Friday, April 30, 2010

Best fake Derby horse name seen on twitter this week: Old Dirty Pasture'd

The brouhaha over Arizona's new state law designed to combat illegal immigrants has begun to crop up as an issue for the Arizona Diamondbacks. Protests are expected at games they're playing on the road, which seems completely pointless to me. More importantly, some are now calling for MLB to take away the All-Star game awarded to Phoenix for next season if the law isn't changed. I'm no attorney, but there seems to be a pretty wide consensus that this law is not likely to withstand legal challenges. There's a process to deal with such things, none of which involves action by Bud Selig. To me, using sports as a pressure tactic for political ends rarely works and frequently punishes the wrong people when it's tried. If MLB takes an action against Arizona here, what other issues are significant enough for them to do so? There are closeted gay baseball players - should they have to play in this year's A-S game in Anaheim when the state passed a law to deny them the right to marriage? Of course they should, because one thing has nothing to do with the other and MLB has no business sticking its nose into the political process.

Tiger Woods had a rough first day at Quail Hollow, shooting two over. One of the things that's going to be curious in covering the Woods story going forward is how much the seemingly never ending negative PR hits impact his play. Yesterday alone Tiger had to deal with the news 24 percent of PGA Tour players surveyed by Sports Illustrated believe he used performance enhancing drugs. He also had the National Enquirer report that Woods confessed to cheating with 120 women, but his wife was still angry because he left out the girl from down the street. There's really no way to know if Woods was even aware of either item when he took to the course, but it can't be fun to wonder if the guy you're playing with is a tabloid source or part of the secret 24 percent. Given Tiger's control freak nature, I suspect that's part of the reason he's struggling even if he'd sooner lick a belt sander than admit it.

The Wall Street Journal reports that the NCAA has found violations in the UConn mens basketball program. They're focused on what this all means for Jim Calhoun, but I'm more curious about what the organization will do for punishment. Between this case and the two glamor football schools in USC and Michigan, there are multiple upcoming opportunities for the organization to show they're serious about holding people accountable for violations as opposed to letting schools just name their own mild sentence. History tells us don't expect much, but I have a feeling at least one of those cases will lead to a punishment that actually gets peoples attention.

The Kentucky Derby will run tomorrow in Louisville. As is typically the case in recent years, the race has far too many horses. Of the twenty in the field, my friend and horse racing guru Chris Fallica feels no more than four of them would be legitimate contenders to win the race on merit. On a track crammed with so many horses, fluke things can happen. Beyond that, it appears the weather for the race is going to be extremely bad which makes it even more difficult to come up who's going to win. Fallica believes Lookin at Lucky, which got stuck with post one, is the best horse. Doesn't mean he'll win though. The official recommendation as your pick to click - box the 1 with the 14 Mission impazible and 16 Awesome Act. if you want a fourth number and/or a longshot to play, go with the 9 Make Music For Me. As is my personal tradition I will make a pick based on nothing more than a horse's name and thus will choose the 10 Paddy O'Prado. Have a good weekend and I'll see you back here Monday or on my Twitter feed at heathradio if anything noteworthy happens.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

A brief explanation of the blog for anonymous

Someone has taken the time to come to the blog today and posted three comments complaining about the fact it focuses on Florida specific subjects frequently. I assume they have found the site from Twitter, although I don't know that for sure. I've never discussed the existence of this site on Columbia radio, because it's not targeted to Columbia listeners. As such, I thought it might be a good idea to restate what my purpose is in writing the blog.

I started this as a way to maintain my connection with my Gainesville radio audience when I left for South Carolina. I worked there for around a decade, and lived in the state for about 98 percent of my life to that point. I make no apologies about those facts. The person who wrote today's comments seems to feel once I crossed the state line I am obligated not only to talk about South Carolina related subjects on the air, but also to renounce any interests beyond that on the internet. Sorry, no.

This blog's readership comes from around the country - and apparently a couple of Canadian folks. It tends to be be between 200-250 daily, with spikes in readership here or there that I assume come as the result of getting linked somewhere. I appreciate you being interested enough in what I have to say to take the time to drop by. It's not called Heath's Gator blog or Heath's College Football blog or anything else like that for a reason. It's not focused on a single topic, it's about whatever happens to be on my mind other than anything political, just like the radio show was. Since the original readership base for the blog was my Gainesville audience, I'm going to tell them what I think when something I would be talking about there is newsworthy.

The other thing that seems to have angered this anonymous person is my work for in a paid capacity. I have no idea if they've read my articles for the site or not. Some of them are available if you do a google news search. If you read them you'll see they're coverage of games and analysis on things like the NFL draft. You won't find one "Go Gators" in there anywhere. Regardless, they seem to believe it proves I'm a passionate Gator fan to still be writing for the site even though I now live and work in Columbia. I signed a contract with Fightin Gators while I worked in Gainesville. When I moved to Columbia, it still had and still does have time remaining on it. They want me to continue to write for them and pay me to do so. Anonymous, you're welcome to believe I should give away a not insignificant chunk of my income and walk out on a valid contract just to make you happy but I'm afraid I'm going to have to disappoint you on that.

If you're wondering why I don't write similar articles for a Gamecock site, the reason is because Fightin Gators is a Scout site. 107.5 the Game, the station I work for in Columbia, has a pre-existing relationship with the Rivals site here. At times some of my articles for Fightin Gators have appeared on, Scout's SC focused site, but I can't write specifically for them due to the radio station situation. If at some point contractual relationships change and there's a way for me to write about Gamecock athletics and get paid for it I'll be perfectly willing to do that too.

I hope that's cleared things up for Anonymous or any other visitor to the site. One final thing: I do this because I want to, certainly not because I have to. I haven't tried to monetize it in any way, nor am I planning to. If you visit and conclude my blog's not to your liking, I'd encourage you to go ahead and visit some of the other parts of the vast internet that are more enjoyable for you rather than choose to be a jerk here.

As a UK football coach's wife, she's used to finishing 8th

I spent Wednesday covering the buildup to the PGA Tour's Quail Hollow Championship. It was interesting to hear from Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods within half an hour of each other. Tiger seemed fairly relaxed, but seeing him in person I do believe the rumors he had to have some degree of cosmetic surgery done to repair the damage caused the evening of his slow speed car crash. His face looks different than it did when I saw him at the same event, and it's not just the goatee. Mickelson was most interesting talking about his desire to win a US Open, pretty much laying it out there that victory at Pebble Beach is his main goal this year. For whatever it's worth, no one seems interested in heckling Tiger but the crowds are not the same. They're still huge, but it's more polite applause and curiosity than it is fan support from a large portion of the gallery following him.

Since I was on the road in Charlotte, I didn't find out until last night about former UF broadcaster Steve Babik officially pleading guilty to the child pornography charges against him. It wasn't a surprise, as there had been indications last week a plea was coming, but it does make it official that Babik was in fact a child porn viewer and distributed it as well. It was mind blowing for all of us who had dealt with Babik when this came down half a year ago, and it still is. I was never friends with him, but if I had a kid I wouldn't have been scared to leave him/her with Steve if it was necessary to have someone look after them. It's disturbing to have known someone firsthand who was able to mask evil like that, even though you know such people exist. Hopefully they'll give him a lengthy sentence - five years isn't enough.

On a list of stories I didn't expect to see about SEC football, the National Enquirer claiming Dale Earnhardt, Jr has stolen a Kentucky assistant coach's wife would be pretty high. Apparently Junior just wanted to win something. He's the single one, so I doubt this story will cost him too much PR wise with the NASCAR fanbase.

