From Sideline to punchlines

A different view of sports

Clearing my mind and notebook while continuing to be amazed by Brooks Koepeka’s masterful display of golf since bouncing back from a wrist injury that kept him out of The Masters:

Big Ten Turmoil

Ohio State’s Urban Meyer has a new contender for the hottest preseason seat in college football. Maryland’s third-year head coach D.J. Durkin could have even moved closer to the exit door, based on a Friday report by ESPN.

The Buckeyes’ Meyer has been accused of protecting former receivers coach Zach Smith for years despite multiple domestic abuse incidents, and then perhaps lying about it. Meanwhile, Durkin has been accused of abusing players verbally and physically while operating a toxic culture at Maryland.

The scrutiny has only gotten more serious after offensive lineman Jordan McNair, 19, died of heat stroke in June during a team conditioning workout.

Two current Maryland players only agreed to be interviewed off the record by ESPN because they fear repercussions from Durkin and Rick Count, the strength and conditioning coach. But both have had their allegations supported by multiple former players and current and former athletic department staff members.

Defensive lineman Malik Jones, who transferred to Toledo after last season, said he and Durkin got into an altercation after Durkin accused him of “bad-mouthing the program” and encouraged him to leave.

“I’m not going to let a guy bully me,” said Jones. “… He called me a b—- and stuff like that. I’m not going to tolerate that.”

One former staff member told ESPN that he would “never, ever, ever allow my child to be coached there.”

There are allegations of constant verbal abuse and physical intimidation of players.

Court is alleged to have cursed players and attempted to punish some by forcing them to lift more weight than they’re capable of handling.

“He’s just a ball of testosterone all the time,” one player told ESPN. “He’ll single people out he doesn’t like, which is a common practice here. Guys are run off … He’s kind of Durkin’s tool to accomplish that.”

Multiple members of the Maryland football support staff were placed on administrative leave on Friday amid an investigation into the circumstances surrounding McNair’s death. But according to the Baltimore Sun, Durkin is still expected to be the Terps’ coach this season.

It’s hard to see how that can be possible, though, if the allegations against Durkin prove to be true.

Bearing down

Brendon Morphet may have lost the marathon, but at least he lived to tell about it.

He also came away with a pretty good story after two grizzly bears got in his way during the closing stretch of the Yukon River Trail Marathon in Whitehorse, Canada.

Morphet said he rounded a corner in the third leg of the marathon near Chadburn Lake when he encountered two grizzlies, which weren’t about to get out of his way. When they started moving toward him, Morphet retreated. He ran into a couple of runners who were participating in the relay portion of the event and another marathoner, Denise McHale. McHale was in second place at that point.

After asking the other three runners why they were retreating, McHale chose to keep going forward. It turned out to be the smart move. The grizzlies had moved on, clearing the path for her to win the marathon for the second time in 10 years. She won the 2009 race in 3:18.34. her time this year was 3:34.52.

McHale also has had top four finishes in 2016 (3), 2015 (4), 2013 (3) and 2011 (4).

“He kind of got ripped off a little bit,” McHale said of Morphet.

Morphet, who had led by about 15 minutes, clocked a second-place time of 3:26.51. He also finished second in 2017.

Ken Sylvestre, the director of the race, said runners are forewarned that they can encounter bears on the trails and that no race times are adjusted for such unexpected detours or roadblocks.

“Well, it’s a wilderness race,” Sylvestre told CBS News. “There are bears. We’ve had bears before.”

They said it

Omaha comedy writer Brad Dickson on Twitter: “At last report Urban Meyer was huddling with his closest loved ones – BTN analysts and play-by-play men.”

Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times: Two brothers in New Jersey uncovered five rare Mickey Mantle baseball cards. Even better, they didn’t find them clipped next to the spokes on their old bicycle.”

RJ Currie of SportsDeke.com: “Police at the Tour de France using tear gas on protestors accidentally sprayed several cyclists. The protestors cried; the cyclists asked for something stronger.”

Janice Hough of LeftCoastSportsBabe: “QB Chazz Surratt was one of 13 UNC Carolina football players suspended up to 4 games this season for selling school-issued, special-edition Nike Jordan shoes. So are the Tar Heels now a big-time football program?”

Omaha comedy writer Brad Dickson on Twitter, again, when there was a lull at Big Ten Media Days: “Rutgers is up at the podium, so everybody breaks for lunch.”

NBC comedian Seth Myers: “The NFL’s Arizona Cardinals have launched a new competition where fans can win a team jersey and get their photo on the scoreboard if they eat a burger consisting of five patties, five hot dogs, five bratwursts, eight slices of bacon, eight chicken tenders, 12 ounces of fries, lettuce, pickles, sauce, and 20 slices of cheese in under an hour. Said one fan, “Ugh, lettuce?”

RJ Currie of SportsDeke.com, again: “Ravens rookie QB Lamar Jackson took a serious shot near the sidelines in the Hall of Fame Game. He was hit so hard it knocked both the chips off his shoulders.”

Bob Molinaro of pilotonline.com: “I was surprised to hear last week that Washington Nationals starter Stephen Strasburg was turning 30. Seems like just the other day the big righty was a gangly kid appearing on his first disabled list.”

Janice Hough of LeftCoastSportsBabe.com, again: “Johnny Manziel threw four first-half interceptions for the Montreal Alouettes in his first CFL game. So Johnny’s auditioning to get back with the Cleveland Browns?”

Scott Ostler of the San Francisco Chronicle: “What’s better. to be through the roof or off the charts? Off the grid or under the radar? Underrated or overserved? Over-exposed or half-baked?”

Omaha comedy writer Brad Dickson, again on Twitter: How good have the Huskers looked so far in practice according to the coaches? Try this on for size: “Super Bowl contenders.

Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times, again: “Star receiver Antonio Brown arrived at Steelers training camp in a helicopter. Holdout RB Le’Veon Bell, not to be outdone, immediately booked a Brinks truck.”

Nebraska football coach Scott Frost on his team’s wide-open QB competition: “Have you ever played Monopoly? Everybody’s on Go right now.”

Brad Rock of Salt Lake City’s Deseret News, after Stanford  RB Bryce Love skipped the Pac-12’s media day because of academics: “Ute fans are already telling him, ‘Don’t forget the Oct. 6 Stanford-Utah game will be during midterms!’ ”

Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times, again: “Sean Newcomb and Trea Turner have joined Josh Hader as MLB players who’ve had years-old offensive tweets suddenly revisited. Just guessing they’re no longer big fans of instant replay.”

LeVar Ball, insisting the L.A. Lakers are still his son Lonzo’s team, despite the arrival of LeBron James: “You can say what you want, but we know what it is. I told you, Lonzo didn’t go to Cleveland. LeBron came here to L.A. We already over here.”

CBS comedian James Corden on news HBO is picking up LeBron James’ Barbershop concept talk show that airs on his digital network Uninterrupted: “Apparently, LeBron’s talk show is going to be him and four random guests you may or may not have heard of. You know, like when he plays basketball.”

Tired of winning

Does President Trump believe that as Commander in Chief, his rule and authority goes beyond being the figurehead leader of our military? And does he realize that such a position of privilege doesn’t give him the authority to order the rest of us to recite the Pledge of Allegiance, sing “God Bless America” or not kneel for the “Star Spangled Banner?”

Because, seriously, he’s just the President. No one appointed him Commissioner of the NFL.

Yet, he was back to binge Tweeting in recognition of the NFL opening its preseason Thursday night.

He once again wrote a lot of meaningless gibberish and then signed off with this gem: “… Stand proudly for your National Athem or be Suspended Without Pay!”

I don’t believe he knows the words to any of those exercises of patriotism, and I suggest we make that a future test before we allow any president-elect put their hand on a Bible.

For all Trump’s bluster, only a couple of players kneeled during the playing of the National Anthem Thursday night, while a few raised their fists in protest of social injustice.

Meanwhile, Trump continues his attempts to distract from the destructive policies of his administration and the acts of corruption that line the pockets of him and his cronies.

If this is what it feels like to win, then yeah, I’m tired of winning.

Unintended tragedy

It’s tragic the way Sandor Szabo lost his life. But it’s also criminal the way Jamill Jones reacted after Szabo, allegedly drunk, started banging on car windows.

Jones, an assistant basketball coach at Wake Forest, didn’t intend to kill Szabo with the punch he threw. I think we can believe that much. But the unintended reality is that’s what happened when Szabo fell backward and hit his head. The punch knocked him out and he never regained consciousness.

The incident happened last Sunday night in New York. Szabo was taken off life support  Tuesday. Jones turned himself in Thursday, and Wake Forest placed Jones on leave Friday.

Based on eyewitness reports, police state Szabo, 35, was confronted by Jones, also 35, after Szabo banged on his window. Jones got out of his car, punched the Floridian, and then sped off. Witnesses believe an inebriated Szabo was trying to locate a Uber driver.

His death has been ruled a homicide caused by blunt impact to his head.

Headlines

Sportspickle.com: “Space Force is getting crushed by the Cleveland Browns. Not a great start for our space troops.”

TheOnion.com: “Terry Francona still amazed people think managing baseball hard in any way.”

Fark.com: “Baseball player catches heat for old tweets. Not a repeat from … wait, how many of these have we done now?”

Sportspickle.com: “Brandon Weeden is 9-for-11 tonight with 2 TDs. The Browns wouldn’t have needed to draft Mayfield No. 1 overall if they had kept Weeden.”

TheOnion.com: “Will new NFL Player Safety rules ruin football injuries.”

Fark.com: “Madden 19 will allow you to relive the glory of the San Diego Chargers.”

Sportspickle.com: “LeBron James became the best in his field, a billionaire, a worldwide brand, opened a (real) school – – and did it all without getting a loan from his father. Clearly he’s a dumb guy.”

TheOnion.com: “Can Carmelo Anthony help Rockets clean up around the arena after games?”

Fark.com: “Patriots to add $5 million in incentives to Tom Brady’s contract, including a bonus for catching a football while wide open.”

Sportspickle.com: “Look, if LeBron James really cared about people, he would have cured cancer. Until he does, I don’t want to hear about him.”

Belated congrats

Indiana University swimmer Lilly King keeps racking up the medals, winning gold in the 100-meter breaststroke at the 2018 Pan Pacific Championship in Tokyo Thursday.

The reigning Olympic gold medalist and world-record holder in the event, King posted a time of 1:05.44 — the second fastest in the world this year.

