The Mother of All Comebacks: Tiger Wins Masters 2019

Tiger Woods has endured quite the fall. Some of that was his own doing, as his sex scandal–and ensuing fallout–arguably cost him two years of his golf career. In 2009, he was already recovering from knee surgery, and the scandal threw in a mental challenge that was new to him, in a sport where small mental issues can make or break you.

But in 2012, he seemed to be on the way back. He had a strong game, racked up some wins, and was making strong showings in the major tournaments, and he was bringing in more money than anyone else.

Then, his problems began to mount. His back began to fail him. His driving distance dropped. Holes that he once counted on as eagle-birdie chances became birdie-par. He wasn’t hitting greens, and was forced to go “up and down” more than before.

He started missing cuts. Lots of cuts.

He became a non-factor in major tournaments that he once dominated.

Three back surgeries left him unable to contend.

When he opted for a fourth surgery, most experts–even Tiger himself–wondered if he was done for good. Back surgery is hit-and-miss, and even when successful, there is no guarantee that he would have enough range of motion in his swing to get the distance that he needed. And as he ages, back problems can continue to mount.

But this year, it was different.

His swing was better. He was more comfortable. He missed fewer cuts. He was farther up on the leaderboard.

Going into this years’ Masters Championship, Tiger was more ready than he’d been in years. Sure, he wasn’t what he once was, but–as the song goes–he was counting on being “as good once as he ever was”. Or, more importantly, good enough for 4 rounds.

His first three rounds weren’t perfect, but he was close enough to make a charge. And to win, he would have to do something he’d never done before: come from behind. (Yes, you read that correctly: in Tiger’s 14 previous Majors, he had never come from behind to win; he had always led in the final round.)

Yesterday, after coming back from a severe knee surgery in 2008, a sex scandal and a messy divorce in 2009-10, and four back surgeries, Tiger won his first Major championship in 11 years: his fifth Masters Championship.

And he came from behind in the final round to do it.

Yes, I know, the naysayers will pile onto him over his sex scandal. I say he’s suffered plenty.

At this point, it is fair to recognize his victory for what it is: arguably the biggest comeback in the history of sports.

I know a thing or two about back surgery. It’s why I refuse to get it before I absolutely must have it. It is hit or miss, and even when it is successful, there are no guarantees.

There’s a difference between being functional versus being able to enjoy athletic activity. I know marathoners who, after back surgery, had to retire to smaller distances.

In a sport like golf, range of motion is everything, as that is critical to having distance both off the tee and in the fairway. If surgery can’t allow you that, it’s a failure, even if you can otherwise walk comfortably.

And rehabbing from surgery is no walk in the park, either. Literally anything can go wrong.

But Tiger not only recovered, but he came back able to compete. And he was good enough to beat a field that was more competitive than at any of his previous Masters championships.

Tiger is officially back.

What does this say of his challenging Jack Nicklaus for career Major championships? I don’t know, but his odds clearly went up after yesterday.

Woods is at 15 and Nicklaus is at 18. Woods is 43 years old; Nicklaus was 46 when he won his final Major.

If Woods manages to stay healthy, he will be a major force at every tournament. Whatever mental challenge he had before, he just buried that. He has his game back; he also has his Game back.

His competition will be tough, but so will he.

At this point, I’d say Nicklaus is in trouble. Tiger’s win yesterday was a game-changer.

Not just THAT he did it, but HOW he did it.

The Eagles Finally Did It!

Having finished high school in suburban Philly, I have an affinity for the Eagles. I also have gained an appreciation for the hard luck that Philly has endured on the sports front. I lived there when Julius Erving, Moses Malone, Maurice Cheeks, Andrew Toney, and Bobby Jones–with Marc Iavaroni–delivered the long-awaited NBA title in 1983. The days of “We Owe You One” were over.

In football, however, the Eagles have been a very hard-luck team.

In 1980-81, they made it to the Super Bowl, but the Raiders–led by Jim Plunkett and Lester Hayes–were just a notch too good.

In 2003-04, they were within an inch of denying the Pats a Super Bowl, but Donovan McNabb ran out of gas down the stretch.

