Friday 4: All-Star silliness, golf handicap shenanigans, Big Game Sunday, and getting serious for a moment

Another Friday, another installment of “Friday 4”, where I talk about the four things I’ve been thinking about the last week and the upcoming weekend in sports and the world in general.

I’m not a huge fan of All-Star games. In a bygone era when there weren’t 24-hour sports networks or online sites featuring near-endless amounts of highlight videos, these games made sense from a marketing standpoint because often it was the only time you’d be able to see some of the greatest stars of that league. Back then, watching games out of your local market wasn’t a thing, and other than the very few national TV games you’d only get to read about some of these players. And they were actually competitive games. In modern times, these games are sold by sports as big events, but even die-hard fans roll their eyes at what passes for All-Star games now.

The closest to a real game is MLB, where other than teams changing pitchers every inning it still mostly resembles a baseball game. They’ve taken on the Futures Collegiate Baseball League rule that if the MLB All-Star game is tied after nine innings the contest will be decided by a Home Run Derby. It’s a rule I hate in the FCBL, where they should use the international rules because the games count, but for an All-Star game? Yeah, have at it.

I guess some people would say the NBA’s is the closest, but near as I can tell they don’t play defense in an NBA All-Star game. Maybe that’s because they don’t seem to play defense in a real game either? I don’t watch much basketball, so I guess I should just let those fans enjoy the game that’s happening and I’ll read a good book.

The NHL has a three-on-three tournament, which while fun to watch isn’t real hockey. A hockey game has players diving to block shots and checking, things you never see in their All-Star game lately. The last fight in an NHL All-Star game was in 1953 when Detroit’s Red Kelly and Montreal’s Bert Olmstead went at it. The last roughing penalty was against Gary Dornhoefer in 1977. Heck, the last penalty at all was a hooking call against Sandis Ozolinsh in 2000.

The NFL Pro Bowl used to be a joke, with many top players saying “thanks, but no thanks” to the game played at Aloha Stadium in Halawa, Hawaii. I’m sure part of the reason used to be that Aloha Stadium is a dump and was the second-worst stadium used by the NFL, behind only Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium in Canton, Ohio. There were so many rules changes that the Pro Bowl only looked like an NFL game if you weren’t paying close attention.

After years of players and fans complaining about it, and even moving the game to better locations, the NFL finally realized what a joke the Pro Bowl was and did something about it. They decided to mostly not play real football. And fans seemed to enjoy it. They essentially played nonsense games on Thursday, including a long-drive contest–how that relates to football is anyone’s guess–and ending with dodgeball. Sunday saw pretty much all football-related games, ending with a flag football game to determine the winning side.

I saw none of it except for a highlight of Peyton Manning whining at referees over some alleged non-call that caused his AFC team to lose.

Oddly, that was the closest the Pro Bowl got to real football.

One of the things I like to watch on TV is golf, mostly because I’m so bad at it and they’re so good. One of my favorite tournaments was last week, the Pebble Beach Pro-Am, where a pro and an amateur team up and play two of the most beautiful public golf courses in the world, Pebble Beach Golf Links and Spyglass Hill Golf Course, and a third private course, Monterey Peninsula Country Club.

Now the pros play a standard event, with the cut coming on Saturday after 54 holes after each player plays all three courses as opposed to the usual 36-hole cut. The pros also play in a better ball tournament teamed with their amateur player, which is a handicapped event. And that’s where the issue happened this year, and it involved NFL quarterback Aaron Rodgers.

Golf pro Keith Mitchell had something to say about Rodgers’ ten handicap at the event.

Assigning handicaps at an event like the Pebble Beach Pro-Am is difficult because it’s not as easy as just using a course’s slope index to recalculate because there are three courses used. And it should be noted that Rodgers didn’t lie about his 3.0 handicap, figured at the Green Bay Country Club in Wisconsin.

The issue is the people who run the Pebble Beach Pro-Am don’t use just straight math, they tweak handicap numbers to ensure that there are lots of famous people around on TV for Sunday’s final round. But Rodgers should have maybe put his hand up and politely disagreed with the number. When Rodgers competed in the American Century Championship last July he was a five handicap and finished ninth in what looks to be a very talented field.

