From Sidelines to punchlines

A different view of sports

Clearing my mind and notebook while trying to gather my wits and regain my strength from the exhausting challenge of moving back to my home state on an expediated timetable:

Dykstra drama

I was getting worried about Lenny Dykstra. After all, it’s been a while since he last drew the attention of the police.

But he’s back now, making up for his silence his week with the kind of bad-boy drama we’ve come to expect of Lenny Dykstra.

The three-time 1990s All-Star and a member of the 1986 World Series champion New York Mets, Dykstra was arrested in Linden, N.J. in the wee hours of May 23 for terrorizing a Uber driver. The driver abandoned his car in front of the police station after Dykstra allegedly put “a weapon” to his head and threatened to kill him.

Dykstra was also charged with possession of cocaine, marijuana and ecstasy. So yeah, the player who was once known as “Nails” hit for the cycle.

True to form, Dykstra disputed the driver’s claims and insisted he wasn’t arrested – even though the police issued a news release on the incident. Instead, Dykstra claims the driver “kidnapped me and almost killed me going 100 mph.”

Whatever, just add it to a long, growing list of sexual misdeeds and financial fraud that trace Dykstra’s fall from baseball glory. In 2012, he was even sentenced to three years in prison after he and associates bought cars from various dealerships using falsified bank statements and stolen identities. After only serving six and a half months of the sentence, Dykstra was released on probation and ordered to undergo weekly drug testing.

If he was ever drug-free, it didn’t stick.

Stay tuned. Dykstra won’t disappoint.

They said it

NBC comedian Jimmy Fallon on fans watching competitions between gamers at e-sports arenas: “It combines the thrill of going to a live sporting event with  the thrill of having an unemployed roommate.”

RJ Currie of “Can’t see things going well for new Browns quarterback and first overall pick Baker Mayfield. I give him six games before he changes his name to Mayday.”

Mike Bianchi of Orlando Sentinel: “New FSU coach Willie Taggert says he’d like to see college football players who earn a degree be awarded a “trust fund” to get a head start on life. Call me old-fashioned, but I always thought the college degree itself was your head start on life.”

Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times: “In just the past eight months, the Kansas cheer team has been suspended and three KU fraternities shut down amid hazing allegations. Turns out the least-threatening thing on campus is the football team.”

Janice Hough of LeftCoastSportsBabe: “Matt Harvey refuses to go to a AAA team, and ends up with 8-27 Reds.”

Currie of, again, after Mets starters Jacob DeGrom didn’t allow a run despite throwing 45 times in the first inning “I worked in advertising for 10 years and made fewer pitches.”

Comedy writer Tim Hunter on Moscow saying it will limit alcohol sales at this summer’s World Cup: “We do that over here with something called the $16 beer.”

Blogger TC Chong on golfer Lucas Glover’s wife getting arrested for getting physical with his mother: “Now there’s a Mother’s Day story you’ll have a tough time topping.”

Skipping reality

Before he became a talking airhead, Skip Bayless made his coin spewing nonsense in print. Now he has mastered the art of talking crap on Twitter.

When the Cleveland Cavaliers lost Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals and Cavs coach Tyronn Lue suggested that LeBron James appeared to be fatigued late in the game, Bayless quickly made a big deal of King James chugging water  at the scorer’s table.

Undisputed’s Bayless quickly pounced via Twitter: “This is just pathetic, LeBron is sitting on the scorer’s table chugging water trying to show the gullible witnesses he’s “dehydrated.” Next we’ll hear he’s suffering from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Unreal.”

James says he’s just fine, and we have no reason to doubt that he’ll find his extra gear again.

Meanwhile, I’ve long suffered from the malady I call “Chronic Fatigue from Skip Bayless’ Rants.”

Headlines “New NFL policy requires all players to honor patriotic spirit of subservience American flag represents.” “NFL used polling firm to get public opinion on Colin Kaepernick.” “Remember when Miami had a pro baseball team?” “What kind of American coaches soccer in another country?” “New alternate-history drama examines what would have happened if Nazis won 1991 NBA Finals.” “Fargo man mistakenly runs full marathon instead of the half he’d signed up for, probably in attempt to run completely out of North Dakota.” “Pink jersey proves that woman is sports fan, yet also retains a certain femininity.” “Jerry Jones offers to pay players’ fines for domestic violence.” “MLB reminds teams to properly dispose of all torn elbow ligaments.” “Nick Foles preferred being second-string in Philly to starting in Cleveland.” “HBO selects Cleveland Browns to appear on new season of ‘Big Little Lies.’”

