Cavaliers-Celtics complete Irving-Isaiah blockbuster

*Quick Reaction*

LeBron has a new second fiddle…and I’m not referring to Dwyane Wade, who is rumoured to be sniffing around Cleveland now that a Bull’s buyout is all but official. Plus, at this point in his career, Wade isn’t a 3rd or even 4th fiddle.  Life’s a b*tch when the knees go.

Anyways…

Last night, the Cavaliers agreed to trade disgruntled guard Kyrie Irving to their Eastern Conference rivals, the Boston Celtics.  I know Kyrie, I’d get sick of going to the finals every year too…no off-season.  I get it.  In return, the Cavaliers will get Isaiah Thomas, Jae “Predator” Crowder, Ante Zizic, and Brooklyn’s 2018 first-round pick, which is unprotected.  Don’t sleep on Zizic, a giant out of Croatia, who played for Darussafaka Dogus in the Euroleague last year.  Crowder is an impact wing capable of hitting open shots, something he will get a lot of playing with LeBron.  Brooklyn’s 2018 first round pick, likely an upper tier lottery selection, serves as a solid insurance policy in the event James and Thomas pack up and leave at season’s end — I can already see the “WELCOME TO KING’S LANDING” billboards in LA.

It’s a hefty price to pay for a player everyone knew wanted out so props to the Cavaliers for coming away with multiple key assets.  In past generations, if you demanded a trade, your team would either straight up refuse or grant your wish by shipping you to a cellar dweller.  But in today’s NBA and sports landscape in general, players can call their shots, especially when you factor in full and limited no-movement clauses.  General Managers used to wheel and deal and inform players of the situation after the fact.  Veterans may have gotten the courtesy of a phone call or face-to-face meeting to discuss possible trade scenarios, but your ability to shape the GM’s decision was minimal at best.  Today, they are practically obligated to clear any deal with the player before pulling the trigger.  Is that better? Is it worse? I’m sure we could debate that forever…and one day we just might.

Taking a closer look at both Thomas’ and Irving’s stats, you quickly can see there isn’t a lot separating the two and their respective impacts on the business of winning.  Both can score at will, ranking 7th and 8th respectively in offensive rating amongst guards playing in at least 40 games last season.  Defensive capabilities a wash, neither is super interested but I’d give the nod to Isaiah (Kyrie is bloody awful).  While history has shown us where a Kyrie led team can end up, the basement, a repeat of that is unlikely given the make-up of the Celtics roster after an eventful off-season that saw them land Gordon Hayward and drafting Jayson Tatum.  Another positive for the C’s out of this deal involves the prospect of them keeping the asset they acquired around for years to come — while the future’s of LeBron and Isaiah are up in the air, the possibility of Irving signing long-term with Boston seems promising, especially if they make a deep run.  I have no evidence to prove that other than the assumption that the Celtics would not have parted with the pieces they did unless they felt optimistic about their chances to keep Kyrie beyond this season.  All that being said, I’m still not entirely sold on Kyrie leading a team, but I’m also inclined to believe he’s worth the risk.

Many will write their in-depth analysis’ of the deal in the coming days, quoting a plethora of advanced stats in hopes of crowning some kind of early winner in the deal but I’m going to simply say this: neither team got substantially better, nor did either team get substantially worse following this deal.  Obviously, Gordon Hayward makes the Celtics better on paper, but that’s independent of this deal.  Both teams will still likely finish in the East’s top-3, quite possibly occupying the top two spots.  The drama awaiting us next off-season has not been rocked in any way.  Cleveland certainly has affirmed their stance of WIN NOW with the deal  – I still believe LeBron walks after next season.  The relationship with ownership is tarnished beyond repair, and the acquisition of the 2018 pick is writing on the wall.  I don’t think Ainge would give a LeBron-led team a lottery pick.  It just seems like all signs point to a 2nd jersey burning ceremony in Cleveland.  Get your Osweiler jerseys ready!

So as I gear up for another year long chapter in The Association, I cross my fingers that The Orange and Kim Jong-Cartman don’t nuke us all to hell so we can continue to take in the world’s most compelling soap opera – The NBA.

   

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s time for baseball to trim the fat off its games

Shortening games should be a simple straight forward exercise…

Presently, MLB operates like a well oiled machine.  When the Expos return it’ll be true perfection, am I right?! – Viewership is up, revenues were a nice $10 billion last year according to Forbes.  But while that’s all well and good, the games continue to take way too damn long!

I gotta say I’m rather shocked and surprised I’m writing about MLB game length in August 2017 — I, as much as the next guy, was convinced that whatever deep conversations were had to green light the “hold up 4 fingers” intentional walk rule would totally transform the game and solve the long-standing pace of play problem. *sarcasm*

Much to the surprise of no one, the rule has done next to nothing to shorten the average length of an MLB game, which so far this season stands at 3 hours and 9 minutes.

Compare that to the NBA’s 135 minute average (2 hours and 15 minutes), or the NHL average of 140 minutes (2 hours and 20 minutes), and you can see why people fall asleep during baseball broadcasts.  I  have left the NFL out because their average is roughly the same as baseball — but they own a day of the week and play a tenth of the games so that gives them a pass (pardon the pun) for purposes of this article.

Unless I’m watching Mel Gibson fight for freedom, I can’t in good conscience dedicate 3 hours and 9 minutes to anything.  Ok, add Frodo’s journey to destroy the ring but those movies didn’t need to be so long — WHY DIDN’T FRODO RIDE ONE OF THEM GIANT EAGLES TO THE VOLCANO AND JUST DROP IT IN?! That shit could’ve been over in  maybe an hour or two – it would’ve been a long flight to be fair.

Point is, a baseball game should not have the same run-time as a Lord of the Rings movie.

Game length has been rising incrementally over the past several seasons, with 2011 being the last season that saw a sub 3 hour average (2:56).  Before 2011, the last season that saw games average over 3 hours in length was 2000.

Sure, runs-per-game are slightly up but the correlation of runs and length doesn’t stack up when you consider that in 2000, the average runs-per-game was 10.28, 0.94 more than 2017, yet games were 9 minutes shorter.

