Behind the Mic: Youth Must Be Served

Even if you are not into golf, by now even you know of the amazing rally by Jordan Spieth at the British Open on Sunday. He played the final five holes five under par after losing the lead in the tournament for the very first time in four days.  In doing so, he, along with Jack Nicklaus, became the second player to win three of the four Grand Slam tournaments by the age of 23.  If he wins next month’s PGA Championship, he would be the youngest to win the Grand Slam.

So I now know what Spieth has accomplished at such a young age. It made me curious about some of the accomplishments of other young athletes in other sports.  Who were some of the others to make an early name for themselves as a youngster?

Baseball: Julio Urias (19 years old) – Became the youngest starting pitcher to pitch in the major league for the Dodgers in 2016. He lasted 2-2/3 innings.

Tennis: Michael Chang (17 years old) – Won the 1989 French Open, becoming the youngest winner of a tennis grand slam singles event by beating #1 Ivan Lendl in a four- hour match.

NFL: Amobi Okoye – (19 years old) – Played college football for the Louisville Cardinals at age 16; drafted in the NFL at age 19 and played in an NFL game at the age of 20.

NBA: Andrew Bynum (18 years, 6 days) – Played for the Los Angeles Lakers alongside Kobe Bryant (who at 18 years, 158 days became the youngest ever to start an NBA game), made an All-Star team and was a member of two championship teams.

Soccer: Freddy Adu (14 years old) – Became the youngest athlete to sign a professional contract, the youngest to appear in an MLS game, and the youngest to score a goal in the MLS.

NASCAR: Joey Logano (18 years old) – Became the youngest to win a NASCAR Nationwide Series race.

Men’s Golf: Guan Tian Lang (14 years old) – The youngest golfer to qualify for the Masters. He made the cut and became the youngest to do so.

Women’s Golf: Michelle Wie (10 years old) – The youngest player to qualify for the US Amateur; later she became the youngest to make an LPGA cut and the youngest to play in a PGA event.

“Children should be seen and not heard” is a phrase I heard often as a child.  I am assuming all of the teenagers who I just mentioned rarely heard that idiom.  Instead, “youth must be served” seems much more appropriate in these remarkable examples of early accomplishments.

 

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS)

 

  1. Chicago Bears linebacker Jerrell Freeman used the Heimlich maneuver to save a man’s life in a Texas airport on Sunday. The man was choking while Freeman was enjoying a brisket sandwich. His quick action probably saved the man’s life.
  2. The Cubs had a mediocre start to the MLB season prior to the All-Star break and were five games out of first behind the Milwaukee Brewers. Since the break, they have won eight of nine and moved into a tie for first place in the NL Central. Is the magic back?
  3. The British Open featured two of the easiest players to get behind and root for – Jordan Spieth and Matt Kuchar. So Spieth’s win was not a disappointment for this fan, but one had to feel for Kuchar who was trying to win his first major. Kuchar did win $1,067,000, however, to ease his pain.
  4. A golfer who made the cut in the British Open and finished dead last (70th) earned $23,600 for his efforts. Still not a bad paycheck for a week at the office.
  5. Mark your calendar – Freedom takes on Central Catholic in our opening football game of the year. Tune in at 7:00pm on Saturday, August 26.

Behind the Mic: Golf Without Tiger – Not So Bad After All

Another major golf tournament and another missed cut by Tiger Woods. And by Saturday, the popularity of golf lessens even more. Eighteen years ago, a young Tiger stepped into the professional golf limelight and became the center of attention for the sport. It seemed like a whole new audience joined golf fanatics around the world to anoint this athlete as one of their favorites ever. And now, Tiger cannot make the cuts. His body is breaking down and he has played hurt for the last seven years. Sadly, he has become just another player. He has suffered and, ergo, golf is, also, suffering.

But, in my opinion, there is hope on the horizon – perhaps, not in finding the next Tiger, but in finding great drama week in and week out. And that was never more prevalent than this past Sunday during the PGA Championship. The recipe was blended to perfection. Take a dash of the recent past (Phil Mickelson and Jim Furyk); throw in an American young gun (Rickie Fowler); add a sprinkle of foreign notoriety (Henrik Stenson and Ernie Els); mix in the current favorite ingredient (Rory McIlroy) and you have the drama great golf produces.

This major had it all. Rory McIlroy won and became only the fourth player in the last century to win four majors at 25 or younger. The others were Bobby Jones, Jack Nicklaus, and Tiger Woods. He has won the last two majors of the year (only 7 players have done that). He had to overcome falling behind, waiting on almost every shot after the rain delay, watching his closest opponents, Mickelson and Fowler play directly in front of him and experiencing their outstanding moments and, at times missed opportunities. Added to that was the possibility that he may not be able to finish the round because darkness was engulfing Valhalla Country Club. The final hole was played in a mysterious “foursome” setting just to get the championship settled. It had an almost Hollywood feel to it.

It was the best golf had to order for sure. And it was “Tiger-less”. I must admit that I was one of those who did not take as much interest in a tournament if Tiger was not playing or missed the cut and was not around for the weekend. Sunday changed that. I do not say that Rory McIlroy is the next Tiger. There is almost too much talent out on tour right now for just one player to be as dominant as Woods was. But, the drama has been instilled again and the characters are fascinating enough to draw me back.

The spectacle of golf needed a shot in the arm. It needed to overcome Tiger’s lack of competitiveness due to a bad back, bad knees, and a sore Achilles. Tiger Woods had become golf’s Achilles heel. His success raised golf to new heights; his failures were sending it to new lows. That “heel” ironically is beginning to heal! Who would think that it would come in Kentucky in the dark on an August summer afternoon?

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS)
1. Did you hear that Ryan Howard is building a $5.8 million house in Florida? It is being built near Clearwater where the Phillies have spring training. It will have 8 bedrooms, 10+ baths, a two-story library, 2 kitchens, 3 laundry rooms, 2 elevators, a wine room, a bowling alley, and a trophy room (I hope he can fill it). The doorknobs alone reportedly cost $80,000. When you have a contract worth $180 million, you can do this.

2. A friend of mine told me that while he and his wife were watching the Eagles lose their first preseason game (they are both huge Eagles fans), she asked which six Eagles he would like to have as his pallbearers. He wondered why she would ask such a strange question. She said she thought that when he died, it would be appropriate for the Eagles to let him down one last time!

3. Speaking of the Eagles, they practiced this past Sunday at Franklin Field, the football home of the Penn Quakers. The Eagles played there from 1958-1970. It was built in 1895. Why there you might ask. Well that was the site of their last NFL championship in 1960 when they beat the Packers 17-13. That was 54 years ago. 28,000 people showed up to watch.

4. Andre Reed did himself, his family, his high school (Dieruff), and his community proud at the NFL Hall of Fame ceremony in Canton, Ohio last week. His speech was straight from the heart, especially his thoughts on Jim Kelly, his quarterback. I have a helmet in my office with both their autographs on it. That helmet was always special to me; now it is even more so.

5. I want to thank John Leone for filling in for me last week. If you haven’t read his blog, please take the time, especially if you are as passionate a sports fan, as John is. You can feel his pain and suffering. Give it a look.