A different view of sports

Clearing my mind and notebook while wondering why anyone cares about setting attendance records for spring college football games:

Farewell tour

I once had a pet squirrel, but sadly, no rodent training skills.

All Squiggy learned to do all those years ago in Spartanburg, S.C. was how to eat out of my hand without nipping a finger. I should have tried harder. Much harder.

That was my first thought after reading that Twiggy the Water Skiing Squirrel is retiring after 39 years.

That’s the life Chuck and Lou Ann Best envisioned for Twiggy after they came across their abandoned squirrel.

Chuck, who owned a skating rink, had taught a chimpanzee how to skate, so he at least had experience training animals. While that wasn’t his intent when he bought a remote-control boat for the pool, his thoughts made that leap when friends started kidding him. It wasn’t long after that that he started teaching Twiggy how to water ski.

Voila! The water-loving rodent was an instant hit at outdoor shows, state and county fairs and on television. He even made an appearance on David Letterman’s show.

Well, at least one of the Twiggy’s did. Eight different squirrels have assumed Twiggy’s identity through the years, including several after Chuck died in a 1997 boating accident. Lou Ann nearly retired the act then, but Twiggy had built such a following that it would have been foolish for her to do so. Instead, she re-envisioned the show as a way to promote water safety.

That all ends this year.

After a stop this weekend in Sarasota, Fla., Twiggy’s final tour will end with bookings in Lake Mary, Fla., Indianapolis and Huntsville, Ala. Then  Twiggy and trainer will retire to the good life in a Florida retirement village.

But wait, there’s more.

Twiggy will become a publishing star when Lou Ann starts diving into a series of children’s books.

“I’m excited and scared to death,” Best said. “Physically, doing the physical work and the riding for so many hours on the road, it’s getting harder for me as I get older. I want to write some books.”

For the record, Sguiggy and I became acquainted in 1986 – only 32 years ago – when he fell out of a nest in my front yard.

He became so tame that he’d eat out of my hand months after we released him into the wilds of our yard. We even have a family portrait taken in the driveway with The Wife and our three kids.

But about six months after he moved out on his own, Sguiggy was murdered by a cat and left on our doorstep (I assume for a proper burial).

He would have been better off living a life of fame, fortune and water skiing.

Come to think of it, so would I.

Stolen glory

The University of Central Florida — yeah, it prefers to be called UCF — handed out large rings Saturday to its football players for the self-proclaimed national championship the school claimed after finishing the season unbeaten at 13-0.

It completes  an egotistical march to claim a title the Knights really didn’t win.

Since January the school has held a championship parade, marked the Orlando campus with  title flags, hung a national championship banner at Spectrum Stadium and raised thousands of index fingers.

All in an attempt to declare an athletic version of Stolen Vaor.

But if all you had to do was declare something true, Lamar Jackson would have won the Heisman Trophy for the second consecutive season.

And that would have been more believable.

They said it

Humor writer Brad Dickson on Twitter: “If Bill Moos’ extensions of Tim Miles’ contracts get any shorter they can be measured with a shot clock.”

Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times: “Patrick Reed has been spotted seemingly everywhere since winning the Masters, still wearing his green jacket. The movie-theatre stop proved a bit awkward, however, when patrons wouldn’t stop handing him their tickets.”

Janice Hough of LeftCoastSportsBabe.com: “Quarterback Mark Sanchez has been suspended for the first four games of the 2018 NFL season for Performance Enhancing Drug use. Well, whatever he took, it didn’t work.”

Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel: “Did you see where the Jacksonville Jaguars are building a dog park at their football stadium? I’m thinking this might not be such a great idea … I guess those growing number of NFL critics have a point when they say the league has gone to the dogs.”

TBS comedian Conan O’Brien: “Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski bought a stake in a Kentucky Derby racehorse that was named after him. The million-dollar animal bred for its ability to run fast says he’s excited to own a share in a horse.”

RJ Currie of SportsDeke.com: “Note to Notre Dame basketball hero Arike Ogunbowale when she competes on Dancing with the Stars. ‘Don’t wait until the last 10 seconds to score with the judges.'”

Norman Chad of the Washington Post: “If the future of sports viewing is millennials watching 90-second video clips on YouTube, cricket is in a world of hurt.”

Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times, again: “Does anyone else find it bizarre that, right after the NFL finally clarified its definition of what constitutes a catch, the Cowboys drop Dez Bryant?”

Pedaling Phelps

Michael Phelps is no longer swimming competitively, but he is still competing athletically – even if he isn’t doing it for all the world to see.

Competing online in Pelotron cycling classes, Phelps has been logging hundreds of miles and burning thousands of calories under an assumed identity.

“I’ve had somebody next to me racing every single stroke of my life I’ve ever taken in the pool. It’s good for me to kinda be able to push myself,” Phelps told Business Insider.

