Friday, August 29, 2008

My eyes hurt

I was already looking forward to getting to Gainesville tonight to host the Gator Nation Tailgate Show (starting at 10AM on the Star 99.5 Saturday) before I went to the NC State-SC game in Columbia last night. The Gamecocks won 34-0, and if you didn't see it you might think it was a smooth ride for Steve Spurrier's team. Instead, Tommy Beecher threw four interceptions and the game was 3-0 at the half. The Wolfpack is astoundingly awful. That first three quarters of football was excruciating to watch. I need to see some well played football just to cleanse my soul after that mess.

We've got our first upset thanks to Stanford's win over Oregon State. Miami cruised against Charleston Southern, as anticipated. The school made up a ridiculous attendance total of 48 thousand, also as anticipated. It appears they decided to count each person when they came in and when they left.

FSU doesn't play until next week, but they may have suffered a noteworthy loss Thursday. Junior college running back Tavares Pressley hurt his knee and was carted off their practice field. No definitive word on his status yet, but they were really hoping he could give them someone competent at the position to push Antone Smith. This sounds bad, although I hope for the kid's sake it isn't.

Tyrone Willingham is going to be fired after this season unless he finds a way to get Washington to a bowl, which is almost impossible given their schedule. He's undoubtedly aware of that, which is probably why he's decided to act like a big jerk toward the media and some UW boosters. Willingham has gone 11-25 at Washington after his dismissal at Notre Dame. He was 11-12 the last two years he was there. The clearly mediocre football coach (one ten win season ever, career record exactly 76-76-1) is hyper paranoid about people spying on his brilliant schemes. Meanwhile Pete Carroll will let anyone come to USC practice and he just keeps winning. Funny how that works.

Pacman Jones gets to play this year in Dallas. This is not a surprise. Proof he's "cleaned up his act" comes in the form of what he was doing when he got the call - eating a chicken sandwich at Hooters. No more strip clubs for him - just lots of double entendres. Perhaps Pacman was hanging with former Auburn running back Kenny Irons, who shares his enjoyment of the chain in this video. (Irons was cut during training camp despite being a second round pick last year - wonder why?) Hopefully Pacman's sandwich was better than the one that gave me food poisoning last year and caused me to miss the 04s press conference to announce their departure.

Campbell's Soup has decided the NFL "team mom" commercials have outlived their usefulness. I always thought it was weird that they wouldn't use the guys actual moms in the spots. Wouldn't it be strange to have people thinking someone you've barely met was your mom? Have a great weekend - if I don't see you in Gainesville, I'll catch you back here Monday.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Preseason hype finally ends tonight

College football commences tonight, not a moment too soon. I'll be at NC State - South Carolina in person, but there's other noteworthy stuff for you to check out tonight. Some quick thoughts on today's games...

NC State at South Carolina - Gamecocks should win this comfortably. It's amazing how banged up the Wolfpack are, and they weren't that good to begin with. Keep an eye on Tommy Beecher's debut at starting quarterback for SC. If it turns out he can actually play the position the way Spurrier needs his QBs to, they become a much more interesting team this year because their defense should be pretty good.

Vandy at Miami Ohio - SEC teams should not be playing MAC teams on the road. Chris Nickson is the Commodores QB, and he'll probably be running for his life behind a brand new line. Miami's D is pretty good for its level. I'll be curious to watch the tape on this one when I get home.

Charleston Southern at Miami - The Canes should be ashamed to be playing a game like this. I doubt they draw a legit 25 thousand to the game because of it being such a mismatch. I wish I could see it for myself, but it'll only be shown on the web. It gives us the first look at the Canes QB Jacory Harris, even though we supposedly will see Robert Marve next week as starter at the Swamp.

Wake Forest at Baylor - Jim Grobe's a terrific coach, and he'll have Wake ready to go. I think Art Briles is a good coach as well, but taking over Baylor is a thankless job. It'll take them a little time to find guys who can try to run Briles scheme, which is why this should be a Wake romp.

I'll try to put more up later if I have time, but it's gameday in Columbia today so I may have to wait until Friday.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

ESPN needs to hire this guy

Last month I told you about Robert Kekaula's remarkable work as a sportscaster in Honolulu. Now you can watch him work his magic for yourself, as he tells you not only about Hawaii's ongoing starting quarterback questions but also details the new ha'a the Warriors will be performing prior to games this season. It will likely be the best thing Hawaii does all day Saturday. Meanwhile, Hawaii Advertiser columnist Ferd Lewis asks a question I was wondering myself: why exactly did Hawaii sign up for this?

Some teams are amazingly beaten up for this time of year. NC State gets South Carolina tomorrow night, and they've now lost their top tailback and PR/KR for that game. Couple that with losing their top WR, an expected starter at safety, their backup RB, and it's a bad situation. Now add in a redshirt freshman at QB, taking snaps from a center who converted from the defensive line in spring. Could be a really long year for Tom O'Brien. Oregon lost their starting QB for most of the year and had to boot a starting LB. The Ducks recent track record had been really mediocre before last year and I suspect it's about to be again.

