From Sidelines to punchlines

A different view of sports

Clearing my mind and notebook while just glad Frank Martin’s South Carolina basketball team is still in contention for the NIT after making it to the Final Four last year.

Serious business?

Sunday’s NBA All-Star Game in Los Angeles at the Staples Center will feature a new sandlot-style format, pitting Team LeBron (James) vs. Team Stephen (Curry).

Charles Barkley, for one, can’t wait to see who the knuckleheads will be in the bunch, risking injury to try to win game MVP honors.

“There are always a couple of idiots,” said Barkley on Jimmy Kimmel Live. “…There’s always a couple of guys trying to play like its Game 7. You want to say, ‘Dude, this is an exhibition. Calm down!’ They are diving for loose balls and you’re worried about your legs and everything. But there are always a couple of guys trying to get MVP. Those guys are dangerous.”

There may be more than a couple of players taking the afternoon seriously. Not only is the MVP a nice honor, but players on the winning team will earn $100,000 this season – double the pay they received last season.

The losing players only get $25,000 each.

Houston coach Mike D’Antoni will coach Team Stephen. His starters will be Curry (Golden State), James Harden (Houston), DeMar DeRozan (Toronto), Giannis Antetokounmpo (Milwaukee) and Joel Emblid (Philadelphia)

Toronto coach Dwayne Casey will guide Team LeBron. His starters will be James, Kevin Durant (Golden State), Antony Davis (New Orleans), DeMarcus Cousins (New Orleans) and Kyrie Irving (Boston).

Stat of week

SportsBettingDime.com states that the over-under prop bet for the number of dunks in Sunday’s NBA All-Star Game is 40.5.

Philly fans

If anyone should know Philadelphia sports fans, it’d be Barkley.

The former Auburn player spent the first half of his 16-year NBA career with the 76ers. And while he confessed that he didn’t want to be drafted by Philly, he ended up falling in love with the city and the fans.

So, when Barkley was approached at a downtown Philadelphia hotel by a group of Minnesota Vikings fans before the NFC Championship, he was ready to offer some advice.

“They pulled me aside and said, ‘Hey Charles, if things are going good for us in the game, how do you think we should act? I said, ‘Hey, don’t make a sound. Those people are going to be loaded. They are going to go crazy.”

After all, Philadelphia sports fans are known to overreact whether their teams win or lose. Philly police coated the lamp posts with Crisco to prevent people from climbing the poles and getting hurt. But there are also fans who have been known to punch the horses cops ride when patrolling downtown during big events.

“They came back to the hotel after the game and said, ‘Man, you were right. They were throwing things at us.’ And I said, ‘And y’all lost. Can you imagine what they would have done if y’all had won?’”

They said it

NBC comedian Jimmy Fallon: “Over 65,000 people attended the Super Bowl. The crowd was 10 percent Eagles fans, 10 percent Patriots fans and 80 percent angry Vikings fans.”

Actor Dwayne Johnson, who played football at the University of Miami: “Making it to the NFL was the best thing that never happened to me.”

RJ Currie of SportsDeke.com: “A brawl broke out in a professional rugby game in the country of Georgia, complete with punching, kicking and bloodshed. Then things got really violent: they played rugby.”

Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times: “Referees ejected an Arizona cheerleader for yelling at opposing players through his megaphone during the Wildcats’ 77-70 basketball win over rival Arizona State on Thursday night. He was reportedly released on his own personal recognizance for 2 bits, 4 bits, 6 bits, a dollar.”

TBS comedian Conan O’Brien: “It’s been reported that they’ll be handing out over 100,000 condoms in the Olympic Village. After hearing about it, Americans everywhere said, ‘Now that’s the show we want to watch.’”

Brad Dickson of the Omaha (Neb) World-Herald on the XFL vowing not to allow any players with a criminal record: “I hope they’re willing to play eight-man football.”

Janice Hough of LeftCoastSportsBabe.com after Jamie Anderson won Olympic gold in slopestyle: “Millions of Americans: ‘USA! USA! USA! … What’s slopestyle’?”

Jim Barach of WCHS-TV in Charleston, W.Va., after Hawks forward DeAndre’ Bembry was arrested for driving 128 mph: “He is averaging 4.8 points a game, but that just got him 12 points on his driver’s license.”

 Super moment

This season couldn’t have turned out any better for Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Nick Foles, who once considered handing up his clipboard.

Then starter Carson Wentz tore an ACL in December and Foles was thrust into the starting lineup. The rest is history. He matched Tom Brady’s legacy by leading his team to the championship, beating Brady in the process.

Now he’s suddenly a hot commodity and a fan favorite, giving the Eagles something to think about.

“My safe spot used to be whole food,” said Foles during an appearance on “Jimmy Kimmel Live” this week. “But now I can’t go into Whole Foods (without being recognized).”

He said most Philly fans who come up to him end up crying because he helped fulfill a decades-old dream of the Eagles winning the championship.

Foles, who was drafted by the Eagles in the third round in 2012 and spent one season each in St. Louis and Kansas City before returning to Philadelphia this season, has mostly been a backup during his career.

He did start 21 games for the Eagles in 2013-14, passing for 5.054 yards and 40 touchdowns, before signing with St. Louis. But his career path has been on a downward spiral until he stepped in for the Eagles on Dec. 10 against the Raiders.

In seven regular season appearances this season, including three starts, he completed 57 of 101 passes for 537 yards and five touchdowns. In the three playoff games, Foles completed 77 of 106 passes for 971 yards and six touchdowns.

Foles is due to make $4 million in salary next season, but if he’s still with the Eagles on March 18, the team also is on the hook for a $3-million roster bonus.

He wants to stay in Philadelphia and that will put considerable pressure on team management. Imagine how Eagles fans will react if they get off to a slow start next season, knowing they traded the Super Bowl MVP and lost their offensive coordinator Frank Reich, who left to become the head coach of the Indianapolis Colts.

Marketing impact

A recent study by picksixpreviews.com asked 224 college football recruits to rank the brands of Power Five schools as if they were each the No. 1 recruit in the nation.

Somewhat surprisingly, Clemson came out on top, underscoring just how much Dabo Swinney has elevated the Tigers in the past few years while winning a national championship in 2016 and finishing second to Alabama in 2015.

Clemson generated the 27th most revenue (($104.8 million) in 2015-16.

Nick Saban’s Crimson Tide, which added another title this season (and has won five of nine), has somehow lost some luster with the latest recruiting class. Alabama ranked only No. 19.

The Top Five schools in terms of brand perception are Clemson, Ohio State, Penn State, Georgia and Oregon.

The factors determining brand impact vary with each recruit but include location, overall facilities, stadium size, fan support, media exposure, playing style, uniforms and coach persona.

Of the Top 25 brands, 17 were from the ACC, Big Ten and SEC and 42 of the Top 65 were from those conferences. If you add in Notre Dame, which competes in the ACC in every sport but football, the Irish ranked No. 15.

ACC: 1. Clemson; 7. Miami; 12. Florida State; 22. Louisville; 27. North Carolina; 33. Virginia Tech; 35. N.C. State; 38. Georgia Tech; 44. (tie) Duke; 50. Virginia; 54. Pittsburgh; 55. Wake Forest; 61. Syracuse; 64. Boston College.

Big Ten: 2. Ohio State; 3. Penn State; 11. Michigan State; 16. Wisconsin; 17. Michigan; 21. Nebraska; 39. Iowa; 41. Maryland; 44. (tie) Purdue; 45. Northwestern; 51. Minnesota; 57. Indiana; 58. Rutgers; 62. Illinois.

SEC: 4. Georgia; 10. LSU; 14. Florida; 18. Auburn; 19. Alabama; 24. Texas A&M; 25. Tennessee; 29. Mississippi; 31. Mississippi State; 32. South Carolina; 34. Kentucky; 49. Arkansas; 52. Missouri; 59. Vanderbilt.

Headlines

TheOnion.com: “Olympic drug-testing official left horribly disfigured after coming into contact with Russian urine.”

SportsPickle.com: “Star curler hoping to parlay Olympics success into dream janitor job.”

Fark.com: “Shirtless Tongen finishes at the bottom of the standings.”

TheOnion.com: “Schnauzers rioting outside Madison Square Garden following Westminster Dog Show defeat.”

SportsPickle.com: “Tom Brady asks his personal trainer for special exercises that can mend a broken heart.”

TheKicker.com: “Kyrie calls LeBron to learn how to properly throw teammates under the bus.:

SportsPickle.com: “Packers preparing to lose Aaron Rodgers after he promises he ‘loves them like family.’”

