Category Archives: Sports News History

Tiger Woods proves golfers are athletes

As impressive as Tiger Woods was in winning the 2008 US Open golf Tournament at Torrey Pines Golf Course in San Diego, California, June 12-16, the legend of his courageous performance is looking to grow even greater over time.  As golf fans look back twenty to thirty years from now at the career of the golfer, widely considered the best ever, many will point to his one-legged victory, his 14th major golf championship, as his most compelling moment.

For many years, sports fans have debated whether golfers are athletes, or simply highly skilled players of a recreational game.  Tiger Woods has always been recognized as one of the most physically imposing golfers to play the game, but his dramatic, come-from-behind playoff victory over Rocco Mediate proves that golfers truly are athletes.

Just two weeks prior to the start of the US Open, Woods had been told by his doctor that he needed to be on crutches and preparing for surgery on his knee, which was hindered by a torn ACL and two fractures.  Woods had different plans.  Torrey Pines is one of Woods’ favorite golf courses, and the US Open has always been one of his favorite golf tournaments.  He did not want to miss the event.

Woods made little to no mention of his knee during the tournament, which had prevented him from playing in a PGA tour event until the US Open.  Woods, hobbled by his bum knee, and in theory, rusty from a lack of major competition, should not have been in a position to win the Open against the best of the rest in the world golf ranks.  Of course, there is a reason Woods is often mentioned in the same vein as Michael Jordan, in terms of the most competitive and fearless “athletes” of our time.  He has proven to have an adept ability to perform at a level no one in his sport has ever achieved.

Aside from the physical challenges he overcame, what makes Woods’ victory in the Open even more impressive is that he pulled victory out of the jaws of defeat multiple times on Saturday and Sunday of the tournament.  Woods made two eagles and used a strong surge in the third round to take a one stroke lead into the final round.  Woods had never lost a major even when leading after 54-holes.  Despite this remarkable record, fans and analysts who watched the great champion hobble around for three days, using his club as a crutch at times, knew this might be his time to show his mortality.

Mediate took over the lead in the tournament during the back nine in Sunday’s final round.  Woods closed strongly, and made an incredible put from about 25 feet to tie as Mediate watched on television.  He was not surprised to see Woods make the shot.  The tie led to the 18-hole playoff on Monday afternoon.

When Mediate took a two-stroke lead with three holes left in the playoff round, the odds were definitely against Woods.  However, there was always a sense that Woods was capable of pulling out the victory.  Mediate fought ferociously and did not bend to the pressure of the late-tournament competition that had hindered so many of Woods’ previous Sunday rivals.  He played fairly well until the final hole when his tee shot went awry.  Mediate was forced to make a conservative play opening the door for Woods to make a miraculous 18th hole put, just as he had done the day before.

For the first time all day during Monday’s playoff round, the momentum was clearly in Woods’ favor.  There was certainly a sense that he was in charge heading into the sudden death hole at number seven.  Woods bested Mediate by one stroke on the playoff hole to take what he later described as his most enjoyable tour victory ever.  It was only after the tournament was over that sports fans became aware of just how much pain and injury Woods had played with throughout the tournament.  His legend, already well cemented, will likely grow profoundly over time as pictures and video of him hobbling his way to victory become common place.

Wayne Gretzky 802 is more than just a number

Despite the fact that Gretzky finished with 894 goals during 1,485 regular season hockey games, it is goal 802 that is most fondly remembered by fans and the league.  This is the goal that put Wayne Gretzky past the great Gordie Howe, whom Gretzky was most compared to during his playing days.  The two players are widely recognized as being among the best, if not the best, hockey players of all time.  While this record is indicative of Gretzky’s talent and longevity, his play is more remembered by hockey fans for its consistency, versatility, team play, and professionalism.

What makes Gretzky’s 802nd goal more remarkable is that it took Howe 1,767 regular season hockey games, spanning 26 seasons, to score his 801 career goals.  Gretzky surpassed Howe’s record in nearly 300 fewer games.  Gretzky’s goal scoring was consistent throughout his career.  Along with the career record for regular season goals, Gretzky also holds the records for most goals in a regular season (92), most goals in a season including playoffs (100), and most career goals including playoffs (1,016).