And the best thing about the senior from Evansville, Indiana is that she doesn’t seem to care about anything but the joy of winning. The medals she claims are willingly shared with young fans.

Gone too soon

Australian golfer Jarrod Lyle lost his battle with leukemia at the age of 36 Thursday after he stopped treatment last week.

He leaves behind wife Briony and children Lusi, 6, and Jemmi, 2. He died at home in Melbourne.

Lyle elected palliative care on August 1 after acute myeloid leukemia returned for a third time beginning at 17.

“He asked that I provide a simple message: ‘Thanks for your support, it meant the world,” said Briony. “My time was short, but if I’ve helped people think and act on behalf of those families who suffer through cancer, hopefully it wasn’t wasted’.”

Fantasy 101

I’m no longer in a Fantasy Football League, but if I were I’d insists on having a starting lineup that I promise wouldn’t change unless there was an injury or a bye week.

Here’s my lineup: Quarterback – Drew Brees, Saints; Running backs – Saquan Barkley, Giants, Christian McCaffrey, Panthers; Wide receivers – T.Y. Hilton, Colts, Alshon Jeffrey, Eagles; Tight end – Jack Doyle, Colts; Kicker – Ryan Succop, Titans; Defense – Texans.

I figure that should be enough to score  60 points each week in a old school league. You know, back when Joe Montana was still hooking up with Freddie Solomon and Dwight Clark.

From Sidelines to punchlines

A different view of sports

Clearing my mind and notebook while growing tired of the other fake news problem in this country – advertorial content accompanied by misleading headlines that  link to clickbait:

Dollar-bill defense

Five former University of Louisville basketball players have filed suit against the NCAA because they allege their reputations have been sullied for having played for former coach Rick Pitino.

OK, that’s not actually the basis for their lawsuit – even if it probably should be the main thrust of their argument.

Technically, the lawsuit accuses the NCAA of smearing the reputations of all the ‘Ville players and casting them in a false light as a result of Stripper Gate. Their hope is to have the Cardinals’ 2013 national championship restored along with 123 wins from four seasons and any individual honors that were stripped away because of an escort scandal.

The players are arguing that the NCAA was too harsh in its punishment even if there were strippers in the basketball dorm on a regular basis hooking up with some of their teammates and recruits.

Former players Luke Hancock, Gorgui Dieng, Stephen Van  Treese, Tim Henderson and Michael Marra claim they didn’t participate or know about the sex parties. But they would have to successfully plead a “Choir Boy” Defense in order to win their case.

Hancock was named the most outstanding player of the Final Four that year but insists he did not participate in any of the shenanigans arranged by basketball staffer Andre McGee through escort Katrina Powell. But it’s been well documented that there were strippers on the premises, and that’s where it gets problematic for Hancock and Co.

For the NCAA to impose sanctions for rules violations, not every player on a team has to be found guilty of receiving extra benefits.

There’s a reason why Louisville was stripped of the 2013 national championship, 123 wins and millions of dollars. And there’s also reasons why Pitino is no longer the Cardinals’ coach and Tom Jurich is no longer the athletic director at Louisville.

Guilty or not, Hancock should be content that the NCAA also hasn’t taken away that championship ring he is still wearing. He needs to hold on to  his memories and do his best to put the scandal in the past.

Perspective is everything

San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich was recently asked how he “endured” the death of his wife Erin a few months back and all the frustrations he faced as a coach last season, including a seventh-place finish in the NBA’s Western Conference and a first-round exit in the playoffs.

“When you say we’ve endured, this is basketball,” said Pops, arguably the most politically and socially aware coach of this generation. “We’re playing a child’s game and getting paid for it. If you look at what’s going on in the world, there are billions of people enduring. We aren’t enduring anything.”

Popovich is active in numerous charities, humanitarian causes and social justice issues. He’s also the longest tenured coach in the NBA, posting 21 consecutive winning seasons and leading San Antonio to five league championships.

They said it

RJ Currie of SportsDeke.com, again: “Rams running back Todd Gurley’s new deal includes $45 million in guaranteed money. Or about $9 million per fumble.”

Omaha comedy writer Brad Dickson on Twitter: ‘This is impressive: many of Urban Meyer’s former players at Florida are planning to rally to his defense after they make parole.’

Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times: “Basketball Hall of Famer Charles Barkley finished dead last at the American Century Championship celebrity golf tournament, but at least his wild tee shots were memorable. The words ‘get down’ hadn’t been uttered this much since the disco era.”

Janice Hough of LeftCoastSportsBabe: “Cowboys’ QB Dak Prescott says NFL anthem protests take away ‘from the joy and the love that football brings.” But hey, maybe the CTE will help players forget.”

RJ Currie of SportsDeke.com: “Here’s a disturbing thought: If NFL wideout Dez Bryant signs with Chicago, we may have to call him Bear Bryant.”

Omaha comedy writer Brad Dickson on Twitter: “Tanner Farmer just predicted the Husker football team will win a gold medal and the America’s Cup. Stay tuned for more on this breaking story.”

Comedian Steve Hofstettler on Twitter: “I’m in favor of sending Dennis Rodman to North Korea. Either he helps over there or he gets executed. Win-win.”

 Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel after Aaron Gordon said signing his four-year, $76 million dollar contract with the Magic “brought tears to my eyes: “The first confirmed case of someone who actually was crying all the way to the bank.”

Janice Hough of LeftCoastSportsBabe.com, again: “Even fans of the 1962 Mets are beginning to think the 2018 Mets really suck.”

Omaha comedy writer Brad Dickson, again on Twitter: “Nebraska is about to begin fall football practice. The only people in full pads today will be several super gung ho fans.”

Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times, again: “Detroit and Cleveland came in Nos. 1 and 3 in Wallethub.com’s latest ratings of America’s most distressed cities. People cheer for the Lions and Browns there. Any more questions?”

RJ Currie of SportsDeke.com, again: Rangers pitcher Bartolo Colon will likely end the season as Latin America’s winningest pitcher. With that waistline, it’s clear he’s had no trouble finding the plate.”

Former Duke, Florida and South Carolina head football coach Steve Spurrier on his zero-tolerance rule for domestic abuse: “I think it should be a rule in all of college football.”

Dog days

Newarena.com released its list of “Greatest College Running Backs of All-time” and Georgia fans should be barking up a storm. Yep, Herschel Walker came out on top even after all these years.

After all,  the “Grand Dog of All” is a who’s who of running backs with Barry Sanders of Oklahoma State coming in second, Ron Dayne of Wisconsin finishing third, Archie Griffin of Ohio State claiming fourth and Ricky Williams of Texas at No. 5.

You knew Williams was good because he always left a trail of smoke, right?

I won’t reveal the complete the list of great backs but it includes 30 overall, and while you can argue the order they appear, Newarena.com didn’t overlook all-time greats like (7) Red Grange of Illinois or  (19) Jim Thorpe of Carlisle.

We should also note that No. 10 on the list is Doak Walker of Southern Methodist, the 1948 Heisman Trophy winner whose name you should recognize because the award for the nation’s top running back is named after him.

As for Walker, he had a 16-year career in the USFL and NFL after rushing for 5,239 yards and 76 touchdowns at Georgia, led the Bulldogs to the 1980 national title and won  the 1982 Heisman Trophy.

End is near

And then there’s this from Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times: “Latest sign that the apocalypse is nearly upon us: Bryce Love, Stanford’s Heisman-worthy running back, chose staying back at school to go to class over an appearance at Pac-12 Football Media Day.”

Headlines

SportsPickle.com: “I know it’s hard to compare eras in sports, but Ty Cobb would have broken all MLB records for racist and homophobic tweets.”

Fark.com: “Ronaldo scores rare “shoulder goal” in first week of training with Juventus. My god, he might be better than Tebow.”

TheOnion.com: “Neil deGrasse Tyson debunks stadium’s home run animation depicting ball launching into the stratosphere.”

SportsPickle.com: “Okay, so other than Penn State, Michigan State and Ohio State, the Big Ten seems like it’s good people.”

Fark.com: “A 10-year-old named Clark Kent beat a record that Michael Philps held for 23 years. No word if his mom is named Martha.”

SportsPickle.com: “Congratulations to 2019 Alabama offensive coordinator Urban Meyer!”

Fark.com: “Washington Nationals beat the Mets by three touchdowns, 25-4.”

SportsPickle.com: “How does Jim Harbaugh feel about John Harbaugh coaching a team named after a bird?”

Fark.com: “Looks like Ohio State is about to have another coaching legend get canned.”

 Timing, timing

The Ohio-based eatery Bob Evans Restaurants has “fired” Urban Meyer as its “head breakfast coach.” Knowing that, can the real punishment be far behind for Ohio State’s suspended football coach?

The chain recently signed a marketing deal with Meyer, who has been suspended by the university amid reports that he knew about domestic abuse incidents between former assistant coach Zach Smith and his wife.

In a statement from the restaurant chain, it was announced: “We are suspending the current partnership with Urban Meyer and removing all related content pending the results of the official Ohio State University investigation.”

Meyer is on paid administrative leave, but his contract does provide provision for him to be fired by the school for conduct, including lying to the university.

At the recent Big Ten Conference media days, Meyer admitted that he knew of a 2009 incident between Smith and his then-wife when he hired him as a receivers coach in 2012, but Meyer insists he did not know about any other incidents of domestic abuse, including a 2015 incident.

European rehab

If Meyer is fired or forced out in Columbus, maybe he can start a new life for himself in Europe as former Baylor coach Art Briles has chosen to do.

Briles is going to coach in Italy after a nearly two-year exile for his mishandling of multiple sexual assault allegations by numerous players from 2009 to 2016.

Now Briles is going to coach an American football team in Florence, Italy – although the season won’t begin until March.

Meanwhile, in the past week Briles’ attorneys turned over nearly 4,000 pages of documents and six audio recordings to lawyers representing 10 women in a Title IX lawsuit against the university because of the handling of the sexual assault charges. After all the delays and denials he and his staff made for years, Briles has now told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram that he in hindsight he “would have done more.”

Baylor should be required to do more too. They certainly went beyond the call of duty in their cleaning house of Briles and former president Ken Starr. Yes, that Ken Starr.

As part of its settlement with Briles, Baylor paid the former football coach more than $15 million – his contract had included a $39 million buyout. The school also gave Starr  more than $4 million to get him to step away as chancellor. Then it gave him a job teaching in its law school.

What a country!

Now Briles is going to work in a country where many believe it’s merely recreational sport to harass women and pinch butts.

