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

Home, sweet, home

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

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

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

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

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

Sounds about right.

$70-million man

Well, that seals the deal.

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

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

Pays to be good

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

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

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

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

They said it

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pearls of wisdom

Now managing the Chicago Cubs, Eddie Vedder.

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

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

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

Long odds

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

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

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

Besides, he’s now ranked No. 306.

Headlines

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Russian collusion

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ranking the pros

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

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

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

From Sidelines to punchlines

 

A different view of sports

 

Clearing my mind and notebook while  relieved that my days of living out of a suitcase are nearly over:

Risky business

Neymar doesn’t have an Oscar, Emmy or Golden Globe and he won’t win a World Cup any time soon, either.

He’s a great soccer player and a lousy actor. But if you believe his critics, he could have a great future as a tumbling instructor.

Already, youth teams across the globe are working flops, drops, rolls and anguished cries for fouls into their soccer practices. And soccer haters everywhere are making him the poster boy for what they like to believe is a sport for sissies.

Of course, most of those couch potato critics haven’t been south of 300 pounds in year,  couldn’t sprint 60 feet much less 60 yards, and would be begging to be red carded if they ever had to play in a parent-kid soccer game.

But I digress.

The criticism Neymar da Silva Santos Junior  has received isn’t undeserved, but its a shame because he does so much more than writhe on the field.

Yes, he’s overly theatrical, and its time someone sat him down an told him he’s doing the game harm when he barrel rolls 20 yards to get the attention of the ref.

You’d think with FIFA’s introduction of video reviews, particularly with contact in front of the goal, that he’d wise up an just play for the whistle. As crucial as set pieces can be, a little embellishment is to be expected in order to get a free kick. But acting like you have been hit by a truck three times a game can get tiresome.

To paraphrase former United States defender Alexi Lalas after Neymar failed to get a call against Belgium, if a player is constantly crying wolf when there is no wolf, he probably shouldn’t count on help when there really is a wolf.

 

In his defense, the 26-year-old Brazilian was fouled more times in this World Cup than any other player, including 10 times by the Swiss. That’s more fouls against one player since England’s Alan Shearer was knocked about 11 times by Tunisia in 1998.

One tracking of Neymar’s play during Brazil’s five games in Russia had him on the ground a record 14 minutes. That’s a lot of stoppage time. Or, floppage time.

South Africa’s KFC restaurants even produced a commercial featuring a player rolling across town and one of the palaces of fried chicken, proclaiming, “Make a Meal of It.”

This, of course, is a World Cup that hasn’t given many breaks to the stars.

Lionel Messi. Gone.

Cristiano Ronaldo. Gone.

David Silva. Gone.

Carlos Vela. Gone.

And yes, Neymar. Gone.

The Brazilian star, if he can still walk in a few years, should have two more World Cups in his future. All of which means he should make his farewell appearances at the 2026 games cohosted by the United States, Mexico and Canada.

But we’ve got miles to go before then, including putting the wraps on the games in Russia.

Belgium  will next take on France in St. Petersburg on Tuesday.

England will face Croatia on Wednesday in Moscow.

It’s the fourth time the World Cup’s Final Four will be an all-European affair, matching the semifinals in 1966, 1982 and 2006.

Brazil, of course, was gunning for its sixth title and hoping to erase the memories of its embarrassing 7-1 drubbing by Germany on home soil four years ago.

Falling behind 2-0 at the half to Belgium proved to be too deep a hole for the South Americans who have never won a Cup in Europe.

I expected Neymar to get Brazil over that hump, but all he could accomplish was getting his name in the record book with the latest goal scored with a 97th minute tally against Costa Rico. No doubt he even bought some of those extra minutes with his time wasting.

Next up?

Now that Brazil is eliminated, I’m  putting my faith in Roberto Martinez and his survivors.  They’ve earned it.

Since he became Belgium’s coach, Martinez has guided the team to 19 wins, five draws and just one loss. That 2-0 loss was in his first game, and it came 22 months ago against his native Spain. Now Belgium is in the World Cup semifinals and all of Spain’s stars are back home.

Setting goals

Kevin De Bruyne’s game-winner against Brazil made him the 100th player to score in this World Cup.  The record is 116 individual goal scorers four years ago in Brazil.

That would seem to be safe total now that we are down to four games, including the consolation match.

But with just a total of 157 goals scored so far, this tournament can surpass the record of 171goals scored in 1998 in the United States and tied in 2014 in Brazil. That’s just 3.5 goals per game.

England’s Harry Kane leads with six while Belgium’s Romelu Lukaku has four and France’s Antoine Griezmann  and Kylian Mbappe have three each.

College life

It must have sunk in when someone told Matt McClain that he should enjoy the next four years of his life, that nothing is more valuable than a college education and the life experiences that come with it.

How else do you explain the graduate of Beckman High School in Irvine, Calif., turning down $2.63 million to play baseball for the Arizona Diamondbacks.

McLain is a second baseman the D’Backs selected with the 25th pick in the first round of the MLB Amateur Draft last month, convinced he was ready to begin climbing the professional ladder. So they offered him the full salary slot.

But after pondering the offer for a couple of weeks calculating how many pizzas he could afford, McLain decided he’d rather live out his dream playing baseball at UCLA for at least a few years.

The right-handed hitter is gambling that adding a few years to his resume won’t hurt his draft stock.

