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.

From Sidelines to punchlines

 A different view of sports

Clearing my mind and notebook while recognizing that an arbitrator has given credence to a collusion conspiracy being committed by NFL teams against Colin Kaepernick:

Championship path

When I made an upgrade in sports editor jobs in August 1999, leaving Anderson, S.C. for Tallahassee, Fla., my farewell column noted I was going from covering Tommy Bowden at Clemson to writing about Bobby Bowden at Florida State.

I didn’t have to be Grantland Rice to realize FSU’s Bowden had the better chance that year to win the national title, and following a championship team while working for the newspaper of record was on my career bucket list.

Mission Accomplished.

The Seminoles went wire-to-wire as the No. 1 team in 1999, beating Virginia Tech and the Hokies’ dynamic quarterback Michael Vick, 46-29, in the 2000 Sugar Bowl.  That was also Bobby Bowden’s last championship – something I wasn’t smart enough to predict – so timing is everything.

While the Seminoles again played for the title in the Orange Bowl the next season, Heisman Trophy winner Chris Weinke picked a horrible night to throw two more interceptions than touchdown passes. For the record, he tossed two picks.

Oklahoma prevailed, 13-2.

Flash forward to this season. I’m again a homeowner in Anderson, and Clemson is the team favored by many to win the national title. Strange how these things work out. If it happens, it will also be Clemson coach Dabo Swinney’s second title.

So consider my relocation a good omen, Dabo, even if you did pull it off without my help in 2016.

I won’t be documenting the Tigers for a daily newspaper – those don’t really exist anymore. But I will be frequently blogging here and tweeting (@Randy.Beard11) about the season as a free-agent journalist, even if I’m not writing separate blogs on the ACC, SEC and Big Ten as I did last year.

Oh, one more outstanding omen heralding my July move from the Midwest to the South: Florida State opens the season Monday night against Virginia Tech in Tallahassee.

That’s not a coincidence. It’s a sign.

Boiler pride

Purdue freshman Rondale Moore introduced himself to the college football world Thursday night by setting the Boilermakers’ school record for all-purpose yardage in a game with 313, including  125 return, 109 receiving and 79 rushing. Alas, there was still 12:05 left in the fourth quarter and the Boilermakers failed to take further advantage of Moore’s playmaking skills in a 31-27 loss in their Big Ten opener against Northwestern in Ross-Ade Stadium.

But keep an eye on Moore. He has the chance to be a much needed impact player for Purdue, especially if coach Jeff Brohm figures out how to take full advantage of the 5-foot-7 speedster. That relationship between player and coach should be special since Brohm and Moore both starred at Louisville’s Trinity High, and Brohm’s father is still an assistant coach at the high school.

They said it

Comedian Eric Stangel on Twitter: “The Manafort jury just sent a note asking for clarification on the new NFL helmet rule.”

Janice Hough of LeftCoastSportsBabe.com: “Packers signed Aaron Rodgers to 4-year, $134 million extension. In related news expect Green Bay to announce beer and brats can now be paid for with an interest-free loan.”

RJ Currie of SportsDeke.com: “Golf Digest reports a man needed stitches after asking to play through a foursome who then beat him with their putters. When I played golf, it was my own putter that beat me.”

Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times: “Corey Bellemore, winner of this year’s Beer Mile World Classic in Vancouver, B.C., was disqualified when race officials ruled he didn’t consume enough beer during the race’s four mandatory brew stops. It’s believed to be the first time in sports history in which a runner was stripped of his title for failing to fail a drug test.”

Brad Dickson on Twitter: “The Oak View Mall in Omaha has been purchased by a man who lives in Canada. That means all the stores will close to make way for minor league hockey.”

Janice Hough of LeftCoastSportsBabe: “Cleveland releases LB  Mychal Kendricks after he was charged for insider trading over making over  $1 million in illegal investments in 2014.  Well, at least Kendricks didn’t do something obvious like betting against the Browns.”

Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times, again: New “Monday Night Football” sideline reporter Booger McFarland will ride up and down the sidelines on a motorized cart dubbed “The Booger Mobile.” It’s believed to be the greatest innovation on wheels since the Pinto, the Corvair and the Edsel.”

RJ Currie of SportsDeke.com, again: “Danica Patrick told Rachel Ray seven things she likes about her boyfriend, Packers QB Aaron Rodgers. When Tom Brady heard this, he said: ‘Gisele listed 14 about me.’”

Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times, again: “Hall of Fame player Eric Lindros says the NHL should eliminate body contact. Two minutes for laughing, anyone?”

 Title debate

UCF gained some legitimacy for the school’s claim to national championship when the NCAA recognized the Knights for finishing last season as No. 1 in the Colley Matrix, one of the number-crunching computers it recognizes.

Page 115 of the 2018 NCAA Football Records Book bestowed that questionable logic on the Knights, giving them a “shared” title with Alabama. But yeah, the Colley Poll is published by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, so that counts for something.

Central Florida whipped Auburn 34-37 in the Peach Bowl to complete a 13-0 season, and quickly seized on the fact that Auburn had beaten both Georgia and Alabama during the regular season.

Those, of course, are the two schools that played in an all-SEC title game,

While the four-team playoff system may be flawed, traditionalists still prefer to recognize Alabama as the legit champion after the Crimson Tide’s 26-23 overtime thriller over the Bulldogs.

That won’t stop the folks in Orlando, especially Orlando Sentinel columnist Mike Bianchi or UCF athletic director Danny White from feeling vindicated for all their drum-beating madness during the offseason.

So the UCF championship banners will continue to hang and the players will wear their national title rings and T-shirts.

However, Scott Frost, who coached UCF last season to that mythical title, quickly reversed field after he and his staff took over the Nebraska program.

Now even  he can proudly jump back on his former school’s bandwagon.

Identity crisis

Speaking of Bianchi, he wrote on Aug. 11th that UCF was entering the season as the “most hated team in college football.” So it must have come as a surprise to him that a poll by @sportsTVratings listed the most hated programs and the Knights didn’t make the cut.

The real defending champions, Nick Saban’s Alabama squad, led the way with 16 percent. Following the Tide are Ohio State (12%), Notre Dame (10%), Penn State 7%), Michigan (6%), Southern California (4%), Texas (3%), Oklahoma (2%), Nebraska (2%).

Add them all up, and that only accounts for 68 percent of the gridiron hatred in this country, so there’s still room for misplaced, illogical anger.

Since we can assume the remaining 38 percent includes a fraternity of one-percenters, UCF likely makes that cut.

Perhaps if they dropped the acronym and proudly embraced “Central Florida” on first reference, the Knights might become more hated.

Or they can accept being called Mickey Mouse University.

Countdown clock

Omaha comedy writer Brad Dickson on Twitter: “This morning at Husker practice Larry the Cable Guy was getting reps at quarterback with the fourth team offense.”

Jim Barach of JokesByJim.blogspot.com: “Former Ohio State assistant coach Zach Smith ripped the school’s investigation of him on Twitter. Which means if nothing else, he is now well prepared to run for public office.”

Janice Hough of LeftCoastSportsBabe: “USA Today has college BOWL projections out today. And we thought Pumpkin Spice Lattes in August were jumping the gun.”

Jim Barach of JokesByJim.blogspot.com, again: “A report says college football attendance is falling. Mostly because recent graduates don’t have time as they are working three jobs just to try to pay off all their tuition loans.”

Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times, again: “The Cactus Bowl has been rebranded the Cheez-its Bowl. You’ve got to like Wisconsin’s chances of getting the first invite.”

Comedy writer Brad Dickson, on Twitter again: “Look for me at tomorrow night’s Husker game. Odds are good I’ll be the only one in the stadium holding a sign reading ‘Bring back Bill Callahan.’”

End of era

Former Furman University soccer player Clint Dempsey has retired, but memories of his heroic moments for the U.S. National Team will not be easily forgotten.

He chose to step away at the age of 35 this week, ending a 15-year professional career with still two months left in the MLS season. And in typical fashion he did it quietly, issuing a statement from the Seattle Sounders that focused on his decision being made with the help of his family and thanking all the coaches, players and support staff he’s worked with throughout his career.

He also thanked the fans of MLS clubs New England and Seattle and English clubs Fulham and Tottenham.

“It has always been my dream to make it as a pro. I’m grateful to have been on this ride,” stated Dempsey.

He leaves tied for most goals with the USMNT with Landon Donovan with 57 goals, but much more popular despite Donovan’s non-stop promotional stunts. Dempsey captained the USA in the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, helping to lead the team to the knockout stages against Belgium.

