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 “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 “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, 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, 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 “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, 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, 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 “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 “Competitive pinball is now a thing.” “Texas Rangers asking taxpayers to cover 60% of bribes related to new stadium.” “The threat of groin surgeries is what really could see kids choose not to play football.” “Manny Machado called up to the bush leagues.” “Skip Bayless rips Shannon Sharpe’s heart from body during debate on Cowboy’s O-Line.”  “I don’t know guys. I really think the Steelers should pay $20 million a year for their No. 2 back.” “LeBron James finally compares L.A. Lakers to instant oatmeal.” “Sprinter feels like an idiot after finding out about jogging.” “I always thought there should be more than four teams in the college football playoff. Then I saw No. 5 Notre Dame play football.” “Hockey team knows you’re in trouble when your home ice is turned yellow.” “Golden State raises 2018, 2019, 2020 championship banners.” “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 “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 “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 congratulating Florida State coach Mike Martin for becoming the all-time winningest coach in NCAA Division I baseball with 1,976 wins:

It’s time

I’ve been a Milwaukee Bucks fan since the days of Oscar Robertson and Lew Alcindor, and have a basketball signed by the Big O to prove it.

The first time I met Dick Vitale, he sought me out at a juniors tennis tournament in the 1970s because I was wearing a Bucks cap. I also owned a Don Nelson fish tie, so we’re talking nearly 50 years of looking dapper and being a devoted fan.

Careful, now. I consider myself experienced and wise, not ancient and senile.

Which makes me qualified to say it’s time to hire Becky Hammon as Milwaukee’s next head coach. Let her be the woman to break the glass backboard …, uh, ceiling in the NBA.

Sooner or later there is going to be a female head coach in the league and Hammon deserves to be the first. She’s already won an NBA title, even if it was a Las Vegas Summer League championship with the Spurs in 2015.

That gamble turned out OK and maybe that’s the point.

If San Antonio head coach Gregg Popovich believes she can coach men, that should be more than enough to get her foot in the door. Being on Pops’ staff since 2014, she’s received a coaching internship that’d be hard to top.

It’s time for her to make the leap to the top job.

LeBron James and Stephen Curry also have endorsed her, and if those two respect Hammon’s basketball IQ, why should anyone else have any doubts.

Giannis Antetokounmpo might even welcome Hammon’s hiring because of her extensive international connections, including playing for teams in Spain and Russia.

Pau Gasol, 37, wrote an essay in The Players Tribune this week endorsing Hammon as a coach. The 7-footer said any suggestions that a woman NBA coach would face a difficult locker room and be at risk of losing the trust and respect of individual players when things didn’t go well on the court are ideas “almost too stupid to include” in any discussions about Hammon’s coaching ability.

At worse, that means she faces the same risk as any other coach, right?

“To me it would be strange if NBA teams were not interested in her as a head coach,” wrote Gasol, a six-time NBA All-Star from Spain who has played with the Spurs since 2016.

“I’m telling you, Becky Hammon can coach. I’m not saying she can coach pretty well. I’m not saying she can coach enough to get by. I’m not saying she can coach almost at the level of the NBA’s male coaches. I’m saying Becky Hammon can coach NBA basketball. Period.”

High times

Speaking of Don Nelson, he’s now enjoying the good life, buying property in Hawaii, hosting poker games and using weed for medicinal purposes.

He blames another famous Wilson – first name, Willie – for getting him started with marijuana. But seriously, what do you expect when he’s frequently playing poker with potheads Willie Nelson, Woody Harrelson and Owen Wilson.

“It’s not that I smoke all the time,” Nellie told the New York Times. “I usually just smoke at night during poker games. Like Willie told me, it’s hard to be depressed when you’re smoking pot.

“I don’t drink anymore, because I like pot better. It’s about the same as alcohol, except you don’t have the after effect. There’s no hangover,” said Nelson.

In Hawaii, it’s legal to grow 10 plants of marijuana for your personal consumption.

They said it

R.J. Currie of “Danica Patrick said on the Rachel Ray Shows she has a lot in common with quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Presumably, we can rule out being good at passing.”

Mike Bianchi of Orlando Sentinel on NASCAR’s dwindling popularity: “NASCAR’s season is too long, the races are too long and our attention span is too short. Ironically, a sport that is based on speed is becoming obsolete because it lasts too long.”

TBS comedian Conan O’Brien on a report that Boston Red Sox player Mookie Betts is related to Meghan Markle, who is marrying Prince Harry next Saturday: “This means that there’s a chance that one day there will be a ‘King Mookie.’”

Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times: “The International Olympic Committee is threatening to remove boxing from the 2020 Games due to corruption and links with organized crime. Well, if that’s the criteria for banishment, then why is the IOC still in existence.”

Janice Hough of LeftCoastSportsBabe: “Next time you think your boss has overly high expectations … Dwayne Casey of the Toronto Raptors. Named NBA Coach of the Year by fellow coaches 2 days ago. Fired today.”

Don Nelson, who won five NBA titles as a player with the Boston Celtics, on what made him a successful player: “I could ball a little bit. I was a slow runner, so I was a perfect trailer guy. I could rebound, I could pass, I could shoot. I could do a lot of things to fit in, you know, if you need an extra guy. I was just kind of an average guy that fit in with a really great team.”

Comedy writer Alex Kaseberg after Russian president Vladimir Putin, 65, scored seven goals in a pickup hockey game: “Now, I don’t want to say the goalie did not try to stop Vlad’s shots, but I’ve seen Kardashians reach harder to pick up a book.’’

Currie of, again: “Astros reliever Ken Giles slugged himself in the face after giving up a game-winning homer. Dolphins QB Jay Cutler once threw a punch at his own face — it went over his head.”

Mackey Taggart of Global News Toronto on Twitter after the NHL ordered the Boston Bruins’ Brad Marchand from licking opponents: “Ripped from the headlines of a kindergarten newspaper.”

N.Y. Giants quarterback Eli Manning on taunting he’s heard from Philadelphia fans: “Philly, you just gotta get used to because you’re not used to seeing a 9-year old cursing at you and talking about my mom and stuff.”

Perspective needed

Sir Alex Ferguson had to be placed in an induced coma last weekend after suffering a brain hemorrhage.

But to no one’s surprise, the first thing the 76-year-old legendary British soccer manager wanted to know when he woke up was whether his son’s team had won its game.

Darren Ferguson is the manager of the Doncaster Rovers of League One and they had a game against defending champion Wigan.

