Friday, July 31, 2009

Your next Hawaii women's basketball coach: Sarah Silverman

If you cover sports for a living, inevitably you will witness some moments of stupidity during interviews. Normally they come after tough losses, when someone's emotions run too raw and they let it rip. (Kellen Winslow, for example) Conference media days are not that way - typically everything is very straightforward and focused on the coming year. Thursday, that all changed as Hawaii coach Greg McMackin unleashed the most bizarre media days comment I have ever heard of. He referred to Notre Dame's players as doing "a little faggot dance" prior to their bowl meeting with Hawaii. If the head of a state university's football program dropping an anti-gay slur intentionally at a WAC press event wasn't crazy enough, McMackin then tried to convince the press not to report what he said. He had a better chance to levitate than he did of pulling that one off. McMackin is now in damage control mode, but is expected to survive the controversy and keep his job. If he'd gone racial, no way that happens. How, if you're a coach holding a press conference, could it possibly not dawn on you that might not be a great story to tell?

If you don't follow USC football, the news tailback Broderick Green has been cleared to transfer to Arkansas and play without sitting out a year may not register as signficant. It should. Green adds a talented big back to Michael Smith, the shifty kid they already had. Combine that with a gifted quarterback in Ryan Mallett and Bobby Petrino is now officially dangerous this season. The Razorbacks will beat some teams that do not see them coming.

With Jerry Jones's new Cowboy palace opening this season and hosting the Big 12 title game, some reporters got to tour the place as part of the conference's media days. How absurd are the costs for fans in the new venue? Well, if you shell out for a suite you also get the opportunity to buy a large pizza with no toppings for ninety dollars. Sounds great, if your entire clientele is made up of active and successful strippers or drug dealers. To the rest of the world, those kind of prices add up to real money.

Word came down Thursday about Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz being among those who tested positive for performance enhancing drugs in 2003. The disappointing thing about it yesterday was that no one seemed even the least bit surprised. Instead, debate shifted to the latest wild, unsupported Jose Canseo claim about a juicer already being in the Hall of Fame. The guy's strip mined his career with two gossipy books about this subect and he supposedly has info about a Hall of Famer he kept to himself until now? Yeah, sure he does. Doesn't matter though - at this point MLB's credibility is so low Canseco could claim Bud Selig is a witch and people would take him seriously.

With football practice opening next week, I'm stepping away for a few days prior to the beginning of the six and seven day work weeks I'm accustomed to each fall. I may head up to Charlotte to get on board the red hot Jack Stratton for mayor campaign (have your speakers on and trust me, it's worth the click) as a volunteer. The blog takes a break as well - the next entry should be Thursday August 6. Enjoy your next few days and I'll see you then.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Maybe a bitter Kim Kardashian will be USC's Deep Throat... wait, that sounds wrong

It appears there's another potential NCAA problem brewing for USC's football program. Unlike the Reggie Bush situation, this appears to be a pretty clear cut issue. If former NFL assistant Pete Rodriguez was in fact used as a pseudo USC assistant coach, as the L.A. Times quotes from him indicate he was, then the NCAA has to do something about it. Doesn't the dreaded phrase "lack of institutional control" have to surface at some point considering the vast assortment of alleged violations in the Trojan athletic department?

Lots of people would love to see a college football playoff, but the Washington Post brings us the story of a guy who's taken his desire for it way too far. He's been living as a homeless person in Washington DC for over three months while trying to lobby for his plan to fix the college football system. If he's not mentally ill then this guy needs a serious dose of perspective as well as an education on how the system works. TV calls the shots in college football, and this guy sleeping in Rock Creek Park for the next five years isn't going to change that. Beyond that, when you're homeless and your priority is anything other than making sure that changes ASAP, expect people to have serious questions about your thought process.

Lists are how people who talk or write about sports for a living make it through summer. Now we're supposed to be getting on with the legit stuff, as NFL camps open up and college football closes in on its start as well. For some reason, the Sporting News decided they needed to rank the fifty greatest coaches without regard to what era they worked in or which sport. In what universe can Red Auerbach rank behind Don Shula for career accomplishments? Why exactly is Pat Summitt considered a greater coach than Bob Knight or Coach K? Well, she just sort of is. Sorry, but this is silly. Some things are simply not meant to be compared.

As was incredibly predictable, Brett Favre is already beginning to lay groundwork for a possible midseason return. He told Sports Illustrated's Peter King that "if someone calls Nov. 1, who knows?" Somehow guys like Dan Marino, Troy Aikman and Steve Young were able to know. Why can't you, Brett? Hopefully poor Rachel Nichols has already escaped from Hattiesburg before ESPN gets any bright ideas about making her stay there a few more months just in case Favre shows up at the high school for practice again.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

I've got October 18th at 7:30 in the pool for next Favre comeback story

As much as I'd love to believe that yesterday is the last we'll hear of Brett Favre making an NFL comeback, I'm not buying it. By telling the Vikings no, Favre gives himself more time to heal and gets to skip training camp and preseason games. If Sage Rosenfels and/or Tarvaris Jackson aren't getting the job done in week five, do you think Favre would hesitate to float his name out there again? I sure don't. Someone good will have a starting QB go down with an injury this season - let's say Drew Brees breaks his collarbone. Favre's name will be mentioned immediately as a possible savior. Favre's like a horror movie villain - his career will have to be killed at least six times before it's really dead. As for the Vikings, Jeff George is waiting by the phone.

There's apparently a controversy in Auburn over a new tailgating plan. The company involved will set up your tailgate for you, from arranging chairs up to having the food catered. All the tailgating group has to do is show up and they're ready to go. What's the fun of that? The whole thing that makes tailgating fun is the ingenuity people show in their setups. Having it pre-arranged for you like a wedding reception removes all the spontaneity and fun of the activity.

