From Sidelines to punchlines

A different view of sports

Clearing my mind and notebook while also wondering if Maryland is now wavering on its decision to jump from the ACC to the Big Ten:

Punting on season

Not to be in a rush to judgment but it’s hard to imagine things getting any worse for the University of Maryland football program after the Terps’ top two punters got into a brutal fight at practice.

Yes, the punters.

That’s just one of the stories making the rounds after Maryland finally fired head football coach DJ Durkin on Wednesday —just one day after initially reinstating him from 80 days of administrative leave.

It was the university’s board of regents that had decided to retain Durkin even though President Wallace Loh opposed that decision because of the campus turmoil that had existed since the mishandling of the heat-related death of freshman lineman Jordan McNair in June.

An investigation into the Terrapins’ program uncovered reports of a “toxic environment” under Durkin and abuse of players. Thus, that initial decision to restore Durkin as head coach drew criticism from political leaders across the state, campus organizations and McNair’s family.

“The overwhelming majority of stakeholders expressed serious concerns about Coach DJ Durkin returning to campus,’’ Loh wrote in the statement that announced Durkin’s dismissal.

It was after Durkin was briefly reinstated that the real fun began. Several players walked off the field in protest of Durkin’s return to the team. Then punters Wade Lees and Matt Barber got into a fight with all sorts of accusations flying around on social media.

Lees, who supported Durkin, has accused his backup of being a whistleblower during the school’s investigation into the program but he insists that the fight had nothing to do with any of that.

Time may show Barber to be on the right side of history, but he ended up on the wrong side of Lees’ punches. He suffered a separated shoulder, although he claims other players pinned his arms back as Lees assaulted him.

The fight was caught on film and is being reviewed by campus police.

Clearly, this whole situation has been mishandled.

With the football program in turmoil despite a 5-3 record heading into Saturday’s home game against Michigan State, interim coach Matt Canada may have trouble winning another game even if the Terrapins do play at Indiana, his alma mater, next week.

After that, Maryland plays host to Ohio State and then travels to Penn State, so if they aren’t bowl eligible by next Saturday, whoever is named as Durkin’s permanent replacement could have an even bigger mess on his hands.

Party on

Championship celebrations can get out of hand – especially in Boston.

That’s more or less what happened on Wednesday as the Boston Red Sox players and their families were enjoying a Duck Boat parade through downtown and fans were tossing cans of beer to the celebrants. Alas, not all the cans were caught, which should be a reminder to all that not everyone has the reflexes of a shortstop.

When there are children in the mix, it can become somewhat dangerous. Manager Alex Cora and his daughter, Jason Varitek’s wife and a team photographer were among those beaned by the projectiles. Outfielder Mookie Betts might have been hit if not for a Boston Globe photographer knocking down another can of beer.

Another can damaged the trophy, breaking several  of the golden pennant flags that rise from the base. It has since been repaired, so the damage wasn’t that bad.

There were six arrests, including 19-year-old Patrick Connolly, who was just trying to toss Cora a beer when it hit the manager.

“I know the kid didn’t mean to hurt anybody,” Cora told reporters. “Obviously, it’s dangerous, but it is what it is … We’re fine.”

Cora said he paid closer attention after the incident and caught two beers thrown his way.

It’s kind of a tradition that fans toss beer to the players during these celebrations, but several Red Sox didn’t seem too enthused about the beer-sharing idea.

Outfielder Betts said the practice, “definitely has to stop.”

But Betts and teammates probably met their limit for alcohol for the rest of the year during Sunday night’s postgame celebration in the locker room, at an L.A. nightclub  and then at a Boston night club on Tuesday night.

The bar bill on both coasts apparently topped $300,000, and we know the club left a tip of nearly $200,000 in Los Angeles, so we can probably assume the tip was just as large in Boston.

So how did the team with baseball’s highest payroll celebrate Sunday night in L.A. – with  150 bottles of champagne and more than 30 bottles of hard alcohol.

Flag them for excessive celebration.

World Series hotflashes

NBC comedian Jimmy Fallon: ‘Last night marks the first World Series won by the Red Sox since 2013. Today, 5-year-olds in Boston were like, ‘Finally, the curse is broken.’”

ABC comedian Jimmy Kimmel, wondering who President Trump was rooting for in the World Series: “Maybe Boston because he loves Tom Brady or maybe the Dodgers because that’s how he got out of Vietnam.”
NBC comedian Jimmy Fallon: “Today was the World Series victory parade and I saw a fan threw a can of beer and damaged the World Series trophy. The fan was named mayor of Boston.”

Jim Barach of JokesByJim.blogspot.com: “The Red Sox’ World Series parade was marred by fans throwing full beer cans that Mookie Betts said “has got to stop.” To which Baltimore Orioles players are saying avoiding dangerous situations like that is the reason they made sure to lose 115 games this year.”

NBC comedian Jimmy Fallon: “It’s Boston’s ninth time winning the Series. Or as the New York Yankees said, ‘Oh, isn’t that cute. Call us when you win 27.”

Super Patriot

No one can accuse New England Patriots’ tight end Rob Gronkowski of being emotionally unavailable to his fans on social media.

When a 5-year-old boy from Franklin, Mass., was bullied at school for painting his fingernails, his father vented his outrage on Twitter with a photo of his son holding up a fish he had caught. Aaron Gouveia told his son, Sam, he shouldn’t care what other people think.

Other Twitter users quickly sent messages of support, including photos of other boys and men wearing nail polish. But when Sam asked if his favorite NFL player, Gronkowski, wore nail polish, Gouveia didn’t know how to respond.

Fortunately, it didn’t take long for Gronkowski to speak for himself.

“Hey Sam, what’s up? It’s Rob Gronkowski here,”’ Gronkowski tweeted. “I heard some kids at school were giving you a hard time for wearing some nail polish. I just want to say, stay strong and do what makes you the happiest, and keep being yourself.”

Aaron Gouveia said his son is a “rough and tumble” kid who also happens to like the look of nail polish because of the bright colors. But it took Gronkowski weighing in on the debate before Sam could feel good about himself again.

They said it

Omaha comedy writer/blogger Brad Dickson on Twitter: “Saturday night I’d like to turn back the clock to a time when Nebraska football didn’t lose recruiting battles to Kentucky.”

Jim Barach of JokesByJim.blogspot.com: “Cavaliers forward J.R. Smith says he wants out of Cleveland. To which 400,000 other residents are saying “Hey, us too!”

Ex-slugger Prince Fielder when asked how Milwaukee manager Craig Counsell helped him when they were Brewers teammates: “There was one time I was thinking about bunting. He told me if I bunted he would punch me in the face.”

Orlando columnist Mike Bianchi on impact of Purdue’s upset of Ohio State: “Urban Meyer will soon announce he is stepping down to spend more time with his ESPN family.”

Omaha comedy writer/blogger Brad Dickson on Twitter: “I just had a trick or treater in a sweatshirt going “See no evil. Hear no evil. Speak no evil.” I said ‘Who are you supposed to be?’ The kid goes, ‘Urban Meyer.’”

Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times: “If everybody loves a winner, then why did Alabama, Ohio State and Notre Dame come in 1-2-3 in a survey asking participants to name the nation’s most-hated college football team?”

Janice Hough of LeftCoastSportsBabe.com: “Los Angeles Lakers hung on for a 114-113 win tonight.  Well, Lebron and company may not make the playoffs, but they at least have as many wins as the Cleveland Browns.”

Jim Barach of JokesByJim.blogspot.com: “Former Miami Marlins pitcher Justin Wayne has been sentenced to four years in prison for insurance fraud. The only worse sentence would have been four more years with the Marlins.”

Omaha comedy writer/blogger Brad Dickson on Twitter: “The only thing that changes faster than the weather in Nebraska is the way the people here feel about recruits who commit somewhere else @ the last minute.”

ABC comedian Jimmy Kimmel on Kobe Bryant being a guest on his show to promote a blog and a book: “Kobe, as you may know, won an Oscar earlier this year. So far Kobe has more wins than the Lakers do.”

Jim Barach of JokesByJim.blogspot.com: “WNBA players have opted out of their collective bargaining agreement. Apparently they feel they can negotiate their own contracts for a better deal than the current $7.50 an hour.”

Omaha comedy writer/blogger Brad Dickson on Twitter:  “A stunning statistic heading into the Ohio State game: the same year Mike Riley was hired at Nebraska Adrian Martinez was probably trick of treat age.”

Jim Barach of JokesByJim.blogspot.com: “LeBron James is set to produce the reboot of “Friday the 13th.” Although the script is said to be nowhere near as scary as a last second jump shot by Lonzo Ball.”

Omaha comedy writer/blogger Brad Dickson on Twitter: “I had a little boy trick or treater dressed as D.J. Durkin – wait, that was the real D.J. Durkin looking to stock up on free stuff.”

Director Doug Liman on actor Tom Cruise questioning why he had called a ball out while they were playing tennis: “I was like, ‘It’s not your fault. You’ve been a movie star for so long that no one ever probably pointed out to you that your ball has to land within the white lines.'”

Hoops hysteria

With college basketball cranking back up, I’ve been reminiscing about my former life as an employed sports journalist – 41 years overall, 25 years as a sports editor and columnist at three newspaper in three states.

Now that I’ve retired and moved back to South Carolina, I’m delighted to know that former University of Evansville coach Marty Simmons is just up the road working at Clemson for Evansville native Brad Brownell, and that Indiana coach Tom Crean is now the head coach at the University of Georgia.

Anyway, I posted this on my Facebook and Twitter accounts the other day as I was thinking about my many trips to Bloomington, Ind.

When Crean was the basketball coach at Indiana:

—  He said I only came to games for the pizza in the press room

—  He called me out for wearing an ACC lanyard

—  He challenged me to take on Victor Oladipo in a dunk contest

—  He set up blind taste test with Diet Coke, Diet Pepsi and motor oil

—   He called me a very stable genius, considering “I was just a sports writer.”

Confession: Only one of those multiple-choice answers is true and it has nothing to do with a basketball in my hands.

 Headlines

TheOnion.com: “Luke Walton inspires Lakers with story about zero-point, 2-rebound performance in Game 2 of 2009 Finals.”

Fark.com: “Dept. of Justice investigating Dodgers over recruitment of Cuban-born players.”

SportsPickle.com: “Regressing enough to get Hue Jackson fired makes Baker Mayfield the greatest Browns QB in modern history.”

Fark.com: “The Red Sox won the World Series just so the could troll the New York Yankees.”

Sportspickle.com: “Yes, bad coaching is the reason the Cavaliers are suddenly bad.”

TheOnion.com: “Will the Pacers ever be able to return to the glory days of their 2004 brawl with fans?”

Fark.com: “Are Boston fans sick of winning? No.”

SportsPickle.com: “I’m glad we can all agree that Tim Tebow is the greatest athlete of all-time.”

Fark.com: “Packers trade Aaron Rodgers nemesis for bag of used practice footballs and half a roll of athletic tape.”