Conan O'Brien's eventual return to television fulltime will be on TBS, but Sunday he'll be seen for the first time since his NBC departure on CBS. 60 Minutes gets the first interview with him, which will probably surprise a lot of people who assumed it would be Letterman. I'll be curious to see how much they show of his current tour, which is apparently doing very well despite being a very unusual, almost vaudeville style format. Just to reiterate in case anyone has forgotten, Jay Leno's show is not funny. It airs immediately after my wife's sportscast so I wind up seeing the first couple of minutes occasionally - absolutely awful.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

"Juuuuust a bit outside"

Michael Silver of Yahoo Sports is always a worthwhile read on the NFL, even if you don't share his point of view. He raised an extremely interesting question in his column yesterday - how much info does the NFL have a right to know about a player's background, and when has someone gone too far? We appear to have our answer, with Miami Dolphins GM Jeff Ireland apologizing for asking wide receiver Dez Bryant if his mother was a prostitute. I'll give Ireland credit for not refusing to comment or trying to lie his way out of the criticism he's getting, but there's no excuse for him doing that. Let's say Bryant's mother was in fact a prostitute at some point (which he says she was not) - how is that possibly relevant to whether Bryant was worth Miami drafting? Would he be less likely to catch a ball across the middle because he's upset about his family background? It was a classless move from an increasingly classless organization in south Florida.

The NCAA has named the late Myles Brand's replacement as president of the organization. It's Mark Emmert, most recently president at Washington (and before that LSU). Since they were going to pick another school president to follow Brand, I like this choice. Emmert showed at LSU he understands the role athletics plays in developing a school's reputation and what it means to the student body and community. Unlike Brand, who came in as "the man who fired Bobby Knight" and reveled in his pious persona, Emmert can bring the positives of understanding a president's concerns without all the grandstanding.

I've seen some silly mock drafts over the years, but I don't think I've ever seen one quite as absurd as this early 2011 one from Russ Lande for the Sporting News. He has Ahmad Black, the same Florida safety who would have been a midround pick in this year's draft at best, as the tenth best prospect. Jarriel King, a South Carolina offensive lineman who will be lucky to get five votes for the All-SEC team at the conference media day, is his supposed 18th pick. Mark Herzlich, a very good college linebacker who may or may not be the same after his comeback from cancer, is at number 20. If Lande had a computer randomly generate a list of 32 players who had started for two seasons of college football, it wouldn't look much more goofy as a 2011 mock draft than this does.

There aren't many of the true voices of an MLB team left, and no one other than Vin Scully in Los Angeles is as associated with their franchise as Bob Uecker is with Milwaukee. Couple that with his work in beer ads, Major League, even Mister Belvedere and you've got a true icon. That's why the news Uecker will have heart surgery and could miss as much as three months was so upsetting to people no matter what team they pull for. Hopefully he'll pull through just fine, but aftert losing Harry Kalas last year it's another reminder to appreciate legends like this while we've got them. You never know when one will be gone.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Hope it was good stuff, Aaron

The Boston Globe reports UF tight end Aaron Hernandez fell to the fourth round of the draft because of at least one positive marijuana test at Florida. This shouldn't surprise anyone, but there have been people throughout the past month asking what the "character questions" scouting reports kept alluding to about Hernandez were. Just because someone hasn't been arrested doesn't mean they're not a character question. An unfortunate side effect of this combined with Urban Meyer's refusal to acknowledge the reasons for suspensions (or that there even is a suspension, for that matter) is that outsiders are likely to conclude every player who's "not ready to play" in the future tested positive when that isn't necessarily the case.

On a related note, former UF WR Nyan Boateng was one of just four players actually stupid enough to test positive for drugs at the combine. When you can't lay off even as that test is coming, you've definitely got issues. There were definite reasons why Boateng got the boot. Louis Murphy came in as part of the same first Urban Meyer recruiting class and struggled at first before getting his act together. He won a national title his senior year and is a starter for Oakland. Boateng bailed out to Cal rather than straighten up and went undrafted. There's a lesson to be learned there.

Looks like Georgia's QB situation may be about to get even worse. My friend Chuck Oliver reported on Atlanta's 680 the Fan yesterday that Logan Gray is expected to announce his plans to transfer by the end of the week. That would leave Mark Richt's team with just one scholarship quarterback that has ever practiced with the team as they head into fall, and just two total once this year's signee arrives. UGA's trying to change Gray's mind, but if he isn't the starter coming out of spring what reason does he have to believe he'll pass redshirt Aaron Murray in the fall? Meanwhile another Bulldogs walkon embarassed the progam by getting arrested - fun times in Athens these days.

Yesterday I chronicled the bonehead radio host on a sports station in Boston who compared the draft night party at Tim Tebow's house to "a Nazi rally". (The Nazis were mostly known for watching TV together with some potato chips, after all. That's before "Flavor of Love" came along so you know they'd be even more into it now.) "Toucher" has now "apologized", and in doing so proceeded to insult everyone's intelligence again. He waited until the end of his four hour program and then noted his comments on Tebow Friday had "ended up offending some people"...

“I truly, truly can tell you that was not my intention. I apologize to you that were offended."

How about apologizing to Tebow's family for comparing them to Nazis, jackass? Feel free to explain what "intention" you actually had that didn't involve offending people while calling folks Nazis for having around a dozen whites in their home. Is there some sort of stupidity virus spreading in the sports radio field this week? A Dallas host has been suspended for getting hammered and posting threats to the NBA office on his Twitter feed and referring to "dirty Mexicans" in San Antonio. Looks like today's the Mountain time zone's turn to have a host do something idiotic.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Hey, just this once, let's hear it for New York! Jay-Z was biggest winner of the draft

I've always thought draft "grades" are as silly as recruiting rankings. Most sportswriters and commentators issuing them haven't seen 3/4 of the people they're talking about play, and even if they have they can't offer more than superficial knowledge on them. Having said that, you can look at what teams did and see if they seem to have met needs with players of reasonable quality. In that sense, I like Tampa Bay's draft. I'll be curious about Brian Price, because although talented his rep at UCLA was that he takes lots of plays off. Mike WIlliams in the fourth round does not please me, because while talented he quit on his team at Syracuse. Maybe he didn't like school, but I don't like bringing in attitude problems. I don't know anything about seventh rounder Erik Lorig, but ESPN's Adam Schefter feels the DE out of Stanford is going to be a steal. Flipping two seventh rounders for a future 5th was a nice move too. I wasn't as fond of the Jaguars and Dolphins drafts, but maybe they'll prove better than expected. Jacksonville's decision to take only one player from a BCS school and four from 1-AA or lower programs seems curious at best though.

The continuing national tantrums by analysts over Denver drafting Tim Tebow really mystify me. He was selected with the 25th pick in the draft! You know how many Hall of Famers have been selected at pick 25? Zero - the NFL voted defensive tackle Ted Washington the all time best player chosen at the position. There have been two quarterbacks taken at 25 in the past couple of decades - Tommy Maddox and Jason Campbell. How could Tim Tebow EVER be compared to legends like that? Even in Denver, columnists opine that Josh McDaniels future with the Broncos "hangs in the balance" on whether Tebow succeeds. No, his future with the Broncos will be determined by whether he wins. If he does so without Tebow, he'll still have his job. If Tebow becomes the starter in 2012 and plays well but the Broncos haven't gone to the playoffs in four years under McDaniels, he might very easily still lose his job. The reality is there are tons of QBs drafted in the first round who fail - Tim Couch and David Carr went first overall, and no gurus projected calamity as they did so. In one year Couch, Donovan McNabb, Akili Smith, Daunte Culpepper and Cade McNown all went in the first twelve picks. Find me the analyst who correctly predicted which two would succeed and which three would be disasters, and I'll listen to that guy. Otherwise, it's all guesswork with the player's success often based on things he has no control over (quality of OL, WRs, etc.) If Tebow's not a starting QB in three years, it was an unsuccessful pick for Denver. It could turn out that way, but I'm guessing plenty of other first rounders higher than 25 will turn out poorly too. So why is Tebow being drafted there such a big deal again?

