From Sidelines to punchlines

A different view of sports

Clearing my mind and notebook while having a hard time accepting that the NBA and NHL are again starting new seasons while our attention is supposed to be on football and baseball:

Time to waste

Here are suggestions on how to spend a Saturday when your favorite unranked college football team has a bye week:

  • Play catch with your kid – even if he’s now over 30.
  • Binge watch a TV show you’re too ashamed to admit that you’ve never seen, like Mad Men or Breaking Bad.
  • Throw out your back rearranging the living room furniture for at least the fifth time since you moved in.
  • If you have more than one dog, convince your wife that giving them a bath could double as a fun full body workout.
  • After your wife nixes the dog-washing idea, convince her to shop local at the mall so you can at least sample culinary delights from three food court vendors.
  • Take your car in to the shop to rotate the tires and get an oil change, which will give you at least a guilt-free hour of watching a random college football game.
  • Volunteer to take the grandkids to the library, so you can read magazines you once paid to have mailed to your home.
  • Spend an afternoon fishing, which is always a good excuse to drink beer, get a sunburn and argue with friends before storing the boat for the winter.
  • Enjoy a date night with the wife, but don’t make the mistake of thinking you can get away with a store-bought pizza and whatever movie is on cable.
  • Punt, and spend the day watching multiple games featuring ranked college football teams.

Young gun

Florida Atlantic football coach Lane Kiffen took the bait, and now 11-year-old quarterback Cole Leinart has a scholarship offer from the Owls.

Yes, it’s a bit ridiculous considering Kiffen isn’t expected to stick around FAU for even another five years. But Cole Leinart is the son of former Southern Cal QB Matt Leinart. And Cole already has a strong and accurate arm.

In fact, it was a 30-yard completion for a touchdown that prompted The Athletic’s Bruce Feldman to tweet a video of that throw with a sarcastic quip that he was surprised Kiffen hadn’t already offered to sign the kid.

Kiffen, after all, was an assistant at USC during Leinart’s college career.

They said it

Omaha comedy writer/blogger Brad Dickson: “Good news for Tim Miles. A.D. Bill Moos said if Nebraska wins the NCAA Tournament, goes undefeated and then defeats the Globetrotters he’ll consider keeping Miles for another season.”

Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times: “Florida Atlantic football coach Lane Kiffin has offered a scholarship to Matt Leinart’s son Cole — a 5-foot-7, 11-year-old sixth-grader. The NCAA is already looking into that shiny new bicycle he’s suddenly riding to school.”

RJ Currie of SportsDeke.com: “The Nashville Predators, knocked out in Round 2 of the 2018 playoffs, raised three banners commemorating last season. I think one of them was for participation.”

Comedian Eric Stangel on Twitter: “I like when I do a crazy amount of research to painstakingly find my perfect fantasy football lineup, then I notice the person I’m playing against hasn’t updated anything since the draft.”

Jim Barach of JokesByJim.blogspot.com: “The NBA is revamping its officiating website to include plays that merited reviews. Or as they call that in the NFL, watching the game films.”

Omaha comedy writer/blogger Brad Dickson on Twitter, again: “I don’t want to read about Ronda Rousey’s “big comeback” to regain her WWE title or her plans for her next WWE match or what she thinks about the upcoming WWE card – I just don’t.”

Janice Hough of LeftCoastSportsBabe.com, again: “Giants receiver Odell Beckham Jr. headbutted a giant cooling fan during the Eagles game. That’s odd; usually he prefers to butt heads with his coach.”

RJ Currie of SportsDeke.com, again: “According to USA Today, Alabama Crimson Tide’s problem is they always blow out the competition and aren’t used to close games. “We feel your pain,” said absolutely nobody.”

Jim Barach of JokesByJim.blogspot.com: “The Raiders have been fined $20,000 for violating the league’s injury reporting policy. Which is the NFL’s way of adding insult to injury.”

Omaha comedy writer/blogger Brad Dickson on Twitter, again: “It’s hard for the ESPN/ABC crew to seem impartial when they spend half the telecast singing the Northwestern fight song.”

Janice Hough of LeftCoastSportsBabe.com, again: “Ohio State star DE Nick Bosa says he is leaving school to focus on rehabbing a muscle injury before the NFL draft. Because we all know it takes so much physical effort to read a book?”

Comedian Eric Stangel on Twitter: “Best moment of my day/week/month. Someone just asked me if I was a rugby player.”

