Archive for the ‘Sports’ Category

After his splendid performance in Super Bowl LI, Tom Brady is being hailed as the Greatest QB of All Time. It seems we sports fans are not just content to watch a great game; we have to grade our sports heroes, compare them to those of previous eras, make up lists of the all-time greats and select The Greatest. In tennis we have Federer camps and Nadal  camps, each avowing that their man is the Greatest. In NBA basketball, Michael Jordan sits alone at the top but in a few years LeBron James will no doubt be touted as  the Best ever. And in NFL football, Tom Brady is being anointed the Greatest Of All Time..

It is bad enough to try to choose the Greatest in an individual sport; in team sports, it is just plain ridiculous. As I had written in one of my previous posts, there are many factors that make it impossible to compare players from different eras. In the case of tennis, these include equipment, playing surfaces, quality of opposition, Open era or not, travel conditions and training methods but at least we are comparing one individual player to another. In team sports, the player is only one of many on a team. No matter how great he is, he cannot win unless he has a good supporting cast. Many elite players never played on a good team and never won even one ring. On the other hand, some so-so players won multiple rings though they were only bit players championship teams. Robert Horry was part of six NBA championship winning teams but no one would consider in the same class as Michael Jordan who won ” only” five. My point: Don’t use stats to declare someone the Greatest, particularly in a team sport.

Tom Brady is a terrific passer, a fierce competitor, a great decision maker with a wonderful feel for the game situation and has had a long glittering career. But don’t tell me that his seven Super Bowl appearances, his five Super Bowl rings and his four Super Bowl MVP awards qualify him as the best ever. Consider how much his career has been enhanced by having Bill Belichick as the Coach -GM of his team. Belichick is a masterful coach who has no peer when it comes to making in-game adjustments and confounding opposing teams who thought they had the game won ( Think Atlanta Falcons). He is not just a defensive genius, he is also a master motivator who consistently gets the best out of his players.  As  good a coach as he is, Belichick is an even better judge of talent and of working within the salary cap limitations. Time and again, he has picked up players from the scrap heap and coaxed one or two more good seasons out of them. He has also used trades and lower round draft picks to build the team and he has no peer in knowing when to cut a player. As a result, Brady has had a good supporting cast throughout his New England tenure. How many fewer rings would he have had if he was playing in San Diego ? How many more Super Bowls would Aaron Rodgers or Peyton Manning have won if they had Bill Belichick in their corner?

Brady’s situation reminds me of Bill Russell’s career with the Boston Celtics. Russell was a terrific defensive player, relentless on the boards and possessor of a fierce desire to win. He was limited offensively but he didn’t need to worry about scoring points. Red Auerbach, the coach- GM pf the Celtics, was the basketball version of Bill Belichick. A shrewd horse trader and a great judge of talent he was consistently able to put together great teams that meshed into unbeatable juggernauts. Good as the L.A. Lakers were, Jerry West and Elgin Baylor just did not have the supporting cast to compete against the Celtic teams of Russell, Cousy, Sharman, Nelson, Heinsohn, Havlicheck, K.C. Jones, Sam Jones and others. Bill Russell was a great player but I would not consider him the Greatest. Even among centers of his time, I would rate Wilt Chamberlain ahead of him.

This is not to put down Bill Russell or Tom Brady. If you want to say they are the most successful players in their respective sports, I would agree with you absolutely. The numbers of rings they each won prove that beyond a doubt. If you want to call them the Greatest ever, you are entitled to your opinion, but don’t expect me to agree with you. There is no such thing as the Greatest, and definitely not in a team sport. .

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What a strange, strange game! Has there ever been another like it? I shouldn’t have phrased that as a question because the answer, everyone will agree, is ” Never”.  Super Bowl LI  was really two games in one. In the first, Atlanta blew out New England 28-3. In the second , that took place over the last twenty-or-so minutes,. New England scored thirty one unanswered points to win 34-28 in overtime. Two blowouts and yet so much drama that many are calling this the best Super Bowl ever.

