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 rooting for a breakout NBA postseason for Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo:

Gator nation

Steve Spurrier last coached football at the University of Florida in 2001, while Tim Tebow arrived in Gainesville five years later, so it wouldn’t be correct to label anything they might do together as a reunion.

Destiny, maybe. Fate, possibly.

The aligning of the stars, even.

But whatever it would amount to, it just feels right – even if it hasn’t happened. Yet.

Spurrier was recently hired as the head coach of an unnamed Orlando team in the new professional league, the Alliance of American Football. The AAF will debut in February 2019, beating Vince McMahon’s XFL revival by a full year. For now, Spurrier and Orlando – at least publicly – are in a spring league of their own.

Meanwhile, Tebow is taking another crack at climbing the baseball ladder, starting off this season with the Mets’ Class AA in Binghamton, N.Y., the Rumble Ponies.

Appearing on Mike Bianchi’s radio show in Orlando, Spurrier said Monday that he would welcome an opportunity to coach Tebow.

“I think Tim knows about our league,” said Spurrier. “Obviously, if his baseball career is going well, he may decide to stick with it, which I would certainly understand. But if it doesn’t go too well and he has the urge to play football, we would certainly welcome him to Orlando.”

That suggests that by the time spring training rolls around in 2020, is Tebow could have another option on how to display his athleticism. He might start comparing his stats now.

Spurrier will still serve as a consultant and ambassador for the University of Florida, but what gets his juices flowing is coaching. And when he doesn’t have to recruit fulltime, even better.

The AAF is embracing a player draft that heavily relies on regional ties to colleges. That could mean a lot of former Gators and Central Florida players. Not a bad place to start.

To further bridge that gap to his new gig, he should insist on the franchise embracing the nickname, “Swamp Lizards.” If Tebow can play for the Rumble Ponies, why not?

“In life we all need a challenge,” said Spurrier, who last coached in 2015 at South Carolina. “This is a chance for me to get a bunch of guys to coach, compete and try to win the championship. Heck there is going to be a winner in April and there’s going to be some celebrating.”

The career paths for Spurrier and Tebow aren’t just connected by Gainesville. Tebow spent part of last season playing for the Fireflies, the Mets’ Class A team in Columbia, S.C. just two years after the ol’ ballcoach quit coaching the Gamecocks.

Both, of course, won the Heisman Trophy while playing quarterback for the Gators.

Endangered kickers

When it comes to tinkering with the football rule book, no one can accuse the AAF of being conservative.

Besides eliminating kickoffs and starting every possession at the 25, the league is underscoring that decision by eliminating onside kicks as well. If your team is trailing late in the game and you want the ball back, all you have to do is ask for another chance on offense. The officials will even be nice enough to give you an additional 10 yards to the 35.

Only instead of starting with a fresh set of chains, your team will be facing a fourth-and-10 from the 35. If you want to keep possession from there, you’ll have to earn a first down the hard way rather than benefitting from a lucky bounce of the ball.

In another setback for the placekickers of the world, the league is eliminating the option of kicked extra points. Every touchdown will require a two-point conversion.

They said it

RJ Currie of SportsDeke.com: “Friday the 13th I opened an umbrella indoors, broke a mirror and followed a black cat under a ladder. Still think I’ll have better luck than the Timberwolves will against the Houston Rockets.”

Humor writer Brad Dickson in Tweet: “How bad of a fit is Patrick O’Brien for a Scott Frost-style offense? It’d be like making Brad Paisley a member of Led Zeppelin.”

 Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel: “Judging by the poor initial ratings of the new ESPN morning show with Mike Greenberg, Michelle Beadle and Jalen Rose, they should change the name of it from “Get Up” to “Go Back to Bed!”

Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times: “The Giants scored 1 or 0 runs in six of their first nine games this season. On the bright side, though, they’re already up to third in our latest MLS power rankings.”