Since then, the Eagles failed to make a serious run at the Super Bowl.

Until 2017.

For most of the regular season, QB Carson Wentz carried the Eagles to their best season in history. When he tore his ACL, thrusting backup Nick Foles into the starting role, many experts wondered if the Eagles would be able to salvage their season.

The Eagles, despite some minor sputters, forged on.

In the playoffs, the Eagles notched an unimpressive 15-10 win against the Falcons. While that catapulted them into the NFC Championship game, it became debatable whether (a) they would be a match against a Minnesota Vikings team that was strong, or (b) whether they could mount a serious challenge against a team like the Patriots.

Against the Vikings, the Eagles had their coming out party: they destroyed the Vikings 38-7, setting up a Super Bowl date with the Patriots, who squeaked by the Jacksonville Jaguars 24-21.

This time, 40-year-old Tom Brady was supposed to come home with his 6th Super Bowl ring. He had the corps of receivers to be able to score at will; the Pats defense wasn’t great, but was underrated. The Eagles had little Super Bowl experience among their team. While most of the country was pulling for the Eagles, the Patriots were the rational, statistical favorite.

In many ways, this one reminded me of the Bills-Giants Super Bowl in 1991, or the Giants-Patriots Super Bowl of 2008, or the Giants-Patriots Super Bowl of 2011. The Giants have a storied history of sending hard-charging teams against heavy favorites, and coming back with the Lombardi trophy.

The Eagles had a chance. But in order to win, I figured:

(1) Foles would need to play mistake-free football, but would also need to produce. Unlike Trent Dilfer–who won a SB with the Ravens–Foles couldn’t expect the Eagles defense to score 20 points against New England. Foles needed to make big plays.

(2) LeGarrette Blount would need to produce on the run. He didn’t have to run for 150 yards, but he needed at least 80.

(3) If the Eagles get a lead, they need to stay aggressive. In the 4th quarter, you’re going to need to keep scoring. Brady is going to torch your defense for long yards. The Pats will find ways to score down the stretch. You will not win by “not losing”. You will only win by playing hard, aggressive football. If you’re up by 10, you still need at least two more scores.

(4) They need at least one big defensive play down the stretch. A stop on downs, an interception–preferably a “pick 6”–or a fumble recovery. The Falcons couldn’t do that last year; the Jags failed to do it on 4th down two weeks ago; The Eagles needed to get it done in the Super Bowl.

The Eagles got every one of those things.

Foles played like an All Pro. He threw for over 370 yards, with 3 TDs and only one interception (and that wasn’t even his fault).

Blount complemented Foles with 90 clock-eating yards on the ground. The Eagles dominated on time of possession.

The Eagles got the first lead. Whenever the Pats would answer, the Eagles also answered. The Eagles, unlike last year’s Falcons, never let up.

Their trick play on 4th down–for a touchdown at the end of the half–showed the grit of a team that came to win. Many teams would have kicked a field goal, but Head Coach Doug Pederson went for the jugular.

As the British Special Air Services says: “Who dares wins.”

The Eagles took a 10-point lead into the half, but there was plenty of time left.

As expected, the Patriots didn’t go down quietly. Brady found his storied tight end, Bob Gronkowski, for a touchdown, cutting the lead to 3 points.

But the Eagles answered: Foles would toss a touchdown pass to go back up by 10.

Then Brady threw another touchdown, cutting the lead to 3.

And when the Eagles answered with only a field goal, the Pats had their opening: Brady found Gronkowski, and put New England on top, 33-32.

And there was still plenty of time left.

At that point, the Eagles were in a very tough bind. They had played all-out, had done almost everything right, and yet they were down by 1 and their defense had showed no sign of being able to hold.

Brady torched the Eagles for an astonishing 505 yards, with three touchdown passes and no interceptions. His QB rating–115.4–was phenomenal. And he would have more chances to score. He had made only one mistake–dropping the pass from Amendola in the first half, but that was then.

He now had a lead and would get at least two more chances. A rational man would say the Pats were back in the saddle.