I was watching the game at a friend’s house in Edison and when the score got to 28-3 everyone watching, Atlanta  fans as well as New England supporters, agreed that it was over. As the commentators kept reminding us, no team had come back from such a large deficit so late in the game. My wife and I said our farewells and drove home to Somerset. I was rooting for Atlanta and wanted to get home in time for what I KNEW would be a Falcons triumph. I got home and the first thing I did was to switch on the TV. What a shock!  The score was 20-28 and the Atlanta lead was down to 8 with plenty of time on the clock ! As I watched , Matt Ryan drove the Falcons to the Patriots 23, aided by a miraculous catch by Julio Jones, How Jones caught the ball at full stretch  as it passed through the defender’s hands and yet managed to keep both feet  in bounds I will never figure out.

Perhaps there was still hope! A field goal would make it a two- possession game and put the game out of reach. What followed will, I am sure, be the stuff of nightmares for the Falcons and their fans. First, the Falcons were called for holding and then the Patriot defense sacked Matt Ryan for a huge loss pushing the Falcons well out of FG range. About then, I began to give up hope. Even when the Pats took over on their own 8, needing to go 92 yards for a TD and then make a 2-point conversion just to tie the game, I KNEW Atlanta was done. At this point, the Falcons were shell-shocked and completely demoralized. It showed in the costly penalties that they committed time and again on the New England drive. (BTW, the catch that Julian Edelman made was out of this world. The way he grabbed a batted ball in a forest of arms and legs and pulled it in mere inches from the ground… simply amazing.) It was also evident in the ease with which the Patriots drove down the field to score the game clinching TD in overtime.

How such a dramatic turnaround took place will be the subject of much discussion and analysis by football fans in the coming months. For much of the game, Matt Ryan was picking the Patriot defense apart and Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman were tearing off huge chunks of yardage. Meanwhile, Atlanta’s 27th ranked defense was playing like gangbusters, knifing through the patriots O-line, sacking Brady five times and knocking him about. And then it all changed. The Falcons offense stalled and Brady found his mojo, throwing  pinpoint seeing-eye passes to his receivers. Perhaps the Falcons relaxed just a little bit when they  had such a big lead but that should not take away from the Patriots performance. I have no idea what Bill Belichick said to the Patriots in the locker room at halftime or what adjustments he made but they worked. The Patriots raised their game, shook off  memories of their first half spanking and completely dominated the Falcons  to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. Yes, yes, I know that’s a cliché but it exactly describes what happened !

Football fans everywhere will be grateful to both teams for giving us such a classic. New England was magnificent  but spare a thought for the Atlanta Falcons. They played their hearts out and they were classy in their post-game comments, none more so than Matt Ryan.

Hasn’t 2017 gotten off to a great start? First, an aging Federer recaptures his youth to defeat his arch rival Nadal in a match for the ages. Then the Falcons and the Patriots give us a wonderful Super Bowl.

What next?


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Two days after Roger Federer’s historic win at the Australian Open, I am still on Cloud Nine as I relive it. Rarely does something happen that is so perfect. Consider what COULD have happened:

  1. It could have been a one-sided match, something that happens every now and then. Remember the 2012  Olympic final when Andy Murray beat Roger Federer in straight sets.It was unimaginable , particularly since Roger had defeated him in the Wimbledon final just a month earlier. By contrast, Sunday’s final was a pulsating affair as first one and then the other player appeared to have the advantage. Even in the fifth set, Nadal appeared to have the match in hand when he went up 3-1, only to see Federer claw back and snatch an improbable victory. What fighting spirit Nadal exhibited as he contested every point and staved off a break again and again!
  2. The quality of play could have been humdrum. Even when matches are close, the standard of play may not be that great. This match was remarkable for the skilled shot making, amazing court coverage and tenacity displayed by both players. The shot -of-the-match when Nadal ran down a certain winner and rifled an unplayable forehand return past Federer was unbelievable. Even Federer was moved to applaud the shot and it will be replayed by tennis fans over and over again in the months to come.
  3. The weather could have been a factor. At a past Australian Open, the temperature fell a whopping seventy degrees in the course of the match. When the match began, the temperature was a sweltering 110 ; at the end, it had dropped to 40 degrees. Swirling winds also had an effect on the play. I vaguely remember that Ken Rosewall was one of the players and that it happened sometime in the seventies. This time around, the weather was ideal for tennis.
  4. The players may not have been so likeable. Federer and Nadal are probably the two best liked players in the sport and they are good friends. This was reflected in the post match speeches at the presentation ceremony. This loss must have been a crusher for Nadal, so close was he to winning, but he was the epitome of class. He could have claimed fatigue from the almost five hour semifinal when he prevailed over Dimitrov the previous day. But he didn’t. No excuses, no whining as he congratulated Federer on his victory. Federer too felt for his opponent and was equally gracious as he accepted the cup.
  5. The stakes were never higher. Had Federer lost, his lead in Grand Slam titles over Nadal would have been reduced to two ( 17-15). With Nadal’s favorite tournament coming up next, the margin would most probably have been further reduced to one. Nadal would have been the odds-on favorite to eclipse Federer’s record and lay claim to be the “Greatest of All Time”… a meaningless title, but one which many fans value and argue over. With this victory, Federer’s lead in GS titles jumps to four, making it that much more difficult for Nadal to eclipse him. The race is by no means over since Nadal is only thirty and has three or so good years left in him. He could still overtake Federer if he is able to remain healthy.
  6. The result. No matter who won, this would have been a wonderful contest. Two all-time greats, # 1 and #2 in Grand Slams, both coming off injuries and not expected to reach the final …  but they did. If Nadal had won, this would have been a great, great match but Federer’s win put it over the top. The aging lion fighting off fatigue and reaching deep down to edge his greatest rival… It was so right… so perfect.It would be unrealistic to expect that we will ever see such a match again , and certainly not between these two. Father Time can be put off only so long but thanks to DVRs and YouTube it is a match which can and will be re-played again and again. Thank you Roger ! Thank you Rafa !


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The King is back! Roger Federer wins the Australian Open ( and his 18th Grand Slam) in epic fashion over his arch rival Rafael Nadal!

Who would have thought it ? Even his legion of supporters , of whom I am one, could not have hoped for such a fairytale ending. Last year at Wimbledon, when Roger made his improbable run into the semi-finals and came a cropper against Milos Raonic we all thought that was it: that there would be no more Grand Slams and that it would be his last hurrah before he rode off into the sunset. Instead, at age thirty-five, coming back from a six month layoff caused by injury, five years after his last Grand Slam win the Fed pulled off a remarkable triumph.

When the Open began, I thought , as most fans did, that Federer would win a couple of matches and then lose to one of the higher seeded players. Knowing how short of match practice he was, I didn’t think he stood a chance against younger, fitter players who could wear him down in a five set match. His first two matches, both against qualifiers, didn’t really prove anything but his three set demolition of 10th seeded Thomas Berdych, a player who had beaten him in the past, was food for thought. Against the fifth seeded Kei Nishikori, a tenacious returner, I thought he would finally hit the wall. Not only did Federer win, he seemed fresher than the younger Nishikori towards the end of the five -set match. By this time , of course, Djokovich and Murray had already departed and when the Fed outclassed Mischa Zverev in straight sets, I began to hope. When he defeated old friend and compatriot Stan Wawrinka, I began to root for Dimitrov to beat Nadal because I thought Roger had a better chance against him than Rafa. Didn’t happen, as Rafa prevailed in 5 sets. Could Roger pull it off ? The odds seemed against it as Rafa has had his number in recent years.

As Derek Cahill, one of the on-air commentators at the Open advised Federer fans, ” Relax and enjoy the match, if you can.” Luckily for me, I was watching the final in the U.S and knew the result even before the telecast began. I don’t think I could have been able to stand the tension of watching it live. As it was, I could watch the match secure in the knowledge that Federer had won. I was therefore able to relax and appreciate the amazing display that both men put on.

What a wonderful match! Unbelievable that two players in their thirties, both returning from injuries, could play a five set match at such a high level. There is no need for me to re-hash the match, shot by shot, game by game. If you didn’t watch it, you missed a historic match.

When Nadal broke Federer at the beginning of the fifth set and went on to take a 3-1 lead, I thought it was all over. All of us Federer fans gave up hope and even his wife watching the match courtside seemed to do so. What followed will be the stuff of legend. Federer seemed to shift to a higher gear, broke Nadal twice and reeled off five straight games to win the set  and the match. The shots that Nadal ran down earlier in the match , he was now unable to get to.  Gallantly as Nadal played ( he saved nine break points in the fifth set), he had no answer for Federer’s sublime shot making. Once again, we were able to savor those flowing backhand cross courts, so smooth, so seemingly effortless and yet so deadly. Simply beautiful to watch!

