Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Can't wait for the new TJ Hooker movie

Yahoo's Jason Cole is indicating that Roger Goodell is going to drop the hammer on both Plaxico Burress and Michael Vick's chances of playing this fall. Of the two, I'd have less problem with Vick returning this year if someone wants him. Without getting into the specifics of Vick's case, he's paid a high price for his disgraceful dog exploits. Burress hasn't paid anything meaningful and his agent and legal team cynically tried to push his court date back far enough that he could squeeze in one more season. Unless the league's going to ban Vick for life, it's hard to see what more he's going to learn from missing a third consecutive year of playing time.

If there's one person you'd assume could be counted on to put a positive spin on the Big Ten's football performance, it would be a member of their "Gameday" style studio show crew. Instead, former LSU, Vandy and Indiana coach Gerry DiNardo says he doesn't think the league "is as strong as it was the last two years". The Big Ten only won one bowl game last year, so if they're weaker they really are in trouble. Other than Ohio State and to some extent Penn State, there are no programs which can be counted on for quality performance in the conference. Wisconsin has nosedived under Bret Bielema, Rich Rodriguez continues to have lots of work to do in Ann Arbor, Purdue's a massive rebuilding project, and who knows what Zook will do post Locksley? This isn't a one or two year slump they'll easily bounce back from, either.

ESPN is cutting Paul Maguire's college football role way back this year. Maguire shouldn't have been assigned to college coverage in the first place, but ESPN had him on Sunday Night NFL and then didn't want to move him to Monday Night Football. College games were the consolation prize for Maguire, but not for fans. Stunts like having Maguire broadcast from out on a platform rather than in the booth added nothing other than "look at me" schtick. There are too many talented guys who enjoy college football and want to be broadcasting it to have someone on there killing time because he can't do pro football instead.

Someone's going to have to explain to me who's been sitting around waiting for a CHiPs movie to come out. The concept's a bad enough idea, and having Wilmer Valderrama play Ponch is an even worse one. The only distinctive things about that show were the theme song and the fact that every wreck seemingly involved 23 cars, two semis, a school bus full of children and the missile armed RV from Stripes. If the Miami Vice movie was a huge flop despite having great material to draw from, what would make anyone in Hollywood think CHiPs is a gold mine waiting to happen?

Monday, June 29, 2009

First the king of pop, now the king of mop

I wouldn't be particularly excited about Rich Brooks running my school's football program, but I like the guy. He's getting out of coaching in the next couple of years and knows he was just about cooked at Kentucky in 2006 before finally making a bowl game. It's the combination of knowing he'll never need a favor from anyone else in the league and a certain cynicism hardened by UK fans wanting him run out of town in 2004 and 05 that makes Brooks entertaining to talk with. It also gives him the ability to call BS on "accidental" secondary violations in football recruiting this year. Good for Brooks, because he's right that this stuff has been no accident in several cases and needs to be brought in line.

Did you know the Big 12 appears ready to surpass the SEC in football? I didn't either, but according to the Dallas Morning News they apparently are. That appears to be based on the fact Todd McShay has a ton of Big 12 guys projected high in his mock draft for ESPN.com and that they are expected to have three top ten teams in the preseason poll. The SEC will also have three top tens (including number one) and beat the Big 12 in their two head to head bowl matchups, but they are helpless against the McShay factor. All hail the new king of college football, the mighty Big 12! Well except for Baylor, Colorado, Iowa State, Kansas State and Texas A&M. And any conference team matching up against someone who plays defense. Other than that, the Big 12 rules!

We're in the midst of quite a string of prominent figures dying right now. I'm not sure I remember a time where this many well known folks were lost so close together, several unexpectedly. Billy Mays certainly wasn't in the same category as Carradine, McMahon, Fawcett and Jackson, but he had fashioned a remarkable career for himself. His death may have come as a result of a hard landing at Tampa's airport Saturday causing him to strike his head. It's just another reminder to take absolutely nothing for granted. Also not to fly US Airways if there's any way to avoid it, but you probably already knew that.

Friday, June 26, 2009

This has been quite a week

The Michael Jackson news came down in the middle of yesterday's show. Today I'm sure you'll be hearing his music all over the place. Heck, we even played Rock With You to close my program yesterday. Think about it, though. When was the last time before his death that you heard Michael Jackson's hits on the radio? I've been amazed for years how rarely any of the biggest selling album of all time gets played. I still hear Eighties cheese like "Come On Eileen" a few times a year, yet I couldn't begin to tell you the last time I heard anything besides Billie Jean from Thriller or any of the numerous hits from the two post Thriller albums. Michael Jackson's death yesterday prompted people to finally reexamine the brilliance hidden beneath fifteen years of bizarre episodes and creepy behavior. Could he have pulled off his "fat Elvis" late career resurgence? Probably not, and it's a shame he may have wound up killing himself trying to. He gave a lot of people some amazing moments, and it's that more than his actual death that has them feeling emotional today. Joe Posnanski, the outstanding columnist for the Kansas City Star, sums the situation up far better than I could possibly hope to.

Nick Calathes wound up in Dallas as I predicted yesterday he would, but took a different path than expected to get there. After the Lakers sold their pick and the other good teams at the end of the first round took foreign players (so they wouldn't have to sign them), he fell to the 45th spot and then Dallas traded some cash and a draft pick to get him. Mark Cuban mentioned on his Twitter feed that Dallas felt Calathes was a first rounder - wish they would have taken him there so my prediction would have been fully accurate. We'll see how Calathes does overseas. I'm still far from sold on him having enough athletic ability to succeed as a pro.

The Orlando Magic traded for Vince Carter, a 32 year old who has shown in the past he's so selfish he will quit on his team and try to sabotage them intentionally. Bringing him in virtually ensures they will lose Hedo Turkoglu. Carter will face the pressure of playing at home - some guys can handle it, others can't. The Magic thinks this is a great move, but I'm not sold this makes them better in 2010.

Nick Saban currently has six years remaining on his contract at four million dollars per year. Alabama somehow looked at that and concluded it wasn't enough, so they've opened up extension negotiations. Saban claims it's his last job, and maybe he's telling the truth. I think there's a better chance of Tim Tebow transferring to Tuscaloosa for his final season than Saban lasting a decade there though, so this seems unnecesssary. Historically Saban's teams struggle when they have expectations to deal with. This year's squad will be interesting to watch.