SportsPickle.com: “What if the new Browns quarterback isn’t good?”

Fark.com: “The Bills are resorting to using plays from Tecmo Bowl.”

Awfulannouncing.com: “Ranking Hue Jackson’s biggest wins as head coach of the Browns.”

Fark.com: The Texas Rangers poke fun at Dodgers as well as themselves by tweeting: “Hey @Dodgers, the support group for back-to-back #WorldSeries losers meets on Tuesdays.”

Gridiron glory

Janice Hough of LeftCoastSportsBabe.com: “So who had Nick Mullens in Fantasy Football this week?”

RJ Currie of SportsDeke.com: “SI.com reports John Gruden is on a three-year rebuild so the Raiders win the Super Bowl in 2020. Why not use his old formula? Have Tony Dungy build the team, then take over.”

Janice Hough of LeftcoastSportsBabe.com: “How long until Vegas looks at their purchase of the Raiders under California’s “Lemon Law?”

Jim Barach of JokesByJim.blogspot.com: “Detroit Lions coach Matt Patricia snapped at a reporter about his posture. Although if anyone should know about slumping, it’s the head coach of the Lions.”

RJ Currie of SportsDeke.com: “Trade talk has Giants QB Eli Manning, 37, reuniting with coach Tom Coughlin in Jacksonville. The G-men would get an O-lineman; the Jags get Manning and a defibrillator to be named later.”

Coping with Stars

Letting it slip that she’s now divorced didn’t earn sympathy votes for former gymnast Mary Lou Retton on “Dancing with the Stars.”

Neither did the haunted schoolhouse tango she and partner Sasha Farber performed on the show on Halloween night. Retton was eliminated from the competition on Wednesday.

She revealed to Farber on Monday that she and Shannon Kelly, her husband of 27 years, had gotten divorced in February. They have four daughters, all grown, and she credits them with helping her cope with the end of her marriage in February.

“I went through a divorce. People don’t know that. It’s the first time I’ve actually said it publicly,” said Retton, who won the all-around gold medal in the 1984 Olympics along with two silver and two bronze medals.

Kelly, a former quarterback at the University of Texas, has been the assistant head coach at Houston Baptist University since 2012.

My takes

Rehastagging this week’s top Tweets from @Randy_Beard11:

  • Is Nick Mullens the next Brett Farve? A Southern Mississippi product like Farve, Mullens led 49ers to 35-3 win over Raiders, passing for 262 yards and 3 TDs. Not bad for first NFL start by undrafted QB.
  • D3 East Stroudsburg football coach Denny Douds, 77, called time with 4 seconds left in loss to Ohio Dominican, huddled his players, and announced his retirement with 2 games left. Then he walked to his car and “smiled all the way home.” Oh, he got flagged for TO he didn’t have.
  • Despite a three-game suspension, Jameis Winston has thrown a NFL high-tying 10 interceptions.
  • Where’s the outrage? Kentucky, at No. 9, has a better chance of climbing into the College Football Playoff final four than UCF, which is No. 12.
  • Someone has a clue in Tampa: Ryan Fitzpatrick Named Buccaneers Starting QB over Jameis Winston vs. Panthers.
  • Ex-Gamecock Steve Pearce homers again and collects two more RBIs. I think it’s only fair the team changes its name to Boston Garnet Sox.
  • The World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party? I think the Gators are officially punch drunk, losing to the Bulldogs 36-17 with less than 5 minutes in game.
  • If game is still tied after 12 innings, do they go to a Home Run Derby tiebreaker? Or does team with most hits win? Most strikeouts? Most crotch grabs/adjustments?

From Sidelines to punchlines

A different view of sports

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

Time to waste

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

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

Young gun

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

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

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

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

They said it

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mixed feelings

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Headlines

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Declining interest

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

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

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

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

Baseball rules?

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

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

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

Bigger opponent

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

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

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

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

NBA longshots

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

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

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

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

My takes

Rehastagging this week’s top Tweets from @Randy_Beard11

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

 

From Sidelines to punchlines

A different view of sports

Clearing my mind and notebook while noting that not only has the NFL continued to mishandle the flag debate, the league still can’t decide what constitutes a catch:

Key game

It may be early in the college football season, but that doesn’t mean some teams aren’t already raising the table stakes.

Take the showdown happening in the SEC East Division this weekend in Columbia, S.C. There’s not a game being played this Saturday that is more important than No. 24 South Carolina hosting No. 3 Georgia at 3:30 p.m. ET at Williams-Brice Stadium.

Never mind that ESPN’s College GameDay crew is headed to Lubbock, Texas for the tilt between No. 2 Clemson and unranked Texas A&M, which will be televised by ESPN at 7 p.m.

And yes, the other “USC” also is playing the only other game in the country featuring two ranked teams – No. 17 Southern Cal at No. 10 Stanford.

None of that matters. The place to be is Columbia, S.C. (or in front of your TV tuned to CBS), for the clash between the Cocks and the Dawgs.

South Carolina fans will tell you that beating Georgia will allow them to set their hopes and dreams a little higher.

As for Georgia fans, they’ll tell you they aren’t going to lose, but if they do,  a loss won’t dash their season goals. It’ll just increase the degree of difficulty for a UGA team determined to make up for that crushing loss to Alabama in the national championship game in January.

Despite all that, I’m feeling pretty good about South Carolina’s chances, even if the Vegas oddsmakers all seem to favor Georgia by 9 or 10 points.

Why? Because I had my first cardiology appointment today since moving back to South Carolina, and the nurse who put me through the pre-exam routine was wearing a South Carolina T-shirt in an office of Clemson orange.

That has to mean something, right?

Also, my EKG showed a nice rhythm — strong and steady, just like the Gamecocks’ offense will be on Saturday.

Reading between the lines, I’m predicting South Carolina to prevail 27-24.

No easy answers

Before former long snapper Nate Boyer turned his attention to playing football at Texas and in the NFL with Seattle, he was a Green Beret.

He was also instrumental to advising Colin Kaepernick after the then San Franciso quarterback started to gain attention for sitting during the National Anthem to protest the shooting deaths of unarmed African-American men, and children, by police officers.

Boyer first wrote a letter to Kaepernick, and then they met and discussed the issue, with Boyer advising that it would be a more respectful form of protest if the 49ers’ quarterback took a knee during the anthem.

Other NFL players followed suit, bringing more attention to a flawed criminal justice system. But with more attention, has come considerable pushback from President Trump and others, who have labeled the protests as unpatriotic.

The Donald has made the flag dispute a central part of his overly divisive stump speeches.

Boyer has urged people “on both ends of the political spectrum” to embrace and respect conflicting viewpoints. He says that “nobody is a perfect patriot.” While he would prefer for Kaepernick to find another way to protest, Boyer says he will continue to support the players’ right to kneel during the anthem.

“It’s hard for me to grasp why this is so difficult for people (from both ends of the political spectrum) to understand,” wrote Boyer in an editorial for NBC. “It’s OK to be different, it’s what makes us the same – embrace it and remember that nobody’s a perfect patriot, especially not me.”

Kaepernick is into his second season without a roster spot in the NFL, and recently won an arbitrator’s decision to continue with his collusion complaint against the NFL.

Nike has added fuel to the fire by featuring Kaepernick in its latest ad campaign.

 Kneel- jerk reactions

NBC comedian Jimmy Fallon: “Former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick is the new face of Nike’s “Just Do It” campaign. Some people are upset with Nike over the new campaign, and are even destroying their Nike gear in protest. Then Kaepernick was like, Oh, so you LIKE protests now?’”

Omaha comedy writer/blogger Brad Dickson: “Internally I’m pretty sure the Nike Kaepernick campaign is called “Let’s piss off middle aged people in the Midwest & South to really appeal to the rebellious Millennials in urban areas we want to buy our shoes.”

NBC comedian Seth Myers: “After Nike announced that former NFL quarterback and activist Colin Kaepernick would be the face of its new ad campaign, angry consumers began posting photos of themselves burning their Nike shoes. Unfortunately, he’s also been named the face of Yankee Candle, and now they don’t know what to do.”

Janice Hough of LeftCoastSportsBabe.com: “Trump says Nike made “a terrible mistake,” Serena Williams lauds their Kaepernick ad. How long for the Presidential tweet saying Serena is overrated?’”

Life’s a beach

OK, South Carolina sports fans, I’m not buying it. All bar stool cowboys should be staging an uprising, too.

According to Southern Living magazine, the best college football bar in the state is Liberty Tap Room & Grill in Myrtle Beach.

Yes, they chose a beach bar, which would probably make more money on a Saturday morning in the fall selling shaved ice. Beach daycare centers and dog groomers even do more business on Saturday mornings than beach bars.

Yes, a beach bar. Those are fighting words.

Drinking establishments in Clemson, Columbia, Greenville, Charleston and Spartanburg immediately should be throwing challenge flags. Same for Pickens, Lexington, Laurens, Beaufort and Woodruff.

How can Myrtle Beach throw shade on the rest of the state?

The swim trunks and bikini crowd are more focused on tossing Frisbees than footballs, sitting in beach chairs than stadium seats and chugging water than Mad Dog 20/20.

Ever try to play football at the beach? It’s impossible to do. You get sand blown in your eyes and it’s hard to avoid those stretches of sand mixed with broken shells. Plus,  you can’t turn on a dime to catch a pass without raising a new blister.

The folks on the Grand Stand need to stick to beach volleyball.

They said it

Janice Hough of LeftCoastSportsBabe.com: “Rafael Nadal – Dominic Thiem US Open match lasted 4 hours and 49 minutes. Wow. That’s almost as long as the average Red Sox-Yankees game.”

“Cleveland Browns assistant coach Bob Wyli, on HBO’s ‘Hard Knocks’ on why he’s not a fan of modern training techniques: “We won two world wars without stretching.”

Omaha comedy writer/blogger Brad Dickson on Twitter: “Only the Cleveland Browns would cut all five young players featured the most on “Hard Knocks.” I haven’t been this upset by a viewing experience since I was 6 and saw Bambi’s mom get slaughtered.”

RJ Currie of SportsDeke.com: “Two things CFL receiver Duron Carter has in common with former U.S. president Jimmy Carter: Same surname; both have worked for peanuts.”

Comedian Eric Stangel on Twitter: “Nick Foles is currently fifth in the #NFL this season in receiving yards.

Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times: “Odell Beckham Jr. of the New York Giants says his superstar status makes him feel like a ‘zoo animal.’ Especially the part where the Giants ignore the warnings and feed him $95 million.”

Omaha comedy writer/blogger Brad Dickson again, on Twitter: “How many out of town visitors will pull up to the CHI Health Center in Omaha in search of medical care annually only to walk inside the find a volleyball match or a Brad Paisley concert? I’m guessing about 1,000.”

Comedian Eric Stangel on Twitter: “I have 73 fantasy football teams, so I’m rooting for and against every player on every play.”

Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times, again: “Swimming and diving has been banned off the coast of Landévennec, France, thanks to the relentless amorous advances of a bottlenose dolphin. Which certainly answers the question: What do you get when you cross Flipper with Pepe LePew?”

Jim Barach of JokesByJim.blogspot.com: “Tom Brady says he is looking to play five more years in the NFL. Let’s just hope no one let’s the air out of his dreams.”

Omaha comedy writer/blogger Brad Dickson on Twitter, again: “There’s a rumor that Bill Moos will allow Ralphie on the Memorial Stadium field Saturday for the first time. The forecast calls for more storms. Yeah, let’s see how an enormous buffalo reacts with nearby lightning strikes.”

Janice Hough of LeftCoastSportsBabe, again: “Nick Saban called a reporter personally to apologize after being nasty over a question on his quarterback situation. Imagine how cranky he’s going to be after Alabama’s first loss?”

Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times, again: “Arsenal soccer coach Unai Emery has banned high-sugar fruit drinks from his team’s training menu. Still no word on the status of mom’s halftime orange slices.”

RJ Currie of SportsDeke.com, again: “Raiders running back Marshawn Lynch is the first-ever athlete to be featured on a pack of Skittles. So how long before there’s Snickers for the Cleveland Browns?”

Bright future

New Georgia men’s basketball coach Tom Crean has to be feeling good about his move south after being cut loose at Indiana University.

That’s because Athlon Sport’s 2018-19 College Basketball Preview magazine is on the newsstands, and all signs point to a promising future. Not only does the Bulldogs’ 6-foot-9 freshman Amanze Ngumezi earn a lot of praise entering this season, but the top two cities in the magazine’s Hoops Hotbeds are Atlanta and Indianapolis.

Crean should have well-established contacts in both, and Athens is just a short drive from Atlanta.

So there you go Dawg fans. Not all the news is bad this week.

Headlines

TheOnion.com: “Does Notre Dame’s mascot trivialize the heartbreaking genocide of leprechauns.”

SportsPickle.com: ”Kind of surprised the NFL didn’t just decide to play the game and deny the science behind weather.”

Fark.com: “Something interesting finally happened at a Detroit Tigers’ game – the announcers got into a fist fight.”

TheOnion.com: “NASCAR race stops to wait for family of ducks to pass.”

Sportspickle.com: “Considering what we’ve seen from Jim Harbaugh the last few years, there’s a case to be made that Colin Kaepernick was the greatest quarterback of all-time.”

Fark.com: “It’s official: Alabama’s new minor league baseball team will be the “Rocket City Trash Pandas.”

TheOnion.com: “Alexander Overhkin thrilled to learn he won Stanley Cup last year.”

Sportspickle.com: ”I wonder if Florida State realized yet that they hired a guy with a 47-50 career record.”

Fark.com: “They could tell he was a Tigers Woods impersonator because he didn’t hit on anyone.”

TheOnion.com: “Is it fair to not pay college football players when the mascots make $10,000 a year?”

SportsPickle.com: “The Big Ten hasn’t offered Appalachian State a membership because they want more than one team to win conference titles.”

TheOnion.com: “Aging Tom Brady decides to conserve energy by no longer returning kicks.”

National pastime

Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times, again: “The Miami Marlins — nearly 30 games under .500 and drawing sparse crowds — are trying to drum up interest by encourage fans to bring musical instruments and noisemakers to games next season. In lieu of singing “Take Me Out To the Ball Game,” maybe the fans should play “Taps.”

Janice Hough of LeftCoastSportsBabe, again: “As Miami Marlins stagger to the end of their seasons, they would like to thank the Florida State Seminoles and Miami Hurricanes for distracting Florida sports fans this weekend.”

Jim Barach of JokesByJim.blogspot.com, again: “Detroit Tiger announcers Mario Impemba and Rod Allen reportedly got into a fistfight following a game. What’s worse is they landed more hits than the entire team got during the game.”

RJ Currie of SportsDeke.com, again: “For a while this season, Astros ace Justin Verlander was flirting with a sub-200 ERA. Not nearly as much fun as previous seasons when he was flirting with Kate Upton.

My takes

Rehastagging this week’s top Tweets from @Randy_Beard11

  • Will the flag dispute go away if every NFL team agrees to run at least one Statue of Liberty play every game?
  • Seminoles had 10 plays in red zone for minus-11 yards. No they weren’t running reverses or taking a knee every snap.
  • FSU should end the night with a bonfire in the Doak Campbell parking lot. Surely those new uni’s are flammable. If not, Taggart can get things started with a few pages from playbook.
  • So is it still Beamer Ball when Beamer ain’t coaching?
  • Grow up Patriots fans and sip your Dunkin’ Donuts coffee in those Eagles’ Championship cups with deserved humility … and then go to Boston’s South End and order a real tasty treat from Blackbird Doughnuts and pretend to be eating crow.

From Sidelines to punchlines

A different view of sports

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

Dotting the ‘I’

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

Or coaching anywhere else, for that matter.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Say what?

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

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

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

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

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

No, that’s not a typo.

They said it

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ball boys

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

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

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

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

LiAngelo averaged 12.6 points and LaMelo averaged 6.5.

Next chapter

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

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

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

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

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

Headlines

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bears watching

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My takes

Rehastagging this week’s top Tweets from @Randy_Beard11

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

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

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

From Sidelines to punchlines

A different view of sports

Clearing my mind and notebook while continuing to be amazed by Brooks Koepeka’s masterful display of golf since bouncing back from a wrist injury that kept him out of The Masters:

Big Ten Turmoil

Ohio State’s Urban Meyer has a new contender for the hottest preseason seat in college football. Maryland’s third-year head coach D.J. Durkin could have even moved closer to the exit door, based on a Friday report by ESPN.

The Buckeyes’ Meyer has been accused of protecting former receivers coach Zach Smith for years despite multiple domestic abuse incidents, and then perhaps lying about it. Meanwhile, Durkin has been accused of abusing players verbally and physically while operating a toxic culture at Maryland.

The scrutiny has only gotten more serious after offensive lineman Jordan McNair, 19, died of heat stroke in June during a team conditioning workout.

Two current Maryland players only agreed to be interviewed off the record by ESPN because they fear repercussions from Durkin and Rick Count, the strength and conditioning coach. But both have had their allegations supported by multiple former players and current and former athletic department staff members.

Defensive lineman Malik Jones, who transferred to Toledo after last season, said he and Durkin got into an altercation after Durkin accused him of “bad-mouthing the program” and encouraged him to leave.

“I’m not going to let a guy bully me,” said Jones. “… He called me a b—- and stuff like that. I’m not going to tolerate that.”

One former staff member told ESPN that he would “never, ever, ever allow my child to be coached there.”

There are allegations of constant verbal abuse and physical intimidation of players.

Court is alleged to have cursed players and attempted to punish some by forcing them to lift more weight than they’re capable of handling.

“He’s just a ball of testosterone all the time,” one player told ESPN. “He’ll single people out he doesn’t like, which is a common practice here. Guys are run off … He’s kind of Durkin’s tool to accomplish that.”

Multiple members of the Maryland football support staff were placed on administrative leave on Friday amid an investigation into the circumstances surrounding McNair’s death. But according to the Baltimore Sun, Durkin is still expected to be the Terps’ coach this season.

It’s hard to see how that can be possible, though, if the allegations against Durkin prove to be true.

Bearing down

Brendon Morphet may have lost the marathon, but at least he lived to tell about it.

He also came away with a pretty good story after two grizzly bears got in his way during the closing stretch of the Yukon River Trail Marathon in Whitehorse, Canada.

Morphet said he rounded a corner in the third leg of the marathon near Chadburn Lake when he encountered two grizzlies, which weren’t about to get out of his way. When they started moving toward him, Morphet retreated. He ran into a couple of runners who were participating in the relay portion of the event and another marathoner, Denise McHale. McHale was in second place at that point.

After asking the other three runners why they were retreating, McHale chose to keep going forward. It turned out to be the smart move. The grizzlies had moved on, clearing the path for her to win the marathon for the second time in 10 years. She won the 2009 race in 3:18.34. her time this year was 3:34.52.

McHale also has had top four finishes in 2016 (3), 2015 (4), 2013 (3) and 2011 (4).

“He kind of got ripped off a little bit,” McHale said of Morphet.

Morphet, who had led by about 15 minutes, clocked a second-place time of 3:26.51. He also finished second in 2017.

Ken Sylvestre, the director of the race, said runners are forewarned that they can encounter bears on the trails and that no race times are adjusted for such unexpected detours or roadblocks.

“Well, it’s a wilderness race,” Sylvestre told CBS News. “There are bears. We’ve had bears before.”

They said it

Omaha comedy writer Brad Dickson on Twitter: “At last report Urban Meyer was huddling with his closest loved ones – BTN analysts and play-by-play men.”

Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times: Two brothers in New Jersey uncovered five rare Mickey Mantle baseball cards. Even better, they didn’t find them clipped next to the spokes on their old bicycle.”

RJ Currie of SportsDeke.com: “Police at the Tour de France using tear gas on protestors accidentally sprayed several cyclists. The protestors cried; the cyclists asked for something stronger.”

Janice Hough of LeftCoastSportsBabe: “QB Chazz Surratt was one of 13 UNC Carolina football players suspended up to 4 games this season for selling school-issued, special-edition Nike Jordan shoes. So are the Tar Heels now a big-time football program?”

Omaha comedy writer Brad Dickson on Twitter, again, when there was a lull at Big Ten Media Days: “Rutgers is up at the podium, so everybody breaks for lunch.”

NBC comedian Seth Myers: “The NFL’s Arizona Cardinals have launched a new competition where fans can win a team jersey and get their photo on the scoreboard if they eat a burger consisting of five patties, five hot dogs, five bratwursts, eight slices of bacon, eight chicken tenders, 12 ounces of fries, lettuce, pickles, sauce, and 20 slices of cheese in under an hour. Said one fan, “Ugh, lettuce?”

RJ Currie of SportsDeke.com, again: “Ravens rookie QB Lamar Jackson took a serious shot near the sidelines in the Hall of Fame Game. He was hit so hard it knocked both the chips off his shoulders.”

Bob Molinaro of pilotonline.com: “I was surprised to hear last week that Washington Nationals starter Stephen Strasburg was turning 30. Seems like just the other day the big righty was a gangly kid appearing on his first disabled list.”

Janice Hough of LeftCoastSportsBabe.com, again: “Johnny Manziel threw four first-half interceptions for the Montreal Alouettes in his first CFL game. So Johnny’s auditioning to get back with the Cleveland Browns?”

Scott Ostler of the San Francisco Chronicle: “What’s better. to be through the roof or off the charts? Off the grid or under the radar? Underrated or overserved? Over-exposed or half-baked?”

Omaha comedy writer Brad Dickson, again on Twitter: How good have the Huskers looked so far in practice according to the coaches? Try this on for size: “Super Bowl contenders.

Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times, again: “Star receiver Antonio Brown arrived at Steelers training camp in a helicopter. Holdout RB Le’Veon Bell, not to be outdone, immediately booked a Brinks truck.”

Nebraska football coach Scott Frost on his team’s wide-open QB competition: “Have you ever played Monopoly? Everybody’s on Go right now.”

Brad Rock of Salt Lake City’s Deseret News, after Stanford  RB Bryce Love skipped the Pac-12’s media day because of academics: “Ute fans are already telling him, ‘Don’t forget the Oct. 6 Stanford-Utah game will be during midterms!’ ”

Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times, again: “Sean Newcomb and Trea Turner have joined Josh Hader as MLB players who’ve had years-old offensive tweets suddenly revisited. Just guessing they’re no longer big fans of instant replay.”

LeVar Ball, insisting the L.A. Lakers are still his son Lonzo’s team, despite the arrival of LeBron James: “You can say what you want, but we know what it is. I told you, Lonzo didn’t go to Cleveland. LeBron came here to L.A. We already over here.”

CBS comedian James Corden on news HBO is picking up LeBron James’ Barbershop concept talk show that airs on his digital network Uninterrupted: “Apparently, LeBron’s talk show is going to be him and four random guests you may or may not have heard of. You know, like when he plays basketball.”

Tired of winning

Does President Trump believe that as Commander in Chief, his rule and authority goes beyond being the figurehead leader of our military? And does he realize that such a position of privilege doesn’t give him the authority to order the rest of us to recite the Pledge of Allegiance, sing “God Bless America” or not kneel for the “Star Spangled Banner?”

Because, seriously, he’s just the President. No one appointed him Commissioner of the NFL.

Yet, he was back to binge Tweeting in recognition of the NFL opening its preseason Thursday night.

He once again wrote a lot of meaningless gibberish and then signed off with this gem: “… Stand proudly for your National Athem or be Suspended Without Pay!”

I don’t believe he knows the words to any of those exercises of patriotism, and I suggest we make that a future test before we allow any president-elect put their hand on a Bible.

For all Trump’s bluster, only a couple of players kneeled during the playing of the National Anthem Thursday night, while a few raised their fists in protest of social injustice.

Meanwhile, Trump continues his attempts to distract from the destructive policies of his administration and the acts of corruption that line the pockets of him and his cronies.

If this is what it feels like to win, then yeah, I’m tired of winning.

Unintended tragedy

It’s tragic the way Sandor Szabo lost his life. But it’s also criminal the way Jamill Jones reacted after Szabo, allegedly drunk, started banging on car windows.

Jones, an assistant basketball coach at Wake Forest, didn’t intend to kill Szabo with the punch he threw. I think we can believe that much. But the unintended reality is that’s what happened when Szabo fell backward and hit his head. The punch knocked him out and he never regained consciousness.

The incident happened last Sunday night in New York. Szabo was taken off life support  Tuesday. Jones turned himself in Thursday, and Wake Forest placed Jones on leave Friday.

Based on eyewitness reports, police state Szabo, 35, was confronted by Jones, also 35, after Szabo banged on his window. Jones got out of his car, punched the Floridian, and then sped off. Witnesses believe an inebriated Szabo was trying to locate a Uber driver.

His death has been ruled a homicide caused by blunt impact to his head.

Headlines

Sportspickle.com: “Space Force is getting crushed by the Cleveland Browns. Not a great start for our space troops.”

TheOnion.com: “Terry Francona still amazed people think managing baseball hard in any way.”

Fark.com: “Baseball player catches heat for old tweets. Not a repeat from … wait, how many of these have we done now?”

Sportspickle.com: “Brandon Weeden is 9-for-11 tonight with 2 TDs. The Browns wouldn’t have needed to draft Mayfield No. 1 overall if they had kept Weeden.”

TheOnion.com: “Will new NFL Player Safety rules ruin football injuries.”

Fark.com: “Madden 19 will allow you to relive the glory of the San Diego Chargers.”

Sportspickle.com: “LeBron James became the best in his field, a billionaire, a worldwide brand, opened a (real) school – – and did it all without getting a loan from his father. Clearly he’s a dumb guy.”

TheOnion.com: “Can Carmelo Anthony help Rockets clean up around the arena after games?”

Fark.com: “Patriots to add $5 million in incentives to Tom Brady’s contract, including a bonus for catching a football while wide open.”

Sportspickle.com: “Look, if LeBron James really cared about people, he would have cured cancer. Until he does, I don’t want to hear about him.”

Belated congrats

Indiana University swimmer Lilly King keeps racking up the medals, winning gold in the 100-meter breaststroke at the 2018 Pan Pacific Championship in Tokyo Thursday.

The reigning Olympic gold medalist and world-record holder in the event, King posted a time of 1:05.44 — the second fastest in the world this year.

And the best thing about the senior from Evansville, Indiana is that she doesn’t seem to care about anything but the joy of winning. The medals she claims are willingly shared with young fans.

Gone too soon

Australian golfer Jarrod Lyle lost his battle with leukemia at the age of 36 Thursday after he stopped treatment last week.

He leaves behind wife Briony and children Lusi, 6, and Jemmi, 2. He died at home in Melbourne.

Lyle elected palliative care on August 1 after acute myeloid leukemia returned for a third time beginning at 17.

“He asked that I provide a simple message: ‘Thanks for your support, it meant the world,” said Briony. “My time was short, but if I’ve helped people think and act on behalf of those families who suffer through cancer, hopefully it wasn’t wasted’.”

Fantasy 101

I’m no longer in a Fantasy Football League, but if I were I’d insists on having a starting lineup that I promise wouldn’t change unless there was an injury or a bye week.

Here’s my lineup: Quarterback – Drew Brees, Saints; Running backs – Saquan Barkley, Giants, Christian McCaffrey, Panthers; Wide receivers – T.Y. Hilton, Colts, Alshon Jeffrey, Eagles; Tight end – Jack Doyle, Colts; Kicker – Ryan Succop, Titans; Defense – Texans.

I figure that should be enough to score  60 points each week in a old school league. You know, back when Joe Montana was still hooking up with Freddie Solomon and Dwight Clark.

From Sidelines to punchlines

A different view of sports

Clearing my mind and notebook while pulling for my favorite swimmer, Indiana’s  Lilly King, to continue her 50 and 100 meter breaststroke dominance this weekend at nationals:

Home, sweet, home

South Carolina football coach Will Muschamp, who says spending time at five Southeastern Conference schools, gives him a unique perspective, is obviously a little biased toward his current employer.

The Gamecocks are just putting the finishing touches on their new football operations building, so he had reason to strut like a proud rooster during his appearance at the SEC Media Days in Atlanta last week. The football ops building is 110-square feet of magnificence, which is a $50-million investment in the program.

“It’s been a difference-maker for us in our program,” said Muschamp, a former Georgia player who has coached at Auburn, LSU, Florida and South Carolina. “People have asked me all of the time: ‘You guys really seem like you’re recruiting well.’ When you invest in the student-athletes, like we are doing now in South Carolina and we’ve never done before, wholeheartedly with the football program, it makes a difference … It’s going to be a lot of fun moving forward.”

While things appear to be on the upswing athletically, the Gamecocks are already near the top of the collegiate world academically. South Carolina’s football program was first in the SEC in graduation rate and third in the nation last year and the team finished with a spring semester cumulative GPS of 2.87, which is third highest in school history.

“We represent 27 different majors on our campus on our football team,” said Muschamp. “That’s impressive. I worked at some institutions in this league that had about two.”

Sounds about right.

$70-million man

Well, that seals the deal.

Nick Saban will have the rest of us to kick around for at least another seven seasons.

Alabama has announced the Crimson Tide head football coach has agreed to a contract extension through the 2025 season. His base salary this fall will be $7.5 million and will automatically increase by $400,000 annually.  He’ll also received $800,000 bonus payments at the end of  the 2018, 2019, 2020 and 2021 seasons. That means that by the time he walks away from Tuscaloosa, Ala., on Feb. 28, 2026, Saban will be have pocketed approximately another $70 million, even if he doesn’t win another title.

Pays to be good

Speaking of salaries, Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables, isn’t doing too poorly himself. He just had the Board of Trustees sign off on a 5-year deal that will pay him a total of $11.6 million, not counting bonuses.

As it is, he will earn $2,2 million this season, which is a half-million dollar raise from 2017. Not bad for coaching a little ball and being restrained on the sidelines a dozen times a game.

In addition to adding two years to Venables’ contract, the school will provide further compensation for each season he stays through life insurance premiums totaling $1.2 million over the next four years.

And then there’s the benefit Venables will receive of getting to watch his son, Jake, play for the Tigers. You can’t put a monetary value on that.

They said it

Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times: “Iowa defensive lineman Brady Reiff was arrested for public intoxication – to the tune of .204 BAC – after he tried to open the door of a University of Iowa police car that he mistook for a Uber. Hawkeye apologists immediately accused the cops of disguising their coverage.”

NBC comedian Seth Myers, after police arrested a Massachusetts man for stripping naked and doing yoga poses at a Planet Fitness gym: “That story again: A man in Massachusetts has become the first person ever to successfully cancel his gym membership.”

Janice Hough of LeftCoastSportsBabe: “Vince Carter has re-upped for his 21st year with the Hawks. Your turn, Manu  Ginobili   #GoSpursGo.”

Danica Patrick, hosting the ESPYs: “Why do people keep talking about Tiger Woods when he isn’t winning? I mean, who does he think he is? Me?”

RJ Currie of SportsDeke.com: “Justin Verlander predicted Aaron Judge would homer in the All-Star game. He also foretold Middle East unrest, a World Cup player diving and Donald Trump having a bad hair day.”

Omaha comedy writer Brad Dickson on Twitter: “After seeing how confident Scott Frost was at Media Days I’ve begun work on my banner congratulating the Huskers for winning the 2021 national championship.”

 Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel on Ricky Stenhouse and Danica Patrick breaking up: “Valentine’s Day in the garage at Daytona just won’t be the same without Ricky romantically giving Danica a dozen long-stemmed socket wrenches and a box of chocolate-covered lug nuts.”

Janice Hough of LeftCoastSportsBabe.com, again: “Larry Nassar alleges he was assaulted in prison. “I feel so sorry for him,” said absolutely, positively nobody.”

Omaha comedy writer Brad Dickson, again on Twitter:  “After hearing Lovie Smith’s assessment of the present state of the Illinois program, grief counselors were brought into the room to help the assembled media deal with their emotions.”

Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times, again: “The U.S. women’s fencing team, competing in Wuxi, China, became the first American squad in history to win a senior world championship in the foil discipline. Guess you won’t be hearing them say, “Curses – foiled again!” any time soon.”

RJ Currie of SportsDeke.com, again: “Watching the Nadal-Djokovic Wimbledon match after the Isner-Anderson servers’ duel was like taking in an Impressionist art exhibit after looking at a fridge covered in finger-paintings.”