Gretzky was not just a scoring machine during his career.  His team focus and well-rounded game are evidenced by the many non-goal scoring records he holds.  Gretzky scored over 200 points (goals and assists) in a regular season an incredible 4 times during his career.  During his career, he tallied 1,962 assists in regular season games.  Paul Coffey’s 1,102 is a distant second for career assists.  This record is likely more impressive and appreciated by Gretzky.

Gretzky also holds all of the important assist records for a season in terms of both regular season and complete season records.  His record 163 assists during the 1985-86 season easily stands above the 114 second place total shared by 8 players.  Gretzky’s career regular season points total of 2,856 is over 1,000 better than Howe’s 1,850.  This perhaps best exemplifies Gretzky’s productivity and impact on the game.  People that believe Howe is NHL’s all-time best have a hard time arguing against Gretzky’s superior all-around numbers in about 300 fewer regular season games.

Not surprisingly, Gretzky is also the holder of most of the NHL’s all-star game records, including career goals and assists.  He totaled 13 goals and 12 assists during his 18 all-star games, giving him, of course a record total of 25 all-star game points.

Gretzky’s leadership and team mentality is also shown by the fact that he holds most of the scoring records for playoff games as well.  His 382 all time playoff points (122 goals and 260 assists) easily bests Mark Messier’s second-best all-time total of 295 career playoff points.

According to the NHL’s record books, Gretzky holds a total of 61 NHL career, season, and game records, including 40 regular season marks, 15 playoff records, and 6 all-star game records.  Although the stats and the records will certainly lend historical credence to the greatness of the player affectionately known as “the great one”, they do not tell the entire story of who he was as a player.  Fans that had the privilege of watching this ultimate competitor play remember his athleticism, competitive fire, and smooth calm that characterized his play.

Since his retirement in 1999, Gretzky’s place in hockey history has been debated.  Most leading sportswriters and unofficial rankings of all-time greats have proclaimed him as the game’s all-time best player.  This seems to be the general consensus.  It is no wonder that Gretzky’s goal 802 is commonly referenced and often remembered in memorabilia and sports collectibles.  For many hockey fans, it was this goal that made Gretzky’s separation from Howe complete.

Barry Bonds 756

Barry Bonds 756: The legacy and controversy behind one of baseballs greatest moments.

On August 7, 2007, Barry Bonds provided an event that brought a climactic peak to one of the most polarizing sagas in American sports history.  Bonds’ 756th home run, which broke the career home run record held for many years by Hank Aaron, was supposed to have been one of the single greatest sports moments of all time.

Bonds was not a stranger to baseball’s limelight prior to the event, as in 2001, he broke the single season home run record set just a few years earlier by Mark McGwire.  For 37 years, Roger Maris’ record of 61 home runs in a Major League Baseball season was left untouched.  It only took three years for Bonds to best McGwire’s 70, by hitting 73.

Bonds has also won seven career National League Most Valuable Player awards.  This means that for essentially one third of the seasons during his playing career, Bonds was considered the most impacting player in the game.  He holds the Major League record for walks and intentional walks in a season and he is widely regarded as the most feared hitter ever in baseball.

Unfortunately, an extremely dark shadow had already been case on Bonds and his pursuit of Hank Aaron, long before August 7, 2007.  For several years, baseball had been immersed in a growing epidemic that has helped lead to the period of time known as the “Steroids Era.”  This is a period of time that began around 1990, and has continued as baseball continues to struggle to keep steroids, human growth hormone, and other performance enhancing drugs from completely taking over the profession.

Along with Bonds, McGwire, Sammy Sosa, Rafael Palmeiro, and Jose Canseco are just a few of the home run kings modeled as poster men for the steroids impact on baseball.  Palmeiro actually tested positive and received an in season suspension a couple years ago.  Canseco notoriously wrote a ‘tell all’ book in which he called out several players and Major League Baseball for steroids.  McGwire, tested positive for and admitted using performance enhancers during his 1998 season, prior their ban by baseball.  Sosa has largely been indicted in the court of public opinion along with many others, based on his superhuman play during the latter part of his career.

