From the Sidelines

Published 12:00 am Saturday, August 21, 1999

MICHAEL KIRAL / L’Observateur / August 21, 1999

Thoughts to ponder while making that long trip home from LaCrosse…The Saints gave up its entire draft and 68 million dollars for that? Just kidding. Actually, Ricky Williams looked quite good before going out withan injury against Miami.

And the play calling was excellent when he was in there (Excellent play calling, Saints? And you thought those words were mutually exclusive.)Well, excellent except for that screen that got Williams run over by a truck named Derrick Rodgers.

So what if Williams misses the preseason home opener tonight against Indianapolis? It’s just that, preseason, and Williams looks like he will have a real impact once the games really count. Now, if something can bedone about the offensive line… Speaking of offensive lines, if anything does LSU’s season in this year, it could be just that. The three-way battle at quarterback, the droplinebacker situation, the woes of the kicking game, all will not mean a hill of beans if the offensive line allows defenders in the backfield more times than Rondell Mealey is back there.

Remember, it was offensive line problems that contributed to a 4-7 season in 1989, the first of six straight losing seasons for the Tigers. Andfor all the talk about the defense and the kicking game, it was mistakes in the line that costs the Tigers at least one game last year.

Regarding my column after the British Open about Tiger Woods not being able to seal the deal in majors lately, I was, um, misquoted (yeah, that’s it). Woods’ performance down the stretch at the PGA Championship thisweekend was one of the guttiest of the year.

The shot that best typified Wood’s strength of character was his shot from the greenside rough on 17 when he was holding onto a one-shot lead over Sergio Garcia. Woods made the par putt from eight feet and was onhis way to the championship.

Oh, and please, enough about the rivalry between Woods and Garcia already.

Wasn’t it Woods-David Duval just a couple of weeks ago? And Woods-Els before that? You cannot manufacture rivalries in golf (no matter how many prime-time, made-for-television matchups you create.) Speaking of golf, American Ryder Cup captain Ben Crenshaw made two excellent choices in selecting Tom Lehman and Steve Pate to the team.

There are few better grinders on the PGA Tour than Lehman and Pate proved at the World Match Play Championships that he is one of the best around in that style of play.

But don’t think for even a milli-second that the United States will have an easy time bringing the Cup back home. Remember, it’s the Europeans thathave won it the last three times and they will be in no mood to hand it over without a fight.

Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa going head to head last week in the home run chase, each hitting three apiece in the series. Where have I heard thatbefore? Hey, Jeff, welcome back. Gordon set a NASCAR record in winning at theWatkins Glen Invitational, putting to rest all those “Whatever happened to Jeff Gordon” comments.

A fond farewell to Steffi Graf as she heads off into retirement. “FrauleinForehand” gave the sport of tennis (and all sports for that matter) something that it sometimes lacks – class. She was a true champion onand off the court.

Speaking of true champions, Pee Wee Reese was definitely one.

The scene of him putting his arm around Jackie Robinson’s shoulder when Robinson was being heckled in Cincinnati should be framed for all time. Hewas indeed a true “Boy of Summer” and will be missed by baseball.

If word about how the Florida State defense has been playing in practice is true, picking the Seminoles No. 1 may be a “Nole-brainer” by the timethe Sugar Bowl rolls around. But watch out for Tennessee, Penn State andyes, Nebraska.

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