THE CHEAP SEATS: Falcons’ Smith easy to root for; Phil and Tiger becoming true rivals

It is very easy to like Atlanta Falcons head coach Mike Smith. Let me explain.
I played in the team’s annual Hacks (That’s me) vs. Jocks Golf Tournament at The River Club in Suwanee on Tuesday and took far more than my share of bad shots.
But, as I approached one of the beautiful par 3′s at what I have to say is the nicest golf course neighborhood in the city, cart mate Chris Dimino of 790 the Zone turned to me and made an interesting observation about Smith.  Dimino talks so fast I can’t remember exactly what he said but it went something like this: "I think Mike is just really appreciative to be in the position he is. I think he is just loving life.”
That’s exactly how I feel every time I run into Smith, well, except after a loss. He is absolutely perfect for an organization so driven to make it to the top. Talking to him makes you feel like being a head coach in the NFL is the best thing in the world and, unlike some other coaches who look down at us in the media, he makes you feel like he is your best friend. I see him doing this with everyone.
In my foursome was new Falcons cornerback coach Tim Lewis, a veteran NFL assistant and former first-round pick of the Green Bay Packers. A former defensive coordinator, Lewis was being wooed in the offseason by the deep-pocketed Washington Redskins but was called by Smith and told the Falcons were interested. Lewis, who is very well-respected around the league, came to Atlanta, met with Smith and other team personnel and made the decision to join the Falcons.
While I make it a point not to quote athletes or coaches while playing with them at golf tournaments, it was very apparent that Lewis has tremendous respect for what Smith has been able to do here and the positive culture he has brought to the field, the coaching staff and the locker room.
What a difference two years make since Smith’s arrival, as his predecessor ─ with a lot of help from Michael Vick ─ tried to tear the organization apart, and the coach before him (Jim Mora) couldn’t keep his foot out of his mouth.
I think Smith’s going to be a big winner because not only is he proving to be a good head football coach, he is creating a lot of goodwill. In other words, it’s becoming real easy to pull for Mike Smith.
For the most part, Tiger surprised me at the Masters last weekend. He was competitive on the course, and mostly said the right things and limited his outbursts after bad shots. It won’t be too long before he is back to the old Tiger on the course. Let’s just hope he has learned something from his extracurricular activities which remains to be seen.
I will say that the best thing that ever could have happened to golf did last weekend with the Phil Mickelson win. For years, the PGA Tour has been all Tiger and, despite the fact that Phil had some good runs, he has always been overshadowed by Woods.
Not anymore.
Sure, the combination of the Masters win with his wife and mother going through breast cancer treatment is heart-warming story. But Mickelson was as good as Woods has ever been at Augusta and, in a way, is a better shot-maker than Tiger. Phil has always been a fan favorite because he, unlike Woods, has understood for years that getting in front of the fans and signing autographs can only help. Now, "Lefty" has put himself in position to grab the big spotlight and prove what many felt years ago ─ that he could be the greatest golfer in the world.
Or, even better, the Tiger/Phil clashes could lead to what we saw years ago in the rivalry between Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer. When the PGA Tour was here at Sugarloaf, I did the 18th green for radio and spent some time with Mickelson as he dominated that tournament for several years. A streaking Mickelson and strong comeback by Tiger could put golf at its apex, a sport which only a few weeks ago seemed like it was headed for the dumpster.
Is there another event in the world like the Masters, led by a small group of Augusta National members who I think control how many pieces of toilet paper you can use in the locker room toilets? If you want to read an absolutely fabulous column poking fun at all this then go to and pull down the piece by Bill Simmons.
He writes: "It has no relation to any other sporting event, or really, anything about sports other than the part in which athletes are competing for something. Like Richard in "Lost," Jon Gruden or Coach K, it never seems to age or change in any way. Augusta intentionally positions itself as a cocoon, a well-preserved time capsule that preserves the good old days — you know, before sports became commercialized, before Title IX, before DirecTV season passes, before the Internet, before everything — when rich white guys could play golf without having to deal with anything else.”
Rosenberg can be reached at

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