“While it has and always will be my ultimate goal to play in the major leagues, I also started dreaming in the third grade about playing collegiate baseball and getting my education at UCLA,” said McLain, who is 5-foot-10 and 175 pounds.

“I spent the last month thinking long and hard about this life decision and came to the conclusion that at this time in my life it is best for me to honor my scholarship to UCLA.”

Let’s just hope for his sake that wasn’t a beachball that blew past him like a 94 mile per hour fastball.

They said it

Janice Hough of LeftCoastSportsBabe: Apparently over $1 million will be waged on Nathan’s Hot Dog eating contest, with Joey Chestnut the prohibitive favorite. So who needs the World Cup when we still have American supremacy in eating?

RJ Currie of SportsDeke.com: “Reuters reports an India ATM stopped working because a rat got in and ate thousands of dollars in cash before choking. Probably how the Cleveland Cavaliers feel about JR Smith.”

Omaha comedy writer Brad Dickson on Twitter: You know an analyst is not on the fast track at ESPN when she’s assigned to be the sideline reporter at Cornhole.

Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times: “Jake Fromm, Georgia’s sophomore quarterback, broke his non-throwing hand in a freak boating accident this offseason this after previously landing in the ER with a fishhook stuck in his leg. Bulldog sympathizers are already passing the hat to get this guy a PlayStation 4 or something.”

Fox broadcaster Joe Buck, returning to the airwaves after a 15-minute audio failure during an interview with Jack Nicklaus on the U.S. Open broadcast: “The reviews are in — and we never sounded better.”

Omaha comedy writer Brad Dickson, again on Twitter: “The money quote from ESPN’s coverage of the hot dog eating contest: ‘Joey Chestnut owns America!’ ”

Janice Hough of LeftCoastSportsBabe.com, again: Well, hope Luke Walton enjoyed his time actually coaching the Lakers.

Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times: “Move aside, jumbo shrimp, and make room for the language’s latest oxymoron, courtesy of the Warriors’ Kevin Durant: 7-foot small forward.

Janice Hough of LeftCoastSportsBabe.com, again: “Eliminating teams from the World Cup on Penalty Kicks is like ending the World Series with a Home Run Derby.”

Steve Simmons of the Toronto Sun on LeBron James opting out of $46 million a year option to become a free agent: “For someone making $75,000 a year, you’d only have to work 613 years to equal what LeBron declined.”

Putting for dollars

Perhaps I’m oblivious to whether people really still care about a rivalry between Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson.

Seriously, is that still relevant these days?

I guess I can see it as the pre-tournament talk at The Masters when all the old greats congregate to make golfing hearts flutter. But the two are talking about organizing a $10 million winner-take=all, 18-hole showdown that they’d sell to some TV network to broadcast.

In this day of dwindling ratings (and advertising), I’d like to think that only The Golf Channel would be interested, but I’m sure I’d be wrong. Otherwise, discussion wouldn’t have gotten this far.

They started talking about this at The Masters this year and had targeted a July 3 date, but couldn’t get all their flags in a row.

But at least they agree on one thing. The prize money is extravagant. A get-richer-quick scheme between two millionaires.

Seriously, there are a lot more important things they could do with their time that I hope they drop the winner-take-all concept and play for charities.

Alas, that doesn’t seem to have crossed either golfer’s mind.

Headlines

Fark.com: “The 2018-19 Warriors are officially more loaded than the Monsters were in Space Jam.”

TheOnion.com: “Does the World Cup enforced the false construct of borders imposed on us by the ruling elite?”

SportsPickle.com: “Colin Kaepernick announces he will no longer protest after reading your aunt’s Facebook post.”

Fark.com: “29 NBA teams to change their name to Washington Generals in 2019.”

Fark.com: “ESPN ditches its comments, unfairly silencing thousands of morons.”

 

Tweets of Week

Rehastagging my top Tweets from the week’s World Cup action @Randy_Beard11:

  • Croatia and Argentina are only teams to win back-to-back World Cup Games by penalty kicks.
  • Ivan Perisic must have carpentry skills because he hammered that post.
  • Not as many goals. Not the winner I expected. But Belgium was too much for Brazil, and Roberto Martinez just earned his biggest win in international soccer. Belgium 2-1.
  • France is through, now bring on what should be game of tournament. First one to 10 wins. #goalsgalore #brazilvbelgium
  • ENGLAND!!!! God save the Queen, and PKs too.

Fan boy

Lebron James may have just agreed to a  four-year deal with the Los Angles Lakers that will pay him more than $38 million a year, but that doesn’t mean he can’t be a fan of an up-and-coming athlete.

In another sport like soccer. James was spotted this week wearing a No. 10 Christian Pulisic jersey. That’s quite a shout out to the 19-year-old star of the United States National Team who plays foe German club Dortmund.

Quite a treat for Pulisic, too. He’s long been a fan of James.

 

From Sidelines to punchlines

A different view of sports

Clearing my mind and notebook while pointing out that morning and afternoon World Cup games, that’s soccer y’all, is drawing better TV ratings than baseball’s College World Series:

Bad boy, bad boy

Jameis Winston was often the best player on the field when he played at Florida State, which is why he won the 2013 Heisman Trophy and finished sixth in voting in 2014.

But he also had to navigate the kind of public relations crisis no Heisman winner should ever face. And now he’s dealing with the kind of allegations you would hope a starting quarterback in the NFL would never experience.

