Once upon a time there was a day when wearing red struck fear into the deepest caverns of opponents hearts. Sundays.
You heard him before you saw him. It started with a purr, then a dull roar, then a growing wave of expectation as the crowds around layered themselves around fairways, dug in around the perimeter of every green. His presence suffocated the opposition’s mentality, canceling any kind of ferocity which they displayed.
Tiger was on the prowl.
And what an era of golf that was. Gargantuan drives, impeccable displays of athleticism from a sport which was not known for true athletes, and cold blooded annihilation of anyone in his path on the leaderboard. It was domination, it was his era.
But a crucial knee injury, a world-wide cheating scandal, and a swing overhaul later, Tiger Woods is a different man. And that doesn’t even begin to analyze his mental situation. Who am I to try and decipher what Tiger Woods is actually thinking? No, it doesn’t have to get that difficult. Just look at what goes on in front of you.
He isn’t the same man.
His swing is in shambles, his accuracy is nothing more than a flash in the pan. As Woods ages, his confidence evaporates and the level of play around him elevates. We won’t see the same dominance Tiger once displayed, whether fans want to come to terms with that or not. But is that a reflection of Woods as a golfer? Not entirely. The next generation of golf stars are all big, athletic players who are capable of hitting many shots. Golf hasn’t seen a generation this talented all come along at the same time, which often plays into the parity in the win column.
It also creates one major problem, there’s no one “star.” Look around. While Dustin Johnson, Matt Kuchar, Anthony Kim, and Bubba Watson are great players, they lack the superstar factor. Ernies Els and Vijay Singh have nostalgic factors with most of the golf community, they’re not the future of golf. Rory Mcilroy may be the next superstar from the European spotlight, but does he have the charisma to win over fans of the PGA Tour?
Then there’s Phil.
A fan favorite throughout the tour, Phil Mickelson sparkles around the green and normally generates the loudest of ovations. But his sometimes inconsistent play at times baffles fans and pundits alike. My take on Phil? He’s a great Robin, but can’t be the PGA Tours Batman.
So it all circles back to Tiger Woods.
Sure, he’s mired in a slump. Hes not mentally strong right now, he’s mired in another blown up scandal(Spitgate anyone?) and is overhauling the aforementioned swing. He’s at his most vulnerable state as a golfer right now, facing criticism and skepticism from all 360 degrees. It’d be easy to write off Tiger Woods now, casting him away as one of the greatest golfers to ever play the sport, but was unable to regain greatness.
But that would be irresponsible.
Because in the face of adversity, in the very depths of a seemingly bottomless pit of despair, true champions eventually rise up. And what is Tiger Woods? Only the winner of 14 majors. The only man on tour to warrant his own “tracker” on ESPN. The only man, even when “down and out,” generates more hits on google and more attention than every other player on tour.
Jack Nicklaus took 3 years to win another major after 14. But he did it.
There’s no one who can truthfully doubt the amount of work Tiger Woods is willing and will put into the game of golf. While he is the best, a swing transformation doesn’t happen overnight. While others grapple to gain control of the top spot in the league, Tiger still waits in the depths. While everyone obsesses over Tiger losing control of the league, could it be possible that the rest of the tour is simply wasting their 15 minutes of fame? Attack now, that same Tiger is still on the prowl, albeit a different path.
Tiger knows how to win, he knows how to close. A mindset which is fragile right now will only strengthen with confidence, which will only be acquired through time. If you snooped around online, you’d think Tiger completely forgot how to play golf and turned into John Daly. He may be beaten down, but Tiger Woods doesn’t take to being defeated lightly. Give up on him if you please, but that will be a short-minded decision.
Tiger Woods will dominate again.
