Clearing my mind and notebook while counting down the days to the start of the college football season ….

Oh, Canada?

Canada won its first Under-19 Basketball World Championship, blowing past Italy, 79-60.

The United States? We finished third, beating Spain 96-72.

Wait, it gets worse. To reach the championship game, Canada beat Team USA, 99-87.

H … E … Double Hockey Sticks.

It appears America needs to hit the reset button on the one sport where we should never have to doubt our superiority.

Wait, it gets even worse.

Italy finished second to Team USA in Group D after losing 98-65 in the head-to-head meeting between the two teams. Yet it was Italy which did the better job of navigating the knock-out stages to reach the championship game.

Did we mention that Kentucky’s John Calipari was coach of Team USA? Or that he had two of his blessed UK recruits, 6-foot-8 PJ Washington and 6-6  Hamidou Diallo, on the roster.

Of course, we shouldn’t be too harsh on Coach Cal. Team USA won just one of six U19 titles from 1995 to 2011 before Billy Donovan restored some pride  in 2013. Then Sean Miller made it two in row by winning gold in 2015.

As for last week’s semifinal loss, Calipari at least came away with the knowledge of who should be his next recruiting target. Canadian guard R.J. Barrett toasted USA for 38 points while grabbing 13 rebounds and handing out five assists.

Only 17, Barrett is the top prospect in the 2019 class but could reclassify for the 2018 class. He currently attends Montverde Academy in Florida.

Consensus No. 1

Nick Saban is favored to win his sixth college football championship this season.

Sports Illustrated, The Sporting News and The Bleacher Report all have Alabama ranked No. 1 in their preseason polls. From there, there’s a little bit of a debate over which schools belong in the Top 5.

Sports Illustrated follows up its pick of the Crimson Tide with Southern California, Penn State, Florida State and Louisiana State.

The Sporting News also ranks USC at No. 2 followed by Ohio State, FSU and defending champion Clemson.

The Bleacher Report sees it as FSU as No. 2 followed by Ohio State, USC and Clemson.

 Gator power

Tim Tebow was on the verge of becoming a cult figure as a minor-league baseball player in my hometown of Columbia, S.C., while playing for the Fireflies, the city’s Low-A team.

But then the New York Mets spoiled the party by promoting the former University of Florida quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner to their High-A Florida State League team, the St. Lucie Mets.

Tebow’s popularity in football as a Gator hasn’t been the attendance boost the St. Lucie club might have expected since the team is still averaging fewer than 2,000 spectators. Seriously, he’s only brought about 200 more fans through the turnstiles.

The buzz he created in Columbia was much , much greater. The Tebow Factor for the Fireflies was a 40 percent increase in attendance to an average of more than 5,200 fans per game. He also sold out road games whenever the Fireflies left Spirit Communications Park to travel to other South Atlantic League cities.

Seriously, the Mets should demote him immediately, sending him back to Columbia before his baseball career hits the proverbial brick wall. After all, he’s averaging a strikeout every 3.3 at bats in Single A baseball.

Meanwhile, Tebow already has reached one significant minor-league milestone that adds to his athletic legacy. Since his first homer, he’s hit four more, giving him five so far in 77 games. That means he’s nearly doubled the homer total of Michael Jordan, another athlete who gained his fame playing a different sport.

The basketball legend cleared the fences only three times in 127 games.

They said it

— Yankee slugger Aaron Judge, to Newsday, on competing in the Home Run Derby: “It’s just another round of BP, but in front of 50,000 people.”

— Syndicated columnist Norman Chad, on MLB games averaging a record-worst 3 hours, 8 minutes this season: “Watching baseball on TV these days is like putting a pot of water on medium heat and waiting for it to boil.”

— Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times: “Can’t wait for the Web.com Tour’s Ellie Mae Classic in Hayward, Calif., Aug. 3-6. Rumor has it the toughest water hazard is a cement pond.”

— Comedy writer Tim Hunter, after Mark Zuckerberg claimed that Facebook can fill the societal role that Little League once did: “Great — can’t wait to experience Facebook parents!”

— RJ Currie of SportsDeke.com, after cornerback Shareece Wright took a 450-mile Uber ride to Buffalo to make a Bills offseason workout: “At the very least, he’s a lock for the taxi squad.”

Another comeback

Todd Marinovich is convinced he can still play football. Never mind that he’s 48, again made headlines for the wrong reasons when he was arrested last August on drug charges and it’s been 16 years since he played for the Los Angeles Avengers of the Arena Football League.

That’s hardly the resume of a top prospect in any league, but Marinovich apparently checks all the boxes for the SoCal Coyotes of the World Development Football League. The team opens its training camp on Aug. 10 and Marinovich will be given a shot to win the QB job.

He was the team’s quarterback coach last season. If nothing else, he’s already become a publicity magnet for the Indio, California team this season.

“My best friends weren’t betting on me, and that’s not betting on me to come back to play football, that’s on me coming back to be on the planet,” Marinovich told The Deseret Sun. “So just being right here, right now is a win. I’m comfortable for the very first time in my own skin and man, what a gift.”

Comfortable in his own skin? Well, he was naked in public when he was arrested  last August.

SoCal plays its first game on Sept. 2 against the California Sharks.

For those who don’t know, he was a former high school All-American and standout at the University of Southern California another lifetime ago. Marinovich also has played professionally for the NFL’s Los Angeles Raiders and the CFL’s Winnipeg Blue Bombers and BC Lions.

Naked truth

Ever want to see the butts of athletes like Ezekial Elliott, Isiah Thomas, Julian Edelman or Javiar Baez?

No? Me neither.

But hey, in the interest of equal display, Sports Illustrated’s latest Body Issue also puts the derrieres of Ashley Wagner, Caroline Wozniacki and members of the United States’ women’s hockey team on display.

And yet, every year its seems the greatest outrage is always over the SI Swimsuit edition.

Headlines

From SportsPickle.com: “Knicks admit concern that the only team dumb enough to trade for Carmelo Anthony might be the Knicks.”

From AmazinAvenue.com on July 4: “Mets declare independence from division race.”

From SportsPickle.com: “U.S. healthcare system to now rely primarily on soccer’s magic spray.”

From TheOnion.com: “Serena Williams debating between grass or clay birth.”

From SportsPickle.com: “Jake Arieta fires pilates instructor after getting rocked again in latest start.”

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