From Sidelines to punchlines

A different view of sports 

Clearing my mind and notebook while wondering how Notre Dame’s football game against Florida State was picked for a primetime telecast on NBC Saturday night:

 Horse play

I’ve had the opportunity to interview numerous thoroughbred owners, trainers and jockeys through the years and I can honestly say I’ve never been tempted to ask if I could saddle up.

I bring all this up because last week a 24-year-old man from Georgetown, Ky., mounted a racehorse at Churchill Downs and tried to ride it on to the track.

Yes, Michael Wells-Rody was drunk. And stupid. But fortunately, he was caught before he could do serious damage to the horse or himself during what was Breeders’ Cup weekend.

According to State Police, Wells-Rody “was manifestly under the influence of alcoholic beverages” when he “snuck into a restricted area he was not authorized to be in” and jumped on a horse.

Alas, he now has a record from his time at the Lousville track, but it won’t be listed in the Daily Racing Form.

As for me, I’m pretty sure I may hold the unofficial track record for two-furlongs at Ellis Park in Henderson, Ky.

That was after one trainer tried to show me how to offer a peppermint to one of his prized animals, but I was so nervous I dropped the candy, which didn’t exactly please the old grey mare. I swear the horse was still giving me the evil eye as I headed back to my car.

Pecking order

In ranking its top 25 college basketball coaches, Yarbarker.com didn’t exactly make any surprising choices.

Villanova’s Jay Wright, with two NCAA titles in three seasons, tops the list. He’s followed by John Calipari at Kentucky, Tom Izzo at Michigan State, Mike Krzyzewski of Duke and Roy Williams of North Carolina.

Calipari, however, may have to do his best coaching job in years to justify his No. 2 slot. The Wildcats were embarrassed Tuesday night by Duke, losing 118-84 in Indianapolis. That 34 point loss was the largest Calipari has suffered at UK, and the Wildcats followed that up by slipping past Southern Illinois at home on Friday.  

 They said it

Omaha comedy writer/blogger Brad Dickson: “Even Clemson, a school that has a pregame ritual consisting of touching a rock realizes that releasing helium-filled balloons is dumb.”

Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times: “Which football coach boasts more future first-round draft picks, Jon Gruden or Nick Saban?”

Jim Barach of JokesByJim.blogspot.com on the Raiders, 49ers, Giants and Cardinals dueling for the NFL’s worst record and No. 1 draft choice: “It’s getting so bad, those teams are being flagged for excessive celebration when their opponent scores.”

Orlando columnist Mike Bianchi: “I’m not saying NBA coaches are totally unimportant, but Tyronn Lue won a championship and made it to four consecutive NBA Finals when LeBron James was on the roster. Without LeBron, Lue didn’t even make it through the first month of the season without getting fired.”

Janice Hough of LeftCoastSportsBabe.com: “New York Mets GM Brodie Van Wagenen just said Tim Tebow has earned the right to start 2019 season for a Triple A team. Does that mean Tebow will be starting for the Mets?”

Omaha comedy writer/blogger Brad Dickson on Twitter: “Call me overly optimistic but I’ve already began my NCAA Tournament bracket and have the Huskers advancing out of the first round.”

Jim Barach of JokesByJim.blogspot.com: “The Tampa Bay Rays have finalized a deal with 16 year old Cuban pitcher Sandy Gaston which includes a $2.6 Million signing bonus. Which makes him the only player in the league negotiating in percentages of their country’s GDP.”

Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times: “Recreational marijuana is now legal nationwide in Canada. Or as more than a few pro athletes now put it: The grass is always greener on the other side … of the border.”

Jim Barach of JokesByJim.blogspot.com: “Tiger Woods reportedly turned down $3.25 Million to play in a tournament in Saudi Arabia. He doesn’t need to go to the Sahara Desert because he is already catching enough heat for his pay-per-view TV match against Phil Mickelson.”

Jack Finarelli of SportsCurmudgeon.com, with college basketball’s least-surprising news: “Note that the UCLA basketball team did not choose to take a week or so trip to China in early November this year.”

Reboot needed

Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones found himself defending his club’s coaching staff and front office after former quarterbacks Troy Aikman and Roger Staubach suggested major changes were needed if the NFL franchise was going to ever again be known as America’s Team.

“There has to be a complete overhaul of the organization,” Aikman told radio station 96.7 KICK The Ticket Tuesday after the Cowboys lost 28-14 to the Tennessee Titans on Monday. “In a lot of ways. there’s a lot of dysfunction.”

With the Cowboys only 3-5, head coach Jason Garrett has been under a lot of criticism from Dallas fans. And for good reason – the Cowboys have only had three winning seasons since 2010, and only twice during that time have they posted double digit wins.

Dallas is 71-65 over the past eight-plus seasons.

Added Staubach, “Overall, the team has been a disappointment … We can’t continue to play at this level and be happy with the team. That’s for sure.”

But Jones hasn’t lost faith in his coaching staff, or young stars like quarterback Dak Prescott and running back Ezekial Elliott. He just thinks it will take more time to get things turned around, although he did note that wins were the key to Garrett’s future.

“These are tough stretches,” said Jones. “People are going to be critical and take their shots. I’m fully aware this is a time when we should be criticized.

 Headlines

TheOnion.com: “Is Cindy Gruden worth more than the 7th-round pick Jon Gruden traded her for?

Fark.com: “Notre Dame reveals their new Kermit the Frog-inspired uniforms.”

SportsPickle.com: “Good start for the Steelers, but 3 miles away, LeVeon Bell is working on a triple-double at the YMCA against a teams of 40-year-old dads. Impressive.”

TheOnion.com: “Compassionate fisherman doesn’t have heart to throw trout back into incredibly polluted lake.”

Fark.com: “There have been 233 starting quarterbacks in the NFL since 2001, and one of them is Tom Brady.”

Sportspickle.com: “The new attorney general will definitely not allow any investigations into Iowa’s tight ends.”

TheOnion.com: “Red Sox take out full-page ad in New York Times reminding city they won Word Series.”

Fark.com: “Harlem Globetrotters break five record for Guinness World Records Day. Washington Generals once again can’t catch a break.”

SportsPickle.com: “I’m starting to worry that Aaron Rodgers is wasting Mike McCarthy’s prime.”

Fark.com: “LeVeon Bell tweets from Australia.”

SportsPickle.com: “Julio Jones scoring a touchdown did not actually happen. It was shot on a sound stage.”

 Election recap

NotSportsCenter: “Breaking: The SEC Network is projecting Alabama to take control of both the House and Senate.”

Omaha comedy writer/blogger Brad Dickson on Florida voting to close greyhound racing tracks: “I love greyhounds & I’m strongly considering taking one. Wondering if I had to buy a fake rabbit for my new pet to chase around the outside of my house all day.

Jim Barach of JokesByJim.blogspot.com: “Florida voters passed an amendment to end greyhound racing. Mostly because it’s a lot more intense and interesting to watch and wager on what Florida is going to do on Election Day.

Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times: “Recreational marijuana is now legal nationwide in Canada. Or as more than a few pro athletes now put it: The grass is always greener on the other side … of the border.”

Omaha comedy writer/blogger Brad Dickson on Twitter: “If you vote for Bo Pelini for office today you need to just take a deep breath and try to move on.”

Total loss

Former U.S. National Team star Eric Wynalda only has his memories from three World Cups now.

All his soccer memorabilia went up in smoke early Friday when his home in Ventura County was consumed by a raging wildfire in California.

“Gone,” said Wynalda. “Brutal … Watched it burn on live TV.”

Wynalda was alerted by text around 12:30 a.m. that a voluntary evacuation had been ordered because of the approaching fire that had closed the 101 Freeway. His wife loaded their three children into a car with important documents, jewelry and four suitcases of clothes and hit the road for her parents home in Corona, Calif.

Wynalda stayed behind to do more packing, but a little over two hours later police were banging on his door telling him he had to leave. So he left, leaving behind decades worth of jerseys and honors, including a plaque noting he had scoredthe first goal in Major League Soccer history.

He got a call from a friend as he was driving to his in-laws, who confirmed that TV had video of his home burning to the ground.  

By Friday morning, more than 10,000 acres had burned. But Wynalda said that of the more than 160 homes in his Westlake Village development, his home was the only one destroyed.

Wynalda, who was just named the head coach of a USL expansion team, the Las Vegas Lights FC, plans to rebuild.