While that may sound Pollyannaish, the truth is Winston can’t stay out of trouble. He’s his own worst enemy.

The latest incident, which is expected to earn him a three-game suspension from the NFL, is the alleged groping of a woman Uber driver in Arizona last November. Winston denies he’s guilty. But the NFL, after conducting its own investigation, believes otherwise.

With a history of misdeeds, not all of which are misdemeanors, Winston has left a trail of warning signs.  Whether it’s stealing cups of soda from a fast food restaurant, shoplifting crab’s legs from a grocery store, causing thousands of dollars of damage with a pellet gun at a residence hall, or shouting an obscene meme in a student union, Winston is no stranger to trouble.

Boys will be boys, ya know?

But by mid-November of 2013, Winston was being investigated for an alleged sexual assault a year earlier. The fact he was never charged speaks to the impact of football at FSU, although he did settle a civil lawsuit out of court and FSU had to fork over a small fortune in a Title IX lawsuit.

Now we know that in March 2016, less than a year after the Tampa Bay Buccaneers drafted him No. 1 overall, Winston was apparently behaving like a Donald Trump understudy.

You know, grabbing women by the p—ssy.

I’ve never been prouder that Winston didn’t get a Heisman vote from me in 2013 or 2014.

The Bucs still consider him the face of the franchise, but they’d be smart to start trying to squeeze some trade value out of Winston before its too late.

Mixed signals

There’s no crying in soccer.

Tom Hanks didn’t say it, but Brazil’s largest newspaper, O Globo, did when star Neymar Jr. was seen sitting on the field covering his face with his hands as he shed tears following a 2-0 victory over Costa Rica on Friday.

The camera lingered on him uncomfortably long, capturing the emotion the win generated.

Both goals for Brazil came in stoppage time, including a forceful tap-in by Neymar, so it was a hard-fought victory against a well-organized Costa Rica team.

But for Brazilians, who like to dance in the stands to their soccer, the sight of Neymar breaking down is a cause of concern. Especially when the team has only played two games.

“A team needs to demonstrate mental strength, not fragility. Genuine or not, Neymar’s crying is worrying,” wrote 0 Globo.

Brazil is tied with Switzerland atop Group E with four points each, but it hasn’t cleared a path to the knockout stages going into Wednesday’s match with Serbia.

They said it

Omaha comedy writer Brad Dickson on Twitter: “I had a dream last night that Phil Mickelson shows up at the College World Series, races onto the field during a slow roller back to the mound, and bats the ball twice.”

TBS comedian Conan O’Brien after President Trump said the North Korean dictator was invited to the White House: “Unless, of course, Kim Jong Un wins the Super Bowl or the NBA championship.”

RJ Currie of SportsDeke.com: “Packers QB Aaron Rodgers was given an honourary doctrate from the Medical College of Wisconsin. And like many a doctor in private medicine, he can really hurt you in the pocket.”

Omaha comedy writer Brad Dickson on Twitter, again: “CWS visitors are learning that “Omaha” is an old Indian word meaning “rain delay.”

NBC comedian Seth Myers on the Golden State Warriors championship parade: “And to add insult to injury, they held it in Cleveland.”

Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times: “Wake Forest, citing an undisclosed violation of team rules, has suspended starting quarterback Kendall Hinton for the first three games of the 2018 season. Or as Demon Deacons apologists tried to spin it, three-and-in.”

Janice Hough of LeftCoastSportsBabe: “Argentina and Messi would like to thank Melania Trump and her jacket for making sure they weren’t the most embarrassing story of the day. #WorldCup”

RJ Currie of SportsDeke.com, again: “Happy Father’s Day. My dad died when I was young, but taught me to swim “army-style” by tossing me into a lake. I got to shore, but had a tough time getting out of the duffel bag.”

Janice Hough of LeftCoastSportsBabe.com, again: “Red-hot Nationals rookie Juan Soto debuted on May 20. Today in continuation of a May 15 interleague game against NY, he hit a 2 run game winning homer. So the hit and RBI count before his actual first game..AND against the Yankees?!   Amazed MLB didn’t somehow disallow it.”

Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times, again: “If Avis is looking for a modern-day spokesman for a tried and true ad campaign, Gronkowski was No. 2 in Belmont Stakes as well as No. 2 in the Super Bowl.”

NBC comedian Jimmy Fallon: “The U.S. will host the 2026 World Cup with Mexico. Players can either travel from the U.S. to Mexico by plane or just walk past the wall that still won’t be built.”

Comedy writer Jim Barach: “San Francisco Giants reliever Hunter Strickland broke his hand punching a door after a blown save. Since he forgot to open the door first, he officially loses his status as a closer.”

Brady bunch

Tom Brady has negotiated playing at least two more years. It’s in his contract with the New England Patriots, and sealed with a kiss with wife Gisele Bundchen.

But while Brady, 41, playfully suggested during an interview with Oprah Winfrey on Sunday that he’d like to stick it out in the NFL until he’s 45, there are other voices who may get a vote. His three children.

“I don’t want to be a dad that’s not there driving my kids to their games,” Brady said. “I think my kids have brought a great perspective in my life, because kids just want the attention.

“You better be there and be available to them, or else they’re going to look back on their life and go, ‘Dad didn’t really care that much.'”