“So, how did Docanster get on?” asked the former Manchester United manager.

Told Doncaster had lost 1-0, Ferguson began pressing doctors for whether he would be able to attend the Champions League championship in Kiev on May 26 to see his former star forward Cristiano Ronaldo play for Real Madrid against Liverpool.

“Ronaldo sees Sir Alex as a father figure,” said a Man United spokesperson. “But Sir Alex needs plenty of rest and will have to follow his consultant’s strict instruction to recover fully.”

Headlines “Roethlisberger upset Steelers didn’t ask for his consent before drafting quarterback.” “ESPN shows how the Browns could make the playoffs: Locusts, plague, supervolcano, meteor strike, apocalypse.” “Rockets’ mop guy can tell this game going to be a sweaty one.” “Tom Brady prepares for his career after football. Either figure skater, Vegas magician or James Bond villain.” “According to a recent survey, the NFL offers paying customer the worst game day experience of the major U.S. professional sports, including MLB, NBA, NHL, NASCAR, PGA, MLS, WNBA and ATP.” “Mark McGwire claims he would have hit 70 home runs without help of bat.” “Derek Jeter denies tanking allegations after Marlins field 4 players.”

Going slow

There’s still a hitch in his giddy up when it comes to Andrew Luck’s preparations with the Indianapolis Colts.

The quarterback hasn’t thrown a pass – at least for public consumption – in 16 months. And yet the Colts insist he’s recovering from shoulder surgery as expected.

Head coach Frank Reich said Luck will play for the NFL team this season.

And just last month at the NFL meetings the first-year Colts Head Coach praised Luck for his toughness and composure in games.

“He’s exhibited all those characteristics throughout his whole career, not just with the Colts, but in college,” said Reich, “It’s exciting because you know he’s not only a talented player, but he’s got the kind of character, the kind of backbone, the kind of toughness that you really want to be part of the leadership of the team.”

Indy fans may just have to wait until the summer to see how well Luck has recovered from shoulder surgery before they can get to excited about having their franchise quarterback healthy again.

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

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 “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 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 “Don Mattingly yelling at Marlins for leaving dome open with AC on.” “Boston Marathon gets to keep some of the prize money because three of the top 15 runners lack Y chromosones.” “LeBron James credits teammates with providing 4 bodies necessary to avoid forfeiture against Pacers.” “Joe Maddon saves up all his mound visits for one long trip in 8th inning.” “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.” “White Sox promotion puts first 9 fans at ballpark in starting lineup.” “High school baseball player sues third base coach for telling him to slide.” “Stay classy, Redskins management.” “No (expletive) chance kid who bought mitt to 400 level getting near foul ball.” “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

From Sidelines to punchlines.

A different view of sports

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

Farewell tour

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That all ends this year.

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

But wait, there’s more.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Come to think of it, so would I.

Stolen glory

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

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

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

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

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

And that would have been more believable.

They said it

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pedaling Phelps

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

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

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

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

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

For now, he likes having a secret identity

Different view

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

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

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

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

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

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

Midwest synergy

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

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

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

Hmmm. I wonder how that makes Danica feel?

 Headlines “Bryce Harper’s bat died a hero last night. Godspeed, Wonderboy.” “Michael Jackson attacks softness, lack of competitiveness in modern blackjack players.” “Tough break for Browns getting 16 games again – that’s their unlucky number.” “Carmelo Anthony struggles to get rhythm back after making shot.” “Lance Armstrong settles his lawsuit with the U.S. government for $5 million, a livestrong bracelet and his remaining testicle.” “College equestrian clearly coming to class straight from practice.” “Michael Phelps shows how to get pot stains off your teeth.” “America sick of Aaron Rodgers’ cocky behavior after learning he is 1/16th black.”

Lighting it up

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Philly closure

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

At least for now.

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

Doesn’t add up

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

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

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

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

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

You can’t even do that in Fantasy Football.

From Sidelines to punchlines

A different view of sports

Clearing my mind and notebook while noting that soccer’s World Cup is a little more than two months away. It can’t get here soon enough:

Unforced error

Score it an E-5. Error, Fifth Estate.

The Denver Post produced a special section Friday to celebrate baseball’s opening day, which was also the home opener for the Colorado Rockies.

Alas, there was an error on the cover of the “Ultimate Visitors Guide To Coors Field.”  A huge error. The section cover was anchored by a photograph of the Philadelphia Phillies’ Citizen Bank Park instead of Coors Field.

The Rockies responded by tweeting a photo of their home field with a comment, “As beautiful as you remember. #LoveCoorsField?”

The Phillies fired right back by tweeting, “What a lovely photo of Citizens Bank Park. Right, @denverpost?”

The newspaper blamed the mistake on a “production error.” That’s shorthand these days for all the cutbacks in staffing newsroom have been experiencing. The Post newsroom has been repeatedly reduced in size since 2010, and just last month staffing was cut an additional 30 percent.

Next Nicklaus

Jack Nicklaus came away with another unforgettable memory at The Masters on Wednesday when he stepped away from the tee to let his grandson G.T. play the final hole in the Par-3 Tournament.

He invited his 15-year-old grandson hit off the tee on the last hole, No. 9, after G.T. Nicklaus had caddied for him during the Par-3 Tournament. What happened next is apparently something The Golden Bear had predicted.

G. T. aced the hole. It was his first career hole-in-one and it came at Augusta National with hundreds of spectators looking on, including his famous grandfather and a couple other legends, Gary Player and Tom Watson.

Nicklaus later Tweeted: “With all due respect to @themasters, allow me to put aside my 6 Green Jackets in the closet for a moment. I don’t know if I have had a more special day on a golf course.  To have your grandson make his first hole-in-one on this stage. Wow!”

Watson went on to claim his second win in a Par 3 Tournament at The Masters.

Golf talk

There are just some things that are frowned upon at Augusta National.

Like these words and catch phrases that The Masters committee deems a distraction. Most phrases come straight from television or movies.  Or a beer commercial, like this year’s inclusion of “dilly-dilly.”

Shout any of them and risk being removed from the premises by security.

Also included on the list of things you shouldn’t say are these gems:

“Baba booey, mashed potatoes, you da man, sweep the leg Johnny, to infinity and beyond, bikini wax, can you hear me now and hashtag (anything). In all, there are 23 words or phrases that never should be said during The Masters week.

March Madness

ABC comedian Jimmy Kimmel on all the TVs being off at work because the NCAA tournament is over: “Nobody knew what to do. Someone said maybe we should work, and then everyone laughed and started checking Instagram again.”