Longer games were not the by-product of a meaningless 4 pitch scenario that periodically resulted in comical and unsuspecting outcomes (check out the links below this paragraph for some examples).  Intentional walks happen so infrequently that Manfred & Co. had to know tinkering with them would have little to no effect on ending games quicker. We were told the “4 finger approach”would speed up the game, eliminating the need for fans to have to block off entire afternoons and evenings to watch 9 inning games, contests filled with time-outs, mound visits, swapping of clean balls for ones blemished with a grain of dirt, and slow motion replays of bench coaches in-depth one minute conversations with video personnel trying to decide if Billy Hamilton’s foot came off the bag a micrometer — the latter of course is also aided by coach’s merely holding their hand up from the dugout to stop the game while replays are consulted.  Failing that, just ask your catcher or third baseman to go “talk” with the pitcher while you watch the other camera angles.  Take your sweet-a$$ time, not like the game isn’t slow enough as it is. 

You’ll be surprised to know that while I clearly believe replay is too long, it won’t even be a focal point of my time reduction proposal.  Not giving teams a full 30-seconds to decide whether or not to challenge would help, as would not taking up to 5 minutes to decide on a call when it is inevitably challenged.  But I digress and save my full collection of thoughts on instant replay for another time – who else is excited for the last two minutes of NBA games?!?!?!?!?!

Intentional Walks Gone Wrong

#1 – Miggy slashes a single

#2 Gary Sanchez hits sac fly on a borderline intentional walk attempt

#3 Compilation of some wild throws

While you can talk about instant replay being inefficient and also throw in that pitchers are being visited by coaches and catchers way more than should be allowed, public enemy no.1 in baseball’s heist of our time are the pitchers.

They have “help” with their delay tactics from the unnecessary drop by’s mentioned above, and from hitters who  take their sweet ass time, opting to tap dance in and out of the box between pitches — both of which I’ll touch upon later — pitchers themselves are taking longer to deliver the ball.

This is especially true of relief pitchers but let’s not point fingers or single guys out because that’s unfair.  Wait, it’s too late right?

Since 2007, the average time between pitches has increased by over 2 seconds per pitch – 21.5, up to today’s number of 23.8.  If you specifically examine relief pitchers, they deliver every 25.0 seconds on average.

Now, one could make the argument that because relief pitchers are often tasked with picking up the big steaming dump left by the starter, they can be pardoned for taking slightly more time to deal with tense situations but I disagree. You’ve already been watching the game for two hours… plenty of time to get yourself in the proverbial zone before you step on the mound.  Come in ready to pitch with some sort of rhythm.

Focusing on the starters who occupy the mound for the majority of games, the average time between pitch deliveries in 2017 stands at 23.0 seconds, up almost two seconds from 2015.  Yu Darvish can take up to 27 seconds on average between deliveries.  Even in the first inning when fatigue is not an excuse, pitchers routinely take between 18-20 seconds.  Are catchers fingers getting smaller? What’s the hold-up?

Among the MLB’s fastest workers is arguably its best pitcher, Chris Sale, who averages 20.5 seconds between his howitzers.  So it begs the question: If one of the best is able to dominate and doesn’t require a moment of prayer between each pitch, why can’t others?

It doesn’t make sense to continually allow pitchers to kill time and “compose themselves”, especially early in games when arms are fresh and times aren’t as tense compared to late-inning scenarios when one bad pitch can cause a city to run you out of town —PAUSE—Obligatory BAT FLIP (Where you at now Sam Dyson?!) — ok back to it…

Sharing blame with the pitchers are batters who, like most pitchers, are really in no hurry to do anything — they don’t even run out ground balls anymore.  That will forever irk me but I know I’m likely in the minority on that one so I’ll concede defeat.

What I know where I’m not in the minority is my belief that hitters don’t need to insist on loosening and tightening their batting gloves after every pitch (YOU DIDN’T EVEN SWING!!!!).  They don’t need to step out of the box after a pitch that was 3-feet outside (also known as a caught-the-corner strike if Angel Hernandez is behind home plate). Umpires not withstanding however, batters are spending far too much time abusing the one-foot-in-the-box rule.

MLB rules grant the pitcher a 12-second window to throw a pitch when the bases are empty…thing is that clock doesn’t start until the batter is in the batter’s box and alert to the pitcher.  Gathering yourself, thinking happy thoughts, playing mind-games, checking out the babe in the first row — apart from the last instance, batters should be held to a higher standard when it comes to doing their part to speed up the game.  Step out, get your sign, take a couple quick breaths, then get back in there.

Why stand there and have a staring contest with the pitcher?

Hoping to channel your inner Three-Eyed-Raven to see his next pitch? (Yup, another Game of Thrones reference – why does it have to end?!?!?!).

It’s time baseball takes this issue seriously and starts instituting some appropriate measures.  A pitch clock that sees violators actually penalized.  The minors have had a 20-second pitch clock since 2015 and as younger players come up through the minor league systems, overall exposure as a percentage of MLB players will only rise.

Hypothetically, a 20-second pitch clock enforced properly could trim almost 4 seconds between pitches. Apply that across the 300 or so pitches thrown each game and you start to see some major results in terms of time reduction.

Limiting batters abilities to step in and out after pitches will help as well.  In both cases, violators could be subject to a warning, followed by the granting of a ball or strike, depending on the culprit.  Sounds awful, I know but if it sped the game up, which it would, it’s worth it.  Plus, players will adapt and game pace will pick up, until of course, new work arounds are discovered.  Isn’t innovation a wonderful thing?

Sticking with pitchers, cleaning up policies around mound visits? No more chats about how to pitch to a certain guy, or what to do in a given scenario — you all should’ve had these chats before the game!

Too many times, we are forced to watch pointless time-killing visits that serve no point, outside of giving a pitcher time to catch their breath while simultaneously giving a reliever extra time to get loose.  It gets to a point where even if the catcher opts to go out to “strategize”, the team should be forced to replace the pitcher…cue the relievers slow trot from the bullpen, followed by a sequence of warmup pitches — remind me again what were you doing in the bullpen? — So. Much. Waiting.

I love baseball.  It provides a full spring and summer’s entertainment and thrilling outcomes.  Playoff baseball is on another level – BAT FLIP!!!!!!! (the full at-bat version because why the rush? It’s baseball right?) *sigh*.  But even all our love for the game can’t justify the long drawn out games we as fans are being subjected to.

It’s not perfect.  Nothing ever will be (except Game of Thrones), but like anything, if it can be improved, then why not make some changes for the better? Baseball is alive and well – but it has a cold that just won’t go away and it’s time we give it some appropriate medicine.

And yes Ian Kinsler, Angel Hernandez does need to find other work.

Ciao for now,

JS

Information from Baseball Reference & FanGraphs was used in the telling of this compelling story

 

BREAK POINT – Does Canada put too much pressure on its athletes?

