Singles Matches - 2014 Ryder Cup

US Ryder Cup Woes Continue

Before reading this article it is important to note one important fact. I am not a big golf fan. I enjoy playing casually and frustratedly but I would not call myself a golf fan. The only strokeplay tournament I usually watch is the Masters. Having sad that let me say this; the Ryder Cup is the greatest drama there is in team sports. Period. A bold statement perhaps, especially after a fairly pedestrian affair ended Sunday at Gleneagles but one I will stand by. There is only one thing that comes close, March Madness. The biennial golfing showcase wrapped up,  with its typical tense, if slightly less seesaw than usual singles round with Europe coming out on top for a slightly underwhelming  third consecutive victory.

The beauty of the modern era Ryder Cup lies in its formatting. It is the most perfect combination allowing both team and individual brilliance to shine. One day one and two, 8 points are available per day (1 per match for the winning team, ½ each if tied). There are 4 points available in four balls (in which both players play their own ball and the best represents the team. 4 further points are available in foursomes (in which players share a ball and play alternate strokes). Unlike traditional tournaments the tournament is played match play style in which the best score wins the hole and the first team or individual to an insurmountable total wins the match and in this case the point. Play concludes on Sunday with 12 singles matches, again played in the match play format which perennially decides to whom the cup belongs for the two years thereafter.

The format lends itself to high drama. Five of the last 10 Ryder Cups have been decided by a point (2014s tournament not withstanding). This includes Europe’s dramatic 2012 comeback from 10-6 down after the first two days of play, to win 14 ½ to 13 ½.

Since is origination in 1927 the Ryder Cup has undergone a number of important changes. In its early years, particularly after World War 2, the US dominated, its team of golfing legends like Ben Hogan, Sam Snead and Byron Nelson leading them to regular destructions of the then GB and Ireland team.

Times have changed dramatically however. Since 1995, The USA has lost 8 of the last 10 cups a stretch only surpassed in Ryder Cup history when the US won outright or retained the trophy 13 straight times (including one tie) between 1959 and 1983.

If you are a fan of American golf then ironically enough its most famous son, Jack Nicklaus, has a lot to answer for. The 18 time major winner and arguably greatest player of all time helped transition the Ryder Cup from the USA VS GB & Ireland to the USA VS Europe after a conversation with the president of the PGA in 1977. While Nicklaus was attempting to push contests to a more competitive place he never could have foreseen Europe’s recent dominance. So what is the reason this run unprecedented in modern golfing history? Better players? Better form? Better captains?

Looking at the respective teams Europe boasts the world’s number 1, 3, 5, 6, 12 and 18 (just looking at the top 20, while the USA team included world number 4, 7, 9, 10, 11, 13, 15 and 19. Europe, according the ranking system at least, holds more elite players but it hardly seems like a great disparity. Traditional viewpoints have centered on Europe succeeding as a true collectivist team and the US as a team of individualists. Never has this been more apparent than in former world number 1 and generational talent Tiger Woods, who has a paltry Ryder Cup record of 13-14-2. While Woods was conspicuously missing this year the grit of the European team was not, twice coming from deficits in the morning fourballs to storm back with comprehensive victories in the afternoon foursomes, another example of the emphasis of each team (US thrives where every player has their own ball, Europe was significantly better in the shared ball format).

There is undoubtedly something intangible to this as well. The Ryder Cup simply seems to matter more to the Europeans. This was evidenced by their stirring comeback in 2012 on US soil at Medinah. The US could not come close to staging a similar miracle this time round back on European soil. One thing is certain, with a dearth of young top 10 players Europe may continue to ride their wave of dominance unless the US team can find the missing link in their Ryder Cup puzzle – the need to win.

Famous Jameis VS Coach Strong

By JDCam September 26th 2014

Jameis Winston and Charlie Strong. What is the connection? Is it familial? Do they have some obscure link from Strong’s playing days at the University of Central Arkansas? No. Winston and Strong are at opposite ends of a growing tension in college football. Both have been grabbing headlines recently, Winston for his spiraling fast and loose conduct, Strong more subtly but no less significantly.

Winston’s latest Manzielism (coining that phrase now) could not have come at a worse time. There most perfectly succinct account of the incident came from the FSU student body. Jeffrey Osborne, whoever you are tweeted out ‘Jameis Winston just casually screamed out in front of the HCB “f—k her right in the p—sy” #epic’. Actually Jeffrey, not epic, not funny, not even entertaining, just moronic. The only thing more moronic than Winston’s latest act of stupidity was FSUs bumbling handling of the situation, an embarrassing echo of Roger Goddell’s sham handling of Ray Rice, Greg Hardy, Adrian Peterson and company. FSU initially banned him for a half of no1 FSUs game against then no22 Clemson before upping the suspension to a full game after yet another public outcry at the timidity of the institution’s punishment of their star player. FSU even managed to let Winston dress for the game, before figuring out that was probably sending a message contrasting with their suspension.

