From Sidelines to punchlines

A different view of sports

Clearing my mind and notebook while hoping for a quick return to normalcy for friends, and my youngest son, who are still without power and dealing with storm damage from Hurricane Michael in the Panhandle of Florida:

Tough off-season

Tom Izzo swears he doesn’t know disgraced physician Larry Nassar, but that didn’t prevent ESPN from having an illustration that depicted him, Michigan State football coach Mark Dantonio and Nassar for a story last February that alleged the school may be covering up sexual assaults and other misconduct.

The illustration even ran with the headline, “Spartan secrets extend far beyond Larry Nassar case.”

Nassar has been sentenced to 175 years in prison for sexually assaulting USA women gymnasts and Michigan State athletes. Meanwhile, Izzo and Dantonio have done nothing criminal.

“… This thing about hidden secrets, that picture, will go down as the worst thing that ever happened to Tom Izzo and Mark Dantonio,” Izzo said at Big Ten Basketball Media Days. “That picture, which was completely uncalled for, had nothing to do with anything. Didn’t know the guy, didn’t deal with the guy. What more can I say?”

When it comes to disciplining his players, Izzo admits he’s made some mistakes but did so while following university policies and waiting to see if criminal charges would be filed.

“I’ve kicked kids out for drugs. I’ve kicked kids off for academics. (You think) I’m not going to kick somebody off for sexual assault? That’s insulting,” said Izzo.

 Looking for sweep

Curling Night In America? Yes, that’s now a thing, thanks to NBCSN.

Guess the Major League playoffs, college football and NFL aren’t enough to command our attention this fall. Thus, NBCSN is offering curling as an exciting viewing option with a full slate of competition every Friday night through Dec. 14.

Yes, curling. Somebody’s got the stones to bring it to the forefront.

It’s another one of those gateway sports, like soccer and lacrosse that are meant to corrupt the youth of America and siphon off support for football. You’ve seen the commercial, right? And get this, they do it with brooms.

In case you missed it, it began with the United States men taking on Italy at 8 p.m. Next Friday, it will be mixed doubles between the United States and China, airing at 11 p.m. There’s also women’s competition between the USA, China and Japan.

I’m guessing there’s a points system involved to determine who will be crowned the “world champion.” And if that doesn’t grab enough viewers, the network could always host a Cornhole Night In America.

Keeping up with social media trends, the USA Team’s Chris Plys will be answering questions on Twitter @usacurl.

They said it

Jim Barach of JokesByJim.blogspot.com: “The San Diego Padres have fired their hitting coach Matt Stairs. People were surprised. With the team finishing the year 66-96, they had no idea the team even had a hitting coach.”

RJ Currie of SportsDeke.com: “Several reports said Dustin Johnson and Brooks Koepka came to blows after a post-Ryder Cup party. Maybe that’s why they’re called the Bash Brothers?”

Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times: “French competitive beard-grower Gal Vallerius, 36, was sentenced in Miami to 20 years in prison after pleading guilty to drug and money-laundering charges. WADA figured something was amiss when he tested positive for Scotts Turf Builder.”

Jim Barach of JokesByJim.blogspot.com, again: “Former baseball star Lenny Dykstra has been indicted for drugs and making threats. The man who used to be called “Nails” is now more known for having some loose screws.”

Bob Molinaro in the Norfolk Virginian-Pilot on manager Buck Showalter being fired for the Orioles’ worst season ever: “Idle thought: Was Showalter fired? Or was he granted clemency?”

Omaha comedy writer/blogger Brad Dickson on Twitter: “The Mega Millions and Powerball jackpots have reached a combined $750 million. That’s enough to pay the entire Louisville men’s basketball team for a season.”

Dwight Perry of The Seattle Times, again: “Detroit Tigers TV broadcasters Rod Allen and Mario Impemba — taken off the air after getting into a physical altercation Sept. 4 — will not be back next season. In other words, fans’ hopes for a rematch are now up to WWE.”

Comedian Eric  Stangel on Twitter, again: “Unbelievable to think there was a time the #Chargers had Philip Rivers, Doug Flutie, Drew Brees AND Cleo Lemon on the same roster.”

