I iger still call­ing shots on his way out

The New Zealand Herald - - SPORT -

sixs s e ntn 0 0 n asa In 1987, Peru suf­fered one of foot­ball’s great­est dis­as­ters when a plane char­tered by the Alianza Lima club crashed into the Pa­cific Ocean, killing 43 play­ers, cheer­lead­ers, staff away each and ev­ery per­sonal query, say­ing he was there as Steve Stricker’s as­sis­tant and this was only about the team. Not now.

In a cliffhanger which had us all on the edge of our seats, Woods ad­mit­ted he might never play golf again.

“Def­i­nitely”, he replied when asked if he could en­vis­age his golf-less sce­nario. Was this the be­gin­ning of the end, should we prime the grand good­byes?

Rory McIl­roy seemed minded to, tak­ing time out to give an emo­tional mono­logue.

“If this is it, he doesn’t have any­thing and crew mem­bers. The 38-year-old Cu­bil­las came out of re­tire­ment to help the club get through the tragedy. The tragedy di­rectly af­fects the 2017 team. The un­cle of star striker Paolo Guer­rero died in the 1987 crash, and Guer­rero’s fear of fly­ing is said to be linked to that. The 33-year-old Guer­rero has scored a Peru record 33 goals in 86 ap­pear­ances, in­clud­ing five from seven this year. Guer­rero, who plays for Brazil­ian club Fla­mengo, is re­garded as Peru’s only world recog­nised player. Apart from scor­ing goals, he is a strong tar­get man who holds up the ball. But his role changes be­cause Gareca has fluid tac­tics which change markedly from match to match. Other key play­ers in­clude 25-year-old at­tack­ing mid­fielder Chris­tian Cueva, who plays for Brazil­ian club Sao Paulo. The diminu­tive Cueva, who can also play on the wing, has been dubbed the “Wiz­ard of Sao Paulo” and was re­port­edly tar­geted by Tot­ten­ham Hot­spur last year. Feyeno­ord mid­fielder Rento Tapia is the team’s an­chor. He is re­garded as a tough, hard-work­ing player. Close to half the team play in the weak Peru league. The rest are spread around leagues in Eng­land (mid­fielder An­dre Car­illo plays for well-per­form­ing Premier League club Wat­ford), Mex­ico, Brazil, Ecuador, Holland, the United States, Canada and Den­mark, where star wing-mid­fielder Edi­son Flores is based. to prove to any­one — not to me, not to us, not to him­self,” McIl­roy said. “He can walk away with his head held high.”

The im­mor­tal pedestal thus was duly be­ing erected.

But then, in the next in­stal­ment, the big tease re­leased a video to so­cial me­dia of him play­ing what sus­pi­ciously looked like proper golf.

Along­side the 24-sec­ond clip came the tag-line — “Smooth iron shots”. Show, don’t tell, re­mem­ber. On Tues­day, he took it up another notch. He was al­ways go­ing to be at the Tiger Woods In­vi­ta­tional, to be among the Peru play in the Es­ta­dio Na­cional de Lima, which has a ca­pac­ity of 40,000-plus and is only 137 me­tres above sea level. Its most re­cent ren­o­va­tion was com­pleted in 2011. It was the scene of another dread­ful tragedy in 1964, when more than 300 peo­ple died and 4000 were in­jured due to a riot and vi­cious po­lice re­sponse af­ter a Peru goal was dis­al­lowed against Ar­gentina. This has been called the world’s worst sta­dium dis­as­ter. Peru play in one of foot­ball’s most en­chant­ing strips — white with a broad red sash. Amer­i­can mag­a­zine

de­scribed it as “the best World Cup uni­form of all time . . . sim­ple, el­e­gant, time­less, re­gal, pol­ished, sashed.” mil­lion­aire am­a­teurs who have paid ridicu­lous amounts for three days at Peb­ble Beach, but just a few weeks ago, it would have seemed im­plau­si­ble that he would be con­duct­ing a clinic there. But there he is, on another posted clip, in front of ador­ing bankers and lawyers hit­ting more full shots.

Granted, the mo­tion ap­pears a bit “snatchy”, a lit­tle ten­ta­tive, but he cer­tainly looks ca­pa­ble.

What does it mean? Is he close to com­ing back? Could we even see him again this year, per­haps at his own 18-man event in the Ba­hamas at the end of next month? The en­try list shows us that one space re­mains un­filled.

