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 hoping for a quick return to normalcy for friends, and my youngest son, who are still without power and dealing with storm damage from Hurricane Michael in the Panhandle of Florida:

Tough off-season

Tom Izzo swears he doesn’t know disgraced physician Larry Nassar, but that didn’t prevent ESPN from having an illustration that depicted him, Michigan State football coach Mark Dantonio and Nassar for a story last February that alleged the school may be covering up sexual assaults and other misconduct.

The illustration even ran with the headline, “Spartan secrets extend far beyond Larry Nassar case.”

Nassar has been sentenced to 175 years in prison for sexually assaulting USA women gymnasts and Michigan State athletes. Meanwhile, Izzo and Dantonio have done nothing criminal.

“… This thing about hidden secrets, that picture, will go down as the worst thing that ever happened to Tom Izzo and Mark Dantonio,” Izzo said at Big Ten Basketball Media Days. “That picture, which was completely uncalled for, had nothing to do with anything. Didn’t know the guy, didn’t deal with the guy. What more can I say?”

When it comes to disciplining his players, Izzo admits he’s made some mistakes but did so while following university policies and waiting to see if criminal charges would be filed.

“I’ve kicked kids out for drugs. I’ve kicked kids off for academics. (You think) I’m not going to kick somebody off for sexual assault? That’s insulting,” said Izzo.

 Looking for sweep

Curling Night In America? Yes, that’s now a thing, thanks to NBCSN.

Guess the Major League playoffs, college football and NFL aren’t enough to command our attention this fall. Thus, NBCSN is offering curling as an exciting viewing option with a full slate of competition every Friday night through Dec. 14.

Yes, curling. Somebody’s got the stones to bring it to the forefront.

It’s another one of those gateway sports, like soccer and lacrosse that are meant to corrupt the youth of America and siphon off support for football. You’ve seen the commercial, right? And get this, they do it with brooms.

In case you missed it, it began with the United States men taking on Italy at 8 p.m. Next Friday, it will be mixed doubles between the United States and China, airing at 11 p.m. There’s also women’s competition between the USA, China and Japan.

I’m guessing there’s a points system involved to determine who will be crowned the “world champion.” And if that doesn’t grab enough viewers, the network could always host a Cornhole Night In America.

Keeping up with social media trends, the USA Team’s Chris Plys will be answering questions on Twitter @usacurl.

They said it

Jim Barach of JokesByJim.blogspot.com: “The San Diego Padres have fired their hitting coach Matt Stairs. People were surprised. With the team finishing the year 66-96, they had no idea the team even had a hitting coach.”

RJ Currie of SportsDeke.com: “Several reports said Dustin Johnson and Brooks Koepka came to blows after a post-Ryder Cup party. Maybe that’s why they’re called the Bash Brothers?”

Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times: “French competitive beard-grower Gal Vallerius, 36, was sentenced in Miami to 20 years in prison after pleading guilty to drug and money-laundering charges. WADA figured something was amiss when he tested positive for Scotts Turf Builder.”

Jim Barach of JokesByJim.blogspot.com, again: “Former baseball star Lenny Dykstra has been indicted for drugs and making threats. The man who used to be called “Nails” is now more known for having some loose screws.”

Bob Molinaro in the Norfolk Virginian-Pilot on manager Buck Showalter being fired for the Orioles’ worst season ever: “Idle thought: Was Showalter fired? Or was he granted clemency?”

Omaha comedy writer/blogger Brad Dickson on Twitter: “The Mega Millions and Powerball jackpots have reached a combined $750 million. That’s enough to pay the entire Louisville men’s basketball team for a season.”

Dwight Perry of The Seattle Times, again: “Detroit Tigers TV broadcasters Rod Allen and Mario Impemba — taken off the air after getting into a physical altercation Sept. 4 — will not be back next season. In other words, fans’ hopes for a rematch are now up to WWE.”

Comedian Eric  Stangel on Twitter, again: “Unbelievable to think there was a time the #Chargers had Philip Rivers, Doug Flutie, Drew Brees AND Cleo Lemon on the same roster.”

Janice Hough of LeftCoastSportsBabe.com, again: “Apparently more bets have been placed in Las Vegas on the Los Angeles Lakers to win NBA championship than any other team. If anyone wondered how they got the money to build all those big hotels.”

RJ Currie of SportsDeke.com, again: “Mavs owner Mark Cuban has promised the Dallas dancers will wear more family-friendly outfits. Meaning what? Doubling the length of their skirts to two inches?”

Jim Barach of JokesByJim.blogspot.com, again: “LeBron James’ old locker in Cleveland was remodeled to be a towel closet. Which will be handy for those left on the team who can use them to cry on when they miss the playoffs next year.”

