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 also wondering if Maryland is now wavering on its decision to jump from the ACC to the Big Ten:

Punting on season

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

Yes, the punters.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Clearly, this whole situation has been mishandled.

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

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

Party on

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Flag them for excessive celebration.

World Series hotflashes

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

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

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

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

Super Patriot

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

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

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

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

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

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

They said it

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hoops hysteria

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

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

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

When Crean was the basketball coach at Indiana:

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

—  He called me out for wearing an ACC lanyard

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

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

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

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

 Headlines

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gridiron glory

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

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

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

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

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

Coping with Stars

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

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

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

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

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

My takes

Rehastagging this week’s top Tweets from @Randy_Beard11:

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

From Sidelines to punchlines

A different view of sports

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

Time to waste

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

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

Young gun

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

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

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

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

They said it

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mixed feelings

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Headlines

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Declining interest

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

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

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

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

Baseball rules?

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

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

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

Bigger opponent

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

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

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

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

NBA longshots

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

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

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

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

My takes

Rehastagging this week’s top Tweets from @Randy_Beard11

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

 

From Sidelines to punchlines

A different view of sports

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

Knockout punch?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What’s shaking?

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

That focus is now in play at South Carolina.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

They said it

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nice catch, Mom

As reported by Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times:

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

Rough outing

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

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

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

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

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

 Juvenile behavior

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

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

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

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

Safety first

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

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

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

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

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

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

Seriously, that’s a real thing.

Headlines

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My takes

Rehastagging this week’s top Tweets from @Randy_Beard11:

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

From Sidelines to punchlines

 A different view of sports

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

Championship path

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

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

Mission Accomplished.

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

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

Oklahoma prevailed, 13-2.

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

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

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

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

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

Boiler pride

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

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

They said it

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 Title debate

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Identity crisis

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

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

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

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

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

Or they can accept being called Mickey Mouse University.

Countdown clock

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

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

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

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

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

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

End of era

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Headlines

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dietary advice

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

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

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

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

From Sidelines to punchlines

A different view of sports

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

Stirring it up

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So, no title?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

’Skins game

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Right step

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

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

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

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

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

They said it

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

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

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

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

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

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

Age-old problem

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

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

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

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

 Gridiron grandstanding

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

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

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

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

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

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

Headlines

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Higher expectations

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

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

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

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

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

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

Replacement player?

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

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

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

Personal note

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

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

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

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

From Sidelines to punchlines

A different view of sports

Clearing my mind and notebook while blessed to still be able to call myself a deadbeat blogger considering The Wife had to call 9-1-1 on my behalf last Sunday:

 You gotta believe?

Loyola Chicago, which has won 14 straight games, is headed to the Final Four as a No. 11 seed out of the South.

And not just any No. 11 seed. A No. 11 seed that has established a culture of winning, piling up a school record 32 victories this season in winning the Missouri Valley Conference regular season and tournament titles.

“They have a ton of fun with each other,” head coach Porter Moser said of his players. “You can see they have a ton of fun with each other. They’re enjoying this ride more than you guys –  but when it’s time to lock in, they are locked in. It’s because they want to win. It’s in their genes. They are winning young men.”

Now in their fifth year in the MVC, the Ramblers have become the darlings of March Madness, matching the highest seed to ever advance to the Final Four. And obviously it doesn’t hurt to have 98-year-old nun, Sister Jean, leading you in pregame prayers.

She’ll even soon have her own bobblehead to watch over you as you say your prayers.

But according to Moser, the real bond of faith surrounding the Ramblers is the one that exists between his players.

“These guys have been investing for a long time on how hard they worked, how hard they believed, and we’ve kind of had this mantra about the process,” said Moser. “People asked me out there, did you ever think you were going to the Final Four? And to be honest with you, after Selection Sunday, we didn’t say, hey, let’s go to the Final Four. We said, what do we got to do to beat Miami.

“Then it was the next game, and then it was the next game. These guys have done an amazing job on having laser-like focus on what’s right in front of them instead of skipping steps.”