Last word

Shaquille O’Neal started a buzz in L.A. by suggesting that Kobe Bryant was considering coming out of retirement to wrap up his career with a better ending while playing with LeBron James.

Only one problem. Shaq should have talked to Kobe’s wife Vanessa.

Vanessa Bryant has since made it clear that Kobe’s days of basketball are most confined to him coaching his girls and shooting hoops for fun – mostly alone.

“Kobe will not be coming out of retirement to play again,” she said. “He doesn’t want to play again and frankly we really enjoy spending time together as a family without all the crazy game schedule conflicts interfering with birthdays, holidays and special events.”

Bryant, 39, was slowed by injuries the last few years of his career, playing in just 107 games the last three seasons. But he did win an Academy Award for best film short, “Dear Basketball” in 2018, so he’s already accomplished in a second career.

From Sidelines to punchlines

A different view of sports

Clearing my mind and notebook while pulling for my favorite swimmer, Indiana’s  Lilly King, to continue her 50 and 100 meter breaststroke dominance this weekend at nationals:

Home, sweet, home

South Carolina football coach Will Muschamp, who says spending time at five Southeastern Conference schools, gives him a unique perspective, is obviously a little biased toward his current employer.

The Gamecocks are just putting the finishing touches on their new football operations building, so he had reason to strut like a proud rooster during his appearance at the SEC Media Days in Atlanta last week. The football ops building is 110-square feet of magnificence, which is a $50-million investment in the program.

“It’s been a difference-maker for us in our program,” said Muschamp, a former Georgia player who has coached at Auburn, LSU, Florida and South Carolina. “People have asked me all of the time: ‘You guys really seem like you’re recruiting well.’ When you invest in the student-athletes, like we are doing now in South Carolina and we’ve never done before, wholeheartedly with the football program, it makes a difference … It’s going to be a lot of fun moving forward.”

While things appear to be on the upswing athletically, the Gamecocks are already near the top of the collegiate world academically. South Carolina’s football program was first in the SEC in graduation rate and third in the nation last year and the team finished with a spring semester cumulative GPS of 2.87, which is third highest in school history.

“We represent 27 different majors on our campus on our football team,” said Muschamp. “That’s impressive. I worked at some institutions in this league that had about two.”

Sounds about right.

$70-million man

Well, that seals the deal.

Nick Saban will have the rest of us to kick around for at least another seven seasons.

Alabama has announced the Crimson Tide head football coach has agreed to a contract extension through the 2025 season. His base salary this fall will be $7.5 million and will automatically increase by $400,000 annually.  He’ll also received $800,000 bonus payments at the end of  the 2018, 2019, 2020 and 2021 seasons. That means that by the time he walks away from Tuscaloosa, Ala., on Feb. 28, 2026, Saban will be have pocketed approximately another $70 million, even if he doesn’t win another title.

Pays to be good

Speaking of salaries, Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables, isn’t doing too poorly himself. He just had the Board of Trustees sign off on a 5-year deal that will pay him a total of $11.6 million, not counting bonuses.

As it is, he will earn $2,2 million this season, which is a half-million dollar raise from 2017. Not bad for coaching a little ball and being restrained on the sidelines a dozen times a game.

In addition to adding two years to Venables’ contract, the school will provide further compensation for each season he stays through life insurance premiums totaling $1.2 million over the next four years.

And then there’s the benefit Venables will receive of getting to watch his son, Jake, play for the Tigers. You can’t put a monetary value on that.

They said it

Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times: “Iowa defensive lineman Brady Reiff was arrested for public intoxication – to the tune of .204 BAC – after he tried to open the door of a University of Iowa police car that he mistook for a Uber. Hawkeye apologists immediately accused the cops of disguising their coverage.”

NBC comedian Seth Myers, after police arrested a Massachusetts man for stripping naked and doing yoga poses at a Planet Fitness gym: “That story again: A man in Massachusetts has become the first person ever to successfully cancel his gym membership.”

Janice Hough of LeftCoastSportsBabe: “Vince Carter has re-upped for his 21st year with the Hawks. Your turn, Manu  Ginobili   #GoSpursGo.”

Danica Patrick, hosting the ESPYs: “Why do people keep talking about Tiger Woods when he isn’t winning? I mean, who does he think he is? Me?”

RJ Currie of SportsDeke.com: “Justin Verlander predicted Aaron Judge would homer in the All-Star game. He also foretold Middle East unrest, a World Cup player diving and Donald Trump having a bad hair day.”

Omaha comedy writer Brad Dickson on Twitter: “After seeing how confident Scott Frost was at Media Days I’ve begun work on my banner congratulating the Huskers for winning the 2021 national championship.”

 Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel on Ricky Stenhouse and Danica Patrick breaking up: “Valentine’s Day in the garage at Daytona just won’t be the same without Ricky romantically giving Danica a dozen long-stemmed socket wrenches and a box of chocolate-covered lug nuts.”

Janice Hough of LeftCoastSportsBabe.com, again: “Larry Nassar alleges he was assaulted in prison. “I feel so sorry for him,” said absolutely, positively nobody.”

Omaha comedy writer Brad Dickson, again on Twitter:  “After hearing Lovie Smith’s assessment of the present state of the Illinois program, grief counselors were brought into the room to help the assembled media deal with their emotions.”

Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times, again: “The U.S. women’s fencing team, competing in Wuxi, China, became the first American squad in history to win a senior world championship in the foil discipline. Guess you won’t be hearing them say, “Curses – foiled again!” any time soon.”

RJ Currie of SportsDeke.com, again: “Watching the Nadal-Djokovic Wimbledon match after the Isner-Anderson servers’ duel was like taking in an Impressionist art exhibit after looking at a fridge covered in finger-paintings.”

Former NBA coach George Karl, writing in his 2017 memoir, “Furious George: My Forty Years Surviving NBA Divas, Clueless GMs, and Poor Shot Selection,” alleging some NBA players had used performance enhancing drugs: “How are some guys getting older — yet thinner and fitter? How are they recovering from injuries so fast? Why the hell are they going to Germany in the offseason? I doubt it’s for the sauerkraut.”

Pearls of wisdom

Now managing the Chicago Cubs, Eddie Vedder.

Ok, not really. But the Pearl Jam singer is getting a look at Joe Maddon’s lineups before each game, even if the group is on tour in Europe.

Whatever works. After all, Vedder is a Cubs fan from Evanston, Ill., and Maddon is superstitious enough to believe that the rocker’s support had something to do with the club winning it all in 2016. Vedder even wrote a song, “All the Way.”

So if Maddon wants Vedder looking over his lineup card, so be it. The team has the best record in the National League.  That has to count for something.

Long odds

Patricio Heras reached a career-high ranking of No. 269 on the ATP Tour when he was 24. That was nearly five years ago, which probably should have been the Argentinian tennis player’s sign to hang up the racket.

Why? Because he’s now been sanctioned for trying to fix a 2015 match on the ATP Challenger circuit in Barranguilla, Colombia. Now 29, he has been found guilty of the charges and has been suspended from playing until his punishment has been decided.

Another Argentine player, Nicholas Kicker, was recently suspended for six years for match fixing, so Heras would be wise to give up his dreams of Wimbledon glory.

Besides, he’s now ranked No. 306.

Headlines

TheOnion.com: “Promotion offers fans free pizza if Phillies don’t blow any easy plays in 5th inning.”

Fark.com: “The Cleveland Browns unveil new slogan, and its pretty Cleveland Brownsy.”

TheOnion.com: “Royals players concerned about fan who stuck out 3-hour rain delay.”

Fark.com: “Carmelo Anthony continues tradition of blaming anybody but himself.”

TheOnion.com: “NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL team owners vote to unionize.”

Fark.com: “In other news, Vince Carter is still in the NBA.”

Fark.com: “Arena soccer includes a penalty box, power-play and substitutions are done on the fly. Why has there never been a sport like this before?”

Russian collusion

The start of the European Championships in track and field are less than two weeks away, and once again Russian athletes won’t be waving their country’s flag when the competition begins in Berlin.

The IAAF Council extended the sanctions against Russia’s federation of track and field.

Rune Anderson, a Swede who heads up the IAAF’s Russian taskforce team, did hold out hope that the testing of the country’s athletes has shown significant improvement.

However, to be reinstated fully by the IAAF, Anderson said the Russian federation must do three things: reimburse the IAAF for its investigation of the doping scandal; must be reinstated by the World Anti-Doping Agency, which includes a confession that doping was sanctioned by Russian authorities; and the IAAF must be given access to drug tests conducted at RUSADA’s Moscow laboratory between 2011-15.

Russia was accused in a WADA report in 2016 of widespread state-sponsored doping. Its track team was barred from that summer’s Rio Olympics and also missed the IAAF World Championships in London a year later.

A number of Russian athletes, however, have been granted permission by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) to compete as neutrals. However, the IOC lifted its Olympic ban on Russia after the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Games.

Ranking the pros

According to Business Insider, the defending champion Philadelphia Eagles will enter the season as the best the National Football League has to offer

After that, it’s pretty much the usual suspects,

The top eight teams in their rankings: 1. Eagles; 2. Los Angeles Rams; 3. Minnesota Vikings; 4. New England Patriots; 5. New Orleans Saints; 6. Carolina Panthers; 7. Jacksonville Jaguars; 8. Atlanta Falcons.

From Sidelines to punchlines

A different view of sports

 

Clearing my mind and notebook while beginning to get excited about another season of college football:

Final stand?

President Trump was back at it again on Friday, taking aim at NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell for allowing the pro football league to freeze its newly-implemented policy requiring players to remain standing during the national anthem.

That didn’t make Trump happy, so he took to Twitter to let his base know what he thinks.

“The $40,000,000 Commissioner must now make a stand. First time kneeling, out for game. Second time kneeling, out for season/no pay!” Trump wrote.

Ol’ Donnie boy does enjoy stirring the pot.

Maybe he could stand to face such scrutiny. First time kissing Putin’s butt, issue America an apology. Second time kissing Putin’s butt, suspension of Twitter privileges. Third time kissing Putin’s butt, impeachment proceedings.

But then we’re past that, aren’t we?

The NFL had announced a new policy this spring following widespread player protests last year. Those protests made the NFL one of Trump’s favorite targets, calling former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick and others, mostly African-American players, SOBs. He said the league’s owners should kick players off teams if they knelt.

He even questioned whether they should be allowed to stay in the country.

