The relatively quiet week of sports is history.
With the off-week prior to the crescendo of the Super Bowl upcoming in Minneapolis, we saw the usual flurry of hockey and basketball competition as well as the true beginning of the PGA golf season in La Jolla, California.
There was one championship event. The finals of the men’s and women’s Australian Open tournament. The first event of that sport’s Grand Slam.
How fitting Roger Federer’s triumph in Melbourne occurred on a relatively silent weekend where other events couldn’t overshadow his achievement.
First, a tip-of-the-hat, and standing ovation to Caroline Wozniacki for her victory over Simona Halep in the women’s title match, her first Grand Slam win solidifying her Number One ranking on the WTA Tour.
It was a thrilling match, that went the distance. with the Great Dane taking the deciding set 6-4.
Emotion was abound, as Wozniacki silenced doubters who criticized her for never finishing the job and capturing a Grand Slam event.
Isn’t it easy for armchair critics, who never come close to experiencing the unseen hard work and pressure of competing in an athletic competition on a stage for all to see, to casually accuse athletes of “choking” or not having the stuff of a champion?
So easy to make that charge of those who fall short.
Then, of course. there is that moment when finally comes that breakthrough.
Then silence from the critics, who are forced to seek another candidate to make their case.
I’ve always laughed at those who cry “choke”. It is a cruel indictment.
Those people have no idea what high-level sports competition is all about.
How did they get to play in a championship setting in the first place? Where was the “choking” en route to the title game or match?
When I see teams or players fail down the stretch, I figure it was a case of trying too hard, or simply not making the play, or not making the shot, that was required.
I’ll never forget what the legendary coach of the Boston Celtics, Red Auerbach, told me many years ago: “It’s not solitaire out there.”
The other guy has an affect on how you perform.
It’s true in team sports, tennis, and even in golf, when the golf course is your opponent.
Of course, no one has ever pointed a finger at Roger Federer, saying he can’t “win the big one.”
He won his 20th “big one” in Melbourne beating Marin Cilic in five sets.
At age 36, witnessing what Federer has accomplished in tennis is nothing short of phenomenal.
But let’s go beyond his dazzling performances on the court.
Is there an athlete competing on the highest of levels more appreciated and adored than Roger Federer? I can’t think of one.
He comes across as a sincere, generous, friendly and grateful champion. How can you not root for this man?
On to the Super Bowl.
When you have an extra week before the Big Game, out comes speculation from every corner on how the battle between the Eagles and Patriots will go.
Over-analysis, which is the order of the day will only be pumped up this week.
My take is this: There is nothing that will happen in the game that is out of the realm of possibility. I know you want something more definitive. But there is absolutely nothing that is a definite, other than the Patriots, the home team, will wear their white uniforms, and the Eagles will don green.
The Pats had the choice. White uniforms have been good to them.
The Patriots are strong favorites and they should be. We’ve seen how they seem to always make the right plays at the right moment to pull out a victory.
We saw it last week in Foxboro when they were out-played most of the game, only to see them edge the Jaguars at the end.
We certainly saw it last year, when they rallied from 25-points down to beat the Falcons in overtime.
We’ve always seen it.
But we’ve also seen those few moments when the all-time greatest quarterback, Tom Brady, was reduced to a mere mortal as a result of a fierce pass rush that forced him to get hit repeatedly, knocking him out of his comfort zone. We all know how quick Brady gets rid of the ball, making slow-developing pressure meaningless.
So the key has to be the Eagles defense, top-rated as they are, playing the game of their lives to cause confusion for the Patriots attack.
Same goes for the Eagles making sure their quarterback, Nick Foles, who’s held up well so far as the backup to injured Carson Wentz, not to crumble facing a Patriots defense that is sure to disguise their plan before the ball is snapped.
Let’s face it, the mighty Patriots have trailed in games in the fourth quarter, and even lost a few.
But let’s also face the fact that no team makes critical adjustments in the second-half and down the stretch better than New England.
It is well known that Bill Belichick’s experienced crew practices situational football and adversarial scenarios more than anyone.
Unless you’re a Patriots or Eagles fan, you have to anticipate and hope for a tightly-contested Super Bowl.
Finally, one of my all-time favorite standards is, ” I Could Write a Book”. It’s a show tune from the 1940 musical, Pal Joey, written by the great team, Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart.
This romantic song has been recorded by the likes of Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, Ella Fitzgerald and Sarah Vaughn.
The point of all this, is that there have been people along the way, who have suggested I write a book about my experiences in my development as a sports broadcaster.
In lieu of actually writing a “book”, I plan to tell my story in this space for as long as it takes. It is not strictly about how successful I might have been, in itself a boring and self-serving
Rather, a tale of how and when my special love of sports began. The peaks and valleys ( and there have been many) I’ve endured, the many forks in the road I faced, and the people who
were pivotal in my enjoying the professional life I’ve experienced. There are the stories behind the events I have covered. Even stories of people who had nothing to do with my career.
It is simply my story. It is far-ranging. In many cases filled with humor, irony, disappointment and fulfillment.
I won’t cease in presenting my thoughts on the current sporting events as they happen.
But the recollections of a lifetime will be the principal trail to be followed.
I hope you enjoy it.
Enjoy Dick’s FREE podcast, “Stockton!” where he shares a different perspective on the world of sports along with stories that he has collected from his unique front-row seat.
Download for FREE at the iTunes store http://apple.co/2lwjg8F