published Monday, May 14th, 2012

5 at 10: Weekend sports rewind, Braves rolling and some Game 7 love

From the "Talk too much Studios" here we go...

Heady stuff

The Players Championship golf tournament was heady stuff this weekend. Seriously. Heady stuff.

OK, before we explain, can the Players Championship and NBC quit referring to it as the fifth major. There are four majors. Period. If one of the majors wants to quit, then there is an opening to be filled. This is simple math. There are not five runs (or five bases for that matter) in a grand slam. So stop calling it the fifth major. Besides, one of the fundamental sports rules is you can't give yourself a nickname. (Side question: If you could give yourself a nickname, what would it be? We thought about going with LL Cool Jay, but it was taken. So was Jay-Z, Jay-Smooth and Chief Jay Strongbow. Stink.)

OK, let's take a quick look back at the Players being very heady stuff — literally and figuratively.

First, Harris English entered the weekend a shot off the lead and playing in the penultimate group. English, who matriculated at The Baylor School, hit his tee shot on No. 1 on Saturday too far and too straight — and yes, it feels strange typing someone hit a tee shot too far and too straight. The ball hit a tournament volunteer directly on the melon and dropped him like a bad habit. Here's the youtube clip: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SdMJdx1XBrg. Remember when you were a kid and would hit rocks with a wooden bat? That's what it sounded like. (Did you catch Johnny Miller's direct and understated analysis when the ball hit the guy on the dome? "That's not good," Miller said. Yep, there's a reason he's the best color guy in the business folks.)

Well, despite signing a few autographs and making sure dude was OK — he never lost consciousness — English was not the same. It was fairly obvious — and understandable — that hitting dude's head got in English's head. He was 7 under through 36 holes before crowning the volunteer; he was 12 over on the 36 holes after hitting the volunteer. Tough breaks all around, and maybe Miller would simply say, "Shake it off," and cover both guys in three words.

As for being inside the head of the field, meet Kevin Na, a human rain delay that has more false starts than a twitchy left tackle. Dude was Wonder Waggle. David Feherty said his style of bringing the club back and restarting over and over and over again was not unlike trying to crank a stubborn chainsaw. It's even worse than that. Na, who has more swing thoughts than our 4-year-old at the playground, surged to the 54 lead despite being put on the clock for slow play and frequently stepping off the ball and restarting his elaborate process to make sure he was ready.

In fact, Na's preshot Tourette's became such a hot topic that he talked openly about how he's trying to fix it and make it better. Even to the point that he played much quicker on Sunday; he also played much worse, squandering the 54-hole lead for the fourth time in five PGA opportunities. Hey, we hate slow play as much as anyone, but Na's effort to speed up affected his game and even drew some pointed heckles from the crowd. (When he dropped his tee shot in the water on No. 13 to seal his fate, some of the crowd offered, "Na-Na-Na...Na-Na-Na... Good-bye.) Sad indeed.

And finally, as friend of the show Rudyard "Rudy" Kipling penned, "when you can keep your head when those around you lose theirs... you'll be a man, my son." You'll also become a PGA Tour winner. Matt Kuchar remained unflappable, making enough shots and standing tall over almost every par putt to grab a two shot win.

We know this, we'll have a U.S. Open contest next month and Kuchar will be on our entry list. There's your heads up.

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    Memphis Grizzlies center Marc Gasol (33) reacts to a foul call against him in the first half of Game 7 against the Los Angeles Clippers on Sunday.
    Photo by The Commercial Appeal /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Game 7 glory

Special stuff happens in Game 7s. Well, normally that is. This weekend there were two Game 7s in the NBA playoffs and one in the NHL playoffs, and not surprisingly the New York Rangers' 2-1 win over Washington was decidedly more entertaining. (Especially for our UT beat ace downtown Patrick Brown, who is a devoted Memphis Grizzlies fan and certainly suffered through Sunday's Game 7 fourth-quarter meltdown as the Grizz did their best Atlanta Hawks impression of being over-talented, under-coached and done-too-soon.)