Janice Hough of LeftCoastSportsBabe.com, again: “Apparently more bets have been placed in Las Vegas on the Los Angeles Lakers to win NBA championship than any other team. If anyone wondered how they got the money to build all those big hotels.”

RJ Currie of SportsDeke.com, again: “Mavs owner Mark Cuban has promised the Dallas dancers will wear more family-friendly outfits. Meaning what? Doubling the length of their skirts to two inches?”

Jim Barach of JokesByJim.blogspot.com, again: “LeBron James’ old locker in Cleveland was remodeled to be a towel closet. Which will be handy for those left on the team who can use them to cry on when they miss the playoffs next year.”

Dwight Perry of The Seattle Times, again: “Little Caesars Arena — the year-old home to Detroit’s NBA Pistons and NHL Red Wings — is switching out its 18,600 red-bowl seats for black ones because the sight of empty red seats in TV crowd shots made declining attendance obvious. In other words, they’re losing their seats so … they’re losing their seats.”

Janice Hough of LeftCoastSportsBabe, again: “Since all Division series wrapped up in four games or less, there are now two days with zero Major League Baseball games. So we all get a brief taste of what this year was like for Orioles fans.”

RJ Currie of SportsDeke.com, again: “I may have pinpointed the problem with Blue Bomber assistant coach Richie Hall’s much-criticized defensive schemes. They all seem to be based on a dare.”

Omaha comedy writer/blogger Brad Dickson on Twitter, again: “Husker fans, it doesn’t stop. Herbie Husker just announced plans to transfer after learning he’s now second team mascot behind Lil Red.”

Comedy writer Alex Kaseberg, after a runaway horse galloped into a bar. “Nobody was hurt, but a priest, a rabbi and a minister all spilled their drinks.”

Train-wrecked marathon

From Dwight Perry’s Sideline Chatter column in The Seattle Times:

Pre-race roadwork? Check.

Cross-training? Check.

Train-crossing? D’oh!

An estimated 25 percent of the field for last Sunday’s Portlandathon in Portland got delayed for up to 22 minutes when a Union Pacific freight train blocked the course on Naito Parkway at the Steel Bridge, which certainly put a kink in runners’ plans to post a qualifying time for, say, the Boston Marathon.

The men’s winner, Tomonori Sakamoto, was safely across the tracks before the train arrived He won by 27 minutes.”

CFB Storylines

Rick Bozich of Louisville’s WDR-TV, with about the only suspense surrounding top-ranked Alabama: “Will Tua Tagovailoa attempt a pass in the fourth quarter this season? Hasn’t happened yet.”

Omaha comedy writer/blogger Brad Dickson: “Northwestern is favored by 8 points on Saturday. Oh, great, Now the Huskers are underdogs to schools where the players actually attend class.”

Janice Hough of LeftCoastSportsBabe, again: “QB Kelly Bryant who decided to leave Clemson when he lost the starting job to now injured freshman Trevor Lawrence, will visit UNC this weekend. Where no doubt he will try to impress the coaching staff of the 1-3 Tarheels with his leadership ability even through adversity.”

Omaha comedy writer/blogger Brad Dickson on Twitter, again: “Nebraska gets a new governor, people are “Meh.” Nebraska gets a new punter, people are “Whoa! Where’s he from?! Where’d he go to school?! What’s his favorite color? DOES HE HAVE ANY PETS?!!”

 NFL drama

Dwight Perry of The Seattle Times, again: “Who says you need a “D” to spell Raiders?

Oakland’s defense is yielding 7.0 yards a play, the worst through five games since the 1970 NFL-AFL merger.”

Comedian Eric  Stangel on Twitter: “Can’t wait til the Giants draft another running back with their 1st round pick next year.”

Janice Hough of LeftCoastSportsBabe.com: “Worst thing for New York sports fans these days is that with Yankees out of the playoffs, they have to pay attention to the Giants and Jets.”

Dwight Perry of The Seattle Times, again: “NFL player arrests have been trending down since hitting a high of 71 in 2004. Don’t worry: The league is compensating for that with increased roughing-the-passer flags.”

Comedian Eric  Stangel on Twitter, again: “Cowboys-Texans heading to OT. This better not delay tonight’s George Michael Sports Machine.”