Omaha comedy writer/blogger Brad Dickson on  Twitter, again: “Take away  the worst start in 129 years of playing football for Nebraska and this really hasn’t been that bad of a season.”

RJ Currie of SportsDeke.com, again: “Reuters reports 409 Beadnose, a roly-poly brown ursine female in Alaska, has been named Fattest Bear. Judges said she’s the portliest Fattest Bear champ since William The Fridge Perry.”

Jim Barach of JokesByJim.blogspot.com: “Serena Williams’ coach says on-court coaching should be allowed. Although how much coaching can you really give a tennis player? “Hit it harder!” “Hit it over the net!” “Run faster!”

Janice Hough of LeftCoastSportsBabe, again: “Marijuana is legal in Canada starting tomorrow. And for a lot of professional football players the CFL just got more appealing.”

Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times, again: “Experts say a rare 1792 U.S. penny set to go on the auction block in Baltimore this month could fetch $1 million. In a related story, Steelers holdout Le’Veon Bell is now demanding his franchise tag be paid in 1792 U.S. pennies.”

Mixed feelings

You have to wonder if Oklahoma City Thunder fans can continue to embrace Paul George after the California native admitted he still has thoughts of what life would be like in a Lakers uniform.

“I wanted to play in L.A. That is where I wanted to go,” said George. “Had that trade never went down, had I played one more year in Indy, I would have been in a Lakers uniform.”

Instead, the Indiana Pacers trade George to the Thunder prior to last season. That experience playing alongside Russell Westbrook was enough to alter George’s free-agency dreams, which is why he ended up signing a four-year contract extension worth $137 million.

“Going toward the summer and going toward free agency, I kind of had my mind made up talking with the team, talking with Russ and talking with the front office,” said Paul. “I kind of felt good where we were at.”

But that didn’t stop him from telling ESPN’s The Undefeated this week that he was still disappointed he didn’t get the chance to play out the final year of his contract in Indianapolis. By being traded to the Thunder, he felt like the opportunity to go to the Lakers became more complicated.

“It was 50-50 on deciding whether I wanted to come back home or if it was smarter to be in the situation I am in now.”

It’ll be interesting to see how the fans respond to George when the Thunder play their home-opener on Sunday against the Sacramento Kings.

Headlines

Fark.com: “Competitive pinball is now a thing.”

TheOnion.com: “Texas Rangers asking taxpayers to cover 60% of bribes related to new stadium.”

SportsPickle.com: “The threat of groin surgeries is what really could see kids choose not to play football.”

Fark.com: “Manny Machado called up to the bush leagues.”

TheOnion.com: “Skip Bayless rips Shannon Sharpe’s heart from body during debate on Cowboy’s O-Line.”

Sportspickle.com:  “I don’t know guys. I really think the Steelers should pay $20 million a year for their No. 2 back.”

 Fark.com: “LeBron James finally compares L.A. Lakers to instant oatmeal.”

TheOnion.com: “Sprinter feels like an idiot after finding out about jogging.”

Sportspickle.com: “I always thought there should be more than four teams in the college football playoff. Then I saw No. 5 Notre Dame play football.”

Fark.com: “Hockey team knows you’re in trouble when your home ice is turned yellow.”

TheOnion.com: “Golden State raises 2018, 2019, 2020 championship banners.”

Fark.com: “Soccer club under fire for handing out brothel vouchers to fans.”

Declining interest

Indianapolis Star conducted a poll on Twitter asking Colts fans  why they aren’t inclined to attend games this season, putting the franchise near the bottom of the NFL in attendance as the league nears midseason.

The answers weren’t that surprising considering the Colts are off to a 1-5 start this season despite the return of Andrew Luck at quarterback.

Forty percent replied that the team was “Not good enough.” Another 28 percent decided it had become too expensive, even if the Colts still have season tickets that are lower on average than most of the league.

Nineteen percent said they’d rather watch on TV and 13 percent gave “Other” as their answer.

Baseball rules?

Comedian Eric Stangel on Twitter: “If a catcher is allowed to stand up when the pitch is coming, then the batter should be allowed to sit down.” #EricStangelForMLBCommissioner

Jim Barach of JokesByJim.blogspot.com: “The Astros fan called for interference says he doesn’t understand why it wasn’t ruled a home run. To which somewhere, Steve Bartman is coming out of the shadows saying “Yes!”

Syndicated columnist Norman Chad, via Twitter on Dodger catcher Yasmani Grandal’s third inning in Game 1 of the NLDS: “Passed ball, catcher’s interference, error. Is that a hat trick or fielding for the cycle?”