And while there was a lot to like about the Rangers advancing to the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time since 1997 — Want delivering in the clutch? New York is 5-0 all-time in Game 7s; Want tight defense and physical play? New York nor its opponent has scored more than three goals in 13 straight playoff games — we'll let Deboman or Todd962 offer more on the NHL. We're just kind of joining the Stanley Cup Party. (One of the most underrated lines in Forrest Gump is when Forrest decks that hippie Jenny is with in D.C. and stands up and says "Sorry about ruining your Black Panther party.")

As for the NBA, here are five things on the tip of our tongue (or would it be the tip of our fingertips since this is a written, family-oriented, interweb-based sports column?).

— LeBron joins rare air. Dude absolutely deserved the MVP — you could make the argument that he deserved it more this year than any other, which is saying something since he carried Cleveland to the best record in the league one year and his sidekick was Drew Gooden and his goofy skull soul patch. Now James is one of eight NBA players to win three MVPs, and while he deserves that he also deserves the heat (Heat) that goes with it. Of the eight players with three or more MVPs, want to guess how many of them do not have an NBA title? Yep, one. It's time LeBron.

— Hey, NBA, ask Major League Baseball how successful starting interesting postseason games around 10 p.m. Eastern or later worked. Gang, you have two star-studded match-ups in the West, but half the country's going to be in the rack with these games starting that late. There's not much to be done in L.A., where they are three hours behind the East Coast, but, San Antonio and the L.A. Clippers are the only game Tuesday and they start at 9:30 Eastern or 8:30 local time in San Antonio. Dumb.

— The three over-arching storylines for the rest of the playoffs are, in order: 1) Can LeBron win No. 1; 2) Can Kobe win No. 6; 3) Are the Thunder ready to make their move. And we're supremely interested in each.

— And that's not even counting the the potential last gasps for the aging Big Threes in San Antonio and Boston. Here's saying that if the Spurs and Celtics meet in the Finals, Shoney's, AARP, the Rascal electric wheel vehicle and Alexian Brothers will be interested in advertising.

— Admit it, you want to watch the drama tonight when Metta World Peace/Ron Artest faces off against James Harden and his beard. In a move that certainly does not live up to his name — or the fact that he said the swinging elbow that concussed Harden last month was an accident — World Peace said he will not greet Harden, who was named the NBA Sixth Man of the Year. World Peace said he does not shake hands with subs. Here's saying World Peace will get introduced to the working end of Kendrick Perkins at some point in the series.

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    Atlanta Braves' Jason Heyward smiles in the dugout after hitting a two-run home run during the 12th inning of a baseball game against the St. Louis Cardinals Friday, May 11, 2012, in St. Louis. The Braves won 9-7.
    Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Folding the Cards

Wow, these Braves are humming. Atlanta swept the defending World Series champion St. Louis Cardinals for the first time since 2009.

And they did it with the variety of a Chef Lin buffet. Sunday, Jason Heyward had a three-run double and Tommy Hanson was solid for five innings in a 7-4 win that was made closer than it appeared because of a cosmetic three-run homer by Allen Craig with two outs in the ninth.

Sunday was just the latest example by the utilitarian nature of this Braves team. One night it's pitching, one night it's a rally, then Sunday it was clutch hitting. All seven of the Braves' runs came with two outs, including back-to-back-to-back run-scoring hits from Martin Prado, Freddie Freeman and Dan Uggla in a game-clinching, three-run seventh.

The win propelled the Braves (22-13) into first place in the NL East for the first time this season. It also gets the club off to a much-needed fast start on what is the most demanding stretch of the season.

Starting with last Friday game in St. Louis, the Braves are scheduled to play 33 games in 34 days, and there's no better way to start that stretch than 3-0.