Dwight Perry of The Seattle Times, again: “Little Caesars Arena — the year-old home to Detroit’s NBA Pistons and NHL Red Wings — is switching out its 18,600 red-bowl seats for black ones because the sight of empty red seats in TV crowd shots made declining attendance obvious. In other words, they’re losing their seats so … they’re losing their seats.”

Janice Hough of LeftCoastSportsBabe, again: “Since all Division series wrapped up in four games or less, there are now two days with zero Major League Baseball games. So we all get a brief taste of what this year was like for Orioles fans.”

RJ Currie of SportsDeke.com, again: “I may have pinpointed the problem with Blue Bomber assistant coach Richie Hall’s much-criticized defensive schemes. They all seem to be based on a dare.”

Omaha comedy writer/blogger Brad Dickson on Twitter, again: “Husker fans, it doesn’t stop. Herbie Husker just announced plans to transfer after learning he’s now second team mascot behind Lil Red.”

Comedy writer Alex Kaseberg, after a runaway horse galloped into a bar. “Nobody was hurt, but a priest, a rabbi and a minister all spilled their drinks.”

Train-wrecked marathon

From Dwight Perry’s Sideline Chatter column in The Seattle Times:

Pre-race roadwork? Check.

Cross-training? Check.

Train-crossing? D’oh!

An estimated 25 percent of the field for last Sunday’s Portlandathon in Portland got delayed for up to 22 minutes when a Union Pacific freight train blocked the course on Naito Parkway at the Steel Bridge, which certainly put a kink in runners’ plans to post a qualifying time for, say, the Boston Marathon.

The men’s winner, Tomonori Sakamoto, was safely across the tracks before the train arrived He won by 27 minutes.”

CFB Storylines

Rick Bozich of Louisville’s WDR-TV, with about the only suspense surrounding top-ranked Alabama: “Will Tua Tagovailoa attempt a pass in the fourth quarter this season? Hasn’t happened yet.”

Omaha comedy writer/blogger Brad Dickson: “Northwestern is favored by 8 points on Saturday. Oh, great, Now the Huskers are underdogs to schools where the players actually attend class.”

Janice Hough of LeftCoastSportsBabe, again: “QB Kelly Bryant who decided to leave Clemson when he lost the starting job to now injured freshman Trevor Lawrence, will visit UNC this weekend. Where no doubt he will try to impress the coaching staff of the 1-3 Tarheels with his leadership ability even through adversity.”

Omaha comedy writer/blogger Brad Dickson on Twitter, again: “Nebraska gets a new governor, people are “Meh.” Nebraska gets a new punter, people are “Whoa! Where’s he from?! Where’d he go to school?! What’s his favorite color? DOES HE HAVE ANY PETS?!!”

 NFL drama

Dwight Perry of The Seattle Times, again: “Who says you need a “D” to spell Raiders?

Oakland’s defense is yielding 7.0 yards a play, the worst through five games since the 1970 NFL-AFL merger.”

Comedian Eric  Stangel on Twitter: “Can’t wait til the Giants draft another running back with their 1st round pick next year.”

Janice Hough of LeftCoastSportsBabe.com: “Worst thing for New York sports fans these days is that with Yankees out of the playoffs, they have to pay attention to the Giants and Jets.”

Dwight Perry of The Seattle Times, again: “NFL player arrests have been trending down since hitting a high of 71 in 2004. Don’t worry: The league is compensating for that with increased roughing-the-passer flags.”

Comedian Eric  Stangel on Twitter, again: “Cowboys-Texans heading to OT. This better not delay tonight’s George Michael Sports Machine.”

Foot in mouth

Paul Finebaum has had to apologize for plenty of stupid stuff he’s said, and probably written, through the years. But now that he’s jumped the shark and become an ESPN personality, he frequently exposes his SEC bias to a national audience that just wants to be informed with keen insights.

It can be rather embarrassing.

Finebaum had to apologize two years ago for saying he didn’t believe black people were still being oppressed as he criticized Colin Kaepernick for taking a knee during the national anthem. Somehow that was spun into a flag protest and anti-American rant.

Racism helped ignite that debate. Finebaum is an Alabama native, after all.

And in 2013, he called South Carolina’s Jadaveon Clowney “the biggest joke  in college football,” proving he has hard time recognizing talent unless it’s being coached by Nick Saban.

Those are just two of many instances when Finebaum has let his tongue bypass his brain and expressed opinions without the benefit of proper preparation and a backing of facts.

Then in mid-September, he further proved he doesn’t always know what he’s talking about. Analyzing” the Boise State at Oklahoma State football game on Sept. 15, he picked “Oklahoma” to win.