Comedian Steve Hofstetter in a Tweet: “The majority of people who didn’t watch a game of college basketball all season had a better bracket than Stephen A. Smith. So if he could stop yelling at all of us, that would be wonderful.”

Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times: “If Kansas’ basketball coach takes a photo of himself, is that a Selfie squared?”

CBS’s Charles Barkley on why he didn’t want to get into a war of words with Loyola’s Sister Jean: “It was pretty much 80-20 on me going to the Pearly Gates or the other way … I don’t want to give that other 20 percent away.”

They said it

Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel, hesitant about buying in to the Tiger hype at The Masters: “I’m not saying don’t jump on the Tiger Train, I’m just saying to board at your own risk and tell the engineer to pump the brakes just a little bit.”

Former Virginian-Pilot columnist Bob Molinaro: “There’s a lot of  hubbub over Dwight Howard producing the first 30-point, 30-rebound game in 36 years. By the way, Wilt Chamberlain accomplished the feat a mere 124 times.”

RJ Currie of  “A Behr paint expert quoted in USA Today said tennis balls are neither green nor yellow. Which tells us it was a really slow day in sports.”

Humor writer Brad Dickson in Tweet on talk of a Floyd Mayweather-Connor McGregor rematch: “I haven’t been this excited since ‘Rocky V’.”

Former Florida State coach Bobby Bowden, 88, who received an award from the Maxwell Football Club for his contributions to the sport, on getting old: “(Wife) Ann was going to let me hide my own Easter Eggs this year.”

NBC comedian Jimmy Fallon: “The Yankees had to postpone their home opener because of a snowstorm. You can tell it was cold because the foot-long hot dogs were only five inches.”

Janice Hough of “Okay, who had the Pacers being the only NBA team to sweep the Warriors this season? (And I bet all you liars had UMBC over UVA too.)”

Jerry Kill, 56, on serving as an advisor for the Southern Illinois football team because of health concerns that make it difficult for him to coach full-time:  “Just trying to keep my feet in the grass and out of the ground.”

Hockey history

Even the Stanley Cup has to play a painful game of give and take.

Yes, hockey history will take another hit when Gordie Howe’s name is among those removed from the NHL’s championship trophy. Howe’s name, along with the other players who won titles from 1954 to 1965 are being stripped off the Stanley Cup to create room for a new layer of names.

If the league didn’t agree to do that from time to time, the trophy would continue to grow too large. Unlike other leagues, the NHL awards its historic trophy each year to the next champion rather than handing out a new trophy every year.

As part of that tradition, the name of every player on the winning team is added to the trophy. But those names aren’t displayed permanently.  At most, they are part of the trophy for 65 years.

Fat stats

Fans at Major League Baseball games will consume an estimated 19 million hot dogs and 4.6 million sausages this season, according to the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council.

 Headlines “Sergio Garcia goes all Tin Cup at The Masters.” “Sister Jean wheeled back into rectory closet until next season.” “Josh Rosen’s draft stock skyrockets after he eats bowl of paint chips for room of NFL scouts.” “Kobe Bryant creates foundation to help children struggling with severe narcissism.” “In South Korea, you are considered too tall to play basketball at 6’6″.8 “Jack Nicholson banned from sitting courtside after spilling Tupperware full of homemade chili.” “Augusta National installs artificial turf to save on mowing costs.” “Tony Bennett adds AP Coach of the Year to go with his multiple Grammy and Emmy awards.”

My takes

Rehastagging this week’s top Tweets from @Randy_Beard11:

  • Villanova joins Duke (1991, 1992), Kentucky (1996, 1998) and Florida (2006, 2007) as schools to win pair of titles in 2-3 year span since 1975. Wildcats also won in 2016. UCLA won 7 in row from 1967 to 1973.
  • It’s only halftime of the NCAA championship, so there’s still at least another 20 minutes of this season to savor, so why am I feeling the first hints of withdrawal symptoms?
  • Sister Jean must now be a Notre Dame women’s basketball fan. Irish prayers were answered on Easter Sunday. @SisterJean98@JackieYoung3@Arike_O@ndwbb@MuffetMcGraw
  • Amazing! Arike Ogunbowale hits another buzzer beater as Notre Dame wins national title, beating Mississippi State 61-58. It was her only 3-pointer of game and she was just 6 of 21 for game.
  • Leading IU men’s and women’s scorers were raised just 40 Miles (and about 25 years) apart. Evansville’s Calbert Cheaney (785) and Mt. Carmel, Ill.’s Tyra Buss (757) also finished just 28 points apart.

From Sidelines to punchlines

A different view of sports

Clearing my mind and notebook while remaining impressed that Notre Dame’s women’s basketball team is 14-0 all-time in the ACC Tournament entering Sunday’s championship game against Louisville:

No respect

Lamar Jackson is another Heisman Trophy winner who doesn’t get enough respect as a quarterback from most NFL scouts.

At the NFL Combine in Indianapolis this week, there were reports that several teams approached the former Louisville player about participating in wide receiver drills. Jackson denied those reports while dismissing any notion that he would even entertain the idea.

“No sir, I’m a quarterback,” he said.

General manager Bill Polian of the Indianapolis Colts is one NFL executive who projects Jackson  as a better wide out prospect.

What fuels such thoughts are Jackson’s size, speed and running ability  in the open field – although he never caught a pass in his three years with the Cardinals. He also has been plagued by accuracy issues during his career, completing just 59 percent of his passes. Some scouts are also dismissive of his height and slender frame for a QB, but at 6-foot-2 and 225 pounds he’s bigger than other quarterbacks in the draft.

Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield is just a tad over 6-foot and 214, Ohio State’s J.T. Barrett is 6-1 and 224 and Southern California’s Sam Darnold is just 6-3 and 221.

Also, Wyoming’s Josh Allen, who is rated by some as the best long-term prospect, completed just 56 percent of his passes.

Bird brained

FOX Sports college basketball analyst Doug Gottlieb recently said that while most experts prefer to debate whether Michael Jordan or LeBron James was the better player in their prime, he could make an argument Larry Bird was also superior than James.

In fact, Gotlieb is convinced he’d rather have the basketball in the hands of Bird, Jordan or Magic Johnson at crunch time.

When it comes to rating  Hall of Famers, there probably isn’t a wrong answer. But no one should be be dismissive of  James’ success in the NBA. James has won 37 of 86 Eastern Conference Player of the Month honors since he’s been in the league. In comparison, Kobe Bryant only won the Western Conference Player of the Month award 15 times since the league began giving separate conference honors.

