Greason: Manning, Mets and more: a final Sports Authority
Elizabeth Greason | Wednesday, May 1, 2019
My Sports Authority columns are usually pretty predictable. They’re almost always about one of four things: the New York Mets, the New York Giants, golf or women’s basketball. And since this column is my final one for The Observer, I would be remiss to not write about one of those topics — they’re not my go-to topics because I don’t know about anything else. They’re my go-to topics because they’re what I truly care about most deeply in the sports world. So, without further ado, here’s a tasting menu of an Elizabeth Greason Sports Authority.
The New York Mets — Pete Alonso
Where did this guy come from? The Polar Bear has just exploded in his first month in the Majors. He’s got nine home runs and 25 RBIs and has already proven that he can come through when it matters. He, along with Robinson Canó and Jeff McNeil have provided fresh life to the batting order and truly added meat to the heart of the roster. Where there were question marks before, led by Alonso, the Mets now find threats to opponents. I don’t want to speak too soon — Canó is doing a brief stint on the bench with an injured hand and Mets players are infamous for peaking early in the season. However, at the moment, one month in, Pistol Pete and his gang of infielders are bringing life to an offense that could be characterized as sluggish on a good day last season.
The New York Giants — The NFL Draft
My colleague Tobias Hoonhout stole this topic out from under me Tuesday with his final Sports Authority, but I still have thoughts. What were the Giants thinking? Sure, maybe Duke quarterback Daniel Jones will mature with a year or two on the bench under the world’s greatest in the position, Eli Manning. Maybe he’ll surprise everyone and Dave Gettleman was right all along. But here’s the thing. Jones wasn’t going anywhere. The Giants had not one, not two, but three first-round picks. They could have used that No. 6 pick on literally anyone else.
Which leads me to think they picked Jones that high just to make a point. A point that they just didn’t want Dwayne Haskins, for whatever reason.
But the Giants’ 2019 Draft just gets worse from there. They went on to draft Dexter Lawrence out of Clemson with their second pick in the first round. On paper, that’s a great pick. But here’s the thing. The Giants did not need a defensive tackle. There are so many more spots that needed filling at a much higher priority than that spot on the line. Let’s find a functional O-line first, maybe. Or fill the void Landon Collins’ departure leaves. But the Clemson big man should not have been a No. 17-pick priority.
Things looked up with Deandre Baker and then, of course, Julian Love ended up in New York, so that’s lovely. But then it all fell apart when the Giants’ Round 6 pick, Corey Ballentine, got shot and ended up in the hospital the night he was drafted.
So, all in all, Eli fans are feeling good about the prospects of the 38-year-old getting at least another year under center in blue. But overall, there are a lot of questions about what Gettleman has got up his sleeve next.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve likely seen that Tiger Woods is back. Two-and-a-half years ago, I wrote a column in which I said Woods was back, but not better than ever. However, I did say that, given time, Woods could win another green jacket if he could stay healthy (prophetic, I know). Well Woods has done just that, roaring back to prominence as he took home another green jacket with his fifth Masters victory and his first Major victory in 11 years (his first since defeating Rocco Mediate in a Monday 18-hole playoff on a torn ACL in the U.S. Open).
Woods’ return to the winner’s circle ushers in a new era for golf. One where we can talk about Tiger again without looking ashamed for hoping his name might appear near the top of the leaderboard, because now he has proven on the most important of stages that it can get there and stay there. However this new era is not all about Woods. Because if we look behind his name on the 2019 Masters leaderboard, there are some new faces — some faces that have been hanging around for a few years but who are just starting to make names for themselves. So, while Tiger is ringing in his own new era, he is also welcoming in the new generation: the Xander Schauffeles, Tony Finaus and Patrick Cantleys of the world. So while Jordan Spieth tries to figure out how to putt again for the second season in a row and Rory McIlroy tries to play better on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, I’m looking forward to watching Tiger out there with the new guys, occasionally fending off an advance from a familiar face.
Women’s basketball — The WNBA and CBS
I would say that unless you’ve been living under a rock you should have seen this too, but I think that might be putting too much faith in the ascent the game of women’s basketball has made over the past few years in the public eye. So I’ll fill you in: CBS Sports Network will broadcast 40 WNBA games beginning in May. The league also has a deal to show 16 regular-season games on ESPN, with three on ABC.
Last season, regular-season viewership increased by 36% for the WNBA. Why? I honestly can’t tell you. Because that’s a pretty big jump. Maybe it’s because Las Vegas got a team and suddenly everyone in Nevada tuned in to every game. But somehow I don’t think so. I think that the WNBA’s meteoric rise in the ratings is simply due to a very long, hard-fought battle on the court.
Honestly, maybe it’s because, once again, a team that was not from Connecticut took home the national title. And that’s not just me hating on UConn one last time in print. The “Is UConn bad for women’s basketball?” argument finally had to come to an end last season, no matter which side of it you fell on, when the Huskies didn’t even have the chance to play for the national title.
And let’s not forget, they didn’t get the chance to do so after one of the most viewed sports moments of the year and after one of the most memorable shots I’ve ever seen — a shot by Arike Ogunbowale that was repeated to win the NCAA tournament two nights later. A shot that got people who don’t even care about sports, period, to care just a little bit about women’s basketball for a moment, and people who wouldn’t be caught dead watching basketball that doesn’t revolve around the dunk to take note of the fact that, hey, these ladies can actually play as well.
So while the 2018 Final Four certainly was not the only factor, it definitely didn’t hurt going into the WNBA season. And another incredible 2019 Final Four will ideally have the same effect on the WNBA, especially with the talent being funneled into the league this year and the broadcasts being significantly more readily available throughout the season.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.