From Sidelines to punchlines

A different view of sports

Clearing my mind and notebook while pondering whether I’d really rather be shoveling snow in Indiana or raking this daily deluge of leaves I’m getting in South Carolina:

SEC lull

This isn’t the week to be a Southeastern Conference football fan unless you are looking to sit back in the recliner chugging beers and celebrating touchdowns.

Yes, for the most part, this is the Saturday SEC fans get to watch their favorite quarterbacks, receivers or running backs padding statistics. If that’s not what happens, I apologize. All I can say is better luck next year.

The only true SEC-worthy bouts on the schedule are Arkansas visiting Mississippi State, Missouri traveling to Tennessee and Mississippi visiting Vanderbilt.

Then there’s what could be labeled “Bowl or Bust Weekend” for the rest of the schools.

Well, OK, at least South Carolina can call it that after blowing a 17-point lead last weekend at Florida. If the Gamecocks had held on, Will Muschamp’s team would have already pulled off its sixth win.

Now it’s up to Southern Conference member Chattanooga (6-4) to play nice and roll over for the Gamecocks (5-4). At least that’s what South Carolina AD Ray Tanner is hoping will happen Saturday night after agreeing to a “guaranteed-win” contract with the Mocs, who are supposed to be 30.5 point underdogs to the SEC school.

If all goes according to plan, UTC will head back into the hills with a $600,000 infusion of cash for its athletic department. But I’m pretty sure they want more.

And let’s face it, nothing really ever goes according to plan when it comes to South Carolina football. So if the Mocs rise up and steal a victory, denying the Gamecocks a guaranteed bowl payout in the process, that’s just being greedy.

Especially with unbeaten Clemson Tigers waiting to feast on their state rivals next week on national television.

Meanwhile, if you’re desperate to watch meaningless football, the rest of the SEC’s cupcake schedule features:  Alabama vs. The Citadel; Florida vs. Idaho; Kentucky vs. Middle Tennessee; Auburn vs. Liberty; Georgia vs. Massachusetts; Texas A&M vs. UAB, and LSU vs. Rice,

Stats don’t matter

Davidson College’s football team rushed for a record 789 yards against San Diego on Nov. 10 in a 56-52 loss. Yes, the Wildcats lost.

But back in mid-September, the Pioneer League football program did beat Guilford 91-61 by rewriting the FCS record book with 974 yards of total offense, including 685 rushing yards.

They said it

Omaha comedy writer/blogger Brad Dickson: “I actually heard this: “It’s expected to snow on Saturday during the Nebraska-Michigan State game but the stadium SHOULD still be sold out.” Dude, a volcano could erupt on the 30-yard-line & the stadium would be sold out.”

Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times: “The Florida Marlins announced the signing of touted Cuban outfielder Victor Victor Mesa. Team officials can’t decide whether to start him out playing in Walla Walla or Pago Pago.”

Norman Chad of the Washington Post on the slow pace of baseball: “Basketball plays well with any music as a backdrop — rock and roll, jazz, country, hip-hop, et al; baseball plays well to a funeral dirge.”

Jim Barach of JokesByJim.blogspot: “Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert says he is not trying to buy the Detroit Tigers. If that was the case he could then go after the 49ers and the pro sports franchise catastrophe trifecta.”

Janice Hough of LeftCoastSportsBabe.com: “Miami Marlins will have new logos and uniforms next year. Unfortunately, those new uniforms will have the same players in them.”

Omaha comedy writer/blogger Brad Dickson: “The state paid a Colorado company millions of dollars to come up with the slogan “Nebraska: It’s not for everyone.” I have a better slogan. “Nebraska: OUR BASKETBALL TEAM IS FINALLY GOOD!”

Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times: “Chowdaheads.com has come up with a couple scented candles with Red Sox fans in mind: “Fresh Cut Fenway Grass” and “Up on the Monstah.” Hey, don’t laugh: It’s certainly better than “Eau du Oakland Coliseum.”

Jim Barach of JokesByJim.blogspot.com: “Earlham College in Indiana has suspended its football season after 53 straight losses. To which the Cleveland Browns are saying “Cowards!”

RJ Currie of SportsDeke.com: “Winnipeg Blue Bombers coach Mike O’Shea called RB Andrew Harris’ work this season a ‘masterpiece.’ If Montreal QB Johnny Manziel’s work was art, it’d be taped to a refrigerator.”

Omaha comedy writer/blogger Brad Dickson: “That lady in the TV commercial screaming “Mo money, mo money!” just committed to Louisville.”

Mike Hart of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on the 1-8 Raiders visiting the 2-7 Cardinals: “Scalpers in Glendale, Ariz., will have to get a second job this week.”

Janice Hough of LeftcoastSportsBabe.com: “NFL moving Chiefs Rams Monday Night Football game from Mexico City to Los Angeles. Wonder why the league didn’t consider Oakland? Fans there would love to watch professional football.”

Thrill hills

Olympic gold medalist skier Lindsey Vonn, who has had her share of downhill thrills through the years, including of the death-defying variety, recently detailed her history of injuries to Sports Illustrated.

You may want to sit down for this. She did during months of rehab during her career.

After reading her list of necessary repairs, the first thought that occurred to me is that Lindsey Vonn could gingerly step into another reboot (no pun intended) of Lindsey Wagner’s role as the Bionic Woman.

Vonn has had two ACL reconstructions, four tibial plateau fractures, multiple meniscal repairs; numerous concussions; broken fingers, a broken ankle, dislocation of a medial-collateral ligament and a humerus spiral fracture.

She’s lost track of the screws and metal plates that now hold her body together.

Meanwhile, we should note that the 2007 version of Bionic Woman only lasted nine episodes with English actress Michelle Ryan in the role of Jaime Sommers. The busty Ryan claims to be naturally endowed, which should have disqualified her from the start.

Jail birds

Omaha comedy writer/blogger Brad Dickson: “Normally Ohio State fans only boo the assistant coaches’ parole officers.”

Jim Barach of JokesByJim.blogspot.com: “A former Adidas executive was convicted in the college basketball corruption case. It looks like he will be wearing gear with a whole new set of stripes.”

Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times: “Saints coach Sean Payton admitted he smashed a fire alarm that wouldn’t stop blaring in his team’s locker room 20 minutes before kickoff in Cincinnati. But, as Payton apologists were quick to point out, there were no bounties involved, and he didn’t lead with his head.”

Smiling Miles

Looks like Les Miles is back in the game.

The former LSU football coach moved one step closer Friday to taking over the program at Kansas by agreeing to settle his buyout deal with the SEC school at a bargain rate. Miles, knowing he’ll have bigger paydays ahead, walked away from LSU with $1.5 million in his bank account.

While that’s not exactly pocket change, the deal did let LSU off the hook for another $5.4 million. Miles’ buyout with LSU would have continued to pay him roughly $1.6 million through 2023, offset by any other coaching salary.

But Miles is already 65, and he knew that time was slipping away if he was still going to successfully market himself for a coaching job.

By settling, Miles still essentially receives another year of his buyout with LSU and is now free to negotiate with Kansas. The Big 12 school is reportedly ready to pay him more than $2.5 million, plus incentives, to get him back on the sidelines.

Miles, who won a national title in 2007, has an overall record of 141-56. He was fired at LSU after the 2016 season.

Headlines

SportsPickle.com: “Important fact: 99.999% of those who dunk on people on Twitter are unable to dunk in real life.”

TheOnion.com: “Should Dunkin’ Donuts end its promotion with the NFL that gives fans one free medium coffee for every first down?”

Fark.com: “Washington Capitals fan travels all the way to Antarctica to personally remind the penguins that the Caps won the Stanley Cup.”

Awfulannouncing.com: “This Week in Hot Takes: Cheddar’s Jon Steinberg says ‘Traditional sports are dead, nobody knows who won the World Series.”

SportsPickle.com: “Aaron Rodgers is an all-time great at blaming other people for an incompletion.”

TheOnion.com: “Should Carmelo Anthony return to his prime?”

Fark.com: “LeBron has now scored more than Wilt Chamberlain. Well, on the court anyway.”

Sportspickle.com: “The one likable thing about Draymond Green is that he hates Kevin Durant.”

Fark.com: “The Art of Seduction” by Mike Leach.”

SportsPickle.com: ‘Marvin Lewis is the asbestos of coaching: fire proof and eventually kills everyone exposed to them.”

Awfulannouncing.com: “‘Both NBC and CBS are now claiming to be the ‘ “most watched network.’”

 Live remote?

I didn’t realize television networks weren’t always positioning announcers courtside while broadcasting college basketball games. And no, I’m not referring to some older arenas that give broadcasters and writers a bird’s eye view up near the rafters.

To save money, ESPN and other networks are choosing to do remote broadcasts from studios. That practice is fairly common with the Olympics and international soccer.

But now it’s becoming more common with college basketball. ESPN has even done it with early rounds of the NCAA women’s basketball tournament in recent years.

ESPN plans to have announcers at remote locations for more than 200 games this season by using its studio locations in Bristol, Conn., Charlotte, N.C. and Orlando, Fla.

That’s in addition to ESPN’s contracts with colleges that put at least some of the production burden on student crews.

To be sure, the remote model is a growing trend. ESPN had only 45 remote broadcasts of college basketball games in the 2014-15 season. That practice will more than quadruple this season.

But I now realize newspapers were just ahead of the game back in the 70s when I began my journalism career. And actually, its a practice that gained second wind in my final years working for papers.

I confess, I was never a big fan of covering a game by watching it on television, and to avoid it I often ate the price of a hotel room and gas in my car to sit in a stadium press box or in a courtside seat.

But when I had no choice but to stick to the newsroom budget, I joked I was covering s game from my location “teleside.” That usually meant my couch.

Now, you can’t even trust that the broadcasters are at the game.

Another reason I’m glad I retired.

Twisted perspective

Which fact about Washington State coach Mike Leach do you find more disturbing?:

— Hanging in his office is the painting of Seinfeld’s George Constanza posing on a couch in his underwear, only its been doctored with Leach’s head replacing that of actor Jason Alexander.

— That Leach did not apologize for tweeting out a video of President Obama that had been altered, and as a result, Washington State has lost the promise of future estate gifts that are valued at $1.6 million.