The way people reacted to the Tebow pick, you would have thought Matt Millen made it as opposed to someone with credibility as an offensive mind. Millen still found a way to be offensive over the weekend, winding up apologizing to Polish people for a comment he made to Ron Jaworski. Millen has no business appearing on TV in any role related to anything other than in game analysis. He has zero credibility in any kind of personnel/coaching anaylsis role due to demonstrated and repeated incompetence. Why anyone chooses to employ him for anything other than color on a game is beyond me.

Millen does not have the most offensive comment of the last three days by a long shot. That goes to the imbecile morning show host at Boston's 98.5 the Sports Hub who compared Tebow's draft night party to "some kind of Nazi rally". Almost every shot they showed of a player featured mostly people with the same skin color. That didn't make them Nazis and Black Panthers, it made them people spending time with their families (who tend to be the same race as them). For the record "Toucher", the host in question, is not a sports talk guy. He and his partner were on the station when it was a rock format and were held over. This is the kind of "shock jock" crap that regularly embarasses my medium, but people who have guys like this on the air view controversy as good for business because it draws attention. If you're hacked off about it don't waste your time emailing or calling station management. I assure you they will not care. Advertisers sometimes do care, so if you're someone upset about this that's the place you should devote your energies.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Mel got a lump of coal for Christmas

Round one is in the books and a lot of it went the way I anticipated. Tampa Bay took who they were supposed to in Gerald McCoy. Their draft will succeed or fail based on what they do with the third and tenth picks of round two. Miami didn't want to have a high pick and traded out of their spot, although I'd like their move a lot better with Dan Williams at pick 26 than I do with Jared Oldrick at 28. Jacksonville's selection of Tyson Alualu was bizarre - hard to believe no one was willing to trade up for that spot when the next three picks were all dealt. He may turn out to be a fine player, but that was much earlier than any other team would have been interested and moving back might have helped make up for the lack of a second round pick.

Can't say too much about the Florida kids because I'm writing extensively about the draft for, but I think both Joe Haden and Maurkice Pouncey landed in very good spots for them with Cleveland and Pittsburgh. I'm mystified that people where surprised by the Tim Tebow pick - if you read yesterday's blog you know I projected that to happen. I say that not to pat myself on the back but to point out there were plenty of clues here if you were paying attention. Apparently Mel Kiper, who inexplicably has Jimmy Clausen as the fourth best player in this draft, was so determined to be right that he chose to ignore why Denver is a great fit. Tebow won't be asked to be a starter early. He'll have a coach who's shown the ability to develop QBs and runs an offense that he says "stole a bunch of Florida's plays". No one will put any pressure on Tebow to sell tickets or "save the franchise" because Denver's got a rock solid fanbase. With no sure longterm QB solution between Kyle Orton and Brady Quinn, what's odd about Denver wanting Tebow?

I don't know whether the NFL asked teams not to drag things out in primetime if they knew what their pick was going to be, but it seemed like there was a much better flow to the draft than there typically is. ESPN's performance was not so stellar though. They need to trim the crew down to three people - Chris Berman (who, for better or worse, is clearly going to host this thing even though he is now awful at it), Jon Gruden and Mel Kiper. Steve Young adds something occasionally but has no concept of when to stop talking, and Tom Jackson seemed like he was miserable having to be there. Several times it seemed like Berman was putting a hand on his shoulder as a "hang in there buddy" type of thing. Kiper spewing scouting jargon and stats followed by Gruden tearing it apart made for entertaining television. When Tebow was selected and Gruden followed it up with extensive comments about why he'll be a success, Kiper looked like someone had just told him the takeout Chinese he ate wasn't really chicken. Gruden is unbelievably good as a broadcaster, by the way. I'm sure he'll look to coach again but if he was smart he wouldn't. He'll be the John Madden of the next quarter century if he gives himself the chance.

The announcement that the NCAA Tournament will not be ruined by expanding to 96 teams was good news, but no one should believe it's the end of that battle. There will now be 68 teams, but there are two networks showing the event. It's extremely likely they will look to expand the number of games at some point during the term of the new contract. Trying to switch to 96 for 2011 would have been extremely tricky. Arenas have already been booked based on the existing schedule, and a sudden format change would have had a major effect on that. With a little more time to plan, it will be much easier for the NCAA to avoid that problem when they look to make the switch. Fans are going to have to continue to make it clear that 96 teams in the tournament is a horrible idea whenever the topic comes up.

I'll be busy with the draft and other stuff throughout the weekend. Follow on Twitter at heathradio if you want to see what's on my mind or send me comments/questions. Have a good weekend and I'll see you back here Monday.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Mel Kiper's Christmas now lasts three days

The NFL Draft begins tonight, and as a Bucs fan I can't say I'm too worked up about it. It certainly appears they're going to take Gerald McCoy with the third choice, and that's a solid pick. They need DT help, and some scouts think he's the best player in the entire draft (Pro Football Weekly has him ranked there too.) All indications are the Jaguars and Dolphins would love to trade down, but to do that someone has to want to come up and get a guy which is no sure thing. I'll say the Fins do deal but Jax is forced to stay put and takes C.J. Spiller. I believe Maurkice Pouncey will be the first Gator drafted and that Joe Haden will also go in the middle of round one. If Jimmy Clausen is gone by pick seventeen, I believe Tim Tebow will be selected no later than pick 30 by Minnesota and possibly earlier in a tradeup by someone (Buffalo or Denver the most likely).

One of tonight's storylines will be what Pete Carroll does in his first draft as the man in charge with the Seattle Seahawks. Yesterday on his Twitter feed, Carroll put out a list of songs he claimed were clues to the Seahwaks draft plans. Since Pearl Jam's "Jeremy" was one of them and there's not a player named Jeremy anywhere in Pro Football Weekly's top 150 prospects, I'm thinking he might be jerking people's chains a bit. On the other hand, if you're looking for Tebow destination clues one of Pete's choices was "Superman's Song" by the Crash Test Dummies. I'm not buying it, but they could use a quarterback so there it is. Can you imagine Bill Parcells doing this?

I'm not a big fan of this whole NFL Draft on a Thursday night concept. The league apparently feels it will draw bigger ratings by putting the event in prime time rather on Saturday. Maybe they're right, but I suspect they aren't. They'll be competing with a lot tougher programming competition this evening than a little baseball and a couple of NBA and NHL playoff games on Saturday. One thing that really puzzles me is the NFL's effort to hype this by having a red carpet entrance for the first time featuring "celebrities". The NFL's got lots of clout, the event's in NYC, so you'd assume that list of big timers will be pretty impressive. The featured celebs are Whoopi Goldberg, Alysssa Milano and Jillian Michaels of "The Biggest Loser". Maybe everyone else is at home watching CSI or The Office?

In a followup on a previous story, Esquire Magazine's sexiest woman alive online bracket features the longest voting windows in history but has finally completed round one. The verdict is in, the readers have spoken, and Lane Kiffin has defeated Natalie Gulbis to advance to the second round of sexy woman voting. Next up is a matchup with Danica Patrick, who used her Twitter account and fanatical racing fans to beat Erin Andrews. Which fanbase will be more powerful - Danica worshipping gearheads or Kiffin hating college football fans? Should be amusing. Right now it's a 50-50 split early, although given how long the last round took I think you have until the NBA Finals to vote.