One of the sports media world's true jerks has left his newspaper job. Jay Mariotti resigned from the Chicago Sun-Times yesterday. In true classy fashion, he then did an interview about it with their rival paper the Chicago Tribune. Mariotti is despised not only by those he works with, but by virtually everyone who has met him. Every time Mariotti's at the same big event as me, I've always been amused by him walking around in his leather jacket trying to give off a tough guy vibe while everyone ignores him. If you've had the misfortune to see him on ESPN's Around the Horn you know that Jay wants everyone fired, cut or traded. Whatever the knee jerk, easiest reaction to a story is, that's the one he'll take. By the way, Mariotti was under contract to the Sun-Times for three more years - think he'll bring that up the next time he shreds someone for holding out?

With the coverage of the Democratic Convention focusing largely on Obama and Clinton intrigue, you might have missed the critical protest being staged on the Denver streets. Someone wants Crystal Pepsi back really bad. Good luck with that - maybe they could focus on bring Ale-8 back to the states other than Kentucky instead.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Adios, Tres Daves!

The SEC has announced the second part of its TV contract, and ESPN bought everything. The deal is huge in many ways - three nights a week of national exposure for basketball as opposed to one, every conference football home game available somewhere and most importantly NO MORE DAVES! No matter what name J-P/Lincoln Financial/Raycom comes up with next, we will never again have to see critical games shot with 1988 quality equipment being called by Dave Neal, Dave Baker, Dave Archer after this season. The SEC's popularity will take a hit with Daughtry fans, but in life you have to make sacrifices sometimes. (My favorite part of that video is that all of the shots in it are from CBS and ESPN telecasts - even Raycom knows their picture quality is crap.)

Urban Meyer scared a lot of Gator fans yesterday with the unexpected word on Brandon Spikes being injured. If he was gone for a lengthy stretch, that would be devastating to UF's chances. He's not likely to be needed against Hawaii, but the Canes do have some running backs with talent. Sometimes UF's staff has let injured players get out there when they probably shouldn't. If it's even close, Spikes should sit and let Ryan Stamper get some more reps.

Mixed bag of news Monday for two former Gator running backs. The Jaguars signed Ciatrick Fason whie Green Bay dumped Deshawn Wynn. Both of these guys have surprised me. I really thought Fason had a chance to be a good NFL back, but it hasn't happened. My guess is he's cut by Jacksonville after this week's preseason game and then looked at again later, since all veteran players have their salary guarunteed if they're on the roster for week one. Wynn actually started some games for Green Bay when many doubted he could make a team at all. Unfortunately for Wynn, the same old questions about his level of desire surfaced in Green Bay. He could be an NFL player if he had Earnest Graham's intensity, but that's not going to happen.

The LPGA is ordering its players to learn English or else. Apparently they're concerned that sponsors are unhappy when top players can't speak with guests at Pro-Ams or conduct interviews with US media after a tournament. I don't think too many people aren't following women's golf intently because of the presence of foreign players. Lorena Ochoa and Karrie Webb speak English - how many people in the general public care about them, despite their excellence? The reality is that, aside from the Michelle Wie circus act, most people do not and will not care about women's golf. The LPGA's tried showcasing attractive players too, and while it's true Natalie Gulbis is nice to look at that hasn't led to people wanting to watch her golf. Some sports just don't sell well - this is one of them.

My friend Kirk Herbstreit came out with his annual Herbie awards. It's always a good read, but the part that jumped out at me was the restaurant list. Mark's U.S. Prime in Gainesville is Kirk's second favorite restaurant in the USA? I've eaten there and it's good, but it wouldn't have even been my first choice in town. I've got to coach Kirk up on some places to check out.

R.I.P. Kevin Duckworth. Hard to believe the former Portland big man's gone at 44.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Shouldn't Shannon be suspended a game for lying about Walter Odom?

Sorry for no post on Friday - turned out to be a busier day than I anticipated. Hope your weekend was a good one, although given Fay's continuing fallout I know it hasn't been for a lot of those who read this.

It is finally, mercifully, game week for almost everyone in college football. While I'm looking forward to covering both NC State at South Carolina and Hawaii at UF, there will be considerably more angles for me to work with on the pregame show for the Thursday game. Here's a pretty thorough look at the last minute position switches for Hawaii. Their rookie "starting" QB has arm issues, they're down to one healthy running back with any experience, and the game kicks off at 6:30 AM Hawaii time. This is not going to be pretty.

Miami's Randy Shannon lays down the law to his players, with seven of them missing that critical opening matchup Thursday night against Charleston Southern. All the public preening about high standards would impress me a little more if a single one of those kids was going to miss the Florida game. Canes starting QB Robert Marve is one of the suspended guys, meaning the opposing quarterback in each of UF's opening two games will be taking their first ever NCAA snap in the Swamp.

As soon as the word came down that Osi Umenyiora of the Giants was out for the season with a knee injury, any NFL fan had to wonder how long it would take for Michael Strahan to start floating rumors of a possible comeback. Answer: less than twelve hours. Giving big money to a 37 year old with a huge ego who's already launched his post-NFL media career and hasn't been training is not likely to work out well. If New York does this, they will wish they hadn't.

