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: The Next Babe?

Sunday is, at least for me, a day of watching sports. I try not to interfere with family time, but I must admit, between the NFL, college basketball, and golf, there is often a magnetic pull towards the remote control anytime I am in the family room.

This past Sunday was no exception. The Travelers’ Championship was on CBS and Jordan Spieth was in the lead.  I enjoy rooting for Jordan, I had played the golf course, and Travelers is my insurance company, so I just had to tune in.  On a day when Spieth could not make a putt, he dramatically wins the tournament in a playoff by holing a sand shot from 60 feet away.  Another $1.2 million in his 24-year-old bank account.

I figured my sports’ viewing for the day was over. Then on comes 60 Minutes, a show my wife and I watch every week.  They did a very, very interesting piece on Artificial Intelligence.  The final story was on a Japanese baseball player named Shohei Ohtani who plays for the Nippon Ham Fighters.

Ohtani is a 6’4, 215 pound, 22 year-old right-handed pitcher who has thrown the ball an amazing 102.5 miles per hour. To steal some facts from the show, he has a higher strikeout rate than Clayton Kershaw, has thrown the fastest pitch in league history, strikes out 11+ batters per game, and last year had an ERA of 1.86.  And, oh, by the way, that’s just on Sundays.

During the week, except for the two-day rest he gets before he pitches again, Ohtani is the designated hitter. That’s right – when he doesn’t pitch and hit, he just hits.  “Just” is a misplaced adjective here.  Last year, he had 22 home runs, hitting the long ball 6% of the time he came the plate.  That’s a better percentage than Bryce Harper and Mike Trout of Major League baseball.

And it looks like this is his final year of Japanese baseball. He is, most likely, headed here.  BUT, he will only play for a team that allows him to hit when he pitches and hit when he doesn’t.  The last player to do that and do it well was Babe Ruth!

He currently makes @ $2 million, lives in a team dorm, does not drink, and has no car. He would have garnered close to $20+ million had he signed an MLB contract last year, but the new bargaining agreement limits international players from earning over $10 million and they must play at least six years with the team that signs them.

Ohtani doesn’t care. He says he has enough money.  And he is anxious to bat against Kershaw and pitch to Harper.

The first piece on 60 Minutes was about robots doing amazing things that humans cannot do.  The Ohtani story seemed to be just a continuation, but this was an amazing thing that a human can do.  Much like Babe Ruth did.

Check out the segment:
http://www.cbsnews.com/videos/japans-babe-ruth-2/

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS)

  1. ESPN is polling fans to choose the top quarterbacks on a given team. For instance, the Packers’ top three would have to be Bart Starr, Brett Favre, and Aaron Rodgers. How would you rank them.  Ironically, ESPN has listed 19 teams and the Eagles are not one of them. Are they telling us something or did they just not get to the Birds yet?
  2. Speaking of “telling us something”, on the ESPN “This Week in Sports” search under MLB, there are 166 stories listed. The Phillies are the focus on one! That story is about their Saturday win (I guess the rare win warranted the story) over the Diamondbacks. Pathetic.
  3. It was announced this week that the Saucon Valley Country Club will host its eighth USGA championship in 2022 when the Senior Open comes to the Lehigh Valley. That is the year when Phil Mickelson, Ernie Els, Steve Stricker, and many other famous names will be eligible to play. RCN has always been proud of their telecommunication assistance during the past tournaments. It should create a great deal of national excitement for our area.
  4. The Cedar Beach Basketball Showcase in Allentown is, often, an indicator of which local teams will be the best in the upcoming high school season. The early favorites are familiar – Emmaus, Allen, Central Catholic, and Bangor (of the Colonial League) all look solid again. Sleepers could be Nazareth, Northampton, Liberty, and Dieruff (yes, Dieruff). That’s plenty of teams creating plenty of competition. It looks like another good year.
  5. No Blue Mountain League Game of the Week this coming Tuesday night (it’s July 4). However, on Friday, July 7, you can watch the Senior Baseball League on RCN at 9:30 PM. It’s their first television game in history and features the Gabelsville Owls vs the Palmisano Rangers.

