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Due to media info glut I will forego World Cup references, save for one thought. World Cup games begin with 45 minutes of commercial-free soccer followed by an intermission long enough to prepare a wholesome snack, crack a beer, make a phone call, and check e-mail. This is followed by another 45 minutes of commercial-free soccer. There are no timeouts during the game.

Forty-five minutes between commercials, and ABC television executives are on their knees, praying that Americans won't notice. Since soccer is the world's game, and since the rest of the world doesn't care whether we like it or not, ABC has zero leverage as to how the game is presented.

Quite unlike the spineless, one-legged dog that is the NFL. That greedy corporate puppet will do anything for money. There are five commercial timeouts mandated during every NFL quarter. That's guaranteed, that's minimum. Now, add an orgy of commercials mislabeled as "halftime."

There are about 12 minutes of action in a typical three-and-a-half-hour NFL game. The other 198 minutes are spent on penalties, injury timeouts, getting to one's feet, zombie-walking into a huddle, substitutions, change of possessions, coaches' timeouts, and...

commercials.

* * *

The U.S. Women's Open begins Thursday at Newport Country Club in Rhode Island (ESPN and NBC). There is a weird, pubescent quality to women's professional golf, which I'll get to in a minute, but first, here are a few players to watch.

Birdie Kim (Korea) won the Open in 2005. One year later, she's ranked 77th on the Rolex World Rankings. But, she's back anyway.

Annika Sorenstam (Sweden) is the Tiger Woods of women's golf, down to what is laughably called her current slump. She's entered nine tournaments this year and won one. (Tiger entered eight tournaments and won two.) Her last tournament win was in March, ditto for Tiger. She's 6th on the money list. Tiger Woods is 7th on the PGA money list.

You don't have the time to read Sorenstam's résumé, so I'll skim it for you. Born in Sweden in 1970. Swedish National Team. World Amateur Team Championships team. University of Arizona. Won the 1991 individual NCAA National Championship.

Turned pro in 1993, played on the European Tour and awarded Rookie of the Year. Qualified for the LPGA Tour in 1994 and was Rookie of the Year over here. She won the U.S. Women's Open in 1995 and was named Player of the Year.

She's been first on the ADT Official Money List eight times, Rolex Player of the Year eight times, won the LPGA Championship three years in a row, has the lowest single-season scoring average ever recorded (68.69), and has won the most money (over $18 million). She's been Golf Writers Association of America Female Player of the Year eight times and Associated Press Female Athlete of the Year three times. Last year she entered 20 tournaments and won 10. That's impossible. There is Sorenstam and there is everyone else.

But, detractors say, that was then. Now, she hasn't won a tournament in three months.

One of her competitors at the Open will be Cristie Kerr, 28, out of Miami. Kerr finished in the top 10 eight times this year and won once. She was recently asked how Sorenstam affects other players. Kerr said, "...when that one person beats her head-to-head, people are going to believe, 'Hey, I can do this, too.' Just like what happened with Tiger. She's the best player in the world, but, you know, we're all pretty good, too, and we're all ready to challenge."

And then there is 16-year-old Michelle Wie. She's criticized for wanting to play on the men's circuit before she's won a single tournament on the LPGA tour. There might be a touch of jealously over her fame and the tens of millions of dollars in endorsement fees Wie has corralled BEFORE THE BITCH WON A SINGLE TOURNAMENT! Wie did, however, at the age of 15, finish second at the 2005 SBS Open and second at the 2005 LPGA Championship. She's in the Open by way of a sponsor's exemption.

Take a look at Lorena Ochoa (Mexico) number-1 money-winner ($1,204,987) on the tour this year. She's entered 13 tournaments, won 2, finished in the top 10 ten times, but tied for 9th at the LPGA Championship and lost a playoff to Karrie Webb (Australia) at the Kraft Nabisco. Aforementioned Karrie Webb is two-time Open champion, number-2 money-winner, and someone to track.

Now we come to the nub of it all, the pubescent part. What is it about LPGA and young girls?

Playing in the Open will be Paula Creamer, 19; Morgan Pressel, 18; Ayaka Kaneko, 16 years, 9 months; Michelle Wie, 16 years, 8 months; and Stephanie Kono, 16 years, 7 months. Oops -- I almost forgot Kimberly Kim. She's 14.

Somebody will go to jail over this.

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