NFL teams are trimming rosters for the first time this training camp, and I wish I could say I was surprised the San Francisco 49ers cut Joe Cohen this weekend. I'd be lying, though, because I never expected him to have an NFL future while he was at UF. Cohen was a fourth rounder last year but spent the season on IR with a torn ACL. He was never a great college player, but teams are always looking for help at defensive tackle and Cohen had a good workout at the Combine. It wound up making him around a half million dollars (prior to taxes and agent fees). The big cuts are coming Friday and Saturday - 22 guys per team go then and there will undoubtedly be some familiar names in that group as well.

Can't wait for the new Ben Folds album Way to Normal to come out on September 30. You might think you've already gotten to hear about half of the album on the web somewhere. You're wrong, but the story behind what you may have heard is pretty cool.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Mark your calendars now

I'd mentioned previously that I would be returning to the Gainesville airwaves as a contributor on the Star 99.5 - here are the details. I will begin joining Shane Matthews and Newell Fox for a segment once a week on Wednesdays at 11:40 beginning next week. We'll focus on what's going on around the SEC. I'll also be hosting the two hour long Gator Nation Tailgate show live at the Emerson Alumni Hall beginning three hours before most UF home games. I won't be able to make Ole Miss, and potentially not LSU, but should be at the other five. Hopefully you'll be able to tune in and/or come by and say hi.

Two USA Today reporters doing a pseudo-blog on the paper's website decided to list "sleeper" Heisman candidates at the quarterback spot. Number three was Jimmy Clausen, because Notre Dame's quarterback is supposedly always a Heisman candidate. I hate to be the bearer of bad news here, boys, but it's 2008. Do you know how many Heisman winners Notre Dame has since 1964? ONE! Tim Brown won it 21 years ago. The last time Notre Dame won a bowl was after the 1993 season. Will there ever come a day that the national press catches on to the fact the Fighting Irish program is not what it once was, and it never will be again either? Jimmy Clausen might be a Heisman candidate someday, but there's not a chance in hell he will be this year.

One of the great mysteries in broadcasting is how a great franchise like the New York Yankees can have such a lousy radio presentation of their games. The Suzyn Waldman "Roger Clemens is in George Steinbrenner's box!" freakout last year was bad, but at least she knew who he was. The clip from WFAN's Boomer and Carton morning show at this link illustrates that's a little much to ask of John Sterling, the most pompous play by play voice in the world.

If I see one more report on polling about the presidential election, I'm going to lose my mind. "Obama's up five, no wait McCain's up five, no actually they're tied." Is there some reason any of us should care about polling taken before either candidate picks a VP or speaks at their conventions? Who knows - maybe Barack Obama will ditch his typical Stevie Wonder post speech music in Denver for a little Toby Keith now that the singer's endorsed him. I'm sure a poll on the endorsement's undoubtedly sweeping impact is being taken as you read this.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

We're all just in it for the free chicken fingers

It's frustrating being a sports radio guy sometimes. I love my job, but I hate some of the stereotypes I have to overcome because of others in my line of work. The perception from lots of people is that sports radio hosts are screaming lunatics alternating between trying to get someone fired and kissing up to jocks. Other stereotypical sports radio sins include giving ourselves cheesy nicknames (there's actually a guy in this state who calls himself "The Bad Boy", which is just awful), using information from newspapers without ever crediting them for their reporting, and never covering anything unless there's a free meal involved. Most damning of all is the perception we just kind of make things up as we go along without a lot of thought involved.

I mention this today because of last week's AP poll. This year, I was offered the opportunity to be the North Florida voting represenative in the poll, which is something I've always wanted to do. Unfortunately, since I no longer work in North Florida on a daily basis, I wasn't eligible to accept the invitation under poll rules. Very few radio guys get this shot. Kirk Herbstreit is officially on the ballot as a radio guy from Ohio, but that's obviously not why he has a ballot. Besides Kirk, there are two other radio people who get to vote this year. So naturally, one of them had to turn into Toonces the Driving Cat the second he got behind the wheel. Taylor Zarzour, sports director for WPTF radio in Raleigh, thought it would be a good idea to leave Auburn and Tennessee out of his top 25 while bragging on his bio about what a big Bama fan he is and ranking them 23rd. FSU and Notre Dame are on his ballot too. It gets even more embarassing - when asked why he had voted so ridiculously considering the poll rules say not to be a homer, he took down the pro-Bama stuff off his webpage as an attempt at a coverup. Great - just great. Thanks for the credibility boost for our medium, Taylor.

Maybe Zarzour was getting polling advice from suspended Michigan running back Kevin Grady. A report released last week indicates that Grady was so hammered when caught for DUI earlier this year that when asked if Mickey Mouse was a cat or a dog, he actually answered "dog". Drunk driving is in no way amusing, but other details in that report are.

Speaking of running backs, FSU finally got their touted juco Tavares Pressley cleared to play. They need him to live up to the hype badly, bcause Antone Smith has been a huge disappointment so far in his career and Preston Parker should be a wide receiver once his suspension is done.