Fire sale

Dick’s Sporting Goods stores in the Cleveland area are selling LeBron James jerseys at half price, gambling that the time to unload King James merchandise has arrived.

Thus, a No. 23 jersey that normally retails at $110 can now be had for $55.

We won’t know if Dick’s is correct in believing that the four-time league MVP is prepared to bail on his hometown Cavaliers for the second time in eight years until after July 1.

The last time he left – taking his “talents to South Beach” – Cleveland fans burned his jerseys. So by buying the discounted merchandise it may make it easier to torch a few more jerseys.

World Class Tweets

Rehastagging my top Tweets from a week of watching World Cup soccer @Randy_Beard11:

  • Iceland, you don’t need more fans to do the wave. You need more skilled, quick defenders who don’t just wave at attacking players going to goal.
  • Nigeria’s Musa > Argentina’s Messi. At least in this World Cup but they can settle it on field when they play each other Tuesday.
  • World Cup update: Ronaldo 3, Messi 0.
  • Croatia: “Don’t cry for me, Argentina.”
  • Diego Maradona looks worried. Argentina needs “Diego” Messi to arrive because Lionel Messi isn’t getting it done at moment because Iceland’s defensive focus

Headlines

TheOnion.com: “Overly enthusiastic Cristiana Ronaldo accidentally rips off upper-body skin after scoring goal.”

Fark.com: “Tom Brady has given a hint on his retirement age. Let’s just say it’s an age most of us want to retire at.”

TheOnion.com: “Ovechkin hopes to inspire other athletes to power through month-long bender.”

Fark.com: “A new contestant for sports injury of the year: Brandon Morrow goes on the DL for throwing out his back taking off his pants.”

TheOnion.com: “Lionel Messi pissed after forgetting to wear Fitbit during last game.”

Fark.com: “Mikal Bridges was drafted by the Philadphia 76ers, the team his mother works for. Then he was traded.”

TheOnion.com: “Has the U.S. Men’s Soccer Team earned the right to watch the World Cup?”

Real whopper!

Hey, it could be argued that Russia’s Burger King division was only trying to do its part in helping to build a stronger national soccer team.

With the country hosting the World Cup, the burger joint had ads on social media offering 3 million rubles and a lifetime supply of Whoppers to women who were impregnated by members of one of the World Cup teams.

To quote the ad: “For these girls, it will be possible to get the best football genes, and will lay down the success of the Russian national team on several generations ahead. Forward! We believe in you!”

Burger King’s Russian division is no longer running the ad on social media and has apologized.

Family affair

Meanwhile, rather than focusing on the act of impregnating, Denmark’s players turned their attention to the finished product. When defender Jonas Knudsen’s wife, Trine, delivered their daughter ahead of schedule, his teammates took up a collection to pay for him to fly home.

“We wanted to look at the human side,” said goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel. “There are lots of fathers in the squad. You have to remember we are human beings as well as footballers.”

So, after Denmark beat Peru 1-0 last Saturday, Knudsen made a quick trip home courtesy of a private jet. He was back in Russia on Monday.

Ratings game

The web site, newarena.com, likes to rate the greatest players in various sports and skills, like their recent rankings of the 25 greatest hitter in baseball: 1. Ted Williams, 2. Babe Ruth; 3. Stan Musial; 4. Ty Cobb; 5. Rogers Hornsby; 6. Lou Gehrig; 7. Roberto Clemente; 8. Mickey Mantle; 9. Willie Mays; 10. Tony Gwynn. 11. Hank Aaron; 12. Barry Bonds; 13. Pete Rose; 14. Honus Wagner; 15. Ichiro Suzuki; 16. Rod Carew; 17. Joe DiMaggio; 18. Frank Robinson; 19. Jimmie Foxx; 20. Ken Griffey, Jr.; 22. Alex Pujols; 23. Shoeless Joe Jackson; 24. Alex Rodriquez; 25. Mike Trout.

Maybe baseball really is America’s PASTTIME.

From Sidelines to punchlines

A different view of sports

Clearing my mind and notebook while congratulating Florida State coach Mike Martin for becoming the all-time winningest coach in NCAA Division I baseball with 1,976 wins:

It’s time

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

High times

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

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

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

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

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

They said it

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Perspective needed

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

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

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

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

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

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

Headlines

TheOnion.com: “Roethlisberger upset Steelers didn’t ask for his consent before drafting quarterback.”

Fark.com: “ESPN shows how the Browns could make the playoffs: Locusts, plague, supervolcano, meteor strike, apocalypse.”

TheOnion.com: “Rockets’ mop guy can tell this game going to be a sweaty one.”

Fark.com: “Tom Brady prepares for his career after football. Either figure skater, Vegas magician or James Bond villain.”

Fark.com: “According to a recent survey, the NFL offers paying customer the worst game day experience of the major U.S. professional sports, including MLB, NBA, NHL, NASCAR, PGA, MLS, WNBA and ATP.”

TheOnion.com: “Mark McGwire claims he would have hit 70 home runs without help of bat.”

TheOnion.com: “Derek Jeter denies tanking allegations after Marlins field 4 players.”