Would the inexperienced, underdog Eagles–led by a backup–be able to answer?

Foles didn’t blink. On a drive that featured a 4th-down conversion, Foles threw a touchdown–in the middle of the field–to take the lead back.

After a failed extra point, the Eagles were up by 5, 38-33. And Brady had two-and-a-half minutes left to get down the field and score a game-winning touchdown.

The Eagles had only stopped the Pats once all night–the defense held them on downs once in the first half–but had produced no turnovers.

The Eagles needed a stop; the Pats needed a touchdown.

On the second play, the Eagles did something that neither last year’s Falcons, nor the Jaguars of two weeks ago, could do: THEY SACKED BRADY, STRIPPED THE BALL, AND RECOVERED.

The Eagles would convert that into a field goal, giving them an 8-point lead. The Pats would still be able to tie, and send the game into overtime.

And, as the Falcons learned last year, we know what the Pats can do if they get the ball in overtime.

Brady, true to form, put himself in position for one last Hail Mary for the chance at Overtime.

It was a good throw, exactly the kind that produces bobbles and miracle touchdown catches.

This time, the Eagles got an extra hand on the ball, and Danny Amendola could not save the day.

RIP Jana Novotna

While the world revels in the long-overdue departure of that mass-murderous POC that I will not name on these pages, we get a sobering reminder of how life is not fair: 1998 Wimbledon champion Jana Novotna died at 49.

The story of her 1998 victory–her lone Major Championship in singles play–is itself an epic tale.

In 1993, Novotna–known more for her doubles play–was on the cusp of winning the Wimbledon Championship. Up 4-1 and serving at 40-30 in the 3rd set, she was only five points from victory.

She would double-fault, lose her serve, and then suffer the most epic meltdown in sports history.

The awards ceremony was hell to watch, as she cried on the shoulder of the Duchess of Kent.

It would be four more years before she got another chance to win at Wimbledon. But once again, in 1997, she came up short.

Jana Novotna was 0-2 in Major championships. She was not known for her singles play to begin with. She was not supposed to be able to come back from two very nasty defeats.

No one, however, gave Jana Novotna that memo.

In 1998, five years after the most epic choke in sports history at the time, Jana Novotna won on Center Court, capturing the 1998 Wimbledon Championship.

Her road to the final was no picnic, either, as she had to beat Venus Williams–the older half of the most dominant sibling duo in the history of tennis–in the quarterfinal and Martina Hingis, who had beaten her in the 1997 final, in the semifinal.

In the final, Novotna prevailed over Nathalie Tauziat in straight sets, taking a tie-breaker for the championship.

Presenting her the trophy was none other than the Duchess of Kent.

While Jana Novotna would not go down as one of the all-time greats in the tennis world, she does stand out for one major accomplishment.

When you look at the worst meltdowns in sports history–from Greg Norman blowing a 6-stroke lead in the final round at the 1996 Masters, to the Houston Oilers blowing a 38-3 halftime lead against the Buffalo Bills, to the Atlanta Falcons’ gift to Tom Brady in this year’s Super Bowl–it is otherwise unheard of for teams and athletes to come back to avenge those defeats.

The only thing close would be the 1982-83 Philadelphia 76ers, who blew a 2-0 lead against the Seattle Supersonics in the 1977 NBA Championships. Julius Erving would run commercials in the Philadelphia area, saying, “We owe you one!”

The Sixers would come close two more times: in 1979-80 and 1981-82, losing each time to the Los Angeles Lakers.

But the Sixers would finally deliver: after signing All-Star center Moses Malone, the Sixers would storm the NBA in 1982-83, going 65-17 and then dropping only one playoff game en route to a sweep of the Lakers in the finals.

But even that pales in comparison to Novotna–a doubles specialist–facing down the stigma of the worst choke in the history of tennis, avenging her defeat on Center Court at Wimbledon.

Novotna was 49.

Hugh Freeze, Briarcrest, and Ole Miss

Until about 2 weeks ago, Hugh Freeze’s coaching career was a real-life Facing The Giants story: he had no college football experience, but would go on to lead Briarcrest Academy (Memphis, TN) to two state football championships and four state girls basketball championships.