Brad Rock of Salt Lake City’s Deseret News after ex-Jazz forward Trey Lyles said “Utah should be there” on any list of the NBA’s worst cities: “Other cities making Lyles’ list: Michigan, Wisconsin, Tennessee and California.”

Golfer Dustin Johnson on why he isn’t worried about the cost of his upcoming wedding to longtime girlfriend Paulina Gretzky: “That bill is going to Wayne.”

Janice Hough of LeftCoastSportsBabe.com: “Millions of Americans were watching the Masters when it was interrupted by a movie clip from Tin Cup. #SergioGarcia,”

 Jim Barach of WCHS-TV in Charleston, W.Va., looking on the bright side as the head count totaled only 974 in attendance for a Rays-White Sox game in Chicago: “All the fans bought a hot dog and beer, so the team still made $3 million from the concession stands.”

 Daly grind

Professional golfer John Daly—well, mostly – injured a knee while jumping out of the way of a car that crashed into his parked RV while he was standing in the parking lot of the Augusta Hooters. In other news from The Masters, Patrick Reed – someone Daly would probably get along with – won.

Wild hairs

You may have heard LeBron James’s digital media company, Uninterrupted, is threatening to sue Nick Saban’s Alabama football program over an infringement of “intellectual property.”

But for LeBron’s lawsuit to have any legal merits, he would have had to have invented the barbershop. That’s because James produces a webcast named, “The Shop,” which features King James, Draymond Green and friends talking all things basketball. Sometimes, they even discuss life off the court.

Meanwhile, some of the Crimson Tide players have started a digital webcast called “Shop Talk” that is similar in concept except it orbits the world of college football. Also, they probably spend more time discussing bass fishing.

Headlines

Fark.com: “The Dallas Stars have lost the hitch in their giddyup.”

TheOnion.com: “Dez Bryant could be perfect fit for NFL team lacking locker-room cancer.”

SportsPickle.com: “Kyrie Irving expecting to play through injury. ‘Knee science is a conspiracy.”

TheOnion.com: “PGA Officials break up crowd of rowdy fans committing commodities fraud in Augusta National parking lot.”

Fark.com: “Forbes says 20 of 30 MLB teams are valued at a billion dollar or more. Tampa Bay still on the clearance rack.”

TheOnion.com: “Annoyed Shohel Ohtani had hoped U.S. baseball players wouldn’t be this bad.”

SportsPickle.com: “Patriots stockpiling draft picks in hopes of taking a quarterback who can catch.”

TheOnion.com: “Report: Pyeongchang Olympic athletes already falling into state of disrepair.”

Fantasy League

Mark McGwire believes he would have hit 70 home runs during the 1998 season even if he hadn’t taken performance enhancing drugs.

In an interview with Jayson Stark of The Athletic, McGwire admitted that while he doesn’t deny being a drug cheat during part of his career, the baseballs were going to clear the fences at a record rate that season anyway.

“I was a born home run hitter,” said McGwire. “I mean, unfortunately I did (take PEDs). And I’ve regretted that. I’ve talked about that. I regretted it. I didn’t need to. That’s the thing. Didn’t need to.”

Three years later, another tainted hitter, Barry Bonds, ripped 73 home runs.

Which brings us to today. McGwire thinks it’s possible  that Bonds’ record will be eclipsed some day soon. And he swears that no matter how staggering the final tally is when its recorded in the books – perhaps by Aaron Judge or Giancarlo Stanton – it will be legit.

Because of more frequent drug testing by Major League Baseball, McGwire notes that the numbers can’t be disputed.

His regret is that MLB execs made it too easy to take PEDs when he played.

“Unfortunately, there wasn’t any testing,” McGwire told Stark. “I think we all wish (testing) went on when we had played. But unfortunately, it didn’t.”