My takes

Rehastagging this week’s top tweets from @Randy_Beard11:

  • South Carolina upsets No. 10 Auburn, 84-75, despite furious comeback effort by Tigers. That’s three Top 10 wins for Gamecocks.
  • Auburn’s Anfernee McLemore had a gruesome injury late in first half at South Carolina. Gamecocks lead No. 10 Tigers, 46-25.
  • LaVar Ball gets   my vote as Dumbest Dad. Talk about the entitlement syndrome. He’s insisting Lonzo won’t resign with Lakers unless they sign brothers LiAngelo and LaMelo.
  • It seems Shaun White wants his legacy to be sex, drugs, rock and GOLD. But he should have pursued his groupies instead of drummer in his band, Bad Things.”

 Crying Irish

Notre Dame has had to forfeit 21 wins, including 12 in 2012 when the Irish played Alabama for the national title. (OK, we don’t want to go there, do we.)

The Irish were originally penalized in 2016 for academic violations during the 2012 and 2013 seasons but appealed. That appeal was finally denied this week by the NCAA. The school also received a year of probation and a $5,000 fine.

The infraction occurred when a student-trainer completed coursework for two players and provided improper academic assistance to another six.

Notre Dame suspended five players before the 2014 season, which brought the violations to the NCAA’s attention. Quarterback Everett Golson, who was the 2012 starter, was suspended in 2013. The South Carolina native played one more season in South Bend before transferring to Florida State in 2015.

The biggest impact of the forfeited losses at Notre Dame? Embarrassment, and we’re not just talking the kind of embarrassment from learning about the fake dead girlfriend of Manti Te’o.

Only if the Irish had to forfeit 13 wins from 2012 would this be more meaningful. But as we know, Alabama won that national championship game, 42-14.

Tebow time

Yes, spring training is about to begin, which means more daily reports on Tim Tebow’s attempt to turn an abbreviated NFL career into a cup of coffee in MLB.

“The goal is to get to the Major Leagues, for sure,” said Tebow, who was signed by the Mets last season and had eight home runs in 126 games with the Columbia, S.C. Fireflies and the St. Lucie, Fla. Mets last season while boosting attendances nearly 40 percent for those teams.

“Last year was my first year playing after taking 12 years off, and not playing since my junior year in high school,” the former Heisman Trophy winner at Florida told NBC’s Jimmy Fallon earlier this week.

“Huge transition. Huge obstacle. And of course, no one thinks I can do it. But I love trying to prove people wrong, so I’m excited about the challenge.”

Oh, he battled .226 with 126 strikeouts.

From Sidelines to punchlines

A different view of sports

Clearing my mind and notebook while just glad Frank Martin’s South Carolina basketball team is still in contention for the NIT after making it to the Final Four last year.

Serious business?

Sunday’s NBA All-Star Game in Los Angeles at the Staples Center will feature a new sandlot-style format, pitting Team LeBron (James) vs. Team Stephen (Curry).

Charles Barkley, for one, can’t wait to see who the knuckleheads will be in the bunch, risking injury to try to win game MVP honors.

“There are always a couple of idiots,” said Barkley on Jimmy Kimmel Live. “…There’s always a couple of guys trying to play like its Game 7. You want to say, ‘Dude, this is an exhibition. Calm down!’ They are diving for loose balls and you’re worried about your legs and everything. But there are always a couple of guys trying to get MVP. Those guys are dangerous.”

There may be more than a couple of players taking the afternoon seriously. Not only is the MVP a nice honor, but players on the winning team will earn $100,000 this season – double the pay they received last season.

The losing players only get $25,000 each.

Houston coach Mike D’Antoni will coach Team Stephen. His starters will be Curry (Golden State), James Harden (Houston), DeMar DeRozan (Toronto), Giannis Antetokounmpo (Milwaukee) and Joel Emblid (Philadelphia)

Toronto coach Dwayne Casey will guide Team LeBron. His starters will be James, Kevin Durant (Golden State), Antony Davis (New Orleans), DeMarcus Cousins (New Orleans) and Kyrie Irving (Boston).

Stat of week

SportsBettingDime.com states that the over-under prop bet for the number of dunks in Sunday’s NBA All-Star Game is 40.5.

Philly fans

If anyone should know Philadelphia sports fans, it’d be Barkley.

The former Auburn player spent the first half of his 16-year NBA career with the 76ers. And while he confessed that he didn’t want to be drafted by Philly, he ended up falling in love with the city and the fans.

So, when Barkley was approached at a downtown Philadelphia hotel by a group of Minnesota Vikings fans before the NFC Championship, he was ready to offer some advice.

“They pulled me aside and said, ‘Hey Charles, if things are going good for us in the game, how do you think we should act? I said, ‘Hey, don’t make a sound. Those people are going to be loaded. They are going to go crazy.”

After all, Philadelphia sports fans are known to overreact whether their teams win or lose. Philly police coated the lamp posts with Crisco to prevent people from climbing the poles and getting hurt. But there are also fans who have been known to punch the horses cops ride when patrolling downtown during big events.

“They came back to the hotel after the game and said, ‘Man, you were right. They were throwing things at us.’ And I said, ‘And y’all lost. Can you imagine what they would have done if y’all had won?’”

They said it

NBC comedian Jimmy Fallon: “Over 65,000 people attended the Super Bowl. The crowd was 10 percent Eagles fans, 10 percent Patriots fans and 80 percent angry Vikings fans.”

Actor Dwayne Johnson, who played football at the University of Miami: “Making it to the NFL was the best thing that never happened to me.”

RJ Currie of SportsDeke.com: “A brawl broke out in a professional rugby game in the country of Georgia, complete with punching, kicking and bloodshed. Then things got really violent: they played rugby.”

Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times: “Referees ejected an Arizona cheerleader for yelling at opposing players through his megaphone during the Wildcats’ 77-70 basketball win over rival Arizona State on Thursday night. He was reportedly released on his own personal recognizance for 2 bits, 4 bits, 6 bits, a dollar.”

TBS comedian Conan O’Brien: “It’s been reported that they’ll be handing out over 100,000 condoms in the Olympic Village. After hearing about it, Americans everywhere said, ‘Now that’s the show we want to watch.’”

Brad Dickson of the Omaha (Neb) World-Herald on the XFL vowing not to allow any players with a criminal record: “I hope they’re willing to play eight-man football.”

Janice Hough of LeftCoastSportsBabe.com after Jamie Anderson won Olympic gold in slopestyle: “Millions of Americans: ‘USA! USA! USA! … What’s slopestyle’?”

Jim Barach of WCHS-TV in Charleston, W.Va., after Hawks forward DeAndre’ Bembry was arrested for driving 128 mph: “He is averaging 4.8 points a game, but that just got him 12 points on his driver’s license.”

 Super moment

This season couldn’t have turned out any better for Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Nick Foles, who once considered handing up his clipboard.

Then starter Carson Wentz tore an ACL in December and Foles was thrust into the starting lineup. The rest is history. He matched Tom Brady’s legacy by leading his team to the championship, beating Brady in the process.

Now he’s suddenly a hot commodity and a fan favorite, giving the Eagles something to think about.

“My safe spot used to be whole food,” said Foles during an appearance on “Jimmy Kimmel Live” this week. “But now I can’t go into Whole Foods (without being recognized).”

He said most Philly fans who come up to him end up crying because he helped fulfill a decades-old dream of the Eagles winning the championship.

Foles, who was drafted by the Eagles in the third round in 2012 and spent one season each in St. Louis and Kansas City before returning to Philadelphia this season, has mostly been a backup during his career.

He did start 21 games for the Eagles in 2013-14, passing for 5.054 yards and 40 touchdowns, before signing with St. Louis. But his career path has been on a downward spiral until he stepped in for the Eagles on Dec. 10 against the Raiders.

In seven regular season appearances this season, including three starts, he completed 57 of 101 passes for 537 yards and five touchdowns. In the three playoff games, Foles completed 77 of 106 passes for 971 yards and six touchdowns.

Foles is due to make $4 million in salary next season, but if he’s still with the Eagles on March 18, the team also is on the hook for a $3-million roster bonus.

He wants to stay in Philadelphia and that will put considerable pressure on team management. Imagine how Eagles fans will react if they get off to a slow start next season, knowing they traded the Super Bowl MVP and lost their offensive coordinator Frank Reich, who left to become the head coach of the Indianapolis Colts.

Marketing impact

A recent study by picksixpreviews.com asked 224 college football recruits to rank the brands of Power Five schools as if they were each the No. 1 recruit in the nation.

Somewhat surprisingly, Clemson came out on top, underscoring just how much Dabo Swinney has elevated the Tigers in the past few years while winning a national championship in 2016 and finishing second to Alabama in 2015.

Clemson generated the 27th most revenue (($104.8 million) in 2015-16.