They said it, too

Bob Molinaro in the Norfolk Virginian-Pilot on why Duke freshman basketball sensation Zion Williamson already has about 2 million Instagram followers: “His high-school and AAU dunking highlights give cat videos a run for their money.”

Red Sox advisor Bill James, considered the father of sports analytics, in a tweet:  “If the players all retired tomorrow, we would replace them, the game would go on. In three years it would make no difference whatsoever. The players are NOT the game, any more than the beer vendors are. The entire GAME is the product.”
Los Angeles Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner on the 18-inning Game 3 of the World Series: “I think my beard got about three inches longer.”
Stewart Hass Racing vice president Greg Zipadelli, after NASCAR cited Kevin Harwick for using an illegal rear spoiler: “We work tirelessly across every inch of our racecars to create speed and, unfortunately, NASCAR determined we ventured into an area not accommodated by its rule book.”

Comedian Alex Kaseberg: “Today on Halloween four kids came to our door dressed as Jacksonville Jaguars. They gave us a bar tab for $64,170 and then ran away.”

Orlando columnist Mike Bianchi: “Florida, Florida State and Miami all have lost at least two games in a row for the first time since 1971 when Doug Dickey was coaching the Gators, Fran Curci was coaching the ’Canes and Larry Jones was coaching the Seminoles.”

Jim Barach of JokesByJim.blogspot.com: “Rory McIlroy says he won’t watch the Thanksgiving match between Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson. If he wants to watch something that overinflated on TV, he can always turn on the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

Janice Hough of LeftcoastSportsBabe.com: “A Comerica Park stadium worker who spit on a pizza has been placed on probation. He was fired by the Detroit Tigers, but reportedly has a call from Los Angeles – they think he might be able to improve the taste of Dodger Dogs.”

Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times: “A Red Sox fan won a $100,000 Mass Cash lottery prize by playing the jersey numbers of Rafael Devers (11), Andrew Benintendi (16), Jackie Bradley Jr. (19), Rick Porcello (22) and Steve Pearce (25). Is there a lottery that only uses one number?” asked an Orioles fan.”

Stewart Mandel of The Athletic on the difference between college and pro football: “College-football schools feel the need to schedule games 12 years in advance, while the NFL can relocate one on 5 days’ notice.”

Hall of Fame RB Jim Brown when once asked why he refused to block with the Cleveland Browns: “Do you ask Liberace to carry his piano?”

NBC comedian Jimmy Fallon: “Yesterday Chicago Bears kicker Cody Parkey hit the field goal posts four different times in the same game (34-24 win over Detroit). In his defense, that’s actually way harder to do … Then after the game it took him four times to get through the locker room doors.”

Pouring it on

Heinz Ketchup wants to cash in on Kansas City Chiefs’ quarterback Patrick Mahomes love of ketchup as he takes aim at the NFL’s record for passing touchdowns.

The magic number Heinz seeks is 57, of course. That’s one more than Mahomes needs to surpass Peyton Manning’s record of 55 touchdown passes in the 2013 season.

But hey, with Heinz promising Mahomes a “ketchup for life” deal, things could get interesting. He already has 31 touchdown passes this season, which is good enough to set the Chiefs’ single-season franchise record through just 10 games. So 27 more TD passes the rest of the way is definitely a worthy challenge.

“I’m not opposed to it,” said Mahomes. “If it happens and I get ketchup for life, I’ll be sure to share it with some of the offensive linemen.”

Football revival

The Flying Feet is back in the football business.

Erskine College, located in Due West, S.C.,  discontinued its football program in 1951.

Now 67 years later its on the comeback trail.  Erskine plans to begin play again in the 2020 season with a non-scholarship program.

Erskine AD Mark Peeler introduced Shap Boyd as the head coach on Thursday and said he will oversee a staff of six assistants, although they will be phased in over the first two seasons. Boyd comes to Erskine from Virginia College-Wise, where he was the defensive coordinator.

Peeler and Boyd have known each other since their days at the University of the South. Boyd played football and Peeler played basketball.

The process of restoring the sport actually began a decade ago, and now that the commitment has been made, the school will go slow in rolling it out. In all probability, the team may split its games between a couple of high schools stadiums over the first few seasons before deciding whether it makes sense to build a stadium on campus.

The sport does have a rich history at Erskine — and we’re talking decades worth of accomplishments. Among the Fleet’s victims are South Carolina (1917). Clemson (1930) and Florida State (1948).

My takes

Rehastagging this week’s top Tweets from @Randy_Beard11:

  • Essentially Jeff Brohm issued a “no comment” when asked about Louisville job.
  • I’m with Halle Berry, what exactly is the Rams’ “Halle Berry” play? More importantly, can I score with it too?
  • Gamecocks made USA Today’s Misery Index after collapse against Florida. Not only that, Dan Wolken went to great pains to note that Will Muschamp is only 29-27 overall and 12-12 in SEC in his 3 seasons at South Carolina. Oh yeah, he added insult to injury with a Clemson reference.
  • Nick Chubb just torched Falcons for 92 yard TD — longest run in Browns’ history. Cleveland beating Atlanta 28-10 midway through third quarter.
  • Hey, despite a disappointing weekend in basketball and football, all Gamecocks can still climb on their high horses since South Carolina has No. 5 ranked equestrian team and knocked off No. 10 Fresno State & No. 4 Baylor this weekend. Uhm, but make mine a Shetland Pony, please.
  • I was hoping Frank Martin could defy the odds and get South Carolina’s basketball team back into NCAA Tournament, maybe even make another magical run to Final Four, but they lost at home to Stony Brook. Is that a school or a subdivision?
  • Purdue players playing like they are afraid of snow. Minnesota doing to them what Boilers did to Ohio State.

 

From Sidelines to punchlines

A different view of sports 

Clearing my mind and notebook while wondering how Notre Dame’s football game against Florida State was picked for a primetime telecast on NBC Saturday night:

 Horse play

I’ve had the opportunity to interview numerous thoroughbred owners, trainers and jockeys through the years and I can honestly say I’ve never been tempted to ask if I could saddle up.

I bring all this up because last week a 24-year-old man from Georgetown, Ky., mounted a racehorse at Churchill Downs and tried to ride it on to the track.

Yes, Michael Wells-Rody was drunk. And stupid. But fortunately, he was caught before he could do serious damage to the horse or himself during what was Breeders’ Cup weekend.

According to State Police, Wells-Rody “was manifestly under the influence of alcoholic beverages” when he “snuck into a restricted area he was not authorized to be in” and jumped on a horse.

Alas, he now has a record from his time at the Lousville track, but it won’t be listed in the Daily Racing Form.

As for me, I’m pretty sure I may hold the unofficial track record for two-furlongs at Ellis Park in Henderson, Ky.

That was after one trainer tried to show me how to offer a peppermint to one of his prized animals, but I was so nervous I dropped the candy, which didn’t exactly please the old grey mare. I swear the horse was still giving me the evil eye as I headed back to my car.

Pecking order

In ranking its top 25 college basketball coaches, Yarbarker.com didn’t exactly make any surprising choices.

Villanova’s Jay Wright, with two NCAA titles in three seasons, tops the list. He’s followed by John Calipari at Kentucky, Tom Izzo at Michigan State, Mike Krzyzewski of Duke and Roy Williams of North Carolina.

Calipari, however, may have to do his best coaching job in years to justify his No. 2 slot. The Wildcats were embarrassed Tuesday night by Duke, losing 118-84 in Indianapolis. That 34 point loss was the largest Calipari has suffered at UK, and the Wildcats followed that up by slipping past Southern Illinois at home on Friday.  

 They said it

Omaha comedy writer/blogger Brad Dickson: “Even Clemson, a school that has a pregame ritual consisting of touching a rock realizes that releasing helium-filled balloons is dumb.”

Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times: “Which football coach boasts more future first-round draft picks, Jon Gruden or Nick Saban?”

Jim Barach of JokesByJim.blogspot.com on the Raiders, 49ers, Giants and Cardinals dueling for the NFL’s worst record and No. 1 draft choice: “It’s getting so bad, those teams are being flagged for excessive celebration when their opponent scores.”

Orlando columnist Mike Bianchi: “I’m not saying NBA coaches are totally unimportant, but Tyronn Lue won a championship and made it to four consecutive NBA Finals when LeBron James was on the roster. Without LeBron, Lue didn’t even make it through the first month of the season without getting fired.”

Janice Hough of LeftCoastSportsBabe.com: “New York Mets GM Brodie Van Wagenen just said Tim Tebow has earned the right to start 2019 season for a Triple A team. Does that mean Tebow will be starting for the Mets?”

Omaha comedy writer/blogger Brad Dickson on Twitter: “Call me overly optimistic but I’ve already began my NCAA Tournament bracket and have the Huskers advancing out of the first round.”

Jim Barach of JokesByJim.blogspot.com: “The Tampa Bay Rays have finalized a deal with 16 year old Cuban pitcher Sandy Gaston which includes a $2.6 Million signing bonus. Which makes him the only player in the league negotiating in percentages of their country’s GDP.”

Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times: “Recreational marijuana is now legal nationwide in Canada. Or as more than a few pro athletes now put it: The grass is always greener on the other side … of the border.”

Jim Barach of JokesByJim.blogspot.com: “Tiger Woods reportedly turned down $3.25 Million to play in a tournament in Saudi Arabia. He doesn’t need to go to the Sahara Desert because he is already catching enough heat for his pay-per-view TV match against Phil Mickelson.”

Jack Finarelli of SportsCurmudgeon.com, with college basketball’s least-surprising news: “Note that the UCLA basketball team did not choose to take a week or so trip to China in early November this year.”

Reboot needed

Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones found himself defending his club’s coaching staff and front office after former quarterbacks Troy Aikman and Roger Staubach suggested major changes were needed if the NFL franchise was going to ever again be known as America’s Team.

“There has to be a complete overhaul of the organization,” Aikman told radio station 96.7 KICK The Ticket Tuesday after the Cowboys lost 28-14 to the Tennessee Titans on Monday. “In a lot of ways. there’s a lot of dysfunction.”

With the Cowboys only 3-5, head coach Jason Garrett has been under a lot of criticism from Dallas fans. And for good reason – the Cowboys have only had three winning seasons since 2010, and only twice during that time have they posted double digit wins.

