Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Halloween

I beieve Florida will win this weekend. There are many who do not, including some folks I have a lot of respect for. My reasoning is as follows:

1. Last year UGA had a bye week to get ready. This year they had LSU on the road. While they didn't get as beaten up as I thought they might, that's still an enormous difference. UF had a tight game with Kentucky on the road last year, and a walkover against them at home this year. Advantage: UF

2. Since last season, Georgia has added one tremendously impressive player in freshman AJ Green. He's as good as any wide receiver I have seen come into college. They have gotten some improvement out of their QB, even if Stafford throws more "impressive looking" 60 yard incompletions than any guy ever. UF has a healthier Tebow than last year by far. Knowshown's still great. With Demps, Rainey and possibly even Emmanuel Moody for some power running they have a ground game which doesn't have to depend on Percy Harvin all the time. That in turn frees up Harvin to spend more time attacking at wide receiver. Aaron Hernandez has merged as a force in the offense, and the OL is better than it was last year while UGA's has had to mix and match with injuries but is still playing well. Overall, I see much more reason to believe UF has improved substantially than I do UGA.

3. Both sides have been preparing for this one for a long time. I've seen what happens when Urban Meyer motivates his guys specifically for a game - the results are almost always positive. If UGA really is doing a "code red" and wearing all red unis, that will be quite lame as a motivational gimmick - the blackout versus Bama sure turned out well, for example. I fully expect UF to be intense for this one, and if they are they normally win.

Georgia has underwhelmed me all year long. They didn't put away Tennessee, they could easily have lost the game I saw them play in person against South Carolina, and they were destroyed by Bama. Maybe I'll be wrong, but I expect Florida to leave Jacksonville in control of the SEC East.

For FSU this weekend, no Corey Surrency as wide receiver due to a suspension. That won't help, but if they don't have Preston Parker either due to injury they're in trouble. Georgia Tech let a game get away they shouldn't have last week - I think they beat the Noles.

FSU might have bigger concerns right now than any given game, as the NCAA continues to send signs they're looking to get tough again on violations. FSU football and Indiana basketball are the two pinatas waiting for the Infractions Committee to take a big swing.

I hate the fact that I can't be at UF-UGA. These kind of games are why I got into the business, but the reality is I have to cover Tennessee at South Carolina. There are reasons for intrigue on this one, as it gives Spurrier a chance to finish off Phillip Fulmer's career. If you're watching it in the parking lot after the Gator game, perhaps you can amuse yourself by playing a little Fulmer Bingo. Have a great weekend and I'll see you back here Monday.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Nineteen seems a little high to me

UF debuts at number nineteen in the opening basketball coaches poll. The great thing about this is that polls are irrelevant in the sport, but it is still interesting to note how much credit UF is being given considering the loss of another first round pick in the frontcourt. I'm really looking forward to seeing the new kids get out on the court.

There's a huge basketball announcement tonight, as Kenny Boynton will make his call between Duke and UF at 6:30 on ESPNU. It's not that UF can't win without him, because they certainly can, but it would be an important statement to show that winning two national titles is enough to give Florida the ability to hold whatever talent they want in their own state.

No reason to beat the World Series story into the ground any more. I'm sorry to see the Rays lose, but hopefully this will be the spark that finally got MLB interest in Florida burning. There's no reason to suspect this team will be stripped and sold for parts like the Marlins two World Series teams have been, so the fan should come out and support them next year. If they don't, despite having time to budget for tickets and plan schedules around the idea that Rays games are now legitimately of interest, that will speak volumes.

The John Daly story continues to be pathetic. The two time major winner was so drunk in Winston-Salem that he had to be put in police custody to sober up. What makes me angry about this situation is that people continually enable the guy and think it's cute. You can find videos on the web of people bragging and laughing about how they're getting drunk with John Daly. The man is a train wreck who once had talent but has now completely squandered it because he can't control his personal demons. Look at that picture of Daly - does it look like he's living a fun, jovial life? The story's sad, not funny, and I can't figure out why so many people seem to think it is.

Pepsi has spent over one million dollars to redesign their logo and will spend tons more promoting it. Marketing people amaze me sometimes. How can a guy actually say stuff like...

"We felt like, as we move out of this traditional mass marketing and mass distribution era into today's culture, there's an opportunity to bring humanity back, both in terms of the design but also in the way we engage consumers," he said. "By making the logo more dynamic and more alive ... [it is] absolutely a huge step in the right direction."

with a straight face? Pepsi's a cola, buddy. Most people get whichever one the restaurant has or whichever one's twelve packs and 2-liters are on sale that day. Some people like the taste of one more than the other, and a logo with "more humanity" will change none of these things. How can I get someone to give me huge sums of money for a transparently silly project?

One blog related note: I've had a request to change the color scheme of the blog to make it easier on the eyes. It's not the color it is now as any kind of artistic statement, it just was set this way as the default as far as I know. So, with that in mind, what color scheme would you prefer for the background and type combo?

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

It's pumpkin season

More and more it appears Phillip Fulmer will be out as Tennessee's coach after this season. The Knoxville News-Sentinel reports a 6-6 record this year would not be enough to save Fulmer's job. If Fulmer is forced out, UT AD Mike Hamilton should be made to explain what was going through his head giving a coach with no leverage or market value a big money contract extension just months ago. Fulmer's been getting outcoached for years, and talent isn't enough against Urban Meyer or Nick Saban like it was against Ron Zook and Mike Dubose. The coincidence that a loss to South Carolina is what finished off Johnny Majors at Tennessee and now Fulmer's torturer Steve Spurrier will be in Columbia to administer his death blow is amusing.