From there, he would go on to take an Ole Miss football program that was notoriously low-performing and take them to four bowl appearances, including two victories against Nick Saban’s Alabama Crimson Tide.

He was known as a devout Christian who held students and players to high standards of conduct, not unlike Bill McCartney who once coached University of Colorado and founded Promise Keepers.

But now, Freeze is gone. Part of that downfall began with some recruiting violations–that’s bad, but not the end of the world–but the final straw was “personal conduct”, including at least one phone call, on his university-issued cell phone, to an escort service.

Now, the accusations are bubbling, going all the way back to his days at Briarcrest. (HT: Amy Smith of Watch Keep via FB.)

While it does not appear that the accusations involve him having sex with students, they do call into question both his judgment and a potentially-twisted sexuality.

Back in the day, when I was in middle/high school (8th-9th grade) in Memphis, paddling was not uncommon.

I was paddled 5 times. Twice by one of the principals and three of those times by one of the football coaches. One of which involved the coach goofing off (I made him laugh when I responded with, “Thank you sir may I have another!”, so he ended the punishment right then.)

But typically, whenever a teacher gave a paddling, he (or she) had at least one other teacher as a witness. And if the recipient of the paddling was female, the teacher doing the paddling was typically female.

From what I am reading about Freeze, if the accusations are true then there is some definite red flag creepiness.

I mean seriously…having a girl change her shirt in your office???

(Having her in his office without at least one other staffer present would be very bad judgment. But having her change her shirt in his office is a very serious issue.)

Personally, I hope, for Freeze’s sake, that those were just instances of bad judgment and that he learned his lessons.

But the cynic in me says he has a serious problem and he needs to take this opportunity to face those demons before it really blows up in his face.

Getting fired from a coaching job for “personal conduct” is not the end of the world, as the case of University of Louisille football coach Bobby Petrino shows.

But if Freeze does not face his demons, he’s a time bomb waiting to explode.

John McEnroe Learns The Price Of Telling The Truth

And make no mistake, John McEnroe was being charitable. You can listen to the NPR interview here.

Don’t get me wrong: I enjoy watching women’s tennis.

Back in the day, I was a huge Martina Navratilova fan. While I hate her politics, she was a phenomenal athlete. She fundamentally changed the shape of the women’s circuit. Once she got serious, she became the fittest superathlete that women’s tennis had ever seen. In her prime, Chris Evert had no chance against her.

But had she played against her male contemporaries–Connors, McEnroe, Lendl, Wilander, Becker–it would not have even been close. Even a lower-tier men’s player would have destroyed Martina, and she knew it.

And while Serena Williams is phenomenal–in their primes, I have no doubt that she would annihilate Martina–let’s not kid ourselves: if she played even a mediocre player on the men’s circuit, it would be a rout. She would be lucky to win a single game. When they were teens, the Williams sisters each played a set against the #203-ranked men’s player. He didn’t even take it seriously, and he still beat both of them: 6-1 (against Serena), 6-2 (against Venus).

Some of my friends–who, like me, have played a fair amount of tennis–and I were discussing this. One guy made note that the speed of Serena’s first serve is in the same league as the men.

And to her credit, Serena has clocked serves as fast as 128 mph, which is impressive.

The problem, however, is that winning in against the men requires more than simply having a big serve. Speed only gets your foot in the door. To win against the men, you need speed, placement, spin, and even surprise. This is because the men are quicker than the women, they will pick up her motion and have good anticipation. Many of her big serves that would go unreturned against other women would come back, down the line–or at her toenails–at 100+mph against the men. She would have a hard time following her serves into the net.

One of the guys observed that, to hold consistently against the men, she would probably need at least 40 aces.

That would never happen. The big-servers among the men past and present almost never hit that many aces. In fact, since 1991, only 11 different men since have hit 44 or more aces in a match. A big server is lucky to hit 20 aces in a 5-set match.

In his upset victory against Jimmy Connors in the 1983 Wimbledon Quarterfinals, Kevin Curren, one of the best-serving men of the 1980s, blasted “only” 33 aces (a phenomenal number).

