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Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Internationals shake things up and hope that turns the tables

The Presidents Cup has often been viewed as a poor man’s Ryder and that’s mainly because unlike the Ryder cup, it hasn’t been much of a rivalry with the US taking the previous eight Presidents Cup competitions in fact four of those eight have been by more than five points or more. The closest the international side has come was a tie in 2003 that, although a memorable three hole tie-breaker between Tiger Woods and Ernie Els when both were at the top of their game, lead directly to a rules change so there must be a winner. Other than that it’s been more one-sided than an old Mike Tyson fight. But the Internationals hope to strike up the Rocky music and shock the world, and are setting the perfect stage to do just that. This year’s tournament will be played at Royal Melbourne, site of the afore mentioned tie and fabled best International squad ever and with five Aussies on this year’s squad it will be a decided home course advantage keeping in mind that unlike most glove patting golf events, it is customary at the Pres Cup to cheer for yours and boo at theirs. There will be some serious mojo in the air but rest assured it can cut both ways and if it looks like the outcome will be the same as usual mid-way through the competition, the noose will certainly tighten on the necks of the home side as they begin to anticipate the backlash that will soon follow in the papers. It won’t be Captain Colin that will be leading this ship despite being promoted to General after he and the European side escaped a late rally and held on to a 14 ½ - 13 ½ victory at the last Ryder Cup, instead it will be Greg Norman at the helm who wouldn’t mind erasing a few choke memories of his own. In addition to having the home town boy calling the shots there is the first round matchup where Tiger Woods will face Adam Scott (and obviously Steve Williams will be on the bag within whisper distance of Tiger) which could have been slated differently but rather was mutually altered to do the exact opposite. Yes, it will get the attention the competition definitely needs but also may be the shot to the side of the head that wakes Tiger up in time to find his game. It’s no secret Woods has had problems in the Ryder Cup but conversely he has owned the Presidents Cup compiling 18 wins, more than any competitor on either side, with a winning percentage of .620. In a tie-breaker, in a hostile environment, I would take those odds. So you got Cameron Indoor far East, local boy skipper, and a first round matchup worthy of WWA billing, now you just need one side to step up for the first time in over a decade to answer the call. It may not look good but that’s exactly what they said to Buster. Will this be Tiger's wake up call? Will the International Team parlay home course to their first victory in over a decade? Let us know here and in any of the quick links.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Smokin' Joe's Legacy will only get better with time

The sport of boxing died a little on Monday Night. It lost some of its dignity. Some of its class hit the canvas and some of its honor left ringside. The golden era of the heavyweight fighter continues to fade as Smokin’ Joe Frazier succumbed to liver cancer at the age of 67. His last fight was 30 years ago but his heyday is still fresh in the minds of all those who love the sweet science and his legacy lives on forever.

Joe Frazier was destined to have his named sketched in the stone of heavyweight boxing royalty. His 1964 gold medal in the Tokyo Olympics was a pre-cursor to future fame, fortune and controversy. Boxing will never see another duo in the ring or trilogy of fights like those of Frazier and arch enemy Muhammad Ali. Fight one, rightfully called “Fight of the Century”, had it every angle needed for the iconic event it became. Both Frazier and Ali were undefeated champions. Frazier holding the actual title, while Ali was coming off his suspension, for refusing to be drafted into the U.S. Army for the Vietnam War. Ali was the Muslim, militant, outspoken black man, most of America was afraid of. Frazier was looked upon as the compliant, shy black man who kept his mouth shut and didn’t cause trouble, the kind the establishment accepted. Because of his demeanor, Ali ridiculed him and embarrassed him publicly. Publicity stunt or not, the adjectives of “Uncle Tom” and “Gorilla”, were insults Frazier never got over long after their fight days were done. But it was Frazier that used Ali’s words as fuel and won what many to see is the biggest fight of all-time. Ali-Frazier I at Madison Square Garden on March 8th, 1971. The brawl was as big then, as any Super Bowl is now. The world stopped, watched and listened as Frazier knocked down Ali in the 15th round and handed the former Casius Clay his first professional defeat. The establishment won that night in New York and Smokin’ Joe had let his fist do the talking.