Besides, as a lifelong Milwaukee Bucks fan who still has nightmares about Bird, I refuse to be drawn into such debates. Oscar Robertson is the best ever, the original GOAT.

They said it

Golf Channel’s David Feherty on stepping off the course for his first Winter Olympics assignment as a broadcaster: “I can’t tell you how many times I slipped and fell on my ass. I invented a new skating jump: the Triple Klutz. That’s when you fall down once and fall down twice more trying to get up.”

San Francisco Chronicle’s Scott Ostler: “Charles Barkley was once asked to name his favorite white wine. He said, ‘Danny Ainge’.”

TBS comedian Conan O’Brien: “Papa John’s announced they will no longer be a sponsor for the NFL. After hearing this, Peyton Manning said, “Wait – you mean I’ve been eating this crap for nothing?”

CBS comedian James Corden: “To celebrate last year’s NBA championship, the Golden State Warriors are reportedly meeting with local children in Washington, D.C., instead of visiting President Trump in the White House. It is really nice of the Golden State Warriors to visit a bunch of children instead of just one?”

RJ Currie of “Ravens CB and 2017 draft pick Marlon Humphrey was arrested for robbery. Take heart Baltimore: he’s already performing like an NFL vet.”

Brad Dickson of the Omaha World-Herald: “The four-man bobsled features people holding on for dear life as they plunge down an icy track. Or, as we call that in Omaha during winter, ‘carpool’.”

 Janice Hough of “Canadian skier David Duncan, along with his trainer and wife were arrested for allegedly being DUI in a stolen vehicle in South Korea. Know Canada did well with 29 Olympic medals but maybe they tried too hard to prove they are equal of American athletes.”

Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times:  “Among Arkansas’ crop of college football signees this offseason is a four-star linebacker named Bumper Pool. To no one’s surprise, he’s unusually adept at bouncing off blockers.”

Comedian Steve Hofstetter: “The funniest thing about Donald Trump tweeting as if Obama was responsible for the US (poor) medal count is that Obama’s Winter Olympics were the USA’s #1 and #3 best ever.”

Gun violence

Former Carolina Panthers wide receiver Rae Carruth has given up plans to petition for custody of his son, Chancellor, when he is released from prison in a few months.

Carruth has been imprisoned for 17 years for conspiracy of murder in the death of his former girlfriend, Cherica Adams. He was convicted of paying Van Brett Watkins to shoot Adams in 2001 when she became pregnant and refused to get an abortion. Adams died in the hospital but not before Chancellor was  delivered prematurely by C-Section. Because of the circumstances of his birth, Chancellor has cerebral palsy and will need a lifelong caretaker.

Now 18, Chancellor is cared for by Saundra Adams, his maternal grandmother. But Carruth, who will be released from prison in October, had announced he intended to pursue custody of his son. The son he wanted dead.

After much public outcry over his intentions to gain custody, Carruth has suddenly changed his mind.

“For all involved or invested in this ordeal, please calm down,” Carruth wrote in a letter to the Charlotte Observer. “I will no longer be pursuing a relationship with Chancellor and Ms. Adams. I promise to leave them be, which I now see is in everyone’s best interests.”

Public opinion can be a powerful agent of change.

Gun violence II

Parkland, Florida students helped changed the conversation on gun violence after the Valentine’s Day massacre of 14 students and three adults, who were all coaches, at their school.

With a majority of Americans now believing semi-automatic assault weapons should be banned, several students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School stepped up to lead  protests, calling on legislators to pass meaningful gun laws and mental health legislation on the state and national level. They’ve appeared on various television news talk shows, led community rallies and participated in town hall discussions. They’ve also planned a “March for Our Lives” rally in Washington, D.C. and other cities on March 24.

Interestingly, the National Park Service has not issued the group a permit to hold the rally on the National Mall, saying its been reserved as a rain date for a teen talent show being staged by an unknown “educational institution.”

The name of the organization and all contact info were redacted on the copy of the permit given to the Washington Post after a Freedom of Information request.

Could it be an “educational arm” of the National Rifle Association?

Headlines “Sam Darnold wows scouts at NFL Combine with record 4-hours, 37 minutes in the Anthem Stand.” “Boxing coach wishes just once he could mentor someone who already fully worked through childhood trauma.” “Seems no one wants to watch an Earnhardt-free NASCAR.” “St. Louis Cardinals still planning to hold Assault Weapon Giveaway Night promotion.” “Has Shaun White finally captured enough gold medals to satisfy the Snow Princess Yuki-Onna?” “Multiple NFL teams ask one of the best QBs in the draft to do WR drills at the combine.” “Doug Pederson informs Nick Foles he’s been traded to Browns while handing him Lombardi Trophy.”

My takes

Rehastagging this week’s top Tweets from @Randy_Beard11

  • Notre Dame women are still unbeaten all-time in ACC Tournament at 14-0 after beating Florida State 90-80. Jackie Young and Irish will play Louisville at 1 p.m. CT Sunday. The two teams tied for regular season title but Cardinals won only meeting, 100-67, on home floor.
  • Evansville men (17-15, 7-11. MVC) were 7-10 since calendar flipped to January in 10-team league that only had 4 teams (Loyola 15-3; S. Illinois 11-7; Illinois St. 10-8: Drake 10-8) with winning conference records. I’m not sure Missouri Valley is even a 1-bid league with Wichita St. gone.
  • Who is best wannabe baseball player/quarterback in New York: Yankees’ Russell Wilson or Mets’ Tim Tebow? Better question, who cares? Never mind that Tebow is also now a wannabe QB.
  • South Carolina women finally beat Tennessee, 73-62, but guard play still an issue with 27 turnovers. Fortunately A’ja Wilson played and had 24 points, 12 rebounds and 4 blocks. Held UT to 23 of 86 (26.7 %) shooting.
  • Without A’ja Wilson, South Carolina women are a basket case, not a basketball team.

 Soup de jour

It’s probably not a good idea to go up against J.R. Smith in a food fight. Clearly, he doesn’t mind slinging whatever is in his reach, as he proved when he tossed a bowl of soup at Cleveland Cavs assistant coach Damon Jones.

The news spread quickly around the NBA, and provided numerous one-liners on camera and on social media.

Said Golden State coach Steve Kerr when asked about the incident by Anthony Slate of the Athletic: “I would have chosen a more hearty entrée.”