You can contact Mark on twitter at http://www.twitter.com/Mark_Chiarelli
Filed under: College Sports, NBA, NFL, Uncategorized | Tags: Basketball, Football, Golf, Hockey, NBA, NFL, NHL, Sports, TV, X-Games
Even though the Super Bowl is a week away, the present weekend at hand offers sports fans galore a plethora of viewing choices. 3 of the 4 major professional sports command your attention, college basketball is in full swing, golf has started up again, and extreme sports blesses us with its greatest spectacle. Without further ado, here’s what’s on tap for Sports fans this weekend.
Saturday, January 29
College Basketball: Many will just be getting into their day as Georgetown and Villanova take the air at noon ET. The Big East has displayed the highest level of men’s basketball this season, and this game figures to live up to the billing. Rivalries are our theme here on the Sports Blast, as North Carolina squares off against NC State following GU/NOVA. Both are televised on ESPN, with the battle of 2 Carolina’s at 2pm ET. One of the most intense rivalries in all of college sports tips off at 7 with Kansas State visiting Kansas. Kansas boasts one of the strongest home court advantages in the nation, but Frank Martin and Jacob Pullen look to overcome the KU backdrop. Our college hoops rating on Saturday? 4.5/5
College Football: College Football? The National Championship was almost 3 weeks ago! Don’t fret football fans, the draft nerds are here. And with them they bring the Senior Bowl, based out of Mobile, Alabama. The Senior Bowl pits the top seniors in the country against each other, as pro franchises generate scouting material heading into the April draft. The game kicks off at 4 on the NFL Network. 3.5/5
Action Sports: The Winter X-Games are back for a 16th season, and they’ll be on the ESPN family of networks all weekend. You can catch the X-Games at 4 on ESPN 2, and at 9 on ESPN. While the extreme sport activists will love this, I question if the X-Games can get any air-time from me on a busy weekend. 3/5
NHL: The SuperSkills Competition will take place in Carolina, featuring the bright young guns in the NHL. While it may not be the most popular of sports, true NHL fans relish this weekend, and more “regular joes” should as well. Many new faces who will soon dominate the NHL spotlight will compete with current stars. You can catch this on Versus at 7. 3.5/5
Notables: Strikeforce MMA will square off at 10 on Showtime, featuring Diaz vs. Cyborg. 3rd Round of the Farmer’s Insurance Open takes place, featuring Tiger Woods amongst others. Devon Alexander vs. Timothy Bradley in a welterweight championship bout, pay-per-view.
Sunday, January 30
Action Sports: The Winter X-Games are back for day 2. They will air on ESPN at the 12:30, 7, and 11 time slots. All are Eastern Time.
Golf: The final round of the Farmers Insurance Open will air at 3PM on CBS. As a huge golf fan, I’m excited for the season’s infant stages and expect big things in 2011. Watch for Tiger Woods to be in contention. 3.5/5
NBA: The best of the best square off on Sunday in a double-header. Miami takes on Oklahoma City in a match up of young, evolving stars. LeBron James, D-Wade, Kevin Durant, and Russell Westbrook headline this 1PM start. At 3:30, the best rivalry in the NBA(maybe even sports) takes center stage with their first meeting since an epic 7 game Finals just a year ago. Yes basketball fans, it’s the Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers. Boston will return to the scene of the crime, hoping for a better result than game 7. Both games will air on ABC. 5/5
NFL: Done with all of that? Perfect, because the Pro Bowl is on. While the Pro Bowl has been the butt-end of a lot of football jokes, it still displays many of the top stars in the NFL. This will serve as many fans football fix, and offers a unique mic’d up style atmosphere. Many fans will get to observe Bill Belichick up close. I’ll try to hold my attention through the game, I can’t make any bets. 3/5
NHL: Unlike the NFL, the NHL’s All-Star Game is often one of the most exciting games of the year. This years class is LOADED with firepower despite not having Sidney Crosby or Jerome Iginla. The teams will duke it out, matched up thanks to the All-Star Player Draft, held Friday night. Expect a lot of offense as well as true magnificence. You can catch the game at 4, on Versus. 4.5/5
While it may not dominate Sportscenter, this weekend’s crop of sporting events figures to be very interesting. On Saturday, I’ll focus most of my attention on the College Hoops and the Senior Bowl, looking to get a read on some of the top draft prospects. On Sunday, I’ll be backing my beloved Celtics at 3:30, while catching as much of the NHL All-Star Game as possible. I’ll get my football/golf fix in as well. Sunday should be great!