So when Goodell bowed to pressure from the players union to review the new rule that would have required standing during the national anthem, Trump was back at it.

The NFL announced the policy freeze by stating, “Our shared focus will remain on finding a solution to the anthem issue through mutual, good faith commitments, outside of litigation.”

Meanwhile, when it comes to his own policies, Trump has been known to reverse field quicker than Ezekiel Elliott.

 Power struggle

Stewart Mandel of TheAthletic wrote a column handicapping the odds of an SEC coach not named Nick Saban winning a national championship. Interesting stuff, but it is guaranteed to disappoint South Carolina fans who have had to watch Clemson’s Dabo Swinney win one title and contend for several others.

Mandel rates Georgia’s Kirby Smart at 3:1, Auburn’s Gus Malzahn at 9:2 and Texas A&M’s Jimbo Fisher, who has won a title at Florida State, at 11:2.

The Gamecocks’ Will Muschamp places seventh on the “others” list at 35:1. And here is how Mandel assessed those odds, calling it “highly unlikely” and pointing out that USC has only played in one SEC championship game: “However, he’s probably only a couple of nine-win seasons from getting hired by an SEC school where he can.”

Speaking of jumping schools, Mandel rates Saban’s eventual successor at 6:1 and lists the favorites to replace him as Swinney, Smart, Malzahn and Fisher.

They said it

Janice Hough of LeftCoastSportsBabe: “Carmelo Anthony has been sent to Atlanta. So while we can’t yet cure cancer, apparently it can be traded.”

Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times: “Ex-NBA player Charles Oakley was arrested on a gambling-fraud charge at a Las Vegas casino after allegedly getting caught on camera trying to take back a $100 chip from a losing hand. Oakley apologists, though, say it’s no more than an over-and-back violation.”

RJ Currie of SportsDeke.com: “Glass half full: Mark Reynolds of the Nationals recently had 10 RBIs in one game. Glass half empty: that almost equaled his RBIs from the previous 35 games.”

Omaha comedy writer Brad Dickson on Twitter: “We’re just beginning hour 18 of the ESPYs.”

Janice Hough of LeftCoastSportsBabe.com, again: “Miami Dolphins could suspend players up to 4 games for kneeling during the anthem. Open note to PED users, if you know you’re going to be tested, kneel & take the same 4 game suspension without the drug taint on your record.”

Omaha comedy writer Brad Dickson, again on Twitter: “England not only lost 2-1 to Croatia in the semifinals, but the team was fined $70,000 for wearing “unauthorized socks.” Since when has Roger Goodell been in charge of the World Cup?”

Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times, again: “University of Michigan researchers have designed a computer that is smaller than a grain of rice. The screen is so tiny, we hear, that even the Orioles’ playoff chances won’t fit on it.”

Janice Hough of LeftCoastSportsBabe.com, again: “Cardinals Manager Mike Matheny fired for being 1 game over .500. Mets fans wonder if he was fired for overachieving.”

Game on

Esports are making inroads in college athletics.

In 2014, Robert Morris University of Illinois was the first college to offer scholarships to nerds, uhh …esports competitors. Less than two years later, there were several other schools onboard, which banded together to form the National Association of Collegiate Esports.

Utah is the first power-five school to have a team, although it is administered as an academic program rather than as part of the athletics department.

But that could be changing as the NCAA explores sanctioning esports teams. The big issues now are that current esports competitors aren’t convinced they need the NCAA’s involvement and realize that their ability to cash in on their gaming careers could be hindered if the NCAA begins its oversight.

Utah’s director of operations for esports, AJ Dimick, told ESPN, “…the NCAA brings a degree of regulation to kids who typically have a way of monetizing themselves in esports, making a little money, and that degree of regulation wouldn’t serve them very well … (But) NCAA involvement would legitimize this in a way that nothing else possibly could and offer a template to those schools to get involved.”

Title IX is another potential issue because of the male dominated world of gamers.

Play for pay

If gaming is on the verge of breaking through, can gambling be far behind?

The NCAA is already busy studying how the nationwide expansion of legalized betting could affect college athletics and its member schools.

Maintaining integrity of competitions is the main point of emphasis, but there are concerns that spin off from there — officiating, NCAA rules, federal and state laws, law enforcement oversight.

Blame the Supreme Court for this mess, which struck down a federal ban in May and gave states a right to venture into legal wagering on sporting events. West Virginia, Mississippi and New Jersey are considering plowing ahead by collecting integrity fees.

The NCAA’s ban on holding championships in states with legalized sports betting, a policy that previously only affected Nevada, has been temporarily suspended by its Board of Governors.

“Legalized sports gambling across the country is rather new, but the NCAA and its members have committed significant resources over the years to policy, research and education around sports wagering,” said Joni Comstock, senior vice president of championships and alliances. “With student-athlete well-being as the centerpiece, we will continue to build upon these efforts to assist members as they adapt to legalized sports wagering in their states and regions.”

Here’s an idea – scrap those debates about paying student-athletes. Forget about integrity initiatives. Let the players gamble on whether their teams will win or lose, but only allow the wagering to be done through NCAA-approved gambling centers.

The schools can track the monetary wins and losses and freeze individual accounts when necessary. And any gambling by student-athletes through unapproved sites will lead to loss of scholarships.

Meanwhile, legal wagering will not only be a way to for the athletes to make some money. They’ll probably also learn some tough life lessons and maybe improve their math skills, too.

Circle the date

From Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times: “The Class AA Montgomery (Ala.) Biscuits will hold Millennial Night on July 21, giving away “free things without doing much work” such as napping and selfie stations, participation ribbons and “lots of avocados.” So what’ll they follow up that brainstorm with, a special event for codgers called Get Off My AstroTurf Night?

Headlines

Fark.com: “UNC football coach thinks the sports is under attack and it will ruin America. He also said Duke sucks.”

TheOnion.com: “Peyton Manning’s wife asks quietly how much longer Papa John is going to crash on their couch.”

TheKicker.com: “How to embarrass losers of the All-Star Game.”

Fark.com: “ESPN ditches its comments sections, unfairly silencing thousands of morons.”

TheOnion.com: “Qatar unveils indentured mascot for 2022 World Cup.”

Fark.com: “Milwaukee Brewers pitcher apologizes for racist Tweets but remains silent about inexcusable mullet.”

Sporting News: “J.R. Smith thinks LeBron re-signed with the Cavaliers.”

TheKicker.com: “Remember when Miami had a pro baseball team?”

Fark.com: “Usain Bolt hopes to replicate (in soccer) the immense success of Michael Jordan’s baseball career.”

Best/worst manager?

The Atlhletic.com beat writers polled MLB players during the All-Star Game break, asking them to rate the best and worst of the pitchers, hitters, etc. They also asked which manager, aside from their own, they would want to play for.

The Cubs’ Joe Maddon topped the list with 27.1 percent of the vote.

But when the question was flipped and players were quizzed on which manager they wouldn’t want to play under, Maddon earned 20 percent of the vote. The only manager who polled worst was the Orioles’ Buck Showalter with 23.3 percent of the vote.

Battle of Scotland

Today is moving day at the British Open, so who’s going to move out of the house that Zach Johnson and Kevin Kisner are sharing this week in Carnoustie, Scotland?

The two, after all, enter the third round tied for the lead.

Johnson, who won this major at St. Andrews three years ago, is to blame because he knocked in a 30-foot putt on the 18th hole to record a 4-under 67.

Kisner, meanwhile, made a double bogey that cost him a two-shot lead. He finished with a 70 on Friday.

After two rounds, the two Americans both have 6-under 136s scores with three others just one shot behind. Five others, including Rory McElroy, are two shots back. And defending champ Jordan Spieth and two others are only three back.

Nine of the top 13 are Americans.

Should be a fun day of watching golf, even if the leaders do tee off a 10 a.m. ET today.

Lane violation

Lane Kiffen is at it again.

During his appearance at the Conference USA media day Thursday, Kiffin said Oklahoma quarterback Kyler Murray was more suited to play pro baseball than college football.

Guess who Kiffen and his Florida Atlantic team open the season against on Sept. 1? Murray and the Sooners.

Murray, who transferred from Texas A&M, was the ninth pick of the first round in this summer’s MLB Amateur Draft. But Murray has decided he wants to play one more season of football before taking to the basepaths.

While he hasn’t locked down the starting job at Oklahoma, he’s the favorite to replace Heisman winner Baker Mayfield in his duel with sophomore Austin Kendall.

Kiffen obviously would prefer to face Kendall.

“(Murray) should change his mind and play baseball,” said Kiffen.

King dethroned?

There are reports that LeBron James’ move to the Lakers could have him moving to an unfamiliar position, too.

According to the Bleacher Report, the brain trust in Los Angeles is anxious to experiment with a small-ball lineup with James playing center, surrounded by Lonzo Ball, Josh Hart, Brandon Ingram and Kyle Kuzman.

James, who is 33 and entering his 16th season, only played the post 1.5 percent of the time last season with Cleveland, according to Nylon Calculus, a basketball analytics site. But the Lakers seem to be convinced the old dog can learn new tricks.

They’d be smarter trotting Magic Johnson on to the court to play point guard.

From Sidelines to punchlines

A different view of sports

 

Clearing my mind and notebook while proud I’m back home in South Carolina after being away for 19 years. Let’s prove them wrong, y’all:

Perseverance personified

Not many people give Croatia a chance to beat France on Sunday.

But that just means it’s the perfect time for Zlatko Dalic and his players to win it all, capping what has been a World Cup filled with surprises, right?

Never mind that Croatia has never won FIFA’s ultimate prize. They’ve never even won a World Cup semifinal, losing 2-1 to France in 1998.

Now the two nations meet again 20 years later.

France was considered one of the pre-tournament favorites, so it’s not a huge surprise the Les Bleus have made it to center stage in Moscow on the final day of the tournament.

Meanwhile, as good as Croatia has played, no one really thought the Vatreni (The Blazers) would make it this far.

They’ve had to play an extra 90 minutes to get here, being extended to extra time in their last three games.

They beat Denmark on penalty kicks after settling for a 1-1 draw through 120 minutes in Round of 16 match. They then went on to win another PK tiebreaker after tying host Russia, 2-2, in the quarterfinals.

They avoided spot kicks in the semifinals against England, but were living dangerously until Mario Mandzukic’s strike provided a 2-1 win.

In comparison, France outlasted Argentina 4-3, downed Uruquay 2-0 and dropped Belgium 1-0, so they’ve beaten their three knockout round opponents by a combined 7-3 score.