 Straight talk

Scott Ostler of the San Francisco Chronicle, on the impending move of the Raiders: “Usually when a high-rolling loser comes to Vegas, the casinos set him up with a comp hotel room. With (owner Mark) Davis, they’re giving him a comp stadium.”

Orlando columnist Mike Bianchi: “Did you see the viral photo of the shirtless Florida State fan sitting alone and reading a book at the end of Clemson’s 59-10 demolition of the Seminoles? I’m thinking it was a book about FSU’s offensive line: “Slaughterhouse Five.”

Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times: “A man using a blowtorch to kill spiders burned down his mother’s house in Fresno, Calif. He reportedly got the idea watching Jon Gruden tinker with the Raiders’ roster.”

NBC football broadcaster Al Michaels, when asked how the late Howard Cosell would view today’s sports-media landscape: “He would hate social media. He would hate talk radio. … He would describe it as a ‘cacophony of crap.’ ”

Janice Hough of LeftCoastSportsBabe.com: “New Raiders broadcaster Brent Musburger tweeted out a picture of people in Native-American headdresses at a Trump rally and captioned it ‘Elizabeth Warren’s “relatives” backing Trump in Montana.” I liked Brent better when he was just a dirty old man.”

RJ Currie of SportsDeke.com: “A cheerleader for Colin Kaepernick’s old team, the 49ers, took a knee during the anthem on Thursday Night. Even she is more likely in the future to quarterback an NFL team.”

Indiana University football coach Tom Allen, commenting about some of his players questioning IU fans who leave Memorial Stadium early when the Hoosiers are losing: “To me it’s our responsibility to be able to put a team on that football field that plays for 60 minutes to a level where those fans don’t want to leave.”

 Kicking philosophy

As reported by Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times: As retired Colts punter Pat McAfee — who also doubled as Adam Vinatieri’s holder — told ESPN: “Before every kick I viewed it as my job being his caddie to kind of keep it light. No matter what the situation is, I’m going to crack a joke.

“We’d talk about how bad the conditions were, or how beautiful the day was, or which drunk guy we’re aiming for in the crowd behind the uprights.”

 My takes

Rehastagging this week’s top Tweets from @Randy_Beard11:

  • Among top 10 states with highest incidence of major cardiovascular disease, 7 are home to 9 SEC football teams: 2. Kentucky (10.6%), 3. Mississippi (10.1%), 4. Alabama (9.8), 5. Tennessee (9.8), 6. Louisiana (9.7), 8. Arkansas (9.2), 9. Missouri (9.2). SEC: It just means more.
  • FINAL: Duke 118, Kentucky 84. It’s worst defeat John Calipari has ever suffered with Wildcats.”
  • Zion Williamson is a beast. That is all.
  • Just voted … but it was only semifinal vote for Biletnikoff Award. Blessed to help decide best receiver each year and to get to meet and chat with the original man with sticky fingers when I was sports editor in Tallahassee.
  • Before we send troops to the border, maybe we should make sure West Point cadets know that they should keep their hands off the Air Force Academy mascot.”
  •   Wait, did Texas A&M just lose its second in a row after Kirk Herbstreit said Jimbo Fisher‘s team wouldn’t lose again? Auburn, 28-24.

 They said it, Too

RJ Currie of SportsDeke.com: “Giants back-up QB Kyle Lauletta was charged with motoring offenses on consecutive days. These include recklessness, making illegal turns and outdoing Eli Manning for bad drives.”

Omaha comedy writer/blogger Brad Dickson on Twitter: “Going outside with a football & kicking tee right now to see how many attempts it takes to kick the ball backwards when I’m TRYING to do so.”

Jim Barach of JokesByJim.blogspot.com: “LeBron James says the Lakers need to “ignore outside noise” at their games. Which if they keep on their current pace should result in a lot of silence at home games for the rest of the season.”

Janice Hough of LeftcoastSportsBabe.com: “Another week, another loss for the Cleveland Browns. But they’re still one win ahead of the Cavaliers.”

Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times: “A 43-year-old man working the chain gang at a youth football game in Tuscaloosa, Ala., has been charged with harassment after he allegedly went onto the field and slapped an opposing player who had tackled his son. And you thought they take the Crimson Tide series down there?”

Jim Barach of JokesByJim.blogspot.com: “The Dodgers say they will keep Dave Roberts as manager for 2019. Apparently unlike Roberts, they are going to avoid trying to pull him too early.”

Omaha comedy writer/blogger Brad Dickson on Twitter: “I don’t have any children but if I did I’d be more concerned with how Scott Frost’s kids are doing in school than in how my own kids are doing. That’s the Nebraska way.”

Brad Rock of the Salt Lake City Deseret News: “A study by the American College Health Association says anxiety, panic and depression are rising among college students. This has nothing whatsoever to do with BYU’s football season. Nothing.”

Last word

The baseball world lost a legend and one of my favorites players in the past week when Willie McCovey died Wednesday at the age of 80.

The 1969 National League MVP had been in poor health in recent years and was in the hospital battling another infection when he passed. During a 22-year career from 1959 to 1980, spent mostly with the San Francisco Giants, McCovey hit 521 home runs, drove in 1,555 runs and hit for a .270 average.

It was legendary Mets manager Casey Stengel, during an early-1960s mound visit with pitcher Roger Craig, who voiced his respect for the slugger when he said, “Where do you want to pitch him, upper deck or lower deck?”

 

From Sidelines to punchlines

A different view of sports

Clearing my mind and notebook while also wondering if Maryland is now wavering on its decision to jump from the ACC to the Big Ten:

Punting on season

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

Yes, the punters.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Clearly, this whole situation has been mishandled.

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

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

Party on

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Flag them for excessive celebration.

World Series hotflashes

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

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

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

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

Super Patriot

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

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

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

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

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

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

They said it

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hoops hysteria

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

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

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

When Crean was the basketball coach at Indiana:

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

—  He called me out for wearing an ACC lanyard

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

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

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

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

 Headlines

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gridiron glory

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

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

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

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

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

Coping with Stars

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

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

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

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

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

My takes

Rehastagging this week’s top Tweets from @Randy_Beard11:

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

From Sidelines to punchlines

A different view of sports

Clearing my mind and notebook while gearing up for a southern smorgasbord of college football games between Clemson-Florida State, Georgia-Florida and Tennessee-South Carolina:

Recruiting bling

There’s a reason why the Southeastern Conference rules college football every season, and 247 Sports spells it out clearly with its current rankings of the Top 25 program facilities.

While Oregon makes the most of its money from Nike’s Phil Knight to claim the top spot this season for the Pac-12, and Clemson represents the ACC with the No. 2 spot, the next three schools are all from the SEC. Texas A&M is No. 3, Tennessee is No. 4 and Alabama is No. 5.

Yeah, that’s quite a handicap Nick Saban has to overcome, right?

Overall, the SEC claims nine of the 25 spots in the rankings with Georgia, Florida, South Carolina, Kentucky, Auburn and LSU also making the cut.

The Pac-12 and ACC each only had two other schools to make the list. But yeah, Notre Dame made the rankings, so I guess you can argue the ACC should get half credit even if the Irish are independent in football.

The Big Ten with five schools in the rankings is the nearest challenger to the SEC when it comes to facilities, which includes stadiums, weight rooms, locker rooms, practice fields, etc. The Big 12 had four schools make the rankings.

If you’re curious, you’ll have to look up the full list yourself.

But sadly, Purdue isn’t represented.

Which gives me another reason to praise the Boilermakers for their butt-kicking of previously No. 2-ranked Ohio State. Urban Meyer’s lads tumbled to No. 11 in this week’s AP poll, one spot behind Central Florida.

Catch of year?

It was at a hockey game, and the thrown puck may have missed its intended target – maybe – but now seemingly everyone in the San Jose area knows a catch when they see it.

Her name is Diana Hsaio.

Hsaio said she was at the Sharks game against the Islanders, looking for a friend while talking on her cell phone before the game, when she saw a puck thrown by Joe Pavelski coming her way.

Reaching up with her left hand at the last second, she knocked the puck down, and then made a chest trap. And yes, she was wearing a low-cut tank top.

So her “talented” cleavage catch quickly went viral.

When she heard the roar of the crowd, she realized all eyes were on her, so she held up the puck in celebration. She then gave it to a girl in the row in front of her.

Her reaction on Twitter to the video: “I’m genuinely confused on why this video is going viral.”

Other Twitter reactions:

@philly_carl: “There’s a hockey puck in this video?”

@Swearengen95: “Top shelf save right there.”