The “Burden” of a Country

Examining the rise and fall of Canada’s tennis sweetheart Genie Bouchard & the shifting landscape of Canadian tennis

In a sports context, Canada has long been known as a hockey nation — the likes of Gordie Howe, Maurice Richard, Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux, Bobby Orr, and so many more having achieved legendary status playing our nation’s prized game.  Whether it’s the image of Paul Henderson’s magical goal in the 1972 Summit Series, or Sidney Crosby’s “GOLDEN GOAL” in the 2010 Winter Olympics on home soil, the majority of Canadians can recall where they were when these special moments took place — Canada has had so many defining hockey moments, so many flag bearers and torch carriers — all adding up to a storied history that Canadian sports fans cherish and continue to share and pass down to subsequent generations (I still remember meeting Paul Henderson when I was a young kid – at the time I had no idea who he was but after my father explained what he did for our country and the game of hockey, I think I may have rudely interrupted him while he tried to order KFC.  I just wanted to say “Thank you and tell him he was awesome”).

While hockey has a rich and long history above the 49th parallel, other sports have long lagged behind in their ability to produce the same level of star power and dominance on the world stage.  Not to say we haven’t produced HALL OF FAME calibre players in other sports, but not nearly to the degree to which we have churned out “I eat pieces of shit like you for breakfast” hockey players — the gap is vast.  Canada is climbing rapidly in the basketball scene with many stars, past and present, including two-time MVP Steve “Cyclops” Nash (see below) — Baseball, not too shabby either starting with Ferguson Jenkins, Justin Morneau and Terry Puhl and continuing with Larry Walker, Joey Votto and Russell Martin to name a few — long story short, while hockey remains #1, Canadians have seen legends come and go in other sports and can still find reasons to cheer and get excited about the prospects of athletes in other sports delivering magical moments now and in the future.

Steve-Nash-Eye-Injury-press-con-left-eye-nba-funny-photos
The beauty of all beauties

Focusing now on tennis, Canada has never truly made a mark on the global stage.  Daniel Nestor had a good amount of success, predominantly on the doubles circuit which gets less viewership than the live broadcasting of the legislative assembly.  Milos Raonic has vaulted into relevancy on the mens tour, but many factors have prevented him from ascending to the top, including his battles to stay healthy.  Even when healthy, he has underwhelmed in big matches.  While some may argue that the continued domination of the big four has played a part in Raonic spinning his tires while trying to climb up the rankings, I attribute his stall more to his continued reliance on a one-dimensional game.  Other youngsters, most notably Sasha Zverev, have used much more well-rounded styles of play to make noise and the results have been much more favourable.  Zverev, 20, fresh off his victory at the Rogers Cup, has 5 wins in 2017 (Raonic has 0).  He ended Canadian “wonderboy” Denis Shapovalov’s miracle run in the semi-finals and dispatched some guy named Roger in the finals to cap off an impressive week.  Zverev appears to be the leader of the NEXT-GEN wave of players on the men’s circuit.  However, the Rogers Cup also showcased another promising member of the NEXT-GEN group — Canada’s best chance for tennis titles may in fact reside on the mens circuit…not with Raonic, but rather with Denis Shapovalov.  At only 18, he showed he can hang and hit with the best – evidence of this came in his historic win against Rafael Nadal, a prime-time spectacle that sent the nation into ecstasy.  Unfortunately, with time to reflect on the happenings of the Rogers Cup, negativity has crept into my mind – Shapo showed what he is capable of and nothing would suggest he can’t continue his meteoric rise — nothing, except of course, recent history.

shlnj9hxh40yfrwmqc7g
A memorable Rogers Cup for Denis Shapovalov was highlighted by a three set victory over Rafael Nadal — is he Canada’s next best hope for a major tennis title?

This brings me to Eugenie Bouchard, who captured the country’s hearts with her 2014 Wimbledon Finals appearance.  She burst onto the scene as a fearless hard hitting assassin taking out the likes of Angelique Kerber and Simona Halep.  She wound up falling HARD in the finals against a much more seasoned Petra Kvitova but her run gave Canadian tennis fans a glimpse of her potential.  At 20, many were asking just how high Bouchard could climb on a tour desperately looking for Serena’s heir.

Fast forward three years, the answer now seems quite clear —- about as high as Tyrion Lannister’s DINKlage.

(If you’re not a Game of Thrones fan, just stop reading and go watch the epicness you’re missing out on – YES, I know I’m the bazzillionth person to tell you that and now you’re just not watching it as a gutless form of protest — THERE’S A REASON SO MANY PEOPLE ARE TELLING YOU TO WATCH IT!)

Ok, sorry, I got sidetracked, as usual — back to the tennis.

Following her magical run, Bouchard’s life was flipped upside down and turned inside out.  She had sponsors blowing up her phone to get a piece of her success and many tennis pundits believing she was the next big thing on the women’s tour.  She was Canada’s sweetheart – a beautiful girl from Westmount, QC who was the talk of the tennis world, vaulting up as high as No. 5 in the rankings.  She followed up her Wimbledon run with a 4th round exit at the 2014 US Open, and opened the 2015 season with a quarter-finals birth at the Australian Open — momentum was building.  However, the rise quickly halted and the cliff came — since that QF birth, Bouchard has managed only one other 4th round appearance at a major.  She began making headlines for all the wrong reasons, beginning with the split from long time coach Nick Saviano.  She went through several coaches, all with limited success.  She invited Jimmy Connors to the 2015 US Open which appeared to help her rediscover her Wimbledon form, however she was forced to withdraw in the 4th round with a concussion after she apparently slipped and fell in the shower.  Bouchard and the USTA are still involved in a legal battle over the cause of that injury and while it remains to be seen how that will turn out, the momentum she appeared to regain in her career quickly vanished.  For what it’s worth, I have a theory about that infamous event but I will keep it to myself.  Before you get upset at me for dangling that in front of you, rest easy knowing that my theory is almost certainly not what happened — but for me, it serves as a somewhat plausible and comedic anecdote for the whole incident (and NO, I don’t think concussions are funny so don’t hit me with that BS).

More recently, it has become routine to read, watch, or hear about Genie bowing out in the first round of tournaments, a common result for the 70th ranked player on tour.  She is far more well-known for her Instagram profile and Snapchat stories than she is for contending in tennis tournaments *cough* ANNA KOURNIKOVA *cough*.  I won’t go so far as to say social media is entirely to blame for Bouchard’s fall, but I can’t help but suggest it be considered part of the problem.  Does it not seem that she’s way more interested in posting selfies than she is in improving her tennis game? It certainly seems like she cashed in and checked out following her Wimbledon success.  She’s not the first to do that, and won’t be the last.  Everyone knows one or many players who set the world on fire in a contract year, signed a big long term deal and subsequently mailed it in knowing they already had their money.  For the record, that’s always why I’ve hated long term deals in sports — where is the motivation to perform after you sign an 8-10 year guaranteed contract?