Saban's old stomping ground continues to add celebrity owners. First it was Gloria Estefan, now it may be Bon Jovi as well to get a small piece of the Dolphins. I'm just curious who the supposed "prominent rapper" they're targeting turns out to be. Dolphins owner Lil' Wayne sounds really catchy, plus he can tattoo the logo on himself like he did with the ESPN logo. Thanks for reading - have a great weekend and I'll see you back here Monday.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

"Here's a clip from our final nominee, Police Academy 8"

It was an interesting day to be in Columbia yesterday. I don't delve into politics here, but I'm fascinated that something like this can happen to any prominent figure. When you choose to be a public crusader against something, you can not then turn around and do that same thing. This is not a hard concept. Meanwhile, "hiking the Appalachian Trail" will be a punchline for quite a while when talking about people who are trying to be deceptive.

With the NBA Draft coming up tonight, a few things stand out. The Shaq deal makes Cleveland better since they get him in return for garbage. It's mystifying why they didn't make this same deal when they should have - at the trade deadline. Shaq will help take some of the load off LeBron on offense, but they need to add more than just him if they're going to win a championship. I believe Nick Calathes will be the first round pick of the Dallas Mavericks if VCU point guard Eric Maynor has been drafted before number 24. If not, I'll say he goes to the Lakers at 29. Without having signed to play in Greece, he's not a first rounder. That and the fact the shoe companies don't have anyone they want to market much this year tells you it's a pretty weak crop of talent.

The sheer amount of gall on display by Isiah Thomas and FIU basketball in this Seth Davis piece is astounding. They've blown off kids had signed with the previous coaching staff, yet they refuse to let the Sun Belt Freshman of the Year transfer. That's bad enough, but to add to the level of arrogance AD Pete Garcia tries to make it sound like they're doing the young man a favor by making him stay...

"I feel FIU is the best place for Freddy, and I'm not even talking about basketball."

No, of course not. Wouldn't want to come off as a win at any cost program, after all. Guess FIU suddenly just wasn't a fit for the signees for some reason. You bet.

The announcement from the folks who run the Oscars that they will now have ten nominees for best picture yearly made me shake my head. Where are they going to find ten genuinely good movies when I've seen just three all year and one of those was already a nominee last year? Do comedies finally start getting a look? I'm having trouble imagining Star Trek being up for best picture, but this year who knows?

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

How are Jared's 15 minutes not up yet?

The latest silly manifestation of the "24 Gator arrests OMG!" hysteria comes in the form of an internet sportsbook's proposition bet, as reported on the Ft. Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel's website. Players can wager on whether the next arrest for a Gator player will be a misdemeanor, or a felony. What do they plan on doing if a player's charged with both? An FSU linebacker was yesterday. Also, at least in theory, isn't the sportsbook opening itself up to some insider trading here? If you're a UF walkon, have your friend bet big on misdemeanor. Then you find a UPD officer and if you're underage, announce that fact and begin drinking a beer in front of him. If not, drink eight and throw up on his shoes. As long as your winnings cover your bail and Urban Meyer doesn't kill you with his bare hands, you're good.

ESPN's website came out with a ridiculously flawed list of what they purport to be the NFL's ten most indispensable players. Number one on the list was Peyton Manning, which I have no problem with. He's the only quarterback listed, which is absurd. Look at the Carolina Panthers performance last year with a recovered Jake Delhomme under center and compare it to the year before when they were trying to get by with guys like Matt Moore and Vinny Testaverde. Is Delhomme even one of the ten best QBs in the league? Probably not - but he's a hell of a lot more critical to the Panthers chances than alleged fourth most indispensable guy Roddy White is to Atlanta's. In what universe is Michael Roos more important to the Tennessee Titans than Drew Brees is to New Orleans? Not this one.

The NBA Draft is tomorrow. There's plenty of people who've said this is a weak year for prospects. Considering the number one pick just lost a game of HORSE to Jared Fogle of Subway, it seems they've got a pretty valid point. I'm pretty sure Jared wasn't hitting shots like this, either. As for Mike Miller, he goes to his fourth team by being dealt from Minnesota to Washington. At some point you'd think he'd wind up with a good franchise just by accident, but it hasn't happened yet.

I didn't find out until yesterday that Neil Rogers has taken a buyout and ended his run on Miami radio. It's a shame, because there will never be another personality who will own any market in the state of Florida the way Rogers did that one. Almost nothing I do in radio resembles what Rogers did on a daily basis, but he mentored Bob Lassiter. It was Lassiter's shows on WPLP 570 in Tampa that turned me on to radio in the first place. Eventually Rogers show was simulcast into Tampa, but it didn't work there because it was a pure Miami show. There aren't many pure personalities on talk radio any longer. There's angry political talk out the wazoo, there's naughty "I read Maxim today" talk and there's sports talk (thank goodness), but there aren't many shows left where you can tune in and just listen to the host tell a story because he's an interesting guy. With Rogers gone, there's one fewer today and that's a shame.

Ed McMahon was another guy who made a career out of being himself. I went back and watched some clips of him and Johnny Carson yesterday after the word of McMahon's death filtered out. It's just ridiculous how good Carson was at what he did. Here's a clip from their final show and another with Don Rickles dropping in.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

"Tiger may build a time machine so he can go back and win the Open - KEEP WATCHING NBC just in case he does"

It's a shame the US Open course we saw yesterday isn't the one we saw for the full weekend. All the rain made the weekend action unwatchable. Every shot that hit the green stopped almost immediately. Lucas Glover did what was necessary to win, but I wonder if he could have with a full four rounds of normal conditions. NBC's announcers were ridiculous with their cheerleading for Tiger yesterday. At no point was Woods ever making a meaningful run, yet they kept trying to hype his possible charge. If you're watching, you can tell when's a guy's chances are cooked. There's no need to keep trying to convince you otherwise - just show Woods when he hits to placate his fans.

