Ask Gary: Tiger’s return without precedent

by Gary Shelton on March 17, 2018 · 6 comments

in general, Golf, NFL

Woods isn't all the way back, but who has bounced back better?/CARMEN MANDATO

Woods isn't all the way back, but who has bounced back better?/CARMEN MANDATO

Each week, the readers take over GarySheltonsports.com and play Ask Gary. They send in a question, or a couple, on Thursday night or Friday morning and we all talk about the world of sports. Think of it as a radio show where you don't have to be on hold. Join us and ask a question, make a comment or be funny. Send the questions to GarySheltonsports@gmail.com).

Saturday, 4 a.m.

Tiger Woods may be on the verge of a remarkable ride from penthouse to basement and a climb back to professional golf's elite. Can you think of any other athletes over the years who had a resurrection anywhere close to (possibly) Tiger's?
 
Barry McDowell​
Terrific question, Barry. Now, I'm not sure that Tiger is anywhere near "elite" at this point, but he's certainly further along than any of us would have suspected. When he's contending in majors, and winning them, I'll say he's back.

Still, I get your point. Who else has fallen off a mountain that high, hit bottom and climbed back to the point where Tiger is these days? Not many, certainly.

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Remember, Tiger was thought of as the best golfer ever by many. He was certainly in the conversation.

Muhammad Ali, because of his draft status and his fight  to the Supreme Court, comes close, but that wasn't because of his ability. Michael Jordan, maybe, if you count his baseball struggles. Again, it isn't the same thing. Michael Phelps, in some of his non-Olympic years, seemed to be struggling, but he would refocus and rally. Roger Clemens was ordinary for awhile and rallied, but most of us believe that was because of PEDs.

Hey, we've seen a lot of athletes collapse. Pete Rose. Lance Armstrong. A-Rod. But it's the climb back up the mountain that will define Woods. Achieving success twice is rare indeed.

There have been a few athletes who found greatness again. Tommy John won 164 games after his famous surgery.  Grover Cleveland Alexander had trouble with the bottle.  Mike Tyson became a champion again after serving time for rape. Floyd Mayweather was a champion after serving time for domestic violence. The lesson is that an athlete often gets in his own way.

Still, I don't think we've ever seen anything like this.

 I am not a huge, old time hockey fan - I did see the Flyers fairly frequently back in 1970-73 when Bobby Taylor played, but I only really remember Bobby Clarke and Dave Schultz. I do enjoy watching the Lightning play but don't always understand some of the traditions of the game. I've noticed that when a player scores, they go over and bump fists with all the guys on the bench, but invariably all the guys on the bench aren't looking at the guy that scored, they are looking, it seems to me on TV, at the net where the score occurred! What's going on?

Cecil DeBald

Well, there is this blonde sitting behind the goal ...

I'm kidding, of course. But, please understand, the view is kind of restricted. You have glass around you, and the player who just scored is flashing past. You check out the goalie for his reaction (and a clue of what might come). You check the ref to make sure there is no appeal of the goal. You look at the other players as they gather around the net.

I don't think there is a time-honored moment where you look at the defenseman and taunt him. I just think you're on a crowded bench, facing one direction.

IMHO, the quality of the Rays’ stadium is way less important than the quality of the team. The Rays are now totally devoid of any marquee players. Since its World Series year of 2008, the following ‘star’ players have left:

Carl Crawford at end of 2010 season
James Shields at end of 2012 season
David Price during 2014 season
Ben Zobrist at end of 2014 season
Evan Longoria at end of 2017 season

Not surprisingly, team performance and fan interest has trended downward in lockstep.

Regarding the proposed new stadium, never has so much public money been up for grabs to entertain so few.  That being said, I will be at opening day having bought a $40 ticket for a 300 level seat (normally $15) supporting this charismatic team.

Is there any pot of gold at the end of this rainbow?

Scott Myers

No, there isn't any gold at the end of the rainbow. Coincidentally, though, the Rays chances of making the playoffs this year are exactly the same as finding a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

My problem  with your list of departed players is this. Look at the "in" basket. It's not very impressive, is it?

Every team, the big-money teams and the small-money teams, lose players. That's natural. Guys get old, they get hurt,  they move out of the way for new guys. You wouldn't want Carl Crawford in left field in 2018. You wouldn't want James Shields throwing the ball.

But how can a team replace a beloved player if it doesn't even try? Or if it trades for kids who never arrive?

