Sunday, June 30, 2013

U.S. Women's Open -- Day Four Wrap-Up

This tournament was pretty much over as soon as Inbee Park shot a 67 on Thursday morning.  But that should not take away from her amazing accomplishment.  She has now won the first three majors of the year -- something that hasn't been done in the women's game since 1950 (when there were only three majors).  The last man to go three-for-three in majors was Ben Hogan, who won the Masters, the U.S. Open, and the British Open in 1953 -- but back then, the British Open was not nearly so prestigious as it later became.

Inbee Park's accomplishment is even more impressive if you watched her play.  It really looked like the old days with Tiger, where he was just playing a much easier course than everyone else.  On the whole, this was one of the best golfing performances I've seen, and I hope Inbee Park finally gets the attention she deserves.

We have sympathy with I.K. Kim, who played great -- and finished well ahead of the rest of the field -- but who was steamrolled by Park.  I.K. Kim should go talk to Ernie Els, who knows exactly how she feels.

Congrats to So Yeon Ryu, who won a thrilling U.S. Women's Open in 2011, and who played very well again this time.

Congrats to Paula Creamer, the 2010 Champion, and Angela Stanford, who tied for Low American.  Congrats to Casie Cathrea, a Californian who was Low Amateur.

Sympathy to Stacy Lewis, who was briefly ranked number 1 in the world earlier this year, and who finished in a tie for 42d after closing with a dreadful 78.  Lewis is a Texan who played her college golf at the University of Arkansas.  From Bobby Jones to Bubba Watson, Southern golfers tend to be high-strung, with games that can vary wildly from one tournament to the next.  We trust that Stacy Lewis will work through whatever bedeviled her this week, and will soon return to better form.

Finally, congrats to Tom Doak and Jack Nicklaus, who seem to have built a really neat course at the Sebonack Golf Club.  I would like to see another tournament there.

1.  I. Park (KOR):  -8 (67+68+71+74=280)

2.  I.K. Kim (KOR):  -4 (68+69+73+74=284)

3.  S.Y. Ryu (KOR):  -1 (73+69+73+72=287)

T4.  P. Creamer+1 (72+73+72+72=289)
T4.  A. Stanford+1 (73+68+74+74=289)

T7.  B. Lang+2 (76+69+73+72=290)
T7.  J. Korda+2 (70+71+76+73=290)

T9.  S. Feng (CHN):  +3 (71+75+75+70=291)
T9.  B. Lincicome+3 (72+72+74+73=291)

U.S. Women's Open -- Day Four

With only 14 holes to go, Inbee Park is still cruising along:

1.  I. Park (KOR):  -10 (58 holes)

2.  I.K. Kim (KOR):  -6 (58)

3.  P. Creamer:  -1 (60)

4.  S.Y. Ryu (KOR):  Even (59)

Oh, and congratulations to Miss Casie Cathrea of Livermore, Calif., who shot a remarkable two-under par 70 to finish at nine-over par for the tournament.  She will be this year's Low Amateur.  In the fall, she will start school at Oklahoma State.

Happy Birthday to the Heath Post!

As of yesterday, the Heath Post is three years old.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

U.S. Women's Open -- Day Three Wrap-Up

For the second year in a row, the U.S. Women's Open has been wrapped up after only three rounds.  Inbee Park, the best woman golfer in the world, has a four-shot lead on I.K. Kim, and at least a seven-shot lead on everyone else.  Tomorrow she will win her second U.S. Open, her sixth tournament of the year, and her third major tournament of the year.  This is one of the great accomplishments of the year, and I hope she finally starts to get more attention.  I'm now interested to see if she can win the British Open as well.

Park's success marks another step in the evolution of Korean women's golf.  In the past, we had noted that there had been numerous major winners from Korea, but that none of them had really become dominant players with multiple titles.  That is no longer the case.

Finally, let's give a shout out to Jessica Korda, who was five over for her round today after nine holes -- and then replaced her caddie.  With her boyfriend carrying the bag, she played the back nine in one under par.

1.  I. Park (KOR):  -10 (67+68+71=206)

2.  I.K. Kim (KOR):  -6 (68+69+73=210)

3.  J. Ewart Shadoff (ENG):  -3 (70+69+74=213)

T4.  S.Y. Ryu (KOR):  -1 (73+69+73=215)
T4.  A. Stanford-1 (73+68=74=215)

T6.  P. Creamer+1 (72+73+72=217)
T6.  J. Korda+1 (70+71+76=217)

T8.  A. Miyzato (JPN):  +2 (76+70+72=218)
T8.  B. Lang+2 (76+69+73=218)
T8.  B. Lincicome+2 (72+72+74=218)
T8.  C. Kerr+2 (72+72+74=218)

U.S. Women's Open -- Day Two Wrap-Up

Playing in blustery conditions and (toward the end of the day) heavy fog, Inbee Park -- the best woman golfer in the world -- shot a spectacular 4-under par 68 to take control of the U.S. Women's Open.  Park has dominated women's golf all year, and it would be very surprising for her to lose now:

1.  I. Park (KOR):  -9 (67+68=135)

2.  I.K. Kim (KOR):  -7 (68+69=137)

3.  J. Ewart Shadoff (ENG):  -5 (70+69=139)

4.  L. Salas:  -4 (68+72=140)

T5.  A. Stanford:  -3 (73+68=141)
T5.  J. Korda:  -3 (70+71=141)

T7.  So Yeon Ryu (KOR): -2 (73+69=142)
T7.  A. Nordqvist (SWE):  -2 (68+74=142)
T7.  K. Icher (FRA):  -2 (70+72=142)

T10.  C. Hedwall (SWE):  -1 (68+75=143)
T10.  H.N. Kim (KOR):  -1 (66+77=143)

Friday, June 28, 2013

U.S. Women's Open -- Day Two

Lisette Salas is not only Low American, she is currently tied for the lead in the tournament.  She is 5 under through 29 holes.  She is tied with I.K. Kim, who has played 27 holes, and Inbee Park, who doesn't start her second round until 1:25 P.M. E.D.T.

Yesterday's leader, H.N. Kim, has fallen back to 4 under through 25 holes.

Further comments below as events warrant.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

U.S. Women's Open -- Day 1 Wrap-Up

Ha-Neul Kim does not normally play on the LPGA tour.  Instead, she plays on the Korean LPGA tour, where she has won seven times.  But she looked very much at home today, shooting a 6-under par 66 in the late afternoon to take a one-shot lead over Inbee Park, who is trying to win her third major tournament of the year.  Given how well Inbee Park has played this year, you have to still consider her a heavy favorite.  However, we've seen in recent years that the quality of Korean golf is so deep that no winner from that country can really be considered a surprise.