- Mark Chiarelli
Filed under: Uncategorized
An NBA Blog? What is this?
I know we’ve neglected the NBA on-air, but as the NFL season reaches the depths of their schedule, it’s important to keep a broad focus on The Sports Blast. As the NBA and NHL take over sports headlines everywhere in the next month, we’ll continue to expand upon our coverage. Without further ado, our top 5 and bottom 5 teams.
1. San Antonio Spurs: 36-6
It’s tough to argue with what the Spurs have done on the floor so far this season. While you never hear much out of Tim Duncan and co., their play speaks for itself. They get it done at home(22-2) and are distancing themselves from the rest of the pack(L.A is fading in the rear view mirror). One of the most seasoned core group of players in the NBA, the Spurs have been there and done that. Even if they go through the motions while trying to get to the playoffs, don’t expect there to be a carryover when it matters.
2. Boston Celtics: 32-9
Much like the Spurs, Boston is comprised of an abundance of veteran talent. While that may hurt you in the “dog days” of the NBA season, it doesn’t detract from the overall talent of the team. Boston is 13-5 against opponents with records above .500, and have yet to play a game “healthy.” The return of Kendrick Perkins in the near future will only inject more enthusiasm into a team enjoying surprisingly strong showings from veterans who presumably already have one eye on the playoffs. Celtics/Lakers on January 30 is one to watch for.
3. Miami Heat: (30-13)
Wait, I thought the Heat were destined for mediocrity? Their coach was a hack, all 3 superstars overrated! Oh, that was just the first couple weeks of the season? Right. There was no way the Heat could be held down forever, and we finally see the power that is combining 3 super stars in one starting lineup. The biggest thing with Miami is making it through without a major injury of any sort. Depth is a concern for me as well as the Heat’s inability to consistently sport a routine lineup.
4. Los Angeles Lakers: (31-13)
Despite struggling to stay consistent this year, L.A can get by on raw talent. Kobe, Gasol, Bynum, Odom, Artest. The star power in the “city of the stars” 1-5 is scary good considering none of these guys have really peaked. Despite that, the team continues to improve their scoring outputs and sit pretty at 31-13. They may need to go on a late-season run to regain home-court advantage, which will be a huge asset on their quest for a three-peat.
5. Chicago Bulls: (28-14)
The Bulls and not Thunder? That’s the case here. Chicago continues to forge ahead despite being without their defensive and rebounding energy, Joakim Noah. Without him, they’ve still piled up 28 wins and have played well. Derrick Rose garners many a accolade this season, and the future pairing of Carlos Boozer and the aforementioned Noah should have the East taking notice.
Next in line, Oklahoma City Thunder.
The “Why is there still a draft lottery, we should go based on records” Bottom Five
5. Toronto Raptors: (13-29)
Despite the emergence of Andrea Bargnani and the seemingly yearly ray of hope in Toronto, the team lacks the big punch. They lack a big man, and continue to accumulate average talent on the wings.
4.Washington Wizards: (12-28)
They trade for Rashard Lewis, struggle to keep John Wall on the court, and have teammates who may be brawling off the court. Sounds like another typical season for the Washington Wizards. They could get the top 5 pick for the next 5 years, until new management takes over that team will never get out of the rut.
3. Sacramento Kings: (9-31)
Big name ownership and a big young talent in Tyreke Evans isn’t enough to lift the Kings out of NBA purgatory. There’s plenty of young talent in Sacramento, which allows me to hope for the future for Sacramento. Paging Donte Greene, Donte, where are you?