Foot in mouth

Paul Finebaum has had to apologize for plenty of stupid stuff he’s said, and probably written, through the years. But now that he’s jumped the shark and become an ESPN personality, he frequently exposes his SEC bias to a national audience that just wants to be informed with keen insights.

It can be rather embarrassing.

Finebaum had to apologize two years ago for saying he didn’t believe black people were still being oppressed as he criticized Colin Kaepernick for taking a knee during the national anthem. Somehow that was spun into a flag protest and anti-American rant.

Racism helped ignite that debate. Finebaum is an Alabama native, after all.

And in 2013, he called South Carolina’s Jadaveon Clowney “the biggest joke  in college football,” proving he has hard time recognizing talent unless it’s being coached by Nick Saban.

Those are just two of many instances when Finebaum has let his tongue bypass his brain and expressed opinions without the benefit of proper preparation and a backing of facts.

Then in mid-September, he further proved he doesn’t always know what he’s talking about. Analyzing” the Boise State at Oklahoma State football game on Sept. 15, he picked “Oklahoma” to win.

Then confirming he hadn’t simply misspoke, he talked about how much better the Sooners’ players were, naming names.  The problem was that Oklahoma’s Week 3 opponent was Iowa State. But at least Finebaum picked an Oklahoma team to beat Boise State.

So I guess from Finebaum’s perspective, even when he’s wrong, he’s partly right.

Headlines

TheOnion.com: “Panicked Falcons discover scratch in Mercedes Benz Stadium.”

Fark.com: “Chelsea to send racists fans to Auschwitz concentration camp for reeducation.”

SportsPickle.com: “Odell Beckham seems like a very stable genius.”

TheOnion.com: “Should LeBron James leave ‘Space Jam 2’ for a movie with a better chance of winning an Oscar?”

Fark.com: “Seeing rocks glued to the wall in a gym inspired the man who invented indoor rock climbing.”

Sportspickle.com: “Hmm. Maybe (Roy Williams) doesn’t know what ‘dumbfounded’ means because he was educated at North Carolina.”

TheOnion.com: “Is this year’s Giants team an Al-Qaeda plot designed to hurt New Yorkers again?”

Fark.com: “Milwaukee Brewers fan has burger from 1987 in his freezer.”

SportsPickle.com: “Brian Cashman and the Yankees have spent $3.6 billion in payroll over the last 18 years to win one championship. So that’s cool.”

Awfulannouncing.com: “Joel Klatt wore a Baker Mayfield jersey to an interview with Colin Cowherd.”

TheOnion.com: “NFL urges pass rushers to try reaching peaceful resolution with quarterbacks before resorting to tackling.”

Fark.com: “Detroit Tigers broadcasters who got into fight will not be allowed to kiss and make up.”

SportsPickle.com: “Big deal. Brees will never break Alex Smith’s record for check-downs.”

TheOnion.com: “Study: 83% of marathon spectators only attend for sick thrill of watching fellow man suffer.”

Fark.com: “NFL clarifies their new roughing-the-passer rule, says it will only be called on the Packers and anyone approaching Tom Brady.”

TheOnion.com: “Busy referee regrets not finding time to throw flag around with son.”

Awfulannouncing.com: “A plea to MLB’s postseason broadcasters: at least pretend to like baseball.”

My takes

Rehastagging this week’s top Tweets from @Randy_Beard11:

  • Red Sox win to advance to rematch with Houston for AL title. Go Astros.
  • If Jake Bentley is indeed the starting QB on Saturday for South Carolina against Texas A&M, here’s hoping he’s in the game until he throws his first interception. So three possessions? Two?
  • @dickieV wouldn’t be talking about the FBI investigation if he knew it would snare Duke’s Coach K or UNC’s Crying Roy. But what about Coach Cal at UK or Sneaky Sean at Arizona?
  • Brett Kavanaugh confirmed 50-48 to the Supreme Court. Never has a 3-pointer been needed more on any court.
  • Miami scores 3 TDs in 8:02 to rally from 20 down to near Florida State, 28-27, and ended game inside 10 before running out clock. I really miss covering that rivalry game.
  • Conventional wisdom suggests you don’t lose your job because of injury but Jake Bentley should be the backup quarterback until Michael Scarnecchia plays himself out of the job.
  • Someone please lend the Braves some bats. Pretty please?

