From the "Talk too much Studios" here we go...
The Players Championship golf tournament was heady stuff this weekend. Seriously. Heady stuff.
OK, before we explain, can the Players Championship and NBC quit referring to it as the fifth major. There are four majors. Period. If one of the majors wants to quit, then there is an opening to be filled. This is simple math. There are not five runs (or five bases for that matter) in a grand slam. So stop calling it the fifth major. Besides, one of the fundamental sports rules is you can't give yourself a nickname. (Side question: If you could give yourself a nickname, what would it be? We thought about going with LL Cool Jay, but it was taken. So was Jay-Z, Jay-Smooth and Chief Jay Strongbow. Stink.)
OK, let's take a quick look back at the Players being very heady stuff — literally and figuratively.
First, Harris English entered the weekend a shot off the lead and playing in the penultimate group. English, who matriculated at The Baylor School, hit his tee shot on No. 1 on Saturday too far and too straight — and yes, it feels strange typing someone hit a tee shot too far and too straight. The ball hit a tournament volunteer directly on the melon and dropped him like a bad habit. Here's the youtube clip: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SdMJdx1XBrg. Remember when you were a kid and would hit rocks with a wooden bat? That's what it sounded like. (Did you catch Johnny Miller's direct and understated analysis when the ball hit the guy on the dome? "That's not good," Miller said. Yep, there's a reason he's the best color guy in the business folks.)
Well, despite signing a few autographs and making sure dude was OK — he never lost consciousness — English was not the same. It was fairly obvious — and understandable — that hitting dude's head got in English's head. He was 7 under through 36 holes before crowning the volunteer; he was 12 over on the 36 holes after hitting the volunteer. Tough breaks all around, and maybe Miller would simply say, "Shake it off," and cover both guys in three words.
As for being inside the head of the field, meet Kevin Na, a human rain delay that has more false starts than a twitchy left tackle. Dude was Wonder Waggle. David Feherty said his style of bringing the club back and restarting over and over and over again was not unlike trying to crank a stubborn chainsaw. It's even worse than that. Na, who has more swing thoughts than our 4-year-old at the playground, surged to the 54 lead despite being put on the clock for slow play and frequently stepping off the ball and restarting his elaborate process to make sure he was ready.
In fact, Na's preshot Tourette's became such a hot topic that he talked openly about how he's trying to fix it and make it better. Even to the point that he played much quicker on Sunday; he also played much worse, squandering the 54-hole lead for the fourth time in five PGA opportunities. Hey, we hate slow play as much as anyone, but Na's effort to speed up affected his game and even drew some pointed heckles from the crowd. (When he dropped his tee shot in the water on No. 13 to seal his fate, some of the crowd offered, "Na-Na-Na...Na-Na-Na... Good-bye.) Sad indeed.
And finally, as friend of the show Rudyard "Rudy" Kipling penned, "when you can keep your head when those around you lose theirs... you'll be a man, my son." You'll also become a PGA Tour winner. Matt Kuchar remained unflappable, making enough shots and standing tall over almost every par putt to grab a two shot win.
We know this, we'll have a U.S. Open contest next month and Kuchar will be on our entry list. There's your heads up.
Game 7 glory
Special stuff happens in Game 7s. Well, normally that is. This weekend there were two Game 7s in the NBA playoffs and one in the NHL playoffs, and not surprisingly the New York Rangers' 2-1 win over Washington was decidedly more entertaining. (Especially for our UT beat ace downtown Patrick Brown, who is a devoted Memphis Grizzlies fan and certainly suffered through Sunday's Game 7 fourth-quarter meltdown as the Grizz did their best Atlanta Hawks impression of being over-talented, under-coached and done-too-soon.)