This and that

— Somewhere there's some Mayan descendants saying, "Remember we told you this was the end." How else to explain the fact that Chad Ochocinco may have emerged as the voice of reason in the NFL right now. Amid the safety worries that have been compounded by recent suicides and the Saints' Bounty-Gate and the fact that players and people inside and outside of the league are wondering about commissioner Roger Goodell's almost absolute power, Ochocinco wrote on his website a letter to Goodell http://ocnnreport.com/2012/05/11/my-letter-to-roger-goodell/. And it's kind of touching and pretty accurate and ends with a thoughtful idea — wrapped in narcissism of course — that could help Goodell and the NFL in general and in the court of public appeal. Ochocinco ends his letter with "Oh by the way, I have a deal for you. Am having a rebound year and plan to do a lot of celebrating in the end zone. Can my fine money go to supporting ex-players suffering?" Well-played Chad, well-played indeed.

— Our UTC football ace John Frierson has a good story on the Mocs' still-yet-to-be-decided quarterback battle here http://www.timesfreepress.com/news/2012/may/14/utc-mcs-huesman-robinson-remain-supportiv/. Each of those kids can play and carry themselves like starting quarterbacks. The coaches have a tough decision to make — but this is a way better problem to have than deciding between two stinky QBs.

— We mentioned it last week, and now we know it as surely as the day of the week and inevitability of death, taxes and Rosie O'Donnell bugging the snot out of the 5-at-10. Josh Hamilton is the biggest star in sports right now, and that's saying something. Dude is mashing at a historic level, and if we had any pull at the MLB Network, we'd simulcast every Hamilton at-bat for the foreseeable future. Gang it's May 14 and he leads the AL in the triple crown categories and just wrapped a seven-day stretch in which he hit nine homers and drove in 18 runs. Through 35 Rangers games — Hamilton has played only 32 — he is hitting .402 with 18 homers and 44 RBIs. His projected numbers are .402, 83 homers, 204 RBIs. And it's not like we're at game 3 — we're better than 20 percent through the season.

— Hey, the driver formerly known as Jimmie Johnson won the NASCAR race at Darlington on Saturday night. Dale Jr. finished 17th, and his alter ego Danica Patrick was 31st. Two quick things: NASCAR needs to ditch Saturday night races — too much going on and the sport becomes lost in the wash of activity for casual fans like the 5-at-10. By comparison, if it was on yesterday, we would have bounced back and forth between shows to check in on it. Second, where does Jimmie Johnson rank on sports celebs that need to drop the little kid's name? We have Fredi Gonzalez (unless of course he does a smiley face over the 'I' because that's really sweet) No. 1 followed by Jimmie Johnson (it would not be as bad if it was Jimmy with a 'y' you know?). Of course Joey Harrington is arguably the all-time champ here.

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Today's question

Hey we know enough soccer to fill the rest of this sentence. That said, we know sports and drama, and Manchester City winning its first Premier League title since 1968 with two goals in extra time was thrilling even if don't know Pele from Polo.

Here's the recap: Man City had not won since before the Nixon administration, but the Blues were the favorites Sunday to end the drought. An early 1-0 lead became a tie and then a 2-1 hole despite the fact that QPR was playing a man down. The announced extra five minutes had the feel of cruel and unusual punishment for a fan base that has long been tortured (this would be like the Atlanta Hawks, the Buffalo Bills or even the Cubs winning it all).

Well two lightning strikes — the last one coming with seconds left — ended the skid in a dramatic fashion that is hard to believe.

Which leads us to this: What's the best single championship game ever? It could be any major sport but it has to be the championship game — if it's a playoff series, it has to be the final game (and to be truthful, if it's not Game 7, it's going to have to be awesome in its awesomeness).

And since some of the best ever — USA-Russia hockey, Duke-Kentucky, Gibson's homer, et al. — were not in decisive games, this could be tricky.

Discuss. (And feel free to answer any of the previous questions from this morning, including your self-picked nickname, which is common in today's cyberspace but still a no-no in locker rooms everywhere.)

about Jay Greeson...