Going slow

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

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

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

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

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

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

From Sidelines to punchlines

A different view of sports

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

Stirring it up

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So, no title?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

’Skins game

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Right step

Meanwhile, over in the NBA, another step in the right direction toward women’s rights comes the news that the Milwaukee Bucks plan on interviewing Becky Hammon for their vacant head coaching job, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of 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 pleased to see former Purdue standout Robbie Hummel, whose injury problems continued as a professional, is getting a shot as a college basketball analyst for ESPN:

Going Hollywood

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

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

Yeah, it’s that easy.

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

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

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

Bryant quickly shook his head no.

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

Crean time

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

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

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

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

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

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

They said it

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Shaking the rust

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bucket list

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

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

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

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

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

 Headlines

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A different OT

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My takes

Rehastagging this week’s top Tweets from @Randy_Beard11:

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

Culture shock

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

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

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

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

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

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

From Sidelines to punchlines

A different view of sports

Clearing my mind and notebook while celebrating the United States’ gold medal in men’s curling – who knew hairstylists could also be Olympic athletes?”

Letting it rain

When it comes to the NCAA, any punishment handed down for rules violations can always be overturned, amended or revisited at a later date.

It seems as if nothing the NCAA does is ever considered the last word. Except the punishment the University of Louisville’s basketball program received from the NCAA last week feels damn permanent.  And permanently damning.

When the penalties were first announced, Louisville appealed despite firing head basketball coach Rick Pitino and athletic director Tom Jurich. The school also imposed recruiting restrictions and a postseason ban over the “Strippergate” case.

“Strippergate?”

There was actually a lot more going on than stripping and tipping when former assistant coach Andre McGee arranged for entertainment in the basketball dorm during recruiting weekends.

Because of those “extra benefits,” the NCAA came down hard on the school, deciding Louisville’s self-imposed penalties weren’t nearly enough to atone for the wrong-doing.

Thus, the Cardinals have had to vacate their 2013 national championship and another Final Four appearance in 2012 as well as 123 wins from the 2011-12 to 2014-15 seasons. The school also had to pay back at least $600,000 it received for postseason appearances during those four seasons.

The overall financial penalty could top $15 million if the Atlantic Coast Conference demands Louisville return the league’s revenue sharing from those basketball seasons.

It’s the first time in modern NCAA Division I basketball that a national championship has had to be vacated.

Never forget

Among the 17 deaths in the latest school slaughter at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., were coaches Scott Beigel, Chris Hixon and Aaron Feis.

Broward County should honor their memories, perhaps by naming the gymnasium or football field in their honor.

Beigel, 35, was a geography teacher and cross country coach who was shot by former student Nikolas Cruz while he was holding the door to his classroom to let students in the room. One student said, “I’m alive because of him.”

Hixon, 49.  was the athletic director and a wrestling coach. A Naval Reservist, he served in Iraq in 2007. He was killed while rushing toward the gunman in an attempt to stop him. “Every one of those students he thought of as his own kid,” said his wife Debra. “He loved being an American and serving his country.”

A graduate of Douglas High School. Feis was an assistant football coach who also worked as a security guard at the school. Feis, 37, jumped between Cruz and several students to prevent them from being shot. He was critically injured and died at a hospital. “That’s Coach Feis. He wants to make sure everybody is safe before himself,” said one student.

And then there were the students who were killed: Alyssa Alhadeff, 14; Martin Duque Anguiano, 14; Nicholas Dworet, 17; Jaime Guttenberg, 14; Luke Hoyer, 15; Cara Loughran, 14; Gina Montalto, 14; Joaquin Oliver, 17; Alaina Petty, 14; Meadow Pollack, 18; Helena Ramsay, 17; Alex Schachter, 14; Carmen Schentrup, 16, and Peter Wang, 15.

Fourteen others were wounded.

Those students who have survived are determined that none of those lost lives will have been in vain. They have demonstrated political courage by taking on state and national politicians, as well as the well-funded National Rifle Association, in pushing for sensible gun laws and more extensive background checks.

Corporate America is also stepping up with airlines, car rental companies, banks, insurance companies and other businesses announcing the elimination of discounts and other benefits they had provided NRA members.

But none of that will prevent another determined killer with a semi-automatic rifle from taking lives and wounding dozens more. And as we all know, that’s the real definition of insanity.

The more these mass shootings happen, the quicker some people try to normalize them as part of our culture.

There’s nothing normal about it.

They said it

NBC comedian Jimmy Fallon: “The Cleveland Indians announced that they will no longer use Chief Wahoo as their logo beginning in 2019. They admitted that the logo is extremely offensive, so they’re only gonna wear it for 162 more games.”

RJ Currie of SportsDeke.com: “Team Norway at the Olympics got 15,000 eggs instead of the 1,500 they ordered. So far the Norwegians are clean of PEDs, but their cholesterol is off the charts.”

Brad Dickson of the Omaha World-Herald on the 2018 Winter Olympics being televised by NBC: “Which is bizarre, because NBC just finished showing the 2014 Winter Olympics on tape delay.”

Janice Hough of LeftCoastSportsBabe.com: ‘So instead of the usual March Madness pools will this be the year millions of Americans start playing NCAA men’s basketball sanctions bingo?”

Mike Lupica of the New York Daily News on the power-packed Yankee lineup featuring Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge: “They’re not built to break records. They’re built to break windows.”

Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times: “Talk about poetic justice: Louisville got stripped of its 2013 basketball title by a stripper.”

