Most days, this blog blankets the local sports scene. Today we’re going national, starting in Augusta.
On Tuesday, I asked Twitter followers to name their sporting event (local or national) between the Final Four and Labor Day.
The responses included Wimbledon, the College World Series, the Spring Game, the Kentucky Derby, MLB Opening Day(s), the NBA and NHL playoffs and — this year — the Olympics.
For me, it’s the Masters.
Azaleas. Pine straw. The piano that puts me in a Zen-like state of mind. The Masters is the unofficial start of golf season. Even better, it’s the unofficial start of spring. My memories go back to the early 90s, when it seemed like a European won the tournament every year. The Masters almost never disappoints, including last year when Charl Schwartzel birdied the last four holes to win by two.
This year, the hype is high. It’s unusual to have all the top players on top of their games: Rory, Tiger, Phil, Luke Donald. But remember, most recent winners have come out of the pack. Schwartzel, Angel Cabrera, Trevor Immelman, Zach Johnson.
My pick: Martin Kaymer, who won last year’s PGA.
>> I try to understand the warm and fuzzy feeling Midwesterners get for the Rose Bowl. But unless the Big Ten loosens its grip on Pasadena, there’s no way to really fix college football. The Rose Bowl can still take a Big Ten and a Pac-12 team every year. But it can’t be the conference champs.
Andy Staples of SI breaks down the BCS proposals here. In my mind, 3A, 3B and 3C are the only satisfactory options.
>> Heat-Thunder. Was that an NBA Finals preview last night? I hope so. And I hope Oklahoma City wins. But as good as Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook are, the Heat will win if officials allow Miami to play as physical as they did last night. OKC badly needs a low-post scoring threat.
>> One of the headlines on ESPN.com Wednesday was Joe Flacco saying he thinks he’s the best quarterback in the NFL. Somebody asked him if he was a top-five QB, and he said this:
“I assume everybody thinks they’re a top-five quarterback,” Flacco said when asked where he thinks he ranks among NFL quarterbacks. “I mean, I think I’m the best. I don’t think I’m top five, I think I’m the best. I don’t think I’d be very successful at my job if I didn’t feel that way. I mean, c’mon? That’s not really too tough of a question.
“That doesn’t mean that things are going to work out that way. It just means that’s the way it is — that’s the way I feel that it is and that’s the way I feel it should be.”
A year ago, it was Eli Manning in this position. Someone asked Eli if he was “elite.” He said yes. It became a huge story that followed Manning all the way to the Super Bowl.
My question: Why? Isn’t this the way we want every athlete to think? Manning and Flacco weren’t criticizing their competition. They weren’t calling a press conference to declare their greatness. They answered a question. People too often blame “the media”. But this story is an example of the media making something out of nothing.
>> In tomorrow’s Bites, I’m going to ask for your help in reshaping the blog. It isn’t changing dramatically, but it will be changing. Please prepare to offer me a little feedback.
>> A few healthy reads. First, Michael Silver on Gregg Williams’ pre-game speech. Then, ESPN on the power struggle at Penn State. Then, ESPN on LeBron. Then, GQ on Tiger. Finally, the star attraction at Wrigley Field isn’t the shortstop or the manager, it’s the president of operations.