In the 1992 Wimbledon final, Andre Agassi endured a 37-ace barrage (a Wimbledon finals record) from Goran Ivanisevic, one of the biggest servers on the tour, to prevail in 5 sets.

Serena Williams would have to serve bigger than those guys–on a consistent basis–just to have a chance of holding her own serve.

Complicating matters is her second serve. On her second serve, against the women, she wins the points less than 50% of the time.

And that’s just when she serves.

Against the men, she would need to be able to return serves consistently. Against the men, those serves will come in a lot faster, and with more spin. The men will have a lower toss which will make their serves harder to read and anticipate.

Even their second serves are going to be coming in faster, and with more spin. She will have a hard time attacking the second serves of the men, in contrast with the powder-puff second serves of her female opponents. Her chances of breaking serve against a man would be remote: she would need for him to provide some free points via double-faults.

Aside from serves, she would have quite the challenge with the ground game: including baseline play, approach shots, ability to close in on the net, and volleying. At the net, the men will hit the ball straight into her body–it will come in faster than she is used to seeing–and they will jam her, forcing her to hit weak volleys. They will hit passing shots crosscourt and down the line, with heavy topspin. They will draw her to the net and stretch her with low-trajectory offensive lobs. Their defensive lobs will have heavy topspin, and will extend rallies that normally end quickly for her. Individual points will become more expensive physically for her than they are now. This will wear her down over the course of the match.

If she manages to take one set–the chances of that happening are close to zero–she’ll still have to take two more if she’s in a major tournament. She will need the endurance to go five sets where, in the women’s circuit, she only needs to prepare for three sets.

Serena is a great player on the women’s tour, I would suggest that she is the best women’s player of all-time.

But against the men, she would have no chance.

Atlanta Has Worst Meltdown in Sports History

First off, let’s be honest here: as much as I hate the New England Patriots, my disgust has nothing to do with Brady or Belichick, but just the state they represent. I hate Massachusetts, as they are a Communist country. They’re a great team, and Brady is arguably the best quarterback of all time.

But last night, he would be the runner-up but for the mother of all assists from the Atlanta Falcons.

I’ve seen some epic chokes in sports.

(a) The New York Yankees blowing a 3-0 lead to the Red Sox and losing in 7 games (the first time any team came back from an 0-3 deficit);

(b) The Houston Oilers blowing a 38-3 halftime lead against the Buffalo Bills;

(c) Jana Novotna, up 4-1 and serving at 40-30 in the 3rd set of the 1993 Wimbledon Championships;

(d) Greg Norman blowing a 6-stroke lead in the final round of the 1996 Masters.

Last night’s meltdown was worse than those.

The Atlanta Falcons, for two and a half quarters, could do no wrong. Their defense made big plays, their offense moved the ball almost at will, their QB was throwing with confidence. They were playing like the team that beat two Super Bowl champions (Green Bay and Seattle) to reach the finale against New England. They were playing like a championship team having its coming out party.

I was not surprised when Brady finally got a touchdown, closing the score to 28-9. At that point, I figured that Atlanta needed to respond: they needed at least a field goal, preferably a clock-burning drive.

Matt Ryan’s fumble didn’t help. But you have to expect your team to make at least one mistake like that in a big game. That alone wasn’t fatal.

But when the Falcons had the ball at the New England 22, I figured this was their chance to put the game away. They were in field goal range. They were up by 8. A field goal would all but put the game away, as the Pats would need a touchdown, a two-point conversion, an onside kick recovery, a quick drive, and a field goal to win.

I figured the Falcons would play conservative, run the ball or, at worst, throw to the end zone out of the shotgun, with Ryan dumping the ball out of bounds without taking a sack if things got tight.

Instead, Ryan took two long sacks. Then a holding penalty. What should have been a medium-range field goal disappeared: they had to punt.

In overtime, the Falcons had to kick to the Patriots.

At that point, I was very surprised that they did not go for the onside kick. That, honestly, was their only chance to win.

