Clearing my mind and notebook while thinking about family and friends in Florida who could be at risk as Hurricane Irma makes landfall:
Perhaps we shouldn’t have been all that surprised Thursday night when the Kansas City Chiefs kicked off the 2017 NFL season by stunning the New England Patriots 42-27 on their home field.
After all, in a 16-game schedule, most teams are going to have a bad outing or two – even the Patriots. The loss might even prove to be a good thing for Tom Brady & Co. At least, according to 247Sports, the last three times the Patriots lost their season opener the team went on to win the Super Bowl in 2001, 2003 and 2014.
But hey, even if Brady bounces back and proves he can still be an effective quarterback at the age of 40, it sure was nice to see him take a backseat to the Chiefs’ Alex Smith for one night. Just seven months after the Atlanta Falcons gifted the Patriots another Super Bowl, Brady completed just 16 of 36 passes with no touchdowns despite racking up 267 yards. Meanwhile, Smith finished with four TD passes while completing 28 of 35 passes for 368 yards.
None of that was expected by the fans who showed up at Gillette Stadium to salute their defending Super Bowl champions
Indeed, the Chiefs dominated the second half, 28-10, which concerned Brady as much as anything.
“It’s a winning attitude and a championship attitude that you need to bring every day and we had it handed to us on our own field tonight,” said Brady. “It’s a terrible feeling.”
I’m sure. Still, for us channel surfers, it was enjoyable seeing a frowning Bill Belichick having to swallow his smug pride. Even if it was just for one game.
Last season the NFL had more games than ever (146 of 256) decided by eight or fewer points. If you’re keeping score at home, that’s 57 percent of the league’s regular season games.
Better yet, it culminated in a postseason that featured six teams that didn’t reach the playoffs a year earlier – Atlanta, Dallas, Detroit, Miami, New York Giants and Oakland. That represented a 50 percent increase in new playoff teams since 1990 when the league went to a 12-team playoff.
So, which four or five teams do you think will make it into the Super Bowl lottery this season?
They said it
NBC comedian Jimmy Fallon: “I heard the Patriots were playing a game in Mexico this November. And once they are down there, the rest of the league will say, ‘OK, build the wall, quick.’ “
R.J. Currie of SportsDeke.com: “Congratulations to Serena Williams, on the birth of a baby girl. No word on the newborn’s name yet, but I’m pretty sure it won’t be Maria.”
Brad Dickson of Omaha (Neb.) World Herald: “An Omaha man has been arrested for allegedly running a cockfighting operation. If you’re somebody who has been hoping to see Omaha land a Major League Soccer or hockey franchise, this probably feels like a letdown.”
Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times: “LPGA rookie Sherman Santiwiwatthanaphong will be the first golfer ever disqualified for running out of ink while signing her scorecard.”
Norman Chad of the Washington Post, on the recent Mayweather-McGregor fight: “In terms of legitimate sporting event, Jesse Owens versus a racehorse in a 100-yard dash in 1936 probably eclipses Mayweather-McGregor in 2017 — at least the Olympic gold medalist and the 5-year-old gelding both knew how to run.”
It’s too soon to praise the NCAA overlords for having compassion, but a proposal has been made to the membership that would relax the transfer rules if it passes
Currently, student-athletes who compete in revenue sports like football and basketball must sit out a year if they transfer to another school. The only exception to that rule is given to athletes who have already earned a four-year degree.
But now there is a proposal that would grant immediate eligibility to any student-athlete who is in good standing academically. And its important to point out to those who suggest it would create roster uncertainty that student-athletes would only be allowed to transfer once without having to sit out a year.
Watt a guy
What the world needs is more people like J.J. Watt.
When Hurricane Harvey was bearing down on the Texas coast a couple of weeks ago, Watt was keeping track of the storm from the comfort of a Dallas hotel room. The more he saw on TV, the more concerned the Houston Texan defensive end became for the people of his adopted home.
“You feel helpless seeing water rush down streets that I drive down every day. I said, ‘How can I help?’ ” Watt told Good Morning America. “So, I started to think, ‘I have this incredible platform, all this social media, all these followers. Let’s see if I can raise a little bit of money to help these people out.”
He set up a fundraising page on YouCaring.com, making a $100,000 donation himself. His initial goal was to raise $200,000 but he soon realized that his followers were more generous than he anticipated.
The fund has now topped more than $29 million, earning large donations from A-list celebrities like Jimmy Fallon, Ellen DeGeneres and Drake and other professional athletes. Watt’s foundation also has arranged for 12 semi-trucks to be filled with supplies that were distributed to Hurricane Harvey victims.
For his efforts, the NFLPA presented Watt this week with the NFL Players Association Community MVP Award, which included a $10,000 check. It also makes him eligible for the Byron Whizzer White Award, given annually to recognize charitable efforts of players.
With Hurricane Irma projected to devastate the entire state of Florida, there should be no shortage of professional athletes in Miami, Tampa, Orlando and Jacksonville willing to step forward to help, right?
A 16-year-old Barbados surfer who hoped to one day make a living at the sport made a deadly decision during Hurricane Irma on Tuesday.
Surfing with a group of professionals off the Barbados coast, Zander Venezia was fearlessly pursuing his quest of conquering bigger and bigger waves. From all reports, he was having the time of his life – until he caught the last ride of his life.
Although an autopsy will be done, the preliminary reports suggest that Venezia suffered a broken neck when he was dumped off his board into a shallow reef. He was pulled out of the water by Nathan Florence, who is one of the dozens of pro surfers who had flown to Barbados to practice their sport in huge waves generated by the storm.
SportsPickle.com: “NCAA strips Miami Hurricanes of 10 scholarships for lack of institutional control, repeated hurricanes.”
TheOnion.com: “Notre Dame replaces ‘Word of Life’ mural with massive HD monitor displaying Christ.’”
SportsPickle.com: “Andrew Luck expected to be out six weeks due to lice.”
TheKicker.com: “Kareem Hunt leading fantasy leagues as ‘MVP of players left on your bench.”
Fark.com: “Losing last night at home was all part of Belichick’s master plan.”
TheOnion.com: “Friend not in fantasy league immediately regrets attending draft party.”
Out of Luck?
The status of Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck, who had shoulder surgery in January, continues to be a closely kept secret.
Although Luck has not been placed on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list, it’s been confirmed that he has yet to practice with the Colts during the preseason. The last time he was seen throwing a football was in December.
The Colts open the 2017 season against the Rams in Los Angeles on Sunday with Scott Tolzian expected to get the start at quarterback.
If Luck can’t get back on the field soon, the Colts will have trouble winning more than five or six games.
Each week I do a blog on each of the three conferences I’ve covered during my career — the ACC, SEC and Big Ten. And just for fun, I pick each of the games in those confernces each week.
Last week, I was 12-2 in the ACC, 12-2 in the SEC and 10-3 in the Big Ten. And overall, eliminating a handful of overlap games, I posted a 30-6 record.
Check out the Week Two blogs to see my picks this week.