From Sidelines to punchlines

A different view of sports

Clearing my mind and notebook while hoping the Braves can give me reason to jump on the baseball bandwagon this postseason:

Knockout punch?

HBO’s decision to eliminate live boxing coverage from its sports programming was another body blow to the sport.

Based on its stockpile of Emmy’s for original programming, the network no longer needs sports programming to increase its viewership numbers. But that doesn’t mean it’s abandoning sports, altogether.

HBO just plans to concentrate on doing more feature coverage of athletes, like its recent series on Serena Williams returning to tennis after having a baby, its documentary on Muhammad Ali, LeBron James’ “The Shop” and the NFL reality series “Hard Knocks.”

The final boxing card for HBO will be on Oct. 27, featuring former middleweight champion Daniel Jacobs and Russia’s Sergiy Derevyanchenko at Madison Square Garden.

HBO first tested the boxing waters with its coverage of the 1973 heavyweight championship fight between George Foreman and Joe Frazier.

Peter Nelson, a vice president for HBO sports, didn’t rule out the network bidding on a future fight if it generates significant interest among average sports fans, but he said lower than expected ratings for boxing figured into the decision.

“We have a tremendous heritage to point to in regard to the road map we provided on how to humanize these fighters and their communities … that aspect of storytelling is one we look to continue,” said Nelson.

Former HBO boxing commentator Larry Merchant had this take on the decision, comparing HBO to a fighter who hung on too long: “Once upon a time we were a promising kid. Then a challenger. Then a champion. A great champion. A long-time champion. And then a has-been who finally retired. So long, champ.”

What’s shaking?

Last week’s college football drama in the Palmetto State centered on the quarterback position at Clemson.

That focus is now in play at South Carolina.

Gamecock starter Jake Bentley sprained a knee late in last week’s game at Kentucky. But it was also his poorest effort in three seasons. He finished with three interceptions and only had nine yards passing in the first half against the Wildcats, who opened up a 24-3 lead at the break.

If Bentley can’t play this week against Missouri, South Carolina coach Will Muschamp is prepared to start fifth-year senior Michael Scarnecchia. Muschamp is going to take his time making that decision with the noon start on Saturday his only deadline.

But frankly, what do the Gamecocks have to lose by making a change. Even if it is only temporary, it might be enough to shake things up. Maybe even light a competitive fire in Bentley.

Meanwhile, at Clemson, Dabo Swinney is still facing season-long concerns after  senior Kelly Bryant decided to transfer prior to last week’s game against Syracuse.

Bryant made his decision after Swinney announced that freshman Trevor Lawrence would get the start against Syracuse. Based on Lawence’s ability to get the Tigers into the end zone with his passing accuracy, it was the right decision.

But it was enough to upset Bryant, and he quickly took advantage of the NCAA’s new transfer rule to preserve his senior season. He’ll be able to transfer with no penalty while using this season to sit out, even if he has played in four games.

But that decision could have proven costly to the Tigers, who had to rally in the final minutes to avoid losing to Syracuse for the second consecutive season.

When Lawrence suffered a concussion, there were Clemson fans hoping Bryant was at the stadium and would come running out of the locker room any minute to save the day. Didn’t happen.

What did happen was the emergence of redshirt freshman Chase Brice as a legitimate backup to Lawrence. Maybe even a fill-in starter in combo with tailback  Travis Etienne, who rushed for 203 yards and three touchdowns on 27 carries in the 27-23 win.

Brice, meanwhile, completed 7 of 13 passes for 83 yards and scrambled for 17 yards on the winning 94-yard drive.

Brice said one of the first people to congratulate him after he left the stadium was Bryant, who wasn’t second-guessing his decision to transfer.

“Yeah, he sent me a text congratulating me and all that,” said Brice. “I saw him after the game and he was happy for me and he gave me a hug … I’m happy for him that he’s gonna be happy. Hope he finds the right spot.”

They said it

Omaha comedy writer/blogger Brad Dickson: “Last night I was watching the local news and it was one depressing story after another. And that was just the sportscast.”

Janice Hough of LeftCoastSportsBabe.com: “Richard Sherman says that new NFL rules make quarterbacks ‘unstoppable.’ Jets fans are thinking, can somebody tell Sam Darnold?”