ABC comedian Jimmy Kimmel: “The Eagles won their first Super Bowl ever, toppling Tom Brady and the New England Patriots. They said Tom Brady was so distraught after the game, he chugged a quart of almond milk and ate half a grape.”

Comedian Steve Hofstetter: “I am proud to be a New York sports fan. Our metro area has won 57 championships in baseball, basketball, football, and hockey And we’ve never had one sports riot. When we burn down our city, it’s just because we feel like it.”

Comedy writer Alex Kaseberg on the Russian curler who flunked his Olympic drug test: “Not only that, but now they think he corked his broom.”

ABC comedian Jimmy Kimmel on a cyber-attack taking down the official Olympic website and interrupting Wi-Fi service during the opening ceremonies at the stadium in Pyeongchang: “….Which was devastating. Thousands of people had to wait until they got back to their hotels to post to Instagram. “

Hard to figure

These Winter Olympics were more than disappointing for the United States when it came to figure skating.

No medals for the U.S. women. And none of the 26 participants in the skating exhibition that will be held Sunday will be American figure skaters.

To be fair, Nathan Chen was invited after pulling off six quad jumps on his way to a fifth-place finish, but he has come down with the flu, according to U.S. Figure Skating officials.

No other American figure skaters were extended an invitation, but ice dancers Alex and Maia Shibutani, who won bronze, and Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue, who finished fourth, will participate in the program.

Despite the United States’ long tradition of producing figure skating icons, none of Team USA’s representatives finished in the top six. That’s a first – the wrong kind of history.

Bradie Tennell, Mirai Nagasu and Karen Chen finished 9th, 10th and 11th, respectively. And what made it worse is that Russia, which was banned from competing as a country, took the gold and silver with Alina Zagitova, 15, and Evgenia Medvedeva. Medvedeva was the defending Olympic champion.

It’s the third consecutive Winter Games the United States failed to medal in women’s figure skating.

Sasha Cohen is the last U.S. woman  to medal, claiming silver in 2006.

Headlines

TheOnion.com: “Does America’s poor showing at The Olympics prove it’s time for the country to retire?”

SportsPickle.com: “Kevin Stallings caught by FBI offering $100,000 to anyone who would attend a Pitt basketball game.”

TheKicker.com: “This 6-week old baby just captured gold in the freestyle snowboarding event.”

Fark.com: “Arkansas QB Cole Kelley pleads guilty to DWI, plans to be drafted by the Browns.”

TheOnion.com: “Uphill skiing competition enters sixth day.”

SportsPickle.com: “Montreal Canadiens request to become NHL expansion team in hopes of becoming as good as Vegas Golden Knights.”

TheOnion.com: “U.S. wins gold in couples snow eating.”

SportsPickle.com: “NFL scouts say Lamar Jackson best suited to bobsled.”

TheOnion.com: “Olympic figure skating inspires thousands of little girls to drop couple hundred on skates they’ll use once.”

Fark.com: “Jets are willing to cut their entire roster to sign Kirk Cousins.”

My takes

Rehastagging this week’s top Tweets from @Randy_Beard11

  • Can’t help but think that if Sean Miller at Arizona is as good as gone, can Indiana’s Archie Miller really be running a clean program?
  • A’ja Wilson celebrates Senior Night with 27 points, 24 rebounds and is just 30 points from passing Sheila Foster as #7 South Carolina’s all-time scorer in 57-48 victory over #24 LSU.
  • I admit to missing Fergie singing The Anthem yesterday but just heard her rendition: I liked it; nice change of pace for setting. And I didn’t see anyone kneeling. Now if only I can get her to serenade me in that dress for my birthday!
  • Chadwick Boseman gives Victor Oladipo the Black Panther mask for NBA Dunk Contest. Utah’s Donovan Mitchell won, beating Cleveland’s Larry Nance Jr., in final. Boseman and Nance’s father are from Anderson, S.C. Larry Sr. won 1984 dunk contest & some feel Nance Jr., should have won.
  • It’s a sick country we live in. Do idiots root against Lindsay Vonn because she once dated Tiger Woods?

 Ball boys

Lonzo Ball is supposed to be the future of the Los Angeles Lakers, but his father is doing everything he can to make Magic Johnson live to regret that 2017 first-round pick.

Every time LaVar Ball opens his mouth, someone in the Lakers’ front office must want to stuff a sock in it. A sweaty sock.

It’s no secret Papa Ball has a dream of all three of his sons playing for the Lakers. Of course, there was a time when his dream included all three also playing for UCLA, but he ended that fantasy when he forced LiAngelo to withdraw from Westwood after he was caught shoplifting during a preseason tour in China.

He also pulled LaMelo out of high school so the two younger brothers could play professionally in Lithuania for a season.

Now when he isn’t criticizing Luke Walton’s coaching, he’s talking up his master plan of having the Lakers sign LiAngelo. If they do that, he promises he’ll throw in LaMelo as part of the deal without committing the team to another mult-million dollar contract.

“What’s better than the three Ball brothers together? The Big Three. The Original Big Three,” said LaVar.

Never mind that neither Melo or Gelo may be talented enough to crack an NBA roster. If the Lakers don’t take him up on his offer, LaVar swears he’ll make the same deal to any other NBA franchise once Lonzo’s contract is up.

That might be sooner than LaVar thinks.