Speaking of Tennessee, new coach Derek Dooley is saying he doesn't think the NCAA will hit the Vols with anything much as a result of the investigation into the hostess scandal and other Kiffin staff related fun. Dooley's probably right, but then he goes on to say that he believes punishments should follow the coach that commits the violations. If that's the case, how does Steve Rubio still have a job at UT when the "recruiting intern" got UCF into an NCAA jam and then bailed for Knoxville? Would Dooley like the Volunteers to take on UCF's punishment for Rubio's cheating?

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Jimbo's brain was apparently in limbo

Jimbo Fisher can try the rest of his career and it's going to be hard to top something he said this week for sheer stupidity. FSU's new coach actually suggested it would be a good idea for the yearly game with the Gators to move out of the state of Florida. He suggests making it the season opener as a neutral game at the Georgia Dome for two years. Words can not begin to do justice to how idiotic this idea is. It would deprive both the Gainesville and Tallahassee communities of a huge day of economic impact in favor of giving that money to Georgia. It would rob each school of one of their (and maybe their absolute) best days to host recruiting visits. The benefits of such a move would be what exactly? Might be a good idea for Jimbo to actually win a game or two before he starts suggesting screwing with traditions.

Florida basketball continues on its recruiting tear, picking up its third commitment in three days. Cody Larson, a forward from South Dakota, is the latest to jump in as part of this year's signing class. He was getting interest from Ohio State and Kansas in the last couple of weeks after being released from Iowa. Unlike previous "late" Billy Donovan acquisitions llike Mohammad Abukar and Christian Drejer, there's a familiarity here. This kid has come to UF's camps and both sides should know what they're getting. That could make this a lot more effective than those similar signings proved to be. There's no question now that some people currently on the roster won't be back, with Alex Tyus's potential European future, Adam Allen's injuries and Nimrod Tishman's total lack of presence all having people looking their way for where the spots will open up.

Tampa Bay's trade of Byron Leftwich to Pittsburgh is the rare deal that makes perfect sense for both sides. Leftwich had no future in Tampa, so it lets them get something small of value for acknowledging that. Pittsburgh gets a guy who knows their system and isn't a trouble maker to have as an option in case Roethlisberger's situation turns out to be worse than anticipated. It was poor decision making by the NFL to wait until after the schedules were released to announce Ben's punishment. Whether any consideration was given to what his status was or not in the making of Pittsburgh's schedule, the perception will be that it was. If he gets four weeks, the timing of their bye for week five in particular (allowing him two weeks to get ramped up for the rest of the season) is going to look sketchy.

As for those NFL schedules, while I don't understand the hoopla that has developed about their unveiling it is always interesting to see which teams appear to have a good deal or a particularly tough one. Tampa Bay's going to be bad, but the league gave them a soft opener at home against Cleveland to try and give the fans a little hope. The bye after three weeks is ridiculous though, especially when you have just two home games between October 25 and December 19. Miami asked for 4 PM home games and was given none by the league. Having the first two games on the road isn't ideal, but overall they got a pretty good setup. My main concern would be the late season games at the Jets and New England with the possibility of major weather issues. I don't like Jacksonville's schedule at all - 4 of your first 6 games are at home and yet they're mostly against tough opponents. Not any obvious late cold weather games, but without a hot start the Jags will be toast. They could easily fail to get off to that quick start considering their opponents.

I'm starting to really feel bad for Tiger Woods. In just a few months he's gone from being a guy who was respected by everyone and admired by millions to a guy who's viewed as a cheater and a louse. None of that really bothered me all that much, though. Now Tiger's image has acquired another stain, and this one may not come out. Woods spent time backstage at a Nickelback concert in Orlando rocking out this week. If you know people already have doubts about you, why would you ever reveal you're a Nickelback fan? It's not like he can say he was just there trolling for groupies.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

It's a miracle Dave Bliss isn't coaching again

Two days before the NFL draft, there's all kinds of free flowing BS from teams trying to put stuff over on the other franchises. Tim Tebow met with Denver yesterday, which many around the league are interpreting as a smokescreen to disguise their true objective. Tebow still hasn't made a final decision about going to the draft, which seems to bother some people. I don't see any reason for him to do so, but if he does then that's fine as long as he's not going to be bothered by possibly coming back for day 2 if he isn't a first rounder. Here are a couple of articles to ponder, one documenting some of the absurd questions these prospects have been asked in the leadup to this event and the other making the argument that players from non-BCS schools are undervalued in the drafting process.

College basketball is apparently about to prove again that no matter what a coach does there will always be someone willing to give him another shot if they think he can win. Rutgers is apparently going to bring in Jim O'Brien as their basketball coach. This is a guy who got Ohio State put on probation in his last job. He lied to his AD about a lawsuit which led to a huge embarrassment for the school (google "Boban Savovic" and "Kathleen Salyers" if you want to know more). Like all head coaches, O'Brien had no idea something sleazy was going on in his program - it's always those darn assistants who are responsible. If O'Brien was dirty at a place with the appeal of Ohio State, what's he going to do in the Big East at a program that's been destroyed through incompetence? He'll either lose big, cheat or cheat and still lose big. There's no way this will end well for Rutgers.

If you've ever been to Las Vegas, you've seen the promotions for the various shows out there. There are signs on cabs, billboards, huge marquees and sometimes even stickers on the entire sides of resorts devoted to touting that venue's featured performer. Just imagine that you're rolling down the Strip, weighing your options - Garth Brooks at the Wynn, Jerry Seinfeld at Caesars, Carrot Top at Luxor, half a dozen Cirque de Soleil shows at various outlets, and Terry Bradshaw. Yeah, that Terry Bradshaw. He tells USA Today he's working on a one man stage show for Vegas. I know Terry did some albums in the 70s, he's been in Cannonball Run 2 and had that nude scene in Failure to Launch. None of that adds up to a Vegas headlining gig, especially when sixty bucks is about the cheapest ticket you can get. If this happens, Frank Caliendo (another Vegas headliner) will have his easiest season ever doing his comedy picks segment on the Fox NFL pregame show.

Science is always marching forward, making progress on solving the great problems of our times. Take, for example, the perplexing challenge of learning how to launch hot dogs even farther and faster out of a mascot's cannon at a baseball game. Thanks to the addition of nitrogen technology to the Phillie Phanatic's weaponry, it's now possible. Now if they could do something about what's in the actual hot dogs, we'd be getting somewhere. I'm still a much bigger fan of the t-shirt launch, because inevitably one of the hot dogs shot into the crowd comes out of its wrapper and showers the fans with pieces of processed "meat" and bun.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Bad year for long named QBs in Georgia

Florida basketball picked up a nice transfer over the weekend in Mike Rosario from Rutgers. He's not a short term answer because he has to sit out the year, but he'll give them really quality backcourt options in 2012 and 13 while being a challenging presence to contend with in practice next season. The bigger questions are ahead. The Gators clearly need at least one guard who can play this season as well as potentially another forward. Without a definitive answer on whether Alex Tyus is coming back or not, it's hard to know just how many more they may sign. He has no shot at the NBA, but may be looking to play in Europe. If so, goodbye and good luck. Florida will do better with someone who actually wants to be there playing as opposed to enduring another year of Tyus's regular disappearing acts.

Georgia's quarterback situation wasn't going to get resolved before the fall, but then Zach Mettenberger took care of it for them. He was kicked off the team yesterday afternoon for thus far unspecified reasons, meaning the Bulldogs have two scholarship QB options going forward. The one they're expected to go with is Aaron Murray, a redshirt freshman who's under six feet, suffered from some arm soreness issues last year, and didn't have an especially good spring game. When the other option is Logan Gray, a guy Mark Richt wanted to move to receiver who doesn't have accuracy on his passes or skill at reading defenses, Murray looks pretty good. UGA's D better make giant steps quickly, because teams will take away the run and dare their pass game to make plays and right now there's plenty of reason to believe they won't be able to do that.