I will disagree that fan interest has faded as badly as performance, though. Even in the good years, there wasn't that much interest. Oh, people watched the games on TV, but people have rarely gone to the park to watch.

I'd love to tell you that I'm convinced the Rays are being smart here. I know they weren't going to win the pennant this year, and I can understand the concept of bottoming out and then making another run. But I hope the Rays are aware of how hard they are making it on their fans, the ones who do come, and one who do care.

Ok, I'm not a basketball fan at any level, but I do have a question - why does the NIT exist? Seems to me it matches up the bottom portion of the basketball teams, those below number 64 or so... Is it similar to the reason for the large number of NCAA bowl games that match up 6-6 teams - is it just that it generates money even if nobody much cares about it? Or does the winner of the NIT get a “National Championship” and their state issues a license plate?

Cecil DeBald

In life, there are great mysteries. Why are their mosquitos? Who built the statues on Easter Island? Who, in fact, let the dogs out?

Then there is the NIT.

The Kmart version of tournament basketball.

For the life of me, I can't figure out why it's still being played so some team that was 15-14 can still feel good about itself. All I can figure is that enough gamblers want action on the nights that the NCAA Tournament isn't on.

When I was young, I remember that some teams actually bypassed the NCAA Tournament in favor of the NIT. Not so anymore. I read something the other day that, at UCLA, they have banners for every NCAA title. But not for their NIT title in 1985.

I know this: If I were a college basketball player, and I had just put in 30 games and a conference tournament, and I cared at all about my classes, I would have zero use for the NIT. It's like not getting invited to the World Series, but finding out you're in a slow-pitch softball tournament instead. No Olympics, but you can run at the company picnic. That sort of thing.

Left Tackle Nate Solder, who protected Tom Brady's blind side, has left for the New York Giants. Wide receiver Danny Amendola is rumored to be leaving for the Miami Dolphins any minute now. Tight end Rob Gronkowski has hinted at retirement. Brady will be 41 when the season starts and, Solder or not, nobody escapes that final sack from Father Time. Dare we even dream that the New England Patriots' dynasty is over?

Peter Kerasotis

Dreams are free. You can dream as much as you wish, Peter. With Belichick, the Patriots aren't the fuzziest team to embrace. No team that wins as much as they do is.

But let me caution you a bit. Part of Bill Belichick's strength as a coach is the way he wins after dealing away great players. That was true when he traded away Wes Welker and Richard Seymour and Logan Mankins and Chandler Ward and Jamie Collins, when he lost Rodney Harrison and Tedy Bruschi and when Aaron Herandez went to prison.

Another part of the New England success has been the dysfunction in the AFC East. When is the last time that Miami, New York or Buffalo had their ducks in a row.

It's a simple formula. You improve through the year, you take advantage of a weak division and you make the post-season.

New England is unlikely to find another Brady after this one is done. But until the AFC East can make a muscle, they'll be okay. They lead the league in coaching, in ownership, in quarterbacking. I think think be all right until Father Time sacks Belichick.

(Peter is a long-time Florida sports columnist, a buddy of mine, and the author of several books. His latest is Felipe Alou My Baseball Journey is scheduled to be released on April 1. He'd grin if you bought one.)

Jason Licht says Chris Baker didnt work out with the Bucs because of lack of chemistry in the locker room. Out there is Ndamukong Suh, who is apparently “difficult”. Shouldn’t Jason Licht still go big time after him?

 I think this “locker room” thing is an excuse for ineffective leadership. Sapp and Brooks handled that locker room fine, even with having Keyshawn for some time. It seems the locker room now has enough leadership to handle difficult people, and they should. 
Then again, maybe the biggest reason there have been no significant FA signings is no one wants to come to a bad team, unfortunately. 
Carlos Ubinas
History tells us that players don't fear a bad team nearly as much as they should. Over the years, the Bucs -- and their money -- have appealed to a lot of free agents. In the end, an athlete usually thinks he can change things as long as he's getting paid.
As for Suh, he's a force, and yes, I'd be interested, too. But he's played under-tackle  most of his career. I don't know how he would do lining up beside Gerald McCoy. Certainly, unless you're convinced he can succeed, you arne't interested in spending that kind of money.
Chris Baker didn't fail because he was a bad guy. He failed, largely, because he wasn't bad enough, at least not between the tackles. He didn't take the game seriously enough. Baker was a goof -- I thought he was funny -- who didn't take the games seriously enough, In sports, that's the cardinal sin. A teammate can forgive most things but not unreliability.
Keyshawn could be a pain in the neck, but when Tony Dungy was here, the team was able to absorb his ego. Gruden wasn't interested in playing that game. He didn't think Keyshawn was as good as Keyshawn thought.
I think there are reasons why the Bucs haven't been after the top flight free agents: Most of them don't line up with the team's needs. There are few edge rushers, for instance. But I was surprised that no running backs drew any interest. No corners.
Then again, there are years the Glazers open their wallets in free agency, and years when they don't. But except for Suh and Tyrann Mathieu, I haven't seen a lot of greatness out there. You?
I saw an article that said the Tampa Bay area is 4th in the country for corporate relocation, expansion. In your opinion, what effect does having MLB, NFL, NHL and (by a bit of a stretch) NBA teams in the Tampa Bay area have? Or asked another way, do you think the area would be ranked 4th for these relocations/expansions if Tampa Bay had none of these teams?