What’s different in Bouchard’s case is there is no guaranteed money.  Sure, she still has various endorsements — Nike, Pinty’s, Coca-Cola, Colgate toothpaste, and Babolat are a few, and those definitely net her a pretty penny.  However, that well will dry up if she continues to play the way she’s playing.  More practice and less cola & chicken bites by the pool perhaps?  Bouchard has always maintained a level of professionalism when discussing her struggles.  Saying the right things, vowing to work harder to improve her game and make Canada proud, she continues to put on a brave face in the wake of disastrous results — until her most recent defeat in Toronto.  Following a vintage first round exit at the Roger’s Cup, she suggested her on-court struggles were partially a result of the pressure put on her by Canada — “Someone else can carry the burden of Canada” were her exact words.  She went on to say that nobody could imagine what days in her shoes were like, the constant pressure associated with choosing which filters to apply to one’s Instagram photos – a daunting task for any mere mortal I guess.  As much as that quote rubbed me the wrong way, the one below was also semi-infuriating:

“I guess I’m relatively young, but I feel old in a way, you know?  I’ve been on tour a bunch of years already and I think it’s important to feel the pressure of time a little bit, to get into action and not just relax and let years go by. That would be the worst thing I could do.  If the media doesn’t put pressure on me that would be nice.”

What’s confusing to me is how Bouchard can criticize the media for putting pressure on her through their coverage, while seemingly forgetting about all they’ve done for her from a marketing and branding standpoint.  Does she not know that without the media, her brand would be nothing? The media has done far more good for Genie’s career than bad, yet she forgets to credit them for the good, and instead crucifies them for their handling of her countless failures on the court.  What other habitual “one-and-done” female tennis player gets consistent media coverage?  Any respectable athlete will tell you the only pressure that matters is the pressure they put on themselves — if that’s not the case, then it would suggest to me that you aren’t committed to being the best, and instead are comfortable with simply making a living playing a sport.  Don’t get me wrong, that’s a nice way to make a living, but be honest about your motivations and expectations.  Don’t feed the media and your fans lie after lie about being committed to winning and being the best when all you’re really interested in doing is staying relevant enough to land sponsorships, grow your social media following, and build your personal brand…and by the way, to achieve those three non-tennis accomplishments, you will require the support of an important vehicle…THE MEDIA! If Genie hopes to grow her brand, she best not cut ties with the media outlets and reporters who’ve given her a platform all these years.  And as far as that heavy burden goes, I think I speak for all of Canada when I say we are fine with you passing it on to more capable hands – to the likes of Denis Shapovalov, a hopefully healthy Milos Raonic, and promising youngster Bianca Andresscu.  A country is not meant to burden its athletes, it’s meant to push them forward and spur them on to heights they otherwise couldn’t reach.  Consider it a wave to ride, not a burden to carry!

Genie, I wish you all the best as you continue “trying” to revive your tennis career but if I’m being honest, I’m not optimistic.  If you ask me, you need a lamp to rub and some out-of-this-world magic if you hope to ascend to relevancy again.

With or without you, Canadian tennis is in good hands.

JS

A plea for MORE emotion in sports

The “Stro-Show” & its MIXED reviews

 

I find it odd when I speak with others who claim to share my passion for sports and the competition it showcases night in and night out, but choose to take issue and find it totally wrong and offensive when a player lets their emotions out during the course of play – a fist pump here, a roar of excitement there, a harmless touchdown celebration with teammates…whatever the case is, I truly can’t wrap my head around the reasoning behind wanting those emotionally charged moments reduced, or in the eyes of some, eliminated entirely.  What is so different between a pitcher fist pumping and yelling after a critical strike-out and a golfer firing up the crowd after sinking a clutch putt??? If you ask me, nothing, yet both are met with such different reactions.  Throw in the displays often exhibited on the tennis court or the soccer pitch and it simply adds to the confusion around when and where it’s appropriate for a professional athlete to “let loose”.  After all, they are competing at the highest level of their respective sport, and succeeding at something that .01% of the population of this planet have a hope in hell of achieving…Don’t quote me on that stat – I’m simply trying to convey just how bloody hard it is to succeed as a professional athlete!

The case of Marcus Stroman continues to be polarizing for the exact reasons discussed above.  A fiery pitcher, small in stature, who wears his heart on his sleeve and never lacks an emotional presence on the mound is no stranger to the criticism that often finds outspoken and extrovert athletes.  Fuelled by his personal motto “Height Doesn’t Measure Heart” (HDMH in short but when you put it like that, it sounds like an acronym for a performance enhancing drug), Stroman has made headlines recently for his antics on the mound.  Flashback a couple of weeks to July 27th, Stroman was 1 of 3 Blue Jays ejected by umpire Will Little, who would later be named first star of the game and week.  After a series of questionable balls and strikes, Stroman yelled an expletive into his glove, a clear sign of frustration with his command and Little’s strike zone – IN THAT ORDER! What followed was completely ridiculous – Little removed his mask and essentially baited Stroman into saying something — TOSSED! Russell Martin turned around and before he could even question the ejection, he was promptly ejected for what I believe to be bad breath cause like I said, HE DIDN’T EVEN SAY A WORD!  Nonetheless, the Jays prevailed but you can’t help but take issue with another instance when an umpire forgot their purpose within the game.  I am all about respecting authority but it must come with the understanding that not a single fan paid money to watch the umpires flex their power muscles.  If it wasn’t Stroman being ejected for the above, it was Adrian Beltre being tossed for jokingly moving the on-deck circle in what many thought was a laughable altercation between him and the umpire.  Umpires need to chill the f*ck out and remember that while they remain a semi-integral part of the game (*cough* ROBOT UMPS! *cough), their core function can be done so without trying to thrust themselves ontoSportsCentre highlight packages.