We hear a lot about the Korean golfers, but the diversity in the women's game is quite extraordinary.  To make the list below, I had to look up the country codes for Chile, Venezuela, and the Philippines -- three countries that don't usually make a big splash in international competition.

Here is the top of the leaderboard:

1.  H.N. Kim (KOR):  -6 (66)

2.  I. Park (KOR):  -5 (67)

T3.  C. Hedwall (SWE):  -4 (68)
T3.  L. Salas-4 (68)
T3.  I.K. Kim (KOR):  -4 (68)
T3.  A. Nordqvist (SWE):  -4 (68)

T7.  P. Echeverria (CHI):  -3 (69)
T7.  M.A. LeBlanc (CAN):  -3 (69)

T9.  M. Uribe (VEN):  -2 (70)
T9.  J. Ewart Shadoff (ENG):  -2 (70)
T9.  N. Gulbis-2 (70)
T9.  J.Y. Yang (KOR):  -2 (70)
T9.  K. Icher (FRA):  -2 (70)
T9.  J. Rosales (PHI):  -2 (70)
T9.  C. Matthew (SCO):  -2 (70)
T9.  J. Korda-2 (70)

College Baseball Update

For a team that wasn't one of the top eight seeds, UCLA had a remarkably easy run to the title.  I think they went through the whole tournament without losing a game, and they thumped Mississippi State 3-1 and 8-0 in the final.  It's the Bruins' first baseball title, but their 109th title in all sports.  (That's the record.  Stanford is next, with 104, and USC is in third, with 98).  The SEC teams with the most titles in all sports are Arkansas and LSU, both of which have 42 titles.

With the end of the College World Series, we bid farewell to the 2012-13 college season.  Congratulations to the Alabama Crimson Tide, which exorcised some old demons and finally whipped Notre Dame in a big game to capture its third football title in four years.

Congratulations to the 2010 Auburn Tigers, who still have their football title (despite numerous accusations of cheating) -- while their opponents in that game, the Oregon Ducks, just got three years of probation.

Congratulations to the Texas A & M Aggies, who celebrated their entry into the SEC by winning a football game in Tuscaloosa and a basketball game in Lexington, and who get to enjoy Johnny Football for at least one more season.

Congratulations to the Vanderbilt Commodores, who finally pounded Tennessee in football, and who had one of the best baseball teams in the country.

Congratulations to the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers, who again won the men's basketball tournament in the Sun Belt in a stunning upset, which worked out a new conference alignment, and which hired Bobby Petrino to coach football.

Congratulations to the Kentucky Wildcats, who got a new football coach, who came in second in the NCAA rifle championships, who had an excellent women's basketball team, and who had another great recruiting year for men's basketball.

But most of all, congratulations to the Louisville Cardinals, who won the Sugar Bowl, went to the College World Series, got into the ACC, went to the finals of the NCAA women's basketball tournament, but who -- most of all -- ended 27 years of frustration by finally winning their third NCAA title.  The Cardinals have the best Athletic Director in the country (Tom Jurich), they may have the best men's basketball coach in the country (Rick Pitino), and they will be anxious to see the new school year begin.  We (and they) will only have to wait a few months, and then it will all start again.

MLB Power Rankings

Here is the latest top 10 from CBS Sports.  The team on top hasn't finished with a winning record since 1992.  And the top five teams are all from the NL Central or the AL West.

1.  Pittsburgh Pirates:  48-30
2.  Texas Rangers:  46-33
3.  St. Louis Cardinals:  48-30
4.  Oakland Athletics:  46-34
5.  Cincinnati Reds:  45-34
6.  Detroit Tigers:  42-35
7.  Boston Red Sox:  47-33
8.  Baltimore Orioles:  43-36
9.  Atlanta Braves:  45-34
10.  New York Yankees:  42-36

Natstown, which is dragging along with a record of 39-38, is ranked 18th.

U.S. Women's Open -- Day One

Inbee Park, who has already won five tournaments -- and both major tournaments -- this year, is off with a bang.  She is 4 under through 12 holes, and is tied for the lead with Caroline Hedwall of Sweden.  Miss Lydia Ko, who was Low Amateur last year and who is still an amateur, is 2 under through 10 holes.  The Low American so far is Brittany Lincicome, who is also 2 under through 10 holes.

More updates in the comments as events warrant.

Oh, Kentucky

Speaking of sad summer news from Paducah, ...

Owensboro is Waffle homeless.

Old-media hiring in Benton and Stanford.

MCC's Coke recycling bins are really cool.

Rest in peace, G. Wix Unthank, Tway native, Loyall High grad, proud Quaker, World War II paratrooper and federal judge.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

U.S. Women's Open Preview

The U.S. Women's Open, which is one of my favorite events of the sports year, tees off tomorrow at the Sebonack Golf Club in Southampton, New York.  The club is out toward the eastern end of Long Island, close to Shinnecock Hills.  It was designed by Tom Doak and Jack Nicklaus, and opened just a few years ago.  Doak is considered one of the best of the modern golf architects, and his book The Anatomy of a Golf Course is very good, so I'm excited to see this course.

As for the golf, the big story is Inbee Park, the 2008 U.S. Open champion.  After winning the 2008 Open, Park did not win another tournament on the LPGA tour for over four years.  But so far this year, she has won five tournaments, including both of the major tournaments played so far:  the Kraft Nabisco Championship and the LPGA Championship.  She is also coming off of a victory last week in the Walmart Northwest Arkansas Championship, where she beat So Yeon Ryu (the 2011 U.S. Women's Open champion), in a playoff.  Everyone will be watching to see if Inbee Park can win her third major title of the year.

The top American threat is probably Stacy Lewis, who is ranked number two in the world and who has two victories on the tour so far this year.  But I don't see her holding up very well under the pressure of a U.S. Women's Open.

We are sad to see that Emma Talley did not qualify for the U.S. Women's Open.  In fact, there are no Kentuckians in the field.  We hope for better luck next year.

Finally, here are the winners of the U.S. Women's Open since 1998, when Se Ri Pak became the first South Korean golfer to lift the trophy:

1998:  Se Ri Pak (KOR) (Blackwolf Run, Kohler, Wis.)
1999:  Juli Inkster (Old Waverly G.C., West Point, Miss.)
2000:  Karrie Webb (AUS) (The Merit Club, Gurnee, Ill.)
2001:  Karrie Webb (AUS) (Pine Needles Lodge and G.C., Southern Pines, N.C.)
2002:  Julie Inkster (Prairie Dunes G.C., Hutchinson, Kan.)
2003:  Hilary Lunke (Pumpkin Ridge G.C., North Plaines, Ore.)
2004:  Meg Mallon (The Orchards G.C., South Hadley, Mass.)
2005:  Birdie Kim (KOR) (Cherry Hills C.C., Cherry Hills Village, Colo.)
2006:  Annika Sorenstam (SWE) (Newport C.C., Newport, R.I.)
2007:  Cristie Kerr (Pine Needles Lodge and G.C., Southern Pines, N.C.)
2008:  Inbee Park (KOR) (Interlachen C.C., Edina, Minn.)
2009:  Eun-Hee Ji (KOR) (Saucon Valley C.C., Bethlehem, Pa.)
2010:  Paula Creamer (Oakmont C.C., Oakmont, Pa.)
2011:  So Yeon Ryu (KOR) (Broadmoor G.C., Colorado Springs, Colo.)
2012:  Na Yeon Choi (KOR) (Blackwolf Run, Kohler, Wis.)