Nick Saban’s Crimson Tide, which added another title this season (and has won five of nine), has somehow lost some luster with the latest recruiting class. Alabama ranked only No. 19.

The Top Five schools in terms of brand perception are Clemson, Ohio State, Penn State, Georgia and Oregon.

The factors determining brand impact vary with each recruit but include location, overall facilities, stadium size, fan support, media exposure, playing style, uniforms and coach persona.

Of the Top 25 brands, 17 were from the ACC, Big Ten and SEC and 42 of the Top 65 were from those conferences. If you add in Notre Dame, which competes in the ACC in every sport but football, the Irish ranked No. 15.

ACC: 1. Clemson; 7. Miami; 12. Florida State; 22. Louisville; 27. North Carolina; 33. Virginia Tech; 35. N.C. State; 38. Georgia Tech; 44. (tie) Duke; 50. Virginia; 54. Pittsburgh; 55. Wake Forest; 61. Syracuse; 64. Boston College.

Big Ten: 2. Ohio State; 3. Penn State; 11. Michigan State; 16. Wisconsin; 17. Michigan; 21. Nebraska; 39. Iowa; 41. Maryland; 44. (tie) Purdue; 45. Northwestern; 51. Minnesota; 57. Indiana; 58. Rutgers; 62. Illinois.

SEC: 4. Georgia; 10. LSU; 14. Florida; 18. Auburn; 19. Alabama; 24. Texas A&M; 25. Tennessee; 29. Mississippi; 31. Mississippi State; 32. South Carolina; 34. Kentucky; 49. Arkansas; 52. Missouri; 59. Vanderbilt.

Headlines

TheOnion.com: “Olympic drug-testing official left horribly disfigured after coming into contact with Russian urine.”

SportsPickle.com: “Star curler hoping to parlay Olympics success into dream janitor job.”

Fark.com: “Shirtless Tongen finishes at the bottom of the standings.”

TheOnion.com: “Schnauzers rioting outside Madison Square Garden following Westminster Dog Show defeat.”

SportsPickle.com: “Tom Brady asks his personal trainer for special exercises that can mend a broken heart.”

TheKicker.com: “Kyrie calls LeBron to learn how to properly throw teammates under the bus.:

SportsPickle.com: “Packers preparing to lose Aaron Rodgers after he promises he ‘loves them like family.’”

My takes

Rehastagging this week’s top tweets from @Randy_Beard11:

  • South Carolina upsets No. 10 Auburn, 84-75, despite furious comeback effort by Tigers. That’s three Top 10 wins for Gamecocks.
  • Auburn’s Anfernee McLemore had a gruesome injury late in first half at South Carolina. Gamecocks lead No. 10 Tigers, 46-25.
  • LaVar Ball gets   my vote as Dumbest Dad. Talk about the entitlement syndrome. He’s insisting Lonzo won’t resign with Lakers unless they sign brothers LiAngelo and LaMelo.
  • It seems Shaun White wants his legacy to be sex, drugs, rock and GOLD. But he should have pursued his groupies instead of drummer in his band, Bad Things.”

 Crying Irish

Notre Dame has had to forfeit 21 wins, including 12 in 2012 when the Irish played Alabama for the national title. (OK, we don’t want to go there, do we.)

The Irish were originally penalized in 2016 for academic violations during the 2012 and 2013 seasons but appealed. That appeal was finally denied this week by the NCAA. The school also received a year of probation and a $5,000 fine.

The infraction occurred when a student-trainer completed coursework for two players and provided improper academic assistance to another six.

Notre Dame suspended five players before the 2014 season, which brought the violations to the NCAA’s attention. Quarterback Everett Golson, who was the 2012 starter, was suspended in 2013. The South Carolina native played one more season in South Bend before transferring to Florida State in 2015.

The biggest impact of the forfeited losses at Notre Dame? Embarrassment, and we’re not just talking the kind of embarrassment from learning about the fake dead girlfriend of Manti Te’o.

Only if the Irish had to forfeit 13 wins from 2012 would this be more meaningful. But as we know, Alabama won that national championship game, 42-14.

Tebow time

Yes, spring training is about to begin, which means more daily reports on Tim Tebow’s attempt to turn an abbreviated NFL career into a cup of coffee in MLB.

“The goal is to get to the Major Leagues, for sure,” said Tebow, who was signed by the Mets last season and had eight home runs in 126 games with the Columbia, S.C. Fireflies and the St. Lucie, Fla. Mets last season while boosting attendances nearly 40 percent for those teams.

“Last year was my first year playing after taking 12 years off, and not playing since my junior year in high school,” the former Heisman Trophy winner at Florida told NBC’s Jimmy Fallon earlier this week.

“Huge transition. Huge obstacle. And of course, no one thinks I can do it. But I love trying to prove people wrong, so I’m excited about the challenge.”

Oh, he battled .226 with 126 strikeouts.

From Sidelines to punchlines

A different view of sports

Clearing my mind and notebook while wondering what Donald Trump thinks of the coin-flip, flag flap between two U.S. Olympians, luger Erin Hamlin and speedskater Shani Davis:

Just desserts

A pudding in the shape of the Korean peninsula divided by a dark chocolate “barbed wire” was served as dessert at a pre-Olympic reception Friday. When it was topped by melted white chocolate, the “border” partially dissolved, signifying the future potential of a unified Korea.

The two Koreas are competing as one nation and under a unified flag at the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Games. But that doesn’t mean the United States is supportive of such diplomatic outreach efforts.

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence certainly hasn’t been. When South Korea’s president Moon Jae-in greeted Pence and North Korea’s ceremonial head of state, Kim Yong-nam, at a reception Friday, it didn’t go well. Pence and Yong-nam did not shake hands and Pence left shortly afterward when he learned they would be seated for dinner at the same table.

Pence also snubbed Kim Yo-jong, the sister of North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un, when they were seated near each other during the Opening Ceremonies. He and wife Karen also remained seated when the unified Korean team marched into the stadium.

Meanwhile, one Twitter user not named Donald Trump said photos of the dessert “looked like the whole Korean peninsula getting nuked.”

That should tone down the rhetoric.

They said it

NBC comedian Seth Myers: “Injured Philadelpia Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz spoke at the National Prayer Breakfast dinner this evening and what better metaphor for our country right now than a prayer from an injured Eagle.”

RJ Currie of SportsDeke.com: “A man frolicked buck naked for over two minutes on a fairway during the Phoenix pro-am. And where better than the Waste Management Open to show off your junk?”

Janice Hough of LeftCoastSportsBabe.com: “It’s that time again – when Americans who might last have set foot on an ice rink in high school suddenly become experts on triple axels.”

TBS comedian Conan O’Brien: “The New England Patriots were beaten by the Philadelphia Eagles 41-33. Eagles fans started fires and punched police horses, then they sat down to watch the Super Bowl.”

Greg Cote of the Miami Herald: “New York Mets announced their spring training would include a circus again this year. Welcome back, Tim Tebow!”

Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times: “The London Daily Mail says a jet-powered mobility scooter was successfully tested, boasting a top speed of 70 miles-per-hour. So if NASCAR was ever thinking about starting a senior circuit.”

Comedian Steve Hofstetter: “Don’t let the Patriots coming back from a 22-12 halftime deficit distract you from them blowing a 33-32 lead.”

Focus on Finnishing

As Andrew Keh reported in the New York Times, Finland won an average of 24 medals during the Summer Olympics from 1908 to 1948. However, at the 2016 Rio de Janiero Games, the country took home only a bronze in women’s lightweight boxing by Mira Potkonen.

Predictably, it’s a slightly different story in the Winter Games, where Finland won as many as 12 medals as recently as 1998. The country won five medals in 2014 in Sochi, including gold in men’s team sprint cross country skiing and bronze in men’s ice hockey.

But as Keh’s noted, the country has since become “fertile ground for whacky sports” like the Swamp Soccer World Championship, the Mobile Phone Throwing World Championships, the Mosquito Killing World Championships, the Wife Carrying World Championships, the World Berry Picking Championships, the World Air Guitar Championships and Competitive Hobby-horsing.

From 1999 to 2010, Finland also hosted the World Sauna Championships, but that endurance event ended with the unfortunate death of a competitor to third degree burns.

To quote Keh on why Finland has invented ways to compete:

“There’s no simple answer, but Finns offer various deep-seated factors, including an enthusiastically outdoorsy populace (that goes slightly stir-crazy during the region’s oppressively dark winter months), widespread public access to recreational spaces, and a continuing relaxation of the traditionally reserved national character. (Also, alcohol.)”

Sports psychologist Pasi Koski puts it another way, “We learned to laugh at ourselves. What’s so serious?”

 Headlines

Fark.com: “Philly closes schools because teachers too drunk to teach.”