More recently, Stroman got into an altercation with rookie White Sox shortstop Tim Anderson.  During an at-bat in the 7th inning, with nobody on base, Stroman utilized a hitch in his windup, something he is mixing in more and more as a timing disruptor.  He almost goes into a rocking motion before delivering the pitch.  Well, Anderson wasn’t digging the delay brought forth by the rocking and called for time right in the middle of Stroman’s delivery.  Now I won’t go on another umpire tirade but a batter cannot do that.  Calling for timeout in the middle of the pitcher’s delivery is not permissible, yet  umpires continuously grant them, and Stroman has been a victim far more than once.  And pardon me for questioning the legitimacy of Anderson’s argument that it disrupted his timing — dude, at the time, you were hitting a scorching .232 with an OBP of .254 in 366 ABs…you got more pressing issues with your plate approach than worrying about a pitcher rocking slightly before they inevitably retire you…Stroman comes set…and the pitch…slider out of the zone that Anderson chases.  Shocker, I know.  Stroman turned away and took the well-known stoic stroll around the mound as his infielders threw it around the horn — all while Anderson trudged back to the dugout glaring at Stroman.  I applaud Stroman for taking issue with the stare.  What did he do wrong? Most will say he shouldn’t have said anything to Anderson after striking him out — Why was Anderson staring at him? For disputing his timing? — There was nothing wrong with what Stroman did and while I understand the ones who take issue with Stroman jawing at Anderson, it definitely didn’t necessitate both benches clearing, even if it was only for a few moments.  Benches used to clear when guys heads got thrown at.  Now, everyone feels the need to “get together” when something as inconsequential as the Stroman-Anderson situation arises.  Feelings today, both in sports and general life, are far too fragile and we see this in how individuals deal with and respond to perceived slights.  In witnessing many of these moments first hand and on TV, I can’t help but feel that sometimes, it isn’t always worth looking at the BIG PICTURE, but instead focusing on a micro-level, on the precise moment in question, to fully understand why individuals react the way they do.

As is often the case in regular everyday life, our reactions are and should be shaped by context – and it is this simple concept that is often lost on people who oppose emotional outbursts in sports like the ones being discussed in this article.  I’m not saying it’s acceptable to pour out your emotions and make a spectacle out of a first inning, bases empty strike out, much like I wouldn’t find it too appealing to see a golfer high-five the entire crowd surrounding the green after a birdie on the first hole of the first round at the Waste Management Open.  But I do subscribe to the belief that there is a time and a place for things.  Re-visiting the above scenarios, is it so wrong for a pitcher to “let loose” after striking out a batter with the bases loaded in the 8th inning of a must-win game? Is the same golfer disrespecting his opponents and soiling the game if he struts, fist pumps, and high fives green side fans after making a putt to tie for the lead on the Sunday of a major tournament?…No and No.  And if you disagree with me on either, sports doesn’t need you as a fan.

In closing, I plea for leagues and fans to embrace emotion from players and coaches alike.  The line is not blurred – we should all be able to agree what constitutes an appropriate celebration or tactic in the course of a game (BAT FLIP!).  Sports and the respective fan bases have survived and thrived with emotions for decades, centuries and even millenia (picture a gladiator emerging victorious in the Colosseum — running around with his hands and weapon raised, so happy to still be alive , only to be booed and scorned by the crowd for “excessive celebration”) – Seems a tad harsh, no? Emotionally charged athletes like Marcus Stroman are good for the game, much like a passionate hard-working employee is good for their employer.  The quicker and sooner today’s sports fans realize this, the quicker we can move past the erroneous belief that sports would be better off with no emotional barometer at all.

Keep doing you Marcus.

Til next time…

JS

Why so serious? This is fight promoting 101

Mayweather-McGregor — two fighters feeding the hype machine like only they can (If you don’t like it, change the channel)

In practically every sport, the winner is decided at the conclusion of the event or game. You can’t win at something, or be called a winner before the game in question has ended, can you?

Some would claim that winning is not only an outcome, it’s also a process, and depending on your definition of “winning”.  For Floyd Mayweather and Conor McGregor – a month removed from the ultimate winner-loser showdown, a man vs. man fight – I am here to tell you that they both have already won.  And, as fight fans, fans of combat sports, and fans of entertainment…so have we.

Many will say, and they very well might be correct when all is said and done, that the most entertaining aspect of the Mayweather-McGregor spectacle has already taken place — over a month before the two square off in Mayweather’s home ring, the two have paraded around on a four city, four-day international press tour that saw two of the loudest mouthpieces to ever walk this round (or flat if you ask some folks) space rock we call Earth.

A tour that saw “Rich and Richer” travel from Los Angeles, to Toronto, to New York, and finally across the pond to London, England, all the time yelling and screaming their respective reasons why this fight will be the demise of their opponent. Each stop got more profane, more offensive, more gimmicky, all the while serving the exact purpose it set out to do — CONVINCE PEOPLE THAT PARTING WITH $99.99 TO WATCH THE GREATEST DEFENSIVE BOXER OF OUR AGE DANCE AROUND AND JAB AN MMA FIGHTER PARTICIPATING IN HIS FIRST EVER PROFESSIONAL BOXING MATCH IS A WISE FISCAL DECISION.  And I’m in no way ashamed to admit to this simple fact…I’m sold.

For those who love boxing and/or MMA, this fight was nothing short of a pipe dream for the longest time.  Nobody in their right mind could have thought we would see a day where Floyd “Money” Mayweather and “The Notorious One” Conor McGregor would square off in a fight (outside of a chance altercation on the Vegas strip I suppose). Much like how no sane human being would’ve imagined Donald J. Trump as President of the United States (I’m still in disbelief every time I turn on CNN)…But alas, 2017 has been a clusterf*ck of a year and delivered both to us — I suppose you need to take the good with the bad? (PS. Trump is really really really really bad and I hope he soon goes back to fake firing people on TV – such a twat.)

Now, I know neither Mayweather nor McGregor are choir boys.

Both have their issues.  But they are not Donald Trump (I have zero time for anybody who would debate me on that).  Floyd has proven time and time again that he not only uses MONEY in his nickname, he also uses it to skirt the law and avoid just punishments associated with his history of domestic violence.  Apart from being sentenced to a 90 day jail term, he has danced, bobbed, and weaved around the criminal justice system.  A routine he often exhibits inside the ropes,  he’s just as adept at doing it outside of them as well.

Furthermore, Mayweather was released from his 90-day sentence after just 60 days, with the courts citing good behavior.  Just how the f*ck does Floyd Mayweather qualify for good behaviour?!?! Nothing the guy has ever done leads me to believe he is capable of anything resembling good behavior.  Money has the unique ability to get you out of the most incriminating of situations.  Just ask Trump (LAST TIME I SWEAR!).

McGregor is years behind Mayweather in age and light years behind in experience at this stage of his career.  The age factor is one of the few reasons people are giving him any sort of shot in this fight.