And while there was a lot to like about the Rangers advancing to the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time since 1997 — Want delivering in the clutch? New York is 5-0 all-time in Game 7s; Want tight defense and physical play? New York nor its opponent has scored more than three goals in 13 straight playoff games — we'll let Deboman or Todd962 offer more on the NHL. We're just kind of joining the Stanley Cup Party. (One of the most underrated lines in Forrest Gump is when Forrest decks that hippie Jenny is with in D.C. and stands up and says "Sorry about ruining your Black Panther party.")
As for the NBA, here are five things on the tip of our tongue (or would it be the tip of our fingertips since this is a written, family-oriented, interweb-based sports column?).
— LeBron joins rare air. Dude absolutely deserved the MVP — you could make the argument that he deserved it more this year than any other, which is saying something since he carried Cleveland to the best record in the league one year and his sidekick was Drew Gooden and his goofy skull soul patch. Now James is one of eight NBA players to win three MVPs, and while he deserves that he also deserves the heat (Heat) that goes with it. Of the eight players with three or more MVPs, want to guess how many of them do not have an NBA title? Yep, one. It's time LeBron.
— Hey, NBA, ask Major League Baseball how successful starting interesting postseason games around 10 p.m. Eastern or later worked. Gang, you have two star-studded match-ups in the West, but half the country's going to be in the rack with these games starting that late. There's not much to be done in L.A., where they are three hours behind the East Coast, but, San Antonio and the L.A. Clippers are the only game Tuesday and they start at 9:30 Eastern or 8:30 local time in San Antonio. Dumb.
— The three over-arching storylines for the rest of the playoffs are, in order: 1) Can LeBron win No. 1; 2) Can Kobe win No. 6; 3) Are the Thunder ready to make their move. And we're supremely interested in each.
— And that's not even counting the the potential last gasps for the aging Big Threes in San Antonio and Boston. Here's saying that if the Spurs and Celtics meet in the Finals, Shoney's, AARP, the Rascal electric wheel vehicle and Alexian Brothers will be interested in advertising.
— Admit it, you want to watch the drama tonight when Metta World Peace/Ron Artest faces off against James Harden and his beard. In a move that certainly does not live up to his name — or the fact that he said the swinging elbow that concussed Harden last month was an accident — World Peace said he will not greet Harden, who was named the NBA Sixth Man of the Year. World Peace said he does not shake hands with subs. Here's saying World Peace will get introduced to the working end of Kendrick Perkins at some point in the series.
Folding the Cards
Wow, these Braves are humming. Atlanta swept the defending World Series champion St. Louis Cardinals for the first time since 2009.
And they did it with the variety of a Chef Lin buffet. Sunday, Jason Heyward had a three-run double and Tommy Hanson was solid for five innings in a 7-4 win that was made closer than it appeared because of a cosmetic three-run homer by Allen Craig with two outs in the ninth.
Sunday was just the latest example by the utilitarian nature of this Braves team. One night it's pitching, one night it's a rally, then Sunday it was clutch hitting. All seven of the Braves' runs came with two outs, including back-to-back-to-back run-scoring hits from Martin Prado, Freddie Freeman and Dan Uggla in a game-clinching, three-run seventh.
The win propelled the Braves (22-13) into first place in the NL East for the first time this season. It also gets the club off to a much-needed fast start on what is the most demanding stretch of the season.
Starting with last Friday game in St. Louis, the Braves are scheduled to play 33 games in 34 days, and there's no better way to start that stretch than 3-0.
This and that
— Somewhere there's some Mayan descendants saying, "Remember we told you this was the end." How else to explain the fact that Chad Ochocinco may have emerged as the voice of reason in the NFL right now. Amid the safety worries that have been compounded by recent suicides and the Saints' Bounty-Gate and the fact that players and people inside and outside of the league are wondering about commissioner Roger Goodell's almost absolute power, Ochocinco wrote on his website a letter to Goodell http://ocnnreport.com/2012/05/11/my-letter-to-roger-goodell/. And it's kind of touching and pretty accurate and ends with a thoughtful idea — wrapped in narcissism of course — that could help Goodell and the NFL in general and in the court of public appeal. Ochocinco ends his letter with "Oh by the way, I have a deal for you. Am having a rebound year and plan to do a lot of celebrating in the end zone. Can my fine money go to supporting ex-players suffering?" Well-played Chad, well-played indeed.
