These are the dog days for many sports fans. They're not exactly sure just what it is they should be doing. The College and NBA basketball seasons are over, and the football season is just about to begin. Sure, we have baseball, but it is not as compelling as it used to be. So, we find ourselves just hanging on.
Tiger Woods did give us a charge last week. Just when I think that I won't watch him on Sunday, he pulls me back in. He was leading his latest golf tournament until the 16th hole. Then, uncharacteristically, he was caught and passed. With just two holes left to play, it did not look good for the Tiger. He was one shot behind Padraig Harrington, on the 16th hole. Harrington had been playing a steady game, and he seemed to be unflappable and unbeatable. But, unbelievably he made a triple bogey, and handed the match to Woods. Woods was wearing his Sunday Red Shirt, and this almost guarantees him a victory. His game is still great, but it is also shaky. He has not regained the same control of his driver that he had before his surgery. He can still drive the ball more than 300 yards, but now it is more likely to wind up among the trees, than it was before. He still has the skill, imagination and determination to overcome most of his difficulties. This may be another way of saying that he is not easily discouraged.
I had never watched a golf match on television before he came along. Not only that, I could not understand why anyone else would bother to watch. I have now come to understand what a difficult and delicate game this is. Not only does the golfer have to decide the distance and direction that he wants to hit the ball, but he has to take into account the wind, if there is any. Then, when he is trying to land the ball on the green, he has to decide whether to let the ball roll when it lands, or to spin it so that it will roll backwards. To manage the flight of the ball, they have to increase or decrease the pressure by a few ounces at some point during the swing. They can use their swing to make the ball curve to the right or left or to get the maximum roll when it lands.
The professionals have to consider these issues on nearly every swing they make. That game requires the maximum possible concentration and very precise hand-eye coordination. Have you noticed that Golfers rarely, if ever, discuss playing sports like basketball, football or tennis? However, basketball and football players just love to tell you about their golfing activities. Even if they played well, which they don't, they would still be boring. But, so far, no one has found a way to shut them up. So, let me try. If you are not a professional golf player, no one ever wants to hear about your game. So, please do us all a favor, and never mention it. If someone would e-mail this to Michael Jordan and Charles Barkley, you will receive a humanitarian award.
The people who run Major League Baseball have belatedly come to the conclusion that the fans don't much care whether players use steroids or not. I think they would have been better served if they had chosen to ignore any possible use of illegal substances, before they had their testing program in place. Most of those who attend baseball games today don't know much about baseball history, and they don't care about it. What they enjoy is seeing someone knock a baseball about 600 feet. They don't care how he managed to do that, they just want to see it, when he does.
Baseball Hall of Famer Bob Gibson played before the steroid era. He was asked to comment on what today's players are doing. "They did not have steroids, when I was playing. However, if they had been available, and if I thought they would have made me perform better, then I probably would have used them."
It has been reported that Michael Vick will sign a contract with an NFL team this week.
There are likely to be some protests, but the general feeling is that he will be able to resume his career. Two of the teams that are most likely to sign him are the New England Patriots and the Indianapolis Colts. In his playing days, Vick displayed his enormous talents, and it was a thrill to watch him play football. However, despite his popularity, he never played on an NFL team with a winning record. That may not have been his fault, and yet it may have been. His old team, the Atlanta Falcons, replaced him with a rookie quarterback, and they had a winning record for the first time in many years. Vick may just be a better running back than a quarterback, and that is the position that he may wind up playing. He has paid a terrible price for his involvement in dog fighting, and I hope that he has learned from that, and will go on to have a successful career and life.