Just a few years ago, he was cashing welfare checks to eat.  His highest fight payday, until this deal was struck, was an estimated $15 million for his UFC 202 bout with Nate Diaz (Of that $15 million, $3 million was the official fight purse with the remaining amount being composed of sponsorships, fight bonuses, and PPV share).  Financially speaking, this fight is unchartered waters for Conor, whereas for Floyd, who refers to himself as a “nine-figure fighter”, this is merely another day at the office, his last day as a matter of fact.

Remember when he referred to McGregor’s biggest payday as training camp moneySolid chirp.  Without the domestic violence history of Mayweather, McGregor still has many haters out there who claim he is nothing but a loud mouth Irish hooligan who falls well short of satisfying the expectation put on all professional athletes. To be a first class model citizen and role model — I’ve always had issue with that responsibility being levelled on athletes.  For one, I’ve always believed that we, as fans and observers, should be able to separate the man or woman from the athlete version and I believe that is a key distinction that should be made.

The example I often bring up is Adrian Peterson: As a human being and parent,  he strikes me as a flawed dude with questionable parenting tactics and a skewed moral compass .  But as a football player, he is one of the greatest running backs to ever play the game.  He is a human highlight reel on the football field.  Idolize him on the field…challenge his actions off …Separate the two!

There are so many others I could list but I’ll keep it to my main example, for which most people will hate me (I don’t condone disciplining your child with a switch, but based on the backlash he received after that incident, one would have thought he was OJ Simpson).  My point being that professional athletes, like any human, can be dicks.  They make mistakes and fall short in the morality department from time to time.  However, nobody is forcing you to watch them, listen to them, read about them, or emulate their actions and decisions.  

To watch a Floyd-Conor press conference and be offended by what you see is putrid and laughable.  What were your expectations going into said press conference? — personally, I find political debates to be much more offensive. At least the fighters are being somewhat honest and truthful with their words and statements.  Both DO believe they will win, both DO believe the other is complete and total horse shit.  But do we really honestly believe anything that’s said in a political debate these days?

For all those disgusted and offended by the actions of these two geniuses (yes, that’s what they are in their line of work), a simple solution — change the channel, read a book, go on a hike, DO ANYTHING ELSE!  We live in a world with millions of publications to read, thousands of TV channels at the tips of your fingers, and if that doesn’t suit you, fire up Netflix or Hulu and watch their library of on-demand shows and movies…DISCLAIMER – Some of the content can be offensive and contain harsh words that may result in one seeking to inflict harm on themselves or others.  I wouldn’t want anyone to think that a stand-up comedian actually encourages rape because they made a rape joke – Best to mute it to be safe.  After all, words are seemingly capable of murder in this day and age).

For fight fans, and fans of sporting spectacles, we will continue to be glued to the excitement that this once-in-a-lifetime fight is brewing up.

We will continue to cheer and scream at every chirp and tongue lashing.  The hate-filled speech won’t, or shouldn’t cause us to go out and pick fights with strangers.  The war of words shouldn’t lead us down a path of verbal and physical destruction against those around us.  For some, it will.  But those people are idiots and we all know there’s no accounting for idiots in this world (Why is it necessary to put DO NOT DRINK warnings on bottles of turpentine — who is considering taking a swig? IDIOTS! Can’t help them).

They are as much a certainty in life as death and taxes.

The build up and eventual fight on August 26 (more likely to be a dance routine led by Mayweather) will be nothing short of memorable.  Many will gather to watch the show.  To take it in live, you better have saved up a small fortune.  For both fighters, it is in their best interest to project an endless aura of hate — that’s what feeds the fight machine.

This is not the Olympics.  This is not a morality contest.  This is not a promotional tour for a summer blockbuster.  This is a fight – a form of competition human beings have loved and craved since the beginning of time — ARE YOU NOT ENTERTAINED?!?!  —

Floyd and Conor respect one another despite what they say.  They both hold each other in high regard, and to question or take issue with how they are selling this fight shows a severe lack of appreciation and understanding for the fight business.  This is fight promoting 101, and with it we must understand that grown ups, like kids, say the darndest things.

Come fight night, only one will have their hand raised.  But both of them have already won.

 

Ciao for now,

JS

 

In need of a culture reset

Did the Raptors miss an opportunity with Jerry Stackhouse?

 

Let the record show that I have never been truly opposed to any decision Masai Ujiri has made since he took the reins of the Toronto Raptors back in 2013…I’ve given him plenty of THUMBS UP and figurative pats on the back for his dealings.

He successfully signed Kyle Lowry to not one, but two UFA contracts to keep him in Toronto while the vultures circled and sources claimed he was as good as gone.  Say what you want about Lowry, but he has been integral in transforming Canada’s only NBA franchise into a perennial upper tier team in the Eastern Conference, and still is considered an upper tier elite point guard.

Ujiri took all but 30 seconds to re-sign DeMar DeRozan, arguably the greatest by the numbers player in franchise history (That debate is for another time.  I’m torn between him and #15 – No, not Amir Johnson; and while possibly second on my list,  not Jorge Garbajosa) .  Similar to Lowry, DeMar is not without his detractors and doubters for his style of play and perceived inability to achieve elite superstar status.  Nonetheless, I’ll have you know he’s a top-tier 2-guard in the NBA with the ability to take over a game, even if he does so as one of those “volume shooters”.

Masai has orchestrated several franchise-altering trades, including off loading Rudy Gay’s monster contract for a package that included Patrick Patterson, Chuck Hayes, Greivis Vasquez, and John Salmons (That trade was meant to trigger a rebuild — a rare miss by Masai??).

John Salmons for Lou Williams and Bebe Nogueira??? HA!.  Approved.

Could he possibly trade Andrea Bargnani for something more than a bowl of Primo Pasta & sauce??? — Yes, he can, and he did…for 3 players (Steve Novak, Quentin Richardson, and Marcus Camby) along with several picks for Il Mago, one of which turned out to be Jakob Poeltl.

He swapped “I walk with a swagger and that’s about it” Greivis Vasquez for the rights to Norman Powell (HAHAHA) and a future first round pick (OG Anunoby).  CALL ME CRAZY, but I’m super high on Delon Wright, Poeltl, and even Siakam,,, and will admit to buying into the thought of meaningful Bruno Time in 2017-2018.

Lowe Post w/ Jerry Stackhouse – LISTEN HERE (Bruno endorsement around the 41:00 minute mark!!)

Case and point: Ujiri has been money.

The DeMarre Carroll signing turned ugly, but most would admit to praising and supporting the signing when it took place back in July 2015.  If you were lukewarm at the time, I commend you, because he checked all the boxes from a team needs standpoint.

