An entertaining look at sports

Clearing my mind and notebook while noting that the last time Florida State began a football season 0-2, Russian President Mikhail Gorbachev was Time Magazine’s 1989 Man of the Year:

Beyond whiplash

 Other than the occasional monologue joke or two, HBO’s “Real Time with Bill Maher” rarely broaches sports unless a story crosses over into politics.

This week’s episode, which included sportscaster Bob Costas as a guest, was one of those times. Maher and Costas spent a few minutes talking about the NFL’s alleged blackballing of quarterback Colin Kaepernick.

But they didn’t really cover any new ground there, which is why I found their  discussion of football’s growing health-care crisis from chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) more interesting. Research has shown that players who have suffered multiple concussions risk irreversible CTE brain degeneration that can result in severe memory loss and depression, including suicidal tendencies.

Costas noted that rules have been changed to penalize helmet-to-helmet hits with ejections and coaches at all levels now place more emphasis on teaching proper tackling techniques. But the harsh reality is that until someone invents a helmet that “protects the brain from rattling around inside the skull like a pickle inside a jar,” there’s little that can be done to protect players from a sport that celebrates violence, he added.

“If you start playing (tackle football) when you are 12, 13, 14 years old, then the long-range affects are apt to be even greater,” Costas said. “So the idea will probably evolve that they should probably play flag football, learn the game’s fundamentals, and then when you get to an age of consent, get to be 18 or something, then if you want to play tackle football, play tackle football.”

 Tweet storms

Beginning with a political rally in Huntsville, Ala., and transitioning to more Twitter tantrums, President Trump managed to alienate players in the NFL and NBA this weekend. He likely ticked off most of the nation’s sports fans, too.

It began on Friday when The Donald veered off script to criticize Colin Kaepernick and other athletes for kneeling during the national anthem, calling them SOBs. Then on Saturday he used his @realDonaldTrump Twitter account to suggest athletes in any of the pro leagues who act in what he views as an unpatriotic fashion shouldn’t be paid.

Trump also tweeted that the Golden State Warriors were no longer invited to the White House because of comments made by Steph Curry. The Warriors responded that they still would travel to D.C. in February “to celebrate equality, diversity and inclusion – the values that we embrace as an organization.”

Meanwhile, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell defended the free speech rights of his league’s players while addressing Trump’s comments by stating, “Divisive comments like these demonstrate an unfortunate lack of respect for the NFL, our great game and all of our players.”

Kaepernick conspicuously remained silent, an act of self-discipline Trump should attempt to learn. But LeBron James wasn’t nearly as nice toward The Donald, tweeting “… Going to the White House was a great honor until you showed up!”

UPDATE: NFL teams each made statements of solidarity Sunday with most choosing to remain in the locker rooms during the national anthem. Those who were on the field either knelt or stood with their arms locked. That included many of the owners, which destroys the conservative argument that the players were being disloyal to their employers.

It’s pretty clear that the league is speaking with a collective voice in support of players protesting racial injustice and police using excessive force, including using guns during traffic stops to kill unarmed suspects who have done nothing wrong criminally.

Headlines “Vanderbilt Chancellor recommends fans get vaccinated before SEC road schedule begins.” “Baker Mayfield’s provisional government struggling to maintain control of Ohio territory.” “Clemson kicker Greg Huegel pulls a Bill Gramatica.” “Warren Sapp donates Hall of Fame bust to CTE research.” “Texas legislature moves to ban football beyond the high school level for ‘emotional well-being of the state.”

 NCAA insanity

Ryan Trahan, a cross country/track runner at Texas A&M, is the latest student-athlete to be hit upside the head by the NCAA rule book. 

Never mind that the only thing Trahan is guilty of is owning a popular YouTube channel that promotes his running career and co-ownership of a non-profit company that makes stainless steel water bottles.

It’s similar to the case that forced UCF kicker Donald De Lay Haye to choose his profitable YouTube channel over his football career last month.

Trahan has a passion for running and his non-profit bottle company and doesn’t understand how his use of social media to promote his involvement in both endeavors violates his amateur status.

The good news is he can remain involved with Neptune Bottle and maintain his athletic eligibility as long as the company doesn’t identify him as a student-athlete, and his YouTube channel doesn’t put money in his pocket.

Maybe it’s time someone flagged the NCAA for targeting.

Price is right

Ohio State is No. 1 in the land by one measuring stick – team value.

It’s a mostly subjective evaluation, projecting what each of the college football programs might be worth if sold as if they were professional sports franchises.

The Buckeyes were valued at $1.5 billion ahead of  Texas ($1.2b) and Oklahoma ($1b).

Then comes Alabama ($930 million), LSU ($910.9m), Michigan ($892.9m). Notre Dame ($856.9m), Georgia ($822.3m), Tennessee ($745.6m) and Auburn ($724.1m).

 They said it

Janice Hough of “President Trump. if you want to talk about an NBA player in a tweet now, maybe it should be the one spearheading relief efforts in the U.S. Virgin Islands – Tim Duncan.”

Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel after the Atlanta Braves announced they will move their spring training headquarters from Disney World to near Sarasota in 2018: “Sadly, spring training in Central Florida has become like Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride or Snow White’s Scary Adventure — just another defunct Disney attraction.”

NBC comedian Jimmy Fallon:It came out that Kevin Durant apparently uses a second Twitter handle to argue with fans.  Yeah, he has a secret Twitter account. Then Ted Cruz said, “You can do that?”

R.J. Currie of “Albertan Roger Macmillan, 79, just finished his 100th marathon. Roughly a year ago at this time, he started his 100th marathon.”

Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times: “Jets players said they were “infuriated” and “demoralized” when Marshawn Lynch did a sideline dance during the Raiders’ 45-20 romp last Sunday. What, simply playing for the Jets isn’t demoralizing enough.”

Painful celebration

There’s a reason coaches should be content to pat players on the helmet after a big play. Alas, Hawaii linebackers coach Sean Duggan was reminded the hard way about just how dangerous sideline celebrations can be during a Sept. 2 game against Western Carolina.

Hawaii blocked three field goals in its 41-18 win over Western Carolina, including one that was returned 89 yards for a touchdown in the Rainbows’ win. The first of those blocked kicks occurred in the first quarter when 6-foot-7, 300-pound defensive lineman Viane Moala got his hands on the football.

After making the block, Moala sprinted to the sidelines, which is when Duggan made an ill-advised decision to bump chests with Moala.

The collision left Duggan with a dislocated elbow and a broken wrist.

Weekend success

I bounced back in a big way with the picks this week.

After 5-5 mediocrity in SEC games last weekend, Kentucky’s fourth-quarter meltdown against Florida allowed me to remain perfect on my eight picks in the conference on Saturday. That improves my season record to 35-9, getting my win percentage back near 80.

I improved to 37-7 in the ACC after an 8-2 week, missing on Virginia’s upset of Boise State and N.C. State’s surprising win at Florida State.

A 6-1 week picking Big Ten games improves my record in that conference to 35-10.


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