(a) Brady had been unstoppable for the entire second half (except for their opening drive); giving them the ball was conceding defeat;

(b) The defense was clearly dead tired. There was no way they were going to stop the Patriots.

The Falcons had only one chance to win: with their offense. The only way they had a chance to make that happen was an onside kick. If they kick it to the Patriots, they will not get the ball back.

They didn’t get the ball back.


I hate to be a pessimist here, but I don’t think the Falcons will recover from this disaster. When you look at the worst epic chokes, only one athlete ever came back from such a meltdown.

In the women’s final of the 1993 Wimbledon Championship, Jana Novotna was up 4-1 and serving 40-30 (game point) in the third set against Steffi Graf. She was literally five points from victory. She would double-fault on game point to make it deuce; she would lose serve, and then she had nothing left: Graf would win the next 4 games to close out the title.

In the award ceremony, Novotna lost it and cried on the shoulder of the Duchess of Kent. She had blown it on the biggest stage, and–in spite of her stellar doubles record–had very few chances to win singles championships in the majors.

In 1997, she also choked in the Wimbledon final against Martina Hingis. It seemed that she would never get her redemption.

But in 1998, five years after her terrible meltdown, she captured the Wimbledon championship. It would be her only Major championship outside of doubles.

Can the Falcons come back from last night’s disaster? Perhaps. But getting to the Super Bowl is extremely difficult. Just getting to the playoffs requires many things coming together. And the Super Bowl is a forum where literally anything can happen. And there’s no guarantee that your best players are going to be healthy. A key receiver or running back can sprain an ankle, someone can suffer a concussion, a QB can break a rib…that’s football.

But if they get back to the Super Bowl, they will have to face down the demons that haunt Atlanta.

And last night, they added a demon to the house.

How Many Rock Bottoms Will Tiger Woods Hit?

The fall of Tiger Woods has been a sad train wreck to watch.

At this point, I’m not sure that his demise can be attributed to the fallout from his scandals, as those are more than 7 years old. Still, his personal crises could not have come at a worse time.

He was recovering from knee surgery; he was reaching an age range where physical limitations begin to set in. This was not a good time for a personal crisis that could affect the mental aspects of his game.

But that was 7 years ago. And Tiger is a great competitor who knows how to win. And even if his body isn’t what it was when he was a Spring chicken, he can still be competitive.

Sadly, except for a few bright spots, Tiger Woods has been in a flat spin.

His driving distance has fallen considerably since his knee surgery. This has put greater pressure on his short game. Making matters worse, his opponents stopped fearing him.

AS a result, he has struggled to get off to good starts in tournaments. This has put greater pressure on him to have good second rounds in order to make cuts. That has forced him to take risks that are more challenging given his diminished physical health. When you’re hitting 300+ yards off the tee, a par 5 is a potential eagle.

If your driving distance falls 10 yards, you’re more likely to be putting for birdie or par where it was once eagle or birdie. If your driving accuracy starts falling, then you will be hitting out of rough–or bunkers–more often than you did before. That means your second shots are going to be coming up short. On a par 4, you might be chipping out of a bunker to get “up and down” where you would have been on the green and putting for birdie.

It’s a lot harder mentally when you have to “go up and down” to save par rather than get a birdie. If you get a bogey, it’s harder to make that up. If you get two bogeys, you’ll be struggling to stay at even par where you might have carded a -2 or a -3. If you take big risks to make up for those bogeys–and fail–you fall deeper into the hole. And due to the competitive nature of the PGA Tour, any score above par puts you in danger of missing the cut.

If you want to WIN, you have to be able to shoot -2 or better for four rounds.

Tiger Woods is having a problem doing that, as the cost of recovering from his mistakes went up at a time when his likelihood of making mistakes also went up.

Can he still win? Certainly. But for that to happen, he will need to be able to put FOUR rounds of solid golf, breaking par every time. And in the majors, he will need to do this against a competitive field that no longer fears him.

At this point, if he wins another Major, it will be the most incredible comeback in golf since Ken Venturi conquered the sweltering heat in the 1964 U.S. Open.