TheOnion.com: “Flustered father struggling to answer all of son’s questions about what a catch is.”

SportsPickle.com: “Report: Nick Saban pondering retirement to spend more time criticizing his family.”

LeftcoastSportsBabe.com: “Well, at least the Colts were undefeated in the Josh McDaniels era.”

TheOnion.com: “Minneapolis shocked  to discover thousands of Super Bowl attendees left without seeing rest of the city.”

SportsPickle.com: “Jimmy Garoppolo offers Tom Brady a loan to help him build his struggling supplement business.”

TheOnion.com: “2018 Winter Olympics cancelled due to inclement weather.”

Fark.com: “NFL quarterback, sports broadcaster, PGA golfer — is there anything Tony Romo can’t do? Besides win a Super Bowl.”

Drop the Trop

For their 20th anniversary, the Tampa Bay Rays elevated their game Friday by announcing that a new stadium will be built in the Ybor City neighborhood of Tampa.

It’s still unknown how much longer the Major League baseball team will play at Tropicana Field, which opened its doors in St. Petersburg in 1990 but didn’t become the home of the Rays until 1998.

St. Pete officials decided to build the ballpark in 1983 and broke ground on its construction in 1986, but it took another five years to get a regular tenant — and it wasn’t a MLB team despite being used by several teams as a bargaining chip to get new stadiums in their home cities.

By breaking ground on a barebones roofed stadium in 1986, St. Pete only managed to win the baseball war with Tampa. But before baseball, the arena was home to  the NHL’s Lightning (1993-96) and the Arena Football League’s Storm (1991-96).

Those teams moved to a new arena in Tampa in 1997 ahead of the Rays coming to St. Pete. And now the Rays have confirmed their intentions to move to Tampa.

It’s just not known when, what the new stadium will look like, how much Tampa is willing to spend, or what the final cost will be. The Rays have reportedly committed $150 million to make the move.

For comparison purposes, St. Pete initially spent $130 million, and the dome underwent more than $115 million in renovations over the next 20 years, and it still doesn’t meet today’s standards of a MLB stadium.

I was working in St. Pete when the decision to build The Trop was made but I had moved to S.C. by the time it opened. I hope to make it back before the final out is recorded.

From Sidelines to punchlines

A different view of sports

Clearing my mind and notebook while celebrating the fact that my oldest son is finally getting married. Two down, one to go:

Super outcome?

Conventional wisdom suggests Sunday’s Super Bowl LII will be a defensive standoff because Philadelphia and New England each ranked in the top five in scoring defense and total defense during the National Football League’s regular season.

The Eagles were second in yardage allowed (307) and fourth in points allowed (18.4 points).

The Patriots were third in total defense (320.5 yards) and fifth in scoring defense (18.5 points).

But the counter argument is that both teams also are explosive on offense, ranking in the top five in total offense and scoring offense.

The Patriots are second in points scored (29.5) and fourth in yardage allowed per game (391.0). Not to be outdone, the Eagles are third in total offense (395.0 yards) and fourth in scoring defense (26.5 points).

Does defense really win championships? We’re about to find out.

I tend to believe we’ll see a similar score as last year’s 34-28 victory by the Patriots. Only let’s hope the script is rewritten. The last thing we need is another epic collapse by one of the teams.

Well, unless its the Patriots.

Last year the Atlanta Falcons led 17-0 at halftime before Tom Brady added another chapter to his legacy to win his fifth championship.

Let’s hope the collapse is just a Georgia thing. Or is it merely a coincidence that the University of Georgia blew a 13-0 halftime lead in the national championship game last month to lose 26-23 in overtime to Alabama?

Tony Dungy, for one, doesn’t think defenses will rule the day on Sunday.

“I think the Patriots spread them out, throw the ball fast and quick to the inside guys,” said Dungy. “Philadelphia’s going to move the ball better than people think. I think it’s going to be an entertaining game, it’s going to be fairly high-scoring, it’s going to be tight.”

By the book

From Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times: “Spotted on the reader board at Crossroads Community Church in Carver, Mass. ‘The Bible mentions Eagles 33 times and the GOAT 42. Patriots win by 9.’”

Blind justice

All Randall Margraves wanted was to be in a room alone with Larry Nassar. Sounds reasonable. After all, the USA Gymnastics doctor had spent time alone in a room with three of his daughters as part of his sick pursuit to sexually abuse female athletes.

Eaton County Judge Janice Cunningham understood Margraves’ request, and probably would have granted it if not for vowing to follow the law and sentencing guidelines.

So she denied Margraves’ request for “five minutes in a locked room with this demon.” Once denied, Margraves asked to have one minute alone with Nassar. He was again denied.

And that’s when he snapped, making an attempt to get past sheriff deputies to land a few punches on Nassar. He was tackled before he could reach Nassar and led out of the courtroom.

His unruly actions could have landed him in jail, but Judge Cunningham wasn’t going to be the one to do it.

“I don’t know what it would be like to stand there as a father and know that three of your girls were injured physically and emotionally by somebody sitting in a courtroom. I can’t imagine that,” the judge said.

They said it

Patriots coach Bill Belichick to reporters when asked the difference between this Super Bowl and his previous seven: “This one is in Minnesota.”

Janice Hough of LeftCoastSportsBabe.com: “MLB says all 30 teams will extend protective netting to “at least the far ends of both dugouts by opening day. So future generations of kids won’t be able to score foul balls (or get autographs)  because this generation pays less attention to game and more to their phones.”

RJ Currie of SportsDeke.com: “Bill Macatee asked Aussie Open co-host Martina Navratilova if it’s mentally tough to play someone you have a “lopsided losing record against.” How on earth would Navratilova know?”

Bill Barnwell of ESPN.com, on Washington earning kudos for landing QB Alex Smith after botching the Robert Griffin III and Kirk Cousins situations: “You shouldn’t congratulate a company for doing a great job of cleaning up its own toxic waste spill, though.”

Xander Schauffele to Golf Digest on why he’s still driving the same “scuffed up” Toyota Camry he had well before he won PGA Tour Rookie of the Year: “The lease isn’t up yet.”

NBC comedian Jimmy Fallon on the man who broke a Guinness world record by walking barefoot on a 120-foot path of loose Legos: “This beats the old record set by every dad getting up to use the bathroom at night.”

Money for nothing

Arkansas is on the hook for nearly $12 million dollars for the decision to fire Bret Bielema as football coach.

Bielema’s contract calls for him to receive severance pay of $322,567 a month through the end of 2020. It computes to nearly $4 million a year and it’s all guaranteed unless Bielema lands another job that pays more.

For lesser pay, Arkansas only gets to subtract Bielema’s monthly pay from its buyout sum. So if Bielema takes a job that pays him $125,000 a month ($1.5 million), Arkansas would only be on the hook for $200,567 per month.

Headlines

Fark.com: “1 in 4 Americans believe God will listen to their prayers and not those loser fans’ prayers.”

TheKicker.com: “Generous? Patriots offer to spot Eagles 25 points.”

SportsPickle.com: “Breaking: Trump to replace Obamacare with NFL’s Head UP Football Initiative.’

TheOnion.com: “Cleveland Indians owner admits Chief Wahoo no longer compatible with modern revenue-growth expectations.”

SportsPickle.com: “America sick of Aaron Rodgers’ cocky  behavior after learning he’s 1/16th black.”

TheOnion.com: “87 percent of Eagles home crowd listening to NFC Championship on car radio after getting thrown out of stadium

SportsPickle.com: “Ben Roethlisberger discloses he’s been given between 1 and 700 months to live.”

Fark.com: “Olympics athletes get ambitious condom allowance, enough for sex three times a day for 14 days.”

SportsPickle.com: “Report: NCAA considering death penalty for NCAA.”

Who’s he?

In the first episode of the documentary series, “Tom vs. Time”, Tom Brady’s 5-year-old daughter Vivian interrupts him while he’s on the phone to whine about how she wanted a friend to sleep over so they could play soccer in the backyard.

Alex Reimer, a sports talk host for WEEI, called the scene “staged” and said Brady’s young daughter was an “annoying little puissant.”

Really? During a time when we’re raising a generation of very  tech savvy but overweight video gamers, should anyone pick on a kid for wanting to have a friend over to play a sports in the great outdoors?

Pissant? It means someone is insignificant, worthless and contemptible? To say that about one of Brady’s kids is what’s contemptible.

The scene very well may have been staged. “Tom vs. Time” is meant to provide viewers a glimpse into Brady’s life on and off the field. While we can debate the wisdom of Brady shining that kind of spotlight on any of his children, it’s going to happen sooner or later. After all, their father is a NFL quarterback with five Super Bowl rings and their mom Gisele is a Brazilian Super Model.

And Reimer? He’s a radio shock jock, which makes him the true pissant in this story.