LeBron’s world

RJ Currie of the SportsDeke.com: “Cleveland center Tristan Thompson said even without LeBron James the Cavs are the East’s team to beat. What color is the sky in his world?”

Janice Hough of LeftCoastSportsBabe.com: “I know it’s early in the season, but, somehow I missed NBA rule change that Lebron James has to take at LEAST four steps for refs to call traveling.”

They said it

Omaha comedy writer/blogger Brad Dickson on Twitter: “On Halloween only kids dressed as Scott Frost or a Husker football player or Bill Moos will get a treat at my house. Otherwise, don’t bother.”

Jim Barach of JokesByJim.blogspot.com: “A former Adidas executive was convicted in the college basketball corruption case. It looks like he will be wearing gear with a whole new set of stripes.”

Janice Hough of LeftCoastSportsBabe.com: “Just pointing out to Fox Sports and ESPN that East Coast bias may not be so good for ratings when only West Coast fans can stay up to see World Series.”

RJ Currie of SportsDeke.com: “A trio of tennis umpires in Thailand caught match-fixing got banned — for life. Now that’s a Thai-breaker.”

Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times: The cruise ship Titanic II is set to make its maiden voyage in 2022. And in a related story, Vince McMahon just named it the official cruise ship of the XFL.

Jim Barach of JokesByJim.blogspot.com: “Dell and Stephan Curry are now the number two father and son scoring team in NBA history, behind Kobe and Joe Bryant. However, they would all still behind Kareem Abdul-Jabbar if his dad was in the league long enough to make one basket.”

Omaha comedy writer/blogger Brad Dickson on Twitter: “The Nebraska men’s basketball team is ranked in the pre-season top 25. What in the name of Danny Nee is going on around here?”

Comedy writer Alex Kaseberg on Chris Sale, a 6-foot-6, 180-pound left-hander for the Red Sox: “Now, I don’t want to say Sale is skinny, but if the Red Sox wore pinstripes, he would wear a pinstripe.”

Jim Barach of JokesByJim.blogspot.com: “Top high school basketball prospect Darius Bazley has signed a shoe contract that could be worth up to $14 Million. At this rate, kids are going to be endorsing shoes before they are old enough to learn how to tie them.”

Omaha comedy writer/blogger Brad Dickson on Twitter: “Breaking news: based on the huge turnout for the Husker men’s basketball scrimmage last night A.D. Bill Moos has extended Tim Miles’ contract for another two days.”

Nick Rousso, unimpressed with the upcoming Tiger Woods-Phil Mickelson pay-per-view golf match: “Four-plus hours of two guys walking around an empty golf course? Tiger will need to drop several F-bombs to get your money’s worth.”

Jim Barach of JokesByJim.blogspot.com: “Raiders quarterback Derek Carr is denying he cried after being injured. He was actually crying about being stuck on a 1-5 team that will probably finish with a worse record than the Browns.”

Janice Hough of LeftcoastSportsBabe.com: “So NFL took 49ers vs. Rams off Sunday Night football because it would be too much of a blowout.   Replaced game with Bengals vs. Chiefs. SF lost by 29 today. Cincinnati to lost KC by 35. Mean bitch karma popping an autumnal mead?”

Randy Turner of the Winnipeg Free Press on Connor McDavid playing for the struggling Edmonton Oilers: “Like Jimi Hendrix playing lead guitar for The Monkees.”

Omaha comedy writer/blogger Brad Dickson on Twitter: “Bethune-Cookman game is a no-win situation. Win by only two touchdowns or god forbid lose & it’s “What’s wrong with this team?” Win 60-3 and it’s “Nebraska had no business playing the game.”

Jim Barach of JokesByJim.blogspot.com: “Tom Brady says he hates the Dodgers after growing up near San Francisco. He would also love to help the Red Sox win but is of no use since you can’t let the air out of baseballs.”

Wishful thinking

Now we know what Turner Sports plans to charge for the pay-per-view golf showdown between Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson on Nov. 23.

I supposed that’s a bargain since Turner Sports has already lowered its price from a rumored $25 to $19.99. That’s still too pricey for me, especially for one of the worst pay TV sporting events since Zolani Tete only needed 11 seconds to knock out Siboniso Gonya in a WBO Bantamweight bout last November.

If you were snookered into paying for that fight, I hope you didn’t blink.

Meanwhile, unless Tiger and Phil replicate the alleged fisticuffs between Ryder Cup teammates Dustin Johnson and Brooks Koepka, there will be nothing to see that you can’t catch at two dozen other golf tournaments.

It’s golf. A well-hit drive off the tee here, a soft landing on the green there and maybe a nice chip out of a bunker.

Like I said, it’s golf. The only sport where the players could also strut down a fashion runway.

Fittingly, it will take place in Las Vegas on a Friday afternoon so all the gamblers can gather and then celebrate a long weekend.

Woods and Mickelson will be battling over a total of $9 million in a winner-take-all cash grab. They’ll also be able to place side bets on all 18 holes, which gives the eventual loser a chance to reap a small windfall.

I’d be more excited knowing most of the money was going to a worthwhile charity on a Thanksgiving weekend.

Giant steps

Comedian Eric  Stangel on Twitter: “Eli Manning couldn’t get in on 2 QB sneaks at the goal line. They might have to draft a running back #1 in next year’s draft.”

Dwight Perry of The Seattle Times: “Harley-Davidson has recalled 238,000 motorcycles because they have a clutch problem. The NFL, not to be outdone, immediately recalled the New York Giants.”

RJ Currie of SportsDeke.com: “Peyton Manning has been retired for three seasons. If you’re keeping stats at home, so far this year Eli Manning has won one more game than his brother.”

Jim Barach of JokesByJim.blogspot.com: “Fans ripped the New York Giants for horrible clock management at the end of Monday night’s game. It’s just too bad they can’t manage the clock to turn it back to the last time they were good in 2012.”

Splitting splinters

Unless a player decides to gift a broken bat to a nearby fan, you can pretty much expect that the damaged equipment will be claimed by a memorabilia company to be sold on its website or perhaps donated to a charity to raise money for a worthwhile cause.

Meanwhile, in Japan, such bats are salvaged and turned into chopsticks. In a country that puts a priority on recycling, the process allows Japan to preserve and replenish the aodama ash trees.

There’s even a word for the recycling effort – “kattobashi.” It’s a mix of the word for chopsticks and the chant for getting a big hit.

Headlines

TheOnion.com: “Manny Machado denies playing dirty after late slide into pitcher’s mound.”

Fark.com: “NFL clarifies their new roughing-the-passer rules, says it will only be called on the Packers and anyone approaching Tom Brady.”

SportsPickle.com: “Starting Clayton Kershaw always seems to me like a very expensive way to forfeit.”

TheOnion.com: “Busy referee regrets not finding time to throw flag around with son.”

Fark.com: “In Japan you can’t play baseball with a broken bat but you can still play chopsticks.”

Sportspickle.com: “NFL players need to have media contracts and media people need to have NFL contracts.”

TheOnion.com: “Does Amari Cooper’s experience playing under a terrible head coach make him a perfect fit for the Cowboys?”

Fark.com: “Breaking News: World Series tickets are expensive.”

SportsPickle.com: “If Amari Cooper is worth a 1st Round pick, LeVeon Bell is worth the entire NFL draft through 2044.”

SportsPickle.com: “Is there a baseball rule that the Red Sox must always have a closer who should be punched in the face?”

Fark.com: “Philadelphia Eagles go into 4th quarter up 17-0 against Carolina Panthers. Then things get all Atlanta Falcon-y.”

SportsPickle.com: “Every Browns game should start in overtime. And all the players should be drunk.”

Awfulannouncing.com: “Mike Francesca thought a legit question about Syracuse football coach Dino Babers was a prank call.

Fark.com: “Appalachian State is ranked for the first time ever, and they didn’t even need to beat a Big Ten team to do it.”