Big injury for the Bucs, as guard Davin Joseph breaks his foot. Out a minimum of a month, but I would guess week six of the season is about as soon as you'd see him. This was going to be the first year in a while the Bucs didn't have to start a rookie on the offensive line. Now their third round pick Jeremey Zuttah will probably have to be out there.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Jim Cantore on TV is never good news

Glad to see that so far Fay has not risen to the level of strength which had been feared. Fortunately, it's stayed away from Tampa. I've been extremely concerned for a while now about what will happen when a hurricane inevitably strikes there one day. The area's incredibly poorly prepared for such a situation. If you're being affected by Fay, please be careful.

Big pickup for Tennessee today, as tight end Brandon Warren has been approved by the NCAA to play for the Vols this year. Warren is a really talented player, and while there were questions about whether UT was involved in something fishy to get him away from FSU he will unquestionably help their passing game.

Kyle Orton will begin the year as starting quarterback for the Chicago Bears instead of Rex Grossman. This was treated like big news, but I doubt it means too much. The Bears will struggle with Orton, and inevitably they will turn to Rex again. It's doubtful he'll make a giant difference either. The Bears don't have enough playmakers, their first round pick is already a flop, and the offensive coordinator is a career mediocrity who somehow keeps getting jobs despite never succeeding at any of them. I like Grossman, but if he's going to succeed in the NFL he needs to go somewhere else. Maybe with lower expectations and a different guy developing him, it will work out.

The Cincinnati Bengals have been wrecked the past few years by repeated arrests and discipline problems. They finally drew the line a few months ago, letting talented wide receiver Chris Henry go after yet another brush with the law. Idiots, even really talented idiots, would no longer be tolerated in Cincinnati! But now a few receivers have gotten hurt, so Chris Henry's been brought back. Very impressive stand, guys. You can pencil the Bengals in for 6-10 right now.

Some college presidents have taken a stand that it's time to reevaluate the drinking age. I'd like to see it, because it would allow more focus on dealing with people who have problems and less on busting people for the simple act of having alcohol. If we can send 18 year olds to fight in Iraq, I'm guessing 20 year olds can handle a few bottles of Coors.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Wish I could have seen Coughlin's face

I was in Gainesville this weekend, the first time I've had a chance to cover a practice this fall. Considering how banged up the team is, they seem to be in a pretty positive frame of mind right now. The fact that their first two games are against Hawaii and Miami, "name" teams although not good ones this year, appears to have helped. Combined, those two teams got one vote in the AP poll over the weekend. It wasn't the Canes who got it.

Speaking of Hawaii, they're coming into the Swamp next Saturday led by a starting quarterback who's got a grand total of one year playing 11 man football. This is not going to end well for the Warriors.

Unfortunately, we won't see many more of these early nonconference games against a opponent with at least a little credibility at Florida Field. When the price for Florida Atlantic to show up and lose at your place without a return game is up to 900 thousand, UF fans can count on being served up more Western Carolina level games in their future.

I meant to get to this last week. Someone actually tried to blackmail Tom Coughlin with a false accusation that he had a sexual encounter with two women. Having covered Coughlin in Jacksonville, I can honestly say this might have been the single least believable person in the entire sports world a guy could try to make this claim about. Coughlin is so obsessed with football that he wouldn't even notice the outfits while watching the Lingerie Bowl.

A new reality TV show called Gadget or the Girl gives guys the choice between spending a weekend in some presumably nice destination with a Playboy model or getting some unknown eletronic device. I believe anyone who goes to NYC and attempts to eat at the Olive Garden in Times Square rather than one of the thousands of great local Italian places there should be humanely trapped and then deported to the Connecticut suburbs where they will be safe. Likewise, anyone given access to a guarunteed weekend with someone like UF alum Lauren Anderson (all pics are safe) who instead will take his chances hoping he gets an Iphone needs serious help.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Make the logo $EC and be done with it

The SEC and CBS have signed a fifteen year contract to keep SEC football games on the network. The money isn't known yet, but it's safe to say it will be gigantic. The deal includes basketball as well, but doesn't make it clear if there's any significant upgrade in the number of games CBS will show. The conference still has to decide on whether to create its own network or not. Everything I hear says they won't, but will use it as leverage with ESPN in negotiations. Somehow, the SEC has got to get better basketball distribution than it has right now. It's ridiculous to have one ESPN Tuesday night game a week when the ACC is everywhere.

Forbes says Nick Saban is the most powerful coach in sports. I don't buy that, but the guy gets amazing PR for a completely average coach. Total nine win seasons in his "brilliant" career? Four. He's not even the best coach in the SEC West.

The actual most powerful coach in college football is Pete Carroll. He made USC relevant again after they somehow lost their way for around fifteen years. NFL teams try and lure him back to the league every year, and other schools would kick in a million or two for salary just to get him out of the college game. Even Carroll can do little, though, against the heartache that is jock itch.