Kentucky's Mike Hartline has been demoted from the starting quarterback spot. He's knows who has to be held responsible for his poor play of late - his teammates. Very impressive leadership there. I'm sure Rich Brooks is reconsidering his decision.

If you didn't see the gruesome injury in the Houston game last night, you're fortunate. If, despite that, you want to see it you can do so here. Whoever is responsible for those carts being where they were should be out of a job and held liable for this young man's injury. No excuse for something as obviously dangerous as that whatsoever.

Allegedly we'll get game five of the World Series out of the way this evening. I hope the Rays can extend it just so we get to see the Series decided in a legit game as opposed to this circus. With snow flurries possible tonight, who knows though? Maybe Bud can move the end of game five to a "neutral site" - Milwaukee.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

And now, back to our regularly scheduled programming

Sorry about the recent "blog lull" - this was my last six days: Tuesday night - left Columbia for Birmingham at 8 PM. Wednesday, up early for day one of SEC basketball media days. With no driving to do, I blogged that night. Up early again Thursday for day two, then drove back to Columbia in the afternoon. Friday, did an "on location" show in Columbia, then headed for Gainesville at 8 PM. On air at 10 AM in Gainesville, then drove to Atlanta for ACC Basketball media day after UGA-LSU wrapped up. Sunday, covered that and then drove back to Columbia. With the driving and the need to write articles for and edit audio for airing on my station, there just weren't enough hours in the day to blog too. Now, it's back to business.

Watching the World Series last night genuinely made me angry. The most important game of the season was being played in conditions that would never be tolerated for a July game. This, just two days after an idiotic decision to begin play in game three over an hour and a half late and go until 1:30 in the morning rather than delay it and lose the sacred "travel day". Between dreadful umpiring and inept decision making, MLB seems to be going out of its way to drive fans away from caring about their signature event. Philly has a right to be livid about the loss of their ace Cole Hamels after six innings when he normally would have gone eight. If they'd called the game much earlier (when they should have), Hamels likely could have pitched a game seven if needed. After six, he's probably done for the series unless rain pushes tonight back too. Even though the Rays eventually wound up having to stay in Delaware last night, we'll see if they can send this thing back to St. Pete.

Georgia week is finally here, which in many ways has been the focus of the Gators entire offseason. The "gag order" from Urban after the Kentucky beatdown indicated how much he's concerned about distractions this week. UGA comes into the game with a makeshift OL, a secondary which shows little ability to cover top receivers well, and no consistent pass rush. They've added an elite WR in AJ Green and Stafford's improved a little. Tebow is healthier than he was last year and UF's added Rainey, Demps and possibly Moody to their ground game. Aaron Hernandez and Deonte Thompson are factors in the pass game now as well. With the development of Joe Haden and the addition of Janoris Jenkins, UF has corners who can cover this year. In my mind, one team appears much more improved a year later than the other is - we'll see what that means Saturday.

Tyrone Willingham is out at Washington after the year. He undoubtedly took over a very difficult stuation when he came there, but it has never shown any sign of improvement at all. The Huskies recruiting has been awful under Willingham, and he's a cold fish who doesn't excite fans or boosters. Despite that, Notre Dame shouldn't have fired him when they did. They had given Gerry Faust his full five years, and it was hard to understand how a more successful coach than Faust had been cut loose in just three. The incredibly overrated Lane Kiffin's name keeps coming up for lots of jobs, but this one might actually make some sense for him.

Lots of attention is being paid to Mike Singletary's great postgame press conference where he teed off on Vernon Davis. He should have had some venom for clueless sideline reporter Danyelle Sargent as well. If you are covering the NFL and are unaware of the death of Bill Walsh, you should be fired. There are many female sports reporters who do their jobs well, which is why it's unfair for them to be judged as a result of the ineptitude of one who's been known for coasting along thanks to her looks ever since she was in local TV in Kansas City.

I had lunch with a radio colleague at Dantanna's in Atlanta Sunday. Check out their gourmet burger menu on the front of their webpage and you will find the heart attack burger. It features double portions of bacon and fried onions, a fried egg, and a pair of grilled cheese sandwiches in lieu of a bun. Would you ever, under any circumstances, eat that? Me neither.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

15 grand could have bought a lot of Zima

I'm in the middle of my first trip to Birmingham for SEC Basketball Media Days. Saying there's a difference between the experience here and that of the football circus late each July would be an epic understatement. That event takes place at the Wynfrey Hotel, which is attached to the Galleria mall. This one is at the Birmingham Marriott, and has approximately one eighth the amount of media as football. At the Wynfrey, coaches are marched around to a series of nine interview rooms, typically stalked by a cloud of cameramen everywhere they go. The basketball coaches sit down at a table and talk to anyone who wants to come over for 45 minutes. It was a nice, relaxed vibe. Bruce Pearl in particular was a lot of fun to just listen to talking basketball. Today we'll get to do the same with Billy Donovan as well as Billy Gillispie and John Pelphrey - I'm looking forward to it.

Despite Saturday being another of the incredibly annoying 12:30 kickoffs that UF never seems to be at their best for, they should be able to cruise against Kentucky. They were better than the Wildcats to begin with, and now UK is a complete wreck thanks to huge injury issues. Other than Randall Cobb, they don't seem to have any playmakers of note with the loss of Lyons at WR and Locke at TB.