Alas, Kerr hasn’t commented publicly over Warriors guard Steph Curry’s glass-shattering moment in an Atlanta hotel room. Curry, who fancies himself tackling the professional golf tour one day, busted a glass table top while taking practice swings.

But at least he’s had prior experience dealing with such moments. For a Chase commercial promoting a mobile app, Curry has previously “paid” for a lamp and a clock that were accidently broken while playing table tennis with Serena Williams.

As for his true moment of being a klutz, Curry tweeted:

”When you feel like you’re on the @pgatour so you gotta get some swings going in the hotel room. #idiot.

This was No. 42 of my “From Sidelines to punchlines” columns. I can be reached at

From Sidelines to punchlines

A different view of sports

Clearing my mind and notebook while just glad Frank Martin’s South Carolina basketball team is still in contention for the NIT after making it to the Final Four last year.

Serious business?

Sunday’s NBA All-Star Game in Los Angeles at the Staples Center will feature a new sandlot-style format, pitting Team LeBron (James) vs. Team Stephen (Curry).

Charles Barkley, for one, can’t wait to see who the knuckleheads will be in the bunch, risking injury to try to win game MVP honors.

“There are always a couple of idiots,” said Barkley on Jimmy Kimmel Live. “…There’s always a couple of guys trying to play like its Game 7. You want to say, ‘Dude, this is an exhibition. Calm down!’ They are diving for loose balls and you’re worried about your legs and everything. But there are always a couple of guys trying to get MVP. Those guys are dangerous.”

There may be more than a couple of players taking the afternoon seriously. Not only is the MVP a nice honor, but players on the winning team will earn $100,000 this season – double the pay they received last season.

The losing players only get $25,000 each.

Houston coach Mike D’Antoni will coach Team Stephen. His starters will be Curry (Golden State), James Harden (Houston), DeMar DeRozan (Toronto), Giannis Antetokounmpo (Milwaukee) and Joel Emblid (Philadelphia)

Toronto coach Dwayne Casey will guide Team LeBron. His starters will be James, Kevin Durant (Golden State), Antony Davis (New Orleans), DeMarcus Cousins (New Orleans) and Kyrie Irving (Boston).

Stat of week states that the over-under prop bet for the number of dunks in Sunday’s NBA All-Star Game is 40.5.

Philly fans

If anyone should know Philadelphia sports fans, it’d be Barkley.

The former Auburn player spent the first half of his 16-year NBA career with the 76ers. And while he confessed that he didn’t want to be drafted by Philly, he ended up falling in love with the city and the fans.

So, when Barkley was approached at a downtown Philadelphia hotel by a group of Minnesota Vikings fans before the NFC Championship, he was ready to offer some advice.

“They pulled me aside and said, ‘Hey Charles, if things are going good for us in the game, how do you think we should act? I said, ‘Hey, don’t make a sound. Those people are going to be loaded. They are going to go crazy.”

After all, Philadelphia sports fans are known to overreact whether their teams win or lose. Philly police coated the lamp posts with Crisco to prevent people from climbing the poles and getting hurt. But there are also fans who have been known to punch the horses cops ride when patrolling downtown during big events.

“They came back to the hotel after the game and said, ‘Man, you were right. They were throwing things at us.’ And I said, ‘And y’all lost. Can you imagine what they would have done if y’all had won?’”

They said it

NBC comedian Jimmy Fallon: “Over 65,000 people attended the Super Bowl. The crowd was 10 percent Eagles fans, 10 percent Patriots fans and 80 percent angry Vikings fans.”

Actor Dwayne Johnson, who played football at the University of Miami: “Making it to the NFL was the best thing that never happened to me.”

RJ Currie of “A brawl broke out in a professional rugby game in the country of Georgia, complete with punching, kicking and bloodshed. Then things got really violent: they played rugby.”

Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times: “Referees ejected an Arizona cheerleader for yelling at opposing players through his megaphone during the Wildcats’ 77-70 basketball win over rival Arizona State on Thursday night. He was reportedly released on his own personal recognizance for 2 bits, 4 bits, 6 bits, a dollar.”

TBS comedian Conan O’Brien: “It’s been reported that they’ll be handing out over 100,000 condoms in the Olympic Village. After hearing about it, Americans everywhere said, ‘Now that’s the show we want to watch.’”

Brad Dickson of the Omaha (Neb) World-Herald on the XFL vowing not to allow any players with a criminal record: “I hope they’re willing to play eight-man football.”

Janice Hough of after Jamie Anderson won Olympic gold in slopestyle: “Millions of Americans: ‘USA! USA! USA! … What’s slopestyle’?”

Jim Barach of WCHS-TV in Charleston, W.Va., after Hawks forward DeAndre’ Bembry was arrested for driving 128 mph: “He is averaging 4.8 points a game, but that just got him 12 points on his driver’s license.”

 Super moment

This season couldn’t have turned out any better for Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Nick Foles, who once considered handing up his clipboard.

Then starter Carson Wentz tore an ACL in December and Foles was thrust into the starting lineup. The rest is history. He matched Tom Brady’s legacy by leading his team to the championship, beating Brady in the process.

Now he’s suddenly a hot commodity and a fan favorite, giving the Eagles something to think about.

“My safe spot used to be whole food,” said Foles during an appearance on “Jimmy Kimmel Live” this week. “But now I can’t go into Whole Foods (without being recognized).”

He said most Philly fans who come up to him end up crying because he helped fulfill a decades-old dream of the Eagles winning the championship.

Foles, who was drafted by the Eagles in the third round in 2012 and spent one season each in St. Louis and Kansas City before returning to Philadelphia this season, has mostly been a backup during his career.

He did start 21 games for the Eagles in 2013-14, passing for 5.054 yards and 40 touchdowns, before signing with St. Louis. But his career path has been on a downward spiral until he stepped in for the Eagles on Dec. 10 against the Raiders.

In seven regular season appearances this season, including three starts, he completed 57 of 101 passes for 537 yards and five touchdowns. In the three playoff games, Foles completed 77 of 106 passes for 971 yards and six touchdowns.

Foles is due to make $4 million in salary next season, but if he’s still with the Eagles on March 18, the team also is on the hook for a $3-million roster bonus.

He wants to stay in Philadelphia and that will put considerable pressure on team management. Imagine how Eagles fans will react if they get off to a slow start next season, knowing they traded the Super Bowl MVP and lost their offensive coordinator Frank Reich, who left to become the head coach of the Indianapolis Colts.

