What Would Sports Be Without Controversy?

A mixed bag of college football’s final four… NFL poetic justice and other thoughts… Is Tiger back? What does it mean?  Other musings.

What would sports be without controversy? It goes with the territory. There’s plenty of territory.

What has been an entertaining fun-filled season of college gridiron events, minus the furor of the NFL’s anthem-kneeling saga, is approaching the home stretch.

The battle for the national championship has been finally reduced to the four teams who will fight it out and the pairings for the Bowl games are set.

Let’s begin with the teams who will NOT wind up as national champion, but will live to play another day in a post-season game, bringing their fans and alumni for a vacation that will include party-time, reunions and the game itself…a chance to go home as a Bowl game champion.

Let’s face it, there can be only one national champion, but there are so many teams who have had successful seasons worthy of playing another strong team in an extra contest.

Before there was ever a BCS playoff, teams played in Bowl games and after they were over, an unofficial national titlist was declared by as panel of experts.

Who would wind up Number One in the country?

Once upon a time, there were only five bowl games. Rose, Cotton, Sugar, Orange and Gator. If you suffered three losses in the regular season, you were out of luck.

Now, there are countless post-season games. If you break even at 6-6, you are eligible for another contest.  I’m okay with that. It’s the times we live in for all sports.

It’s about money. Money for the sponsored bowl games in all kinds of towns and cities. Money for the schools. Money paid by the TV networks for program time. To sell commercial time.

We see it in every sport. It is what it is.

There will be 37 different bowl games starting December 16th. The two national semi-final games will be played New Year’s Day, before the championship game in Atlanta Jan. 8.

There are terrific games bringing up match-ups of traditional powers that are exciting to anticipate.

How about Notre Dame vs. LSU in the Citrus Bowl. Penn State and Washington in the Fiesta Bowl. Stanford vs. TCU in the Alamo Bowl. Miami hosting Wisconsin in the Orange Bowl.

There are so many other top attractions.

But it will all start with Troy tangling with North Texas December 16 in the New Orleans Bowl.

That won’t be the only game in the Superdome.

The other one features No. 1 Clemson against No. 4 Alabama in one of the national semi-finals.

The other on New Year’s Day will pair No. 2 Oklahoma vs. No. 3 Georgia in Pasadena’s Rose Bowl.

There was only one argument over the four finalists. Oklahoma, with one loss was the Big 12 champion. Georgia, also 12-1 captured the SEC title game beating Auburn handily.

Auburn got there by stunning Alabama the week before in their traditional finale.

Raise your hands if you predicted defending national champion Clemson would wind up No. 1 after their shocking loss to Syracuse (4-8) October 13.

But that was the only defeat Clemson suffered as they finished strong, capped by a 38-3 whipping of Miami in the ACC showdown game.

The only question was Alabama.

It came down to the Crimson Tide and Ohio State.

The Buckeyes, who had lost two games, jumped back into consideration by knocking off previously
unbeaten Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship game.

There are those who claim Alabama got the nod because they are the “brand name” of college football.

I’m not one of those dissenters. I think Nick Saban’s crew earned it.

Their only setback was to an Auburn team that played in the SEC finale.

Ohio State, which likes to consider themselves the villains of the sport, dropped two games.
One of them was a 31-point drubbing by Iowa.

End of story.

The Buckeyes will be playing USC in the Cotton Bowl. That’s a matchup that brings up images of past bowl games. When there were only a handful, and if you lost more than one game in a season, you were waiting for next year.

There’s a similar story going on in the NFL.

With all the attention, understandably, on division titles and playoffs leading to the Super Bowl, there are teams who are just trying to win games.

When I was growing up, I was a fan of the New York Giants.

There was a time they were bridesmaids or worse, to the league’s power, the Cleveland Browns.

They suffered many losing seasons. But if you’re a fan of a team, you feel good after a win, not-so-good after a loss. Winning a championship was the ultimate dream. But the season didn’t depend
on being the best. Winning a game was good enough. If the Giants were 3-7, I was rooting for them to be 4-7. A win felt good.

That’s still the case, I believe, with fans of teams.

They watch on Sundays and cheer their team.

By the way, that’s exactly what the players do.

They practice during the week to try to win the next game.

They may have no chance for the playoffs, but they are preparing in hopes of winning the game.

That’s their job. They’re not looking ahead and speculating down the road.

Like their fans, they want a victory.

This past weekend there were two interesting examples of how past events affected the performance of one player, and the actions of a head coach.

In Chicago, the 49ers edged the Bears 15-14 on a game winning field goal by Robbie Gould in the final seconds. it was Gould’s fifth field goal of the game. He would up 5-5 and accounted for all his team’s points as the Niners won only their second game of the season.

Gould had been the Bears kicker for 11 years
before he was cut prior to the 2016 opener.

This was his first chance against his former team.

“I wanted this one really bad”, he said.

I guess he did.

In Miami, the Dolphins crushed the Broncos 35-9.

Miami’s head coach, Adam Gase, was opposing Denver’s head man, Vance Joseph.

Joseph was hired by Gase as his defensive coordinator and served in that role last season before the Broncos GM, and legendary quarterback John Elway, brought him to Denver as head coach.

Gase and Joseph are close friends.

But with the score 33-9 and ten minutes remaining in the game, Gase ordered an on-side kick, which was successful.

Who does that to a good friend with a huge lead in the fourth quarter?

But there’s more to the story.

It seems that back in 2014 Elway by-passed Gase as head coach to hire Gary Kubiak who happened to coach the Broncos to the Super Bowl title the next season.

Apparently Adam Gase didn’t forget the snub.

His unorthodox move wasn’t aimed at Vance Joseph. Not at all.

No one can decisively claim Gase had revenge in mind.

After the game, asked about it, Gase said, ” We’re  just playing for 60 minutes. We’re not going to slow down, and I don’t care what the score is”.

But you can draw your own conclusions.


You can do the same with Tiger Woods coming back to competitive action after 301 days away from the sport was the story of the week.

Dealing with a debilitating back injury, involving surgery,  there were doubts Woods would ever make it back.
But he did, in really incredible fashion in the Hero World Challenge in the Bahamas.

Woods, now 41, finished eight-under par after a shooting a 68 in the final round. He finished tied for ninth behind Rickie Fowler who had a brilliant 61, a course record, to capture the tournament.

But coming off a fourth back surgery in April and idle for 10 months, Woods’ performance, as it usually does, was the major headline.

What this does is present a fascinating scenario of what the coming pro golf season could look like.

Imagine Tiger Woods continuing a comeback many doubted would happen hoping to challenge the “young Turks’ who have taken over the golf scene.

Could he win more majors?

How would the latest young stars of the sport react.

One thing we know. The current crop of outstanding golfers will never be intimidated by Woods as many of the past contenders have been.

The best of the present winners actually enjoy Woods’ company and playing practice rounds with him.

He may be 41, but they regard him as “one of the boys”.

Just witnessing the final round by Fowler, is an indication that those young golfers, who have been on top, are likely to continue winning and that it won’t be easy for Tiger Woods to join that crowd.