A quirk in the new BCS agreement revealed yesterday could give the Rose Bowl the kind of matchup they could normally only dream about. Nightmares are dreams, after all. Beginning next season, if either a Big Ten or Pac-10 team makes the BCS title game, the Rose Bowl has to select the non-BCS opponent if one qualified. Instead of Illinois replacing Ohio State the way they did a couple of years ago to keep the Big Ten involved, the same scenario now would have meant saying aloha to Hawaii-USC in the Rose Bowl. I'm sure they can't wait for Boise State or BYU to show up in Pasadena.

After the Bush-Kardashian breakup took the Tony Romo-Jessica Simpson split down as the most recent sports gossip story yesterday, Romo rallied on Tuesday. Reports claim he dumped and ditched Simpson in the parking lot of an IHOP somewhere in Texas while in the middle of a long drive. Also, he supposedly had only stayed with her because she had bought him a powerboat that cost 100 grand for his birthday. Somehow I'm not shocked he enjoyed motorboating with Jessica. Romo has always seemed like a happy go lucky kind of guy - maybe he's becoming more of the steely assassin Cowboys fans have wanted him to be.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

No, I won't tell you which coach

I'm back in Columbia after a week away for the SEC and ACC football media days. A few things I learned before we pick up with the usual blog fare:

1. Lane Kiffin had better win big, because he has already done serious damage to his support base in Knoxville. According to people with close ties to Tennesee's program, Peyton Manning has quietly put the word out that he will not be attending any Vol games as long as Kiffin is coach. Loyalty to Fulmer isn't the main reason either - apparently Kiffin and Co. have continued to be extraordinarily rude and abusive to the UT support staff, many of whom have been there since Manning's days. David Cutcliffe greeted a media guy who's a fellow Alabama alum with "Roll Tide", explaining that now that Fulmer's gone he wants UT to lose every game. Kiffin may think the "little people" don't matter and that doing things like bragging in Sports Illustrated (inaccurately) about firing them make him seem like a tough guy. He'll learn the hard way they sometimes have ways of exerting power too.

2. Bobby Bowden's desire to beat out Joe Paterno for the all time wins mark is increasingly pathetic. Yesterday in the ACC radio room, he was arguing that his 22 junior college wins from Georgia should be counted by the NCAA toward the record. At first we took it as a joke, but after a minute and a half of pressing the point it was clear he didn't. Thank the lord Bobby doesn't play video games, or we'd be hearing about how he's won three straight national titles in Dynasty Mode on NCAA 2010 and they should count too.

3. People are still underestimating Paul Johnson and Georgia Tech. They got just nine votes to win their division of the ACC. Brady Ackerman and I were two of them. Johnson's offense drives people nuts - no one can shut it down with just one week to prepare (as opposed to LSU, who also had much more talent, in the bowl). I can't find any unit in that conference I believe in as much as that one.

4. If the ACC is going to have coaches interviews the same day they have their golf tournament, showers need to be mandatory prior to beginning the media circuit. One coach in particular yesterday reeked worse than anything short of a hockey locker room.

For a long time I've believed Florida should have a better non-conference schedule in basketball, and and Billy Donovan has finally gone along with that idea. This year's team may not be ideally suited to deal with this slate, but once Mike Slive made clear he expected SEC schools to upgrade their opponents it seemed a given UF would do that. It's a good mix - other than Michigan State, I don't see many games the Gators will be clear underdogs but there are plenty of competitive affairs. My only quibble is that it would be nice for the fans to get a decent early season game at the Odome other than FSU.

Roger Goodell's Michael Vick decision yesterday makes sense to me. It's not a full reinstatement, but it gives him a chance to try and restart his career. The part I like best is the mentoring role Tony Dungy will play in this. Dungy is perhaps the most respected man in the NFL, and rightly so. If he's willing to say Vick has grown enough as a person and is ready for his last chance, then I'll accept that. If Vick lets Dungy down, it's hard to imagine anyone will buy in on the idea he can be counted on ever again. Now the question is who's willing to take the guy. A lot of league people are indicating Jacksonville could be a fit - my friend Todd Wright compares the move to the Clippers talking about signing Iverson as a way to fill seats. I'm not sure I buy "We'll be bad but we won't be boring" as a marketing slogan for the Jags.

The UFL is going to come out with team names at some point in the next few weeks, and the word is that the Orlando franchise will be called the Tuskers. Basically, it's a wild boar. Not great, but as long as they don't bring back the lime green Orlando Thunder jerseys from the WLAF I'm okay with it. I still don't understand why no one in pro sports has actually used a gorilla for their nickname, though. The Phoenix Suns have one as a mascot and one small college uses Gorillas, but it's wide open to be a big money maker for somebody. They'd sell a lot of merchandise.

It's time for NFL training camps to open, so players are making cuts of their own. First it was Tony Romo dumping Jessica Simpson, now Reggie Bush has said so long to Kim Kardashian. Of the two, I imagine Reggie had the tougher time making the decision. Maybe not having the Kardashian distraction will let him become a true NFL star, but I doubt it. Bush seems like he's going to be this decade's Eric Metcalf. Looks like the gossip crowd will have to focus on Hank Baskett and Kendra as their big story this year.

Monday, July 27, 2009

My assistant didn't write this

Greetings from Greensboro, NC. I'm here for the ACC Football Kickoff event, which is their version of SEC Media Days. This is the one thing involving football the ACC is clearly better at than the SEC. There's much better access to players and coaches, plus we're not sitting in the lobby of a hotel attached to a shopping mall. The single best thing about this year though is that when we talk with the coaches today no one will be asking them if they voted for Tim Tebow or not. The ACC doesn't even HAVE a preseason all-conference team, thank goodness.

The "Tebow not unanimous all SEC choice" story was insanely overcovered to begin with. I wish some coaches had shown the guts to say, "I probably voted for Tim, but I'm not telling you. Next time maybe I'll be the guy with an opinion you don't like." Steve Spurrier was completely sincere in his unhappiness over what happened, and I don't understand why people keep insisting this was some sort of anti-UF gamesmanship on his part. He could have just lied about his vote or even come out and argued for Snead if that was his objective. Talk that he was trying to send a purposeful message makes no sense to me. Anyway, today we get the coaches here and then I head home. Regular blog posts will resume tomorrow.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

What do Mark Sanford and Phillip Fulmer have in common?