Former NBA coach George Karl, writing in his 2017 memoir, “Furious George: My Forty Years Surviving NBA Divas, Clueless GMs, and Poor Shot Selection,” alleging some NBA players had used performance enhancing drugs: “How are some guys getting older — yet thinner and fitter? How are they recovering from injuries so fast? Why the hell are they going to Germany in the offseason? I doubt it’s for the sauerkraut.”

Pearls of wisdom

Now managing the Chicago Cubs, Eddie Vedder.

Ok, not really. But the Pearl Jam singer is getting a look at Joe Maddon’s lineups before each game, even if the group is on tour in Europe.

Whatever works. After all, Vedder is a Cubs fan from Evanston, Ill., and Maddon is superstitious enough to believe that the rocker’s support had something to do with the club winning it all in 2016. Vedder even wrote a song, “All the Way.”

So if Maddon wants Vedder looking over his lineup card, so be it. The team has the best record in the National League.  That has to count for something.

Long odds

Patricio Heras reached a career-high ranking of No. 269 on the ATP Tour when he was 24. That was nearly five years ago, which probably should have been the Argentinian tennis player’s sign to hang up the racket.

Why? Because he’s now been sanctioned for trying to fix a 2015 match on the ATP Challenger circuit in Barranguilla, Colombia. Now 29, he has been found guilty of the charges and has been suspended from playing until his punishment has been decided.

Another Argentine player, Nicholas Kicker, was recently suspended for six years for match fixing, so Heras would be wise to give up his dreams of Wimbledon glory.

Besides, he’s now ranked No. 306.

Headlines

TheOnion.com: “Promotion offers fans free pizza if Phillies don’t blow any easy plays in 5th inning.”

Fark.com: “The Cleveland Browns unveil new slogan, and its pretty Cleveland Brownsy.”

TheOnion.com: “Royals players concerned about fan who stuck out 3-hour rain delay.”

Fark.com: “Carmelo Anthony continues tradition of blaming anybody but himself.”

TheOnion.com: “NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL team owners vote to unionize.”

Fark.com: “In other news, Vince Carter is still in the NBA.”

Fark.com: “Arena soccer includes a penalty box, power-play and substitutions are done on the fly. Why has there never been a sport like this before?”

Russian collusion

The start of the European Championships in track and field are less than two weeks away, and once again Russian athletes won’t be waving their country’s flag when the competition begins in Berlin.

The IAAF Council extended the sanctions against Russia’s federation of track and field.

Rune Anderson, a Swede who heads up the IAAF’s Russian taskforce team, did hold out hope that the testing of the country’s athletes has shown significant improvement.

However, to be reinstated fully by the IAAF, Anderson said the Russian federation must do three things: reimburse the IAAF for its investigation of the doping scandal; must be reinstated by the World Anti-Doping Agency, which includes a confession that doping was sanctioned by Russian authorities; and the IAAF must be given access to drug tests conducted at RUSADA’s Moscow laboratory between 2011-15.

Russia was accused in a WADA report in 2016 of widespread state-sponsored doping. Its track team was barred from that summer’s Rio Olympics and also missed the IAAF World Championships in London a year later.

A number of Russian athletes, however, have been granted permission by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) to compete as neutrals. However, the IOC lifted its Olympic ban on Russia after the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Games.

Ranking the pros

According to Business Insider, the defending champion Philadelphia Eagles will enter the season as the best the National Football League has to offer

After that, it’s pretty much the usual suspects,

The top eight teams in their rankings: 1. Eagles; 2. Los Angeles Rams; 3. Minnesota Vikings; 4. New England Patriots; 5. New Orleans Saints; 6. Carolina Panthers; 7. Jacksonville Jaguars; 8. Atlanta Falcons.

From Sidelines to punchlines

A different view of sports

Clearing my mind and notebook while rooting for a breakout NBA postseason for Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo:

Gator nation

Steve Spurrier last coached football at the University of Florida in 2001, while Tim Tebow arrived in Gainesville five years later, so it wouldn’t be correct to label anything they might do together as a reunion.

Destiny, maybe. Fate, possibly.

The aligning of the stars, even.

But whatever it would amount to, it just feels right – even if it hasn’t happened. Yet.

Spurrier was recently hired as the head coach of an unnamed Orlando team in the new professional league, the Alliance of American Football. The AAF will debut in February 2019, beating Vince McMahon’s XFL revival by a full year. For now, Spurrier and Orlando – at least publicly – are in a spring league of their own.

Meanwhile, Tebow is taking another crack at climbing the baseball ladder, starting off this season with the Mets’ Class AA in Binghamton, N.Y., the Rumble Ponies.

Appearing on Mike Bianchi’s radio show in Orlando, Spurrier said Monday that he would welcome an opportunity to coach Tebow.

“I think Tim knows about our league,” said Spurrier. “Obviously, if his baseball career is going well, he may decide to stick with it, which I would certainly understand. But if it doesn’t go too well and he has the urge to play football, we would certainly welcome him to Orlando.”

That suggests that by the time spring training rolls around in 2020, is Tebow could have another option on how to display his athleticism. He might start comparing his stats now.

Spurrier will still serve as a consultant and ambassador for the University of Florida, but what gets his juices flowing is coaching. And when he doesn’t have to recruit fulltime, even better.

The AAF is embracing a player draft that heavily relies on regional ties to colleges. That could mean a lot of former Gators and Central Florida players. Not a bad place to start.

To further bridge that gap to his new gig, he should insist on the franchise embracing the nickname, “Swamp Lizards.” If Tebow can play for the Rumble Ponies, why not?

“In life we all need a challenge,” said Spurrier, who last coached in 2015 at South Carolina. “This is a chance for me to get a bunch of guys to coach, compete and try to win the championship. Heck there is going to be a winner in April and there’s going to be some celebrating.”

The career paths for Spurrier and Tebow aren’t just connected by Gainesville. Tebow spent part of last season playing for the Fireflies, the Mets’ Class A team in Columbia, S.C. just two years after the ol’ ballcoach quit coaching the Gamecocks.

Both, of course, won the Heisman Trophy while playing quarterback for the Gators.

Endangered kickers

When it comes to tinkering with the football rule book, no one can accuse the AAF of being conservative.

Besides eliminating kickoffs and starting every possession at the 25, the league is underscoring that decision by eliminating onside kicks as well. If your team is trailing late in the game and you want the ball back, all you have to do is ask for another chance on offense. The officials will even be nice enough to give you an additional 10 yards to the 35.

Only instead of starting with a fresh set of chains, your team will be facing a fourth-and-10 from the 35. If you want to keep possession from there, you’ll have to earn a first down the hard way rather than benefitting from a lucky bounce of the ball.

In another setback for the placekickers of the world, the league is eliminating the option of kicked extra points. Every touchdown will require a two-point conversion.

They said it

RJ Currie of SportsDeke.com: “Friday the 13th I opened an umbrella indoors, broke a mirror and followed a black cat under a ladder. Still think I’ll have better luck than the Timberwolves will against the Houston Rockets.”

Humor writer Brad Dickson in Tweet: “How bad of a fit is Patrick O’Brien for a Scott Frost-style offense? It’d be like making Brad Paisley a member of Led Zeppelin.”

 Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel: “Judging by the poor initial ratings of the new ESPN morning show with Mike Greenberg, Michelle Beadle and Jalen Rose, they should change the name of it from “Get Up” to “Go Back to Bed!”

Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times: “The Giants scored 1 or 0 runs in six of their first nine games this season. On the bright side, though, they’re already up to third in our latest MLS power rankings.”

Brad Rock of Salt Lake City’s Deseret News after ex-Jazz forward Trey Lyles said “Utah should be there” on any list of the NBA’s worst cities: “Other cities making Lyles’ list: Michigan, Wisconsin, Tennessee and California.”

Golfer Dustin Johnson on why he isn’t worried about the cost of his upcoming wedding to longtime girlfriend Paulina Gretzky: “That bill is going to Wayne.”

Janice Hough of LeftCoastSportsBabe.com: “Millions of Americans were watching the Masters when it was interrupted by a movie clip from Tin Cup. #SergioGarcia,”

 Jim Barach of WCHS-TV in Charleston, W.Va., looking on the bright side as the head count totaled only 974 in attendance for a Rays-White Sox game in Chicago: “All the fans bought a hot dog and beer, so the team still made $3 million from the concession stands.”

 Daly grind

Professional golfer John Daly—well, mostly – injured a knee while jumping out of the way of a car that crashed into his parked RV while he was standing in the parking lot of the Augusta Hooters. In other news from The Masters, Patrick Reed – someone Daly would probably get along with – won.

Wild hairs

You may have heard LeBron James’s digital media company, Uninterrupted, is threatening to sue Nick Saban’s Alabama football program over an infringement of “intellectual property.”

But for LeBron’s lawsuit to have any legal merits, he would have had to have invented the barbershop. That’s because James produces a webcast named, “The Shop,” which features King James, Draymond Green and friends talking all things basketball. Sometimes, they even discuss life off the court.

Meanwhile, some of the Crimson Tide players have started a digital webcast called “Shop Talk” that is similar in concept except it orbits the world of college football. Also, they probably spend more time discussing bass fishing.

Headlines

Fark.com: “The Dallas Stars have lost the hitch in their giddyup.”

TheOnion.com: “Dez Bryant could be perfect fit for NFL team lacking locker-room cancer.”

SportsPickle.com: “Kyrie Irving expecting to play through injury. ‘Knee science is a conspiracy.”

TheOnion.com: “PGA Officials break up crowd of rowdy fans committing commodities fraud in Augusta National parking lot.”

Fark.com: “Forbes says 20 of 30 MLB teams are valued at a billion dollar or more. Tampa Bay still on the clearance rack.”

TheOnion.com: “Annoyed Shohel Ohtani had hoped U.S. baseball players wouldn’t be this bad.”

SportsPickle.com: “Patriots stockpiling draft picks in hopes of taking a quarterback who can catch.”

TheOnion.com: “Report: Pyeongchang Olympic athletes already falling into state of disrepair.”

Fantasy League

Mark McGwire believes he would have hit 70 home runs during the 1998 season even if he hadn’t taken performance enhancing drugs.

In an interview with Jayson Stark of The Athletic, McGwire admitted that while he doesn’t deny being a drug cheat during part of his career, the baseballs were going to clear the fences at a record rate that season anyway.

“I was a born home run hitter,” said McGwire. “I mean, unfortunately I did (take PEDs). And I’ve regretted that. I’ve talked about that. I regretted it. I didn’t need to. That’s the thing. Didn’t need to.”

Three years later, another tainted hitter, Barry Bonds, ripped 73 home runs.

Which brings us to today. McGwire thinks it’s possible  that Bonds’ record will be eclipsed some day soon. And he swears that no matter how staggering the final tally is when its recorded in the books – perhaps by Aaron Judge or Giancarlo Stanton – it will be legit.

Because of more frequent drug testing by Major League Baseball, McGwire notes that the numbers can’t be disputed.

His regret is that MLB execs made it too easy to take PEDs when he played.

