2014 Pulitzer Prize Winner
  • Landon Donovan can play in any league

    Mon, June 29, 2009 by David Ramsey with no comments

    Landon Donovan’s goal gave the United States a 2-0 lead over Brazil and it brought joy to living rooms all over America where soccer lovers were gathered.

    It also brought this thought to my mind:

    “This is too good to be true.”

    Wish I had been wrong, but Brazil rampaged back in the second half to take a 3-2 victory. (Brazil really scored four times, but officials missed an obvious goal by Kaka.)

    But Donovan’s goal was not completely in vain. He showed he’s ready to jump from the Los Angeles Galaxy of Major League Soccer – a minor league – to the English Premier League or Spain’s La Liga or Italy’s Serie A.

    His goal was world class. His perfect touch turned a great pass from Charlie Davies into an ideal opportunity. Brazil’s Ramirez had not a chance as Donovan danced by him and ripped a left-footed shot into the net.

    Donovan had long stood as symbol of American soccer. He’s been the poster child for the inability of the sport to flourish in the Land of the Free. His disastrous ventures into Germany’s Bundesliga seemed to prove he wasn’t  ready to compete against the world’s elite.

    But his performance at the Confederations Cup leaves no doubt that he’s – finally – ready for a bigger stage. Donovan is only 27. It’s time for him to depart our shores.

  • Happy birthday, John Elway

    Sun, June 28, 2009 by David Ramsey with no comments

    It’s John Elways’ 49th birthday, and I want to offer my best wishes along with the best wishes of my family.

    The Ramseys have long considered Elway a member of our extended clan. My mother used to call and talk about John – no last name – and it took me a few moments to figure out she was talking about John Elway instead of John Ramsey, my little brother. I grew up a five-minute drive from Mile High Stadium, and Elway’s adventures were always Ramsey adventures, too. I’m sure thousands and thousands of Front Range residents feel exactly the same way.

    His legacy – five trips to the Super Bowl, two ultimate victories, all  those wow-can-you-believe-it comebacks – just keeps growing because the Broncos just keep shrinking. The Elway era will always be the best – the most successful, the most thrilling – era of Broncos football. Sorry, but he’s marched into the sunset, and he’s not coming back.

    One other thought:

    Elway is 49. He’s in decent shape. I’m sure the arm remains powerful.

    I think he could start for the Broncos in 2009. Of course, that’s faint praise. Kyle Orton and Chris Simms offer the only competition.

  • Carmelo Anthony

    Thu, June 25, 2009 by David Ramsey with no comments

    We now see the mature version of Carmelo Anthony. He’s in his prime. He’s at – or very near – his peak. The next half-dozen seasons should be the finest of his career.

    Anthony proved last season he’s not a lost loser. He did a superb job of stepping to the side and sharing the spotlight with Chauncey Billups. He showed he’s more interested in winning than scoring. He’s even become a decent defender.

    But he’s not on the same level as LeBron James, Dwyane Wade or Kobe Bryant. He’s not blessed with superhero-like powers. He’s one of the NBA’s top dozen players in the present tense, but James, Wade and Bryant have a chance to rank among the NBA’s best dozen players of all  time. Anthony can’t soar quite as high as the NBA’s top trio.

    I believe that’s good news.

    When James and his Cavaliers ran into the Orlando Magic, they fell apart. The Cavs stood around and waited for King James to rescue them. This wasn’t a team performance. It was a star performance. Basketball is most entertaining when a team is humming along with all five players playing a crucial role. That’s how the Nuggets played this season.

    And that’s how the Nuggets will play during the remaining days of the Billups era. Working together, Anthony and Billups have a real chance to seize an NBA title, perhaps as soon as next season.

    Will Anthony ever reach James’ level as a star?

    No.

    Will he wear a title ring before James?

    Yes., I think he will.

    And, please, don’t even bring up Shaq’s arrival in Cleveland. Shaq was a freakish force in the NBA … three years ago. Now, he’s an ancient, over-the-hill warrior who delivers an instant slow-down effect to a team’s attack.  “Rent-a-Shaq,” a phrase coined by Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnarowski, was a disaster in Phoenix. Expect a repeat disaster in Cleveland.

  • Ricky Rubio mania

    Tue, June 23, 2009 by David Ramsey with 3 comments

    Ricky Rubio, a teen-age guard from Spain, might go as high as the second pick in the upcoming NBA draft. Those who admire Rubio, and they are legion, talk about his vast potential. He’s often mentioned as the second coming of Pete Maravich. Never mind that Maravich is the most overrated player ever. (Maravich was a great showman, one of history’s greatest. He was not a great player. Being a great showman often gets in the way of being a great player.)