Nasty, nasty

Former bad boy of tennis, Ilie Nastase, also chose the wrong way to create headlines this week.

The 71-year-old Romanian was arrested twice in six hours in Bucharest. The first time he was detained after 4 a.m. on suspicion of drunk driving and refusing to submit to a breathalyzer test. He was handcuffed, had his license suspended and was notified that he was under investigation.

That didn’t slow down Nastase

A few hours later he was charged with running a red light while on a scooter. The second time was the charm. Bucharest police say his blood alcohol level of 0.55 mg per litter carries a maximum five-year prison sentence, but he was only fined $253 and his license has only been suspended for three months.

The former U.S. and French Open champion was also caught on film mocking the police. He did admit he had been drinking beer.

Good to know.

Coming soon

The NHL has announced that it will add Smart Puck technology for the 2019-20 season – possibly sooner.

The technology will allow the league to track the movement of the puck at a rate of 200 times per second. That means the coaches and other NHL officials will be able to gather more information on possession, shot placement, shot distance and passing accuracy.


Heading South

Quick note to remind readers that I may not have a blog up until Saturday or this could even be a blog free week.

Movers came and are holding our furniture hostage. We are heading to S.C. on Saturday and will be “homeless” for at least a month while we are searching down there and have our home for sell.

Just tune in for updates.

From Sidelines to punchlines

A different view of sports

Clearing my mind and notebook while congratulating Florida State coach Mike Martin for becoming the all-time winningest coach in NCAA Division I baseball with 1,976 wins:

It’s time

I’ve been a Milwaukee Bucks fan since the days of Oscar Robertson and Lew Alcindor, and have a basketball signed by the Big O to prove it.

The first time I met Dick Vitale, he sought me out at a juniors tennis tournament in the 1970s because I was wearing a Bucks cap. I also owned a Don Nelson fish tie, so we’re talking nearly 50 years of looking dapper and being a devoted fan.

Careful, now. I consider myself experienced and wise, not ancient and senile.

Which makes me qualified to say it’s time to hire Becky Hammon as Milwaukee’s next head coach. Let her be the woman to break the glass backboard …, uh, ceiling in the NBA.

Sooner or later there is going to be a female head coach in the league and Hammon deserves to be the first. She’s already won an NBA title, even if it was a Las Vegas Summer League championship with the Spurs in 2015.

That gamble turned out OK and maybe that’s the point.

If San Antonio head coach Gregg Popovich believes she can coach men, that should be more than enough to get her foot in the door. Being on Pops’ staff since 2014, she’s received a coaching internship that’d be hard to top.

It’s time for her to make the leap to the top job.

LeBron James and Stephen Curry also have endorsed her, and if those two respect Hammon’s basketball IQ, why should anyone else have any doubts.

Giannis Antetokounmpo might even welcome Hammon’s hiring because of her extensive international connections, including playing for teams in Spain and Russia.

Pau Gasol, 37, wrote an essay in The Players Tribune this week endorsing Hammon as a coach. The 7-footer said any suggestions that a woman NBA coach would face a difficult locker room and be at risk of losing the trust and respect of individual players when things didn’t go well on the court are ideas “almost too stupid to include” in any discussions about Hammon’s coaching ability.

At worse, that means she faces the same risk as any other coach, right?

“To me it would be strange if NBA teams were not interested in her as a head coach,” wrote Gasol, a six-time NBA All-Star from Spain who has played with the Spurs since 2016.

“I’m telling you, Becky Hammon can coach. I’m not saying she can coach pretty well. I’m not saying she can coach enough to get by. I’m not saying she can coach almost at the level of the NBA’s male coaches. I’m saying Becky Hammon can coach NBA basketball. Period.”

High times

Speaking of Don Nelson, he’s now enjoying the good life, buying property in Hawaii, hosting poker games and using weed for medicinal purposes.

He blames another famous Wilson – first name, Willie – for getting him started with marijuana. But seriously, what do you expect when he’s frequently playing poker with potheads Willie Nelson, Woody Harrelson and Owen Wilson.

“It’s not that I smoke all the time,” Nellie told the New York Times. “I usually just smoke at night during poker games. Like Willie told me, it’s hard to be depressed when you’re smoking pot.

“I don’t drink anymore, because I like pot better. It’s about the same as alcohol, except you don’t have the after effect. There’s no hangover,” said Nelson.

In Hawaii, it’s legal to grow 10 plants of marijuana for your personal consumption.