Jay was named the Sports Editor of the Times Free Press in 2003 and started with the newspaper in May 2002 as the Deputy Sports Editor. He was born and raised in Smyrna, Ga., and graduated from Auburn University before starting his newspaper career in 1997 with the Newnan (Ga.) Times Herald. Stops in Clayton and Henry counties in Georgia and two years as the Sports Editor of the Marietta (Ga.) Daily Journal preceded Jay’s ...

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Todd962 said...

Do my eyes deceive me or did Jay just fill his soccer quota for this decade? To watch the last five minutes of that game was enjoyable from any perspective, but to realize the implications for their season that were resting on the win was awesome. An entire season's efforts coming down to two stoppage goals is crazy. And its always a good day to see Manchester United come up short in anything. I look forward to your breakdown this week of the UEFA Championship this Saturday between Chelsea and Bayern Munich.

I got home Saturday from a round at the Bend to turn on the Players Championship in time to catch one of the many Kevin Na wiffs. I thought to myself, "well its good to see I am not the only one to have done that today." Was he penalized for any of those? I hope he was at least heckled as badly as I was. He is a sober professional, two things I lacked Saturday. How does that happen?

I am guessing Harris English wasnt taking the Mitch Hedburg approach to golf? "I never hit a hole in one, but I did hit a guy in one. And thats way more satisfying. You're supposed to yell "fore." But I was too busy mumbling, "there ain't no way that's gonna hit him."

Reporter: "Tim Duncan! You just won the NBA championship. What are you going to do next?"

Tim Duncan: "I'm going to the Grand Canyon! Hover round! Hover round! Hover round!"

May 14, 2012 at 11:14 a.m.
Stewwie said...

[...but, San Antonio and the L.A. Clippers are the only game Tuesday and they start at 9:30 Eastern or 8:30 local time in San Antonio. Dumb.]

Game 2 of the Heat-Pacers is also on Tuesday night.

It stunk that Game 7 of Denver-L.A. was at 10:30 at night. Any Game 7 ought to be played at a reasonable hour on the east coast.

As for the best championship game, USC-Texas to end the 2005 football season was pretty exciting. It was the first time two teams who had averaged 50+ points per game played each other. The game certainly lived up to its billing.

May 14, 2012 at 11:18 a.m.
choptalker said...

What's up with MLB ditching the Third-then-first-faux-pickoff-move? I saw the article in the Sunday paper. Yes, it's a useless play, but it's part of tradition! What's next? Replay?

May 14, 2012 at 11:25 a.m.
BIspy4 said...

Gotta admit ... I woke up Sunday, turned on the TV and got caught up in the Man City-QPR match in the waning minutes. QPR also staved off relegation (and that is something that really does need to be borrowed from the Premier League. I mean, we took The Office, All in the Family and Sanford and Son, not to mention American Idol, which they can have back, from the Brits. Why not relegation? You stink for too long? Back to AAA or the NBDL or the Arena League you go, loser).

Love watching Kuchar play and win because he actually looks like he's enjoying playing golf. So few tour players do. Look, I ain't all that hot at golf (don't. say. a. word. 5.) but at least I try to enjoy it. I don't think of it as work. I just try to relax and enjoy it.

If it's the Spurs and Cs playing for it all, can't wait to hear Mike Tirico say, "The NBA Finals! Brought to you by Cialis! And the makers of Excedrin! Also brought to you by ... Pos-T-Vac!" Also brought to you by landline phones, Blockbuster video stores and Pontiac.

Best championship game ever? Easy. Pats over Rams in the Super Bowl. Drama. Great game. Best halftime show ever. And a great boss who let me have the night off.

May 14, 2012 at 11:56 a.m.
jgreeson said...