Mayor Oscar Goodman suggests his city should build an eighty thousand seat football stadium. Coming from the mayor of Los Angeles, this makes decent sense. Unfortunately, Goodman is the mayor of Las Vegas. His idea is that the stadium will host every Monday Night Football game and the Super Bowl each year. Sure, why not? It's not like other cties will want to keep those games anyhow. Might as well add the return of Christ and the Beatles reunion concert to the future event bookings for the stadium too.

Possibly the most famous sports radio show in history has broken up. Chris Russo has parted ways with WFAN in New York, leaving the Mike and the Mad Dog show down one dog. Russo will be replaced by Terry Norvelle until he bails out around Labor Day.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Occam's Razor is a wonderful concept

This is the time of the year where people get a little crazy because the thrill of football practice starting has worn off but it's too early to really chew on the game matchups yet. In Columbia last week, a member of the board of regents put forth the notion that Gamecock athletes are being targeted in some sort of conspiracy led by Clemson fans on the campus police force. In the most recent episode, which was four months ago (it's a slow moving conspiracy), Stephen Garcia was ticketed for being underage drinking a beer on campus. What's more likely - that he got the ticket because he admittedly WAS UNDERAGE AND DRINKING A BEER ON CAMPUS, or because it was a police plot to go after athletes? The answer is obvious, but lots of South Carolina fans jumped on board the "blame the cops" bandwagon immediately.

I bring the Carolina episode up because of what I've been seeing today from frustrated Gator fans on the message boards at and other internet spots they congregate. After Florida lost its fifth player to an ACL injury since the summer, people are looking for any kind of answer as to why. Some have concluded it must be the training staff. Others insist Meyer is working guys too hard. People with darker thoughts wonder if performance enhancing drugs are at work here. The easy explanation - guys get injured sometimes - just isn't good enough for these folks. Unfortunately, it's also the most likely one. Ingram hurt his knee in a non contact drill. Two of the injuries occurred before practice even started. So much for the brutal workouts being to blame. If there was a training exercise which could prevent ACL tears, the guy who invented it would be rich. When I tore my ACL, I was running to my left to hit a racquetball the same way I'd run plenty of times. Why'd it blow out that particular time? Don't know - it just did. That's life, and unfortunately several UF players have had a bad break like that in a short stretch of time. Gator fans need to ease up on playing Doogie Howser on the airwaves and message boards.

When I was on the road all season with ESPN College Gameday in 1997, Lee Corso had just started his putting on the hat of the team he was picking routine. One of my responsibilities each week was to find him a hat from the crowd - not the easiest thing to do when you're in Columbus and he's picking Iowa over the Buckeyes. Over time it became more and more formal, to the point he almost always has the actual school mascot's head to put on. (We got Corso the Gator head in Baton Rouge that year and he bumped his head putting it on - at the time he said "no more mascot heads - too heavy") Now, Corso's hat choice actually has a corporate sponsor. ESPN can sell anything.

By the way, after the Florida lovefest that was this year's spring game national TV broadcast, schools started beseeching the network to come do the same thing for them. Looks like Georgia is this year's choice. Did I mention ESPN can sell anything?

Two Nebraska wrestlers have been kicked off their team for posing for nude pictures displayed on a site catering to gay men. ESPN can sell... well not this yet, no.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

First Favre, now this...

Has anyone gotten more out of their fifteen seconds of fame than Jenn Sterger? (Yes, I know Warhol said minutes, but she literally got 15 seconds.) If she's somehow never come across your radar screen, it all started with this moment during the broadcast of the FSU-Miami game in September 2005. That's it - a couple of shots of a reasonably attractive girl in the stands at a football game. Somehow Sterger has parlayed that moment into appearances in Playboy, Maxim, doing web videos and columns for, and now her latest gig: gameday host for the New York Jets. Why is someone who isn't a Jets fan or a familiar New York face acting "sassy" before Jets games supposed to be a selling point? I'm pretty sure there are a few attractive females in New York who actually are Jet fans. I don't begrudge Sterger her success (and I'm sure she or someone around her must work nonstop to market her), but I just don't get it.

Tampa Bay has definitely got a problem on their hands with Jeff Garcia. He's already left the practice field with an injury this morning, and was in a pretty sarcastic mood about his relationship with the team Monday. Garcia already wanted a new contract before any of this Favre stupidity and has a well earned rep as a locker room agitator throughout his career. I don't like where this is headed.

If the New York Post is to be believed, Bruce Springsteen will be the halftime show at this year's Super Bowl. I love Springsteen's music, but I'm not sure he's a great fit for the "crank out three or four hits while 23 year olds flail around next to the stage like they're experiencing the rapture" format. Still better than Up With People, though.