The presentation ceremony carried on where the match left off. How fitting that the legendary ” Rocket” Rod Laver was on hand to present the trophies. Nadal made a very gracious speech, as did Federer. How different from the chest thumping that one marks the NFL or the NBA. A great ending to a magnificent match, a wonderful day of tennis.

With this victory, Roger Federer pulled ahead of Rafael Nadal, 18 Grand Slams to 14, but I don’t think this is the end of the race.  Nadal has to be the favorite to win the French in May  and that will get him to within three of Roger. He is five years younger than Roger and , at 30, he still has three or so good years left in him. If he is able to stay injury free, there is no reason why he cannot challenge Roger’s total of eighteen Grand Slams. Whatever happens, happens. I leave it others to argue over who is the Greatest Of All Time. For me, because of the beauty of his game as much for his stellar career, Roger Federer will always be Number 1.


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After watching a string of one-sided playoff contests, NFL fans finally had something to cheer about with not but two absorbing games last weekend. First, the Atlanta  Falcons held off the Seattle Seahawks and then the Green Bay Packers edged the Dallas Cowboys in a classic. What a terrific match ! When Green Bay surged to a 21-3 lead, I thought it was going to be a cakewalk for them. Then, as Dak Prescott chipped away at the huge deficit and quarterbacked the Boyz to a 28-28 tie, I thought that the momentum had shifted decisively in Dallas’ favor and that they were going to pull off a miraculous win. Even after the teams traded FGs, with barely 35 seconds on the clock I thought the match would go to OT and that the Cowboys would prevail. Except for Aaron Rodgers and his teammates, I don’t think anyone envisioned what followed as Jared Cook pulled in a laser-like Rodgers pass and Mason Crosby calmly kicked a 51-yarder to send the Packers to the Conference championship game. Wow!

Dallas has nothing to be ashamed off. After a slow start, the two rookies Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliot pulled their team back into contention only to be denied by a red -hot Aaron Rodgers. Jason Witten, Dez Bryant and others also did their part in making this a game to remember. With a stellar offensive line and a more experienced Prescott and Elliot can anyone doubt that the Cowboys will be back next year?

My two favorite teams are the New York Giants and the Green Bay Packers, in that order, and I was unhappy that the two had to meet in the wild card game. I didn’t really think the Giants had a chance and I wasn’t too upset when they lost after their defense had kept it close for most of the first half. However, the injury to the Packers Jordy Nelson was dispiriting because it kept him out of the game against the favored Cowboys. I need not have worried as Aaron Rodgers turned in an unbelievable performance even though he was missing his favorite receiver. Fans tend to judge a player by the number of Super Bowl rings he has, which I think is unfair because a player on a weak team is at a disadvantage in any such comparison. In my book, Aaron Rodgers is superior to both Tom Brady and Payton Manning even if he never wins another Super Bowl ring.

One of the memes, after the Packer win, was a circle chart  purporting to show the reasons why fans were happy with the result. A very thin sliver of the circle supposedly represented the fans who were celebrating a Green Bay win. The rest of the circle chart ( more than 95% ) allegedly showed the people who were just glad the Cowboys lost. I myself have a foot in both camps… I was happy the Packers won AND I was also happy  that the Cowboys lost.

Indeed the number of football fans who hate the Cowboys is legion. As one meme put it ” Cheering for the Cowboys is like watching the movie Titanic and rooting for the ship.” Another said ” My favorite team is whoever is playing the Cowboys“.

I was not always against the Cowboys. Along time ago, when Don Meredith and Roger Staubach were the quarterbacks and Chuck Howley, and Leroy Jordon were shoring up the defense I actually rooted for them. But then three things happened. I became a die-hard Giant fan, the Cowboys styled themselves America’s team and Jerry Jones became the team owner. I just can’t stand the man’s arrogance and his management style. There are plenty more who feel as I do. One fan wrote in to say” I felt nothing but joy watching Jerry Jones ‘ team get trounced by a team that is actually owned by the city it represents a nd isn’t just a rich man’s toy financed by hapless taxpayers.” I couldn’t agree more.


