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The Shmuck

Without Tiger, Rory McIlroy Has Some Big Shoes to Fill

There are lots and lots of golfers on the PGA Tour. There is only one Tiger Woods. But with his dominant win at the 2011 U.S. Open Rory McIlroy has entered himself into some rarified air, joining the likes of Tiger, Sarazan, Nicklaus, and Ballasteros as winners of a major at 22 years old. But with the absence of the Sunday red on the tour and his authoritative presence now in question, can Rory be the Tiger we need when Tiger isn’t around?

If you watched any of the Open this weekend you undoubtedly saw a lot of McIlroy. From the way he holds his finish and how walks the fairways, the confidently stroll to the cup when he knows a putt is in, and even from time-to-time that look in his eye; McIlroy has a lot of Tiger in him. Not the post-scandal, bum-knee, under a microscope Tiger we’ve seen of late, but the domineering, tournament-destroying Tiger of the early 2000′s. Rory has seem serious swag, and it’s what golf needs right now.

Luke Donald is a great golfer, but he’s too much of an English gentlemen to be the face of the game. Phil Mickelson is fun to watch, but he’s likely played his best golf already (anyone else see his arthritis medicine commercial?) The game needs a younger face now, a face with personality and the golf game to boot. It was the other way around with Tiger, we all fell in love with his game, but we didn’t know who he really was.

And when we found out, we shunned him like a leper for not being Captain America 24/7.

With McIlroy what you see is what you get. An unwavering smile. A likable personality. An Irishman who will likely pop bottles for a few days after this victory. He’s an international face that likens to all demographics that isn’t a cold robot like Tiger was before we forced our way into his personal life.

We haven’t seen a performance in a major like Rory’s since Tiger, and that is something to be accounted for. He won’t ever be Tiger Woods, it’s just not in his nature. And if Tiger can return to the form he once showed, there’s going to be a hell of a lot of good golf to be watched between them. But we may have just witnessed the beginning of the Rory era, at least until Tiger can revive his.

 

Shane Victorino Takes One to the Dome, From the Catcher

If you watch as much baseball as I do, there’s something just about everyday that happens at a game that is out of the ordinary, or just plain hilarious. And today it made me chuckle enough that I felt it needed a post.

Shane Victorino was facing the Florida Marlin’s Elih Villanueva in the first inning of the first game of a double-header, with Brett Heyes behind the plate. After the third pitch of the at bat, Heyes attempted to throw back to the mound but inadvertently laid one right to the head of Shane Victorino. Luckily for the flying hawaiian, he’s a double flap guy with his batting helmets, or this might have stung a lot more. But needless to say, not exactly the best start for an already long day for Shane.

Victorino’s face is absolutely classic:

Victorino Taking One in the Dome

Thoughts on the Lakers: WTF? Now What?

The Los Angeles Lakers losing to the Dallas Mavericks isn’t too shocking if you think about it. The Lakers being dominated by the Mavs in 4 straight games, embarrassing themselves with poor defense and terrible fouls, and sending Phil Jackson off with his first sweep ever as a coach? Don’t even think about it, or it will cause a headache.

Whether or not you’re a Lakers fan, you have to admit this outcome is a head scratcher. I doubt anyone outside of Dallas could have seen this one coming. You can say it was Pau’s girlfriend or Kobe’s guarantee of a series win, but the Lake Show seemed to shut the lights off real early in this series.

The Mavs shot the lights out, Dirk played his heart out, and all of Dallas’ role players did their part. Their bench was better than the Lakers, their stars played better than the Lakers, and maybe, just maybe, Phil Jackson got a little outcoached by Rick Carlisle.

Or maybe Phil was just over it. Maybe he saw the writing on the wall; it wasn’t going to come together, so why delay the inevitable. He was out of his high chair a lot this series, taking it out on his players a lot too. It kind of reminded me of the 03-04 season when L.A. picked up Karl Malone and Gary Payton; it all looked good on paper, but the chemistry just wasn’t there, and no matter what Phil did he couldn’t save them.

Ron Artest was too busy “going loco” with his album, shoe release, etc. Lamar was distracted with his new celebrity lifestyle and reality show. Andrew Bynum had to deal with his softer than cotton balls knees, again. Now they are coach-less, confused, and ready to hit the reset button.

