The 2010 Sportsman of the Year Debate… Kobe by Default

December 27, 2010

Read the opposing arguments from Babe Ruthless, and Optimist Prime.

Well, 2010 was special year for sports fans!

Several very long-standing championship droughts ended, as the New Orleans Saints (43 year drought), Chicago Blackhawks (49 year drought), and the San Francisco Giants (56 year drought) each won championships in their respective leagues.

For those of us with a deep sense of national pride in our sports teams, the Men’s U.S. Hockey and Soccer teams treated us all to some of the most exciting and dramatic athletic performances of the year in the Winter Olympics and World Cup, respectively.

Speaking of soccer, 2010 will always be a special sports year to me as my alma mater, The University of Akron, won their first ever National Championship by claiming the College Cup in very exciting fashion over the Louisville Cardinals.

The year also had its share of goats.

LeBron James’ “Decision” proved to be a PR nightmare, Rex Ryan apparently has a foot “thing,” and we learned about everything from travel destinations to bathroom habits thanks to the incessant media bombardment of “Tiger Watch” and “Favre Watch.”

Like I said, 2010 was a special year.

But even with those spectacular performances and storylines, the task of naming a Sportsman of the Year is tricky. You see, despite the exciting performances that we were all treated to as fans, no one really separated themselves from the pack in terms of individual performances.

Sure, there are some obvious default options to look to. Drew Brees certainly became the face of the NFL in 2010 after leading the Saints to their first ever Super Bowl championship. Here’s the problem – I credit Sean Payton, not Drew Brees, with winning that game. While Brees had a remarkable season leading up to that Super Bowl, it is important to note that performance came in 2009, not 2010. So far this year Brees has played well, but Tom Brady and Michael Vick (along with several others) have been far more impressive.

Being quarterback of the championship NFL team is not enough on its own to earn the “Sportsman of the Year” crown.

Moving on to baseball, several pitchers tried to make cases for themselves. In the post-season, Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, and Tim Lincecum all pitched to historic levels. Halladay’s post-season no-hitter was the greatest individual performance, but Lee’s and Lincecum’s pitching had far more significant value for their teams.

All three pitched exceptionally well, but once again none separated themselves enough from the others to claim the title.

In golf, Phil Mickelson’s emotional victory at the Masters was the perfect start to the 2010 season, but Lefty proved unable to do anything more as the season played out. After winning his third Green Jacket, Mickelson could do no better than taking one more second place finish, and only six top-ten finishes on the year.

I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge Jimmie Johnson’s accomplishments in NASCAR this year, having won his FIFTH consecutive Sprint Cup Championship. He has become nothing less than a one-man dynasty, and is right now the single most dominant person in sports. The only reason I am hesitant in recognizing Johnson any further is that I am forced to now question the quality of his competition. With all due respect to his accomplishments, are his championships the result of Johnson being that good, or is it that the rest of the field is that bad?

By default, we are forced to look to the NBA to find our Sportsman of the year.

In the NBA, names like LeBron James, Dwayne Wade, Chris Bosh, Amar’e Stoudemire, and Carmelo Anthony dominated headlines. Free agency in 2010 was undeniably the biggest sports story of the year, overshadowing even the NBA Finals. But it is Kobe Bryant who should be recognized as the Sportsman of 2010.

This year, Bryant quietly led the Los Angeles Lakers to a second consecutive NBA Championship. I never thought I would use the words “Kobe Bryant” and “quietly” in the same sentence, but in a year where it seemed that LeBron James was the ONLY person being talked about in the NBA, Bryant proved definitively that his Lakers, not LeBron’s Cavaliers (or now the Miami Heat) were the absolute best in the game. He led the Lakers to a Western Conference-leading 57 wins, and unofficially resolved the “Kobe versus LeBron” debate. This year brought Bryant the fifth title in his career, and the 17th in the history of the Lakers’ franchise.

Bryant’s stability and leadership (I really can’t believe I am writing this…) carried the Lakers into the post-season and through the Finals. When all the world was enamored with the courtship of LeBron James, Bryant busied himself with winning a championship.