“We got a Peloton maybe last July, last August, and I’ve kinda just been really hammering bike rides when I’m home.”

Now that he’s not beginning every day swimming laps, Phelps said he’s motivated by watching the digital “leaderboard” as he rides at home.

For now, he likes having a secret identity

Different view

Tired of being penalized for helmet-to-helmet hits, Micah Hyde thinks quarterbacks who try to hook up with receivers in the danger zone across the middle are the ones who should be penalized and possibly fined.

“They’re the ones who are throwing the ball right there,” said Hyde. “It’s tough for us to be able to adjust last second to get our head to one side, the other side — up, down. We’re trying to make a play like the receiver is. It’s the sport of football.”

The NFL did tweak the rule book last month so that any player – offensive or defensive – can be penalized 15 yards and potentially ejected if they lower their head to make helmet-to-helmet contact with an opponent no matter where they are on the field.

“It’s a violent game, it’s a violent sport,” said Hyde. “They’re trying the best they can do to make it as safe as possible, but at the end of the day, those bang-bang plays, they’re hard to get out of the sport.”

The previous rule limited penalties to situations when any player initiated contact outside the tackle box with the crown of their helmet,

This is the first of many steps toward the formation of the NFFL –  National Flag Football League.

Midwest synergy

Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers has joined forces with the Milwaukee Bucks, which makes him the only active NFL player to be a limited partner of an NBA team.

Besides the show of community support for another professional team in the area, the investment comes with some nice perks. Like courtside seats at the Bradley Center, which Rodgers shared with girlfriend, Danica Patrick, Friday night during Milwaukee’s Game 3 rout over Boston in the Eastern Conference playoffs.

Rodgers is a huge Bucks’ fan, calling the investment opportunity “a dream come true.”

Hmmm. I wonder how that makes Danica feel?

 Headlines

Fark.com: “Bryce Harper’s bat died a hero last night. Godspeed, Wonderboy.”

TheOnion.com: “Michael Jackson attacks softness, lack of competitiveness in modern blackjack players.”

SportsPickle.com: “Tough break for Browns getting 16 games again – that’s their unlucky number.”

TheOnion.com: “Carmelo Anthony struggles to get rhythm back after making shot.”

Fark.com: “Lance Armstrong settles his lawsuit with the U.S. government for $5 million, a livestrong bracelet and his remaining testicle.”

TheOnion.com: “College equestrian clearly coming to class straight from practice.”

Fark.com: “Michael Phelps shows how to get pot stains off your teeth.”

SportsPickle.com: “America sick of Aaron Rodgers’ cocky behavior after learning he is 1/16th black.”

Lighting it up

In an interview with the Bleacher Report, former NBA player Kenyon Martin said that he believes 85 percent of the league – and not just players – were smoking marijuana during his 15 years in the league.

‘It was a lot of people who you wouldn’t think (smoked),” said Martin, who played in college at Cincinnati.

Another former player, Matt Barnes, said he wouldn’t dispute those numbers based on his 14 years in the NBA.

When it comes to pot use, Barnes said league officials display a certain level of hypocrisy. He claims there were coaches and general managers who were known to regularly smoke weed who managed to keep a straight face when they suspended or fined players for failed drug tests. He said that’s still an issue.

“Some of the people that are cracking whips and suspending us are smoking weed,” said Barnes.

Not surprisingly, the NFL doesn’t get off the hook in the article. Pot use is estimated to be used at an even higher rate in professional football – maybe as high as 90 percent.

Former NFL defensive lineman Shaun Smith said he used to smoke “two blunts before every game” over the span of his 10 seasons in the league.

“Shoot, coaches do it. Personnel does it, people upstairs do it,” Smith said. “Quarterbacks, guys that are your captains, leaders of the team smoke. Everybody has their reason. They do it for their pain.”

Philly closure

Eagles quarterback Nick Foles, who went from backup to Super Bowl MVP when starter Carson Wentz was injured,  has a revised contract that will keep  him in Philadelphia.

At least for now.

NFL Media has reported that the team has agreed to terms with Foles on a 2018 contract that includes an option for the 2019 season. Foles reportedly received a $2 million signing bonus and could earn other lucrative bonuses if he beats out Wentz for the starting job.

Doesn’t add up

Prognosticating 101 states that if one team wins, another has to lose.

That concept was forgotten by ESPN’s team of experts when they got together to predict the records of all 32 NFL teams for the 2018-19 season. They managed to come up with 289 wins and 223 losses. There should have been 256 wins and 256 losses.

None of the ESPN experts are apparently ready to declare any of the league’s teams horribly bad.

(Pause here for a flashback to the 0-16 Cleveland Browns.)

Last year 11 teams finished with six or fewer wins. But this year the World Wide Leader’s brainiacs believe 26 teams will finish no worse than .500 with 19 clubs posting at least nine wins.

You can’t even do that in Fantasy Football.

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