Whatever it was, the Lakers need some new blood, and like the Yankees, they always go big. Dwight Howard? Chris Paul? Why Not? There rarely are many seasons with disgruntled Lakers fans, and I don’t see that happening again for a while.

There’s always next season. There’s always trades to be made. And yes, Kobe may be expendable.

Stay tuned, because I feel the Lakers are about to make some BIG moves.

NBA Playoffs Round Two: They Aren’t Who I Thought They Were

The first round of the NBA playoffs is finally over and there definitely were a  few surprises. The predictions I made before the playoffs started probably look absolutely terrible now, so I’ll do some self-deprecating by rehashing how bad they were, while mixing in my new likely terrible predictions:

First Round Prediction: Spurs v Grizz: Spurs in 5: Whoops. Only one 8 seed in the history of the NBA have beaten a 1 seed, the 2007 Warriors over the Mavericks, and I certainly didn’t see this coming. The Grizz have been much grittier since the arrival of Shane Battier, and seemingly haven’t skipped a beat without Rudy Gay, which may be a good or bad thing.

Either way, their match up with the Oklahoma City Thunder should prove to be a doozy, and I think Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol are going to have a field day on Kendrick Perkins. That being said, Russ Westbrook and Kevin Durant are the real deal, and can carry a team in the playoffs. (and keep this on the DL, I picked Denver over OKC….shhhh)

Second Round Prediction: Thunder in 7

First Round Prediction: Lakers v. Hornets: Lakers in 5: Ok, I was only one game off here, but after game one I was real nervous I was going to look a fool. Luckily, Kobe played possum with his ankle, Bynum had huge games, and their bench depth proved too much for N.O. Big ups to CP3 though, kid has tremendous amount of heart. But on to the next…

Lakers v Mavericks is always hyped as a huge series, but I never see it that way. The Lake Show is full if inherent winners while, unfortunately, the Mavs only know the heartbreak of defeat. After B Roy went off up in Portland for that epic comeback, I thought the Mavs were already buried. But they fought hard, gootta give them credit. But Dirk is going to have to play out of his mind to keep this series close, and I really don’t see it happening that way. Sorry Mark Cuban, maybe next year, or the year after that, or the year after that….

Second round Prediction: Lakers in 5

First Round Prediction: Celtics v. Knicks: Celts in 7: Once again, whoops. The Knicks really needed Chauncey Billups, and it was unfortunate to see them struggle so mightily against Boston like that. Amare’s back spasms didn’t help much either, but Melo sure shut up the critics with his performances. But with the Heat taking care of the Sixers, the series everyone really wanted to see is about to begin. The Heat lost all their regular season meetings with the Celts, but I feel I big change in this series. The Big 3 seem to me to have destiny on their side, while the Celtics are closer to having an entire team with AARP cards.

Second round Prediction: Heat in 6

First Round Prediction: Magic v. Hawks: Magic in 6. The Magic really folded with this one. Making me look real bad.  But, gotta tip you hat to the Hawks, they held their home court and showed a lot of heart and determination. Now ‘Dwightgate’ begins as he will have all summer to dodge questions about how he is going to be on the Lakers very soon, while the Magic will get ripped for their midseason trade and their complete lack of defense.

The Bulls were the only team that did what I predicted (woohoo!) and will have to take care of business again against Atlanta. I think this will be a competitive series, especially if Al Horford and Josh Smith keep their ballin’ levels at an all time high, but eventually the Bulls and D Rose will be too much. Ugly Noah too…he’s hard to look at but he plays his heart out.

Second Round Prediction: Bulls in 6

Let’s hope my picks don’t look even worse in the second round.

Haters Gonna Hate

Fact: some people simply do not want to see others succeed.

Life is a series of events that when given a response delivers and outcome. Everything that you do comes down to a choice. It doesn’t matter if you are on the highest high or the lowest low, you always have an option of how to respond. We’ve all heard the old adages; when life give you lemons make lemonade, everything happens for a reason, etc. But to live by these axioms is a whole different story. If you want to be successful, you have to stay focused, keep working, and don’t pay attention to those who stand in your way or wish ill upon you.