Before continuing, it’s important to take in some Winston context. Since the summer of 2013 Winston’s remarkable dual sport accomplishments at FSU have been marred by consistent off the field issues. In July of 2013 a Burger King employee called police to complain that Winston was taking unpaid for soda in ketchup cups (an oz. at a time?!). In November of 2013, much more seriously Winston was charged with sexual assault dating back to an incident that occurred in December 2012. On December 5th however, police dropped the case citing lack of evidence in explaining that charges could not be brought as a conviction would be unlikely. According to a later article that appeared in the New York Times, the Tallahassee police did not take a DNA sample from him, interview him or attempt to obtain apparent video footage of the incident obtained by a teammate. Finally in April of 2014 Winston was issued a civil citation after walking out of a local grocery store without paying for approximately $30 worth of seafood.

How did FSU handle all of these situations with regard to their player? Other than the one game ban against Clemson Winston was handed a 3 game baseball suspension for the crab-leg incident, none for the sexual assault accusations although FSU is now investigating the incident to ascertain if Winston broke the school’s code of conduct for its students. Great job FSU, it only took 10 months for you to take the situation seriously. Undoubtedly if Winston can get to the end of the season issue free, Jimbo Fisher and athletic director Stan Wilcox will laud the star for his maturity and personal growth. The message in Tallahassee is clear however, winning is more important than character. In a sporting landscape where superstars rule the roost, Famous Jameis sits on the highest perch in college football.

Winston's off-field drama is surpassing his on the field accomplishments

Winston’s off-field drama is surpassing his on the field accomplishments

870 miles away in Austin, TX, Charlie Strong is taking an entirely different approach than the higher ups at FSU. Strong recently kicked his ninth player off a floundering Longhorn program for a violation of team rules

I understand it is unfair to compare Winston and Strong. The differences are many; one is a coach, one a player, one an adult, one a young man. The comparison is merely to emphasize the increasingly inverted moral compass in college football in which players hold an ever higher stack of chips at the table.

Incredibly, Strong is being criticized for his firm stance and adherence to team rules. What are we saying here? In the post Mack Brown era, his first year seems the perfect opportunity for Strong to make a statement, to set a tone for a restructuring Texas program trying to find a new identity. In a time where headlines have been dominated by Winston, Ray Rice, Greg Hardy and Adrian Peterson for the most despicable reasons, I find myself an unflinching supporter of Strong. His no nonsense approach is sadly a refreshing change of pace to the tiresome and depressing news cycle of negativity surrounding both college and professional athletes. Maybe it is my lack of experience as a player but Strong is a man I would be inclined to follow and to put everything on the line for, for he lives out a key message. Though football is important, how we conduct ourselves and our standards of behavior, morality and character are more important.

Strong's non nonsense approach is garnering both praise and criticism in Austin

Strong’s no nonsense approach is garnering both praise and criticism in Austin

Who knows how Winston and Strong’s respective seasons will play out? One sad reality remains. Winston will transfer his considerable talent into a likely 1st round choice in next June’s NFL draft despite lesson learned after lesson learned, off field issue after off-field issue. Contrastingly Strong will be the figure likely to draw more criticism from Texas boosters and local media more desperate for success than building back this sleeping giant in a respectable and sustainable fashion. It’s time to get behind standard bearers like Strong; Winston’s own personal ground hog day is becoming all too tiresome

Peterson, Hardy and Rice – The Curtain Falls on a Dark Week for the NFL

by JDCam September 21st 2014

The NFL has rarely seen darker days. Who can remember a week like this? The league has been mired in off-field scandal and outrage and unbelievably, it has taken a week of this magnitude to awaken the outrage of the nation that it’s most popular sport holds at its center a group of stakeholders cancerous to the ideals of sportsmanship, professionalism and morality.

Let’s first review a basic timeline of the week. The Ray Rice incident exploded into the national consciousness when video footage awoke the public at large to just how shocking and abusive his assault of then fiancée and now wife Janay Palmer was. The water surrounding Rice has been consistently muddied as his initially ridiculous two game suspension resulted in an NFL policy change (6 games for a first time offender of domestic violence) to the NFL suspending him indefinitely when the footage was released by TMZ on September 8th.

This turned the public eye back onto Greg Hardy, the Carolina Panthers defensive end who was convicted of assaulting a female and communicating threats on July 16th after a domestic dispute on May 13th with his then girlfriend in which she alleged he threatened to kill her. Hardy was sentenced to 18 months probation and a 60 day jail sentence was suspended. His case is currently under appeal.