If he somehow finds a way to pass Nicklaus for career Major victories, it will be the most incredible comeback in the history of sports.

Not Surprised

Three years ago, then-women’s MMA great Ronda Rousey made some brags. She once said she could beat Floyd Mayweather; she also said she could beat then-male heavyweight champion Cain Velaasquez. Personally, I think she was just creating publicity. I made remarks along those lines back then.

But the former Olympic judo medalist now has two consecutive humiliating MMA defeats: last year to Holly Holm, and two days ago to Amanda Nunes. Both times, Rousey–known for her grappliing skills–took considerable pounding frp, opponents who could box and kick. Rousey was flat-footed from the opening bell, and it didn’t rise to the level of a fair fight. She looked like a 40-year-old trying to fight Sugar Ray Leonard in his prime.

The latest defeat, of course, has brought back the other discussion about women having a chance in Hell against men in fights. At Vox Day’s corner, there is a lively discussion.

Say whatever you want, call me whatever you want, but I’m going to tell it like it is: put the best women’s MMA fighter against a mediocre men’s MMA fighter in the same weight class, and it will be a disaster: barring Divine providence, the man will win. Every. Single. Time.. If she is lucky, she will “only” get knocked out.

As an avid tennis fan–who enjoys watching both men’s and women’s tennis–I remember the ascension of Martina Navratilova. She went from being the talented but overweight “great wide hope” (dubbed so by Bud Collins) to a superfit phenom who destroyed Chris Evert on a regular basis. She had an excellent serve-and-volley game, strong groundstrokes, and superior court-coverage. She was a league-and-a-half ahead of the other women.

At the time, some brought up the possibility of her playing against the top men of the day: John McEnroe, Ivan Lendl, Jimmy Connors, Mats Wilander.

Vitas Gerulaitis provided a stunning, but accurate, dismissal: “[Martina] couldn’t beat the #100 man on the tour.”

Put the best women up against the top men in the same sport, and the men win. I’m not being mean or hateful; I’m just telling it straight. As I’ve often said over the years, calling me names will not change that reality, because I didn’t create it.

Some of you will raise the question, “What about Billie Jean King? She beat Bobby Riggs in the Battle of The Sexes match!”

Of course she did. He was in his 50s at the time, he was not even an active professional tennis player on the men’s circuit, and there is credible evidence that he threw that match in order to satisfy gambling debts.

Did Billie Jean King take on John Newcome or Rod Laver or Manuel Orantes? Those were the top men of that day. That would have been an apples-apples comparison.

Same goes for soccer, same goes for baseball.

The Cubs Break The Curse — The Hard Way

The last time the Cubs won the World Series,

  • Roosevelt–Theodore, not Franklin–was President;
  • the Industrial Revolution was just getting started;
  • Russia was still in the Czar era;
  • World War I had not yet begun;
  • there was no Federal income tax, no Federal Reserve, no universal suffrage;
  • Helen Keller was only 28 years old.


Fast-forward to 2016…

The Chicago Cubs were on a mission: they wanted to shed their images as “the lovable losers”.

Throughout the season, they were unstoppable, piling up the best record in baseball.

In the National League Championship Series, they fell behind 2-1 to Los Angeles, but rebounded to win the next 3 games to close it out.

For the first time in over 70 years, the Cubs were in the World Series. Their opponents–the Cleveland Indians–were in a drought of their own, without a title in over 70 years. (They came close in 1995 and 1997, losing in six games to the Yankees and Braves, respectively.)

The Indians had one of the best pitchers in baseball in Corey Kluber, and a bullpen that could shut down any team.

The Cubs had excellent pitching, with their closer–Aroldis Chapman–having the best fastball in the game.

This was going to be a great matchup: fine pitching, fine hitting, and managers willing to take big bets to win games.


Cleveland took the initiative in game 1, with Kluber and the bullpen shutting out the Cubs, 6-0.

(I figured that was not the end of the world, as the Cincinnati Reds came back in 1975 to win in 7 games, in spite of getting shut out in game 1 by the same score.)

The Cubs battled back in game 2, with Jake Arrieta shutting down the Indians.