McGwire actually is best known for his refusal to discuss the steroids issue in front of Congress years ago.  He was evasive and in popular opinion, was guilty for his lack of attempt to defend himself.  But, it is Bonds who is clearly the epitome of what Major League Baseball has seen eat away at its reputation for the last two decades.

According to most surveys, much of the public believed Bonds had taken steroids long before hitting number 756, and long before the recent “Mitchell Report” and his federal indictment.  Many wondered how a man in his early forties could be reaching the peak of his career at a time when most had retired or were enjoying their final days in the sun.  Bond’s was hitting home runs at incredible rates in his late thirties and early forties.

The “Mitchell Report,” a document and speech bringing to a conclusion years of research lead by Senator George Mitchell, listed over 80 Major League Baseball players that Mitchell’s investigation had strongly linked to steroids, HGH, or other illegal or banned performance enhancers.  This report essentially gave some confirmation to what had already been floating through the minds of many in the media and public.

Bonds story also reached a head late last year as he was indicted by a Federal Grand Jury for perjury.  He is believed to have lied under oath about having knowingly taken performance enhancing drugs.  While Bonds fate will soon be decided, that of baseball might be undetermined for sometime.  Baseball still is America’s pastime, but its waning interest is evidence by its sub par TV ratings relative to the NFL.  People are hoping baseball can recover and return to the days when the playing fields were somewhat level and untainted.  They want their game back.

Lance Armstrong Bio

Perhaps the unbelievable accomplishment of winning seven consecutive Tour de France races is easy to believe considering Lance Armstrong’s background.

Raised in a broken home with a mother who divorced four times, Armstrong is no stranger to overcoming difficulties. Armstrong, as an adolescent, trained diligently for grueling hours upon hours as a budding running, swimming and bicycle racing athlete.

The ultimate test in his life came Oct. 2, 1996.

That is when Armstrong was diagnosed with testicular cancer. The cancer spread to his lungs, abdomen and brain. Doctors gave Armstrong a 50 percent chance to survive.

Armstrong, who turns 36 on Sept. 18, was successfully treated for the testicular cancer through castration. He underwent surgery to remove the brain tumors. The drug treatment on his lungs has proven to be a success to this point.

His cancer has been in remission for nearly a decade. Rather than take a deep breath and rest from his health issues, Armstrong pushed himself even further. Three years after being informed of his cancer, Armstrong won the first of seven straight Tour de France races.

His triumphs in bicycling are an example of the way Armstrong has persevered since he was a child. Overcoming all the stages of the Tour de France, and being on top at the end, relates to how he overcame challenges to become one of the world’s most successful athletes.

Armstrong’s life will be a blockbuster movie someday, considering these elements:

  • His mother was 16 when she became pregnant with Armstrong in 1971. They have a very close relationship. His mother says they “grew up together.” Armstrong never had a true father figure. His birth father left his mother when Armstrong was 2. Armstrong has permanently disconnected himself from his birth father and his first stepfather (of whom Armstrong’s last name comes from).
  • Less than a year after being diagnosed with cancer, Armstrong met his first wife, Kristin Richard. The couple, which divorced five years after their 1998 marriage, has three kids: Luke, born in October 1999, and twins Isabelle and Grace, born in November 2001. The couple cited irreconcilable differences, mostly because Armstrong was hardly in one place because of his growing celebrity status and public demands for cancer awareness.
  • Two years after his divorce in 2005, Armstrong announced he was engaged to singer-songwriter Sheryl Crow. However, only five months later, Crow and Armstrong announced their split. Shortly after the breakup, Crow was diagnosed with breast cancer, which devastated Armstrong considering his battle with cancer.
  • Also heavy on Armstrong’s mind at the time were allegations that he took performance-enhancing drugs. Books and newspapers published in Europe insinuated that Armstrong tried to cover needle marks on his arms and that a former teammate accused Armstrong of using illegal drugs. Armstrong levied lawsuits against each party that made an accusation and he was never found to be guilty of taking performance-enhancing drugs.

Although on the surface it seems Armstrong’s life is like a dream with his championships and celebrity status, he has not come close to having an easy existence. Undergoing extensive chemotherapy after his diagnosis in 1996, and working to become stronger afterward, is testament alone that Armstrong has a strong resolve to keep his life on track.