He is the only American player to score in three different World Cups. He’s also the first American to score a hat trick in the Premier League.

Former U.S. goalkeeper Kasey Keller said Dempsey changed European opinions about American players having a strong work ethic but lacking skills needed by attacking players. “He actually could do something special with skill. Some of the goals that Clint scored for Fulham were truly world class.”

Headlines

TheOnion.com: “Eagles hang beer-drenched, charred Super Bowl banner.”

SportsPickle.com: “Little League announces LLWS will move to new $400 million stadium in Los Angeles.”

Fark.com: “Former boxing champion Jermain Taylor arrested for trying to relive his boxing days with a woman.”

TheOnion.com: “Do the Buccaneers regret bringing in a sexual predator to mentor Jameis Winston?”

Sportspickle.com: “Ohio State should stop paying Urban Meyer his $8 million annual salary because he would never remember he’s owed any money due to memory loss.”

Fark.com: “SI admits that simply writing an article about Lane Kiffin Jr is in itself, clickbait.”

TheOnion.com: “Baseball statisticians unveil new analytics model measuring precise amount of joy they suck from the game.”

Sportspickle.com: “There are a lot of bad things in the world. But we still have the Browns. And for this we are blessed.”

Fark.com: “Serena Williams responds to the French Open’s new dress code by invoking one of her personal heroes, Archbishop Desmond Tutu.”

TheOnion.com: “Nick Foles reveals he turned down big volunteer opportunities at church to remain with Eagles.”

SportsPickle.com: “Thanks to my memory loss, I forgot how big a piece of garbage Urban Meyer is.”

TheOnion.com: “Rafael Nadal reminds self it’s called ‘football’ over there.”

Dietary advice

NBC sportscaster Al Michaels seemed slightly embarrassed when Colin Cowherd told him Friday that his wife considers Michaels physically “buttoned up.”

“That’s a guy who looks great. That’s a guy who takes care of himself,” said Cowherd, quoting his wife Ann, during Michaels’ appearance on FS1 “The Herd With Colin Cowherd.”.

“No vegetables. I’ve told you many times,” replied Michaels, 73. “I walk past a restaurant, or drive by, something called ‘The Veggie Grill’ once in a while. I get nauseous. I really do … Steak and chops, baby. Steak and potatoes. Occasionally, some fish.”

Cowherd added that his wife is vegan, so she and Michaels would never get along.

From Sidelines to punchlines

A different view of sports

Clearing my mind and notebook while watching summer quickly give way to the start of the college football season:

Dotting the ‘I’

Urban Meyer has been the head football coach at Ohio State for six seasons,  forever endearing himself to Buckeye fans by winning the 2012 national championship. But that doesn’t mean he should be still coaching in Columbus this season.

Or coaching anywhere else, for that matter.

He should have forfeited that privilege when he lied at Big Ten Media Days in July after being asked about a 2015 domestic abuse incident involving assistant coach Zach Smith. If that bungled cover up wasn’t reason enough for Ohio State officials to decide to part ways with Meyer, they should have shown him the door once they learned he had erased text messages on his cell phone.

Smith was fired on July 23 and when Meyer was asked the next day about reports that Smith’s former wife, Courtney, had filed an order of protection from him in 2015, the Ohio State head coach claimed he hadn’t been aware of the incident.

A week later Meyer was placed on administrative leave after evidence that he had known came to light. He should have joined Smith in the unemployment line then. And yet Meyer is still employed by the Big Ten power, earning a $5-million salary.

Meyer compounded his error on Wednesday when he failed to apologize to Courtney Smith. He finally did that in a statement he released on Twitter on Friday when he said:

“My words and demeanor on Wednesday did not show how seriously I take relationship violence … I sincerely  apologize to Courtney Smith and her children for what they have gone through.”

It’s a little late, and you’ve got to believe that Meyer was prompted to issue the statement by his wife, Shelley. But how he really feels was demonstrated in 2015 when he protected Zach Smith’s job on his coaching staff.

It’s a pattern of behavior for Meyer, who also had other opportunities to fire Zach Smith, and never did. But hey, at least he added a morality clause to the coaching contracts after learning about Smith making trips to strip clubs while on recruiting trips and also having an affair with a department secretary.

He also had Smith on his coaching staff at Florida, and gave him a pass for a 2009 arrest for domestic violence. So he hired Smith at Ohio State knowing what he was getting.

And yet  we’re now supposed to believe Meyer has finally learned his lesson about setting the right example and demanding a higher standard for his staff and players..

Some have suggested that the three-week suspension without pay Meyer received this week will be enough to knock him off his arrogant stride; that having his reputation  smudged in such a public manner will set him straight. But that assumes Meyer even cares what anyone outside Buckeye Nation thinks about him.

Here’s a clue:  He doesn’t. I learned he doesn’t give a damn about the fans when he was coaching Florida and I was the sports editor in Tallahassee, which has a large and active Gator Club despite being home to Florida State. Meyer came to spring booster club gatherings his first two years as the UF coach, then bypassed the state capital whenever he could as he reduced the overall contact he had with fans outside of Gainesville.

He doesn’t have to make such subjective decisions about fan loyalty as coach of the Buckeyes, who essentially own the entire state. As long as he beats Michigan and has the Buckeyes contending for another NCAA title, Ohio State fans will embrace his overblown ego.

Say what?

Traded by the Miami Dolphins to the Cleveland Browns last March, wide receiver Jarvis Landry is still tasting grass and shoe leather because of the comments he made about his new team.

He stuck both cleats in his mouth when he accused Dolphins coach Adam Gase of scheduling his career funeral in Cleveland, where the Browns were 0-16 last season. “I just felt like, for some reason, Adam (Gase) sent me here to die,” he told ESPN.

A three-time Pro Bowl selection, he was traded to the Browns in return for mid-round draft picks.

Landry, who signed a five-year extension worth $75.5 million in April, said he never felt like he fit in with the Dolphins. But with Miami going 6-10, Landry did have a career-high 112 receptions for 987 yards and nine touchdowns last season.

His attitude – and the Browns’ fortunes – may have started to turn around on Thursday. Although it was just a preseason game. Cleveland beat the defending champion Philadelphia Eagles 5-0.

No, that’s not a typo.

They said it

Janice Hough of LeftCoastSportsBabe.com: “AP Top 25 Preseason Poll is out and Ohio State is #5. Even Pete Rose wouldn’t bet on Urban Meyer being fired.”

RJ Currie of SportsDeke.com, perhaps referencing some NFL teams will have male cheerleaders this season: “The Buffalo Jills haven’t cheered the Bills since 2014 after doing something the NFL found egregious and way out of line for women. They asked to be paid at least minimum wage.”

Omaha comedy writer Brad Dickson on Twitter: “Breaking news: Urban Meyer has been suspended for almost as long as the average booth review takes.”

Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times: “Elon Musk’s The Boring Company wants to drill a tunnel from a subway station in East Hollywood to Dodger Stadium that would reduce an hour-long car trip to under four minutes via electric vehicle. It’s believed to be the first speed-up proposal in MLB history that might actually work.”

Janice Hough of LeftCoastSportsBabe: “Caesar’s Palace Sports Book reports there are more bets on the Browns to win AFC North than the other three teams combined. Beam me up Scotty….”

RJ Currie of SportsDeke.com, again: Michigan football coach Jim Harbaugh said he doesn’t eat chicken because it’s a nervous bird. Shame it didn’t stop his Wolverines from laying an egg last year.”

Omaha comedy writer Brad Dickson on Twitter, again: “If you’ve put the autographed jersey Scott Frost signed for you up for sale on eBay YOU ARE NOT A REAL FAN.”

Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times, again: “Semiretired Chris Berman could return to ESPN in a reduced role on “SportsCenter” and NFL-related programming, the New York Post reported. In other words, Berman might be … nah, too easy.”

Comedy writer Brad Dickson, again, on Twitter: “Forget trying to speed up the game of baseball. Can somebody please figure out a way to speed up Cornhole?”

RJ Currie of Sportsdeke.com, again: “Dwight Howard, the much-travelled new Wizards forward, reportedly carries just three per cent fat on his body. Twenty per cent if you include his head.”

Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times, again: “Election officials in Michigan are trying to ban straight-ticket voting. Critics say the tactic inevitably leads to a lazy electorate — or even worse, 22 Detroit Lions starting in the Pro Bowl.”

Jim Barach of JokesByJim.blogspot.com on a study saying that having a weak grip might signal health problems, even in children: “The good news there: Just try to get an iPad out of the grip of any 10-year-old.”

