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College Football's Messy Plans, Part XXIV
[Posted Tues. p.m.]
Golf / FedEx Cup Playoffs Quiz: Name the nine who have qualified for the playoffs all 14 years. Answer below.
--Yes, there are some golf fans who can’t get into the playoffs, which is indeed a glorified season end money grab. But my own interest has grown over the years for the simple reason that you have outstanding fields. And this year, especially if you aren’t a racing fan (NASCAR with a doubleheader this weekend and the Indy 500 on Sunday), what else are you going to watch for drama? Baseball? The first-round of the NBA playoffs (unless your fave is in it)? The NHL playoffs? …too early in the process in that sport for most of us.
Two years ago the PGA Tour reduced the number of playoff events from four to three and changed the Tour Championship format so that the winner of the tournament at East Lake Country Club was also automatically the FedEx Cup champion.
So this week we have the Northern Trust, TPC Boston, when the field of 125 (all of whom were signed up for the tournament as of yesterday) will be reduced to 70 for the BMW Championship, where the field will then be cut to the final 30 for Atlanta and the finale.
If you win the Tour Championship, and thus the FedEx Cup, you bag a cool $15,000,000.
As I noted a while ago, Tiger Woods enters this week’s play at TPC Boston No. 47 on the points list, meaning he has to have a good finish if he wants to avoid the BMW and still be in line for the top 30 and the Tour Championship. He hasn’t played back-to-back weeks since February 2019. And not three in a row since the 2018 playoffs.
--Rory McIlroy has earned the most money in the FedEx Cup tournaments and bonuses…$40,551,452.
--Billy Horschel, 69th in 2014, came from further back on the FedEx Cup points list to then win the title. He missed the cut in the first playoff event (when they played four), then went T-2/win/win to close out the postseason.
In 13 years, only three times has a player outside the top 15 on the points list entering the Playoffs gone on to win (Horschel, Brandt Snedeker, 19th in 2012; McIlroy, 36th in 2016).
--Dustin Johnson is the only golfer to advance to the Tour Championship 11 times (each of the last 11 years in his case).
--John Hawkins / Morning Read
“Money, money, money. A veteran industry insider recently wondered aloud how the Tour could continue dabbling in such massive numbers at a time when the coronavirus has threatened to cripple the world’s economy. The Tour itself laid off 50 or so employees last week, many of them longtime staffers. Eleven of the 49 events on the 2019-20 schedule have been canceled due to Covid-19, costing the operation tens of millions in title-sponsor revenue and perhaps as much from ticket sales and onsite corporate support.
“It’s enough to leave you wondering how the Tour could have the gall even to stage its little playoff series this year. This deadly pandemic has forced everyone to wear masks at the grocery store. So many people have died, so many others have lost their jobs, and we’re gonna spend the next three weeks slicing up a $60 million pie?
“The answer to it all is unbearably simple: business is business. Short of World War III, there’s no way the Tour will reduce purses or compromise relationships with its most valuable partners, notably FedEx. Such backpedaling would be conceived as a sign of weakness. Public perception is important, but it doesn’t pay the bills and it sure as hell doesn’t cover the $1.35 million awarded to Daniel Berger for his victory at Colonial….
“It is what it isn’t, but the FedEx Cup playoff series is a whole lot better than how it once was. Before its 2007 debut, a seemingly endless string of second-rate tournaments filled the schedule from late summer until the end of October. A WGC and the Tour Championship were the only gatherings of real substance. In retrospect, it’s easy to see how pro golf was doing all it could to help the NFL get even bigger.
“Not anymore, baby. As Jim Mora once incredulously asked, ‘Playoffs? …Are you kidding me? Playoffs?’”