I Love This Sermon

Here's the transcript.

Oh, Kentucky

The CEO of Yum! Brands makes more than $35 million in total compensation, and that's the highest among Kentucky's publicly traded companies, says The Lane Report.

Good jobs news from Paducah, bad from Fort Campbell and Fort Knox.

Henderson whiskey is coming back, in Louisville.

140 photographs from 75 nations at Paducah Photo 2013.

Today in America spent Monday in Leitchfield.

Rest in peace, Elvin Feltner, Krypton native, Carnival Magic producer and owner of "what at one point was described as the largest independent film library in existence," as well as a pro-basketball team.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

College Baseball Update

Last night, the best-two-out-of-three final of the College World Series got underway, and UCLA cruised to a relatively easy 3-1 victory over Mississippi State.  With a win tonight, the Bruins can capture their first ever NCAA Baseball Championship.

The Washington Post Criticizes John Wall for Tattoos?

The Washington Wizards may be the worst franchise in all of major sports.  The Wizards haven't won their division since 1979, when they were still the Washington Bullets.  Since renaming themselves the "Wizards" in 1997, the team has won only 39.1 percent of its regular-season games.  Year after year, they are simply terrible.  Last year was the fifth consecutive season in which the Wizards failed to win 30 games.

Now John Wall is the only good player the Wizards have.  Last year, Wall was injured at the beginning of the season, and the team started off with a record of 4-28.  In other words, without John Wall, the 2012-13 Wizards were one of the worst basketball franchises ever.  The Wizards then went 25-25 the rest of the way.  So with Wall, the Wizards were basically a playoff team.  That's how important he was to the Wizards.

But yesterday, Jason Reid wrote that the Wiz should not sign Wall to a major long-term contract.  Reid gave several reasons for this argument, one of which was that Wall had gotten a bunch of tattoos after claiming that he wouldn't.  To Reid, this raises troubling questions about whether Wall is unstable:

{N}ot every player flip-flops on a topic in such a public way. Factor in that Wall is expected to receive a huge payday from the Wizards next month, and the timing of his tattoo revelation raises questions about his decision making. For a franchise with a history of backing the wrong players, that’s food for thought.

Reid goes on to write that Wall almost makes you feel sorry for Wizards GM Ernie Grunfeld, even though Grunfeld put together the team that went 4-28 to start the season last year, while Wall is the only reason the Wizards' record was even respectable.

Look, it's very simple:  (1) the Wizards can pay Wall an enormous salary and hope it works out; (2) the Wizards can refuse to pay Wall an enormous salary and watch him leave.  Path (1) gives the Wizards some chance of having a good team; path (2) means that the Wizards will be terrible for years to come.  Those are the choices, because that's the terrible position the Wizards have put themselves in.  None of this is John Wall's fault, and none of it has anything to do with his tattoos.  It's incredible to me that anyone would look at this situation, and choose to attack Wall, and to feel sorry for Grunfeld.

Personally, I hope the Wizards don't sign Wall, and he's able to play for a decent franchise.  And then I hope he comes here and score 50 points against the Wizards.  And I hope Jason Reid covers that game.

UPDATE: named Reid's article the "Worst Sports Column of 2013."

Monday, June 24, 2013

Just Terrible News -- Wiltjer May Leave

I'll probably have a lot more to say about this once basketball season gets going, but I was extremely disappointed to learn that Kyle Wiltjer may be leaving the UK basketball program.

I hate roster changes, and I really hate roster changes in June, when I think the roster is supposed to be set.  And I really, really hate roster changes that hurts our ability to make three-point shots.

Oh, well.  This is one of those moments where you have to remember that Coach Cal gets paid a lot of money to figure out how to deal with stuff like this, and you have to hope he succeeds.

Thought for Monday Afternoon

I've been re-reading The Name of the Rose, the wonderful Italian novel about medieval theology by Umberto Eco, in the elegant translation by William Weaver.  I came across the following sentence, which has brightened this Monday for me:

The older I grow and more I abandon myself to God's will, the less I value intelligence that wants to know and will that wants to do; and as the only element of salvation I recognize faith, which can wait patiently, without asking too many questions.

Umberto Eco, The Name of the Rose (1980) at 442 (Everyman's Library edition).

Saturday, June 22, 2013

James Gandolfini, 1961-2013

On January 10, 1999, the Minnesota Vikings beat the Arizona Cardinals 41-21 behind another strong performance to Randall Cunningham to roar into the NFC Title game, which they would host the next week.  Given that their opponent was to be the usually-hapless Atlanta Falcons, I was pretty certain Minnesota was going to the Super Bowl.  And that's about all I can remember from that day.  I didn't subscribe to HBO back then, so I know I didn't watch the first episode of The Sopranos, which aired that night.

But that would change.  Within just a few years, I wouldn't think of missing the first episode of a season involving The Sopranos.  Months before each season began, speculation would start in magazines and message boards.  And by the time the familiar theme music started to play, anticipation among Sopranos fans reached a fever pitch.

Of course, we were never all that numerous.  At the height of its fame, in late 2002, The Sopranos averaged about 11 million viewers per episode.  To put that in perspective, NCIS came on the air in 2003, and its lowest-rated season averaged 11.84 million viewers per episode.  (Last year, NCIS was the number-one show on television, with over 21 million viewers per episode.)

These numbers are important, I think, when we realize what The Sopranos did to the world of television.  For years, we've all been told the story of how The Sopranos ended up on HBO because all of the networks turned it down.  But the network executives were not necessarily wrong.  The networks are designed to appeal to a broad audience -- in that sense, they are literally broadcasters.  The Sopranos, with its artsy experimentation, its extraordinary levels of violence, and its moral ambiguity, probably never could have been sufficiently popular to air on network television.

Instead, The Sopranos represented the dawn of an era in which television would follow the rest of American culture, in which the divisions among Americans become more obvious with every decade.  When I was a kid, the United States was dominated by a broad middle class that shopped at Sears and Penney's, and got its entertainment from the major networks.  Over time, that class has shrunk, and we Americans have divided ourselves in different ways.  We have niche magazines, niche restaurants, niche books, and niche shopping.