Scott Wolf of the Los Angeles Daily News reports Monte Kiffin has been calling USC for help on dealing with college offenses. If you're a Vol fan, the good news is that he's getting help. The bad news is that he has to. I've been asking from the time Monte Kiffin took the job as his son's DC what makes people think he's going to be a huge success. Monte was a great NFL DC, but coaching life with the twenty hour rule is very different than it is in the pros. You can't teach near as much of your scheme because there's not enough time to do so. There will be no Derrick Brooks or Ronde Barber who've been in the system a decade to explain it to newcomers. Many college offenses are radically different from NFL schemes. I'm sure Monte will eventually adjust, but it's going to be a very bumpy ride for him this year.

Bruce Pearl will be getting a lot of exposure on the NBA's website and TV network this week. He's serving as an analyst - here's his top seven players in this year's draft. The SEC will likely have just one player drafted in round one - Nick Calathes, who will go there specifically because he won't have to be offered a contract since he's signed to play in Greece. Pearl hasn't spent time in the NBA and doesn't employ their style of play in his program. So Thursday night, NBA TV will be featuring a coach who's faced very few of the players he's commenting on talking about how they fit in a brand of game he doesn't coach. Pearl's got a great personality for broadcasting, but this is a curious choice.

Yesterday on my show in Columbia, we had a spirited debate about the merits of recruiting ratings on websites like scout.com (of which fightingators.com, the site I write for a dozen times per month on non-recruiting subjects, is an affiliate). A caller was upset with me for saying not to take the recruiting rankings too seriously. The analysis is a tool for fans to learn more about what their teams are doing, but there is simply no way for the evaluators to see every high school kid and know what kind of system he's in and competition he's facing. If a coaching staff evaluates a player and likes him enough to offer early, fans have to trust they know what they're doing even if the kid isn't a "big name" recruit. Ironically, it appears Miami's downfall in recruiting was caused by doing exactly what the upset fan was - believing too much in online evaluations and not enough in their coaches.

If you're a Miami Dolphins fan, this is proving to be a banner year for you. First you get the thrill of having your team's venue name changed again - to Landshark Stadium. Now, you have Gloria Estefan and her husband as part owners. Nothing like a little Rhythm Is Gonna Get You to fire up an NFL crowd. Maybe Luther Campbell or Vanilla Ice can go halfsies on the next deal.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Why not bring back Leeman Bennett too?

Somehow I had been blissfully ignorant of Tampa Bay's plans to unearth the dreaded pastel pirate Bucco Bruce this fall. The Bucs gave up the Creamsicle look after the 96 season, and immediately began the most credible run the franchise has had in its history. Now, as they seem to be in the middle of a radical rebuilding project, they think the time's right to show off the old look. I assume this is about merchandise sales, because that's a curious choice at best. Since the plan is to wear them against the Packers, maybe they can get Steve Young to flip the coin. I remember him trying to pick the snow out of his face after geting drilled into the frozen Lambeau turf one too many times in the infamous 1985 Snow Bowl.

USC hired Kevin O'Neill as their basketball coach this weekend. I've been interested in O'Neill's career since reading about him in Armen Keteyian's terrific book Raw Recruits. When he got the Tennessee job, I thought they had set themselves up for a great future. He got top talent, but couldn't get along with the administration long enough to coach it. Unfortunately for O'Neill, that's never changed. He seems to grate on people's nerves quicker than any person in the coaching profession. O'Neill actually looks like Paul Hackett, who inexplicably had the USC football job for three years before they brought in Pete Carroll. That's about how long O'Neill's likely to last too.

Like most sports fans, I have a collection of memorabilia I've acquired over the years. I've bought things like signs and banners from stadiums, and I've got tons of different team t-shirts and hats accumulated during my travels. Sometimes there's stuff I might want but don't feel I can justify purchasing at the price asked. I now have a new standard bearer for largest gap between what's being asked and what I would pay. The NFL Shop online thinks 449.99 sounds good for an autographed Ryan Leaf Chargers jersey. Shipping's not included, of course. Deals like that don't come along everyday. No, the money won't go toward Leaf's bail on the drug and burglary charges.

From the first time I heard about plans to make a movie out of Michael Lewis's Moneyball, I was puzzled. It's an excellent book, well worth reading as almost all of Lewis's stuff is, but it doesn't really have the kind of plot arc that lends itself to a movie script. Brad Pitt was signed up to play Billy Beane and it was about to start filming this month. Normally if Pitt wanted to make a Chinese food menu into a drama with him in the starring role and Stephen Soderbergh directing, someone in Hollywood would give the green light to Egg Foo Yong: The Movie. These are not normal times. Instead of making new movies the industry is busy screwing up stuff they got right the first time, like The Taking of Pelham One Two Three. For their next trick, they'll try to ruin Meatballs. Good luck to whoever tries to fill Bill Murray's shoes in that one - they'll probably go with someone like Johnny Knoxville or Dane Cook.

Friday, June 19, 2009

How did people in the 1840s live with no power?

There were a few things I had on my mind to blog about today. The NCAA's incredulous "you can't be seriously appealing this, can you?" response to FSU, for one. Another was Maurice Clarett's amazing request for the governor of Ohio to give him a pardon less than three years after he not only committed armed robbery, but had an additional incident seven months later where he "had an AK-47 weapon with 35 live rounds in the magazine and three pistols in his vehicle. He was wearing a bulletproof vest. Investigators also found an open bottle of Grey Goose vodka and a hatchet." There was even the UFL draft, chronicled on a webpage featuring a bizarre "tough guy" shot of Jim Fassel. I'd have a lot more, except when I got home from work yesterday my electricity was out thanks to a nasty storm that whipped through around 7 PM. Now I have power again, but with a 4 PM show and no prep work last night I don't have time for a full blog. See you back here Monday for a more typical post - have a great weekend.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Ghosts resurface in Gainesville and Tampa

The "24 arrests at UF" mantra continues on as one of the official summer talking points of college football. In the latest version, Mike Bianchi gets Ron Zook to react to the school pointing out a number of the arrested guys weren't recruited by the present regime. Bianchi acts like it's out of bounds for UF to mention Zook in relation to anything that happened after he left. Sorry, no. Zook's approach to discipline was simple - he didn't believe in doing anything which would inconvenience his chances of winning. His guys pretty much could do whatever the hell they wanted and know there'd be no loss of playing time. Remember what Jarvis Herring told the New York Times before Meyer's first season about how the players summer workouts consisted of drinking all afternoon? Meyer had to change that culture, and it was a shocker to him just how ingrained it was. Is it fair to hold the former coach accountable for arrests three years later? Of course not. But the stuff that happened in year one and even into year two absolutely has some Zook DNA as well.