The BCS has finally grown enough of a spine to say no to the college coaches. Their ridiculous plan to remove any public accountability for their votes has now been postponed a year, and indications are if they go through with it the BCS will remove the coaches poll from its formula. There shouldn't even be a coaches poll, but if they're going to let guys with a financial stake in the outcome vote the bare minimum expectation should be for them to be willing to acknowledge their choices. If coaches deem that unacceptable, it only further illustrates why they shouldn't be voting.

Lane Kiffin says he was not the coach who failed to vote Tim Tebow for the All-SEC quarterback. I believe him, because someone didn't vote for Tebow at the end of last season despite a 30-4 TD-Int performance and his team winning the conference. That removes Kiffin, Gene Chizik and Dan Mullen. It can't be Meyer or Houston Nutt and it isn't Steve Spurrier. Of the six possible remaining candidates, I believe Bobby Petrino is the one who voted for Jevan Snead instead. We'll see if he's asked the question at Media Days here in Birmingham today and whether he'll answer if he is.

FSU's offensive line recruiting is going to be interesting this season after Aubrey Phillips teed off on their position coach Rick Trickett. The Seminoles signed him out of Mississippi, and he was allegedly a big time recruit. Now he's been released from the school without ever making it to fall practice and says the reason he's enrolling at Auburn is because Trickett was over the top abusive in his coaching. This isn't the first time an FSU OL signee has done this under Trickett, and the Noles line still hasn't shown anywhere close to the level of improvement people expected when he arrived. It was while Trickett was at West Virginia that he suddenly became known as some kind of OL genius. I thought his mid nineties Auburn work was far from remarkable, and what he's coaching now is a lot closer to that style than what he was doing in Morgantown. Three years in, there better be some clear improvement or the shine will officially be off the latest alleged savior in Tallahassee.

As we commence with Media Days today, it will be odd not to see Phillip Fulmer. The former Volunteer head man won't be here in Birmingham - he won't even be in the country. He's going to Argentina for a nine day duck hunting and fishing trip. Fulmer decked out in a camo outfit for his new hunter lifestyle is something interesting to see. After Bama boosters served legal papers on Fulmer at this event last year, it was rumored that the SEC would move the event to Atlanta to end that kind of foolishness. Yesterday, with Fulmer now gone, they annouced next year's event will still be here in Birmingham. We miss you, coach.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Why does anyone in sports need a publicist?

When some former athletes find trouble, it surprises you. Darren Hambrick is not one of those people. He's perhaps the most physically gifted defensive player I've ever covered other than Jevon Kearse, but Hambrick has always been trouble waiting to happen. The latest episode involves allegations of sexual battery among a variety of charges. Hambrick was kicked out of UF for the infamous incident with Anthony Riggins at the Sugar Bowl after the 1994 season, then finished his college career at South Carolina. Simply put, he had no business being anywhere near a college campus. One of his teammates with the Gamecocks told me he was terrified of the guy while he was in Columbia. I wish more programs would step up and say no to signing guys like this, but the reality is Darren Hambrick would be a five star recruit with teams and their fans drooling over his potential today just like they were in the early Nineties. It's a shame.

While I'm not a big Kellen Winslow fan, I can't blame him for being angry at Cleveland management about how a health issue of his was handled last season. The problem was a staph infection, which has bothered a number of Browns players over the past few years. Apparently due to the infection being in the vicinity of Winslow's family jewels, inaccurate rumors swirled about him having a venereal disease. Meanwhile, Winslow's publicist suggested blaming the problem on a cut suffered on a car door. Apparently Kellen opens his car very differently than you and I.

Being famous sounds like a great thing to lots of people, and I'm sure there are times when it actually is. As Erin Andrews found out over the weekend, there are plenty of times when it isn't. Now it's Ben Roethlisberger's turn to learn, as he's being sued in Nevada for a supposed sexual assault a year ago. While being a star doesn't mean someone can't also be guilty of sexual assault, the circumstances here look far more like someone seeing a possible payday and tying to cash in. The timing has the potential to make this a significant distraction for the Steelers QB as they try to repeat.

This has absolutely nothing to do with anything going on in the news, but is outstanding. If you haven't heard the Nirvana/Rick Astley mashup, you need to do so. If you weren't familiar with these musical acts in your high school/college years, feel free to skip this item.

Today I head over to Birmingham for SEC Media Days. Over the next three days I'll cross paths with all twelve SEC football coaches, 24 players, and other assorted sports media celebs and friends (some fit both categories). This year's opening day is pretty weak, with none of the teams likely to be selected to finish higher than fourth in their divisions by the media. Thursday is when the circus truly begins, as Urban Meyer, Tim Tebow and Brandon Spikes will be among those there to witness the spectacle that is Alabama day at the Wynfrey Hotel. Meyer's got to be feeling pretty good about his clout right now when he's got billionaire T. Boone Pickens acknowledging that he's taken advice from the UF coach. I'll do what I can for updates between now and Friday, but between traveling, covering the event, writing 2-3 articles per day for and doing my Columbia radio show there may not be sufficient time to blog as well. I'll do the best I can, but wanted to let you know about the potential issues.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Even Stewart Cink looked like he felt a little disappointed

I'm not sure people can fully appreciate just what we saw out of Tom Watson this weekend. Think about it - nine years after what is officially considered to be used up on the PGA Tour, he almost won one of the sport's majors. Nothing else in sports could have really compared to this, which is what made it such a shame when he missed that putt on 18. At that point you pretty much knew it wasn't going to happen - a 59 year old with an artifical hip wasn't likely to do too well on his 73rd through 76th holes in four days. ABC should give Watson some sort of bonus, because without him or the other TW they would have had the worst British Open ratings in eons.