FSU has an important game with Virginia Tech this week. This is the first time since they got worked over by Wake Forest the nation is taking them seriously. The Hokies are certainly beatable - their offense is embarassingly bad. The Seminoles will have to do what damage they can without Bert Reed due to him blowing off class. Some people over there have tried to hype the redshirt freshman into "their Percy Harvin", which he's not. He is a talented guy who was showing good progress, and will be missed on an offense still lacking playmakers.

People have the right to spend their money however they choose, of course, but safety Ken Hamlin of the Dallas Cowboys apparently had way too much of it. How else to explain what would posess someone to have fifteen thousand dollars worth of tires and rims on their Escalade? It's no surprise someone stole them, although I'm not sure why the Dallas Morning News wrote the story up like it was a major crime.

Back when I started working at WRUF in the summer of 1994, the news Zima was being discontinued would have been a huge deal. Somehow the idea of getting drunk off flat Sprite was really appealing to women back then. Maybe those guys trying to bring back Crystal Pepsi at the political conventions have found their next cause.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

A real life beer commercial moment

Everyone in Columbia continues to talk about Stephen Garcia being tackled by the referee during Saturday night's game. It was definitely different, but I think it's being way overblown. Since the official in question played linebacker at Kentucky, the team SC beat last week, some are claiming that must be why he did that. If the umpire had a bias against the Gamecocks, he'd call lots of penalties - especially holding. His crew called three penalties on the Gamecocks in the entire game. The idea the umpire intentionally took a shot at Garcia on purpose makes no sense - it would get him fired on the spot. Still really strange looking, though.

Can someone explain why media people think you or I need to know about TV ratings for sporting events? There are lots of articles like this one forecasting dire ratings consequences for Fox since the World Series will be Phillies versus Rays. I can see why there's coverage of ratings for entertainment shows. If you like "Heroes" but the ratings drop, it might go off the air. If it turns out the only people wathing the Series are me and Joe the Plumber, Fox will still be airing the whole thing. So unless the publication writing about it is the Fox in house newsletter or maybe Advertising Age, why would anyone else care if they get good ratings?

Good Nielsen ratings don't always help much, particularly if the product people are watching is complete crap. CBS got some decent ratings for the Kimbo Slice clown show disguised as mixed martial arts that was Elite XC, but now the company has folded. I keep being told that MMA is going to eventually be as big as boxing once was, but I'm far from sold on that.

I'm not sure what's going on in Hollywood, but all of a sudden we have this crazy run of sports movies being produced. It's not like the ones coming out are huge hits. Semi-Pro didn't perform nearly as well as a typical Will Ferrell movie. That Ice Cube as football coach film "The Longshots" did eleven million dollars worth of business. The Express just tanked at the box office. Despite all of this, someone thinks Michael Lewis's book Moneyball needs to be made into a movie. And who should play GM Billy Beane? Brad Pitt, of course! At the rate we're going, someone likely thinks Wake Forest's 2006 football season might make a great movie. Think I'm being sarcastic? Nope. Al Pacino as Tommy Lasorda - other than the fact they look nothing alike, why not? If any Hollywood types are reading this, I've got a great story pitch for you on a jai alai movie - we'll call it "Cestas de Fuego"!

I'm on the road the next couple of days for SEC basketball media days. I will attempt to post from Birmingham, internet situation willing.

Monday, October 20, 2008

How ticked off are Cub fans right now?

Somehow, it continues. Ridiculous as the notion seems even now, the Tampa Bay Rays are in the World Series. Florida's two MLB teams have still never lost a postseason series, and could potentially have three titles in eleven years. Tampa Bay has always been a great sports area, and next year we will get to see at last if it's possible for an MLB team with credibility to get conistent support there. I believe the Rays will ride this momentum into finally becoming the major part of the state's sports scene they have never been before.

It's remarkable Tampa Bay will get the chance to break Philadelphia's heart again. First it was the Bucs beating the Eagles in January 2003 to go the Super Bowl in the final game ever played at the Vet. Covering that was one of the coolest things I've ever done. Philly people were completely certain they were going to crush the Bucs - afterwards they were too shell shocked to even boo the trophy presentation. That September, even with Stallone doing his best Rocky imitiation to pump up the crowd, the Bucs beat the Eagles again on Monday Night Football in their first game at the Linc. In 2004 it was the Lightning over the Flyers in seven games in the Eastern Conference Finals on their way to the Stanley Cup. Listening to rants from Flyer fans about how Philadelphia "deserved" to win a title and Tampa didn't were hilarious - I can only imagine the psychological trauma a Rays World Series title would cause up there. If the Phillies can't get it done, they'll have to count on the Sixers since I'm pretty sure the Magic aren't moving.

I don't know which thing I'm happier about - that Tampa Bay beat Boston or that the games won't be on TBS anymore. That means no more Chip Caray. In the seventh inning, he actually said, "You give the Red Sox life, and they take your life away from you!" It was a BASE HIT, Chip. Not even an RBI. Settle down, Beavis. Later, TBS puts up a graphic pointing out the biggest ninth inning comeback in a postseason game seven was two runs, by the Braves against the Pirates in 1992. Chip Caray somehow turned that into, "and the Pirates were up two games to none and the Braves came back to win the final three". Was it that big a stumper for Chip to remember his dad's most famous call ever? Seriously, TBS, please find someone else by next year.