Then confirming he hadn’t simply misspoke, he talked about how much better the Sooners’ players were, naming names.  The problem was that Oklahoma’s Week 3 opponent was Iowa State. But at least Finebaum picked an Oklahoma team to beat Boise State.

So I guess from Finebaum’s perspective, even when he’s wrong, he’s partly right.

Headlines

TheOnion.com: “Panicked Falcons discover scratch in Mercedes Benz Stadium.”

Fark.com: “Chelsea to send racists fans to Auschwitz concentration camp for reeducation.”

SportsPickle.com: “Odell Beckham seems like a very stable genius.”

TheOnion.com: “Should LeBron James leave ‘Space Jam 2’ for a movie with a better chance of winning an Oscar?”

Fark.com: “Seeing rocks glued to the wall in a gym inspired the man who invented indoor rock climbing.”

Sportspickle.com: “Hmm. Maybe (Roy Williams) doesn’t know what ‘dumbfounded’ means because he was educated at North Carolina.”

TheOnion.com: “Is this year’s Giants team an Al-Qaeda plot designed to hurt New Yorkers again?”

Fark.com: “Milwaukee Brewers fan has burger from 1987 in his freezer.”

SportsPickle.com: “Brian Cashman and the Yankees have spent $3.6 billion in payroll over the last 18 years to win one championship. So that’s cool.”

Awfulannouncing.com: “Joel Klatt wore a Baker Mayfield jersey to an interview with Colin Cowherd.”

TheOnion.com: “NFL urges pass rushers to try reaching peaceful resolution with quarterbacks before resorting to tackling.”

Fark.com: “Detroit Tigers broadcasters who got into fight will not be allowed to kiss and make up.”

SportsPickle.com: “Big deal. Brees will never break Alex Smith’s record for check-downs.”

TheOnion.com: “Study: 83% of marathon spectators only attend for sick thrill of watching fellow man suffer.”

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

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

Awfulannouncing.com: “A plea to MLB’s postseason broadcasters: at least pretend to like baseball.”

My takes

Rehastagging this week’s top Tweets from @Randy_Beard11:

  • Red Sox win to advance to rematch with Houston for AL title. Go Astros.
  • If Jake Bentley is indeed the starting QB on Saturday for South Carolina against Texas A&M, here’s hoping he’s in the game until he throws his first interception. So three possessions? Two?
  • @dickieV wouldn’t be talking about the FBI investigation if he knew it would snare Duke’s Coach K or UNC’s Crying Roy. But what about Coach Cal at UK or Sneaky Sean at Arizona?
  • Brett Kavanaugh confirmed 50-48 to the Supreme Court. Never has a 3-pointer been needed more on any court.
  • Miami scores 3 TDs in 8:02 to rally from 20 down to near Florida State, 28-27, and ended game inside 10 before running out clock. I really miss covering that rivalry game.
  • Conventional wisdom suggests you don’t lose your job because of injury but Jake Bentley should be the backup quarterback until Michael Scarnecchia plays himself out of the job.
  • Someone please lend the Braves some bats. Pretty please?

From Sidelines to punchlines

A different view of sports

Clearing my mind and notebook while hoping the Braves can give me reason to jump on the baseball bandwagon this postseason:

Knockout punch?

HBO’s decision to eliminate live boxing coverage from its sports programming was another body blow to the sport.

Based on its stockpile of Emmy’s for original programming, the network no longer needs sports programming to increase its viewership numbers. But that doesn’t mean it’s abandoning sports, altogether.

HBO just plans to concentrate on doing more feature coverage of athletes, like its recent series on Serena Williams returning to tennis after having a baby, its documentary on Muhammad Ali, LeBron James’ “The Shop” and the NFL reality series “Hard Knocks.”

The final boxing card for HBO will be on Oct. 27, featuring former middleweight champion Daniel Jacobs and Russia’s Sergiy Derevyanchenko at Madison Square Garden.

HBO first tested the boxing waters with its coverage of the 1973 heavyweight championship fight between George Foreman and Joe Frazier.

Peter Nelson, a vice president for HBO sports, didn’t rule out the network bidding on a future fight if it generates significant interest among average sports fans, but he said lower than expected ratings for boxing figured into the decision.

“We have a tremendous heritage to point to in regard to the road map we provided on how to humanize these fighters and their communities … that aspect of storytelling is one we look to continue,” said Nelson.

Former HBO boxing commentator Larry Merchant had this take on the decision, comparing HBO to a fighter who hung on too long: “Once upon a time we were a promising kid. Then a challenger. Then a champion. A great champion. A long-time champion. And then a has-been who finally retired. So long, champ.”

What’s shaking?