Television came relatively late to this party.  By the late 1990's, it was obvious that the booming stock market and the growing effects of globalization were creating a new "overclass" that had less and less in common with its neighbors.  But when The Sopranos came on the air, TV was still dominated by the old networks.  In 1998, the nominees for the Emmy Award for Best Drama included two shows from ABC (The Practice and NYPD Blue), two shows form NBC (ER and Law & Order), and one show from FOX (The X-Files).

Even after The Sopranos burst on the scene, and was regularly being lauded by critics as the best show on TV, the Establishment was slow to recognize what had happened.  The Sopranos was nominated for the Emmy Award for Best Drama in 1999, 2000, 2001, and 2003 -- but it lost every time.  Not until 2004 did it finally win.

But even then, the greatness of James Gandolfini was recognized.  He won the Emmy Award for Best Actor in Dramatic Series in 2000, 2001, and 2003.  And he deserved them, because he was magnificent.  David Chase, creator of The Sopranos, had enormous ambitions for his show.  He wanted the viewer to be drawn into the story of Tony Soprano, a New Jersey mobster with a troubled family life.  But he never wanted Tony to be a good guy, or even a sympathetic guy.  Time and time again, the audience would start rooting for Tony -- only to watch him commit a particularly brutal murder, or mistreat his wife in a particularly cruel way.  It was a very difficult balancing act to pull off, and the writing -- while outstanding -- was only half the solution.  For the show to work at all, the actor playing Tony had to be able to both charm and horrify the audience.  We had to be repelled by his behavior, or the show would lose its moral force.  But we also had to remain interested, or the show would grow stale.

James Gandolfini accomplished the almost impossible tasks associated with his role.  In any episode, he could be funny, poignant, and murderous -- all with total credibility, and all within a few minutes of each other.  And he did it year after year, from the very first episode to the last.  You never felt that he was just mailing it in, or that he had lost interest in the role.  For its viewers, The Sopranos became the gold standard of television, and James Gandolfini deserves much of the credit.  His performance as Tony Soprano is, for me, perhaps the greatest acting accomplishment in television history.

These days, of course, the revolution started by The Sopranos is complete.  Last year's nominees for the Emmy Award for Best Drama included two shows from HBO (Boardwalk Empire and Game of Thrones), two from AMC (Breaking Bad and Mad Men), one from PBS (Downton Abbey), and one from Showtime (Homeland).  No show on the broadcast networks has won the Award since 2006, when 24 did so.  High-end television is now dominated by shows that, in one way or another, seek to emulate The Sopranos.

 We can talk about whether this has all been good for culture, just as we can talk about what the decline of department stores says about our country.  But I am certain that under the new regime, a lot of great and entertaining television has been made that never would have been seen in the old days.  And this would not have happened -- or wouldn't have happened so quickly -- without the brilliance of James Gandolfini's performance.  I am very, very sorry he has died, but his work will live for years to come.  Very few people can say as much.

College Baseball Update

Ding, dong! UNC has been eliminated from the College World Series.  The Heels were eliminated last night, as UCLA beat them 4-1.  So the opening brackets have been completed, and only two teams are left:

Bracket One
Mississippi St. 5, Oregon St. 4
Indiana 2, Louisville 0
Oregon St. 11, Louisville 4 (Louisville eliminated)
Mississippi St. 5, Indiana 4
Oregon St. 1, Indiana 0 (Indiana eliminated)
Mississippi St. 4, Oregon St. 1 (Oregon St. eliminated)

Bracket Two
N. Carolina St. 8, N. Carolina 1
UCLA 2, Louisiana St. 1
N. Carolina 4, Louisiana St. 2 (Louisiana St. eliminated)
UCLA 2, N. Carolina St. 1
N. Carolina 7, N. Carolina St. 0 (N. Carolina St. eliminated)
UCLA 4, N. Carolina 1 (N. Carolina eliminated)

Neither Mississippi State nor UCLA were among the top 8 seeds when the NCAA Baseball Tournament began, and both had to go on the road to win their Super Regionals.  But in a College World Series dominated by pitching, their pitching has been the best so far.

Neither UCLA nor Mississippi State has ever won the NCAA baseball championship.  UCLA is in the final for the first time since 2010, when they were beaten by South Carolina.  Mississippi St. is in the final for the first time ever.  This is the sixth year in a row that an SEC team has made the final -- the SEC is 3-2 so far in those final series.

The ACC still hasn't won the NCAA baseball title since Wake Forest pulled the trick in 1955.

NFL '94: Joe Montana ... Wow

I've watched a lot of NFL on TV in my 45 years, but I probably watched it the least often in the period of 1986 to 1994. So I didn't know how the NFL Network's broadcast this afternoon of an Oct. 17, 1994, Monday Night Football pitting the Kansas City Chiefs at the Denver Broncos was going to come out. 

Well, let me tell you, it was excellent! I caught the last six minutes or so of game time. John Elway led a crazy, penalty-marred drive that gave the Broncos a 28-24 lead, but then Joe Montana led an efficient (nine plays, 82 seconds) and almost flawless drive that gave Kansas City its first victory in Mile High Stadium in 11 seasons.

Joe Montana ... wow. The guy was 38 years old at the time, and, except for Marcus Allen, who appeared to be on the field for only one or two plays of the game-winning drive, I honestly didn't recognize the names of any of the guys who caught any of Montana's seven completions in eight attempts on the possession. There was a running back named Anders (surely not Benny Anders, the basketball player from the University of Houston?); there was a tight end named Greene (not Eric Green, the Steeler who came into the league about the same time), and there was the wide receiver who caught the touchdown pass, Willie Davis (not the old Dodgers outfielder, surely?). I don't know anything about any of those three guys, but they certainly each looked fantastic at the other end of Montana's passes.  

Well, I don't have a lot more to say about this game other than I really, truly love football and I really, truly love TV. Oh! That reminds me: The MNF crew was Al Michaels, Dan Dierdorf and Frank Gifford. I thought they did a fine job.

So, in conclusion, hooray for football, and hooray for TV!

Friday, June 21, 2013

College Baseball Update

OK, so now there are only four teams left -- one from the SEC, one from the ACC, and two from the Pac-12.  Here's what has been happening in Omaha:

Bracket One:
Mississippi St. 5, Oregon St. 4
Indiana 2, Louisville 0
Oregon St. 11, Louisville 4 (Louisville eliminated)
Mississippi St. 5, Indiana 4
Oregon St. 1, Indiana 0 (Indiana eliminated)

Oregon St. will play Mississippi St. today at 2 P.M. Central.  If MSU wins, they're in the Final.  If Oregon St. wins, the two teams will meet tomorrow a 2 P.M. Central to decide the bracket winner.