Through nothing but his phenomenal talent, Kobe Bryant continues to keep the Lakers as the team to beat in the NBA. No matter how great the Miami super-team may hope to be, they are still playing in Kobe’s league.

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The 2010 Summer’s Best Event Debate… Prime Time at Pebble Beach

May 10, 2010

Read the opposing arguments from Babe Ruthless and Bleacher Fan.

I was all set to build this argument around the return of the U.S. Open to Pebble Beach, California, which is where the 2000 U.S. Open was held and certain person dominated at that tournament. Any guesses who won in 2000? Tiger Woods won by a record 15 strokes, as he was the only golfer under par that year. However, it remains to be seen if Woods will be able to tee it up at all at this year’s U.S. Open. He had to withdraw from The Players Championship on the seventh hole due to an apparent neck injury. With the U.S. Open beginning June 17, it is uncertain as to what Woods’ playing status is. Either way, the show must go on, and the event still promises to be quite a show.

Depending on what happens in the next month, it could be an opportunity for Phil Mickelson to overtake Woods for the number one ranking in golf. If Mickelson had won at Sawgrass this past weekend he would have. As of today, Mickelson sits a little over a point behind Woods in the world ranking system. I could spend all day explaining the Official World Golf Ranking points system to you, and I still wouldn’t cover it all. Just know that this is the closest it has been in quite some time.

It’ll also be a chance for Mickelson to win his second consecutive major. If he wins, that would keep open the possibility of a “Mickel-slam.” That would happen if Phil the Thrill went on to win the Open Championship and the PGA Championship later in the year, giving him all four majors in one calendar year.

The great thing about golf is that good stories always develop as the tournament develops. Despite what the national media would have you believe, the golfing world doesn’t always rotate around Woods and, to a lesser extent, Mickelson. As the PGA Tour slogan goes, “These guys are good.” And yes, they are! Many of you may not have watched The Players Championship this past weekend due to the usual big names not being up there, but it was very entertaining. The three guys vying for the title, Tim Clark, Robert Allenby, and Lee Westwood, had either never won on the PGA Tour or not won at all.

What’s really going to make this year’s U.S. Open exciting is the fact that weekend action will be played in prime time on the East Coast. This was tried two years ago when the championship was played at Torrey Pines . That was the year Woods held off Rocco Mediate in a Monday playoff. That also was the third-highest rated U.S. Open ever. NBC holds the broadcast rights and must be hoping to cash in once again.

I’m definitely looking forward to this year’s U.S. Open. It’s going to be played at one of the world’s most majestic golf courses. Whether or not Woods will participate will be a popular topic over the next month. But even if he doesn’t, it still promises to still be as exciting as ever.

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The Is Phil Mickelson a Cheater Debate – Cheating is in the Ping Eye of the Beholder

February 10, 2010

Read the opposing arguments from Babe Ruthless and Loyal Homer about whether or not Phil Mickelson should be perceived as having cheated in golf.



Cheating is a very strong accusation, especially in the world of golf. Considered a “Gentleman’s game,” golfers pride themselves on honor and integrity. It is one of the only sports where self-governing play is expected. Players keep their own scores and are expected to assess their own penalties when necessary.

Phil Mickelson, who is generally considered one of golf’s good guys, does not seem to be a cheater. But here we are, discussing a scandalous accusation that Mickelson is manipulating the rules to put himself at a position of advantage over his competition. That is also known as, cheating.

Loyal Homer states that the Ping Eye2 wedge that Mickelson uses creates a ten-percent greater rate of spin on the ball than clubs with “approved” groove patterns. This increased spin can give a greater level of control on chip shots out of the rough, which could make the difference between a birdie and a par. As a result, Loyal Homer claims that Mickelson gains a distinct advantage over those following the rules.

Where Babe Ruthless disagrees, a point that ultimately earned the verdict today, is in pointing out that Mickelson does not have an advantage over the rest of the pool. In fact, EVERY player has the ability to use the same club that Mickelson does. Whether other players choose to use that club or not is their decision, but at the end of the day, they CAN use that club.

