Archive for April, 2009

Linked on draft day, Falcons’ first picks took different paths

When the Falcons were accepted by the NFL in 1966, they were awarded two first-round draft choices. As it developed, the two they chose were from the same state, the same hometown, and at one time, the same housing complex.

Over the long haul, as this story will bear out, the course they took in their life after football could not have presented a more diverse path. It was the accidental philosopher Yogi Berra who said, “When you come to a fork in the road, take it.”

In the cases of Tommy Nobis and Randy Johnson, each chose his own course. One led to an honorable life after football, the other to utter degradation. This is the story of all that, the gladness and the sadness.
Tommy and Randy both grew up in San Antonio. They went to different high schools, in Tommy’s case, “because of the coach.”

Tommy became a celebrated All-American at Texas and is a member of the College Football Hall of Fame. He is engraved on the memory of thousands for a goal-line tackle he made …

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It’s too early for despair, gloom and doom, over Braves

Amazin’, to quote Dr. Casey Stengel, the Florida Marlins come to Turner Field and take command. Three games in a row. A wipe-out. And it showed on the complexion of Frank Wren, who stepped on the elevator, looking neither right nor left. but glumly straight ahead. This was only the ninth game of the Braves’ season, but then again, these were the Marlins, who have been playing in a football stadium since they were born. A football stadium is a lousy place to play baseball at best — or should I say worst? — even though both teams are named for fish.

This is no occasion to engage in snobbery. The Marlins came into the major leagues 16 years ago. In that time they have played in two World Series’ and won them both, one with a manager who was retrieved from a farm in North Carolina. The Braves came to Atlanta in 1966 and have played in five World Series since. They won one, otherwise their fans have survived on a diet of division championship flags displayed above left …

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What a day, what a Masters


Augusta —  Even Sam Goldwyn would never have made a movie like this.

Nonsense, pure unadulterated nonsense. It was the championship round of that old Southern sports treasure, the Masters, and indeed, so eventually it developed, but inside that storm a tempest developed that completely distracted the invigorated thousands who lined the hills and hummocks of Augusta National. It was Easter Sunday, and the sun shone brightly, and the winds merely wafted through the pines as the 50 players teed off in pursuit of the precious green jacket. Intervening, however, was the match within the contest between Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson, paired for the 24th time in their careers, but rarely on such an emotional stage as this.

But first, the championship. After all the drives and all the putts, and birdies and bogeys of the day, nothing was decided until Kenny Perry, Chad Campbell and the Argentine, Angel Cabrera, played off a three-way tie. Campbell had already finished at 276 …

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Back from Japan, Hamilton finds hope in Augusta

Augusta — Well, the filling-station operator from Mississippi didn’t make the cut, and he was on his way back to Ocean Springs. He’d had two giddy days paired with Tom Watson, his hero — of course — and the English bloke, Ian Poulter, and the patina would take a few days wearing off. On the radio, local broadcasters were wallowing in self-flagellation about what dastardly fate had befallen their idol, Tiger Woods.

And there would be no relief once the third round of the 75th Masters was underway. Woods double-bogeyed the first hole, then failed to birdie the second, a par-5 hole that usually surrenders more sub-par scores than any hole on the course.

Meanwhile, the unlikely subject of Todd Hamilton rose to the surface in the mind of this roving correspondent. Hamilton is a native of Illinois, now a resident of Texas, but for the better part of 12 years a campaigner on the Pacific Rim, and out of sight, out of mind. He simply wasn’t able to cut it on the PGA Tour, …

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Thursday in Augusta feels like 1987

Augusta — Turn back the clock? They turned back the sundial at Augusta National on Thursday. There was a surge of youth in the air, and Chad Campbell virtually ran the table, as they say, and by the time twilight fell over the 75th Masters, this grand old golf course was withering under the assault.

But, get this: Beginning with 73-year-old Gary Player, who shot 78, all the former champions broke 80. Bernhard Langer shot 70, Sandy Lyle 72, Fred Couples 73, and on they charged. High number was the 79 of Fuzzy Zoeller, playing in his 30th and last Masters.

But we turn now to the fascinating revival of the dramatic conclusion to the Masters of 1987, when Larry Mize, a native Augustan, pitched in off the green, birdied the 11th hole and shot down Greg Norman in a playoff. Another dagger crashing into the green jacket hopes of the Australian. Three times Norman had the championship on target, and three times he found a way to lose.

Now, 54, Norman was finishing his interview …

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International touch gripping Masters since ’80s

Augusta — No filling-station operator from Mississippi has ever won a Masters. In fact, no gas pumper from any state ever has, and a safe wager is, that when this one is done, that record will still be in place. No matter, whatever they want to say, Steve Wilson can tell his pals that in 2009 his picture is on the same page with Tiger Woods in the Masters Players Guide: Steve Wilson, age 39, from Ocean Springs, Miss., who got here by winning the Mid-Amateur Championship last year.

That’s part of the mystique of the Masters, which began in 1934 as a sort of springtime layover for golf pros on their way back to their club up north after wintering in the Southern clime. It was strictly by invitation, a list made up by Bobby Jones himself, who included almost as many fellow amateurs as pros. (Something he said he would never do again after all the complaints a lot of disappointed players rolled in.) Only one who played in that tournament still survives, Errie Ball, now 98, and …

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