They said it

R.J. Currie of “Danica Patrick said on the Rachel Ray Shows she has a lot in common with quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Presumably, we can rule out being good at passing.”

Mike Bianchi of Orlando Sentinel on NASCAR’s dwindling popularity: “NASCAR’s season is too long, the races are too long and our attention span is too short. Ironically, a sport that is based on speed is becoming obsolete because it lasts too long.”

TBS comedian Conan O’Brien on a report that Boston Red Sox player Mookie Betts is related to Meghan Markle, who is marrying Prince Harry next Saturday: “This means that there’s a chance that one day there will be a ‘King Mookie.’”

Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times: “The International Olympic Committee is threatening to remove boxing from the 2020 Games due to corruption and links with organized crime. Well, if that’s the criteria for banishment, then why is the IOC still in existence.”

Janice Hough of LeftCoastSportsBabe: “Next time you think your boss has overly high expectations … Dwayne Casey of the Toronto Raptors. Named NBA Coach of the Year by fellow coaches 2 days ago. Fired today.”

Don Nelson, who won five NBA titles as a player with the Boston Celtics, on what made him a successful player: “I could ball a little bit. I was a slow runner, so I was a perfect trailer guy. I could rebound, I could pass, I could shoot. I could do a lot of things to fit in, you know, if you need an extra guy. I was just kind of an average guy that fit in with a really great team.”

Comedy writer Alex Kaseberg after Russian president Vladimir Putin, 65, scored seven goals in a pickup hockey game: “Now, I don’t want to say the goalie did not try to stop Vlad’s shots, but I’ve seen Kardashians reach harder to pick up a book.’’

Currie of, again: “Astros reliever Ken Giles slugged himself in the face after giving up a game-winning homer. Dolphins QB Jay Cutler once threw a punch at his own face — it went over his head.”

Mackey Taggart of Global News Toronto on Twitter after the NHL ordered the Boston Bruins’ Brad Marchand from licking opponents: “Ripped from the headlines of a kindergarten newspaper.”

N.Y. Giants quarterback Eli Manning on taunting he’s heard from Philadelphia fans: “Philly, you just gotta get used to because you’re not used to seeing a 9-year old cursing at you and talking about my mom and stuff.”

Perspective needed

Sir Alex Ferguson had to be placed in an induced coma last weekend after suffering a brain hemorrhage.

But to no one’s surprise, the first thing the 76-year-old legendary British soccer manager wanted to know when he woke up was whether his son’s team had won its game.

Darren Ferguson is the manager of the Doncaster Rovers of League One and they had a game against defending champion Wigan.

“So, how did Docanster get on?” asked the former Manchester United manager.

Told Doncaster had lost 1-0, Ferguson began pressing doctors for whether he would be able to attend the Champions League championship in Kiev on May 26 to see his former star forward Cristiano Ronaldo play for Real Madrid against Liverpool.

“Ronaldo sees Sir Alex as a father figure,” said a Man United spokesperson. “But Sir Alex needs plenty of rest and will have to follow his consultant’s strict instruction to recover fully.”

Headlines “Roethlisberger upset Steelers didn’t ask for his consent before drafting quarterback.” “ESPN shows how the Browns could make the playoffs: Locusts, plague, supervolcano, meteor strike, apocalypse.” “Rockets’ mop guy can tell this game going to be a sweaty one.” “Tom Brady prepares for his career after football. Either figure skater, Vegas magician or James Bond villain.” “According to a recent survey, the NFL offers paying customer the worst game day experience of the major U.S. professional sports, including MLB, NBA, NHL, NASCAR, PGA, MLS, WNBA and ATP.” “Mark McGwire claims he would have hit 70 home runs without help of bat.” “Derek Jeter denies tanking allegations after Marlins field 4 players.”

Going slow

There’s still a hitch in his giddy up when it comes to Andrew Luck’s preparations with the Indianapolis Colts.

The quarterback hasn’t thrown a pass – at least for public consumption – in 16 months. And yet the Colts insist he’s recovering from shoulder surgery as expected.

Head coach Frank Reich said Luck will play for the NFL team this season.

And just last month at the NFL meetings the first-year Colts Head Coach praised Luck for his toughness and composure in games.

“He’s exhibited all those characteristics throughout his whole career, not just with the Colts, but in college,” said Reich, “It’s exciting because you know he’s not only a talented player, but he’s got the kind of character, the kind of backbone, the kind of toughness that you really want to be part of the leadership of the team.”