“Unfortunately, there wasn’t any testing,” McGwire told Stark. “I think we all wish (testing) went on when we had played. But unfortunately, it didn’t.”

My takes

Rehastagging this week’s top Tweets from @Randy_Beard11:

  • After Tyra Buss received a congratulatory billboard in her hometown: “This will be only time I make a road trip to see a billboard. The One Billboard of Mt. Carmel, Illinois. Congrats!”
  • No. 1, nothing less. Time to get paid, A’ja (Wilson).”
  • After being sued for lying about whether he was infected with an STD: “And we only thought a fractured elbow was the worst setback Isaac Haas would have to deal with while playing for Purdue.”
  • I’ve never interviewed Patrick Reed, and didn’t really know his history other than that he won 2 NCAA team titles at Augusta State, but now that I know so many folks were hoping he’d choke at The Masters, he’s my new favorite golfer.
  • Just read C&P’s Sunday centerpiece on Thunderbolts’ improving on ice but struggling in attendance. Can’t believe Jeff Pyle wasn’t interviewed. Pyle is only coach to have winning record in Evansville (IceMen & Thunderbolts). Only Scott Schoenike of Ford Center was interviewed.”

Kicking away

Barcelona set a Spanish league record by extending its unbeaten string to 39 games on Saturday, beating Valencia 2-1.

It comes on the heels of a humbling exit for Barca in the Champions League.

Saturday’s win allowed Barcelona to surpass Real Sociedad’s record of 38 league games without a loss that had stood since 1980. Barcelona’s streak began in the final seven league games last season and the team remains unbeaten through 32 rounds this season.

Although Lionel Messi was held in check Saturday, Phillipe Coutinho and Luis Suarez combined in the 15tj minute. Then Gerard Pique  made it 2-0 in the 51stvminute.

Bombs away

Some of the top headlines from SportsPickle.com that you could possibly see in the event of a nuclear war:

  1. LaVar Ball: ‘I could beat North Korea one-on-one.’
  2. Minor League baseball team holds ‘Apocalypse Night’, offering $1 tickets to anyone who is still alive.’
  3. Roger Goodell stresses that playing football is safer than getting hit with a missile.”
  4. “Washington Capitals knocked out of 2nd round of Stanley Cup playoffs by warhead.”
  5. “John Calipari signs world’s last five living 5-star recruits.”

From Sidelines to punchlines

A different view of sports

 

Clearing my mind and notebook while trying to get excited for a men’s basketball championship game between Villanova and Michigan:

Not a fan

Ken Burger wrote with passion and purpose during his career at the Courier and Post in Charleston, S.C. and whenever colleagues remember the late sports columnist someone invariably recalls this memorable zinger of his.

 “I love women. I love basketball. I hate women’s basketball.”

Forgive him. Ken died in October 2015 and didn’t live to witness the A’ja Wilson era at South Carolina under Dawn Staley, including a national championship last season and the numerous national player of the year honors collected by Wilson this year.

When Burger strung those words together, women’s college hoops was guilty as charged. It may have been a blunt assessment, but it was an honest one. And frankly, all these years later, there’s still a lack of competitive depth. Just last weekend the defending champion Gamecocks lost to UConn by 29 points and Louisville routed Oregon State by 33 – in Elite Eight games.

After what we saw Friday in this year’s national semifinals, though, there’s reason to believe better days are ahead for the sport. Both of Friday’s games went to overtime.

It also helps that for the second straight season Geno Auriemma’s UConn dynasty was a semi loser. That means there will be a different women’s champ for the third straight season. UConn had won four titles in a row and 10 of 17.

Since 2000 only six other schools have worn the crown. If you are wondering, the men really haven’t fared that much better with just 11 champions during that span. But at least the men have  had 16 schools reach the final game.

Making strides

With what Dawn Staley has accomplished since taking over at South Carolina, I’ve become a much bigger fan of the women’s game over the past several years. As a graduate of the school, I’m still riding the wave of momentum she’s created with four consecutive SEC Tournament Championships, a national player of the year in Wilson and being named the coach of Team USA.

But currently living in Indiana has also opened my eyes to how entertaining the women’s game can be when played at the highest levels.

As the former sports editor in Evansville, my staff had the honor of covering two of the nation’s best female high school basketball players in Jackie Young, now a sophomore at Notre Dame, and Tyra Buss, who was a senior at Indiana University this season.

Both chose to go to college in this state and within driving distance of their hometowns, and they have developed into two of the nation’s best college players.

They also grew up just 14 miles apart in different states, separated by the Wabash River, but competed against each other in the same high school conference in Indiana. While Mount Carmel High was a member of the Indiana High School Athletic Association’s Big Eight Conference, it was classified as an independent in Illinois when it came to the postseason.

Buss, who became the all-time leading girls’ scorer in Illinois high school history with 4,897 points, is now the Hoosiers’ all-time leading scorer. She led IU to the Women’s NIT title Saturday with a 65-57 victory over Virginia Tech in front of 13,007 fans at Assembly Hall.

Buss finished her college career by setting school records for points (2,364), free throws (633), assists (574) and steals ( 293). She also teamed with Amanda Cahill to claim a record 82 wins by a senior class in Bloomington.

Meanwhile, sophomore Young and her Irish teammates will play for a NCAA championship Sunday against Mississippi State. Young couldn’t have picked a better time to enjoy a career night, scoring 32 points and adding 11 rebounds to finish with a double-double in a 91-89 overtime win over UConn on Friday.

The Princeton, Ind. native finished her high school career as the state’s all-time leading scorer, boys or girls, with 3,302 points.

They said it

Humor writer Brad Dickson in Tweet: “Not only did I have Loyola-Chicago in my Final Four but at the top of the page I wrote. ‘A nun named Sister Jean steals the show.'”

Comedian Steve Hofstetter: “Something about baseball feeds my spirit. Stadiums are my cathedrals, programs are my prayer book, and my sermon is 162 games long. Now, the service begins. Happy opening day.”

RJ Currie of SportsDeke.com: “A sure sign your NBA team might be trying to get a top draft pick? They come onto the court wearing tank tops.”

Janice Hough of LeftCoastSportsBabe.com: “Astros signed Jose Altuve to 5-year, $151 million extension. So Jose will be able to take his family to Disneyland. Even if he still isn’t tall enough to ride all the rides.”

TBS comedian Conan O’Brien: “YouTube is planning a “Karate Kid” series that follows the characters 34 years later. The show is entitled “Ralph Macchio’s Mortgage Is Due.”

Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times: “Prosecutors declined to bring criminal charges against Bills receiver Zay Jones over an incident involving shattered glass doors and windows at a Los Angeles apartment building. Apparently there wasn’t conclusive video evidence that he’d broken the pane.”

Comedy writer Jerry Perishow after Donald Trump and Joe Biden tweeted about how they’d like a chance to settle their differences, political and otherwise, the old-fashion way: “The big question: Will Betty White be the ring girl?”

Brewers broadcaster Bob Uecker, now 84, on a bite from a brown recluse spider that required eight weeks of intense treatment: “The spider didn’t ‘recluse’ himself from biting me.”

Comedy writer Alex Kaselberg after a 102-year-old woman, Julia Hawkins, broke a world age-group record in the 60 meters: “The bad news is, afterward, she tested positive for Geritol.”

Lefty’s turn

Lefty Driesell, who is the only coach to win at least 100 games at four different colleges, is going into the Basketball Hall of Fame with a group of players he would have enjoyed coaching.

The 13-member class was announced Saturday before the start of the NCAA men’s semifinals. It includes Steve Nash, Jason Kidd, Grant Hill, Ray Allen, Maurice Cheek, Charlie Scott and Croatian star Dino Radja. Also earning admission into the hall are women’s players Tina Thompson, Katie Smith and Ora Mae Washington and professional basketball executives Rod Thorn and Rick Welts.

Hill and Driesell were former players at Duke – 40 years apart —  with Hill playing for two NCAA champions with the Blue Devils in 1991 and 1992.

Washington’s name may be less familiar. Born in 1898, Washington played on 11 consecutive Women’s Colored Basketball World’s Championship teams. She was also an outstanding tennis player.

Salary cap

If Major League baseball owners have their way, they’ll get Congressional help to avoid paying minor-league players bigger paychecks.

Depending how far they’ve climbed the ladder, most minor leaguers earn between $1,100 and $2,150 per month. But when you consider the long work weeks they can put in, it’s not much compensation.

Several lawsuits have been filed in recent years trying to force clubs to meet federal minimum wage laws.

“If Walmart or McDonald’s can find a way to comply with those laws, then Major League Baseball can find a way to comply with them, too,” said attorney Garrett R. Brosuis.

 Headlines

SportsPickle.com: Kirk Cousins, “I just feel blessed to have received a long-term deal before everyone figured out I’m not that good.”

Fark.com: “After never playing for UCLA and playing a grueling nine games in a Lithuanian rec league, LiAngelo Ball declares for NBA draft.”

TheKicker.com: “NASCAAR driver who kneels for anthem gets torn to pieces by crowd.”

SportsPickle.com: “All college football coaches happy with their jobs now.”

TheOnion.com: “MLB season ends over 200 days early after new rules speed up games way too much.”

TheKicker.com: “Kentucky players excelling in ‘Declaring-for-the-NBA-draft drills.”

Fark.com: “White Sox rehired groundskeeper after he clears the dirt from his name.”

TheKicker.com: “Gelo 3s are just some Sketchers LiAngelo lifted from a Payless.”

My takes

Rehastagging this week’s top Tweets from @Randy_Beard11:

  • Sister Jean, Sister Jean, get out your Rosary and start saying your Hail Marys … No, she’s leaving the building!
  • The BUSS pulls away late with the WNIT championship as Indiana beats Virginia Tech 65-57. Mount Carmel, Illinois legend Tyra Buss leads way with 16 points in front of 13,007 at Assembly Hall. Named MVP. Congrats @tbuss3@TyraBussNews@IUHoosiers
  • Connecticut women have lost 7 straight overtime games — 4 to Notre Dame.
  • Teaira McCowan had 21 points, record 25 rebounds to lead Mississippi State back to the NCAA women’s championship game w/ 73-63 OT win over Louisville. If UConn knocks off Notre Dame, I’ll pull for Bulldogs Monday. But that’s as much a stretch as 6-7 McCowan.
  • May be my favorite 60 Minutes episode of all time. Great story and interviews tonight about …. The Greek Freak, Giannis Antetokounmpo.
  • Thank you Grayson Allen for not making a 3-pointer in overtime until it didn’t matter. Kansas beats Duke 85-81 in OT.
  • No. 3 Indiana’s men’s swimming finished NCAA Championships third with 422 points, most since 427 in 1969. Texas won a fourth-straight title with 449 points and California was second with 437.5 points. The team finish was IU’s best in 43 years. Indiana won four event titles.

Title tradition

University of Maryland-Baltimore County (UMBC), the first No. 16 seed to upset a No. 1 seed in the NCAA men’s tournament when it beat Virginia, has competed at a high level for years.

