Iowa Consistency by Tom Donelson

Kirk Ferentz has become one of my favorite coaches and two decades ago, I became a Hawkeye fan.  For many Iowans, Iowa is their professional team and Saturday is their day to love their Hawkeye with tailgate parties beginning in the morning.

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Kirk Ferentz is not the greatest coach in college football but he is a good coach and Iowa understand that in Ferentz, they have a coach that fits their state and their expectation.  The reality is that most college teams are Iowa and not Alabama.  Alabama is a super team that expect to win championships and very few schools actually are truly contenders.  Most teams finish 8-4, 9-3 or maybe a few will win 10 games and make a bowl game.  Iowa is one of those teams that almost every year goes to a bowl games while winning an average of 8 games.  Since 1979, Iowa has had only two coaches, Hayden Fry and Kirk Ferentz.  Fry has won 143 games over 20 years and retired with most victories of any other head before Ferentz won his 144 victory the first game this year.   Ferentz and Iowa have been competitive since the turn of the century including winning more games than SEC power Tennessee and as many as Notre Dame.   Over the past five years, Iowa has defeated Nebraska four times and all of the victories by double digit.  Nebraska was once a leading power and when it joined the Big 10, it was presume that Nebraska would add another power team to the Big Ten. Instead, Nebraska has drifted back to the pack in a weak Big Ten West.  This year Nebraska is off to a 0-4 start and now is starting to rebuild.  Scott Frost, the new head coach and a former Nebraska star, want to rebuild Nebraska to its glory days of Tom Osborne but the question is Nebraska can actually return to its glory day or will they be a eight, nine or occasionally ten victories and occasional major bowl game and will Nebraska be satisfied with being like Iowa?

For four decades, Iowa have had two head coaches, big victories and a few bowl wins, averaging nearly 8 victories per year.  Bowl victories in the Ferentz years included victory over SEC powers such as Florida and Louisiana State, so Iowan fans have managed to enjoy their team, knowing that that at least team will have a winning record and go to a bowl game.  Iowa fans travel to bowl games and many bowl games love to have Iowa knowing the fan base shows up.

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Most college teams are like Iowa and not Alabama, teams that will have good years, a few bad and maybe magical year. Iowa in 2015 had a magical year finishing the regular season 12 -0 followed up by a pair of 8-5 records which included a victory in the Pin Stripe Bowl in 2017 along with a big upset of Ohio State 55 to 24.

Alabama fans expect their team to be in the playoffs and Clemson fans have similar expectation. Notre Dame fans for years have had similar expectation and yet since the turn of the century, Notre Dame has not been much better than Iowa and while Notre Dame have been to a final, Alabama merely crushed the Fighting Irish and this year, they are looking to be in the playoffs again. The Irish name gives the advantages when selection time comes but Iowa program has been as good as Notre Dame over the past two decades.

In the 1990’s, Tennessee was a National Champion and now they are no better than Iowa as a program.  Notre Dame was a national powerhouse but haven’t won a national title since 1988, and the meantime, Iowa has had only two coaches who led their team to success, bowl games and consistency.  Iowa has settle for consistency and sent players to the NFL, and Fry assistant coaches have become head coaches in their right including Bob Stoops, Bill Snyder and Kirk Ferentz.

The lesson for college fans is to be satisfied with what they have. Iowa has developed a successful program that has won 489 wins over the past four decades, several bowl victories and sent several of their players to the NFL.  The problem that many schools are not as satisfied with who they are as they fire coaches and start all over.  Nebraska is now in the same position as Iowa but fans will not forgive Frost if he doesn’t return Nebraska to the glory days of National titles.  Bo Pelini was fired despite averaging 9 victories and winning at 70% rate.  After getting fired beating Iowa, Nebraska Athletic Director Shawn Eichorst arrogantly responded, “We are supposed to beat Iowa.”  Last year, Eichorst got fired after Nebraska lost their third straight to Iowa, all by lopsided fashion and Nebraska was only 19-19 after Pelini was fired.  What Iowa gives their fans is consistency and stability, virtues rarely appreciated.

 

Joshua Beat Povetkin by Tom Donelson

Anthony Joshua once again showed that he may be the best heavyweight in the world as he defeated Alexandra Povetkin and it was not an easy bout as the 39 year old Povetkin nailed Joshua with a combination that open a gusher of blood from Joshua nose in the first round.  Joshua may have fought the rest of the fight with a broken nose but certainly, the blood flow from his nose hampered his breathing.