I was glad to see Keenan McCardell was in Tampa this week. It was a shame that his career with the Bucs ended on such a bad note. McCardell is a prideful guy, and he was another in the long list of players who felt Jon Gruden lied to his face. I disagreed with his holdout, but when a guy feels he's been treated dishonestly sometimes principle tops good judgement. Having covered Keenan in both Jacksonville and Tampa, I do think he's the kind of guy who could make a good coach. Hopefully Raheem Morris can find a way to get him involved.

Two stories that aren't directly connected got my attention yesterday. Michelle Wie failed to qualify for the Women's US Open. She's 19 - it's the first time she's failed to make the tourney since she was 13. Meanwhile the Danica Patrick to NASCAR stuff continues to bubble up. The most common criticism of Wie, who did show great talent at an early age, was that she needed to prove she was a winner at her level before she worried about the next one. Instead, her handlers trotted her out to lose to men over and over while a whole crop of other young women blew right past her on the LPGA tour. Patrick has one win ever, and has been far from dominant in open wheel racing. Look at the struggles of vastly more established talents like Dario Franchitti when they tried NASCAR, and then tell me she's ready. It's a simple question for Patrick - does she want to make her money as a popular novelty act for a couple of years, or does she really want to be a successful driver? If it's the second option, she should stick with Indy Car.

I love the idea Mark Schlabach discusses in this ESPN.com piece - what would it be like if college football had its equivalent to the ACC-Big Ten challenge in basketball. As the stories of million dollar demands for teams to come play one game without a return trip pile up, I wonder if one day conferences will look at doing something like this as a way to save money. I am puzzled by the record Schlabach coes up with in the SEC-Big 12 Challenge he creates - he predicts a 6-6 split. Considering the SEC's bowl performance against out of conference teams compared to the Big 12's, I'm not sold on that. I'd put it at SEC 6, Big 12 2, and four tossups.

Artie Lange will never be allowed on HBO Sports again after he took over Joe Buck Live Monday night. I'm sure he's broken hearted. HBO had Lange on their network last year for a program they refused to run before 10 PM because of the nature of the content, yet they're "shocked" he would behave like this. Sure they are. It's all an effort to get publicity for the show while taking away from the fact Buck was horrible as a host.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

BCS cost cutting sacrifice #32: only ordering single malt Scotch

The sad thing about yesterday's breaking story that Sammy Sosa tested positive for PEDs in 2003 is that absolutely no one is surprised at all. With A-Rod and Manny, there was still a level of shock because for all their weirdness that was one thing they hadn't really been tied in with prior to the revelation. Everyone had suspected Sosa from the beginning, and he made the foolish choice to grandstand about being clean. While I thought Rick Reilly's "let's go drug test you right now" offer to Sosa was much more about getting attention for Reilly than any desire to actually get to the truth about steroid use, Sosa had bragged of his willingness to be tested. When called on it, he refused to cooperate. Last week, Sosa "retired" from baseball and announced he would calmly wait for his deserved entry to Cooperstown. Looks like that last taunt was a little too much for someone who had access to the records of the 2003 tests. Now Sosa not only won't go to the Hall of Fame but he has a great shot at a lying to Congress charge. I continue to believe in Ken Griffey Jr. and Chipper Jones - everyone else from the era is going to forever be assumed dirty, which is a shame.

The BCS meetings are underway right now in Colorado. They're being held at a Knights Inn on the rough side of Denver. Wait, my mistake, it turns out they're at the Broadmoor. It's a five star resort in Colorado Springs, with the cheapest available room tonight going for 330 bucks. Cost cutting is really important in college sports right now, after all. Anyway, the Mountain West has made their proposal to get rid of the BCS ratings in favor of a selection committee with one represenative from every conference and Notre Dame. In other words, the SEC and the Sun Belt would have equal power in the selection process for the national title. That makes no sense and has zero chance of succeeding, not that a reasonable playoff plan would have one either. Want an illustration of why nothing can get accomplished? The Pac-10's current commissioner claims a playoff can't work unless there are at least sixteen teams and even then it wouldn't be enough to satisfy people. Way to counter an argument no one's making, Tom Hansen!

Donte Stallworth's sentence of thirty days for DUI manslaughter is a disgrace. There is no other way to put it. The facts are clear: Stallworth was at a .12 BAC level at 7:15 in the morning, was going at least ten miles over the speed limit, and killed a man as a result. While he's been apologetic about what happened and will pay the victim's family a settlement, thirty days followed by two years house arrest is just not enough time for taking a life through stupidity. Roger Goodell will take action next, and I'd be stunned if the NFL Commissioner didn't suspend Stallworth for at least this season. I believe the league punishment should be through the end of his home confinement, which is two full years. Meanwhile, the pressure's just been turned up on Plexico Burress's attorney. If Stallworth can kill a guy and do just thirty days, you know Plex feels he shouldn't have to serve any time for shooting himself.

The US Open starts tomorrow at Bethpage Black. I was there seven years ago when Tiger won it - it's an impressive course. That win had considerably less drama than the battle between Woods and Rocco Mediate last year, which may be why Upper Deck thinks they can sell the shirts Woods wore for the first three rounds of the 08 edition for big bucks. I can't imagine what would possibly prompt someone to spend fifty thousand dollars for an autographed golf shirt that isn't even the one worn to win the tournament, but if you've got the cash lying around by all means help yourself.