— Our UTC football ace John Frierson has a good story on the Mocs' still-yet-to-be-decided quarterback battle here http://www.timesfreepress.com/news/2012/may/14/utc-mcs-huesman-robinson-remain-supportiv/. Each of those kids can play and carry themselves like starting quarterbacks. The coaches have a tough decision to make — but this is a way better problem to have than deciding between two stinky QBs.
— We mentioned it last week, and now we know it as surely as the day of the week and inevitability of death, taxes and Rosie O'Donnell bugging the snot out of the 5-at-10. Josh Hamilton is the biggest star in sports right now, and that's saying something. Dude is mashing at a historic level, and if we had any pull at the MLB Network, we'd simulcast every Hamilton at-bat for the foreseeable future. Gang it's May 14 and he leads the AL in the triple crown categories and just wrapped a seven-day stretch in which he hit nine homers and drove in 18 runs. Through 35 Rangers games — Hamilton has played only 32 — he is hitting .402 with 18 homers and 44 RBIs. His projected numbers are .402, 83 homers, 204 RBIs. And it's not like we're at game 3 — we're better than 20 percent through the season.
— Hey, the driver formerly known as Jimmie Johnson won the NASCAR race at Darlington on Saturday night. Dale Jr. finished 17th, and his alter ego Danica Patrick was 31st. Two quick things: NASCAR needs to ditch Saturday night races — too much going on and the sport becomes lost in the wash of activity for casual fans like the 5-at-10. By comparison, if it was on yesterday, we would have bounced back and forth between shows to check in on it. Second, where does Jimmie Johnson rank on sports celebs that need to drop the little kid's name? We have Fredi Gonzalez (unless of course he does a smiley face over the 'I' because that's really sweet) No. 1 followed by Jimmie Johnson (it would not be as bad if it was Jimmy with a 'y' you know?). Of course Joey Harrington is arguably the all-time champ here.
Hey we know enough soccer to fill the rest of this sentence. That said, we know sports and drama, and Manchester City winning its first Premier League title since 1968 with two goals in extra time was thrilling even if don't know Pele from Polo.
Here's the recap: Man City had not won since before the Nixon administration, but the Blues were the favorites Sunday to end the drought. An early 1-0 lead became a tie and then a 2-1 hole despite the fact that QPR was playing a man down. The announced extra five minutes had the feel of cruel and unusual punishment for a fan base that has long been tortured (this would be like the Atlanta Hawks, the Buffalo Bills or even the Cubs winning it all).
Well two lightning strikes — the last one coming with seconds left — ended the skid in a dramatic fashion that is hard to believe.
Which leads us to this: What's the best single championship game ever? It could be any major sport but it has to be the championship game — if it's a playoff series, it has to be the final game (and to be truthful, if it's not Game 7, it's going to have to be awesome in its awesomeness).
And since some of the best ever — USA-Russia hockey, Duke-Kentucky, Gibson's homer, et al. — were not in decisive games, this could be tricky.
Discuss. (And feel free to answer any of the previous questions from this morning, including your self-picked nickname, which is common in today's cyberspace but still a no-no in locker rooms everywhere.)
Jay was named the Sports Editor of the Times Free Press in 2003 and started with the newspaper in May 2002 as the Deputy Sports Editor. He was born and raised in Smyrna, Ga., and graduated from Auburn University before starting his newspaper career in 1997 with the Newnan (Ga.) Times Herald. Stops in Clayton and Henry counties in Georgia and two years as the Sports Editor of the Marietta (Ga.) Daily Journal preceded Jay’s ...