Mickelson may be taking advantage of a loophole in the system, but he is not cheating. An example of cheating would be kicking the ball a little closer to the hole when no one is looking, or picking up your ball to improve a lie in the rough. Using a club that everyone else can use is just playing the game.

The real problem here, as Mickelson himself points out, is in the vague presentation of the rules. Blaming Mickelson for using a club that is permitted in play is like getting mad at someone on the highway for driving five miles-per-hour slower than the speed limit. In both cases, people interpret the rules differently, but nobody is actually violating the rules. Just because you do not like getting stuck behind someone driving 50 in a 65 mph zone does not mean they are bad drivers (Editor’s note: Bleacher Fan drives like a grandma.), or that they are doing something wrong.

Accusing Mickelson of cheating is misdirected attention that distracts from the real problem. If the use of this club truly affects the how level the playing field is then it is the responsibility of the PGA to prohibit it. Until that takes place, play on, Phil!

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The Is Phil Mickelson a Cheater Debate – There may be a Cheater in Golf, and it is NOT Tiger?!

February 9, 2010

Read the opposing arguments from Babe Ruthless and Loyal Homer about whether or not Phil Mickelson should be perceived as having cheated in golf.



If I asked you what one word BEST described Mark McGwire, Jose Canseco, and Alex Rodriguez, what word comes to mind? Most people would say, “Cheater.” Yet, when McGwire, Canseco, A-Rod – and a host of other so-called “cheaters” – used steroids there was no penalty for the use of those particular substances. Still, they violated the spirit of the rules prohibiting the use of illegal substances in baseball, and are perceived as cheaters.

So if I asked you for one word to now describe one of golf’s favorite sons, does the same word come to mind? Well, it does if we are talking about Tiger (HEY-OH!), but he is not who I am referring to today. I am actually talking about Phil Mickelson, and there is at least one person out there who HAS accused Mickelson of cheating in the game of golf.

Twenty years ago, the United States Golf Association (USGA) passed a rule banning the use of certain wedges because of the groove pattern they used. The ruling, which was adopted by the PGA, was created because the groove pattern on these wedges produced a greater amount of spin that what was considered acceptable in competition play.

A caveat to this rule, though, was the grandfathering in of clubs that were manufactured before April 1, 1990. Because the USGA and the PGA feared negative backlash from major manufacturers of clubs (and the players who used them), they applied the rule only to those clubs produced after the rule was in place. If a player was using a club manufactured BEFORE April of 1990, they would be allowed to continue using that club, despite the newly banned groove pattern.

Phil Mickelson’s Ping Eye2 wedge is one of those clubs.

Several players on the PGA Tour have voiced concerns about the use of clubs such as Mickelson’s Ping Eye2, but it was not until last week, when fellow Tour member Scott McCarron boldly referred to it as “cheating,” that it became a heated topic.

Although McCarron has since apologized for his accusations, under the threat of legal action from Mickelson for slanderous statements, the words are out there. Enter, The Sports Debates.

Under the current rule structure, is Phil Mickelson cheating if he continues to use his Ping Eye2 wedge?

Mickelson is technically not breaking any rules with the use of the wedge, but many feel that he is violating the spirit of the rule which bans that groove pattern, and is unfairly taking advantage of a loophole in the system in order to give himself a competitive edge that his opponents do not take advantage of.

Loyal Homer will argue that Mickelson is cheating, despite the loophole in the rules which technically permits the use of his wedge, while Babe Ruthless will argue that he is not.

As for Bleacher Fan, I will be contemplating the sad state of current affairs for the PGA Tour which, without Tiger’s storied feats on (and apparently off) the course to talk about, has nothing better to focus on than the groove pattern of Mickelson’s wedges. Is that REALLY the biggest story that the PGA has to offer now? What’s next – a scandal about Padraig Harrington, dimple counts, and repairing divots?!

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The Is Phil Mickelson a Cheater Debate – Lefty Is Right

February 9, 2010

Read the opposing argument from Loyal Homer.

When NASCAR teams put illegal engines in cars and remove restrictor plates they are engaged in cheating. When MLB players use corked bats during games they are engaged in cheating. When Phil Mickelson uses a wedge that complies with USGA rules that is not cheating.