My takes

Rehastagging this week’s top Tweets from @Randy_Beard11:

  • I feel much better knowing Ben Roethlisberger has said that crying in football, baseball, basketball, soccer, maybe even lacrosse, and also movie theaters is OK.
  • How good has Alabama QB Tua Tagovailoa been this season? Of 61 drives he’s led, only 20 have ended without a touchdown and 5 of those have reaped field goals. That’s a 75.4 scoring percentage. That’s domination.
  • So bombing suspect has bunch of stickers on his van supporting Trump, including “Top youth soccer recruits for Trump” and one touting college programs in Carolinas, including Clemson. Clearly, these are all players suffering brain damage from improper technique heading the ball.
  • Boston takes 2-0 lead over L.A. in the North America Series.
  • Will Urban Meyer resign tonight to spend more time with his family? Hey could also claim an upset tummy after Purdue’s D.J. Knox torched Buckeyes for 131 yards and 3 TDs on just 15 carries. Two of scores were 40-plus yards.
  • Boilermakers > Buckeyes

From Sidelines to punchlines

A different view of sports

Clearing my mind and notebook while 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 noting that dozens of high schools nationwide have announced they are dropping football because of low participation numbers. And so, the soccer revolution finally begins, right?:

Flurry of Aces

Some girls have all the luck.

Scotland’s Ali Gibb, who now lives in London, won the 36-hole Ladies Club Championship at Crohum Hurst Golf Club on Thursday when she compiled a two-day score of 163, following up her first round 81 with a closing 82.

But the bigger news is that she had three hole-in-ones on par-3 holes during the tournament in South Croydon outside London. She owned the 144-yard No. 5 hole twice and also aced the 190-yard No. 11, according to Golf.com’s Sean Zak.

The chances of an average golfer coming away with a hole-in-one in an 18-hole round is estimated at 12,500 to one, but three in 36 holes? Or three in five hours? The best guesstimate a Cambridge mathematician could offer was “in excess of 160 million to one,” according to the Sun.

We also should mention that she defended her title, but it wasn’t so easily done despite the three aces. On back-to-back holes that bridged the two rounds, she needed 17 strokes – giving her something to agonize over.

“On my card I had a nine, two eights, sixes, fives, fours, three, twos and three ones,” said Gibb, who began playing golf 25 years ago when she was invited to a corporate outing.

The 51-year-old amateur had previously aced the 151-yard No. 7 hole and also had pocketed two other hole-in-ones in her outings since 2009. But three in two rounds and three in one tournament?

“The club gives out a bottle of Champagne for every hole-in-one, so they gave me three,” she said. “We had a great night. It was just a weird, weird day.”

“My mother scored a hole-in-one at St Andrews in sixties,” she said. “So I guess it runs in the family.”

If it does, she’s taken it to a new level with a half-dozen in less than 10 years.

Marlins 101

ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick has reported that the Marlins have implemented an educational program for players and staff that is designed to create better communication and camaraderie.

It’s simple, really. If you speak English, you’ll be learning Spanish. And if you speak Spanish, you’ll be learning English.

No one gets off the hook. Not even Marlins part owner and CEO Derek Jeter.

“Everybody expects the Latin players to make an effort to speak English,” said Jeter. “Well, especially here in Miami, if you don’t speak Spanish, you don’t fit in. I think it’s important.”

The Marlins are also tutoring their younger players on budgeting, shopping and cooking.

But if the Marlins aren’t going to go shopping for veteran talent, the pressure is on manager Don Mattingly and his coaching staff to teach the young Marlins how to win. And that’s going to take a considerable investment in time.

They said it

RJ Currie of SportsDeke.com: “Browns rookie QB Baker Mayfield reportedly told Hard Knocks they couldn’t film inside his motorhome. To some guys an RV is prime wheel estate.”

Omaha comedy writer Brad Dickson on Twitter: If you aren’t planning to cash in your IRA or 401K early and take the penalty in order to afford more “Frost Warning” T-shirts YOU ARE NOT A REAL FAN.”

Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times: “Aug. 4 marked the 25th anniversary of White Sox hitter Robin Ventura charging the mound and taking a pummeling after Rangers pitcher Nolan Ryan put him in a headlock and delivered a series of quick punches upside the noggin. It’s believed to be the only bobblehead night in baseball history in which no dolls were given away.”

Janice Hough of LeftCoastSportsBabe: “Bud Light will be giving out free beer at 10 Cleveland-area bars when the Browns win their first regular-season game. Prompting the obvious question – so how long can beer age?”

RJ Currie of SportsDeke.com, again: “The NFL preseason opened with the Ravens beating the Bears 17-16 in the annual Hall of Who Cares game.”

Omaha comedy writer Brad Dickson on Twitter, again: “I was expecting the following first question at the Brooks Koepka presser after winning the PGA: ‘Can you get me Tiger Woods’ autograph?’ ”

Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times, again: “Antonio Callaway turned a short pass into a 54-yard TD in the Browns’ exhibition opener, just days after the rookie receiver was pulled over and cited for marijuana possession. Just one question: If the cops can catch him, why can’t the New York Giants?”

Bob Molinaro in the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot, trying to look on the bright side of Johnny Manziel throwing four interceptions in his CFL debut: “That did give him an opportunity to make two tackles.”

Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times, again: “Death Valley, Calif. recorded the hottest month on record with an average of 108 degrees in July. Though Urban Meyer’s seat at Ohio State already is threatening to break it.”

Hoops pioneers

Lindsey Harding is the latest former WNBA player to join the coaching staff on an NBA team after the Philadelphia 76ers hired her as a full-time scout for the 2018-19 season.

Harding joins three other women making inroads in the NBA – San Antonio Spurs assistant Becky Hammon, Dallas Mavericks assistant Jenny Boucek and Los Angeles Clippers assistant Natalie Nakase.

“Your gender shouldn’t even matter,” Harding said. “It should be about if you can do it, if you’re good, you’re experienced, if you know what you’re doing and what you’re talking about.”

Harding was the WNBA’s No. 1 overall pick in 2007, but retired after last summer after nine seasons with six teams. Harding told ESPN her goal is to parlay her scouting position into a coaching or front office job in the NBA.

“I would love to be in the front office and really understand how to put a team together,” Harding said. “I still love being on the floor and having the opportunity to coach. But I really just wanted to get my foot in the door.”

Cutting edge

Cleveland Browns safety Jabrill Peppers, who played for suspended Maryland head coach DJ Durkin when he was the defensive coordinator at Michigan: “His tactics were different. It felt extreme a times … I thought once he became a head coach that he would calm down a little bit, become more of a people person, a player’s coach.”

Omaha comedy writer Brad Dickson on Twitter: “I know. To really punish Urban Meyer make him the new head coach at Maryland.”

Serena Williams on how she reacted after coach Patrick Mouratoglou told her a few months ago she needed to put tennis first and quit breastfeeding her daughter Alexis, who was born last September: “He’s not a woman, he doesn’t understand that connection, that the best time of the day for me was when I tried to feed her. I’ve spent my whole life making everyone happy, just servicing it seems like everyone. And this is something I wanted to do.”

Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel: “Urban Meyer would tell you anything just to get through the next 5 minutes of the press conference. It didn’t matter if it was true or not…he’s probably the most disingenuous coach I’ve ever covered.”

RJ Currie of SportsDeke.com, again: A sure sign the Montreal Alouettes already consider this a lost CFL season? The Als gift shop is selling cushions in the shape of a toilet seat.

Janice Hough of LeftCoastSportsBabe.com, again: “SF 49ers now say there’s nothing they can do about the intense sun & heat faced by fans on east side of Levi’s Stadium. But they will lower the price of bottled water from $6 to $2 so fans can stay hydrated. The NFL equivalent of ‘thoughts and prayers.’”

Comedy writer Alex Kaseberg: “Swimmer Ryan Lochte has been banned for a year after posting a picture of himself getting injected with a performance-enhancing substance. The number of Olympic medals Lochte has is 12. The exact same number of his IQ score.”

Unruly changes

ESPN the Magazine’s Steve Etheridge provided “The Unwritten Rules of Baseball – Written” in a recent column. My top five favorites:

  • Don’t hit a home run if they opposing team has already hit a home run. Find your own thing.
  • If a pitcher hits a batter with a pitch, he has asserted his dominance and is now the father of the batter’s children.
  • If a bunt is rolling down the line teetering between fair and foul, do not use a leaf blower to change the ball’s trajectory in your favor.
  •  Never question why your uniforms have belts. Just go with it.
  •  If it’s been a while since the third-base coach had gotten to do the “Run home!” windmill gesture, call timeout and let him go wild for a minute or two.

Minor accomplishment

According to Seattle Times’ Dwight Perry in his Sideline Chatter column, two pairs of minor league baseball teammates, Gio Brusa and Jalen Miller of the Class A San Jose Giants, and Kevin Newman and Jacob Stallings of the AAA Indianapolis Indians, have managed to hit for the cycle this season in the same game. That’s a remarkable accomplishment – even more so since no MLB teammates have ever done it.