Didier Deschamps Les Bleus has been cruising through a blessed stretch of matches. It’s why the experts are predicting France will walk away with a two-goal win.

Croatia, as logic suggests, has been saddled with tired legs. And France hopes to take advantage with young guns like Kylian Mbappe and Paul Pogba.

But just when you give the Croatian players a standing eight court, they defy the odds and come to life behind Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic.

In a magical World Cup that has been filled with surprises, why shouldn’t Croatia provide the biggest stunner of all.

Prediction: Croatia 3, France 2.

Third place pick: Belgium 2, England 0.

They said it

TBS comedian Conan O’Brien after President Donald Trump tweeted that he is considering a pardon request made by Sylvester Stallone: ‘The pardon is for the guy who wrote Rocky V.’ ”

Janice Hough of LeftCoastSportsBabe: “Apparently new Carolina Panthers owner David Tepper is “contractually obligated” to keep 13-foot-high statue of Jerry Richardson outside stadium. Is he allowed to cover it in pigeon feed?”

Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times: Ex-NBA player Charles Oakley was arrested on a gambling-fraud charge at a Las Vegas casino after allegedly getting caught on camera trying to take back a $100 chip from a losing hand. Oakley apologists, though, say it’s no more than an over-and-back violation.

RJ Currie of SportsDeke.com: “The U.S. beat Belgium in the World Cup — of Quidditch. If ever there was a sport for the Washington Wizards.”

Omaha comedy writer Brad Dickson on Twitter:  “Starting a Go Fund Me to buy CWS umpires a copy of the rule book.”

Janice Hough of LeftCoastSportsBabe.com, again: “Damn, England loses World Cup semi. Could the week get any worse. Oh, Trump is arriving tomorrow. Never mind.”

Omaha comedy writer Brad Dickson, again on Twitter: “If ESPN keeps showing Cornhole I may renounce my U.S. citizenship.”

Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times, again: “Sorry about that, World Cup fans, but soccer’s save of the year occurred in Thailand, not Russia.”

Janice Hough of LeftCoastSportsBabe.com, again: “Serena Williams is bad ass. That is all.”

Scott Ostler of the San Francisco Chronicle on the Warriors signing DeMarcus Cousins: “It’s like you ask Santa for a bike and he brings you a Harley.”

RJ Currie of SportsDeke.com, again: “The Tampa Bay Times printed a list of “investigations, suspensions and allegations” involving Jameis Winston — a total of nine. If stupid was ice, Winston would be Antarctica.”

Apocalypse, now

Jacksonville Jaguars’ running back Leonard Fournette has been asked to be released from his contractual obligations. Not from his real life gig with the Jags, but from his the EA Sports Madden 19 video version. It seems he has a higher opinion of himself than the game-makers, who only gave him an 87 rating.

Headlines

Fark.com: “With LeBron James signing with the Los Angeles Lakers, should Kobe Bryant un-retire and play along with him.”

TheOnion.com: “Serena Williams stripped of title after it is revealed she’s been playing with a racket in each hand this whole time.”

TheOnion.com:  “Qatar unveils indentured mascot for 2022 World Cup.”

Fark.com: “Minor league baseball team to hold  ‘Millennial Night’ with participation ribbons and avocado toast.”

TheOnion.com: “Wimbledon grounds crew frustrated after learning about cement courts.”

Fark.com: “Tampa Bay Rays unveil new stadium plans. Billionaire owner generously offer to chip in 15 percent of the $900 million projected cost. Whattaguy.”

Tag team me

David Arquette is an actor who once made a movie about wrestling, Ready to Rumble. That led to  brief role in WCW storylines, including a short reign as heavyweight champ.

Did I say short reign? He held the title all of 12 days.

Now Arguette is back in the ’rassling headlines with a wrassler RJ City attacking him on the red carpet on Thursday. The two just happen to be scheduled to wrestle this weekend.

“I don’t know how much wrestling is going to happen,” said Arquette. “It’s going to be more of a fight. We really don’t like each other.”

Reads like a wrestling script to me.

From Sidelines to punchlines

A different view of sports

 

Clearing my mind and notebook while  relieved that my days of living out of a suitcase are nearly over:

Risky business

Neymar doesn’t have an Oscar, Emmy or Golden Globe and he won’t win a World Cup any time soon, either.

He’s a great soccer player and a lousy actor. But if you believe his critics, he could have a great future as a tumbling instructor.

Already, youth teams across the globe are working flops, drops, rolls and anguished cries for fouls into their soccer practices. And soccer haters everywhere are making him the poster boy for what they like to believe is a sport for sissies.

Of course, most of those couch potato critics haven’t been south of 300 pounds in years, couldn’t sprint 60 feet much less 60 yards, and would be begging to be red carded if they ever had to play in a parent-kid soccer game.

But I digress.

The criticism Neymar da Silva Santos Junior  has received isn’t undeserved, but its a shame because he does so much more than writhe on the field.

Yes, he’s overly theatrical, and its time someone sat him down and told him he’s doing the game harm when he barrel rolls 20 yards to get the attention of the ref.

You’d think with FIFA’s introduction of video reviews, particularly with contact in front of the goal, that he’d wise up and just play for the whistle. As crucial as set pieces can be, a little embellishment is to be expected in order to get a free kick. But acting like you have been hit by a truck three times a game can get tiresome.

To paraphrase former United States defender Alexi Lalas after Neymar failed to get a call against Belgium, if a player is constantly crying wolf when there is no wolf, he probably shouldn’t count on help when there really is a wolf.

In his defense, the 26-year-old Brazilian was fouled more times in this World Cup than any other player, including 10 times by the Swiss. That’s more fouls against one player since England’s Alan Shearer was knocked about 11 times by Tunisia in 1998.

One tracking of Neymar’s play during Brazil’s five games in Russia had him on the ground a record 14 minutes. That’s a lot of stoppage time. Or, floppage time.

South Africa’s KFC restaurants even produced a commercial featuring a player rolling across town and into one of the palaces of fried chicken, proclaiming, “Make a Meal of It.”

This, of course, is a World Cup that hasn’t given many breaks to the stars.

Lionel Messi. Gone.

Cristiano Ronaldo. Gone.

David Silva. Gone.

Carlos Vela. Gone.

And yes, Neymar. Gone.

The Brazilian star, if he can still walk in a few years, should have two more World Cups in his future. All of which means he should make his farewell appearances at the 2026 games cohosted by the United States, Mexico and Canada.

But we’ve got miles to go before then, including putting the wraps on the games in Russia.

Belgium  will next take on France in St. Petersburg on Tuesday.

England will face Croatia on Wednesday in Moscow.

It’s the fourth time the World Cup’s Final Four will be an all-European affair, matching the semifinals in 1966, 1982 and 2006.

Brazil, of course, was gunning for its sixth title and hoping to erase the memories of its embarrassing 7-1 drubbing by Germany on home soil four years ago.

Falling behind 2-0 at the half to Belgium proved to be too deep a hole for the South Americans who have never won a Cup in Europe.

I expected Neymar to get Brazil over that hump, but all he could accomplish was getting his name in the record book with the latest goal scored with a 97th minute tally against Costa Rico. No doubt he even bought some of those extra minutes with his time wasting.

Next up?

Now that Brazil is eliminated, I’m  putting my faith in Roberto Martinez and his survivors.  They’ve earned it.

Since he became Belgium’s coach, Martinez has guided the team to 19 wins, five draws and just one loss. That 2-0 loss was in his first game, and it came 22 months ago against his native Spain. Now Belgium is in the World Cup semifinals and all of Spain’s stars are back home.

Setting goals

Kevin De Bruyne’s game-winner against Brazil made him the 100th player to score in this World Cup.  The record is 116 individual goal scorers four years ago in Brazil.

That would seem to be a safe total now that we are down to four games, including the consolation match.

But with just a total of 157 goals scored so far, this tournament can surpass the record of 171 goals scored in 1998 in the United States and tied in 2014 in Brazil. That’s just 3.5 goals per game.

England’s Harry Kane leads with six while Belgium’s Romelu Lukaku has four and France’s Antoine Griezmann  and Kylian Mbappe have three each.

College life

It must have sunk in when someone told Matt McClain that he should enjoy the next four years of his life, that nothing is more valuable than a college education and the life experiences that come with it.

How else do you explain the graduate of Beckman High School in Irvine, Calif., turning down $2.63 million to play baseball for the Arizona Diamondbacks.

McLain is a second baseman the D’Backs selected with the 25th pick in the first round of the MLB Amateur Draft last month, convinced he was ready to begin climbing the professional ladder. So they offered him the full salary slot.

But after pondering the offer for a couple of weeks calculating how many pizzas he could afford, McLain decided he’d rather live out his dream playing baseball at UCLA for at least a few years.

The right-handed hitter is gambling that adding a few years to his resume won’t hurt his draft stock.

“While it has and always will be my ultimate goal to play in the major leagues, I also started dreaming in the third grade about playing collegiate baseball and getting my education at UCLA,” said McLain, who is 5-foot-10 and 175 pounds.

“I spent the last month thinking long and hard about this life decision and came to the conclusion that at this time in my life it is best for me to honor my scholarship to UCLA.”

Let’s just hope for his sake that wasn’t a beachball that blew past him like a 94 mile per hour fastball.

They said it

Janice Hough of LeftCoastSportsBabe: “Apparently over $1 million will be waged on Nathan’s Hot Dog eating contest, with Joey Chestnut the prohibitive favorite. So who needs the World Cup when we still have American supremacy in eating?”

RJ Currie of SportsDeke.com: “Reuters reports an India ATM stopped working because a rat got in and ate thousands of dollars in cash before choking. Probably how the Cleveland Cavaliers feel about JR Smith.”

Omaha comedy writer Brad Dickson on Twitter: “You know an analyst is not on the fast track at ESPN when she’s assigned to be the sideline reporter at Cornhole.”

Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times: “Jake Fromm, Georgia’s sophomore quarterback, broke his non-throwing hand in a freak boating accident this offseason this after previously landing in the ER with a fishhook stuck in his leg. Bulldog sympathizers are already passing the hat to get this guy a PlayStation 4 or something.”

Fox broadcaster Joe Buck, returning to the airwaves after a 15-minute audio failure during an interview with Jack Nicklaus on the U.S. Open broadcast: “The reviews are in — and we never sounded better.”