Tapping out

After the once unbeatable Rhonda Rousey had her mixed martial arts career shaken to its core with back-to-back losses to Holly Holm and Amanda Nunes, it was widely assumed she was done with the fight game.

Suddenly. Rousey was no longer being billed as the meanest, toughest, scrappiest UFC female fighter. She also no longer craved the MMA spotlight, refusing to do interviews after her second loss.

No one would have been surprised if the 2008 Olympic bronze medalist in judo went all in on Hollywood. She already had used her celebrity status to land roles in three movies, including Furious 7.

But it turns out that appearing on the big screen is not the only acting opportunities she’s pursuing. She’s decided to take the path to WWE stardom. A fan of former wrestler Rowdy Roddy Piper, she used the nickname Rowdy during her UFC days. In WWE, she has joined Shayna Baszler, Jessamyn Duke and Marina Shafir to form “The Four Horsewomen.”

Super suite

Chelsea and Courey Marshall are Denver Broncos fans, so when it comes to Sunday’s Super Bowl clash between Philadelphia and New England, they don’t have a horse in the race.

But they’ll still be a strong bet to be the first ticketholders to get to their seats at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis.

That’s because the Marshalls won a Courtyard by Marriott contest to spend the night before the big game in a luxury suite inside the stadium.

”I’ve never been in a completely empty stadium, let alone the Super Bowl stadium,” Courey said. ”And to have my wife with me, and to wake up on game day in the stadium, that’s pretty special.”

The two were in Santa Clara, Calif., in February 2016 when Peyton Manning and Denver beat Carolina, 24-10, so it was a treat when Manning made the phone call to tell them they had won the contest.

”You’re right there in the dome and get to see all the behind-the-scenes stuff,” Courey said. ”Then you wake up on Super Bowl Sunday right there. Has to be a wonderful experience.”

Sidelines to punchlines

A different view of sports

Clearing my mind and notebook while still waiting for NBC’s Lester Holt to admit that he got snookered by propaganda from North Korean officials with his Olympic reports from a ski resort:

Sexual revolution

The Dominos are falling fast.

It all began with Wednesday’s sentencing of Dr. Larry Nassar on sexual abuse charges, which has led to the resignations of the USA Gymnastics Board of Trustees, Michigan State President Lou Anna Simon and MSU Athletics Director Mark Hollis.

Nassar, who was also employed by Michigan State, began working as a trainer for USA Gymnastics in 1986 and served as the organization’s national medical coordinator from 1996 to 2014. He graduated from the Michigan State University College of Osteopathic Medicine in 1993.

In September 2016, the Indianapolis Star reported that two former gymnasts had accused Nassar of sexual abuse during his treatments. After years of denials, the floodgates finally opened and by the time of this week’s sentencing more than 150 gymnasts had testified against Nassar. His victims have included several Olympic gold medalists, including McKayla Maroney and Aly Raisman.

With the sentencing handed down Wednesday, the 54-year-old Nassar faces up to 175 years behind bars. He had previously been sentenced to 40 years on pornography charges.

Michigan judge Rosemarie Aquilina told Nassar that she had “signed your death warrant.”

Because of his actions, there are lawsuits filed against USA Gymnastics, the U.S. Olympic Committee and Michigan State.

While some of the incidents have nothing to do with Nassar, the practice of covering up allegations of sexual assault at Michigan State goes beyond gymnastics.

The allegations that have forced Michigan State football coach Mark Dantonio and basketball coach Tom Izzo to defend the policies of their programs could lead to more resignations.

Even the highly respected Dantonio and Izzo may not survive this purge.

Yes, the Dominos are falling.

Women’s voices are finally being heard loud and clear. And that’s a good thing.

They said it

Jim Barach of WCHS-TV in Charleston, W. Va.:  “Former USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar was sentenced to 40 to 175 years in prison for molesting patients. It was the first time gymnasts ever gave a judge a 10.”

RJ Currie of SportsDeke.com:  A snowstorm prompted the AHL Charlotte Checkers to play a home contest with no fans in attendance. The arena was so empty, it felt like a Florida Panthers game.”

TBS comedian Conan O’Brien: “North Korea has announced that it will send a group of citizens called the “cheering squad” to next month’s Winter Olympics. And many of them are expected to actually compete in a new event called the ‘400 Meter Defection.’”

Brad Dickson of the Omaha (Neb.) World-Herald after a collision left Rangers left winger Jimmy Vesey playing most of a game with two teeth embedded in his lower lip: “It’s not as gross as it sounds — he’s pretty sure one of the teeth is his.”

Janice Hough of LeftCoastSportsBabe.com: “MSU lineman David Beeble on Nassar situation: ‘As a MALE football player, situations such as this are rare so if it was to arise in football, I feel that action would’ve been taken immediately.’ He’s right, unless maybe it was a football coach.”

Travis Krol, former college roommate of Matt Patricia to the Detroit Free Press on why the New England Patriots’ defensive coordinator has a beard: “He’ll probably kill me, but he’s got dimples. You can’t be a coach of men with dimples.”

Vin Scully recalling the time he played golf with fellow broadcasting icon Keith Jackson to the L.A. Times: “He was not only a great player, but he kindly spent a lot of time helping me look for my ball.”

The briar patch

Since she resigned, we can assume Michigan State President Lou Anna Simon was admitting that she hadn’t done enough to react to the criminal actions of Dr. Larry Nassar or the allegations of other sexual assaults within the athletics department.

But if she was admitting any sort of guilt, she certainly isn’t being punished for it.

Her separation agreement allows her to take a 12-month research leave in the College of Education at her current salary of $750,000 and then return to the faculty at full salary for a second year and 75 percent of her salary ($562,500) for two more years. She will also receive office space and secretarial support and hold the title of “president emeritus.”

That’s not all. She’ll also receive:

  • Parking passes for on-campus parking
  • Parking pass for all home sporting and cultural events
  • Two free tickets to home football games for the Spartan Club suites
  • Two free tickets to women’s basketball games
  • The option to buy up to four men’s basketball tickets in the same location she currently has seats
  • Reduced-price tickets for bowl games and post-season play for football, men’s and women’s basketball and ice hockey

Yep, that really is making her pay a price for poor leadership.

 Headlines

TheOnion.com: “Fired-up Patriots ready to give full 60, maybe 70 percent against Jacksonville.”

SportsPickle.com: “Steelers vow to bounce back strong at Pro Bowl.”

Fark.com:  “Johnny Manziel’s deadline to sign a CFL contract is ‘fluid’ – just like his diet.”

TheOnion.com: “Blake Bortles out to prove he’s worth franchise-crippling contract.”

TheKicker.com: “James Harrison petitions to have the Eagles play in Steelers uniforms.”

Fark.com: “USOC to USA Gymnastics board: ‘Resign of GTFO.’”

SportsPickle.com: “LeBron posts message to his future self on Instagram, congratulating himself on leaving Cleveland again.”

TheKicker.com: “Doc Rivers forces Clippers to take self-defense class at local mall.”

Ring, ring, ring

Brandon Marshall, who has been in the NFL for 12 years and never experienced the playoffs, should start angling for a free-agent contract with the New England Patriots.

The New York Giants receiver is clearly jealous of the Patriots’ success.

With Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and head coach Bill Belichick advancing to the Super Bowl for the eighth time (they’ve won five of previous seven), Marshall went off on a rant on sports talk radio.

“Players should be ashamed, coaches should be ashamed, owners should be ashamed,” said Marshall. “How do we let these guys do this year in and year out?

“Congratulations, you guys are phenomenal, you guys are great …. Can’t get any better. But how do 31 other organizations let this happen?”

My takes

Rehastagging this week’s top tweets from @Randy_Beard11

  • “As part of lawsuit settlement with USA Gymnastics, MaKayla Maroney signed nondisclosure agreement and could have levied fine of more than $100,000 for speaking about abuse. After several celebrities offered to pay the fine, the organization allowed her to testify without fine.”
  • At least someone will be getting a ring. South Carolina alum Stephon Gilmore, now a cornerback with the Patriots, will be covering South Carolina alum and Eagles receiver Alshon Jeffery in Super Bowl LII.
  • Who are brainiacs who do the videos that are part of the pregame “analysis” for NFL games. I’m speaking of the Tom vs. Tom nonsense CBS did to preview mental matchup of Tom Brady vs Tom Coughlin? I also have no use for Jim Rome’s opinion. I want to be informed, not entertained.
  • Zion Williamson picks Duke, which reels in top 3 recruits with No.1 R.J. Barrett (SF), No. 2 Williamson (PF) and No. 3 Cam Reddish (SF). We need NCAA to appoint a special prosecutor.
  • Know Your Audience Department: Got offer today to subscribe to Evansville Courier & Press for $4.31 per month signed by Patricia Miller, President of Indiana Gannett, which forced me to retire 2 years early and after I won 2 SPJ Indiana Awards in May. Hah! #gannettcankissmyass

 X marks the sport

SportsPickle.com’s 10 most amazing aspects of the new XFL:

  1. All tackles that are not helmet-to-helmet result in immediate ejection from game.
  2. He Hate Me is now named He Mid-Level Assistant Coach.
  3. When someone catches the football it will count as a catch.
  4. Players who kneel for the anthem will be hit in the back of the head by a metal chair.
  5. Also, the anthem is “Welcome to the Jungle.”
  6. Every drive that picks up more than one first down will be accompanied by this GIF (promoting Hulu) on the stadium Jumbotron.”
  7. You want Tommy Maddox? You got Tommy Maddox.
  8. The actual football will be slightly less shitty than it was before.”
  9. Johnny Manziel has promised not to do meth on game days.
  10. The MVP of each season’s XFL title game will be given a cabinet position of his choosing.”

