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 recognizing that an arbitrator has given credence to a collusion conspiracy being committed by NFL teams against Colin Kaepernick:

Championship path

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

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

Mission Accomplished.

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

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

Oklahoma prevailed, 13-2.

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

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

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

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

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

Boiler pride

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

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

They said it

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 Title debate

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Identity crisis

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

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

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

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

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

Or they can accept being called Mickey Mouse University.

Countdown clock

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

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

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

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

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

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

End of era

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Headlines

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dietary advice

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

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

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

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

From Sidelines to punchlines

 

A different view of sports

 

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

Risky business

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

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

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

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

But I digress.

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

Lionel Messi. Gone.

Cristiano Ronaldo. Gone.

David Silva. Gone.

Carlos Vela. Gone.

And yes, Neymar. Gone.

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

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

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

England will face Croatia on Wednesday in Moscow.

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

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

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

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

Next up?

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

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

Setting goals

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

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

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

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

College life

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

They said it

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Putting for dollars

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

Seriously, is that still relevant these days?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Headlines

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

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

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

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

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

 

Tweets of Week

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

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

Fan boy

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

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

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

 

From Sidelines to punchlines

A different view of sports

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

Bad boy, bad boy

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

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

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

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

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

Boys will be boys, ya know?

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

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

You know, grabbing women by the p—ssy.

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

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

Mixed signals

There’s no crying in soccer.

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

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

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

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

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

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

They said it

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Brady bunch

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

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

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

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

Fire sale

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

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

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

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

World Class Tweets

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

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

Headlines

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Real whopper!

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

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

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

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

Family affair

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

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

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

Ratings game

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

Maybe baseball really is America’s PASTTIME.

From Sidelines to punchlines

A different view of sports

Clearing my mind and notebook while pleased to see former Purdue standout Robbie Hummel, whose injury problems continued as a professional, is getting a shot as a college basketball analyst for ESPN:

Going Hollywood

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

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

Yeah, it’s that easy.

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

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

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

Bryant quickly shook his head no.

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

Crean time

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

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

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

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

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

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

They said it

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Shaking the rust

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bucket list

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

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

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

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

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

 Headlines

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A different OT

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My takes

Rehastagging this week’s top Tweets from @Randy_Beard11:

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

Culture shock

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sidelines to punchlines

A different view of sports

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

Best ever

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tracking titles

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

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

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

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

Star is born

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

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

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

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

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

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

They said it

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Soccer’s future

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

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

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

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

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

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

Headlines

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

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

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

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

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

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

Earning respect

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

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

But that’s not how it works.

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

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

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

Dr. Serena

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My takes

Rehastagging this week’s top tweets from @Randy_Beard11

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

UCF = Unfair College Football

UCF = Unfulfilled Championship Fantasy

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

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

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

From Sidelines to punchlines

A different view of sports

Clearing my mind and notebook while bemoaning how quickly fall weather arrived and disappeared, especially in the Midwest:

Heisman dreams

By the time the college football season had reached November, Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield was the clear front-runner to win the Heisman Trophy.

It was his to lose after the Sooners racked up road wins over  No. 2-ranked Ohio State on Sept. 9 and No. 11 Oklahoma State on Nov. 4 while proving a high-scoring loss against Iowa State on Oct. 7 wouldn’t be enough to derail them from their championship goals.

The final voting tally underscored just how dominant Mayfield was this season in becoming the Sooners’ sixth Heisman winner. He finished with 2,398 points, easily outdistancing Stanford running back Bryce Love (1,300) and Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson (793), the 2016 winner.

Mayfield received 732 first-place votes, while Love had 75 first-place votes and Jackson only 47.

Each first-place vote is worth three points, with two points for second and one for third. Mayfield finished with 86 percent of all possible points, which is the third highest percentage since 1950 – topped only by Troy Smith’s 91.6 percent of the votes in 2006 and Marcus Mariotta’s 90.9 percent in 2014.

Not bad for a guy from Austin, Texas who twice had to go from walk-on to starter, first at Texas Tech and then at Oklahoma. Although he grew up an Oklahoma fan, he wasn’t recruited by the Sooners or his hometown University of Texas.

He walked on at Texas Tech and won the starting job as a freshman. But despite passing for more than 2,200 yards and 12 touchdowns, the Red Raiders coaching staff failed to save a scholarship for his sophomore season. So he followed his heart to Norman, Oklahoma.

Now he has the Sooners back in contention for a national championship with a Rose Bowl semifinal date on Jan. 1 against Georgia.