The first BCS standings are out. Worrying about them is a colossal waste of time, but that never stops people from doing it. Biggest potential nightmare scenario for the BCS right now? Oklahoma (currently number four) doesn't win its division, stays a one loss team by winning out, and the computers serve them up a rematch with an undefeated Texas rather than giving a one loss USC or SEC champ a shot.

I keep wondering when people will figure out that comparisons of everyday things to Hitler are never going to work out well. The latest to learn the hard way: Lou Holtz. Holtz was trying to be clever and made a comment about Hitler being a "great leader" during a discussion about Rich Rodriguez and his struggles at Michigan. He's apologized. If the subject you're discussing isn't genocide, it's probably best to leave the Hitler references alone.

Friday, October 17, 2008

I could hear the gagging from here

Let's be clear: the Tampa Bay Rays must win game six or seven of the ALCS. It is a moral imperative that they do so. Because given the way Boston media and ESPN mythologize everything the Red Sox do, you and I will be hearing about that fiasco in game five until the end of time if they don't.

While FSU edging out NC State was the game most college football fans were watching last night, the more important one was taking place in Fort Worth. TCU destroyed BYU's hopes at a perfect season, meaning Utah, Boise, and Ball State are the last three non-BCS conference teams with a shot to run the table and squeeze their way into a more than likely undeserved spot in a BCS bowl game. Of the three, Utah's the only one I think could be legit.

The AJC's Terence Moore raises an interesting point about last year's UGA celebration fiasco against UF. He believes it has led to the massive penalty issues plaguing UGA this season. Looking at the numbers, he appears to be on target. Richt was incredibly lucky not to have caused a brawl with that stunt.

I have no idea what prompted the Orlando Sentinel's Alan Schmadtke to write a passionate defense of recently fired Clemson offensive coordinator Rob Spence on his blog this week. Having watched Spence call plays, I was not impressed because almost everything in his scheme seems designed to go go sideways. That doesn't seem like the kind of thing Sentinel readers would really care too much about, though. So why am I blogging about it? This is the core of Schmadtke's argument...

"this offense --- Spence’s offense --- is averaging 5.81 yards a play, third best in Clemson history... This offense is sixth in the ACC in rushing (141.5 ypg) and fifth in scoring (26.7 ppg)."

Omitted from those numbers is the fact Clemson has played two 1-AA teams this year. They won those games 45-17 and 54-0. In their four games against Division 1A teams, they are 1-3 and have scored: 10, 27, 17, 7. Of those points, seven came on a kickoff return meaning that in their four games against D-1 teams Spence's offense produced 54 points. That averages out to 13.5 per game - quite a different picture than the one painted above. I'm not going to recalculate all the other numbers (because I simply don't care enough about totally rebutting this to do so) but Schmadtke's case as he made it is either willfully deceptive or incredibly poorly thought out.

The idea put forth by the MLB Players Assocication that Barry Bonds was the victim of owner collusion is ridiculous. Collusion was a real problem years ago, and the owners were rightfully slammed for it. What would have possibly interested a team in Bonds last year, though? He can't play the field any longer, is a jerk in the locker room, is an obvious drug cheat, and is under federal indictment. Somehow I don't think a conspiracy was required to keep people from fighting to sign Bonds to a big dollar deal.

Next week will be slammed, as I'll be going to Birmingham for my first ever SEC Basketball media days and down to Gainesville for UK-UF. Have a great weekend and I'll see you back here Monday.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Joe the Plumber reads this blog

This has been a nightmarish year for road teams on Thursday night football - teams like West Virginia and USC have found out the hard way. Last week Clemson's Tommy Bowden went into Wake Forest as a mild underdog, lost the game and then his job four days later. Tonight his father's team is in Raleigh to face NC State. Bobby Bowden's guys have had plenty of difficulty with the Wolfpack in recent years, and Thursday night hasn't been kind lately either. Having said that, I saw this NC State team in person earlier this year. They've been destroyed by injuries and weren't that good to begin with. If they're ready to play, FSU shouldn't have to sweat this out. Brenda Monk's testimony this weekend, on the other hand, could be rather difficult for the Noles.

Entering this season, Tennessee's Phillip Fulmer had to feel pretty comfortable he'd be remaining for a while as coach of the Vols thanks to a contract extension he signed earlier this year. Finding out that his boss Mike Hamilton already doesn't rule out a midseason firing had to be a bitter pill for Fulmer to swallow. Hamilton seems to finally recognize that the Vol fanbase aren't going to be satisfied with watching their 1998 championship DVDs much longer.

Earlier this year the idea of creating an eighteen game NFL schedule and dropping two preseason games was floated. It stood little chance of success because of the amount of money owners make off those garbage games. Now Roger Goodell is acknowledging the obvious - there will be no change in the number of games played in 2009. The only reason for it to ever happen is to create more product for TV someday - the NFL doesn't need to worry about that right now.

One of my favorite movies is Martin Scorcese's Casino. Robert DeNiro's character Ace Rothstein, the central figure of the film, is based on Frank "Lefty" Rosenthal. Rosenthal died yesterday at the age of 79 in Miami. It's extraordinary to see what Vegas has become these days and realize that just thirty years ago guys like this were in control of the place.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Keeping the hot side hot, and the cool side cool

Sorry for the late post - Time Warner's internet wasn't cooperating this morning. The Rays demolition of Boston last night was complete enough that Joe Maddon felt comfortable announcing a clever move this morning. Should the ALCS go to a game six, the Rays will now have their beat two starters ready to go in the final two games. Scott Kazmir's struggled lately, but maybe he can end things in game five.

