Monday, April 29, 2013

JASON COLLINS: HE'S NO JACKIE ROBINSON


On Monday afternoon, Jason Collins, an NBA journeyman, announced that he is gay. Nearly
every article that followed said Collins is the first active athlete in a major sport to come out
of the closet. That could be debated because his season is over and the odds of an NBA team
picking up a 34-year old veteran center who has averaged just over three points in his 11-year
career, is very slim. So, I'm not sure the term "active" really fits in this case.

That's not really the point, though. What Collins did took great courage and he should be admired
and respected for his decision. Perhaps, it will open the door for not only athletes, but people in all
walks of life, to tell the world what their sexuality is and not have to worry about being ostracized by from friends, family, and the public. The decision by Collins clearly shook up the sports landscape on Monday. Actors, broadcast journalists, musicians, and have come out and nodody has blinked.
This is an athlete in a major sport coming out, so I guess it takes on greater significance, for some
reason.

But please don't compare Collins to Jackie Robinson. Just don't.

Robinson broke the color barrier in major league baseball in 1947. And he was chosen to be the
person to do it. Dodgers executive, Branch Rickey needed someone with thick skin, who could
turn the other cheek to the taunts and insults that Robinson would face as he shattered the barrier
of a sport that had been segregated for 50 years.
 

Collins himself, chose this point and time, to reveal his sexuality. His season, and perhaps his
career, are over. He probably won't have to worry about being harassed by fans and other players. Unlike, Robinson, Collins won't have to deal with death threats, bean balls from opposing pitchers, or getting spiked by runners trying to intimidate him.

Robinson wasn't allowed in the same hotels, restaurants, movie theatres, or even bathrooms as
his teammates. He had to drink out of a different water fountain. Collins doesn't have to worry
about any of that type of prejudice and second-class treatment. It's a different world for Collins
than it was for Robinson. Most of it is supportive, understanding, and has seen people much
more famous than Collins, come roaring out of the closet with great pride.


Back in the '50's, Robinson was the only black man in an all-white sport. He had nowhere to run
and nowhere to hide. His emotions and reactions were on display in a world filled with much more
hate than there is today. Robinson had teammates who hated him just because of the color of his
skin. I can almost guarantee you that many of Collins' teammates had an idea he was gay, but I
don't think any one of them will tell you they hated him because of it.

As someone who covered professional sports for many years, and played in college and minor-leagues, I can tell you that most athletes are more accepting of gays than the rest of society.
It does not bother 99 percent of the players in the game if they have a gay teammate They are mentally tougher, more focused, and just don't care what people are doing outside of the playing fields and locker rooms.

I think the media makes a bigger deal out of gays in sports than athletes and fans do. Nobody
cared when Brittany Griner, the top pick in the WNBA draft came out and said she was gay last week. Griner is a bigger name than Collins ever was until Monday afternoon. Why is it so
different? Is it because Collins is a man playing in the NBA?


This is a significant day for gay athletes in sports. Will Collins turn out be a trailblazer in all
of this? I don't think so. Other black baseball players saw how Jackie Robinson responded to
the taunts, death threats, and behavior of racist teammates. It remains to be seen if Collins even
gets offered an NBA contract next year and that itself could be key as to other players who might consider coming out. If they see that Collins doesn't get a contract, don't you think that'll make
them think twice about coming out. With all the money to be made in the NBA, do you think
they'd want to take the chance on not being offered a huge contract because of it?

Don't you think they'd want to see how Collins is treated next year by fans and the media before
thinking about coming out? If he gets verbally abused and hated upon, do you think they'd want
to go through that too, especially if they're playing for a big contract?

Yes, Collins is man of great courage, but we may never know just how resilient he is. We knew
what Jackie Robinson went through and how he shattered the color barrier. I'm not sure Collins
has taken a sledgehammer to the gays in sports barrier just yet.