Headlines

TheOnion.com: “Should the MLB ban infield shapeshifting.”

SportsPickle.com: “Nick Foles looks bad. Time to end this experiment and return him to his natural position of wide receiver.”

Fark.com: “Kobe Bryant must be good at investing, where a $6 million investment turns into $200 million.”

SportsPickle.com: “It’s time for the NFL to ban shots to the head in training camp fights.”

TheOnion.com: “Bill Belichick announces this final season he will coach in current mortal form.”

Fark.com: “You’re 3-12 this season, and your  opponent’s first batter is a hot rookie who has homered in 5 consecutive games. What do you do?”

TheOnion.com: “If Urban Meyer didn’t want to get up in an abuse scandal, why was he hanging around college football.”

SportsPickle.com: “Being placed on paid administrative leave is the American Dream. Congratulations to Urban Meyer and DJ Durkin.”

TheOnion.com: “Scouts highly doubtful Tim Tebow will ever make it to heaven.”

Fark.com: “Ryan Tannehill kicks rookie RB out of Dolphins’ huddle, forces him to eat lunch by himself.”

Tortoise torture?

No one can accuse Maryland interim head football coach Matt Canada of being a cruel and heartless taskmaster.

”The focus of our player’s health and safety is No. 1, and our players are feeling that and understanding that,” Canada said Wednesday.

Yeah, good job reading the tea leaves, Matt.

Canada is seemingly taking credit for having two tents installed at the Terrapins’ practice fields to provide relief for players needing to escape the heat, take a drink, get some ice and cool off in front of misting fans. Most practices are also now limited to two hours.

Of course, school officials mandated such corrective actions after the death from heat exhaustion of freshman offensive lineman Jordan McNair.

McNair collapsed on May 29 while running 110-yard sprints and no one on the training staff immediately diagnosed him with heat exhaustion. Thus, the treatment protocols that might have saved him – fluids and ice – weren’t provided in a timely manner. He died in the hospital on June 13.

With former players and athletic staff leveling accusations that suspended head coach DJ Durkin had a “toxic environment” in his program, the university’s athletic department will be sliced and diced under the microscope for the foreseeable future. There’s no way Durkin isn’t fired after an independent investigation is completed.

Already Durkin’s choice of strength coach, Rick Court, has been forced to resign – if you can consider it a resignation when someone receives a $300,000 parting gift.

Durkin and Court should be joined in the unemployment line by University of Maryland President Wallace Loh, who chose one year ago to reject a plan that would have had all athletic trainers receiving training and guidance from the UM medical school in Baltimore.

Friendly fire

When Furman University serves as the sacrificial lamb for Dabo Swinney’s powerhouse Clemson program on Sept. 1, Paladins’ quarterback Harris Roberts could be staring into the familiar faces of a classmate or two.

There may even be a few Clemson students in the stands cheering him on if he steps on the field.

When Roberts chose to play football at Furman, he knew that in order to accomplish his academic goals that he would have to enroll in a cooperative educational exchange program that would allow him to obtain a mechanical engineering degree at Clemson.

So after earning his pre-engineering degree at Furman in three years, he took aim at receiving a second bachelor’s degree from Clemson, which is 30 miles away.

“The drive back and forth sometimes gets a little monotonous,” said Roberts. “That takes a lot of time out of the day that I could use for studying for class, studying film or taking a nap. Being able to manage my time is the most difficult part, but it’s been going well.”

According to sports information director Hunter Reid, Roberts would be the first Furman player enrolled in the co-op program at Clemson in at least 30 years who is on track to play against the Tigers.

Follow the DNA

For now, the days of David Stockton dribbling in his dad’s footprints are over after he was waived by the Utah Jazz.

The son of Hall of Fame guard John Stockton finished the 2017-18 season with the Jazz but only played three games as a backup. Like his father, David also played in college at Gonzaga, helping add to the Zags’ NCAA tournament history.

Stockton, who spent most of the past four years playing for the Reno Bighorns of the NBA G League, plans to play for Medi Bayreuth in Germany this season. His older brother Michael has played for several German teams.

My takes

Rehastagging this week’s top Tweets from @Randy_Beard11

  • In addition to being an alleged serial wife abuser, former Ohio State assistant Zach Smith reportedly had sex in coaches offices with a OSU staffer and also took photos of his genitalia, including possibly during visit to White House in 2015. Hey, he was an OFFENSIVE assistant.
  • newarena.com‘s Top 5 NFL quaraterbacks:
    1. Tom Brady, Patriots; 2. Aaron Rodgers, Packers; 3. Drew Brees, Saints; 4. Carson Wentz, Eagles; 5. Russell Wilson, Seahawks.
  • So, Eagles’ Nick Foles isn’t one of the 32 best QBs in NFL in listing by http://newarena.com? He’s just the returning
    Super Bowl MVP even if he did chose to be Carson Wentz’s backup. Foles led Eagles to win over Patriots and Tom Brady, who is No. 1 on list.
  • Marlins are taking a bilingual approach to baseball, requiring English-speaking players to learn Spanish and Spanish-speaking players to learn English. But wHich language does Taiwan pitcher Wei-Yin Chen speak?
  • IU’s Lilly King finished 2nd to fellow American Micah Sumrall in 200m breaststroke at Pan Pacific swimming Sunday. The Evansville native had .05 lead at 100m but finished .71 hundredths behind her U.S. rival, posting final time of 1:08.88.

From Sidelines to punchlines

A different view of sports

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

Bad boy, bad boy

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

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

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

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

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

Boys will be boys, ya know?

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

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

You know, grabbing women by the p—ssy.

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

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

Mixed signals

There’s no crying in soccer.

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

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

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

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

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

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

They said it

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Brady bunch

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

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

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

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

Fire sale

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

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

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

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

World Class Tweets

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

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

Headlines

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Real whopper!

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

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

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

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

Family affair

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

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

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

Ratings game

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

Maybe baseball really is America’s PASTTIME.

From Sidelines to punchlines

A different view of sports

Clearing my mind and notebook while waiting for the Pacers’ Victor Oladipo to even the score against the Cavaliers’ LeBron James while supporting Indianapolis mayor Joe Hogsetts’ executive order “banning” goaltending:

2020 vision

Finally, the days of one-and-done players in college basketball are numbered.

Although details have yet to be ironed out, the NBA and the NBA Players Association are laying the groundwork for the league to once again draft high school players.

It appears that the 2020 recruiting class will be the first to have the option of going straight to the NBA again –  although there has been talk of requiring those players to start the season in the developmental G League.

The recently convened Commission of College Basketball, chaired by Condeleezza Rice, has taken the position that if the NBA doesn’t change its rules, it would pressure the NCAA to declare freshmen ineligible to play varsity.

The Commission would prefer future McDonald’s All-Americans and other 5-Star recruits who choose college to invest at least two years toward earning a degree. To protect players who attempt to make the jump to the NBA, but are undrafted, the committee wants them to be able to maintain their eligibility.

Currently, the NCAA allows underclassmen to receive input on their draft potential but to remain eligible they can’t sign with an agent and they have to withdraw from the draft 10 days before the NBA Combine.

This year there are a record 236 players, up 30 percent from a year ago, who are testing the evaluation system. Of those, 181 are college underclassmen and the rest are international players.

Kentucky’s John Calipari, who perhaps has benefitted from one-and-done players more than any other college coach, would prefer for the NCAA and NBA to agree to remove all restrictions on players.

“If they want to go (to the NBA) out of high school, go. If they want to go to college and then leave, let them leave when they want to leave,” Calipari said. “Why would we force a kid to stay?”

Rice and the committee also looked at issues surrounding the influence of AAU coaches, agents and shoe company representatives who have allegedly worked with some college coaches to pay top recruits. That FBI investigation led to Louisville firing Rick Pitino.

They said it

Humor writer Brad Dickson on Twitter: “Ratchet your enthusiasm down half a notch, OK? It’s Scott Frost’s staff with mostly Mike Riley’s players. #Buzzkill.”

Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times: “Because of a scheduling logjam, the telecast of Game 4 of the Devils-Lightning playoff series got moved to the Golf Channel. Disoriented broadcasters never did figure out whether Nikita Kucherov’s hockey stick was a sand wedge or a 9-iron.”

Janice Hough of LeftCoastSportsBabe.com: “NBA admits last night they missed goaltending on LeBron James at end of Cavs-Pacers game 5. Silly league. Don’t they know superstars NEVER goaltend? Or travel for that matter.”’

Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson, drafted by Baltimore with last pick of first round: “(My mom) always wanted me to strive for greatness. She’s always seen a lot more in me than I probably see in myself sometimes.”

RJ Currie of SportsDeke.com: “It’s hard to believe quarterback Mark Sanchez got caught using a performance enhancing substance. If ever a guy should demand a refund.”

CBS comedian James Corden: “A 20-year-old man from Colorado recently survived a shark bite in Hawaii. Less than a year before that, he was attacked by a 300-pound black bear. And a few years before that, he was bitten by a rattlesnake while hiking. Based on these incidents, we do know a lot about this man. For example, he must taste delicious.”

The envelope …

From Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times, after Jalen Hurts’ father told Bleacher Report that his son would likely transfer to another school if he doesn’t retain the starting quarterback job at Alabama: “And the winner of the 2018 LaVar Ball Trophy is …”

Hurts, of course, was replaced at halftime of January’s national championship game by freshman Tua Tagovailoa, who led the Crimson Tide from 13-0 deficit to a 26-23 overtime victory over Georgia in Atlanta.

With that kind of attitude, Saban will probably pack Hurts’ luggage.

Heavy lifting

Former Los Angeles Dodgers owner Frank McCourt hasn’t forgotten that he can better the lives of L.A. sports fans. He has dreams of building a gondola system to make it easier to get to Dodger Stadium.

It’s actually the company of McCourt’s son, Drew, that has proposed having an overhead gondola system operational in time for 2022 opening day, according to the Los Angeles Times.

It will be constructed with private funding and would not be built by the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transit Authority. But if constructed, it would provide another mass-transit option for Dodgers fans. Currently, there is the Metro express bus.

Headlines

TheOnion.com: “Tom Brady reveals that humanity will perish long before he retires.”

Fark.com: “Track meet cancelled due to aggressive geese nesting near track.”

Onion.com: “Jerry Jones hoping to use 2018 draft to find long-term solution at mistress.”

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

Fark.com: “Baseball player removed from game after hitting himself in the head with his bat during warmups.”

TheOnion.com: “Is Andrew Luck recovered from his quadruple-amputation surgery?”

Fark.com: “Attention seeking father takes his Balls and goes home.”

SportsPickle.com: “Draft prospect says Eagles asked him if his mother is ‘woke.’”

TheOnion.com: “Should the Browns use the first overall pick on a once-in-a-generation long snapper?”

Scripted living

It’s been more than 1,000 days since Ronda Rousey won a fight that wasn’t scripted, and she’s OK with that.

She’s now building a WWE wrestling career and also making more cameos in movies. She’s even hired a publicity manager to help her navigate interview requests, teaching her how to reveal only what she wishes to make public.

Once a publicity hound willing to answer nearly every question posed to her, everything about her WWE career has been scripted. She did, however, open up about her life during a recent Q&A session with Hollywood director Peter Berg.

“We live in an age of trial by Twitter,” Rousey said. “What is really gained by stating opinion on anything? … Why should I talk? I believe hearing me speak is a privilege and it’s a privilege that’s been abused, so why not revoke it from everyone?”

Before walking away from UFC, Rousey admits she shed a lot of tears while her husband (Travis Brown) consoled her after the second loss. But her feelings of failure run much deeper than that.

“My parents expected me to be special, so I expected to be special,” Rousey said. “But one thing my mother never taught me was how to lose. She never wanted me to entertain it as a possibility. She’d say: ‘Let it suck. It deserves to suck.’”

Loose Balls

LaVar Ball’s latest headline-grabbing move was to pull sons LiAngelo and LaMelo away from Lithuanian professional team BC Prienu Vytautas because of a dispute over playing time.

Never mind dad’s irrational ways already have cost LaMelo his senior year of high school and LiAngelo his freshman year of college. Granted, he pulled  LiAngelo out of UCLA after he was suspended for shoplifting designer sunglasses in China.

While their older brother Lonzo is experiencing his ups-and-downs in the NBA as a rookie with the  Los Angeles Lakers, LaVar’s master plan of one day having all three sons suiting up for the Lakers is quickly falling apart.

LiAngelo isn’t projected as an NBA talent, at least  not this year. And LaMelo won’t be eligible to declare for the draft until the 2019. And, let’s face it, he’s not the hoops talent his dad imagines.

Considering the two youngest Ball brothers are going to need another soft landing spot soon in order to keep up the basketball life, dad LaVar may need to feed his ego and fund his own minor league team. Maybe even the geographically challenged Premier Basketball League that once had a team in Owensboro, the Kentucky Mavericks, would be an option.

The PBL even has a link on its web page soliciting new ownership. It’s currently a five-team league.

If he’s really making money off his Big Baller Brand shoes, he might even be able to afford it.

My takes

Rehastagging this week’s top Tweets from @Randy_Beard11:

  • Ravens have interesting first round, getting productive tight end with South Carolina’s Hayden Hurst and potential QB of future with Louisville’s Lamar Jackson.
  • Where’s Baker Mayfield going to get his Rodney Dangerfield “no respect” material now that Browns picked him No. 1. Oh yeah, the last-place, 0-16 Browns picked him No. 1
  • It will still take a lot of donuts to get UE students to Ford Center dozen or more times next season..
  • Eagles win Super Bowl and still get a winning draft pick with RB Rashaad Penny with 27th pick? Smart drafting.
  • Can’t believe UK football had more fans at spring game than Gamecocks. Wildcats must have been hosting a biddy basketball game and an Elvis Impersonator at halftime.

Visa wars

Donald Trump is nothing but a walking contradiction.

As tough as he wants to be on immigration policy, and as much as he wants to limit visas to our South and Central American neighbors, we now learn that he’s supportive of the United States Soccer Federation’s bid to co-host the 2026 World Cup with Mexico and Canada.

He does realize the Cup will inspire soccer fans South of the Border to be drawn to our country, right? Can you build a wall for that?

In a Tweet on Wednesday, Trump stated: “It would be a shame if countries that we always support would lobby against the U.S. bid. Why should we be supporting these countries when they don’t support us (including at the United Nations.)

Morocco is also pushing to host the games in eight years, which will be the first to feature a 48-team tournament.

Russia is hosting this summer’s 32-Team tournament in which the United States failed to qualify. Qatar has been awarded the 2022 rights.

All FIFA member nations will vote for the 2026 host on June 13.

 Long shot

Despite his effort to tease his summer plans by saying he would be at the World Cup in Russia this summer, Zlatan Ibrhimovic will not be playing for Sweden.

That didn’t stop the ultra-confident striker from teasing the audience during a taping of Jimmy Kimmel Live.

“I’m going to the World Cup, yes. If I say more, they will hang me, so I have to be careful what I say,” said the Swede.

Sweden’s football association quickly put those rumors to rest, saying the 36-year-old player would not be returning to duty with his country’s national team. Ibrahimovic, who recently left Manchester United to play for Major League Soccer’s LA Galaxy, last played internationally at Euro 2016.

Lars Richt, head of the Swedish FA, said he talked to Ibrahimovic on Tuesday and confirmed that playing for the national team is no longer something Ibrahimovic is focused on.

“He announced he did not change his mind about the national team – it is no.”

Before that declaration was made, Ibrahimovic had generated some excitement by leading the Galaxy back against the Columbus Crew with two goals, including one from 38 yards.

Considering his knack for coming through in the clutch, Sweden would be wise to keep Ibrahimovic’s availability to the national team this summer as a “long shot” option.

Year of the QB

Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield was taken by the Cleveland Browns with the first pick of the NFL Draft Thursday night. He was soon joined by three other quarterbacks, all taken among the first 10 selections of the first round.

That made it an historical moment for the position.

After Mayfield went No. 1 overall, Southern California’s Sam Darnold was selected third by the New York Jets. Then with the seventh pick, Wyoming’s Josh Allen went to the Buffalo Bills and UCLA’s Josh Rosen fell to No. 10 overall to the Arizona Cardinals.

But it may have been the 33nd pick that will turn out to be the steal of the draft. The Baltimore Ravens managed to claim Louisville’s Lamar Jackson with the last pick of the first round.

While much was made of how upset Rosen was to be selected as the fourth QB of the draft. Jackson also is determined to prove himself. Thankful to get his shot as an NFL quarterback, he said he would report to Baltimore with “two chips on his shoulders.”

In terms of development, it will prove to be a good thing that he will have a chance to settle in before taking too many body shots from some of the NFL’s  fiercest pass rushers.