From StuckinKent —

Two things. First, you may not like it, but the PGA Tour itself is trying to promote the PTC as the fifth major. They have a major in April (Masters), a major in June (US), a major in July (British), a major in August (PGA), and then the FedEx Cup (or whatever it is called) in September. They need something to draw casual fans in during May. Developing a "fifth major" is the way to do that. Hence- the PTC being moved to this time of year from the end of the year, and the push to call it the "fifth major." The PGA Tour borders on irrelevant unless there is a major championship going on, and they know it. I'd look out for a sixth, seventh, and eighth major, if I were you. Maybe they can change the name from Grand Slam to the Quintuple Crown (a relative of the Triple Crown in Horse Racing).

The second thing I just realized won't count. I was going to say Game 7 when the Braves beat the Pirates in 1992 with Sid Bream sliding into home. Awesome. That was the final game of the NLCS, but not the final game of the year. So you won't count it. Still, just wanted to dwell on that for a minute. Now I'm satisfied.

How about USC-Texas in the BCS Championship Game? Or Ohio State-Miami? Those two were amazing games. What about UConn-Duke 1999 or Arizona-Kentucky 1997 in the NCAA Championship Games? Those were each amazing games, with Arizona-UK going to overtime, and UConn-Duke going back and back forth in an epic way. The Huskies were huge underdogs, and Duke was considered one of the greatest teams of all-time heading into that game by many experts. It was close the whole way and UConn edged them at the end. Kansas-Memphis a few years ago was pretty good too. What about the Titans-Rams Super Bowl? Or the Giants-Patriots, Part I? I think the best of all those is USC-Texas, but there are some interesting entries....

May 14, 2012 at 12:25 p.m.
jgreeson said...

Mr. 962 —

That's our soccer quota for the foreseeable future. We're spent. And we're with you that it was not so much about the sport as it was the situation and the scene. Sure it was soccer, but in the end it was drama. And great drama at that.

No the difference is Na had. "No intent to hit" just like the Mrs. 5-at-10's Uncle Greg, who has been known to swing and miss and look around and say, "NO intent to hit."

Stewed —

Good catch, and great call on Texas-USC. That may be the leader in the clubhouse right.

Talker —

We know how you seam heads love tradition, but this needs to happen. And if you want a traditional reason to embrace the change, it's that the very definition of a balk is a move designed to deceive the baserunner. This is very cut-and-dried.

So it goes. Ready for the DH in both leagues, especially since it would help the Braves as much as any team in the NL.

Spy —

Relegation is a great, Great, GREAT idea. Think of the drama late in the season of every level of sports. Sure the Royals and the Pirates are destined to be in AAA, but think about those top AAA team playing to get to the majors. And we also took Austin Powers and Hugh Grant — and they can the Michael-less Office back too.

Spurs-Celts. Game 2. Brought to by Bayer, Sanka and the anniversary DVD collection of "Murder She Wrote." The NBA... where creaky knees happen. Would they play for the Larry O'Brien atrophy?

StuckinKent —

We understand the plan and why the PGA wants its home course tournament to be the "fifth major," but tough. That's not how it happens.

It's a great field, and a fun event, but it's the best non-major. That should be enough. If the Chick-fil-A Bowl starts saying they're the fifth BCS game, does that mean we have to go with it?

Wow, Sid's Slide Game was awesome. So awesome in fact it has a name. (When a game has a name, it's boss.)

— 5-at-10

May 14, 2012 at 1:32 p.m.
deboman said...

For the NHL roundup from the weekend, all I can say is- Stupid Rangers. The Caps again lived up to their earned nickname of Choking Dogs. It’s possible to argue that Washington could have won the series were it not for some hit posts in the 3OT game 3 or giving up a goal with 6.6 seconds remaining and then consequently losing in OT in game 5. In the end, all it means is that the 7th seed gave the conference champs all they could handle and made for the only decent series of the second round. Ranger’s coach Tortorella is really making an effort to jump up the list of interesting pressers as he is on and off the podium in about 12 words and 30 seconds. Some of Torts favorite answers are >> ‘Yes’, ‘No’, ‘Stop trying to coach’, and’ I’m not telling you that’.