I do know one thing, though. Collins is not Jackie Robinson. Not even close.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

MANTI TE'O FINALLY GETS HIS HAPPY ENDING

 


Thanks to the most bizarre scandal in the history of college football, Manti Te'o became the
most scrutinized and vetted player in pre-NFL Draft history. Is he gay? Is he too slow? Is he
overrated? Is he just a strange guy who can run down ball carriers? All those questions followed
the former Notre Dame linebacker after it was revealed that the dead girlfriend he said he had,
never really existed.

The questions about his character, sexuality, and carrying on a relationship with somebody
that never had a pulse, hitched on to him as he rode into Thursday's NFL Draft.  Mel Kiper, Jr,
draft expert, had Te'o in the To 10 of the NFL Draft, but that was BEFORE all the drama. Experts
speculated that Te'o was radioactive because of the controversy and whispers about his sexuality.
 

Most said they didn't want to have a Tim Tebow-like circus on their hands. Others were concerned
about Teo's speed. He ran a turtle-like 4.8 at the NFL combine, but improved on that at his pro
day, clocking a 4.7. It's really amazing how, Te'o could play nearly ever snap for every game for
four years, become an All-American, and Heisman finalist, and people want to judge him on
4.7 seconds of his life. Jerry Rice ran a 4.71 at the combine and he turned out pretty well, didn't he?


Te'o, who was at home with his non-imaginary parents in Hawaii, sat through the first-round
without getting a phone call. On day two, Te'o didn't have to wait long, being selected by the
San Diego Chargers, the first linebacker taken in the draft. San Diego seems to be the perfect
spot for Te'o. It's a laid back, southern California city whose spotlight is not as bright as say,
New York  Chicago, or Boston. He can just concentrate on football and not worry about all
the other stuff.

And for a city that just lost a beloved son and legend in Junior Seau, Te'o has a chance to
become a fan favorite and star. There's something seems to be right and poetic about Te'o
being selected by the team where Seau became a legend. Could be a perfect fit.


It also goes to show that talent always wins out in the NFL. There were questions about Teo's
character and many felt he shouldn't be drafted until the latter rounds. But like the marijuana
loving Honey Badger from LSU, Te'o has a talent that's coveted in the NFL, and as long as you
have that, teams will look the other way on the other stuff.

January is when that incredible story broke about Te'o and his dead girlfriend that never really
existed. That seems like a long, long, time ago. A lot has happened since then that makes all
that drama seem so trivial. Unlike Teo's girlfriend, the Boston Marathon bombing was real.
Lives were lost and destroyed forever. It will take a long time for the city to recover.


Teo has recovered. His scandal will be part of him and his legacy forever, but it's so trivial in comparison to other things that are going on in this world. We've all gotten over it. We used
Te'o to be the butt of many a joke. He had to go through an excruciating time waiting to see
how the first phase of his career would play out.

Te'o didn't realize his dream of being a first-round pick (He can tell his imaginary friends he
was one) but he got his happy ending and he's a San Diego Charger now.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

I AM BOSTON


I am Boston. Last Monday was the worst day of my life. Terrorists set off two bombs trying
to wreck my beloved marathon. I lost three beautiful people in Martin Richard, Krsytle Campbell, and Lu Lingzi. Almost 200 more were injured, many of them badly. I was shaken to my core,
but I am strong and still standing.



I am Boston and I learned a lot about myself and others over the last week.

I used to think courage was Tedy Bruschi coming back from a stroke to play for the Patriots,
but my police department, as well as the one from Watertown showed me the true meaning of it.
Those two terrorists sprayed them with bullets and threw bombs at them, but they stood tall in
the face of evil and brought them to justice.


I thought bravery was Terry O'Reilly of the Bruins taking on the biggest, baddest, and meanest
guys in the NHL and beating them silly with his fists. I was wrong. Bravery is defined by the first-responders, who put others ahead of themselves, even though danger was still very much in the air. Carlos Arredondo, the man in the cowboys hat, pulled fencing off the victims and saved the life of Jeff Bauman by pinching his femoral artery so he wouldn't bleed out. How incredible is that?