RJ Currie of SportsDeke.com: “Hear about the minor-league pitcher who split his pants in a couple of places while throwing a 100-mph strike? I’m guessing it was a two-seam fastball.”

Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times: “Fans of the NBA’s Sacramento Kings, MLB’s  San Diego Padres and NFL’s Cleveland Cavaliers came in 1-2-3 in ESPN’s Fan Misery Index Ratings, based on championships, playoff appearance/wins, heartbreaks and rival teams’ success. Mariners fans – merely 17th – have never been so happy to finish out of contention.”

Jim Barach of JokesByJim.blogspot.com:  “A report says soccer organization FIFA spent $11.7 Million on private jets and sightseeing trips for top officials. What were they doing, auditioning for a position in Donald Trump’s Cabinet?”

Omaha comedy writer/blogger Brad Dickson on Twitter, again:  “Bill Murray was at the Nebraska football game. Based on the 8 straight losses I believe he was doing research for “Groundhog Day II.” (III?).”

Janice Hough of LeftCoastSportsBabe.com, again: “Nick Saban is upset that Alabama student section was only half full for last weekend’s game, a 56-14 win over over Louisiana-Lafayette. Uh, here’s a suggestion, schedule a real opponent that would give the game more drama than Lions vs. Christians.”

RJ Currie of SportsDeke.com, again: “This just in: the Mayweather-Pacquiao rematch set for December may be in jeopardy. One of them has tested positive for Poligrip.”

Omaha comedy writer/blogger Brad Dickson on Twitter, again: “It’s 9:30 a.m. Sunday morning and the referees just called another penalty on Nebraska.”

Janice Hough of LeftCoastSportsBabe, again: “Meanwhile, University of Georgia dismissed star 1st baseman Adam Sasser from the baseball team for allegedly shooting racist slurs at Georgia QB Justin Fields during last week’s game. Kudos to the Bulldogs for doing the right thing. Of course, it probably doesn’t hurt that for Georgia fans, football rules!”

RJ Currie of SportsDeke.com, again: “Richard Mietz of Germany broke a Guinness world record for fastest marathon by a guy dressed as a landmark. It was a monumental achievement.”

Omaha comedy writer/blogger Brad Dickson on Twitter, again: “If you’re big on stats Kade Warner is the all-time Husker leader in receptions among sons of guys who used to work at grocery stores in Cedar Falls.”

Greg Cote of The Miami Herald on the Browns winning for the first time in 635 days: “And now, a few words from Cleveland Mayor Baker Mayfield.”

Omaha comedy writer/blogger Brad Dickson, again,  on the 106,000 packing Michigan Stadium for the Nebraska game: “It looks like the last time I went to the DMV on a Saturday.”

Jim Barach of JokesByJim.blogspot.com, again: “Cavaliers guard J.R. Smith will reimburse a fan after throwing their cellphone. Not only that, he threw it so far he has to cover the roaming charges.”

Omaha comedy writer/blogger Brad Dickson on Twitter, again: “Purdue could’ve been called for having 14 men on the field including the officials.”

Jim Barach of JokesByJim.blogspot.com, again:  “A report says golf fans like the one at the Ryder Cup who was injured by a Brooks Koepka tee shot probably have no legal recourse. Although hopefully she can pay for a few medical bills by selling the autographed golf glove Koepka gave her on eBay.”

Nice catch, Mom

As reported by Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times:

Julie List, 78, found quite the $1.49 bargain at a thrift store in Jupiter, Fla. When she discovered her son Christopher’s Little League glove with his name still written on it. He’d lost it 40 years earlier in Willoughby, Ohio – 1,000 miles away – amid the postgame celebration after hitting two home runs in the season-ending game. “He was thrilled, he was jumping up and down,” she told the New York Times. “He just said, ‘Mom, bring it home.’ He plans to pass it on to a grandson someday.”

Rough outing

After whiffing during last week’s Ryder Cup, Phil Mickelson has decided that he no longer has any interest in playing on golf courses that have “brutal rough.”

The American golfer failed to win a match for the United States, which was defeated 17.5 to 10.5 by the European team.