What happened to Erin Andrews sickens me. In case you're unaware, some pervert used a cel phone to shoot a video of Erin nude in her hotel room through a peephole. He then posted his handiwork to the web. She's pursuing legal action, as she should be. Hopefully they're able to track this guy down. Sports bloggers who've fanned the flames of EA obsession on the web as a way to score page views are suddenly backpedaling all over the place. As someone who knows and likes Erin and also has a wife working in TV sports, this really hits home. One of the things I admire about Erin Andrews is that she got a chance because of her looks, but she busted her butt to make herself worthy of the opportunity she was presented with. She's handled her rise to fame incredibly well, and I hope what this freak did doesn't damage her longterm ability to still enjoy it.

Ron Zook has been at Illinois for four years. He had the amazing run to the Rose Bowl in 2007, but other than that it's been three losing seasons. Despite that, the school is giving the former UF head man a one year contract extension. Zook was a great hire for Illinois when they brought him in. He took over a program that had been so embarassingly bad at recruiting under Ron Turner that they were competing with 1-AA schools for kids and occasionally losing. Big Ten programs aren't supposed to do that. Now the Illini are seeing the down side of the Zook experience, which is that the guy is simply not a good head coach. I'll be stunned if he ever wins double digit games in a season there or anywhere else as a head man. Zook's always going to struggle with having his guys ready week to week, especially before games against mediocre teams. My guess is that he's done in Champaign by the end of 2011, and the guy who follows him will go back to Pasadena at some point in the next couple of years.

The World Series of Poker has come to a halt until November, when they'll play the final table. While most of the attention this year is going to stem from the presence of popular pro Phil Ivey among the last nine guys remaining, there's another storyline that could be fascinating. The editor of Card Player magazine is also in the final group, and is claiming he'll throw away the champion's bracelet should he win. It'd be pretty amusing to see Harrah's give 8.5 million dollars to a guy who's been blasting them for the way they run their signature event. Wonder if ESPN will mention that angle on the broadcast?

I've had a few emails asking my thoughts on the current Gainesville sports radio situation. As the Gainesville Sun noted yesterday, AM 850 is moving toward an all or nearly all sports format, giving Gainesville three such stations. The rates the college is paying their chosen "consultants" are absurd, by the way. Who could possibly be better to oversee programming commercial radio stations than a former cable advertising executive? As for the actual programming, it blows my mind that there are now three afternoon drive sports talk shows. I'm friendly with the hosts of all three, and they will all have certain audience segments they appeal to. The challenge for each will be distinguishing themselves in some way - more creative segment ideas, better guests, more use of interactive technology like Twitter, or something else. With 14 hours of daily local sports talk available, relying on caller driven content other than a few select "hot" days will be a huge mistake in my view. Should be quite a battle - wish I was able to be a part of it.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Now Los Angeles's hopes of getting the NFL back are really screwed

Sorry there wasn't a post yesterday - wound up unexpectedly having to put time in on a work project. The SEC coaches preseason All-Conference squad has been released, and Tim Tebow was inexplicably not chosen unanimously as the first team quarterback. The other vote presumably went to Jevan Snead, but it's hard to figure out who would have done that and why. It wasn't Houston Nutt, because he isn't allowed to vote for his own guy. The only thing it could possibly do is motivate Tebow, because it's certainly not like anyone will look back and downgrade his career due to not being a unanimous preseason choice. Does someone really think Snead's better? Even more bizarre was the selection of South Carolina's Stephen Garcia as the third team QB. Apparently the voting coaches didnt see the Outback Bowl.

Deposed Kentucky basketball coach Billy Gillispie is writing a book. It's apparently been in the works for three years, but now it will be fascinating to see what he's willing to say. It would be foolish to be too brutal in his comments about the UK experience if Gillispie hopes to coach again, but he's a really weird dude. No word on whether he's actually willing to sign the contract for the book, or if he only has a napkin with a couple of sentences that promises he'll do it. Meanwhile, Kentucky fans are weighing in with sarcastic book title ideas. My two favorite ones that I read were "A Season On the Drink" and "The Man to Man Diet (I don't zone, ever)".

Next week I'll head to Birmingham for SEC football Media Days. It's been a yearly ritual for a decade and a half, and it remains a tradition despite most of us hoping it'll eventually move to Atlanta. There's not a lot to do in Birmingham other than go out to some bars or the dog track, which might explain why they think building a domed stadium for 630 million dollars would be a fine idea. They can set themselves up to be the gun to the head of various NFL cities to extort new stadiums for the next decade, but there is no way pro football is going to actually move to Birmingham.

The economy is as unfriendly as it's been in years for professional sports. The Arena League went under, the NBA salary cap is dropping, and sponsorships are dropping off everywhere. So why wouldn't this be the ideal time to start the USA's first professional cricket league? Maybe they can play it in Birmingham's dome. Have a great weekend and I'll see you back here Monday.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Almost makes you sorry for Lane. Almost, but not quite.

Tennessee's expected to struggle on offense in their first season under Lane Kiffin. They'll be running a new system with a mediocre quarterback, which tends to result in problems. Now take away two of their better receivers, one for the entire season and the other for potentially half of it, and things get really shaky. Not having Denarius Moore for reps leading up the season and almost certainly not back before the UF week means that the Vols will have to count on true freshmen being productive right away in SEC play. They need to figure out how to get the ball to Brandon Warren as well as make Gerald Jones wear bubble wrap to protect the closest thing to an experienced impact receiver they have left. September 19 should be lots of fun to watch.

I didn't watch a second of the MLB All-Star game last night. I used to see the whole thing every summer, but two things killed off my interest. Interleague play ruins the mystique of seeing players from both leagues on the field together. Beyond that, Bud Selig idiotically made the outcome determine World Series home field advantage. Now I wouldn't watch it unless I was there in person. Selig is such a joke of a commissioner. Yesterday he claimed he's still reviewing Pete Rose's reinstatement request. At this point Selig could have been through the whole thing twice if he was reading one word per day. Rather than just having the guts to say "Hell no I'm not letting the guy back into the game. He lied to everyone in sight for years, only fessed up when he was trying to cash in with a book, and still spends the majority of his time in Vegas at sports books!", Selig just leaves things in limbo. It's a perfect symbol of the kind of "leadership" he's applied to everything else in MLB over the years.