I once thought precision was Pedro Martinez of the Red Sox painting the black of the plate with
95-mile an hour fastballs. That's absurd to me now. Precision is the coordinated effort of the FBI, S.W.A.T teams, state and local police. They used a robot to rip the tarp off a boat and thermal imaging to confirm suspect #2 was in there. Truly amazing.


I am Boston and if you mess with my city again, you will pay the price. Our people will hunt you
down, kill you, capture you, and take away your freedom forever.

I am Boston and I watched Ted Williams, Bobby Orr, Larry Bird, and Tom Brady grow up and become legends. I'm not impressed with anything less than greatness, and the performance of all
those law enforcement officials, first-responders, and volunteers was wicked awesome. Greatness personified.

I am Boston and I used to be self-reliant and standoffish. If I had a problem and outsiders wanted
to help, I'd say, "I'm good. I can handle it myself. Don't worry about it." But this time, I was
hurting and you were still there to help me. Thank you.


I am Boston and I know that I'm not always easy to like. I have the best sports teams, colleges,
restaurants, and even Fenway Park, the cathedral of baseball. Some of my people are arrogant
and more sandpaper than satin. They can rub out-of-towers the wrong way. There's a reason
some of them are called Massholes. I understand. This tragedy is sure to make me a little kinder
and gentler. I hope some of those people follow my lead.

I am Boston strong and now I'm even stronger. This tragedy has brought everybody in this
great city closer together. We have a bond that can't be broken and a spirit that can't be shattered.


I am Boston and next year, my marathon will be better than ever. People will come from all over
the world to honor the victims of the tragedy. Thousands of people will come to applaud the
first-responders and law enforcement officials. It will be the biggest and most important event
of the year.

I am Boston and I love David Ortiz. He, like most of the people in my city, speaks from the heart.
He was talking my language on Saturday. Nobody can take away our freedom, our marathon,
and happiness. F*#K*@G, nobody.

2014 BOSTON MARATHON: BIGGER THAN SUPER BOWL


Gerry Callahan, the talented columnist for Boston Herald, wrote shortly after the Boston Marathon
bombing, the terrorists blew a hole into the great race and Patriots,Day saying that it would never
be the same. He is right, the Boston Marathon won't be like it used to be. It will be better, stronger, and more important than ever before.

On April 21, 2014, the 118th edition of the race will be run and it will be the biggest and most important event of the year. It will be bigger than the Super Bowl, Final Four, and the Masters.
Getting into the race for a runner, will be more difficult than it is for a woman to get a
membership to Augusta National. People from around the world will come to honor the victims
and first responders and they won't even have to buy a ticket to get in.


They will come to applaud law enforcement officials who showed incredible bravery and courage
in hunting down the terrorists.There will be more media credentials requests for this Boston Marathon than the World Series. Everybody will want to be part of what will now be a great American event.

Let's face it, the Boston Marathon and Patriots Day, had given the city another reason to party. It
was a day off from work to watch the Red Sox, support runners in the marathon, drink, and drink
a lot. It had been a tradition unlike any other, even the Masters. If you've been to Boston on that
day, you know how special it is. It's like being plugged into an electric outlet for five hours.


But the Boston Marathon and Patriots Day means a helluva lot more now, than it did before April
15, 2013. It will be another reminder that our freedom and our way of life can be attacked. It's another statement that says evil is always lurking around the corner, whether it be on Newbury
Street or in Newtown. And it'll be a billboard about Boston's resilience and strength.

Next April,  Boston will step up and tell the world that, "yeah, we were hurt and shaken to the core
but we are strong and still standing. If you want to mess with our marathon, you will pay the price.
We will hunt you down, kill, capture, and take away your freedom for good."