Why does he still cap­ti­vate us so? Why, with the emer­gence of so many young, fear­less play­ers, do we keep go­ing back to this rapidly age­ing 41-year-old with­out a win in four years and a ma­jor in eight?

It can only be be­cause he is the su­per­star of our life­time and no, we just can­not let go. Not un­til we know how the great­est golf story ever told con­cludes and the cred­its roll to their pi­ti­ful clo­sure. For con­sis­tently be­ing hope­less, few sports teams can match Cleve­land’s NFL fran­chise.

Which is the most re­mark­able NFL fran­chise of the modern era? Which team has de­fied the draft and salary cap sys­tems to achieve an un­matched con­sis­tency of re­sults?

Those with a pass­ing of knowl­edge of Amer­i­can foot­ball would vol­un­teer the New Eng­land Pa­tri­ots, win­ners of five Su­per Bowls in 15 years, but they would be wrong.

Even the seven con­fer­ence and 14 di­vi­sion ti­tles that the Bill Belichick­Tom Brady era has brought to Bos­ton is sur­passed by the re­li­able, rank aw­ful­ness of the Cleve­land Browns.

So far this sea­son, the Browns have lost all five of their matches fol­low­ing on from the pre­vi­ous cam­paign in which they fin­ished 1-15. This is far from a blip. In the past 18 sea­sons, they have reg­is­tered just two win­ning sea­sons, re­sult­ing in a sin­gle, short-lived trip to the playoffs in 2002.

It is a pedi­gree that al­lows the Browns to lay con­sid­er­able claim to be the worst or at least most dys­func­tional sport­ing team on the planet. Sup­port­ers of Leeds United, Sun­der­land and many other teams may raise their hands at this point, but what makes the Browns’ achieve­ments (or lack thereof) all the more im­pres­sive is that the NFL sys­tem is de­signed to pre­vent re­cur­ring fail­ure.

The team fin­ish­ing with the worst record get the first pick of the best col­lege play­ers. Fur­ther­more, strug­gling fran­chises should ben­e­fit from the bet­ter teams strug­gling to keep all their star as­sets within the salary cap. Hence, a cou­ple of poor sea­sons of­ten al­low a side to re­build and re­bound.

And yet the Browns re­main stub­bornly im­per­vi­ous to all such safe­guards. Their his­tory of ter­ri­ble draft choices has ac­quired its own mythol­ogy within NFL cir­cles. The ques­tion is why the Browns are so ter­ri­ble. There are many books ex­plain­ing how head coach Belichick — iron­i­cally sacked by the Browns in 1996 — built a dy­nasty in New Eng­land: War Room, The Blue­print and Pa­triot Reign to name but three, yet there ap­pear to be none ex­am­in­ing the sys­temic fail­ure of the Browns.

Of course, suc­cess is a far more at­trac­tive propo­si­tion to re­search and write about, but surely the lessons of how not to do it are just as im­por­tant. Af­ter all, the Browns also em­ploy many of the same strate­gies as tro­phy­win­ning teams.

Their in­ter­nal motto is Trust the Process (which seems like a sick joke) while their owner Jimmy Haslam last year ap­pointed Paul DePodesta, one of the found­ing fa­thers of base­ball’s money­ball phi­los­o­phy. None of it has made the slight­est dif­fer­ence.

So where do we start? Se­lect­ing draft picks is an in­ex­act science, but the Browns have de­vel­oped a bat-like radar to seek out the busts among all the fu­ture su­per­stars.

The in­sta­bil­ity at quar­ter­back is re­flected by a carousel of coaches and gen­eral man­agers. Yet both these is­sues are hardly unique to Cleve­land.

For a while, the most ra­tio­nal ex­pla­na­tion seemed to be that the city of Cleve­land was cursed. The Browns’ woes were re­flected by the Cava­liers in bas­ket­ball and the In­di­ans in base­ball. None had won a ma­jor cham­pi­onship since 1964. But then LeBron James re­turned and the Cavs won the 2016 NBA Cham­pi­onships, while the In­di­ans last month set a MLB record of 22 con­sec­u­tive wins. Like a sphinx, the Browns keep their flaws a se­cret.

For most sports teams, the real goal at the start of any sea­son is not to win a ti­tle but to avoid ab­ject fail­ure. In this re­spect, the Browns are a much more valu­able case study than the Pa­tri­ots.

— Tele­graph Me­dia Group

Picture / AP

Paolo Guer­rero, Peru’s record top scorer with 33 goals in 86 games, has a fear of fly­ing af­ter his un­cle died in a 1987 plane crash.

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