Golf is called a gentlemen’s game, so to receive a handicap number that was likely double what it should have been is something that a “gentleman” should be pointing out to organizers. In a game where players are expected to and do call penalties on themselves, getting a higher handicap than you deserve, in that environment, is something that should have been questioned. And I’m sure Rodgers didn’t even bat an eye at the number.

By the way, Mitchell’s amateur playing partner? Nine-handicapped Josh Allen, who by everyone’s account isn’t as good a golfer as Aaron Rodgers.

But I’d bet he’s a better gentleman.

I guess I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the upcoming Super Bowl on Sunday. And I’ll also mention I probably won’t be watching because I just don’t care about either team.

I have friends from the Kansas City area, so I’m excited for them as they get to see their Chiefs in the Super Bowl. I also have friends in the Philadelphia region, and I’m also excited for them. But the game itself? I couldn’t be less interested. The only thing I care about is the score at the end of each quarter so I can look to see if any of my squares hit.

Rihanna is the halftime act, and while she’s incredibly talented it’s not enough to make me tune in. To be honest, the last time I paid any attention to the halftime show was when The Who performed, and that was a dozen or more years ago. They capped a pretty good run of rock acts. Now it’s generally all pop stuff, and again, while they’re all talented, it’s not something I generally listen to.

New commercials debuting during the Super Bowl used to be cool, but like ugly Christmas sweaters once everyone started doing it it was no longer cool. Yes, I’m pulling the “before it was cool” card because it’s true. Now we have commercials and press releases before the Super Bowl setting up commercials debuting in the Super Bowl. Seriously? Really? If you actually thought M&Ms was really getting rid of their “spokescandies” you’re gullible.

And I saw the headlines and lots of people, and they were exactly who you’d think they would be, flipped out over the announcement because they’re a special kind of stupid. They’re also the same kind of people who fall for April Fools’ Day gags.

As a fan of color vs color games, it would be awesome if the Eagles were wearing green jerseys and the Chiefs were in red for the game, but pro sports don’t like to do that type of thing. If they did it still probably wouldn’t have been enough for me to watch the game.

But in general, the game just doesn’t Lift Me Up.

I’m mostly typing this section late Thursday morning on my phone from the UMass Memorial Medical Center Heart and Vascular Center. I suffer from occasional issues from Atrial Fibrillation (A-fib), and about fifteen minutes ago I had a cardioversion procedure. You can look up what that is, but long story short they use a low energy shock to cause my heart to resume a normal rhythm.

Yes, they give you anesthesia, but you’re out for literally three minutes.

If you know me you know I am very open about A-fib and will talk to anyone who wants to know it. I think it’s important for people, men especially, to speak openly about medical issues. Far too often people ignore health issues and symptoms, mostly due to fear, and fear is something that society says men aren’t supposed to show. Openly talking about these things is the only way to quell fears and get people to seek out the help they need.

Not going to the doctor for a yearly physical only brings negative results for your health. There is no upside to not going. Spending a couple hours per year to make sure nothing is killing you seems like a wise investment to me. Under the so-called Obamacare, insurance companies are required by law to cover an annual physical at no cost to the patient, meaning no co-payment, co-insurance, or deductible.

Hiding from health issues only makes being taken care of harder once you have no choice but to seek help.

As it turns out, there’s really nothing I did that caused my A-fib. The electrical signals that coordinate my heartbeat occasionally don’t work properly. I take medication for it, and it works a huge percentage of the time. But sometimes something else will happen and causes my A-fib to flare up. The last two times, years apart by the way, were due to violent coughing due to illness. It can happen to anyone, and their hearts go back to beating correctly quickly. Mine doesn’t do that all the time.

Years ago I had a friend who made me look svelte that was having obvious health issues but refused to see a doctor. He said he didn’t like needles, didn’t want to take medications for the rest of his life, and about a dozen other phony excuses to not see a doctor. He didn’t take advantage of the health insurance he was paying for. I don’t need to say what happened next.

Yes, sometimes taking care of your health sucks. It means you have to do things you don’t want to do and can’t do the things you like to do. And, of course, I’m just as guilty as most when I don’t do some of the things I’m supposed to. But I still go to the doctor when I’m supposed to.

Although most times it’s not as shocking as this visit was.

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