By Kevin Kietzman
It’s time for the people that think they know so much about the great game of golf to realize they know nothing about what’s good for the game.
Dustin Johnson was a great U.S. Open champion Sunday after blistering Oakmont, PA Country Club with an array of 350-yard drives, guided missile 6 irons into greens and just enough putting to put everyone away. DJ’s internet sensation wife, Paulina, and his kid made for a perfect little Father’s Day setting at America’s most important golf tourney.
But the USGA just had to ruin the fun.
On the 5th hole as Johnson was just about to putt his ball (but hadn’t set his putter head on the ground behind the ball), the ball moved backwards just a smidge. Johnson backed away and called a rules official over and reported it. He was the only person on earth that saw it live as it happened. Replay cameras caught it, sure. And his playing partner, Lee Westwood, walked over to talk about it too. All three men agreed it should not be a penalty. Heck, on what planet and what sport is something like that even considered a penalty?
An hour and a half later, the USGA decided to tell all the players near the top of the leaderboard that there “may” be a one shot penalty assessed at the end of the round to Johnson’s score. Immediately, this insane decision to not make a decision yet tell the players, altered what everyone was thinking.
In the end, Johnson won by 4 shots. So the USGA went ahead and penalized him a stroke - but he still won. It was one of the most gutless, ridiculous rulings I’ve ever seen in any sport. It made soccer rulings look sane.
The point of all this? Well, the rules of golf are written for a reason. Don’t cheat people you’re competing against, especially when they are not in your playing group. But golf at the highest level is a completely different animal. Every shot of every leader is televised in HD. Nobody is trying to cheat anyone. Ever. You couldn’t even if you wanted.
The USGA and Royal and Ancient rules of golf should be a nice guideline for “tournament rules of play”. You see, 5th graders can’t spike a football in the end zone and dance but the pros can. My friend may gain an advantage on me by not knowing the rules of golf and I may not like it and maybe we can use it to learn more about fair and unfair. But not the U.S. Open. There is no way they assess that penalty if Johnson wins by one or if he’s tied at the end of regulation. That made it even worse. They were afraid to call it and only did after they knew it wouldn’t affect the outcome.
Scrap the rules of golf guys and put it all in the hands of playing partners and on course officials. Use replay if you want. But only rule on two things: 1) Did a player gain an unfair advantage with intent to do so? 2) Did a player gain an unfair advantage because he broke a rule he didn’t know?
It’s that simple. When Dustin Johnson broke a rule by grounding his club in a bunker at the PGA Championship, he gained no advantage. He should have known the rule and shouldn’t have grounded his club. But he gained no advantage and it shouldn’t have had any effect on the outcome of the tourney he lost. He would have won. What a shame.
These golf snobs running these tournaments don’t understand why golf has stopped growing without Tiger Woods. There’s a lot of reasons, but one of them is a real disconnect between the ancient, stupid, complicated rules of golf written by the ruling class and the millions of us who just want to play the game for fun and watch the pros for entertainment. The USGA has long lost its way in this regard.
By Kevin Kietzman
If the Royals are the best team in baseball at home, what are they on the road? Keeping in mind the bar is much lower on the road, it’s a fair question to ask as the AL Central leaders begin a three city, 10-game roadie that starts with four against Cleveland.
The Indians sit 2 ½ games back with a resume chalk full of computer stats that tell us they are way better than the Royals. Maybe 10 full games better than the Royals. The Royals resume is chalk full of post season trophies, flags and rings and a bunch of new players nobody has ever heard of. Oh yeah, and the Royals are alone in first place playing what injured left fielder Alex Gordon described as the best baseball he’s ever seen the team play.
The Royals have won six in a row, eight of nine and they’re batting a ridiculous .358 as a team during that stretch. In each of those games, the Royals have had 10 hits or more. It’s easy to see why Gordon’s observation has validity and it hasn’t all just been guys like Whit Merrifield, Paulo Orlando, Brett Eibner and Drew Butera leading the way. No, the stars are shining in KC. Lorenzo Cain is 10 for his last 21 and Eric Hosmer is becoming a true MVP candidate after going 14 for 26 with 12 RBI on the perfect 6-0 homestand.
But as wicked as this bunch as been at Kauffman Stadium, they have had some trouble on the road. The fans in Kansas City truly intimidate visiting pitchers during rally time and especially late in games. There is no magic potion on the road. KC is 11-15 in other ball parks and has a history of serious offensive droughts in many of those losses. It’s pretty obvious the Royals can’t keep up the pace they’ve set on the recent homestand, but can they be a .500 team on the road this year? If so, you get the feeling this division is over.