Dallas is 71-65 over the past eight-plus seasons.

Added Staubach, “Overall, the team has been a disappointment … We can’t continue to play at this level and be happy with the team. That’s for sure.”

But Jones hasn’t lost faith in his coaching staff, or young stars like quarterback Dak Prescott and running back Ezekial Elliott. He just thinks it will take more time to get things turned around, although he did note that wins were the key to Garrett’s future.

“These are tough stretches,” said Jones. “People are going to be critical and take their shots. I’m fully aware this is a time when we should be criticized.

 Headlines

TheOnion.com: “Is Cindy Gruden worth more than the 7th-round pick Jon Gruden traded her for?

Fark.com: “Notre Dame reveals their new Kermit the Frog-inspired uniforms.”

SportsPickle.com: “Good start for the Steelers, but 3 miles away, LeVeon Bell is working on a triple-double at the YMCA against a teams of 40-year-old dads. Impressive.”

TheOnion.com: “Compassionate fisherman doesn’t have heart to throw trout back into incredibly polluted lake.”

Fark.com: “There have been 233 starting quarterbacks in the NFL since 2001, and one of them is Tom Brady.”

Sportspickle.com: “The new attorney general will definitely not allow any investigations into Iowa’s tight ends.”

TheOnion.com: “Red Sox take out full-page ad in New York Times reminding city they won Word Series.”

Fark.com: “Harlem Globetrotters break five record for Guinness World Records Day. Washington Generals once again can’t catch a break.”

SportsPickle.com: “I’m starting to worry that Aaron Rodgers is wasting Mike McCarthy’s prime.”

Fark.com: “LeVeon Bell tweets from Australia.”

SportsPickle.com: “Julio Jones scoring a touchdown did not actually happen. It was shot on a sound stage.”

 Election recap

NotSportsCenter: “Breaking: The SEC Network is projecting Alabama to take control of both the House and Senate.”

Omaha comedy writer/blogger Brad Dickson on Florida voting to close greyhound racing tracks: “I love greyhounds & I’m strongly considering taking one. Wondering if I had to buy a fake rabbit for my new pet to chase around the outside of my house all day.

Jim Barach of JokesByJim.blogspot.com: “Florida voters passed an amendment to end greyhound racing. Mostly because it’s a lot more intense and interesting to watch and wager on what Florida is going to do on Election Day.

Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times: “Recreational marijuana is now legal nationwide in Canada. Or as more than a few pro athletes now put it: The grass is always greener on the other side … of the border.”

Omaha comedy writer/blogger Brad Dickson on Twitter: “If you vote for Bo Pelini for office today you need to just take a deep breath and try to move on.”

Total loss

Former U.S. National Team star Eric Wynalda only has his memories from three World Cups now.

All his soccer memorabilia went up in smoke early Friday when his home in Ventura County was consumed by a raging wildfire in California.

“Gone,” said Wynalda. “Brutal … Watched it burn on live TV.”

Wynalda was alerted by text around 12:30 a.m. that a voluntary evacuation had been ordered because of the approaching fire that had closed the 101 Freeway. His wife loaded their three children into a car with important documents, jewelry and four suitcases of clothes and hit the road for her parents home in Corona, Calif.

Wynalda stayed behind to do more packing, but a little over two hours later police were banging on his door telling him he had to leave. So he left, leaving behind decades worth of jerseys and honors, including a plaque noting he had scoredthe first goal in Major League Soccer history.

He got a call from a friend as he was driving to his in-laws, who confirmed that TV had video of his home burning to the ground.  

By Friday morning, more than 10,000 acres had burned. But Wynalda said that of the more than 160 homes in his Westlake Village development, his home was the only one destroyed.

Wynalda, who was just named the head coach of a USL expansion team, the Las Vegas Lights FC, plans to rebuild.

 Straight talk

Scott Ostler of the San Francisco Chronicle, on the impending move of the Raiders: “Usually when a high-rolling loser comes to Vegas, the casinos set him up with a comp hotel room. With (owner Mark) Davis, they’re giving him a comp stadium.”

Orlando columnist Mike Bianchi: “Did you see the viral photo of the shirtless Florida State fan sitting alone and reading a book at the end of Clemson’s 59-10 demolition of the Seminoles? I’m thinking it was a book about FSU’s offensive line: “Slaughterhouse Five.”

Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times: “A man using a blowtorch to kill spiders burned down his mother’s house in Fresno, Calif. He reportedly got the idea watching Jon Gruden tinker with the Raiders’ roster.”

NBC football broadcaster Al Michaels, when asked how the late Howard Cosell would view today’s sports-media landscape: “He would hate social media. He would hate talk radio. … He would describe it as a ‘cacophony of crap.’ ”

Janice Hough of LeftCoastSportsBabe.com: “New Raiders broadcaster Brent Musburger tweeted out a picture of people in Native-American headdresses at a Trump rally and captioned it ‘Elizabeth Warren’s “relatives” backing Trump in Montana.” I liked Brent better when he was just a dirty old man.”

RJ Currie of SportsDeke.com: “A cheerleader for Colin Kaepernick’s old team, the 49ers, took a knee during the anthem on Thursday Night. Even she is more likely in the future to quarterback an NFL team.”

Indiana University football coach Tom Allen, commenting about some of his players questioning IU fans who leave Memorial Stadium early when the Hoosiers are losing: “To me it’s our responsibility to be able to put a team on that football field that plays for 60 minutes to a level where those fans don’t want to leave.”

 Kicking philosophy

As reported by Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times: As retired Colts punter Pat McAfee — who also doubled as Adam Vinatieri’s holder — told ESPN: “Before every kick I viewed it as my job being his caddie to kind of keep it light. No matter what the situation is, I’m going to crack a joke.

“We’d talk about how bad the conditions were, or how beautiful the day was, or which drunk guy we’re aiming for in the crowd behind the uprights.”

 My takes

Rehastagging this week’s top Tweets from @Randy_Beard11:

  • Among top 10 states with highest incidence of major cardiovascular disease, 7 are home to 9 SEC football teams: 2. Kentucky (10.6%), 3. Mississippi (10.1%), 4. Alabama (9.8), 5. Tennessee (9.8), 6. Louisiana (9.7), 8. Arkansas (9.2), 9. Missouri (9.2). SEC: It just means more.
  • FINAL: Duke 118, Kentucky 84. It’s worst defeat John Calipari has ever suffered with Wildcats.”
  • Zion Williamson is a beast. That is all.
  • Just voted … but it was only semifinal vote for Biletnikoff Award. Blessed to help decide best receiver each year and to get to meet and chat with the original man with sticky fingers when I was sports editor in Tallahassee.
  • Before we send troops to the border, maybe we should make sure West Point cadets know that they should keep their hands off the Air Force Academy mascot.”
  •   Wait, did Texas A&M just lose its second in a row after Kirk Herbstreit said Jimbo Fisher‘s team wouldn’t lose again? Auburn, 28-24.

 They said it, Too

RJ Currie of SportsDeke.com: “Giants back-up QB Kyle Lauletta was charged with motoring offenses on consecutive days. These include recklessness, making illegal turns and outdoing Eli Manning for bad drives.”

Omaha comedy writer/blogger Brad Dickson on Twitter: “Going outside with a football & kicking tee right now to see how many attempts it takes to kick the ball backwards when I’m TRYING to do so.”

Jim Barach of JokesByJim.blogspot.com: “LeBron James says the Lakers need to “ignore outside noise” at their games. Which if they keep on their current pace should result in a lot of silence at home games for the rest of the season.”

Janice Hough of LeftcoastSportsBabe.com: “Another week, another loss for the Cleveland Browns. But they’re still one win ahead of the Cavaliers.”

Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times: “A 43-year-old man working the chain gang at a youth football game in Tuscaloosa, Ala., has been charged with harassment after he allegedly went onto the field and slapped an opposing player who had tackled his son. And you thought they take the Crimson Tide series down there?”

Jim Barach of JokesByJim.blogspot.com: “The Dodgers say they will keep Dave Roberts as manager for 2019. Apparently unlike Roberts, they are going to avoid trying to pull him too early.”

Omaha comedy writer/blogger Brad Dickson on Twitter: “I don’t have any children but if I did I’d be more concerned with how Scott Frost’s kids are doing in school than in how my own kids are doing. That’s the Nebraska way.”

Brad Rock of the Salt Lake City Deseret News: “A study by the American College Health Association says anxiety, panic and depression are rising among college students. This has nothing whatsoever to do with BYU’s football season. Nothing.”

Last word

The baseball world lost a legend and one of my favorites players in the past week when Willie McCovey died Wednesday at the age of 80.

The 1969 National League MVP had been in poor health in recent years and was in the hospital battling another infection when he passed. During a 22-year career from 1959 to 1980, spent mostly with the San Francisco Giants, McCovey hit 521 home runs, drove in 1,555 runs and hit for a .270 average.

It was legendary Mets manager Casey Stengel, during an early-1960s mound visit with pitcher Roger Craig, who voiced his respect for the slugger when he said, “Where do you want to pitch him, upper deck or lower deck?”

 

From Sidelines to punchlines

A different view of sports

Clearing my mind and notebook while gearing up for a southern smorgasbord of college football games between Clemson-Florida State, Georgia-Florida and Tennessee-South Carolina:

Recruiting bling

There’s a reason why the Southeastern Conference rules college football every season, and 247 Sports spells it out clearly with its current rankings of the Top 25 program facilities.

While Oregon makes the most of its money from Nike’s Phil Knight to claim the top spot this season for the Pac-12, and Clemson represents the ACC with the No. 2 spot, the next three schools are all from the SEC. Texas A&M is No. 3, Tennessee is No. 4 and Alabama is No. 5.

Yeah, that’s quite a handicap Nick Saban has to overcome, right?

Overall, the SEC claims nine of the 25 spots in the rankings with Georgia, Florida, South Carolina, Kentucky, Auburn and LSU also making the cut.

The Pac-12 and ACC each only had two other schools to make the list. But yeah, Notre Dame made the rankings, so I guess you can argue the ACC should get half credit even if the Irish are independent in football.