Last week’s college football drama in the Palmetto State centered on the quarterback position at Clemson.

That focus is now in play at South Carolina.

Gamecock starter Jake Bentley sprained a knee late in last week’s game at Kentucky. But it was also his poorest effort in three seasons. He finished with three interceptions and only had nine yards passing in the first half against the Wildcats, who opened up a 24-3 lead at the break.

If Bentley can’t play this week against Missouri, South Carolina coach Will Muschamp is prepared to start fifth-year senior Michael Scarnecchia. Muschamp is going to take his time making that decision with the noon start on Saturday his only deadline.

But frankly, what do the Gamecocks have to lose by making a change. Even if it is only temporary, it might be enough to shake things up. Maybe even light a competitive fire in Bentley.

Meanwhile, at Clemson, Dabo Swinney is still facing season-long concerns after  senior Kelly Bryant decided to transfer prior to last week’s game against Syracuse.

Bryant made his decision after Swinney announced that freshman Trevor Lawrence would get the start against Syracuse. Based on Lawence’s ability to get the Tigers into the end zone with his passing accuracy, it was the right decision.

But it was enough to upset Bryant, and he quickly took advantage of the NCAA’s new transfer rule to preserve his senior season. He’ll be able to transfer with no penalty while using this season to sit out, even if he has played in four games.

But that decision could have proven costly to the Tigers, who had to rally in the final minutes to avoid losing to Syracuse for the second consecutive season.

When Lawrence suffered a concussion, there were Clemson fans hoping Bryant was at the stadium and would come running out of the locker room any minute to save the day. Didn’t happen.

What did happen was the emergence of redshirt freshman Chase Brice as a legitimate backup to Lawrence. Maybe even a fill-in starter in combo with tailback  Travis Etienne, who rushed for 203 yards and three touchdowns on 27 carries in the 27-23 win.

Brice, meanwhile, completed 7 of 13 passes for 83 yards and scrambled for 17 yards on the winning 94-yard drive.

Brice said one of the first people to congratulate him after he left the stadium was Bryant, who wasn’t second-guessing his decision to transfer.

“Yeah, he sent me a text congratulating me and all that,” said Brice. “I saw him after the game and he was happy for me and he gave me a hug … I’m happy for him that he’s gonna be happy. Hope he finds the right spot.”

They said it

Omaha comedy writer/blogger Brad Dickson: “Last night I was watching the local news and it was one depressing story after another. And that was just the sportscast.”

Janice Hough of LeftCoastSportsBabe.com: “Richard Sherman says that new NFL rules make quarterbacks ‘unstoppable.’ Jets fans are thinking, can somebody tell Sam Darnold?”

RJ Currie of SportsDeke.com: “Hear about the minor-league pitcher who split his pants in a couple of places while throwing a 100-mph strike? I’m guessing it was a two-seam fastball.”

Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times: “Fans of the NBA’s Sacramento Kings, MLB’s  San Diego Padres and NFL’s Cleveland Cavaliers came in 1-2-3 in ESPN’s Fan Misery Index Ratings, based on championships, playoff appearance/wins, heartbreaks and rival teams’ success. Mariners fans – merely 17th – have never been so happy to finish out of contention.”

Jim Barach of JokesByJim.blogspot.com:  “A report says soccer organization FIFA spent $11.7 Million on private jets and sightseeing trips for top officials. What were they doing, auditioning for a position in Donald Trump’s Cabinet?”

Omaha comedy writer/blogger Brad Dickson on Twitter, again:  “Bill Murray was at the Nebraska football game. Based on the 8 straight losses I believe he was doing research for “Groundhog Day II.” (III?).”

Janice Hough of LeftCoastSportsBabe.com, again: “Nick Saban is upset that Alabama student section was only half full for last weekend’s game, a 56-14 win over over Louisiana-Lafayette. Uh, here’s a suggestion, schedule a real opponent that would give the game more drama than Lions vs. Christians.”

RJ Currie of SportsDeke.com, again: “This just in: the Mayweather-Pacquiao rematch set for December may be in jeopardy. One of them has tested positive for Poligrip.”

Omaha comedy writer/blogger Brad Dickson on Twitter, again: “It’s 9:30 a.m. Sunday morning and the referees just called another penalty on Nebraska.”

Janice Hough of LeftCoastSportsBabe, again: “Meanwhile, University of Georgia dismissed star 1st baseman Adam Sasser from the baseball team for allegedly shooting racist slurs at Georgia QB Justin Fields during last week’s game. Kudos to the Bulldogs for doing the right thing. Of course, it probably doesn’t hurt that for Georgia fans, football rules!”