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Povetkin proved competitive through the first six rounds as he landed solid combinations and pursued Joshua through the first half of the fight as he attempted to get inside of the bigger Joshua.  I had Povetkin winning the first two rounds and the halfway mark, I had the fight even.  Throughout the sixth round, Joshua started to take command as he threw and connected on double the punches while Povetkin looked tired.

Povetkin pushed the pace but Joshua adopted to the Povetkin and fought like the taller fighter as he started to pump his jab to establish the real estate between the two. In the first round, Povetkin wobbled Joshua knees with a left uppercut and he landed numerous punches that shook Joshua up but Joshua jab started to control the fight as the fight proceeded.  Joshua proved vulnerable as Povetkin proved an able competitor but Joshua height and power proved decisive.

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Joshua understood that Povetkin could end his championship and used his jab to set up combinations.  The jabs went to the body and to the head and while defense was not perfect, he started to block many of Povetkin’s shots coming his way. By the fifth round, Joshua controlled the pace of the fight and by the end of the sixth, it was Povetkin who was wilting.

Joshua ended the fight in spectacular fashion as he landed a right hand that nearly sent Povetkin head spinning 180 degrees and after three more power shots, Povetkin went down.  Povetkin barely got back up and the referee could have easily stopped the fight but he gave the further Povetkin one more shot but it didn’t matter.  One more Joshua combination had Povetkin reeling and his corner threw in towel to surrender before any further damage was done.

Joshua did what champions are supposed to do, finish off an opponent but there were flaws but also positive development.  The flaws could be seen in the first round as he got nailed with power shots and his knees wobbled as a result.  The positive is that he adjusted and used his jab to re-establish control of the real estate between him and Povetkin who had more difficulty getting inside.

The ending came suddenly and without warning, which is what great punchers do.  One punch and the fight is over.  While Povetkin looked weary going back to his corner at the end of the sixth, he did not look in trouble. The only fighter who looked in trouble over the first half of the fight was Joshua in the opening round and Povetkin landed significant power shots.  Over the first half of the fight, Povetkin laned more than double the power shots than Joshua while Joshua landed nearly 11 times more jabs and that is where the fight was won.

With a potential Wilder-Joshua fight over the horizon in 2019, the Heavyweight division is becoming exciting once again with fighters that fans want to see. From 2004 through 2015, the Klitschko brothers dominated and most of their fights were in Europe, invisible to Americans fans and the lack of American heavyweights to challenge for the title dampened the excitement of American fan even further.

Now Deontay Wilder is challenging Joshua as the best of the heavyweights and he has a date with Tyson Fury, whose last big victory was his upset over Wladmir Klitschko and has won his two warm up fights in his comeback.  If Wilder wins, then we are set up for the first big mega fight in the heavyweight division since Lennox Lewis fought Mike Tyson back in 2002.

Joshua has the kind of appeal that fills up football stadium in Great Britain and when was the last time any American fighter filled up a Stadium.   Wilder now must get past Fury and while he is the favorite, Fury will be a tough fight for Wilder, a big fighter who is awkward, something that Klitschko found out when he fought Fury.   If Wilder beats Fury which is he favored to do, then the big fight is on.

Whit Merrifield, the Best Baseball Player You don’t Know

Whit Merrifield is the best baseball player that no one knows about and one reason is that he plays in Kansas City for one of the worst team in baseball.  Merrifield came up to the Royals in 2016 and since then, he has hit .292 including over .300 this year.  Over the past two seasons, he has hit 33 homers and stolen 70 bases plus he has played not only a very good second bases but has proven to be valuable player in the outfield.

What Merrifield has done is to combine the classic utility player, playing many positions while proving to be a solid hitter.  At the age of 29, he is in the prime of his career and presently his 36 stolen bases leads the league.  One player that he compares is to Ben Zobrist who is presently hitting .312 but a lifetime .267 hitter and Zobrist has played in two World Series for Kansas City and Chicago in 2015 and 2016.  Zobrist, like Merrifield, plays multiple positions and plays them well but so far Merrifield is the better hitter.

If Merrifield was on the New York Yankees or Boston Red Sox, he would be a household name but being in the Midwest and on a last place team in the worst baseball division, no one knows how good he truly is.  The question remains, how long does Merrifield stay a Royal? Right now he is under control until 2021 but there is always talk about trading him for multiple prospects.