Indeed, Illinois Chicago won its first three NCAA tournament games by a combined four points – beating Miami 64-62, Tennessee 63-62 and Nevada 69-68. Then Saturday the Ramblers collectively took a deep breath and methodically shredded Kansas State, 78-62.

They had 17 assists on 27 baskets. They made 57 percent of 47 shots, including 9 of 18 3-pointers. And defensively, they held Bruce Weber’s K-State team to 34 percent shooting while winning the rebounding battle by eight.

Those who questioned the MVC’s decision for extending an invitation to Loyola after Creighton bolted for the Big East in 2013, your apology is accepted. Clearly, the Ramblers have a lot more going for them than ancient history – a 1963 NCAA title.

Even though it wasn’t a direct swap, the Ramblers have even filled in nicely for the gut-punching departure of Wichita State to the American Athletic Conference in 2017. (Technically, Valparaiso stepped in for the Shockers).

Moser has been a head coach for 13 seasons, including four at Illinois State and six at Loyola. For MVC fans, he had never had a winning conference record in eight seasons in the league until this year, when the Ramblers were 15-3.

He’s still only 64-98 overall in the MVC with an overall record of 226-211. But all that matters at the moment is he’s unbeaten in the NCAA Tournament.

There’s hope

Walter McCarty, who won a national title at Kentucky and played for four NBA teams over 11 seasons, was introduced as the next coach of the University of Evansville on Friday. He’s spent the last five seasons as an assistant with the Boston Celtics.

While McCarty, 44, has never been a head coach in college, it’s not much of a stretch to believe that what Loyola is doing in this tournament will make it easier for him to sell his vision for the Aces to recruits and any of the returning UE players.

McCarty said he favors an attacking brand of basketball, offensively and defensively.

And then there’s this:

Last season Loyola was 18-14 overall and 8-10 in the MVC. This year Evansville was 17-15 and 7-11 in the MVC. So yeah, it is possible to make dramatic improvement in a year’s time.

Also, it’s interesting that 2015 was the year Marty Simmons led Evansville to the second-tier CIT postseason tournament title while Loyola won the CBI championship.

They said it

Humor writer Brad Dickson in Tweet: “Omahans finally get through one of the iciest winters in memory and now we gotta worry about getting tripped by some Duke basketball player.”

NBC comedian Jimmy Fallon on Mattel’s 17 new Barbie dolls on history-making women, including Olympic snowboarder gold medalist Chloe Kim: “It’s called the ‘Way Too Good for Ken Collection.”

RJ Currie of SportsDeke.com: “Sergio García’s new baby girl, Azalea, is named for a flower common at Augusta where he won the 2017 Masters. The kid is lucky Dad didn’t win the Waste Management Open.”

Janice Hough of LeftCoastSportsBabe.com: “Been a rough week already, still have to smile seeing Sister Jean win and John Calipari lose.”

TBS comedian Conan O’Brien: “People who ran the L.A. marathon said it was nice to finally get from downtown Los Angeles to Santa Monica in less than four hours.”

Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times: “Hall of Fame slugger Reggie Jackson took a tumble while taking a walk last week, requiring knee surgery. Or as he’s now known in physical-therapy circles, Mr. Knocked-Over.”

Kent Somers of Arizona Republic in a tweet: “NFL free agency is just one big yard sale. Your junk is someone else’s treasure.”

Bob Molinaro of Norfolk Virginian-Pilot on PED poster child Alex Rodriguez’s image makeover as television personality: “A-Rod is a good-looking, well-spoken guy who benefits from living in the United States of Amnesia.”

 Big Blue Collapse

John Calipari’s Kentucky basketball team was seeded fifth in the South Region, so it wasn’t as if anyone other than Ashley Judd expected the Wildcats to win another national championship.

Then it happened. March Madness began and all the teams seeded higher than the SEC Tournament champions began falling like Willow Tree branches in a wind storm. The top four seeds in the region – Virginia, Cincinnati, Tennessee and Arizona – each had their seasons halted before all the conspiracy theorists could unpack their bags in Atlanta.

For the Wildcats, that meant that the Road to the Final Four in San Antonio was wide open. And then it wasn’t.

Everyone was telling the UK players that they just had to take care of business against No. 9 seed Kansas State, and then wait for the winner of the game between No. 11 Loyola Chicago and No. 7 Nevada.