If you've listened to my radio show the last few years, you know I despise the Harris Poll the BCS concocted to replace the AP's involvement after they pulled out. The poll features numerous people whose connection to the game is tenuous at best, and there are no standards of accountability for most of them. That's how we wind up with nonsense like Utah being voted as the number one team by somebody. Anyone who votes in a poll which will determine placement in the national championship should have to go public with their view. If you're not willing to face criticism, don't accept a vote.

If they want to have people who actually know what's going on have a say in the rankings, the BCS should let the Las Vegas Sports Consultants be involved. Last week they had UF rated fifth and LSU number eleven - not quite your typical poll, but absolutely correct on who was the better team. This week's edition has Florida up to number three with Southern Cal number one.

I love Youtube, because you never know what you'll find. Don't ask me how, but last night I wound up getting a look at this McDonald's commercial featuring a singing and dancing future George Costanza. I know that occasionally things are cool at the time but don't hold up well, but there has NEVER been a time where that ad was a good idea. Yikes.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Panic on Lansdowne Street

I won't pretend to have been an ardent Tampa Bay Rays fan for years, because I haven't. It's my hometown's team, of course, but it was created eight years after I graduated high school. It plays in a dreary building that was outdated from the second it opened for baseball. Its owner for the first seven years was a bully who alienated everyone he dealt with, from business owners to media to fans. The original color scheme looked like the paint job on a 70s era stoner's Chevy van. Most importantly, the team was just awful. They drafted foolishly, signed past their prime malcontents as free agents, and never had any reliable pitching. Now, they go up 2-1 in the ALCS by thrashing the defending World Series champs in Fenway with their best pitcher on the mound. This is all taking place just three years after Stuart Sternberg took over control of the team. It should resolve the question of what is most important to succeed in pro sports once and for all - a good owner. Sternberg has put good people in place, doesn't micromanage, and spends some money when necessary. If your team has someone like that, they may win. If they have someone like William Clay Ford or Bill Bidwill, they won't.

There is no definitive word or not whether the Rays success has convinced Axl Rose the end times are upon us, but that's as good a reason as any to explain why the long awaited Guns n' Roses album Chinese Democracy will finally be released next month.

This is a good week for UF football to have a bye, in part because that means they can't get stuck with the Raycom game. Unfortunately we found out yesterday the Kentucky game will be yet another 12:30 Raycom extravaganza. That's four of seven games so far for UF being played at 12:30, which is awful. That link also notes Dicky Lyons Jr. is out for the year, which is terrible for Kentucky since no other receiver for them has more than 11 catches this season. UK will be a mess offensively coming into the Swamp.

Other quick thoughts from the college football weeekend: That OC firing during a game week really worked out well for Tuberville, huh? Vandy was going to lose soon, the only question was when. It made perfect sense that it was Mississippi State, because no one knows more about winning ugly games than Sylvester Croom. Now Bobby Johnson is making a QB change - interesting. Adams did a nice job off the bench against Auburn, but Chris Nickson is a lot more of a weapon than him when he's playing well. Georgia's offensive line situation is starting to get really bad. Remember, the Dogs are on the road against what should be a desperate LSU next weekend so they'll likely be even more beat up coming into Jacksonville.

Little known fact: John Madden's last flight he ever took left from Tampa. He had worked a Bucs game, and then had such a panic attack on the plane he thought he was dying of heart failure. Once he landed, that was it. Back then Madden took trains to games, and now it's the Madden Cruiser bus. It won't be pulling up to Raymond James Stadium in Tampa this weekend, though. For the first time in his broadcasting career, Madden is taking Sunday off. I can see how going Northern California-Jacksonville-San Diego-Tampa by bus in a three week span might be a little much for a 72 year old. Do you think Madden misses spending Thanksgivings in Dallas or Detroit since NBC only does Sunday games? This year the Jonas Brothers are playing the Dallas game - I hear John has all their CDs.

I've mentioned before how aggravated I get when people in my profession act like morons. It happens far more often than I'd prefer. Friday, a couple of budding Edward R. Murrows in Minneapolis decided to break the news to Minnesota listeners that Magic Johnson has faked having AIDS. The gist of their rationale: he's not dead yet and looks healthy, so he must have faked it. Exactly why someone who was a popular endorser and NBA star with the chance to play at least another half decade would have decided telling the world he was HIV-positive would be a good career move was not explained. Arrrgh.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Manic Monday

That was quite a weekend, both for sports and for me personally. I made the Columbia to Gainesville to Tampa and back to Columbia in 54 hours road trip, so I was getting a little bit of a later start this morning. I got word about Tommy Bowden getting fired at Clemson ninety minutes ago so this is officially now a crazy Monday. There's a press conference two hours away, so I have to head out. I've got a lot of thoughts on the weekend, and I'll get into them with an expanded blog for tomorrow morning.