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What should the Royals do?  They should keep him since he can play so many position but as a lead up batter and combined with Mondesi who has shown both power while hitting for average.  These two at the top of the lineup could the most potent one two punch. They can not only hit for power but also two of better base stealers in the game today.  That means those behind them are getting a lot of fast balls if they are on the base path, which benefits hitters down the line up and

The Royals are few years from competing but this year, younger players brought up showed potential just as Ryan O’Hearn who has hit 11 homers in less than half of the year along Hunter Dozier who added 11 homers. They still have Salvador Perez who is the game best catchers and there are young pitchers just as Brad Keller who look like they belong in the majors.

Merrifield is the best Royal player who can do about anything, hit for power and in Royal stadium that means not just homers but power to the gaps.  He is an excellent baserunner and fielder.  He is a Royal building block for the future.

 

 

 

Triple G’s vs Alvarez by Tom Donelson

The second Golovkin-Alvarez was closer than their first bout and while I won’t say that Golovkin was robbed in this fight, he better understand he will never fbeat Alvarez short of knocking him out. I had Triple G’s the winner in the first bout 115 to 113 but this bout was closer as Alvarez pushed the action and as HBO Roy Jones noted that Alvarez pushed Golovkin and that unlike any previous Golovkin fights, Alvarez stalked triple G’s.   In their first bout, Golovkin threw 200 more punches as he did in the second bout but in the first bout, he landed nearly 50 more punches than Alvarez and power punches were nearly the same.  He out punched Alvarez in 10 of the 12 rounds and this was why many were disappointed he wasn’t awarded the decision.

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In this bout, he landed twice as many jabs as he did in the first fight but Alvarez landed nearly twenty six more power shots than Golovkin and Golovkin landed more punches in 7 rounds as compared to 4 for Alvarez and one even.  The perception of Alvarez more aggressive stance gave judges the reason to award the fight to Alvarez and the closer nature of the rounds aided Alvarez in the decision.  There were rounds Alvarez won in which he landed fewer punches because he landed effective power shots.

I had the fight even and many pundits including ESPN Dan Rafael had the fight even while others had like Bleacher Reports had it 116 to 112 for Golovkin.  This fight was closer than the first one and it was Alvarez who improved and adopted from the first fight.

In the seventh and eighth round, Alvarez looked stronger and it was Triple G’s who looked exhausted as the younger Alvarez appeared to be taking command. In the tenth round, and eleventh round, it was triple G’s who dominated the actions, it was Alvarez who look to be wilting.

Both fighters gave it all they had in the final round as both fighters landed big shots but over the last half of the round, Alvarez held the advantage and I had him winning the last round.   What we saw in the last half of the bout, was both fighters showing sign of wilting only to come back.  So the big question left to answer who won and we don’t have a clear answer.  Golovkin barely won the first fight but the judges awarded a draw with one judge giving it to Alvarex 118-110 while the other two had a more reasonable score with one judge scoring it 115-113 in favor of Golovkin and the other a draw. The latter two scores were reasonable even if I disagreed with the final decision draw.  This bout was better scored as two judges had it 115-113 for Alvarez and a third had it a 114-114 draw.

The bout was that close and it could easily have been scored the other way and Golovkin given the majority decision.  What we learned is that both fighters are close to each other in talent and skill.  Alvarez has quicker hands and showed in this bout, he could adjust his strategy.  Golovkin follow the same strategy as he did in the first fight, depending upon his jabs and just as in the first fight, he connected on double the jabs.  The only difference is that Alvarez connected on more power shots and he also stood his ground more often and victory came due to his change in tactic, Alvarez moved slightly ahead in the eyes of the judges and as Roy Jones noted, Triple G’s found himself on his back foot.  So who won? I had it even but the majority of ringside has it for Golovkin but many also had it a draw. It was a tough fight to score and unless Team Alvarez decide that two fights is enough, there should be a rematch and maybe this time not in Vegas. The Barclay Center in Brooklyn will be a good place where maybe Golovkin will have a home court advantage.

Osaka Defeats Williams: An End of Era and the Beginning of Another By Tom Donelson

The youthful Naomi Osaka swept Serena Williams 6-2, 6-4 in the US Open final. This was considered an upset but maybe it was a signal that one era is over and new era is beginning.  Williams made it to her second major final in a row this year but she lost both finals in dominating fashion.  At Wimbledon, Angelique Kerber swept past Serena 6-3, 6-3 and Osaka game was no different as she was easily the better player in this match.

