Can Tiger Woods finally turn it around? I hope so.

Tiger Woods’ story is on track to be the saddest in sports history.

But yesterday, Tiger Woods beat Australian Aaron Baddeley to clinch the Presidents Cup for the Americans. I think it was a win Woods needed more than any of us can comprehend.

It was two years ago this Friday Woods’ altercation with then-wife Elin Nordegren became a de facto turning point in Woods’ golf career. A man once destined to surpass Jack Nicklaus for the all time record in major victories now sits winless since the Bush Administration.

In these two years, he’s gone through a new swing, a new caddie, a new marital status, two new knees, and zero wins.

While yesterday’s win was part of a team battle, it quenched a thirst for victory to which Woods used to be so accustomed. The smile he shared at the end of the tournament was refreshing. It gave a flashback to a gleam you thought you would never be deprived of.

I want to see Tiger Woods win – and as soon as possible. Once he went through a winless 2010, I said, “OK, he got what he deserved. Now lets get back to golf.”

But this losing streak has taken on a new life. Like a parasite, that Thanksgiving night sucked the game out of the most untouchable icon in sports, let alone golf. Imagine the Beatles releasing Sgt. Pepper, then never playing or releasing another song ever again.

Humans love to see famous people fail. It makes them feel better about themselves. That’s why Angelina Jolie’s zit can make a tabloid’s front cover or why Lindsay Lohan is still relevant.

But for me, Tiger Woods never winning again would be too much. Even though he makes more money in a year than you and I will see in our lifetimes, even though he can get any girl he wants, even though every decision he made was his own, he’s still a human being. Money doesn’t buy happiness. Like family, friends, a home, or a special hobby, Tiger Woods’ has a strong emotional attachment to golf. No amount of money can mask the pain felt by remaining unable to perform at a level so distant from what he once could.

I hope yesterday’s victory gives Tiger the confidence to push his game back to the elite level. The next time you see Tiger Woods, wearing his signature Sunday red, walking up the 18th with a lead, he will have the entire golf nation on his side. Then again, maybe I’m just a nice guy.

Going for it on 4th and inches in OT was the right decision

I may be in the minority, but Falcons head coach Mike Smith made the better decision in overtime yesterday. For those of you who didn’t see, the Falcons went for it on 4th and inches in overtime against the Saints from their own 29. They failed to convert, and eventually lost when the Saints kicked a field goal off the turnover.

It didn’t work this time, but it was the right decision.

The Falcons are in the playoff race. They’re an above average football team, but not elite. To win the Super Bowl, you need to be one of two things: the best team, or a team that tricks themselves into thinking they are – the former example being the 2009 Saints and the latter the 2007 Giants.

The 4th and inches was an opportunity for Mike Smith to convey to his team, “We are an elite team. I have confidence in you. We can do this.”

More often than not, professional football teams will convert 4th and inches. For argument’s sake, I’d say 60% are converted. That number is not official, but the actual number is not under 50%. I’ll guarantee that.

In that case, theoretically the Falcons should pick up the first down. Simply by doing so, even if they still were to lose, shows the team what they could do under immense pressure when expected to make a play. Maybe they drive down the field and win the game. Maybe they proceed to go three and out and punt it away.

But the confidence the Falcons would have gained by converting and eventually winning would have outweighed the disappointment felt by yesterday’s outcome. Even if they convert and ultimately lose, the confidence boost is a mini-victory. If you want to win the Super Bowl and you’re not the best team in the league, you need to fill the void with confidence.

After the game, the unanimous reaction from the players was their coach made the right decision, but they needed to do a better job executing. They’re not lying for the cameras. Winning teams are relentless in aggression. Winning teams think they can do anything. The Falcons players are not going to keel over and feel they aren’t good enough to convert a 4th and inches –  at any time or at anywhere on the field. Their coach gave them a chance to prove it.

Let’s say the Falcons punt it away, and the Saints march right down the field and win the game. Now, Coach Smith feels like he didn’t even give his team a chance to prove themselves. You start to play the “what-if” game, and everyone reconsiders the punt.

You may be reading this saying, “Corey, you don’t go for it in overtime that deep in your own territory. It’s idiotic.” If that’s the case, think of the message it sends to the other 31 teams if you convert. It shows Coach Smith is crazy, and he may do anything at any time. It’s now a unique advantage the Falcons have over all other teams – the label of “crazy.”

