From Sidelines to punchlines

A different view of sports

Clearing my mind and notebook while noting that idiots are hard at work offering fake Nike coupons “for people of color” containing Colin Kaepernick’s image. May the perpetrators be caught and prosecuted:

Stormy season

Everything is falling into place for Central Florida – UCF to those too embarrassed to admit the school wouldn’t exist without FEMA funding – to claim another mythical national championship in college football.

Yes, the Knights just had a game against an Atlantic Coast Conference team canceled by a hurricane for the second straight season. That means athletic director Danny White could soon be free to schedule a replacement game against a woefully weak opponent to make up for Saturday’s scrapped road game at North Carolina.

Last season UCF had a home game against Georgia Tech cancelled by Hurricane Irma, and losing that Power 5 opponent hurt the Knights in every ranking but the final Colley Matrix.

Technically, they are calling it a postponement, but the game won’t likely be rescheduled. There are even reports that White might not bother to find a replacement game.

But just in case, White may want to give Liberty University a quick call before someone starts a bidding war. After all, the Flames are on fire in the Bottom Ten of most computer power polls and they have an open date on Oct. 27.

Scheduling Liberty wouldn’t even hurt UCF’s strength of schedule since Josh Heupel’s team already will be lining up against AAC East members UConn, (110), Temple (109) and Eastern Carolina (103), who all rank in the Bottom 30. That’s also true of AAC West opponent SMU (104), which visits Spectrum Stadium Oct. 6. That means only AAC foe Tulsa (100) is missing from the Knights list of guaranteed cupcakes this season.

So chalk up a huge win for Hurricane Florence, who matched the 2017 devastation caused by Irma, which forced the cancellation of a game against Georgia Tech.

Kickoff 2018

NBC comedian Jimmy Fallon: “After losing all 16 of their games last season, the Cleveland Browns’ first game of the year ended in a tie. Yep, the Cleveland Browns: Even when they don’t lose, they don’t win.”
Janice Hough of LeftCoastSportsBabe.com: “So will Aaron Rodgers be first NFL player to win Comeback Player of the Game?”

Comedian Eric Stangel on Twitter: “Marshawn Lynch looking great on Oakland’s first drive. Raiders now calling around for trade partners.”

Janice Hough of LeftCoastSportsBabe, again: “Mayor of a New Orleans suburb just rescinded the city’s ban on Nike equipment and clothing after players on the Saints complained.  Good to know that even in times of prejudice there are priorities in Louisiana.”

Comedian Eric Stangel on Twitter: The definition of insanity is to do the same thing over and over and expect different results. With that said, GOOOOOOOOOOO #Chargers!!!!!!!!!!!

 Pole position

Katie Coates is on a mission to make pole dancing an Olympic sport.

Don’t laugh. If rhythmic gymnastics, synchronized swimming and ballroom dancing (under consideration) can be Olympic sports, then why not pole dancing?

Coates swears her vision of pole dancing has no resemblance to the seductive routines performed at gentlemen’s clubs. While it is not officially recognized by the International Olympic Committee, the sport of pole dancing is funded as a serious sport by many countries, including Mexico. And there is competition for men and women.

“I still have to work as a coach as well as being an athlete but Mexicans are very positive about pole,” said 2018 world silver medalist Moises Reyes.

But the reaction Coates often receives isn’t always positive.

“I’ve had people spit in my face, call me up screaming down the phone and telling me I’m a bad person,” Coates, president of the International Pole Sports Federation, told Al Jazeera.

But the sport is slowing growing, and held its first world championship six years ago.

Coates’ goal over the next couple of years is to expand the sport’s reach to 40 federations on five continents, which would make it eligible for IOC consideration.

The IPSF started with routines that included up to 20 required moves and now has a sanctioning book that is 170 pages.

You might even find moves that resemble routines found in synchronized swimming and rhythmic gymnastics.

“I can’t say for sure that we’ll ever get there, but they told us that we’re an interesting, funky, youth sport so we’re on their radar,” said Coates. “It’s an ambition for all our athletes to be part of the Olympic Games. So never say never. Everyone laughed at me when I first said we’d become a sport, and look where we are now.”

They said it

Lee Corso, to Florida State boosters in 2014, on FSU football teammate/actor Burt Reynolds, who died last week at 82: “I was famous for one thing at Florida State: I was Burt Reynolds’ roommate. … With his looks and my car, we’d kill ’em in Tallahassee.”