Bracket Two:
N. Carolina St. 8, N. Carolina 1
UCLA 2, Louisiana St. 1
N. Carolina 4, Louisiana St. 2 (Louisiana St. eliminated)
UCLA 2, N. Carolina St. 1
N. Carolina 7, N. Carolina St. 0 (N. Carolina St. eliminated)

It was always inevitable that NCSU would have their season ended by UNC, so I'm almost relieved to have that over with.  I would only point out that the last time NCSU got the better of UNC was when the Wolfpack won the 1983 NCAA men's basketball tournament.  Of course, within a few years NCSU's coach had been disgraced for cheating, and the NCSU program was damaged in ways from which it has not yet recovered.  But -- as Louisville fans will soon learn -- going head-to-head with the Heels is no walk in the park.  At least the NCSU baseball team competed, and didn't let the fact that they can never win a big game against UNC discourage them from winning other big games.

Now the Heels will have to beat UCLA tonight at 7 P.M. Central -- and tomorrow at 7:30 P.M. Central -- in order to advance to the Final.  If UCLA wins either game, then the Bruins will be in the Final.

HP SPECIAL REPORT: Stand Up and Cheer for TV!

Here's a very happy Heath Post Special Report! A 2002 WKU grad from Winchester has been cast for a prime-time television program airing Tuesdays this fall on ABC! My new favorite television program, Lucky 7, stars Matt Long as Matt Korzak, one of seven employees of a Queens gas station who together win a lottery jackpot.

Warning Explicit Content

Stay tuned to HP for additional breaking Matt Long reports as events warrant, plus the premiere this fall of the HP's Lucky 7 episode guide. Hooray for TV! You and me and WKU's Matt Long and ABC, we're talkin' it over and workin' it out (workin' it out!)!

On LeBron James

In thinking about how LeBron James plays basketball, and how people react to him, I have decided that the best analogy to James is not Michael Jordan, or Kobe Bryant, or Magic Johnson -- but Wilt Chamberlain.  Like Wilt, LeBron is simply blessed with unworldly athletic abilities -- which mean that many times, he can win a game simply by being faster and stronger than the other guys on the floor.  And so folks think he should win every time, and they are unwilling to give him credit for his ability as a basketball player.  This is made even worse by the fact that James's outside shot has a tendency to fade in and out like a distant radio station, and that he will occasionally make really dumb plays -- such as his turnovers near the end of Game 6.  When you see him make those type of mistakes, it's easy to think that he just gets by on pure athleticism, and that his actual basketball talents are limited.

But this isn't really fair.  It's true that LeBron relies a great deal on his athleticism -- but he would be crazy not to.  It's also true that he works exceedingly hard at the game, and that he has gotten more fundamentally sound with each passing year.  (I think getting out of Cleveland, and getting around a solid coaching staff and other great players has been excellent for him.)  So at this stage, anyone who is still griping about LeBron is really just being mean-spirited.

(And spare me the conspiracy theories, at least for this year.  Nobody would have a conspiracy that can only work if Ray Allen hits a three-point shot with 5 seconds to go in Game 6.)

I didn't have much interest in these playoffs, until the very end, because I was so certain Miami would go all the way.  So for me, this was a pretty boring NBA season.  But I remember when Larry Bird was my favorite NBA player, and I wanted the Celtics to win every game.  And I know that a lot of people today are huge LeBron fans, just as I was a huge Bird fan.  For LeBron fans, this was an almost-perfect season, and it ended with their guy playing what may ultimately be regarded as the signature game of his whole career -- 37 points in Game 7 against one of the great teams in NBA history.  So I'm happy for the LeBron fans, and I hope they enjoy these memories for years to come.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

NBA Update: Game 7 Tonight

Here's what's happened so far in the Heat/Spurs series (home teams listed first):

June 6:  Miami 88 - 92 San Antonio
June 9:  Miami 103 - 84 San Antonio
June 11:  San Antonio 113 - 77 Miami
June 13:  San Antonio 93 - 109 Miami
June 16:  San Antonio 114 - 104 Miami
June 18:  Miami 103 - 100 San Antonio (OT)

So the teams have split two close games (games 1 and 6), and they've split the four blow-out games (2 through 5).

The last road team to win Game 7 of the NBA Finals was the 1978 Washington Bullets, who shocked the Seattle SuperSonics for a 105-99 victory.  Since then, Game 7's in the Finals have gone as follows (home teams listed first):

June 12, 1984:  Boston 111 - 102 Los Angeles
June 21, 1988:  Los Angeles 108 - 105 Detroit
June 22, 1994:  Houston 90 - 84 New York
June 23, 2005:  San Antonio 81 - 74 Detroit
June 17, 2010:  Los Angeles 83 - 79 Boston

So there's not a lot of history here, but what history there is suggests that this will be a slugfest that should be won by the home team.  Sure enough, the folks in Vegas say that Miami will win by 6 1/2 points and that the total number of points scored will be 190.  That would work out to something like a 98-92 win for the Heat, which would actually be the most entertaining Game 7 we've seen for a long time.

MLB Update

Due to the collapse of Natstown, baseball interest in Our Nation's Capital has returned to its usual somnolent state.  But the Swingin' A's are still playing great, and the two most popular teams in Kentucky -- the Cards and the Reds -- are doing extremely well.  Here are the latest rankings from CBS Sports:

1.  St. Louis Cardinals:  46-26
2.  Cincinnati Reds:  44-29
3.  Oakland Athletics:  43-31
4.  Baltimore Orioles:  42-31
5.  Boston Red Sox:  44-30
6.  Detroit Tigers:  39-31
7.  Atlanta Braves:  43-30
8.  Pittsburgh Pirates:  42-30
9.  Texas Rangers:  40-32
10.  San Diego Padres:  36-36

To me, one of the most remarkable facts about baseball over the last 20 years is how the Padres manage to almost always stay ahead of the Dodgers.

CBS is finally about to give up on Natstown, which is currently ranked 20th.

College Baseball Update

The Hoosiers have been eliminated, so Mitch Barnhart can breathe a little bit easier:

Bracket One
Mississippi St. 5, Oregon St. 4
Indiana 2, Louisville 0
Oregon St. 11, Louisville 4 (Louisville eliminated)
Mississippi St. 5, Indiana 4
Oregon St. 1, Indiana 0 (Indiana eliminated)
Oregon State will play Mississippi St. tomorrow at 2 P.M. Central

Bracket Two
N. Carolina St.  8, N. Carolina 1
UCLA 2, Louisiana St. 1
N. Carolina 4, Louisiana St. 2 (Louisiana St. eliminated)
UCLA 2, N. Carolina St. 1
UNC will eliminate NCSU tonight, and then the Heels will play UCLA tomorrow night at  7 P.M. Central.