My takes

Rehastagging this week’s top Tweets from @Randy_Beard11:

  • After Tyra Buss received a congratulatory billboard in her hometown: “This will be only time I make a road trip to see a billboard. The One Billboard of Mt. Carmel, Illinois. Congrats!”
  • No. 1, nothing less. Time to get paid, A’ja (Wilson).”
  • After being sued for lying about whether he was infected with an STD: “And we only thought a fractured elbow was the worst setback Isaac Haas would have to deal with while playing for Purdue.”
  • I’ve never interviewed Patrick Reed, and didn’t really know his history other than that he won 2 NCAA team titles at Augusta State, but now that I know so many folks were hoping he’d choke at The Masters, he’s my new favorite golfer.
  • Just read C&P’s Sunday centerpiece on Thunderbolts’ improving on ice but struggling in attendance. Can’t believe Jeff Pyle wasn’t interviewed. Pyle is only coach to have winning record in Evansville (IceMen & Thunderbolts). Only Scott Schoenike of Ford Center was interviewed.”

Kicking away

Barcelona set a Spanish league record by extending its unbeaten string to 39 games on Saturday, beating Valencia 2-1.

It comes on the heels of a humbling exit for Barca in the Champions League.

Saturday’s win allowed Barcelona to surpass Real Sociedad’s record of 38 league games without a loss that had stood since 1980. Barcelona’s streak began in the final seven league games last season and the team remains unbeaten through 32 rounds this season.

Although Lionel Messi was held in check Saturday, Phillipe Coutinho and Luis Suarez combined in the 15tj minute. Then Gerard Pique  made it 2-0 in the 51stvminute.

Bombs away

Some of the top headlines from SportsPickle.com that you could possibly see in the event of a nuclear war:

  1. LaVar Ball: ‘I could beat North Korea one-on-one.’
  2. Minor League baseball team holds ‘Apocalypse Night’, offering $1 tickets to anyone who is still alive.’
  3. Roger Goodell stresses that playing football is safer than getting hit with a missile.”
  4. “Washington Capitals knocked out of 2nd round of Stanley Cup playoffs by warhead.”
  5. “John Calipari signs world’s last five living 5-star recruits.”

From Sidelines to punchlines

A different view of sports

 

Clearing my mind and notebook while trying to get excited for a men’s basketball championship game between Villanova and Michigan:

Not a fan

Ken Burger wrote with passion and purpose during his career at the Courier and Post in Charleston, S.C. and whenever colleagues remember the late sports columnist someone invariably recalls this memorable zinger of his.

 “I love women. I love basketball. I hate women’s basketball.”

Forgive him. Ken died in October 2015 and didn’t live to witness the A’ja Wilson era at South Carolina under Dawn Staley, including a national championship last season and the numerous national player of the year honors collected by Wilson this year.

When Burger strung those words together, women’s college hoops was guilty as charged. It may have been a blunt assessment, but it was an honest one. And frankly, all these years later, there’s still a lack of competitive depth. Just last weekend the defending champion Gamecocks lost to UConn by 29 points and Louisville routed Oregon State by 33 – in Elite Eight games.

After what we saw Friday in this year’s national semifinals, though, there’s reason to believe better days are ahead for the sport. Both of Friday’s games went to overtime.

It also helps that for the second straight season Geno Auriemma’s UConn dynasty was a semi loser. That means there will be a different women’s champ for the third straight season. UConn had won four titles in a row and 10 of 17.

Since 2000 only six other schools have worn the crown. If you are wondering, the men really haven’t fared that much better with just 11 champions during that span. But at least the men have  had 16 schools reach the final game.

Making strides

With what Dawn Staley has accomplished since taking over at South Carolina, I’ve become a much bigger fan of the women’s game over the past several years. As a graduate of the school, I’m still riding the wave of momentum she’s created with four consecutive SEC Tournament Championships, a national player of the year in Wilson and being named the coach of Team USA.

But currently living in Indiana has also opened my eyes to how entertaining the women’s game can be when played at the highest levels.