For now, Jackson will get to be the understudy for veteran Joe Flacco, who has led the Ravens to one Super Bowl win. The 2016 Heisman Trophy winner will have some packages that will get him on the field this season and, if everything goes as planned, he’ll be ready to step in next season.

The Ravens also have Robert Griffin III to help prepare the 6-foot-3 Jackson, who is viewed as a bigger, stronger and faster Michael Vick. It also helps that offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg coached Vick in Philadelphia and Greg Roman was in San Francisco with Colin Kaepernick.

“They’re going to get a Super Bowl out of me,” said Jackson.

He and Mayfield became the first two Heisman winners to be drafted in the same year.

Pizza pick

The 14th pick of the third round – No. 78 overall – came with a bonus this year. The “Pi Pick (3.14)” – Texas linebacker Malik Jefferson — was awarded a year’s worth of pasta pies from Pizza Hut when he was picked by the Cincinnati Bengals 78th overall.

The Bengals got the pick in trade involving Kansas City and Washington.

Pizza Pick II

Freetail Brewing, a craft beer company, is offering Kawhi Leonard free beer and pizza for life if he agrees to sign a new contract with the San Antonio Spurs.

But its doubtful that pizza alone will keep Leonard in San Antonio. Leonard is currently rehabbing a right quadriceps injury, but he’s eligible for a big raise that will pay him roughly $219 million over five years starting next season.

Trivia time

Florida State’s Charlie Ward (1993) and Oklahoma’s Jason White (2003) were Heisman winners who went undrafted, by the NFL, although Ward played in the NBA and White signed with Tennessee as a free agent.

But which Heisman Trophy winner fell the deepest in the NFL Draft?

Naval Academy running back Joe Bellino won the Heisman in 1960, but wasn’t taken until the 17th round by Washington. After four years in the service, he played in the AFL with the Boston Patriots, who had drafted him in.19th round in 1961 because of his service commitment.

Three years later, Roger Staubach also went undrafted until the 10th round in 1965 because of his commitment to the Navy. He was 27 when he was a rookie with Dallas, but it didn’t stop him from enjoying a hall of fame career.

From Sidelines to punchlines

A different view of sports

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

Serious business?

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

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

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

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

The losing players only get $25,000 each.

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

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

Stat of week

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

Philly fans

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

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

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

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

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

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

They said it

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 Super moment

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Marketing impact

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Headlines

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My takes

Rehastagging this week’s top tweets from @Randy_Beard11:

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

 Crying Irish

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tebow time

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

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

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

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

Oh, he battled .226 with 126 strikeouts.

From Sidelines to punchlines

A different view of sports

Clearing my mind and notebook while wondering what Donald Trump thinks of the coin-flip, flag flap between two U.S. Olympians, luger Erin Hamlin and speedskater Shani Davis:

Just desserts

A pudding in the shape of the Korean peninsula divided by a dark chocolate “barbed wire” was served as dessert at a pre-Olympic reception Friday. When it was topped by melted white chocolate, the “border” partially dissolved, signifying the future potential of a unified Korea.

The two Koreas are competing as one nation and under a unified flag at the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Games. But that doesn’t mean the United States is supportive of such diplomatic outreach efforts.

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence certainly hasn’t been. When South Korea’s president Moon Jae-in greeted Pence and North Korea’s ceremonial head of state, Kim Yong-nam, at a reception Friday, it didn’t go well. Pence and Yong-nam did not shake hands and Pence left shortly afterward when he learned they would be seated for dinner at the same table.

Pence also snubbed Kim Yo-jong, the sister of North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un, when they were seated near each other during the Opening Ceremonies. He and wife Karen also remained seated when the unified Korean team marched into the stadium.

Meanwhile, one Twitter user not named Donald Trump said photos of the dessert “looked like the whole Korean peninsula getting nuked.”

That should tone down the rhetoric.

They said it

NBC comedian Seth Myers: “Injured Philadelpia Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz spoke at the National Prayer Breakfast dinner this evening and what better metaphor for our country right now than a prayer from an injured Eagle.”

RJ Currie of SportsDeke.com: “A man frolicked buck naked for over two minutes on a fairway during the Phoenix pro-am. And where better than the Waste Management Open to show off your junk?”

Janice Hough of LeftCoastSportsBabe.com: “It’s that time again – when Americans who might last have set foot on an ice rink in high school suddenly become experts on triple axels.”

TBS comedian Conan O’Brien: “The New England Patriots were beaten by the Philadelphia Eagles 41-33. Eagles fans started fires and punched police horses, then they sat down to watch the Super Bowl.”

Greg Cote of the Miami Herald: “New York Mets announced their spring training would include a circus again this year. Welcome back, Tim Tebow!”

Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times: “The London Daily Mail says a jet-powered mobility scooter was successfully tested, boasting a top speed of 70 miles-per-hour. So if NASCAR was ever thinking about starting a senior circuit.”

Comedian Steve Hofstetter: “Don’t let the Patriots coming back from a 22-12 halftime deficit distract you from them blowing a 33-32 lead.”

Focus on Finnishing

As Andrew Keh reported in the New York Times, Finland won an average of 24 medals during the Summer Olympics from 1908 to 1948. However, at the 2016 Rio de Janiero Games, the country took home only a bronze in women’s lightweight boxing by Mira Potkonen.

Predictably, it’s a slightly different story in the Winter Games, where Finland won as many as 12 medals as recently as 1998. The country won five medals in 2014 in Sochi, including gold in men’s team sprint cross country skiing and bronze in men’s ice hockey.

But as Keh’s noted, the country has since become “fertile ground for whacky sports” like the Swamp Soccer World Championship, the Mobile Phone Throwing World Championships, the Mosquito Killing World Championships, the Wife Carrying World Championships, the World Berry Picking Championships, the World Air Guitar Championships and Competitive Hobby-horsing.

From 1999 to 2010, Finland also hosted the World Sauna Championships, but that endurance event ended with the unfortunate death of a competitor to third degree burns.

To quote Keh on why Finland has invented ways to compete:

“There’s no simple answer, but Finns offer various deep-seated factors, including an enthusiastically outdoorsy populace (that goes slightly stir-crazy during the region’s oppressively dark winter months), widespread public access to recreational spaces, and a continuing relaxation of the traditionally reserved national character. (Also, alcohol.)”

Sports psychologist Pasi Koski puts it another way, “We learned to laugh at ourselves. What’s so serious?”

 Headlines

Fark.com: “Philly closes schools because teachers too drunk to teach.”

TheOnion.com: “Flustered father struggling to answer all of son’s questions about what a catch is.”

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

LeftcoastSportsBabe.com: “Well, at least the Colts were undefeated in the Josh McDaniels era.”

TheOnion.com: “Minneapolis shocked  to discover thousands of Super Bowl attendees left without seeing rest of the city.”

SportsPickle.com: “Jimmy Garoppolo offers Tom Brady a loan to help him build his struggling supplement business.”

TheOnion.com: “2018 Winter Olympics cancelled due to inclement weather.”

Fark.com: “NFL quarterback, sports broadcaster, PGA golfer — is there anything Tony Romo can’t do? Besides win a Super Bowl.”

Drop the Trop

For their 20th anniversary, the Tampa Bay Rays elevated their game Friday by announcing that a new stadium will be built in the Ybor City neighborhood of Tampa.

It’s still unknown how much longer the Major League baseball team will play at Tropicana Field, which opened its doors in St. Petersburg in 1990 but didn’t become the home of the Rays until 1998.

St. Pete officials decided to build the ballpark in 1983 and broke ground on its construction in 1986, but it took another five years to get a regular tenant — and it wasn’t a MLB team despite being used by several teams as a bargaining chip to get new stadiums in their home cities.

By breaking ground on a barebones roofed stadium in 1986, St. Pete only managed to win the baseball war with Tampa. But before baseball, the arena was home to  the NHL’s Lightning (1993-96) and the Arena Football League’s Storm (1991-96).

Those teams moved to a new arena in Tampa in 1997 ahead of the Rays coming to St. Pete. And now the Rays have confirmed their intentions to move to Tampa.

It’s just not known when, what the new stadium will look like, how much Tampa is willing to spend, or what the final cost will be. The Rays have reportedly committed $150 million to make the move.

For comparison purposes, St. Pete initially spent $130 million, and the dome underwent more than $115 million in renovations over the next 20 years, and it still doesn’t meet today’s standards of a MLB stadium.

I was working in St. Pete when the decision to build The Trop was made but I had moved to S.C. by the time it opened. I hope to make it back before the final out is recorded.