If you don't have the money to spring for the Woods shirt just yet, don't sweat it. I've got your surefire strategy for bringing in the big bucks soon - professional beer pong. The World Beer Pong Tour just had a 25 thousand dollar top prize for its Atlantic City tournament. I had no idea I was living with so many future pro athletes during my fraternity days in Gainesville.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Behold, the world's worst Father's Day gift

The person who should be most worried about the news T.K. Wetherell is going to step aside as FSU's president is Jimbo Fisher. Throughout the embarassing spectacle that has been Wetherell's presidency, the one thing everyone in Tallahassee knew was that he would be the final word on football related issues. He's protected Bobby Bowden every step of the way, including the current needless and wasteful appeal of the exceptionally minor penalty FSU got for their academic fraud scandal. If Wetherell hadn't approved of the Fisher succession plan, it would have never happened. He has personal capital invested in that choice. A new president will not, meaning that should FSU's offense still be uninspiring in a couple of years there's definitely an incentive for the new guy to look around for his own man to fill Bowden's shoes. As for T.K., all of us in the media regret the loss of potential future gaffes from a guy who is undoubtedly the loosest cannon of anyone on the academic side of college sports.

Jodie Meeks deciding to remain in the draft took a little wind out of the sails of the Kentucky hype that's been building since John Calipari took the job. It's an interesting choice, since Meeks isn't particularly considered a strong prospect. I suspect he thinks that if he can't get the NBA's attention as a 24 point a game scorer, he sure won't as a fifteen point a game guy next year when he'd have to share the rock with someone besides Patrick Patterson. Of the twelve players who pulled their names out of the draft, seven were from the SEC. The conference will make a major move back up the food chain this coming season.

It turns out Brett Favre is considering a return to the NFL with Minnesota. Shocking, I know. The lamest part of his attempts to justify his plan to play for one of the Packers three division rivals is dragging Vince Lombardi into his argument. Lombardi retired to become GM of the Packers. He did that for a year but missed coaching, so he took the Redskins job in 1969 and died a year later. That's totally different from Favre staging a decade long "will I retire this year?" attention grab, finally going through with it and then complaining because the team didn't immediately drop everything and welcome him back after he changed his mind. The Redskins are nowhere near the kind of rival to the Packers that the Vikings are, either. Favre admitted previously his Jets comeback was motivated by a desire to stick it to Tim Thompson and the Packers, and this one obviously is too no matter what he claims about the ease of learning Minnesota's offense. I think it's hilarious that even with Favre in studio, King of Comedy Joe Buck's show got derailed by Artie Lange of Howard Stern's show. Naturally, Joe was offended by Lange. Buck reminds me of the Bruno Kirby character in Good Morning Vietnam.

Normally I avoid politics on the blog, but a pair of stories are worth a mention today. George Perles, the former Michigan State head coach, is running for governor of Michigan. He was in charge when Tony Mandarich and the rest of his teammates were engaging in better living through chemistry. I suppose Perles's slogan could be "Let's put Michigan's economy on steroids". As ridiculous as the idea of Governor Perles sounds, it pales in comparison to the idea of Bill Snyder as governor of Kansas. According to Snyder, that nearly happened. He was apparently up for the Lt. Governor spot with Kathleen Sibelius, and with her appointed to Obama's cabinet he'd now be governor. I had Snyder on my radio show in Jacksonville years ago. He is the most boring human being I have ever heard in my life on any subject. We should have aired a "do not operate heavy machinery while listening to this interview" warning. The idea of Snyder as a politician blows my mind - maybe the comeback this year really is a good thing.

There are some things which words can't do justice to. This is one of them. No matter how hard up you may be for a good Father's Day gift, do not dial that number.

Monday, June 15, 2009

What was uglier last night - the Magic's play, or Magic's suit?

The gut feeling after Orlando's stupendous chokejob Thursday night was that it would be too hard for them to recover for Game 5. That's exactly what happened, although the Lakers are the better team anyway. This is being portrayed as Kobe's triumph, and to some extent that's true although that doesn't mean his selfishness wrecking his first three title run Laker team should be ignored or minimized. When Mark Jackson said Kobe was as good as we've seen at the two guard spot I just shook my head. He's not even close to Michael Jordan's stature yet, and I don't see him getting there. As for the Magic, we'll see what they do about Hedo Turkoglu. It certainly won't be a real good way to say thanks for the new arena if they don't keep him. To honor the Laker victory, please turn your speakers all the way up and enjoy the musical stylings of the mid Eighties Lakers with their Just Say No rap. No one breaks it down quite like Kurt Rambis.

Two months ago, high school basketball star Jeremy Tyler announced he would head to Europe and skip his senior year of high school. Now Bryce Harper's going to do him one better. The Nevada high school baseball stud, who was on the cover of Spots Illustrated a couple of weeks ago, is bailing after his sophomore year to turn pro quicker. I suppose this is better news than another plan Harper's family had reportedly been considering at Scott Boras's suggestion - moving to the Dominican Republic so he could be a free agent rather than go through the draft process. Maybe Harper will handle things just fine, but ten years ago Josh Hamilton was supposed to be the same kind of can't miss prospect. He wound up taking a major detour because he couldn't deal with the money and expectations. I hope Harper can avoid that, but this is a very disturbing trend. High school years have value, and anything that encourages greedy and/or delusional parents to shove their kids through as quick as they can to try and get the big score is bad news.

UF beat writer Joseph Goodman's blog on the Miami Herald features a post with the headline You've Got to Have Thugs To Win Football Games. That is a load of crap. You've got to have athletes who are true competitors to win. Some players who fit that description are also thugs, but not all thugs fit that description. With all the hype about UF's arrests in the past four years, how many of those arrested guys played a meaningful role in the 2008 championship? Louis Murphy and Brandon James had pot charges during their time at UF - if that makes them thugs then I went to school with a lot of thugs. If having "thugs" is so important to winning, how come UF's didn't amount to anything on the team that won it all? I like Goodman, but what he's doing here is taking the easy, cynical approach. Some schools choose to win with bad guys, but that's not the only way.

Joe Buck's new HBO show makes its debut tonight. It's clear that Buck thinks he's a really funny, hip guy. My question is why anyone else would feel that way. The guy reacted to Randy Moss's simulated moon of Green Bay fans like he'd pulled a Pee Wee Herman in the end zone. Buck tried to get himself a sitcom at FOX. The same network that has said yes to Michael Strahan's acting debut turned him down. That should speak volumes, but Buck's comedy dreams live on. I don't think I'll be tuning in tonight.

