With high school athletics having scaled way back and now taking a summer sabbatical from in-season competition, it seemed like an opportune time to once again return to a place that I enjoy revisiting from time to time, namely Laptop Snapshots.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with what some might consider this bit of self-indulgence, it’s an opportunity for me to offer some drive-by observations about various issues, topics or personalities, generally within the realm of sports. In a way, it’s sort of liberating in that I can basically brainstorm and freewheel it, not having to stay within the constraints of a particular story or feature. The boundaries under which I operate become much more expansive. I can simply opine on anything that strikes a chord or better still, on a topic that allows me to get something off my chest.
So for better or worse, and with the hope of perhaps providing some entertainment and insight but always fully aware that perhaps some of my takes will engender honest disagreement, I offer the following:
Golfer Phil Mickelson was universally lauded by the media and fans alike when he elected to miss this year’s U.S. Open which was held at the Erin Hills golf course in Wisconsin. The truly family-oriented Mickelson got plenty of kudos for opting out of the one Grand Slam that has eluded him in favor of attending his daughter’s high school graduation where she also happened to be the valedictorian.
Good for Phil sang the praises and a tip of the cap to him for having his priorities so admirably squared away. But what would have happened had Mickelson gone in a different direction and made what would have been the controversial decision to play? My educated guess is that he would have been castigated, rebuked and perhaps even crucified by the politically correct crowd. There would have been plenty of outcry had he put what many would have interpreted as his own selfish desires and ambitions ahead of those of his child on such a seminal and right-of-passage occasion.
And yet, situations of this type might possess variables that could lead to a different outcome. Let’s just say that for the sake of argument that Mickelson’s family, and more specifically his daughter, had passionately encouraged him to play knowing that his window of opportunity might be closing on winning the one tournament that perhaps means the most to him. Under that set of circumstances, would he have been so wrong or out of bounds in continuing to chase what has been a lifelong dream? I say no but the judgmental media most likely would have taken a different tack. They would have sanctimoniously buried the guy despite the fact that most of them hardly have their own houses in order.
It’s possible that another player will be forced to face a similar circumstance that confronted Mickelson sometime in the future. And if it’s a less renowned golfer and should he decide to tee it up, perhaps it’s a non-story and flies under the radar. But for any of player of note, who would dare to defy what has become an expected and almost demanded norm of behavior, prepare for some serious blowback?
To me, this might not always be a cut-and-dried, black-and-white issue. The full context of a particular situation would need to be known before criticism could or should be leveled. To him, Mickelson was totally right in not participating but I believe another player, given a different scenario, could be every bit as justified in opting to play.
This year’s Open lost a lot of its juice when heavyweights Dustin Johnson, Rory McIlroy and Jason Day skied in their first rounds and failed to make the cut. Without their presence over the weekend, the event was missing much of its edge, pizzazz and excitement quotient.
I realize that announcer and two-time Open winner Andy North is a Tiger Woods buddy/ honk but I’m beginning to wonder if obsession hasn’t overtaken him. Listening to a recent North interview, he somehow found a way to constantly and often inappropriately steer the conversation back to Woods, which proved to be not only irritating but rather bizarre as well. If you didn’t know better, you’d swear that North was a mouthpiece who’s on Tiger’s payroll!
And along the same line, here’s a suggestion for much of the fawning golfing press. Until Woods works his way back from his highly-publicized personal problems, injury issues and lengthy irrelevance, quit making him a focal point of much of your golf-related coverage. Doing so is not only getting old, it’s just plain being lazy. A constant rehash of Tiger’s travails and speculation on when he might return has been run into the ground. There are other players and storylines much more deserving of attention.
As he was in the Master’s, the talented and popular Rickie Fowler was also enviably positioned to win this year’s U.S. Open. After having practically brought the Erin Hills course to its knees with a nifty seven-under par 65 that earned for him the outright first-round lead, Fowler was right there heading into the final 18 holes, just a scant two strokes back. But similar to what befell him at Augusta, the colorful Fowler couldn’t ignite when it mattered most and he had to do some admirable scrambling just to register an uneventful 72 which wasn’t nearly enough.