Omaha comedy writer/blogger Brad Dickson: “Iowa State has scheduled a football game vs. Incarnate Word which sounds like something you’d play on your iPhone.”

Comedian Argus Hamilton on what the arrival of September means: “That month when Americans can forget politics and go back to hating each other over the football teams we support.”

Janice Hough of LeftCoastSportsBabe.com: “SF Giants now selling 2019 Spring Training packages. With all due respect, anyone who wants to watch Spring Training level baseball can just go to an SFGiants game this September.”

RJ Currie of SportsDeke.com: “Rest in peace Burt Reynolds, perhaps the most famous moustached star in history. Unless you include those East German women shotputters.”

Comedian Eric Stangel on Twitter: “Fantasy football update. I’m losing to a guy who started a player who started the season on IR and is out for the year.”

Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times: “Tigers analyst Rod Allen allegedly assaulted play-by-play broadcaster Mario Impemba, grabbing him from behind, but Allen’s agent says it didn’t happen. Flummoxed Elias Sports Bureau types can’t decide whether to credit Allen with a blown hold or a no-hitter.”

Omaha comedy writer/blogger Brad Dickson on Twitter, again: “To spotlight the UNL campus Saturday during the football game ABC chose to show about 8 students separately taking selfies. A top rated Ag college, business school, law and liberal arts & the network chooses selfies.”

Jim Barach of JokesByJim.blogspot.com: “A survey says 90% of PGA golfers believe Tiger Woods will win another major tournament. The other 10% agree, but are just depressed in realizing they would make more money if they stopped playing golf and became his caddie.”

Omaha comedy writer/blogger Brad Dickson on Twitter, again: “Glad that Nike finally found a spokesperson who’s non-polarizing. Second and third choices were Julian Assange and Kim Jong Un.”

RJ Currie of SportsDeke.com, again: “Your Pacific Coast League manager of the year  — Stubby Clap; one of the best names in baseball. Not such a good name had he wanted to be a porn star.”

Jim Barach of JokesByJim.blogspot.com: “Boxer Saul “Canelo” Alvarez says he visualizes a knockout against his opponent every night before going to bed. Then he lets his opponent knock him out so he can get a full night’s sleep.”

Headlines

TheOnion.com: “Cameraman strikes gold with tubby fan eating ice cream, dancing, holding baby.”

SportsPickle.com: “Pete Carroll is going to yell at the Broncos for hurting Russell Wilson’s feeling by intercepting him.”

Fark.com: “Red Sox usher usually catches a foul ball in one hand, towels off wet seat with the other.”

TheOnion.com: “Russell Wilson asks Seahawks to modify play where he’s immediately tackled by six players.”

Sportspickle.com: “Do you ever sit and think: ‘My god, there are people watching baseball right now.’’’

Fark.com: “The future of sport is here: Olympic pole dancing.”

TheOnion.com: “Matthew Berry admits he just drafts Fantasy Players whose name he recognizes.”

Sportspickle.com: “Rutgers voted best football team in the country.”

Fark.com: “The Chargers’ record continues to be unblemished by success.”

TheOnion.com: “Fan going to see how first few games go before declaring moral objection to watching NFL”

Fark.com: “ACC schools continue to wait until the last minute to avoid playing UCF.”

SportsPickle.com: “Rodgers returned to game because he heard his family was going to visit him at hospital.”

Fark.com: “DeShone Kizer thanks Aaron Rodgers for the assist.”

My takes

Rehastagging this week’s top Tweets from @Randy_Beard11

  • Mets’ David Wright, who has neck issues, is retiring, saying “It’s debilitating to play baseball.” But I just read where the players are tossing miniature footballs around the locker room and shooting miniature basketballs. So do we really have to blame baseball?
  • Boston College’s Anthony Brown’s 5 TD passes accounted for 202 of the 304 yards passing he had against Wake Forest Thursday. He completed 16 of 25 passes overall.
  • FEMA’s Jeff Byard said Hurricane Florence was going to deliver a “Mike Tyson punch to the Carolina coast.” It would have been more appropriate if he had called it a “Joe Frazier punch.” After all, Smokin’ Joe was from Beaufort.
  • Packers should try to extend Aaron Rodgers’ @AaronRodgers12 career by letting him sit out until third quarter of every game.

 End of era

New York Mets third baseman David Wright is scheduled to play his final game on Sept. 29, at which point he will reportedly hang up the cleats and gloves.