    I believe Rubio will become a decent NBA point guard. I believe what we’re seeing now will not be much different than what we will see tomorrow. I saw Rubio play last summer at the Beijing Olympics. Many of my friends saw a future superstar. I saw a nice young player.

  • A kick in the …

    Thu, June 18, 2009 by David Ramsey with no comments

    Hear that crash? Don’t worry. It’s only the United States men’s soccer team.

    Our American soccer brethren have been humiliated at the Confederation Cup in South Africa. This is a warmup for next summer’s World Cup.

    Brazil thumped the U.S., 3-0, Thursday morning. The rout follows a 3-1 defeat to Italy.

    After the Brazil debacle, American goalkeeper Tim Howard offered up the ultimate sports cliche. The Brazilians, Howard said, were Goliath and the Americans were David.

    In other words, the American required an act of God to have a chance at victory.

    Not long ago, it looked as if America was ready to sneak into the ranks of the world’s elite. The United States traveled to the quarterfinals of the 2002 World Cup, and came achingly close to the semis. It took one of history’s greatest goalkeeping performances by Germany’s Oliver Kahn to deny the Americans.

    And in 2006, the United States marched into the World Cup ranked as the world’s No. 5 team.

    Nobody was calling the Americans David back then.

  • Fire McDaniels – already?

    Sun, June 14, 2009 by David Ramsey with 2 comments

    Was walking through the Coors Field parking  lot and saw a bumper sticker that shook me up.

    “Fire McDaniels,” the orange stick read.

    Really? Already?

    Josh McDaniels has yet to coach a game for the Denver Broncos.

    “Fire McDaniels.”

    Wow.

  • Hans Mueh and spirited conversations

    Sat, June 13, 2009 by David Ramsey with 7 comments

    Was recently sitting in Hans Mueh’s office, enjoying a spirited conversation about sports journalism.

    Mueh, Air Force Academy’s athletic director, is often irritated by what he considers overly confrontational coverage by The Gazette’s sports department. Mueh is not a master of understatement. He refers to this coverage as “eating the young.”

    I want to emphasize this was an enjoyable, valuable, respectful exchange of ideas. I enjoy nearly every conversation with Mueh. We’re both soccer fans. And it remains a kick to talk with an AD who has a doctorate in chemistry.

    When I told Mueh I don’t root against AFA’s teams, he spoke quickly.

    “You should write that,” he said. “Let people know.”

    So here goes:

    I don’t root against any team I cover. I never have.

    Recently, I took heat for predicting the Nuggets would lose to the Lakers in the Western Conference finals. Several callers and e-mailers wondered why I had turned against their favorite team.

    I would have loved to be proven wrong. If I had been wrong, I’d currently be covering the NBA Finals.

    The self-interest doesn’t stop there. Covering a winning team is a much better gig than covering a losing team. There’s more interest from our readership. There are more,  and better, story angles. Coaches are happier, more talkative. Players are glad to see you. No sports journalist in his or her right mind wishes to cover a loser.

    I often get e-mails and calls from fans who say, often with great emotion, that I “should” support  the home team. That’s what our hometown sports writer  “should” do, they say.

    And I recognize and respect their point-of-view.

    But what about other caller and e-mailers who believe I “should” be tougher on the home team? These readers believe The Gazette “should” stay away from any kind  of protection of local teams. Expose all the flaws,  these readers demand. And expose these flaws right now.

    I get e-mails and calls from men and women who think I’m too soft on Colorado College’s Scott Owens and Air Force’s Jeff Reynolds and the Nuggets’ George Karl and, yes, Dr. Mueh of the Air Force Academy.

    So, some readers think we’re too tough and too heartless. Other readers think we’re hopelessly soft.

    I believe you can see there’s no way to completely win. At times – at many times - The Gazette takes a look at the softer side of sports. There is – and there always will be – stories from sport that inspire smiles, that reveal how an athlete conquered great odds, that reveal once again why we love sport.

    But that’s only one side of sport.

    If a team delivers a pitiful performance, I believe you have to say a team delivered a pitiful performance. Ignoring the obvious isn’t just a poor way to approach sports journalism, it’s a poor way to approach life. Sure, there are a few fans out there who want to hear happy talk about their teams, but those fans are in the minority.

    My father was one of the world’s most devout Frank Sinatra fans. When I was a kid,  dad had dozens of Frank’s vinyl records.  Later, he owned dozens of Frank’s CDs. He listened to Sinatra, one of America’s greatest artists, for decades.

    But when dad was plopped  in his easy chair listening to Frank, he often had a look of disgust.