As the former sports editor in Evansville, my staff had the honor of covering two of the nation’s best female high school basketball players in Jackie Young, now a sophomore at Notre Dame, and Tyra Buss, who was a senior at Indiana University this season.

Both chose to go to college in this state and within driving distance of their hometowns, and they have developed into two of the nation’s best college players.

They also grew up just 14 miles apart in different states, separated by the Wabash River, but competed against each other in the same high school conference in Indiana. While Mount Carmel High was a member of the Indiana High School Athletic Association’s Big Eight Conference, it was classified as an independent in Illinois when it came to the postseason.

Buss, who became the all-time leading girls’ scorer in Illinois high school history with 4,897 points, is now the Hoosiers’ all-time leading scorer. She led IU to the Women’s NIT title Saturday with a 65-57 victory over Virginia Tech in front of 13,007 fans at Assembly Hall.

Buss finished her college career by setting school records for points (2,364), free throws (633), assists (574) and steals ( 293). She also teamed with Amanda Cahill to claim a record 82 wins by a senior class in Bloomington.

Meanwhile, sophomore Young and her Irish teammates will play for a NCAA championship Sunday against Mississippi State. Young couldn’t have picked a better time to enjoy a career night, scoring 32 points and adding 11 rebounds to finish with a double-double in a 91-89 overtime win over UConn on Friday.

The Princeton, Ind. native finished her high school career as the state’s all-time leading scorer, boys or girls, with 3,302 points.

They said it

Humor writer Brad Dickson in Tweet: “Not only did I have Loyola-Chicago in my Final Four but at the top of the page I wrote. ‘A nun named Sister Jean steals the show.'”

Comedian Steve Hofstetter: “Something about baseball feeds my spirit. Stadiums are my cathedrals, programs are my prayer book, and my sermon is 162 games long. Now, the service begins. Happy opening day.”

RJ Currie of SportsDeke.com: “A sure sign your NBA team might be trying to get a top draft pick? They come onto the court wearing tank tops.”

Janice Hough of LeftCoastSportsBabe.com: “Astros signed Jose Altuve to 5-year, $151 million extension. So Jose will be able to take his family to Disneyland. Even if he still isn’t tall enough to ride all the rides.”

TBS comedian Conan O’Brien: “YouTube is planning a “Karate Kid” series that follows the characters 34 years later. The show is entitled “Ralph Macchio’s Mortgage Is Due.”

Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times: “Prosecutors declined to bring criminal charges against Bills receiver Zay Jones over an incident involving shattered glass doors and windows at a Los Angeles apartment building. Apparently there wasn’t conclusive video evidence that he’d broken the pane.”

Comedy writer Jerry Perishow after Donald Trump and Joe Biden tweeted about how they’d like a chance to settle their differences, political and otherwise, the old-fashion way: “The big question: Will Betty White be the ring girl?”

Brewers broadcaster Bob Uecker, now 84, on a bite from a brown recluse spider that required eight weeks of intense treatment: “The spider didn’t ‘recluse’ himself from biting me.”

Comedy writer Alex Kaselberg after a 102-year-old woman, Julia Hawkins, broke a world age-group record in the 60 meters: “The bad news is, afterward, she tested positive for Geritol.”

Lefty’s turn

Lefty Driesell, who is the only coach to win at least 100 games at four different colleges, is going into the Basketball Hall of Fame with a group of players he would have enjoyed coaching.

The 13-member class was announced Saturday before the start of the NCAA men’s semifinals. It includes Steve Nash, Jason Kidd, Grant Hill, Ray Allen, Maurice Cheek, Charlie Scott and Croatian star Dino Radja. Also earning admission into the hall are women’s players Tina Thompson, Katie Smith and Ora Mae Washington and professional basketball executives Rod Thorn and Rick Welts.

Hill and Driesell were former players at Duke – 40 years apart —  with Hill playing for two NCAA champions with the Blue Devils in 1991 and 1992.