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Since I don’t subscribe to any of the cricket TV channels, I rely on ESPN Cricinfo for my cricket news. Recently, however, I was visiting in L.A and got to see the India- England test match on TV. What a surprise to see almost all the Indian players with beards! Even some of the formerly clean shaven lads were sporting some serious facial shrubbery. Not like Moeen Ali  or Hashim Amla whose beards come down to the middle of their chests but nevertheless pretty thick.

Now, anyone has a right to grow a beard but these were scruffy and, in my eyes, unattractive. I have a beard myself, but it is short and I try to keep it well trimmed. I am at a loss to understand why the Indian team has gone in for these abominations.

I know that Muslims do favor beards but, other than Mohammed Shami, I don’t think there are any Muslims on the current team. (Even the Pakistani team, which is predominantly Muslim has only three or four bearded players). So if that is not the reason, what is?

One theory that I have heard, a ridiculous one, is that these players grow long beards to make themselves unattractive to the opposite sex . This , supposedly, is to enable them to concentrate wholly on their cricket. Poppycock! Other  than Virat Kohli, I don’t think anyone could be so dedicated to the game. And Kohli has a film star girlfriend. Other theories are 1) that it is a fashion statement  and 2) that it is Kohli’s diktat, meant to ensure solidarity, an us-against-the world attitude. None of these theories hold any water.

Myself, I think it is a good luck charm. Recently, the Indian team has been on a roll, thanks to some impressive all-round performances and some spin-friendly pitches. Having won the series against New Zealand they are now up 3-0 on England though the 5th Test is presently interestingly poised. It could be that they don’t want to jinx themselves by shaving. It has happened in other sports, whether ice-hockey or tennis or football.

If that is indeed the reason, I am in the horns of a dilemma. One the one hand, I can’t bring myself to root against India but, on the other hand, I don’t want to see the  Indian team  take the field looking like eleven Hashim Amlas.


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I had not thought about Joe Louis for the longest time. When I was growing up in India, Joe Louis was idolized by my parents. They did not know much about the societal problems that he faced but they admired his personality, the modesty and generosity that was a such a contrast to the ferocity that he exhibited within the ropes. They were also much taken with the manner in which, after having lost to Max Schmeling, he won the re-match by savagely knocking the German to the floor multiple times en route to a first round KO. I had not been born at the time of Louis’ greatest fights but I remember when an over-the-hill Louis was defeated by Ezzard Charles. My parents were devastated by the loss as were millions of Americans, black and white. I shared their gloom. After I emigrated to the U.S in the late sixties, I read up on Joe Louis, his fights against Primo Carnera, Billy Conn, Max Baer, Jersey Joe Walcott and others, and about his problems with the IRS, drugs and drinking in his later years. Then I forgot about him as Muhammad Ali took center stage.

Recently, I brought home a library book” Knockout”, a photo-biography of Joe Louis by George Sullivan, published by National Geographic. As I read it, the old memories came flooding back. The book seemed to have been written for young adults but the photographs were great and it did have one tidbit that I hadn’t heard of before.

After Pearl Harbor, Louis enlisted in the army and was used to help build soldiers’ confidence and boost their spirits  by participating in boxing exhibitions. While at Fort Riley, Kansas, he met and befriended Jackie Robinson, Major League baseball’s first African- American player. Robinson told Joe that he wanted to become an officer but was unable to attend Officer Candidate School because the army would not accept applications from African American soldiers. Joe quietly called an influential friend in Washington D.C who intervened in the situation. As a result, Robinson and seventeen other African American soldiers were admitted to officers Candidate School. Jackie Robinson eventually became a lieutenant, something Joe Louis took great pride in.