And in the words of David Ortiz they will tell the world that this is "our F#@K*#$ marathon and
our city. And it will be better than ever before."

Thursday, April 18, 2013

BOSTON BOMBING: THE SOCIAL MEDIA HUNT IS OFF AND RUNNING

At close to 5:15pm on Thursday, the FBI lifted the black items that had been covering two
large poster boards resting on an easel in a Boston hotel room. In a way, it felt like the
old game show, "Let's Make A Deal", where contestants and viewers at home were directed
by Monty Hall to see what was behind door number one, two, or three.


The anticipation and tension was palpable, with everyone on the edge of their seats, especially
after CNN, Fox, and the AP botched and just embarrassed themselves a day earlier, saying
there had been an arrest in the Boston Marathon bombing case.

But this was no game show and  Rick DesLauriers was not Monty Hall. This was more like
"Let's Make These Guys Pay," and it touched off the biggest manhunt on U.S. soil in more
than 15 years.

DesLauriers, the head of the FBI's Boston office, unveiled pictures of "suspect 1" and "suspect 2"
causing a collective gasp among reporters, photographers, and viewers at home. This was not a
case of a lone wolf, but a carefully thought out attack on innocent people. Faces were pinned to
an evil act that caused three deaths and injured more  than 170 people in a fiercely proud city
that loves sports, politics, but most of all revenge.


Thanks to Facebook, Twitter, and an entire social media network that seems to run on crack, this
manhunt will be unlike any other we have ever seen. Within seconds of the FBI's announcement,
the pictures and video were downloaded and posted for the entire world to see.

CSI-wannabe's everywhere were dissecting the suspects movements and clothing as if it was
their most important and only job. Comments on Facebook said suspect number 2 was
bowl-legged and a friend recognize him instantly. Bridgestone golf hats were copied and
pasted from sporting good websites for comparison of the hat suspect number one was wearing. Through Twitter, the  FBI had already received more than 10,000 tips by 10pm.

It seems like the entire world is investigating the case right along with the FBI and Boston law
enforcement officials. When the FBI asked for people's help in identifying the suspects, it seemed
like a good excuse to make it our full-time jobs. Facebook and Twitter have given people a
platform to pontificate, investigate, and commentate. Theories abound on where they're from,
where did they go and how did they get there. And because this world that has gotten so much smaller because of social media, somebody will know somebody somewhere who knows one
of the suspects, and then tweet it across the Twittershpere.

A picture will be posted on Facebook somewhere at sometime and someone might recognize
one of the suspects and call the FBI. Again, the world has gotten so much smaller thanks to
all these social media networks and there really isn't that many places to hide.

This case is fascinating and scintillating. We never saw video of Eric Rudolph going to
plant  the bomb in Centennial Park during the 1996 Atlanta Olympics and there was nothing instantaneous about  the information we got about it because there wasn't any called social media back then. The nation saw video of several of  the hijackers of 9/11 pass through airport
security, but that was long after they committed their despicable acts and had perished.


We have seen video of these suspects minutes before they committed their senseless and evil
crime. We see how they look and how they act and the confidence they demonstrate with bombs
on their backs.

And this is different. This is a different world that uses social media for every piece of information
it can possibly digest. Three days after the Boston Marathon bombing, just about the entire
world has seen the video of these suspects. They are out there somewhere. They have friends
who will rat them out. Somebody in Spain might have a picture on their phone that looks like
one of the suspects and they will send it instantaneously to the United States to see if it matches
up with the ones in the video. It happens. And this case might end like never before.

The suspects  are running in a world that isn't so big anymore thanks to all the social media vehicles.

This is a manhunt that is probably going to end quickly, and a big reason for it might just be
because of social media.




Wednesday, April 17, 2013

CARLOS ARREDONDO: THE MAN IN THE COWBOY HAT


The image and story of Carlos Arredondo and Jeff Bauman have been seared into my
consciousness forever. Arredondo, the man in the cowboy hat, trying desperately to save a
person who, in an instant, became just like him: damaged, broken, and forever scarred by
unthinkable tragedy.