RJ Currie of SportsDeke.com, again: “Richard Mietz of Germany broke a Guinness world record for fastest marathon by a guy dressed as a landmark. It was a monumental achievement.”

Omaha comedy writer/blogger Brad Dickson on Twitter, again: “If you’re big on stats Kade Warner is the all-time Husker leader in receptions among sons of guys who used to work at grocery stores in Cedar Falls.”

Greg Cote of The Miami Herald on the Browns winning for the first time in 635 days: “And now, a few words from Cleveland Mayor Baker Mayfield.”

Omaha comedy writer/blogger Brad Dickson, again,  on the 106,000 packing Michigan Stadium for the Nebraska game: “It looks like the last time I went to the DMV on a Saturday.”

Jim Barach of JokesByJim.blogspot.com, again: “Cavaliers guard J.R. Smith will reimburse a fan after throwing their cellphone. Not only that, he threw it so far he has to cover the roaming charges.”

Omaha comedy writer/blogger Brad Dickson on Twitter, again: “Purdue could’ve been called for having 14 men on the field including the officials.”

Jim Barach of JokesByJim.blogspot.com, again:  “A report says golf fans like the one at the Ryder Cup who was injured by a Brooks Koepka tee shot probably have no legal recourse. Although hopefully she can pay for a few medical bills by selling the autographed golf glove Koepka gave her on eBay.”

Nice catch, Mom

As reported by Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times:

Julie List, 78, found quite the $1.49 bargain at a thrift store in Jupiter, Fla. When she discovered her son Christopher’s Little League glove with his name still written on it. He’d lost it 40 years earlier in Willoughby, Ohio – 1,000 miles away – amid the postgame celebration after hitting two home runs in the season-ending game. “He was thrilled, he was jumping up and down,” she told the New York Times. “He just said, ‘Mom, bring it home.’ He plans to pass it on to a grandson someday.”

Rough outing

After whiffing during last week’s Ryder Cup, Phil Mickelson has decided that he no longer has any interest in playing on golf courses that have “brutal rough.”

The American golfer failed to win a match for the United States, which was defeated 17.5 to 10.5 by the European team.

Mickelson also had to bear the additional embarrasment of being selected for only two matches at Le Golf National in Paris. He lost his only singles match to British Open champion Francesco Molinari and also was defeated in a foursome match in which he was paired with Bryson DeChambeau.

Mickelson, 48, said his game isn’t suited for courses with narrow fairways and deep rough.

“I’m not going to play tournament golf with rough like that anymore. It’s a waste of my time,” Mickelson said. “I’m going to play courses that are playable, and I can play aggressive, attacking, make lots of birdies.”

 Juvenile behavior

TheOnion.com: “Let’s avoid the Brett Favre comparisons until Patrick Mahomes can consistently send dick pics to reporters.”

Fark.com: “Iowa bar offers to unlock fridge full of beer for Nebraska fans when the Huskers get their first win of the season.”

TheOnion.com: “NFL player rewarded for butt wiping celebration with an endorsement contract. Other players excited by the news that Tri-State Colonoscopy is still searching for a spokesman.

SportsPickle.com: “If you are a fan of dorky celebrations, there is no better entertainment than Ryder Cup golf.”

Safety first

South Carolina football fans could find themselves being scanned by metal detectors at Williams-Brice Stadium for Saturday’s football game against Missouri.

Although the metal detectors won’t be at every gate this weekend, Gamecock fans better get used to it. The school prides itself on being a leader in security procedures.

When the SEC mandated two years ago that it would have a clear bag policy in place for this season, South Carolina athletic director Ray Tanner made that a policy at USC facilities last season.

So  now the SEC’s Working Group on Event Security has mandated that metal detectors will be used at the conference’s football stadiums by the 2020 season. USC, which is making a test run this weekend, plans to have the devices at all gates by next season.

Tanner said that the school will welcome any additional security measures that make the game day experience safer for fans.

The school has already been recognized for its security procedures at Williams-Brice. The stadium is only one of three college facilities to receive the Facility of Merit for Safety and Security Award from the National Center for Spectator Sports Safety and Security.

Seriously, that’s a real thing.

Headlines

TheOnion.com: “Polite high school football team runs around banner that took hours to make.”

Sportspickle.com: “Kliff Kingsbury should probably be fired for never winning more than 7 games with Patrick Mahomes.”

Awfulannouncing.com: “A whole lot of media thought Grant Wahl’s Twitter joke about U.S. Soccer waiting for Jose Mourinho was a serious report.”

TheOnion.com: “Should the Houston Texans change their crude, offensive nickname?”

Sportspickle.com: “Credit to the Falcons for playing every game like it’s the Super Bowl.”