--A few golf notes from late Sunday….Tyler Strafaci won the U.S. Amateur Championship at Bandon Dunes Golf Course in Oregon, 1-up in the heroic 36-hole finale against Charles (Ollie) Osborne. The 20 year-old Strafaci, whose amateur and college career at Georgia Tech was extended by the coronavirus, got to lift the Havemeyer Trophy that eluded his highly accomplished grandfather, Frank Strafaci Sr. Eighty-five years ago, the elder Strafaci captured his only USGA title, the U.S. Amateur Public Links.
“This trophy has been the holy grail for my family for over 80 years,” said Frank Strafaci Jr., 62. “And it’s something that my father always felt was an empty spot in his competitive career.”
Very cool. Congrats to Tyler.
--And congrats to one of the sport’s more popular players, Jerry Kelly, 53, who won the Bridgestone Senior Players Championship at Firestone Country Club in Akron, Ohio.
Kelly hit a hole-in-one on the 177-yard 12th hole that jumped his lead to three, and he ended up beating playing partner Scott Parel by two, earning an exemption to the PGA Tour’s Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass next spring.
It was his seventh Champions Tour victory and first major.
The senior set has five majors a year, but this is the first to be played in 2020 due to the long lockdown.
--And back to Jim Herman’s win at the Wyndham Championship, it turns out that the Vegas sportsbooks cleaned up because no one picked the 600-1 longshot. As in just one gambler at the Las Vegas Superbook, one of Vegas’ biggest, placed a wager on Herman, but the bet was for just $2. Even though the Wyndham isn’t a premiere event, mega-thousands was wagered and you get the picture.
Darren Rovell reported that there were some major losers. Like someone put in a big bet on Billy Horschel late in the tournament when he took the lead (as in who expected Herman to come back late like he did). And there was a bet big on Si Woo Kim, $500,000!, who was the leader by two after three rounds.
--The SEC released its 10-game, conference-only schedule Monday. The conference hopes to start their season Sept. 26.
Teams will each have one open date occurring between Weeks 5 and 7 and another on Dec. 12 before the SEC championship game Dec. 19. Each team will play six divisional games and four non-divisional opponents, including two cross-over games that were added to the schedule after nonconference games were eliminated due to concern about the coronavirus.
Defending national champion LSU will open its season against Mississippi State and new head coach Mike Leach, formerly at Washington State, while former USC head coach Lane Kiffin will begin his tenure with Mississippi against Florida on Sept. 26.
The Sept. 26 start date was selected, according to SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey, to allow time for people to return to campus and assimilate before beginning competition.
Testing limitations as well as high rates of community transmission in local markets were reasons that led to the Pac-12 postponing its fall season this month, but Sankey said he’s noticed improving trend lines in the region.
And there have indeed been slight improvements in some of the metrics. I follow the numbers every day.
But then the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill may have just ruined things for the likes of the SEC and ACC when the school announced on Monday it was moving classes back online after just one week of on-campus classes due to 130 Covid-19 cases among students based on four clusters in student living spaces. I have to admit, I do like the headline in the school paper talking about a “Clusterf---.” In this case, totally appropriate use of the term. The kids blew it, and the administration was hopelessly naïve, but UNC is now the poster-child for what to expect in the coming weeks all around the country as campuses open up.
Emily Giambalvo / Washington Post
“The past week of decision-making revealed college football’s fractured landscape. No single authority governs all, and conferences makes choices – even ones as critical as whether to play during a pandemic – on their own. The Big Ten and Pac-12 decided the novel coronavirus presented too many health risks, so they punted on the fall season and hope to play in the spring. The SEC, ACC and Big 12 continue moving toward a season that would begin next month.
“Even as the nation navigates the same pandemic and analyzes similar sets of data, these conferences, each with its own medical advisory board, have come to disparate conclusions. All leagues say they are prioritizing athlete health and safety, but their risk tolerances clearly differ. By playing a football season, schools have accepted the chance that an athlete who contracts the virus could suffer from severe complications. In doing so, they’re taking a legal risk, because if an outbreak on a team leads to an adverse outcome, schools will inevitably find themselves faced with lawsuits.