Serious injuries abound in the SEC today. Georgia's lost their starting left tackle. Ole Miss has lost their best pass rusher for half the year. One of LSU's two quarterbacks competing to start is out indefinitely. None of those injuries compare to the oddest thing we will see this season: last week Ole Miss lost offensive linemen Kermit Tyler for his career. The freshman is allergic to strenuous exercise. No, really.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Real football is 17 days away

Week one of preseason is almost entirely a waste of time, but a few things of note happened this weekend. Chad Pennington is now a Dolphin, which makes them better for the time being but is not a long term solution. The key is for Pennington to buy Chad Henne enough time to develop before they put him in. Their decision to take John Beck in the second round last year just looks worse and worse, although passing up Brady Quinn hasn't been proven to be a mistake yet. Last year at this time, most of us still expected Byron Leftwich to be Jacksonville's starter. Now he's signed with Pittsburgh just to have a chance at being their backup. The stunner is that Tampa Bay didn't find a way to sign either one of those guys since Gruden loves QBs so much. Speaking of the Bucs, Chris Simms might have a small amount of trade value after a decent game this weekend - supposedly the Cowboys are interested.

Six days ago FSU signed offensive lineman Joe Tonga, a junior college player who has just one year to play. They immediately decided he was their starter at LEFT TACKLE - sort of an important spot with a statue like Drew Weatherford at QB. Tonga arrives and immediately learns he can't handle the Florida heat very well. How FSU got to this level of desperation for talent is a mystery to me, but things are not going to get much better in Tallahassee anytime soon.

Bad weekend to be a quarterback in Los Angeles. USC's Mark Sanchez is the more glamorous injured player, but UCLA's Ben Olson is probably the more important one. Sanchez disclocated his kneecap, which sounds incredibly unpleasant. With the timetable being discussed, there's a chance he could play their opener against Virginia. My guess is it will take longer than that. The real key for the Trojans is to either have a new quarterback established by Ohio State in week three or have Sanchez back by then. Olson's gone for two months at minimum thanks to a broken bone in his foot. The Bruins have no experienced alternatives available, meaning Tennessee's opener just got a lot easier.

There was a nice story from the weekend. Tyrone Prothro graduated from Alabama, meaning he at least has that to fall back on. Mike Shula's absurd decision to try and run up the score on Florida wound up costing Prothro his career. This catch was spectacular, and unfortunately the injury (which I won't link to) was as well. This kid would have had a great NFL career, and I hope Shula feels guilty as hell for having ruined it through his own stupidity and selfishness.

Huge injury for Tampa Bay, as Carl Crawford goes on the DL with a finger issue that sounds troubling. Rocco Baldelli being back from his physical issues was a nice story yesterday, but that is not a satisfactory answer if Crawford is out for a month or more as I suspect he will be. Every Rays win from here on out breaks their all time record for a season, which is completely insane considering this is August 11.

R.I.P. Isaac Hayes. No matter how many times I hear the Theme from Shaft, it does not get old. Between that and his work as Chef on South Park, the Hayes cool quotient was off the charts.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Get well soon, Cornelius

I hated to hear the news about Cornelius Ingram's ACL tear for several reasons. As someone who had a torn ACL myself, I remember how frustrating the process of rehab and recovery was just to be some random schlub walking around. Now add on the pressure of your entire career depending on not only successfully rehabbing, but not losing any athletic ability as you do do. Even if you accomplish that, you have to mentally regroup and not let fear of reinjuring the knee affect you when you're about to go across the middle. That shouldn't be too hard, right? I hope for Ingram's sake everything works out well. As for UF, Ingram is one of the two best offensive leaders. He helped guys like Deonte Thompson a lot last year. Not having him on the field will be a major loss, but hopefully he can still contribute in the locker room.

The Olympics begin tonight. I should care, I guess, but I just don't. I can't truly be confident any swimmer or track athlete is legit and not doping. That's unfair, but too many have gone down that path and there's no way to tell who has or hasn't at this point. The basketball team is still a bunch of pros who may or may not care any given day. They don't show archery on TV. A lifelong American citizen not of Russian descent is playing for the Russian women's basketball team. The host country is run by an oppressive government and has disastrous levels of pollution. I'm just not feeling it - hopefully the games will at least go off without incident.

The NCAA has been hard on successful amateur athletes for years. Guys like former Iowa quarterback Drew Tate who had good fortune have had to choose between keeping their prizes but becoming an instant "pro" or giving back anything they won despite having earned it fairly. Turns out Tate should have just played Lotto. An Ohio offensive lineman did, won 172 thousand bucks after taxes, and the NCAA can'l do anything about it.

On a personal note, the first full ratings book here in Columbia came out today. My show is number one in its time spot with men 25-54, the demographic sports radio targets, and number one with people over eighteen as well. The ratings for my last Gainesville book were excellent. It was satisfying to know as I left that I had the highest rated sports talk show in the city. I did not expect the same success here so early, but I'll certainly take it and be grateful to the audience. Hope you have a great weekend.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

J-E-T-S Jets Jets Jets!

Our long national ordeal is over - Brett Favre is now a New York Jet. I can't emphasize enough how happy I am this circus is not coming to Tampa. I don't believe the Jets will even have a winning record with Favre, which will make this whole chapter even more ugly and embarassing for him. As for the Bucs, they get to start telling Jeff Garcia that he was always their guy. Sure, Jon, you bet.