Mayfield referenced his extraordinary path to winning the Heisman by thanking former head coach Bob Stoops and current coach Lincoln Riley, who was the Sooners’ offensive coordinator before taking over as head coach this season when Stoops retired.

“Coach Stoops you welcomed a chubby, unathletic kid into the program with open arms. I wouldn’t say that many would do that,” said Mayfield. “(But) the thing I’m most thankful for is the hiring of Coach Riley. The day you did that changed my life. I appreciate that.

“Coach Riley you’ve been a great mentor to me. We’ve been through a lot together, so I appreciate you.”

Mayfield finished fourth in the Heisman voting two years ago and third last year.

He enters the College Football Playoffs with 12,910 career passing yards and 114 touchdown passes with just 29 interceptions in four seasons. He could leave college with the two best single-season passer ratings.

He rattled off the names of his offensive lineman during his acceptance speech, saying this “wouldn’t have happened without you. Keep up the physicality. We’ve got two more (games).”

That’s as good as guaranteeing a win over Georgia, isn’t it?

But then, Mayfield leaves with a bit of a reputation as a player who’s not afraid to stir up controversy, including planting an OU flag at Ohio State after the Sooners upset the Buckeyes or getting into verbal exchanges with Texas Tech and Kansas fans.

My ballot: I’ve been a Heisman voter for 29 years and I’ve picked the winner all but six or seven of those years. This year I correctly picked Mayfield, but had Jackson at No. 2 and San Diego State’s Rashaad Penny as No. 3. The official tally had Penny as the fifth choice behind Penn State’s  Saquon Barkley.

Other honors

The other top award in which I’m still an active voter is the Biletnikoff Award for best receiver, which is given by the Tallahassee Quarterback Club. I was the sports editor in Tallahassee for eight years and always enjoyed attending the banquet and writing a column on the winner.

This year’s winner was James Washington of Oklahoma State, who led the nation with 1,423 yards on 69 catches with 12 touchdowns.

Finishing second was Colorado State’s Michael Gallop and third was West Virginia’s Donald Sills. Gallop was fifth in receiving yards with 1,345 but third best with 94 catches. Sills was 28th in yards (980) but led country with 18 touchdown receptions.

My ballot had Washington first with Sills second and Gallop third.

More awards::

Maxwell Award (player of year): Winner – Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma; 2. Bryce Love, Stanford; 3. Saquon Barkley, Penn State.

Chuck Bednarik Award (top defensive player): Winner – Minkah Fitzpatrick, Alabama; 2. Bradley Chubb, N.C. State; 3. Roquan Smith, Georgia.

Bronko Nagurski Award (top defensive player): Winner – Bradley Chubb, N.C. State; 2. Minkah Fitzgerald, Alabama; 3. Josey Jewell, Iowa.

Butkus Award (linebacker): Winner – Roquon Smith, Georgia; 2. Devin Bush, Michigan; 3. Tremaine Edwards, Virginia Tech.

Davey O’Brien Award (quarterback): Winner – Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma; 2. J.T. Barrett, Ohio State; 3. Mason Rudolph, Oklahoma State.

Doak Walker Award (running back): Winner – Bryce Love, Stanford; 2. Saquon Barkley, Penn State; 3. Jonathan Taylor, Wisconsin.

Jim Thorpe Award (defensive back): Winner – Minkah Fitzpatrick, Alabama; 2. Deshaun Elliott, Texas; 2. Josh Jackson, Iowa.

Lou Groza Award (kicker): Winner – Matt Gay, Utah; 2. Dominik Eberle, Utah State; 3. Daniel Carlson, Auburn.

Ray Guy Award (punter): Winner – Michael Dickson, Texas; 2. JK Scott, Alabama; 3. Mitch Wishnowsky, Utah.

Outland Trophy (interior lineman): Winner – Ed Oliver, Houston; 2. Quenton Nelson, Notre Dame. 3. Orlando Brown, Oklahoma.

Rimington Trophy (center): Winner – Billy Price, Ohio State; 2. Tyler Orlosky, West Virginia; 3. Ethan Pocic, LSU.

Saving grace

S.C. State point guard Ty Solomon didn’t score, didn’t have an assist and only played four minutes in what may be the last basketball game he’ll ever play.

But at least he’s alive.

Solomon collapsed seven minutes into last Saturday’s game in Raleigh, N.C. at PNC Arena against N.C. State. His heart had stopped but he was brought back to life because S.C. State trainer Tyler Long quickly administered CPR and N.C. State trainer Austin Frank came to the rescue with an automated external defibrillator (AED).