By the way, they are thinking of changing the ball in college baseball because the scores have been so low.  Personally, I think the games have been pretty entertaining, but then again I'm used to the Nats.

Oh, Kentucky

Congratulations, Coy Bacon! And hooray for football!

The "Joey Fosko Memorial Press Box" movement for McCracken County High School is picking up steam.

Fun times ahead in Beaver Dam and Paducah.

Very open mike in Owensboro.

"Not exactly the kind of ‘welcome to Owen County’ we wanted to give them."

Seriously, I am so glad that the directors of the Perry County Sanitation District 1 got to see this day. Serving on boards like that is hard.

Friends of Hardin County's library and foes of Anderson's organize.

Dixon must consider both OPEX and CAPEX when evaluating the value proposition offered by B & T Pet Supply.

Another No. 1 for Louisville.

One of the joys of working the Twitter desk is seeing all of the pictures of sunrises, sunsets and sometimes just pretty clouds that folks post.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

College Baseball Update

Here's where we stand at the College World Series:

Bracket One:
Mississippi St. 5, Oregon St. 4
Indiana 2, Louisville 0
Oregon St. 11, Louisville 4 (Louisville eliminated)
Mississippi St. 5, Indiana 4
Oregon St. plays Indiana today in an elimination game at 7 P.M. Central.

Bracket Two:
N. Carolina St. 8, N. Carolina 1
UCLA 2, Louisiana St. 1
N. Carolina 4, Louisiana St. 2 (Louisiana St. eliminated)
UCLA 2, N. Carolina St. 1
N. Carolina St. will lose to UNC tomorrow in an elimination game scheduled for 7 PM Central.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

NBA Update

OK, Miami has lost three games, and is facing elimination tonight.  So, yes, now it is appropriate to check in on the NBA playoffs.  But I'm still not convinced you should watch the whole game.  Look at the scores in this series so far (home team listed first):

Miami 88 - 92 San Antonio
Miami 103 - 84 San Antonio
San Antonio 113 - 77 Miami
San Antonio 93 - 109 Miami
San Antonio 114 - 104 Miami

Since the first game, there have been five consecutive games in which the winning margin was in double digits.  This is very odd, because it is not easy for one team to beat an evenly-matched team by double digits.  Anyway, it raises the possibility that tonight's game will be yet another blowout.

So here's my suggestion.  Do something else this evening -- I'm going to work and watch UCLA play N.C. State in baseball.  And then, around 9 PM Central, check in to see what the score is.  If it's a blowout, just go back to whatever you were doing.  But only watch if it looks like a good game.

Album Reviews: Cave Rave by Crystal Fighters

It's albums like this that make it so hard for Phoenix to follow up their big hit album. Crystal Fighters in many ways are walking down the same path that Phoenix was on back in the 2000's. They are playing around with a bunch of musical influences, mashing them together, and creating solid pop.

The opening four songs on their 10 track album are far better than anything on the latest album from Phoenix and though the album struggles home those opening four tracks are so good it makes this one of my favorite albums so far this year. A good album to throw on for a beach trip or while washing the car out in the back yard.

Following the Rhapsody rating method I give it 3 out of 5 stars for Pretty Good.

Album Review: Bankrupt! by Phoenix

Back in 2009 Phoenix exploded on the large scene with their album Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix. It was a big hit for the band and cemented their influence on a lot of what was happening at the time in the indie pop world. In some ways what makes Phoenix interesting is that they came out of France. They were part of a group of French indie pop acts who were having a fairly heavy influence on the indie pop sound in the late 2000's. The trick of course for Phoenix is following up their fourth studio album which also happened to be their big breakthrough. There is a part of me that wonders if it is possible to actually follow up something that made such a big splash. I think this is especially true when what made that album so successful was the culmination of work they had done for nine years to get to that point. They had finally found that magical formula that worked and I'm not sure you can ever follow that up with anything equal to it, unless you go off and create an entirely new formula. If you simply build on the formula you created you can make a better album, but it will never have the impact of that initial breakthrough.

Anyhow when I put on this album that was what was running through my mind. Phoenix has tried to tweak their sound a bit and for this album have pulled in a lot of Eastern influence but in the end it is about what I expected. It's a solid album but it doesn't have the same appeal that it would have had back in 2009 because their sound has been so copied so muddied that it's simply hard to come up with anything that can live up to expectations.

Still it's another solid album. Following the Rhapsody rating method I give it 2 out of 5 stars for Not Bad.

One note don't waste your money on the deluxe version. It adds a track of what they describe as sketches and is pure torture to listen to. My initial listening on this album came during a workout and I got to this 11th track and didn't know what was going on and was hating the album more and more with each passing moment. Definitely avoid track 11.

Album Review: The Boys by Girls' Generation

Girls' Generation is a nine person girl group out of South Korea. This is pure bubble gum pop and for what it is it's OK. If you have ever watched any anime there are songs on here that sound like they were made as the opening theme to some anime movie or show. It also feels very 80's in some way.

Definitely some good songs to pick off for a workout mix or for a dance party. Following the Rhapsody rating method I give it 1 out of 5 stars for Just OK.

College Baseball Update

With all the excitement surrounding the U.S. Open, as well as the Drillers' 24-17 upset victory over the Hawks, we haven't been keeping up with the College World Series.  So here's where everything stands in Omaha:

Bracket One:
Mississippi St. 5, Oregon St. 4
Indiana 2, Louisville 0
Oregon St. 11, Louisville 4 (Louisville eliminated)
Mississippi St. 5, Indiana 4

Louisville's performance makes Vanderbilt's loss in the Super Regionals look even more pathetic.  But wouldn't it be something if Mississippi State actually went all the way?

Bracket Two:
N. Carolina St. 8, N. Carolina 1
UCLA 2, Louisiana St. 1

No result all year has surprised me more than N.C. State's win over UNC.  I can't remember the Wolfpack beating the Tar Heels in a meaningful game since the 1983 ACC basketball tournament.  But the Heels aren't finished yet -- they have a huge elimination game with LSU this afternoon.

Oh, Kentucky

Probably a view of Louisville in the 1930s or '40s.

Definitely a view from West Paducah in the 1949 Heath High School yearbook (thank you for the JPEG, HP Spirits Correspondent):

Good jobs news from Erlanger and Louisville.

"We care for our people"--in Adairville, too.

Madisonville is figuring out what to do with a bunch of land donated for a giant new city park!

Here comes the Owensboro Convention Center, right on schedule.

Something exciting is apparently in the works for Paducah's old Coke plant. (Not only that, it's Taco Tuesday!)

The Glasgow Community Band is ready to party like it's 1918. Meanwhile, for the Paducah Symphony summer campers, it feels like the first time--because it is

E-books are hot in Calloway County. Indian food is the spicy new thing in Trigg.