Comedian Eric Stangel on Twitter: “Going to go out on a limb here and say there’s no one better in baseball today at flying out to straightaway centerfield than Greg Bird.”

Jim Barach of jokesbyjim.blogspot.com: “FIFA’s Jose Maria Marin of Brazil has been sentenced to four years in prison for corruption. It turns out those soccer officials never use their hands either except to take sacks of bribe money.”

Comedian Eric Stangel on Twitter, again: “Matt Schaub has made over $87 million in his career. Just in case you were looking for another reason to be depressed about your life…”

Ball boys

We should have known LaVar Ball would find a way to ruin the Lithuania “vacation” he took with sons LiAngelo and LaMelo.

After agreeing to a sponsorship deal with the BC Prinai-Skycop team in the Lithuanian pro league, Ball tried to dictate how much playing time his sons received as they attempted to develop into NBA draft prospects.

When they didn’t attract the attention of NBA scouts, the two brothers headed home with their dad with two games left in the season. By then, coach Virginijus Seskus was glad to see the Balls leave – even if it did leave the team without a sponsor.

LaVar Ball blamed Seskus for the lack of skills development made by his boys. Seskus fired back, saying the Ball brothers “have no inner drive to become better.”

LiAngelo averaged 12.6 points and LaMelo averaged 6.5.

Next chapter

Tyra Buss, who led the Indiana University women’s basketball team to a WNIT championship last season, has signed a professional contract with Greece club Sporting Athens.

With her work ethic, you can be sure Buss won’t squander the opportunity to develop her skills so she can take another crack at making a WNBA roster.

“It has always been a dream of mine to play professionally and I am so grateful for this opportunity I have been given,” Buss said. “I am excited for this new journey and look forward to all the opportunities I’ll have to work on my game.”

As a senior last season, the Mt. Carmel, Illinois native averaged 20.6 points and 4.7 assists while leading the NCAA in minutes played at 40.0 per game.

She also was the WNIT’s most valuable player and finished her college career as IU’s all-time leader in seven categories, including points scored (2,364), assists (574) and steals (293).

Headlines

TheOnion.com: “Andrew Luck vows to bring Indianapolis another great pizza ad.”

SportsPickle.com: “Joe Flacco’s career won’t last much longer. Please treasure every hilarious moment.”

@NinjaEonomics: “LeBron James to lose to the Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference Finals instead of the NBA Finals.”

Fark.com: “Baseball fights are still stupid, awful and extremely watchable.”

SportsPickle.com: “Stop feeling bad for Tyrod Taylor. Now he will never have to play quarterback in a real game for the Browns. Tonight saved his career. #blessed.”

TheOnion.com: “Nation would be totally fine just doing World Series now.”

Fark.com: “Jon Stewart could lose backup Giants RB job, may have to return to hosting show on Comedy Central.”

SportsPickle.com: “Let he who roots for a Big Ten program that has not had its own disgusting scandal cast the first stone.” – Legends and Leaders 10:16.”

TheOnion.com: “Doctors clear Ben Roethlisberger for unwanted contact.”

Fark.com: “Virginia teen doing pullups monopolizes squat rack for 20 hours.”

@NinaEconomics: “Nobody wants to deliver the paper anymore. Which is great since nobody wants to receive it.”

Fark.com: The New York Knicks fan has given up hope on his team so he sells his soul to highest bidder.”

Bears watching

Chris Zorich deserves credit for having the confidence he can make a difference as the athletic director at tiny Chicago State.

Given a three-year contract with a base salary of $135,000, Zorich is overseeing a school that spent just $5.5 million on 13 Division 1 programs in 2016. The school earned less than $3,000 in ticket revenue.

Having made his name in football as a player at Notre Dame and with the Chicago Bears, his first challenge at Chicago State was to hire men’s and women’s basketball coaches, which he did with the recent introductions of Lance Irvin and Misty Opat. The two coaches take over programs that have gone 21-107 and 9-108 since 2014-15.

But Zorich is undeterred after coming off an encouraging three years as AD at Prairie State. He’s determined to make a difference, even if the school doesn’t have a football program and is still facing financial and academic issues.

“I didn’t take this blindly,” Zorich said. “All I know is what I’ve read in the newspaper — and there were some crazy things written in the paper. I want to change that. I want people to know we’re open for business.”

It’s not the first adversity he has faced in his life. Each time he’s been counted out, he’s battled back. He credits the guidance he received from his mother, Zora, as he grew up facing poverty and gang violence before getting a football scholarship at Notre Dame.

“If not for athletics, I’m not sure where we’d be,” he says.

My takes

Rehastagging this week’s top Tweets from @Randy_Beard11

  • Time to revise your NFL predictions after what may be the greatest preseason upset based on last season: winless Cleveland beats champions Philadelphia. But yeah, neither team scored a TD in Browns 5-0 win.
  • French Open is imposing a dress code. No superhero costumes allowed, which means Serena Williams can no longer live her cat woman fantasy.
  • Isn’t it nice to know Ohio State’s 3-Game suspension of Urban Meyer won’t leave the Buckeyes at a disadvantage for any Big Ten games that matter. Rutgers? That game has already been won by OSU hasn’t it?
  • Urban may need to adopt nickname Houdini
  • Pharoh Cooper, whose Twitter handle is

@KingTutt_chdown, got some love with sideline interview on NFL Network during
Rams 19-15 win over Raiders. Not bad for guy who caught 2 passes for negative
yardage,

  • Evansville’s Bosse Field claims to be 3rd oldest pro baseball stadium in operation behind Wrigley and Fenway. But Bosse opened in 1915 and Rickwood Field in Birmingham, Ala., opened in 1910. The Birmingham Barons still play there once a year, so put an asterisk on Bosse’s claim.

From Sidelines to punchlines

 

A different view of sports

 

Clearing my mind and notebook while  relieved that my days of living out of a suitcase are nearly over:

Risky business

Neymar doesn’t have an Oscar, Emmy or Golden Globe and he won’t win a World Cup any time soon, either.

He’s a great soccer player and a lousy actor. But if you believe his critics, he could have a great future as a tumbling instructor.

Already, youth teams across the globe are working flops, drops, rolls and anguished cries for fouls into their soccer practices. And soccer haters everywhere are making him the poster boy for what they like to believe is a sport for sissies.

Of course, most of those couch potato critics haven’t been south of 300 pounds in year,  couldn’t sprint 60 feet much less 60 yards, and would be begging to be red carded if they ever had to play in a parent-kid soccer game.

But I digress.

The criticism Neymar da Silva Santos Junior  has received isn’t undeserved, but its a shame because he does so much more than writhe on the field.

Yes, he’s overly theatrical, and its time someone sat him down an told him he’s doing the game harm when he barrel rolls 20 yards to get the attention of the ref.

You’d think with FIFA’s introduction of video reviews, particularly with contact in front of the goal, that he’d wise up an just play for the whistle. As crucial as set pieces can be, a little embellishment is to be expected in order to get a free kick. But acting like you have been hit by a truck three times a game can get tiresome.

To paraphrase former United States defender Alexi Lalas after Neymar failed to get a call against Belgium, if a player is constantly crying wolf when there is no wolf, he probably shouldn’t count on help when there really is a wolf.

 

In his defense, the 26-year-old Brazilian was fouled more times in this World Cup than any other player, including 10 times by the Swiss. That’s more fouls against one player since England’s Alan Shearer was knocked about 11 times by Tunisia in 1998.

One tracking of Neymar’s play during Brazil’s five games in Russia had him on the ground a record 14 minutes. That’s a lot of stoppage time. Or, floppage time.

South Africa’s KFC restaurants even produced a commercial featuring a player rolling across town and one of the palaces of fried chicken, proclaiming, “Make a Meal of It.”

This, of course, is a World Cup that hasn’t given many breaks to the stars.

Lionel Messi. Gone.

Cristiano Ronaldo. Gone.

David Silva. Gone.

Carlos Vela. Gone.

And yes, Neymar. Gone.

The Brazilian star, if he can still walk in a few years, should have two more World Cups in his future. All of which means he should make his farewell appearances at the 2026 games cohosted by the United States, Mexico and Canada.

But we’ve got miles to go before then, including putting the wraps on the games in Russia.

Belgium  will next take on France in St. Petersburg on Tuesday.

England will face Croatia on Wednesday in Moscow.

It’s the fourth time the World Cup’s Final Four will be an all-European affair, matching the semifinals in 1966, 1982 and 2006.

Brazil, of course, was gunning for its sixth title and hoping to erase the memories of its embarrassing 7-1 drubbing by Germany on home soil four years ago.