As the crowd of 13,000 prayed for his recovery, N.C. State team physician Dr. William Jacobs took over until the EMTs arrived on the scene to transport him to the N.C. Heart and Vascular Hospital.

Solomon, a redshirt senior, was hospitalized for five days before returning home to Johns Island, S.C.

Solomon’s family released a statement earlier this week that praised the medical care he received and asking for continued prayers.

“Ty recognizes that he was in the right place at the right time to have a serious medical emergency that could have had a tragic outcome. Instead, he’s looking forward to resuming a normal life, eventually returning to school and making every second count.”

They said it

Dwight Perry of Seattle Times:  “Football coach Jimbo Fisher reportedly tossed his Christmas tree to the curb after news got out he was bolting Florida State for Texas A&M. Hey, it was either that or have Chief Osceola light it on fire and stick it in the ground at the 50-yard line.”

RJ Currie of SportsDeke.com:  “Oddsmakers put Tiger Woods’ chances at 20-1 of winning one of the next four majors. Elvis is at 19-1.”

Brockton (Mont.) High School girls basketball coach Terrence Johnson to the Great Falls Tribune on his players’ reaction after losing 102-0: “They did nothing wrong. At the end of the day, they all went home and asked, ‘What’s for dinner, mom?’ ”

Janice Hough of LeftCoastSportsBabe.com: “LaVar Ball pulling LiAngelo out of UCLA means the kid will miss out on potentially a great three months of college.”

NBC comedian Jimmy Fallon: “After going 2-10 this season, the Giants have fired coach Ben McAdoo and general manager Jerry Reese. Well, if you are wondering what happened to Ben and Jerry they are probably sitting on the couch eating some Ben & Jerry’s.”

Comedian Steve Hofstetter: “It’s a shitty day and I’m in a lot of pain. But the Giants just fired Ben McAdoo, so it’s not all bad.”

Brad Dickson of the Omaha (Neb.) World-Herald on rumblings that QB Sam Darnold might stay at USC to avoid being drafted by Cleveland: “The Browns are now bragging about ‘doing our part to keep young people in school.’”

Cashing in

Roger Goodell should take two knees and bow down to the owners, coaches and players of the National Football League.

Being the commissioner of the NFL has made Goodell a very rich man who just got richer by agreeing to a new 5-year contract extension that will pay him $40 million per year.

Most of the money will come from bonuses, which are subject to approval by vote of the 32 team owners. His previous deal, which expires in 2019, will pay him a total of $31.7 million before the contact extension kicks in through 2024.

The new Republican tax plan should stretch his dollars even further.

Going bowling

Yes, there are too many bowl games, beginning with a full slate of five matchups kicking things off next Saturday.

But seriously, if you’re like me, you’ll still be looking for stocking stuffers next weekend so you can wait a little longer before you tune into college football’s postseason since none of the early games really matter.

At least to most of us.

But since I really can’t get away with making that big of a beach blanket statement, I promise I’ll make my full slate of bowl predictions by midweek. Until then, here are the 20 games that will involve teams from the ACC, Big Ten and SEC.

Quick Lane Bowl, Dec. 26, 3:15 p.m. CT: Duke vs. Northern Illinois.

Independence Bowl, Dec. 27, 11:30 a.m. CT: Southern Mississippi vs. Florida State.

Pinstripe Bowl, Dec. 27,  3:15 p.m. CT: Iowa vs. Boston College.

Foster Farms Bowl, Dec. 27, 6:30 p.m.: Arizona vs. Purdue.

Texas Bowl, Dec. 27, 7 p.m. CT: Texas vs. Missouri.

Military Bowl, Dec. 28, 11:30 a.m. CT: Virginia vs. Navy.

Camping World Bowl, Dec. 28, 3:15 p.m.: Virginia Tech vs. Oklahoma State.

Holiday Bowl, Dec. 28, 7 p.m. CT: Washington State vs. Michigan State.

Belk Bowl, Dec. 29, 11 a.m. CT: Wake Forest vs. Texas A&M.

Sun Bowl, Dec. 29, 1 p.m.: N.C. State vs. Arizona State.

Music City Bowl, Dec. 29, 2:30 p.m.: Kentucky vs. Northwestern.

Cotton Bowl, Dec. 29, 6:30 p.m.: Southern California vs. Ohio State.

Taxslayer Bowl, Dec. 30, 10 a.m. CT: Louisville vs. Mississippi State.

Fiesta Bowl, Dec. 30, 2 p.m. CT: Washington vs. Penn State.

Orange Bowl, Dec. 30, 6 p.m. CT: Wisconsin vs. Miami.

