The Red Sox Big Fail
Has the U.S. Open Become a Hipster Hot Spot?
It’s Not Easy Being a Kicker
As NFL Offenses Continue to Throw More, Offensive Linemen Become Key Players
(NEW YORK – September 5, 2012) – Too often forgotten in the NFL concussion debate are the wives and girlfriends who bear the burden of caring for the suffering players—and watching the men they love slip away. Three of these women, Laurie Navon (girlfriend of former QB Jim McMahon), Mary Lee Kocourek (wife of former TE Dave Kocourek) and Mary Ann Easterling (widow of former safety Ray Easterling) share their personal stories with staff writer Melissa Segura (@MelissaSeguraSI). Navon and McMahon appear on the cover of the Sept. 10, 2012, issue of Sports Illustrated, on newsstands now.
Navon met McMahon, who has early-onset dementia, at a golf outing seven years ago. But the man she knows now is not the charismatic, sweet, funny, confident man she met that day. She began to notice a difference in McMahon’s behavior in early 2007, and since tests confirmed his dementia, she has done everything to make adjustments in both their lives.
Navon and McMahon are confronting the disease at the beginning of its development, while Mary Lee and Dave Kocourek are suffering through its final stages. Dave was a four-time Pro Bowl tight end in the 1960s, and in 2002, at age 64, he learned he had dementia. It’s been a rough road since around ’05. Mary says, “When you see a man that was so big and so strong and so nice and gentle, and he doesn’t know the difference between a toothbrush and a razor. He could have cut his mouth wide-open. After [he] got progressively worse, I had to watch everything he did. I couldn’t let him take a shower or do any of the things you need to do every morning without me being there. I couldn’t chance it.”
To download a hi-res JPEG of this week’s cover click here
On the Tablets: Podcast with Richard Deitsch and Melissa Segura
THE FALL OF THE RED SOX – TOM VERDUCCI
On Aug. 31, 2011, the Red Sox had the best record in the American League, stability in the dugout and front office. They were baseball’s model franchise. Since then, they have a record of 69—93, have fired a manager, and lost a general manager. Eight key players are not on the roster anymore due to trades, free agency and retirement. Senior writer Tom Verducci investigates what went wrong and how Boston plans to fix it (page 38).
Current manager Bobby Valentine has been blamed for many of this season’s problems. One baseball executive said, “The problem when you have a manager like Bobby is that you’re always refereeing if the players don’t like the manager. That gets old. And when some people aren’t happy, they go around and get other people to be unhappy.”
The Red Sox appear on a regional cover of Sports Illustrated, which you can download here
BIGGER, RICHER, CALMER, COOLER – S.L. PRICE
The U.S. Open has long been pro tennis’s leading indicator, showing better than any other Grand Slam event where the sport will go next. What the U.S. Open has shown in recent years is that the raw era of tennis—when fans were emotional enough to brawl in the stands—has been pushed aside in favor of a tamer, celebrity-driven sport where spectators sip $12 mojitos in the grandstand and Donald Trump enjoys a match from his private suite. CBS commentator and former tennis player Mary Carillo said, “For me, what started out as a game became a sport, and now it’s a business. I’m not naive: I’m wistful. And it’s not just this place that has become corporate. The players have too. They’re brands—the Federer brand, the Sharapova brand” (page 53).
The tournament, however, it is still the most thrilling fortnight in sports. Andy Roddick’s announcement that this Open would be his last tournament helped restore some of the crowd-driven energy that fueled players such as Jimmy Connors and John McEnroe. After winning his fourth-round match against Fabio Fognini on Sunday, Roddick thanked the crowd for propelling him to victory: “I love this place, and I love you, and I’m having a blast. I’m going to give my all here.”
On the Tablets: Slideshow from the Open.
Although many football kickers have made big plays, the big misses are what stick with them. Jeremy Ito, a former Rutgers kicker, said, “It’s kind of unfair. The good feelings you get from making one don’t outweigh the bad feelings you get from missing one” (page 54).