Marketing impact

A recent study by asked 224 college football recruits to rank the brands of Power Five schools as if they were each the No. 1 recruit in the nation.

Somewhat surprisingly, Clemson came out on top, underscoring just how much Dabo Swinney has elevated the Tigers in the past few years while winning a national championship in 2016 and finishing second to Alabama in 2015.

Clemson generated the 27th most revenue (($104.8 million) in 2015-16.

Nick Saban’s Crimson Tide, which added another title this season (and has won five of nine), has somehow lost some luster with the latest recruiting class. Alabama ranked only No. 19.

The Top Five schools in terms of brand perception are Clemson, Ohio State, Penn State, Georgia and Oregon.

The factors determining brand impact vary with each recruit but include location, overall facilities, stadium size, fan support, media exposure, playing style, uniforms and coach persona.

Of the Top 25 brands, 17 were from the ACC, Big Ten and SEC and 42 of the Top 65 were from those conferences. If you add in Notre Dame, which competes in the ACC in every sport but football, the Irish ranked No. 15.

ACC: 1. Clemson; 7. Miami; 12. Florida State; 22. Louisville; 27. North Carolina; 33. Virginia Tech; 35. N.C. State; 38. Georgia Tech; 44. (tie) Duke; 50. Virginia; 54. Pittsburgh; 55. Wake Forest; 61. Syracuse; 64. Boston College.

Big Ten: 2. Ohio State; 3. Penn State; 11. Michigan State; 16. Wisconsin; 17. Michigan; 21. Nebraska; 39. Iowa; 41. Maryland; 44. (tie) Purdue; 45. Northwestern; 51. Minnesota; 57. Indiana; 58. Rutgers; 62. Illinois.

SEC: 4. Georgia; 10. LSU; 14. Florida; 18. Auburn; 19. Alabama; 24. Texas A&M; 25. Tennessee; 29. Mississippi; 31. Mississippi State; 32. South Carolina; 34. Kentucky; 49. Arkansas; 52. Missouri; 59. Vanderbilt.

Headlines “Olympic drug-testing official left horribly disfigured after coming into contact with Russian urine.” “Star curler hoping to parlay Olympics success into dream janitor job.” “Shirtless Tongen finishes at the bottom of the standings.” “Schnauzers rioting outside Madison Square Garden following Westminster Dog Show defeat.” “Tom Brady asks his personal trainer for special exercises that can mend a broken heart.” “Kyrie calls LeBron to learn how to properly throw teammates under the bus.: “Packers preparing to lose Aaron Rodgers after he promises he ‘loves them like family.’”

My takes

Rehastagging this week’s top tweets from @Randy_Beard11:

  • South Carolina upsets No. 10 Auburn, 84-75, despite furious comeback effort by Tigers. That’s three Top 10 wins for Gamecocks.
  • Auburn’s Anfernee McLemore had a gruesome injury late in first half at South Carolina. Gamecocks lead No. 10 Tigers, 46-25.
  • LaVar Ball gets   my vote as Dumbest Dad. Talk about the entitlement syndrome. He’s insisting Lonzo won’t resign with Lakers unless they sign brothers LiAngelo and LaMelo.
  • It seems Shaun White wants his legacy to be sex, drugs, rock and GOLD. But he should have pursued his groupies instead of drummer in his band, Bad Things.”

 Crying Irish

Notre Dame has had to forfeit 21 wins, including 12 in 2012 when the Irish played Alabama for the national title. (OK, we don’t want to go there, do we.)

The Irish were originally penalized in 2016 for academic violations during the 2012 and 2013 seasons but appealed. That appeal was finally denied this week by the NCAA. The school also received a year of probation and a $5,000 fine.

The infraction occurred when a student-trainer completed coursework for two players and provided improper academic assistance to another six.

Notre Dame suspended five players before the 2014 season, which brought the violations to the NCAA’s attention. Quarterback Everett Golson, who was the 2012 starter, was suspended in 2013. The South Carolina native played one more season in South Bend before transferring to Florida State in 2015.

The biggest impact of the forfeited losses at Notre Dame? Embarrassment, and we’re not just talking the kind of embarrassment from learning about the fake dead girlfriend of Manti Te’o.

Only if the Irish had to forfeit 13 wins from 2012 would this be more meaningful. But as we know, Alabama won that national championship game, 42-14.

Tebow time

Yes, spring training is about to begin, which means more daily reports on Tim Tebow’s attempt to turn an abbreviated NFL career into a cup of coffee in MLB.

“The goal is to get to the Major Leagues, for sure,” said Tebow, who was signed by the Mets last season and had eight home runs in 126 games with the Columbia, S.C. Fireflies and the St. Lucie, Fla. Mets last season while boosting attendances nearly 40 percent for those teams.

“Last year was my first year playing after taking 12 years off, and not playing since my junior year in high school,” the former Heisman Trophy winner at Florida told NBC’s Jimmy Fallon earlier this week.

“Huge transition. Huge obstacle. And of course, no one thinks I can do it. But I love trying to prove people wrong, so I’m excited about the challenge.”

Oh, he battled .226 with 126 strikeouts.

From Sidelines to punchlines

An entertaining look at sports

Clearing my mind and notebook  while disappointed the calendar flipped to November so fast:

Heisman struggles

It wasn’t a good day to be a Heisman Trophy front runner:

Ohio State’s J.T. Barrett was intercepted four times, including a Pick-6 of 30 yards on the first play of the game as the sixth-ranked Buckeyes were crushed 55-24 at Iowa.

Barrett did finish with 208 yards passing with three touchdowns and ran for another 63 yards, but the stunning loss to the Hawkeyes came only a week after Urban Meyer’s team appeared in control of the Big Ten East after beating Penn State.

The day didn’t go well for Saquon Barkley and seventh ranked Penn State, either. The Nittany Lions’ running back finished with just 63 yards on 14 carries in a 27-24 loss at No. 24 Michigan State. He did catch three passes for 30 yards and throw a 20-yard completion.

Notre Dame running back Josh Adams was  held to 22 yards on five carries while sitting out the second half due to “fatique,” according to school officials.
The No. 3 Fighting Irish did outlast Wake Forest, 48-37.

Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield and the fifth-ranked Sooners survived a shootout at No. 11 Oklahoma State, winning 62-52. Mayfield threw for 598 yards and five touchdowns with  one interception. He completed 24 of 36 passes while being sacked five times. But the Sooners needed every one of Mayfield’s passing yards to avoid losing to the Cowboys and their gunslinger Mason Rudolph, who also threw five TD passes.