Outback Bowl, Jan. 1, 10 a.m. CT: Michigan vs. South Carolina.

Peach Bowl, Jan. 1, 10:30 a.m. CT: Central Florida vs. Auburn.

Citrus Bowl, Jan. 1, 11 a.m. CT: Notre Dame vs. LSU.

College Football Playoff Semifinals

Rose Bowl, Jan. 1, 3 p.m. CT: Georgia vs. Oklahoma.

Sugar Bowl, Jan. 1, 6:45 p.m. CT: Alabama vs. Clemson

Note: CFP Championship Game is scheduled for Monday, Jan. 8, 7 p.m. CT, Mercedes Benz Stadium, Atlanta. It will be televised by ESPN.

Headlines

TheOnion.com: “Lakers add Buffalo Chicken Wing stains to Shaquille O’Neal’s retired jersey.”

TheKicker.com:  “LiAngelo scores 47 in his first game at LaVar Ball University.:

Fark.com: “Lavar takes his Ball and goes home.”

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

TheOnion.com: “New NFL safety rule requires players to be careful.”

Fark.com: “Unlike the Lions, Pontiac Silverdome fails to implode.”

SportsPickle.com: “Roy Moore reminds voters that many of Alabama’s top recruits have also tried to have sex with teenage girls.”

TheOnion.com: “New ‘This is SportsCenter’ commercial features Otto the Syracuse Orange laying off staffers.”

Fark.com: “Nike fires 7-year-old foreman of its NBA jersey factory.”

 Winning Tweet

Twitter really can be useful. Just ask John Goehrke, who turned the social media site into a dating app during the Super Bowl.

With the Atlanta Falcons up 25 points over the New England Patriots, Canadian tennis player Genie Bouchard made the mistake of proclaiming in a tweet that the Super Bowl was over.

We know what happened from there, and no one was more thankful about that than Goehrke, a Missouri college student. That’s because he had answered Bouchard’s tweet by asking if she’d go out with him if Tom Brady rallied New England to victory.

She agreed to his bet, and now it appears they have become friends who have hung out more than once, including going to a Brooklyn Nets game.

Team Tweeting

The best and worst of college Twitter accounts, according to Athlon’s Sports:

Ten Best College Twitter Accounts: 1. South Carolina; 2. Clemson; 3. Miami; 4. Oregon; 5. Georgia; 6. Oklahoma; 7. Ohio State; 8. Auburn; 9. Virginia Tech; 10. Utah.

Five Worst College Twitter Accounts: 1. Michigan; 2. Oregon State; 3. Notre Dame; 4. Alabama; 5. Penn State.

My takes

Rehastagging this week’s top tweets from @Randy_Beard11

At least Jozy Altidore can say he scored one meaningful goal in 2017 with game-winner for Toronto in MLS Cup.

Where’s the Air Force when you need the aerial support? Army beats Navy 14-13 in the snow, but the big story is the two teams combined for 22 yards passing.

@IUMenssocer will play for its 9th NCAA men’s soccer title Sunday. Hoosiers beat North Carolina 1-0 and 2-time defending champion Stanford beat Akron 2-0. It was Hoosiers 18th shutout of season.

@_king_lil (Lilly King) deserves credit for getting this started with her antidoping stance in Rio in 2016

Sorry Urban, but two losses matter, but Buckeyes were No. 5 and Wisconsin No. 6.

Two teams from SEC make playoff, which underscores the need to expand the playoff beyond four teams.

On the move

Since we’re catching up with the usual postseason business, let’s acknowledge the coaching moves that have already taken place in my three favorite conferences.

ACC

Florida State: Willie Taggart (from Oregon)

Big Ten

Nebraska: Scott Frost (from UCF)

SEC

Arkansas: Chad Morris (from SMU)

Florida: Dan Mullen (from Mississippi State)

Mississippi: Matt Luke (promoted from interim coach)

Tennessee: Jeremy Pruitt (from Alabama, defensive coordinator)

Texas A&M: Jimbo Fisher (from Florida State)

Looking for feedback going forward

I’ve spent this fall “extending” my journalism career by writing a blog, primarily pursuing a passion of covering college football in the ACC, SEC and Big Ten.

As I’ve frequently explained, those are the conferences I covered in my 41 years when I was earning a paycheck at eight newspapers in three states. While that might seem like a lot of moving around, it really isn’t that unusual when you’ve committed your life to working for newspapers.

Why? Because there is rarely more than one newspaper in every town, especially these days. Thus, the first five newspapers that chose to hire me were mostly stepping stones  when I was focused on moving up the career ladder.

