, and Colin Kaepernick may look like he has no idea what he's doing out there about half the time, but a win against one of the three remaining undefeated teams in the league is nothing to sneeze at. They could be (and probably should be) 4-0, but there's a lot of football yet to play and after four weeks it seems pretty clear that every team in the league (with the possible exception of the Raiders) is capable of beating one of the others.
And it's almost October...where the fun really begins.