Now in his post-cycling career, Armstrong is not slowing down. He announced earlier this year that he is training to run in the New York City marathon in November.

All the while, Armstrong is spearheading an effort to battle cancer with his Livestrong cancer-awareness campaign. The effort is symbolized with yellow wristbands. When he won his last Tour de France in 2005, the Paris streets were shined bright with thousands of fans wearing the yellow Livestrong wristbands.

Armstrong is outspoken about federal funding for cancer research, or lack thereof. He argues about millions spent a day on the war in Iraq when the budget for the National Cancer Institution is $4 billion as a whole. He makes it clear to politicians in Washington, D.C., that citizens are more afraid about cancer than terrorism.

Such talk has created the assumption that Armstrong will tackle a political career when his athletic endeavors come to an end. He laughs off rumors that he will someday run for governor of Texas, saying that he wants to concentrate more on his kids and his battle against cancer.

One thing is for sure: If Armstrong runs for office, no one will doubt his chances. Cancer has a formidable opponent in Armstrong. It makes you wonder if a higher being was sending a message with the word “Strong” in Armstrong’s last name.

Steve Nash MVP

How can a skinny 6-foot-1 kid from Canada with bad hair – a devout soccer enthusiast, no less – be a perennial NBA MVP candidate for the Phoenix Suns?

Steve Nash was selected the MVP in 2005 and 2006. He finished second in 2007 behind Dallas’ Dirk Nowitzki. He is now talked about in the same breath as one of the greatest point guards of all time with Magic Johnson, Bob Cousy and Oscar Robertson.

An argument can be made that Nash is one of the most exciting players to watch – if not the most exciting player to watch – in the NBA. More exciting than LeBron James. More exciting than Kobe Bryant. More exciting than Dwayne Wade.

What makes him more exciting is his flair for distributing the ball and generating Phoenix’s run-and-gun offense to near perfection. He is more of a team player. James, Bryant and Wade are more individualistic.

NBA fans will pay equal or more dollar to watch Nash perform as opposed to the other All-Stars even though he can’t dunk, he looks like an ordinary Joe, he’s from Canada, and he doesn’t play in L.A. or New York.

The media might think otherwise, touting James and Bryant as the best in the game without question. The question is, the best in what way? Yes, they are the best in terms of spectacular individual performances. They are the best in scoring.

In fact, the media chooses to write more about Carmelo Anthony, Allen Iverson and Jason Kidd when referring to the most outstanding players in the league.

Why does not Nash, the perennial MVP contender, get the same type of attention?

Perhaps it’s his normal-guy image or humble beginnings in the NBA. Or it could be that he has yet to win an NBA championship like Bryant and Wade. The bottom line is Nash is not as physically gifted as the rest.

He does not have a phenomenal vertical leap, or a face that merits endorsements for everything from shoes to underwear. The words “great athleticism” are not said in the same sentence with Nash’s name.

Nash, however, is an athlete unlike many others. He’s 33 and still going strong, running the court like a greyhound. He has tremendous quickness and vision on the court. He can score in the paint in ways other NBA point guards can not, making wild, off-balanced shots off the dribble-drive.

And does anybody in the NBA throw a better pass to a teammate in transition? He can also drill the three-pointer, making 42.6 percent of his attempts in his career. He has an impressive assist-to-turnover ratio of 3:1 in his career, averaging 7.6 assists and 2.5 turnovers.

He is a career 89.6-percent free-throw shooter.

But what makes Nash most impressive are his intangible qualities, something you can not put a statistic with. He is a born leader, an identifiable captain. He makes those on his team play better together when he is on the court.

When Nash has been out of the lineup the last three years because of injury, the Suns have posted a meager 4-11 record. Phoenix coach Mike D’Antoni has joked that he will retire the same day Nash announces his retirement.

Makes you wonder if Nash’s retirement will be front-page news when considering how much he takes a back seat to the NBA’s most awe-inspiring talent. If he played in Los Angeles or New York, he would be the next best thing to sliced bread.

But playing in Phoenix, in the shadow of the Lakers and usually away from the spotlight, Nash is at home. He can be the skinny guy who loves soccer but happens to be good in basketball.