USA Gymnastics coach Nassar sentenced to 175 years on sexual assault, pornography charges

Tarnished gold

UPDATED: USA gymnastic doctor Larry Nassar was sentenced Wednesday by Michigan judge Rosemarie Aquilini to 175 years for sexual abuse and pornography and must pay a yet to be determined amount of restitution.

She told him “she was signing his death warrant” because he’d never get out of prison. He’ll serve 60 years on pornography charges before the other charges.

I have added this update and repeated the section from my blog last week.

Nearly 160 gymnasts from USA Gymnastics testified against him, against Olympic gold medalists. There are also victims from Michigan State.

PREVIOUS: USA Gymnastics may never recover from the failure of leadership which turned a blind eye to team doctor Larry Nassar’s sexual abuse of hundreds of young women in the program.

Among the 140 alleged victims are four of the five members of the gold medal-winning 2012 “Fierce Five” and three of the five gold-medal winning 2016 “Final Five” Olympians. The victims include Ally Raisman, Simone Biles, Gabby Douglas, McKayla Maroney and Jordyn Wieber.

Raisman and Douglas were on both U.S. Olympic teams.

Nassar is facing 25 years to life in prison for the sexual abuse charges and already has been sentenced to a 60-year sentence for child pornography. Much of the abuse occurred at the Karolyli Ranch in Texas where national team members trained once a month.

He also worked at Michigan State, where more alleged abuse occurred, which is why the trial is being held in Lansing, Michigan.

Nassar had access to the dorm rooms of the U.S. gymnasts at the ranch, where he could be alone with them for the purpose of treating injuries and giving therapeutic massages.

Parents weren’t allowed to stay at the ranch, which was owned by Bela and Martha Karoyli. Both legendary coaches, the Karoylis aren’t facing charges but USA Gymnastics has decided it will no longer use the ranch as a training center.

In her testimony, Raisman was heavily critical of USA Gymnastics and the U.S. Olympic Committee for being slow to address complaints from athletes who first raised concerns about  Nassar. She said both organizations are “rotting from the inside.”

Added Raisman: “To believe in the future of gymnastics is to believe in change. But how are we to believe in change when these organizations aren’t even willing to acknowledge the problem? … False assurances from organizations are dangerous, especially when people so badly want to believe them. They make it easier to look away from the problem and enable bad things to continue to happen.”

Amazingly, Nassar has submitted a letter to the Michigan court stating it had become “mentally” tough for him to listen to the testimony against him.

“You think this is hard for you?” said Raisman. “Imagine how any of us feels.”

USA gymnastic doctor Larry Nassar sentenced to 175 years for sexual abuse, pornography

Tarnished gold

UPDATED: USA gymnastic doctor Larry Nassar was sentenced Wednesday by Michigan judge Rosemarie Aquilini to 175 years for sexual abuse and pornography and must pay a yet to be determined amount of restitution.

She told him “she was signing his death warrant” because he’d never get out of prison. He’ll serve 60 years on pornography charges before the other charges.

I have added this update and repeated the section from my blog last week.

Nearly 160 gymnasts from USA Gymnastics testified against him, against Olympic gold medalists. There are also victims from Michigan State.

PREVIOUS: USA Gymnastics may never recover from the failure of leadership which turned a blind eye to team doctor Larry Nassar’s sexual abuse of hundreds of young women in the program.

Among the 140 alleged victims are four of the five members of the gold medal-winning 2012 “Fierce Five” and three of the five gold-medal winning 2016 “Final Five” Olympians. The victims include Ally Raisman, Simone Biles, Gabby Douglas, McKayla Maroney and Jordyn Wieber.

Raisman and Douglas were on both U.S. Olympic teams.

Nassar is facing 25 years to life in prison for the sexual abuse charges and already has been sentenced to a 60-year sentence for child pornography. Much of the abuse occurred at the Karolyli Ranch in Texas where national team members trained once a month.

He also worked at Michigan State, where more alleged abuse occurred, which is why the trial is being held in Lansing, Michigan.

Nassar had access to the dorm rooms of the U.S. gymnasts at the ranch, where he could be alone with them for the purpose of treating injuries and giving therapeutic massages.

Parents weren’t allowed to stay at the ranch, which was owned by Bela and Martha Karoyli. Both legendary coaches, the Karoylis aren’t facing charges but USA Gymnastics has decided it will no longer use the ranch as a training center.

In her testimony, Raisman was heavily critical of USA Gymnastics and the U.S. Olympic Committee for being slow to address complaints from athletes who first raised concerns about  Nassar. She said both organizations are “rotting from the inside.”

Added Raisman: “To believe in the future of gymnastics is to believe in change. But how are we to believe in change when these organizations aren’t even willing to acknowledge the problem? … False assurances from organizations are dangerous, especially when people so badly want to believe them. They make it easier to look away from the problem and enable bad things to continue to happen.”

Amazingly, Nassar has submitted a letter to the Michigan court stating it had become “mentally” tough for him to listen to the testimony against him.

“You think this is hard for you?” said Raisman. “Imagine how any of us feels.”

From Sidelines to punchlines

A different view of sports

Clearing my mind and notebook while wondering if Purdue and Ohio State will still be unbeaten in Big Ten basketball when they meet  Feb. 7, just five games before the league tournament:

More drama

Alas, the Jacksonville Jaguars really won’t be facing Patriots quarterback Tom Brady with one hand tied behind his back Sunday when they travel to Foxborough, Mass., to challenge New England for the AFC Championship. That’s the bad news.

I’m pulling for the Jaguars anyway, hoping they can find a path to victory that doesn’t depend on Brady being a wounded warrior.

A severely wounded warrior is what Brady was at midweek when he banged his right hand on the helmet buckle of a teammate at practice. He reportedly needed four stitches for a cut around the knuckle of the thumb on his throwing hand, which he also jammed.

He wore gloves on both hands on Thursday, but didn’t participate in practice. However, on Friday he did have a short practice session in which he threw fairly well, according to NFL Media’s Ian Rapoport. Pats receiver Danny Amendola caught several of those passes and said the ball had plenty of zip.

While Brady didn’t do interviews Wednesday or Thursday, he did speak Friday. He came to the interview session wearing red gloves to keep his injury hidden.

He was coy about whether he would play in Sunday’s 2 p.m. CT game.

“We’ll see,” he said. “I have played in a lot of games in pain.”

Amendola expects Brady to find a way to do all the dicing on Sunday against the Jags’ secondary.

“He’s a warrior, he’s a competitor, and there’s really only one reason he’s here,” said Amendola. “And that’s to play football.”

Tarnished gold

UPDATED: USA gymnastic doctor Larry Nassar sentenced by Michigan judge Rosemarie Aquilini to 175 years for sexual abuse and pornography and pay a yet to be determined amount of restitution. She told him “she was signing his death warrant” because he’d never get out of prison. He’ll serve 60 years on pornography charges before the other charges. Nearly 160 gymnasts from USA Gymnastics testified against him. There are also victims from Michigan State.

USA Gymnastics may never recover from the failure of leadership which turned a blind eye to team doctor Larry Nassar’s sexual abuse of hundreds of young women in the program.

Among the 140 alleged victims are four of the five members of the gold medal-winning 2012 “Fierce Five” and three of the five gold-medal winning 2016 “Final Five” Olympians. The victims include Ally Raisman, Simone Biles, Gabby Douglas, McKayla Maroney and Jordyn Wieber.

Raisman and Douglas were on both U.S. Olympic teams.

Nassar is facing 25 years to life in prison for the sexual abuse charges and already has been sentenced to a 60-year sentence for child pornography. Much of the abuse occurred at the Karolyli Ranch in Texas where national team members trained once a month.