From Sidelines to punchlines

A different view of sports

Clearing my mind and notebook while wondering if Purdue and Ohio State will still be unbeaten in Big Ten basketball when they meet  Feb. 7, just five games before the league tournament:

More drama

Alas, the Jacksonville Jaguars really won’t be facing Patriots quarterback Tom Brady with one hand tied behind his back Sunday when they travel to Foxborough, Mass., to challenge New England for the AFC Championship. That’s the bad news.

I’m pulling for the Jaguars anyway, hoping they can find a path to victory that doesn’t depend on Brady being a wounded warrior.

A severely wounded warrior is what Brady was at midweek when he banged his right hand on the helmet buckle of a teammate at practice. He reportedly needed four stitches for a cut around the knuckle of the thumb on his throwing hand, which he also jammed.

He wore gloves on both hands on Thursday, but didn’t participate in practice. However, on Friday he did have a short practice session in which he threw fairly well, according to NFL Media’s Ian Rapoport. Pats receiver Danny Amendola caught several of those passes and said the ball had plenty of zip.

While Brady didn’t do interviews Wednesday or Thursday, he did speak Friday. He came to the interview session wearing red gloves to keep his injury hidden.

He was coy about whether he would play in Sunday’s 2 p.m. CT game.

“We’ll see,” he said. “I have played in a lot of games in pain.”

Amendola expects Brady to find a way to do all the dicing on Sunday against the Jags’ secondary.

“He’s a warrior, he’s a competitor, and there’s really only one reason he’s here,” said Amendola. “And that’s to play football.”

Tarnished gold

UPDATED: USA gymnastic doctor Larry Nassar sentenced by Michigan judge Rosemarie Aquilini to 175 years for sexual abuse and pornography and pay a yet to be determined amount of restitution. She told him “she was signing his death warrant” because he’d never get out of prison. He’ll serve 60 years on pornography charges before the other charges. Nearly 160 gymnasts from USA Gymnastics testified against him. There are also victims from Michigan State.

USA Gymnastics may never recover from the failure of leadership which turned a blind eye to team doctor Larry Nassar’s sexual abuse of hundreds of young women in the program.

Among the 140 alleged victims are four of the five members of the gold medal-winning 2012 “Fierce Five” and three of the five gold-medal winning 2016 “Final Five” Olympians. The victims include Ally Raisman, Simone Biles, Gabby Douglas, McKayla Maroney and Jordyn Wieber.

Raisman and Douglas were on both U.S. Olympic teams.

Nassar is facing 25 years to life in prison for the sexual abuse charges and already has been sentenced to a 60-year sentence for child pornography. Much of the abuse occurred at the Karolyli Ranch in Texas where national team members trained once a month.

He also worked at Michigan State, where more alleged abuse occurred, which is why the trial is being held in Lansing, Michigan.

Nassar had access to the dorm rooms of the U.S. gymnasts at the ranch, where he could be alone with them for the purpose of treating injuries and giving therapeutic massages.

Parents weren’t allowed to stay at the ranch, which was owned by Bela and Martha Karoyli. Both legendary coaches, the Karoylis aren’t facing charges but USA Gymnastics has decided it will no longer use the ranch as a training center.

In her testimony, Raisman was heavily critical of USA Gymnastics and the U.S. Olympic Committee for being slow to address complaints from athletes who first raised concerns about  Nassar. She said both organizations are “rotting from the inside.”

Added Raisman: “To believe in the future of gymnastics is to believe in change. But how are we to believe in change when these organizations aren’t even willing to acknowledge the problem? … False assurances from organizations are dangerous, especially when people so badly want to believe them. They make it easier to look away from the problem and enable bad things to continue to happen.”

Amazingly, Nassar has submitted a letter to the Michigan court stating it had become “mentally” tough for him to listen to the testimony against him.

“You think this is hard for you?” said Raisman. “Imagine how any of us feels.”

They said it

Janice Hough of LeftCoastSportsBabe.com: “Drew Brees, 39, will be a free agent this year, But Brees says he wants to be in New Orleans “as long as they’ll have him,” isn’t talking to other teams and thinks a deal will be done by March.  No wonder the guy’s underrated, he’s not enough of a diva.”

RJ Currie of SportsDeke.com: “David Beckham has released a line of 21 men’s grooming products. I plan to use them – as soon as they come out with Bald It Like Beckham.”

NBC’s Seth Meyers, on O.J. Simpson denying long-running rumors that he is Khloe Kardashian’s biological father: “But then he announced his new book about his relationship with Kris Jenner called ‘If We Did It.’ ”

Dwight Perry of Seattle Times: “A man in Cocoa, Fla., was arrested for allegedly punching an ATM because it gave him too much money. Taking no chances, the ATM is now in the concussion protocol after complaining of withdrawal symptoms.”

Brad Dickson of the Omaha (Neb.) World-Herald on NBC’s plans for 2,400 hours of Winter Olympic coverage: “If you don’t despise mixed-doubles curling at the beginning, you will by the end.”

NBC comedian Seth Myers: “According to a report, due to global warming, many former winter Olympics sites may not be reliably cold enough to host the games again after 2050. Officials first became suspicious when a figure skater drowned.”

Salute to legend

Brazilian soccer legend Pele, 77,  has suffered numerous health issues in recent years and may not be able to travel to Russia this summer for the 2018 World Cup.

It’d be a shame if that’s the case. Pele made his World Cup debut in 1958 in Sweden at the age of 17 against the USSR. He had an assist in the 2-0 win.