TheOnion.com: “High school kicker finds it helpful to imagine football as object that needs to be kicked through goal posts in order to gain points.”

SportsPickle.com: “It costs too much to play sports nowadays. The Detroit Lions’ parents couldn’t even afford to buy them real uniforms.”

Awfulannouncing.com: “Paul Finebaum’s pick to win Oklahoma State-Boise State: the Oklahoma Sooners.”

My takes

Rehastagging this week’s top Tweets from @Randy_Beard11:

  • Europe won Ryder Cup 17.5 to 10.5, giving them 9 of last 12 showdowns. You’d think we’d be better than this since golf is so important to our president.
  • Guess Tiger Woods’ comeback is on hold after 0-4 performance in Ryder Cup. But he wasn’t alone in playing disappointing golf for USA. Only Justin Thomas, Jordan Spieth, Tony Finau and Webb Simpson had winning records, going combined 11-5.
  • Gamecocks threaten to pull within one score but end 20-play drive with goal-line interception that costs them a scoreboard opportunity. That’s not easy to do, but then, that’s not something you want to do.
  • South Carolina’s Jake Bentley, often touted as one of best QBs in SEC, completed 3 of 11 passes in first half vs. Kentucky for 9 yards. I could be wrong but I don’t even think that’s considered elite in Pop Warner.
  • Uhh oh, Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence is shaken up. Is it too late for incumbent QB Kelly Bryant to change his mind about transferring?
  • Clemson needs most of first quarter to take 7-6 lead over Syracuse. If this was Big Ten, not ACC, this would be a trophy game. The Orange JULIUS Bowl? Hey, Dairy Queen now owns the frothy drink and a DQ is always right down the road.

From Sidelines to punchlines

A Different View of Sports

Clearing my mind and notebook while admitting I’m already bored with the college football season because I’m growing tired of the pecking order:

Girl power

I’ll confess to having tapped the brakes on a bicyle whenever descending a hill with a slope greater than 30 degrees – even if the downward stretch covered no more than 30 feet.

And I’m not talking about childhood memories; these are all-time memories. Heck, I may have even feigned an injury (chafing?) or two so I could walk the bike to safety with a fake limp.

So no, I definitely have never had the courage Denise Mueller-Korenek had last week to put all Tour de France daydreamers to shame while breaking the land speed record for a motor-paced bike at 183.93 mph.

Clearly, her mode of transportation wasn’t just any contraption with handlebars and a pair of spoked wheels, either.  Her low-slung, KHS chopper-style bicycle has 17-inch motorbike wheels to provide greater stability and a two-wheel drivetrain to propel the massive gear apparatus.

Plus, she was tethered behind a race car driven by team partner Shea Holbrook until she reached a launching speed of 100 mph.

If traditional cyclists can’t use performance-enhancing drugs to climb the mountain stages in the Tour de France, they can’t get away with using jet power to boost their peddling power. But just knowing what’s involved in chasing the motor-powered bicycle speed record tells you how much courage it requires. Indeed, several cyclists have died since Charles “Mile-a-Minute” Murphy set a 60 mph pace drafting off a steam train.

The previous speed record of 167 mph was established by a Dutch rider Fred Rompelberg in 1995. He twice crashed at Bonneville Salt Flats at speeds of over 100 mph, breaking 24 bones in 1988.

We should also note that Mueller-Korenek has a 23-year gap in her competitive resume, having taken time off to have three kids. That’s one hurdle most competitive bike racers can’t list in their bio.

After falling short of setting the all-time record two years ago, Mueller-Korenek and Holbrook pulled into Bonneville last weekend with the same 1,000-horsepower dragster that Rompelberg had used to set his record.

John Howard, who has worked with Mueler-Korenek for three decades, is listed in the record books himself with a 1985 clocking of 152 mph. He also had previously guided them to the women’s record of 147.7 mph.

Now they have the all-gender record.

Mixed reviews

SportsPickle.com: “Sam Darnold struggling against the Browns makes the Pac-12 look even worse.”

Omaha comedy writer/blogger Brad Dickson:  “The Cleveland Browns won a game. Statistically, this occurs less frequently than total solar eclipses.”

Comedian Eric Stangel:  “Kind of hoping for the season the Browns go 6-5-5.”

Janice Hough of LeftCoastSportsBabe.com: “New Orleans Saints tried to gift wrap a win for the Browns. The Browns returned the gift.”

Fark.com: “Browns win. Browns win. Browns win.”

Jim Barach of JokesByJim.com: “The Cleveland Browns suspended a sideline reporter for eight games for yelling at an official. After which the players were asking why he was the lucky one.”

Too much protection?

Even if he has had his share of injuries, Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers questions some of the penalties being whistled for roughing the passer.