Stanford’s Bryce Love had only  69 yards rushing on 16 carries, but he did score on a 52-yard run less than a minute into the game. The No. 21 Cardinals lost 24-21 to No. 25 Washington State.

As for reigning Heisman winner Lamar Jackson, maybe it was a good thing Louisville  had the day off. Despite more gaudy stats this season, Jackson’s hopes of repeating already have been damaged in the past month with the Cardinals losing three of their past four games.

Headlines “Aaron Rodgers balloons to 450 pounds after single inactive week in Wisconsin.” “Seven-letter word for awesome? Alabama. Nine-letter word for abject misery? Cleveland.” “Houston residents admit World Series win won’t heal hurricane-ravaged city as much as Super Bowl win would.” “Glade releases new spray to make home smell like Patriots locker room.” “Midway through NFL season, football ratings are down, probably due to annoying pizza commercials.” “Only 1,527 or so NBA games of Lavar and Lonzo Ball to go.”

Bleeding blue

By the time Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw entered Game 7 in the third inning Wednesday night, it was too late. All of the Astros’ scoring in a 5-1 win came in the first two innings at the expense of L.A. starter Yu Darvish.

Even so, Kershaw couldn’t help but internalize more postseason disappointment. After all, he did  surrender six runs in 4 ½ innings of a 10 inning, 13-12 loss in Game 5.

But in Game 7, Kershaw didn’t do anything he needs to regret. He was as masterful as ever, striking out four while allowing just two hits.

“Maybe one of these days I won’t fail, we won’t fail and we’ll win one of these things,” he told USA Today’s Josh Peter. “… I think once the dust settles and we go home, we can realize that we had a pretty amazing season and we finished in second place, which nobody cares about or remembers.”

Here’s hoping the dust settles soon.

Editor’s note: When I landed my first sports editor job 29 years ago in South Carolina, Josh Peter was one of my first hires. He continues to make me proud.

World Series laughs

NBC comedian Seth Myers: “The Houston Astros beat the Los Angeles Dodgers last night to win their first World Series title in team history. Sad news for Dodgers fans, some of whom have been following the team since as far back as Game 3.”

TBS comedian Conan O’Brien: “A gambler won $14 million on last night’s World Series game. Here’s what’s suspicious — turns out it was some guy named Yu Darvish.”

CBS comedian James Corden: “After Houston won, Astros shortstop Carlos Correa got down on one knee and proposed to his girlfriend live on television. It was a beautiful moment. Although it confused Donald Trump. He was like, ‘Wait, now athletes are kneeling after the game too?”

NBC comedian Jimmy Fallon: “What a great week for our guest tonight, Jose Altuve. He’s the shortest player in Major League Baseball. First, he wins the World Series, then he found out he’s going to Disney World, then he heard he’s tall enough to ride almost all the roller coasters.”

More from Corden: “A Sports Illustrated cover from three years ago predicted that the Astros would win the 2017 World Series. They predicted it, to which Americans replied, “You knew what was going to happen in 2017 and this is what you give us a heads up on? Thanks for nothing, Sports Illustrated.”

Fun & fundamentals

With interim coach Randy Shannon running the show, Florida’s offensive struggles continued Saturday in a 45-16 loss at Missouri.

The Gators now have been held to 20 or fewer points in five of seven SEC contests. And after allowing more than 40 points for the second straight week, they appear to have lost their defensive focus, too.

UF athletic director Scott Stricklin won’t comment on who he might have in mind to replace Jim McElwain, who was fired after a 42-7 loss to Georgia last week, but it’s clear that someone who is offensive minded will be high on his search list. It’s why Central Florida’s Scott Frost, whose team leads the nation in scoring at 51 points per game, has emerged as a fan favorite.

It doesn’t hurt that Frost has impressed Gators legend Steve Spurrier, who has been an advisor to Florida’s athletic department for the past year after moving back to Gainesville. And Stricklin has said he wants a coach who can bring the fun back to The Swamp, which can be interpreted as a throwback to Spurrier’s coaching days.

“Our fans deserve it to be really fun, and I want our players to have a lot of fun,” he said.

Hoop longshots

Sports Illustrated recently weighed in with its preseason rankings of all 351 Division I men’s basketball teams with the ACC leading the way with five teams ranked among the top 20.

SI’s Top 20: 1. Arizona; 2. Michigan State; 3. Duke; 4. Wichita State; 5. Villanova; 6. Cincinnati; 7. Kansas; 8. Kentucky; 9. Louisville; 10. Florida; 11. West Virginia; 12. Miami; 13. Southern California; 14. Saint Mary’s; 15. Xavier; 16. Notre Dame; 17. Purdue; 18. North Carolina; 19. Baylor; 20. UCLA.

ACC: 3. Duke; 9. Louisville; 12. Miami; 16. Notre Dame; 18. North Carolina; 30. Virginia; 42. Virginia Tech; 60. Clemson; 62. Syracuse; 66. Florida State; 72. Georgia Tech; 73. Wake Forest; 79. N.C. State.

Big Ten: 2. Michigan State; 17. Purdue; 22. Northwestern; 26. Minnesota; 27. Maryland; 35. Michigan; 41. Wisconsin; 46. Indiana; 52. Iowa; 54. Penn State; 77. Ohio State; 81. Nebraska; 85. Illinois; 129. Rutgers.

SEC: 8. Kentucky; 10. Florida; 26. Alabama; 29. Texas A&M; 33. Auburn; 39. Missouri; 48. Mississippi State; 49. Arkansas; 53. Mississipp; 58. Georgia; 59. Vanderbilt; 61. South Carolina; 76. Tennessee; 91. Louisiana State.

Personally, I think there should be a rule that preseason polls include the previous season’s Final Four teams among the Top 20. A No. 61 ranking for Frank Martin’s Gamecocks is way too low, And yes, as a South Carolina grad, I am biased.

But I’m also correct in believing  Martin’s team will finish among the top six in the SEC, not 12th where SI has pegged them.

They said it

Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel on the dismal 3-5 football seasons at Florida and Florida State: “Breaking News: ESPN just announced that the Florida-Florida State game has been moved to Wednesday at 8 a.m. and will be broadcast on Facebook Live!”

Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times: “Husband and wife Michael and Jasmine Snell bowled 300 games on the same night in Omaha, Nebraska. Or as they’re now known around Chops Bowling Alley, The Perfect Couple.”