2. Minnesota Timberwolves: (10-33)
No ones been harder on David Kahn than me during the early chapters of his career in Minnesota. Questionable draft strategies(let alone picks) haven’t helped Minnesota in the slightest. Still haven’t seen Ricky Rubio, Wesley Johnson isn’t getting on the court, and their defense may as well not even garner it’s own stat. I weep for Minnesota’s dreary future.
1. Cleveland Cavaliers: (8-33)
Not only is Cleveland in an all-time low sporting wise, but the Cavaliers have literally nothing to play for. Dan Gilbert may or may not still believe he will win a title before Lebron, but newsflash, it won’t happen with this lineup. Mo Williams and Anderson Varejao are now out. Good luck J.J Hickson!
Filed under: NFL, Uncategorized | Tags: Bill Belichick, Football, Jets, NFL, Patriots, Playoffs, Sports
I could only make it to Thursday.
Bottling up stats, quotes, and other potentially useful pieces of information, the Sports Blast has gone through most of the week without discussing the upcoming Jets and Patriots duel, part 3. As a show based around the New England/New York/New Jersey area, this game undoubtedly harbors most of our interest.
This game pits two completely different teams. One focuses on defensive football, never shies away from an outlandish comment, and lives under the boisterous shadow of Rex Ryan. The other? Well they’re much more business like, methodically going through each week, rarely giving the media much to work with while featuring an offense which is ever evolving.
The way they talk, you’d think the Jets were the favorites to win this game. Personal shots at Tom Brady and Bill Belichick(typical Jets protocol) have resulted in, well, nothing. Perhaps most frustrating of all for Rex Ryan, the Patriots only response to any of his poor efforts to spark controversy was a playful prod by Bill Belichick himself, declaring that it’s the best for both sides that the two coaches do not suit up.
But can the Jets really be taken seriously?
I hate to be that guy, but the majority of the public needs to be reminded that the Jets are a mere 3-4 against winning teams, and that’s counting last weekends nailbiter against the Indianapolis Colts. Rex Ryan has yet to beat New England at Gillette since taking over the New York Jets, and the last ditch retort “what about week 2″ really holds no place in any discussion.
In week 2, the Patriots offense featured Randy Moss, Laurence Maroney, and Fred Taylor. They were without Logan Mankins and Danny Woodhead. BenJarvus Green-Ellis was a relative unknown, Darius Butler suffered a volcanic-equse meltdown, and the Patriots still managed to lead after one half. How relevant is that game?
Some people counter that the playoffs are all about “any given Sunday” and the Jets are riding high after a win against the vaunted Colts. The same vaunted Colts who led with less than a minute ago. The same vaunted Colts who were without Joseph Addai, Anthony Gonzalez, Austin Collie, Dallas Clark, Clint Session, Bob Sanders, Kelvin Hayden, Ryan Diem, and Antonio Johnson. Wow, that was exhausting. The Jets run game overpowered an undersized Colts defensive front 7, but will the same happen in New England?
The strength of the Jets offense is their power run game. The ability to put Mark Sanchez on ice for 10 plays/87 yards needs to be prevalent in order for New York to win. And by put on ice, I mean not allow to throw the ball more than twice. But can the Jets sustain such domination on the ground against a bigger, more skilled run defense? The jump from Indianapolis to New England in terms of run stoppage is rather large, spanning from 25th in the league to 11th. You aren’t going to be able to move Vince Wilfork and Gerard Warren far, something the Jets did well with the undersized Colts Dlineman such as Robert Mathis.
While all previews are relative, it’s impossible to argue with what the Patriots have done leading up to this game. Since 2004, the Patriots are 8-0 coming off a bye week. Since Bill Belichick has been in control, the Patriots have never lost coming off a wild card weekend bye. He’s intercepted Mark Sanchez a whopping 7 times in just 2 games at Gillette stadium. For what it’s worth, Belichick has reached the Super Bowl 3 times when going 14-2 in the regular season, ’03, ’04, and ’07.