There may not be a single good player that's been a Celtic since I became a fan who I liked less than Antoine Walker. He was a selfish guy who cared only about his stats and loved to shoot threes even though he wasn't that good at it. He was a classic example of a team cancer. Despite only being 32, Walker has burned enough teams in the NBA by now that no one wants him on their roster anymore. Unfortunately for Walker, it appears he did a poor job of keeping track of the 99 million dollars he was paid during his career, as he's facing charges for writing bad checks to three Vegas casinos worth over 800 grand. Walker was named in three mortgage defaults in Chicago last month as well. Hopefully this will be a cautionary tale for young players about not expecting your career to last forever and managing your money wisely. Based on history, I doubt they'll learn the lesson.

Another talented guy who didn't fully understand how good he had it as an NFL player was Andre Rison. His career was good, but could have been so much better had he stayed out of repeated off field disasters. Now Rison's leading a summer camp, and one of the lessons he'll be teaching the kids is that he was the best to ever play the game. Move over, Jerry Rice, and make way for "Brock Middlebrook" on top of the WR pyramid.

Be on the lookout for a purple 1975 Caprice Classic convertible. It features a football steering wheel and a painting of Thomas Davis of the Carolina Panthers at a desk with a panther sprawled in front of it. Unfortunately for Davis, his extremely tasteful ride has been stolen. The value of the car is supposed to be 136 thousand dollars - American, I assume. Sounds like quite a bargain.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Jessica picks Transformers and Tony's totally still with her

Urban Meyer now officially is on record saying he will never go to Notre Dame as head coach. After Paul Finebaum's ineffective ripjob of Meyer forced this topic back into the spotlight last week, the coach apparently felt it was as good a time as any to put it to bed. It never should have even been a question. Meyer chose the UF job over ND in 2004 because he felt it was the best place for him to win championships and recruit at a high level without having to travel all over the country. None of the other factors which brought him to Gainesville have changed - same president and AD, and even more money. If Meyer was sentimental, he would have ignored his best judgement and headed to South Bend four seasons ago. He didn't, and sentimentality would be even more so the only reason to go there now.

Ole Miss dodged an enormous bullet when Greg Hardy and Dexter McCluster were in a wreck over the weekend. Even if it takes longer than anticipated to heal from their injuries, neither player is expected to miss meaningful time. The first game expected to pose even the slightest challenge for Ole Miss isn't until September 24th at South Carolina. A story like this drives home how quickly just a couple of injuries can change things - fortunately for Houston Nutt it didn't happen this time. Next SEC football team up for a potential crisis: Kentucky, allegedly.

Tony Romo has evidently dumped Jessica Simpson. I assume the fact she was turning 29 with a Barbie themed birthday party was the final straw. Some Dallas fans are thrilled to have the perceived distraction gone, but a single guy who plays QB for the Cowboys can find a whole new slew of distractions extremely easily. For that matter, a married one can too.

I'm not a video game guy, so today's release of NCAA 2010 doesn't mean much to me. Somewhere down the line, it could mean plenty more to current collegians. Despite the ongoing legal action over the use of student-athlete images in the games, the EA sports folks have gone right ahead with it this season. Number fifteen for UF does look more than a little familiar.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Being Meyer's agent is a sweet gig right now

How much money should Urban Meyer make? According to Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel, the answer is pretty much whatever he wants. To some extent, he's right. The three SEC jobs that came open last year were filled by a 5-19 college coach, a 5-15 "pro" coach who'd never been a full OC in college, and an Urban Meyer protege. That wasn't due to a lack of looking around on the part of the schools that hired those guys either. It's incredibly difficult to fill big time head coaching gigs at the moment, because places like Texas Tech are now spending big money and no one is looking to be the next Rich Rodriguez. Keeping a proven product in place has great value for Florida. Where I disagree to come extent with Mike is the message it would send to sign a new megadeal with Urban right now. Even though UF funding for athletics doesn't come from taxpayer money, that subtlety will be lost on most non-UF supporters. A move right now would be bad PR and would serve as a possible distraction before the season. Meyer has a great shot to win a third championship, somthing which would prompt calls to redo his deal again anyway. Have the framework for the extension and raise in place going into the year and make a splash by announcing it soon after the season wraps up.

All indications are that we can expect the next twist in the Brett Favre saga to take place soon. Everyone's been asuming for weeks that he will return, but Favre aparently still isn't sure. Minnesota has a bunch of young skill position talent which could have benefited quite a bit from the guidance of a player like Favre this offseason. Can the chemistry they lack in the locker room be made up for over just a few weeks? Seems quite unlikely to me, but hopefully they get on with it before training camp actually begins.

It's no secret lots of athletes have children out of wedlock. A decent number of them are fathers prior to even reaching college, and once they reach the pros and really become a target for groupies it only gets worse. It's not too hard to avoid conceiving a child if you put even a scintilla of thought into doing so, but anyone can make a mistake or two. What blows my mind are guys like Antonio Cromartie of the San Diego Chargers. The former FSU star has seven kids under the age of five spread out among five different states. How can anyone's judgement be bad enough to allow that to happen? The article notes that five paternity suits may have affected his performance on the field last season. Gee, you think? All the rookie seminars in the world can't save some of these guys from themselves. Ask former Dolphin Cecil Collins if you don't believe me.

Steve McNair was laid to rest over the weekend, although the fallout from the soap opera circumstance of his death is not yet over. While reading some of the stories about his funeral, I came across one from Nashville featuring fans complaining that McNair was in a closed casket. The guy was shot four times, including twice in the head at close range, and some idiots wanted an open casket?

Friday, July 10, 2009

Meet the new boss, same as the old boss

ESPN announced their college football announcing lineup for 2009 yesterday. For the SEC over the air package, they actually retained Dave Neal as play by play voice. ESPN knows they're taking over taking over a property from Raycom that has been mocked for years due to its shoddy production values. Why they would ever want to retain a tie to that is a mystery to me. Two of the three Daves are gone, which is good, but the new analyst is the abysmal Andre Ware. Don't even get me started on the crew assigned to the ESPNU SEC package. ESPN spent big money to get these rights and has assigned either rookies or demonstrably poor announcers to them - I just don't understand it.