In the wake of Tiger Woods’ complete character makeover (I think he must have hired Charlie Sheen and John Gosselin as life coaches), the PGA must have been praying for a story that did not involve text messages, cheating, or exotic dancers. Well they got one… and I bet they are thinking that two out of three isn’t half bad.

Phil Mickelson was recently slandered by fellow pro Scott McCarron, who claims that Mickelson is “cheating.” What dubious tactic did Lefty employ to gain his unfair advantage, you ask? He is using a wedge which contains grooves that do not conform to current USGA rules. So he is cheating. Case closed award the victory to Loyal Homer, right?

Not so fast! Although Lefty’s wedge has grooves that do not comply with USGA regulations, they are indeed legal. There is a special provision to the groove regulation – a grandfather clause – that allows players to use any wedge produced before April 1, 1990. Mickelson’s wedge, the Ping Eye2, was indeed produced before this date, so he is actually using a legal club. A LEGAL CLUB. Case closed award the victory to Babe Ruthless.

For those not ready to immediately award me the debate victory, let’s continue to explore the case against Mickelson.

McCarron mistakenly declared Mickelson a cheater, probably because the perception exists that the grooves of the older wedge provide a great deal more spin than other contemporary wedges, but this is really an exaggeration at best. Tim Finchem, PGA Tour commissioner, acknowledged that the wedge only provides a minimal amount of extra spin (approximately 10 percent more spin) than other wedges with grooves that comply with the rule. Really, there is no edge. The rule allows anyone to use one of the grandfathered clubs, so where is the edge in that? (Maybe some of the other golfers might be too drunk to find the club on EBay… I’m talking to you, John Daly.)

Still others are upset that the use of the Ping Eye2 wedge violates the spirit of the rule. The “spirit” of the rule… are you kidding me? That is like complaining that bunting violates the spirit of hitting in baseball, or that faking a punt in football somehow violates the spirit of competitive play because not every team chooses to attempt trick plays. Maybe once those golfers who are worried about the spirit of the rule are done braiding each other’s hair and talking about their feelings, we can get back to taking about sports. It sounds to me that the competition in the PGA wants to try to create ticky-tack rules to handicap Mickelson (handicap… that’s pun-tastic).

For those who are still not convinced, check out this statement by the PGA:

“Under the Rules of Golf and the 2010 Condition of Competition for Groove Specifications promulgated by the USGA, pre-1990 Ping Eye2 irons are permitted for play and any player who uses them in PGA TOUR sanctioned events taking place in jurisdictions of the USGA is not in violation of the Rules of Golf; and Because the use of pre-1990 Ping Eye2 irons is permitted for play, public comments or criticisms characterizing their use as a violation of the Rules of Golf as promulgated by the USGA are inappropriate at best.”

Lefty is definitely not cheating. In fact, he is such a stand-up guy he has agreed to remove the club from his arsenal – for the time being. While that alone does not prove that he is not a cheater, it does prove that he is not a jerk – which is more than I can say for losers who accuse him of cheating in the first place.

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The Is Phil Mickelson a Cheater Debate – Phil Failed in His Cheating Attempt

February 9, 2010

Read the opposing argument from Babe Ruthless.



This cannot be what the PGA Tour wanted in light of the absence of Tiger Woods.

Phil Mickelson, who is arguably the face of the PGA Tour with Woods missing in action, has been involved in a recent controversy and it is something that has provoked commentary amongst all sports fans, hence the debate on this website.

Here is a link to the story, but leave it to me to give you the basic rundown. A new USGA rule that took effect at the beginning of the year outlines that grooves on irons be shallower with more rounded edges. In theory, the idea is to reduce spin and make hitting the ball in the fairway more important. However, the Ping 2 wedges (gosh, Ping is really getting some free press the past two weeks) are approved despite not conforming to the rules due to a legal settlement years ago.