Bauman, just 27-years old, was waiting for his girlfriend to cross the finish line in the Boston
Marathon. Turns out, he was in right place at the wrong time, as a bomb exploded, ripping his
legs apart. Arredondo, who was sitting across the way in the VIP  section, rushed to his side
and saw wounds on Bauman that were as big as the emotional ones that ripped out his heart
nine years earlier.



In 2004, Arrandondo's 20-year-old son, Alex, was killed during the war in Iraq. It was August
25th, the same date as the elder Arrendondo was born. That was too cruel, too painful, and too
much for Arrendondo to handle. Three Marines came to his home in Florida to notify Carlos
of his son's passing. Carlos was so distraught, he jumped into the van of the Marines, doused
himself with gasoline and lit a torch. He suffered second and third-degree burns on 25 percent
of his body.

Seven years later, as Carlos was coming out of his battle with depression, his other son, Brian,
lost his fight against his. Brian was depressed, the loss of his brother too much to overcome.
At just 24-years-old, Brian took his own life.

They say no parent should ever have to bury a child, to have to say good-bye to two of them,
especially when they are so young, is beyond cruel. The guilt, thoughts, and questions about
whether you had done enough to prevent a son from committing suicide would be too much to
bear for most people, but as we saw on Monday, Carlos, the man in the cowboy hat, is not like
most people.

According to reports, he talked to Bauman as the lower parts of his legs had been blown apart.
The injury to Louisville's Kevin Ware was minor compared to what Arredondo was seeing.
But unlike Ware's teammates, he did not cry and turn away as an injured man lay helplessly
on the ground. He wrapped a tourniquet around Bauman's leg to stop the bleeding and lifted
him into a wheelchair. Shocked, his face ashen, Bauman was in jeopardy of bleeding out.
Arrendondo reached down and pinched the artery in his leg to help stop the blood from
gushing out.


Bauman made it to the hospital where doctors saved his life, but couldn't do the same for
his legs. Both were amputated, his life changed forever. Bauman and Arredondo lost something
they can never get back. Arredondo lost two sons, Bauman lost both of his legs.

Arrendondo somehow found the strength to move on and focused on becoming a peace activist
and working with families who lost loved ones to suicide. Odds are, Bauman will find depression
staring him in the face. Losing both legs, will be a major adjustment and one that will test his
resolve and resiliency. But he only has to look at the man who helped save his life for inspiration.

I can't help but think how the picture of Arredondo helping wheel Bauman in his chair reminds
me of Dick Hoyt , who has pushed his son through more than 30 marathons in a wheelchair. The strength, character, and heart of Hoyt can't be measured , but his courage and selflessness were immortalized in a statue that was unveiled before the race.


Perhaps, when Boston gets pasts the horrific tragedy that happened on April 15, 2013, they can
add a statue of Arredondo and Bauman to its streets. They are two men, linked forever like Dick
Hoyt and his son. They are a symbol of heart, courage, and perseverance that never should be forgotten.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

BOSTON, MY BOSTON


Boston is like a powerful and addictive drug. It stimulates, energizes, and consumes you.
It's electric every day and makes you feel alive as it enriches all five of the senses. The world-class city is rich in everything: history, tradition, politics, education, the arts, but most of all, sports.

As I've written many times, Boston is the best sports city in the country, bar none. The Red Sox,
Celtics, Bruins, and Patriots have won seven world championships since 2001 and the hockey team
at Boston College has captured three national titles during that stretch. Bobby Orr, Larry Bird, and
Ted Williams have been forever stitched into the fabric of Boston and Fenway Park is the crown jewel of the city as the cathedral of baseball.


Fenway Park was my home away from home for more than a year when I worked at NESN, whose
offices were located just outside of the famous Green Monster. As a sports junkie all my life, I felt I had the greatest job in the world and was like a kid in a candy story, covering sports every day in
Boston.