Serena Williams managed to finish in two straight finals but at the age of 36 years, she have exceeded the age where most Tennis players decline in their skills and rating but she managed to still be one of the best in the world returning from her pregnancy.  For Williams, it is about getting to 24 Major titles to tie her with Margaret Court, but that 24 is proving elusive.  Williams still is competitive but she is no longer the Queen of Tennis and before her pregnancy, it was often it was Serena vs. the rest of field but now she has come back to the field.

Osaka is 20 years old and she told the rest of the Tennis world that she is not just a champion but she may be ready to take over the Woman Tennis world.  Not only did she blow away Serena in the finals but before that, she blew Madison Keys off the court in semi-final.  Much of the post-match centered on Williams’ trouble with Carlos Ramos, the chair judge, who called a coaching violation on Williams for receiving coaching from her coach, Patrick Mouratoglou and later, they got into another row in which Ramos rewarded Williams a game penalty and it took attention from the Osaka’s victory.

The US Open may be known years from now as the Open that marked the end of Williams sister era and the beginning of new era in which younger players now begin their own reign led by Naomi Osaka.

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Federer at the US Open, Is This The End?

There is that moment in which an athlete ages before your very eye and you wonder, is this the end of a great career? I’ve seen this in boxing where a fighter literally ages in front of you, where punches seem slower and often misses their target when a year earlier, they connected with ease.  When Roger Federer lost to John Millman, it was more than a shock, the audience witness a great Tennis player age in front of them.

Federer won the first set with ease and appeared to be winning the second set before he got broken and then lost in the tie breaker. Throughout the final three sets in which he lost everyone, there were times that he had Millman on the rope only to let him off the hook and unable to finish off his opponent. The old Federer would have won this match in three sets against an opponent that wasn’t even ranked in the top 50 before the US Open.

On a hot and humid night, it was Millman who looked fresher as the match continued and it was Federer who looked sluggish and slow.  The Federer of old melted in front of us and the Old Federer appeared.  Maybe what made this performance shocking was that for the past two years, he had won three of the previous seven majors along with Nadal who also won three. He made it to the finals of Cincinnati, the last big ATP hard court tour before the Open, where he lost to Novak Djokovic. On this night, the heat and a determined opponent who was playing the match of his life combined to evaporate Federer skills.

Federer looked 37 and the audience watching the match were more stunned than anything and even Millman acknowledge he hit Federer at the right night, not gloating about his victory but thankful that this night, he caught a Federer on a bad night.

For many pundits it may be too early to declare Federer old and career over when one view the past two years in its totality but there are those moments, you look at athlete and wonder, when does father time nail you?

In Peyton Manning final year as a Bronco, injuries and age combined to slow a great career.  The year before, Manning completed 66% of his passes, had 39 touchdowns and only 15 interceptions but in the Bronco championship year, he threw only 9 touchdowns and had 17 interceptions and was benched for a few games in favor of Brock Osweller who took over for Manning against the Chief on November 15th. He replaced Manning for rest of the year before Manning came back in the last game to lead the Broncos to victory.

Manning won his second championship that season but he was not the reason, the Bronco defense was.  Manning at this stage of his career was no longer the catalyst for Broncos offense but left to manage the team while the defense pounded the Carolina Panthers in the Super Bowl.  In 2014, Manning was still the great Manning but by 2015, injuries and age combined to take a once great quarterback into a utility quarterback looking over his shoulder at his back up.

Federer against Millman looked like the Manning of 2015 while spending much of the past two years looking like the Manning of 2013 and 2014 that played for the Broncos. Is this the end of Federer as we know him?  Good question but the Federer that we saw at the US Open finally look like an old Federer who finally reached that point in his career where father time told him, “No Mas.”

Blog From Right to Left

By Tom Donelson

Donelson Files will feature writers from Left and Right plus everyone in between.  The Donelson Files is a podcast, that features dicussion left to right featuring Tom Donelson, long time political operative, chairman of Americas Pac and project director/research associate of Americas Majority Foundation.  Coco Konski, writer and author, represent the left.  We will feature other writers and cover a variety of issues.

Not all issues will be political since not all of life is political.  We will feature reviews of books and entertainment along with Sports to lighten the load and go beyond the political. Sometimes what we see in sports and the entertainment world reflects the political or is it the political that reflects the happenings of our culture?

The Donelson Files is on 6 pm EST Wednesday on the Batchelor Pad Radio Network and you can call in at 646-929-0130.