Two of those questionable flags in his opinion were thrown in Sunday’s tie between the Packers and the Minnesota Vikings. The last one wiped out an interception that allowed the Vikings to continue a drive that led to the tying field goal.

Rodgers didn’t agree with the foul called on Clay Matthews for his hit on the Vikes’ Kirk Cousins. But he also was surprised a flag was tossed on the Vikings’ Eric Kendricks for a sack of Rodgers earlier in the game.

The irony is that the NFL tweaked the roughing the passer rule largely because Rodgers suffered a broken collarbone in a game against Minnesota last season. As a result, defensive players can be flagged for what otherwise might be considered a clean hit if an official decides it was packed with a little intentional “oomph.”

Rodgers doesn’t like referees making such judgement calls.

“Some of the rules are maybe going the wrong direction. They’re trying to think about the progress of the game and the safety and stuff,” said Rodgers. “But it’s still a collision sport, and those to me are not penalties.”

They said it

NBC comedian Jimmy Fallon on the Chiefs and Rams playing in Mexico City on Nov. 19: “It’s all part of the league’s plan to combine as many things that Trump hates as possible. It’s really clever. Rosie O’Donnell is doing the halftime show. Jeff Sessions is a referee.”

ABC comedian Jimmy Kimmel on America’s love of fantasy sports: “Most of the guys I know studied harder for their fantasy-football draft this year than all of high school and college combined.”

Omaha comedy writer/blogger Brad Dickson: “On paper, Bethune Cookman looks to be better than a couple of Big Ten teams.”

Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times: “Georgia State football coach Shawn Elliott celebrated his team’s touchdown in a 41-7 loss to N.C. State with a fist bump — and tore his right biceps doing it. Luckily his team scored just that once, or Elliott might have wound up in traction.

Comedy writer Alex Kaseberg, on why Packers QB Aaron Rodgers is having trouble rehabbing his injured knee after leading the Packers to victory from a 20-0 deficit: “He wants to get into the exercise pool, but he keeps walking on top of the water instead.”

Janice Hough of LeftCoastSportsBabe.com: “Ten games left in the season and in American League now all playoff spots are set, making those games essentially meaningless. So for a little over a week everyone gets to see what it’s like to be an Orioles fan.”

RJ Currie of SportsDeke.com: “Among the demands in the Buffalo Jills ongoing lawsuit against the Bills and the NFL is paying cheerleaders at least minimum wage. Only seems fair since they have to wear minimum clothing.”

Comedian Eric Stangel on Twitter: “Way to fix the Giants offense. The Super Shotgun. Eli lines up from a punting position. Problem solved.”

Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times, again: “Archaeologists have discovered a 73,000-year-old drawing on a cave wall in South Africa. Initial reports say the depiction is a dead ringer for Woody Hayes’ off-tackle play.”

Omaha comedy writer/blogger Brad Dickson, again:  “I’ve just figured out I’ve collectively spent 14 months of my life waiting for the results of some dumb booth review from a football game.”
Jim Barach of JokesByJim.com: “University of Colorado’s mascot Chip the Buffalo was carried off the field after a T-shirt gun malfunctioned and shot him in the abdomen. Which immediately sparked demonstrations by students for T-shirt gun control.”

Coaching legend Lefty Driesell, 86, during his Basketball Hall of Fame induction speech: “The older you get, all you do is try to remember names and go to the bathroom.”

Janice Hough of LeftCoastSportsBabe.com, again: “The LA Dodgers have 7 players with 20 home runs. Unless Evan Longoria goes on a tear and hits 4 in the last 10 games, the SF Giants won’t even have one.  I’m not a “chicks dig the long ball” kind of gal, but this is ridiculous.”

Brad Rock of Salt Lake City’s Deseret News after a calm.com poll suggested the dullest sports to watch are golf, cricket, soccer and baseball: “Synchronized swimming officials are demanding a recount.”

Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times, again: “Washington pitcher Stephen Strasburg, with just one magic bullet of a pitch, hit Phillies batter J.P. Crawford’s arm, catcher Matt Wieters’ mask and plate umpire Hunter Wendelstedt’s mask. Strasburg’s next act, we assume, takes place in a saloon, with a six-shooter, a mirror and a frying pan.”

The greed principle

Eric Dickerson may have played in college at SMU, but the former All-Pro running back apparently wants to adopt the SEC’s marketing line.

He’s convinced his name “just means more.” Because of that name recognition, he believes the NFL should fatten his retirement account and that of other Hall of Famers.

He’s leading an NFLPA effort to get a $300,000 a year stipend for life. The push includes increased health care benefits. But in pushing to get the increase for players who didn’t have the opportunity to earn today’s dollars, the NFLPA is suggesting that that stars of the past could boycott future hall of fame festivities.