Washington’s name may be less familiar. Born in 1898, Washington played on 11 consecutive Women’s Colored Basketball World’s Championship teams. She was also an outstanding tennis player.

Salary cap

If Major League baseball owners have their way, they’ll get Congressional help to avoid paying minor-league players bigger paychecks.

Depending how far they’ve climbed the ladder, most minor leaguers earn between $1,100 and $2,150 per month. But when you consider the long work weeks they can put in, it’s not much compensation.

Several lawsuits have been filed in recent years trying to force clubs to meet federal minimum wage laws.

“If Walmart or McDonald’s can find a way to comply with those laws, then Major League Baseball can find a way to comply with them, too,” said attorney Garrett R. Brosuis.

 Headlines

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

Fark.com: “After never playing for UCLA and playing a grueling nine games in a Lithuanian rec league, LiAngelo Ball declares for NBA draft.”

TheKicker.com: “NASCAAR driver who kneels for anthem gets torn to pieces by crowd.”

SportsPickle.com: “All college football coaches happy with their jobs now.”

TheOnion.com: “MLB season ends over 200 days early after new rules speed up games way too much.”

TheKicker.com: “Kentucky players excelling in ‘Declaring-for-the-NBA-draft drills.”

Fark.com: “White Sox rehired groundskeeper after he clears the dirt from his name.”

TheKicker.com: “Gelo 3s are just some Sketchers LiAngelo lifted from a Payless.”

My takes

Rehastagging this week’s top Tweets from @Randy_Beard11:

  • Sister Jean, Sister Jean, get out your Rosary and start saying your Hail Marys … No, she’s leaving the building!
  • The BUSS pulls away late with the WNIT championship as Indiana beats Virginia Tech 65-57. Mount Carmel, Illinois legend Tyra Buss leads way with 16 points in front of 13,007 at Assembly Hall. Named MVP. Congrats @tbuss3@TyraBussNews@IUHoosiers
  • Connecticut women have lost 7 straight overtime games — 4 to Notre Dame.
  • Teaira McCowan had 21 points, record 25 rebounds to lead Mississippi State back to the NCAA women’s championship game w/ 73-63 OT win over Louisville. If UConn knocks off Notre Dame, I’ll pull for Bulldogs Monday. But that’s as much a stretch as 6-7 McCowan.
  • May be my favorite 60 Minutes episode of all time. Great story and interviews tonight about …. The Greek Freak, Giannis Antetokounmpo.
  • Thank you Grayson Allen for not making a 3-pointer in overtime until it didn’t matter. Kansas beats Duke 85-81 in OT.
  • No. 3 Indiana’s men’s swimming finished NCAA Championships third with 422 points, most since 427 in 1969. Texas won a fourth-straight title with 449 points and California was second with 437.5 points. The team finish was IU’s best in 43 years. Indiana won four event titles.

Title tradition

University of Maryland-Baltimore County (UMBC), the first No. 16 seed to upset a No. 1 seed in the NCAA men’s tournament when it beat Virginia, has competed at a high level for years.

Yes, the school was six-time National College Team Chess champion from 2003 to 2010.

Super sub

Scott Foster lived his sports fantasy Thursday night when the rec league goalkeeper was pressed into action with the Chicago Blackhawks against the Winnipeg Jets because of injuries.

Foster, 36, is a former college goaltender at  Western Michigan, but these days he plays in two adult amateur leagues. Because he does have some experience turning back  flying pucks, Foster is one of several wannabe backups who show up at Chicago’s games to serve stints as an emergency keeper. It usually means he’s treated to a meal and a night in the press box watching an NHL game.

But he was needed to skate on the ice when Chicago’s Anton Forsberg and Collin Delia suffered injuries. Foster came in to help the Blackhawks protect a 6-2 lead over the final 14 minutes.

Forsberg got hurt during pregame drills, which forced Foster to put on his gear and watch the game from the bench. That by itself was a thrill he never expected to experience. Then Delia was injured, so he had to play and ended up making seven saves.

