By Bill Campbell
As the spectacular summer games drew to a close, the real “Dream Team” did it in style.
The men’s basketball gold medal went to the USA against international basketball powerhouse, Spain, 107-100. The hero was Kevin Durant, who scored 30 points and grabbed 9 rebounds. Marc Gasol had a tremendous third period scoring 15 of his 24 points to keep Spain ticking but the Americans spread the scoring around with Durant, LeBron James, Kobe Bryant and Chris Paul all scoring in double figures. This was the final Olympic game for Bryant and Coach Mike Krzyzewski. The players doused the coach and danced around the court in celebration. Kobe Bryant now has two gold medals and five NBA championship rings – not a bad career. His final words, “To be standing here having played another tough opponent in Spain with another gold medal is a huge accomplishment,” said it all.
The US women’s soccer team beat China on Saturday. Men’s and women’s basketball pretty much dominated things on Sunday but Jake Varner of California won gold in free-style wrestling and diver David Boudia won gold over the favored Japanese. These victories added to the individual efforts of swimmer Michael Phelps and gymnast Gabby Douglas. But we can’t forget about Jamaican track star Usain Bolt. Earlier in the week IOC Chief, Jacques Rogge, had made some critical comments about Bolt, stating that Bolt was not yet a legend and had to prove himself in the future. After the fallout, Rogge had to clarify and said, “This is purely a semantic issue. Let me finalize this as follows to say that Usain Bolt is an active performance legend. Let me add that he is an icon. He is the best sprinter of all time.” Bolt wouldn’t argue as he won the 100 and 200 meter in London and became the first athlete to win both events in consecutive Olympic Games. He topped that by anchoring the Jamaican team to a world record in the 4 x 100 meter relay last Saturday night.
As one of our local sports writers on the scene in London wrote, “It’s hard to make history in the city of Henry VIII, Williams Shakespeare, Queen Victoria and Winston Churchill. It’s hard to leave a mark in a place that has endured through centuries. But the 2012 Olympics managed to do all of that with London the spectacular backdrop for unforgettable performances, countless triumphs and disappointments.” At last count, the USA had won 104 medals — 46 gold, 29 silver and 29 bronze. China had won a total of 88 – 38 gold. Russia tallied 82, Britain 65, Germany 44 and Japan 38. On Sunday night, London threw a farewell concert with an array of British artists ending with an incredible fireworks display and the extinguishing of the Olympic torch. The five-ringed flag has passed to Rio de Janeiro for 2016 and the South Americans have a tough act to follow. London hosted a spectacular Olympiad.
Andy Reid and Jeffrey Lurie
I’ve often wondered about the requirements of a good agent. Maybe it’s because I never had one. I’ve always wanted to be judged by my superiors on what I did and how I did it rather than how I might if given the opportunity. I realize that these days few members of my profession share that opinion and let others negotiate for them before they even perform – but that’s not me. I think that Bob LaMonte, an NFL mover and shaker who represents Andy Reid and almost everyone else, crossed the line the other day. If he were my agent, I’d be pretty embarrassed. It seemed like he tried to take advantage of the large blanket of sympathy wrapped around Andy Reid following the death of his son, Garrett, and decided that it might be a good time to start a conversation with Eagles management about a new contract for Reid. In a back-and-forth played out in the press between LaMonte and Eagles’ owner Jeff Lurie, LaMonte threw the first jab. It was neatly deflected by Lurie.
Lamonte expressed concern about Reid, entering the next to last year of his current contract, and suggested it might be the right time to talk turkey. Lurie, however, made it clear that Reid’s ability as a responsible parent is not at stake but rather that his program as a football coach was and would be the focus of Lurie’s attention. LaMonte countered, “I think my client’s production speaks for itself and I think the Eagles have a good chance for success this year and I don’t think Lurie has sat down with Andy and said If you don’t win X number of games this year, you’re in trouble.” Jeff Lurie replied, stating, “Bob La Monte is a great agent with whom we have an outstanding relationship. As much respect as all of us have for Andy Reid, it is the nature of this profession that all coaches, executives and players are evaluated each year. That’s the way we have always operated. But our focus right now, and I know Andy Reid feels the same way, is solely on the upcoming 2012 season.” The implication is that there is no additional focus on Lurie’s horizon – that is, Reid’s contract – at the moment. If Reid’s team goes 10-2 in December, Lurie probably could present Reid with an early Christmas present. But the message is to remain fixed in the Here and Now. I’d give the last word to Lurie.
Question: When the Eagles played the Pittsburgh Steelers on Thursday night, did some confusion about the back-up quarterback job run through your mind? Mike Kafka, the expected candidate for the job, entered when starter, Michael Vick, suffered a hand injury. Kafka was expected to step in anyway and played through the early part of the first half, though sparingly. The sparing part was surprising, at least to me. He threw 9 passes, completed 5 with an interception, but then seemed to disappear. Suddenly, third stringer Nick Foles was under center and outperforming Kafka. Foles went 6 for 10 and threw 2 TD’s. He added some excitement to an otherwise boring game.