Down the stretch, Ricky’s iron play which had been so sharp early in the tournament unexpectedly deserted him. Fowler’s frustration level has to be reaching a saturation point knowing that twice he was nicely situated to win his first Major and he couldn’t get the job done. Instead of kicking the door in, he had it shut right in his face. The fact that Fowler has been in the hunt has been a positive sign but not taking advantage of these two opportunities will certainly give him some fitful nights. Right now, Fowler might very well wear the unwanted mantle of being the best golfer in the world not to have won a Slam. Had he been just a bit more clutch, that tag would no longer apply to him.
Do the Lakers have the stones to ignore UCLA star and local product Lonzo Ball in this week’s NBA Draft and risk incurring the wrath of the vast L.A. faithful that waits in breathless anticipation of seeing the 19-year-old soon doing his thing at the Staples Center? The answer is hell no but maybe they should. However, there’s no way, especially from a public relations standpoint that Laker management is going to allow this feel-good story not to become a reality.
Though there have been reports of some internal back-and-forth as to whether Ball is really worthy of the No. 2 overall pick, a majority of the Lakers’ brass seem to envision him as the second coming of Magic Johnson capable of revitalizing the mystique of Showtime.
Though he possesses funky mechanics, Ball can hit from beyond the arc but it is not his shooting that intrigues and enraptures many onlookers. Considered a superlative passer who is adept at facilitating teammates, many believe this unselfish point guard has the wherewithal to run an offense that can sublimely balance efficiency with showmanship.
Though there’s no denying that Ball has a splendid skill set, he doesn’t come without some legitimate question marks that makes all the talk about him being a surefire NBA all-timer quite premature. At times, Ball has been unnerved by ball pressure and has disappeared at pivotal moments. Moreover, if the Lakers are expecting him to be an incarnation of Johnson, they could be sadly mistaken because Ball doesn’t appear to have Magic’s presence or it-factor.
With Washington guard Markelle Fultz fully expected to be the first player chosen, the Lakers choice will come down to either Ball or Kansas shooting forward Josh Jackson, an elite athlete and tremendous two-way player who is drawing favorable comparisons to San Antonio standout Kawhi Leonard. Some evaluators and scouts favor Jackson’s potential over Ball’s upside but the Lakers won’t be among them. Given the inordinate amount of fallout that would descend upon them should they bypass Ball, the Lakers simply don’t have it within them to go in another direction.
In a nutshell, here’s what should be done concerning the Stadium issue that continues to fester and hang over the city of San Diego like an unrelenting fog. As for Qualcomm, refurbish, reconfigure and downsize it so that it becomes an intimate 40,000 to 45,000 seat edifice that can be used for a variety of events and will make its primary occupant, San Diego State, immensely proud to call it home. Also, arrange to have any additional land space that might become available go to State for uses that it sees fit.
The idea of bringing an MLS team to the Mission Valley site was a proposition that never resonated with me, nor do I think it ever really connected with the public as a whole. With the Chargers having vacated, State and no other entity must be the point of emphasis and given the city’s highest priority.
And with SDSU having been taken care of, the focus can then turn to where it should have been all along. That being the construction of a state-of-the-art arena which would surely entice either an NHL or NBA team to make SD its port of call. No matter what the skeptics or the naysayers might believe, if there’s a brand spanking new sports complex in the midst of one of America’s most vibrant and dynamic downtowns, one of those leagues will most definitely come calling.
It’s time the powerbrokers at City Hall realize a metropolis of this size cannot be satisfied with having just one major sport representing it. It’s time to set things in motion and make the sports scene in SD major league in every way imaginable.
Finally, let me leave you with the recommendation that you check out Sam Elliot’s new movie Hero in which he gives his usual standout performance. He is both compelling and memorable in the role of a legendary western icon going through some powerful life changes.
There was one scene in particular that transported me back in time and had a loose athletic connection. In it, Elliott’s character named Lee Hayden has been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and he finds himself on the beach to reflect on this shattering diagnosis. As he faces out towards the endless ocean and nearby breaking waves, he clasps his hands around his head and leans slightly backward. And right then and there it hit me like a lightning bolt and I experienced a flashback.
Countless years before and at a drive-in movie, I’d seen Elliott in a similar aquatic setting only in this role he portrayed an older lifeguard fighting off the societal pressures that were demanding that he get a more traditional job now that that he was in his thirties. This recollection was both startling and a bit creepy for it made me realize just how quickly the years had sped by and that the Elliott of then stood in stark contrast to the aging actor of today. It gave me great perspective and brought home the reality that indeed, time stands still for no man. Neither for me nor for a Hollywood notable like Sam.
For Laptop Snapshots, I’m over and out.