The Big Ten with five schools in the rankings is the nearest challenger to the SEC when it comes to facilities, which includes stadiums, weight rooms, locker rooms, practice fields, etc. The Big 12 had four schools make the rankings.

If you’re curious, you’ll have to look up the full list yourself.

But sadly, Purdue isn’t represented.

Which gives me another reason to praise the Boilermakers for their butt-kicking of previously No. 2-ranked Ohio State. Urban Meyer’s lads tumbled to No. 11 in this week’s AP poll, one spot behind Central Florida.

Catch of year?

It was at a hockey game, and the thrown puck may have missed its intended target – maybe – but now seemingly everyone in the San Jose area knows a catch when they see it.

Her name is Diana Hsaio.

Hsaio said she was at the Sharks game against the Islanders, looking for a friend while talking on her cell phone before the game, when she saw a puck thrown by Joe Pavelski coming her way.

Reaching up with her left hand at the last second, she knocked the puck down, and then made a chest trap. And yes, she was wearing a low-cut tank top.

So her “talented” cleavage catch quickly went viral.

When she heard the roar of the crowd, she realized all eyes were on her, so she held up the puck in celebration. She then gave it to a girl in the row in front of her.

Her reaction on Twitter to the video: “I’m genuinely confused on why this video is going viral.”

Other Twitter reactions:

@philly_carl: “There’s a hockey puck in this video?”

@Swearengen95: “Top shelf save right there.”

LeBron’s world

RJ Currie of the SportsDeke.com: “Cleveland center Tristan Thompson said even without LeBron James the Cavs are the East’s team to beat. What color is the sky in his world?”

Janice Hough of LeftCoastSportsBabe.com: “I know it’s early in the season, but, somehow I missed NBA rule change that Lebron James has to take at LEAST four steps for refs to call traveling.”

They said it

Omaha comedy writer/blogger Brad Dickson on Twitter: “On Halloween only kids dressed as Scott Frost or a Husker football player or Bill Moos will get a treat at my house. Otherwise, don’t bother.”

Jim Barach of JokesByJim.blogspot.com: “A former Adidas executive was convicted in the college basketball corruption case. It looks like he will be wearing gear with a whole new set of stripes.”

Janice Hough of LeftCoastSportsBabe.com: “Just pointing out to Fox Sports and ESPN that East Coast bias may not be so good for ratings when only West Coast fans can stay up to see World Series.”

RJ Currie of SportsDeke.com: “A trio of tennis umpires in Thailand caught match-fixing got banned — for life. Now that’s a Thai-breaker.”

Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times: The cruise ship Titanic II is set to make its maiden voyage in 2022. And in a related story, Vince McMahon just named it the official cruise ship of the XFL.

Jim Barach of JokesByJim.blogspot.com: “Dell and Stephan Curry are now the number two father and son scoring team in NBA history, behind Kobe and Joe Bryant. However, they would all still behind Kareem Abdul-Jabbar if his dad was in the league long enough to make one basket.”

Omaha comedy writer/blogger Brad Dickson on Twitter: “The Nebraska men’s basketball team is ranked in the pre-season top 25. What in the name of Danny Nee is going on around here?”

Comedy writer Alex Kaseberg on Chris Sale, a 6-foot-6, 180-pound left-hander for the Red Sox: “Now, I don’t want to say Sale is skinny, but if the Red Sox wore pinstripes, he would wear a pinstripe.”

Jim Barach of JokesByJim.blogspot.com: “Top high school basketball prospect Darius Bazley has signed a shoe contract that could be worth up to $14 Million. At this rate, kids are going to be endorsing shoes before they are old enough to learn how to tie them.”

Omaha comedy writer/blogger Brad Dickson on Twitter: “Breaking news: based on the huge turnout for the Husker men’s basketball scrimmage last night A.D. Bill Moos has extended Tim Miles’ contract for another two days.”

Nick Rousso, unimpressed with the upcoming Tiger Woods-Phil Mickelson pay-per-view golf match: “Four-plus hours of two guys walking around an empty golf course? Tiger will need to drop several F-bombs to get your money’s worth.”

Jim Barach of JokesByJim.blogspot.com: “Raiders quarterback Derek Carr is denying he cried after being injured. He was actually crying about being stuck on a 1-5 team that will probably finish with a worse record than the Browns.”

Janice Hough of LeftcoastSportsBabe.com: “So NFL took 49ers vs. Rams off Sunday Night football because it would be too much of a blowout.   Replaced game with Bengals vs. Chiefs. SF lost by 29 today. Cincinnati to lost KC by 35. Mean bitch karma popping an autumnal mead?”

Randy Turner of the Winnipeg Free Press on Connor McDavid playing for the struggling Edmonton Oilers: “Like Jimi Hendrix playing lead guitar for The Monkees.”

Omaha comedy writer/blogger Brad Dickson on Twitter: “Bethune-Cookman game is a no-win situation. Win by only two touchdowns or god forbid lose & it’s “What’s wrong with this team?” Win 60-3 and it’s “Nebraska had no business playing the game.”

Jim Barach of JokesByJim.blogspot.com: “Tom Brady says he hates the Dodgers after growing up near San Francisco. He would also love to help the Red Sox win but is of no use since you can’t let the air out of baseballs.”

Wishful thinking

Now we know what Turner Sports plans to charge for the pay-per-view golf showdown between Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson on Nov. 23.

I supposed that’s a bargain since Turner Sports has already lowered its price from a rumored $25 to $19.99. That’s still too pricey for me, especially for one of the worst pay TV sporting events since Zolani Tete only needed 11 seconds to knock out Siboniso Gonya in a WBO Bantamweight bout last November.

If you were snookered into paying for that fight, I hope you didn’t blink.

Meanwhile, unless Tiger and Phil replicate the alleged fisticuffs between Ryder Cup teammates Dustin Johnson and Brooks Koepka, there will be nothing to see that you can’t catch at two dozen other golf tournaments.

It’s golf. A well-hit drive off the tee here, a soft landing on the green there and maybe a nice chip out of a bunker.

Like I said, it’s golf. The only sport where the players could also strut down a fashion runway.

Fittingly, it will take place in Las Vegas on a Friday afternoon so all the gamblers can gather and then celebrate a long weekend.

Woods and Mickelson will be battling over a total of $9 million in a winner-take-all cash grab. They’ll also be able to place side bets on all 18 holes, which gives the eventual loser a chance to reap a small windfall.

I’d be more excited knowing most of the money was going to a worthwhile charity on a Thanksgiving weekend.

Giant steps

Comedian Eric  Stangel on Twitter: “Eli Manning couldn’t get in on 2 QB sneaks at the goal line. They might have to draft a running back #1 in next year’s draft.”

Dwight Perry of The Seattle Times: “Harley-Davidson has recalled 238,000 motorcycles because they have a clutch problem. The NFL, not to be outdone, immediately recalled the New York Giants.”

RJ Currie of SportsDeke.com: “Peyton Manning has been retired for three seasons. If you’re keeping stats at home, so far this year Eli Manning has won one more game than his brother.”

Jim Barach of JokesByJim.blogspot.com: “Fans ripped the New York Giants for horrible clock management at the end of Monday night’s game. It’s just too bad they can’t manage the clock to turn it back to the last time they were good in 2012.”

Splitting splinters

Unless a player decides to gift a broken bat to a nearby fan, you can pretty much expect that the damaged equipment will be claimed by a memorabilia company to be sold on its website or perhaps donated to a charity to raise money for a worthwhile cause.

Meanwhile, in Japan, such bats are salvaged and turned into chopsticks. In a country that puts a priority on recycling, the process allows Japan to preserve and replenish the aodama ash trees.

There’s even a word for the recycling effort – “kattobashi.” It’s a mix of the word for chopsticks and the chant for getting a big hit.

Headlines

TheOnion.com: “Manny Machado denies playing dirty after late slide into pitcher’s mound.”

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

SportsPickle.com: “Starting Clayton Kershaw always seems to me like a very expensive way to forfeit.”

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

Fark.com: “In Japan you can’t play baseball with a broken bat but you can still play chopsticks.”

Sportspickle.com: “NFL players need to have media contracts and media people need to have NFL contracts.”

TheOnion.com: “Does Amari Cooper’s experience playing under a terrible head coach make him a perfect fit for the Cowboys?”

Fark.com: “Breaking News: World Series tickets are expensive.”

SportsPickle.com: “If Amari Cooper is worth a 1st Round pick, LeVeon Bell is worth the entire NFL draft through 2044.”

SportsPickle.com: “Is there a baseball rule that the Red Sox must always have a closer who should be punched in the face?”

Fark.com: “Philadelphia Eagles go into 4th quarter up 17-0 against Carolina Panthers. Then things get all Atlanta Falcon-y.”

SportsPickle.com: “Every Browns game should start in overtime. And all the players should be drunk.”

Awfulannouncing.com: “Mike Francesca thought a legit question about Syracuse football coach Dino Babers was a prank call.

Fark.com: “Appalachian State is ranked for the first time ever, and they didn’t even need to beat a Big Ten team to do it.”

My takes

Rehastagging this week’s top Tweets from @Randy_Beard11:

  • I feel much better knowing Ben Roethlisberger has said that crying in football, baseball, basketball, soccer, maybe even lacrosse, and also movie theaters is OK.
  • How good has Alabama QB Tua Tagovailoa been this season? Of 61 drives he’s led, only 20 have ended without a touchdown and 5 of those have reaped field goals. That’s a 75.4 scoring percentage. That’s domination.
  • So bombing suspect has bunch of stickers on his van supporting Trump, including “Top youth soccer recruits for Trump” and one touting college programs in Carolinas, including Clemson. Clearly, these are all players suffering brain damage from improper technique heading the ball.
  • Boston takes 2-0 lead over L.A. in the North America Series.
  • Will Urban Meyer resign tonight to spend more time with his family? Hey could also claim an upset tummy after Purdue’s D.J. Knox torched Buckeyes for 131 yards and 3 TDs on just 15 carries. Two of scores were 40-plus yards.
  • Boilermakers > Buckeyes

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

Serious business?

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

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

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

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

The losing players only get $25,000 each.

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

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

Stat of week

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

Philly fans

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

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

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

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

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

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

They said it

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 Super moment

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Marketing impact

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Headlines

TheOnion.com: “Olympic drug-testing official left horribly disfigured after coming into contact with Russian urine.”