A Jonas Valanciunas extension that followed shortly after was met with slightly more skepticism but one could argue they needed to do it and the price-tag was reasonable, especially with the approaching cap hike.  Ask any Raptors fan, and they are likely to sing the praises of Ujiri’s savvy front office dealings, and his ability to construct and maintain a competitive NBA roster without sacrificing flexibility.

Fast forward to the present…

On the heels of a successful draft that saw the Raptors take a high ceiling prospect in OG Anunoby, a free agency period highlighted by some much-needed roster modifications, most notably adding CJ Miles, a result of trading backup point guard Cory Joseph, and ridding the team of Carroll’s contract to the division garbage men Brooklyn Nets, Ujiri’s most puzzling decision actually came shortly after the season’s end — before all of the above.

A decision that seemed to contradict his end of season plea for a change in the team’s style of play.

I’m referring to the choice to stick with Dwane Casey, not a new face, to oversee a full-scale culture change and shifting of the team’s offensive direction & philosophy (with DIAL DOWN THE ISO BALL! being the most likeliest subject line of the “Flagged as Important” email circulated by Masai following the Cavaliers sweep).

Casey, first and foremost, is a high character first class human being.  He is a loving husband, father and has done many great things for not only the Toronto Raptors, but the city of Toronto as well.  You won’t ever hear me say Casey isn’t a good head coach, because I think he is just that.  However, a good coach only gets you so far and I genuinely feel this team needs a fresh voice to get them to the next level.  Despite the consistent winning seasons, franchise records for regular season wins, and annual trips to the NBA’s second season, this team may have peaked with Casey at the helm.

This was the off-season for Masai to pull the trigger on a coaching change.  A plea for a culture reset combined with an obvious protest of a coach’s offensive philosophy after successive playoff face plants, one would have thought the writing was on the wall that Ujiri was planning to hand Casey his walking papers.

Casey owns a regular season winning percentage of .548 as (261-215), but his playoff winning percentage falls short of acceptable at .415 (17-24), and that right there is my main issue with him…He’s never gotten his team to peak come playoff time.  Included in his record are some heart-breakers, I get that.  I remember the game 7 home loss to Brooklyn.  What I also remember is the dismal effort put forth by the Raptors in game 6. They were bad.  They were terrible!!!! — You can point to Lowry’s night, a blistering offensive rating of 64, while simultaneously using up 26.1% of his team’s offensive possessions.  Sure, but he was one of many no-shows on a night where there was no excuse not to come out for the kill.  Casey has to shoulder a large portion of that blame. His men were simply not prepared.

The next year…remember that spectacle?

A first-round sweep at the hands of the Wizards…the team everyone wanted to play.  So much for all those right of passage lessons learned in the Brooklyn series.  No defensive intensity and the same one-dimensional offence, and it was all over in the blink of an eye.

The next two seasons offered better results, but still followed a similar trend — one step forward, and two steps back.

A trip to the Eastern Conference Finals was exciting, a franchise first, but it ended with a loss (No, I’m not being harsh – LeBron or no LeBron, you are in the business of winning and this was yet another loss on the resume).  This past season, a round earlier and in four games instead of six, the Raptors found themselves exiting the playoffs courtesy of Cleveland.  They were left with numerous unanswered questions, and a “what could’ve been?” feeling (A thrilling ECF against the Celtics, resulting in the winner having the honour of getting seriously embarrassed by the Warriors in a comical Finals being my answer to that).

What does this Raptors team need to get over the playoff hump????

Remember those Mark Jackson Warriors teams???  Great regular seasons marred by disappointing playoff exits.  Consistent regular season performers — Inevitable underdog come playoff time.  You know what a consistent underdog does more than anything? LOSE! (Basketball on Paper…Dean Oliver…Read it).  Those Warriors were, and these Casey-led Raptors are consistent, which isn’t bad.  Consistency is good, but in both cases, the playoff versions were consistently bad...Enter Steve Kerr…

(HOLY SH*T! WHAT JUST HAPPENED?!)

Historic seasons…Championships…and 975 back surgeries — Get well Steve, you truly are a gem and I love when you’re Wired for Sound.

Why cant the Raptors find their Steve Kerr?

Wait a second, he may be right there in front of them.

Most are familiar with Jerry Stackhouse’s NBA pedigree.  High quality, high character player.  A two-time All-Star with a career that spanned nearly 20 NBA seasons.

Well, he just so happens to be the 2016-2017 G-League coach of the year, guiding the Raptors 905 to their first league title.

Before taking over the 905, “Stack” spent time as an assistant on Casey’s staff.  He’s the prime understudy and when you listen to him speak, you can understand why he is able to easily establish meaningful relationships with his players and get the most of them.  If you didn’t click on the link above to Zach Lowe’s “Lowe Post” episode with Stackhouse earlier, here’s another reminder.

He should have been named Head Coach of the Raptors following this season…He should be leading the culture change alongside Ujiri and Bobby Webster, not Dwane Casey.  Perhaps he can help DeRozan learn how to work the three-point shot into his game night performances?  He MIGHT even convince DeMar to actually play defence.

Maybe Jerry Stackhouse is the Raptor’s version of Steve Kerr.  Maybe he’s the new voice, the new face, and new blood this Raptors squad needs to surge to the top of the East. Apart from the veterans that have spent years under Casey (including one year with Stackhouse as an assistant), the majority of the young players have spent time with the 905 during Stack’s tenure as head coach.  They know him, are comfortable with him, and are familiar with his philosophies and coaching style.

Norman Powell, due to be an RFA in 2018, credits Stackhouse for keeping him ready during his 2015-2016 rookie season that saw his playing time fluctuate sporadically. Powell would lean on Stackhouse’s experience and guidance when his playing time would go from a DNP-CD to starting and being asked to guard Paul George in a road playoff game.

Stackhouse has clout with the vets too.  He was a player and he knows and understands the business — You don’t think he could appeal to Lowry’s burning desire to win and be the best?

Stackhouse was a hard-nosed competitor just like Lowry.  I have ZERO doubts about whether he could build a connection and trust with all the veterans the same way he successfully did with the “kids” of the 905.  His offensive philosophy encourages transition.  Get out and run before the defence gets set.  Strength in numbers.  Fill the corners.  Carolina Secondary offence 101, just like Dean Smith drew it up.

The Raptors 905 ranked 2nd amongst playoff teams in offensive rating (111.7), and 1st in defensive rating (97.9) leading to a 6-1 record and G-League title in Stackhouse’s first and only season.  It would appear he found something that worked, and don’t give me the “well it’s only the G-League so who cares?” argument.  Those guys in that league are high quality players, all looking to make a living playing the game and prove they belong in the NBA.

