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

Key game

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That has to mean something, right?

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

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

No easy answers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 Kneel- jerk reactions

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

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

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

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

Life’s a beach

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

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

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

Yes, a beach bar. Those are fighting words.

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

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

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

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

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

They said it

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bright future

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

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

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

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

Headlines

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

National pastime

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

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

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

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

My takes

Rehastagging this week’s top Tweets from @Randy_Beard11

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

From Sidelines to punchlines

A different view of sports

Clearing my mind and notebook while remaining impressed that Notre Dame’s women’s basketball team is 14-0 all-time in the ACC Tournament entering Sunday’s championship game against Louisville:

No respect

Lamar Jackson is another Heisman Trophy winner who doesn’t get enough respect as a quarterback from most NFL scouts.

At the NFL Combine in Indianapolis this week, there were reports that several teams approached the former Louisville player about participating in wide receiver drills. Jackson denied those reports while dismissing any notion that he would even entertain the idea.

“No sir, I’m a quarterback,” he said.

General manager Bill Polian of the Indianapolis Colts is one NFL executive who projects Jackson  as a better wide out prospect.

What fuels such thoughts are Jackson’s size, speed and running ability  in the open field – although he never caught a pass in his three years with the Cardinals. He also has been plagued by accuracy issues during his career, completing just 59 percent of his passes. Some scouts are also dismissive of his height and slender frame for a QB, but at 6-foot-2 and 225 pounds he’s bigger than other quarterbacks in the draft.

Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield is just a tad over 6-foot and 214, Ohio State’s J.T. Barrett is 6-1 and 224 and Southern California’s Sam Darnold is just 6-3 and 221.

Also, Wyoming’s Josh Allen, who is rated by some as the best long-term prospect, completed just 56 percent of his passes.

Bird brained

FOX Sports college basketball analyst Doug Gottlieb recently said that while most experts prefer to debate whether Michael Jordan or LeBron James was the better player in their prime, he could make an argument Larry Bird was also superior than James.

In fact, Gotlieb is convinced he’d rather have the basketball in the hands of Bird, Jordan or Magic Johnson at crunch time.

When it comes to rating  Hall of Famers, there probably isn’t a wrong answer. But no one should be be dismissive of  James’ success in the NBA. James has won 37 of 86 Eastern Conference Player of the Month honors since he’s been in the league. In comparison, Kobe Bryant only won the Western Conference Player of the Month award 15 times since the league began giving separate conference honors.

Besides, as a lifelong Milwaukee Bucks fan who still has nightmares about Bird, I refuse to be drawn into such debates. Oscar Robertson is the best ever, the original GOAT.

They said it

Golf Channel’s David Feherty on stepping off the course for his first Winter Olympics assignment as a broadcaster: “I can’t tell you how many times I slipped and fell on my ass. I invented a new skating jump: the Triple Klutz. That’s when you fall down once and fall down twice more trying to get up.”

San Francisco Chronicle’s Scott Ostler: “Charles Barkley was once asked to name his favorite white wine. He said, ‘Danny Ainge’.”

TBS comedian Conan O’Brien: “Papa John’s announced they will no longer be a sponsor for the NFL. After hearing this, Peyton Manning said, “Wait – you mean I’ve been eating this crap for nothing?”

CBS comedian James Corden: “To celebrate last year’s NBA championship, the Golden State Warriors are reportedly meeting with local children in Washington, D.C., instead of visiting President Trump in the White House. It is really nice of the Golden State Warriors to visit a bunch of children instead of just one?”

RJ Currie of SportsDeke.com: “Ravens CB and 2017 draft pick Marlon Humphrey was arrested for robbery. Take heart Baltimore: he’s already performing like an NFL vet.”

Brad Dickson of the Omaha World-Herald: “The four-man bobsled features people holding on for dear life as they plunge down an icy track. Or, as we call that in Omaha during winter, ‘carpool’.”

 Janice Hough of LeftCoastSportsBabe.com: “Canadian skier David Duncan, along with his trainer and wife were arrested for allegedly being DUI in a stolen vehicle in South Korea. Know Canada did well with 29 Olympic medals but maybe they tried too hard to prove they are equal of American athletes.”

Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times:  “Among Arkansas’ crop of college football signees this offseason is a four-star linebacker named Bumper Pool. To no one’s surprise, he’s unusually adept at bouncing off blockers.”

Comedian Steve Hofstetter: “The funniest thing about Donald Trump tweeting as if Obama was responsible for the US (poor) medal count is that Obama’s Winter Olympics were the USA’s #1 and #3 best ever.”

Gun violence

Former Carolina Panthers wide receiver Rae Carruth has given up plans to petition for custody of his son, Chancellor, when he is released from prison in a few months.

Carruth has been imprisoned for 17 years for conspiracy of murder in the death of his former girlfriend, Cherica Adams. He was convicted of paying Van Brett Watkins to shoot Adams in 2001 when she became pregnant and refused to get an abortion. Adams died in the hospital but not before Chancellor was  delivered prematurely by C-Section. Because of the circumstances of his birth, Chancellor has cerebral palsy and will need a lifelong caretaker.

Now 18, Chancellor is cared for by Saundra Adams, his maternal grandmother. But Carruth, who will be released from prison in October, had announced he intended to pursue custody of his son. The son he wanted dead.

After much public outcry over his intentions to gain custody, Carruth has suddenly changed his mind.

“For all involved or invested in this ordeal, please calm down,” Carruth wrote in a letter to the Charlotte Observer. “I will no longer be pursuing a relationship with Chancellor and Ms. Adams. I promise to leave them be, which I now see is in everyone’s best interests.”

Public opinion can be a powerful agent of change.

Gun violence II

Parkland, Florida students helped changed the conversation on gun violence after the Valentine’s Day massacre of 14 students and three adults, who were all coaches, at their school.

With a majority of Americans now believing semi-automatic assault weapons should be banned, several students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School stepped up to lead  protests, calling on legislators to pass meaningful gun laws and mental health legislation on the state and national level. They’ve appeared on various television news talk shows, led community rallies and participated in town hall discussions. They’ve also planned a “March for Our Lives” rally in Washington, D.C. and other cities on March 24.

Interestingly, the National Park Service has not issued the group a permit to hold the rally on the National Mall, saying its been reserved as a rain date for a teen talent show being staged by an unknown “educational institution.”

The name of the organization and all contact info were redacted on the copy of the permit given to the Washington Post after a Freedom of Information request.

Could it be an “educational arm” of the National Rifle Association?

Headlines

SportsPickle.com: “Sam Darnold wows scouts at NFL Combine with record 4-hours, 37 minutes in the Anthem Stand.”

TheOnion.com: “Boxing coach wishes just once he could mentor someone who already fully worked through childhood trauma.”

Fark.com: “Seems no one wants to watch an Earnhardt-free NASCAR.”

SportsPickle.com: “St. Louis Cardinals still planning to hold Assault Weapon Giveaway Night promotion.”

TheOnion.com: “Has Shaun White finally captured enough gold medals to satisfy the Snow Princess Yuki-Onna?”

Fark.com: “Multiple NFL teams ask one of the best QBs in the draft to do WR drills at the combine.”

TheOnion.com: “Doug Pederson informs Nick Foles he’s been traded to Browns while handing him Lombardi Trophy.”

My takes

Rehastagging this week’s top Tweets from @Randy_Beard11

  • Notre Dame women are still unbeaten all-time in ACC Tournament at 14-0 after beating Florida State 90-80. Jackie Young and Irish will play Louisville at 1 p.m. CT Sunday. The two teams tied for regular season title but Cardinals won only meeting, 100-67, on home floor.
  • Evansville men (17-15, 7-11. MVC) were 7-10 since calendar flipped to January in 10-team league that only had 4 teams (Loyola 15-3; S. Illinois 11-7; Illinois St. 10-8: Drake 10-8) with winning conference records. I’m not sure Missouri Valley is even a 1-bid league with Wichita St. gone.
  • Who is best wannabe baseball player/quarterback in New York: Yankees’ Russell Wilson or Mets’ Tim Tebow? Better question, who cares? Never mind that Tebow is also now a wannabe QB.
  • South Carolina women finally beat Tennessee, 73-62, but guard play still an issue with 27 turnovers. Fortunately A’ja Wilson played and had 24 points, 12 rebounds and 4 blocks. Held UT to 23 of 86 (26.7 %) shooting.
  • Without A’ja Wilson, South Carolina women are a basket case, not a basketball team.