Austin Murphy of Sports Illustrated put together his list of the ten most thrilling college football players ever (with eleven guys on it - apparently Austin is a Big Ten fan). Inexplicably, his choice for the number one spot is Vince Young. If the list was most thrilling single game performances, Young can be in the discussion. The Texas national title win over USC was spectacular and he made it happen. For an overall career though, Young has no business being in the top ten much less in the top spot. Just in his conference alone I would take Tommie Frazier of Nebraska and Jamelle Holieway of Oklahoma as more thrilling than Young at his position. To not even have guys like Bo Jackson, Johnny Rodgers and a host of others on the list while Young sits atop it is just silly.

Dale Earnhardt, Jr. says he's interested in racing in the Indianapolis 500. Far be it from me to give Junior career guidance, but in general it's a good idea to have success at what you're already doing before you start discussing other stuff. More and more people around NASCAR are starting to believe this guy really is done as a meaningful force on the track, with some of his fans beginning to jump on board the Tony Stewart bandwagon since he drives closer to Dale Senior anyway. It's bizarre to see what's happened, because Junior did seem to have pretty good talent at one point in his career.

Sania Mirza is a pro tennis player from India. She's not hard on the eyes, but considering she never got to the point where she was being seeded in tournaments Mirza was never a big star here. In India, on the other hand, her impending engagement is apparently a crisis for some avid fans. One guy tried breaking into her house to profess his love to her. That kind of thing tends to work out better in the movies. Another fan took himself hostage, saying he would commit suicide if Mirza went through with the engagement. I'd love to know what plans these guys rejected before believing they had carefully selected sound strategies to woo the lovely Miss Mirza away from her fiancee.

We're twelve days away from the start of SEC football media days. Next week is the deadest sports week of the year, but good stuff awaits on the other side. Have a great weekend, avoid strange late night Twittering like Rich Eisen and I'll see you back here Monday.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Wish I could get paid big money to be wrong about everything too

When a former national championship QB looks back on his college days, you'd assume it'll be with nothing but great things to say. In the case of LSU's Matt Flynn, you'd be wrong. The current Green Bay backup spoke out recently about the level of quarterback coaching he got in Baton Rouge...

“I never really got the individual work on dropbacks and stuff like that, so it’s been very beneficial to me,” Flynn said. “There’s a lot of technical stuff at this level.”

Flynn also referred to his LSU QB coaching on pocket techniques as "just drop back and throw". The QB coach for all but one of Flynn's seasons at LSU was none other than FSU offensive mastermind Jimbo Fisher. Sounds like Christian Ponder's big breakthrough year might need to be moved back a few seasons.

Some stories just don't make sense when you hear them. For me, one that immediately failed the smell test was the wave of "Lenny Dykstra is a financial wizard" stories that ran last year. Everyone who's ever heard Dykstra interviewed or read anything about the man can tell he's a dumbass. He was named as a PED user in the Mitchell Report, nearly killed a teammate in a DUI, and was tied to gambling during his playing days. If even a true financial mastermind like Warren Buffet was struggling with last year's markets, I was supposed to believe Dykstra had it all figured out? Sorry, not buying that even though Jim Cramer insisted I should. Over the past few months, the lie unraveled in stories like this one from GQ. Yesterday, Dykstra filed for bankruptcy and acknowledged he has around fifty thousand dollars worth of assets and over 30 million in debts. I understood how people got taken in by Bernie Madoff - but anyone who was giving Lenny Dykstra big money for financial guidance deserves what they got. Can someone explain to me how, given the events of the past year, Jim Cramer still has a job?

As a member of the Football Writers Association, I'm in on the voting for some of the awards in college football. As a result, I get sent things promoting players for the various honors. Normally it's just emails or a pamphlet. Once in a while someone tries a stunt, like View Masters with a highlight reel disc for Missouri's Chase Daniel last year. Normally the players they're touting are at least clearly among the better ones in the country. Illinois does not appear to see that as a requirement. They've already started an awards promotion website for a QB who threw just four fewer interceptions last year then the three Heisman finalists combined and a receiver with five touchdown grabs and a 69 yard per game average in his two year career. They're not terrible players, but there's nothing there to even justify first team all conference. Perhaps instead of hyping guys off a 5-7 football team for awards the Illini would be wise to focus on team goals?

After mercifully disappearing from the ESPN scene in May, Stephen A. Smith has begun to resurface. He's been opining on his own website, but now he's started turning up on MSNBC as a commentator on general events. Hopefully Smith knows politics better than he knew football, and it will help if he could dial the "angry man" persona down about five notches. I suspect that I will value his opinion on Sonia Sotomayor about as much as I would Dykstra's tip of "Blue Horseshoe loves Anacot Steel".

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Coming soon: a rebranding to

Some folks are worked up by radio host Paul Finebaum's anti-Urban Meyer tirade in yesterday's Mobile paper. Considering he now writes just one column per week and they went to special effort to hype this up on the website, I'm surprised at how poorly done it is. Finebaum's poison pen is what he built his career on, and when he's interested he's normally good at using it. This is just a rambling, disjointed mess though. Meyer is leaving for Notre Dame, says Finebaum, because: 1. he's a liar, 2. he's scared of Nick Saban, 3. Tebow's leaving, and 4. Billy Donovan's a nobody now (idiotic, not to mention irrelevant). A few brief rebuttals to this silliness: 1. Notre Dame won't be hiring any new coach this year. You or I could win 8 games with their schedule and they don't want to eat Weis's big deal with six years remaining. 2. The guy with the two BCS titles in three years, who went 12-0 at Utah and won immediately at Bowling Green, is not scared of a guy he just beat who's won two conference titles in his entire career. 3. Calling someone a name doesn't make them what you call them. Otherwise calling Mike Shula a head coach might have worked. My only guess for why Finebaum wrote this is a desire to fire up his Bama listener base. Nothing else, including the column, makes any sense.