We’re taking a holiday break next week, so there will be no blog. Wishing you a happy and safe Independence Day!

Behind the Mic: Ho-Hum!

Now what?  The Super Bowl has been played so there will not be any football for quite awhile.  The NBA and the NHL are in full swing, but for my interest is limited to the playoffs.  College basketball is heading to March Madness with league and conference championships right around the corner, but that’s still a few weeks away.  I do watch Villanova when I can and I pick up a Michigan game here and there just to watch former Allentown Central Catholic and Michigan starter, Muhammad Ali Abdur-Rahkman, play.  Villanova was on this weekend and so was Michigan.

So, for me, that leaves golf.  There is nothing like the scenery offered up this past weekend at Pebble Beach in California.  With the sun shining brightly, there was beautiful green grass surrounded by the Pacific Ocean.  Even if you were not a golf fan, like my wife, the sight of beaches and whales and yachts and sailboats even drew her in.  For me, when Jordan Spieth is near the top, I will watch.  He has become my new “Tiger”.  I used to watch any tournament that had Tiger in contention, but, as I am sure you know, his back surgery has kept him away and “contention” is a long way off.

Spieth took a six-shot lead into Sunday and for that reason there was little excitement.  Now I would be thrilled if I could move from hole to hole and just get pars, which is what Spieth was doing.  He was playing “prevent defense” and there was no one in the field who could produce a New England Patriots comeback.  Spieth just moseyed his way around the course, had an early and late birdie, and settled for the victory, his ninth on the PGA tour.

Tiger won nine times in 61 starts.  This was Jordan’s 100th pro start.  But does that matter?   Spieth is now the measuring stick.  Tiger bowed out of the last two events he was scheduled for after coming back.  He was able to play just seven rounds before his back forced him to stop again.  He may never be back.

The good news is there are plenty of terrific, young golfers on the tour and they will make each week a true crapshoot.  My problem is I tend to latch on to a favorite and follow that golfer.  The good news is, for me right now, that golfer is Jordan Spieth.  He is polite, seems to have good family values, has ties to Saucon Valley, and is very competitive.  And, if he is not having a good week, the scenery is still beautiful!

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS) 

  1. 76ers center Joel Embiid has been on the sideline with a torn meniscus in his left knee, yet he was caught dancing shirtless on stage at a concert this past weekend. He missed the entire 2014-15 season with a broken bone in his foot and went on to miss the entire 2015-16 season.  He played this season until February 11 when he tore his meniscus.  It just doesn’t sound like he should be dancing.
  2. You probably would not be surprised to learn that the Tom Brady NFL jersey is the #1 seller. Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz is #5.  His jersey accounted for more than 50% of all Eagles’ jerseys sold.  Fletcher Cox is #2 among the Eagles, but #3 will surprise you.  The third highest selling Eagles jersey belongs to Brian Dawkins who has not played for the team in almost ten years.  You now have a good trivia question.
  3. Since 2001, the New England Patriots have a 196-60 regular season record. No team is within 30 wins of that record. They have played in seven Super Bowls in that time span and, surprisingly, every one has been decided by one score or less.  In fact, their average point spread in all seven games is 3.7 points.  Remember, they beat the Eagles in 2005 by a 24-21 score.  Sounds like they could have won them all or lost them all.
  4. Most people around here are Villanova fans and they are currently ranked #2 in the country after spending the early part of the season at #1. Gonzaga has that spot right now and they are 26-0.  It does not appear, looking at their schedule, that the Bulldogs will lose a regular season game.  Villanova should get a #1 seed in the tournament and then prove they deserve the #1 spot overall.
  5. Don’t ask me why, but I watched the Grammys on Sunday night. Thank goodness there were excellent performances during the BeeGees and Prince dedications because almost everyone else was bad or chose a bad song, including Queen Bee (yet no one will say it!); Lady Gaga who killed at the Super Bowl but not so much with Metallica; and even Adele when she sang the George Michael tribute song.  Some great talent wasted.