The Royals are already 13-5 against the Central, just flat out owning Minnesota and Cleveland. But the math guys, and many traditionalists that believe in starting pitching, think Cleveland is the most likely challenger. That makes this series so intriguing. The Indians haven’t played their best, have three outfielders out and are just 2 ½ back. The main problem Cleveland has is the Royals are just starting to play their best, have two outfielders, a third baseman and a catcher out and are 2 ½ games up. I know that’s not advanced math, but sometimes simple math provides the real answers. And the only math that matters in sports is wins and losses.
If the Royals can play better on the road, all the math tells us this division won’t be much of a race at all.
By Kevin Kietzman
Let’s get the obvious out of the way right from the jump here, the Kansas Jayhawks are on fire.
KU is the number one seed in the entire NCAA tournament. They look like it, they play like it and everyone knows it. In fact, the only concern I have for KU at this point is the possibility that being from the Big 12 has once again made them look a smidge better than they really are. But the performance against UCONN quiets that theory significantly.
The Big 12 has three teams still dancing, all having played to their seed. So there is no back slapping, whoop-whooping over the mighty Big 12. The league has been a disappointment in the tourney again, but the remaining teams can make the league look great. Meanwhile, the ACC has a record 6 teams in the Sweet 16. I called this at the beginning of the Madness and we’ve talked about it for two months on Between the Lines. The ACC is the best league in hoops, and it isn’t close.
But what I really notice about March Madness is one of the strangest things in all of sports. Is there anything more predictable, yet filled with wild Cinderella moments, than the NCAA Tourney?
Think about it. You get your kicks from Stephen F. Austin just boggling your mind with their precision and passion and great stories. Northern Iowa tosses in a half court bomb at the buzzer. And Middle Tennessee... well… Middle Tennessee took out Michigan State in one of the most shocking upsets ever.
That was fun. Now THAT kind of fun is over. This is nearly a scratch field at this point with all 16 teams fitting into two distinct categories.
Category 1: You have played to your seed.
The South and the West are seeds 1-4. All the hand wringing over the committee being dopey and here we have a couple regions that have all four faves remaining. All four number one seeds are alive, too. Three of the four number one seeds are playing 4 seeds. So much for Cinderella.
Category 2: You are a name program playing well now
This is where Syracuse, Gonzaga, Wisconsin, Notre Dame and Indiana fit. They all beat slightly higher seeds (or not if they caught a break) and made the Sweet 16. But there is no real surprise as most of these teams have done this before. Up and down the board, we now have teams that have been there, done that. Those that haven’t like Miami and ISU are high seeds this year that have only met expectations so fare. And for a tournament known for surprises, there are none left in this field. Cinderella got all dolled up and got dumped at the curb well before midnight.
By Kevin Kietzman
K-State’s disappointing performance against Baylor, at Bramlage no less, pretty much puts and end to any talk of this squad rallying and making a run at the NCAA tourney.
It’s amazing what a win over the number one team in the country can do for the perception of a team but in the end, we should have all known better about this year’s KSU team. Sure, there’s a lot to be optimistic about as Bruce Weber goes forward, I mean, who wouldn’t want a team so reliant on Freshman to already have on their resume a win over numero uno. But this season has mostly been a series of losses to good team that K-State has showed promise but no ability to close.
Last night against Baylor was even worse.
The Wildcats never really showed up for this one. Baylor took a double digit lead early and KSU made a few runs within 5 points or so. But K-State was so dreadful shooting the ball from the outside, they didn’t hit a three until :58 seconds remained in the game, you knew Baylor had this one. Kam Stokes, a fine Freshman point guard that is KSU’s best outside threat, is lost with a knee injury. That’s taking an OK three point shooter off a team with very little else and you can see where it would be trouble. The Wildcats scored repeatedly at the rim against number one OU but didn’t have nearly as much success against Baylor’s big men. Growing pains for a young team.
Now, you can argue that Weber should not be in a spot where he has an all new team and K-State should be experienced and competing in this league. I agree with that. But now is not the time for that argument. That argument was better made at the end of last year and in the off season when Weber was scouring the country for new players. It is what it is now. And while the bar seems incredibly low for a team that won the league just three years ago, you have to judge it for what it is.
This team has played hard, they like each other and Weber can coach. They are wildly inconsistent because they rely heavily on three freshmen in a league where most coaches don’t even use their freshmen. Dean Wade looks like he’ll be a fixture at K-State and if Kam Stokes doesn’t have a serious knee problem, he’ll run this team for three more years. Weber has a couple big men sitting out this year, practicing with the team. All eyes are on next year.
