Category Archives: Upset

Why we love Jordan Spieth

Do you know what makes a great champion? Dramatic losses.

Or I should say, comebacks from dramatic losses. Muhammad Ali came back from a devastating loss to Joe Frazier, just as Joe Louis came back from a huge loss to Max Schmeling.

We love the Boston Red Sox because we remember — or at least have heard of — their monumental collapse during the 1986 World Series.

This is why we love Jordan Spieth. Sometimes he plays like us, such as the 13th hole of the 2017 British Open. Other times, he plays like Tiger Woods, such as every other hole of the 2017 British Open.

At age 23, he’s won three majors.  But he’s also lost two when it looked like he was on his way to a win. His bogey on the 17th hole of the 2015 British Open kept him out of the playoff and ruined his chances of a potential one-year Grand Slam, since he had won both the Master’s and the U.S. Open that year.

But that wasn’t the devastating loss.

The big choke came during the 2016 Master’s when Speith, leading by 5 strokes, bogied the 10th and 11th holes. Then on the 12th, the wheels came off. He hit two balls into the water on the par-3 hole and earned a quadruple-bogey. He finished in second place, 3 shots behind eventual winner Danny Willett.

That’s a 7 score on a par-3 hole. Even I can do that. Sometimes I can do better. And I love that a pro golfer, a great pro golfer, a 23-year-old pro golfer, pretty much played the hole the same way I would have.

And you love it too. Especially if you play golf on the weekends like I do (poorly).

And he played like me during the 13th hole of the last round of Sunday’s British Open. But then he played the last four holes like Tiger Woods. Hell, even better than Tiger Woods — birdie, eagle, birdie, and the 18th in par when a bogey would have won it.

Jordan Spieth is a roller coaster ride, and I love watching him. Bet you do too.

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Did the Cubs really win?

My bad.

Call it distractions, call it day-to-day life, call it ennui if you must you yuppie swine, but I never got around to writing about the Chicago Cubs winning the World Series.

So call this a make-up column.

Do I have any new insights on the games? No. Do I have any insights on the players? No. But I do have a keen memory of the fans I saw the night they wrapped up Game 7 (finally) for the win.

I saw Damian from Chicago bear-hugging Randy from Wisconsin, jumping up and down as if they were gathered at the pitcher’s mound in Cleveland on that rainy night at Progressive Field. A young black man celebrating with a middle-aged white man with only two things in common — a gig at one of the largest newspaper companies in the world and a shared love of a once-cursed baseball team that had just conquered the world.

Yes, I saw this in a newsroom, where there’s no cheering in the press box, where we’ve seen it all, heard it all, read it all. Where news of election results, car crashes, celebrity sightings, rapes, murders and, yes, sporting events are met with either gallows humor or a detached shrug.

But not in this case. The Cubs won the World Series, ending a 108-year drought. This win mattered, even to fans in the newsroom. And I’ve got proof.

Fifteen minutes after the Cubs sealed the deal, Randy emerged from the men’s room dressed in his Cubs hat and jersey. Why did he wait until after the game?

“The last time they were in the playoffs, I was wearing this while they were playing and they lost. Didn’t want to jinx them,” he says.

Jerseys and hats are for closers, so once the Cubs closed the series, the well-deserved swag came out of the duffel bag and onto the superstitious fan who knows best — you don’t mess with a win streak, not in Vegas, not in Cleveland.

Randy’s a Packers fan, so he knows what it’s like to have your team win the big one. But this is baseball, and there’s nothing like a World Series win. It’s a glow in the chest that keeps you warm until April when the sun comes out on the dawn of a new season.

It’s memories of game-winning RBIs from Little League when you pretended someday you’d hit the game-winner in the major leagues.

It’s a call to Dad, Mom, and maybe Grandpa, who also witnessed his first World Series win in his lifetime.

It’s a chance to talk to old friends and new acquaintances, even the ones who sometimes annoy you, they’re all right now, because they’re Cubs fans too and we won.

And it’s a time for pure baseball lovers to unite because we remember when our teams finally won, like my Giants in 2010, and how great it feels, and when we see our friends feeling the same thing, that glow in the chest comes rushing back into us too.

The Cubs won the World Series. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime moment. For everyone.

Except Cleveland fans, of course. Oh, well. Maybe next year.

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Kurt Busch is a cowardly bully

So Kurt Busch threatened physical violence on a sports writer Saturday. What a big man.

Of course, the sports writer had no recourse but to take it. What’s he going to do, take a swing and lose his job? Not likely.

Me? I don’t get paid for writing on Word Press, so I’ll take you on Kurt. I’m an ex-collegiate wrestler, and I’m pretty sure I could dispatch you in two minutes.

See Kurt? Threats suck.