When it was over, the Blackhawks rushed the net to celebrate as if he’d stopped a penalty.

“This is something that no one can ever take away from me,” Foster said. “It’s something that I can go home and tell my kids and they can tell their friends. … Just a ton of fun.”

The NHL mandated last year that teams have an emergency goalie present for all home games ready to fill in for either team — setting the stage for Foster’s most competitive action since he played 20 minutes of a college game 12 years ago.

Sharpshooting ‘Cats

Villanova’s postseason run has allowed Jay Wright’s Wildcats to set NCAA records for 3-pointers in the regular season and the NCAA tournament.

Villanova had 18 treys against Kansas on Saturday to set the tourney record of 66 (and counting). VCU had established previous mark of 61 in 2011.

Meanwhile, the Wildcats currently have the single-season record for 3-pointers with 454 — surpassing 442 — and their 18 threes against Kansas were most ever in a Final Four game.

It’s already been a fun season for the Wildcats and now only Michigan stands in their way of a truly special finish.

Defending champ South Carolina placed in same regional with powerhouse UConn

The NCAA women’s basketball tournament selection committee didn’t do any favors for defending national champion South Carolina.

It placed Dawn Staley’s Gamecocks in the same Albany Regional as traditional powerhouse Connecticut, making the Huskies the No. 1 seed and the Gamecocks No. 2. Part of the blame, of course, for that tough road to the Final Four rests on the shoulders of national player of the year A’ja Wilson and her teammates for losing six games, including an 83-58 home loss to Geno Auriemma’s UConn team.

Staley has never beaten UConn. The Gamecocks avoided that matchup in the Final Four a year ago when Mississippi State stunned the Huskies in the semifinals.

This season Staley and her players pulled off another win in the SEC Tournament final over Mississippi State, ending the Bulldogs’ shot at finishing the season unbeaten.

Now UConn is the only remaining team with an unblemished record.

If it weren’t for UConn’s historical dominance in the tournament, the Albany Region could be tagged the Group of Death.

The top four seeds are # 1 Connecticut (32-0), #7 South Carolina (26-6), #11 Florida State (25-6). and #17 Georgia (25-6). Traditional ACC powers Duke and Virginia are also in the region,

The other regional top four seeds:

Spokane: #5 Notre Dame (29-3), #6 Oregon (30-4), #10 Ohio State (27-6) and #14 Texas A&M (24-9).

Kansas City: #4 Mississippi State (32-1), #8 Texas (26-6), #9 UCLA (24-7) and #21 N.C. State (24-8).

Lexington: #2 Baylor (31-1) #3 Louisville (32-2), #12 Tennessee (24-7) and #15 Stanford (22-10).

The top four teams in Albany have 18 combined losses. In Lexington, the top four have 20 combined losses. Meanwhile, the top four teams in the Spokane and Kansas City regionals have 22 losses.

But before they get to a possible meeting in the Albany Regional finals, South Carolina will have a chance to advance on its home court against N.C. A&T, California (21-10) and Virginia (18-13). The Gamecocks play N.C. A&T at 6:30 p.m. on Friday.

**

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

Serious business?

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

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

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

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

The losing players only get $25,000 each.

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

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

Stat of week

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

Philly fans

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

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

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

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

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

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

They said it

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 Super moment

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Marketing impact

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Headlines

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My takes

Rehastagging this week’s top tweets from @Randy_Beard11:

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

 Crying Irish

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tebow time

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

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

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

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

Oh, he battled .226 with 126 strikeouts.

Sidelines to punchlines

A different view of sports

Clearing my mind and notebook while still waiting for NBC’s Lester Holt to admit that he got snookered by propaganda from North Korean officials with his Olympic reports from a ski resort:

Sexual revolution

The Dominos are falling fast.