Its comforting to know that some former greats don’t agree with the  tactics, saying the $300,000 figure seems arbitrary and excessive.

It also should be pointed out that Dickerson appears to be trying to get a do-over for the fact he crossed the picket line during the 1987 strike, which undermined the NFLPA’s push at that time for better health care and retirement benefits.

Headlines

Fark.com: “ESPN’s Monday Night Football producer admits he has no idea what he’s doing.”

TheOnion.com: “Can a serial marijuana user like Josh Gordon fit in with the Patriots’ cocaine-based culture?”

Sportspickle.com:  “Celtics fans are going to be shocked when they find out what Danny Ainge used to do for a living.”

Fark.com: “NCAA moves quickly to ensure entertaining football play never happens again.”

TheOnion.com: Will Monday Night Football cut Jason Witten after the analyst went 0 for 65 while talking?”

Sportspickle.com: “The Steelers have figured out how to get around the new tackling rules by not tackling anyone at all. Smart.”

TheOnion.com: “Jimmy Butler gives Wolves list of 29 preferred trade destinations.”

SportsPickle.com: Seattle clears major hurdle for an NHL team mascot expected to be made-up bird.”

TheOnion.com: “Is football bad for the NFL?”
Fark.SportsPickle.com: “No one ever expects the Hail Mary kick return.”

Fark.com: “T-shirt related injuries are pretty darn rare but when they happen they’re spectacular.”

SportsPickle.com: “Troy Aikman broadcasting tonight’s game means there’s a future in media for Ryan Fitzpatrick.”

Culture clash

No matter where you turn these days, there seems to be a porn star ready to weigh in on the most popular topics.

Politics and sports.

We’ll leave Stormy Daniels to speak for herself on all matters Donald Trump. But now former adult-film star Mia Khalifa has jumped into the Florida State’s football coaching debate by starting her own GoFundMe page to buyout Willie Taggart’s contract.

Trying to get Taggart dismissed just three games into his coaching career in Tallahassee strikes me as little more than a case of premature … uhh ….ejection.

Yes, three weeks into the season the Seminoles have looked poorly prepared on offense and are 0-2 in the ACC while scoring a combined 10 points in losses at home to Virginia Tech and at Syracuse.

Khalifia, who is an FSU fan, has a goal of raising $21 million. So far she’s raised $121. Yes, were talking hundreds, not millions for her overblown publicity stunt.

But to be fair, Khalifia has long inserted herself into sports debates, including having co-hosting duties on sports radio. Sounds like a sensible career move since sports radio dialogue is often about as intelligent as in pppppher former job.

My takes

Rehastagging this week’s top Tweets from @Randy_Beard11

  • Baker Mayfield comes off bench, leads Cleveland comeback from down 14-0 to a 21-17 win over NYJ and Sam Darnold.
  • Raise your hand if you’ve missed Urban Meyer. Raise your hand if you’ve ever craved a Thurmanator sandwich. Trust me, neither is good for you, so let go of the insanity.
  • FSU’s offense has just 4 first downs and are closing in on dozen 3-and-outs heading into fourth quarter while losing 20-0 at Syracuse. The Seminoles should leave the ACC and petition the AAC for membership.
  • Stupid clock management by FSU cost chance to put points on the board at Syracuse. Willie Taggart, what were you thinking? 

From Sidelines to punchlines

A different view of sports

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

Key game

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That has to mean something, right?

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

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

No easy answers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 Kneel- jerk reactions

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

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

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

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

Life’s a beach

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

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

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

Yes, a beach bar. Those are fighting words.

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

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

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

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

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

They said it

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bright future

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

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

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

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

Headlines

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

National pastime

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

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

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

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

My takes

Rehastagging this week’s top Tweets from @Randy_Beard11

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

From Sidelines to punchlines

 A different view of sports

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

Championship path

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

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

Mission Accomplished.

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

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

Oklahoma prevailed, 13-2.

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

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

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

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

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

Boiler pride

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

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

They said it

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 Title debate

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Identity crisis

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

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

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

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

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

Or they can accept being called Mickey Mouse University.

Countdown clock

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

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

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

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

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

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

End of era

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Headlines

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dietary advice

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

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

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

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

From Sidelines to punchlines

A different view of sports

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

Stirring it up

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So, no title?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

’Skins game

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Right step

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

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

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

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

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

They said it

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

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

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

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

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

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

Age-old problem

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

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

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

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

 Gridiron grandstanding

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

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

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

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

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

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

Headlines

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Higher expectations

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

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

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

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

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

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

Replacement player?

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

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

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

Personal note

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

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

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

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