Still waiting for word on Cornelius Ingram's MRI of his knee. The rumors are bad, and I hope they are inaccurate. Ingram is a great kid who would immediately become the new Ed Chester if he's out for the year. For years, agents used Chester's devastating knee injury as the boogeyman to scare UF players into going pro as early as possible. Let's hope "Don't end up like C.I." isn't their new catchphrase.

A lot was made of Bobby Bowden's comments that "I can't stand hardly anymore" of the mediocre seasons at FSU. It shouldn't have been. Back in 2001 Bobby was claiming he'd leave if they started losing four or five games a year regularly because he just woudn't be able to take that. If FSU wants Bobby to retire, they need to talk Joe Paterno into going first. Good luck with that.

Being a well known former coach, even a bad one, means someone's always willing to pay you. The latest example is Dennis Franchione, who apparently will be working for ESPN Radio. Franchione failed miserably at Texas A&M, didn't stay at Bama long enough to evaluate his performance, and was lucky enough to have LaDainian Tomlinson at TCU. He's well known for being unsually money grubbing even by coaching standards and for always looking for the next job. Expect him to leave for Fox Sports Radio in the middle of the third quarter of his fifth game.

There's a new book coming out about the Dallas Cowboys during their glory years last decade when they could actually win playoff games. It's called Boys Will Be Boys, and it details among other things just how creepy Charles Haley really was. (Warning - there is some graphic description of sexual misbehavior at that link) Haley is one of the legendary nutjobs in sports of the past quarter century, right up there with Kevin Mitchell.

I fervently hope never in my life to be in a position where I'm negotiating a plea deal for anything. Even if it was on a misdemeanor, I'm pretty sure I'd drive a harder bargain than demanding some KFC and a calzone in return for pleading guilty. This murder defendant really enjoys lasagna, apparently.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Sometimes I hate being right

As I've feared from the beginning of this Brett Favre fiasco, he's going to wind up playing in Tampa. Favre will have an incredible amount of playbook to learn in a very short time. (By the way, can you imagine how stagnant the Bucs offense would have looked the last few years if Gruden didn't have all these brilliant, ultra-complicated plays? There must be more names for a one yard run right into the pile in that book than anywhere else in history.) Tampa Bay opens with a critical divisional game against New Orleans, and Jeff Garcia is a vastly better choice to QB that game than Favre since he actully knows the playbook and his teammates names. That won't stop Chucky from using his new toy, though. Maybe for his next move Gruden can get Andre Rison to come back to the NFL like he tried to a couple of years ago.

The NFL has issued a Fan Code of Conduct, which it hopes will tone down the intimidating atmosphere at some venues. I'm all for anything which will keep people from going to games and winding up next to some screaming, cursing drunk. Having said that, good luck enforcing this in places like Buffalo.

Turns out the Chinese Olympic Games won't be a way to expose their population to the sunshine out of outside ideas. The most recent embarassment: a gold medal winning speedskater's visa has been revoked as a result of his support for increasing awareness about human rghts issues in Darfur. There will be many more stories like this before the Games are over. Lots of issues have already arisen about blocking access to internet sites and not keeping promises made to broadcast partners. The IOC never should have given the event to China in the first place, and all the happy talk about their government opening up to outsiders as a result of the Olympics has proven to be complete nonsense.

I've received an email asking me about comments made by a host in Gainesville claiming that UF won't credential him for events because he is critical of the Gator program. I will not name the host because I did not hear the comments and it was not attributed in the email as a direct quote. I can say that statement, as it was relayed to me, is nonsense. The reason I can say that is very simple. UF does not credential individual radio people for games, they grant credentials to stations. Other people on the air there now have come to football and basketball games on the credential issued to the station. If someone else already has a credential, UF won't give another person from the same station one. That has nothing to do with whether the host and/or station is pro Gator or not - the policy is very clearly spelled out in the school media guide. No idea where this whole thing got started but while UF is not known for being helpful to media, they aren't guilty of banning radio hosts based on their views.

While we're on Gainesville specfic stuff, I was pretty surprised while I was down there recently to see that the two Sonics had closed down. The 39th Street one was a regular stop for me to grab a tea before the show on my way in to the Star 99.5 studios. Lots of places are going out of business right now, which isn't shocking given the economy but is still jarring when you see it. It doesn't look like the economy is the sole reason Whaley's in Tampa is closing, but it's still hard to imagine it won't be there the next time I drive down Howard Avenue.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Criminals, morons, and Ben Folds

Former UF star quarterback and assistant coach John Reaves has found some serious trouble again, as he's been accused of assault and cocaine posession. John's always been a nice guy to deal with, but he has had a number of substance abuse issues throughout his career. A few years ago he showed up at a radio remote I was doing and it was clear sobriety was not in the cards that day. When you're reduced to trying to claim the cops are planting cocaine on you for no good reason, it's pretty clear you've hit bottom. Hopefully John will get it together again - this is sad to see.

UF's back on the field, with defensive tackle Ronnie Wilson (now known as Ron) a part of the group practicing. Joseph Goodman of the Miami Herald did some digging and found out Wilson was arrested in January for marijuana posession. Word around that time was Wilson had made a mistake involving marijuana, but it was believed to be a positive test and not an arrest. Goodman details other elements of the story on his blog which make it clear this is a young man who has been given an extraordinary amount of breaks. We'll see if he takes advantage of them.