SportsPickle.com: “Star curler hoping to parlay Olympics success into dream janitor job.”

Fark.com: “Shirtless Tongen finishes at the bottom of the standings.”

TheOnion.com: “Schnauzers rioting outside Madison Square Garden following Westminster Dog Show defeat.”

SportsPickle.com: “Tom Brady asks his personal trainer for special exercises that can mend a broken heart.”

TheKicker.com: “Kyrie calls LeBron to learn how to properly throw teammates under the bus.:

SportsPickle.com: “Packers preparing to lose Aaron Rodgers after he promises he ‘loves them like family.’”

My takes

Rehastagging this week’s top tweets from @Randy_Beard11:

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

 Crying Irish

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tebow time

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

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

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

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

Oh, he battled .226 with 126 strikeouts.

Sidelines to punchlines

A different view of sports

Clearing my mind and notebook while noting that it snowed in Evansville just in  time for me to get excited about the Winter Olympics – Not.

Best ever

I hereby concede  Nick Saban is the best college football coach of all-time.

There is no reason to debate it. Saban is in a Hall of Fame class of his own.

As log as Saban is coaching the Southeastern Conference should use its considerable clout to negotiate an automatic bye for the Crimson Tide into the College Football Playoffs.

Furthermore, he’s so good at the coaching biz, Alabama should start every league game with a two-touchdown deficit just to restore more competitive balance to the SEC.

That would not only help the SEC improve its chances of getting a second team into the postseason each year, but it would give more programs a shot at winning the SEC title.

It’ll also get Saban and his players more focused on the only postseason games that matter. After all, the SEC title really doesn’t mean that much to Saban and Alabama fans. It’s merely been  the prerequisite in Alabama’s push for another national title.

But that wasn’t the case this year. Because of  pride, Alabama’s players may have been ticked off that they had to watched Georgia beat Auburn for the league title. But in the end, it all worked out. After the Tide crushed 2016 national champion Clemson in the semifinals, Saban’s boys stunned Georgia, 26-23, in overtime to win the 2017 title.

It was an instant classic, surpassing last season’s upset by Clemson in the final seconds.  This time it was the Tide that snatched victory from the jaws of defeat with freshman quarterback Tua Tagovailoa coming off the bench to start the second half to lead Alabama’s comeback from a 13-0 deficit. One play after being sacked for a 16-yard loss in overtime, he threw a 41-yard touchdown pass to DeVonta Smith.

Saban’s decision to start Tagovailoa in the second half was the closing argument for me in declaring  him the best coach of all-time.

There’s zero chance he won’t win at least one more title, maybe two, before Tagovailoa likely moves on to the NFL.

Tracking titles

Saban has now won six national titles, tying him with Alabama’s other legend, Bear Bryant.

Saban already had more titles than all the other active coaches combined with Ohio State’s Urban Meyer winning three (two at Florida) and one each being claimed by Clemson’s Dabo Swinney and former Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher, who is now at Texas A&M.

Saban won one of his championships while coaching LSU in 2003 but he’s won five in nine years at Alabama  (2009,  2011, 2012, 2015. 2017).

His record as a college coach is now 218-62-1 with seven SEC titles, including a 127-20 mark in 11 seasons at Alabama.

Star is born

In the CFP championship game, Tua Tagovailoa completed 14 of 24 passes for 166 yards and three touchdowns with one interception in beating Georgia.

Not bad for one half of work by a freshman who had thrown just 29 passes all season in mop up duty. He completed 21 of those throws for 304 yards and five more touchdowns.

But the best thing Tagovailoa did came days after the title game when he took to Twitter to defend starter Jalen Hurts, who had competed only 3 of 8 passes for 21 yards in the first half of the CFP title game.

Despite being 24-2 as a starter, Hurts was heavily criticized by Twitter idiots. Tgovailoa didn’t hesitate to strike back:

“Tired of people not appreciating the fact that this man led us to the National Championship. And for all the fans that are against Jalen, you are against me too. You either WITH US or AGAINST US. Love you 2. #BigBroLittleBro @JalenHurts.

By the way, one of Tagovailoa’s newest fans is Mr. T, “Professional pitier of fools,” who tweeted: “As a Christian, I was so Proud of Alabama Quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, Giving the Glory to God!”

They said it

RJ Currie of SportsDeke.com:  “Word is Maria Sharapova has unleashed a record-level shriek of 119 decibels. It happened when Australian Open officials announced the withdrawal of Serena Williams.”

Janice Hough of LeftCoastSportsBabe.com: ‘Guess I was wrong, I thought respecting the National Anthem meant learning all the words. @realDonaldTrump”

Brad Dickson of the Omaha (Neb.) World-Herald: ‘How slick were some Omaha streets early Thursday? The Olympic qualifying luge trials were held in my driveway.”

R.J. Currie of SportsDeke.com: “Did you see Lightning forward Tyler Johnson scoring against the Canes with both skates off the ground? I guess switching to right wing really did elevate his game.”

Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times: “Indians hurler Trevor Bauer — using a five-step running start and a three-ounce ball — uncorked a pitch clocked at 116.9 mph. So who needs to hear the crack of the bat when you can have a sonic boom?”

Jim Barach of WCHS-TV in Charleston, W.Va.: “A report says Papa John’s Pizza may not buy ad time for the Super Bowl. Apparently the company just doesn’t have enough dough.”

Comedy writer TC Chong: “The Las Vegas Knights are the most successful first year team in the history of all major sports. Their home record is an astonishing 18-2-1. Are they really that good, or does the policy of having the visiting team partake in the “two drink minimum” have anything to do with this?”

Soccer’s future

For what it’s worth, Christian Pulisic is the future of U.S. Soccer. Big surprise, right?

Only 19, the Borussia Dortmund midfielder was named the United States Soccer Player of the Year Thursday by Futbol de Primera after balloting by 104 writers and broadcasters. It comes on the heels of him being named the U.S. Soccer Federation Male Player of the Year last month, giving him a sweep of the player of the year awards.

For the latest honor, he received 81 first-place and 254 points, topping Jozy Altidore (95) and Michael Bradley (75).

Landon Donovan, at 20, had been the youngest winner of the award.

A native of Hershey, Pa., Pulisic had six goals and four assists in nine games for the national team and was involved in 13 of the 17 American goals in games he played.

The U.S. did not qualify for the World Cup this summer in Russia.

Headlines

SportsPickle.com: “Report: Nick Saban pondering retirement to spend more time criticizing his family.”

Fark.com:  “Marcus Mariota throws a touchdown pass to Marcus Mariota.”

TheKicker.com: “Gruden already putting Raiders assistant coaches through two-a-days.”

Fark.com: “SEC loses in championship game for second straight year.”

SportsPickle.com: “Browns confirm they will skip NFL Draft to avoid drafting any future Browns.”

TheKicker.com: “To play if safe, Vikings will start all 3 quarterbacks at once.”

Earning respect

Central Florida’s declaration that it won the national championship never gained much traction outside of Orlando.

Sure, the Knights were the only team in college football to finish without a loss this year and among their 13 victories was a Peach Bowl triumph over Auburn. And yes, Auburn was the only team to defeat Alabama.

But that’s not how it works.

In the final Associated Press poll, UCF was ranked No. 6 and the USA Today poll had the Knights at No. 7.

But at least CBS Sports’ final rankings of all 130 teams gave UCF some love. That poll had Alabama No. 1, Georgia No. 2, Oklahoma No. 3 and UCF No. 4. Clemson, which was the defending national champion and the No. 1 seed in the CFP playoff this season, was ranked fifth.

All UCF really wanted was to get one of the four seeds in the CFP playoffs. Better late, than never.

Dr. Serena

One day after having an emergency C-section to deliver her daughter Alexis, Serena Williams wasn’t feeling well and suspected she had developed blood clots.

It’s a medical crisis she’s dealt with before, so she was confident she had made the proper diagnosis.

One, she was having trouble breathing. Two, she wasn’t taking her anticoagulant medicine due to the C-section, which she knew increased her chances for developing a pulmonary embolism.

When no one seemed to take her seriously, she got out of bed and walked to the nurse’s station, demanding a CT scan with contrast dye as well as asking to be put on a IV drip for a blood thinner.

The nurses thought she was just being paranoid and was possibly confused by the pain medication, so they scheduled her for an ultrasound exam. When that didn’t reveal any problems, Williams again insisted she need to be put on a blood thinner and be taken for a CT-scan.

The hospital finally consented – probably knowing that Williams could afford the tests herself if it was contested by insurance.

When the CT-scan revealed several small blood clots had settled in her lung, Williams got the blood thinner she had been requesting.

“I was like, listen to Dr. Williams,” she said.

Williams lives in constant fear of blood clots, so she knew enough about the possible complications that can come with having a C-section birth.

My takes

Rehastagging this week’s top tweets from @Randy_Beard11

FINAL: Alabama 26, Georgia 23, OT. Nick Saban still hasn’t lost to former assistant and he now has 6 national championships.

UCF = Unfair College Football

UCF = Unfulfilled Championship Fantasy

Indiana head football coach Tom Allen announced today that Kane Wommack has joined His staff as 10th assistant coach now allowed by NCAA.

Brian Bowen (La Porte, Ind./La Lumiere School) will attend South Carolina and play for Frank Martin, bringing an end to a tumultuous few months that saw the 5-star recruit enroll at Louisville only to leave after the school decided he would not play there after FBI/NCAA probe.

Congrats to Mike Brey for becoming Notre Dame’s wins leader with 394th to pass Digger Phelps by routing N.C. State. Brey also now just 7 wins from 500th victory.

From Sidelines to punchlines

A different view of sports

Clearing my mind and notebook while wishing my memories as a soccer player justified the pain I’m now feeling as I contemplate knee replacement surgery:

Staying on top

There’s a reason why Nick Saban’s Alabama football program is again in the mix for a national championship even if the Crimson Tide didn’t play in the SEC Championship game.

He knows how to stay in front of new trends and rules.

On Friday, Alabama became the first power-five program to announce the hiring of a 10th on-field assistant coach to its staff. Pete Golding has spent the past two seasons as the defensive coordinator and secondary coach at UT-San Antonio. He’s also coached safeties at Southern Mississippi.

