Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Under The Radar: Three Stories You Missed Due To SBXLVI

Yea, SB XLVI. I'm guessing you heard about it. Here are some things you probably didn't hear about because of it. You are officially on the clock. Identify the athletes before you read the stories.

A) Kyle Stanley

B) Jeremy Lin

C) Alberto Contador


A) You might have heard about Kyle Stanley last week. He's the PGA golfer who had a seven-shot lead during the final round of the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines but couldn't close the deal for his first professional win. 

Stanley struggled throughout that final round, but still managed to get to 18 holding a three-stroke lead. Sponsors were so sure he was going to win they even cut him one of those massive oversized checks. Then he went all Jean van de Velde, cue youtube video of the 1999 British Open, and put up a snowman on the par 5, missing a three-footer to fall back into a playoff. Predictably he lost, costing himself $400K and an automatic spot in the Masters. It's the type of loss that can have a long-term impact on a career.

In this case long-term was one week. Sunday Spencer Levin played the role of Jean Valjean van de Velde/Kyle Stanley (nice headline by Golf Digest) and Stanley was on the receiving end of a second epic collapse. Levin had a six-stroke lead going into the round and a seven-stroke lead after one hole. But Stanley, eight strokes back at one point, got hot, shooting 65 to end up winning by a stroke. Get out the cardboard check for $1.098M and that Masters invitation. He now tops the PGA money list after four weeks with $1,793,575 in earnings. Not a bad start to 2012 and a nice rebound from last week's disaster. Now we'll see if we ever hear from Spencer Levin again.

Just for amusement here is the money list from this year's PGA Tour thru four weeks. How many of the top ten have you ever heard from before? I thought so.

B) Harvard basketball has been getting a lot of attention lately. The team is 20-2 on the season and currently ranked 21st in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll ahead of the likes of Indiana, Louisville and Michigan. They won the Battle for Atlantis tournament over Thanksgiving beating No. 17 Florida St. and Central Florida, which had earlier beaten UConn. They are undefeated in the Ivy League and are almost certain to get their first NCAA tournament bid.

The past couple days, however, the college team is taking a back seat to an alum who is taking New York by storm--and not on Wall St. Jeremy Lin was a three-time All-Ivy player who graduated from Harvard in '10. He was signed as a free agent by Golden St. that July and last year played in 29 games, averaging 9.8 minutes and 2.6 points/game. Lin made the Warriors roster again this season but was waived early on. Shortly thereafter he was signed by the Houston Rockets, but two weeks later he was waived again. Just after Christmas he was claimed by the New York Knicks.

The Knicks are one of the strike-shortened season's early disappointments. Terrible guard play, a poorly-conceived roster and unclear roles have gotten the team off to a terrible start. Add injuries and you have a squad languishing near the bottom of a very bottom-heavy Eastern Conference.

Lin joined the back end of the Knicks bench. NBA teams are allowed to have 15 players on their roster, but the last few spots are considered flotsam. Rarely do guys on the fringes ever crack the rotation. They generally bounce back and forth to the D-League or Europe, looking for a paycheck and an opportunity. That seemed to be Jeremy Lin's path.

Maybe not. After being signed, predictably, Lin sat. He saw playing time in nine games, but garbage time, only playing more than seven minutes in one of those contests going into Saturday night's home game with the New Jersey Nets. Then the proverbial opportunity knocked. In 35 minutes of action Lin put up 25 points, 5 rebounds and 7 assists and helped lead the Knicks past the Nets. Coach Mike D'Antonio announced afterward that Lin would get his first career start on Monday.

And he did. With Giants football players in the seats firing up the fans, all hell broke loose in the Garden. Jeremy Lin had the night of his young career. By the end of the game Knicks fans were chanting M-V-P, M-V-P. Playing without all-stars Amare Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony (injured in the first quarter), Lin lead the Knicks to a 99-88 victory over the Utah Jazz. He put up 28 points and 8 assists becoming the first player to do that in his first start since Isiah Thomas 30 years ago. He got the cover photo on the ESPN NBA page and he damn near stole the headlines from the Super Bowl Champion Giants. Throw in the fact that the kid is Asian-American and you have a story that is sweeping the NBA. Now that the Association gets to step front and center with the football season behind us, we'll see if The Jeremy Lin Show continues. At least now you know who he is.

C) Alberto Contador won the Tour de France in 2007, '09 and '10. Yesterday he was stripped of his 2010 title for doping. As Jim Caple writes, can anyone ever take this sport seriously again? In 14 of the last 16 years the winner has been suspected or caught doping. And, yes, I think Armstrong doped. The only good thing that can be said for cycling these days is they go after guys suspected of cheating and they go after them hard. Many sports are afraid to do that because it kills the image and reputation of the sport. Unfortunately that's true and cycling is suffering big time as a result.


Lukejr said...

Thanks Hammer, as usual better than the sports page

Jdill said...

fact that Stanley bounced back so quickly is surprising, the fourteen out of sixteen in the cycling is shocking