Indy fans may just have to wait until the summer to see how well Luck has recovered from shoulder surgery before they can get to excited about having their franchise quarterback healthy again.

From Sidelines to punchlines

A different view of sports

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

Stirring it up

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So, no title?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

’Skins game

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Right step

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

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

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

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

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

They said it

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

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

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

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

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

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

Age-old problem

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

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

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

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

 Gridiron grandstanding

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

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

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

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

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

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

Headlines “Don Mattingly yelling at Marlins for leaving dome open with AC on.” “Boston Marathon gets to keep some of the prize money because three of the top 15 runners lack Y chromosones.” “LeBron James credits teammates with providing 4 bodies necessary to avoid forfeiture against Pacers.” “Joe Maddon saves up all his mound visits for one long trip in 8th inning.” “There are dumb people in the world but until today I didn’t know there were people dumb enough to say, ‘let’s put a Super Bowl in London.” “White Sox promotion puts first 9 fans at ballpark in starting lineup.” “High school baseball player sues third base coach for telling him to slide.” “Stay classy, Redskins management.” “No (expletive) chance kid who bought mitt to 400 level getting near foul ball.” “Gym patron just resting for a second until will to live returns.”

Higher expectations

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

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

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

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

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

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

Replacement player?

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

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

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

Personal note

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

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

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

As always, you can always reach me by email at

From Sidelines to punchlines

A different view of sports

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

2020 vision

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

They said it

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

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

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

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

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

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

The envelope …

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

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

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

Heavy lifting

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

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

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

Headlines “Tom Brady reveals that humanity will perish long before he retires.” “Track meet cancelled due to aggressive geese nesting near track.” “Jerry Jones hoping to use 2018 draft to find long-term solution at mistress.” “FBI agent friend adamant that North Carolina won’t make it past Sweet 16 in his bracket.” “Baseball player removed from game after hitting himself in the head with his bat during warmups.” “Is Andrew Luck recovered from his quadruple-amputation surgery?” “Attention seeking father takes his Balls and goes home.” “Draft prospect says Eagles asked him if his mother is ‘woke.’” “Should the Browns use the first overall pick on a once-in-a-generation long snapper?”

Scripted living

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

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

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

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

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

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

Loose Balls

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My takes

Rehastagging this week’s top Tweets from @Randy_Beard11:

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

Visa wars

Donald Trump is nothing but a walking contradiction.

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

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

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

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

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

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

 Long shot

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Year of the QB

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

That made it an historical moment for the position.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pizza pick

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

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

Pizza Pick II

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

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

Trivia time

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

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

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

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

From Sidelines to punchlines.

A different view of sports

Clearing my mind and notebook while wondering why anyone cares about setting attendance records for spring college football games:

Farewell tour

I once had a pet squirrel, but sadly, no rodent training skills.

All Squiggy learned to do all those years ago in Spartanburg, S.C. was how to eat out of my hand without nipping a finger. I should have tried harder. Much harder.

That was my first thought after reading that Twiggy the Water Skiing Squirrel is retiring after 39 years.

That’s the life Chuck and Lou Ann Best envisioned for Twiggy after they came across their abandoned squirrel.

Chuck, who owned a skating rink, had taught a chimpanzee how to skate, so he at least had experience training animals. While that wasn’t his intent when he bought a remote-control boat for the pool, his thoughts made that leap when friends started kidding him. It wasn’t long after that that he started teaching Twiggy how to water ski.

Voila! The water-loving rodent was an instant hit at outdoor shows, state and county fairs and on television. He even made an appearance on David Letterman’s show.

Well, at least one of the Twiggy’s did. Eight different squirrels have assumed Twiggy’s identity through the years, including several after Chuck died in a 1997 boating accident. Lou Ann nearly retired the act then, but Twiggy had built such a following that it would have been foolish for her to do so. Instead, she re-envisioned the show as a way to promote water safety.

That all ends this year.

After a stop this weekend in Sarasota, Fla., Twiggy’s final tour will end with bookings in Lake Mary, Fla., Indianapolis and Huntsville, Ala. Then  Twiggy and trainer will retire to the good life in a Florida retirement village.

But wait, there’s more.

Twiggy will become a publishing star when Lou Ann starts diving into a series of children’s books.

“I’m excited and scared to death,” Best said. “Physically, doing the physical work and the riding for so many hours on the road, it’s getting harder for me as I get older. I want to write some books.”

For the record, Sguiggy and I became acquainted in 1986 – only 32 years ago – when he fell out of a nest in my front yard.