My last three job changes accounted for the final 29 years of my career.

Then before I was ready to retire, the industry’s focus on cutting jobs finally got around to shedding my paycheck.

Truthfully, I’m fine with it now. When a company decides it hates its readers so much that it goes to 7 p.m. (or earlier) deadlines, it doesn’t really need a sports editor.

What I need to know is whether you need my voice as a blogger.

I don’t intend to write separate blogs on each of the conferences again until next fall., although I will offer up final power polls for each conference and previews of the conference championship games.

As for basketball, as much as I am a fan, there are just too many games for me to keep up and still have a life. But I do intend to  amuse myself by continuing to write my weekly “From Sidelines to punchlines” column of notes and blurbs.

When I have time, or when I feel strongly enough to weigh in, I’ll also offer other blog entries. But as I promised my wife, I can’t afford to spend the rest of my life as a deadbeat blogger.

I don’t have any ambition of going to a subscription model for this blog. No. 1, I suspect paying for those subscription bells and whistles would cost me more than any income I’d earn from a blog each month.

But what I do want from you is feedback and support. Do you find the separate conference blogs with my power ratings and comments useful? Would you like to see a different approach?  Would you like “Sidelines to punchlines” to make the transition to being more of a humor column rather than a mix of commentary, notes and humor?

If you care to provide feedback, probably the best way would be to comment on my Facebook page, where every blog is posted, or by sending me an email to:

randy.beard@yahoo.com

Thanks for reading.

 

A different view on sports

 

 

Clearing my mind and notebook while hoping someone will  send me a photo for my office wall of Miami coach Mark Richt wearing America’s best bling, the Turnover Chain:

Poll badgering

Fox Sports color commentator Joel Klatt took aim at the designated cupcakes being consumed in the south on Saturday, noting Alabama and Clemson were enjoying “November byes.”

Granted, what Klatt said in an attempt to make a case for Wisconsin’s playoff worthiness contained a smidgen of truth. Dabo Swinney’s defending champion Tigers did spend Saturday afternoon overpowering The Citadel, 61-3. And yes, Nick Saban’s Crimson Tide pounded Mercer, 56-0, while going through the motions of being the nation’s No. 1 team.

Meanwhile, Wisconsin had to survive a stern Big Ten clash with Michigan, 24-10.

Is that fair? Probably not. But let’s not forget that the main reason Paul Chryst’s team is  unbeaten after 10 games is a schedule that is only rated as the nation’s  50th toughest.

Meanwhile, Oklahoma (No. 1), Clemson (No. 4), Miami (No. 21) and Alabama (No. 23) have all played much tougher slates.

Klatt also should be reminded that Alabama plays Auburn this week and Clemson faces South Carolina. Those rivalry games will be road trips for the Crimson Tide and Tigers against teams that have winning records.

The Badgers? They face a 5-6 Minnesota team.

I do agree with the main point Klatt was trying to make when he slipped into snarky mode. College football’s guaranteed victories against step-down opponents should be played in September not November.

The final month of the regular season should be reserved for conference clashes and traditional rivals.

That’s the only way anyone can continue to argue that every game counts.

My power five

I’m not sold on Clemson being one of the four teams once the CFP dust settles because I don’t believe the Tigers will beat Miami on Dec. 2 in the ACC Championship game.

Breaking out my crystal football, the four teams I believe will be playing for the national championship are Miami, Alabama, Oklahoma and Ohio State.

Headlines

SportsPickle.com: “Lonzo Ball arrested for shoplifting ‘How to Shoot a Basketball’ DVD.”

Fark.com: “Danica Patrick to retire from full-time racing in attempt to preserve her unblemished record of no wins.”

TheOnion.com: “NFL announces plans to stream ‘Thursday Night Football’ exclusively on Delta flights.”

TheKicker.com: “Report: Seahawks playbook just squiggly lines indicating Wilson’s scrambles.”

SportsPickle.com: “Christian Pulisic writes heartfelt essay on Players Tribune revealing it turns out he’s actually German.”

TheOnion.com: “Jim Harbaugh conducts entire ESPN interview with whistle clenched in teeth.”

Alternate Cup

Within minutes of Italy being eliminated from qualifying for the 2018 World Cup, I tweeted that the United States should “stage its own 8-team mini-World Cup” next summer with the likes of Italy, Netherlands, Chile, Ghana, Ivory Coast, South Africa and China.

Apparently, mine was a shared genius since ESPN’s Scott Van Pelt and others had similar thoughts.