Falling behind 2-0 at the half to Belgium proved to be too deep a hole for the South Americans who have never won a Cup in Europe.

I expected Neymar to get Brazil over that hump, but all he could accomplish was getting his name in the record book with the latest goal scored with a 97th minute tally against Costa Rico. No doubt he even bought some of those extra minutes with his time wasting.

Next up?

Now that Brazil is eliminated, I’m  putting my faith in Roberto Martinez and his survivors.  They’ve earned it.

Since he became Belgium’s coach, Martinez has guided the team to 19 wins, five draws and just one loss. That 2-0 loss was in his first game, and it came 22 months ago against his native Spain. Now Belgium is in the World Cup semifinals and all of Spain’s stars are back home.

Setting goals

Kevin De Bruyne’s game-winner against Brazil made him the 100th player to score in this World Cup.  The record is 116 individual goal scorers four years ago in Brazil.

That would seem to be safe total now that we are down to four games, including the consolation match.

But with just a total of 157 goals scored so far, this tournament can surpass the record of 171goals scored in 1998 in the United States and tied in 2014 in Brazil. That’s just 3.5 goals per game.

England’s Harry Kane leads with six while Belgium’s Romelu Lukaku has four and France’s Antoine Griezmann  and Kylian Mbappe have three each.

College life

It must have sunk in when someone told Matt McClain that he should enjoy the next four years of his life, that nothing is more valuable than a college education and the life experiences that come with it.

How else do you explain the graduate of Beckman High School in Irvine, Calif., turning down $2.63 million to play baseball for the Arizona Diamondbacks.

McLain is a second baseman the D’Backs selected with the 25th pick in the first round of the MLB Amateur Draft last month, convinced he was ready to begin climbing the professional ladder. So they offered him the full salary slot.

But after pondering the offer for a couple of weeks calculating how many pizzas he could afford, McLain decided he’d rather live out his dream playing baseball at UCLA for at least a few years.

The right-handed hitter is gambling that adding a few years to his resume won’t hurt his draft stock.

“While it has and always will be my ultimate goal to play in the major leagues, I also started dreaming in the third grade about playing collegiate baseball and getting my education at UCLA,” said McLain, who is 5-foot-10 and 175 pounds.

“I spent the last month thinking long and hard about this life decision and came to the conclusion that at this time in my life it is best for me to honor my scholarship to UCLA.”

Let’s just hope for his sake that wasn’t a beachball that blew past him like a 94 mile per hour fastball.

They said it

Janice Hough of LeftCoastSportsBabe: Apparently over $1 million will be waged on Nathan’s Hot Dog eating contest, with Joey Chestnut the prohibitive favorite. So who needs the World Cup when we still have American supremacy in eating?

RJ Currie of SportsDeke.com: “Reuters reports an India ATM stopped working because a rat got in and ate thousands of dollars in cash before choking. Probably how the Cleveland Cavaliers feel about JR Smith.”

Omaha comedy writer Brad Dickson on Twitter: You know an analyst is not on the fast track at ESPN when she’s assigned to be the sideline reporter at Cornhole.

Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times: “Jake Fromm, Georgia’s sophomore quarterback, broke his non-throwing hand in a freak boating accident this offseason this after previously landing in the ER with a fishhook stuck in his leg. Bulldog sympathizers are already passing the hat to get this guy a PlayStation 4 or something.”

Fox broadcaster Joe Buck, returning to the airwaves after a 15-minute audio failure during an interview with Jack Nicklaus on the U.S. Open broadcast: “The reviews are in — and we never sounded better.”

Omaha comedy writer Brad Dickson, again on Twitter: “The money quote from ESPN’s coverage of the hot dog eating contest: ‘Joey Chestnut owns America!’ ”

Janice Hough of LeftCoastSportsBabe.com, again: Well, hope Luke Walton enjoyed his time actually coaching the Lakers.

Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times: “Move aside, jumbo shrimp, and make room for the language’s latest oxymoron, courtesy of the Warriors’ Kevin Durant: 7-foot small forward.

Janice Hough of LeftCoastSportsBabe.com, again: “Eliminating teams from the World Cup on Penalty Kicks is like ending the World Series with a Home Run Derby.”

Steve Simmons of the Toronto Sun on LeBron James opting out of $46 million a year option to become a free agent: “For someone making $75,000 a year, you’d only have to work 613 years to equal what LeBron declined.”

Putting for dollars

Perhaps I’m oblivious to whether people really still care about a rivalry between Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson.

Seriously, is that still relevant these days?

I guess I can see it as the pre-tournament talk at The Masters when all the old greats congregate to make golfing hearts flutter. But the two are talking about organizing a $10 million winner-take=all, 18-hole showdown that they’d sell to some TV network to broadcast.

In this day of dwindling ratings (and advertising), I’d like to think that only The Golf Channel would be interested, but I’m sure I’d be wrong. Otherwise, discussion wouldn’t have gotten this far.

They started talking about this at The Masters this year and had targeted a July 3 date, but couldn’t get all their flags in a row.

But at least they agree on one thing. The prize money is extravagant. A get-richer-quick scheme between two millionaires.

Seriously, there are a lot more important things they could do with their time that I hope they drop the winner-take-all concept and play for charities.

Alas, that doesn’t seem to have crossed either golfer’s mind.

Headlines

Fark.com: “The 2018-19 Warriors are officially more loaded than the Monsters were in Space Jam.”

TheOnion.com: “Does the World Cup enforced the false construct of borders imposed on us by the ruling elite?”

SportsPickle.com: “Colin Kaepernick announces he will no longer protest after reading your aunt’s Facebook post.”

Fark.com: “29 NBA teams to change their name to Washington Generals in 2019.”

Fark.com: “ESPN ditches its comments, unfairly silencing thousands of morons.”

 

Tweets of Week

Rehastagging my top Tweets from the week’s World Cup action @Randy_Beard11:

  • Croatia and Argentina are only teams to win back-to-back World Cup Games by penalty kicks.
  • Ivan Perisic must have carpentry skills because he hammered that post.
  • Not as many goals. Not the winner I expected. But Belgium was too much for Brazil, and Roberto Martinez just earned his biggest win in international soccer. Belgium 2-1.
  • France is through, now bring on what should be game of tournament. First one to 10 wins. #goalsgalore #brazilvbelgium
  • ENGLAND!!!! God save the Queen, and PKs too.

Fan boy

Lebron James may have just agreed to a  four-year deal with the Los Angles Lakers that will pay him more than $38 million a year, but that doesn’t mean he can’t be a fan of an up-and-coming athlete.

In another sport like soccer. James was spotted this week wearing a No. 10 Christian Pulisic jersey. That’s quite a shout out to the 19-year-old star of the United States National Team who plays foe German club Dortmund.

Quite a treat for Pulisic, too. He’s long been a fan of James.

 

From Sidelines to punchlines

A different view of sports

Clearing my mind and notebook while pointing out that morning and afternoon World Cup games, that’s soccer y’all, is drawing better TV ratings than baseball’s College World Series:

Bad boy, bad boy

Jameis Winston was often the best player on the field when he played at Florida State, which is why he won the 2013 Heisman Trophy and finished sixth in voting in 2014.

But he also had to navigate the kind of public relations crisis no Heisman winner should ever face. And now he’s dealing with the kind of allegations you would hope a starting quarterback in the NFL would never experience.

While that may sound Pollyannaish, the truth is Winston can’t stay out of trouble. He’s his own worst enemy.

The latest incident, which is expected to earn him a three-game suspension from the NFL, is the alleged groping of a woman Uber driver in Arizona last November. Winston denies he’s guilty. But the NFL, after conducting its own investigation, believes otherwise.

With a history of misdeeds, not all of which are misdemeanors, Winston has left a trail of warning signs.  Whether it’s stealing cups of soda from a fast food restaurant, shoplifting crab’s legs from a grocery store, causing thousands of dollars of damage with a pellet gun at a residence hall, or shouting an obscene meme in a student union, Winston is no stranger to trouble.

Boys will be boys, ya know?

But by mid-November of 2013, Winston was being investigated for an alleged sexual assault a year earlier. The fact he was never charged speaks to the impact of football at FSU, although he did settle a civil lawsuit out of court and FSU had to fork over a small fortune in a Title IX lawsuit.

Now we know that in March 2016, less than a year after the Tampa Bay Buccaneers drafted him No. 1 overall, Winston was apparently behaving like a Donald Trump understudy.

You know, grabbing women by the p—ssy.

I’ve never been prouder that Winston didn’t get a Heisman vote from me in 2013 or 2014.

The Bucs still consider him the face of the franchise, but they’d be smart to start trying to squeeze some trade value out of Winston before its too late.