The  overall pros of going for it in yesterday’s case outweigh the cons. Coach Smith made an educated gamble that unfortunately didn’t work. But if it had, the Falcons may have gone into week 11 6-3 atop the NFC South with the Titans, Vikings, and Texans upcoming. Three very winnable games could have put the Falcons at 9-3.

More importantly, it would have made them feel unstoppable.

I commend Mike Smith for his guts. He made the right coaching decision, and if given the opportunity, he should make the same one. Yesterday, his team let him down, not the other way around.

Calling all poker fans

Right now I’m watching this great heads up battle between Martin Staszko and Pius Heinz. Chip leads have flip flopped back and forth multiple times. I believe both players have had a 2:1 chip count during this heads up battle (not official but it has been close).

A misconception about poker is it’s all about luck. I forgot where, but I once heard poker is 10% luck and 90% knowing how to play it.

I would consider myself an average poker player. I have a moderate knowledge of the game. If you want to compete with the professionals of the game, you need to analyze every player’s bodily movement, the timing of every bet, betting patters, mannerisms.

The best poker players share the minds of the best chess players. Both games measure your ability to foresee one step ahead of your opponent. As you get more skilled at seeing into the future you move up in the worldwide rankings.

What I’m watching right now is a match between two very good poker minds. You don’t beat over 6,000 people by accident, although with all the amateurs in the field I wouldn’t be as surprised.

I’ve seen stone cold bluff five-bet, I’ve seen great value bets paid off, I’ve seen pocket aces, pocket kings, and suited Big Slick.

All in an effort to win the $8+ million dollars grilling them no more than a yard away.

On a separate note, I give a lot of credit to Lon McHeren and Norman Chad. Live, Chad doesn’t sound like a side-show clown. It’s nice to see his personality. McHeren really knows a lot about the game. He’s been dead-on most of the time. I’d expect Antonio Esfandiari to be a little more than just another voice. His reads have been way off today. I believe it was a board of 5-5-J-A or something similar. Esfandiari said something like, “With this bet he’s representing either a five or a jack….he also may have the Ace….He could have a smaller pocket pair or he could simply be on a stone cold bluff.” He literally had listed every possibility.

I digress. Announcing poker for hours on end is not an easy job. I announce the Rowan football games, and you have to have a lot of information prepared because there’s a lot of down time in between plays. Announcing poker is as slow paced at announcing your Grandma Rose knit a sweater.

“Ooh… what color will she go with here Rich?”

“I don’t know Donnie, I’m thinking green or a teal complement. It would contrast brilliantly against the maroon.”

But the poker broadcast booth is good! It’s also nice that you see the whole cards. Personally, I would not like that if I was heads-up. In poker you never get to see most of your opponent’s hands. In this set up you can see all of them. On the highest scale in poker, I think it should remain as pure as the game always is.

But then again seeing whole cards brings ratings – and that’s what it’s all about.

PS…this battle is still going on! Turn on ESPN because this has been a great match-up.

Always stay until the end of the game….

I must have been eight years old. My dad and I were at Yankee Stadium where the Yanks were facing the Baltimore Orioles. At the end of the eighth inning, with the Yankees down by two, he looked at me and asked, “Wanna go?” Beating the traffic is not a priority to an eight year old, and without hesitation I looked at him like he was crazy. He said, “OK nevermind.”

In the bottom of the ninth, Scott Brosius hit a three-run walk off home run.

Last night I was at the Rutgers/USF game with a couple buddies. It was freezing. Gary Nova was terrible and replaced late. Rutgers mustered up a total of three points to USF’s ten with eight minutes to go in the fourth quarter. Everything was favoring the “The longer we stay, the more we suffer” notion. Once USF’s Demetrius Murray walked it in from four yards out, we all looked at each other, gave the head nod, and left.

It would’ve been nice to see a win at my first Rutgers game. Ehh… oh well.

Within one minute of passing the “No Re-entry sign” the crowd roars. Jakub’s iPhone told us Jeremy Deering returned it from 98 yards out. 17-10.  We laughed but still figured a win was a longshot. Later, Chas Dodd’s gorgeous pass to Brandon Coleman ties it.