Golding won’t be able to participate in Alabama’s practices for a Jan. 1 Sugar Bowl College Football Playoff semifinal against Clemson or a possible championship game on Jan. 8. But he can serve in an off-field capacity until Jan. 9.

“Pete is an exciting young coach, who has an outstanding reputation as both a teacher and recruiter,” Saban said in a statement. “He will be a great fit in our organization with his knowledge of the game and his ability to relate to student-athletes.”

Saban also will need to replace his defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruittt who has been hired as Tennessee’s head coach. He will remain with the Crimson Tide until Alabama’s season is over.

They said it

Dwight Perry of Seattle Times: “The Class AAA Gwinnett, Ga., Braves have changed their nickname to Stripers in honor of the renowned bass-fishing at nearby Lake Lanier. Stripers pitchers, we hear, are already working on their hooks and sinkers.”

RJ Currie of SportsDeke.com “Suspended national team goalkeeper Hope Solo announced plans to run for president of U.S. Soccer. The idea got her so excited, she beat up a couple of relatives.”

Janice Hough of LeftCoastSportsBabe.com: “FSU’s Derwin James, a projected early 1st round draft pick, is skipping Seminoles’ postseason. Must have been tough decision, who hasn’t dreamed of playing in Walk-Ons Independence Bowl?”

Comedian Argus Hamilton on Oklahoma QB BakerMayfield’s mea culpas this year for bad language,planting the OU flag on Ohio State’s 50-yard line and grabbing his crotch: “He’s just an apology for sexual misconduct away from earning his degree in government.”

NBC comedian Seth Myers: “According to a new poll, 71 percent of American men believe they face pressure to act interested in sports. “Not us!” said the New York Giants.”

Yankees shortstop Didi Gregoriusin in a tweet to new manager Aaron Boone after the team landed home-run champ Giancarlo Stanton: “Hey, Skip, am I still batting 4th?”

Comedian Steve Hofstetter: “Well, at least now we know the Yankees aren’t signing Bryce Harper. #Stanton

Brad Dickson of the Omaha (Neb.) World-Herald  on Warriors star Steph Curry teaching an online basketball class: “This is a little like walking into driver’s ed and learning the instructor is Dale Earnhart Jr.”

Winter wonderland

Have you ever dreamed of stepping on the frozen tundra at Lambeau Field and being paid to play? Even perform?

Now’s your chance. The Green Bay Packers are looking for as many as 600 people to show up at the Mills Fleet Farm Gate on the west side of Lambeau Field on Monday to help with snow removal.

You must be at least 18 and you will be paid $10 per hour. The work to clear the field will begin shortly after 8 a.m. The Packers will even provide the shovels, although I suspect there are fans who would like to have their personal shovel touch such hallowed ground. And if you can’t make it until the strike of noon, your help may be needed throughout the day.

The Packers, who are at the Carolina Panthers on Sunday, host the Minnesota Vikings next Saturday.

But here’s the thing. There may not be enough snow on the field Monday to even make a  few dozen decent snow angels. The current forecast doesn’t predict much snow until Wednesday and Thursday.

 Double duty

Who needs cheerleaders or dance teams? In Saturday’s NFL game between Detroit and Chicago, several players for the Lions celebrated T.J. Jones’ touchdown catch with a Rockettes-inspired chorus line routine.

But yeah, wearing full pads and helmets may have detracted from the performance.

My takes

Rehastagging this week’s top tweets from @Randy_Beard11

Touchdown. Alabama!

Steelers’ Ben Roethlisberger completes 44 of 66 passes for 506 yards and 2 TDS against Ravens’ defense that hadn’t surrendered 300 yards this season. Wish I had him on Fantasy Football team. Wait … I don’t play Fantasy Football any longer.

Stanford men join women as NCAA soccer champions. Men win third straight title, beating Indiana 1-0 on overtime goal by Sam Werner of Bozeman, Montana. Who knew Montanans even knew what a soccer ball looked like.

Where’s the Air Force when you need the aerial support? Army beats Navy 14-13 in the snow, but the big story is the two teams combined for 22 yards passing.

Panther noise

Cam Newton finally has someone to deflect attention from his antics.

While few details have been made public about why Panthers owner Jerry Richardson is under investigation by the NFL for workplace misconduct, Sports Illustrated has reported that he’s been accused of an assortment of incidents with employees that are sexist, racist and otherwise demeaning in nature.

Richardson, 81, is the only owner in the team’s 24-year history. He’s well-respected in the league and the Carolinas, where he played for Wofford College before playing two seasons in the NFL with the Baltimore Colts in 1959 and 1960. He used his championship game bonus from 1959 to invest in a Hardees fast-food franchise.

Long story short, he turned one restaurant in one chain to many restaurants in several chains to create a billion dollar empire. He was awarded an NFL expansion franchise in 1993, which began play in 1995.

The team played its first home schedule at Clemson University. I was the sports editor in Anderson, S.C. then and will always have great memories of those early years of the Panthers. I covered most of the team’s home games through 1998.

Before the NFL took over the investigation, the Panthers hired the law firm Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan to investigate the allegations against Richardson. SI reports that Richardson has allegedly made suggestive comments to women employees, including how tight their jeans fit on casual Fridays, and made other inappropriate comments on their physical appearance. He’d even pay for manicures, give unsolicited back rubs and insist on buckling their seatbelts when taking female employees to business lunches. There have also been incidents allegations of Richardson making racially charged comments, including a slur directed at one scout.

He and team have allegedly made payouts with nondisclosure agreements to settle some disputes.

Name game

It burst on the scene in 1976 as the Independence Bowl in Shreveport, Louisiana.

This year it will be contested on Dec. 27 and feature a monumental matchup between Southern Mississippi and Florida State, which is the real reason FSU head coach Jimbo Fisher took the head coaching job at Texas A&M.

Forgive him. He apparently had never been to College Station, Texas.

Meanwhile, Shreveport is fortunate to host a bowl game that leads the “league” in all-time sponsors. The revolving door of  corporate sponsors includes Poulan Weed Eater, Sanford (writing materials), MainStay Investments, PetroSun (gas), AdvoCare V100 (energy drinks), Duck Commander (hunting) and Camping World (campng supply stores) and Walk-On’s (bar and restaurant).

If you own T-shirts with all of those Independence Bowl logos, you’d have a lot of explaining to do.

Headlines

TheOnion.com: “NFL revokes Roger Goodell’s new contract after he fails physical.”

TheKicker.com: “Winter meetings mostly just people shouting, ‘Not fair!’ at Yankees.”

Fark.com: “Apparently, there is an SEC Cornhole Championship.”

SportsPickle.com:  “Confident  Blake Bortles vows: ‘I will be the worst QB to win a Super Bowl since Trent Dilfer.’ ”

TheOnion.com: “Browns encourage dissatisfied fans to at least stick it out until end of season.”

Fark.com: “Want to see Lambeau Field and get paid for it? Snow shovelers needed Monday.”

Bowl mania

In a separate blog entry, I’ve made my picks for all the college football bowl games. But below are my picks for the games that really matter, which means there is a team from the ACC, Big Ten or SEC involved.

Quick Lane Bowl, Dec. 26, 3:15 p.m. CT: Duke vs. Northern Illinois. MY PICK: Duke.

Independence Bowl, Dec. 27, 11:30 a.m. CT: Southern Mississippi vs. Florida State. MY PICK: Florida State.

Pinstripe Bowl, Dec. 27,  3:15 p.m. CT: Iowa vs. Boston College. MY PICK: Iowa.

Foster Farms Bowl, Dec. 27, 6:30 p.m.: Arizona vs. Purdue. MY PICK: Purdue.

Texas Bowl, Dec. 27, 7 p.m. CT: Texas vs. Missouri. MY PICK: Texas.

Military Bowl, Dec. 28, 11:30 a.m. CT: Virginia vs. Navy. MY PICK: Navy.

Camping World Bowl, Dec. 28, 3:15 p.m.: Virginia Tech vs. Oklahoma State.  MY PICK: Oklahoma State.

Holiday Bowl, Dec. 28, 7 p.m. CT: Washington State vs. Michigan State. MY PICK: Michigan State.

Belk Bowl, Dec. 29, 11 a.m. CT: Wake Forest vs. Texas A&M. MY PICK:  Wake Forest.

Sun Bowl, Dec. 29, 1 p.m.: N.C. State vs. Arizona State. MY PICK: N.C. State.

Music City Bowl, Dec. 29, 2:30 p.m.: Kentucky vs. Northwestern. MY PICK: Northwestern.

Cotton Bowl, Dec. 29, 6:30 p.m.: Southern California vs. Ohio State. MY PICK: Southern Cal.

Taxslayer Bowl, Dec. 30, 10 a.m. CT: Louisville vs. Mississippi State. MY PICK: Louisville.

Fiesta Bowl, Dec. 30, 2 p.m. CT: Washington vs. Penn State. MY PICK: Washington.

Orange Bowl, Dec. 30, 6 p.m. CT: Wisconsin vs. Miami. MY PICK: Miami.

Outback Bowl, Jan. 1, 10 a.m. CT: Michigan vs. South Carolina. MY PICK:  Michigan.

Peach Bowl, Jan. 1, 10:30 a.m. CT: Central Florida vs. Auburn. MY PICK: Central Florida.

Citrus Bowl, Jan. 1, 11 a.m. CT: Notre Dame vs. LSU. MY PICK: LSU.

College Football Playoff Semifinals

Rose Bowl, Jan. 1, 3 p.m. CT: Georgia vs. Oklahoma. MY PICK: Georgia.

Sugar Bowl, Jan. 1, 6:45 p.m. CT: Alabama vs. Clemson. MY PICK: Alabama.

Note: CFP Championship Game is scheduled for Monday, Jan. 8, 7 p.m. CT, Mercedes Benz Stadium, Atlanta. It will be televised by ESPN.

College Football Bowl Games Predictions

 

Celebration Bowl

Dec.  16

11 a.m. CT

N.C. A&T vs. Grambling State, Atlanta, Ga.

NORTH CAROLINA A&T

New Orleans Bowl

Dec. 16

Noon CT

Troy vs. North Texas, New Orleans

TROY

Cure Bowl

Dec. 16

1:30 p.m. CT

Georgia State vs. Western Kentucky, Orlando, Fla.