    “Can’t stand this song,” he said before zapping his way to the next tune.

    My dad had a simple explanation of real fandom.

    He adored  Frank when he was great.

    He despised Frank when he lowered himself to bad songs.

    A real fan, dad said, is also a real critic.

    Sometimes we’re harsh. I would argue that’s because sometimes we need to be harsh.

    Often – very often – we’re positive. Even during this long,  long AFA basketball  season, encouraging words were offered. It wasn’t – and don’t let anyone from AFA mislead you – all negative, all the time. It never is.

    I take criticism from readers seriously. I read each e-mail, listen to every phone call and try to consider the critic’s and the supporter’s point-of-view.

    But I can’t please everyone. And I “should” not even try.

    As always, I’m interested in your view.

  • The sports world shakes. The United States barely notices

    Thu, June 11, 2009 by David Ramsey with no comments

    It was the biggest sports news of the week, maybe of the month. It inspired the British prime minister to comment. He needed to soothe the shaken spirits of his countrymen.

    It caused barely a blip in the United States.

    Cristiano Ronaldo, the magnificent, madly-in-love-with-self soccer superstar, was sold from Manchester United to Real Madrid. If that sounds a little like slavery, sorry, but it’s accurate.

    But Ronaldo wanted to go. He was weary of life in England. He wanted a new challenge. Manchester fans and teammates had grown weary of his act, which includes precious little passing.

    The price tag is staggering. And the world’s balance of soccer power appears to be shifting.

    A year ago, Manchester United reigned as the world’s best team and the English Premier League was clearly the world’s finest.

    This year, Barcelona dominated Man. U in the Champions League final. Barcelona silenced Ronaldo. And now Real Madrid is looking to pass Barcelona as the world’s top team. Real already had signed Brazilian superstar Kaka. Now Real has Ronaldo and is closing in on David Villa, another La Liga (the Spanish league) star.

    In England, people are worried. One of the world’s top two or three  players has fled to Spain. The English love their soccer, which they refer to, understandably enough, as football.

    Prime Minister Gordon Brown took time from his hectic schedule to address the crisis.  His words carried a Churchillian air.

    We will survive, Brown assured the people of England.

    Manchester United and the English Premier League, Brown said, will “emerge not weaker, but emerge in a new way and probably stronger.”

    He needed to speak. His nation was stunned. The sports world was quaking.

    Well, everywhere but the United States.

  • Courtney Lee’s tough 10 seconds

    Tue, June 9, 2009 by David Ramsey with no comments

    Courtney Lee is basketball’s new villain. To some eyes, he missed two easy shots in the final 10 seconds of the Magic’s loss to the Lakers in Game 2 of the NBA Finals.

    Los Angeles Times columnist T.J. Simers goes  so far as to call Lee “the choker” over and  over.

    http://www.latimes.com/sports/la-sp-simers-lakers8-2009jun08,0,7963292.column

     I don’t agree. Lee made a nice move with 10 seconds left, scooted into the lane, launched a shot and missed.

    There’s a reason. Lee was fouled by Lamar Odom. He should have gone to the line.

    Then, with less than a second left and the game tied, Hedo Tukoglu lofted a perfect pass to Lee under the basket. Lee was on a dead run. He had a good  look at the basket.

    “It was a great pass,” said Magic coach Stan Van Gundy,  the NBA’s most irritating man. “It was right there. And he missed it.”

    Thanks, coach, for throwing your player under the bus.

    It was not an easy shot. The Lakers Pau Gasol was lurking. Lee was running out of room  as he approached the baseline. Even if Lee didn’t have a game resting in his hands, it would have been a tough chance.

    Yes, Lee missed.

    But is he a choker?

    Come on.

    Not even close.

  • Thomas Aquinas and auto racing

    Sat, June 6, 2009 by David Ramsey with no comments

    Most sports writers – including this one – are fans of sports writing. We spend more time than is healthy reading the works of other sports writers. I’ve been writing sports – off and on,  but mostly on – since 1981, but still get a jolt when reading  strong work from my colleagues.

    Just returned from a couple days in Santa Fe. I try to stay in touch with my feminine side, but I’m not in touch enough to fully appreciate Santa Fe, which is the most feminine-friendly destination I’ve ever seen.

    Anyway, during the days I spent there following my wife from shop to shop, I ran into this column:

    http://www.santafenewmexican.com/Sports/Cheating-comes-with-a-cost

    It’s a strong read, which takes a cutting look  at the idea of winning at any cost. And it’s the only sports column I’ve ever read that takes the ideas of Thomas  Aquinas into the sports arena.