Jun 18, 2008

Legends Defined

As if the US Open this past weekend was not impressive enough, we now find out that Tiger Woods played the tournament with a torn ACL and a double stress fracture in his tibia.  In fact, he has had a torn ACL for the last ten months - and has won nine of twelve tournaments during that time (one of the losses was a second place finish in the Masters).  And he did all of this WITH A TORN ACL!?!  I was still trying to get over the fact that he won the US Open less than two months after knee surgery - and that he did that by playing a 91 hole tournament where he had to birdie the 18th hole TWICE to stay in it.  That, my loyal readers, is the definition of a freak.

How demoralizing is this news to the PGA Tour?  They lose Tiger for the rest of the year.  The average ACL surgery knocks a top athlete out for 16-18 months.  That means Tiger should be ready by the Masters next year (10 months).  So now ratings will plummet.  But think of the rest of the golfers on the tour.  They thought that maybe, just maybe, they were getting closer to Woods.  His failure to close out the win at Augusta, the way he barely won the US Open.  Now they find out that he had a TORN ACL the whole time.  

I knew a guy with a torn ACL.  He limped around so bad.  I have had two knee surgeries.  Both of them knocked me out big time.  I was still on crutches after the first surgery six weeks later - the same time Tiger won the US Open.  It was curious that they played the Nike commercial with Tiger and his dad on Sunday during the fourth round.  His dad was talking and saying how he used to knock bags of clubs over when Tiger was in mid-swing as a kid - trying to distract him.  The point of the commercial was the ending, when his dad said that Tiger would never enter a tournament where he was not the mentally strongest competitor.  If that wasn't proven this past weekend, it never will be.  How you could ignore the usual pressure of a tournament ... no wait, a major tournament ... no wait, a major tournament playoff ... no wait, a major tournament sudden death playoff hole ... no wait, a major tournament sudden death playoff with a TORN ACL AND STRESS FRACTURES IN YOUR LEG -- I don't get it.

Compare that with Kobe Bryant.  There has been this big battle over the recent years, trying to convince sports fans that Kobe is as good as Michael Jordan was.  Sports fans think this is ridiculous - unless they are beyond stupid and blind Lakers fans in L.A.  Sports fans watched Michael Jordan and know that there never has been a player like that.  And there probably never will be again.  Not only was he the best player on any court he stepped on, he also was the most mentally prepared player, the most intimidating player, and the most powerful player.  This NBA Finals should put this whole argument to rest forever - in my opinion.
  • Michael Jordan never would have pitched a media hissy fit and demanded a trade before the season - to the point where it nearly happened.
  • Jordan never would have thrown his entire team under the bus to try to show how great he was.  He would have taken them aside in the locker room and eviscerated them there, threatening to maim them if they messed up again.  And then he would have hugged them and said on national television they were the most essential player ever.
  • Jordan would never have allowed one of his teams to lose a game after having a 24 point lead in the 3rd quarter - AT HOME.  He would have put the team on his back and forced them to win.  Kobe just disappeared.
  • And Jordan never ever ever would have let his team get blown out by 39 points in the series clinching game - especially not to their biggest rivals.  He didn't lose Finals.  6-0.  Bryant is 3-2, despite having the stronger team in both of those losses.
I'm sure we'll see a lot of excuses over the next few days about why the Lakers lost.  To me, the biggest reason is that #8, I mean #24 - Kobe "Black Mamba" Bryant - the man who HAD to be the centerpiece of the Lakers and destroyed a legacy to prove it - the man who desperately wants to be as good as Jordan - the man who hates his teammates, his coach, everyone but himself --- they lost because Kobe Bryant let his team down.  He disappeared when it counted.  He choked and did not deliver the goods.  He had no excuses.  The team had made trades to help him out.  He was healthy.  He had the best coach.  They even had better travel back to Boston.  And he couldn't get it done when it mattered.  Again.

Comparing those two stories, that is why Tiger is going to go down as the toughest, strongest, best golfer EVER.  And Kobe, in my opinion, is going to go down as a really good player who should have been better.  

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