TIGER ROARS AGAIN

Tiger Woods celebrates after making a birdie putt on the 18th green during the final round of the PGA Championship golf tournament at Bellerive Country Club, Sunday, Aug. 12, 2018, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

Oh, the airtime and pixels that were dedicated to Tiger Woods’ second-place finish at the 100th PGA Championships in St. Louis last weekend. For those stuck in a cave somewhere, Tiger roared to a final round 64 at Bellerive Country Club outside St. Louis to place second to young stallion Brooks Koepka who won the third major of his career, while becoming only the fifth golfer to ever take the U.S. Open and PGA titles in the same year (Woods, Jack Nicklaus, Ben Hogan and Gene Sarazen).  In the end, Koepka beat Tiger by two, and the field by three and more with his final round 66, 16-under total.

Still, it was the closest run Tiger  had made to a major win since Torrey Pines 2008, where he won the U.S. Open on a broken leg, the last of his 14 major titles. His run electrified the St. Louis faithful, and sparked a 69% increase in TV ratings over last year’s PGA.

But the greatest comeback ever, as some pundits were opining if he actually won? Don’t let Ben Hogan fans (or Tiger for that matter) hear you say that. Hogan almost died in a car crash driving home to Texas with his wife after the Phoenix Open in 1949. Docs said he might not ever play golf again, especially after a blood clot permanently closed the major vein to his lower extremities. And yet he came back to win the 1950 U.S. Open 16 months later. Now that is a legendary come back.  Continue reading

SUB2 PACK FORMS UP

Like the murmur of far off hooves that rises from a distance on a tailing breeze the Sub Two Hour marathon quest became a lot more audible this past week.

First, Nike’s Project Breaking2 was publicly announced on Monday 12 December with a goal of breaking the 120 minute mark this coming spring. Two years in the making (though secretly) and featuring three of the world’s top distance runners, Kenyan Eliud Kipchoge, Ethiopian Lelisa Desisa, and Eritrean Zersenay Tadese, the project still remains somewhat hazy in its particulars as if the announcement came in haste to pip the Adidas announcement, which showed up later in the week via the Wall Street Journal.  Nike’s joint announcement through Runners World and Wired. com arrived as the second entry in the sub2 quest, coming on the heels of University of Brighton sports science professor Yannis Pitsiladis‘ 2014 Sub2Hr Project, which is affiliated with top running agent Jos Hermens.  That project carries a stated five year time frame, but is still searching for full funding.

So, now there are three going for a sub2 over 42km, and you know, we may finally have something here after all.  Perhaps something ironic, in that none of the three projects are using actual runner competition as the mechanism to 1:59:59 or below. Instead, like in the days of  Wes Santee, John Landy, and Roger Bannister, who independently pursued the sub-4 minute mile in the late 1940s, early `50s, it will be through the three-way project chase itself that the Everest marathon mark may be reached.  But that shouldn’t come as a surprise.  This blog has written on the topic of competition vs. record setting before. And again here. Continue reading

LANCE IN DESCENT

Resigned

Massive brewer Anheuser-Busch joined massive shoe company Nike today in dropping sponsorship of cyclist and cancer fund-raising champion Lance Armstrong after USADA’s Pyrenees of evidence linking the seven-time Tour de France champion to serial performance enhancing drug use became public.  Though heavily suspected and accused for years, Armstrong’s fierce denials and fantastic cancer fund-raising had erected just enough of a firewall to maintain his corporate relationships.  Until now.

But corporate America has never been accused of spinal conformity when it comes to support for its pitchmen.  Like a fifteen year-old kid applying for his first job being told, “You have no experience”, often it takes one intrepid backer to get you off the schneid. In this case, one rejecter to open the flood gates of dismissal and discharge.

Of course, Armstrong has no one but himself to blame, though he remains defiantly jut-jawed.  Despite the avalanche of evidence against him, so powerful has his 70 million yellow Livestrong bracelet program been that he still has champions willing to cleave the sins of the cyclist from the redemption of his philanthropy.  And what, exactly, is the lesson to the young ones there?  Are ends and means really to be separated so easily?

Armstrong isn’t the first, nor will he be the last, to take image-piercing rounds from a corporate/ media firing squad.  An entire baseball generation, most notably Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa and Mark McGuire, has been a casualty.

In months following Tiger Woods’ admission of serial infidelity in November 2009, several companies re-evaluated their relationships with the 14-time major golf champion.  Though the most bankable athlete in the world, Tiger lost everyone from Accenture to AT&T, Gatorade and General Motors. Blade maker Gillette suspended advertising featuring the once unsullied Woods. Tag Heuer dropped Tiger from their ad campaign in the immediate aftermath of the scandal, and ended their relationship for good when their deal expired in 2011. However, in contrast to their abandonment of Armstrong, Nike continued to support Tiger.

Lesser celebs have also been sent off on a metaphoric ice flow in the wake of a social disgrace.  On January 16, 1988, Jimmy “The Greek” Snyder was fired from his 12-year CBS NFL football assignment after commenting to a local TV reporter at a Washington D.C. eatery that African Americans were superior athletes due to the breeding policies of slave owners before the Civil War.

Teaching moments are not the main concern of corporate titans.  As Morty Seinfield said, “Cheap fabric, and dim lighting, that’s how you move merchandise.” Continue reading