Mixed signals

There’s no crying in soccer.

Tom Hanks didn’t say it, but Brazil’s largest newspaper, O Globo, did when star Neymar Jr. was seen sitting on the field covering his face with his hands as he shed tears following a 2-0 victory over Costa Rica on Friday.

The camera lingered on him uncomfortably long, capturing the emotion the win generated.

Both goals for Brazil came in stoppage time, including a forceful tap-in by Neymar, so it was a hard-fought victory against a well-organized Costa Rica team.

But for Brazilians, who like to dance in the stands to their soccer, the sight of Neymar breaking down is a cause of concern. Especially when the team has only played two games.

“A team needs to demonstrate mental strength, not fragility. Genuine or not, Neymar’s crying is worrying,” wrote 0 Globo.

Brazil is tied with Switzerland atop Group E with four points each, but it hasn’t cleared a path to the knockout stages going into Wednesday’s match with Serbia.

They said it

Omaha comedy writer Brad Dickson on Twitter: “I had a dream last night that Phil Mickelson shows up at the College World Series, races onto the field during a slow roller back to the mound, and bats the ball twice.”

TBS comedian Conan O’Brien after President Trump said the North Korean dictator was invited to the White House: “Unless, of course, Kim Jong Un wins the Super Bowl or the NBA championship.”

RJ Currie of SportsDeke.com: “Packers QB Aaron Rodgers was given an honourary doctrate from the Medical College of Wisconsin. And like many a doctor in private medicine, he can really hurt you in the pocket.”

Omaha comedy writer Brad Dickson on Twitter, again: “CWS visitors are learning that “Omaha” is an old Indian word meaning “rain delay.”

NBC comedian Seth Myers on the Golden State Warriors championship parade: “And to add insult to injury, they held it in Cleveland.”

Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times: “Wake Forest, citing an undisclosed violation of team rules, has suspended starting quarterback Kendall Hinton for the first three games of the 2018 season. Or as Demon Deacons apologists tried to spin it, three-and-in.”

Janice Hough of LeftCoastSportsBabe: “Argentina and Messi would like to thank Melania Trump and her jacket for making sure they weren’t the most embarrassing story of the day. #WorldCup”

RJ Currie of SportsDeke.com, again: “Happy Father’s Day. My dad died when I was young, but taught me to swim “army-style” by tossing me into a lake. I got to shore, but had a tough time getting out of the duffel bag.”

Janice Hough of LeftCoastSportsBabe.com, again: “Red-hot Nationals rookie Juan Soto debuted on May 20. Today in continuation of a May 15 interleague game against NY, he hit a 2 run game winning homer. So the hit and RBI count before his actual first game..AND against the Yankees?!   Amazed MLB didn’t somehow disallow it.”

Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times, again: “If Avis is looking for a modern-day spokesman for a tried and true ad campaign, Gronkowski was No. 2 in Belmont Stakes as well as No. 2 in the Super Bowl.”

NBC comedian Jimmy Fallon: “The U.S. will host the 2026 World Cup with Mexico. Players can either travel from the U.S. to Mexico by plane or just walk past the wall that still won’t be built.”

Comedy writer Jim Barach: “San Francisco Giants reliever Hunter Strickland broke his hand punching a door after a blown save. Since he forgot to open the door first, he officially loses his status as a closer.”

Brady bunch

Tom Brady has negotiated playing at least two more years. It’s in his contract with the New England Patriots, and sealed with a kiss with wife Gisele Bundchen.

But while Brady, 41, playfully suggested during an interview with Oprah Winfrey on Sunday that he’d like to stick it out in the NFL until he’s 45, there are other voices who may get a vote. His three children.

“I don’t want to be a dad that’s not there driving my kids to their games,” Brady said. “I think my kids have brought a great perspective in my life, because kids just want the attention.

“You better be there and be available to them, or else they’re going to look back on their life and go, ‘Dad didn’t really care that much.'”

Fire sale

Dick’s Sporting Goods stores in the Cleveland area are selling LeBron James jerseys at half price, gambling that the time to unload King James merchandise has arrived.

Thus, a No. 23 jersey that normally retails at $110 can now be had for $55.

We won’t know if Dick’s is correct in believing that the four-time league MVP is prepared to bail on his hometown Cavaliers for the second time in eight years until after July 1.

The last time he left – taking his “talents to South Beach” – Cleveland fans burned his jerseys. So by buying the discounted merchandise it may make it easier to torch a few more jerseys.

World Class Tweets

Rehastagging my top Tweets from a week of watching World Cup soccer @Randy_Beard11:

  • Iceland, you don’t need more fans to do the wave. You need more skilled, quick defenders who don’t just wave at attacking players going to goal.
  • Nigeria’s Musa > Argentina’s Messi. At least in this World Cup but they can settle it on field when they play each other Tuesday.
  • World Cup update: Ronaldo 3, Messi 0.
  • Croatia: “Don’t cry for me, Argentina.”
  • Diego Maradona looks worried. Argentina needs “Diego” Messi to arrive because Lionel Messi isn’t getting it done at moment because Iceland’s defensive focus

Headlines

TheOnion.com: “Overly enthusiastic Cristiana Ronaldo accidentally rips off upper-body skin after scoring goal.”

Fark.com: “Tom Brady has given a hint on his retirement age. Let’s just say it’s an age most of us want to retire at.”

TheOnion.com: “Ovechkin hopes to inspire other athletes to power through month-long bender.”

Fark.com: “A new contestant for sports injury of the year: Brandon Morrow goes on the DL for throwing out his back taking off his pants.”

TheOnion.com: “Lionel Messi pissed after forgetting to wear Fitbit during last game.”

Fark.com: “Mikal Bridges was drafted by the Philadphia 76ers, the team his mother works for. Then he was traded.”

TheOnion.com: “Has the U.S. Men’s Soccer Team earned the right to watch the World Cup?”

Real whopper!

Hey, it could be argued that Russia’s Burger King division was only trying to do its part in helping to build a stronger national soccer team.

With the country hosting the World Cup, the burger joint had ads on social media offering 3 million rubles and a lifetime supply of Whoppers to women who were impregnated by members of one of the World Cup teams.

To quote the ad: “For these girls, it will be possible to get the best football genes, and will lay down the success of the Russian national team on several generations ahead. Forward! We believe in you!”

Burger King’s Russian division is no longer running the ad on social media and has apologized.

Family affair

Meanwhile, rather than focusing on the act of impregnating, Denmark’s players turned their attention to the finished product. When defender Jonas Knudsen’s wife, Trine, delivered their daughter ahead of schedule, his teammates took up a collection to pay for him to fly home.

“We wanted to look at the human side,” said goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel. “There are lots of fathers in the squad. You have to remember we are human beings as well as footballers.”

So, after Denmark beat Peru 1-0 last Saturday, Knudsen made a quick trip home courtesy of a private jet. He was back in Russia on Monday.

Ratings game

The web site, newarena.com, likes to rate the greatest players in various sports and skills, like their recent rankings of the 25 greatest hitter in baseball: 1. Ted Williams, 2. Babe Ruth; 3. Stan Musial; 4. Ty Cobb; 5. Rogers Hornsby; 6. Lou Gehrig; 7. Roberto Clemente; 8. Mickey Mantle; 9. Willie Mays; 10. Tony Gwynn. 11. Hank Aaron; 12. Barry Bonds; 13. Pete Rose; 14. Honus Wagner; 15. Ichiro Suzuki; 16. Rod Carew; 17. Joe DiMaggio; 18. Frank Robinson; 19. Jimmie Foxx; 20. Ken Griffey, Jr.; 22. Alex Pujols; 23. Shoeless Joe Jackson; 24. Alex Rodriquez; 25. Mike Trout.

Maybe baseball really is America’s PASTTIME.

From Sidelines to punchlines

A different view of sports

Clearing my mind and notebook while noting that one of the biggest disappointments about being retired is not having a working gig during today’s Kentucky Derby:

Stirring it up

Sometimes Charles Barkley is the biggest knucklehead in the TNT studio. He just can’t help himself.

Such was the case after Draymond Green of the Golden State Warriors and Rajon Rondo of the New Orleans Pelicans went nose-to-nose while engaged in “some unfriendly chatter” Tuesday night.

During TNT’s halftime show, Barkley suggested Green deserved to pay a price for trying to intimidate and provoke Rondo into fighting.

When Ernie Johnson asked the panel for their thoughts, Barkley said, “I just want someone to punch him in the face. I really do. I just want someone to punch him in the face.”

After the game when Green was asked to respond to Barkley’s comments, the war of words was on.