He also worked at Michigan State, where more alleged abuse occurred, which is why the trial is being held in Lansing, Michigan.

Nassar had access to the dorm rooms of the U.S. gymnasts at the ranch, where he could be alone with them for the purpose of treating injuries and giving therapeutic massages.

Parents weren’t allowed to stay at the ranch, which was owned by Bela and Martha Karoyli. Both legendary coaches, the Karoylis aren’t facing charges but USA Gymnastics has decided it will no longer use the ranch as a training center.

In her testimony, Raisman was heavily critical of USA Gymnastics and the U.S. Olympic Committee for being slow to address complaints from athletes who first raised concerns about  Nassar. She said both organizations are “rotting from the inside.”

Added Raisman: “To believe in the future of gymnastics is to believe in change. But how are we to believe in change when these organizations aren’t even willing to acknowledge the problem? … False assurances from organizations are dangerous, especially when people so badly want to believe them. They make it easier to look away from the problem and enable bad things to continue to happen.”

Amazingly, Nassar has submitted a letter to the Michigan court stating it had become “mentally” tough for him to listen to the testimony against him.

“You think this is hard for you?” said Raisman. “Imagine how any of us feels.”

They said it

Janice Hough of LeftCoastSportsBabe.com: “Drew Brees, 39, will be a free agent this year, But Brees says he wants to be in New Orleans “as long as they’ll have him,” isn’t talking to other teams and thinks a deal will be done by March.  No wonder the guy’s underrated, he’s not enough of a diva.”

RJ Currie of SportsDeke.com: “David Beckham has released a line of 21 men’s grooming products. I plan to use them – as soon as they come out with Bald It Like Beckham.”

NBC’s Seth Meyers, on O.J. Simpson denying long-running rumors that he is Khloe Kardashian’s biological father: “But then he announced his new book about his relationship with Kris Jenner called ‘If We Did It.’ ”

Dwight Perry of Seattle Times: “A man in Cocoa, Fla., was arrested for allegedly punching an ATM because it gave him too much money. Taking no chances, the ATM is now in the concussion protocol after complaining of withdrawal symptoms.”

Brad Dickson of the Omaha (Neb.) World-Herald on NBC’s plans for 2,400 hours of Winter Olympic coverage: “If you don’t despise mixed-doubles curling at the beginning, you will by the end.”

NBC comedian Seth Myers: “According to a report, due to global warming, many former winter Olympics sites may not be reliably cold enough to host the games again after 2050. Officials first became suspicious when a figure skater drowned.”

Salute to legend

Brazilian soccer legend Pele, 77,  has suffered numerous health issues in recent years and may not be able to travel to Russia this summer for the 2018 World Cup.

It’d be a shame if that’s the case. Pele made his World Cup debut in 1958 in Sweden at the age of 17 against the USSR. He had an assist in the 2-0 win.

In that World Cup 60 years ago, he went on to score a hat trick in a 5-2 semifinal win over France and then had two goals against host Sweden in the final. He finished with six goals in four games.

He not only became the youngest player to play in a World Cup but also the youngest to score a hat trick.

His first goal against Sweden in the final, where he flicked the ball over a defender and scored off a full volley, was elected as one of the best goals in Cup history.

He is the only player to win the World Cup three times.

Pele was supposed to attend a Football Writers Association dinner in his honor in London on Sunday but he won’t attend because of “exhaustion.” He’s reportedly resting at home near Santos, Brazil.

He has had kidney, prostate and hip surgery.

Headlines

TheKicker.com: “Bengals fans so happy about Steelers loss they give Andy Dalton to charity.”

Fark.com: “Why is fighting in the NHL down to historic lows, and what can be done to fix this terrible problem?”

SportsPickle.com: “Tony Romo to predict when and how you will die in next broadcast.”

TheOnion.com: “USA Gymnastics confident they have plan in place for next time doctor sexually assaults 150 children.”

TheKicker.com: “Eagles to spend entire week practicing defense against last second miracle plays.”

SportsPickle.com: “Tom Brady begging his broken hand to drink more water.

Fark.com: Bestest ballers LiAngelo and LaMelo impress Lithuania with mad bricklaying skills.”

Sign spotted at the Cleveland parade “honoring” the 0-16 Browns: “Hey, LeBron, can you play quarterback?”

Draft blather

Thanks to ESPN, Mel Kiper Jr. has built a cottage industry around the NFL Draft. And for that, you can’t blame ol’ helmet head of hair for such self-promotion while working in cahoots with the cable sports network.”

In partnership with the NFL, they have created a showcase event each year with the NFL Combine in Indianapolis. The 2018 Combine is March 2-5.

Once again NFL and college football fans will be tuned in to see who can run faster, jump higher or throw further. But for those who can’t wait for the raw numbers to come in, there’s Kiper and his assessments of players based on insider interviews with NFL general managers and scouts.

His 2018 mock draft was released this week. Kiper projects Wyoming quarterback Josh Allen will be drafted No. 1 by the Cleveland Browns.

Allen only ranked 82nd in the nation for passing yardage, finishing with 1,870 yards, 16 touchdowns with six interceptions.  In the Mountain West, he was eighth in completion percentage and sixth in passing yardage per game.

UCLA’s Josh Rosen has been atop most NFL draft boards. In comparsion, Rosen was 14th nationally in passing yardage with 3,756 yards, 26 touchdowns and 10 interceptions.

Kiper, of course, has been wrong before.

In 1998, for instance, he thought Ryan Leaf was a better pro prospect that Peyton Manning.

My takes

Rehastagging this week’s top tweets from @Randy_Beard11

–        Huge win for Gamecocks, rally from 14 down in second half to beat #18 Kentucky, 76-68. Chris Silva had career-high, 27 points.

–        Well, that was predictable. Clemson lost to North Carolina 87-79. That stretches record to 0-59 in Chapel Hill. Zero wins. In Basketball. Round ball, flat floor doesn’t help odds for Tigers team that seem to be playing uphill on both ends of court when stepping in UNC’s gym.

–        Skol, Vikings!

–        No Steel Curtain for Pittsburgh vs. Jacksonville. More like Sheer Curtain. Jaguars crunched Pittsburgh for second time this season, winning playoff 45-42.

–        Brian Bowen (La Porte, Ind./La Lumiere School) will attend South Carolina and play for Frank Martin, bringing an end to a tumultuous few months that saw the 5-star recruit enroll at Louisville only to leave after the school decided he would not play there after a NCAA probe.

Cashing in

It pays to be on Nick Saban’s football coaching staff at Alabama.

Not only do the odds favor his assistant coaches winning multiple national championships and setting themselves up for coordinator or head coaching positions at other schools, they are pretty much guaranteed a hefty bonus each season.

This year was particularly rewarding with the Crimson Tide making the CFP playoffs even if they didn’t play for the SEC title.

For winning another national championship, the $7-million man Saban earned a $100,000 bonus.

His assistants, including three who earned bigger bonuses than Saban, were paid a combined $1.07 million.

Defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt, who has moved on to coach Tennessee, received a bonus of $234,000. Meanwhile, offensive coordinator Brian Daboll, who is now the OC for the Buffalo Bills, earned an extra $216,000.

Co-defensive coordinator/linebackers coach Tosh Lupoi was given $171,000 and Mike Locksley, who has been promoted to offensive coordinator from assistant OC, earned $108,000.

The four other staff members received bonuses ranging from $72,000 to $96,000.

Bowl recap

I’ll take consolation that I correctly picked the winners of the College Football Playoff semifinal games, confident that the national championship would be settled by two Southeastern Conference teams.

Alas, I didn’t expect Alabama to prevail in overtime with a stunning 41-yard overtime touchdown pass from freshman backup quarterback Tua Tagovailoa to beat Georgia 26-23.

My postseason picks had blown up long before that. I finished 21-17 overall, which is a 55.2 percent winning percentage. Again, I’ll take consolation in the fact that I fared better in bowl games involving ACC, Big Ten and SEC teams, posting a record of 14-7 (67 percent).

As a reminder, during the regular season I was 86-20 (81.1 percent) in picking Big Ten games this season, 82-20 (80.5 percent) in the SEC and 79-27 (74.5 percent) in the ACC.

Combined, regular and postseason, I had a winning percentage of 78.3 percent with my picks, 271-84.

Sidelines to punchlines

A different view of sports

Clearing my mind and notebook while noting that it snowed in Evansville just in  time for me to get excited about the Winter Olympics – Not.

Best ever

I hereby concede  Nick Saban is the best college football coach of all-time.

There is no reason to debate it. Saban is in a Hall of Fame class of his own.

As log as Saban is coaching the Southeastern Conference should use its considerable clout to negotiate an automatic bye for the Crimson Tide into the College Football Playoffs.