In that World Cup 60 years ago, he went on to score a hat trick in a 5-2 semifinal win over France and then had two goals against host Sweden in the final. He finished with six goals in four games.

He not only became the youngest player to play in a World Cup but also the youngest to score a hat trick.

His first goal against Sweden in the final, where he flicked the ball over a defender and scored off a full volley, was elected as one of the best goals in Cup history.

He is the only player to win the World Cup three times.

Pele was supposed to attend a Football Writers Association dinner in his honor in London on Sunday but he won’t attend because of “exhaustion.” He’s reportedly resting at home near Santos, Brazil.

He has had kidney, prostate and hip surgery.

Headlines

TheKicker.com: “Bengals fans so happy about Steelers loss they give Andy Dalton to charity.”

Fark.com: “Why is fighting in the NHL down to historic lows, and what can be done to fix this terrible problem?”

SportsPickle.com: “Tony Romo to predict when and how you will die in next broadcast.”

TheOnion.com: “USA Gymnastics confident they have plan in place for next time doctor sexually assaults 150 children.”

TheKicker.com: “Eagles to spend entire week practicing defense against last second miracle plays.”

SportsPickle.com: “Tom Brady begging his broken hand to drink more water.

Fark.com: Bestest ballers LiAngelo and LaMelo impress Lithuania with mad bricklaying skills.”

Sign spotted at the Cleveland parade “honoring” the 0-16 Browns: “Hey, LeBron, can you play quarterback?”

Draft blather

Thanks to ESPN, Mel Kiper Jr. has built a cottage industry around the NFL Draft. And for that, you can’t blame ol’ helmet head of hair for such self-promotion while working in cahoots with the cable sports network.”

In partnership with the NFL, they have created a showcase event each year with the NFL Combine in Indianapolis. The 2018 Combine is March 2-5.

Once again NFL and college football fans will be tuned in to see who can run faster, jump higher or throw further. But for those who can’t wait for the raw numbers to come in, there’s Kiper and his assessments of players based on insider interviews with NFL general managers and scouts.

His 2018 mock draft was released this week. Kiper projects Wyoming quarterback Josh Allen will be drafted No. 1 by the Cleveland Browns.

Allen only ranked 82nd in the nation for passing yardage, finishing with 1,870 yards, 16 touchdowns with six interceptions.  In the Mountain West, he was eighth in completion percentage and sixth in passing yardage per game.

UCLA’s Josh Rosen has been atop most NFL draft boards. In comparsion, Rosen was 14th nationally in passing yardage with 3,756 yards, 26 touchdowns and 10 interceptions.

Kiper, of course, has been wrong before.

In 1998, for instance, he thought Ryan Leaf was a better pro prospect that Peyton Manning.

My takes

Rehastagging this week’s top tweets from @Randy_Beard11

–        Huge win for Gamecocks, rally from 14 down in second half to beat #18 Kentucky, 76-68. Chris Silva had career-high, 27 points.

–        Well, that was predictable. Clemson lost to North Carolina 87-79. That stretches record to 0-59 in Chapel Hill. Zero wins. In Basketball. Round ball, flat floor doesn’t help odds for Tigers team that seem to be playing uphill on both ends of court when stepping in UNC’s gym.

–        Skol, Vikings!

–        No Steel Curtain for Pittsburgh vs. Jacksonville. More like Sheer Curtain. Jaguars crunched Pittsburgh for second time this season, winning playoff 45-42.

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

Cashing in

It pays to be on Nick Saban’s football coaching staff at Alabama.

Not only do the odds favor his assistant coaches winning multiple national championships and setting themselves up for coordinator or head coaching positions at other schools, they are pretty much guaranteed a hefty bonus each season.

This year was particularly rewarding with the Crimson Tide making the CFP playoffs even if they didn’t play for the SEC title.

For winning another national championship, the $7-million man Saban earned a $100,000 bonus.

His assistants, including three who earned bigger bonuses than Saban, were paid a combined $1.07 million.

Defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt, who has moved on to coach Tennessee, received a bonus of $234,000. Meanwhile, offensive coordinator Brian Daboll, who is now the OC for the Buffalo Bills, earned an extra $216,000.

Co-defensive coordinator/linebackers coach Tosh Lupoi was given $171,000 and Mike Locksley, who has been promoted to offensive coordinator from assistant OC, earned $108,000.

The four other staff members received bonuses ranging from $72,000 to $96,000.

Bowl recap

I’ll take consolation that I correctly picked the winners of the College Football Playoff semifinal games, confident that the national championship would be settled by two Southeastern Conference teams.

Alas, I didn’t expect Alabama to prevail in overtime with a stunning 41-yard overtime touchdown pass from freshman backup quarterback Tua Tagovailoa to beat Georgia 26-23.

My postseason picks had blown up long before that. I finished 21-17 overall, which is a 55.2 percent winning percentage. Again, I’ll take consolation in the fact that I fared better in bowl games involving ACC, Big Ten and SEC teams, posting a record of 14-7 (67 percent).

As a reminder, during the regular season I was 86-20 (81.1 percent) in picking Big Ten games this season, 82-20 (80.5 percent) in the SEC and 79-27 (74.5 percent) in the ACC.

Combined, regular and postseason, I had a winning percentage of 78.3 percent with my picks, 271-84.