But a funny thing happened on the road to San Antonio – UK lost 61-58 to K-State. Cal and his players didn’t even get a chance to test Sister Jean and the power of prayer.

 Fast finish

During his playing days with the Indiana Pacers, Reggie Miller once scored eight points in less than nine seconds to clinch a 1995 playoff game against the New York Knicks. But that was nothing compared to what Miller witnessed Thursday night during Florida State’s 75-60 upset of Gonzaga in a Sweet 16 game.

FSU led 69-60 with 1:36 left when Phil Cofer completed a four-point play – thanks largely to a flagrant foul being whistled on Gonzaga’s Zach Norvell. And then, because the Seminoles kept possession, FSU added a Mfiondu Kabengele dunk to take a 15-point lead with 1:35 remaining.

Six points in one second. Maybe it wasn’t as dramatic as Miller’s heroics in that long ago Eastern Conference semifinal, but FSU coach Leonard Hamilton will celebrate anyway. After all, it’s his first trip to the Elite Eight in 31 years as a head coach.

“It’s interesting that we’re probably the only ones that think we were capable of doing this,” said Hamilton. “It’s fun because we’re always the underdog and we’re scratching and clawing to put ourselves in a position to do it.”

Alas, his team could have used some late-game heroics Saturday night, losing 58-54 to Michigan.

Headlines

SportsPickle.com: “UMBC sees spike in applications among total morons who only hear of universities through sports success.”

TheOnion.com: “Is it time for the NCAA to start paying the coaches?”

Fark.com: “Sam Bradford will sign with Arizona, citing the state’s top-notch hospitals and physical-therapy facilities.”

SportsPickle.com: “Report: Sister Jean negotiating deal with Golden State Warriors.”

TheOnion.com: “Which NCAA Tournament team will struggle most with the pressure of playing under  FBI surveillance?”

TheOnion.com: “Why is March Madness the only time we get to see good, old fashioned, fundamental gambling?”

Fark.com: “Tiger Woods is in the lead of a real live golf tournament. Welcome to 2008.”

My takes

Rehastagging this week’s top Tweets from @Randy_Beard11:

  • The Power of the MVC: Loyola Chicago is Final Four bound
  • My NCAA hoops bracket was busted last weekend, but tonight I lost my pick to win it all when Purdue fell to Texas Tech by double digits. It really isn’t much consolation the Red Raiders are coached by a BEARD. Disappointed for Matt Painter, but I am pulling for Chris Beard.
  • Strong comeback effort by Clemson in 80-76 loss to Kansas in Sweet 16. The early deficit was just too much but all Brad Brownell’s doubters should be lining up for 2018-19 season tickets at Littlejohn.
  • It won’t happen overnight. And unfortunately I won’t be here to see if it happens at all (since I’m moving to SC), but I think UE made the right decision in hiring @waltermccarty as the Aces’ next basketball coach. Good luck, Walter!
  • Evansville’s Lilly King won the 200 breaststroke, winning her third-straight NCAA title in the event with best time in history – 2:02.60. King is first woman to break the 2:03:00 barrier. She also completed 100, 200 breast double for 3rd straight year. IU finished 8th in standings.

Taking it on chin

Comedian Ellen DeGeneres decided since Purdue Pete and his chunky chin reminds her of her good friend Jay Leno, she’d go with the Boilermakers over Texas Tech while making her Sweet 16 picks.

“It’s like hillbilly Elmo versus Jay Leno – Jay Leno in a hard hat,” she said. “Jay’s a friend of mine so I’m going to go with Jay,” said DeGeneres.

Alas, it wasn’t about Purdue Pete’s chin. It came down to Isaac Haas’ fractured right elbow that kept him on the bench.

From Sidelines to punchlines

A different view of sports

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

Landing spot

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Threepeat not enough

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stat of Week

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

They said it

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 Stats of Week, II

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

 Historic loss

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

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

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

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

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

Headlines

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stat of Week, III

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

My takes

Rehastagging this week’s top Tweets from @Randy_Beard11

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

 Rather unruly

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

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

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

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