Prepping for this week’s blog, I realized that it was going to be a bit of a downer. I mean really, a couple of high-profile deaths, a college football firing, and two of NBA’s greats are leaving the game. That makes for some sad reading. However, that’s what happened this week in sports, so I pretty much had to write about it. So I did. With that in mind, I tried to mix in some good news, some average news, and even a little bit of humor. So without further ado, the saddest This Week in Sports yet . . .
Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce saying goodbye
What a sad year it’s been for NBA fans. First, my beloved Kobe retired. Now, Kevin Garnett has announced his immediate retirement, and Paul Pierce has announced that this season will be his final season and that he will call it quits in 2017. I won’t talk Kobe here, because to be honest no one wants to read the 8,924,285-word tribute I’d draft to Kobe over tears and Kleenex boxes. But we need to talk about KG and Paul.
Kevin Garnett entered the NBA in 1995, when I was just a wee 4-year-old (in case any of you wanted to feel old while reading today). Garnett was drafted right out of high school with the fifth overall pick by the Minnesota Timberwolves. At the time, he was the first NBA player drafted directly out of high school since the mid-70's. Over his 21 seasons in the NBA, Garnett has played for the Timberwolves, the Boston Celtics, and the Brooklyn Nets. Garnett’s career has lead him to 15 All-Star Games, 12 All-Defense teams, and 12 All-NBA teams. Garnett led the Boston Celtics to an NBA championship in 2008 over the L.A. Lakers. Garnett’s 21 seasons are tied for the most seasons played in the NBA with Robert Parish and Kevin Willis.
Garnett’s retirement signifies the end of a truly brilliant basketball career. Garnett’s 1995 draft was the start of the “preps-to-pros revolution” after he was drafted directly out of high school. The year following Garnett’s draft, Kobe Bryant and Jermaine O’Neal were drafted out of high school, and the trend was in full force, until the NBA put a stop to it in 2005. In addition to this early trend set by Garnett, he also arguably started the era of the “Big 3.” After playing for the Timberwolves for 12 years, Garnett left Minnesota to join the Boston Celtics in 2007. In Boston, he joined Ray Allen and Paul Pierce and the trio went on to win that year’s NBA championship. And last but not least, in my opinion, KG’s legacy has to include the intensity with which he played the game. Watching on TV, you could hear Garnett getting into the minds of his opponents, whether he was actually shouting at them or he was up close and personal whispering in their ear or looking them right in the eyes. Hell, he pulled those antics with players on his own team too. Garnett is one of those players who thrives on his emotions. It’s something that we see less and less in athletes these days, and it’s what I’m going to miss most about Kevin Garnett.
Taking a page out of KG and Kobe’s book, Paul Pierce announced his retirement earlier this week as well. I include the Kobe mention here, because Pierce announced via an open letter on the Players’ Tribune, just as Kobe did nearly a year ago (*sniffles*). Unlike KG, Pierce didn’t announce that he was retiring effective immediately; he took another page out of Kobe’s book and instead announced that this would be his final season.
Pierce was drafted in 1998 with the 10th overall pick by the Boston Celtics. He played in Boston for 15 years before being traded to the Brooklyn Nets along with KG and Jason Terry, doing a quick stint with the Washington Wizards, then most recently landing in Los Angeles with the Clippers. Pierce is a 10-time NBA All-Star, 4-time All-NBA team member, 1-time NBA Finals MVP, and again, along with KG, a 2008 NBA Champion.
Now here’s where my issue comes in with the Paul Pierce retirement. It’s become a trend in recent years for soon-to-be-retirees to be given these grandiose farewell tours during their final season. The obvious farewell tours that come to mind are Kobe’s that occurred this past season and Boston Redsox player, David “Big Papi” Ortiz's that is wrapping up in the final weeks of the MLB season right now. Though I agree that Paul Pierce is a basketball legend, I just can’t agree that he’s deserving of a farewell tour. Now, that’s not to say that the Clippers shouldn’t recognize Pierce as he closes out his career, but I do not think that Pierce should receive half-time presentations or special gifts from each team as he plays his final game in their city. I don’t know where exactly we draw the line between players like Kobe and Pierce, but I do know that I strongly believe those two players fall on different sides of that line.
Regardless of my personal thoughts on Kevin Garnett or Paul Pierce, their retirements signal the ever approaching end of an era in basketball. All of the sudden the players who’ve been referred to as the new-generation are starting to look a lot less new. Even this 25-year-old basketball fanatic is beginning to feel old as my favorite players hang up their shoes for the final time.
Jose Fernandez boat death
There is something to be said for over-covering a topic in the media (yeah . . . I’ve got a big ego; we’re calling this “media” now). I’m sure as you all have learned over the past few days on various social media platforms, newspapers, and the hours of Sportscenter I’m assuming many of you watch, Miami Marlin’s pitcher Jose Fernandez was killed in a boating accident in the early morning hours of September 25th. Without hammering this topic, but still informing those of you who don’t follow sports as closely as others, here’s what you need to know about Jose Fernandez.