By the time they met a second time, also in New York City, Frazier was no longer the champion. He had been knocked out by George Forman in Kingston, Jamaica. The famous, “Down goes Frazier!” Down goes Frazier!” Down goes Frazier!” fight, called by the late Howard Cossell. This time on January 28th in 1974 a regional belt was on the line and Ali won a 12 round decision evening the dual at 1-1. But Smokin’ Joe re-grouped winning his next two fights, setting up the famous “Thriller in Manila”. This time, Ali was the champion again, knocking out Foreman in the also famous, “Rumble in the Jungle” fight in Zaire. So October 1st, 1975, Ali-Frazier III took place in a balmy Araneta Coliseum is suburban Manila. While their first meeting was the biggest boxing match of all-time, the third showdown is considered the greatest fight of all time. Another head to head, punch for punch battle that no man deserved to lose. But for Frazier, he would end up losing two of three to Ali as his trainer Eddie Futch, refused to let him leave the corner for the 15th and final round. Frazier’s eyes were so swollen from withstanding Ali’s blows that he couldn’t see. Afterwards both men ended up in local hospitals.

Smokin’ Joe lost much more than just a fight that night in the Philippines. He would always end up being the guy that gave “The Greatest” all he could handle but was still not the greatest. In the golden era of heavyweight champion fighters, Ali, Frazier, Foreman, Ken Norton, Larry Holmes and so on, Frazier gets a mention but his 32-4 and 1 record with 27 knockouts, gets ko’d by Ali’s accomplishment’s, words and showmanship. Not to mention he lost two of the three fights. While some might say Frazier beat Muhammad Ali three times including Frazier, he still handled defeat with class and dignity. Once boxing was over, he became a different type of entertainer as a singer. He eventually opened up his own gym in Philadelphia and trained fighters himself including son Marvis. Joe Frazier was liked by so many, when word spread of his Liver sickness, former fans volunteered to give up their own livers for Smokin’ Joe. But time ran out on the southpaw who stood tall that night in front of the world at Madison Square Garden in 1971. That night he found his place in boxing history, shut up the biggest mouth in sports at the time and did it all without saying a word.

This ain't your Daddy's EPL

Who could have imagined that eleven matches into the EPL season,
Liverpool and Arsenal are not qualifying to compete for any hardware,
City are not only unbeaten, but sitting atop the EPL table by five
full points and coming off the worst beating of Man U since (insert a
non-offensive analogy here), and the Blues are already so far back of
the leaders that moves are being contemplated on how to get back into
the mix. It’s the type of season that perpetuates the fairy tale for
the fans of a second division club being promoted and someday actually
becoming relevant while having the football purist calling for another
pint at the pub to help eliminate any remaining traces of the latest
failure to get a decision. All the while an entire generation is
turning over in their graves over what has become of the old guard
this season, no doubt this is not your Daddy’s EPL.

I suppose it should be stated that I’m not a cynic but I would be
remised if I didn?t state the obvious that there is a serious lack of
parity that has become as prevalent as those who never walk alone,
strolling with the Gunners down in 6/7th place. If you look at the
correlation between the top of the table and those facing regulation
it looks like oscillating stock market days this year with Everton,
Bolton, Blackburn, and Wigan with three wins out of the last 18
combined, while City, U, New Castle, and Chelsea are the exact
reciprocal, and the middle of the pack is not much of a middle at all
with 8th place Aston Villa needing to double their season output and
still be one point out of the top spot. It is truly some big fish at
the top getting fat off a lot of feeder fish at the bottom.

Understandable the season isn’t half over and I’ve already eliminated
75% of the field but unless some sides make dramatic moves or the top
of the table suddenly forget what got them there, this is going to be
a three maybe four horse race for the majority of the campaign with
the only drama being who qualifies to salvage their season with
tournament hardware and who fights to stay above the water level, and
that’s not worth watching. You may not agree with me but your father
would understand.

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