Wilson may catch another break in his quest for playing time, as it looks like DT Torrey Davis will be academically ineligible. Davis is the classic example of why I don't buy recruiting hype. Physically, he's unquestionably got great gifts that made him a "five star" guy. Despite that, he was lazy in high school, played with poor technique and didn't do much more than the minimum in the classroom. Who could possibly be surprised those habits carried over to a level where he couldn't get away with it?

The latest Georgia knucklehead is LB Darius Dewberry, who gets a two game suspension for doing over two grand of damage at a hospital. The Bulldogs have some real questions about focus to answer right now. Meanwhile Kentucky boots their potential starting quarterback Curtis Pulley off the team altogether and loses starting cornerback Paul Warford to academics for the year.

In keeping with the theme today, here's Notre Dame "superstar" quarterback Jimmy Clausen and his teammates taking part in the Beer Olympics. When you're underage and a celebrity athlete, there is no way posing for photos like that can help you.

Ben Folds will finally be coming out with a new CD, Way To Normal, September 30. The guy's a tremendous performer. You can hear one of the new tracks, Hiroshima, on Ben's myspace page. He played it and several of the other new ones live in Savannah when I saw him there earlier this year - good stuff.

Monday, August 4, 2008

R.I.P. Skip Caray

Anyone who grew up in the Eighties as a sports fan has to be a little sad today with the death of Skip Caray. When the Braves were awful but still the only thing on worth watching, Caray was always there to keep you company. I actually enjoyed his work most when the Braves were bad and he could just tell stories or make use of some dry humor. When a guy's broadcasting games with Rick Mahler as the team's ace and Joe Boever (with his amazing palmball) as the closer, he has to come up with something to make it interesting. Caray always did. I'm not a Braves fan, but he will be missed.

What the heck is going on in Athens? Check the numbers: two players suspended, one arrested, a former player arrested, and two hospitalized. You think that's not so bad for a summer? You're right - it was just this weekend. Mark Richt is actually pretty good about disciplining his guys, but they never seem to have a quiet offseason. This has been worse than usual - some guys may have spent a little too much time hearing how great they are this year.

Tyler Graunke, presumed starting quarterback for Hawaii, may not be allowed to practice for a while due to a personal issue, whatever that means. Apparently it will sideline him for weeks, not days. Some folks out there really think they have a shot at pulling a surprise in Gainesville. Good luck with that.

If you're Reggie Bush and the NCAA is closing in, why didn't you settle these lawsuits with your former wannabe agents long ago? His attorneys keep filing idiotic motions that try and keep all hearings and arbitration completely secret and getting turned down. By now, there's already enough stuff out there to likely cost Bush the Heisman. Now the question is how much impact it might have on Southern Cal, with the odds of it being meaningful going up every day that Bush lets this drag on. Reggie's rich and he's got Kim Kardashian to keep him company, so maybe he just doesn't care what happens with the Trojans.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Someone actually voted Colorado as a top 25 team?!

The first coaches poll is out, with Georgia number one as anticipated by most. Florida is at five. A few things stand out immediately. It's a wide open year, with six teams getting three or more first place votes. The SEC has five top 25 teams (and Bama and South Carolina as the first two on the outside looking in) to start. The ACC has three in the top 25, none of which is FSU or Miami. The coaches shouldn't have a poll in the first place, but this is is the one time all year where they may have actually thought about their votes. One strange thing from the poll - no 25th place vote for Duke. Spurrier has always done that, and he has a vote. Some pompous idiots had demanded he stop because of the "integrity of the poll", but I wouldn't have thought he would change because of that.

Well, I THOUGHT the Rays front office had to get them some help at the trade deadline. The Sox get Jason Bay, the Yankees get Pudge, and the Rays... never mind. I understand not wanting to part with hot prospects, but Tampa Bay's team stagnated for several years waiting for guys like Delmon Young and Elijah Dukes to grow up and get their act together. If they fail down the stretch and look like they were too cheap to try and win, the damage this will do to the Rays reputation will be a lot bigger cost than losing their fourth and fifth rated prospects would have been.

This NY Times piece about a new football video system makes it sounds pretty interesting. It was developed as a way to try and help the Nebraska football team originally, but is now being sold on the open market. The part I like is that one of the investors who helped support it's development put in a rule that it could not be made available to Notre Dame or Southern Cal. Every now and then principles do trump money.

Les Miles's close personal friend Snoop Dogg's tour bus got pulled over. Shockingly, two people on the bus were arrested for marijuana posession. Someone would tell Les if they could only get him to turn down "Gin and Juice" blaring in his headphones for a few seconds.

Which sounds like a worse idea right now: Ghostbuters 3 or Austin Powers 4? At least the Ghostbusters idea seems like they'd be trying to mix in new characters for a new era. What the heck happened to Mike Myers to take him from being a funny guy to whatever he is now?