Bigger opponent

Purdue is honoring one of its own at kickoff on Saturday when the Boilermakers play Ohio State. Instead of the traditional pre-kickoff chant of “IU sucks” directed at rival Indiana, the fans are being instructed to vent against cancer.

Tyler Trent, who fancies himself as one of Purdue’s biggest sports fans, is going through his third battle with bone cancer since his freshman year in high school. He now would be a sophomore at Purdue, if he was still enrolled in school. But last year doctors found that the cancer, osteosarcoma, had settled in his lower spine. The cancer first appeared in an arm and his pelvis.

Last month, the Carmel, Indiana native made it known that he would not be able to return to school because of his latest bout with the disease. “My health has taken a turn for the worse and the level of care I now need is too great,” he tweeted.

But he and his family will make it to West Lafayette for Saturday’s game.

NBA longshots

Stefan Bondy of the N.Y. Daily News, via Twitter with the latest NBA opening-night news: “A fan just knocked down a halfcourt shot for $10,000. The Knicks have missed all nine of their field-goal attempts.”

Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times, again: “Golden State star Klay Thompson says he’d like to see five Warriors make Team USA. So which happens first: five Warriors on Team USA — or the entire Team USA roster on the Warriors?”

Janice Hough of LeftCoastSportsBabe.com: “Kawhi Leonard got a standing ovation in his first game with the Raptors, and seems happy enough now to be in Toronto.  Of course, with Canada’s new marijuana laws, maybe he figures it won’t be long until some of his favorite superstar friends will join him.”

Charles Barkley, making a confession to NBC comedian Jimmy Fallon: “I’ve been 10 years without underwear. And, I feel good about it, Jimmy. I thought they were unnecessary for space in the house. So, I gathered all my drawers together and had a big ol’ bonfire.”

My takes

Rehastagging this week’s top Tweets from @Randy_Beard11

  • Troy Aikman made it clear on Thursday Night Football he doesn’t listen to podcasts. Joe Buck seemed stunned. “You listen to podcasts?” asked Aikman. “Yes I do,” said Buck. Replied Aikman, “I’m going to call you next time you’re listening.” Masters of Chitchat.
  • Former Gamecock Josh Wolff, who is an assistant w/ Columbus Crew, is getting shot as assistant w/USMNT vs. Peru in exhibition in Hartford, CT. Makes me wonder if he’ll be contacted as candidate to replace Mark Berson. He’s only 41 and he’d be a great hire. #bringWolffhome
  • Dolphins’ Drake was shedding tears of relief for OT fumble after Jason Sanders bailed him out w/ 47 yd FG to beat Bears 31-28. Chicago missed FG. But my takeaways: Drake is ex-Alabama player who choked at crunch time; Colts were crazy for letting Gore go. 1-5 Colts, I might add.
  • Georgia and South Carolina have combined for 0 points in first half and are surrendering 29 points to LSU and Tennessee. So scrap my idea of a Fantasy Mixed Doubles Football League.
  • Charles Barkley just surrendered man card. Asked if he had been tempted to play football since Pat Dye wanted him, he said no, you had to be “real man” to play football. So his Auburn nickname, “Round Mound of Rebound” indicates only pancakes Sir Charles knows come with syrup.

 

From Sidelines to punchlines

A different view of sports

Clearing my mind and notebook while growing tired of the other fake news problem in this country – advertorial content accompanied by misleading headlines that  link to clickbait:

Dollar-bill defense

Five former University of Louisville basketball players have filed suit against the NCAA because they allege their reputations have been sullied for having played for former coach Rick Pitino.

OK, that’s not actually the basis for their lawsuit – even if it probably should be the main thrust of their argument.

Technically, the lawsuit accuses the NCAA of smearing the reputations of all the ‘Ville players and casting them in a false light as a result of Stripper Gate. Their hope is to have the Cardinals’ 2013 national championship restored along with 123 wins from four seasons and any individual honors that were stripped away because of an escort scandal.

The players are arguing that the NCAA was too harsh in its punishment even if there were strippers in the basketball dorm on a regular basis hooking up with some of their teammates and recruits.

Former players Luke Hancock, Gorgui Dieng, Stephen Van  Treese, Tim Henderson and Michael Marra claim they didn’t participate or know about the sex parties. But they would have to successfully plead a “Choir Boy” Defense in order to win their case.