Fernandez was born in Cuba in 1992. He made three unsuccessful attempts at defecting before he was successful in 2008. In 2011 he was selected in the first round of the MLB draft by the Miami Marlins. In his short career, Fernandez was named to the MLB All-Star Game twice, was the 2013 NL Rookie of the Year, and finished third in Cy Young Award votes. Aside from these career accolades, Fernandez was well known for being outspoken about his escape from Cuba and his uncanny ability to engage the two different worlds within the Miami community—both the English speaking community and the Spanish speaking community.
In the days since his death, the tributes and touching gestures from teams around the league have been overwhelming. The Marlins have announced that they will retire his #16 jersey as well. However, in what would be an unprecedented move, the MLB has acknowledged that Fernandez may still win this year’s NL Cy Young Award. Ballots for the Cy Young Award are due before the season ends next week, and voting is then revealed in November. Prior to his death, Fernandez was a front runner for NL Cy Young hopefuls. It appears that even after his death, the MLB is considering a posthumous recognition of the great season that Fernandez had. Be on the lookout for news on this front in future weeks.
Les Miles out at LSU
Sunday afternoon the Louisiana State Football program announced that it had fired head coach Les Miles and offensive coordinator Cam Cameron. Les Miles’ name is just one of those names that’s synonymous with college football. Miles coached at Oklahoma State University from 2001 to 2004, and began his tenure at LSU in 2005 until being fired just this week. Miles’ coaching record consists of 141 wins to just 55 losses (114-34 at LSU), and he’s been to 14 bowl games, coming away with 8 wins. Miles lead the LSU Tigers to a BCS Championship win against Ohio State in 2007. This year’s LSU team is currently 2-2 overall, and 1-1 in conference play. If you know nothing about college football you should at least know that it is never okay for a program as big as LSU to be a .500 team. And that mediocrity is exactly why Miles was let go. Had he coached for any other team, Miles’ would likely still have a job. LSU is a prestigious football program, and that prestige demands a better record than 2-2 and a much better performance than two early season losses to then unranked Wisconsin and Cam Newton-less Auburn.
Miles’ firing came less than 24 hours after LSU lost its game to Auburn after a crazy finish. Maybe this craaaazy ending had a little something to do with LSU’s decision? Either way. THIS. GAME. WAS. NUTS.
The legendary Arnold Palmer passed away
While there is a lot of good happening in golf, they experienced tragedy this week too with the loss of Arnold Palmer.
While Arnold is arguably best known for his lemonade + iced tea beverage combination, he also happened to be one of the greatest golfers the sport has ever seen. Known as “The King,” Arnold was one of the first golf professionals to experience stardom as televisions gained popularity. Palmer is part of golf’s “Big 3” with best friends and fellow golfers Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player. Palmer is still fifth all time in PGA tour victories with a whopping 62 PGA titles. Palmer was one of the original inductees into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1974, just one year after competing in his final PGA event. Arnie managed to keep himself in the limelight after more than 40 years away from competitive golfing. He’ll be in the limelight yet again this weekend as the PGA will tribute Palmer during the upcoming Ryder Cup Tournament.
Good things happening in Golf
Before getting into this weekend’s upcoming Ryder Cup tournament, let’s chat quick about last weekend’s exciting tournament finish and the insane money that goes along with a FedEx Cup victory.
Tour Championship Playoff
So my Dad and I both happen to be LA Rams fans, which is surprisingly hard to come by in small-town Montana. (I promise this is relevant!). It’s also hard to come by a regularly televised Rams game around here. Me, being a post-graduation/pre-employment lawyer, I’m poor. Which means every Sunday my Dad and I get together at my parents’ house to watch our Rams play on Sunday Ticket. Well, this meeting took a bit of a detour this weekend when we got sucked into the end of the PGA Tour Championship Tournament. (See, I told you this would be relevant!!)
The Tour Championship is the final tournament of the PGA Tour season. This past weekend, Rory McIlroy claimed the Tour Championship and the FedEx Cup for the first time in his career. His win did not come easy. Rory eagled the 16th hole, parred the 17th, and birdied the 18th to put himself in a three-way playoff with Ryan Moore and Kevin Chappell. McIlroy had a chance to win it all with a six-foot eagle putt on the first playoff hole. In a scream at the TV moment (at least in my house), however, McIlroy’s putt juuuuust slid by the hole. He went on to birdie the first playoff hole along with Ryan Moore. Chappell parred the first playoff hole and was eliminated from Championship contention. Both McIlroy and Moore parred the second and third playoff holes. On the fourth playoff hole, Moore putted for par, leaving McIlroy a birdie putt of fifteen feet for the win, with one shot to spare to move to a fifth playoff hole. But in typical Rory style, he sunk the birdie putt and finally let out some much deserved emotion. The Tour Championship win netted Rory $1.53 million dollars, but that’s chump change compared to what else he won . . .