But the real catalyst for such a tournament was the United States Soccer Federation. It was already kicking around a few ideas to make up for the failure of the U.S. men’s team in CONCACAF qualifying. With FIFA agreeable and ESPN apparently willing to bankroll it, momentum has quickly built.

It probably didn’t hurt that FIFA already has announced that the World Cup field in 2026 will be expanded to 48 teams, so there’s no chance this will become a regular pity party.

Connecting dots

From Dwight Perry’s “Sideline Chatter” in the Seattle Times:

“Introducing your new No. 1 team in this week’s NFL Who Beat Who Power Rankings — the San Francisco 49ers! After all, the 49ers (1-9) beat the Giants (1-8), who beat the Broncos (3-6), who beat the Cowboys (5-4), who beat Washington (4-5), which beat the Seahawks (6-3), who beat the Rams (7-2), who beat the Jaguars (6-3), who beat the Steelers (8-2), who beat the Vikings (7-2), who beat the Saints (7-2), who beat the Panthers (7-3), who beat the Patriots (7-2), who beat the Falcons (5-4), who beat the Bears (3-6), who beat the Ravens (4-5), who beat the Raiders (4-5), who beat the Chiefs (6-3), who beat the Eagles (8-1).”

They said it

TBS comedian Conan O’Brien,after the IOC said it might include pole-dancing, poker and foosball in the next Games: “They also said it’s the first Olympics that will be held in a frathouse basement.”

RJ Currie of SportsDeke.com: “Four more Russian cross-country skiers were stripped of their Sochi Olympic medals for doping. Officials became suspicious when they had faster times than the bobsledders.”

Janice Hough of LeftCoastSportsBabe.com “ No way was China putting American basketball players in jail for 10 years. If NBA pulled their shoe factories it would put tens of thousands of Chinese children out of work.”

Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel: “Just to add some extra incentive to the upcoming UCF-USF game, I think the winner — whether it’s UCF’s Scott Frost or USF’s Charlie Strong — should get the Gators job. On second thought, maybe the loser should get the Gators job.”

Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times: “Browns fan Chris McNeil has secured a Cleveland parade permit for Jan. 6 just in case the team completes a “perfect” 0-16 season. Now comes the tough part: Convincing Roger Goodell to show up and hand out the participation trophies.”

Jim Barach of WCHS-TV in Charleston, W.Va., after golfer Tiger Woods said his knee is “trashed”: “Just like his marriage, reputation and driving record.”

Comedy writer Jerry Perisho, anticipating a debate question during the next presidential campaign: “Are you ready to take a 3 a.m. phone call from the UCLA basketball coach?”

No more miracles

Maple Grove High School ran out of miracles in the 6A Minnesota High School state football playoffs.

The Crimson, who scored three touchdowns in the final minute to beat St. Michael Albertville 29-27 last week, had no answers in a 26-0 loss to No. 1 Eden Prairie in the semifinals on Thursday.

Maple Grove’s best scoring chance again came late in the game but ended with an interception.

Eden Prairie improved to 12-0 and will face Minnetonka for the state title this Friday. Minnetonka defeated Cretin-Derham Hall 17-14.

Eden Prairie won 39-21 when it played Minnetonka (11-1) earlier this season.

Fact of day

A bat reportedly used by Lou Gehrig when he hit his final two home runs in 1939 is on the Heritage Auctions block just six years after it was bought for $403,664.

Sweet tweets

Rehastagging this weeks’ top Twitter shots from @Randy_Beard11:

“Baker Mayfield’s Heisman stats this week: 257 yards passing, 3 TDs, at least one FU and one crotch grab as Oklahoma cruises past Kansas. No, that’s not going to help him.”

 

 “It really will be the Not For Long league if NFL meets Goodell’s reported demands for $49.5 million salary, lifetime health insurance and use of private jet for life.”

“Jay Bilas needs to stay in his lane and stick with basketball. His top 4 in college football would be Alabama, Miami, Oklahoma and Wisconsin. Badgers should make it only if they are still unbeaten and win Big Ten title.”

“It’s Duke. Of course it’s a dirty play by Wendell Carter Jr.”

 “Well, at least the United States has another partner to share in the misery of not qualifying for the World Cup: Italy. Got ousted by Sweden.”

 Back in trouble?

The NFL is investigating allegations that Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston grabbed the crotch of a female Uber driver in Scottsdale, Ariz., in March 2016.

The driver said she is not pursuing criminal charges or looking for a civil judgment against Winston, but felt the assault should be revealed in light of all the other women who have come forward to report being assaulted and harassed.

Winston denied the allegations on Friday, but not in the most convincing terms.