Yes, the school was six-time National College Team Chess champion from 2003 to 2010.

Super sub

Scott Foster lived his sports fantasy Thursday night when the rec league goalkeeper was pressed into action with the Chicago Blackhawks against the Winnipeg Jets because of injuries.

Foster, 36, is a former college goaltender at  Western Michigan, but these days he plays in two adult amateur leagues. Because he does have some experience turning back  flying pucks, Foster is one of several wannabe backups who show up at Chicago’s games to serve stints as an emergency keeper. It usually means he’s treated to a meal and a night in the press box watching an NHL game.

But he was needed to skate on the ice when Chicago’s Anton Forsberg and Collin Delia suffered injuries. Foster came in to help the Blackhawks protect a 6-2 lead over the final 14 minutes.

Forsberg got hurt during pregame drills, which forced Foster to put on his gear and watch the game from the bench. That by itself was a thrill he never expected to experience. Then Delia was injured, so he had to play and ended up making seven saves.

When it was over, the Blackhawks rushed the net to celebrate as if he’d stopped a penalty.

“This is something that no one can ever take away from me,” Foster said. “It’s something that I can go home and tell my kids and they can tell their friends. … Just a ton of fun.”

The NHL mandated last year that teams have an emergency goalie present for all home games ready to fill in for either team — setting the stage for Foster’s most competitive action since he played 20 minutes of a college game 12 years ago.

Sharpshooting ‘Cats

Villanova’s postseason run has allowed Jay Wright’s Wildcats to set NCAA records for 3-pointers in the regular season and the NCAA tournament.

Villanova had 18 treys against Kansas on Saturday to set the tourney record of 66 (and counting). VCU had established previous mark of 61 in 2011.

Meanwhile, the Wildcats currently have the single-season record for 3-pointers with 454 — surpassing 442 — and their 18 threes against Kansas were most ever in a Final Four game.

It’s already been a fun season for the Wildcats and now only Michigan stands in their way of a truly special finish.

From Sidelines to punchlines

A different view of sports

Clearing my mind and notebook after suffering a 7-9 performance in Friday’s first-round games of the NCAA men’s tournament after going 14-2 on Thursday:

Landing spot

Tom Crean didn’t need to make a visit to Athens, Ga., to know he wanted to be the next basketball coach at the University of Georgia.

While serving as a college basketball analyst for ESPN, he was approached about other coaching opportunities during the past year. But of the jobs that were open when Georgia first contacted him on Wednesday, this is the one knew he wanted.

His name was one of the first connected to the opening after Georgia fired Mark Fox last Saturday, so he had most of the week to check out the possibilities even before he was officially contacted. That was enough for him to realize it would be a good fit for him, calling it a “gold mine” several times Friday.

After his wife, Joni, made some phone calls and became acquainted with the area online, she was onboard with making the move, too.

“We had absolutely no doubts about coming in here, and I don’t think we’re going to have,” said Crean.

They even turned down an offer to check out the town and campus in person before making a final decision but decided that was unnecessary.

“We’re here now because, first off, in the age of social media and video, you can see so many things,” Crean said. “As long as she’s happy with the house, I’m going to be happy.”

So on Friday, exactly a year after being terminated at Indiana University, Crean found himself holding his introductory press conference as the new coach at Georgia. And not long afterward, he was officially an SEC coach, making his first appearance on the SEC Network on Paul Finebaum’s show.

With the players off for spring break, he’ll have a few days to start organizing his office and getting his bearings around Stegeman Coliseum and the Ramsey Center weight rooms.

But he’s already exchanged texts with football coach Kirby Smart, who is on a spring break trip with his family, and been welcomed by other members of the UGA family.

The energy he brought to his opening presser has the fanbase convinced that he’ll bring the competitive fire they believe the program lacked under Fox.

He’s heard enough to know that Georgia basketball fans are hungry for the success the school has had in football, including winning the Southeastern Conference and playing for the national title this season.

He also knows the SEC has made it a point of emphasis to become more competitive in basketball, as evidenced by having eight teams make the  NCAA tournament with six– Kentucky, Tennessee, Auburn, Texas A&M, Alabama and Florida advancing to the Round of 32.

“I hope one of the first thing we can do is build a Midnight Madness, Georgia Madness, whatever we’re going to call it, type of situation, hopefully something that will work to get the fans to come in and get inside of this,” said Crean. “I know it’s not going to happen overnight but I promise you there will not be a day that goes by that we will not be trying to continue to build on the energy of what can happen here, build on what has already happened here, and continue to move it forward to what will happen here.”

Crean, 51, has a 356-231 record in 18 seasons as a college coach at Marquette and Indiana and has taken 13 teams to the postseason, including nine NCAA appearances. He led three of his Hoosiers squads to the Sweet 16 and took his 2002-03 Marquette team to the Final Four.

He’ll find plenty of similarities between the Georgia and IU jobs, including the fact that both are  great college towns located near major metro areas in which he can center recruiting efforts.

Threepeat not enough

Only Lilly King could expect more from herself than what she accomplished Friday while once again setting an American swimming record in the 100-yard breaststroke.

The two-time Olympic gold medalist became a three-time NCAA champion Friday to remain undefeated in her signature event at the 2018 NCAA Division I Women’s Swimming and Diving Championships in Columbus, Ohio. She won the 100 breast in 56.25 to again set American and NCAA records.

Only three other swimmers in NCAA history have won the 100-breast three consecutive years (Georgia’s Kristy Kowal (1998-2000, Stanford’s Tara Kirk (2001-2004) of Stanford and Texas A&M’s Breeja Larson (2012-2014). Only Kirk has won the event four-consecutive years, which King will take aim at matching as a senior.

But despite those milestones, King was less than ecstatic with her time Friday even if she had improved her own American record.

“I kind of expected more of myself,” said King. “It’s still a best time, which is neat, but I was really hoping to go 55. I’ve been talking 55 for a long time … It’s a new American record, so I shouldn’t be too upset about it. But I expected more from myself.”

IU swim coach Ray Looze also expected more, according to King.

“He told me a couple of months ago that he was going to quit coaching me if I don’t go 55, so I might be looking for a new head coach,” she said, laughing.

King admitted that motivation is still something she struggles with periodically because of her dominance in the breaststroke.

“It’s obviously not as special as my first NCAAs was,” said King. “After racing at the Olympics and Worlds and all these different meets, it is kind of hard to get up sometimes but it is what it is.”

King swims in the 200 breast finals on Saturday, again aiming to win both events.

Her time in the 100 gave her a comfortable win over fellow Big Ten competitors Miranda Tucker (57.98) and Minnesota’s Lindsey Kozelsky (58.13).

Stat of Week

The Pac-12 Conference, which was 1-8 in football bowl games, was 0-3 in this NCAA basketball tournament.

They said it

NBC comedian Jimmy Fallon: “March Madness has officially arrived. Twelve hours a day of college basketball — or as sports fans call it, payback for “The Bachelor.”

RJ Currie of SportsDeke.com: “Former 49ers linebacker Gary Plummer claims he suffered 2,500 concussions in his NFL career. I’m wondering how he can remember them all.”

Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times: “Johnny Manziel tweeted he would play football for free. Guess who’ll be the first one called to take a drug test?”

TBS comedian Conan O’Brien: “Last week, the Kansas City Royals hosted an anti-porn seminar. No one attended.”

 Janice Hough of LeftCoastSportsBabe.com on the death of Roger Bannister, the first to run a mile in less than 4 minutes: “If anyone was sure to be in heaven before the devil knew he was dead …”

NBC comedian Seth Myers: “The owner of a Greek soccer team this weekend stormed onto the field during a match waving a handgun. So long story short, soccer is now the official sport of the NRA.”

O.J. Simpson on his time in prison, which sounds like he played a ‘Godfather’ role: “Nobody would think about screwing with me. Virtually all the guys had my back. I was setting the tone. I was helping guys. I helped put together programs, and when there were problems, I was the guy they came to mediate.”

 Stats of Week, II

The Cincinnati Bearcats women’s basketball team shot 2 for 23, went scoreless in the second quarter and trailed UConn 43-5 at halftime of their American Athletic Conference tournament semifinal. UConn held on to win, 75-21.

 Historic loss

How bad was Virginia’s Friday loss to Maryland-Baltimore County, the first upset in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament by a No. 16 seed over a No. 1 seed?

For starters, the Cavaliers were favored to win by 20.5. Instead, they lost by 20, 74-54.

For another, the Cavs made just 2-of-22 3-pointers, while the Retrievers nailed 12 of 24 attempts.

And for another, the No. 1 seed had beaten the No. 16 seed in all previous 135 matchups.

But at least Virginia fans can quit agonizing over that 1982 loss to NAIA team Chaminade in the regular season, which was only by five points.

Headlines

SportsPickle.com: “Teddy Bridgewater announces retirement, “I didn’t do all this rehab to play for the Jets.”

Fark.com: “In a bid to make the regular season completely irrelevant, the NHL looks to expand the playoffs.”

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

TheKicker.com: “Opinion: Kobe’s film wouldn’t have beaten MJ’s ’96-’98 animated shorts.”

Fark.com: “Arizona getting walloped by Buffalo means no more Pac-12 teams in the NCAA Tournament. The world’s tiniest violin is playing.”

SportsPickle.com; Kirk Cousins, “I just feel blessed to have received a long-term deal before everyone figured out I’m not that good.”

Stat of Week, III

Memphis basketball coach Tubby Smith was fired after just two seasons with an overall record of  40-26. He will receive a $9.7 million buyout.

My takes

Rehastagging this week’s top Tweets from @Randy_Beard11

  • Crap, the reason I picked Purdue to win the NCAA tournament was 7-2 Isaac Haas. Now he’s out for rest of tourney with fractured right elbow suffered in 74-48 win over Cal State-Fullerton. Matt Painter can’t catch a “break.”
  • Candace Parker better say extra prayer on Saturday. She’s already counting on a Tennessee win over Loyola and Sister Jean.
  • Arizona’s Sean Miller swears he doesn’t pay his players despite FBI investigation. Maybe he should pay them per free throw and layup. #4 seed Wildcats losing to Buffalo by 17 with 4:43 left.
  • I can’t wait to get Christian Laettner’s “2.1 Second Workout” video. I’m sure it will allow me to burn 2.1 calories…. Also love the Top Shelf Bank “commercial” with Greg Oden, former NBA Center and Tall Human, who puts your cash on a top shelf only he can reach .#truTV
  • Tubby Smith out at Memphis. They’ve literally lost the “eye of the Tiger.”
  • Louisville players voted against competing in the NIT after being snubbed by the NCAA tournament selection committee. But Louisville’s powers that be ACCepted the NIT bid anyway. Cardinals will host Northern Kentucky on Tuesday at 6 pm CT.

 Rather unruly

Major League Baseball needs to learn that you can’t improve on perfection.