WESTERN KENTUCKY

Las Vegas Bowl

Dec 16

2:30 p.m.

Boise State vs. Oregon. Las Vegas, Nev.

BOISE STATE

New Mexico Bowl

Dec. 16

 2:30 p.m.

Marshall vs. Colorado State. Albuquerque, New Mexico

COLORADO STATE

Camellia Bowl

 Dec. 16

7 p.m. CT

Middle Tennessee State vs. Arkansas State. Montgomery, Ala.

MIDDLE TENNESSEE STATE

Boca Raton Bowl

Dec. 19

6 p.m. CT

FAU vs. Akron. Boca Raton, Fla.

FLORIDA ATLANTIC

Frisco Bowl

Dec. 20,

7 p.m. CT

Southern Methodist vs. Louisiana Tech, Frisco, Texas.

SMU

Gasparilla Bowl

 Dec. 21, 7 p.m.

Temple vs. FIU, St. Petersburg, Fla.

TEMPLE

Bahamas Bowl

Dec. 22,

11:30 a.m.

Alabama Birmigham vs. Ohio Univ. Nassau, Bahamaa

UAB

Famous Idaho Potato Bowl

Dec. 22

3 p.m. CT

Wyoming vs. Cent. Michigan Boise, Idaho

WYOMING

Birmingham Bowl

Dec. 23

11 a.m. CT

South Florida vs. Texas Tech Birmingham, Ala.

TEXAS TECH

Armed Forces Bowl

Dec. 23

2:30 p.m.

Army vs. San Diego State. Fort Worth, Texas

SAN DIEGO STATE

 

Dollar General Bowl

 Dec. 23

 6 p.m. CT

Appalachian State vs. Toledo, Mobile, Ala.

APPALACHIAN STATE

Hawai’i  Bowl

Dec. 24

7:30 p.m

Fresno State vs. Houston, Honolulu, Hawai’i

HOUSTON

Heart of Dallas Bowl

 Dec. 26

12:20 p.m.

West Virginia vs. Utah. Dallas, Texas

WEST VIRGINIA 

Quick Lane Bowl

 Dec. 26

4:15 p.m. CT

Duke vs. Northern Illinois, Detroit, Mich.

DUKE 

Cactus Bowl

Dec. 26

9 p.m. CT

UCLA vs. Kansas State, Phoenix, Ariz.

UCLA 

Independence Bowl

Dec. 27

12:30 p.m.

Florida State vs. Southern Miss, Shreveport, La.

FLORIDA STATE

 

Pinstripe Bowl

Dec. 27

4:15 p.m. CT

Boston College vs. Iowa. Bronx, N.Y.

IOWA

Foster Farms Bowl

Dec. 27

7:30 p.m. CT

Arizona vs. Purdue, Santa Clara, Calif.

PURDUE

Texas Bowl

Dec. 27

8 p.m. CT

Texas vs. Missouri, Houston, Texas

TEXAS 

Military Bowl

Dec. 28

12:30 p.m. CT

Virginia vs. Navy. Annapolis, Md.

NAVY

Camping World Bowl

Dec. 28

4:15 p.m. CT

Oklahoma State vs. Virginia Tech. Orlando, Fla.

OKLAHOMA STATE 

Alamo Bowl

Dec. 28

8 p.m. CT

Stanford vs. TCU, San Antonio, Texas

TCU

Holiday Bowl

Dec. 28

8 p.m. CT

Michigan State vs. Washington State, San Diego, Calif.

MICHIGAN STATE

Belk Bowl

Dec. 29

Noon CT.

Wake Forest vs. Texas A&M, Charlotte, N.C

WAKE FOREST

 

Sun Bowl

Dec. 29

1 p.m. CT

NC State vs. Arizona State, El Paso, Texas

NC STATE

Music City Bowl

Dec. 29

3:30 p.m.

Kentucky vs. Northwestern, Nashville, Tenn.

NORTHWESTERN

Arizona Bowl

Dec. 29

4:30 p.m. CT

New Mexico State vs. Utah State, Tucson, Ariz.

UTAH STATE

Cotton Bowl

Dec. 29

7:30 p.m. CT

Ohio State vs. Southern Cal, Arlington, Texas

SOUTHERN CAL

Taxslayer Gator Bowl

Dec 30

11 a.m. CT

Louisville vs. Mississippi State. Jacksonville, Fla.

LOUISVILLE

Liberty Bowl

Dec. 30

11:30 a.m. CT

Iowa State vs. Memphis, Memphis, Tenn.

MEMPHIS

Fiesta Bowl

 Dec. 30

3 p.m.

Washington vs. Penn State, Glendale, Ariz.

WASHINGTON

Orange Bowl

Dec. 30

7 p.m. CT

Miami vs. Wisconsin, Miami Gardens, Fla.

MIAMI 

Outback Bowl

Jan. 1

11 a.m.

Michigan vs. South Carolina, Tampa, Fla.

MICHIGAN

Peach Bowl

Jan. 1

11:30 p.m. CT

Auburn vs. UCF, Atlanta, Ga.

CENTRAL FLORIDA

Citrus Bowl

 

Jan. 1

Noon CT

Notre Dame vs. LSU, Orlando, Fla.

LSU

Rose Bowl

College Football Playoff Semifinal

Jan. 1, 4 p.m. CT

Oklahoma vs. Georgia, Pasadena, Calif.

GEORGIA
Sugar Bowl

 

Jan 1

7:45 p.m. CT, 

Clemson vs. Alabama, New Orleans, La.

ALABAMA

CFP National Championship

Jan. 8

7 p.m. CT

Atlanta, Ga.

TBD

From Sidelines to punchlines

A different view of sports

Clearing my mind and notebook while bemoaning how quickly fall weather arrived and disappeared, especially in the Midwest:

Heisman dreams

By the time the college football season had reached November, Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield was the clear front-runner to win the Heisman Trophy.

It was his to lose after the Sooners racked up road wins over  No. 2-ranked Ohio State on Sept. 9 and No. 11 Oklahoma State on Nov. 4 while proving a high-scoring loss against Iowa State on Oct. 7 wouldn’t be enough to derail them from their championship goals.

The final voting tally underscored just how dominant Mayfield was this season in becoming the Sooners’ sixth Heisman winner. He finished with 2,398 points, easily outdistancing Stanford running back Bryce Love (1,300) and Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson (793), the 2016 winner.

Mayfield received 732 first-place votes, while Love had 75 first-place votes and Jackson only 47.

Each first-place vote is worth three points, with two points for second and one for third. Mayfield finished with 86 percent of all possible points, which is the third highest percentage since 1950 – topped only by Troy Smith’s 91.6 percent of the votes in 2006 and Marcus Mariotta’s 90.9 percent in 2014.

Not bad for a guy from Austin, Texas who twice had to go from walk-on to starter, first at Texas Tech and then at Oklahoma. Although he grew up an Oklahoma fan, he wasn’t recruited by the Sooners or his hometown University of Texas.

He walked on at Texas Tech and won the starting job as a freshman. But despite passing for more than 2,200 yards and 12 touchdowns, the Red Raiders coaching staff failed to save a scholarship for his sophomore season. So he followed his heart to Norman, Oklahoma.

Now he has the Sooners back in contention for a national championship with a Rose Bowl semifinal date on Jan. 1 against Georgia.

Mayfield referenced his extraordinary path to winning the Heisman by thanking former head coach Bob Stoops and current coach Lincoln Riley, who was the Sooners’ offensive coordinator before taking over as head coach this season when Stoops retired.

“Coach Stoops you welcomed a chubby, unathletic kid into the program with open arms. I wouldn’t say that many would do that,” said Mayfield. “(But) the thing I’m most thankful for is the hiring of Coach Riley. The day you did that changed my life. I appreciate that.

“Coach Riley you’ve been a great mentor to me. We’ve been through a lot together, so I appreciate you.”

Mayfield finished fourth in the Heisman voting two years ago and third last year.

He enters the College Football Playoffs with 12,910 career passing yards and 114 touchdown passes with just 29 interceptions in four seasons. He could leave college with the two best single-season passer ratings.

He rattled off the names of his offensive lineman during his acceptance speech, saying this “wouldn’t have happened without you. Keep up the physicality. We’ve got two more (games).”

That’s as good as guaranteeing a win over Georgia, isn’t it?

But then, Mayfield leaves with a bit of a reputation as a player who’s not afraid to stir up controversy, including planting an OU flag at Ohio State after the Sooners upset the Buckeyes or getting into verbal exchanges with Texas Tech and Kansas fans.

My ballot: I’ve been a Heisman voter for 29 years and I’ve picked the winner all but six or seven of those years. This year I correctly picked Mayfield, but had Jackson at No. 2 and San Diego State’s Rashaad Penny as No. 3. The official tally had Penny as the fifth choice behind Penn State’s  Saquon Barkley.

Other honors

The other top award in which I’m still an active voter is the Biletnikoff Award for best receiver, which is given by the Tallahassee Quarterback Club. I was the sports editor in Tallahassee for eight years and always enjoyed attending the banquet and writing a column on the winner.

This year’s winner was James Washington of Oklahoma State, who led the nation with 1,423 yards on 69 catches with 12 touchdowns.

Finishing second was Colorado State’s Michael Gallop and third was West Virginia’s Donald Sills. Gallop was fifth in receiving yards with 1,345 but third best with 94 catches. Sills was 28th in yards (980) but led country with 18 touchdown receptions.

My ballot had Washington first with Sills second and Gallop third.

More awards::

Maxwell Award (player of year): Winner – Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma; 2. Bryce Love, Stanford; 3. Saquon Barkley, Penn State.

Chuck Bednarik Award (top defensive player): Winner – Minkah Fitzpatrick, Alabama; 2. Bradley Chubb, N.C. State; 3. Roquan Smith, Georgia.

Bronko Nagurski Award (top defensive player): Winner – Bradley Chubb, N.C. State; 2. Minkah Fitzgerald, Alabama; 3. Josey Jewell, Iowa.

Butkus Award (linebacker): Winner – Roquon Smith, Georgia; 2. Devin Bush, Michigan; 3. Tremaine Edwards, Virginia Tech.