He became so tame that he’d eat out of my hand months after we released him into the wilds of our yard. We even have a family portrait taken in the driveway with The Wife and our three kids.

But about six months after he moved out on his own, Sguiggy was murdered by a cat and left on our doorstep (I assume for a proper burial).

He would have been better off living a life of fame, fortune and water skiing.

Come to think of it, so would I.

Stolen glory

The University of Central Florida — yeah, it prefers to be called UCF — handed out large rings Saturday to its football players for the self-proclaimed national championship the school claimed after finishing the season unbeaten at 13-0.

It completes  an egotistical march to claim a title the Knights really didn’t win.

Since January the school has held a championship parade, marked the Orlando campus with  title flags, hung a national championship banner at Spectrum Stadium and raised thousands of index fingers.

All in an attempt to declare an athletic version of Stolen Vaor.

But if all you had to do was declare something true, Lamar Jackson would have won the Heisman Trophy for the second consecutive season.

And that would have been more believable.

They said it

Humor writer Brad Dickson on Twitter: “If Bill Moos’ extensions of Tim Miles’ contracts get any shorter they can be measured with a shot clock.”

Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times: “Patrick Reed has been spotted seemingly everywhere since winning the Masters, still wearing his green jacket. The movie-theatre stop proved a bit awkward, however, when patrons wouldn’t stop handing him their tickets.”

Janice Hough of “Quarterback Mark Sanchez has been suspended for the first four games of the 2018 NFL season for Performance Enhancing Drug use. Well, whatever he took, it didn’t work.”

Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel: “Did you see where the Jacksonville Jaguars are building a dog park at their football stadium? I’m thinking this might not be such a great idea … I guess those growing number of NFL critics have a point when they say the league has gone to the dogs.”

TBS comedian Conan O’Brien: “Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski bought a stake in a Kentucky Derby racehorse that was named after him. The million-dollar animal bred for its ability to run fast says he’s excited to own a share in a horse.”

RJ Currie of “Note to Notre Dame basketball hero Arike Ogunbowale when she competes on Dancing with the Stars. ‘Don’t wait until the last 10 seconds to score with the judges.'”

Norman Chad of the Washington Post: “If the future of sports viewing is millennials watching 90-second video clips on YouTube, cricket is in a world of hurt.”

Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times, again: “Does anyone else find it bizarre that, right after the NFL finally clarified its definition of what constitutes a catch, the Cowboys drop Dez Bryant?”

Pedaling Phelps

Michael Phelps is no longer swimming competitively, but he is still competing athletically – even if he isn’t doing it for all the world to see.

Competing online in Pelotron cycling classes, Phelps has been logging hundreds of miles and burning thousands of calories under an assumed identity.

“I’ve had somebody next to me racing every single stroke of my life I’ve ever taken in the pool. It’s good for me to kinda be able to push myself,” Phelps told Business Insider.

“We got a Peloton maybe last July, last August, and I’ve kinda just been really hammering bike rides when I’m home.”

Now that he’s not beginning every day swimming laps, Phelps said he’s motivated by watching the digital “leaderboard” as he rides at home.

For now, he likes having a secret identity

Different view

Tired of being penalized for helmet-to-helmet hits, Micah Hyde thinks quarterbacks who try to hook up with receivers in the danger zone across the middle are the ones who should be penalized and possibly fined.

“They’re the ones who are throwing the ball right there,” said Hyde. “It’s tough for us to be able to adjust last second to get our head to one side, the other side — up, down. We’re trying to make a play like the receiver is. It’s the sport of football.”

The NFL did tweak the rule book last month so that any player – offensive or defensive – can be penalized 15 yards and potentially ejected if they lower their head to make helmet-to-helmet contact with an opponent no matter where they are on the field.

“It’s a violent game, it’s a violent sport,” said Hyde. “They’re trying the best they can do to make it as safe as possible, but at the end of the day, those bang-bang plays, they’re hard to get out of the sport.”

The previous rule limited penalties to situations when any player initiated contact outside the tackle box with the crown of their helmet,

This is the first of many steps toward the formation of the NFFL –  National Flag Football League.

Midwest synergy

Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers has joined forces with the Milwaukee Bucks, which makes him the only active NFL player to be a limited partner of an NBA team.

Besides the show of community support for another professional team in the area, the investment comes with some nice perks. Like courtside seats at the Bradley Center, which Rodgers shared with girlfriend, Danica Patrick, Friday night during Milwaukee’s Game 3 rout over Boston in the Eastern Conference playoffs.