It all began with Wednesday’s sentencing of Dr. Larry Nassar on sexual abuse charges, which has led to the resignations of the USA Gymnastics Board of Trustees, Michigan State President Lou Anna Simon and MSU Athletics Director Mark Hollis.

Nassar, who was also employed by Michigan State, began working as a trainer for USA Gymnastics in 1986 and served as the organization’s national medical coordinator from 1996 to 2014. He graduated from the Michigan State University College of Osteopathic Medicine in 1993.

In September 2016, the Indianapolis Star reported that two former gymnasts had accused Nassar of sexual abuse during his treatments. After years of denials, the floodgates finally opened and by the time of this week’s sentencing more than 150 gymnasts had testified against Nassar. His victims have included several Olympic gold medalists, including McKayla Maroney and Aly Raisman.

With the sentencing handed down Wednesday, the 54-year-old Nassar faces up to 175 years behind bars. He had previously been sentenced to 40 years on pornography charges.

Michigan judge Rosemarie Aquilina told Nassar that she had “signed your death warrant.”

Because of his actions, there are lawsuits filed against USA Gymnastics, the U.S. Olympic Committee and Michigan State.

While some of the incidents have nothing to do with Nassar, the practice of covering up allegations of sexual assault at Michigan State goes beyond gymnastics.

The allegations that have forced Michigan State football coach Mark Dantonio and basketball coach Tom Izzo to defend the policies of their programs could lead to more resignations.

Even the highly respected Dantonio and Izzo may not survive this purge.

Yes, the Dominos are falling.

Women’s voices are finally being heard loud and clear. And that’s a good thing.

They said it

Jim Barach of WCHS-TV in Charleston, W. Va.:  “Former USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar was sentenced to 40 to 175 years in prison for molesting patients. It was the first time gymnasts ever gave a judge a 10.”

RJ Currie of SportsDeke.com:  A snowstorm prompted the AHL Charlotte Checkers to play a home contest with no fans in attendance. The arena was so empty, it felt like a Florida Panthers game.”

TBS comedian Conan O’Brien: “North Korea has announced that it will send a group of citizens called the “cheering squad” to next month’s Winter Olympics. And many of them are expected to actually compete in a new event called the ‘400 Meter Defection.’”

Brad Dickson of the Omaha (Neb.) World-Herald after a collision left Rangers left winger Jimmy Vesey playing most of a game with two teeth embedded in his lower lip: “It’s not as gross as it sounds — he’s pretty sure one of the teeth is his.”

Janice Hough of LeftCoastSportsBabe.com: “MSU lineman David Beeble on Nassar situation: ‘As a MALE football player, situations such as this are rare so if it was to arise in football, I feel that action would’ve been taken immediately.’ He’s right, unless maybe it was a football coach.”

Travis Krol, former college roommate of Matt Patricia to the Detroit Free Press on why the New England Patriots’ defensive coordinator has a beard: “He’ll probably kill me, but he’s got dimples. You can’t be a coach of men with dimples.”

Vin Scully recalling the time he played golf with fellow broadcasting icon Keith Jackson to the L.A. Times: “He was not only a great player, but he kindly spent a lot of time helping me look for my ball.”

The briar patch

Since she resigned, we can assume Michigan State President Lou Anna Simon was admitting that she hadn’t done enough to react to the criminal actions of Dr. Larry Nassar or the allegations of other sexual assaults within the athletics department.

But if she was admitting any sort of guilt, she certainly isn’t being punished for it.

Her separation agreement allows her to take a 12-month research leave in the College of Education at her current salary of $750,000 and then return to the faculty at full salary for a second year and 75 percent of her salary ($562,500) for two more years. She will also receive office space and secretarial support and hold the title of “president emeritus.”