Living in Columbia is very different than living in Florida was. When a weird story makes news these days, I always expect it to have happened somewhere in Florida. There's nowhere near as much of that kind of thing here, but unfortunately there are stories like this. It is in fact 2009 here - I checked again today just to be sure.

Friday, June 12, 2009

"The body post" won't be happening on this blog

My first trip to Boston was an enjoyable experience. A few notes on that before getting into the more typical blog fare...

1. Going to Fenway Park is enjoyable, but Wrigley Field is better. Some may try and tell you the experience is better because they'r true baseball fans and Cub fans are just there to party. Those people never sat behind someone who felt the need to get up for more beer as a pitcher was in the middle of working on the final out of his to that point perfect six innings. The Red Sox gameday experience is good, but everything in Chicago was a little bit better

2. Jon Lester was the pitcher for the Red Sox who was shutting down the Rangers Saturday night. He wound up getting 6.1 innings of perfect ball in before Michael Young broke it up with a double deep to center. I'm not sure I've ever seen someone carry a no hitter past about the third inning, so watching Lester work was pretty cool. Two days later, we ran into Lester while on a Duck Boat tour of Boston. We didn't bother him for a picture or autograph, but since some people did we took a picture of that which appears to the right of this.

3. Went to the Institute of Contemporary Art. They have an exhibit right now featuring the works of Shepard Fairey. He's the artist who did the red white and blue HOPE Obama portait last year that was on the cover of multiple magazines. I didn't know much about Fairey's work, so I was surpised to learn the primary image in much of his art is Andre the Giant. Can't say I saw that coming. Fairey's talented, but I'm always amazed at what passes for art.

Orlando is done in the NBA Finals after blowing another game late. Technically there are three games left to play in the series, but there's a better chance of me being the host of Dance Fever than there is the Magic closing out with wins in game 6 and 7 in Los Angeles. It'll be easy to overfocus on Dwight Howard missing free throws, which was certainly a problem. That does not explain why Jameer Nelson was on the floor for 25 minutes, including the time Derek Fisher's ghost made those two three pointers. For an obviously gifted coach, Stan Van Gundy has done some incredibly stupid things in this series. His use of Nelson ranks at the top of the list.

If you listened closely yesterday, you could hear the sound of laughter coming from Alabama as the NCAA announced their "penalties" for their textbook scandal. The Crimson Tide got told very sternly that they had been naughty. They lost 43,900 dollars and they can't officially claim credit for 21 wins. That's it. Alabama shouldn't have been hammered for this, but there should have been some penalty going forward. Claiming things didn't happen is not a punishment, it's a delusion. Can you imagine disciplining your kid by telling him "You've never been to Disney World, and you're not allowed to say you have or enjoy the memories" when you took him there last summer? It would be absurd, yet that's what the NCAA just did with Alabama. Think they'll take the "Bama Is Back" covers from after they thrashed UF in 2005 off the walls anywhere in the state? Yeah, me neither.

The Tank Black scandal was one of the most challenging topics I dealt with during my run in Gainesville. In case your memory has gotten foggy, Black was the agent who turned out to have given players like Jevon Kearse money and benefits prior to them being done with their college careers. He also was involved in a variety of other frauds, including liquidating Ike Hilliard's stock portfolio to put it in a car title loan scheme. Black didn't just play the race card when he was accused, he played the whole deck. He got civil rights leaders involved in his defense despite the fact the government had him dead to rights. Now Black is out of prison and has written a book claiming to air all the dirty laundry from his agent stint. I'd like to read it, but there's no chance I'll give him money to do do that.

ESPN the Magazine has announnced its plans to do a body issue of the magazine. What that means is that should you subscribe, one day your mailbox will feature an issue with lots of sports people posing nude. Why ESPN feels that would be appropriate journalism for them to ask sports figures to do, I have no idea. How do you cover someone credibly as a sports journalist and then turn around and say "oh by the way, we'd like to move some serious amounts of magazines and think a nude issue will do the job. How'd you like to drop trou for us?" If someone posted the pictures they'll put in your magazine in an ESPN cubicle, the guy doing it would be in real trouble with human resources for sexual harassment but this is supposed to be okay? Ridiculous. Enjoy your weekend and I'll see you back here Monday.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Total autographs I've signed: 3. None were on another guy.

I'm not sure why a Congressman thought the NBA's one year out of high school requirement before a kid can enter the draft was an important issue to address this week. I dont think Steve Cohen has the right idea about any kind of congressional involvement, but he's right that the rule should go. Now that we're seeing Europe becoming the workaround for the rule, it's outlived its usefulness. I do think there will be kids who make terrible decisions and wreck their futures once they can ignore academics because they think they're going straight to the league. That'll be unfortunate, but it's better than having a slew of one and done guys who aren't even pretending to abide by NCAA rules.

You may think you're a sports fan, but how many autographs from your favorite team do you have tattooed on your body? If your answer is anything less than 92, it appears you've lost to this guy from Chicago. The thing that surprises the most is that this guy got 92 other dudes to write on him. I talked with Tim Tebow about that last year. He's signed a few signatures that he was told were going to be turned into tattoos, and did feel that was a little creepy. Wish I could have been there for this freak to explain to Mike Ditka that he needs him to sign the back of his neck.

Gary Parrish of CBSsports.com deserves the credit for noticing the current state of the Memphis compliance website. As Gary pointed out to his Facebook friends last night, it's "temporarily under construction". I would imagine it is - the school has its appearance before the NCAA Saturday.

One of the great mysteries of baseball broadcsting is how a self promoting blowhard like John Sterling continues to hold the Yankees play play job. His latest masterpiece was this week, when he called a Hideki Matsui home run. Aside from the fact he was so busy doing his schtick that he forgot which player homered, it was a particularly brilliant touch to make an already inappropriate "A-bomb" reference to a Japanese player. I'm sure Charles Albury, whose death was disclosed yesterday, felt his work at Hiroshima and Nagasaki was very similar to a Yankee hitting a homer.

I was sorry to learn that Scot Brantley has been having major health issues lately. The former UF and Tampa Bay linebacker and color analyst has had heart surgery and also has lost vision in his left eye due to a "mini-stroke". The thing that stood out about Scot's broadcasting work was its authenticity. He doesn't have the classic broadcast voice or the smoothness of a polished announcer, but when listening to him you felt like you were getting what he really thought. Hopefully things will improve for him soon.