“While I am certain that I did not make any inappropriate contact, I don’t want to engage in a battle with the driver and I regret if my demeanor or presence made her uncomfortable in any way,” Winston said in a statement.

When he was playing football at Florida State, of course, Winston was accused of a sexual assault in 2012. He was never charged criminally in that case but he did settle a civil lawsuit with his accuser late last year.

If there’s fire to go with this smoke, it wouldn’t be good for Winston’s long-term future with the Bucs.

Weekend success

With all the non-conference games against second tier team, I should have had a good weekend of picks. And I guess I did, even if I did foolishly believe Western Carolina had a real shot at North Carolina.

Bottom line, I missed just one game each in the Big Ten and SEC and two in the ACC.

The 7-2 effort in the ACC improved my season total to 69-21 (76.6 percent) in the conference. In the Big Ten, I’m now 72-20 (78.2 percent). And in the SEC, I’m still above 80 percent after going 8-1 for a season total of 77-17 (81.9 percent).

At least my goal of an 80 percent winning percentage for the season is alive in one of the three conferences.

 

 

One missed pick from perfection in both Big Ten and SEC — 21-4 overall — in Saturday’s college football predictionsACC Landscape: Week Twelve

Big Ten Landscape: Week Twelve

SEC Landscape: Week Twelve

ACC Landscape: Week Twelve

From Sidelines to punchlines

 An entertaining look at sports

Clearing my mind and notebook while emphatically announcing I would never fork over $15,000, or $15 for that matter, to interview Lonzo Ball:

Temper, temper

Jimbo Fisher needs a refresher course on how to handle defeat.

With the losses piling up at Florida State, the Seminoles’ head coach lost something else – his temper – after Louisville pulled out a 31-28 win Saturday in Tallahassee.

A fan disgusted by another mistake-filled loss was heard chanting “New Coaches, New Coaches!” as Fisher was walking off the field. Fisher reacted with a confrontational response.

According to a tweet from Tallahassee photographer Joe Rondone, Fisher yelled, “Bring your ass down here and say that!”

He should have known better. After all, his Seminoles are 0-3 at home and 2-4 overall, which isn’t what FSU’s fans expected after their team was ranked No. 3 in the preseason. So yeah, folks in Tallahassee are understandably frustrated.

Fisher should have remained silent and opted to soothe his bruised ego, if necessary, with legit excuses, starting with the loss of starting quarterback Deondre Francois in the opener against Alabama. Instead he allowed an angry fan to get under his skin.

He made a half-hearted apology in his postgame news conference, but he also used the time to question the loyalty of any fan who criticizes coaches and players.

“Are you going to be a loyal fan or not?” said Fisher. “Just keep fighting with us. We ain’t quitting on you, please don’t quit on us.”

Fisher obviously didn’t learn anything while serving as coach-in-waiting to the legendary  Bobby Bowden when FSU lost its first three home games in 2009. When it came to fan criticism, Bowden always thought it best to have a grin and bear acceptance and do everything he could to improve his team.

“I can’t worry about critics. Not in this business,” Bowden said in 2009 of the fan unrest when his team also was 2-4.

Watching Fisher’s response, ESPN studio analyst Joey Galloway couldn’t help but chuckle, giving the current FSU coach something else to think about as addresses the mistakes of freshman quarterback James Blackman.

“It’s actually funny to me,” said Galloway. “We’ve seen Jimbo Fisher go off on his quarterbacks. I’d like to see  James Blackman in the middle of Jimbo going off on him say, ‘Hey, coach, coach, don’t be negative. How about some support.’”

Note: This note on FSU was updated to provide more of Fisher’s comments.

Shark bait

Looking to ease harsh feelings over the school’s Rebels nickname, Mississippi has taken steps to boot its “Rebel the Bear” mascot from the sidelines.

It seems he’ll become a victim of a shark attack.

Since 2008, members of the Ole Miss defense have embraced a “Landshark” mentality by celebrating big plays with a hand to their forehead in the shape of a fin. Other teams have embraced the shark fin symbol, too. So have fans.

Thus, the school will debut a Landshark mascot next football season. “Rebel the Bear” mascot will be retired after the Texas A&M home game on Nov. 18. The Rebel nickname, however, will live on.

They said it

Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel on Florida’s alligator-themed uniforms last week, suggesting the only thing missing was former coach Steve Spurrier’s approval: “Then again, Spurrier could have outfitted his teams in pink polka-dotted uniforms and UF fans would have embraced the decision.”