Next it emerged that a grand jury in Houston had indicted Adrian Peterson on charges of reckless/negligent injury caused to a child after it was alleged he used a switch to discipline his son after a behavioral mishap. The boy was taken to the ER and the case reported by the boy’s mother, after he sustained welts and lacerations to his thighs, buttocks and scrotum. Further historical allegations have since been brought against Peterson by a mother of another of his children. No charges were brought in the additional case after it was reported to child protective services.

A law enforcement official alleged that a copy of the tape recently published by TMZ was mailed to the NFL in early April. Roger Goodell and the NFL countered with the incompetence excuse, claiming they had no knowledge of the tape until it was published by TMZ. The official in turn, posited that there is a recorded phone confirmation in which a female employee of the NFL’s head office in NYC acknowledged receipt of the tape. The NFL has since launched an independent investigation into the incident. Rice, for his part, is in the process of appealing his indefinite suspension.

When news of his indictment surfaced the Vikings (to their credit) deactivated him for their week 2 game against the Patriots. Anheuser Busch, one of the NFL’s primary sponsors weighed in Tuesday and expressed their growing concern that ‘recent incidents have overshadowed the NFL season’

McDonalds and Visa have also expressed similar concerns. With three of the NFL’s primary corporate backers weighing in I made a not so bold prediction on Wednesday

  • Adrian Peterson and Greg Hardy will be suspended by the league prior to their respective teams week 3 games

For me and I’m sure many others this would prove the NFL’s ultimate hypocrisy. Suspending these players should have happened immediately. When will the NFL take responsibility for the actions of its players?

My prediction of course, wasn’t entirely correct. The Vikings and Panthers themselves suspended their respective superstars by adding them to the exempt commissioner’s permission list. This was certainly a stroke of genius from the NFL as they deflected some of the scorn of the public who feel that they are just appeasing corporate sponsors. Additionally we are finally hearing from the people we should be hearing from, the owners of the respective teams.

The Vikings and the Panthers have handled the situations of their respective players in a historically disgraceful fashion. Panther’s owner Gerry Richardson began crying while talking about the Greg Hardy situation and domestic violence, wow, just wow. Richardson, the general public does not want to see this embarrassing sham. We want to see you take a firm stand on an issue that is becoming the blight of this young NFL season. Additionally, the Panthers did not add Hardy to the exempt commissioner’s permission list until the day after the Vikings added Peterson. Hardy has been convicted in the case against his then girlfriend. What does it take for a professional athlete to see a legitimate consequence (from their employer) for inexcusable behavior?

C'mon Jerry!

C’mon Jerry!?

The Vikings handles Peterson equally farcically. After deactivating Peterson against the Patriots they reinstated him Monday morning, before reversing there decision mid-week between weeks two and three. Additionally, the Wilf brothers sent Vikings GM Rick Spielman to squirm hopelessly in front of the media and face the situation rather than facing the music and speaking publicly themselves. When they did finally take to the podium Zygi told us that ‘we made a mistake and need to get this right’. Wilf went to state that ‘it is important to always listen to our fans, community and our sponsors’.

Wilf may as well have turned the reverb on his mic on as most of us heard ‘it is important to always listen to our fans, community and our sponsors sponsors sponsors’. Let’s get real Zygi, this all sounds so fake. His statement was just a painfully underwhelming foreshadowing of Roger Goodell’s say little; do even less approach evidenced at his Friday 19th press conference after 10 days of hiding.

Goodell’s Friday press conference showed him for the spineless and unconcerned leader that he is. After his initial statement he went on to outline plans and commitments, except that he didn’t. ‘Nothing is off the table’ he told us, he also detailed a new committee designed to review NFL player conduct before going on to mention the Super bowl as the time when new decisions on updated personal conduct polcies will be updated. The Super bowl? Really? The NFL needed to get one thing right here, to act swiftly and decisively, it did neither.

Goodell has remained frustratingly vague throughout his Friday press conference.

Goodell has remained frustratingly vague throughout his Friday press conference.

Incidentally how pissed would you have been hearing that if your name was Sean Payton (or anyone else involved in the Saints bounty scandal). At the time Goodell stated that ‘ignorance is not an excuse’. Yet in the last few weeks Goodell and the NFL’s message has been laughably in opposition to that statement. We didn’t know about the tape, we didn’t see the tape has been the consistent message. Talk about double standards.

So where does the NFL go from here? Particularly after Cardinals RB Jonathan Dwyer has since been deactivated for allegedly head-butting his wife in the face, punching her and throwing a shoe at their 1 year old son on July 21st.

People ask why the NFL should be held accountable as a model of morality. I don’t think anyone is asking for that. The NFL viewing public doesn’t expect athletes to be perfect. It has to be clear however that they are beholden to a set of behavioral standards which allow them the privilege to play. The NFL’s job is simple, to make rigorous standards of behavior for their players and personnel and to enforce them consistently. So far this week, they have failed miserably on all counts.