I will be traveling this weekend, and will not be back in Columbia until Wednesday. There may be post from the road depending on time and internt availability, but if not things will resume as normal here on Thursday. Have a great weekend.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Apparently Lane thinks UF's third string would beat its first string

It's been funny watching Lane Kiffin try to get Tennessee going in the SEC by rebuilding out of Florida's trash can. He's pursuing Cameron Newton, the laptop thief QB dismissed from the team who was clearly not going to play ahead of John Brantley. Now he's landed John Brown, the defensive tackle out of Lakeland who never was able to accomplish anything in his UF career and was hopelessly behind academically when he had to leave this spring. I doubt Brown will ever play a meaningful snap for the Vols - watching him at practice and talking to coaches, he just wasn't that good. This signing screams Ed Orgeron at a very high volume. As Jerrell Powe can tell you, Ed really doesn't care too much if you have any business in college or not. The broader Oregeron's influence shows, the more convinced I am that the Kiffin era will be a debacle for Tennessee.

It's undisputed that Lou Holtz is a terrific speaker. That doesn't make him a good presence on television, and one of the reasons why is because he is either unwilling to be honest about certain teams or is simply not willing to be objective about them. Ever since Holtz left South Carolina he's focused primarily on emphasizing the Notre Dame portion of his career, which presumably is why he is predicting the Fighting Irish will go 11-1 and finish in the top ten. This might seem credible if hadn't made almost the exact same prediction last year. Notre Dame's 2009 schedule includes a number of winnable games against "name" programs that are currently terrible like Purdue, Washington and Washington State. They should unquestionably have a winning season. To say they will not lose to anyone but USC is ridiculous though. This same bunch found a way to lose to Syracuse last season. Now they'll be on cruise control against the likes of Michigan State? Sorry, no. Mark this down - Nevada will either beat or scare the hell out of Notre Dame in South Bend the first week of the year.

Alex Rodriguez is involved with Kate Hudson now. Didn't matter much to me when I heard about it, although if I was a Yankee fan I'd be annoyed. Dating a celebrity actress, particularly one who needs some positive press since she hasn't made a good movie since Almost Famous nine years ago, isn't the best strategy for someone looking to fly under the radar. Now Jon Heyman of Sports Illustrated reports via twitter that Hudson and three Rodriguez hangers on are pouring wine on the field before his at bats. Maybe it's a Kabbalah thing left over from the Madonna affair, or perhaps A-Roid wants a reality show. How hard is it not to be aggressively weird in public for a month or two?

I mentioned Monday that I was curious to see how long it would take for a major sport to duplicate what the WNBA's Phoenix Mercury are doing by putting a corporate logo on their actual game uniforms. The NFL took the first step toward that yesterday, by allowing teams to put sponsor logos on practice jerseys. We'll see what kind of a price teams can get for this, since it will get the sponsor major exposure only on local TV news and in the papers for the month or so of training camp and possibly a little during the season. If companies bite on this limited opportunity in a down economy, count on the league eventually putting it on the real uniforms in games when the price seems right.

The hits just keep on coming with the current economy. It seems like once a week some venue I enjoyed is suddenly gone. This might not mean anything to you if you aren't from Tampa, but I was disppointed to see Valencia Garden has suddenly shut down. My grandparents took me there a bunch of times over the years. It's one of the few restaurants my grandmother would still eat at today. The food was good, it had nice atmosphere and it was an authentic Tampa place. Given the way things are these days, they'll probably replace it with a freaking Applebee's. Also, my buddy Cole Pepper had his sports director position at WOKV in Jacksonville eliminated in budget cuts by the soulless corporate weasels at Cox Radio last week. He's still deciding what course of action to take longterm, since his work for the Jaguar network isn't a fulltime gig. In the meantime, he's started a blog of his own - drop by and say hi.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Memphis also was stunned by the sun rising in the east

The focus of discussion about Memphis's NCAA situation has been the Derrick Rose SAT score controversy. How is it fair to expect them to have declined to play someone who get approval from the NCAA's Clearinghouse? What people haven't been paying attention to is the other part of the charges, with Rose's brother traveling on the team charter for two games and not being charged. It was "an oversight" - sure it was. Having charged him for some games gives them cover in this situation, but 1. it was no accident, because nothing about the planning on those kind of team trips is an accident, 2. it's a violation, period. Meanwhile, Gary Parrish of CBS Sports reports that Georgia declined a future Memphis teammate of Rose's, Robert Dozier, because they didn't believe he'd taken his own SAT. It was fine for Memphis though - imagine that. Poor, poor Memphis. Who could have ever guessed that a John Calipari program might do some things a little funky? I'm sure that everything in Lexington will be absolutely upright and honest at all times.

The announcement is being made today that Patriots safety Rodney Harrison is retiring from the NFL to join NBC. This isn't just another ex-jock in the booth, though. Harrison is widely considered one of the dirtiest players in the NFL for the past decade and was suspended four games for HGH just a couple of seasons ago. He may have a lively personality, but doesn't there have to be some kind of standard about hiring a guy who made a punchline out of the league's rules for the last decade?

Nick Calathes may not be the last SEC player to take his game overseas this year. Tyler Smith of Tennessee acknowledges he's considering making the same move. Unlike Calathes Smith doesn't have a natural European tie, and I wonder just how much money someone would be interested in signing him for. Getting paid is always nice but it seems like Smith could improve his stock, even for Europe, with another year in Knoxville. The deadline for him and all the other NCAA/NBA stragglers is twelve days away.