Dwight Perry of Seattle Times: “Alex Rodriguez experienced a midlife epiphany and said that PEDs cost him $40 million and a chance at the Hall of Fame. It’s all right there in this week’s issue of Well, Duh magazine.

RJ Currie of SportsDeke.com: “The LFL, formerly the Lingerie Football League, posted a video saying they “stand in salute of our flag.” I wonder how many men have stood in salute of lingerie football?”

Janice Hough of LeftCoastSportsBabe.com: “So many of top ranked college football teams lost this weekend that this might open up a spot in playoffs for Cleveland Browns.”

ABC comedian Jimmy Kimmel: “Let me just say something as a Mets fan. The Yankees may have more World Series rings than anyone but they will never have what the Mets have, which is a mascot with a giant baseball for a head.”

WDRB Columnist Rick Bozich: “Profiles in courage: Nobody on U of L board or interim president Dr. Greg Postel willing to talk about (Tom) Jurich firing.”

Endangered Tigers

Anyone ready for 7-on-7 college football?

That might have been the only option to salvage the season for Occidental College, an NCAA D3 school in Los Angeles.

With injuries depleting the Tigers roster to fewer than three dozen players, Occidental bailed on its season this week. With an 0-5 record, including two previous forfeits, Rob Cushman’s team was down to one healthy defensive lineman.

Maybe Cushman now should petition the NCAA to allow the Tigers to compete in an intramural flag football league. It might make them a little tougher.

Headlines

TheOnion.com: “MLB warns homerun hitters league almost out of balls.”

TheKicker.com: “Tiger Woods  hit the links and shoots a 78! On first hole.”

SportsPickle.com: “LSU not concerned about huge buyout language in Ed Orgeron’s contract: ‘We’re fairly concerned he can’t read.’”

TheOnion.com: “Paper bag removed for national anthem.”

SportsPickle.com: “Gordon Heyward feeling better after hearing his horrific injury went viral.”

TheKicker.com: “Classy: Warriors give rings to all 28 Durant Twitter personas.”

Stat of week

The Phoenix Suns opened the season on Wednesday with a 124-76 loss to the Portland Trailblazers. The 48-point difference was the worst opening-game margin in NBA history.

Super Brady

NFL fans apparently believe Tom Brady is an ageless wonder. That’s the only logical explanation for the New England Patriots quarterback being voted in an ESPN poll as the most likely of his peers to win the most Super Bowls over the next decade, right?

Never mind Brady is 40 and no quarterback that old has ever led a team to an NFL championship. Despite such long-in-the-tooth odds, Brady finished with 21 percent of the votes to beat Oakland’s Derek Carr (20), Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers (18) and Dallas’ Dak Prescott (10).

By the way, Jay Cutler was the runaway winner of most unpopular QB with 42 percent of the vote. Seriously? I was sure Brady would prevail in that poll, too.

Still kicking

In ESPN polling about the 2018 World Cup, 83 percent of respondents said they would watch next summer’s tournament in Russia even though the United States didn’t qualify.

Also, 37-seven percent of voters said they’d follow their country of heritage, 24 percent will pull for an underdog like Iceland, and 19 percent will focus on individual stars like Argentina’s Lionel Messi, Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo or Brazil’s Neymar.

Sweet Tweets

Rehashtagging this week’s top Twitter shots from @Randy_Beard11:

  •  From No. 3 to 0-3 at home.  Florida State (2-4) still makes trips to Boston College, Clemson & Florida and has Syracuse at home. #bowlpanic
  • Landon Donovan may run for U.S. Soccer president. Yeah, that’d shake things up. After all he excels at throwing tantrums & being divisive.
  •  Raiders beat Chiefs 31-30, but needed FOURTH final play to do it. Just wondering: Are 1972 Olympic basketball refs now officiating NFL games
  •  Seriously, 62% of Vols fans would welcome Lane Kiffen back to Knoxville? How’d that work last time when he bolted for SoCal after one season?
  • Never been @RealSkipBayless fan, but let’s not forget he lives to diss. dish & be a prick (insert other ‘d’ word here).

Choosing favorites

Other than a disastrous start in the ACC, it was a good day to be me in terms of picking college football games in the ACC, Big Ten and SEC.

Unfortunately, I made the mistake of selecting the home teams in all six games in the ACC. Louisville, Pittsburgh and Boston College made me pay for my lack of respect of road teams.

Long story short,  I was 3-3 this week in the ACC, running my season success to 49-12 (80.3%).

I also finished over 80 percent in the SEC, using a 5-0 week to improve to 50-12 (80.6%).

In the Big Ten, another 5-1 week upped my season success to 50-14 (78.1%).