Hancock was named the most outstanding player of the Final Four that year but insists he did not participate in any of the shenanigans arranged by basketball staffer Andre McGee through escort Katrina Powell. But it’s been well documented that there were strippers on the premises, and that’s where it gets problematic for Hancock and Co.

For the NCAA to impose sanctions for rules violations, not every player on a team has to be found guilty of receiving extra benefits.

There’s a reason why Louisville was stripped of the 2013 national championship, 123 wins and millions of dollars. And there’s also reasons why Pitino is no longer the Cardinals’ coach and Tom Jurich is no longer the athletic director at Louisville.

Guilty or not, Hancock should be content that the NCAA also hasn’t taken away that championship ring he is still wearing. He needs to hold on to  his memories and do his best to put the scandal in the past.

Perspective is everything

San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich was recently asked how he “endured” the death of his wife Erin a few months back and all the frustrations he faced as a coach last season, including a seventh-place finish in the NBA’s Western Conference and a first-round exit in the playoffs.

“When you say we’ve endured, this is basketball,” said Pops, arguably the most politically and socially aware coach of this generation. “We’re playing a child’s game and getting paid for it. If you look at what’s going on in the world, there are billions of people enduring. We aren’t enduring anything.”

Popovich is active in numerous charities, humanitarian causes and social justice issues. He’s also the longest tenured coach in the NBA, posting 21 consecutive winning seasons and leading San Antonio to five league championships.

They said it

RJ Currie of SportsDeke.com, again: “Rams running back Todd Gurley’s new deal includes $45 million in guaranteed money. Or about $9 million per fumble.”

Omaha comedy writer Brad Dickson on Twitter: ‘This is impressive: many of Urban Meyer’s former players at Florida are planning to rally to his defense after they make parole.’

Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times: “Basketball Hall of Famer Charles Barkley finished dead last at the American Century Championship celebrity golf tournament, but at least his wild tee shots were memorable. The words ‘get down’ hadn’t been uttered this much since the disco era.”

Janice Hough of LeftCoastSportsBabe: “Cowboys’ QB Dak Prescott says NFL anthem protests take away ‘from the joy and the love that football brings.” But hey, maybe the CTE will help players forget.”

RJ Currie of SportsDeke.com: “Here’s a disturbing thought: If NFL wideout Dez Bryant signs with Chicago, we may have to call him Bear Bryant.”

Omaha comedy writer Brad Dickson on Twitter: “Tanner Farmer just predicted the Husker football team will win a gold medal and the America’s Cup. Stay tuned for more on this breaking story.”

Comedian Steve Hofstettler on Twitter: “I’m in favor of sending Dennis Rodman to North Korea. Either he helps over there or he gets executed. Win-win.”

 Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel after Aaron Gordon said signing his four-year, $76 million dollar contract with the Magic “brought tears to my eyes: “The first confirmed case of someone who actually was crying all the way to the bank.”

Janice Hough of LeftCoastSportsBabe.com, again: “Even fans of the 1962 Mets are beginning to think the 2018 Mets really suck.”

Omaha comedy writer Brad Dickson, again on Twitter: “Nebraska is about to begin fall football practice. The only people in full pads today will be several super gung ho fans.”

Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times, again: “Detroit and Cleveland came in Nos. 1 and 3 in Wallethub.com’s latest ratings of America’s most distressed cities. People cheer for the Lions and Browns there. Any more questions?”

RJ Currie of SportsDeke.com, again: Rangers pitcher Bartolo Colon will likely end the season as Latin America’s winningest pitcher. With that waistline, it’s clear he’s had no trouble finding the plate.”

Former Duke, Florida and South Carolina head football coach Steve Spurrier on his zero-tolerance rule for domestic abuse: “I think it should be a rule in all of college football.”

Dog days

Newarena.com released its list of “Greatest College Running Backs of All-time” and Georgia fans should be barking up a storm. Yep, Herschel Walker came out on top even after all these years.

After all,  the “Grand Dog of All” is a who’s who of running backs with Barry Sanders of Oklahoma State coming in second, Ron Dayne of Wisconsin finishing third, Archie Griffin of Ohio State claiming fourth and Ricky Williams of Texas at No. 5.

You knew Williams was good because he always left a trail of smoke, right?

I won’t reveal the complete the list of great backs but it includes 30 overall, and while you can argue the order they appear, Newarena.com didn’t overlook all-time greats like (7) Red Grange of Illinois or  (19) Jim Thorpe of Carlisle.