• • •

Both the East and West NBA series are tied 2-2, but I still stand by my two picks, Spurs vs. Heat in the big show with the Spurs winning it all.

If I’m wrong, it’ll be the Thunder. They’re playing amazingly well and Durant has a hot hand.

• • •

Tiger Woods won The Memorial. Good to see him back, and yes, I do believe he’s back for good.

Besides, I like him. Still. The world is a better place when Tiger is playing great golf, and that flop shot that went into the hole was as great as great gets.

Besides, Tiger is a great interview, a sports writer’s dream.

Sunday, an ESPN reporter asked him, “Are you the Tiger of old?” He responded, “Well, I’m definitely an older Tiger.”

With his 73rd PGA Tour win, he tied Jack Nicklaus for second all time behind Sam Snead. How fitting he did it at Jack’s tournament, on Jack’s course.

Now. On to the U.S. Open.

• • •

Will I’ll Have Another win the Belmont and the Triple Crown? No. But two out of three—especially when they’re upsets—aren’t bad.
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The San Francisco 49ers: Now featuring offense (Patriots also win, because of god’s will)

The Niners won, just like I said they would. The Patriots blew out the Broncos, just like I said they would.

Can I get an amen?

So far, my NFL revelations look a lot better than my one college prediction from last week, when I picked LSU to win the BCS over Alabama.

Wrong, wrong, wrong.

But two days ago, I preached (probably to the choir) that Tom Brady and the New England Patriots would crucify Tim Tebow and the Denver Broncos by 21 points.

That turned out to be a conservative estimate, as the Pats exorcised Tebowmania with an old-fashioned asswhooping, 45-10.

Brady threw six touchdown passes in the game and tied an NFL playoff record, putting him alongside Oakland’s Daryle Lamonica and San Francisco’s Steve Young.

Lamonica threw six TD passes in a playoff game against the Houston Oilers in 1969, and Young did it against San Diego in the 1995 Super Bowl.

Oddly, Brady had a chance to surpass the record early in the fourth quarter, but Belichick called for three straight running plays. It’s hard to say if it was sportsmanship, gamesmanship or just plain old divine intervention.

I wasn’t surprised by the blowout, although the fear of god was put in me early in the second quarter when Denver scored a touchdown to trim New England’s lead to 14-7.

But my prayers were soon answered when Brady threw for three more touchdowns and secured a 35-7 lead at the half.

You could see this route coming, couldn’t you?

You have to believe that all of the Tebow talk this year stuck in Brady’s craw just a bit. You have to believe that the New England QB wanted to make a statement. You have to believe that every other player on the Patriots was sick of hearing the name TimTebow, too.

Since you have to believe in something, why not Brady? Ain’t nothing mystical about that, just talent, skill, and good old American know-how.

Score one for the non-seculars.

Besides, the real miracle came earlier in the day when the 49er Faithful watched the Niners sneak past the New Orleans Saints by a, 36-32.

They won with offense. They won with two fourth-quarter touchdowns. They won with Alex Smith and Vernon Davis for crissakes.

Can I get an amen?

The competent but normally workmanlike Smith turned into an avenging angel Saturday, connecting on three touchdown passes and a surprising 28-yard TD run—the longest playoff run by a quarterback in SF franchise history.

Hell, I didn’t even know Smith could run at all.

The defense played as expected, forcing six turnovers and pressuring Saints QB Drew Brees all day long. Running back Frank Gore turned in a solid performance, including a 42-yard run that led to a fourth-quarter field goal.

But the miracle happened on the 49ers final offensive play, when Smith hit Davis for a touchdown with nine seconds to go, reminiscent of Steve Young’s pass to Terrell Owens to defeat Green Bay back in 1998 and on the 30-year anniversary of “The Catch,” when Joe Montana hit Dwight Clark in the end zone to defeat the Dallas Cowboys in 1981.

In the end, not even a Hail Mary could save the Saints, so they didn’t even try.

I don’t know exactly what to make of this. A born again 49ers offense puts the NFC on notice and adds a new wrinkle to my playoff predictions.

If the NY football Giants can somehow upset the Packers at Lambeau Field, I think the Niners could beat the Giants at Candlestick and go on to the Super Bowl.

But I do not think the 49ers can beat the Packers in Green Bay. I know. Me of little faith.

I’m sticking with my earlier predictions. I’ll be rooting for the Texans and the Giants this afternoon, but I still think Baltimore and Green Bay will meet in Indianapolis.

Sure hope I’m wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong.

Can I get another amen?

[UPDATE at 8 p.m., Eastern Time]

Well, what do you know. The NY Giants defeated the Green Bay Packers, 37-20. That means the 49ers get to play the NFC Championship at Candlestick.

Hallelujah.
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