It’s not what fans want to hear, it’s never about next year until the last game is played. But you tell me. If… IF… the Cats knock off Kansas again (something Weber’s been ok at) and play in the NIT, isn’t that pretty good for a complete rebuild? That’s a win over your rival, a win over the #1 team in the land and a post season tourney. Cat fans may not think that’s enough, but based on the decisions made at the end of last year, I think that’s pretty strong.
By Kevin Kietzman
While America is awash in Star Wars mania, the Kansas City Chiefs are playing like they’re saving the galaxy. Seven straight wins, a lock down defense that sacks the quarterback and takes the ball away and an offense almost perfectly suited to bad weather and post season play. What more could we ask for? The Chiefs roll into Baltimore this week to take on the Jimmy Clausen and/or Ryan Mallet led Ravens in what is a perfect road matchup for KC. The Ravens turn it over and don’t take it from opponents. The Chiefs are exact opposites. This has to be good.
If the Chiefs win and the Broncos lose at Pittsburgh, Peyton Manning is inactive again, KC is just one game away from winning the division. Amazing after a 1-5 start. Central Bank of the Midwest pre-game with Soren Petro is Sunday morning and Danny and Jack have the Olathe Subaru post game show around 3:00.
But what we will all remember this week for is the premier of Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
I’m by no means a junkie and barely remember the plots and story lines of the original trilogy when I was a kid. But I liked them all and passed on the next three because, well, I just didn’t care.
This is different. I’d be a terrible movie critic because I don’t like really slow, artsy types of movies about Europeans or people with odd stories. I like blockbusters. I like big, mainstream, popcorn movies. I trust Disney and director JJ Abrams to know what this franchise is and what it should be. It belongs in the hands of the best and brightest at the top of their game every time one comes out trying to be the world’s biggest phenomenon. I’m pretty sure they’ve done that here. That has me excited to see Star Wars tonight more than I thought. I’m caught up in the hype and can’t wait.
I don’t like all the commercials, especially the soup commercials that are political, borderline offensive and don’t match the audience at all. I don’t need characters on my box of Cheez-its and I’m downright thrilled my kids are grown so I don’t have to take out a second mortgage to buy all the toys.
But this is going to be amazing, giant, fun movie making with a storied franchise getting the Disney treatment. Let’s do this!
Have fun, go Chiefs and May the Force be with you!
By Kevin Kietzman
The Royals have been consistently excellent now for a long enough period that it’s time for Kansas City to stop doubting and sweating this series with the Jays.
Kansas City is up 3-2 in the series and have two home games to close it out. I’m not sure why this has our whole city freaked out that the sky is falling in. I know we all endured decades of bad baseball, never believed this owner would field a winner and watched our beloved team become a national laughing stock. But those days are over.
The Royals are good. Really good. And even more important, and I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a Royals team like this in my life, they have the ability to flip a switch. This bunch phoned in about six weeks of baseball until the final week. Then the Royals closed the season with 5 wins, beat the Astros and grabbed a 2-0 series lead on the favored Blue Jays. It’s easy to see this team has another gear when it needs it.
The Royals have a lineup with no hole in it, starting pitching that can be just fine for 5 innings, great defense and game awareness and a lock down bullpen. The only thing that can beat the Royals is dominant starting pitching and so far there’s only been a couple games the Royals have had to deal with that. Maybe if they play the Mets in the World Series it becomes a problem, but not to close out this Toronto series. The Blue Jays don’t win close, low scoring games. The Royals do. It’s a huge difference.
Look, I know that anything can happen. It’s why we love sports. Of course the Royals could lose this series. But take your emotion and heart out of the equation and you will see a confident, complete team playing great baseball at home with a 3-2 series lead. Don’t be worried about this right now. Save the stress for Saturday but my guess is Saturday’s stress in this city will be reserved for thinking about the Mets starting pitching.
I asked Andy Reid a pretty simple question this week. “When it’s going good, coaches love to stay in perfect routine. When it’s going bad, do you try to change things or freshen things up a little?” Andy wouldn’t bite, he rarely does. His response was about what time meetings begin and when practice starts and ends. I probably didn’t ask the question properly but that wasn’t what I was going for. I’m curious if you get on your players more, kill them with kindness or threaten jobs. Alex Smith told me there have been several “meetings” between players by themselves and with the staff but added it can only do so much. Smith says the talking part of this season is over and every player on the team knows it. It’s time to start playing better and that can only be fixed by the players. Andy did say they are looking at a lot of different things with game plans and strategy but wouldn’t elaborate.
As I watch several players shoot baskets and yuck it up in the locker room this week, I couldn’t help but think a little discipline and maybe a benching or two would be better than installing a play toy for the kids.