Multiple people greeted me and let me know they read this blog while I was in Gainesville Saturday. That was cool - it's always nice to know someone enjoys what you do. Thanks for dropping by while you're online.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Can't spell Clemson without lemon

A lot of questions start to get settled in college football this weekend, but one is already resolved. The biggest flop in all of college football 2008 is Clemson. Watching the Tigers play offense last night was the visual equivalent of when I was a kid and would play a 45 single at 33. Everything was incredibly slow developing, their offensive line was dreadful and injuries only made everything worse. Clemson has gone from number nine in the preseason polls to ninth in the ACC standings. They're 1-3 against D-1 opponents and might miss a bowl altogther. Thanks to a 3.5 million dollar buyout Tommy Bowden might not pay for this fiasco with his job - it's probably 50-50 right now. Current Clemson offensive coordinator Rob Spence, the sketchy looking guy to the right of this, will definitely be available for parties and bar mitzvahs very soon though.

LSU is a good football team, and UF is still banged up. This is a hard game to get a great fix on. The fact it's in the Swamp at night should be a significant help, and if you look at who LSU's played the fact both sides of the MSU-Auburn 3-2 game (which set offense back decades) got into the 20s against the Tigers tells you UF should be able to make plays against them. My instinct tells me UF will find a way to win this - we'll be discussing it extensively from 5 to 7 on the Star 99.5's Gator Nation Tailgate show live from Emerson Alumni Hall.

Quick takes on other big games: I think Oklahoma soundly beats an overrated Texas. Mack Brown does not beat Bob Stoops unless he has vastly superior personnel. This year, he doesn't even have an edge in that category. Missouri should be okay against Oklahoma State despite the "sandwich game" effect of an emotional Nebraska win last week and a huge Texas game awaiting them next week. Wisconsin is either going to play their best game of the year and make Penn State sweat, or they're going to throw the towel in on their season. We'll know pretty quickly - my vote is the towel.

I should feel foolish picking UF to win, considering they just lost to Illinois 34-7 in Gainesville. At least that's what happened in the delusional world of Cleveland Plain-Dealer Ohio State beat writer Doug Lesmerises. He's doing a weekly imaginary Big Ten-SEC challenge. The SEC has been able to "win" just two of six so far, which makes lots of sense considering how the Big Ten dominates when they play in real life. Why wouldn't UF lose at home by four touchdowns to a team that beat Louisiana-Lafayette 20-17? It's so obvious when you compare the two rosters! If you've ever wondered how Big Ten fans sustain their seemingly never ending supply of delusional superiority, this series of stories is Exhibit A.

With the SEC so clearly inferior to the Big Ten, I'm sure Joe Paterno will lead his Penn State team to victory in their pretend football game with Tennessee. How much longer he will do it for real is beginning to look like a settled question to some. Paterno's no longer coaching from the sideline, and his health apparently has declined a lot this year. Bobby Bowden's strategy of outlasting Paterno rather than outcoaching him may pay off yet.

One of the cities being hit hardest right now by the declining economy is Las Vegas. My email box has special rate offers from the hotels out there literally every day, because fuel costs had already taken a huge toll on the number of people traveling to the city. With all the uncertainty now, gambling doesn't seem too appealing either. And now, on top of everything else, the stage version of the Keanu Reeves-Patrick Swayze motion picture epic Point Break has shut down. How much more can one city take? See you back here Monday - have a great weekend.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Tuberville has his coordinators backs - with a knife in them

There had been rumors things were not going well on the Auburn coaching staff, but it was still a stunner when Tommy Tuberville fired Tony Franklin as offensive coordinator Wednesday afternoon. He was halfway through his first year trying to install a spread offense with personnel not ideally suited to run it. Auburn's production on that side of the ball has been putrid, but if you're Tuberville why do you make this move in the middle of a game week when you spent the last two days saying you were committed to the spread? This isn't quite as bizarre as Terry Bowden (choose one: bailing out on/being fired by) Auburn Friday before a game ten years ago, but it's right up there. Remember this: Franklin wrote a tell all book about Kentucky's cheating during the Hal Mumme years when he left that staff under bad terms. Tuberville better have made sure no shenanigans went on while Franklin was around or he could reap some serious longterm trouble from this.

Speaking of Kentucky corruption, exactly how is it the Wildcats are having Midnight Madness for basketball this weekend when practice is still a week away? Jeff Goodman of Fox Sports explains here, but this fits a pattern. UK coach Billy Gillispie seems to take a perverse pride in being tricky. Get too cute with ways to get around recruiting restrictions and it can backfire on you in a big way. If I was a UK fan this guy would be making me extremely nervous.

Plenty of people have made a bad decision or twenty when they've been drinking. Some wind up with devices on their cars which won't allow them to start without the driver passing a breathalyzer. I've received a few drunk dialing phone calls over the years, but never thought of it as some sort of crisis. Apparently, I was wrong. Despite a computer being more challenging to operate than a phone, drunk emailing has become a problem too. Fret no more about your possible poor choice in hitting that send button, though, as Gmail will now offer you the option of setting up "Mail Goggles" to prevent such episodes from happening. If you're getting hammered often enough that you feel you need this service, please seek counseling.

There haven't been many comic strips in my lifetime worth reading, but Bloom County was one of them. Berkeley Breathed stopped drawing that when I was a junior in high school, but has kept it around in bits and pieces with Sunday only strips in the nineteen years since. November 2, that all changes. Opus, which has been around since 2003, will publish its final strip and Breathed says that's it. Blondie and Hagar the Horrible will live forever, but I can't get Opus or Calvin and Hobbes once a week? It's just one more reason newspapers in dead tree form are going away sooner rather than later.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Why not a brachiosaurus, Arian?

