An entertaining look at sports

Clearing my mind and notebook while reminding Cleveland Indians fans that it’s not October yet:

Record ruse

Coach-turned-commentator Mack Brown was amused to learn Southern Cal had

attempted to put its own spin on history prior to Saturday’s showdown with the University of Texas.

As you’ll recall, Brown was the head coach of the Longhorns when Vince Young led Texas to a 41-30 upset of Matt Leinart and the Trojans in the 2006 BCS national championship game at the Rose Bowl.

“If I had known you could vacate games that you lost, I wouldn’t ever have lost any,” quipped Brown on Saturday. “because I would have done something to get somebody mad enough at me to do something to vacate it.”

Or, better yet, he could have just ordered his sports information director to rewrite the record book. That’s what USC (3-0) attempted to do in the game notes for Saturday’s contest.

But let the record show that after Saturday’s 27-24 overtime thriller, the fourth-ranked Trojans are now 5-1 all-time against the Longhorns, not 5-0.

Saturday shakeup

Clemson made a mockery of the latest matchup of a defending national championship team versus a returning Heisman Trophy winner when the third-ranked Tigers (3-0) routed No. 14 Louisville, 47-21.

While the Cardinals’ Lamar Jackson passed for 316 yards and three touchdowns and ran for another 64 yards, it wasn’t nearly enough to keep Louisville in the game.

Clemson led 33-7 after three quarters and Dabo Swinney’s team was still up by that 26-point margin (40-14) midway through the fourth.

The Clemson defense deserves the most credit, but the Tigers’ offense chose the right time to prove it could produce against a quality opponent in a hostile environment. By the end of the third quarter, orange-clad fans ruled Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium.

Clemson quarterback Kelly Bryant was in cruise control by then, finishing with 316 yards passing and a touchdown and another two rushing TDs.

”’We got a lot of contributions from a lot of guys,” said Swinney. “That’s a happy locker room in there. We settled in and really played good football.”

Tigers definitely have served notice on the nation that they are ready to contend for another title.

Poll position

While the clashes between Clemson and Louisville and Tennessee and Florida guaranteed that at least two Top 25 teams would lose Saturday, the damage didn’t stop there.

No. 25 UCLA stumbled 48-45 at Memphis. Mississippi State destroyed No. 12 LSU, 37-7.  Vanderbilt outlasted No. 18 Kansas State, 14-7. And San Diego State knocked off No. 19 Stanford, 20-17.

As good as Memphis’ win over UCLA was, the 26-20 victory by No. 24 Florida over No. 23 Tennessee provided the best finish of the day. The Gators won on Felipe Franks’ 63-yard heave to  Tyrie Cleveland on the last play of the game.

Because of Kentucky’s 23-13 win at South Carolina,  Lexington will be the site of an SEC East showdown between the Gators and Wildcats next Saturday.

Pay & pain

After Saturday, it’d be difficult to top Cornhusker hospitality. According to USA Today’s Steve Berkowitz, the common practice of Power 5 schools buying home games against second-tier competition backfired on Nebraska when Northern Illinois pulled off a 21-17 upset.

For that indignity, the Nebraska athletic department paid NIU $820,000.

They said it

R.J. Currie of SportsDeke.com: “The Red Sox 19-inning win over the Blue Jays ended after 1 a.m. with only about 700 fans there to see it.  Or what the Marlins call a really good crowd.”

Brad Dickson of Omaha (Neb.) World Herald after a man was arrested on suspicion of running a cockfighting operation: “You might be a redneck if … you bought season tickets.”

NBC comedian Jimmy Fallon: “The New York Jets are 1000-to-1 long shots to win the Super Bowl. That means if you bet just one dollar… you will lose just one dollar.”

Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times: “Some members of the 1957 Lions – the last Detroit team to win an NFL championship – say a 50-year curse supposedly put on the franchise by ex-QB Bobby Layne when Layne was traded to the Steelers in 1958 is looking more and more real. Curse of the Bobbino, anyone?”

Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel: “The polarizing and volatile mixture of sports, politics and social media officially jumped the shark this week when ESPN SportsCenter anchor Jemele Hill and President Donald Trump got into a Twitter war. Somewhere, Ronald Reagan and John Saunders are just shaking their heads.”

Janice Hough of LeftCoastSportsBabe.com: “So nobody really expected this would be another #SFGiants team to win 100 games. But 100 losses, alas, is attainable.”

 Photo proof

Twitter site @EmptySeatsPics doesn’t play favorites. If college or professional teams are caught competing amid a background of empty seats, even if it’s merely evidence of fourth-quarter or seventh-inning exoduses, you can be certain someone will whip out a phone and upload a photo or two.

Such snapshots never reflect positively on the home team, even if the photos don’t always tell the complete picture. For instance, images from the Clemson-Louisville and Kentucky-South Carolina college football games were perhaps the most surprising entries Saturday since those stadiums were packed at kickoff.

But at schools like Purdue, Memphis, Cal and Texas Tech, it would have been difficult to upload more flattering views. Makes you wonder how the marketing managers at those schools justify their paychecks.

Storm trooper

J.J. Watt had remarkable success raising money and collecting supplies for Hurricane Harvey victims. After setting a modest goal onYouCaring.com of $200,000, the Houston Texans’ defensive end  closed down the site last week after surpassing $37 million in donations.

Watt expressed his gratitude for the overwhelming generosity with a statement on his website this week: “Please keep this spirit of helping one another alive. The world is a better place when we all take care of each other,” he stated.

He donated $100,000 himself.

Beloved madness

Alex Hawkins, who played in the NFL from 1959 to 1968 with the Baltimore Colts and Atlanta Falcons, died last week at 80. A former player at South Carolina, he was on two NFL title teams.

As talented as he was as a player, he was an even better partier.

His first wife, Libby, recalled catching him coming home one morning from some late-night shenanigans. When she demanded to know where he had been, he told a story of sleeping outside in a hammock.

She glared at him and then reminded him that they had taken down the hammock two weeks earlier.

“Well,” he replied, “that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.”

Headlines

SportsPickle.com: “Scott Tolzien benched after two pick-sixes. Still probably the greatest athlete ever named Scott.”

TheOnion.com: “Right tackle kicking self for clapping early during break from huddle.”

Fark.com: “At this point, ESPN is making Keith Olbermann look like the sane one.”

SportsPickle.com: “Critics rip quality of NFL football. ‘Half the teams in the league are winless.’

TheOnion.com: “New Red Wings arena to feature luxury penalty box.”

Fark.com: “Some guy won $45,000 betting on professional wrestling pay for view. In other news, people actually accept bets on professional wrestling pay for views.”

TheKicker.com: “Bills fans doing two-a-day drinking sessions to prepare for season.”

Cashing in

While professional wrestling is more entertainment than sports, best known for its scripted outcomes and outrageous personalities, none of that matters once the gladiators climb through the ropes.

Arenas large and small are packed because of the mix of heroes and heels like Jon Cena, Roman Reigns and Brock Lesnar that guarantee action will be fierce and frenetic. And that’s a combination that makes for a good bet that fans will come back for more.

Perhaps even a great bet. For WWE SummerSlam 2017 at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y. last week, someone placed a 10-play parlay bet for $3.36 and won $45,600. It’d be tough to pin down, but it makes one wonder if someone had inside information.

Guessing wrong

My track record picking SEC games took a big hit Saturday. I was only 5-5 after I failed to anticipate wins by Purdue, Mississippi State, Vanderbilt, Kentucky and California. Overall, I’m now 27-9 on the season picking SEC games.

Meanwhile, I improved to 29-5 in the ACC after a 9-1 week. My only loss came because I foolishly believed Louisville would have a home-field advantage.

A 9-2 week picking Big Ten games improves my record in that conference to  29-9.

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