From Sidelines to punchlines

A different view of sports

Clearing my mind and notebook while celebrating the fact that my oldest son is finally getting married. Two down, one to go:

Super outcome?

Conventional wisdom suggests Sunday’s Super Bowl LII will be a defensive standoff because Philadelphia and New England each ranked in the top five in scoring defense and total defense during the National Football League’s regular season.

The Eagles were second in yardage allowed (307) and fourth in points allowed (18.4 points).

The Patriots were third in total defense (320.5 yards) and fifth in scoring defense (18.5 points).

But the counter argument is that both teams also are explosive on offense, ranking in the top five in total offense and scoring offense.

The Patriots are second in points scored (29.5) and fourth in yardage allowed per game (391.0). Not to be outdone, the Eagles are third in total offense (395.0 yards) and fourth in scoring defense (26.5 points).

Does defense really win championships? We’re about to find out.

I tend to believe we’ll see a similar score as last year’s 34-28 victory by the Patriots. Only let’s hope the script is rewritten. The last thing we need is another epic collapse by one of the teams.

Well, unless its the Patriots.

Last year the Atlanta Falcons led 17-0 at halftime before Tom Brady added another chapter to his legacy to win his fifth championship.

Let’s hope the collapse is just a Georgia thing. Or is it merely a coincidence that the University of Georgia blew a 13-0 halftime lead in the national championship game last month to lose 26-23 in overtime to Alabama?

Tony Dungy, for one, doesn’t think defenses will rule the day on Sunday.

“I think the Patriots spread them out, throw the ball fast and quick to the inside guys,” said Dungy. “Philadelphia’s going to move the ball better than people think. I think it’s going to be an entertaining game, it’s going to be fairly high-scoring, it’s going to be tight.”

By the book

From Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times: “Spotted on the reader board at Crossroads Community Church in Carver, Mass. ‘The Bible mentions Eagles 33 times and the GOAT 42. Patriots win by 9.’”

Blind justice

All Randall Margraves wanted was to be in a room alone with Larry Nassar. Sounds reasonable. After all, the USA Gymnastics doctor had spent time alone in a room with three of his daughters as part of his sick pursuit to sexually abuse female athletes.

Eaton County Judge Janice Cunningham understood Margraves’ request, and probably would have granted it if not for vowing to follow the law and sentencing guidelines.

So she denied Margraves’ request for “five minutes in a locked room with this demon.” Once denied, Margraves asked to have one minute alone with Nassar. He was again denied.

And that’s when he snapped, making an attempt to get past sheriff deputies to land a few punches on Nassar. He was tackled before he could reach Nassar and led out of the courtroom.

His unruly actions could have landed him in jail, but Judge Cunningham wasn’t going to be the one to do it.

“I don’t know what it would be like to stand there as a father and know that three of your girls were injured physically and emotionally by somebody sitting in a courtroom. I can’t imagine that,” the judge said.

They said it

Patriots coach Bill Belichick to reporters when asked the difference between this Super Bowl and his previous seven: “This one is in Minnesota.”

Janice Hough of LeftCoastSportsBabe.com: “MLB says all 30 teams will extend protective netting to “at least the far ends of both dugouts by opening day. So future generations of kids won’t be able to score foul balls (or get autographs)  because this generation pays less attention to game and more to their phones.”

RJ Currie of SportsDeke.com: “Bill Macatee asked Aussie Open co-host Martina Navratilova if it’s mentally tough to play someone you have a “lopsided losing record against.” How on earth would Navratilova know?”

Bill Barnwell of ESPN.com, on Washington earning kudos for landing QB Alex Smith after botching the Robert Griffin III and Kirk Cousins situations: “You shouldn’t congratulate a company for doing a great job of cleaning up its own toxic waste spill, though.”

Xander Schauffele to Golf Digest on why he’s still driving the same “scuffed up” Toyota Camry he had well before he won PGA Tour Rookie of the Year: “The lease isn’t up yet.”

NBC comedian Jimmy Fallon on the man who broke a Guinness world record by walking barefoot on a 120-foot path of loose Legos: “This beats the old record set by every dad getting up to use the bathroom at night.”

Money for nothing

Arkansas is on the hook for nearly $12 million dollars for the decision to fire Bret Bielema as football coach.

Bielema’s contract calls for him to receive severance pay of $322,567 a month through the end of 2020. It computes to nearly $4 million a year and it’s all guaranteed unless Bielema lands another job that pays more.

For lesser pay, Arkansas only gets to subtract Bielema’s monthly pay from its buyout sum. So if Bielema takes a job that pays him $125,000 a month ($1.5 million), Arkansas would only be on the hook for $200,567 per month.

Headlines

Fark.com: “1 in 4 Americans believe God will listen to their prayers and not those loser fans’ prayers.”

TheKicker.com: “Generous? Patriots offer to spot Eagles 25 points.”

SportsPickle.com: “Breaking: Trump to replace Obamacare with NFL’s Head UP Football Initiative.’

TheOnion.com: “Cleveland Indians owner admits Chief Wahoo no longer compatible with modern revenue-growth expectations.”

SportsPickle.com: “America sick of Aaron Rodgers’ cocky  behavior after learning he’s 1/16th black.”

TheOnion.com: “87 percent of Eagles home crowd listening to NFC Championship on car radio after getting thrown out of stadium

SportsPickle.com: “Ben Roethlisberger discloses he’s been given between 1 and 700 months to live.”

Fark.com: “Olympics athletes get ambitious condom allowance, enough for sex three times a day for 14 days.”

SportsPickle.com: “Report: NCAA considering death penalty for NCAA.”

Who’s he?

In the first episode of the documentary series, “Tom vs. Time”, Tom Brady’s 5-year-old daughter Vivian interrupts him while he’s on the phone to whine about how she wanted a friend to sleep over so they could play soccer in the backyard.

Alex Reimer, a sports talk host for WEEI, called the scene “staged” and said Brady’s young daughter was an “annoying little puissant.”

Really? During a time when we’re raising a generation of very  tech savvy but overweight video gamers, should anyone pick on a kid for wanting to have a friend over to play a sports in the great outdoors?

Pissant? It means someone is insignificant, worthless and contemptible? To say that about one of Brady’s kids is what’s contemptible.

The scene very well may have been staged. “Tom vs. Time” is meant to provide viewers a glimpse into Brady’s life on and off the field. While we can debate the wisdom of Brady shining that kind of spotlight on any of his children, it’s going to happen sooner or later. After all, their father is a NFL quarterback with five Super Bowl rings and their mom Gisele is a Brazilian Super Model.

And Reimer? He’s a radio shock jock, which makes him the true pissant in this story.

Tapping out

After the once unbeatable Rhonda Rousey had her mixed martial arts career shaken to its core with back-to-back losses to Holly Holm and Amanda Nunes, it was widely assumed she was done with the fight game.

Suddenly. Rousey was no longer being billed as the meanest, toughest, scrappiest UFC female fighter. She also no longer craved the MMA spotlight, refusing to do interviews after her second loss.

No one would have been surprised if the 2008 Olympic bronze medalist in judo went all in on Hollywood. She already had used her celebrity status to land roles in three movies, including Furious 7.

But it turns out that appearing on the big screen is not the only acting opportunities she’s pursuing. She’s decided to take the path to WWE stardom. A fan of former wrestler Rowdy Roddy Piper, she used the nickname Rowdy during her UFC days. In WWE, she has joined Shayna Baszler, Jessamyn Duke and Marina Shafir to form “The Four Horsewomen.”

Super suite

Chelsea and Courey Marshall are Denver Broncos fans, so when it comes to Sunday’s Super Bowl clash between Philadelphia and New England, they don’t have a horse in the race.

But they’ll still be a strong bet to be the first ticketholders to get to their seats at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis.

That’s because the Marshalls won a Courtyard by Marriott contest to spend the night before the big game in a luxury suite inside the stadium.

”I’ve never been in a completely empty stadium, let alone the Super Bowl stadium,” Courey said. ”And to have my wife with me, and to wake up on game day in the stadium, that’s pretty special.”

The two were in Santa Clara, Calif., in February 2016 when Peyton Manning and Denver beat Carolina, 24-10, so it was a treat when Manning made the phone call to tell them they had won the contest.

”You’re right there in the dome and get to see all the behind-the-scenes stuff,” Courey said. ”Then you wake up on Super Bowl Sunday right there. Has to be a wonderful experience.”