“He’s seen me a million times,” said Green.” If he feels that strongly about something, then punch me in my face when you see me. If he’s not going to punch me in my face when he sees me, then shut up. It’s no different than someone sitting behind a computer screen and tweeting, “I’ll knock you out, and you never see them in your life.”

Green continued his rant by suggesting Barkley should have the guts to follow through on his threat.

“Punch me in my face when you see me. If not, no one cares what you would have done. You’re old and it is what it is,” said Green. “If you aren’t going to punch me when you see me, then stop talking about it. Period.”

When he initially had trouble putting the microphone back on its base, he looked at the reporters in the room and said, “Drop the mike.” Then he got up and left the interview session.

Meanwhile, Rondo laughed off the incident and said it was essentially gamesmanship between the two. He said he wasn’t trying to “bait” Green, but he wasn’t going to back down, either.

For the record, the Warriors lead the West semifinal series, 2-1, after the Pelicans bounced back for a 119-100 win Friday night. Neither Green or Rondo was much of a factor scoringwise in that game, combining for 15 points. But Green did have 12 rebounds and nine assists and Rondo had 21 assists and 10 rebounds.

So, no title?

For the record, Scott Frost, now the head football coach at Nebraska, doesn’t claim he won a national championship at UCF last season after completing a 13-0 season by leading the Knights past Auburn in the Peach Bowl.

Sure, he understands why UCF athletic director Danny White scheduled a title parade, hung banners around campus and purchased championship rings for the team. Heck, Frost and his coaching staff even accepted the championship bonus checks – and then all bolted for jobs with the Cornhuskers.

Not a bad way of double-dipping on your football salary, if you can manage it.

“All I’ll say is if I had stayed there, I would have had a hard time getting behind it,” said Frost. “I think it was smart by them because it has kept UCF in the media and in the conversation. But you know, like our rings, I kind of wish my ring just said ‘Undefeated Season’ and ‘Peach Bowl Champion.’”

All the media fuss the championship claim has created is reportedly been worth $200 million in publicity for UCF. And it hasn’t cost UCF anything but the expense of the parade, banners, rings and coaching bonuses.

“I do think it was almost criminal how low (the CFB Committee) kept UCF in the rankings, and I think it was intentional,” Frost told USA Today. “But at the end of the day, the playoff system  is that the national champion is the team that wins the playoff.”

So while White sticks to his assertion that UCF has a championship claim because it beat both Alabama and Georgia – the two teams that played for the title in the same stadium in Atlanta – Frost recognizes the Crimson Tide as the true champions.

’Skins game

The New York Times reported this week that several Washington Redskins cheerleaders were forced to go topless or wear only body paint during a 2013 calendar shoot in Costa Rica. Since there was no nudity in the calendar, the real problem is that the women allege corporate sponsors and other men were on the trip and were invited to watch the photo shoots. The story also alleges that the cheerleaders were then required to escort those men to a nightclub.

It took a few days, but the team is now finally, and predictably, pushing back on those charges. Two former squad captains who were on the Costa Rica trip dispute that the team was “pimping us out.”

“Those terms — ‘pimped out,’ ‘escort’ — they just need to stop, because it’s absolutely not what happened,” Rachel Gill said in an interview with NBC’s “Today” show alongside fellow ex-team member Charo Bishop.

The Times, which interviewed five former cheerleaders, stands by its reporting. The women remain anonymous because they were required to sign confidentiality agreements to go on the trip.

While none of the cheerleaders have alleged they were required to have sex, they do claim that the squad’s director, Stephanie Jojokian, used them “as sex symbols to please male sponsors.”

Bishop, however, said she didn’t see anything wrong with the cheerleaders’ roles at the team’s corportate events. She also told NBC that going topless at the photo shoots was, “All optional, voluntary. Some girls were excited to do those things.”

The Times report also alleges that during a 2012 private boat party the men were allowed to shoot liquor into the mouths of cheerleaders with turkey basters” and “handed out cash prizes in twerking contests.”

Team president Bruce Allen said in a statement Thursday that the team is investigating the allegations.

“I can promise that once we have completed looking into this matter, if it is revealed that any of our employees acted inappropriately, those employees will face significant repercussions,” Allen said.

Of course, what’s really needed is for the NFL to get serious about its diminished image and realize that a growing percentage of its fans are female. So where is the side of beefcake?

Right step

Meanwhile, over in the NBA, another step in the right direction toward women’s rights comes the news that the Milwaukee Bucks plan on interviewing Becky Hammon for their vacant head coaching job, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.com.

Hammon already has been a trailblazer in the league, serving as an assistant coach under Gregg Popovich with the San Antonio Spurs. In 2015, she coached the Spurs’ Las Vegas Summer League team and won the championship.

Despite being undrafted in 1999, the former standout at Colorado State played 16 seasons in the WNBA with the New York Liberty and the San Antonio Stars and was named as one of the league’s top 15 players all-time in 2011.

The Bucks interviewed Hammon for their general manager job in 2017 but she wasn’t a finalist

For the coaching vacancy, Milwaukee is expected to interview several other candidates, including former Atlanta coach Mike Budenholzer, former New Orleans coach Monty Williams and former Cleveland coach David Blatt.

They said it

Mike Bianchi of Orlando Sentinel on the report that some Washington Redskins cheerleaders were forced to pose topless during a 2013 calendar shoot in Costa Rica:  “New team motto: “We’re a sexist organization with a racist nickname!”

Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times: “You can slip us this Mickey anytime: A 1952 Mantle baseball card has sold for $2.88 million — or 384 times the $7,500 he was paid to play that season.”

Janice Hough of LeftCoastSportsBabe: “FIFA called out Trump on ethics after he tweeted about not supporting countries who don’t support North American World Cup 2026 bid. Give Donald Trump credit – who else could give FIFA the moral high road?”

TBS comedian Conan O’Brien: “A study reveals that the best way to add years to your life is to exercise, lose weight, and not drink too much. To which all of America replied, “What else you got?”

RJ Currie of SportsDeke.com: “Two ex-cheerleaders who filed NFL discrimination suits said if Commissioner Roger Goodell met with them, they’d settle for $1 each. Or twice their old salaries.”

Dwight Perry, again: “Scientists in Singapore created a robot that can put together an Ikea chair in roughly 20 minute. So now it’s on to even tougher challenges, like assembling a roster for the Cincinnati Reds.”

Age-old problem

Jerry Richardson is clearly not smarter than a fifth-grader.

The 81-year-old owner of the Carolina Panthers is being forced to sell his NFL team because of numerous harassment complaints, including sexually suggestive comments he made to female employees.

One such incident even borders on middle-school hijinks since Richardson allegedly passed a note to at least one woman that sought to determine if she had any interest in having a relationship with him.

“Do you think of me as: 1. Your grandfather; 2. Your second father; 3. Your second husband; 4. Your friend; 5. Your boyfriend; 6. Something else.

 Gridiron grandstanding

When NewArena.com compiled its listing of the top college football coaches, the Big Ten surprisingly came out on top with  nine of the 33 ranked coaches. Ohio State’s Urban Meyer led the way for the league at No. 2, while Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh was No. 5.

Meanwhile, the ACC had the second most coaches on the list with seven, giving the league two more than the SEC. But despite those overall numbers, it’s interesting to note that Clemson’s Dabo Swinney was the only ACC coach ranked among the Top 10.

Alabama’s Nick Saban was No. 1 overall to lead the SEC’s three coaches in the Top 10, including Jimbo Fisher of Texas A&M at No. 7 and Gus Malzahn of Auburn at 10.

But based on numbers, the Pac-12 could claim dominance with UCLA’s Chip Kelley ranked No. 4, Washington’s Chris Petersen at No. 6 and Stanford’s David Shaw at No. 8.

We should also note that Fisher bolted from Florida State of the AC at the end of the season to take the Aggies’ job. If that hadn’t happened, the Pac-12 would have been the only league with three coaches ranked in the top 10.

