Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Are We Good At Anything Anymore?

Every time a basketball team from the United States takes the international stage these days, it gets embarrassed. Correct me if I am wrong, but the U.S. produces the best basketball players in the world, right? So how can that be? Every two years, the American squad is utterly destroyed by the Europeans during the Ryder Cup matches. Correct me if I am wrong, but the United States produces more great golfers than any country in the world, right? So how can that be? Then there was the Winter Olympics. Remember that knucklehead Bode Miller? How about our hockey team? The U.S. soccer team was not very good at the World Cup. The U.S. entry in the first World Baseball Classic got drilled. An American never seems to win the Boston Marathon. . This is more than a coincidence. This is definitely a trend. Baseball? Basketball? Golf? These sports are as American as apple pie. How come we are not better at them?

Random thoughts

- An educated guess: Zach Miner will get the last spot on the Tigers pitching staff for the postseason. He is 100 percent healthy. He fits in a number of different roles. I am not sure if the same can be said for Mike Maroth's health. He probably will not be 100 percent until spring training. Andrew Miller, although obviously talented, does not look ready yet. You have to feel for Maroth if he is not on the Tigers postseason roster. He lost 21 games in 2003 and bounced back strongly. He is the type of athlete that should be admired for his persistence and hard work. If anybody has earned a spot in the postseason, it is Mike Maroth. It would be shame if he does not get one.

- Talent is a terrible thing to waste. Seems like Shaun Rogers wasted his the last weeks. Rogers and Kalimba Edwards hold the key to the Lions defense. And neither is getting it done.

- Michael Hart and Mario Manningham are better players, but Michigan's offensive MVP is quarterback Chad Henne. The Wolverines have enough depth at running back and receiver that they should be able to sustain things reasonably well in case Hart or Manningham were hurt. However, Henne is the Wolverines� only viable option at QB. They cannot afford for him to get injured. It would be a disaster.


Anonymous theMUHMEshow said...

Pat LOVE THE BLOG entry today...Hitting on USA & UM!!

First off...UM Football. You're totally right about Henne. I hate to say it but my boys are only going to go as far as he will take them. You made an EXCELLENT POINT on saturday after the game however. You said that the defense will allow Henne a little more "room for error." I feel that will give Henne a little more breathing room and cause him to not be so paniky in the pocket along with not being afraid to take some chances. This defense is one of the best in the country like it or not. They have the stud corner in Leon Hall, they have the speed and depth at the linebacker position and the D line is fast and physical. I am really looking forward to the next two weeks. Minnesota has the 8th best rushing team in the nation and has played Michigan tough the past 3 years. MSU has the 4 or 5th best rushing team (I am sure that will go up after they play cupcake U this weekend.) so this provides UM a big chance to show how good their defense truly is.

If Manningham continues the guy that will need to step up for Michgian will have to be Adrian Arrington. Breaston has proven that he does not have the ability to "catch" the ball as a WR so a lot of pressure will be on Adrian to step up and make some big 3rd down receptions in the near future.

Now...moving on to something that infurates me more than a 7-5 Michigan Football season...USA Basketball.

Pat, honestly what is the deal? Lack of drive, fire and/or emotion? I think so. Lebron and Wade just dont have it....YET. I think (cue the sirens) Kobe and Chauncey will bring it to this team. This team has turned into a joke and they need someone that will get in your face reguardless of how good you are and take over. Kobe is a cut throat player. The closest thing we have had since MJ. The addition of Kobe, Chaucney and Marion I think will prove to be very helpful in 08. They are older players that have experienced ups and downs. Plus all three know how to win. Oh, and add the deep shooting presence of chaucney and Michael Redd in the mix and I think that we will have what we need to win gold.

I know I am trying to convince myself that this might finally be the year where we "return to glory" I just hope the players realize that some fans here in America really do care...

one last thing...Rutgers in the top 25!?!?! Ray Rice!!

9:22 AM 
Blogger Pat Caputo said...

