Sullivan County Democrat
Callicoon, New York
October 1, 2013 Issue
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Further Review: Around the horn

Column by Ken Cohen
September 13, 2013 — I love this time of year because there are so many different sports being played at the same time. Here’s what I’m seeing and thinking:
Tennis – I only watch the finals of Grand Slam tournaments and Rafael Nadal looks unbeatable right now. He made the world's number one player Novak Djokovic look rather ordinary in the finals of the U.S. Open on Monday. He is perhaps the peskiest, most relentless athlete I have ever seen. No ball is out of reach and the variety of shots he can hit is unmatched by any current player. Djokovic has the arsenal to play with Nadal and has beaten him several times, but he just seems to deflate when the momentum changes. And Nadal is a master at methodically changing the flow and feel of a match.
He did it Monday. Just when it looked like Djokovic was taking control of the match with blistering forehand winners, Nadal was able to dink him with a couple of drop shots and tough-to-handle top-spin volleys that completely reversed the tempo of the match. Djokovic could not regain his aggressiveness and feebly went down in four sets.
I was trying to think of what other athlete Nadal reminds me of. He has a slightly unorthodox style, but just keeps coming. He has no fear of the best players and seems to thrive in his role as a No. 2 seed. To me, that sounds like Lee Trevino, a six-time major winner who mastered his own swing and never backed down from anyone. Perhaps no player beat Jack Nicklaus head-to-head in majors more than Trevino.
Pro Football – If I'm a Dallas Cowboys fan I'm not feeling too great about the season-opening victory against the at-best mediocre Giants. Despite their numerous mistakes and turnovers and playing with a second-rate backfield, the Giants had a chance to win the game with less than three minutes to go.
There's something about the Cowboys under coach Jason Garrett that is very unsettling at the end of games. I can't put my finger on it, but some coaches know how to put away games and others just to try to hang on. And then there are those who just lock up in the final five minutes. Garrett is a pretty good coach for 55 minutes and a lousy one for five. He just seems to lose a handle on the game and all the potential clock, time out and possession situations. Unfortunately, those five minutes usually dictate who wins and loses. That's why I think Jerry Jones needs to move on and find a steadier hand to guide his team...
Is it me or are the players getting dumber in the NFL? Did you see some of the idiotic late hit calls this week that cost teams games?...
Football fantasy leagues have come a long way since 1984 when I was a senior in college and we picked teams by studying their statistics in Street and Smith, not combing the internet. Also, we had to calculate the points ourselves every week and post them on a huge posterboard that hung in our dorm room. There was no website to do all this for us. To be honest, our pool was over early – 1984 was the year Dan Marino threw 48 touchdowns, 18 to Mark Clayton. Of course, the same guy had both players on his team. I wallowed in third place trying to get points from Steve DeBerg and Billy Sims.
Major League Baseball – Will teams continue to spend big money on free agents? Probably – I'm sure Robinson Cano will be cashing in for $20 million per season. But the Pirates, Rays, A's, Orioles and even the Cardinals are certainly changing the landscape in major league baseball. They are operating wisely, entrusting their fortunes to young, hungry players who stay healthy and loose, free from the pressure of huge contracts.
It could be the wave of the future in major league baseball...
It's amazing to me that after all these years, players still take the first pitch from Mariano Rivera. Anyone who has watched him for the better part of 20 years knows that is usually the most hittable pitch he throws. He puts such a premium on getting ahead in the count that his first pitch is covering a large part of the plate. The Red Sox hitters seem to know this and they come up swinging. It's not surprising to me they have probably had the most success against Mo.
College Football – More and more small schools are able to play with and beat BCS schools because of the spread offense. It has become the great equalizer in college football, just like the three-point shot. You don't have to be big and physical anymore to dominate games. Speed, deception, a hurry-up offense and a dual-threat quarterback can take you places.

Ken Cohen brings 30 years of publishing experience, many covering sports and working for sports companies, His column, “Further Review” appears every Friday.

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