On Saturday, Kafka was sighted on the practice field, participating in 7-on-7 drills and individual work but not in team drills. It wasn’t until then that word was released that Kafka’s non-throwing hand had been stepped on and fractured during Thursday night’s game and that he will be limited for about three weeks because he can’t take snaps. His hand was hurt during the game’s first series but he played through the injury and the Eagles didn’t know the extent of it until after the game.
Meanwhile, Michael Vick’s throwing hand was injured when he banged it on center Jason Kelce’s helmet while completing a pass. Coach Reid described the injury as minor, similar to a stinger on the thumb and something Vick has dealt with before. “I know how to deal with it,” said Vick, who incurred the same injury in last year’s game against Washington where he played through it, throwing for 335 yards and 3 TD’s.
Also, in what the Eagles are calling a “scheduled switch”, they’ve dropped left tackle Demetress Bell to the second unit and promoted King Dunlap to the starting offensive line. Reid played down the exchange describing it as a competition and fairness thing among the players, whatever that means. It raises suspicion, however, because Dunlap was told he would have a chance to compete after Jason Peters ruptured his Achilles tendon in March, leaving the Eagles unsettled at an important position. Now they appear to be having second thoughts about their investment in a five-year deal with Bell.
An official NFL report over the past weekend clarified the issue of control of the Eagles franchise. Jeff and Christina Lurie announced in July that, after twenty years of marriage, they were divorcing. In an email to Eagles employees, Lurie stated the split would have no effect on the operation of the team, that they would remain close friends and continue to work together as partners. But the latest NFL report states, “There is no doubt who will own or control the Eagles going forward and that person is Jeffrey Lurie.” In an email to the NFL national, an NFL senior official stated, “Jeffrey is only 60 and will remain in control for decades. In fact, we think the Eagles will be in the Lurie family for generations because Jeffry has been very thoughtful in how he has structured his affairs.” Lurie bought the Eagles in 1994 from Norman Braman for $195 million. Forbes Magazine has estimated the franchise’s present worth an $1.3 billion. No doubt, Jeff Lurie will engineer a quiet divorce settlement and maintain control of the team for a long time.
The Philadelphia Soul
A local football team contended for a title on Friday night but it wasn’t the Eagles. The Philadelphia Soul lost to the Arizona Rattlers in the Arena Bowl in New Orleans by the amazing score of 72-54. Maurice Purify caught a record 7 TD passes. It was the Rattlers third league championship but their first since 1997. Purify achieved a league best 128.8 yards running per game this season and had 9 catches for 143 yards, breaking the previous record of 5 scoring catches. Rattlers quarterback Nick Davila tied an Arena Bowl record with 9 TD passes and completed 23 of 30 for 266 yards. The Soul committed 3 turnovers on their first four possessions, leading to 17 Arizona points. The Rattlers led 27-13 at the half and it got worse for the Soul from there as the Rattlers scored on their first possession in the second half. Although the Soul went 15-3 this season it didn’t help them in the Arena Bowl.
Twenty-three year old Irishman Rory McIlroy has assumed his title as pro golf’s rising star. Wearing a bright red shirt – as Tiger Woods used to do when he had that title – McIlroy just blasted everyone else out of the picture in the last major tournament of 2012 at Kiawah Island, South Carolina. He did it in record fashion, never making a bogey over the final twenty-three holes; he simply blew away the field, winning by eight shots to become the youngest player since Seve Ballasteros to win two majors. Tiger Woods was about four months older than McIlroy when he won his second major. After his victory, McIlroy said, “I think I once heard Tiger say you can have a good season but to make a good season great you need a major championship. Now I’ve had two great seasons in a row, no matter what happens.” Obviously, one thing that happens is that McIlroy returns to the status of number one player in the world.
McIlroy also broke Jack Nicklaus’s record in the PGA Championship for margin of victory at Kiawah. No one got closer to him than two shots at any point in the final round. David Lynn, a thirty-eight year old from England, shot 68 to finish second. Woods, who shared the lead after 36 holes for the second time this year in a major, was never a serious factor after that. He tossed away his chances on Saturday when a storm blew in and never again got closer than four shots, closing with a 72 and failing to break par on the weekend in any of the four rounds for the first time in his career.
McIlroy won the Honda Classic way back in March but then seemed to go into a tailspin, missing four cuts over five tournaments. Questions arose about his romance with tennis star Caroline Wozniacki cutting into his practice time. But McIlroy lived up to Tiger Woods’ prediction about his potential for greatness down at Kiawah over the weekend.
This Irishman is rooting a little for that one.