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Sports Commentary 10/1/12

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The Epic finish to the Ryder Cup and Not So Finish to the Red Sox Season

“The man who would fight to heaven’s own height”, wrote the poet Robert Service, “Is the man who would fight when he’s losing.” There may be a few poetry lovers on the European Ryder Cup team because if ever men fought when they were losing it was the golf team from the far side of the pond, confronted with overwhelming odds, inspired by the memory of the great Spanish Ryder Cup star, Seve Ballesteros, the best friend of European captain Jose Maria Olazabal. Ballesteros passed away last year. A silhouette of his famous triumphant fist thrust on winning the Open Championship was emblazoned on the bags of the European players. “I still believe”, Olazabal told his team after they finished the 16 four player matches down 10-6. Only once had a Ryder Cup Team overcome those odds, 1999, the U.S. team, on U.S. soil. If the Europeans were to match the feat they’d have to do it on foriegn turf. Olazabal pulled a stroke of genius in setting up the final day singles matches, sending his best players out first, knowing the only chance was not to get played out of it early, their best chance was to apply early pressure. Rory McIlroy, confused by U.S. central time, arrived at the course with a state police escort, 11 minutes before his tee time. A couple of practice putts later he raced to the tee to take out Keegan Bradley two up. Olazabal’s strategy worked perfectly. With five matches in the books the pressure had squarely shifted to the U.S. players, who failed to respond, Justin Rose with a 35 foot curling downhill birdie putt on 17 to get all square with Phil Mickelson, then winning the match on 18 with a 12 foot birdie putt. Europe banked it with Tiger Woods and Francisco Molinari still on the course, when Martin Kaymer buried a six foot birdie putt on 18 to beat Steve Stricker, who, along with Tiger, went winless on the weekend. For the Europeans Ian Poulter was brilliant, 4-0, and his charge through the final partners match on Saturday gave them the momentum they’d need on Sunday. The European Ryder Cup team scaled “Heavens own height”. The same cannot be said of the Boston Red Sox. If scaling heavens own height means fighting when your losing, it’s fitting that the Sox have reached new depths with their showing in Baltimore over the weekend. The only thing they’ve left for their fans to root for is that the Yankees don’t win the American League East, so they were going to do their best to give it to the Orioles. They telegraphed as much when they announced they’d pull their ace, Clay Buchholz out of his regular rotation spot, the finale in Baltimore, and move him back to Monday against the Yankees, a move probably dictated to Bobby Valentine by team ownership, pitching rookie Zach Stewart against the O’s, who enjoyed a late brunch feasting on his deliveries. While the Orioles now face a team, in the Rays, who have everything to play for, the problem for the Red Sox is trying to beat the Yankees after a weekend of half hearted efforts. You can’t turn it on and off. Fittingly the weekend rollover gave the Sox their first 90 loss season since 1966 the year before all the madness started in New England with the Impossible Dream. If you won’t fight to the heights, you deserve the depths. With a comment from the sports world, I’m Scott Gray.

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