I never got to cover the Boston Marathon, but I did get to experience and fully enjoy it. My studio
apartment, which was so small I had often joked I had to sleep standing up, was located at the
epicenter of the city. I walked out the front door onto Newbury Street. If I decided to go out the
back way I could fall onto Boylston Street, which was the home stretch of the 26.2 mile race.


It's an event like no other, filled with smiles, laughter, and often several alcoholic beverages. This
was living, I often said to myself. This was the marathon and Patriots Day, a day like none other
anywhere in America.

It will never be the same after Monday's events. Two bombs went off near the finish line killing
three people and injuring more than 140 others. A perfect day interrupted by evil. There was
chaos, confusion, and mass casualties. The race was intended to honor the victims of the Newtown
tragedy with many of the parents of those small children killed in that horrific event sitting in the
VIP section across from the first explosion. How terrible, how tragic, and how unfair is that?



The Boston Marathon will never be just the Boston Marathon anymore. Like Newtown, it will
always have a story of  a great tragedy attached to it. The event was so perfect, so right, and so
very pure. It's a day of a million smiles, which all have been turned upside down by someone or
some group whose goal was death and destruction.

The spirit may be sucked out of this great city for the next few days or even weeks, but it will
recover. As President Obama so eloquently stated, the people of Boston are tough and resilient.
They have dealt with great heartbreak before and have bounced back. This tragedy hurts like no
other. An 8-year-old boy was killed just moments after hugging his dad who ran past his
entire family to complete the race. This wasn't fair. It was pure evil. Pure madness.


Boston is in my blood and in my heart. I have so many great memories from my time living and
covering sports there. It is strong and rich in character.It will take time, but it will recover. The Boston Marathon will never be the same again, but the people of the great city will. They will
bounce back. I'm sure of it.

Monday, April 15, 2013

TIGER WOODS LEARNS ALL ABOUT KARMA


When Tiger Woods hit the pin on the 15th hole and watched helplessly as the ball caromed
into the water, my first reaction was, man, how unlucky can you get? A near-perfect shot and
then, boom! The ball ends up in the water. Then I realized that wasn't being unlucky, that was
karma knocking on Tiger's door.

I thought back to two weeks earlier when Tiger won the Bay Hill Invitational. He reclaimed
the number one ranking in the world and appeared to be back on top of it in every phase of his
life.The very next day, Nike ruined the feel good vibe for Tiger when they plastered the ad that
said, "Winning Takes Care of Everything." That just didn't feel right to a lot of people who
were miffed that Tiger would approve such an ad that had one big underlying current. It said
that winning can cover up everything, including being a serial philanderer.


On Friday, with Tiger about to take the outright lead, karma showed up. Could it really have
been anything else? A near perfect pitch to a perfectly manicured green hits a perfectly placed
pin. Instead of bouncing to the right or straight down, it spins back into the water. Seriously?
As I watched Tiger walk to the drop area and then back to where he originally hit it from, I was
wondering if he really thought "winning takes care of everything" at that moment. It sure didn't
look that way.

The next morning, Tiger woke up to a text from his agent, Mark Steinberg, that he needed to
call him ASAP. That ASAP message led to a discussion that Tiger might be DQ'd. Apparently,
the drop Tiger made was an illegal one, which was pointed out by a viewer who somehow
had the direct phone number to Masters officials.


Tiger went to Augusta National to meet with officials, who spared him from a DQ, but slapped
him with a 2-shot penalty. So, instead of getting a four on the 15th hole, Tiger wound up with a snowman, an 8, a triple-bogey. Was that bad luck? No, I think it was karma playing itself out.

Not much went right for Tiger in round three. The man who had so much magic in his putter just
two weeks earlier, couldn't buy a putt, not even a two-footer. On the eighth hole, he missed a near gimme when his ball did a 360 and then some around the hole. Bad luck? Maybe. Karma?
Hmmmm. I don't know.