Today's appearance on the Star 99.5 with Shane Matthews and John Cornell during my old time slot should be an interesting one. Yesterday Gainesville Sun beat writer Robbie Andreu teed off on Shane in a blog post. Robbie is generally a laid back guy who has good relations with everyone, even folks he's not all that crazy about. For him to light Shane up like that tells me the grumbling must have gotten really bad. I don't hear it typically, because I don't listen to the show other than the 11:40 Wednesday segment when I'm on it. That's not an insult to Shane and John, but it's strange hearing something you're accustomed to doing yourself being done by someone else. Last week Shane got a bit testy with me on the subject of whether anyone is having success running the spread option attack right now, and it sounds like this has been a recurring problem. I don't think UF's problems are that the scheme has been figured out, although I do disagree with some of the specific personnel usage this year. As has been noted in many places, Tim Tebow has not played anywhere close to as well as he is capable either. The system has nothing to do with repeated overthrows to open receivers downfield the past couple of weeks from a guy who was great at it last year. The system is not making low and inaccurate passes to guys on shorter routes. We all know Tebow is better than this, but he has to work through whatever hitches he's developed in his game. I suspect it will happen soon. When it does, UF's system will look good again - Shane still won't like it, though.

Every year the Sporting News rates America's "Best Sports Cities". Every year the list is stupid. This year Gainesville is 63, right behind Clemson. I was in Clemson Monday. There's absolutely nothing about that place which makes it better as a sports city than Gainesville. There are no championships there to fall back on as a defense for the rating either. (Columbia's 89, by the way.) Also, in what parallel universe are Orlando and Jacksonville better sports cities than St. Louis?

Athletes are known for taking a "love em and leave em" attitude toward women. Maybe that's what South Carolina linebacker Eric Norwood did to prompt one to pour chocolate syrup and flour all over his vehicle in a parking garage. Norwood says he can't identify the female culprit on video. Sure he can't - some random person decided to go Betty Crocker on his Impala in a public parking garage for no reason. You betcha.

Do you speak pterodactyl? If so, Tennessee could use you right now, since running back Arian Foster has apparently lost his mind. I'd like to ask Foster what pterodactyl for rout is, because that's what's coming against Georgia Saturday.

About the only thing that could make this reported plan for a Bull Durham sequel worse is if it was going to be made in pterodactyl with subtitles. Annie and Nuke as owners of a Major League team? We've already seen that brilliant idea with Roger Dorn in the Major League sequel. If Kevin Costner won't do it, the part of Crash Davis will be played by Jackie Mason. What could go wrong?

Monday, October 6, 2008

Winning is supposed to be fun, right?

Do you still have fun watching your team play? I ask because I'm starting to wonder if anyone does anymore. I have now been on air in Columbia for four Gamecock football wins. The fans sort of enjoyed this weekend's victory on the road against Ole Miss, but after the other three it's been nothing been dissatisfaction. Even this weekend, there was still some grumbling about which QB was playing after snapping a six game SEC losing streak. Meanwhile, after Florida won an SEC road game by 31, my email box included among other complaints the completely insane suggestion Tim Tebow begin splitting time evenly with John Brantley at quarterback. A look at the assorted Gator message boards shows almost no one happy about anything except for UF covering the spread and the performance of the young running backs. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying fans should never have anything but positive things to say after a win. It just seems like things have gotten out of balance for a lot of people to the point where the wins bring no joy and the losses only heighten the perpetual misery. That's no good.

One place I imagine people are enjoying things quite a bit is Vanderbilt. This is a great story, and it's happening in a year no one saw it coming at all after several years when people thought it could happen. With the loss of guys like Chris Williams and Earl Bennett to the draft, Vandy was supposed to take a step back this year even though everyone knows Bobby Johnson is a very good coach. The Commodores are using a secondary which may be the best in the SEC to create just enough chances to eke out these wins. Unless Vandy loses seven straight, which they won't do, they're going bowling for the first time since 1982 - crazy, but cool. Meanwhile, over in Knoxville, things are not quite so pleasant.

The folks in Madison are nowhere as happy as they are in Nashville. Not only did Wisconsin lose again in a big game, as they invariably do, but the band was suspended for the Ohio State game. No Fifth Quarter with the band playing polkas? That's a sacrilege up there.

I mentioned here on September 24 that UF offensive line coach Steve Addazio would love to get the Syracuse head coaching job. Now he's got former Miami Dolphin and Syracuse star Rob Konrad publically calling for him to be hired. I still think its a long shot, but you never know what could happen.

Can someone explain exactly how Hank Goldberg keeps his gig as "Hammerin' Hank for ESPN? I don't always see his weekly segment where he picks games against the spread, but whenever I do there's always something that stands out to me. He never has a winning record - going into this week it was 10-14-2. It's not like Hank is some beloved national figure. He's a former Miami sports radio host who also regularly gives out bad picks for the Triple Crown on ESPN as well. When the whole reason for a guy being on a program is his supposed gambling brilliance, shouldn't he at least be able to beat a flipped coin?

Friday, October 3, 2008

Rob Schneider - gee, thanks MLB

Yet again the Thursday night game stirred things up heading into the weekend, as USF fell against the Wannstache 26-21. USF had just three road games in the mediocre Big East left this year, so there had been an opportunity for them to wander into the national title debate. For UF that's one less obstacle to getting back into the BCS mix if they can take care of business. They certainly should against a bad Arkansas team. All you need to know about the Razorbacks is that their passing offense has given up three TDs the last two games and only scored two.