They had gained home-field advantage, with the series heading into Chicago for games 3, 4, and 5.

Then, the bottom fell out for the Cubs: Andrew Miller combined with Cody Allen to shut out the Cubs in game 3, 1-0.

In game 4, Kluber pitched another gem to put the Indians up 3-1.


Not since 1979, when Willie Stargell, Dave Parker, Omar Moreno, Bill Robinson, and Tim Foli teamed up with Jim Rooker, Bert Blyleven, John Candelaria, and Kent Tekulve to lead the Pirates in an epic comeback against the Baltimore Orioles, had a team come back to win from 3-1 down with two of those games being on the road.

For the Cubs to break the curse, they would have to do exactly that, facing Corey Kluber in game 7 if they got that far.

In game 5, John Lester pitched the game of his life, with Chapman closing it for the save, sending the series back to Cleveland.

In game 6, the Cubs, silenced by the Indians’ pitching staff all series, finally regained their hitting. Aroldis Chapman closed out the game.

Going into game 7, the Cubs had a date with a pitcher they had not beat. Corey Kluber was 2-0 against them. And their main closer, Aroldis Chapman, was in a precarious position, as he was very tired from pitching two straight nights.

The Cubs would open the game up with a Dexter Fowler home run. This was an ominous sign for Kluber.

While the Indians would tie it up in the third inning, the Cubs would blow the game open, going up 5-1.

Going into the 8th inning, the Cubs led 6-3. They brought in Aroldis Chapman to set up for the close.

Chapman didn’t have it: he gave up 3 runs, but managed to retire the side with a tied game.

The Cubs had gained the lead, then lost it, then blew it open only to lose it.

Topping things off, they would see a rain delay.

But in the 10th inning, the Cubs would fight back, with some clutch hitting by Ben Zobrist, putting them up 8-6.

But could they hold court in the bottom of the inning?


Carl Edwards would get two outs, but the Indians battled back to cut the lead to 8-7 with 2 outs.

In comes Mike Montgomery, who got Michael Martinez to ground out.

The baseball demons are now officially dead.

The Second Coming cannot be far behind.

One year ago today…

…a young woman in the Cincinnati area played in a college basketball game.

But not just any game.

You see, she had an inoperable brain tumor, and it was touch-and-go as to whether she’d see 2015. But thanks to her school, the planned opponent, another local school, and the NCAA, her dream came true.

And it didn’t end there. She played in three more games before her condition made it impossible for her to keep playing. This past April, she lost her battle, but not until she had raised more than $1 million for research on the cancer that would end her life. And her legacy lives on, as the two local schools have teamed up for an annual season-opening event that will bear her name.

Over the past year, I couldn’t help but contrast the story of Lauren Hill to a couple of others that made the news.

The day before Hill’s first game, Brittany Maynard, who was also suffering from a terminal brain tumor, chose to end her life, as she had announced several months earlier, with most of the MSM cheering her for her “courage”.

And then there was Bruce (Caitlyn) Jenner, whose story has been covered ad nauseam over the last few months. Most tellingly, when it came time for ESPN to announce the 2015 recipient of its Arthur Ashe Courage Award (handed out at the ESPY Awards ceremony in July), it went with Jenner—to considerable criticism, with Bob Costas (no conservative himself) calling the announcement “a crass exploitation play.” Hill’s first game did receive the consolation prize of the “Best Moment” award at the ESPYs.

Courage? Lauren Hill, in her current state, has more courage in her little finger than Maynard or Jenner has ever had or will ever have. Unlike Maynard, she kept fighting and kept active until she couldn’t go on any longer, and she and her family left it up to God when she’d go. (I don’t know Hill’s religious affiliation, but she did go to a Catholic college.) Unlike Jenner, she didn’t seek to change the hand she’d been dealt in life, and in fact embraced it.

Call me politically incorrect, insensitive, transphobic, whatever… i don’t care. This is my opinion, and I’m sticking with it. PERIOD.


Note: The tagline for this post may read November 3, but it’s still November 2 where Amir and I hang our hats.