I think Michigan has a chance for a really special season this year. You know, like a run-the-table season. The defense is tremendous and Hart and Manningham are exceptional players. The offensive line is good enough. But is Henne? And if something happens to him, they are in trouble. As for USA basketball, we should be able to send our four-best group of players to these tournaments and kick butt. I have no idea why it doesn't happen with our elite players. It's beyond puzzling - like the U.S. getting routed by a clearly inferior group of golfers in the Ryder Cup. I hate the term "choking," but it does seem to fit.

10:12 AM 
Anonymous Nick said...

I don't know about the Ryder Cup, but as far as USA Basketball goes, keep in mind that as good as our players are, the international competition is also getting stiffer. With the success of more and more foreign-born players in the NBA, players from around the world are not afraid to play the U.S. anymore. They know that they can compete with us and hold their own. Just a thought.

1:53 PM 
Blogger Pat Caputo said...

Nick P,
I understand that. But how many of the great players from other countries are from the same nation? Not many. Most of the players on these teams wouldn't have a chance of playing regularly in the NBA. If you took the rest of the world vs. the United States, the United States should win easily in basketball.

4:11 PM 
Anonymous golf guru said...

Pat, regarding the Lions' Kalimba & Big Baby, I would agree that Kalimba and others haven't gotten it done in the last two games. Big Baby, however, can't be included in this group of underachievers. He is taking on double and triple teams over and over. It's not his job to walk on water - after all, he's already being Superman.

Football is a team game. By any reasonable measure, Big Baby is getting it done! I'm waiting for the rest of the D line and backers to capitalize on Rogers' dominance and start getting the hurries and the sacks that should be available.

7:34 AM 
Blogger Pat Caputo said...

Golf Guru,
Your point on Rogers is a valid if you are talking about a merely good player. However, it doesn't stop the exceptional linemen. Warren Sapp, in his prime, made plays regardless. Shaun Rogers' attitude isn't the best. He hasn't matured properly. His demeanor is suspect, to say the least. It seems to be hindering his play. You have to wonder how much better he would be if he had been drafted by another organization that didn't present all the dysfunction.

10:29 AM 
Blogger garold said...


I agree that Zack Miner will best fill out the Tigers pitching staff. Over the past few weeks, I was thinking that he'd be the one left off, if Maroth was good to go. It's too bad about Mike Maroth; it has to be killing him, but this will only be the 1st round, and he may pitch again before this is all over. He thinks he's been ready to pitch, but he's been used very little this month. If the Yankees lose a couple, and Sunday's game is meaningless, why not start him to see how far he can go, if it's not going to jeopardise his future.

I think the other 10 players from the 2003 team deserve to be included too, including Santiago over Neifi Perez. Perez doesn't bring as much as Ramon doees, at the plate, on defense, or as a pinch runner. As far as the extra outfielder goes, I think you have to go with Alexi Gomez. Clevlen hasn't been hitting down the stretch, and we also have Infante to use as a back-up to Granderson.

This afternoon's game is HUGE for the Tigers playoff setting. My Aunt Marce, an avid 83 yo Tiger fan, who I was planning on taking to today's game, passed away yesterday morning, and I know she'll have some influence in asking the Lord for some special timely hits today. Come on guys... win one for Marcella, who watched you every game in 2003, and still loved and believed in you guys!

12:49 PM 
Blogger I rule said...

The Ryder Cup dominance of Europe was kind of puzzling to me as well. On the surface it's pretty easy to figure out that if our best two players (based on World Rankings) over the last decade have a combined record of 19-25-6 that it's going to be tough to win. Mickelson and Woods have 15 majors between them, and you'd expect them to dominate or have good records. They have both lost more than they've won over 11 combined Ryder Cups.

Here are some interesting facts that might have a bearing on US losing this competition so frequently, and others that would seem to work in our favor but appear irrelevant. The 2006 US team had a total of 17 major wins to 2 for the Europeans (both belong to Olazabal). Nearly all the Europeans have competed regularly on both sides of the Atlantic. Some make regular PGA tournament appearances and many played here in college. Just about every one of their team has a lengthy background in team competitions starting with their days as amateurs in the Walker Cup, going through Dunhill Cup competition and finally the Ryder Cup.