“ ‘When one takes gambles with human life, and it doesn’t work out okay, there’s an excellent probability that somebody is going to get sued,’ said Brad Sohn, a Miami-based attorney who has represented professional athletes in health-related personal injury matters. ‘…I think it’s certainly within the realm of possibility, if not probability, that something bad is going to happen [as a result of playing football this season] and somebody’s going to sue when that does happen.’….
“The long-term effects of Covid-19 remain murky. College football decision-makers have recently grown concerned about myocarditis, the inflammation of the heart muscle, which can result from viral illnesses and lead to sudden cardiac death. Those outcomes could prompt legal action against schools, conferences and the NCAA….
“In negligence claims, the plaintiffs could sue their school, their conference and the NCAA. The school’s medical staff has the most direct responsibility for the daily care of athletes and the enforcement of safety protocols….
“The NCAA delegates responsibility to schools and conferences, which could protect the association in a lawsuit because it would assert that it doesn’t have a duty of care to the athletes. Sohn said that if an entity such as the NCAA has undertaken other responsibilities in areas related to sports medicine, the organization may still be liable for its lack of action. Schools, however, have a more clear duty of care.
“A school’s defense would be the athletes assumed the risk of playing this season. The NCAA has required that universities honor the scholarships of athletes who opt out of the season because of health concerns. However, athletes could still fear sitting out because of the power imbalance between them and their coaches. They might worry that when they return for the 2021 season, they could have fallen out of favor with the staff that controls their playing time. But when compared with the assurance that all athletes have the choice to opt out, those intangible concerns would not help an athlete’s case much.
“ ‘You’d have to argue that there’s so much duress and that there’s so much pressure,’ said (Dionne) Koller, a professor of law and the director of the Center for Sport and the Law at the University of Baltimore. ‘And of course the school’s going to be mounting its own side, saying: ‘Absolutely not. We told students that they’re free to do whatever they want to do.’’
“For a school to successfully argue that athletes assumed the risk, the players would have to be fully informed about what could result from the coronavirus. If a school did not educate players about the underlying conditions that increase their risk of suffering from complications or about possible effects of the coronavirus, an athlete could assert that, even though he had a choice to opt out, he didn’t fully understand what he was opting into.
“Athletes would then have to show that their school breached its duty of care….
“No school wants to deal with a lawsuit. No coach wants to recruit athletes who know former players have sued the school. Any lawsuit – whether it’s won, lost, settled or dismissed – could hurt the school financially and in perception.
“ ‘We can all see with our very own eyes that this is not safe and it’s exposing football players to an unreasonable risk of harm,’ Koller said. ‘Whether the NCAA or schools can come up with one of these defenses and make it stick, either way, they’ve already lost.’”
--The Alex Smith story is a quite compelling one. Almost two years removed from a gruesome compound leg fracture that we learned days after could have killed the man amid multiple surgeries after a life-threatening infection, Smith is suddenly back on the practice field competing for the starting quarterback job with Washington.
Smith suffered his fracture in November 2018 in a game against the Houston Texans, breaking his tibia and fibula and then undergoing 17 surgeries after contracting the infection. No one ever expected to see Alex Smith in uniform again. We were just happy he survived.
But Sunday he was cleared to return to full contact drills after nearly two years of extensive rehabilitation.
Yesterday, Smith told reporters: “I’m so grateful to have the opportunity to put that jersey on the last two days and go out there and try to do it. For me its taking on that challenge. I don’t think it’s something that I can walk away from and be able to sleep at night. If I did, I don’t think I could look my kids in the eye and talk to them about giving it their all and pushing through things. We all face adversity in life. It comes in different forms. Was I going to talk about it or be about it?”
Boy, I think his kids would have forgiven him had he focused his energies on something else. He doesn’t have to prove anything to anyone.
But here we are. If he plays in a regular season game it completes one of the better comeback stories in sports in the last 50 years.