On Sunday, Tiger made a little bit of a charge to get to 5-under and within three shots of the
lead. But he had to watch as Adam Scott outdueled Angel Cabrera to win the Masters in dramatic fashion. The first man to great Scott after the Aussie sank the winning putt, was Stevie Williams,
the caddie who had been on Tiger's bag for 13 majors before he got pink slipped by Tiger three
years ago.

Was that karma working again? Perhaps.

Friday, April 12, 2013

GUAN SLOW AND STRONG KID


The smallest, youngest, and most inexperienced golfer in the Masters got bullied on his
way to making history. Tianlang Guan, who is 14-years old and all of 140 lbs, was making
his way to the 17th green when he was confronted by a large man who had a beef with him.
Think Biff making life miserable for McFly in "Back To The Future". On Friday, Biff was
played by John Paramor, a rules official with a strong background on the European Tour.
He tagged Guan with a one-stroke penalty for slow play.


Yes, I know there are rules and every golfer should abide by them. But when there has
only been one golfer (Glenn Day) on the PGA Tour since 1995 who has been slapped with
a stroke penalty for being slower  than molasses in the winter, Paramor wasn't enforcing the
rules, but rather bullying  a little kid who had been the talk of the tournament and on the
verge of becoming the youngest player in history to make the cut in one of the four major
---by two years!

Yes, I realize Guan had been warned several times, but seriously, he was hardly the only
player out there to be playing slow enough to cause a rain delay. It took Tiger Woods and
the threesome he was playing in (get your mind out of the gutter) an hour and twenty minutes
to play three holes. That's painful.


I'm sure Paramor looked the other way when reputed  slow-players like Sergio Garcia and
Keegan Bradley went through enough pre-shot routines to put the most hardened insomniac
to sleep. Guan's threesome, which included Ben Crenshaw who finishied at +20,  wrapped up
their round in close to five and a half hours. You mean to tell me it took them so long to
finish just because of the kid? No way.

We all know the type of people who feel they have to justify their jobs. They know they
do nothing, we know they do nothing, and their parents know they do nothing. But every
once in a while, they have to do something to feel like they are important. This wasn't the
time for Paramor to do that. He should have swallowed his stopwatch, dropped it, or claimed
it had a malfunction.

To penalize the youngest and smallest player sure made it seem like Paramor was picking
on Guan. Do you think Parmor  would have the Titleists to go up to  Tiger and say,
"Hey, Eldrick, pick up the pace!"? I don't think so.

Paramor confronted Guan on the 17th hole as he was trying to focus on finishing strong
to make the cut. A lot of other golfers would've had a meltdown and stuck their Nike driver
where the sun doesn't shine on Paramor. Many of them would've have become totally
unglued, lost their focus, and blown any shot at closing things out to ensure themselves
of playing on the weekend. Not Guan. The kid  didn't get flustered. He was a rock and
finished the tough 18th hole with a par to card a 75 and go four over for the tournament,
which at the time, made him on the edge of the cut line.

When interviewed after the round as he waited to find out his fate, Guan showed the
remarkable class and poise of a remarkably classy and poised seasoned veteran, much less
a 14-year old kid playing in first professional tournament. He didn't bad mouth Paramor
and praised him for doing his job.


Other golfers and fans didn't think that way of Paramor, especially the ones who had
never seen any golfer penalized in the history of the Masters, and there was good reason
for it: nobody in the tournament's history had ever been penalized for slow play.

Guan had to watch second-round leader, Jason Day, miss a birdie putt on 18 before he
could celebrate making the cut and history. Guan became the youngest player ever to
make the cut in a major championship.After he got the news, he tweeted Asia or rather
"Weibo-ed" it (that's China's version of Twitter).

