The Sports Hangover recovers from a Masters without Tiger, wonders if team mixed-martial arts represents a sign of the apocalypse, and thinks “what might have been” re: Manny v. Floyd.
Bubba, Tiger, and the Ratings Collapse
After ESPN’s coverage of the Masters endured a massive ratings drops on Thursday and Friday from last year’s broadcast, CBS predictably received its worst final-day Masters rating in history, excluding Easter Sundays (you can’t beat a resurrection). When Tiger Woods doesn’t show up, neither does the casual golf viewer. At 38, and with no wins at majors in six years, the Tiger that eventually shows up probably won’t be the Tiger viewers show up for. Bubba Watson, with his second Masters win in three years, makes a strong case for a ratings replacement despite this year’s ratings poor placement. Sure, he can’t compete with a prime Tiger. But Bubba already has the one-name thing going for him. And a guy who celebrates his win by taking a victory lap with his toddler and eating at a Waffle House surely transcends the golf world. Tune in next year to see who tunes in. Golf, better at attracting advertisers because of the demographic it appeals to, may again start attracting the Bubba viewers now that it boasts a superstar named Bubba.
The Greatest Fight That Never Happened
Manny Pacquiao thoroughly defeated Timothy Bradley on Saturday night. This time, the judges agreed. Talk immediately turned to the match that everyone wants to see rather than the one they just paid $54.95 to see.
The new movie Grudge Match, in which two long-retired boxers settle their differences in a senior-citizen scrap, might have better cast Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather than Sylvester Stallone and Robert DeNiro. “We’d love to fight Mayweather but there have been so many excuses,” Pacquiao trainer Freddie Roach told the Daily Telegraph. “He really doesn’t seem to want to fight us, but we want that fight. I think my guy beats him.” Maybe he does. But when? Pacquiao is 35 and Mayweather is 37. Pacquiao doesn’t knock guys out like he used to and Mayweather gets hit like he never used to. Even if they were to fight early next year, after Mayweather handles Marcos Maidana in May, both fighters would be considerably older than Ray Mancini, Oscar de la Hoya, or Marvin Hagler was when they retired. “That might have been the biggest fight in boxing history,” Hagler speculated on a Pacquiao-Mayweather battle. “Maybe they would have pulled in $100 million.” But like Ray Leonard once told Hagler of a bout between them, “It will never happen.”
Fans can take heart in Leonard’s “never happen” never happening. But even if Pacquiao and Mayweather meet next year, it will be a Grudge Match-like fight that should have happened a decade sooner.
Brazilian Battle Royale
The UFC’s Chael Sonnen frequently takes on a professional wrestling persona. So it was only a matter of time before the entertaining real wrestler invited a foreign object, handicap match, or opponent from parts unknown. His street-clothes skirmish on The Ultimate Fighter reality show with Wanderlei Silva (and entourage) plays as something out of the WWE. After Sonnen dumped Silva on his back, the hangers on got into the skirmish. Andre Dida, a journeyman mixed-martial artist boasting a win over Caol Uno, teed off on the back of Sonnen’s head. The Marquess of Queensberry, and even Dana White, forbids such dangerous strikes.
“I was hoping that Sonnen would stand up and fight me,” Dida told MMAfighting.com. “I wanted to get him off Wanderlei, and now people call me a coward. Imagine that you’re in a situation like that. You’re in a supermarket and when you get back, someone is on top of your mother, your brother, your sister. Your instinct tells you to stop him as fast as possible. I did the same thing with Wanderlei Silva as soon as I saw that (Sonnen) was trying to hurt him.”
Is a guy nicknamed the Ax Murderer really a good basis of comparison with someone’s mother or sister?
Brawndo’s Got What’s Plants Crave
Andre Dida may have a career as a cage fighter yet. The Silva-Sonnen melee evokes the specter haunting from Europe. No, not Communism–team mixed-martial arts. The “sport” features teams of five beating each other up until the strongest survive. In the unintentionally comedic pilot making the rounds, a group of Poles appropriately calling themselves “hooligans” issue a beatdown–four-on-one at the end–to a group of Swedes disproving their nickname as the “wisemen.” As I wrote last week, whenever I indulge the delusion that I’m not living in the movie Idiocracy, I quickly turn on MTV to snap myself out of it. Ridiculousness airs as a ripoff of Ow My Balls!, right? The culture has caught up to group brawls in its reverse race to the bottom. Team MMA is a bad idea whose time has sadly come. When does Spike, MTV, or some other bottom-feeding network buy the rights? Check your local listings. Brawndo’s got what plants crave.
Aaron the New OJ
Massachusetts prosecutors charging Aaron Hernandez’s friends Carlos Ortiz and Ernest Wallace in the murder of Odin Lloyd speaks volumes about the case against the former New England Patriots tight end. On the one hand, the state’s joint-venture statute allows prosecutors to pursue murder convictions against the trio regardless of who pulled the trigger. It essentially relieves the prosecution of the obligation of showing which guy did it by showing that they all did it. That makes the case easier, right? The problem for prosecutors is that changing theirs from a case against Hernandez to a conspiracy case against the three effectively leaves them without witnesses to the murder. The charges against Ortiz and Wallace represent an I-give-up. Prosecutors couldn’t flip Hernandez’s friends into witnesses. That’s rather remarkable given how Hernandez treats his friends. What superficially appears as an easier case really works as an admission that the case isn’t going to be easy. The trial hasn’t even begun but Hernandez’s chances of walking a la O.J. Simpson seems not inconsiderable.
NHL Playoff System Is Stupid and Confusing
Affirm divisions by awarding playoff spots to the top performers in them. Award overall records by divvying out playoff seeds based on wins and losses. Base your postseason on a mish-mash of both and you’re bound to confuse your fan base. Like the NHL’s confusing points system, the league’s playoff structure leaves casual fans–the ones who tune in this time of year–perplexed. Lester Patrick, Charles Francis Adams, James Norris, and Conn Smythe do not approve.
My favorite part of the weekend came playing basketball with my son at a Jewish Community Center. I made a foul-shot bet with my kid–winner needed to go three for five–that ended in frustrated laughter after I altered the trajectory of his final shot with my ball. The lesson? Free throws aren’t free.
The worst part of my weekend came watching news of a jerk’s mass-murder at a Jewish Community Center halfway across the country. JCCs strike me as such friendly places that I leave my children on the court while I hit the weights or the treadmill. You can swim, shoot hoops, run, lift, play racquetball, and do just about anything else there. The murdered fourteen-year-old had participated in a talent contest. You surely don’t expect to encounter a lunatic with a gun at a JCC.
Typical of the ignorance of haters, the gunman aiming for Jews killed two Methodists and, later at a Jewish care facility, a woman aiding the afflicted. When the cops caught up to Glenn Frazier Cross at a local elementary school, the high-school dropout announced “Heil Hitler.” That’s a convincing two-word argument that Cross should have kept away from schools as an adult and stuck around in one more than a half-century ago.