So, as if the pressure of $1.5 million dollars isn’t enough to make you sweat during a tournament-winning birdie putt, the additional $10 million dollar FedEx Cup purse hanging in the balance should do the job. The FedEx Cup began in 2005 and serves as the PGA Tour’s playoff system. The FedEx Cup is a season-long points competition offering $35 million dollars in bonus money. The FedEx Cup winner is the season-long champion of the PGA Tour.
Heading into this week’s PGA Tour playoff, there were only two potential winners of the FedEx Cup. If Rory McIlroy won the Tour Championship he would also have enough points to be the season-long FedEx Cup winner. If Kevin Chappell or Ryan Moore won the Tour Championship Dustin Johnson would be the leader in season-long points scored and would be crowned the FedEx Cup winner. Well, spoiler alert up ahead, Rory won the Tour Championship and also took home the FedEx Cup. His bonus on top of his $1.53 million winnings? TEN MILLION DOLLARS. Yeah. One putt (arguably every putt leading up to this moment too), one long, drawn out, nerve wracking putt won Rory McIlroy $11.53 million dollars.
It’s moments like these I wish my parents would have been a bit more aggressive with the golf lessons . . .
This weekend is the Ryder Cup!
Every two years, we get one bonus golf tournament when 24 of the best golfers from the U.S. and Europe go head-to-head at the Ryder Cup. The players selected for Ryder Cup teams are determined by points at the end of a certain date. For the U.S. players, the top 8 players in points standings at the end of The Barclays on August 28th automatically make the Ryder Cup team, led by team captain Davis Love III. Love then gets four Captain’s picks. For the European team, the leading five players on the European Tour’s World Points List as of August 22nd made the team automatically, and the leading four players on the European Points List on August 28th also automatically made the team. Thus, leaving team captain Darren Clarke three Captain’s picks. Europe has won 6 of the last 7 Ryder Cup meetings, though the U.S. leads overall with a record of 25-13.
The Ryder Cup kicks off with foursome play this morning and will end Sunday afternoon. Ryder Cup teams are posted below so be sure to check out the players and make your predictions now.
U.S. Ryder Cup Team:
Europe Ryder Cup Team:
Win – Heckler
Though the Ryder Cup itself is just kicking off this morning, the players have been practicing the course throughout the week. Yesterday, an American fan was heckling members of the European tour and saying that he could putt better than Rory McIlroy and other European players. So, Rory challenged the heckler to make the putt himself. Before getting a chance to putt, another European player, Justin Rose, set a $100 bill on the green next to the heckler. Well, talk about putting your money where your mouth is. The heckler, apparently a guy from North Dakota, walked onto the green, squared up his putter, and drained the putt!!
The best part of all of it? The video was tweeted by Rory himself. Check it out.
Catching Kelce… and probably catching something else too.
As I was procrastinating responsibilities this week, I was scrolling through Instagram and happened to catch an ad for “Catching Kelce.” I would normally scroll past an ad that pops up, but I noticed the unique spelling of ‘Kelce’ and wondered if it was related to Kansas City Chiefs' tight end Travis Kelce, so I checked it out. Well, I was right. But I would have never guessed just what “Catching Kelce” was.
MY WORLDS ARE MERGING!!!
I am an absolute die-hard Bachelor/Bachelorette/Bachelor in Paradise/any obnoxious spin-off of the Bach franchise fan! It has turned in to a guilty pleasure that I just can’t give up. But with this Instagram ad, it appears as though my love for terrible dating shows is about to merge with my love of sports. In Travis’ dating show, he is set to date 50 women—one from each U.S. state—“in the hopes of finding his soulmate” (which is said about every obnoxious show like this). Aside from this really large cast, the rules of the show are unknown. It’s set to premiere on October 5th at 7PM (MST), and if you need me, I’ll be busy during that time. Mostly, I’m just curious what Travis Kelce actually sounds like since I’m pretty sure I’ve never heard him talk, AND I need to know who the girl representing Montana is!! Check back next week for a riveting update on this sure-to-be award-winning series.
Just as one last side note (mostly because I like to tell you a bit about me in the mix of all of these sports stories), this week’s blog was brought to you almost entirely by about 17 episodes of Cops and a tabletop of Palm Breeze “Sparkling Alcohol Spritz.” Really. That’s what I do with my life. I watch sports; I write about sports; I get sidetracked sometimes and watch Cops; and all of that requires the occasional beer. It’s a pretty luxurious life I lead. You should probably be jealous.