“However this comes out, I’m going to be better for it,” Smith said.
--Monday night the Yankees beat the Red Sox at the Stadium, 6-3, the 10th straight time they have beaten Boston dating to last year.
Mike Vaccaro / New York Post
“This is the way it was – or at least the way it seemed – during the cozy 86 years that connected 1918 and 2004. For years, from New England, we would hear tortured tales of ‘The Rivalry,’ about how the Red Sox could never quite get over the hump against their ancient rivals, the Yankees.
“Jinxes. Poxes. Hexes. Curses.
“You remember the chorus.
“And the funny thing, always, was this: Rivalry? Really? In those 86 years connecting 1918 and 2004, the Yankees won 26 World Series championships. They won 39 pennants. The Red Sox, in that time, won 26 fewer championships and 35 fewer American League titles. As rivals go, it’s hard to think of any more one-sided than that.
“Hammer versus nail, maybe.
“Lucy versus Charlie Brown, certainly.
“Notre Dame versus Navy, sure.
“Before the 1999 ALCS, Yogi Berra famously took Bernie Williams aside, smiled, and offered a word of advice from the bright side of the feud; ‘Relax. We’ve been beating these guys for 80 years.’ They beat them that year, too. And again in 2003.
“Generations of Yankees fans only knew relentless prosperity against the Red Sox. If an essential part of the DNA of Yankees fans is always believing the fellows in the pinstripes would figure out a way to make things right in the end, an important strand also included this caveat: and the Red Sox will always fold like the cellophane when it absolutely matters.
“Maybe you noticed: It hasn’t been that way these last 16 years. Since 2004, the scorecard reads thusly: Red Sox, 4 World Series, Yankees 1. The two times they’ve met in October, the Sox won in epic fashion (2004) and in a breeze (2018). It’s funny, too: in that time, the Yankees have never had a losing record and the Red Sox actually finished last in the AL East not once, not twice but three times (2012, 2014, 2015).
“But even in those dreadful years, the Red Sox didn’t look like this, the way they look in 2020, which is to say noncompetitive, soft, lacking in both talent and effort. The pitching staff has been ransacked. Mookie Betts has moved his Hall of Fame track 3,000 miles away. There are still some good players on the team, but not nearly enough of them.”
And it’s been jarring to watch.
--Cleveland Indians pitchers Mike Clevinger and Zach Plesac, both in the starting rotation, were optioned to the team’s alternate site on Friday after they violated Covid-19 protocols during a road trip in Chicago earlier this month.
But ESPN’s Jeff Passan first reported that before the decision to move the pitchers away from the team for at least 10 days, the two were “scolded” by teammates during a “testy” meeting. While some Indians teammates accepted their apologies and were ready to move on, at least one player – veteran reliever Oliver Perez – threatened to opt out of the season if Clevinger and Plesac were allowed to remain on the active roster.
According to ESPN, some Cleveland players were upset with Clevinger and Plesac not only for breaking protocol, but their actions after getting caught doing so.
The players’ disappointment centered not only on the decision made by the two pitchers to leave the team hotel in Chicago on Aug. 7, but also because they did not believe Clevinger was truthful with them about his involvement before he boarded the team plane Aug. 9. By then, Plesac, who had been caught trying to return to the hotel early on the morning of Aug. 8, had been sent back to Cleveland.
Last I heard, Clevinger and Plesac have tested negative for Covid, but the “breach of trust” is a lingering issue.
Plesac, after MLB security learned he had broken protocol, was sent back to Cleveland via car service so he would not potentially risk infecting his teammates. But Clevinger did not tell the club he was with Plesac and flew with the team.
--I noted Fernando Tatis Jr.’s superb start to his major league career last chat, and then on Monday he hit his first grand slam, one of two on the night, 7 RBIs, in the Padres’ 14-4 victory over the Rangers in Arlington.