No doubt, you’ve heard that the baseball czars have decided to implement a new extra-innings rule – only in the minor leagues, for now –that will place a runner at second base.

Considering all the energy focused on tweaking rules, it won’t be long before someone decides it would be a good idea to limit pitch counts to 100 and shorten base paths to 80 feet.

And while we’re at it, let’s really save arms by requiring teams to use hitting tees once a game extends past nine innings.

From Sidelines to punchlines

A different view of sports

Clearing my mind and notebook while pleased to see former Purdue standout Robbie Hummel, whose injury problems continued as a professional, is getting a shot as a college basketball analyst for ESPN:

Going Hollywood

Kobe Bryant not only has an Oscar, but his golden statuette now has two miniature Lakers jerseys.

While appearing on “Jimmy Kimmel Live” on ABC Thursday, the former Lakers’ guard was presented with two slip-on jerseys with the numbers 24 and 8 that were his while playing in Los Angeles. Kimmel placed the 24 jersey over the Oscar that Bryant won for Best Animated Short (Dear, Basketball) and suggested he could alternate them. Or, maybe even save the other jersey for his next Oscar.

Yeah, it’s that easy.

Bryant does, however, plan to use his considerable resources to assist minority film makers who want to become involved in the animation side of Hollywood.

“When I won the award the other night I was the first African-American to ever win that award in that category,” said Bryant. “So there is a lot of work that needs to be done … How do I provide more opportunities for even more diverse and new voices to be heard in this industry?”

Now that his playing career is over, Kimmel asked Bryant if he also was  going to try to win a Grammy. Considering the number of hoopsters churning out rap or blues albums, it was a fairly legit question.

Bryant quickly shook his head no.

“Know your limitations,” said Bryant. “I don’t even sound good in the shower. I’ll let that be.”

Crean time

Could former Indiana coach Tom Crean end up in the SEC?

Crean, 51, is reportedly a favorite to fill the vacancy created when the University of Georgia dismissed Mark Fox on Saturday.

Crean, who has a 356-231 record in 18 seasons as a college coach at Marquette and Indiana, has taken 13 of his teams to the postseason, including nine NCAA appearances.  He’s only had three losing seasons, all coming while he was rebuilding IU. He led three Hoosiers squads to the Sweet 16 and took his 2002-03 Marquette team to the Final Four. He’s also had eight teams win 20 or more games and claimed American Conference and Big Ten championships.

He’s spent this season as a ESPN studio analyst.

According to the Athens Banner-Herald, there are six other candidates on UGA’s wish list: College of Charleston coach Earl Grant, 41; former Ohio State coach Thad Matta, 50; UNC Greensboro coach Wes Miller, 35; Virginia Tech coach Buzz Williams, 45; Stanford coach Jerod Haase, 43, and Texas coach Shaka Smart, 40.

Williams, by the way, is a former Crean assistant at Marquette.

They said it

Former Indiana basketall coach Bobby Knight to The Indianapolis Star: “Coaches aren’t dealing with the NBA, they’re dealing with the FBI. Which is a little big different than the NBA. I’m all for the FBI.”

Charles Barkley on value of athletes speaking out: “I’ve been saying whatever the hell I want for 30 years and I’m doing great. I’m hosting SNL for the fourth time for no reason.”

TBS comedian Conan O’Brien: “Pizza Hut introduced a pair of athletic shoes that have a button that orders pizza. When they heard about it, fans of Pizza Hut said, “What are athletic shoes?”

RJ Currie of SportsDeke.com: “Nationals manager Dave Martinez brought camels to Washington’s training camp. That’s one way to respond to a championship drought.”

Brad Dickson of the Omaha World-Herald: “According to the North Korean medal tracker, Kim Jong Un won every single Winter Olympics medal.”

 Janice Hough of LeftCoastSportsBabe.com: “Reports are that Peyton Manning could make $10 Million a year as an analyst for Fox Sports or ESPN. And that’s before he mentions Budweiser or Papa John’s every 15 minutes.”

Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times: “Soccer parent’s lament: Our kid patterns his game after Ronaldo, but his bedroom is totally Messi.”

Comedian Steve Hofstetter: “How could Disney World call itself the happiest place on earth when there are so many baseball stadiums in Florida?”

Michael Rosenberg of SI.com on the U.S. sitting sixth in the medal count halfway through the Winter Olympics — behind Russia: ”Which isn’t even officially here. I was pretty fired up about that. That’s like losing a bar bet to an empty stool.”

Shaking the rust

Projected as a megastar, Michael Porter Jr., put his Missouri team on his shoulders Thursday in the SEC Basketball Tournament in St. Louis. Which is to say he blamed himself for Mizzou’s quick exit.

While he scored 12 points and had eight rebounds, it wasn’t enough to prevent Georgia from pulling off a 62-60 upset of the fifth-seeded Tigers.

“We beat Georgia when I didn’t play,” he said. “We lost to them when I did. That doesn’t feel good.”

Never mind the buzz generated by Porter’s first game back since he played only two minutes against Iowa State in November. After that torturous debut to college basketball, he shut himself down and had back surgery.

Missouri coach Cuonzo Martin was forced to  accept he might have to go through the entire season with a first-round NBA draft pick never leaving his bench again. As much as it would have made for another captivating “SEC Storied,” Porter couldn’t write a fairytale script on Thursday. But the loss wasn’t his fault either.

Upsets happen and Mizzou’s starters set the stage by going a combined 11 of 36 (2 for 11 on treys) with just 17 rebounds. Porter and his younger brother Jontay knocked in 10 of 25 shots (6 of 12 3-pointers) and nabbed 16 rebounds.

So shake off the rust and rest up for the NCAA tournament, young man. Now that it’s March, all you need to focus on is playing your best, helping out your team and enjoying every minute you have left playing alongside Jontay.

Bucket list

Sindarious Thornwell, now a NBA rookie with the Los Angeles Clippers, got another chance to guard LeBron James Friday night and came away with another career highlight.

The Clippers beat the Cleveland Cavaliers 116-102 and Thornwell earned considerable respect from James in the process.

Sure, James still scored 25 points and had 10 rebounds, but Thornwell offset some of the damage with 14 points and four rebounds while staying stride for stride with James most of the night.  In the first meeting between the two back in November, James had 39 points and 14 rebounds in a Cavs’ 118-113 win.

Last year Thornwell was the SEC player of the year while leading South Carolina in a surprising run to the Final Four. But playing against someone he idolizes was still a thrill for him since a few months ago Thornwell was pretending to be James in video games.

“You’re not going to block his shot. You’re not going to stop him. You just stay in front of him and make it tough for him, make it difficult for him, and that’s what I did,” said Thornwell. “It was a team effort. It always takes a team to slow him down. It wasn’t just me.”

 Headlines

SportsPickle.com: “Kobe Bryant shoots 95 times to get one scene right in new movie.”

TheOnion.com: “Greg Popovich berates Spurs for missing nation’s descent into oligarchy.”

Fark.com: “Memphis coach Tubby Smith, who quit four schools for different jobs, thinks allowing players to more easily transfer is teaching them to quit.”

SportsPickle.com: “NFL scouts hold emergency meeting to decide if prospect who ran 4.38 40 with missing hand is athletic or scrappy.”

TheKicker.com: “U.S. tanks Winter Olympics to get better draft pick in the next Winter Olympics.”

TheOnion.com: “James Harden credits his NBA success to sage advice from fiddler crab living deep inside beard.”

Fark.com: “343 college basketball teams that will NOT win the national championship this year.”

A different OT

You often hear college football coaches talk about the long hours they put in during the season and the sacrifices they make in their personal lives.

But you rarely hear them gripe about not being paid fairly – even when the hours they work often makes it seem like they are barely earning minimum wage. As unpaid graduate assistants, they also understand there are dues to be paid with sweat equity before they’ll make the big bucks.

Mike Warren, however, hasn’t been so fortunate. Although he was promoted to an assistant coach (running backs/special teams) position by interim Seminoles coach Odell Haggins during the lead up to the Independence Bowl, he wasn’t retained by Willie Taggert.

So Warren is now testing the federal Fair Labor Standards Act and the Florida Minimum Wage Act. He was a quality control coach for most of his tenure at Florida State, which means he was part of the football program’s support staff.

Now he’s suing FSU for unpaid hours he says he worked in prepping for the bowl game as an assistant and also seeking what he views as unpaid overtime during the last three seasons. He alleges in his federal lawsuit he filed Friday that he frequently worked 80 to  100 hours a week but was never paid for more than 40. He also said he was never allowed to fill out a time card while on Jimbo Fisher’s staff.

Fisher left FSU to take the job at Texas A&M in December.

Imagine that – not being paid for all the hours you work during football season. As a sports writer for 41 years, I can relate.

My takes

Rehastagging this week’s top Tweets from @Randy_Beard11:

  • Former Indiana coach Tom Crean could be at top of list for Georgia’s coaching vacancy. Since I plan to move back to Upstate SC, that’d be cool.
  • Grayson Allen does it again, throwing a hip check into UNC’s Garrison Brooks. Flagrant 1. But former Duke player and now television analyst Jay Bilas said Grayson definitely stuck his hip out but it wouldn’t have been called if Brooks hadn’t “gone down.”
  • Dan Dakich says UNC’s Luke May is “most improved” player in country. Sure, his scoring is up 5.5 to 17.7, rebounding 3.9 to 10.1, assists 1.2 to 2.4, but he’s started 31 games vs. 1, and averaged 32.6 minutes vs. 14.1. Lot more at-bats.
  • Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson can’t match Kobe Bryant as an Oscar winner, so there’s that.
  • College football more popular than Hollywood (after the Academy Awards drew 26.5 million viewers compared to 28.4 million viewers of CFB Championship game between Alabama and Georgia.
  • A’ja Wilson and Gamecocks do it again, winning an unprecedented fourth straight SEC Tournament title by beating previously unbeaten Mississippi State, 62-51. Give Dawn Staley a big, fat raise.

Culture shock

Jurgen Klinsmann’s son Jonathan is an up and coming American goalkeeper who already has made 21 appearances with the United States’ Under-21 team. But he has a long way to go before he’ll come close to making the sort of impact his dad did in Germany.

Now playing for Hertha Berlin after a stint in college at UC Berkeley, he has been mostly sitting on the bench. His goalkeeping coach Zsolt Petry said the younger Klinsmann is struggling to prove he can play professionally and has called him “too American” in his approach and attitude.

“When it comes to the basics, he’s definitely got it and athletically he has developed well, too,” Petry said. “The reliable, serious and focused German way of working has not completely reached him. He still is way too American. The development of his personality has stopped.”

Interestingly, that’s similar to the criticism his father often had about the players he coached on Team USA.

The elder Klinsmann, who was fired as the U.S. National Team coach last year, led  Germany to a 1990 World Cup title as a forward and coached the 2006 German team to a third-place finish in the Cup.

This was No. 43 of my “From Sidelines to punchlines” columns. I can be reached at randy.beard@yahoo.com