RJ Currie of “A Welsh rugby player missed a game after a lion bit his hand as he tried patting it in its cage. Lucky for sports humorists, pro athletes continue to do really dumb things.”

Van Jones on “Real Time with Bill Maher” on President Trump’s attack on professional athletes, including the Golden State Warriors’ Steph Curry: “Steph Curry was invented in a lab by dads who want their kids not to get into trouble. I don’t know why you’d attack Steph Curry.”

Brad Dickson of the Omaha (Neb.) World-Herald on the Dodgers’ Yasiel Puig dying his hair blue for the World Series: “Now he matches the air in L.A.”

Jim Barach of WCHS-TV in Charleson, W.Va. on why Golden State guard Steph Curry was mentioned in the GOP tax proposal: “The new Republican strategy of dribble-down economics.”

Sweet tweets

Rehastagging this weeks’ top Twitter shots from @Randy_Beard11:

Sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good: FSU wins for first time at home this season, 27-24, when Syracuse misses 43 yd. FG on last play.

Kate Upton, who is marrying Justin Verlander this weekend, says Astros pitcher fully supports her modeling career. So do I, Kate. So do I.

Isn’t it MLB rule that a World Series Game 7 will be dramatic? Yawn!!!!! I sure do wish I had tape of 2016 Cubs’ 8-7 win in 10 over Indians.

Money for nothing: Andrew Luck and est. $15 mil salary will be on injured reserve rest of season.

Since The ‘Ol Ball Coach walked out on South Carolina after 6 games in 2015 maybe Steve Spurrier can fill in at Florida the rest of this season.

Having a blast

The best of’s Top 10 reasons so many home runs were hit in the 2017 World Series “with approximately 11 being hit every inning and six more during commercial breaks”:

1. The baseballs are clearly more clutch than they used to be.

2. The trees that the bats are made out of were on growth hormones.

4. The baseballs want to get as far away as possible from Marlins Man.

7. The players don’t want anyone to be on base so there are no stolen bases and America doesn’t get free tacos. Frigging jerks.

8. Chicks dig the long ball … or at least they do until some tool two seats over rips the ball out of their hands and throws it on to the field.

10. Playing the World Series at the neutral site of the Little League World Series in   Williamsport, Pa., had unforeseen consequences.

 Weekend success

With nine Top 25 teams stumbling on Saturday, I can’t feel too bad about my combined  16-5 record picking college football games in the ACC, Big Ten and SEC. Although I’m shooting for an 80 percent success rate for the season, my current winning percentage of 76.2 will suffice for now.

In the ACC, I was 4-1 to improve to 58-15 overall, which is 79.4 percent. In the Big Ten, I was 5-2 for a season total of 60-18 (76.9%). And in the SEC, I was 7-2 for a 61-16 total (79.2 percent).

From Sidelines to punchlines

An entertaining look at sports

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

Beyond whiplash

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

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

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

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

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

 Tweet storms

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 NCAA insanity

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

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

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

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

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

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

Price is right

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

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

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

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

 They said it

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

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

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

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

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

Painful celebration

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

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

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

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

Weekend success

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

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

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

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


Durant, Warriors finish what they started

Kevin Durant’s championship celebration began with about a minute left in Monday night’s 129-120 victory in Game 5 of the NBA Finals.

He remembers crossing the half court line at ORACLE Arena in Oakland, bending over and thinking, “Is this really happening?”

He heard Golden State teammates Draymond Green and Andre Iguadala tell him to keep playing, that the game wasn’t over yet. But deep down, Durant knew better.

There was no way the Cleveland Cavaliers were going to steal another NBA Finals. He knew his championship quest was  complete, that he had earned his moment of reflection.

“I’m like, ‘Bro, we’re about to win the title,’” said Durant.

Durant’s decade in the NBA has brought him plenty of hardware – notably,  the 2012 NBA All-Star Game MVP and the 2014 league MVP – but those honors now will be shoved a little further back in his trophy case. That’s because Monday night ended with him claiming another honor that isn’t easy to win: NBA Finals MVP.

So yeah, add that to his resume that includes eight NBA All-Star team selections.

“It feels so great because, like I said, it’s a team sport,” said Durant. “Man, you got to want to sacrifice. You got to want to put your teammates in front of yourself sometimes. And I just tried to do that but also be aggressive. Andre (Iguadala) told me all the time, it is your time, go take it, it’s about you. But I’m like, no, it’s about us. It’s about us. But I’m still going to be me.”

Durant being Durant was plenty good enough for the Warriors to claim their second title in three seasons but first with him anchoring their arsenal. Durant was a dominating force, averaging 35.2 points, 8.4 rebounds and 5.4 assists as he and the Cavs’ LeBron James fiercely dueled one-on-one in their own Finals sideshow.

“We did it together,” said Durant of his Warrior teammates. “You call us a super team, but it’s been a lot of super teams that hasn’t worked, and we came together and we continued to just believe in each other. We sacrificed and we’re champions now.”

While Monday’s win completed a 16-1 postseason, it didn’t take much reflection at all for Durant to know that the Warriors had to work for everything they got.

“The toughest challenge was to come in here and see how I can help Steph (Curry) get better, see how I can help Klay (Thompson) get better, Draymond, Shaun Livingston, Andre Iguodala, JaVale McGee, the whole team – just see how I can help them get better.

“Proving haters wrong, like that’s cool. That’s cool for me to talk about it on Instagram or Twitter … You can talk about whatever you want to talk about, but nobody comes in and cares about the game or loves the game as much as I do or works as hard as I do.”

Along the way his partnership with Curry was validated as one of the great championship tandems.

“The stuff you hear about Steph as far as sacrificing and being selfless and caring about his teammates, caring about other people is real,” said Durant. “It’s not a fake. It’s not a façade … And it’s amazing to see a superstar who sacrifices, who doesn’t care about nothing but the group.”

Perhaps that’s best demonstrated by the fact that Curry’s ego doesn’t mind playing second fiddle to someone like Durant. Heck, Curry wasn’t the MVP of Golden State’s 2015 championship, either. Iguadala took that honor. But none of that bothers Curry. It’s the championship trophies he wants to collect.

“This is what we talked about this whole year, realizing this goal and understanding how important we both would be to the equation, along with our teammates,” said Curry of Durant. “We learned a lot about each other going through this journey.

“So we’re obviously just getting started. This is something that we want to continue to do.”

They don’t have to, of course. Curry, Durant and Iguadala all become free agents this summer but neither is in a hurry to move on after what they accomplished this season playing for Kerr.