Jason Cole of Yahoo Sports reports that Ben Roethlisberger is going to be suspended either today or tomorrow, with the QB not expected to fight the punishment. That tells me it's going to be four games or less, because I suspect any more lost income and playing time than that would prompt a battle from his legal team. If you've read the reports on what happened on The Smoking Gun, it's impossible to not come away feeling that at minimum he deserves a month suspension for being a churlish drunken imbecile. That this episode happened with multiple law enforcement officers serving as Roethlisberger's protectors as it was going on is perhaps the creepiest part of the whole thing. Roger Goodell's hammer has to fall hard here.

With the draft three days away, people are making their final evaluations of last season's college stars. While plenty of scouts clearly aren't buying in on Tim Tebow, some teams are sold on him as a first rounder at this point. That's better than another of last year's elite guys, Alabama's Terrence Cody. Some scouts are on record describing him as a "big fat blob" who's a "media creation". Also getting harsh treatment in that piece is Carlos Dunlap, who was voted most likely of any DL in the draft to be a bust. ESPN's draft gurus repeatedly said Dunlap was a high pick despite his lack of consistent productivity. Think they'll apologize to his family if he's not selected until round 3?

Friday, April 16, 2010

A gentleman never tells

Pro football stars get a lot of women. Normally they don't get accused of sexual assault afterward, so it's safe to assume not everyone is operating out of Ben Roethlisberger's off field playbook. If, as the AJC reports, another female on a completely different evening was treated to Ben pulling his pants down and telling her she could "do what she wants", he's even more loutish than we already knew. There's been a lot of speculation in the media about whether Pittsburgh might try to trade Roethlisberger, but after reading the documents about his behavior the night in question you have to wonder what team would want him? There's always the Raiders I suppose, but when a guy's become toxic in the city where he won two Super Bowls it's hard to imagine he's going to be a big hit somewhere else. Roethlisberger looked slovenly when he met the press earlier this week, and he's never been considered an especially hard worker or a great locker room guy. He's got strong physical tools and has shown an improvisational ability that's served him well, but none of that makes up for the deficiencies at the moment. We'll see how long Roethlisberger's suspension is for, but there's clearly going to be one.

It turns out that athletes on a college campus also get lots of women. This shocking news is brought to you by Ray Shipman, who inexplicably decided to share his sexual exploits with the entire world via an article in the Alligator. Especially for a guy in the middle of transferring, this does not strike me as a terribly bright thing to do. If I'm Frank Haith deciding whether I want to offer Shipman a scholarship to transfer to Miami, the idea that if I do the phrase ”the Caucasian girls tend to notice the basketball players more” may turn up in my student newspaper would definitely give me pause. Meanwhile, should certain football players be so inclined, they could top Shipman's career total in 24 hours by posting a casting call message on Facebook.

A Stewart Mandel post to Twitter yesterday clued me in to something I was unaware of regarding college football. The Emerald Bowl is no more! No, it didn't suffer the sad fate of the International Bowl. Instead, the game's name has been changed to the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl, and they're going to play it January 9th. No, seriously, they are. They should have made it the Kraft Macaroni and Cheese Bowl and given all the bowl scouts a Velveeta orange colored jacket. The worst bowl game in America, Birmingham's Papa John's Bowl, announced yesterday that they'd play their game Jaunary 8 at 11 AM local time. So, just to make sure I'm clear on the BCS arguments, we can't have a playoff because it would last too long into the school year and creating one would cost us the opportunity to have these great games? Riiiiiight.

With the NFL Draft six days away, I'll be spending time this weekend going over the Pro Football Weekly guide and getting a look online at what the latest buzz is on certain players. What I won't be doing, and you shouldn't either, is spending any time on rumors like Cleveland possibly trading for the draft's top pick. Every team floats this stuff out to try and disguise their true intentions this time of year, and in our 24 hour news cycle we're going to hear more of it than ever. Assume nothing's going to happen tradewise prior to the draft and you will be right 999 out of 1000 times. Once it gets going and some surprise players are chosen causing others to fall, then the real movement through trades will begin. Have a good weekend and I'll see you back here Monday - remember to follow the Twitter feed at heathradio if you want to know what's got my attention between now and than.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Now Santonio Holmes must really feel bad

Miami's trade for Brandon Marshall was a daring one that has potential to be a move that works out well for both teams. Marshall has been given a gigantic deal, so there's no reason he should be anything less than committed to succeeding in Miami. When he's been interested, he's produced like crazy. Curiously though, none of his 100 yard games last season came in a Denver win. As long as Marshall stays healthy and produces in meaningful games, this will have been worth the two second rounders. Early second round picks have gone way up in value though, especially in a year like this. Denver did better to get an early second rounder than they would have to get pick 30 because the second rounder is very close in talent but makes a lot less. Teams will be trying hard to trade into those spots to scoop up players they felt were first rounders that have dropped. The Broncos can do a lot with Miami's two picks, much more than they were expected to get for a receiver the whole league knew they needed to deal.

Florida basketball continues to look for guard help, with a possible transfer from Rutgers emerging as one of the options to give it to them. Mike Rosario seems like he'd be a helpful player, but he'd have to sit out a year and thus would be no help for the backcourt issues next season. Billy Donovan's going to find a late addition who can be more productive there than Nimrod Tishman was last year, not that doing that's a terribly big challenge.

Can anyone explain why ESPN insists on putting out a Joe Lunardi "Bracketology" look at next season? It's always been stupid to do it this early considering we don't know who went pro or not, which recruits signed with which teams, or even what the various schools schedules are. At this point though, we don't even know the size of the tournament! Wouldn't it seem helpful to wait until we know how many teams will get in to begin projecting them?

Darren Rovell of CNBC has found another curious item for the truly rabid sports fan. How's a toaster that produces the logo of whatever pro team you want sound? Who among us has not longed to pour some syrup on a Columbus Blue Jackets logo in the morning?

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Stick to club soda next time, Jerry

Jerry Jones is a chatty guy when he's had a few beverages. The Dallas Cowboys owner mouthing off about Jimmy Johnson under those circumstances is what led to the breakup of their partnership. Recently, someone caught Jones in a similar state and had their cel phone camera rolling. They sent the video in to Deadspin, which means everyone now knows that Jones doesn't think much of Tim Tebow's NFL chances. Judging by his demonstrated ineptitude when it comes to personnel issues, that's actually a positive sign for Tebow. While the Tebow stuff is the immediate hot button topic, the fact Jones blurts out that he only hired Bill Parcells to help secure the Cowboys stadium is the part that fascinates me. I can't stand Parcells on a personal level for a number of reasons (his total lack of loyalty and money hungry behavior among them) but I would never describe him as "not worth a shit". It's mindblowing that the guy with Wade Phillips as his coach and a history of hiring people like Dave Campo, Chan Gailey and Barry Switzer for the job drank enough to say that about Parcells without giving himself alcohol poisoning.

The NCAA has been looking into Rich Rodriguez's West Virginia football coaching tenure, presumably as part of their investigation into the allegations about Michigan exceeding the acceptable practice time limit. If there is evidence similar behavior went on in Morgantown, that would certainly merit extra NCAA heat. I'm still extremely skeptical of the idea Michigan will get hammered once this process concludea. If Rodriguez doesn't fare much better this year than his first two, the chances that will be it for him in Ann Arbor just went up again.

One of the curious movie stories of the past few years resurfaced yesterday, with word coming down that the movie version of Michael Lewis's Moneyball is once again scheduled to be made. Brad Pitt has now taken a pay cut to play Oakland GM Billy Beane. Apparently this must be something he really wants to do. If Pitt as Beane is a stretch, how's Jonah Hill as Paul DePodesta grab you? Clearly a bitter Dodgers fan is in charge of the casting on that one. The one possible saving grace for this is that Aaron Sorkin wrote the latest version of the script. If anyone can make this book into a 100 minute movie with a plot and human sounding dialogue, he's probably the guy. Knowing Hollywood, they'll probably try to change the ending and have Oakland win three World Series because that "tested better with the focus group".