Haters are all around us, even if we don’t see or hear them. Some people hate because they feel threatened by you, others because they think they’re better than you. Some people hate simply because they have charcoal in their hearts. Regardless the reason, hating is a form of flattery, plain and simple. If someone is hating on you, take comfort in the fact that you must be doing something right, or they wouldn’t be hating. And make sure to keep smiling too, haters hate to see you happy.

Keep it up haters, keeping putting fuel on the fire. Judge, ignore, distrust, criticize. The more you put into your hate game the more I’m putting into my game game. And make sure to watch your back, cause I’m gunning for you.

The Schmuck’s NBA Playoff Predictions: Someone’s Going Home Unhappy

The NBA Playoffs are one of my favorite things in all of sport. There are no more tired legs on a back-to-back, no lackadaisical play due to boredom or the lengthy season. It’s scrappy, physical basketball from here on out, and that’s the way I like it.

In both conferences all of the match-ups will provide very intriguing basketball games. The teams are either incredibly well matched, obscenely lopsided, or are a great contrast of playing styles. Here’s my take on each first round series with predicted winners and in how many games.

Western Conference

San Antonio Spurs (1) vs. Memphis Grizzlies (8): Even as the Spurs completely limped into the playoffs by losing their last two games of the regular season as well as Manu Ginobli for game one at minimum, I don’t see them struggling with the Grizzlies too much. Zach Randolph is a beast, and even without Rudy Gay the Grizz had still been winning, but the Spurs will prove to be too much for them.

Prediction: Spurs in 5.

Los Angeles Lakers (2) vs. New Orleans Hornets (7): Between Andrew Bynum’s knee, Kobe’s F-Bomb, Ron Artest ‘Goin Loco,’ and Lamar Odom’s reality show, there are more than enough distractions for the 2 time defending champs. Oh did I mention Steve Blake has chicken pox? But diversion from the task at hand is never in Phil Jackson’s post-season playbook, so don’t even think about calling them unfocused. Chris Paul will light up the Lakers backcourt, especially Derek Fisher, but the length and strength of the Lakers interior will dominate Emeka Okafor and D.J. Mbenga, and the Lakers will cruise through New Orleans and on to the next.

Prediction: Lakers in 5

Dallas Mavericks (3) vs. Portland Trailblazers (6): Now here is a very captivating match-up. Both teams have a lot of talented players, especially at guard, versatile big men, and a decided home court advantage at both venues. But seeeing that the Mavericks have the actual home court advantage in the series, one would have to think that if they can figure out how to win at home they should take care of business. On the other hand, if Gerlad Wallace and LaMarcus Aldridge have a huge series, the Mavericks playoff jinx may continue sooner than later.

Prediction: Mavericks in 7.

Oklahoma City Thunder (4) vs. Denver Nuggets (5): The 4 v. 5 matchup is always a doozy, but this one is a super-doozy (if I can say that). With the addition of Kendrick Perkins at the trade deadline, the Thunder are a lot of people’s favorites to win the West. But the new-look Nuggets are definitely not a team to sleep on. George Karl always knows how to get the most out of whatever squad he’s given, and his squad now is stacked with talent. He’s got so many different lineups and player combos it almost makes your head spin, and the Thunder are going to be in for a rough one if they don’t recognize. KD can’t do everything you know?

Prediction: Nuggets in 6.

Eastern Conference

Chicago Bulls (1) vs. Indiana Pacers (8): Danny Granger, Roy Hibbert, Darren Collison. Joakim Noah, Carlos Boozer, Derrick Rose. Need I say more?

Prediction: Bulls in 4.

Miami Heat (2) vs. Philadelphia 76ers (7): The ‘big three’ will be worthless in the eyes of the public if they can’t do anything in the playoffs. But luckily for them they drew the Sixers, whom the Heat beat all three times during the regular season. The Heat has a huge chip on their shoulder, which will manifest itself in a beatdown of the 76ers. And remember, there is no crying in basketball.

Prediction: Heat in 4.

Orlando Magic (3) vs. Atlanta Hawks: With Al Horford’s production this year at a all time high and the always dangerous Josh Smith and Joe Johnson waiting in the wings, the Hawks could prove to give the Magic fits in the playoffs. Dwight Howard had himself an epic season, and the Magic played well against Atlanta, but the Hawks always seem to bring it in the post season. With that being said, the Magic are too talented and too well coached not to get past them.