State-fair season, continued: Who is the Bullitt County Vocalist of the Year? Little Miss McCracken County, which one will it be?

Rest in peace, Mayor Walker, who packed--you're right, Mrs. Long--plenty of living into 54 years right there in Elizabethtown.

Rest in Peace, Joey Fosko (1967-2013)

Joey Fosko died early Monday. It was his 46th birthday. 

He went to Lone Oak High School when we were at Heath, and we crossed paths plenty watching our football and basketball teams or participating in various academic-team or school-journalism competitions and whatnot. Later, he and I both worked at The Paducah Sun together just a bit. I was there as an intern or a part-timer at Christmas or a stringer or something--some kind of in-and-out-the-door capacity--but he was starting a 26-year run as a sportswriter with the newspaper. Joey went all-in on his passions for his hometown and sports.

We were not close friends, but Joey was nice enough to reach out a few years ago when he learned that my wife and I had moved back to western Kentucky from North Carolina. We became Facebook friends, and we traded comments and "likes" pretty frequently. One of the last posts of his that I clicked the little thumbs-up like for was this one.

I signed the back of my license today.

There are some extraordinarily kind and lovely tributes being expressed about Joey by people who knew him a lot better than I did. Here's one from Ricky Martin with Murray's paper. Here's one from Neal Bradley, the Murray State play-by-play dude. Here's one from Joey's colleague at the Sun, Dusty Luthy Shull. Here's one from Julian Tackett, the KHSAA commissioner. And here's one from Jeff Bidwell, with Channel 6.

And there are a heck of a lot of really sweet things being said by folks who hardly knew him at all. They appreciated how he interacted with their kids in his job, or they appreciated his writing in the paper, or they appreciated that, through him, they could find out from afar how their favorite teams performed and suddenly feel a little closer to the Jackson Purchase again.

I hope that Joey knew when he was alive how much he was appreciated, and I pray that he's now getting to understand it even more deeply. I suspect that he did and he is.

Rest in peace, Joey Fosko, a pal I admired and a true champion of home and fun and games, which are among the very, very best things this whole world has to offer. What a neat and valuable life you lived.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

McMillan and Wife -- Continued

Now that I'm back from Philly, I'm continuing my coverage of "Death Is a Seven-Point Favorite."  Additional comments will be posted at the original link.

U.S. Open -- Day Four Wrap-Up

All along.

I am soooo glad I went to church instead of watching Phil Mickelson blow another U.S. Open.  I would feel even worse now if I had had to watch Phil trying vainly to hole that shot from 40 yards out on 18.

We have covered this year's National Open in unusual depth, even for us, and there's not a lot more to say at this point.  I will only make a few points:

1.  Merion is truly one of the great courses in the world.  I hadn't seen a golf tournament here since 1981, and I had no idea how good it is.  If I had to pick a single course to hold the U.S. Open every year, I would pick Merion.  And I believe that if Merion did host the U.S. Open every year, it would be just as famous and just as beloved as Augusta National.  Almost every hole on the course is memorable, and some of them -- such as 9, 11, 13, 16, and 17 -- are spectacular.

2.  Philadelphia did a wonderful, wonderful job of hosting the U.S. Open.  Because it's stuck on the East Coast with the snobs who live in Boston, New York, and Washington, Philadelphia's good qualities are often overlooked or even ridiculed.  East Coast sophisticates think it's cute and charming that provincial cities like Pittsburgh and Green Bay have so much hometown pride.  But when a truly great and historic city like Philadelphia exhibits regional pride, the sophisticates make fun of it.  Personally, I am thrilled that the U.S. Open went to a city that really appreciated it, and I am sad (but not surprised) that the Smart Folks are already arguing that Merion is too small to ever host the Open again.

3.  Mike Davis, who sets up courses for the U.S. Open, is exactly the sort of golf nerd I wanted to be as a kid.  Without him, I don't think the USGA would have taken a chance on Merion.  Davis is always trying to do cool things with the National Open.  Sometimes -- like when there was almost no rough at the 2011 Open at Congressional -- the results are disappointing.  But this year his set-up was brilliant, and he deserves credit for a wonderful tournament.

4.  The poor quality of American golf is simply stunning to me.  I don't understand why no one in the press has bothered to report on why young American golfers are so much worse than their foreign counterparts.  We lose the Ryder Cup virtually every time it is contested, and foreign golfers have won 14 of the last 20 majors.  Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods are each at least five years past their primes, and they are still the only two American golfers who can hold their own with the world's best.  Guys like Rickie Fowler, and Dustin Johnson, and Brandt Snedeker -- who are supposed to be big American stars -- are absolutely dreadful in major tournaments.  And did anyone really think Hunter Mahan was going the distance?  We are clearly doing something wrong when it comes to developing young golfers, but I don't know what it is.

5.  Having said that, congrats to Michael Kim, an American who finished at 10 over par, in a tie for 17th place, and who was this week's Low Amateur.

6.  I'm afraid Tiger is seriously hurt again.  After playing so well through the first five months of the year, he looked terrible at Memorial and at Merion.  It wouldn't surprise me if takes a lot more time off to heal -- he certainly doesn't like scuffling along in 32d place.

7.   I feel bad for Phil Mickelson, and I know he's disappointed about a sixth second-place finish in the U.S. Open.  But come on.  He made two double-bogeys on the front nine.  And then, after he got a chip-in eagle on 10 to take the lead -- the biggest break any golfer had all day -- he managed to bogey the 13th hole (the easiest hole on the course) and the 15th hole (which he had parred three days in a row).  That is not championship golf.  And no, I still haven't forgotten how Mickelson gave away the 2006 U.S. Open.

8.  By Friday, Justin Rose was a pretty obvious pick to win this thing -- he's an international golfer who's used to playing on the big stage, like Graeme McDowell, or Adam Scott, or lots of other recent major winners.  But he still had to go out and hit the shots, and he overcame whatever bug has affected other English golfers like Luke Donald, Lee Westwood, and Ian Poulter.  In fact, he's the first Englishman to win a major tournament since Nick Faldo in 1996.  Shooting even-par 70 at Merion today was extremely impressive, and he is very much a deserved winner.  Graeme McDowell's win at the 2010 U.S. Open sparked a flurry of major wins from two other Ulstermen -- Rory McIlroy and Darren Clarke.  It will be interesting to see if Rose's victory inspires any of his countrymen to make a similar breakthrough at the British Open in Muirfield.

9.  Finally, it should be noted that since 2011, Jason Day has a second-place finish at the Masters, a third-place finish at the Masters, and two second-place finishes at the U.S. Open.   That's 4 top 3 finishes in 11 Major starts.  Given that he's only 25, I expect to hear more from Mr. Day.

