bad sports, good sports

Bad sports, good sports: Ernie Els hits fan in the face with a golf ball

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I don’t know the actual percentage of little kids that dream of being professional athletes, but I expect that it’s a pretty large number. Most of the time, the dream is built around having the athletic ability to be able to compete at the highest level. There is a lot more to it than just physical skill, however. It is the ability to focus that separates the great from the good. Even the great ones can be perfectly ordinary or worse when that focus is thrown off, and that was very much on display in the opening round of the Open Championship on Thursday if you were watching Ernie Els.

Els has 67 wins during his excellent career, including four victories in majors. He has won the Open Championship, formerly called the British Open, twice. On Thursday, he hit his very first shot into the gallery to his left, hitting a spectator in the jaw. The injured man had to be taken to a hospital in the area. Els shot a seven on that hole and ended up shooting 79 for the round, which was his second worst round ever at this tournament. He recovered enough to shoot an okay 73 on Friday, but that 79 was so bad that he missed the cut and went home before the weekend even started.

OK, if I hit a guy with a golf ball I would probably be pretty rattled, I’m sure. I haven’t played golf in a long time, but when I used to play occasionally, I had a mean duck hook that would have been an absolute hazard to anyone who was stupid enough to stand to my left while I was hitting. Fortunately for them, there was certainly no reason for anyone to stand and attempt to watch me play golf, so I never hit anyone. Els, despite his skill, has likely hit someone before considering the number of people who have watched him play and the narrow passage through which these guys are expected to hit from the tee. This was the very first shot he took in one of the biggest tournaments in the world, and it went about as wrong as it could have gone. That was the difference between the charge toward a third Open title and missing the cut and going home.

If you followed the Tiger Woods drama from a few years ago, you can certainly see how critical concentration is. At this point, injuries and age are clearly affecting his play, but back then he went from the best player in the world to someone who struggled mightily because of all of the other things going on in his life. Did it make him a bad golfer? Of course not. To be the best, though, circumstances must allow that extra little bit of focus that sets those people apart. Ernie Els’ errant tee shot was all it took to end his tournament almost before it started.

Bad sports, continued:

2) College recruiting can be really shady sometimes. Josh Pastner, the head basketball coach at Memphis, just hired Keelon Lawson, a high school coach, to be an assistant coach at the college. On its face, that looks OK. The fact that Lawson’s son K.J. is currently committed to play at Memphis is also OK. The interesting part is that Keelon has three other sons. Dedric is a top ten recruit in the class of 2016, Chandler is considered the top-ranked player in the 2019 class, and Jonathan, who is only in sixth grade, is said to be an exceptional player as well. Gee, I wonder if the future recruits have something to do with this job offer.

3) There is quite a mess going on between the Minnesota Vikings and the team’s former punter, Chris Kluwe. Kluwe, an outspoken advocate for gay rights, claimed that assistant coach Mike Priefer used homophobic slurs back in 2012 when Kluwe was still with the team, and he also claimed he was released due to his views. This week, the Vikings suspended Priefer for the first three games of the 2014 season after an internal review showed Kluwe’s claims to be true, as far as the comments made. The team disputed Kluwe’s other complaint, however, and released some stuff that made the punter look pretty bad. Kluwe promised to make thing unpleasant for the Vikings after he read the statement.

4) Being the worst team in Major League Baseball means you get the first pick in the draft the next year. That’s great, but if you fail to sign the player you draft, as the Houston Astros just managed to do with top pick Brady Aiken, you are not going to get much better.

5) A few people in Chicago have apparently been dressing up as a character that is quite similar to the new mascot for the Chicago Cubs. On top of that, they have been behaving very badly in public, leading people to think that the team is responsible for the mess. This week, the Cubs sued the people involved.

6) I hate the so-called “unwritten rules” in baseball. Colby Lewis, a pitcher for the Texas Rangers, apparently had a big problem with the bunt laid down by Colby Rasmus of the Toronto Blue Jays in the fifth inning of the game between the two teams on Saturday. The Blue Jays were leading by two and had two outs when Rasmus bunted. Lewis decided that this was done merely to boost Rasmus’ batting average rather than to accomplish anything for his team, as that is not a typical bunting situation. What a bunch of crap. There is nothing wrong with bunting for a hit there. Lewis should focus on his pitching and shut up.

7) A ball girl for the Boston Red Sox made a nice play on a sharply hit ground ball near the right field stands on Friday. It would have been an even better play if the ball hadn’t actually been fair. Oops.

Good sports:

1) A kid suffering from Cystic Fibrosis got to play with the Seattle Sounders of the MLS on Saturday during their game against Tottenham in Seattle. Xander Bailey got this opportunity through the Make a Wish Foundation, and the team and the fans made sure it was a great experience for him.

2) Rory McIlroy won the Open Championship by leading wire-to-wire this weekend. This was his third victory in a Major. It was also a good weekend for his father, Gerry, who won $171,000 on a ten-year-old bet he made that his son would win the Open Championship within ten years.

3) The G.M. of a minor league baseball team in South Carolina has offered to have a prostate exam in the stadium on camera during a game. This was initially going in the Bad Sports section until I saw that he was doing it in order to drum up publicity to support a young girl who has brain cancer. Also, he said the camera will be restricted to the upper part of his body.

Bad sports, good sports appears early each week

Alan Spoll is a software quality assurance director from the suburbs of Philadelphia where he lives with his wonderful wife and children. He has spent his entire life as a passionate fan of the Eagles, Phillies, Sixers, Flyers, and Penn State. Recent Phillies success aside, you will understand his natural negativity. Follow me on Twitter - @DocAlan02
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