Looking Back at a Week of Surprising Developments in Sports
Looking back at a week of surprising developments in sports, which is why we appreciate the unpredictability and drama that can pop up at any time.
Why do we deal with Tiger Woods as often as we do?
Simple. He remains the most compelling figure in the game.
Not just the game of golf, but any game.
He’s been knocking on the door ever since he returned to the wars of the PGA tour.
Tiger finally broke through in capturing the Tour Championship in Atlanta.
Let’s take a step back and consider what Woods’ triumph means in the big picture.
Here is a figure who utterly dominated his sport in potentially record-breaking, legendary fashion and then fell from grace with a combination of injuries and personal disgrace.
The Tiger Woods story was a theatrical dream.
A man who had it all, and was doing it all, had apparently disappeared from the scene, cursed by crippling back problems requiring surgery and an unhappy personal existence caused by his own failings.
People either loved him or hated him. They either adored his immense skills on a golf course when he was healthy, or simply regarded him as a bad guy whose career was over.
Now we fast-forward to a gleeful, and I suspect a grateful Woods, flying to Paris with his American teammates for this week’s Ryder Cup matches, looking to beat the European team on foreign soil for the first time since 1993.
Like him or not, Tiger Woods brings eyeballs to golf in a way no one else can.
There has been the rise of the new breed of young golfers who have commanded the game since Tiger disappeared from the scene. You know who they are: Spieth, Thomas, Johnson, McIlroy, Koepka, Fowler and some others. They are all outstanding performers capable of playing championship golf. But they are not Tiger Woods.
So here’s this so-called tragic figure, coming back at the age of 42, and showing the kids who may be boss again, on any given weekend.
I don’t think Tiger can turn the clock back on a consistent basis. Age is the reason why.
But TV ratings go through the roof when he contends. And revert to average numbers when he doesn’t.
I have some thoughts, after talking with a good friend, about what we all understand is the killer instinct in sports that the special champions have, and the rest do not.
Notice how the love for what Tiger has achieved is evident in the reaction by his challengers who he left in the dust this past weekend in Atlanta.
Rory McIlroy, playing with Woods in the final round, and trailing, had a good chance to win. But he fell by the wayside before heaping praise on his conqueror.
That was a nice touch. But maybe not.
Not to throw cold water on what could be viewed as good sportsmanship, I truly believe that toughness, and a stoic determination to win, is a better attitude to have.
On Sunday night in the NFL, the Patriots were stunned by the Lions, who had looked inept in their first two games.
The coaching matchup represented the appeal of this game.
Bill Belichick was opposing Matt Patricia, his long-time defensive coordinator, who left New England to become head coach of the Lions.
After the shocker, Belichick was in no mood to heap personal praise on his former lieutenant. Instead, Belichick emphasized that his job centered around the Patriots, what was best for them, and nothing else.
I would have liked to have seen some of the new age golfers at the Tour Championship bear down and and perhaps beat the old man who shot one-over-par in the final round instead of reviving the not-long-ago impression that when Tiger Woods was on, he had a way of intimidating the field.
It sure looked that way in Atlanta.
A final note on the debuts of two rookie NFL quarterbacks which highlighted week three.
Last Thursday, with the Cleveland Browns trailing the New York Jets 14-0, Browns quarterback Tyrod Taylor was injured and had to leave the game.
That set the stage for the initial appearance of Baker Mayfield, the number one pick in the draft, and a choice that was questioned by many who debated his worth as the top QB in a draft loaded with potentially outstanding signal-callers.
Mayfield came into the game and you could feel the energized atmosphere of the long-suffering Cleveland fans and the Browns players as well. Mayfield engineered a Browns victory, their first in 635 days.
Sunday, in the game I covered for Fox Sports, Josh Rosen became the last of the rookie quarterback crop to make his first NFL regular-season appearance.
But Rosen had the unenviable task of trying to lead the Arizona Cardinals to a possible game-winning field goal in the final minutes. Starting from his 25 yard-line, Rosen managed to lead a desperate late drive to midfield, only to see an interception, as the rookie was hit, end their hopes.
It wasn’t the storybook finish Mayfield engineered, but it was obvious his Cardinals teammates were energized, as the Josh Rosen era begins in Arizona.
Here’s the real story on these rookie quarterbacks: they will make many mistakes, and they will all struggle in games moving forward. But they can all play and have the confidence and ability to win.
Remember, my colleague at Fox, Terry Bradshaw threw 6 touchdown passes and had 24 intercepted in his rookie season. The next year the numbers were no better: 13 TD’s, 22 INT’s.
Bradshaw ultimately won four Super Bowls.