We should also note that No. 10 on the list is Doak Walker of Southern Methodist, the 1948 Heisman Trophy winner whose name you should recognize because the award for the nation’s top running back is named after him.

As for Walker, he had a 16-year career in the USFL and NFL after rushing for 5,239 yards and 76 touchdowns at Georgia, led the Bulldogs to the 1980 national title and won  the 1982 Heisman Trophy.

End is near

And then there’s this from Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times: “Latest sign that the apocalypse is nearly upon us: Bryce Love, Stanford’s Heisman-worthy running back, chose staying back at school to go to class over an appearance at Pac-12 Football Media Day.”

Headlines

SportsPickle.com: “I know it’s hard to compare eras in sports, but Ty Cobb would have broken all MLB records for racist and homophobic tweets.”

Fark.com: “Ronaldo scores rare “shoulder goal” in first week of training with Juventus. My god, he might be better than Tebow.”

TheOnion.com: “Neil deGrasse Tyson debunks stadium’s home run animation depicting ball launching into the stratosphere.”

SportsPickle.com: “Okay, so other than Penn State, Michigan State and Ohio State, the Big Ten seems like it’s good people.”

Fark.com: “A 10-year-old named Clark Kent beat a record that Michael Philps held for 23 years. No word if his mom is named Martha.”

SportsPickle.com: “Congratulations to 2019 Alabama offensive coordinator Urban Meyer!”

Fark.com: “Washington Nationals beat the Mets by three touchdowns, 25-4.”

SportsPickle.com: “How does Jim Harbaugh feel about John Harbaugh coaching a team named after a bird?”

Fark.com: “Looks like Ohio State is about to have another coaching legend get canned.”

 Timing, timing

The Ohio-based eatery Bob Evans Restaurants has “fired” Urban Meyer as its “head breakfast coach.” Knowing that, can the real punishment be far behind for Ohio State’s suspended football coach?

The chain recently signed a marketing deal with Meyer, who has been suspended by the university amid reports that he knew about domestic abuse incidents between former assistant coach Zach Smith and his wife.

In a statement from the restaurant chain, it was announced: “We are suspending the current partnership with Urban Meyer and removing all related content pending the results of the official Ohio State University investigation.”

Meyer is on paid administrative leave, but his contract does provide provision for him to be fired by the school for conduct, including lying to the university.

At the recent Big Ten Conference media days, Meyer admitted that he knew of a 2009 incident between Smith and his then-wife when he hired him as a receivers coach in 2012, but Meyer insists he did not know about any other incidents of domestic abuse, including a 2015 incident.

European rehab

If Meyer is fired or forced out in Columbus, maybe he can start a new life for himself in Europe as former Baylor coach Art Briles has chosen to do.

Briles is going to coach in Italy after a nearly two-year exile for his mishandling of multiple sexual assault allegations by numerous players from 2009 to 2016.

Now Briles is going to coach an American football team in Florence, Italy – although the season won’t begin until March.

Meanwhile, in the past week Briles’ attorneys turned over nearly 4,000 pages of documents and six audio recordings to lawyers representing 10 women in a Title IX lawsuit against the university because of the handling of the sexual assault charges. After all the delays and denials he and his staff made for years, Briles has now told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram that he in hindsight he “would have done more.”

Baylor should be required to do more too. They certainly went beyond the call of duty in their cleaning house of Briles and former president Ken Starr. Yes, that Ken Starr.

As part of its settlement with Briles, Baylor paid the former football coach more than $15 million – his contract had included a $39 million buyout. The school also gave Starr  more than $4 million to get him to step away as chancellor. Then it gave him a job teaching in its law school.

What a country!

Now Briles is going to work in a country where many believe it’s merely recreational sport to harass women and pinch butts.

Last word

Shaquille O’Neal started a buzz in L.A. by suggesting that Kobe Bryant was considering coming out of retirement to wrap up his career with a better ending while playing with LeBron James.

Only one problem. Shaq should have talked to Kobe’s wife Vanessa.

Vanessa Bryant has since made it clear that Kobe’s days of basketball are most confined to him coaching his girls and shooting hoops for fun – mostly alone.

“Kobe will not be coming out of retirement to play again,” she said. “He doesn’t want to play again and frankly we really enjoy spending time together as a family without all the crazy game schedule conflicts interfering with birthdays, holidays and special events.”

Bryant, 39, was slowed by injuries the last few years of his career, playing in just 107 games the last three seasons. But he did win an Academy Award for best film short, “Dear Basketball” in 2018, so he’s already accomplished in a second career.