Essentially, the Ping 2 wedge that Mickelson was using earlier in the year WAS cheating based on how the Tour intended on setting things up for 2010. Some technicality from several years ago does not all of a sudden make it right. Fellow PGA Tour player Scott McCarron recently said Mickelson was “cheating” by using the Ping 2. To be fair, Mickelson is not the only player using the club. He is one of five players, but he is obviously the most prominent. McCarron and Mickelson have since kissed and made up.

PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem has gone on record saying that the Ping 2 wedges spin about 10 percent more than the wedges APPROVED for play this year. That is a distinct advantage and could provide the difference between making birdie or par. Let me simplify it for you. Let’s say Mickelson drives his tee shot into the rough. The shot calls for Phil the Thrill to pull out a wedge. The grooves on a Ping 2 wedge allow him to get more spin and more control of his shot into the green. Using a regular wedge, one that is approved by rule by the PGA Tour, would make it more difficult to not only to get it on the green but to keep it on the green as well. In short, a player is penalized more when they fail to keep the ball in the short stuff when using the regulated wedge.

Keep in mind that golf is a gentleman’s game. It is not corporate business where shady activity often goes on to get the upper hand. It is golf. Golf is a sport enriched in tradition and morality (on the course at least). It is, after all, a sport where golfers often call penalties on themselves if they feel a rules violation has occurred.

The bottom line is Mickelson got an unfair advantage by using the Ping 2 wedge, and I share the original opinion of McCarron that using the club is cheating. Mickelson has since stated he will not use the club… for now, at least… due to any advantage it might give him. I am still not sure why Phil thinks he needs an advantage since he is one of the most gifted players on Tour.

Maybe the groove controversy is getting to Mickelson. In his first week since saying he would not use the Ping 2, where did he finish? He finished tied for 45th place last weekend at the Northern Trust Open.

The Tour is hoping this controversy just goes away. It needs some positive PR, obviously. This was not what Tim Finchem wanted. But there is no place in golf for cheating. By saying he would not use the club anymore, Mickelson basically admitted he was cheating. That is all I need to know!

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The John Daly Fans Debate – The Verdict

June 15, 2009



It’s hard to find folks who sit on the fence about John Daly. It’s clear to me that fans of golf are either passionately loyal to him arguing that he is representing all regular folks out on the course, or vehemently disdain him because of a repeated lack of respect, in their view, of golf.

Without further ado, the winner of The John Daly Fans Debate is…

LOYAL HOMER!!!!!!

To recap… Loyal Homer did an excellent job of capturing the essence of the pro-John Daly group, even taking the argument a step further and calling John Daly a standout underdog in a sport dominated by underdogs – thanks to Tiger Woods. Bleacher Fan (whose keyboard may still be smoking) launched the counter-argument that John Daly is everything that golf culture isn’t – lewd, distasteful, and generally un-gentlemanly.

To me, this debate is not, as Loyal Homer stated, about whether John Daly is an underdog, feel-good story. This debate is not, as Bleacher Fan stated, about the various, well-documented illegalities and addictions that John Daly has struggled with throughout his career golf. This debate is asking if fans should root for John Daly, and all of the baggage that comes with him.

In short, fans should root for John Daly in the way that Loyal Homer described – as a good friend who continually makes poor decisions. Therefore cheering his successes only reinforces the positive outcomes. Do we get to a point with a family member or friend where we simply give up trying to help them? Doubtful. In Daly’s case, the goal must be to laud the accomplishments that reinforce the gentlemanly nature of men’s professional golf… something that separates it from all other major sports.

I will say that I do not agree with every aspect of Loyal Homer’s argument, specifically, the claim that John Daly’s crowds rival that of Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson. While Daly may move the ratings needle slightly (in the same way that people love to watch live car chases), I do not think that golf fans rearrange their schedules on Sunday afternoon to watch John Daly, the way they would for Tiger or Lefty.

I’ll also tack on that I agree with Bleacher Fan – Daly has injected some unfortunate memories into the sport’s history. It does seem strange for Daly to share the record books with some of the golf’s greats, even if he did earn his place.

John Daly is not an underdog. He’s a good golfer – or at least he can be. Fans should support Daly’s better golf outings, and root for his respect of the sport, and himself.