Friday, September 19, 2008

What’s The Big Deal About Starting 0-2?

Every year there are several really good NFL teams that stumble out of the gate, losing their first two games. This year, the Chargers, Seahawks and Vikings, all mentioned as bound for the playoffs in most of the preseason predictions, have suffered this frustrating start. In the Vikings’ case, it has already led to the starting quarterback being replaced. The poor QB barely had time to be picked in anyone’s Fantasy League before he was benched.

What follows such a dismal start are predictions of gloom by the sports media, citing the curious statistic that only a small percentage of teams that start 0-2 ever make it to the playoffs. That statistic is suspect, simply because the fact of the matter is, many of the teams that start 0-2 just keep on losing, so of course they don’t end up in the postseason. The 0-2 start is merely the truly bad team’s way of prepping the fans for the 3-13 debacle the season is going to end up being. This is much more merciful than winning your first two games, getting your fans all hyped up, and then losing the next ten games.

We should also keep in mind that the NFL season is a war of attrition. Even terrific teams destined to go deep into the playoffs lose two consecutive games at some point in the season. All it takes is a few unfortunate injuries, or running into two opponents that are on a hot streak. If you look back at playoff teams’ records after the season is concluded, you will often find that they win 4, lose 2, win 5 more, drop another couple of games, and when all’s said and done, they wind up 11-5.

The best advice for the fans of the current 0-2 teams is, RELAX. The Chargers got off to a similarly slow start last year and ended up very strong. There’s no reason to think they won’t equal or surpass last year’s record. Sometimes it seems that there are teams that don’t play their best football in September, for reasons that are difficult to identify. Their offense might not click right away. The spotty playing time starters get in the preseason may not prepare them to work well as a unit once the season starts.

One of the under discussed factors in the NFL is the relative strength of the team you are playing that week, not how they look on paper, but where the team is right at that moment, both mentally and physically. Suppose you’re facing a team that just played, and lost, a brutal game to a division rival on a Monday night. That team’s energy might be depleted when they play you, giving you somewhat of an advantage. Or they might come into your stadium as mad a hornets. Over the course of the season, these weekly situational factors might play a key role in the outcome of 4-5 of your games.

So, an 0-2 start is not so frightful after all. Of course, if you lose that third game...

Friday, September 05, 2008

Green Fees

Most of us can’t afford to join a country club, so we’re content to find a reasonably priced daily fee course in our area and make that our golfing home base, or perhaps select several we enjoy playing and visit them on a rotating basis. Once in a while, though, it’s fun to treat ourselves to an upscale golf experience, a round at one of the country’s finest courses.

Every year GOLF magazine comes out with a list of great golf courses that are accessible to the public. The list is fascinating; check out this link to it:

The list is bound to get any avid golfer’s pulse racing a little faster. Did you know you can play courses that have hosted the US Open or other of golf’s Major Championships? You can. Pinehurst (No.2) for example in Pinehurst, NC. The green fee is hefty, $339-$410. Perhaps the most famous course on the list is Pebble Beach in Northern California. The green fee there is even higher, $495-$530, but anyone who has played there will tell you it is worth it for this once-in-a-lifetime experience. One way to stomach the high price tag is to just think of it as putting $1.50 a day away in a piggy bank for one year. That’s not so hard, is it? The Stadium Course at the TPC at Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach, FL, is a bit more reasonably priced, $275-$375 per round. But this does not include the cost of all the balls most us would hit into the water on the legendary 17th Hole.

Surprisingly, not all the courses on the list are expensive to play. Circling Raven Golf Club in Worley, ID, #93 on the list, has greens fees that range from $40-$95. A true municipal course, Bethpage (Black) in Farmingdale, N.Y., another US Open venue, has extremely reasonable green fees, $50-$124. Beautiful Pinehills Golf Club in Plymouth, MA, a Jack Nicklaus designed course, can be played for a modest $65-$110.

This brings up an important point: nearly all golf courses have greens fees that vary widely by season. In the South and the West, typically fees are lower in the very hot months, and much higher during tourist season in the winter and spring. Similarly, Midwestern and Northern courses are less expensive when the weather turns chilly in the fall. Many days are still pleasant enough for golf in October and November, however, and there is the added advantage of the courses being less crowded at that time.

Famous resort courses even have relative bargains on green fees at certain times. Kapalua Resort in Kapalua, Maui, has a peak greens fee of $295, but it can be as low as $80. Even Arnold Palmer’s famous Bay Hill Club in Orlando, Florida, can be played for as low as $110, though the greens fee is as high as $225 at other times.

The other cool thing about GOLF Magazine’s list is that the courses are dispersed all over the U.S., showing us that great golf is available wherever we live. You might not think of Nebraska as a golfer’s paradise, but right there at #60 on the list is Wild Horse Golf Club in Gothenburg. And they charge an incredibly low $33-$51 per round.

Viva Las Vegas: Nevada now boasts 5 courses on the Top 100 list, most of them built in the last ten years.

So whether you want to treat yourself to a round at one of the most famous courses in the U.S., one of the premier resort destinations, or just a beautifully designed, challenging course, you can find one in your region of the country. GOLF Magazine came up with a list of 100, but in truth there are at least 500 fabulous courses available to daily fee players.