Coaching searches always lead to curious names being floated, and most rumors that seem silly actually are. The idea of Bob Knight becoming new head coach at Rutgers almost certainly falls into this category. What if it was true, though? Imagine a 69 year old Knight, who has never had to deal with critical local media, suddenly finding himself in the cross hairs of the New York tabloids. While some of Knight's language might fit in well at Tony Soprano's alma mater, I think Rutgers actually hiring him would be a recipe for disaster.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Wonder what Elin was doing yesterday?

Spring football games are typically overblown in their importance, although they have some value. UF having a productive offensive day without Tim Tebow even being in the building will likely impact where they're rated when the polls come out. Interestingly, Steve Spurrier seems to be determined to prevent his team from getting any positive attention before the season, because he doesn't think they can handle praise at all. Georgia's fans are all convinced one RS freshman's their best guy because he looked good in the game, while the other RS freshman the coaches want was third best. Unfortunately it's four months before any of it really matters.

Urban Meyer must have felt pretty good about things Saturday, because he spent Sunday in Augusta at the Masters with family and Bernie Machen. (Also in the same media tower on hole 12 was Mark Wahlberg, by the way. No word on if they talked.) Meyer and everyone else saw a great scene with Phil Mickelson winning, and maybe this will create an actual rivalry between him and Tiger Woods after all. Woods looked like he was struggling most of the weekend while shooting 11 under at Augusta National and finishing fourth. It seems a lot of people were upset by the fact he still curses at times on the course. Anyone who thought he was going to be able to quit that cold turkey was deluding themselves. Now the question is when will we see Woods again and how will the public reception be when the crowd is less genteel than the ones allowed at Augusta National?

The NFL Draft is ten days away, and now that every prominent player has had his pro day the teams are beginning to set their strategies. Michael Lombardi of the National Football Post, whose Sunday columns are always worth a read, says Miami is looking to trade down from 12 in the first round. A lot of teams are looking for extra picks in a deep draft, so the question is are the Dolphins moving back because they just want more bodies or have they set their sights on a player they know should be available at a lower spot (and for less money) than pick 12?

The Georgia DAs who've been investigating the sexual assault allegations against Ben Roethlisberger are expected to announced today that the Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback will not be charged. This story will likely play out in the civil arena as well, more than likely with a payoff of some sort to make a lawsuit disappear. It's impossible not to assume that this incident made the Steelers even less willing to put up with any more off field stupidity from Santonio Holmes. The wide receiver, who reportedly is facing a four game suspension for violating the NFL substance abuse policy, has been traded to the New York Jets for a fifth round pick. If the Steelers wanted to work at it, they probably could have gotten more. This was a case of wanting to wash their hands of a guy immediately while sending a message to Number 7 at the same time. Between Rex Ryan's trash talk and them adding Holmes, Braylon Edwards, and Antonio Cromartie in the past six months the Jets appears to be going for an old school "Raiders East" vibe. We'll see how that works out for them, but I've always believed you pan for gold in a river rather than a sewer.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Apparently Nicklaus should have played

What an incredible first day at the Masters. Fred Couples looked really good when I watched practice at Augusta National on Tuesday, and I mentioned on air he could be a factor. Didn't expect him to be the day one leader at six under though, much less that he's be a shot ahead of Tom Watson. Phil Mickelson came out of nowhere to be a factor after stinking all season. Oh yeah, there was Tiger Woods too. The fact Woods both shot under 70 on opening day and had two eagles in a round at Augusta for the first time in his career is impressive stuff, without even considering all the nonsense surrounding him lately. I ignored the ridiculous new ad Nike put out with Woods on Wednesday night during yesterday's post, but it is worth showing you just how manipulative and cynical the ad is. The voice of Tiger's father is edited to make it seem like it was being addressed to his son, when he was actually contrasting his personality with that of Tiger's mother. Assorted Tiger silliness aside, it looks like we're in for a terrific weekend of golf.

Tennessee continues to lose players since the arrival of Derek Dooley as head coach. The latest to bail out is Nick Stephens, the only experienced quarterback on the Volunteer roster. This means UT will head into the coming season with either the thoroughly unimpressive JUCO transfer Matt Simms or true freshman Tyler Bray under center. They'll be behind a line missing its top lineman and without UT's supposed elite running back, because both those guys have quit too. Half way through spring, there's beginning to be a buzz that Dooley's "Saban the Sequel" routine is really wearing thin quickly with both players and those around the program. That kind of stuff works much better if you have a national championship to sell as opposed to a 17-20 career record.

Great to see that Butler was able to keep Brad Stevens at the school for what could be the longterm thanks to a twelve year contract extension. Even though he likely will never see anything close to the end of that deal, it makes sense for both sides to stay together and continue to build off this season's accomplishents. It's also a reminder to the "big time" schools that buying a coach isn't nearly as easy as it used to be. If Stevens is happy at Butler, he can make more than enough money there to turn down big bucks from a school like Oregon where they'll be looking to can him in three years if he doesn't win big. Who's going to take Phil Knight's money to come coach the Ducks?

I'm not sure how it could have ever occurred to umpire Joe West that he should publicly blast the two teams whose games he umpired as his beginning series of the year, but he chose to do just that. West called the Yankees and Red Sox "pathetic and embarassing. They take too long to play." I should be referring to Joe West as either "suspended umpire Joe West" or "fired umpire Joe West" by the next time I write, or something is seriously wrong here. Umpires are supposed to be neutral arbiters of the rules. How can West possibly work games again for either team he has chosen to go on record blasting? There is simply no excuse for this. If West wants something done about the "problem" of slower play and feels he is being ignored by the teams, he should take it up with his supervisors. Pitching a tantrum about it like this can not be tolerated.

There are some really bad ideas out there right now, whether we're talking fake tattoo sleeves, deadly sandwiches, or LeBron James comedy movies. Spring football games aren't quite as awful as any of those, but they're not very good either. If you're at your team's this weekend, more power to you but don't get worked up about whatever you see. I'll see you back here Monday - keep an eye on the Twitter feed at heathradio if you want to know what's got my attention between now and then.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Maybe I should "see where I stand" with Sports Illustrated

When the story came across my Twitter feed about Alex Tyus declaring for the NBA Draft, I thought it was a joke. April Fool's Day was six days ago, but maybe it was an accidental repost of a satire piece? No, it's legit. Alex Tyus thinks he needs to "see where I stand" with the NBA. The answer is you stand next to me if we have tickets together at a game, Alex, because otherwise there's not a chance on this Earth you are going to be at an NBA arena anytime soon. What part of Tyus's game is supposed to prompt interest from the league? Is it the bad hands? The inconsistent effort levels? The last two years Tyus is basically a 12 point, 7 board a game guy. That's respectable for a college player, but the fact Tyus thinks it gives him anything to talk about with the pros makes me wonder if part of his failure to improve stems from not being focused on how to become a better Gator player. How about setting a goal of first team All-SEC? To do that next season, Tyus will need more than two double figure rebound games once the calendar hits January. Single digit scoring in 8 of your final 12 games won't help the cause much either. Tyus will be back because he's not going to sign with an agent and no team will remotely suggest that they want him in the draft. That doesn't mean this kind of episode is meaningless. This is a guy whose priority at the end of the last two seasons has been to announce he would like to be somewhere else. That sets a really bad tone in the locker room.