The list: 1. Nick Saban, Alabama; 2. Urban Meyer, Ohio State; 3. Dabo Swinney, Clemson; 4. Chip Kelley, UCLA; 5. Jim Harbaugh, Michigan; 6. Chris Petersen, Washington; 7. Jimbo Fisher, Texas A&M; 8. David Shaw, Stanford; 9. Gary Patterson, TCU; 10. Gus Malzahn, Auburn; 11. Bobby Petrino, Louisville; 12. Mark Richt, Miami; 13. Brian Kelly, Notre Dame; 14. James Franklin, Penn State; 15. Mark Dantonio, Michigan State; 16. Mike Gundy, Oklahoma State; 17. Kyle Whittingham, Utah; 18. Paul Chryst, Wisconsin; 19. Mike Leach, Washington State; 20. Bill Snyder, Kansas State; 21. Dan Mullen, Florida; 22. David Cutcliffe, Duke; 23. Ken Niumatalolo, Navy; 24. Paul Johnson, Georgia Tech; 25. Justin Fuente, Virginia Tech; 26. Tom Herman, Texas; 27. Pat Fitzgerald, Northwestern; 28. Clay Helton, Southern Cal; 29. Kirk Ferentz, Iowa; 30. Scott Frost, Nebraska; 31. Mike Norvell, Memphis 32. Matt Campbell, Iowa State; 33. Jeff Brohm, Purdue.

Headlines

TheOnion.com: “Don Mattingly yelling at Marlins for leaving dome open with AC on.”

Fark.com: “Boston Marathon gets to keep some of the prize money because three of the top 15 runners lack Y chromosones.”

Onion.com: “LeBron James credits teammates with providing 4 bodies necessary to avoid forfeiture against Pacers.”

TheOnion.com: “Joe Maddon saves up all his mound visits for one long trip in 8th inning.”

Fark.com: “There are dumb people in the world but until today I didn’t know there were people dumb enough to say, ‘let’s put a Super Bowl in London.”

TheOnion.com: “White Sox promotion puts first 9 fans at ballpark in starting lineup.”

Fark.com: “High school baseball player sues third base coach for telling him to slide.”

Fark.com: “Stay classy, Redskins management.”

TheOnion.com: “No (expletive) chance kid who bought mitt to 400 level getting near foul ball.”

TheOnion.com: “Gym patron just resting for a second until will to live returns.”

Higher expectations

Josh Rosen wasn’t pleased that he fell to the 10th pick of the first round of the recent NFL Draft.

“I thought I should’ve been picked at 1, 2 or 3,” said Rosen, who was selected by the Arizona Cardinals. “I dropped, and I was pissed. I was really, really angry. I wasn’t really showing it. I was trying to keep calm, cool, composed.”

So much for projections that Rosen was the top quarterback in the draft. Perhaps the problem with that evaluation is that it caused ‘Chosen Rosen’s” head to further swell, and then burst when he was drafted 10th.

One team GM said Rosen was psychologically a combination of Jeff George and Jay Cutler, two polarizing quarterbacks who can divide teams. It was a way to suggest that Rosen doesn’t have the leadership skills to last in the NFL

But what he did demonstrate in college was that he can make the quick, short-yardage throws that keep the chains moving in a West Coast offense.

Rosen responded to the criticism he’s heard by saying that he would make it a goal to be a leader. “I’m not going to come in and be an a–hole and think that my s— don’t stink,” he said.

Replacement player?

Ben Roethlisberger may have been merely voicing his desire for more help in getting the Steelers to another Super Bowl when he criticized Pittsburgh for taking Oklahoma State quarterback Mason Randolph in the third round. But by bringing it up during a KDKA radio interview on the Cook and Poni Show, he sounded territorial.

Roethlisberger is entering his 15th season in the NFL and he wouldn’t mind sticking around for another few years. Since Big Ben has had a knack for playing through injuries, starting an average of 14 games a season, he thought the Steelers could have used a lower draft pick on a quarterback and gotten help for another position of need.

“I thought that maybe in the third round, you can get some really good football players that can help this team now,” he said.

Personal note

I haven’t fully decided, but this blog may go into hibernation for a few weeks because my wife and I are in the process of relocating from Indiana to South Carolina.

If I can still manage the time to write, I will. You’ll just have to tune in during this transition, but I shall return at some point.

Personally, it’s a good time to take a break since I was kicked to the curb by Gannett one year ago during one of the company’s many downsizing moves. It came less than two weeks after I was recognized by the Society of Professional Journalists with two 2016 writing awards, including second best columnist in Indiana.

As always, you can always reach me by email at randy.beard@yahoo.com

From Sidelines to punchlines

A different view of sports

Clearing my mind and notebook while waiting for the Pacers’ Victor Oladipo to even the score against the Cavaliers’ LeBron James while supporting Indianapolis mayor Joe Hogsetts’ executive order “banning” goaltending:

2020 vision

Finally, the days of one-and-done players in college basketball are numbered.

Although details have yet to be ironed out, the NBA and the NBA Players Association are laying the groundwork for the league to once again draft high school players.

It appears that the 2020 recruiting class will be the first to have the option of going straight to the NBA again –  although there has been talk of requiring those players to start the season in the developmental G League.

The recently convened Commission of College Basketball, chaired by Condeleezza Rice, has taken the position that if the NBA doesn’t change its rules, it would pressure the NCAA to declare freshmen ineligible to play varsity.

The Commission would prefer future McDonald’s All-Americans and other 5-Star recruits who choose college to invest at least two years toward earning a degree. To protect players who attempt to make the jump to the NBA, but are undrafted, the committee wants them to be able to maintain their eligibility.

Currently, the NCAA allows underclassmen to receive input on their draft potential but to remain eligible they can’t sign with an agent and they have to withdraw from the draft 10 days before the NBA Combine.

This year there are a record 236 players, up 30 percent from a year ago, who are testing the evaluation system. Of those, 181 are college underclassmen and the rest are international players.

Kentucky’s John Calipari, who perhaps has benefitted from one-and-done players more than any other college coach, would prefer for the NCAA and NBA to agree to remove all restrictions on players.

“If they want to go (to the NBA) out of high school, go. If they want to go to college and then leave, let them leave when they want to leave,” Calipari said. “Why would we force a kid to stay?”

Rice and the committee also looked at issues surrounding the influence of AAU coaches, agents and shoe company representatives who have allegedly worked with some college coaches to pay top recruits. That FBI investigation led to Louisville firing Rick Pitino.

They said it

Humor writer Brad Dickson on Twitter: “Ratchet your enthusiasm down half a notch, OK? It’s Scott Frost’s staff with mostly Mike Riley’s players. #Buzzkill.”

Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times: “Because of a scheduling logjam, the telecast of Game 4 of the Devils-Lightning playoff series got moved to the Golf Channel. Disoriented broadcasters never did figure out whether Nikita Kucherov’s hockey stick was a sand wedge or a 9-iron.”

Janice Hough of LeftCoastSportsBabe.com: “NBA admits last night they missed goaltending on LeBron James at end of Cavs-Pacers game 5. Silly league. Don’t they know superstars NEVER goaltend? Or travel for that matter.”’

Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson, drafted by Baltimore with last pick of first round: “(My mom) always wanted me to strive for greatness. She’s always seen a lot more in me than I probably see in myself sometimes.”

RJ Currie of SportsDeke.com: “It’s hard to believe quarterback Mark Sanchez got caught using a performance enhancing substance. If ever a guy should demand a refund.”

CBS comedian James Corden: “A 20-year-old man from Colorado recently survived a shark bite in Hawaii. Less than a year before that, he was attacked by a 300-pound black bear. And a few years before that, he was bitten by a rattlesnake while hiking. Based on these incidents, we do know a lot about this man. For example, he must taste delicious.”

The envelope …

From Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times, after Jalen Hurts’ father told Bleacher Report that his son would likely transfer to another school if he doesn’t retain the starting quarterback job at Alabama: “And the winner of the 2018 LaVar Ball Trophy is …”

Hurts, of course, was replaced at halftime of January’s national championship game by freshman Tua Tagovailoa, who led the Crimson Tide from 13-0 deficit to a 26-23 overtime victory over Georgia in Atlanta.

With that kind of attitude, Saban will probably pack Hurts’ luggage.

Heavy lifting

Former Los Angeles Dodgers owner Frank McCourt hasn’t forgotten that he can better the lives of L.A. sports fans. He has dreams of building a gondola system to make it easier to get to Dodger Stadium.

It’s actually the company of McCourt’s son, Drew, that has proposed having an overhead gondola system operational in time for 2022 opening day, according to the Los Angeles Times.

It will be constructed with private funding and would not be built by the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transit Authority. But if constructed, it would provide another mass-transit option for Dodgers fans. Currently, there is the Metro express bus.

Headlines

TheOnion.com: “Tom Brady reveals that humanity will perish long before he retires.”

Fark.com: “Track meet cancelled due to aggressive geese nesting near track.”

Onion.com: “Jerry Jones hoping to use 2018 draft to find long-term solution at mistress.”

SportsPickle.com: “FBI agent friend adamant that North Carolina won’t make it past Sweet 16 in his bracket.”