Furthermore, he’s so good at the coaching biz, Alabama should start every league game with a two-touchdown deficit just to restore more competitive balance to the SEC.

That would not only help the SEC improve its chances of getting a second team into the postseason each year, but it would give more programs a shot at winning the SEC title.

It’ll also get Saban and his players more focused on the only postseason games that matter. After all, the SEC title really doesn’t mean that much to Saban and Alabama fans. It’s merely been  the prerequisite in Alabama’s push for another national title.

But that wasn’t the case this year. Because of  pride, Alabama’s players may have been ticked off that they had to watched Georgia beat Auburn for the league title. But in the end, it all worked out. After the Tide crushed 2016 national champion Clemson in the semifinals, Saban’s boys stunned Georgia, 26-23, in overtime to win the 2017 title.

It was an instant classic, surpassing last season’s upset by Clemson in the final seconds.  This time it was the Tide that snatched victory from the jaws of defeat with freshman quarterback Tua Tagovailoa coming off the bench to start the second half to lead Alabama’s comeback from a 13-0 deficit. One play after being sacked for a 16-yard loss in overtime, he threw a 41-yard touchdown pass to DeVonta Smith.

Saban’s decision to start Tagovailoa in the second half was the closing argument for me in declaring  him the best coach of all-time.

There’s zero chance he won’t win at least one more title, maybe two, before Tagovailoa likely moves on to the NFL.

Tracking titles

Saban has now won six national titles, tying him with Alabama’s other legend, Bear Bryant.

Saban already had more titles than all the other active coaches combined with Ohio State’s Urban Meyer winning three (two at Florida) and one each being claimed by Clemson’s Dabo Swinney and former Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher, who is now at Texas A&M.

Saban won one of his championships while coaching LSU in 2003 but he’s won five in nine years at Alabama  (2009,  2011, 2012, 2015. 2017).

His record as a college coach is now 218-62-1 with seven SEC titles, including a 127-20 mark in 11 seasons at Alabama.

Star is born

In the CFP championship game, Tua Tagovailoa completed 14 of 24 passes for 166 yards and three touchdowns with one interception in beating Georgia.

Not bad for one half of work by a freshman who had thrown just 29 passes all season in mop up duty. He completed 21 of those throws for 304 yards and five more touchdowns.

But the best thing Tagovailoa did came days after the title game when he took to Twitter to defend starter Jalen Hurts, who had competed only 3 of 8 passes for 21 yards in the first half of the CFP title game.

Despite being 24-2 as a starter, Hurts was heavily criticized by Twitter idiots. Tgovailoa didn’t hesitate to strike back:

“Tired of people not appreciating the fact that this man led us to the National Championship. And for all the fans that are against Jalen, you are against me too. You either WITH US or AGAINST US. Love you 2. #BigBroLittleBro @JalenHurts.

By the way, one of Tagovailoa’s newest fans is Mr. T, “Professional pitier of fools,” who tweeted: “As a Christian, I was so Proud of Alabama Quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, Giving the Glory to God!”

They said it

RJ Currie of SportsDeke.com:  “Word is Maria Sharapova has unleashed a record-level shriek of 119 decibels. It happened when Australian Open officials announced the withdrawal of Serena Williams.”

Janice Hough of LeftCoastSportsBabe.com: ‘Guess I was wrong, I thought respecting the National Anthem meant learning all the words. @realDonaldTrump”

Brad Dickson of the Omaha (Neb.) World-Herald: ‘How slick were some Omaha streets early Thursday? The Olympic qualifying luge trials were held in my driveway.”

R.J. Currie of SportsDeke.com: “Did you see Lightning forward Tyler Johnson scoring against the Canes with both skates off the ground? I guess switching to right wing really did elevate his game.”

Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times: “Indians hurler Trevor Bauer — using a five-step running start and a three-ounce ball — uncorked a pitch clocked at 116.9 mph. So who needs to hear the crack of the bat when you can have a sonic boom?”

Jim Barach of WCHS-TV in Charleston, W.Va.: “A report says Papa John’s Pizza may not buy ad time for the Super Bowl. Apparently the company just doesn’t have enough dough.”

Comedy writer TC Chong: “The Las Vegas Knights are the most successful first year team in the history of all major sports. Their home record is an astonishing 18-2-1. Are they really that good, or does the policy of having the visiting team partake in the “two drink minimum” have anything to do with this?”

Soccer’s future

For what it’s worth, Christian Pulisic is the future of U.S. Soccer. Big surprise, right?

Only 19, the Borussia Dortmund midfielder was named the United States Soccer Player of the Year Thursday by Futbol de Primera after balloting by 104 writers and broadcasters. It comes on the heels of him being named the U.S. Soccer Federation Male Player of the Year last month, giving him a sweep of the player of the year awards.

For the latest honor, he received 81 first-place and 254 points, topping Jozy Altidore (95) and Michael Bradley (75).

Landon Donovan, at 20, had been the youngest winner of the award.

A native of Hershey, Pa., Pulisic had six goals and four assists in nine games for the national team and was involved in 13 of the 17 American goals in games he played.

The U.S. did not qualify for the World Cup this summer in Russia.

Headlines

SportsPickle.com: “Report: Nick Saban pondering retirement to spend more time criticizing his family.”

Fark.com:  “Marcus Mariota throws a touchdown pass to Marcus Mariota.”

TheKicker.com: “Gruden already putting Raiders assistant coaches through two-a-days.”

Fark.com: “SEC loses in championship game for second straight year.”

SportsPickle.com: “Browns confirm they will skip NFL Draft to avoid drafting any future Browns.”

TheKicker.com: “To play if safe, Vikings will start all 3 quarterbacks at once.”

Earning respect

Central Florida’s declaration that it won the national championship never gained much traction outside of Orlando.

Sure, the Knights were the only team in college football to finish without a loss this year and among their 13 victories was a Peach Bowl triumph over Auburn. And yes, Auburn was the only team to defeat Alabama.

But that’s not how it works.

In the final Associated Press poll, UCF was ranked No. 6 and the USA Today poll had the Knights at No. 7.

But at least CBS Sports’ final rankings of all 130 teams gave UCF some love. That poll had Alabama No. 1, Georgia No. 2, Oklahoma No. 3 and UCF No. 4. Clemson, which was the defending national champion and the No. 1 seed in the CFP playoff this season, was ranked fifth.

All UCF really wanted was to get one of the four seeds in the CFP playoffs. Better late, than never.

Dr. Serena

One day after having an emergency C-section to deliver her daughter Alexis, Serena Williams wasn’t feeling well and suspected she had developed blood clots.

It’s a medical crisis she’s dealt with before, so she was confident she had made the proper diagnosis.

One, she was having trouble breathing. Two, she wasn’t taking her anticoagulant medicine due to the C-section, which she knew increased her chances for developing a pulmonary embolism.

When no one seemed to take her seriously, she got out of bed and walked to the nurse’s station, demanding a CT scan with contrast dye as well as asking to be put on a IV drip for a blood thinner.

The nurses thought she was just being paranoid and was possibly confused by the pain medication, so they scheduled her for an ultrasound exam. When that didn’t reveal any problems, Williams again insisted she need to be put on a blood thinner and be taken for a CT-scan.

The hospital finally consented – probably knowing that Williams could afford the tests herself if it was contested by insurance.

When the CT-scan revealed several small blood clots had settled in her lung, Williams got the blood thinner she had been requesting.

“I was like, listen to Dr. Williams,” she said.

Williams lives in constant fear of blood clots, so she knew enough about the possible complications that can come with having a C-section birth.

My takes

Rehastagging this week’s top tweets from @Randy_Beard11

FINAL: Alabama 26, Georgia 23, OT. Nick Saban still hasn’t lost to former assistant and he now has 6 national championships.

UCF = Unfair College Football

UCF = Unfulfilled Championship Fantasy

Indiana head football coach Tom Allen announced today that Kane Wommack has joined His staff as 10th assistant coach now allowed by NCAA.

Brian Bowen (La Porte, Ind./La Lumiere School) will attend South Carolina and play for Frank Martin, bringing an end to a tumultuous few months that saw the 5-star recruit enroll at Louisville only to leave after the school decided he would not play there after FBI/NCAA probe.

Congrats to Mike Brey for becoming Notre Dame’s wins leader with 394th to pass Digger Phelps by routing N.C. State. Brey also now just 7 wins from 500th victory.

For my birthday, it’s free to read my blog

Actually, it’s always free, but if you do it today I promise you want be disappointed. Or I won’t be disappointed,

And I promise there will be another entry on the site later this week. I’m in my slow season with one entry a week rather than four or five. But again, it’s free, so it won’t cost you anything to make me happy.

On my birthday. So read at least one of the entries. Now.