Here is the top of the final leaderboard:

1.  J. Rose (ENG):  +1 (71+69+71+70=281)

T2.  J. Day (AUS):  +3 (70+74+68+71=283)
T2.  P. Mickelson+3 (67+72+70+74=283)

T4.  J. Dufner:  +5 (74+71+73+67=285)
T4.  E. Els (RSA):  +5 (71+72+73+69=285)
T4.  B. Horschel:  +5 (72+67+72+74=285)
T4.  H. Mahan:  +5 (72+69+69+75=285)

T8.  L. Donald (ENG):  +6 (68+72+71+75=286)
T8.  S. Stricker+6 (71+69+70+76=286)

T10.  H. Matsuyama (JPN):  +7 (71+75+74+67=287)
T10.  N. Colsaerts (BEL):  +7 (69+72+74+72=287)
T10.  G. Fernandez-Castano (ESP):  +7 (71+72+72+72=287)
T10.  R. Fowler+7 (70+76+67+74=287)

U.S. Open -- Day Four

Happy Father's Day from the 2013 U.S. Open champion.

Previous reports:

-- Tournament preview

HP SPECIAL REPORT: The 1942 Heath High School Yearbook Is Online

This just in to the Kentucky desk, who is so excited that it keeps having to go back and correct typos as its fingers trip over one another trying to type this sentence ... the very, very awesome West Kentucky Genealogy Facebook outfit has posted 34 photographs of the 1942 Heath High School yearbook! I hope the--seriously, it's very, very awesome--West Kentucky Genealogy Facebook folk don't mind if we include one here:

The yearbook, which at some point became known as the Pirata, was then known as Heath Review. More in the comments as this rapidly coalescing story warrants ...

U.S. Open -- Day Three Wrap-Up

SmartMom and Number One Son had a great day at Merion -- they were in the bleachers behind the 13th green and got to see all of the leaders come through on a very exciting day of golf.

Here are the leaders after day 3:

1.  P. Mickelson:  -1 (67+72+70=209)

T2.  S. Stricker:  Even (71+69+70=210)
T2.  H. Mahan:  Even (72+69+69=210)
T2.  C. Schwartzel (RSA):  Even (70+71+69=210)

T5.  J. Rose (ENG):  +1 (71+69+71=211)
T5.  B. Horschel:  +1 (72+67+72=211)
T5.  L. Donald (ENG):  +1 (68+72+71=211)

8.  J. Day (AUS):  +2 (70+74+68=212)

9.  R. Fowler:  +3 (70+76+67=213)

10.  Mr. M. Kim (a):  +4 (73+70+71=214)

Saturday, June 15, 2013

U.S. Open -- Day Three

Oh, Kentucky! They're still finishing up the second round at Merion, but, for the moment, it appears that 34-year-old Josh Teater, a Danville native who went to Morehead State and now lives in Lexington, has made the U.S. Open cut and will continue playing the remainder of this weekend. Our man Josh is 8-over for the tournament and nines strokes behind co-leaders Phil Mickelson, a five-time runnerup in the national championship, and 2013 U.S. Open-champion Billy Horschel.

Previous reports:

-- Tournament preview

U.S. Open Day Two Wrap-Up

Thanks to Eric for the great Saturday morning coverage.

Philadelphia, as it turns out, is not a cosmopolitan city.  It is, instead, the Auburn of major East Coast cities -- a proud underdog compared to the effete snobs who live in New York and Boston and Washington.  Yesterday morning, my sons and I decided to take SEPTA (the Philadelphia train system) from our hotel downtown out to Merion.  As it turns out, this is incredibly easy and convenient -- if you know what you are doing.  Our hotel is literally a two-minute walk from the nearest subway station, and if you take the right trains, there is another stop that is literally one minute from the golf course.  The only problem is that Philadelphia -- unlike, say, Washington -- is designed for people who live here, not for visitors.  They use lots of terms like "the Market-Frankford line" that have no meaning for outsiders.  So we were flummoxed in terms of trying to figure out exactly which train to take or how to find it.

But cosmopolitanism isn't everything -- and sometimes I think it's not much of anything.  SEPTA doesn't have great signage, but it has very nice people who went out of their way to get us safely to Merion.  Time after time, we ran into folks who recognized us as strangers, figured out we were going to Merion, and helped us on our journey.  Sometimes this was confusing.  We needed to take the Norristown High Speed Line -- but people kept telling us to take "Route 100," which was not on any map we could see.  It turns out that years ago, the Norristown High Speed Line was known as Route 100 -- and even though the bureaucrats have renamed it, everyone we met still used the old name.  (In fact, we eventually saw a bunch of the old "100" signs as our train clattered through the suburbs.)  One man explained that Route 100 used to be the P & W, or Philadelphia and Western Railroad line -- although folks in the Philly suburbs called in the Pig and Whistle.  Anyone from western Kentucky will recognize all of this as the mark of a community with a strong shared memory, who knows who it is and who is proud to tell its story to outsiders.

And so it is appropriate that Merion has been the USGA's go-to course in Philadelphia for most of its history.  Merion is not a course for cosmopolitans -- it is small, and old, and odd.  And because crowd sizes at Merion are limited, the USGA will likely lose money by coming here.  But cosmopolitanism and money are both overrated in our time.  We don't spend enough time appreciating other qualities -- like tradition, and local pride, and beauty.  How many times each year do we sports fans have to put up with boring, sterile events with no grounding in history -- from a Nats/Royals series to yet another meaningless soccer friendly -- just because a businessman somewhere decided that more money could be made this way?  No matter how many times I hear cynics in the press tell me that "sports is just a business," I will never believe it.  In our capitalistic, sophisticated age, sports is an escape -- a celebration of the older, pre-industrial values that you can find in the Bible and the Iliad.  Honor and bravery and loyalty -- these are the sorts of things that sports fans want to see.  Philadelphia understands that, and it would be nice if more folks in the business of sport did as well.

Here is the top 10 (with ties) after the second round:

T1.  B. Horschel:  -1 (72+67=139)
T1.  P. Mickelson:  -1 (67+72=139)

T3.  L. Donald (ENG):  Even (68+72=140)
T3.  S. Stricker:  Even (71+69=140)
T3.  J. Rose (ENG):  Even (71+69=140)

T6.  J. Senden (AUS):  +1 (70+71=141)
T6.  N. Colsaerts (BEL):  +1 (69+72=141)
T6.  C. Schwartzel (RSA):  +1 (70+71=141)
T6.  H. Mahan:  +1 (72+69=141)

T10.  M. Goggin (AUS):  +2 (68+74=142)
T10.  I. Poulter (ENG):  +2 (71+71=142)
T10.  H. Stenson (SWE):  +2 (74+68=142)

Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy, and Ernie Els are all tied for 13th place at 3 over par.