Kentucky has in fact lost all five of the players perceived as pro prospects to the NBA Draft. There had been some thought that an Eric Bledsoe or Daniel Orton might want to stay with the chance of being featured players, but none of these guys are going to pull their name out like Tyus. John Calipari claims he has no interest in joining them in the NBA, which is exactly what he'll say right up unil the minute he takes a job. Maybe there isn't a fit for Cal this season, especially if LeBron stays in Cleveland and no coaching change is made. Anyone in Kentucky who doesn't believe he has any interest in leaving is kidding themselves. Wonder how many "1 and dones" he'll sign this year?

Wake Forest surprised a lot of people by shoving coach Dino Gaudio out the door yesterday. I didn't think he was a terrific coach, but it's still odd to see a guy who got his team to the NCAA tournament twice in three years and even won a game there this year get fired for it. I assume Wake's AD already has someone in mind, because if he made the move and is just starting to look at possibilities they're in big trouble. Clemson now has competition for the candidates that might be interested in an ACC job, which is bad news for them.

I made my first visit to Augusta National Tuesday. It's unquestionably an impressive place, and if you're fortunate enough to attend their event they will treat you very well. The concessions prices and offerings are the best in sports and it isn't close. The worst aspects of Augusta National were on display yesterday, as Billy Payne delivered a pompous, pious takedown of Tiger Woods during his chairman's address. I'm no Woods worshipper by a long stretch, but who the hell is Payne to deliver public judgement on him? Will he be delivering future condemnations of other golfers who have affairs, or is it okay as long as it's just one or two at a time? If he found Tiger's behavior so troubling, Payne should have told him he's not welcome at this year's tournament. Unloading on Woods two days after his apology press conference and just as the focus was finally shifting to golf was a classless and unnecessary move. If Tiger wins the Masters, which he won't, watching the jacket presentation will be fun.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

If Nantz had called Miracle On Ice: "The USA's on their way" said in slightly raised voice

Can't ask for much more than what we got out of that NCAA Championship game, although if that last shot had gone down for Butler it would have officially been the best tournament of all time. As it was, a Duke team that was favored by 7-8 points was never covering the spread at any point in the entire game, which should drive home just how extraordinary this one was. Now it remains to be seen whether we will get anymore 65 team fields or not, and whether the tournament will stay with CBS or be scooped up by someone else. Even if the games stay where they are, it's time to get Jim Nantz off the title game. "Duke is king of the dance"?! After that game, with a half court shot to win bouncing off the rim, THAT is what you say? I guess Nantz felt like since he'd gone to the trouble of writing his lame line, he should deliver it no matter what. I'm not even asking for Gus Johnson, but the drama of the title game deserves and demands someone who's capable of some genuine enthusiasm at some point. I've heard people reading back takeout orders sound more excited than Nantz did while calling one of the best championship games ever.

Even more annoying than Nantz was what CBS did to One Shining Moment. With one of the most highlight filled tournaments ever, we got lots of shots of Jennifer Hudson singing the song instead of clips of basketball. How hard would it have been in the production of the video to think "Hmmm.... Jennifer Hudson OSM apperances 5, Northern Iowa 1 - maybe something's a little off here". They showed Hudson singing "The ball is tipped" instead of THE BALL BEING TIPPED! The lady can sing (although Luther Vandross's version is better) but that was ridiculous.

I appreciate those of you who've begun following and interacting on the new Twitter feed at heathradio. I send out some stuff of my own, but also pass along interesting notes and breaking news as I learn of them. Jeff Goodman of Fox Sports gave me one to send out last night with the scoop that Clemson's Oliver Purnell is taking the head coaching spot at DePaul. I can't begin to do justice to how bizarre this is. Purnell has spent years building Clemson to the point they're signing top talent like Milton Jennings and Noel Johnson. Why leave that behind to take over a program that is a train wreck? Despite lots of different names being pursued, no head coach has left a "BCS" caliber job for another one that's not an elite gig since John Beilein from WVU to Michigan three years ago. How did DePaul convince Purnell to do it? If it's not obscene money, this makes no sense. I wonder if former Purnell and Billy Donovan assistant Shaka Smart gets a call for Clemson's job, because there's definitely not an obvious fit out there for it right now.

I'm at Augusta National today to watch some practice rounds and get my first look at the course. We'll see what things are like now that Tigermania day one has wrapped up. I won't rehash his answers, but there were some things that surprised me about the press conference. No one asked about where (or if) Woods would play again after the Masters. No one asked if he had anything to say to the women who've claimed involvement with him. The porno tramp that's blasting away at him says she wants an apology - why not give her one? All in all, it was a much better performance than anything Woods had put on post-fiasco to this point. We'll see how he handles things going forward.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Now maybe Philly fans can get Ricky Williams like they wanted on draft day

Donovan McNabb being traded by Phildelphia is not a surprise to anyone. Him being dealt to the Redskins was, just because most people didn't believe there was any way the Eagles would do that within the NFC East. The obvious comparison is to Drew Bledsoe being traded by New England in 2002. Bill Belichick didn't think he was good enough to hurt him in Buffalo even though it was the AFC East, and he was right. Given how close Andy Reid is with Donovan McNabb though, another trade springs to mind for me. When Tampa Bay decided to make Vinny Testaverde its number one pick in 1987 and build around him, it was obvious that Steve Young was going to be dealt. Green Bay offered the Bucs their first round pick (4th overall in the 87 draft) and 1984 first rounder ex-FSU DE Alphonso Carreker. Instead, Tampa Bay opted to take the 50th and 106th picks in the draft from San Francisco because they wanted to send Young somewhere he could play for a good team. It was an idiotic decision, but Tampa Bay owner Hugh Culverhouse respected how Young had handled a tough situation and wanted to take care of him. I think for Reid this deal was more Culverhouse than Belichick - we'll see how it works out for McNabb. Meanwhile, I'm sure Rex Grossman is just thrilled that he signed with Washington as backup QB.

MLB opened its season last night with New York and Boston. Glad that ESPN could was able to focus their coverage on that typically ignored rivalry. Their two new analysts? Normar Garciaparra and now Curt Schilling as well - oh goody. In spite of Bristol's intent to treat the regular season as an inconvenient delay (that exists mostly as an excuse to hold the Subway Series) before the Sox and Yankees can reach the playoffs, Tampa Bay has looked really good in the preseason. There are a lot of MLB observers who think the Rays have a chance to make some noise. I just hope ownership will let that happen rather than giving up in a salary dump like last season.

Tonight Duke will win their fourth national championship under Mike Krzyzewski. Butler is a terrific story, and they are better offensively than they looked in that game with Michigan State because of Mack's absence with cramps, but they're a bad defensive matchup for Duke's three scoring options. Duke can have a mediocre offensive game and still win, while Butler has to not only keep Duke below 60 but also score enough to win themselves. I just don't see it happening. Much like last year, the hometown favorites in the championship game get worked over by an ACC squad. By the way, I talked to multiple people who said the home crowd will be zero factor tonight because not enough noise gets to the court with the ridiculous center of the field setup they use now.

On a first Final Four night where neither basketball game was captivating viewing, the biggest memory a lot of people are likely to take away from Saturday is of Da'Sean Butler's devastating knee injury. For his last college game to end with a torn ACL as well as other knee damage is heartbreaking, which is why Bob Huggins went out and comforted his player. Lots of people seem surprised by that moment, but they shouldn't have been. Huggins is a much better guy than his public image has been over the years. I watched him hold court at a bar in Indianapolis at the Final Four ten years ago - he and Jerry Tarkanian were together and both of them couldn't have been nicer to anyone who came over. Huggins isn't perfect, but he also isn't a hypocrite. Some guys he gives second chances deserve them. In a business filled with frauds, I've got no problem with a guy who does it his way and doesn't care if positive PR follows.