Gary Parrish of reports Mike Krzyzewski will return as coach of Team USA in the 2012 Olympics. The 2008 gold medal team was out to prove a point about our basketball and did so. While Coach K had a role to play in guiding them there, if they hadn't cared about succeeding in the Olympics a great deal before he ever came into the picture then the team wouldn't have won. I'm not sure that same hunger will be there in three years, and if it's not then I doubt any coach will be able to guide the USA to the gold. I wonder how Duke people will feel about K dividing his time again, since a number of them felt it negatively impacted the program the first time.

I'm a big John Pelphrey fan, but something doesn't seem to be working right for him in Arkansas. Over the weekend word came down that Jason Henry isn't going to be back for his sophomore season with the Razorbacks. That's now four guys out of six from his most recent signing class who've already said so long to Fayetteville. Pelphrey's not on the hot seat yet, but if they don't improve this year the word is he could be in some trouble by the end of the season. It would be foolish for them to make a move after just three years, but you never know what can happen these days.

Not sure why Michael Jackson's memorial service needed to be on every channel yesterday, but there it was. People are going to say positive things about the deceased at their funeral, but it got a little loopy at the Staples Center. Al Sharpton actually said to Michael's kids there "wasn't nothing strange about your daddy". Sure, lots of kids have parents who make them wear masks when they go out in public and hang out with a pet chimp. Nothing odd about that at all. Magic Johnson said the best day of his life was eating Kentucky Fried Chicken with Michael. Better than the gold medal or all those championships? Wow, that must have been some good chicken.

I've mentioned before here how fascinated I am by companies getting caught up in things like logo or name changes. Pepsi spent huge money concocting a slightly different logo - did you buy any more of it? How about Gatorade - anyone notice a mad surge of G drinkers lately? We have a new standard for silliness in the broadcast division now. The Sci-Fi Channel, the name of which told you exactly what its programming was, is gone. In its place is the new, "hipper" name Syfy. Sure people who see that who aren't viewers already will have no idea what it means - big deal. Someone in marketing just got a bonus!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Your Michael Jackson counterprogramming - Orrin Hatch

There are indications that Florida may lose wide receiver Riley Cooper to the Texas Rangers farm system before the season begins. Cooper probably has a better chance at a pro baseball career than a football one, and he already has been part of a couple of national titles. UF would certainly prefer to have him, but I don't think anyone can question Cooper's choice if he feels like now is the time he has his best leverage for a big MLB contract. Florida would miss his blocking on the perimeter as much as his receiving skills if he does choose to leave.

Another week, another BCS dog and pony show in Washington, DC. This time it's Orrin Hatch leading a Judiciary subcommittee through an exercise that will accomplish nothing. Don't believe me? Check out the witness list for today's hearing. A Utah senator asking the president of the U of Utah about whether the system is unfair to them is the definition of pandering to constituents. A reminder - there is nothing in the system which prevents Utah from playing for the BCS title. What kept them back are pollsters who did not rank them one or two - which would have still happened under the old setup. I'm no BCS defender, but this is a ridiculous argument.

The ACC embarassed itself yesterday, removing the conference baseball tournaments it had awarded Myrtle Beach for the years 2011-13. The decision is a result of the ongoing NAACP boycott of South Carolina due to the Confederate flag that still is prominently displayed on the Statehouse grounds in Columbia. No facts have changed between the time the ACC awarded Myrtle Beach (roughly three hours from the offending flag) the games and yesterday, so why the abrupt change? A "miscommunication", says the ACC. That's a load of garbage. They simply didn't have the guts to stand by their commitment to a city (one which has nothing to do with the flag problem) once someone from outside the Myrtle Beach area started complaining about it. The ACC could have said they'd remove the games if action wasn't taken by a certain date, giving Myrtle Beach legislators an incentive and opportunity to work toward change. They could have staged the event for one year to demonstrate the economic impact the state has been missing out on, with a deadline for change or the other two tournaments would be lost. Almost any course of action the conference took would have been better than running, claiming they somehow weren't aware of a boycott that's existed for a full decade. It was pathetic.

If you're the kind of person who takes your TV viewing extremely seriously, there's a guy looking to fix you up with your own Man Wall. 4 TVs, a sports ticker, two cigar humidors and a beer tap can all be yours for the low, low price of $14,900. To the guy who designed this thing's credit, he admits he doesn't expect to sell many. If there's a married guy alive who can get that purchase by his wife, I would like to meet him.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Keep your feet on the ground, and keep reaching for the stars

The summer of celebrity death continued with Saturday's stunning news of Steve McNair's murder in Nashville. McNair's toughness was the thing that most stood out about him, but I still remember watching him break a 71 yard touchdown run to beat the Bucs in 1998. The Bucs led that game 16-3 at the half, but McNair brought his Oilers (name change to Titans wasn't until the next season) back for the 31-22 win. Covering Jacksonville a year later, I watched them plan their defensive strategy around the concept of "Dare McNair". The premise: McNair wasn't an accurate enough passer to beat them, so stop Eddie George and they'd win. The 1999 Jaguars lost three times - all of them were to McNair and the Titans including in the ACC title game. Whoops. I'm not sure McNair would have been a Hall of Famer before this happened - it would have been close, since he never won a championship and only went to one Super Bowl - but he was an outstanding player and overall a big positive for the NFL. Whatever the circumstances of his death prove to be, it was a major loss.

If you're not covering Major League Baseball, summertime is for list making. It's a way for sports media to fill the time before things start to rev up again with NFL training camps late this month. ESPN has come out with their supposed rankings of the franchises of the four pro sports leagues. Any list that asks me to accept the notion that six of the top eleven franchises in sports are in the NHL is a really stupid list. On what planet could the Charlotte Bobcats be considered the 59th best franchise - ahead of all three Florida NFL teams? If this is the best the guys in Bristol could come up with, they need to either change the formula or stop coming out with the rankings.