Fark.com: “Baseball player removed from game after hitting himself in the head with his bat during warmups.”

TheOnion.com: “Is Andrew Luck recovered from his quadruple-amputation surgery?”

Fark.com: “Attention seeking father takes his Balls and goes home.”

SportsPickle.com: “Draft prospect says Eagles asked him if his mother is ‘woke.’”

TheOnion.com: “Should the Browns use the first overall pick on a once-in-a-generation long snapper?”

Scripted living

It’s been more than 1,000 days since Ronda Rousey won a fight that wasn’t scripted, and she’s OK with that.

She’s now building a WWE wrestling career and also making more cameos in movies. She’s even hired a publicity manager to help her navigate interview requests, teaching her how to reveal only what she wishes to make public.

Once a publicity hound willing to answer nearly every question posed to her, everything about her WWE career has been scripted. She did, however, open up about her life during a recent Q&A session with Hollywood director Peter Berg.

“We live in an age of trial by Twitter,” Rousey said. “What is really gained by stating opinion on anything? … Why should I talk? I believe hearing me speak is a privilege and it’s a privilege that’s been abused, so why not revoke it from everyone?”

Before walking away from UFC, Rousey admits she shed a lot of tears while her husband (Travis Brown) consoled her after the second loss. But her feelings of failure run much deeper than that.

“My parents expected me to be special, so I expected to be special,” Rousey said. “But one thing my mother never taught me was how to lose. She never wanted me to entertain it as a possibility. She’d say: ‘Let it suck. It deserves to suck.’”

Loose Balls

LaVar Ball’s latest headline-grabbing move was to pull sons LiAngelo and LaMelo away from Lithuanian professional team BC Prienu Vytautas because of a dispute over playing time.

Never mind dad’s irrational ways already have cost LaMelo his senior year of high school and LiAngelo his freshman year of college. Granted, he pulled  LiAngelo out of UCLA after he was suspended for shoplifting designer sunglasses in China.

While their older brother Lonzo is experiencing his ups-and-downs in the NBA as a rookie with the  Los Angeles Lakers, LaVar’s master plan of one day having all three sons suiting up for the Lakers is quickly falling apart.

LiAngelo isn’t projected as an NBA talent, at least  not this year. And LaMelo won’t be eligible to declare for the draft until the 2019. And, let’s face it, he’s not the hoops talent his dad imagines.

Considering the two youngest Ball brothers are going to need another soft landing spot soon in order to keep up the basketball life, dad LaVar may need to feed his ego and fund his own minor league team. Maybe even the geographically challenged Premier Basketball League that once had a team in Owensboro, the Kentucky Mavericks, would be an option.

The PBL even has a link on its web page soliciting new ownership. It’s currently a five-team league.

If he’s really making money off his Big Baller Brand shoes, he might even be able to afford it.

My takes

Rehastagging this week’s top Tweets from @Randy_Beard11:

  • Ravens have interesting first round, getting productive tight end with South Carolina’s Hayden Hurst and potential QB of future with Louisville’s Lamar Jackson.
  • Where’s Baker Mayfield going to get his Rodney Dangerfield “no respect” material now that Browns picked him No. 1. Oh yeah, the last-place, 0-16 Browns picked him No. 1
  • It will still take a lot of donuts to get UE students to Ford Center dozen or more times next season..
  • Eagles win Super Bowl and still get a winning draft pick with RB Rashaad Penny with 27th pick? Smart drafting.
  • Can’t believe UK football had more fans at spring game than Gamecocks. Wildcats must have been hosting a biddy basketball game and an Elvis Impersonator at halftime.

Visa wars

Donald Trump is nothing but a walking contradiction.

As tough as he wants to be on immigration policy, and as much as he wants to limit visas to our South and Central American neighbors, we now learn that he’s supportive of the United States Soccer Federation’s bid to co-host the 2026 World Cup with Mexico and Canada.

He does realize the Cup will inspire soccer fans South of the Border to be drawn to our country, right? Can you build a wall for that?

In a Tweet on Wednesday, Trump stated: “It would be a shame if countries that we always support would lobby against the U.S. bid. Why should we be supporting these countries when they don’t support us (including at the United Nations.)

Morocco is also pushing to host the games in eight years, which will be the first to feature a 48-team tournament.

Russia is hosting this summer’s 32-Team tournament in which the United States failed to qualify. Qatar has been awarded the 2022 rights.

All FIFA member nations will vote for the 2026 host on June 13.

 Long shot

Despite his effort to tease his summer plans by saying he would be at the World Cup in Russia this summer, Zlatan Ibrhimovic will not be playing for Sweden.

That didn’t stop the ultra-confident striker from teasing the audience during a taping of Jimmy Kimmel Live.

“I’m going to the World Cup, yes. If I say more, they will hang me, so I have to be careful what I say,” said the Swede.

Sweden’s football association quickly put those rumors to rest, saying the 36-year-old player would not be returning to duty with his country’s national team. Ibrahimovic, who recently left Manchester United to play for Major League Soccer’s LA Galaxy, last played internationally at Euro 2016.

Lars Richt, head of the Swedish FA, said he talked to Ibrahimovic on Tuesday and confirmed that playing for the national team is no longer something Ibrahimovic is focused on.

“He announced he did not change his mind about the national team – it is no.”

Before that declaration was made, Ibrahimovic had generated some excitement by leading the Galaxy back against the Columbus Crew with two goals, including one from 38 yards.

Considering his knack for coming through in the clutch, Sweden would be wise to keep Ibrahimovic’s availability to the national team this summer as a “long shot” option.

Year of the QB

Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield was taken by the Cleveland Browns with the first pick of the NFL Draft Thursday night. He was soon joined by three other quarterbacks, all taken among the first 10 selections of the first round.

That made it an historical moment for the position.

After Mayfield went No. 1 overall, Southern California’s Sam Darnold was selected third by the New York Jets. Then with the seventh pick, Wyoming’s Josh Allen went to the Buffalo Bills and UCLA’s Josh Rosen fell to No. 10 overall to the Arizona Cardinals.

But it may have been the 33nd pick that will turn out to be the steal of the draft. The Baltimore Ravens managed to claim Louisville’s Lamar Jackson with the last pick of the first round.

While much was made of how upset Rosen was to be selected as the fourth QB of the draft. Jackson also is determined to prove himself. Thankful to get his shot as an NFL quarterback, he said he would report to Baltimore with “two chips on his shoulders.”

In terms of development, it will prove to be a good thing that he will have a chance to settle in before taking too many body shots from some of the NFL’s  fiercest pass rushers.

For now, Jackson will get to be the understudy for veteran Joe Flacco, who has led the Ravens to one Super Bowl win. The 2016 Heisman Trophy winner will have some packages that will get him on the field this season and, if everything goes as planned, he’ll be ready to step in next season.

The Ravens also have Robert Griffin III to help prepare the 6-foot-3 Jackson, who is viewed as a bigger, stronger and faster Michael Vick. It also helps that offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg coached Vick in Philadelphia and Greg Roman was in San Francisco with Colin Kaepernick.

“They’re going to get a Super Bowl out of me,” said Jackson.

He and Mayfield became the first two Heisman winners to be drafted in the same year.

Pizza pick

The 14th pick of the third round – No. 78 overall – came with a bonus this year. The “Pi Pick (3.14)” – Texas linebacker Malik Jefferson — was awarded a year’s worth of pasta pies from Pizza Hut when he was picked by the Cincinnati Bengals 78th overall.

The Bengals got the pick in trade involving Kansas City and Washington.

Pizza Pick II

Freetail Brewing, a craft beer company, is offering Kawhi Leonard free beer and pizza for life if he agrees to sign a new contract with the San Antonio Spurs.

But its doubtful that pizza alone will keep Leonard in San Antonio. Leonard is currently rehabbing a right quadriceps injury, but he’s eligible for a big raise that will pay him roughly $219 million over five years starting next season.

Trivia time

Florida State’s Charlie Ward (1993) and Oklahoma’s Jason White (2003) were Heisman winners who went undrafted, by the NFL, although Ward played in the NBA and White signed with Tennessee as a free agent.

But which Heisman Trophy winner fell the deepest in the NFL Draft?

Naval Academy running back Joe Bellino won the Heisman in 1960, but wasn’t taken until the 17th round by Washington. After four years in the service, he played in the AFL with the Boston Patriots, who had drafted him in.19th round in 1961 because of his service commitment.

Three years later, Roger Staubach also went undrafted until the 10th round in 1965 because of his commitment to the Navy. He was 27 when he was a rookie with Dallas, but it didn’t stop him from enjoying a hall of fame career.