After Tiger Woods the list of American players who regularly play both sides of the Atlantic and have won on European soil is non-existent. For the vast majority the Ryder Cup is their first team competition. Since 1995 Great Britain and Ireland have beaten the US team in 4 of 6 Walker Cups, and the remainder of Europe isn't eligible to participate. I'd saying improving our future prospects in the Ryder Cup might focus on getting the top amateurs Walker Cup experience.

1:04 PM 
Blogger ThinkingMan said...

I think desire and unity have a lot to do with our lack of success on the international stage. As far as basketball, the international game is very different than the NBA. I think it puts a premium on basketball skills and fundamentals. The players we typically have on our teams are very talented individually, but their game tends to derive from their athletic ability (the slash and score guys). I think we need players to fit very specific roles with a premium on outside shooting.

I think USA Basketball is on the right track by having a consistent group of players. We have to make our national team a team and not a collection of all-stars. That worked 20 years ago when the talent gap was huge. But not now.

As far as the other sports, I think a lot of it is desire. All of the golfers that compete in the Ryder Cup are rich, so I don't think being hungry in that sense is it. I just think the Europeans want it more.

Soccer is a talent issue. We simply don't have the players that these other countries do... although we're progressing.

That's my humble assessment, Patrick.

1:24 PM 
Blogger Pat Caputo said...

I am truly sorry to hear about your aunt. May she rest in peace. Some of the best baseball fans are older folks who have followed the game for decades and remember everything about baseball's past. I, too, would like to see Santiago on the postseason roster over Perez. He has played better than he did earlier this season when given a shot lately. But don't hold your breath on that one. Perez will get the nod instead.

5:15 PM 
Anonymous Marty said...

The U.S. doesn't win in basketball, because what they play in the NBA is not basketball. "Superstars" get extra special treatment in the NBA as a way to sell the game as a showcase of individual stars. Because of this, they don't need to worry abou the little things because the refs bail them out, and they end up as inferior overall players. If we sent our best college basketball players to international competitions, we would probably do better, because they are used to playing true basketball.

5:17 PM 
Blogger Pat Caputo said...

I Rule,
I know this is probably unfair to a degree, but I can'telp but think it. Tiger Woods just doesn't seem like a good teammate. He is so into himself. When he tries to be a good teammate, it comes off as forced and phony. It is probably good he is in an individual sport because he would probably be portrayed like A-Rod were he in a team sport. As for Lefty, he is just not a clutch performer. It doesn't matter if he is playing for himself or a team.

5:20 PM 
Blogger Pat Caputo said...

It is a good one, too. But desire should not be a problem by now. After getting their butts kick in both golf and hoops. Soccer, it is obvious the USA is not nearly as skilled as the top teams from Europe and Brazil. I admit I'm not very knowledgable on soccer, but I was puzzled by the Americans high ranking as I watched the World Cup. Seemed like the USA had no shot at advancing far.

5:24 PM 
Blogger Pat Caputo said...

You're right about that. It is definitely part of the problem and one of the reasons the Pistons may continue their success despite losing Big Ben. They play as a team in a league where few teams do. And it does hurt the U.S. badly on the international stage.

5:38 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Are We Good At Anything Anymore?" - Pat let me first say I enjoy your articles and comments through all your medium. I have travelled abroad quite a bit this last year and find that other countries do have talent. Surprise, surprise. Other countries not only have the talent, but have a strong desire to win. It is definitely time for us to wake up and realize that patriotism alone will not result in a win. This is true on the field of play and on the factory floor.

Go all the way Tigers!

- R. Waligora

9:05 PM 
Blogger Pat Caputo said...

R Waligora,
Thanks for the compliment and reading The Oakland Press. We appreciate it. Maybe I am guilty of overrating the talent of our athletes and underrating those from other places, but based on what we see on the PGA Tour and in the NBA, I don't think so. There are a smattering of top players from other countries, but the Americans clearly dominate. It's perplexing to me why they can't do the same in these international competitions.

10:26 PM 

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