 Soup de jour

It’s probably not a good idea to go up against J.R. Smith in a food fight. Clearly, he doesn’t mind slinging whatever is in his reach, as he proved when he tossed a bowl of soup at Cleveland Cavs assistant coach Damon Jones.

The news spread quickly around the NBA, and provided numerous one-liners on camera and on social media.

Said Golden State coach Steve Kerr when asked about the incident by Anthony Slate of the Athletic: “I would have chosen a more hearty entrée.”

Alas, Kerr hasn’t commented publicly over Warriors guard Steph Curry’s glass-shattering moment in an Atlanta hotel room. Curry, who fancies himself tackling the professional golf tour one day, busted a glass table top while taking practice swings.

But at least he’s had prior experience dealing with such moments. For a Chase commercial promoting a mobile app, Curry has previously “paid” for a lamp and a clock that were accidently broken while playing table tennis with Serena Williams.

As for his true moment of being a klutz, Curry tweeted:

”When you feel like you’re on the @pgatour so you gotta get some swings going in the hotel room. #idiot.

This was No. 42 of my “From Sidelines to punchlines” columns. I can be reached at randy.beard@yahoo.com

Sidelines to punchlines

A different view of sports

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

Best ever

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tracking titles

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

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

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

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

Star is born

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

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

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

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

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

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

They said it

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Soccer’s future

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

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

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

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

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

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

Headlines

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

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

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

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

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

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

Earning respect

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

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

But that’s not how it works.

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

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

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

Dr. Serena

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My takes

Rehastagging this week’s top tweets from @Randy_Beard11

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

UCF = Unfair College Football

UCF = Unfulfilled Championship Fantasy

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

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

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

From Sidelines to punchlines

Clearing my head and notebook while coming to grips that Ty Cobb is now a lawyer in the White House …

Most inspirational

I had never heard of Jarrius Robertson, who received the ESPY’s Jimmy V Perseverance Award the other night, but he’s now high on my list of  most unforgettable characters.

The 15-year-old Saints Superfan, who is battling a chronic liver disease, managed to make a lasting impression with his effusive personality when New Orleans players visited a hospital in 2015. His energy and positive attitude has since made him a fan favorite throughout Louisiana.

Because of his battle with biliary artesia, Robertson doesn’t look to be any older than 10 because his growth has been stunted.  He’s had two liver transplants in his young life and even survived being taken off life support when his first transplant in 2004 failed. He was in a coma for a year.

Like I said, his story of overcoming medical  odds and adversity is incredible.

“Jarrius is such an inspirational young man,” Saints quarterback Drew Brees said. “His strength, determination and resolve along with his infectious energy and attitude should be an example that no matter the circumstances or adversity, with a positive outlook and embracing the motto of ‘Don’t give up. … Don’t ever give up,’ there isn’t a challenge that cannot be conquered.”

A GoFundMe account has been set up to help Robertson’s family pay his staggering medical bills. If you can spare a few dollars, I’d encourage you to consider his cause.

https://www.gofundme.com/jarrius-robertson-2uzfdhgk

For me, after hearing Robertson’s story, it made all the other ESPY honors insignificant. Seriousy, who cares which athletes ESPN viewers think are the best players in their respective sport?

Sudden wealth

Taking time off to start a family with fiancé Alexis Ohanian, a co-founder of Reddit, Serena Williams no longer has to worry about  financial stability.

But becoming independently wealthy took some getting used to, according to Williams. She said that when she began playing professionally she never really thought about the riches  success would bring her from prize money and endorsement contracts.

Thus, she swears she didn’t think twice about driving up to an ATM and trying to deposit her first $1 million check. A teller had to request she come inside to make the deposit.