Davey O’Brien Award (quarterback): Winner – Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma; 2. J.T. Barrett, Ohio State; 3. Mason Rudolph, Oklahoma State.

Doak Walker Award (running back): Winner – Bryce Love, Stanford; 2. Saquon Barkley, Penn State; 3. Jonathan Taylor, Wisconsin.

Jim Thorpe Award (defensive back): Winner – Minkah Fitzpatrick, Alabama; 2. Deshaun Elliott, Texas; 2. Josh Jackson, Iowa.

Lou Groza Award (kicker): Winner – Matt Gay, Utah; 2. Dominik Eberle, Utah State; 3. Daniel Carlson, Auburn.

Ray Guy Award (punter): Winner – Michael Dickson, Texas; 2. JK Scott, Alabama; 3. Mitch Wishnowsky, Utah.

Outland Trophy (interior lineman): Winner – Ed Oliver, Houston; 2. Quenton Nelson, Notre Dame. 3. Orlando Brown, Oklahoma.

Rimington Trophy (center): Winner – Billy Price, Ohio State; 2. Tyler Orlosky, West Virginia; 3. Ethan Pocic, LSU.

Saving grace

S.C. State point guard Ty Solomon didn’t score, didn’t have an assist and only played four minutes in what may be the last basketball game he’ll ever play.

But at least he’s alive.

Solomon collapsed seven minutes into last Saturday’s game in Raleigh, N.C. at PNC Arena against N.C. State. His heart had stopped but he was brought back to life because S.C. State trainer Tyler Long quickly administered CPR and N.C. State trainer Austin Frank came to the rescue with an automated external defibrillator (AED).

As the crowd of 13,000 prayed for his recovery, N.C. State team physician Dr. William Jacobs took over until the EMTs arrived on the scene to transport him to the N.C. Heart and Vascular Hospital.

Solomon, a redshirt senior, was hospitalized for five days before returning home to Johns Island, S.C.

Solomon’s family released a statement earlier this week that praised the medical care he received and asking for continued prayers.

“Ty recognizes that he was in the right place at the right time to have a serious medical emergency that could have had a tragic outcome. Instead, he’s looking forward to resuming a normal life, eventually returning to school and making every second count.”

They said it

Dwight Perry of Seattle Times:  “Football coach Jimbo Fisher reportedly tossed his Christmas tree to the curb after news got out he was bolting Florida State for Texas A&M. Hey, it was either that or have Chief Osceola light it on fire and stick it in the ground at the 50-yard line.”

RJ Currie of SportsDeke.com:  “Oddsmakers put Tiger Woods’ chances at 20-1 of winning one of the next four majors. Elvis is at 19-1.”

Brockton (Mont.) High School girls basketball coach Terrence Johnson to the Great Falls Tribune on his players’ reaction after losing 102-0: “They did nothing wrong. At the end of the day, they all went home and asked, ‘What’s for dinner, mom?’ ”

Janice Hough of LeftCoastSportsBabe.com: “LaVar Ball pulling LiAngelo out of UCLA means the kid will miss out on potentially a great three months of college.”

NBC comedian Jimmy Fallon: “After going 2-10 this season, the Giants have fired coach Ben McAdoo and general manager Jerry Reese. Well, if you are wondering what happened to Ben and Jerry they are probably sitting on the couch eating some Ben & Jerry’s.”

Comedian Steve Hofstetter: “It’s a shitty day and I’m in a lot of pain. But the Giants just fired Ben McAdoo, so it’s not all bad.”

Brad Dickson of the Omaha (Neb.) World-Herald on rumblings that QB Sam Darnold might stay at USC to avoid being drafted by Cleveland: “The Browns are now bragging about ‘doing our part to keep young people in school.’”

Cashing in

Roger Goodell should take two knees and bow down to the owners, coaches and players of the National Football League.

Being the commissioner of the NFL has made Goodell a very rich man who just got richer by agreeing to a new 5-year contract extension that will pay him $40 million per year.

Most of the money will come from bonuses, which are subject to approval by vote of the 32 team owners. His previous deal, which expires in 2019, will pay him a total of $31.7 million before the contact extension kicks in through 2024.

The new Republican tax plan should stretch his dollars even further.

Going bowling

Yes, there are too many bowl games, beginning with a full slate of five matchups kicking things off next Saturday.

But seriously, if you’re like me, you’ll still be looking for stocking stuffers next weekend so you can wait a little longer before you tune into college football’s postseason since none of the early games really matter.

At least to most of us.

But since I really can’t get away with making that big of a beach blanket statement, I promise I’ll make my full slate of bowl predictions by midweek. Until then, here are the 20 games that will involve teams from the ACC, Big Ten and SEC.

Quick Lane Bowl, Dec. 26, 3:15 p.m. CT: Duke vs. Northern Illinois.

Independence Bowl, Dec. 27, 11:30 a.m. CT: Southern Mississippi vs. Florida State.

Pinstripe Bowl, Dec. 27,  3:15 p.m. CT: Iowa vs. Boston College.

Foster Farms Bowl, Dec. 27, 6:30 p.m.: Arizona vs. Purdue.

Texas Bowl, Dec. 27, 7 p.m. CT: Texas vs. Missouri.

Military Bowl, Dec. 28, 11:30 a.m. CT: Virginia vs. Navy.

Camping World Bowl, Dec. 28, 3:15 p.m.: Virginia Tech vs. Oklahoma State.

Holiday Bowl, Dec. 28, 7 p.m. CT: Washington State vs. Michigan State.

Belk Bowl, Dec. 29, 11 a.m. CT: Wake Forest vs. Texas A&M.

Sun Bowl, Dec. 29, 1 p.m.: N.C. State vs. Arizona State.

Music City Bowl, Dec. 29, 2:30 p.m.: Kentucky vs. Northwestern.

Cotton Bowl, Dec. 29, 6:30 p.m.: Southern California vs. Ohio State.

Taxslayer Bowl, Dec. 30, 10 a.m. CT: Louisville vs. Mississippi State.

Fiesta Bowl, Dec. 30, 2 p.m. CT: Washington vs. Penn State.

Orange Bowl, Dec. 30, 6 p.m. CT: Wisconsin vs. Miami.

Outback Bowl, Jan. 1, 10 a.m. CT: Michigan vs. South Carolina.

Peach Bowl, Jan. 1, 10:30 a.m. CT: Central Florida vs. Auburn.

Citrus Bowl, Jan. 1, 11 a.m. CT: Notre Dame vs. LSU.

College Football Playoff Semifinals

Rose Bowl, Jan. 1, 3 p.m. CT: Georgia vs. Oklahoma.

Sugar Bowl, Jan. 1, 6:45 p.m. CT: Alabama vs. Clemson

Note: CFP Championship Game is scheduled for Monday, Jan. 8, 7 p.m. CT, Mercedes Benz Stadium, Atlanta. It will be televised by ESPN.

Headlines

TheOnion.com: “Lakers add Buffalo Chicken Wing stains to Shaquille O’Neal’s retired jersey.”

TheKicker.com:  “LiAngelo scores 47 in his first game at LaVar Ball University.:

Fark.com: “Lavar takes his Ball and goes home.”

SportsPickle.com: “Browns confirm they will skip NFL Draft to avoid drafting any future Browns.”

TheOnion.com: “New NFL safety rule requires players to be careful.”

Fark.com: “Unlike the Lions, Pontiac Silverdome fails to implode.”

SportsPickle.com: “Roy Moore reminds voters that many of Alabama’s top recruits have also tried to have sex with teenage girls.”

TheOnion.com: “New ‘This is SportsCenter’ commercial features Otto the Syracuse Orange laying off staffers.”

Fark.com: “Nike fires 7-year-old foreman of its NBA jersey factory.”

 Winning Tweet

Twitter really can be useful. Just ask John Goehrke, who turned the social media site into a dating app during the Super Bowl.

With the Atlanta Falcons up 25 points over the New England Patriots, Canadian tennis player Genie Bouchard made the mistake of proclaiming in a tweet that the Super Bowl was over.

We know what happened from there, and no one was more thankful about that than Goehrke, a Missouri college student. That’s because he had answered Bouchard’s tweet by asking if she’d go out with him if Tom Brady rallied New England to victory.

She agreed to his bet, and now it appears they have become friends who have hung out more than once, including going to a Brooklyn Nets game.

Team Tweeting

The best and worst of college Twitter accounts, according to Athlon’s Sports:

Ten Best College Twitter Accounts: 1. South Carolina; 2. Clemson; 3. Miami; 4. Oregon; 5. Georgia; 6. Oklahoma; 7. Ohio State; 8. Auburn; 9. Virginia Tech; 10. Utah.

Five Worst College Twitter Accounts: 1. Michigan; 2. Oregon State; 3. Notre Dame; 4. Alabama; 5. Penn State.

My takes

Rehastagging this week’s top tweets from @Randy_Beard11

At least Jozy Altidore can say he scored one meaningful goal in 2017 with game-winner for Toronto in MLS Cup.

Where’s the Air Force when you need the aerial support? Army beats Navy 14-13 in the snow, but the big story is the two teams combined for 22 yards passing.

@IUMenssocer will play for its 9th NCAA men’s soccer title Sunday. Hoosiers beat North Carolina 1-0 and 2-time defending champion Stanford beat Akron 2-0. It was Hoosiers 18th shutout of season.

@_king_lil (Lilly King) deserves credit for getting this started with her antidoping stance in Rio in 2016

Sorry Urban, but two losses matter, but Buckeyes were No. 5 and Wisconsin No. 6.

Two teams from SEC make playoff, which underscores the need to expand the playoff beyond four teams.

On the move

Since we’re catching up with the usual postseason business, let’s acknowledge the coaching moves that have already taken place in my three favorite conferences.

ACC

Florida State: Willie Taggart (from Oregon)

Big Ten

Nebraska: Scott Frost (from UCF)

SEC

Arkansas: Chad Morris (from SMU)

Florida: Dan Mullen (from Mississippi State)

Mississippi: Matt Luke (promoted from interim coach)

Tennessee: Jeremy Pruitt (from Alabama, defensive coordinator)

Texas A&M: Jimbo Fisher (from Florida State)