Prediction: Magic in 6

Boston Celtics (4) vs. New York Knicks (5): Probably the most anticipated match-up of the first round, the Boston/ New York rivalry will return to it’s glory days with this series. The questions about Shaq and Boston’s struggles at the end of the season are valid, but the Knicks still aren’t completely fluid together either with all their new pieces from the Carmelo trade (including Melo himself). This is going to be a physical series equipped with hard fouls, tough defense, and maybe even a little bit of blood. Doc Rivers will have his team ready to go, as usual, but can the Knicks rev it up when they need it most?

Predection: Boston in 7.

Worst Time of The Sports Year is Right Now

There’s a time in every sports calendar year that is going to leave a fan in a sort of sporting limbo, and right now I am that fan.

It’s early March.

The NFL season is over; and between the vacuous CBA talks and the dizzying barrage of mock drafts, I’ll just wait and really pay attention when they’re both over.

It’s MLB Spring Training. I’m really excited about the upcoming season and glad there’s some baseball going on. But it’s spring training, the games DON’T MATTER.

There’s the NBA. And thank God for it. The NBA is helping me keep my sanity right now, but unfortunately the playoffs are still a month away, which is when I really, really wanna watch. Who’s got a flux capacitor I can borrow?

But what about March Madness? Eh. Never have been the biggest college basketball guy. Especially during conference tournament week. Just call me when the Final Four starts OK?

Hockey! [not available for comment]

Golf? Yeah, I’m trying to keep track. I even went to Torrey for the Farmer’s Invitational. But my golf season starts with Augusta baby. Can’t Wait! (Bart Scott Voice)

There’s NASCAR too. Hmm. That’s nice.

I need a heavy dose of opening day, NBA playoffs, and Augusta National jammed between my ears ASAP. Wish I could have some football in there too, but I don’t want to be greedy. Still a few weeks away though.

Until then I’ll make sure to keep taking my NBA and Spring Training supplements.

Super Bowl Hype & The State of the League

With less than 48 hours from the Super Bowl, the hype surrounding the game thus far is growing exponentially. Couple that with Roger Goodell’s State of the League press conference today and you’ve created a monster. Fans that follow the league (including myself) are facing the fact that Sunday might be the last time we see a NFL football game for a while, which, needless to say, is a huge bummer. The creation of a new CBA looms large over Super Bowl XLV, which adds to the anticipation and excitement of both the teams and their fanbases.

If you saw any of Goodell’s press conference today he didn’t seem too confident when asked about the CBA (which was a lot). He used his P.C. lawyer-speak to weave his way around the questions, and it was apparent that he was enthusiastic about making a deal, just not about it becoming a reality. Almost every NFL analyst from local newspapers and blogs to ESPN and beyond agree that a lockout is imminent, which proves a tough pill to swallow for players and fans alike. This Super Bowl not only is a matchup of two storied franchises, it is a reminder to all fans that the game is fleeting and can always be taken away. The thought of a future without the NFL is one I don’t like to think about, even for a little bit. My natural sports cycle would be disrupted, and I wouldn’t know what to do without it on Sundays, Mondays, and the occasional Thursday from September-January. Hopefully a lockout can be avoided, but if not, be prepared for the worst.

Apparently Ron Artest wants out of L.A….Queensbridge!

According to ESPN’s Marc Stein, Ron Artest wants to be traded from the Los Angeles Lakers to a team where he can “have fun again.” L.A. too boring for you Ron-Ron? Guess a move to Milwaukee or Cleveland would prove more exciting. Whoever is saying what to whom is irrelevant here, the fact that it’s being said (if only a rumor) shows you there’s something wrong. If you’ve watched any Lakers games this year you would see just how bad Artest is playing. His stats have taken a considerable nose-dive this season and he isn’t quick enough to be the lock down defender he was a few years ago. If the Lakers can get any kind of value for Ron I’m all for it, especially when the rumor mill is spinning the idea of a disgruntled Artest around the Staples Center. We all know what happens when Ron gets angry…

Malice at the Palace!