The 905 got stronger come playoff time, they excelled in high pressure situations, two observations one would have a tough time making about the Raptors playoff performances under Casey.  So I once again ask, why didn’t Ujiri give Stackhouse the chance to perform at the NBA level.  What more does he need to do, and when would the timing be more appropriate with so many of Jerry’s students seemingly ready to graduate to full-time NBA duty?

Before you go pointing out the fact that the Raptors 905 ranked near the bottom in pace, both in the regular season and playoffs, one must consider the main intent of G-League teams: To prepare its players for action with the big club.  To mimic the style of the parent club for seamless integration in the event of call ups.  He needs to have guys play a certain way such that they are familiar and accustomed to the style of play Casey prefers…slow, stagnant, and predictable come to mind as appropriate adjectives.

Given a clean slate and chance to put his stamp on the team’s offensive and defensive philosophies, I would expect Stackhouse to transform the Raptors into a team that relies on and thrives in a more free-flowing, less ISO reliant offence.

Case and point — Four straight playoff appearances has got me convinced  that Dwane Casey has gotten all he can out of this squad…and it would have been well worth the “perceived” risk to see if Stackhouse could have elevated the Raptors to even higher heights this season than Casey has taken them to in his tenure.  Worst case scenario, it doesn’t work and you’re forced to initiate a rebuild.

Ahh hell, it remains to be seen if the 2017-2018 Raptors successfully make the transition to a more modern-day NBA offense under Casey.

Can JV make the required defensive leaps to warrant crunch time minutes? Will he be traded?

Can CJ Miles solve their achilles heel at the 3?

Will DeRozan add the three-point shot to his arsenal and learn how to be a more effective distributor, trusting his teammates to make shots when called upon? —— All of these questions will be answered come October.

But I’d feel marginally better about the team’s ability to move the needle if Ujiri had opted to go in a different direction at the head coach position.

We shall see…

Ciao for now,

As always, thank you to nba.com and basketball-reference.com for providing access to copious amounts of information

 

 

 

 

 

A Promise Made…A Championship Delivered

The King Delivers

“I’m coming home” —the famous words spoken two years ago by Cleveland’s native son.  Having broke so many hearts with his highly publicized “decision” to take his talents to South Beach, LeBron made it his mission to deliver a championship to Cleveland and end the city’s decades of suffering, 52 years to be exact.

A promise made…a promise delivered

Everyone wrote him off (including me)

The Warriors went up 3-1.  No team had ever come back from a 3-1 deficit in the Finals, let alone against the undisputed (according to the numbers) best regular season team in NBA history (ask the Patriots what that means *cough* 18-1 *cough*). The sequence of events that took place over game’s 5 through 7 were nothing short of spectacular.

“LeBron James…You’re the real MVP”

Steph Curry may very well be the greatest shooter to ever lace up a pair of sneakers.  Built like an honour roll student, he routinely makes the impossible look effortless from a shooting standpoint.  With that said, LeBron James deserves the title of the greatest basketball player on the planet, and therefore should be the perennial MVP of the league.  All LeBron does is take his team to the finals year after year.  Six straight finals appearances, 3 titles, 3 Finals MVP awards, the list goes on and on.  He affects the game on every level and makes every player around him exponentially better — He turned an outcast like JR Smith into a valuable piece of a championship formula.  Richard Jefferson looked 10 years younger thanks to James’ playmaking abilities that saw RJ get easy baskets and uncontested looks from his preferred spots on the floor.

LeBron finished the Finals averaging 29.7 PPG, 11.3 RPG, 8.9 APG, 2.6 SPG, and 2.3 BPG.  He lead all players in every major statistical category while almost averaging a triple double.  The King is the only current player in the league that is fully capable of playing any position on the floor, and do so at a legendary level.  He has no equal and he proved that emphatically with one of the all time great finals performances.  Enjoy your title reign now Cleveland — there’s a storm brewing in the near future disguised as the Browns.

I leave you all with this…courtesy of Skip Bayless

576940331500002a0073baf0

Not quite Skip…not quite.

A Sunday for the Ages

Often referred to as the “Lord’s Day”, the day of rest, or simply a day entirely dedicated to a marathon of football watching and binge eating, Sunday, June 19, 2016, was none of the above.  What will undoubtedly go down as one of the more memorable day’s for sports this calendar year, and in my estimation of years past, this day belonged to a King and his men, a promising golfer who’s major conquest was long overdue, and let’s not forget (spoiler alert)—JON SNOW! (Suck it Ramsay Bolton!)

Dustin Johnson began the day 4 strokes back of Shane Lowry.  DJ, as some call him, is the author of several well documented major collapses, which have led many to label him the the best player to never win a major. 

2010 US Open @ Pebble Beach – Final round of 82, blowing a 3 shot lead

2010 PGA Championship @ Whistling Straits – 1 stroke penalty on the 18th – misses out on playoff

2015 US Open @ Chambers Bay – three putt from 12 feet on 18 to finish 2nd behind Jordan Spieth

Well that label was shed Sunday…

Johnson stared down demons of past and present and capped off a remarkable weekend with his first major victory.  His biggest foe of the day came in the form of a botched decision making process courtesy of the USGA.  On the 5th hole while standing over his putt, Johnson, after taking his customary practice strokes, moved his putter behind the ball ready to stroke his putt.  At that point, the ball rolled back ever so slightly before Johnson pulled his putter back.  It seemed after watching the video of it that Johnson never made contact with the ball and therefore could not be ruled to have done something to cause the ball to move.  After a brief pause, Johnson carded a par 4 on the hole…fast forward to the 12th hole…A USGA official approaches Johnson and explains that they have reviewed the footage and have reason to believe his actions caused the ball to move.  However, they chose not to assess the one stroke penalty, opting instead to wait until after Johnson completed his round to allow for a more in-depth review.  With a bogus penalty stroke pending, the field nipping at his heels, and a treacherous golf course in front of him, Johnson seemed unfazed by it all.  Sticking with his over powering style of play, and aided by the struggles of others down the stretch, Johnson capped off his first major victory with a pin seeking approach shot on 18 before tapping in for his birdie.  It was unanimous from that point.  Greeted by his wife Paulina, and 17 month old son Tatum, the celebration was on.

Following the round, the USGA announced that Johnson was assessed a one stroke penalty, carding an official score of 69…It didn’t matter…nothing was standing in Johnson’s way on this day, especially not an inept rules committee who thought they were doing him a favour with their bush league antics.  Major victories are never easy…This one certainly wasn’t.  Kudos DJ.