Technically, he’s not retiring, but he will go back to being inactive because of unsuccessful surgeries for spinal stenosis that has caused pain in his neck, shoulder and back.

Because the Mets still owe him $27 million over the 2019 and 2020 seasons, he will remain on the disabled list so the club can recoup most of that money from insurance.

“From everything the doctors have told me, there’s not going to be any improvement,” said Wright, who has a career .296 batting average and 242 home runs but hasn’t played more than 38 games since 2016. “Some days the pain could be moderate and manageable. Some days it was too much to be thinking about baseball. … It’s debilitating to play baseball.”

It’s just another reminder that it’s not whether you win or lose, its how you play the game.

From Sidelines to punchlines

A different view of sports

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

Key game

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That has to mean something, right?

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

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

No easy answers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 Kneel- jerk reactions

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

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

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

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

Life’s a beach

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

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

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

Yes, a beach bar. Those are fighting words.

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

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

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

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

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

They said it

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bright future

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

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

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

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

Headlines

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

National pastime

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

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

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

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

My takes

Rehastagging this week’s top Tweets from @Randy_Beard11

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

From Sidelines to punchlines

 A different view of sports

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

Championship path

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

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

Mission Accomplished.

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

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

Oklahoma prevailed, 13-2.

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

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

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

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

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

Boiler pride

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

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

They said it

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 Title debate

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Identity crisis

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

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

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

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

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

Or they can accept being called Mickey Mouse University.

Countdown clock

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

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

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

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

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

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

End of era

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Headlines

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dietary advice

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

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

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

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

From Sidelines to punchlines

A different view of sports

Clearing my mind and notebook while growing tired of the other fake news problem in this country – advertorial content accompanied by misleading headlines that  link to clickbait:

Dollar-bill defense

Five former University of Louisville basketball players have filed suit against the NCAA because they allege their reputations have been sullied for having played for former coach Rick Pitino.

OK, that’s not actually the basis for their lawsuit – even if it probably should be the main thrust of their argument.

Technically, the lawsuit accuses the NCAA of smearing the reputations of all the ‘Ville players and casting them in a false light as a result of Stripper Gate. Their hope is to have the Cardinals’ 2013 national championship restored along with 123 wins from four seasons and any individual honors that were stripped away because of an escort scandal.

The players are arguing that the NCAA was too harsh in its punishment even if there were strippers in the basketball dorm on a regular basis hooking up with some of their teammates and recruits.

Former players Luke Hancock, Gorgui Dieng, Stephen Van  Treese, Tim Henderson and Michael Marra claim they didn’t participate or know about the sex parties. But they would have to successfully plead a “Choir Boy” Defense in order to win their case.

Hancock was named the most outstanding player of the Final Four that year but insists he did not participate in any of the shenanigans arranged by basketball staffer Andre McGee through escort Katrina Powell. But it’s been well documented that there were strippers on the premises, and that’s where it gets problematic for Hancock and Co.

For the NCAA to impose sanctions for rules violations, not every player on a team has to be found guilty of receiving extra benefits.

There’s a reason why Louisville was stripped of the 2013 national championship, 123 wins and millions of dollars. And there’s also reasons why Pitino is no longer the Cardinals’ coach and Tom Jurich is no longer the athletic director at Louisville.

Guilty or not, Hancock should be content that the NCAA also hasn’t taken away that championship ring he is still wearing. He needs to hold on to  his memories and do his best to put the scandal in the past.

Perspective is everything

San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich was recently asked how he “endured” the death of his wife Erin a few months back and all the frustrations he faced as a coach last season, including a seventh-place finish in the NBA’s Western Conference and a first-round exit in the playoffs.

“When you say we’ve endured, this is basketball,” said Pops, arguably the most politically and socially aware coach of this generation. “We’re playing a child’s game and getting paid for it. If you look at what’s going on in the world, there are billions of people enduring. We aren’t enduring anything.”

Popovich is active in numerous charities, humanitarian causes and social justice issues. He’s also the longest tenured coach in the NBA, posting 21 consecutive winning seasons and leading San Antonio to five league championships.

They said it

RJ Currie of SportsDeke.com, again: “Rams running back Todd Gurley’s new deal includes $45 million in guaranteed money. Or about $9 million per fumble.”

Omaha comedy writer Brad Dickson on Twitter: ‘This is impressive: many of Urban Meyer’s former players at Florida are planning to rally to his defense after they make parole.’

Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times: “Basketball Hall of Famer Charles Barkley finished dead last at the American Century Championship celebrity golf tournament, but at least his wild tee shots were memorable. The words ‘get down’ hadn’t been uttered this much since the disco era.”

Janice Hough of LeftCoastSportsBabe: “Cowboys’ QB Dak Prescott says NFL anthem protests take away ‘from the joy and the love that football brings.” But hey, maybe the CTE will help players forget.”

RJ Currie of SportsDeke.com: “Here’s a disturbing thought: If NFL wideout Dez Bryant signs with Chicago, we may have to call him Bear Bryant.”

Omaha comedy writer Brad Dickson on Twitter: “Tanner Farmer just predicted the Husker football team will win a gold medal and the America’s Cup. Stay tuned for more on this breaking story.”

Comedian Steve Hofstettler on Twitter: “I’m in favor of sending Dennis Rodman to North Korea. Either he helps over there or he gets executed. Win-win.”

 Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel after Aaron Gordon said signing his four-year, $76 million dollar contract with the Magic “brought tears to my eyes: “The first confirmed case of someone who actually was crying all the way to the bank.”

Janice Hough of LeftCoastSportsBabe.com, again: “Even fans of the 1962 Mets are beginning to think the 2018 Mets really suck.”

Omaha comedy writer Brad Dickson, again on Twitter: “Nebraska is about to begin fall football practice. The only people in full pads today will be several super gung ho fans.”

Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times, again: “Detroit and Cleveland came in Nos. 1 and 3 in Wallethub.com’s latest ratings of America’s most distressed cities. People cheer for the Lions and Browns there. Any more questions?”

RJ Currie of SportsDeke.com, again: Rangers pitcher Bartolo Colon will likely end the season as Latin America’s winningest pitcher. With that waistline, it’s clear he’s had no trouble finding the plate.”

Former Duke, Florida and South Carolina head football coach Steve Spurrier on his zero-tolerance rule for domestic abuse: “I think it should be a rule in all of college football.”

Dog days

Newarena.com released its list of “Greatest College Running Backs of All-time” and Georgia fans should be barking up a storm. Yep, Herschel Walker came out on top even after all these years.

After all,  the “Grand Dog of All” is a who’s who of running backs with Barry Sanders of Oklahoma State coming in second, Ron Dayne of Wisconsin finishing third, Archie Griffin of Ohio State claiming fourth and Ricky Williams of Texas at No. 5.

You knew Williams was good because he always left a trail of smoke, right?

I won’t reveal the complete the list of great backs but it includes 30 overall, and while you can argue the order they appear, Newarena.com didn’t overlook all-time greats like (7) Red Grange of Illinois or  (19) Jim Thorpe of Carlisle.

We should also note that No. 10 on the list is Doak Walker of Southern Methodist, the 1948 Heisman Trophy winner whose name you should recognize because the award for the nation’s top running back is named after him.

As for Walker, he had a 16-year career in the USFL and NFL after rushing for 5,239 yards and 76 touchdowns at Georgia, led the Bulldogs to the 1980 national title and won  the 1982 Heisman Trophy.

End is near

And then there’s this from Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times: “Latest sign that the apocalypse is nearly upon us: Bryce Love, Stanford’s Heisman-worthy running back, chose staying back at school to go to class over an appearance at Pac-12 Football Media Day.”

Headlines

SportsPickle.com: “I know it’s hard to compare eras in sports, but Ty Cobb would have broken all MLB records for racist and homophobic tweets.”

Fark.com: “Ronaldo scores rare “shoulder goal” in first week of training with Juventus. My god, he might be better than Tebow.”

TheOnion.com: “Neil deGrasse Tyson debunks stadium’s home run animation depicting ball launching into the stratosphere.”

SportsPickle.com: “Okay, so other than Penn State, Michigan State and Ohio State, the Big Ten seems like it’s good people.”

Fark.com: “A 10-year-old named Clark Kent beat a record that Michael Philps held for 23 years. No word if his mom is named Martha.”

SportsPickle.com: “Congratulations to 2019 Alabama offensive coordinator Urban Meyer!”

Fark.com: “Washington Nationals beat the Mets by three touchdowns, 25-4.”

SportsPickle.com: “How does Jim Harbaugh feel about John Harbaugh coaching a team named after a bird?”

Fark.com: “Looks like Ohio State is about to have another coaching legend get canned.”