Muhammad Ali was definitely one of the all-time boxing greats  and deserves credit for his stand against the Vietnam War but I never warmed to him. His persona was the polar opposite of that of Joe Louis. He was bombastic, boastful, vain and he had a mean streak even outside the ring. The pundits excuse his running off at the mouth on the grounds that he did it to publicize his fights and build up the gate. Others said that he did it to hide his nervousness; this was particularly true before the first Sonny Liston fight. (BTW, to digress just a little, I have my doubts about the second bout in which Liston was unexpectedly knocked out in the very first round, felled by what some felt was a phantom blow.) I also remember Ali badmouthing Smokin’ Joe Frazier, not in Ali’s class as a boxer but a stout hearted warrior who gave him all he could handle in three titanic bouts including the Thrilla in Manila. And the bout with Ernie Terrell where he propped up a dazed opponent and punished him some more by swiping his face with the laces on his gloves– because Terrell called him by his given name, Cassius Clay, rather than Muhammad Ali. Most of all, I cannot forget how, at a boxing match in Las Vegas when Joe Louis was wheeled to ringside in his wheelchair Ali slighted him by referring to him as a “cripple”.

In 2005, the International Boxing Research Association singled out Joe Louis as the greatest heavyweight of all time. I’ll leave it to the boxing pundits to argue over who was the best  … the self-proclaimed ” Greatest”,  Joe Louis or  Jack Johnson but, in my heart, there can be only one Number One: the” Brown Bomber”, Joe Louis.


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The common wisdom is that a true sports fan craves close games that are not decided until the final seconds. Not for him the one-sided blow-out. What gets his heart pumping is the touchdown on the final play of the game or the three pointer that swishes through the net even as the final buzzer sounds.

I guess that I must not be a true sports fan because, when MY teams are involved, I would like nothing better than a game decided in their favor well before the end. Just win, baby !If I have no rooting interest in the game, but only then, do I enjoy a close game, a nail biter. Otherwise the tension is too much; I simply can’t bear to watch. I am in some august company here. When Jerry West was the GM of the Lakers, he wouldn’t sit in his box seat but would stand in the tunnel or passageway so that if the Lakers were flounderingr, he could leave quickly and spare himself the agony of watching them go down in defeat.

That said, I must admit the ending of the New York Giants- New Orleans Saints game left  a bad taste in my mouth. To recap, the teams were tied at 13 when the Giants Victor Cruz caught a long pass inside the Saints 10. There was only a minute and a half to go and the Saints were out of time-outs. The Giant coaching staff proceeded to milk the clock before calling a time -out with one second left. Their kicker then made a chip shot field goal to give them a 16-13 victory.

Happy though I am that the Giants won, I am not thrilled with their tactics. What they did was the smart thing to do, particularly since they lost five or six games last year after blowing fourth quarter leads. Understandably, they did not want to score early and give the dangerous Drew Brees a chance to pull off a win. Still, it was not a fully satisfying victory, even for this Giants fan.

P.S I was talking to a friend, a Philadelphia Eagles supporter and he came clean to me. The Bears – Eagles game was a one-sided no- contest but he admitted watching it until the final kneel down. Perhaps I am not so unusual or so awful after all…

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Happy days are here again!

The 2016 NFL season started yesterday and I couldn’t be happier. Ever since the Denver Broncos won the Super Bowl in February, there has been something missing on the sports scene for me.

There was a time when I used to follow all the sports, pro and college, but year by year my interest in them has fallen off one by one. First to go were college basketball and football : too many teams and the personnel kept changing every season. Now I only watch March Madness. Next to go was baseball: too long a season and by the time the World season rolled around I was focused on the NFL. Tennis lost much of its charm when Roger Federer was sidelined. Pro Basketball did hold my interest until recently , primarily because of the San Antonio Spurs and the Golden State Warriors who play team basketball. Not for me the thuggish power basketball of the rest. All that’s left is NFL football. BTW, I was so absorbed in watching pro football yesterday that I completely forgot that the final of the U.S. Open was also being played yesterday. I only read about Stan Wawrinka’s victory over Novak Djokovic this morning. Go Stan !

Yesterday, I binged on pro football, watching two full games and parts of two others. I rarely watch games in their entirety but, yesterday, I watched the Cincinnati Bengals nip the New York Jets 23-22 and the New York Giants win a squeaker over the Dallas Cowboys 20-19. And, at night, I watched parts of Green Bay’s win over Jacksonville and Arizona’s surprise loss to the depleted New England Patriots. I am really indebted to my long suffering wife who sat through all this without complaining.