Rodgers is a huge Bucks’ fan, calling the investment opportunity “a dream come true.”

Hmmm. I wonder how that makes Danica feel?

 Headlines “Bryce Harper’s bat died a hero last night. Godspeed, Wonderboy.” “Michael Jackson attacks softness, lack of competitiveness in modern blackjack players.” “Tough break for Browns getting 16 games again – that’s their unlucky number.” “Carmelo Anthony struggles to get rhythm back after making shot.” “Lance Armstrong settles his lawsuit with the U.S. government for $5 million, a livestrong bracelet and his remaining testicle.” “College equestrian clearly coming to class straight from practice.” “Michael Phelps shows how to get pot stains off your teeth.” “America sick of Aaron Rodgers’ cocky behavior after learning he is 1/16th black.”

Lighting it up

In an interview with the Bleacher Report, former NBA player Kenyon Martin said that he believes 85 percent of the league – and not just players – were smoking marijuana during his 15 years in the league.

‘It was a lot of people who you wouldn’t think (smoked),” said Martin, who played in college at Cincinnati.

Another former player, Matt Barnes, said he wouldn’t dispute those numbers based on his 14 years in the NBA.

When it comes to pot use, Barnes said league officials display a certain level of hypocrisy. He claims there were coaches and general managers who were known to regularly smoke weed who managed to keep a straight face when they suspended or fined players for failed drug tests. He said that’s still an issue.

“Some of the people that are cracking whips and suspending us are smoking weed,” said Barnes.

Not surprisingly, the NFL doesn’t get off the hook in the article. Pot use is estimated to be used at an even higher rate in professional football – maybe as high as 90 percent.

Former NFL defensive lineman Shaun Smith said he used to smoke “two blunts before every game” over the span of his 10 seasons in the league.

“Shoot, coaches do it. Personnel does it, people upstairs do it,” Smith said. “Quarterbacks, guys that are your captains, leaders of the team smoke. Everybody has their reason. They do it for their pain.”

Philly closure

Eagles quarterback Nick Foles, who went from backup to Super Bowl MVP when starter Carson Wentz was injured,  has a revised contract that will keep  him in Philadelphia.

At least for now.

NFL Media has reported that the team has agreed to terms with Foles on a 2018 contract that includes an option for the 2019 season. Foles reportedly received a $2 million signing bonus and could earn other lucrative bonuses if he beats out Wentz for the starting job.

Doesn’t add up

Prognosticating 101 states that if one team wins, another has to lose.

That concept was forgotten by ESPN’s team of experts when they got together to predict the records of all 32 NFL teams for the 2018-19 season. They managed to come up with 289 wins and 223 losses. There should have been 256 wins and 256 losses.

None of the ESPN experts are apparently ready to declare any of the league’s teams horribly bad.

(Pause here for a flashback to the 0-16 Cleveland Browns.)

Last year 11 teams finished with six or fewer wins. But this year the World Wide Leader’s brainiacs believe 26 teams will finish no worse than .500 with 19 clubs posting at least nine wins.

You can’t even do that in Fantasy Football.

From Sidelines to punchlines

A different view of sports

Clearing my mind and notebook while rooting for a breakout NBA postseason for Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo:

Gator nation

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

Destiny, maybe. Fate, possibly.

The aligning of the stars, even.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Endangered kickers

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

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

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

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

They said it

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 Daly grind

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

Wild hairs

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

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

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

Headlines “The Dallas Stars have lost the hitch in their giddyup.” “Dez Bryant could be perfect fit for NFL team lacking locker-room cancer.” “Kyrie Irving expecting to play through injury. ‘Knee science is a conspiracy.” “PGA Officials break up crowd of rowdy fans committing commodities fraud in Augusta National parking lot.” “Forbes says 20 of 30 MLB teams are valued at a billion dollar or more. Tampa Bay still on the clearance rack.” “Annoyed Shohel Ohtani had hoped U.S. baseball players wouldn’t be this bad.” “Patriots stockpiling draft picks in hopes of taking a quarterback who can catch.” “Report: Pyeongchang Olympic athletes already falling into state of disrepair.”

Fantasy League

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My takes

Rehastagging this week’s top Tweets from @Randy_Beard11:

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

Kicking away

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

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

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

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

Bombs away

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

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

From Sidelines to punchlines

A different view of sports

Clearing my mind and notebook while noting that soccer’s World Cup is a little more than two months away. It can’t get here soon enough:

Unforced error

Score it an E-5. Error, Fifth Estate.