Consider this a challenge to the Jets fans throughout the nation. What have the Jets done to prove themselves worthy of the expectations they’ve placed on their shoulders? It’s been a long week(still isn’t over), and obviously the only thing that matters is what happens on the field.
But give me a team who displays a higher level of focus(the Patriots), rarely lose at home(the Patriots) and have been here before over a team who might be nothing more than a breath of hot air.
- Mark Chiarelli
Filed under: NFL, Uncategorized | Tags: Eagles, Football, NFL, Packers, Playoffs, Sports
We shift over to the NFC at The Sports Blast, starting the coverage with potentially the most interesting game of the weekend.
Green Bay travels into Eagle country to stage a matchup which could easily pass as the NFC Conference Championship game, let alone a Wild Card Weekend duel. Both teams possess threatening offenses, while defense could be a much bigger question mark on either side.
The Packers come in as a surprising 6 seed. Needing to win out just to enter the playoffs, the Packers are still primed to be one of the toughest in the NFC due in part to the play of Aaron Rodgers. While the injury bug has done its worst to the Packers, Rodgers continues to statistically impress despite missing time due to 2 concussions. Rodgers is just a smudge under 4,000 yards on the season while posting a rating of 101.2. The connection with Greg Jennings is still there, and the Packers have received heroic contributions from Donald Driver and James Jones throughout the season.
Defensively the Packers have excelled, a huge step up from last seasons inconsistent showings on the defensive side of the ball. They posted an average of 309.1 yards allowed, which was good for a 5 spot in the rankings. Keeping with the trend, the Packers are second only to the Pittsburgh Steelers in PPG allowed. Tack on a +10 turnover differential and Dom Capers looks like a mad scientist in Green Bay.
When mentioning Philadelphia, need I say more than Michael Vick?
No? Alrighty then.
Alas, the Eagles live and breathe at the hands of the dynamic quarterback. If Michael Vick is moving the ball not only with his arm but with his feet, the end could very easily be near for the Packers defense. Coupled with Tom Brady in the MVP voting, Vick has thrown for over 3,000 yards, posted a 100.2 rating, and has been intercepted just 6 times. My mantra has always been, if you don’t turn the ball over in the playoffs, more often than not you win. Vick has the luxury of throwing to two different wide receivers who each offer a rare asset of their own to the Andy Reid offense. Desean Jackson is the burner to Jeremy Maclins’ physicality. Throw in a Lesean McCoy to take the heat off Vick and that’s a darn good offense.
Defensively, Philadelphia has its struggles. They’re 21st in points allowed(23.6), but rebound nicely by ranking 12th in yards/game. The Eagles struggle at the linebacker position. Despite what you hear out of Eagles camp, they do not have a linebacker who can be relied to plug the middle when needed the most. This may not be a huge deficit against a team like Green Bay, who for all intents and purposes has abandoned the run. Philadelphia has sacked the opponents QB 49 times this season, while the Packers have allowed 38 sacks and are known to struggle at the offensive line. Could that be Philadelphia’s plan of attack?
Despite the potent Philadelphia offense, my gut tells me to go with the Packers. The trust I have in their defense to not only be more physical with Philadelphia, but to contain any kind of run threat, is what puts them over the top. The ability to trust both Charles Woodson and Tramon Williams on the outside is huge, allowing Green Bay to keep the middle of the field occupied. Michael Vick won’t be able to hit the checkdown or escape into the open field with Clay Matthews having the luxury of shadowing him the entire game.
Green Bay is just 3-5 on the road, but the Eagles did not rise above .500 at home this season. This could turn out to be a battle of two uncomfortable, tight football teams. In the end, give me Aaron Rodgers, who desperately needs to win this football game to gain traction as a playoff QB, not just a fantasy football all-star.