But rookie manager Jayce Tingler was far from thrilled by the grand slam as Tatis missed a take sign and swung on a 3-0 pitch with a seven-run lead in the eighth inning.
Tingler said after, “He’s young, a free spirit and focused and all those things. That’s the last thing that we’ll ever take away. It’s a learning opportunity, and that’s it. He’ll grow from it.”
Tingler was miffed not only that Tatis missed the sign but because he didn’t want to run up the score in his Texas homecoming.
The Rangers were ticked and the first pitch from Ian Gibaut to slugger Manny Machado was behind him. MLB then suspended Gibaut for three games and Texas manager Chris Woodward for one.
Meanwhile, entering Tuesday’s play, Tatis now has 11 homers, 28 RBIs and a 1.109 OPS in just 24 games. But, befitting the crappy state of the game, 31 strikeouts in 95 at-bats.
[Johnny Mac…guess we gotta cue Joe DiMaggio again, circa 1941, when he was MVP, hit .357, and had 13 strikeouts in 541 ABs.]
--The other day the White Sox blasted back-to-back-to-back-to-back home runs, all off Cardinals reliever Roel Ramirez, a 25-year-old who was making his major league debut. [He ended up giving up six runs in 2/3s of an inning for a clean 81.00 ERA, which were his career to end now would be kind of an ugly stat line to show the grandkids.]
Anyway, the New York Times’ Victor Mather noted that the back-to-back-to-back-to-back feat has now been accomplished ten times in baseball history, the first time not until 1961, when the Milwaukee braves pulled it off against the Reds. Then it was done in 1963, and in 1964…but not again until 2006, and then five more times before Sunday and the ChiSox.
--This is cool, racing fans…Marco Andretti on the pole at Sunday’s Indy 500, Andretti edging out Scott Dixon with a four-lap effort of 231.068 mph. Baby, that’s flying!
It’s now been 51 years since Marco’s grandfather, legendary Mario, won the 500 in 1969 in what was just a great sports moment. But it’s been a total shutout for all the Andretti’s since.
Marco’s best finish at Indy thus far was second as a rookie in 2016.
Marco’s father Michael is team owner.
Takumo Sato rounds out the front row.
--Director of East Coast Shark Attacks for Bar Chat, Bob S., who has been doing research in shark hotbed Vanuatu for about five years, noted that officials have received several reports of bull shark sightings in New Jersey’s Navesink River. While police have not confirmed a sighting as yet, Rumson Police wrote on Facebook that “there is a possibility that sharks could be in our local waterways.”
Now the significance of this development, as every New Jersey resident knows, is that back in 1916, the state became the focus of the global community when there were a series of horrific shark attacks, killing four, with two of them occurring in inland waters. At first the marauder was assumed to be a great white, but almost all are in agreement today it was a bull shark.
Cue the “Jaws” music….this could get exciting, save for the victims and their families.
Top 3 songs for the week 8/24/68: #1 “People Got To Be Free” (The Rascals) #2 “Born To Be Wild” (Steppenwolf) #3 “Hello, I Love You” (The Doors)…and…#4 “Light My Fire” (Jose Feliciano) #5 “Classical Gas” (Mason Williams…somehow this song worked…) #6 “Sunshine Of Your Love” (The Cream…as they were called then…) #7 “Turn Around, Look At Me” (The Vogues) #8 “Stoned Soul Picnic” (The 5th Dimension) #9 “I Can’t Stop Dancing” (Archie Bell & The Drells…just typing their name puts a smile on my face…) #10 “Stay In My Corner” (The Dells…had to look this one up…great tune…peaked at #10 for three weeks… ‘A’ week overall for sure…)
Golf / FedEx Cup Playoffs Quiz Answer: Nine who have qualified all 14 years: Adam Scott, Matt Kuchar, Charles Howell III, Bubba Watson, Phil Mickelson, Ryan Moore, Brandt Snedeker, Justin Rose, and Charley Hoffman.
Next Bar Chat, Monday.