The Denver Post produced a special section Friday to celebrate baseball’s opening day, which was also the home opener for the Colorado Rockies.

Alas, there was an error on the cover of the “Ultimate Visitors Guide To Coors Field.”  A huge error. The section cover was anchored by a photograph of the Philadelphia Phillies’ Citizen Bank Park instead of Coors Field.

The Rockies responded by tweeting a photo of their home field with a comment, “As beautiful as you remember. #LoveCoorsField?”

The Phillies fired right back by tweeting, “What a lovely photo of Citizens Bank Park. Right, @denverpost?”

The newspaper blamed the mistake on a “production error.” That’s shorthand these days for all the cutbacks in staffing newsroom have been experiencing. The Post newsroom has been repeatedly reduced in size since 2010, and just last month staffing was cut an additional 30 percent.

Next Nicklaus

Jack Nicklaus came away with another unforgettable memory at The Masters on Wednesday when he stepped away from the tee to let his grandson G.T. play the final hole in the Par-3 Tournament.

He invited his 15-year-old grandson hit off the tee on the last hole, No. 9, after G.T. Nicklaus had caddied for him during the Par-3 Tournament. What happened next is apparently something The Golden Bear had predicted.

G. T. aced the hole. It was his first career hole-in-one and it came at Augusta National with hundreds of spectators looking on, including his famous grandfather and a couple other legends, Gary Player and Tom Watson.

Nicklaus later Tweeted: “With all due respect to @themasters, allow me to put aside my 6 Green Jackets in the closet for a moment. I don’t know if I have had a more special day on a golf course.  To have your grandson make his first hole-in-one on this stage. Wow!”

Watson went on to claim his second win in a Par 3 Tournament at The Masters.

Golf talk

There are just some things that are frowned upon at Augusta National.

Like these words and catch phrases that The Masters committee deems a distraction. Most phrases come straight from television or movies.  Or a beer commercial, like this year’s inclusion of “dilly-dilly.”

Shout any of them and risk being removed from the premises by security.

Also included on the list of things you shouldn’t say are these gems:

“Baba booey, mashed potatoes, you da man, sweep the leg Johnny, to infinity and beyond, bikini wax, can you hear me now and hashtag (anything). In all, there are 23 words or phrases that never should be said during The Masters week.

March Madness

ABC comedian Jimmy Kimmel on all the TVs being off at work because the NCAA tournament is over: “Nobody knew what to do. Someone said maybe we should work, and then everyone laughed and started checking Instagram again.”

Comedian Steve Hofstetter in a Tweet: “The majority of people who didn’t watch a game of college basketball all season had a better bracket than Stephen A. Smith. So if he could stop yelling at all of us, that would be wonderful.”

Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times: “If Kansas’ basketball coach takes a photo of himself, is that a Selfie squared?”

CBS’s Charles Barkley on why he didn’t want to get into a war of words with Loyola’s Sister Jean: “It was pretty much 80-20 on me going to the Pearly Gates or the other way … I don’t want to give that other 20 percent away.”

They said it

Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel, hesitant about buying in to the Tiger hype at The Masters: “I’m not saying don’t jump on the Tiger Train, I’m just saying to board at your own risk and tell the engineer to pump the brakes just a little bit.”

Former Virginian-Pilot columnist Bob Molinaro: “There’s a lot of  hubbub over Dwight Howard producing the first 30-point, 30-rebound game in 36 years. By the way, Wilt Chamberlain accomplished the feat a mere 124 times.”

RJ Currie of  “A Behr paint expert quoted in USA Today said tennis balls are neither green nor yellow. Which tells us it was a really slow day in sports.”

Humor writer Brad Dickson in Tweet on talk of a Floyd Mayweather-Connor McGregor rematch: “I haven’t been this excited since ‘Rocky V’.”

Former Florida State coach Bobby Bowden, 88, who received an award from the Maxwell Football Club for his contributions to the sport, on getting old: “(Wife) Ann was going to let me hide my own Easter Eggs this year.”

NBC comedian Jimmy Fallon: “The Yankees had to postpone their home opener because of a snowstorm. You can tell it was cold because the foot-long hot dogs were only five inches.”

Janice Hough of “Okay, who had the Pacers being the only NBA team to sweep the Warriors this season? (And I bet all you liars had UMBC over UVA too.)”

Jerry Kill, 56, on serving as an advisor for the Southern Illinois football team because of health concerns that make it difficult for him to coach full-time:  “Just trying to keep my feet in the grass and out of the ground.”