In regards to the basketball game 7s over the weekend. I found it a bit odd that the second round had already started before the rest of the field had been determined. Was it an east/west thing?? Maybe I just hadn't noticed before. Thought it a little funny since the NBA has historically not had a problem with unnecessarily extending the length of time between series games.

I have to agree with Spy- would love to see relegation in the States. Unfortunately there really isn’t an answer for the bad NFL teams, but maybe they could enact some sort of NAFTA provision and work a deal with the CFL. NBA teams could form a program using the D-league or maybe the Limbo league with the One-and -Done schools that are leading the way in the NCAAs now, but how would Jordon feel being stuck there for eternity with his Bobcats (at lease he could play in the Dean Dome again). Hockey and Baseball already have the structure in place, so why not.

May 14, 2012 at 1:38 p.m.
Todd962 said...

Relegation is an interesting aspect in the course of the soccer season, but it ends up being about eight teams every other year just swapping spots between leagues. Every once in a while you will get a shocker of someone being relegated that is typically a mid level power and they go down the next year to the second tier and beat the brakes off of everyone. They are back the next year and the whole fan base just pretends they were all on vacation that season.

In the baseball example I certainly see the excitement of the minor league team fighting for their shot at the show, but are you going to have two teams from the same organization in the top tier at once when the AAA team comes up? Does the Major team play dirty and call everyone up from the AAA team if they ever happen to play each other? Do we all agree that the Royals and Pirates would never be heard from again? Are the Yankees going to travel to Chattanooga to play when we get promoted? That would be cool.

American sports just doesnt have the depth to support relegation. Every town and shire with a 120x80 flat space of grass has a team over there. And they are fanatical about whatever team they support. Everyone go home tonight and watch "Green Street Hooligans" and find out why you dont trash talk about sports in England.

May 14, 2012 at 2:08 p.m.
BIspy4 said...

Another great championship game that came to mind. 2010 gold medal men's ice hockey. U.S. vs. Canada in Vancouver. Crosby gets the game-winner and medal-winner in overtime.

May 14, 2012 at 3:16 p.m.
jgreeson said...

Deboman —

Who you got in the remaining rounds of this hockey bracket? Side note the Frozen Four is pretty clever, especially for the NCAA.

Great point about the NBA and its playoff schedule. Normally they have the same sense of urgency as 3-year-old getting ready for church.

Mr. 962 —

Maybe American sports has too much depth, and it's an oversaturation of talent. In truth, American sports have no way for independent contractors to start up a team and working their way up. So it goes. Under the proper system relegation would be cool although you're probably right that it can't work here. Actually the last batch of relegation was probably the NBA consuming the ABA, so to speak.

Spy —

Knowing your love for all things from Canada, who were you pulling for in that one?

— 5-at-10

May 14, 2012 at 3:30 p.m.
BIspy4 said...

Ummm ... can I plead the fifth?

May 14, 2012 at 4:12 p.m.
jgreeson said...

From friend of the show StuckinKent —

Condensed playoff schedule in the NBA this year due to the work stoppage. Normally, they start their playoffs at the same time as the NHL more or less. This year, the NHL had completed a full round. If they want the playoffs done before opening day next season, they put far fewer days off between the games this year. If you notice, every night's schedule seems more full than year's past. And I remember them doing this before, though I'm not sure if it was in the previous couple of years or not. But I remember watching it before. It's always interesting when that happens, I think. I like it, actually. Keeps teams from having unwieldy amounts of time off if both teams are ready to play. If only one team is ready to play, then that team gets the advantage of the break.

— 5-at-10

May 14, 2012 at 4:46 p.m.
jgreeson said...

Spy —

The fifth amendment is part of the U.S. constitution. Hey, they us a good bacon, a good Candy (as in John), a good Fox (as in Michael J.) and some solid beers. And hey the The Great One is The Great One, so do what you think you must.

Traitor.

Stuck —

Great point and spot on. And we concur — this is better.

—5-at-10

May 14, 2012 at 4:47 p.m.
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