Omaha comedy writer Brad Dickson, again on Twitter: “The money quote from ESPN’s coverage of the hot dog eating contest: ‘Joey Chestnut owns America!’ ”

Janice Hough of LeftCoastSportsBabe.com, again: “Well, hope Luke Walton enjoyed his time actually coaching the Lakers.”

Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times: “Move aside, jumbo shrimp, and make room for the language’s latest oxymoron, courtesy of the Warriors’ Kevin Durant: 7-foot small forward.

Janice Hough of LeftCoastSportsBabe.com, again: “Eliminating teams from the World Cup on Penalty Kicks is like ending the World Series with a Home Run Derby.”

Steve Simmons of the Toronto Sun on LeBron James opting out of $46 million a year option to become a free agent: “For someone making $75,000 a year, you’d only have to work 613 years to equal what LeBron declined.”

Putting for dollars

Perhaps I’m oblivious to whether people really still care about a rivalry between Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson.

Seriously, is that still relevant these days?

I guess I can see it as the pre-tournament talk at The Masters when all the old greats congregate to make golfing hearts flutter. But the two are talking about organizing a $10 million winner-take-all, 18-hole showdown that they’d sell to some TV network to broadcast.

In this day of dwindling ratings (and advertising), I’d like to think that only The Golf Channel would be interested, but I’m sure I’d be wrong. Otherwise, discussion wouldn’t have gotten this far.

They started talking about this at The Masters this year and had targeted a July 3 date, but couldn’t get all their flags in a row.

But at least they agree on one thing. The prize money is extravagant. A get-richer-quick scheme between two millionaires.

Seriously, there are a lot more important things they could do with their time that I hope they’ll drop the winner-take-all concept and play for charities.

Alas, that doesn’t seem to have crossed either of the golfers mind.

Headlines

Fark.com: “The 2018-19 Warriors are officially more loaded than the Monsters were in Space Jam.”

TheOnion.com: “Does the World Cup enforce the false construct of borders imposed on us by the ruling elite?”

SportsPickle.com: “Colin Kaepernick announces he will no longer protest after reading your aunt’s Facebook post.”

Fark.com: “29 NBA teams to change their name to Washington Generals in 2019.”

Fark.com: “ESPN ditches its comments, unfairly silencing thousands of morons.”

Tweets of Week

Rehastagging my top Tweets from the week’s World Cup action @Randy_Beard11:

  • Croatia and Argentina are only teams to win back-to-back World Cup Games by penalty kicks.
  • Ivan Perisic must have carpentry skills because he hammered that post.
  • Not as many goals. Not the winner I expected. But Belgium was too much for Brazil, and Roberto Martinez just earned his biggest win in international soccer. Belgium 2-1.
  • France is through, now bring on what should be game of tournament. First one to 10 wins. #goalsgalore#brazilvbelgium
  • ENGLAND!!!! God save the Queen, and PKs too.

Fan boy

Lebron James may have just agreed to a  four-year deal with the Los Angles Lakers that will pay him more than $38 million a year, but that doesn’t mean he can’t be a fan of an up-and-coming athlete.

In another sport like soccer. James was spotted this week wearing a No. 10 Christian Pulisic jersey. That’s quite a shout out to the 19-year-old star of the United States National Team who plays foe German club Dortmund.

Quite a treat for Pulisic, too. He’s long been a fan of James.

From Sidelines to punchlines

 

A different view of sports

 

Clearing my mind and notebook while  relieved that my days of living out of a suitcase are nearly over:

Risky business

Neymar doesn’t have an Oscar, Emmy or Golden Globe and he won’t win a World Cup any time soon, either.

He’s a great soccer player and a lousy actor. But if you believe his critics, he could have a great future as a tumbling instructor.

Already, youth teams across the globe are working flops, drops, rolls and anguished cries for fouls into their soccer practices. And soccer haters everywhere are making him the poster boy for what they like to believe is a sport for sissies.

Of course, most of those couch potato critics haven’t been south of 300 pounds in year,  couldn’t sprint 60 feet much less 60 yards, and would be begging to be red carded if they ever had to play in a parent-kid soccer game.

But I digress.

The criticism Neymar da Silva Santos Junior  has received isn’t undeserved, but its a shame because he does so much more than writhe on the field.

Yes, he’s overly theatrical, and its time someone sat him down an told him he’s doing the game harm when he barrel rolls 20 yards to get the attention of the ref.

You’d think with FIFA’s introduction of video reviews, particularly with contact in front of the goal, that he’d wise up an just play for the whistle. As crucial as set pieces can be, a little embellishment is to be expected in order to get a free kick. But acting like you have been hit by a truck three times a game can get tiresome.

To paraphrase former United States defender Alexi Lalas after Neymar failed to get a call against Belgium, if a player is constantly crying wolf when there is no wolf, he probably shouldn’t count on help when there really is a wolf.

 

In his defense, the 26-year-old Brazilian was fouled more times in this World Cup than any other player, including 10 times by the Swiss. That’s more fouls against one player since England’s Alan Shearer was knocked about 11 times by Tunisia in 1998.

One tracking of Neymar’s play during Brazil’s five games in Russia had him on the ground a record 14 minutes. That’s a lot of stoppage time. Or, floppage time.

South Africa’s KFC restaurants even produced a commercial featuring a player rolling across town and one of the palaces of fried chicken, proclaiming, “Make a Meal of It.”

This, of course, is a World Cup that hasn’t given many breaks to the stars.

Lionel Messi. Gone.

Cristiano Ronaldo. Gone.

David Silva. Gone.

Carlos Vela. Gone.

And yes, Neymar. Gone.

The Brazilian star, if he can still walk in a few years, should have two more World Cups in his future. All of which means he should make his farewell appearances at the 2026 games cohosted by the United States, Mexico and Canada.

But we’ve got miles to go before then, including putting the wraps on the games in Russia.

Belgium  will next take on France in St. Petersburg on Tuesday.

England will face Croatia on Wednesday in Moscow.

It’s the fourth time the World Cup’s Final Four will be an all-European affair, matching the semifinals in 1966, 1982 and 2006.

Brazil, of course, was gunning for its sixth title and hoping to erase the memories of its embarrassing 7-1 drubbing by Germany on home soil four years ago.

Falling behind 2-0 at the half to Belgium proved to be too deep a hole for the South Americans who have never won a Cup in Europe.

I expected Neymar to get Brazil over that hump, but all he could accomplish was getting his name in the record book with the latest goal scored with a 97th minute tally against Costa Rico. No doubt he even bought some of those extra minutes with his time wasting.

Next up?

Now that Brazil is eliminated, I’m  putting my faith in Roberto Martinez and his survivors.  They’ve earned it.

Since he became Belgium’s coach, Martinez has guided the team to 19 wins, five draws and just one loss. That 2-0 loss was in his first game, and it came 22 months ago against his native Spain. Now Belgium is in the World Cup semifinals and all of Spain’s stars are back home.

Setting goals

Kevin De Bruyne’s game-winner against Brazil made him the 100th player to score in this World Cup.  The record is 116 individual goal scorers four years ago in Brazil.

That would seem to be safe total now that we are down to four games, including the consolation match.

But with just a total of 157 goals scored so far, this tournament can surpass the record of 171goals scored in 1998 in the United States and tied in 2014 in Brazil. That’s just 3.5 goals per game.

England’s Harry Kane leads with six while Belgium’s Romelu Lukaku has four and France’s Antoine Griezmann  and Kylian Mbappe have three each.

College life

It must have sunk in when someone told Matt McClain that he should enjoy the next four years of his life, that nothing is more valuable than a college education and the life experiences that come with it.

How else do you explain the graduate of Beckman High School in Irvine, Calif., turning down $2.63 million to play baseball for the Arizona Diamondbacks.

McLain is a second baseman the D’Backs selected with the 25th pick in the first round of the MLB Amateur Draft last month, convinced he was ready to begin climbing the professional ladder. So they offered him the full salary slot.

But after pondering the offer for a couple of weeks calculating how many pizzas he could afford, McLain decided he’d rather live out his dream playing baseball at UCLA for at least a few years.

The right-handed hitter is gambling that adding a few years to his resume won’t hurt his draft stock.

“While it has and always will be my ultimate goal to play in the major leagues, I also started dreaming in the third grade about playing collegiate baseball and getting my education at UCLA,” said McLain, who is 5-foot-10 and 175 pounds.

“I spent the last month thinking long and hard about this life decision and came to the conclusion that at this time in my life it is best for me to honor my scholarship to UCLA.”

Let’s just hope for his sake that wasn’t a beachball that blew past him like a 94 mile per hour fastball.

They said it

Janice Hough of LeftCoastSportsBabe: Apparently over $1 million will be waged on Nathan’s Hot Dog eating contest, with Joey Chestnut the prohibitive favorite. So who needs the World Cup when we still have American supremacy in eating?

RJ Currie of SportsDeke.com: “Reuters reports an India ATM stopped working because a rat got in and ate thousands of dollars in cash before choking. Probably how the Cleveland Cavaliers feel about JR Smith.”

Omaha comedy writer Brad Dickson on Twitter: You know an analyst is not on the fast track at ESPN when she’s assigned to be the sideline reporter at Cornhole.

Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times: “Jake Fromm, Georgia’s sophomore quarterback, broke his non-throwing hand in a freak boating accident this offseason this after previously landing in the ER with a fishhook stuck in his leg. Bulldog sympathizers are already passing the hat to get this guy a PlayStation 4 or something.”

Fox broadcaster Joe Buck, returning to the airwaves after a 15-minute audio failure during an interview with Jack Nicklaus on the U.S. Open broadcast: “The reviews are in — and we never sounded better.”

Omaha comedy writer Brad Dickson, again on Twitter: “The money quote from ESPN’s coverage of the hot dog eating contest: ‘Joey Chestnut owns America!’ ”

Janice Hough of LeftCoastSportsBabe.com, again: Well, hope Luke Walton enjoyed his time actually coaching the Lakers.

Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times: “Move aside, jumbo shrimp, and make room for the language’s latest oxymoron, courtesy of the Warriors’ Kevin Durant: 7-foot small forward.

Janice Hough of LeftCoastSportsBabe.com, again: “Eliminating teams from the World Cup on Penalty Kicks is like ending the World Series with a Home Run Derby.”

Steve Simmons of the Toronto Sun on LeBron James opting out of $46 million a year option to become a free agent: “For someone making $75,000 a year, you’d only have to work 613 years to equal what LeBron declined.”