Cecil DeBald

I think professional sports is one of the things on the checklist of a company looking for relocation. But I'm not sure that those companies are saying 'Hey, let's go to Tampa. Good seats are available."

Put it this way: You go to tell a plant manager that you're moving to Tampa. Do you think the Bucs, with no playoff wins since 2003, are going to make him happy? Do you think the Rays lineup is going to excite him?

I think the cost of living helps. I think the weather helps. I think the beaches and the theme parks help. I think the golf courses help.

The sports teams? Are these companies moving from Canada and , therefore, love hockey? Is Gerald McCoy a big deal in Montana? Does upstate New York think the world of Chris Archer?

Maybe not.

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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Larry Beller March 17, 2018 at 11:25 am

There is no disputing the attendance was off but I submit to you that without a near depression type economic collapse in the economy it would have been much better. Get corporate support comparable to other MLB markets and put a winning team on the field and this area will do fine. Without at least average corporate support this market will always struggle at the gate.

Reply

Gary Shelton March 17, 2018 at 1:35 pm

The corporate hurts. No doubt about it. But don’t act as if hard times were only in Tampa Bay. The Rays had a winning team, and it didn’t help nearly enough. I don’t see what evidence there is that it will do “fine.” But that’s just me… and the yearly attendance figures.

Reply

scott myers March 17, 2018 at 10:39 am

Regarding your statement:
“I will disagree that fan interest has faded as badly as performance, though. Even in the good years, there wasn’t that much interest. Oh, people watched the games on TV, but people have rarely gone to the park to watch.”

Regular season average per game attendance has dropped 33% from 2009 to 2017 (23,148 to 15,477). Spring training average attendance per game has dropped 40% during the same time period (6,453 to 3,890). I think that is quite a dramatic fade.

Year spring training regular season
2017 4,542 15,477
2016 5,274 15,879
2015 5,105 15,322
2014 5,616 17,858
2013 5,349 18,646
2012 5,495 19,255
2011 5,819 18,879
2010 6,060 23,025
2009 6,453 23,148

Reply

Gary Shelton March 17, 2018 at 10:44 am

Remember how small a number you’re talking about. 23,000 per game after a World Series year? That’s embarassing.

I understand your argument about percentages. But if the number is small enough, those percentages matter less.

Reply

Larry Beller March 17, 2018 at 9:27 am

Gary, You have commented several times that fans did not support the team at the gate in 2008 and beyond in the Rays good years. If you remember starting in 2008 the economy tanked, the financial markets crashed, mortgage foreclosures reached an all time high. Tampa Bay was ground zero for a lot of that. It was tough times for a lot of people here. This area does not get the corporate support other markets do so the Rays depend on the everyday fan to drive ticket sales. If people aren’t able to pay the mortgage they probably won’t be able to scrape enough money together for a Rays ticket either. That has to be taken into account.

I’m not saying this is a great market for baseball but it gets a bad rap because of lack of corporate support and it has the lowest per capita income of any MLB market. Those are facts. Now that the economy is better the team is awful. We may never know how this area would support a winning baseball team because it doesn’t appear the Rays will ever get back to winning AL East titles again.

Reply

Gary Shelton March 17, 2018 at 10:46 am

Times were tough other places, too, Larry. As I said to Scott, 23,000 and change after a World Series isn’t good. Show me where another team that was in the series the year before has done as badly. Near the bottom in attendance is near the bottom in attendance.

Reply

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