Mickelson also had to bear the additional embarrasment of being selected for only two matches at Le Golf National in Paris. He lost his only singles match to British Open champion Francesco Molinari and also was defeated in a foursome match in which he was paired with Bryson DeChambeau.

Mickelson, 48, said his game isn’t suited for courses with narrow fairways and deep rough.

“I’m not going to play tournament golf with rough like that anymore. It’s a waste of my time,” Mickelson said. “I’m going to play courses that are playable, and I can play aggressive, attacking, make lots of birdies.”

 Juvenile behavior

TheOnion.com: “Let’s avoid the Brett Favre comparisons until Patrick Mahomes can consistently send dick pics to reporters.”

Fark.com: “Iowa bar offers to unlock fridge full of beer for Nebraska fans when the Huskers get their first win of the season.”

TheOnion.com: “NFL player rewarded for butt wiping celebration with an endorsement contract. Other players excited by the news that Tri-State Colonoscopy is still searching for a spokesman.

SportsPickle.com: “If you are a fan of dorky celebrations, there is no better entertainment than Ryder Cup golf.”

Safety first

South Carolina football fans could find themselves being scanned by metal detectors at Williams-Brice Stadium for Saturday’s football game against Missouri.

Although the metal detectors won’t be at every gate this weekend, Gamecock fans better get used to it. The school prides itself on being a leader in security procedures.

When the SEC mandated two years ago that it would have a clear bag policy in place for this season, South Carolina athletic director Ray Tanner made that a policy at USC facilities last season.

So  now the SEC’s Working Group on Event Security has mandated that metal detectors will be used at the conference’s football stadiums by the 2020 season. USC, which is making a test run this weekend, plans to have the devices at all gates by next season.

Tanner said that the school will welcome any additional security measures that make the game day experience safer for fans.

The school has already been recognized for its security procedures at Williams-Brice. The stadium is only one of three college facilities to receive the Facility of Merit for Safety and Security Award from the National Center for Spectator Sports Safety and Security.

Seriously, that’s a real thing.

Headlines

TheOnion.com: “Polite high school football team runs around banner that took hours to make.”

Sportspickle.com: “Kliff Kingsbury should probably be fired for never winning more than 7 games with Patrick Mahomes.”

Awfulannouncing.com: “A whole lot of media thought Grant Wahl’s Twitter joke about U.S. Soccer waiting for Jose Mourinho was a serious report.”

TheOnion.com: “Should the Houston Texans change their crude, offensive nickname?”

Sportspickle.com: “Credit to the Falcons for playing every game like it’s the Super Bowl.”

TheOnion.com: “High school kicker finds it helpful to imagine football as object that needs to be kicked through goal posts in order to gain points.”

SportsPickle.com: “It costs too much to play sports nowadays. The Detroit Lions’ parents couldn’t even afford to buy them real uniforms.”

Awfulannouncing.com: “Paul Finebaum’s pick to win Oklahoma State-Boise State: the Oklahoma Sooners.”

My takes

Rehastagging this week’s top Tweets from @Randy_Beard11:

  • Europe won Ryder Cup 17.5 to 10.5, giving them 9 of last 12 showdowns. You’d think we’d be better than this since golf is so important to our president.
  • Guess Tiger Woods’ comeback is on hold after 0-4 performance in Ryder Cup. But he wasn’t alone in playing disappointing golf for USA. Only Justin Thomas, Jordan Spieth, Tony Finau and Webb Simpson had winning records, going combined 11-5.
  • Gamecocks threaten to pull within one score but end 20-play drive with goal-line interception that costs them a scoreboard opportunity. That’s not easy to do, but then, that’s not something you want to do.
  • South Carolina’s Jake Bentley, often touted as one of best QBs in SEC, completed 3 of 11 passes in first half vs. Kentucky for 9 yards. I could be wrong but I don’t even think that’s considered elite in Pop Warner.
  • Uhh oh, Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence is shaken up. Is it too late for incumbent QB Kelly Bryant to change his mind about transferring?
  • Clemson needs most of first quarter to take 7-6 lead over Syracuse. If this was Big Ten, not ACC, this would be a trophy game. The Orange JULIUS Bowl? Hey, Dairy Queen now owns the frothy drink and a DQ is always right down the road.