This is an odd weekend overall, with FSU at Miami a total afterthought and just three games between ranked teams. I have no idea what to expect from the Noles and Canes - each is 0-1 in conference and neither has proven anything offensively other than that they can put up points on a second tier Big twelve team. I'll go with the Canes since they have the home field "advantage" and have at least played more games against someone with a pulse. Ohio State-Wisconsin should be interesting. I get the feeling Terrelle Pryor has a big night and the Buckeye BCS hype machine immediately goes back into overdrive.

In the NFL, there's no way Tampa Bay going to Denver with them coming off a horrible loss to the Chiefs works out well. San Diego should be able to hande the Dolphins depite the cross country trip. Jacksonville hosting Pittsburgh in a Sunday night game should be a battle, but I think the Steelers get out with the upset.

So far, so good for the Rays. The White Sox were a great matchup for them, and they can't let them win one in St. Pete. By the time the series gets to Chicago, the Cubs may already be done which is too bad. Any NL storyline will be okay, but Cubs and Brewers in the NLCS would have been my preference. They're both down 0-2 - never mind. Going back to the Rays for one second, exactly who at MLB thought a video with professional tool Rob Schneider was a good way to promote the Rays making the playoffs?

UConn expelled touted basketball player Nate Miles yesterday. He was arrested for violating a restraining order. Exactly why a kid who went to five high schools had any business being there in the first place remains one of the mysteries that come with covering college athletics.

This Saturday will be a little odd for me, as it's the first time this year I haven't been at a game somewhere. I'll be watching UF on one of the three TVs at my studio while waiting for SC/Ole Miss to start at two. I'll write a UF postgame article for while getting ready to host a Gamecock postgame show. Should be an interesting afternoon. Have a good weekend - see you back here Monday.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Travis Henry to sign with Bengals?

This is truly a bizarre day in my hometown. If I was waking up this morning in Tampa, I could drive across the Gandy Bridge to St. Pete and check out the first playoff game in Tampa Bay Rays history. Given their competition I honestly never thought the Rays could make the playoffs in the AL East, much less win the thing. Now they are very well positioned for a run to the ALCS - unreal. Of course, once I got done watching the Rays I could dash back across the Howard Frankland Bridge to make sure I got to see the tenth ranked USF Bulls host the Wannstache and company. When I graduated high school the Dome was where we went for Tampa Bay Storm arena football games. USF didn't even have football, much less a top ten team. I'm only 35, but I feel ancient today.

Ohio State running back Beanie Wells feels he's still got a shot at the Heisman. To be technical about it, UF punter Chas Henry also has a shot at the award until the voting begins. Wells has about as good a chance as Henry of winning the Heisman after the vote's held too.

Yesterday's cocaine trafficking arrest of former NFL running back Travis Henry drives home again the fact a lot of players can not handle themselves outside the football world. Who can forget Nate Newton's disastrous post Dallas exploits? Henry has nine children, all reportedly by different women. There's no punchline there, it's just pathetic and sad.

If you believe the New York Daily News, John McCain used a supposed memory and energy enhancing substance prior to Friday night's debate. Of all the places his campaign could have gotten such a supplement, the apparent answer for where they did is from Bill Romanowski's nutrition company. The idea that a well known NFL drug cheat who was linked to BALCO like "Romo" can legally have a company market "nutrition products" bearing his name is astonishing.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

The victim didn't get a look at their faces for some reason

Was September "Obvious Month"? First we had that stunner about Clay Aiken being gay, and as a closer we find out Tony Mandarich was on steroids in college. In Rick Telander's outstanding book
The Hundred Yard Lie, he chronicles how his disgust with what the game of college football had become in the late Eighties led him to stop covering it for Sports Illustrated. The story that finally pushed him over the edge was the cover piece about Mandarich you see next to this. I remember when Mandarich was talking about fighting Mike Tyson while he was holding out from the Packers. I wanted it to happen just to see this egomaniac clown get destroyed. It didn't happen, but as soon as he reported to camp considerably less bulky than he was on draft day it was clear Green Bay hadn't gotten what they paid for. Eventually Mandarich turned out to be an adequate NFL guard for the Colts, but he was always the biggest NFL Draft fraud ever. Now he's just acknowledged it.

On the subject of frauds, how much longer will the Oakland Raiders be able to call themselves an NFL team? Yesterday's fiasco, with Al Davis again firing a coach while trying to weasel out of paying him, only reinforced that the team will never be relevant again as long as Davis is in control. Tom Cable, a guy who went 11-35 at Idaho, is now an NFL "head coach". Good luck with that.

Trouble could be brewing at Southern Cal. It's been amazing to see the way their staff has been able to stack elite talent on top of each other three and four deep at positions. Eventually, that has to become an issue. Some kids transferred last year, including Emmanuel Moody, and now one who didn't is complaining to the press. Mitch Mustain's mom hasn't weighed in yet, but history says that might not be far behind. Eventually this has to have some effect on their program.

Sometimes I can tell as soon as I see a headline that the news story will be from my home state. A man says he was robbed of a hundred dollars by a gang of attractive women wearing overalls and no shirts? Well of course he was, and that has to be a Florida story. I knew it.