Putting for dollars

Perhaps I’m oblivious to whether people really still care about a rivalry between Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson.

Seriously, is that still relevant these days?

I guess I can see it as the pre-tournament talk at The Masters when all the old greats congregate to make golfing hearts flutter. But the two are talking about organizing a $10 million winner-take=all, 18-hole showdown that they’d sell to some TV network to broadcast.

In this day of dwindling ratings (and advertising), I’d like to think that only The Golf Channel would be interested, but I’m sure I’d be wrong. Otherwise, discussion wouldn’t have gotten this far.

They started talking about this at The Masters this year and had targeted a July 3 date, but couldn’t get all their flags in a row.

But at least they agree on one thing. The prize money is extravagant. A get-richer-quick scheme between two millionaires.

Seriously, there are a lot more important things they could do with their time that I hope they drop the winner-take-all concept and play for charities.

Alas, that doesn’t seem to have crossed either golfer’s mind.

Headlines

Fark.com: “The 2018-19 Warriors are officially more loaded than the Monsters were in Space Jam.”

TheOnion.com: “Does the World Cup enforced the false construct of borders imposed on us by the ruling elite?”

SportsPickle.com: “Colin Kaepernick announces he will no longer protest after reading your aunt’s Facebook post.”

Fark.com: “29 NBA teams to change their name to Washington Generals in 2019.”

Fark.com: “ESPN ditches its comments, unfairly silencing thousands of morons.”

 

Tweets of Week

Rehastagging my top Tweets from the week’s World Cup action @Randy_Beard11:

  • Croatia and Argentina are only teams to win back-to-back World Cup Games by penalty kicks.
  • Ivan Perisic must have carpentry skills because he hammered that post.
  • Not as many goals. Not the winner I expected. But Belgium was too much for Brazil, and Roberto Martinez just earned his biggest win in international soccer. Belgium 2-1.
  • France is through, now bring on what should be game of tournament. First one to 10 wins. #goalsgalore #brazilvbelgium
  • ENGLAND!!!! God save the Queen, and PKs too.

Fan boy

Lebron James may have just agreed to a  four-year deal with the Los Angles Lakers that will pay him more than $38 million a year, but that doesn’t mean he can’t be a fan of an up-and-coming athlete.

In another sport like soccer. James was spotted this week wearing a No. 10 Christian Pulisic jersey. That’s quite a shout out to the 19-year-old star of the United States National Team who plays foe German club Dortmund.

Quite a treat for Pulisic, too. He’s long been a fan of James.

 

From Sidelines to punchlines

beardsig

A different view of sports

Clearing my mind and notebook while wishing all the soccer haters would convene in Hawaii next week for a therapeutic hot lava bath:

Still kicking

I’m not ready to declare, as some have suggested, that this is the greatest World Cup of our lives. But it has been an entertaining fortnight of soccer with more drama coming from the group stages than I can recall.

Usually the focus for those of us in the United States is whether Team USA will advance to the knockout stages. Sadly, this time around as legit global sporting citizens, we didn’t even have that to capture our imagination.

All the good American players are battling it out on Major League Soccer fields, not the world stage in Russia.

As an old soccer soul who lives for these matches every four years, including that meaningless tussle between England and Belgium on Thursday in which both teams had the luxury of resting their starters, you have to cherish every moment.

I’ve played, coached and covered the game, so I think I know what I’m talking about (operative word, think). So yeah, I’ve got a few thoughts about what we’ve seen so far. And if you hit me up on Twitter, you can get more of my insights when games resume Saturday (@Randy_Beard11).

The fact that 83 goals have been scored  is good but hardly the best. In 2002 when South Korea and Japan co-hosted, 91 goals were tallied in the group games. And four years ago, Brazil treated us to 90.

A record 24 – half of the 48 matches – were decided by one goal, so there was plenty of drama to keep us interested throughout stoppage time every game. Only nine matches ended in a draw and only one of those was a nil-nil result.

The best of those ties came on the second day when Ronaldo completed a hat trick with a brilliant free kick in the final minutes to give Portugal a 3-3 result with rival Spain. That makes it the early contender for game of the tournament.

Alas, when group play was over, Germany became the third straight defending champion and fourth in last five tournaments to be eliminated before the round of 16. Jogi Low’s team only won one game and scored two goals to finish at the bottom of Group F.

Throw-ins:

  • Most meaningless hat trick: England’s Harry Kane with two penalties and a late first half goal as the Three Lions blasted Panama, 6-1.
  • Best late-game heroics: Germany’s Toni Kroos with free kick goal in fifth minute of stoppage time for 2-1 win over Sweden.
  • Most valuable goal: Marcos Rojo’s game-winner in the 86th minute for 2-1 Argentina result over Nigeria, punching Lionel Messi’s ticket to the next round
  • Most efficient stoppage time: South Korea with pair of goals to beat Germany to officially eliminate the defending champions.
  • Round of 16 expectations: France 2, Argentina 1; Uruguay 3,  Portugal 2; Spain 2, Russia 1; Croatia 1, Denmark 0; Brazil 2, Mexico 0; Belgium 4, Japan 2; Sweden 1, Switzerland 0; England 2, Colombia 1.
  • Favored Nation Status: Brazil.

Diego strikes again

Diego Maradona was caught using his hands again.

OK, technically, it was only his middle fingers.

After Marcos Rojo’s goal in the 86th minute against Nigeria secured Argentina’s Round of 16 matchup with France on Saturday, Maradona was caught on camera flipping off Nigerian fans.

If the game had finished in a 1-1 draw, Argentina would have been eliminated.

Read one newspaper headline in Argentina: “From the hands of God, to the fingers of shame.” Maradona scored a goal against England in the 1986 World Cup, getting away with punching the ball into the net. It’s been called the “Hand of God” goal, and shenanigans like that would never stand if video replay existed then.

They said it

Janice Hough of LeftCoastSportsBabe after ex-Stanford basketball star Reid Travis said he wanted to align both my academic and my athletic interests” in explaining his graduate transfer to play at Kentucky: “And he said the first part of that sentence with a straight face.”

RJ Currie of SportsDeke.com: “Scientists say in a maximum of 10 years they’ll be able to recreate dinosaurs. At which time, experts predict, they’ll join the few other beings on earth still watching MLB baseball.

Omaha comedy writer Brad Dickson on Twitter: “Those shirtless Arkansas fans with H O G S written across their bare chests still met the dress code at Applebee’s after the game.”

Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times: “The Milwaukee Brewers have secured new sponsorship with Johnsonville, ensuring that their famous racing sausages will continue beyond this season. To appease the kid demographic, how about adding a couple of little brats?”

Omaha comedy writer Brad Dickson, again on Twitter: “Why aren’t there more Triple Crown winners? Imagine Usain Bolt wins a 100-metre dash race. Then, a few weeks later, he wins a 200-metre dash. Then, you take him and stick him in a 5,000 metre race. That’s why.”

Janice Hough of LeftCoastSportsBabe.com, again: How long until the chants change from “Let’s Go Mets” to “Please Go Mets?” #Mets.”

Syndicated columnist Norman Chad on the United States not being able to qualify for the World Cup: “If it is any consolation, we also stink in math, civil rights, education, gun control, supporting the arts, climate-change awareness, electoral security and cable news.”

Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times, again; Phil Mickelson incurred a two-stroke penalty for hitting a moving ball at the U.S. Open. “You can hit a moving ball?” asked a Baltimore Oriole.

Los Angeles Lakers president Magic Johnson, saying he will step down if team doesn’t sign a max star free agent within two years, like Lebron James or Paul George: “We don’t know what people are going to decide, and we can’t control that. So if guys decide not to come here, it’s not a failure — we turn to next summer. Next summer, if nobody comes and I’m still sitting here like this, then it’s a failure. But if you judge us on one summer, that’s ridiculous.”

The Athletic’s Kirk Penton on Twitter: “That’s some stellar concussion protocol in this World Cup game. Dude got knocked out. His trainer is now slapping him in an attempt to eliminate the cobwebs.”

Comedy writer Alex Kaseberg, after a jockey in New Zealand was knocked from his horse, got back on and won the race: “The name of the horse was Don’t Wanna Be Glue.”

Bombs away

Best of SportsPickle.com’s headlines you’ll see in a nuclear war:

  • How does the entire NFL West being destroyed by flame impact your fantasy football lineup.”
  • “Kevin Durant announces he plans to fight for the United States: ‘They have the best chance to win a World War.’”
  • Study: NFL ratings down because millions of viewers have been killed and also Colin Kaepernick kneeling.”
  • Minor League baseball team holds Apocalypse Night, offering $1 tickets to anyone who is still alive.”
  • Roger Goodell stresses that playing football is safer than getting hit with a missile.”
  • Does baseball need to improve its pace of play so games end before the world does?”
  • “Nick Saban ignores mushroom cloud outside his office window: ‘Champions don’t give in to distractions.’”
  • “Washington Capitals knocked out in 2nd round of Stanley Cup playoffs by warhead.”
  • “Jerry Jones unveils plans for $15 million, tax-payer funded Cowboys Stadium/nuclear fallout shelter.”
  • “Gen. Tebow defies critics, leads late comeback victory over North Korea at the Battle of Denver.”

Headlines

TheOnion.com: “Child at baseball game lost in forest of cargo shorts, milky white calves.”

Fark.com: “Having started only seven games in his career, some NFL players think it might have been a bit early to include Jimmy Garoppolo in the Top 100 Players.”

TheOnion.com: “Every bar patron watching World Cup has different, incorrect definition of offside rule.”

SportsPickle.com: “ESPN promoting 6 p.m. SportsCenter ratings lift was self-inflicted PR wound that furthers ‘ESPN is too liberal narrative.’”

Fark.com: “They’re is definitely something wrong with you when Keyshawn Johnson says you have mental issues.”

TheOnion.com: “Co-worker following World Cup goes all-in on tenuous family connection to Portugal.”

Fark.com: “Diego Maradona tells Nigeria they’re No. 2.”

TheOnion.com: “TBS to revive 1990s Atlanta Braves.”

Fark.com: “Magic Johnson to retire in two years.”