"I made it. "I hope I can make more miracles, more dreams come true. I want to thank
 my parents and everyone who cared, supported and helped me." With no thanks to
 Paramor, who would've been the most unpopular rules "official", since Jim Joyce botched
 the perfect game of Detroit Tigers pitcher Armando Galarragga a few years ago.

The day wasn't perfect for Guan, but it was pretty darn close it. Making history often is.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

TIANLANG GUAN AND BEING 14-YEARS OLD



When I was 14-years old, I had one of the most frightening experiences in my life. I was a
freshman at Lake Forest High, which is located about 30 miles north of Chicago. I was going to
ask Carrie Pinkerton to go out with me. Man, you talk about sweaty palms, dry mouth,  and
the fear of looking bad? I had it.

If I was Forest Gump, Carrie was my Jen-naaaay. She was the prettiest thing I had ever laid I
eyes. Even though she wore blue jean overalls and a super tight and pink sweater, what seemed
like every single day, I had a mad crush on her. Asking her out was nerve racking. What should
I say, how should I do it, and will she notice the big zit on my forehead and nose? All those
questions went through my mind about a million times. I finally got the courage to pop the
biggest question  of my 14-year life. And you know what? Carrie Pinkerton said yes. Woo-hoo!
I was DA MAN!

I thought about that as I was watching Tianlang Guan become the youngest person ever to play in
the Masters. He's just 14-years old, the same age I was when I asked Carrie Pinkerton to be mine
during my freshman year. And it hit me. I said, "what the hell was I so nervous about? This kid's
playing the Masters before he hit puberty and I was scared out of my mind in asking Carrie out!" Unreal.


It was pretty unreal watching Guan play the perfectly manicured course at Augusta National. He
looked about as nervous as he probably was when he played a municipal course back in China
for the first time. The kid had ice in his veins. He didn't shake, sweat, or wet his pants in what
had  to be the biggest moment of his life. It certainly was one of the biggest moments in the history
of  the  Masters. Guan is the youngest golfer to tee it up in the tournament by TWO YEARS!
Simply, amazing.


Guan received an automatic spot in the Masters by winning an amateur tournament in China
that you've never heard of. Playing with two-times Masters champion, Ben Crenshaw, who was making his 42nd start in Augusta, Guan shot an incredible 73, which was just one-over par
and good enough to be low amateur of the day.

There was nothing amateur about Guan on this historic day. He bounced back from a bogey
on the opening hole, then played even for  the rest of the way. Guan's tricky birdie putt on 18,
snaked its way into the cup to the put an exclamation on one heckuva story. A 73 for a 14-year
old kid in the Masters? Wow. Tiger Woods played his first round in the Masters as an amateur
at 19-years old, which is a seasoned veteran compared to Guan. Tiger shot 72, making Guan's
opening score really, really, really, impressive


Leading up to the 2013 Masters, it was all about Tiger Woods. Tiger this, Tiger that, Tiger's
going to running away with the tournament as if nobody else is playing. Forget that. I'm tired of
it already. Watching Tianlang Guan is amazing. He's only 14! That means he still has plenty of
shanks, chilly-dips, and duck hooks left in his game because he's far from a finished product,
but he was simply brilliant. Poise? He's the definition of it.

Remarkably, Guan has played more than 200 tournaments in his young life already. None are
bigger than the Masters and he's acting (and playing) as if he's been a member at Augusta his
entire life. It's truly a beautiful thing to watch.

This is so innocent, so pure, and so fascinating to watch unfold. There is no scandal, no drama,
and no agents plotting his every move and sound bite. This is scintillating.


When Guan tees it up on Friday morning, he will have more new fans they he could've have
every imagined. Eyes will be fixated on him, the experts will critique every part of his game,
and part of our faith in the purity of sports, will be restored.

Forget about Tiger, Guan will get all of my attention for the rest of this tournament. And  he'll get,
remarkably, even more attention than I gave to Carrie Pinkerton back in the day, as a 14-year
old freshman in high school. What the heck was I thinking?