Their do-or-die life has forged a bond among kickers. Dan Mowrey, who missed a famous field goal while kicking for Florida State against Miami in ‘91, tutors other kickers and even counseled former Boise State kicker Kyle Brotzman after two crucial misses in 2010 kept Boise State from making the BCS championship game. Mowrey wrote Brotzman a letter, “I told him that one kick doesn’t define who you are. And I think I also told him that sometimes, you just have to say, F— it.”
On the Tablets: A look at six tough kicker misses throughout the years.
As today’s pass-oriented offenses become more intricate and fast-paced, the lineman’s role gets more challenging. Drew Brees, Tom Brady and Matthew Stafford can’t throw for 5,000 yards if the men in front of them aren’t providing enough time. Cam Newton won’t run his way into the record books if his linemen aren’t holding their blocks downfield. Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III and other rookie starters will have no hope of finding a rhythm if they’re under constant pressure. More than ever, players who typically toil in obscurity—tackles, guards and centers—will be critical to a team’s success or failure in the 2012 season (page 44).
MLB PLAYERS POLL
Who is the most underrated manager in baseball?
Joe Maddon, Rays 22%
Kirk Gibson, Diamondbacks 9%
Bud Black, Padres 7%
Bruce Bochy, Giants 6%
Ron Gardenhire, Twins 6%
[Based on 271 MLB players who responded to SI’s survey]
FAST FACTS: With 5% of the vote, the Rangers’ Ron Washington finished sixth—the same ranking he received in answer to the question, Who is the most overrated manager in baseball? (Ozzie Guillen of the Marlins was No. 1.) . . . Of Maddon’s 60 votes, 39 came from within the American League. In a similar poll on Facebook, SI readers also picked Maddon, who got 30% of their votes.
There’s little to gain from seeing an NFL game in person anymore. The NFL Sunday Ticket delivers every out-of-market league game to your couch, and the Red Zone Channel, which debuted on DirecTV in ’05, screens every league play when an offense advances inside its opponent’s 20-yard line. The experience at the game can lack comfort and isn’t always as viewing friendly as it is at home, but teams and stadiums are beginning to make some adjustments (page 19).
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell is aware of this, saying “We have made the point repeatedly that the experience at home is outstanding. And we have to compete with that in some fashion by making sure we create the same kind of environment in our stadiums and use the same kind of technology.”
Senior writer Phil Taylor wonders what it would be like if sports figures actually said what they truly thought—like Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen—and didn’t craft their language to sound politically correct. (page 68).
THIS WEEK’S FACES IN THE CROWD (COACHES EDITION)
- Kathy Jenkins (Alexandria, Va./St. Stephen’s & St. Agnes School) – Lacrosse
- Mike Simons (Galloway Township, N.J./Cedar Creek High) – Rowing
- Marcia Pinder (Fort Lauderdale/Dillard High) – Basketball
- Steve Kuster (Williamstown, Mass./Williams College) – Swimming
- Stella Sampras Webster (El Segundo, Calif./UCLA) – Tennis
- Chris Puckett (San Clemente, Calif./San Clemente High) – Baseball
- Cameron Shelley (San Clemente, Calif./San Clemente High) – Baseball
To submit a candidate for Faces in the Crowd, go to SI.com/faces. Follow on Twitter @SI_Faces
INSIDE THE WEEK IN SPORTS
- College Football (page 30): Cupcake Wars – With a four-team playoff on the horizon and strength of schedule being a key criterion for who makes the playoffs, programs across the country need to schedule tougher out-of-conference games. (@andy_staples)
- NASCAR (page 34): Chasing Glory – With one race left in the Sprint Cup regular season, five drivers have a chance to lock up the final spot for the postseason chase. (@LarsAndersonSI)
- MLB (page 34): The New Efficiency – The AL wild card has never been won by a team that scored fewer than 700 runs in a season, things could change this season as three teams in the hunt are on pace to score under 700 runs. (@joe_sheehan)
- Boxing (page 36): The Case for… Andre Ward – As Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao get older, Andre Ward is ready to be the next big name in the sport of boxing. (@chrismannixsi)