 Timing, timing

The Ohio-based eatery Bob Evans Restaurants has “fired” Urban Meyer as its “head breakfast coach.” Knowing that, can the real punishment be far behind for Ohio State’s suspended football coach?

The chain recently signed a marketing deal with Meyer, who has been suspended by the university amid reports that he knew about domestic abuse incidents between former assistant coach Zach Smith and his wife.

In a statement from the restaurant chain, it was announced: “We are suspending the current partnership with Urban Meyer and removing all related content pending the results of the official Ohio State University investigation.”

Meyer is on paid administrative leave, but his contract does provide provision for him to be fired by the school for conduct, including lying to the university.

At the recent Big Ten Conference media days, Meyer admitted that he knew of a 2009 incident between Smith and his then-wife when he hired him as a receivers coach in 2012, but Meyer insists he did not know about any other incidents of domestic abuse, including a 2015 incident.

European rehab

If Meyer is fired or forced out in Columbus, maybe he can start a new life for himself in Europe as former Baylor coach Art Briles has chosen to do.

Briles is going to coach in Italy after a nearly two-year exile for his mishandling of multiple sexual assault allegations by numerous players from 2009 to 2016.

Now Briles is going to coach an American football team in Florence, Italy – although the season won’t begin until March.

Meanwhile, in the past week Briles’ attorneys turned over nearly 4,000 pages of documents and six audio recordings to lawyers representing 10 women in a Title IX lawsuit against the university because of the handling of the sexual assault charges. After all the delays and denials he and his staff made for years, Briles has now told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram that he in hindsight he “would have done more.”

Baylor should be required to do more too. They certainly went beyond the call of duty in their cleaning house of Briles and former president Ken Starr. Yes, that Ken Starr.

As part of its settlement with Briles, Baylor paid the former football coach more than $15 million – his contract had included a $39 million buyout. The school also gave Starr  more than $4 million to get him to step away as chancellor. Then it gave him a job teaching in its law school.

What a country!

Now Briles is going to work in a country where many believe it’s merely recreational sport to harass women and pinch butts.

Last word

Shaquille O’Neal started a buzz in L.A. by suggesting that Kobe Bryant was considering coming out of retirement to wrap up his career with a better ending while playing with LeBron James.

Only one problem. Shaq should have talked to Kobe’s wife Vanessa.

Vanessa Bryant has since made it clear that Kobe’s days of basketball are most confined to him coaching his girls and shooting hoops for fun – mostly alone.

“Kobe will not be coming out of retirement to play again,” she said. “He doesn’t want to play again and frankly we really enjoy spending time together as a family without all the crazy game schedule conflicts interfering with birthdays, holidays and special events.”

Bryant, 39, was slowed by injuries the last few years of his career, playing in just 107 games the last three seasons. But he did win an Academy Award for best film short, “Dear Basketball” in 2018, so he’s already accomplished in a second career.

From Sidelines to punchlines

A different view of sports

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

Home, sweet, home

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

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

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

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

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

Sounds about right.

$70-million man

Well, that seals the deal.

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

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

Pays to be good

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

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

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

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

They said it

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pearls of wisdom

Now managing the Chicago Cubs, Eddie Vedder.

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

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

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

Long odds

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

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

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

Besides, he’s now ranked No. 306.

Headlines

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Russian collusion

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ranking the pros

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

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

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

From Sidelines to punchlines

A different view of sports

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

Stirring it up

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So, no title?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

’Skins game

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Right step

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

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

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

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

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

They said it

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

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

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

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

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

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

Age-old problem

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

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

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

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

 Gridiron grandstanding

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

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

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

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

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

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

Headlines

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Higher expectations

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

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

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

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

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

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

Replacement player?

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

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

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

Personal note

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

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

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

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

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.

From Sidelines to punchlines

A different view of sports

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

 You gotta believe?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There’s hope

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

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

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

And then there’s this:

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

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

They said it

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 Big Blue Collapse

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

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

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

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

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

 Fast finish

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

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

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

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

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

Headlines

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My takes

Rehastagging this week’s top Tweets from @Randy_Beard11:

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

Taking it on chin

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

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

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

From Sidelines to punchlines

A different view of sports

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

Landing spot

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Threepeat not enough

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stat of Week

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

They said it

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 Stats of Week, II

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

 Historic loss

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

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

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

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

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

Headlines

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stat of Week, III

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

My takes

Rehastagging this week’s top Tweets from @Randy_Beard11

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

 Rather unruly

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

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

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

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