He can continue to surprise and astound NBA fans. He can stay among the top vote-getters for the MVP award. He can continue to quietly be one of the greatest players in the league’s history.

Ron Artest Fight

NBA commissioner David Stern has faced his share of controversy over the last three or four years, and one of the ugliest incidents involved Ron Artest’s fight in 2004.

The NBA has negatively been in the news recently because of the federal gambling charges levied against a referee, who has admitted his guilt to betting and providing tips to illegal bookies on games he worked.

The league was also lambasted for the officiating in the Phoenix-San Antonio playoff game last season in which two Suns players were suspended for the following game for taking a couple of steps from the bench after the Spurs’ Robert Horry shoved Suns guard Steve Nash.

But the ugliest of all incidents occurred Nov. 19, 2004 at the Palace of Auburn Hills in Detroit, when Artest ran into the stands throwing punches. Stern suspended Artest for the remainder of the 2004 season (73 games) without pay after the melee – the harshest penalty in NBA history.

The incident occurred after Ben Wallace and Artest traded shoves in the waning seconds of a Pistons-Pacers game. The incident seemed to be coming to an end until a fan tossed a cup of beer from the stands and hit Artest as he lay on the scorer’s table.

Artest, 6-feet-7-inches and 246 pounds, jumped from the table and charged a few rows into the crowd, throwing punches and trampling fans. His teammates, Stephen Jackson and Jermaine O’Neal, followed Artest into the stands and also exchanged punches with some of the spectators.

The crowd responded by throwing debris and beer toward Artest, Jackson and O’Neal. One fan even threw a chair on the court. Fans were at risk for injury more from the crowd response rather than the actions of Artest, Jackson and O’Neal.

NBA hall-of-famer Bill Walton, calling the game for ESPN, said the Artest fight was the lowest point of his 30-year affiliation with the NBA.

Artest, who lost about $5 million for the suspension, has long been considered a loose cannon on and off the court. Before the Nov. 2004 melee, the former St. John’s star had been suspended at least 10 times and ordered by a court to undergo anger-management therapy in 2002 for threatening a former girlfriend.

He is nicknamed “The Beast” by his teammates, and ESPN rated him as the “scariest player in the NBA” a year before he charged the stands to go after fans.

Ironically, Artest and Jackson, both central figures in the brawl at the Palace of Auburn Hills, have been suspended without pay for the first seven games of the upcoming 2007-08 season because of legal problems.

Jackson, who was suspended 30 games after the brawl in 2004, pleaded guilty in June to a felony count of criminal recklessness for firing a gun outside an Indiana strip club last fall, when he was with the Pacers. He was ordered to pay a $5,000 fine and perform 100 hours of community service.

Artest pleaded no contest in May to a misdemeanor domestic violence charge stemming from a March 5 dispute with his wife, the latest in a string of off-court problems. Artest was sentenced to 100 hours of community service and a 10-day work project through the sheriff’s department. Artest, now with the Sacramento Kings, also was fined $600 and ordered to get extensive counseling.

Artest will lose nearly $471,000 in salary, about $50,000 more than Jackson.

Artest grew up in the tough Queensbridge housing project in Queens, N.Y., where he was part of a family of eight children whose parents separated when he was in grade school.

In recent years, Artest has begun to devote more time to other interests, particularly music. In 2002, he started his own record label – called Truwarier – which issued its first release, from the female R&B trio named Allure, shortly after Artest’s fight with the Detroit crowd.

Two weeks before the Michigan brawl, Artest was benched by Rick Carlisle, the Pacers’ coach at the time, for saying that he would like to take off a month from the season to promote the album.

Trouble follows Artest wherever he goes and he tarnishes not only his image with every domestic dispute or showing of uncontrolled anger. He sheds a negative light on the NBA with every suspension he must serve.

David Stern took a stand in 2004 by suspending Artest without pay for 73 games. But how effective was that suspension? Artest is at it again, with a seven-game suspension to start the upcoming season.

Any additional problems with Artest and Stern will be forced to consider a lifetime ban from the NBA for Artest. If that extreme were to happened, the negative publicity as a result would adversely affect the league once again.