Those who live abroad will no doubt be mystified with Americans infatuation with football but, for those of us who watch it and understand its nuances, no other game comes even close. Soccer is understandably the most popular sport in the rest of the world but, for me, the lack of scoring is a decided shortcoming. What bothers me is not so much the paucity of goals but the decisiveness of that first goal. The team that scores first goes into a defensive shell as it tries to make the 1-0 score stand up. Compare it with American football where anything can happen at any time and often does. Yesterday’s four games were all decided in the closing moments and could have easily gone either way. The scoring for American football ( 7 points for a touchdown and 3 points for a field goal) is devilishly clever and ensures that no team can sit on a lead for most of a half.

I do agree that ( American) football is a violent game. I am not one of those who glories in punishing hits that knock a player out cold and I do feel a sense of guilt when I read about the effect of concussions on so many players.  But those qualms diappear fast when I get absorbed in a football game and watch a running back break multiple tackles and gain 20 more yards. Or when a wide receiver catches a pass at full stretch and takes off for the end zone. And of course there are the moves and counter-moves that coaches orchestrate for the sideline. When I was new to football, one old timer explained that it was like a giant chess game with real people instead of plastic pieces, played on a football field instead of a chess board. He also told me that once I understood the nuances of the game, I would be hooked. How right he was.

P.S Some takeaways from yesterday’s games:

  1. I was very impressed with the play of the young quarterbacks, many of them rookies. Carson Wentz ( Eagles) and Dak Prescott ( Cowboys) were two among them ; too bad their teams are in the same division as my favorite N.Y. Giants.
  2. Jimmy Garappolo, who stood in for the suspended Tom Brady, was very impressive in his first pro start. He was a second round draftee last year and makes me envious of the Patriots ability to recognize talent in the college ranks. Remember, Tom Brady, a future Hall of Famer, was a sixth rounder.
  3. The Arizona Cardinals are a good team and I was hoping they would knock off the Patriots, who were playing without Brady and Rob Gronkowski as well as some of their linemen. Didn’t happen. I don’t like Belichick but there is no denying he is the best in the business.
  4. Way too early to make predictions but it looks like the rebuilding N.Y. Giants are a  middling team that has a good shot at winning the weak NFC East.


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I enjoyed watching the Masters Golf tournament on TV last weekend. I don’t always watch golf but the Masters in a class by itself in terms of visual appeal. The venerable clubhouse, the pristine fairways and the manicured greens are a sight for sore eyes. And then there is the golf itself. I was rooting for Jordan Spaeth as I have been since he first burst on the golf scene and it appeared he had this one in the bag until he faltered with victory in sight. In the course of two holes, he went from being  six strokes in front to three strokes behind. But even his collapse did not detract from my enjoyment of the game.

There are those who claim that golf is not a” real” sport.” These critics sniff that” Golfers don’t have to run or jump, and the ball they hit is stationary!” Maybe so, but that doesn’t mean it is any less of a sport. In my book, a sport ( as distinguished from a game or a pastime) is a contest of skill or strength that attracts spectators. A game, on the other hand, is of interest only to the participants e.g rummy, mahjongg and all board games. A pastime is generally a solitary activity, a ” pass time” e.g bouncing a ball against a wall, playing solitaire etc. These may not be the dictionary meanings of the words but they work for me.

The idea that sports have to include running or jumping or hitting a ball coming at you at 90 miles an hour is not something I subscribe to. Golf does not require any of these but it does involve skills, both physical and mental. It takes physical strength and skill to muscle the golf ball 300 yards down the fairway, to dig oneself out of a bunker or to sink a putt on a wickedly rolling green. And it requires probably more mental fortitude than any other sport. Every shot is a potential pitfall and , in the case of pro golf, tens of thousands may be riding on that next shot.

Another sport that is often derided as a parlor game is table tennis or ” ping pong” as it is  condescendingly called. Yes, ping pong is a parlor game but table tennis is a sport. To know the truth of this, you should watch a competitive match being played by good players. YouTube has any number of videos including world championships and European championships. The lightning quick reflexes and the agility displayed by these top class players are unbelievable.

As with everything, one does not appreciate the difficulty of a sport until one tries to play it oneself. I  found that out when I tried hitting a bucket of balls at the driving range. Try as I did, I simply could not get the ball to go where I wanted and the longest drive I managed was 125 yards and that only once. As for putting, I understand how it can frustrate duffers so much that they fling their putter into a pond.

No one can convince me that golf and table tennis are not sports.

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