Monday, July 20, 2009

MGM: Watson, Cowboys Stadium and Paula

83868218SH024_The_138th_OpeLooking back at the weekend in sports, I am tempted to say that this is one of those weekend's that golf fans will never forget. Dan and I talked British Open on Friday afternoon on the radio and we were discussing the impact of Tiger Woods missing the cut and how that might affect our viewing habits.

We both love Tiger Woods, and all that he has done to impact golf. But, where we part ways is that my love of the majors is almost unaffected by Tiger's and Phil's presence (or absence). I wish they were there, but I will watch the entire weekend of a major regardless of who is there. It isn't the players - it is the event. I don't need the Yankees to watch the World Series; I don't need the Cowboys to watch the Super Bowl; and I don't need Tiger and Phil to lock in on Sunday for as long as they need me for the British Open on the 3rd weekend of July each year.

If you give your full attention to the back 9 of a major on a Sunday, you are almost guarenteed to witness gold. The tension and excitement of a Sunday at a major is often unmatched. And Sunday was off the charts.

Enter Tom Watson. As a 37 year old sports fan, I can tell you that I didn't seriously follow golf until about the time I was in college - when I started trying to learn to play the game myself. As a kid, it ranked right there with rodeo, Indy Cars, women's basketball, and tennis, as sports that would be avoided at all costs. So, I can honestly tell you that I paid no attention to the "Hey Days" of Tom Watson. I know he was a big name of the 1970's and 1980's, but by the time I started watching golf, he was just a legend who was fading. A respected name, for sure, but a guy who had seen his best days.

Thank goodness, for the British Open 2009. He now has a special place in the hearts of a whole other generation of fans. The show Watson put on this weekend was historic. And, magical. And, amazing. And, a little heartbreaking.

Understand a few things, here: First, Watson is 59 years old. He will be 60 by Labor Day. The all-time oldest golfer to win a major is Julius Boros, who at the age of 48 won the 1968 PGA Championship. To put it in proper perspective, Tiger Woods was born 5 months after Watson won the British Open for the first time, in 1975. Imagine that.

His last major came in 1983. 26 years ago. And all weekend long, the unlikely Tom Watson was the story. The leader on Thursday for much of the day, but when most people see that we are quickly reminded of how long a weekend at a major is. Surely, this old man shot one lucky round and cannot close this deal, right?

Then, he was the leader on Friday. Wow. He has made it halfway. But, surely....

Then, Tom Watson was the leader on Saturday night. Do people realize what he is doing? This is literally a sports miracle if he can pull this off! He is 59-freaking-years old!!

After a war on the back 9, he is leading a major by one shot with one hole to play. He has made it to the 18th tee on Sunday as the leader! I am stunned and exhilarated at what we are about to see! He hits a perfect drive. A nice easy 8 iron to the green will seal this. He only needs a par to finish this masterpiece...

Oh, dear, the 8 iron scoots over the green onto the back fringe. This is a tricky putt back up the hill from distance and he can only rush it past the pin to 8 feet. Could Tom Watson sink an eight footer to win the British Open for the 6th time? Sadly, he couldn't. He bogeyed 18 and Stewart Cink would crush him in a playoffs to end the dream.

Nothing against Cink, who has always been a quality and classy player himself, but I believe the world was cheering hard for Tom Watson in unison. With each grin on his wrinkled face, I think every viewer knew the history that they were watching unfold. This was not just any golf tournament - this would be arguably the sports story of the year across all sports.

And after 71 holes, it had gone from the longest of long shots to more-likely-than-not. But, golf doesn't seem to have time for fairy tale endings. Otherwise, Tiger Woods would have won the 2006 US Open, a month after his father died. Or, Phil Mickelson would have won the 2009 US Open for his wife who had been diagnosed with breast cancer. We can all cheer hard for the heart-warming endings, but golf has a cold and calculated method for deciding its winners - 72 holes (not 71) of gut-wrenching pressure. And Cink has the Claret Jug on his way back to the U.S.A. today because he passed the test.

But, what a spectacle. If you watched it this weekend, you know that you saw a special event.

In other weekend items:

* 82,252. That was the sellout crowd at the first sporting event ever held at Cowboys Stadium, Sunday, as the Gold Cup (Copa Oro) played a doubleheader of international soccer. I was there. Section 329, to be exact, for reasons other than the sellout crowd, I assume.

It appeared 99.9% of those on hand were there to see their beloved Mexico slice through Haiti (which they did with some impressive goals) 4-0. I was one of the few that was simply there to see the new stadium in action as soon as possible.

And what a stadium it is. Honestly, it is difficult to put into words what the new stadium is like, but I think we saw yesterday a brilliant example of what it is capable of. It was packed to the very top with people who desperately wanted to see their team win. It was loud. It was well air conditioned. The sight lines were phenomenal from my seats that were up a few levels and over in the corner. I also really love the natural light of the Sun illuminating the stadium perfectly without causing fans to sit in the hot, direct light. I don't know how they did it, but the stadium is great.

Your eyes don't know whether to watch the game below or the HD screen above. I know you have all heard everything about this new HD screen - the biggest in the world - well, trust me, you won't believe it. To those of us who love television - it is breath-taking. One small detail about the enormous screen that I love, they actually have 2 different camera angles in the stadium so the people on each side of the stadium see the play on the screen going the exact same direction as they see it on the field. Wonderful.

The upper level bathrooms are too small (Half-time was complete chaos in the men's room), and the speakers were unable to be heard very well, but overall, I was very pleased.

The parking was fine, the traffic was not bad, and the experience was very impressive. I wonder if 82,000 Cowboys fans will ever be able to match the lungs of 82,000 Mexican fans, but we won't get a feel for that until September 20th, when the Giants visit for real on Sunday Night Football.

* This weekend also featured the annual celebrity golf tournament in Lake Tahoe for the biggest names in sports. I was able to find the final leaderboard where you will find our man, Tony Romo, finished 2nd (no jokes, please) to the guy who wins every year, Rick Rhoden. Mike Modano was 7th, and Brett Hull Tied for 11th, so lots of Dallas presence up top. When you look at the scores, keep in mind we were using the Stableford scoring system (of course!) which can be explained below:
Stableford Scoring Format

Double Eagle 10 points
Hole in one 8 points
Eagle 6 points
Birdie 3 points
Par 1 point
Bogie 0 points
Double Bogie -2 points

Looks like Charles Barkley is not fixed - despite Hank Haney's best efforts - and that he has a new friend at the bottom of the leaderboard (since Emmitt Smith stopped playing), UFC legend Chuck Liddell.

* Finally, just one week after the new pay raises for Simon and Ryan Seacrest were announced, now comes the shocking news that Paula Abdul may be out at American Idol . Let's not even joke about that, Fox. Paula needs to be on this show so we can play the fun game, "what is Paula going to say this week?" Don't rob us of that! I know she is a bit of a trainwreck, but I thought we don't mess with what is working?

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