Tweets of Week

Rehastagging my top Tweets from the week @Randy_Beard11:

  • So he first denied, now accepts punishment and apologizes. This ain’t kneeling. Kick his butt out of NFL: Jameis Winston suspended for three games, apologizes for Uber incident.
  • Way to not represent Arkansas. You were one out from winning it all. You hadn’t been blanked all season. But after letting Oregon State off hook Wednesday, you rolled over in surrender tonight. Here piggie, piggie, we got a Omaha barbecue to go to.
  • Indiana University swimmer Lilly King was named the 2017-18 Big Ten Female Athlete of the Year Thursday. The Evansville native becomes just third person – man or woman – to win the award in back-to-back seasons.
  • Wow! World Cup, you never cease to amaze me.
  • South Korea has obtained nukes, devastating Germany. Twice. And saving Mexico.

Clueless fashion

Floyd Mayweather Jr. is now the proud owner of an $18 million watch. More proof he may be hearing cuckoo birds in his head despite being considered the best pound-for-pound boxer.

Sure, he’s worth many more millions – at least $700 million – but does anyone really need a time piece with 260 carats of diamonds set on a white gold base that can’t tell time any better than a Mickey Mouse watch?

But it you want one, its made by Jacob & Company.

From Sidelines to punchlines

A different view of sports

Clearing my mind and notebook while pointing out that morning and afternoon World Cup games, that’s soccer y’all, is drawing better TV ratings than baseball’s College World Series:

Bad boy, bad boy

Jameis Winston was often the best player on the field when he played at Florida State, which is why he won the 2013 Heisman Trophy and finished sixth in voting in 2014.

But he also had to navigate the kind of public relations crisis no Heisman winner should ever face. And now he’s dealing with the kind of allegations you would hope a starting quarterback in the NFL would never experience.

While that may sound Pollyannaish, the truth is Winston can’t stay out of trouble. He’s his own worst enemy.

The latest incident, which is expected to earn him a three-game suspension from the NFL, is the alleged groping of a woman Uber driver in Arizona last November. Winston denies he’s guilty. But the NFL, after conducting its own investigation, believes otherwise.

With a history of misdeeds, not all of which are misdemeanors, Winston has left a trail of warning signs.  Whether it’s stealing cups of soda from a fast food restaurant, shoplifting crab’s legs from a grocery store, causing thousands of dollars of damage with a pellet gun at a residence hall, or shouting an obscene meme in a student union, Winston is no stranger to trouble.

Boys will be boys, ya know?

But by mid-November of 2013, Winston was being investigated for an alleged sexual assault a year earlier. The fact he was never charged speaks to the impact of football at FSU, although he did settle a civil lawsuit out of court and FSU had to fork over a small fortune in a Title IX lawsuit.

Now we know that in March 2016, less than a year after the Tampa Bay Buccaneers drafted him No. 1 overall, Winston was apparently behaving like a Donald Trump understudy.

You know, grabbing women by the p—ssy.

I’ve never been prouder that Winston didn’t get a Heisman vote from me in 2013 or 2014.

The Bucs still consider him the face of the franchise, but they’d be smart to start trying to squeeze some trade value out of Winston before its too late.

Mixed signals

There’s no crying in soccer.

Tom Hanks didn’t say it, but Brazil’s largest newspaper, O Globo, did when star Neymar Jr. was seen sitting on the field covering his face with his hands as he shed tears following a 2-0 victory over Costa Rica on Friday.

The camera lingered on him uncomfortably long, capturing the emotion the win generated.

Both goals for Brazil came in stoppage time, including a forceful tap-in by Neymar, so it was a hard-fought victory against a well-organized Costa Rica team.

But for Brazilians, who like to dance in the stands to their soccer, the sight of Neymar breaking down is a cause of concern. Especially when the team has only played two games.

“A team needs to demonstrate mental strength, not fragility. Genuine or not, Neymar’s crying is worrying,” wrote 0 Globo.

Brazil is tied with Switzerland atop Group E with four points each, but it hasn’t cleared a path to the knockout stages going into Wednesday’s match with Serbia.

They said it

Omaha comedy writer Brad Dickson on Twitter: “I had a dream last night that Phil Mickelson shows up at the College World Series, races onto the field during a slow roller back to the mound, and bats the ball twice.”

TBS comedian Conan O’Brien after President Trump said the North Korean dictator was invited to the White House: “Unless, of course, Kim Jong Un wins the Super Bowl or the NBA championship.”

RJ Currie of SportsDeke.com: “Packers QB Aaron Rodgers was given an honourary doctrate from the Medical College of Wisconsin. And like many a doctor in private medicine, he can really hurt you in the pocket.”

Omaha comedy writer Brad Dickson on Twitter, again: “CWS visitors are learning that “Omaha” is an old Indian word meaning “rain delay.”

NBC comedian Seth Myers on the Golden State Warriors championship parade: “And to add insult to injury, they held it in Cleveland.”

Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times: “Wake Forest, citing an undisclosed violation of team rules, has suspended starting quarterback Kendall Hinton for the first three games of the 2018 season. Or as Demon Deacons apologists tried to spin it, three-and-in.”

Janice Hough of LeftCoastSportsBabe: “Argentina and Messi would like to thank Melania Trump and her jacket for making sure they weren’t the most embarrassing story of the day. #WorldCup”

RJ Currie of SportsDeke.com, again: “Happy Father’s Day. My dad died when I was young, but taught me to swim “army-style” by tossing me into a lake. I got to shore, but had a tough time getting out of the duffel bag.”

Janice Hough of LeftCoastSportsBabe.com, again: “Red-hot Nationals rookie Juan Soto debuted on May 20. Today in continuation of a May 15 interleague game against NY, he hit a 2 run game winning homer. So the hit and RBI count before his actual first game..AND against the Yankees?!   Amazed MLB didn’t somehow disallow it.”

Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times, again: “If Avis is looking for a modern-day spokesman for a tried and true ad campaign, Gronkowski was No. 2 in Belmont Stakes as well as No. 2 in the Super Bowl.”

NBC comedian Jimmy Fallon: “The U.S. will host the 2026 World Cup with Mexico. Players can either travel from the U.S. to Mexico by plane or just walk past the wall that still won’t be built.”

Comedy writer Jim Barach: “San Francisco Giants reliever Hunter Strickland broke his hand punching a door after a blown save. Since he forgot to open the door first, he officially loses his status as a closer.”

Brady bunch

Tom Brady has negotiated playing at least two more years. It’s in his contract with the New England Patriots, and sealed with a kiss with wife Gisele Bundchen.

But while Brady, 41, playfully suggested during an interview with Oprah Winfrey on Sunday that he’d like to stick it out in the NFL until he’s 45, there are other voices who may get a vote. His three children.

“I don’t want to be a dad that’s not there driving my kids to their games,” Brady said. “I think my kids have brought a great perspective in my life, because kids just want the attention.

“You better be there and be available to them, or else they’re going to look back on their life and go, ‘Dad didn’t really care that much.'”

Fire sale

Dick’s Sporting Goods stores in the Cleveland area are selling LeBron James jerseys at half price, gambling that the time to unload King James merchandise has arrived.

Thus, a No. 23 jersey that normally retails at $110 can now be had for $55.

We won’t know if Dick’s is correct in believing that the four-time league MVP is prepared to bail on his hometown Cavaliers for the second time in eight years until after July 1.

The last time he left – taking his “talents to South Beach” – Cleveland fans burned his jerseys. So by buying the discounted merchandise it may make it easier to torch a few more jerseys.

World Class Tweets

Rehastagging my top Tweets from a week of watching World Cup soccer @Randy_Beard11:

  • Iceland, you don’t need more fans to do the wave. You need more skilled, quick defenders who don’t just wave at attacking players going to goal.
  • Nigeria’s Musa > Argentina’s Messi. At least in this World Cup but they can settle it on field when they play each other Tuesday.
  • World Cup update: Ronaldo 3, Messi 0.
  • Croatia: “Don’t cry for me, Argentina.”
  • Diego Maradona looks worried. Argentina needs “Diego” Messi to arrive because Lionel Messi isn’t getting it done at moment because Iceland’s defensive focus

Headlines

TheOnion.com: “Overly enthusiastic Cristiana Ronaldo accidentally rips off upper-body skin after scoring goal.”

Fark.com: “Tom Brady has given a hint on his retirement age. Let’s just say it’s an age most of us want to retire at.”

TheOnion.com: “Ovechkin hopes to inspire other athletes to power through month-long bender.”

Fark.com: “A new contestant for sports injury of the year: Brandon Morrow goes on the DL for throwing out his back taking off his pants.”

TheOnion.com: “Lionel Messi pissed after forgetting to wear Fitbit during last game.”

Fark.com: “Mikal Bridges was drafted by the Philadphia 76ers, the team his mother works for. Then he was traded.”

TheOnion.com: “Has the U.S. Men’s Soccer Team earned the right to watch the World Cup?”

Real whopper!

Hey, it could be argued that Russia’s Burger King division was only trying to do its part in helping to build a stronger national soccer team.

With the country hosting the World Cup, the burger joint had ads on social media offering 3 million rubles and a lifetime supply of Whoppers to women who were impregnated by members of one of the World Cup teams.

To quote the ad: “For these girls, it will be possible to get the best football genes, and will lay down the success of the Russian national team on several generations ahead. Forward! We believe in you!”

Burger King’s Russian division is no longer running the ad on social media and has apologized.

Family affair

Meanwhile, rather than focusing on the act of impregnating, Denmark’s players turned their attention to the finished product. When defender Jonas Knudsen’s wife, Trine, delivered their daughter ahead of schedule, his teammates took up a collection to pay for him to fly home.

“We wanted to look at the human side,” said goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel. “There are lots of fathers in the squad. You have to remember we are human beings as well as footballers.”

So, after Denmark beat Peru 1-0 last Saturday, Knudsen made a quick trip home courtesy of a private jet. He was back in Russia on Monday.

Ratings game

The web site, newarena.com, likes to rate the greatest players in various sports and skills, like their recent rankings of the 25 greatest hitter in baseball: 1. Ted Williams, 2. Babe Ruth; 3. Stan Musial; 4. Ty Cobb; 5. Rogers Hornsby; 6. Lou Gehrig; 7. Roberto Clemente; 8. Mickey Mantle; 9. Willie Mays; 10. Tony Gwynn. 11. Hank Aaron; 12. Barry Bonds; 13. Pete Rose; 14. Honus Wagner; 15. Ichiro Suzuki; 16. Rod Carew; 17. Joe DiMaggio; 18. Frank Robinson; 19. Jimmie Foxx; 20. Ken Griffey, Jr.; 22. Alex Pujols; 23. Shoeless Joe Jackson; 24. Alex Rodriquez; 25. Mike Trout.

Maybe baseball really is America’s PASTTIME.