Sunday, January 10, 2010

No Proof Needed, Odds on Favorites - Bet on It!

I’m calling it now, with the return of Ron Furious to sports blogging , the Furious Wedge is easily the favorite to be the best blog of 2010; all the other blogs out there ought to just start preparing themselves to compete for second place.

I mean we’re talking about the guy who once incited the rage of Brewers fans for calling them good; and made the great suggestion for the 24 Hours of Daytona to include Jack Bauer; he’ll never be stopped; all the other blogs who reigned in his early retirement just won’t be able to handle the higher level that his game is at.
Ok I might be joking…might… but I figure that’s the nature of sports right? Right now especially, we’re dealing with 2-3 out of retirement “no one stands a chance” stories.

First is the return of Michael Schumacher to Formula One, even though he’s been away for three years; and even though he didn’t win the title in his last two seasons; is an odds on favorite to win the title in 2010; and for the few odds makers who don’t have him as a favorite he’s number 2 or 3 by the thinnest of margins.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying Schumi is going to fail or not contend; I’m just saying the man hasn’t turned a competitive lap in a Formula One car in years, the cars have changed significantly and most importantly, the last season of Formula One was dominated by random teams.

Then you head over to the world of Women’s tennis, which is suddenly going to be dominated by Justin Henin, simply because she decided to come back and play again. The writers and fans are already having conversations wondering just how many more Grand Slams she will win in her career. And the only thing that can stand in recently-unretired Henin’s way is actually recently un-retired Kim Clijsters!

At least while Henin has simply returned and won a warm-up tournament, Clijsters has actually won a U.S. Open since her return so at least she's got some proof of her "return"… though pretty much the entire world hasn’t the slightest recollection of her awesome return performance because we're a little too busy remembering how her semi-final opponent told a line-judge she was gonna shove a ball up her ass:

Personally I love all Michael, Kim and Justine’s stories; because they all did something many athletes are simply afraid to do… they took a break to live a little life, to catch their breath and relax, and in just about all cases, it happens they ended up reminding themselves just how much they love their sport.

Clijsters story is especially great because she (like many on the U.S. Women’s Soccer team) are proving that you can in fact have a family and stay competitive in a major sport, plus it makes way for these great shots of her and her daughter, taking the uber-cutness factor to overload.

Justine is smoking hot, and Schumacher has generally been a badass in the cockpit so I’m totally looking forward to all the returns… but this got me thinking... (thinking cap now on)

How many times in the sports world has someone been able to become a clear odds favorite to win their sport’s major title simply by announcing they are coming out of retirement? I can only really remember one distinctive one in history:

Michael Jordan’s first return to the NBA

And then of course one guaranteed to happen in the near future:

Tiger Woods’ eventual return to golf.

Some people might point to Roger Clemens, but his teams hardly became favorites; and even Tyson’s return to boxing came with wonder about if he was still the same man in the ring. Dario Franchitti’s return to the IndyCar Series made him a top 5 prediction, but just about 99% of the world didn’t even peg him as the best on his team for 2009; None of Brett Favre’s “returns” have made anyone think his presence suddenly made his team the Super Bowl favorites, and neither did Tom Brady’s return this year.

So this has me thinking, and needing your input. Who out there even has a shot at doing this anymore? Who can you say could leave their sport for whatever reason for at least 1 season, then simply announce their return and become odds on favorite to contend/win without even demonstrating anything?

Would Federer get that? No, especially with the rise of Nadal, but would Nadal get it, probably not outright with Federer and the field still contending. Would Travis Pastrana get this kind of response if he returned to motocross? Probably not, especially because everyone would wonder about all the injuries. Even Sam Hornish Jr. would be barely an outside contender if he ever returned to the IndyCar Series considering all the road courses that are now out there. Maybe if Juan Pablo Montoya ever returned to IndyCar… maybe? No boxer or MMA fighter could certainly claim this right now…

Across ALL sports I can only think of very few situations where a current player could retire then un-retire and be an immediate championship favorite:

-James Stewart in motocross
-Peyton Manning in football.
-Jimmie Johnson in NASCAR Cup

Sure we can all think of many that would be instant momentum and non-surprises to contend, but who would Vegas immediately shoot to the top without anything but an announcement? I can’t think of any outside of those three, specifically because they contribute more than 70% to their championships. Are guys like Albert Pujols, Derek Jeter, Alexander Ovechkin, and Sidney Crosby even in the realm of significance? Definitely, but does Vegas move them to the top of the odds board without even a hint of practice or proof?

What do you think? Am I missing anyone?


Mike said...

Yes, it's true. I have returned to dominate. I have vowed to write much more in 2010 (not only here, but in my other blogs and some different projects I have going on). So readers will be seeing a lot more of me.

As for your point about which other athletes could unretire and be immediate favorites, in team sports, it all depends on which team they would be added to. If Kobe were to retire and then come back and sign with a team like the Celtics, I believe that would make them a favorite.

This retiring stuff, to me, has basically just become a spin-off of free agency. See: Brett Favre. I won't believe he's actually done until he's out for at least 2 full seasons. For most of these guys, it's like you said: they're taking a break.

Tiger will be a favorite as soon as he comes back, even though I wouldn't be surprised if he is never the same. Golf is such a mental game (I assume, right?) and this stuff has to mess with his head. But even if he comes back and plays well below his normal level, how long do you think it'd take before people stop expecting him to win? 8-10 majors?

PipSTA said...

I'm surprised you didn't mention Lance Armstrong. He retired, came back and made a pretty good show of himself, but was he ever favourite? I don't think that was ever reasonable with all the very strong riders, particually Contador, and also the team thing.

Mike said...

Again, this is a sport I do not know anything about, but I was under the impression that he was slightly favored. Or maybe I just had the feeling that we would not have been shocked had he won?