The unanimous reaction was a combination of “F***” and “lol”

Skip ahead to :02 left in the fourth when USF is setting up for a 25 yard field goal. At this point we’re back at Jeff’s Rutgers house watching the game with about ten others. I was rooting for the home team, but was taking solace in the fact at least leaving early didn’t come back to bite us.

I can not remember the last time I have ever seen a <25 yard field goal miss – at any level.

Sure enough, the kick is blocked and the whole room collectively stands as one. Fists are up and hands are clapping, all while those who left are hurting a little inside.

Rutgers eventually comes back to win via San San Te’s right foot, and while overall I’m happy, I can’t believe I should’ve been there for it.

Sports fans – stay the entire game…no matter how much you’re down. If you leave, you had better be darn sure the game is over – and if not, then be prepared.

You may be leaving just as the game begins.


ESPN’s Tom Rinaldi is very underrated

This weekend #2 Alabama will take on #1 LSU in the most highly anticipated college football game of the year. In lieu of this, ESPN revisited a story from back in April that documented the story of Alabama’s long snapper, Carson Tinker, who was with his girlfriend when she was killed by the awful tornado that ravaged Tuscaloosa in April.

Here’s the link (It’s the video under “Video Results”). When you watch, take a close listen to the narrator, Tom Rinaldi. I have not found anyone that talks with more eloquence, conciseness,  appropriateness, and color than Rinaldi. His writing is stellar, and he talks in a voice so connected to the story the viewer becomes subconsciously that more engaged. There’s no ego – he doesn’t try to twist the story with his personality, but lets the story do the talking for him.

My dad pointed this out to me a couple years ago. Like a third base coach or a long snapper, voice over artists share the unfortunate trait of rarely getting any attention unless it’s to point out flaws. But take a listen to the first line of the story: “In a place defined by the tide, it will be a day forever scarred by the wind.” He found a way to seamlessly introduce the two subjects of the story – the Alabama Crimson Tide and the tornado, and set the table for the rest of the piece. Plus it has that eloquence factor unmatched by many.

If there’s anyone reading this who, like me, wants to do this for a living, or is just interested in writing or voice over work, listen to Rinaldi. He could voice over a story about corn fields in Kazakhstan and I would still be glued to the television.

Now is when the NBA lockout hurts

Tonight was supposed to be the opening tip-off of the 2011-12 NBA season. Dirk Nowitzki and the Mavs were set to tip off against Chris Rose and the Chicago Bulls, the Rockets were supposed to take on the Jazz, and a quintessential old school vs. new school match up was set in Los Angeles when one of my new favorite teams, the Oklahoma City Thunder, were to try and convince Kobe and Derek Fisher they’re too old to ball.

The NBA was set to continue riding the sport’s highest popularity since the end of the Jordan era. ARE Kobe and the Lakers too old? Can the Heat win not 5…not 6….not 7…but one NBA championship? Are the Knicks ready to bring basketball back to the newly renovated garden?

As a huge basketball fan, I’m sincerely disappointed I’m not watching basketball right now. While both parties bicker back and forth while simultaneously halting paychecks for all, Mark Cuban knows even if there’s not an NBA season for the next ten years he can light up a cuban of his own – with one of his 10 million $100 bills. Heck even role players like Brad Miller and Antonio Daniels know regardless of what happens their kids can still attend any college they can think of.

But not the arena employees. Not the sanitation worker who works his butt off to make $9 an hour to support his family. The vendor who gives you your $10 beer and $6 hot dog? He’s looking for work. She’s living paycheck to paycheck.

No one wins from this lockout. David Stern said the players are losing 170 million dollars every two weeks of canceled games. The owners are probably losing more, and the fans are losing the right to be fans.

Every year I mark my calendar for opening tip-off. Every year I tell myself, “Hey, maybe they can pull off a miracle.” Being a Knicks fan you have to think that way because we’ve flat out sucked for 10 years. From 2002 until last year, this was the only week I could look at my team and think maybe this game has playoff implications.

But even if the Knicks lose 82 games this season, they’ll be in first place on opening night. It’s the one time of year where everyone is equal. The Timberwolves have the same pride as the Lakers, and the Royals the same as the Yankees. As a basketball fan, I feel I have a right to that sense of pride.

Will there be an opening night this year? I hope so. I hope the two sides can work out a deal soon. I mean really…

Don’t we pay you guys enough already?