Hockey history

Even the Stanley Cup has to play a painful game of give and take.

Yes, hockey history will take another hit when Gordie Howe’s name is among those removed from the NHL’s championship trophy. Howe’s name, along with the other players who won titles from 1954 to 1965 are being stripped off the Stanley Cup to create room for a new layer of names.

If the league didn’t agree to do that from time to time, the trophy would continue to grow too large. Unlike other leagues, the NHL awards its historic trophy each year to the next champion rather than handing out a new trophy every year.

As part of that tradition, the name of every player on the winning team is added to the trophy. But those names aren’t displayed permanently.  At most, they are part of the trophy for 65 years.

Fat stats

Fans at Major League Baseball games will consume an estimated 19 million hot dogs and 4.6 million sausages this season, according to the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council.

 Headlines “Sergio Garcia goes all Tin Cup at The Masters.” “Sister Jean wheeled back into rectory closet until next season.” “Josh Rosen’s draft stock skyrockets after he eats bowl of paint chips for room of NFL scouts.” “Kobe Bryant creates foundation to help children struggling with severe narcissism.” “In South Korea, you are considered too tall to play basketball at 6’6″.8 “Jack Nicholson banned from sitting courtside after spilling Tupperware full of homemade chili.” “Augusta National installs artificial turf to save on mowing costs.” “Tony Bennett adds AP Coach of the Year to go with his multiple Grammy and Emmy awards.”

My takes

Rehastagging this week’s top Tweets from @Randy_Beard11:

  • Villanova joins Duke (1991, 1992), Kentucky (1996, 1998) and Florida (2006, 2007) as schools to win pair of titles in 2-3 year span since 1975. Wildcats also won in 2016. UCLA won 7 in row from 1967 to 1973.
  • It’s only halftime of the NCAA championship, so there’s still at least another 20 minutes of this season to savor, so why am I feeling the first hints of withdrawal symptoms?
  • Sister Jean must now be a Notre Dame women’s basketball fan. Irish prayers were answered on Easter Sunday. @SisterJean98@JackieYoung3@Arike_O@ndwbb@MuffetMcGraw
  • Amazing! Arike Ogunbowale hits another buzzer beater as Notre Dame wins national title, beating Mississippi State 61-58. It was her only 3-pointer of game and she was just 6 of 21 for game.
  • Leading IU men’s and women’s scorers were raised just 40 Miles (and about 25 years) apart. Evansville’s Calbert Cheaney (785) and Mt. Carmel, Ill.’s Tyra Buss (757) also finished just 28 points apart.

From Sidelines to punchlines

A different view of sports


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

Not a fan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Making strides

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

They said it

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lefty’s turn

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

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

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

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

Salary cap

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

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

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

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

 Headlines Kirk Cousins, “I just feel blessed to have received a long-term deal before everyone figured out I’m not that good.” “After never playing for UCLA and playing a grueling nine games in a Lithuanian rec league, LiAngelo Ball declares for NBA draft.” “NASCAAR driver who kneels for anthem gets torn to pieces by crowd.” “All college football coaches happy with their jobs now.” “MLB season ends over 200 days early after new rules speed up games way too much.” “Kentucky players excelling in ‘Declaring-for-the-NBA-draft drills.” “White Sox rehired groundskeeper after he clears the dirt from his name.” “Gelo 3s are just some Sketchers LiAngelo lifted from a Payless.”

My takes

Rehastagging this week’s top Tweets from @Randy_Beard11:

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

Title tradition

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

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

Super sub

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sharpshooting ‘Cats

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

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

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

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

From Sidelines to punchlines

A different view of sports

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

 You gotta believe?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There’s hope

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

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

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

And then there’s this:

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

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

They said it

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 Big Blue Collapse

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

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

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

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

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

 Fast finish

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

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

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

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

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

Headlines “UMBC sees spike in applications among total morons who only hear of universities through sports success.” “Is it time for the NCAA to start paying the coaches?” “Sam Bradford will sign with Arizona, citing the state’s top-notch hospitals and physical-therapy facilities.” “Report: Sister Jean negotiating deal with Golden State Warriors.” “Which NCAA Tournament team will struggle most with the pressure of playing under  FBI surveillance?” “Why is March Madness the only time we get to see good, old fashioned, fundamental gambling?” “Tiger Woods is in the lead of a real live golf tournament. Welcome to 2008.”

My takes

Rehastagging this week’s top Tweets from @Randy_Beard11:

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

Taking it on chin

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

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

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