Did you know the Beatles have sold more records than any artists this decade other than Eminem? It's true, in part because you can still hear the Beatles music played on several different radio formats to keep them relevant. Despite that, some people in the music business are hoping to force radio to begin paying royalties for every song they air. If this bill passes, it will be the end of oldies formats for radio. Most music stations will either refuse to play any artist who doesn't "voluntarily" grant them a reprieve from this or they will switch formats altogether to some variety of talk programming. The story of the Golden Goose wasn't big reading in the music biz, it appears.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

"Don't taze me, bro" references are ultra lame at this point

Janoris Jenkins found trouble over the weekend, getting tasered in the bargain. This adds a 24th player to the list of arrests under Urban Meyer. That's the current popular criticism of the program, thanks to Dave Hyde's Ft. Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel column from last week trying to decree UF the new Thug U. Unfortunately people quoting this number don't bother to see how many of those arrests actually led to charges, what they were for, or what the discipline was for them. All arrests are equal, right? Dorian Munroe putting a parking boot in his trunk, Tony Joiner being impatient about getting his girlfriend's car out of a tow lot and Jamar Hornsby's theft and repeated use of a dead girl's credit card - no difference there at all. Here's a hint - two of those guys remained on the team and one didn't. Guess which one. Jermaine Cunningham is there when Jon Demps throws a sandwich at a Jimmy John's clerk in a dispute over a bag of chips. Somehow Meyer let that guy stay on his team. On the other hand guys like Avery Atkins, Marcus Thomas and Ronnie Wilson got second chances under Meyer and failed to live up to their end of the bargain. They were booted. Generally under Meyer, the serious cases have ended up that way. Is he the toughest disciplinarian in college football? No - but people trying to cobble together some sort of "out of control" program rep for UF are being silly.

The Columbus Dispatch did an excellent story documenting just how much the way schools apply the Buckley amendment varies wildly from place to place. It's supposed to protect academic records, but that's the law athletic departments love to hide behind when they want to avoid providing information on what's going on in their programs. UF, for example, refuses to release any uncensored info on violations in football or basketball. When the man who wrote the Buckley amendment is saying this is not in any way what the law is supposed to do, it's time for the NCAA to step up and order its schools to begin complying with federal law. How arrogant are some ADs? A few simply refused to comply with the Dispatch's public records requests, despite the fact as tax-supported institutions they're required to do so. Stonewalling can work for a period of time, maybe even forever. Just ask USC's athletic program about that.

I'd love to say I'm shocked that some jerks thought it would be a good idea to make death threats to Tennessee Vols quarterback Jonathan Crompton last year, but I'm not. Losers whose entire self image is tied in with whether their team wins or loses actually feel they have every right to be abusive to a young man who fails to live up to their expectations. Sure the kid probably has NFL hopes, has worked for months to try and play well, and feels like he's let his teammates and coaches down, but what will really motivate him is knowing that Vern from Bugtussle says he's going to kill him. Maybe Lane Kiffin's staff can spin this as a positive because it "shows how much Vol fans care", but if I was a parent there's not a chance in hell I'd let my kid play for a school whose fans acted like that.

Silly me, I always thought being a Dallas Cowboys cheerleader was a pretty simple gig. Look hot, show some dancing skills and personality and you're good. Little did I know the cheerleaders are also required to pass a test which includes questions like "name a country that borders Iraq". I'm not sure exactly when that's likely to come up - maybe during the making of the swimsuit calendar they play Trivial Pursuit? - but at least you can admire them for ther big brains next time you see them.

I meant to mention this last week. Extremely quirky musical group They Might Be Giants is sponsoring ten Little League teams. If your child is in a Little League and you need a sponsor for the team, you can get the whole story here. Kids will feel much cooler about being sponsored by the people responsible for Doctor Worm and Boss of Me than they would Chico's Bail Bonds. It'll be more enjoyable than collecting baseball cards too. When I was a kid that was a big thing for me, but then corporate greed ruined the hobby by creating way too many products and printing far too much of them. Now instead of looking for some red hot rookie, kids are supposed to get excited about possibly finding a rare autographed Kim Kardashian card. Gee, how thrilling.

Monday, June 1, 2009

I was almost over the Chris Chandler trade, too.

I've mentioned before on this blog my distaste for college baseball. Among numerous things, I don't care for the way regionals typically come down to who is completely out of pitching. I assume that's what happened to Ohio State, as FSU destroyed them 37-6 yesterday to advance. Florida cruises on to next week as well, with an impressive effort against Miami. I'll find out tonight whether South Carolina keeps the discussion topic relevant here for another week. It's good for business if they do, but that's as far as my interest in aluminum bat baseball goes.

Sometimes things just sneak up and sucker punch you. I was reading Mike Lombardi's notebook column on the National Football Post discussing the St. Louis Rams being a franchise actually interested in signing Michael Vick when I got to the part about not making too big a deal about how rookies are performing during the early workouts with their new teams. Lombardi, a former NFL GM, mentions that when he was with the 49ers they had an early disappointment who they looked to deal off. They offered him to Tampa Bay for a conditional tenth round pick, and the Bucs said no. The player in question: John Taylor! That's right, the franchise that traded a third rounder for Stephen Starring around the same time to "help" the wide receiver position decided to draw the line at a tenth rounder for Taylor. Great - just great. I didn't know the story until Sunday, and it irritated me so much I wish I still didn't.

Lots of people are piling on LeBron James for not speaking to the press or shaking Dwight Howard's hand Saturday night after the Magic finished off Cleveland. I agree it was a mistake, but I think people are being way too harsh in their evaluation of it. That guy put everything he had into the series. He hit the amazing shot in game two and then single handedly won game five in the fourth quarter. LeBron has handled his fame and riches incredibly well considering how young the guy still is. He won a gold medal for the US last year. He cares about the right things. I don't know why LeBron didn't talk - maybe he was afraid of what he would say - but to me commentators ranting about him being "a punk" because of it are going overboard.

Anything the Phoenix Mercury does will be a minor story to most of us, because the odds are you are not a hardcore WNBA fan either. Today they're announcing that they're putting a patch for an ID theft protection service on the front of their uniforms. It'll be interesting to see how quickly other leagues duplicate this. I've always thought one day there will be a team here hard up enough for cash that they'd change the whole name of the franchise from, for example, the Columbus Blue Jackets to the Nationwide Blue Jackets. NFL uniforms would look like a NASCAR driver's suit if every interested sponsor got to add a logo somewhere on the players.

If you're looking for a little something to jazz up your backyard, may I recommend the scoreboard from Notre Dame's football stadium? Curiously, the ad makes no references to all the great victories that scoreboard's been there for since 1997. There's Navy, Michigan a couple of times, Navy, a close call against USC, and who can forget Navy?