The process of ranking prospective college recruits has improved in the past decade by leaps and bounds. Having sat in a meeting on the topic as part of my writing duties for I know how much more elaborate the evaluation procedures have become. There is a constant effort to get tape on kids earlier, make connections with them quicker, have more firsthand evaluations and do the best possible job of trying to produce the ratings, whatever it is that they really mean. I personally have always felt basketball prospect evaluations are much more reliable than the ones for football, because it's a lot easier to see how someone fits in a basketball system as well as judge them against quality competition than it is in football. There are still limits to how early you can judge though, which is why this article touting the supposed best fifth grade basketball player in the US is really disturbing. Maybe this kid will play like the best of Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant and LeBron James put together, or maybe he's the next Antonio Lawrence. Lawrence was hyped by ESPN as the nation's best prospect as a ninth grader in Jacksonville. It didn't quite turn out that way. Future super center Jason Bennett from ACD in Jax ring a bell? Again, not able to handle that pressure. No one should be putting expectations of anything other than playing and having fun while doing so on a fifth grader in any sport.

So far, so good with the new Twitter feed - follow me at heathradio if you're so inclined. Or, you know, don't.

Friday, April 2, 2010

All that because of a bratwurst?

The Final Four is always one of my favorite events, and this year's is even more special because it might be the last one before the NCAA goes out of their way to ruin the tournament. This has been a great postseason - it boggles the mind that NCAA officials could have watched the events of the last two weeks and held that press conference yesterday. The game between Butler and Michigan State features what the Wall Street Journal argues is the luckiest Final Four team ever in the Spartans. Butler should be able to win that one, but Maryland and Tennnessee should have beaten MSU as well and failed. If Duke's shooters are on, they'll beat West Virginia. If not, they won't. Hopefully we get two high quality games no matter what the outcome is.

We don't know which one, but Fox Sports's Jeff Goodman reports that one of the two games tomorrow will be worked by referee Curtis Shaw. Shaw is the egomaniac hothead who has called 212 more technicals than any other official in the country the past thirteen years. Shaw was part of the crew for the Kentucky-West Virginia game and gave Deandre Liggins a ridiculous T before getting into it with John Wall right before the half. Shaw was so over the top with his "I'm in charge" routine that reporters noted the national supervisor of officials was shaking his head throughout the half and had to go in the locker room to try and calm him down. After that performance I had hoped we'd seen the last of this jerk since he's going to become the Big 12 supervisor of officials next year, but apparently they wanted to give him one more game on the national stage as a going away present. Hopefully he won't decide to upstage a game in the Final Four, but we're talking about a guy who's ejected mascots before so I sure don't put it past him. The fact Mike Stuart is also doing a Saturday game tells you the coaches are going to be told constantly to stay in their box, since he's obsessed with that. It also says we need better refs and a lot of them.

There's a serious issue brewing for the Georgia football team. The school's student newspaper had the original report of a married couple being harassed and assaulted during their taxi ride home from downtown, possibly by four UGA players. You can see the police report for yourself here, but be forewarned it contains some extremely inappropriate racial language that was allegedly used by the supposed players. The couple has a witness who was also in the vehicle, and the incident is under police investigation. If these allegations are true, I don't think there's any way Mark Richt can keep these guys on his team. People will put up with a lot in the pursuit of winning, but a married woman being struck, sexually propositioned and mocked with racial overtones is not going to fly with any school's fanbase. Richt's doing a Sgt. Schultz routine right now, but this could get really ugly in the coming days.

A study of the political leanings of each sport's fanbase shows that golf is the most Republican sport, with the WNBA the most Democratic leaning. That sounds about right. Most popular sport fanbases seem to lean slightly Republican, with college football and NASCAR the other two that are pretty heavy to that side. The NBA fanbase being largely Democratic didn't surprise me, but I admit I wouldn't have anticipated a heavy lean that way by WWE fans. It's an interesting analysis if you're curious about such things.

If you've read this blog for awhile - and it seems a couple of hundred people have - you know that I've been extremely reluctant to begin posting on Twitter. It's been a huge help to me as an information aggregator, but there's a certain level of arrogance to the idea of sharing thoughts with the world 24-7 that just didn't feel right to me. Three things have combined to force me to reconsider my attitude on the subject...

1. A new sports station in Minneapolis made a big deal of the number of Twitter followers two of their new staffers had in a press release announcing their hiring last month. Whether I like it or not, that seems to be the direction things are headed now.

2. I thought about why I do this blog in the first place. I started it for the purposes of remaining in contact with the audience for my Gainesville radio show. While there are people in Columbia who have found the blog and read it, I have never mentioned the existence of on the air at all except for a couple of times on my final day in Gainesville. Tweeting would allow more interaction than the comments section of the blog does and would give me another way to connect with those who are unaware of the site's existence.

3. Pat Dooley tweeted Sarah Silverman. Seriously, if those two people could wind up connecting then anything's possible.

Anyway, I've come to the conclusion that it's necessary for me to begin sending out messages on Twitter. In the beginning, it'll probably be mostly me retweeting stuff I find interesting during the day from other people and then we'll see where it goes from there. Feel free to follow me if you're so inclined - my Twitter name is heathradio. Hope you have a great weekend and I'll see you back here Monday.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Today's forecast calls for lame

Everyone knew all season that Kentucky basketball was going to lose a huge chunk of this year's team. Now it seems the damage will be more substantial than originally anticipated. Yesterday backup center Daniel Orton was reported to be the first Wildcat going pro. He was recently touted as the 13th best college draft prospect by the L.A. Times, so it's not a giant surprise. What is surprising is his dad taking shots on the way out the door at the way his son was used at UK...

"If he had played more, he would have made DeMarcus (Cousins) look bad."

Dad also thinks his son, who averaged a robust 3 points and 3 boards per game this season, "might be a top five pick".

On top of the Orton silliness comes word bench performer Darnell Dodson reportedly will leave Kentucky as well, although whether it's for the draft or something else is not entirely clear right now. Kentucky may be down to just four returning players, and DeAndre Liggins appears to be the star of the group they have coming back. That's not good at all.

Oregon's still looking for a basketball coach after getting the brushoff from a host of names including Billy Donovan. John Canzano of the Portland Oregonian has inside info on what's happening with the search, but how he got it is what's amusing. Apparently acting Ducks AD Pat Kilkenny changed his cel phone number at some point in the past few months. That's news to a variety of powerbrokers and hangers on who've been making the unfortunate woman who got the number next's life unpleasant the past few days as they lobby for different candidates. One drawback of texting - you never know who's actually gettting the messages.

Vanity Fair has a big sleazefest story coming out in their latest issue that features photos and interviews of four members in the Tiger Woods scandal cast of vixens. While checking in on that, I learned the magazine also has co-sponsored a poll with CBS's 60 Minutes program. One of the assorted issues they chose to examine was how those surveyed could cope with the idea of a gay president. Inexplicably, after asking about two other government roles it then asks about the possibility of an openly gay MLB Commissioner. 61 percent of those surveyed said they were okay with it, none of whom were MLB owners. Keep in mind that by all indications we will never have a true commissioner of the sport again. To get the role under that scenario a guy would have to have been an openly gay aspiring owner who got approved to purchase a team and later won the support of his colleagues for the commissioner job. Vanity Fair and 60 Minutes might as well have asked whether fans would support a space alien as Bud Selig's replacement, because there's a better chance of that happening.

Don't forget that today's April Fool's Day, one of my least favorite days of the year. For every clever prank someone pulls, there are going to be twenty morons sending text messages with things like "Urban Meyer is quitting for real this time OMG". Don't be that guy. Already Texas Motor Speedway spent two days wasting time with an unfunny publicity stunt, and there are sure to be lots of similar routines today. Given the speed at which things can spread on Twitter and Facebook, there'll probably be more of it than ever. Woohoo.