Sweetness And Light

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The Score On Sports With Frank Deford

Federer and Woods Dominate Like No Others

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2006 was a lackluster year for American sports teams. But two individual athletes — Roger Federer in tennis and Tiger Woods in golf — showed uncommon brilliance. They stand above all as masters of sport.

RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

2007 finds commentator Frank Deford in a reflective mood, still looking back and wondering where did all the good teams go?

FRANK DEFORD: What an ordinary bunch of pseudo winners. Never mind even a wannabe dynasty. Oh, what I would give for another bully of a team, a juggernaut, a steamroller! Where are the monsters of yesteryear?

We wanted parody; we got mediocrity. Now we're at a point where not only is everybody equal, they're all equally bad, equally boring. The Super Bowl champs, the Steelers, didn't even make the playoffs. Would any sane person out there imagine that any of the other major champions of this year past - the Hurricanes, Heat or Cardinals - will win again either?

But then almost never nowadays can the team with the best regular season record even go through the playoffs. Wildcards run wild. Oh, excuse me. The Cardinals won their division and then the World Series even though they barely played above .500. They weren't even a wildcard; they were a joker.

Not to be underdone by our domestic ordinaries, our American national teams put up a clean sweep. Losers in championship world competition in ice hockey, baseball, soccer, basketball, golf and tennis. Is this the way it was when the Roman Empire started collapsing?

But there is an incredible irony to this, too. At this time when there are no outstanding teams about, we have the treat of being able to watch two individual athletes who may not only be the best ever in their sports but who may well be as dominant at what they do now as anybody who ever played any game. Roger Federer and Tiger Woods are extraordinary - simply that.

2006 belonged more to Federer because Woods suffered that rare slump after his father died. But by the end of the year they both were so in control that they make nonsense of the rankings.

The gap between Federer and the number two player, Rafael Nadal, is greater than the gap between Nadal and the man ranked number 64. Woods is further ahead of the number two in golf, Jim Furyk, than Furyk is ahead of every other player in the world.

There is such incredible majesty to these two athletes. It's not beyond the realm of the impossible that both could win their grand slams this year. Federer and Woods make teams seem insignificant. We have probably never before had such a supreme pair at the top of their games, at the top of history, winning in tandem.

Enjoy it! Revel in their brilliance! It is as if Mozart and Beethoven or Michelangelo and Rembrandt were operating at exactly the same time in their prime. Federer and Woods are diamonds so absolutely brilliant that by comparison all the teams in sport are zircons.

MONTAGNE: Frank Deford is senior contributing writer at Sports Illustrated. He joins us each Wednesday from member station WSHU in Fairfield, Connecticut.

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Sweetness And Light

Sweetness And LightSweetness And Light

The Score On Sports With Frank Deford