That’s not all. She’ll also receive:

  • Parking passes for on-campus parking
  • Parking pass for all home sporting and cultural events
  • Two free tickets to home football games for the Spartan Club suites
  • Two free tickets to women’s basketball games
  • The option to buy up to four men’s basketball tickets in the same location she currently has seats
  • Reduced-price tickets for bowl games and post-season play for football, men’s and women’s basketball and ice hockey

Yep, that really is making her pay a price for poor leadership.

 Headlines

TheOnion.com: “Fired-up Patriots ready to give full 60, maybe 70 percent against Jacksonville.”

SportsPickle.com: “Steelers vow to bounce back strong at Pro Bowl.”

Fark.com:  “Johnny Manziel’s deadline to sign a CFL contract is ‘fluid’ – just like his diet.”

TheOnion.com: “Blake Bortles out to prove he’s worth franchise-crippling contract.”

TheKicker.com: “James Harrison petitions to have the Eagles play in Steelers uniforms.”

Fark.com: “USOC to USA Gymnastics board: ‘Resign of GTFO.’”

SportsPickle.com: “LeBron posts message to his future self on Instagram, congratulating himself on leaving Cleveland again.”

TheKicker.com: “Doc Rivers forces Clippers to take self-defense class at local mall.”

Ring, ring, ring

Brandon Marshall, who has been in the NFL for 12 years and never experienced the playoffs, should start angling for a free-agent contract with the New England Patriots.

The New York Giants receiver is clearly jealous of the Patriots’ success.

With Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and head coach Bill Belichick advancing to the Super Bowl for the eighth time (they’ve won five of previous seven), Marshall went off on a rant on sports talk radio.

“Players should be ashamed, coaches should be ashamed, owners should be ashamed,” said Marshall. “How do we let these guys do this year in and year out?

“Congratulations, you guys are phenomenal, you guys are great …. Can’t get any better. But how do 31 other organizations let this happen?”

My takes

Rehastagging this week’s top tweets from @Randy_Beard11

  • “As part of lawsuit settlement with USA Gymnastics, MaKayla Maroney signed nondisclosure agreement and could have levied fine of more than $100,000 for speaking about abuse. After several celebrities offered to pay the fine, the organization allowed her to testify without fine.”
  • At least someone will be getting a ring. South Carolina alum Stephon Gilmore, now a cornerback with the Patriots, will be covering South Carolina alum and Eagles receiver Alshon Jeffery in Super Bowl LII.
  • Who are brainiacs who do the videos that are part of the pregame “analysis” for NFL games. I’m speaking of the Tom vs. Tom nonsense CBS did to preview mental matchup of Tom Brady vs Tom Coughlin? I also have no use for Jim Rome’s opinion. I want to be informed, not entertained.
  • Zion Williamson picks Duke, which reels in top 3 recruits with No.1 R.J. Barrett (SF), No. 2 Williamson (PF) and No. 3 Cam Reddish (SF). We need NCAA to appoint a special prosecutor.
  • Know Your Audience Department: Got offer today to subscribe to Evansville Courier & Press for $4.31 per month signed by Patricia Miller, President of Indiana Gannett, which forced me to retire 2 years early and after I won 2 SPJ Indiana Awards in May. Hah! #gannettcankissmyass

 X marks the sport

SportsPickle.com’s 10 most amazing aspects of the new XFL:

  1. All tackles that are not helmet-to-helmet result in immediate ejection from game.
  2. He Hate Me is now named He Mid-Level Assistant Coach.
  3. When someone catches the football it will count as a catch.
  4. Players who kneel for the anthem will be hit in the back of the head by a metal chair.
  5. Also, the anthem is “Welcome to the Jungle.”
  6. Every drive that picks up more than one first down will be accompanied by this GIF (promoting Hulu) on the stadium Jumbotron.”
  7. You want Tommy Maddox? You got Tommy Maddox.
  8. The actual football will be slightly less shitty than it was before.”
  9. Johnny Manziel has promised not to do meth on game days.
  10. The MVP of each season’s XFL title game will be given a cabinet position of his choosing.”

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.

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.