Unfortunately, that's not the stupidest sports list I read this weekend. The ab obsessed folks at Men's Health decided they should rank the 100 most sports obsessed American cities. Their conclusions? Philadelphia, Tampa and New York are 85th, 87th and 88th. Colorado Springs is 3rd and Anchorage, Alaska is tenth. Great list, guys. Stick to "seven foods to supercharge your sex life" from now on, okay?

One of the touchstones of my childhood officially left the airwaves this weekend. Casey Kasem's American Top Forty was mandatory listening for me when I was a kid. Don't ask me why I cared whether a song I hated like Sly Fox's Let's Go All The Way rose or fell on the countdown - all I can tell you is that I did. Kasem hasn't been doing AT40 for a while, being quite a bit out of the age range of the current top 40 demographic, but had been doing a version for the "soft rock" format the past few years. Now he's getting out of the countdown business altogether. The one thing I always hated about American Top Forty was the "long distance dedication" - as you can hear from this famous Kasem outtake, I wasn't the only one. (don't click if foul language is a problem for you)

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Anytime I can mix in Warren Zevon, it's a good day

The Michigan student newspaper claims the Wolverines are looking at a football home and home with Georgia beginning in 2010 in Ann Arbor and then going to Athens in 2011. Because of UGA's aggressive non-SEC scheduling this is actually semi-believable as a possibility, but I doubt it. It makes all the sense in the world for Michigan to want to play a game in the south, since that's where Rich Rodriguez is trying to land almost all his players. (There are virtually no home state kids on their commitment list.) What I can't see is where the benefit for Georgia would come from. They don't recruit extensively in Michigan, unless they're figuring on a bunch of Lions fan kids wanting to go where Matthew Stafford played. Joe Cox is a fifth year senior, so unless he flops/gets injured and is replaced this year they'd be giving a QB his first start in the Big House. Though it would be a fun series, this doesn't pass the common sense test with me so I'll assume it won't be happening. Wouldn't it be great if you heard Florida was looking at a series like that and ever had reason to believe it?

The NCAA basketball tournament committee got one right. They've announced that teams records in the last twelve games of a season will not be one of the factors they weigh in the selection process. It's about time. Think about it - what does this stat show you? It's not like each team plays the same set of games, so comparisons purely on records mean little. If a team loses enough of its last twelve, it will miss the tournament because its record wasn't good enough. Otherwise, why should UF be penalized for having their toughest conference games in the second half of the schedule to make TV happy every year?

Alexis Arguello joins the recent list of big name deaths, under curious circumstances in Nicaragua. The fact he was mayor of Managua tells you this was not the typical boxer. The fact his bout with Ray Mancini was significant enough to get into the lyrics of Warren Zevon's song Boom Boom Mancini should as well. Now try and name three personalities in the sport which can captivate public attention today. It's amazing how far off the radar the sport has become. Ask around at your office today: who are the heavyweight champs right now? If anyone can come up with the law firm of Klitschko, Klitschko & Valuev, I'd be stunned. That's what putting all your sport's big events on pay per view, especially when you frequently deliver crap to those who do pay, will do.

One of the all time great SEC football names of the past twenty years is in trouble with the law. Jim Bob Cooter never saw meaningful action for Tennessee, but the walkon quarterback had the absolutely perfect name for a member of the Volunteers. Alas, after a brief run as a graduate assistant coach once his playing days were done it appears Cooter has picked up burglary as a new hobby. This sounds like one of the incidents Robert Downey, Jr. had in his out of control days rather than a property burglary. Hopefully Cooter can get himself back on track, because that's too good a name to have slide off the radar.

Since this is a three day weekend for most folks, I will take tomorrow off from the blog. I hope you'll enjoy your 4th of July. If you take time to think about the principles that make the USA great, try to square them with the sentiments being expressed in this clip. I don't care what your politics are, openly rooting for a terrorist attack in this country is insane. Glenn Beck should be ashamed to show his face in public after condoning it and apparently agreeing with his guest advocating an Osama attack as the way to "save" us. Have a good weekend and I'll see you back here Monday.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Now playing in Columbia: Bulworth 2

Kentucky basketball may be about to pick up two more players, including the supposed third best prospect in the country. Xavier Henry's already been let out of his letter of intent at Memphis but was supposedly going to Kansas. Since he can't sign a second letter of intent, only his word keeps him bound to the Jayhawks right now. I don't see how John Calipari is going to blend all these guys together when each of them wants to be the man and none of them are planning on playing more than a year of college basketball. UK might be the most talented collection of players in the country, but I doubt they'll be much of a team.

Last night was the final new episode of Fox Sports Net's Best Damn Sports Show Period. I assumed having me on the show seven years ago was a sign they were circling the drain, but somehow it just kept going for around a decade. Never have so many ex-jocks feigned so much amusement about so little genuinely funny material as they did on that program. A free wheeling "Tonight show" styled program for sports fans is a pretty good concept, but no one's had the right set of talent to do it. Tom Arnold definitely wasn't the guy.

Jeff Pearlman keeps a blog on his website in addition to the info that's there about his books. Yesterday, out of nowhere, he featured a terrific Youtube find for those of us who are Tampa Bay Bucs fans. It's a clip of a post game interview with both Ricky Bell and Doug Williams on the field after Tampa Bay improved to 6-2 in the amazing 1979 season by defeating Green Bay. There are so many things that stand out - rookie analyst John Madden talks about running into Williams at the airport, the Tampa Bay marching band stands ready to play behind the guys, and the interview is almost six minutes long (which would never happen on a network today with any player). I was six when that happened, so it was a cool time capsule moment.

The situation here in South Carolina with the governor is getting weirder with each passing day. Mark Sanford keeps revealing more details about his liaisons with his mistress and then inexplicably brought up episodes with other women yesterday. Hopefully you'll never find yourself in the position this guy is, but should you ever stray from your marriage here are a couple of helpful hints. It's probably a bad idea to refer to the other woman as your soulmate repeatedly while calling the episode "a love story". It's even worse to then mention you're "trying to fall back in love" with your wife. When you're in a hole, stop digging!