She said now she wishes she had a photo of the check, but it didn’t occur to her then.

“Selfies didn’t exist back then,” said Williams, who has a net worth of $160 million these days.

A-Rod & J-Lo

Former New York Yankee All-Star Alex Rodriguez has learned through dating Jennifer Lopez that there are different stages of celebrity. He said its been a surprisingly humbling experience.

“You know, when I was with the Yankees and we won the world championship and you’re wearing the pinstripes, you think you are pretty cool,” he told host Jimmy Fallon when he appeared on The Tonight Show last week. “But then when you hang out with Jennifer, people confuse me as a security guard all the time.”

Headlines

Fark.com: “Mayweather vs. McGregor is the “Kardashians” of sport.”

From TheOnion.com: “New X Games event just driving monster trucks off cliff.”

From SportsPickle.com.com: “6 ways to confront a friend or family member you suspect may be watching NBA Summer League

From TheOnion.com: “13-yearold quietly trying to get through rest of soccer game after getting wind knocked out of him.”

From Fark.com: “Calvin Johnson admits he retired from football rather than continue to play for Detroit Lions.”

Time to focus

The U.S. men’s national soccer team (well, this junior varsity version) has had a much tougher time than expected in Group B play of the Gold Cup.

After a 1-1 draw with Panama, Team USA struggled mightily against a Martinique squad that has a roster of mostly semi-pro players. It took a second goal from Jordan Morris on Wednesday night for us to escape with a 3-2 win.

That puts the United States atop the group standings, but only because it has scored one more goal than Panama entering Saturday night’s game in Cleveland against Nicaragua.

The U.S. shouldn’t have a problem winning its final round-robin game since Nicaragua lost to Martinique 2-0. Still, Brad Guzan can’t afford any more lapses in goal and the U.S. can’t continue to squander a half dozen scoring chances.

To be fair, U.S. coach Bruce Arena went into the group battles planning to experiment with players who haven’t seen much national team duty.

Players like forwards Dom Dwyer and Jordan Morris and midfielders Gyasi Zardes and Paul Arriola have done well enough to be on the field Saturday against Nicaragua.

But with that said, we can also expect that Arena will replace as many as six roster spots for the knockout stages of the tournament, bringing in more experience with the additions of players like Michael Bradley, Darlington Nagbe, Jozy Altidore or Clint Dempsey.

So if Dwyer or Morris want to claim a roster spot for the next round of World Cup qualifying, now is the time to do it.

They said it

R.J. Currie of SportsDeke.com: “Titans cornerback Logan Ryan wed former Rutgers softballer Ashley Bragg. I’m guessing he allowed her to complete a few passes and she let him get past first base.”

Brad Dickson of the Omaha (Neb.) World-Herald:The Cincinnati Reds Billy Hamilton was finally tagged out by the Rays after a 6-5-2-4-5-7 rundown between third base and home. The good news for Hamilton is he was credited with completing his first 5K.”

Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times: “The Warriors’ Stephen Curry just signed a five-year, $201 million contract.
Yes, why stop at 200 when you can tack on the biggest “and one” in hoops history?”

New York Yankee Aaron Judge on competing in the Home Run Derby: “It’s just another round of BP, but in front of 50,000 people.”

Bob Molinaro, in the Norfolk Virginian-Pilot, on a friend who said two or three Orioles pitchers should’ve gotten All-Star invites: “They’re more than qualified, he said, to pitch in the Home Run Derby.”

Dressing up

LPGA president Vicki Goetze-Ackerman is bringing a stricter dress code to the tour with a crackdown on sex appeal.

Her edict bans players from wearing:

— Racerback tank  tops unless they have a collar.

— Anything  with a plunging neckline.

— Leggings unless worn under shorts or a skort.

The tour has benefitted through the years from the glamour and sex appeal of  players like Jan Stephenson, Laura Baugh, Paula Creamer, Natalie Gulbis and many others. Lately, its been Michelle Wie who has raised eyebrows from some by playing in shorts and sleeveless  tank tops.

With the new dress code set to be rolled out next week, players have been warned that any violations will bring a $1,000 fine.