Sports has become a microcosm of society, with all of the ills of society, and not enough of the pure athletic competition that those of who have grown up both playing and watching sports crave.
Well in my case this last month has held two such events of pure competition, one from the comparable Tiger Woods, and another from two classy tennis players, and finally two events where two of the ills of society, pettiness and doping, have reared up in all of their ugliness.
The first was Tiger Woods' incredible win over pain and Rocco Mediate to win the U. S. G. A. Open at Torrey Pines in San Diego. Just when it seemed he had played himself out he would hit a clutch putt and evntually go on to win. The comentators, including the irritating Johnny Miller, all but said that this was Rocco's one and only chance to win a major. The inference was that Tiger would be back for many more bites at the majors, but this was journeyman's Rocco's once-in-a-lifetime nibble. Well, what a difference a month makes. Tiger is laid up with major surgery which may take up to two years to completely heal, according to Kenny Perry (who had a similiar operation on his left knee), while Rocco is contending (in a three way tie for the lead after the first round) for the Claret Jug at this year's Open Championship held at Royal Birkdale in England. Perry meanwhile, the hottest golfer since Tiger's exit (with three wins in his last five tournements -- and with chances to win two before that) has chosen to skip the Open and concentrate on qualifying for the Ryder Cup, held in Perry's home state of Kentucky this fall.
Perry made a vurtue of avoiding the Open whereas it's a fact that his one shot repetoire, a high fade, would be murdered by the winds traditionally associated with the British Open. What Mr. Perry lacks in golfing versatility; he more than makes up for in smarts by specializing in the courses that favor his game. Woods and before him, Nicklaus, chose courses that suited their game of hitting long irons very high. It's a shot most golfers don't have in their bag. Still, Tiger's one legged victory was a win for the ages.
Tiger, by the by, is on the way to breaking every major record including that for most wins, a record currently held by Sam Snead, but in that case Tiger'll have to wait for a while longer. Snead, recently credited with either 81 or 82 wins, had eight wins stripped by authorities over a decade ago; those wins might be reinstated, crediting him with a win total of 90. With a healthy Tiger it might have taken him two years to beat Snead; now he may need three. And Tiger isn't getting any younger.
A sport badly in need of rejuvenation has now witnessed the greatest singles match of all time between four-time defending singles champion, Roger Federer and three time defending French Open champion Rafael Nadal. My main impression is that unlike in John McEnroe's time, both Finalists were classy and graceful in their attitude towards each other both during and after the match, with both of them saying gracious things about their opponents. It's nice to see that tennis, like golf, is a genteel sport once again. Good manners are in too short a supply in our culture. Tennis and golf help in that they fashion a sense of respect for others and a proper sense of decorum.
Brett Favre. The once and * future * quarterback of the Green Bay Packers. Here's a story that has neither style, nor class, nor decorum. First Favre has worn out his welcome with the annual soap opera of will he or won't he retire. It's grown old. He should retire, and stay that way, or the Packers should trade him. So what if he comes back and leads the dreaded Minnesota Vikings, or Chicago Bears against the Packers. If the Packers are as good as everyone says then trade Brett and win anyway. But Green Bay seems to lack confidence in its youngish back-up quarterback, Aaron Rogers. Now comes word that the Packers are accusing the Minnesota Vikings of tampering. Well, the soap opera continues.
On a personal note, I would just love to see Brett in the purple of Minnesota. I have Adrian Peterson in a Fantasy keeper league and Brett's arrival should mean less double teams and more yards for Adrian. Yo Brett! Yo Adrian!
It's hot outside, it's the middle of July; it must be cycling's greatest road race, the three week test of long distance endurance known as the Tour de France struggles on past the beautiful French countryside with its Castles and quaint villages, mired in yet more doping scandals. This time the Italian climber Riccardo Ricco (already winner of two mountain stages in this year's Tour) of the Saunier Duval team has been forced out of the Tour amidst a positive test for doping, and his team voluntarily left (probably before all of them got kicked out, since several others members has fared quite well in the notoriously difficult Pyrenean climbs in this year's Tour (particularly the Stage 10 climb up to the Hautacam ski resort). Good riddance I say, and the Tour should be commended for its tough stance and tougher policies. Still, doping is a seemingly perpetual penumbra hovering over the Tour.
On another personal note. Saunier Duval climbing specialist David De La Fuente was on my Kenda Tires Fantasy Tour team this year. He got me 15 points for briefly possessing the polka dot jersay for best mountain climber, and I see with irritation that I am still credited with them. All the points from riders leaving as a result of doping should be removed, and those who finished behind them should be moved up. By the way my Fantasy Team (Team Elliott) is slowly fading as Kim Kirchen's hopes for the yellow jersey slip away, even though I also have the General Catagory leader in Cadel Evans and top five GC man Dennis Menchov on my team. (Sprinter Robbie McEwen has been a disappointment, as is the fact that I had this years flat stage sensation Mark Cavendish and dumped him in favor of McEwen -- whose team is understandably working for Evans).
I love the helicopter shots of the French countryside. The history of this most varied of European countries is always on stage. On yesterday's stage we were treated to an aerial view of Montsegur Castle, where the Cathari of mediavel legend made their last stand against the soldiers of the Albingensian Crusade. When they finally surrendered (while allowing time for several of their number to escape with a fabled unknown treasure), hundreds of them were burned at the stake as they sang hymns and refused to recant their Gnostic faith.
Today's society may have its problems, but when you consider what it was like in the past ....