Friday, May 28, 2010

Those deep fried avocados will get you every time

I keep wondering when the NCAA is going to show some teeth again by issuing a significant punishment to a major program. It would remind everyone the organization's still relevant, since it hasn't been very often lately and is completely out of all the playoff and conference expansion discussions. USC football's the one everybody's been waiting on, but I'd actually forgotten that UConn basketball still has a pending problem on their hands. With a pair of assistants being pushed out the door and a press conference pending to explain the situation further, it would appear there's fire to go with the smoke kicked up when Yahoo Sports originally busted the Huskies for cheating in the recruitment of Nate Miles last March. This could get really interesting depending on what the school acknowledges this morning.

The Big Ten may believe expansion is the answer to becoming the powerhouse conference in college football they love to pretend they still are. ESPN's Ivan Maisel demonstrates that may well be easier said than done, because none of the schools they may add are in the places producing top talent. The state of Florida has more players in ESPN's top 150 ratings this season by itself than Pennsylvania, Ohio or Michigan did in the past four. It's not like the trend is likely to change anytime in the forseeable future either - the northern economy isn't going to prompt mass moves back that way. beyond that, it's not like the northern schools are holding onto all the talent they do have. Mark Ingram of Flint, Michigan just won a Heisman for Alabama. Sharif Floyd was the top DT recruit in the country coming out of Philadelphia - he'll be playing in Gainesville. Adding five more teams with slower athletes than SEC teams isn't going to magically make the Big Ten king of th hill, no matter how much money it makes them.

Once again the Oakland Raiders are trying to get out of the terms of a contract once they cut someone loose from their organization. This is nothing new - they've done it as far back as when Mike Shanahan was fired in the late Eighties. This time it's JaMarcus Russell, who they're trying to get just under ten million dollars from by claiming his bonus money was a salary advance for years he's not going to play for them now. While I haven't seen Russell's contract, no experienced agent (which Russell's guy is) would ever let that kind of clause be put in a contract. Couple that with Oakland's frequently demonstrated disregard for contracts they don't like and I know who I believe. The Raiders made a horrible decision to draft a guy who was more interested in partying than being a great player. That's their problem, not his.

If there's one thing radio does well, it's come up with ways to attract attention to itself through guerilla marketing. My senior year of high school saw a station in Tampa play "Stairway to Heaven" for 24 hours in a row, then do an all-Led Zeppelin format for a few days before eventually emerging as 98 Rock. Police showed up because they thought the DJ might have keeled over, and the whole thing got national attention. Twenty years later things haven't changed too much, as a station in Milwaukee has rebranded itself as "Tiger Radio" in "honor" of Tiger Woods. No matter how catchy "the brand new station for liars and cheaters" is as a slogan, I'll go out on a limb and say this might just be a gimmick.

I'll be traveling to the SEC meetings in Destin on Memorial Day, With that being a holiday as well, I'll wait an extra day before updating again. Sunday I may be at Charlotte Motor speedway covering the 600 and meeting the cast of the A-Team movie, so it could prove to be an interesting weeekend. The Twitter feed @heathradio will be updated whenever something seems noteworthy, so please follow along there. Have a great holiday and I'll see you back here Tuesday.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Any hot seat list without Zook at the top is suspect

Dennis Dodd of is one of my least liked national college football writers, for a variety of reasons dating back to the time he wrote Eric Crouch should win the Heisman Trophy because he came to media day at Nebraska every week. Dodd does have a big platform though, and his annual coaching hot seat ratings get a decent level of attention. I have no problem with most of the guys he has on the hottest seats, but some of this is just absurd. The four SEC coaches whose seats Dodd feels are warmest are at 3.0 on his scale of 0 to 5 - which translates as "on the bubble -- you never know". They are LSU's Les Miles, Georgia's Mark Richt, South Carolina's Steve Spurrier, and TENNESSEE'S DEREK DOOLEY. Let me get this straight - in Dodd's mind there's the same chance Tennessee will dump Dooley and embark on their third coaching search in three years as there is Les Miles will get the broom after a third straight underachieving season in Baton Rouge?! That's insane. Derek Dooley can go 0-12 and he's not going anywhere this year. It would cost UT millions and devastate their program for years. Short of Dooley personally pulling a stickup robbery at a convenience store, he's as safe as Nick Saban. Spurrier's not going anywhere either unless he chooses to, which isn't what this is supposed to measure (hence Urban Meyer's a 0 and Joe Paterno a .5 even though there are some questions about each's future). The idea 91 coaches are safer than him and Richt in their jobs is ridiculous. Now you see why I'm not a big Dodd fan.

The news of Jarvis Williams death was a stunner to everyone yesterday. I never interviewed Williams, but over the years when people of his era talked about him it was always with total love and respect. He was a terrific college player and had a nice career with the Dolphins as well. It's shocking to think he's gone at 45 - just another reminder to all of us that there's no way to have a clue when your time might be up.

The NCAA is trying to reform the process by which recruits get themselves academically eligible to come in and play college ball. As a result, they have announced they'll stop taking credits from two correspondence schools effective August 1. It's a start, because both of these have been abused in the past (especially the BYU one) but it's not enough. There will always be more diploma mills and eligibility shortcuts popping up to take their place. If they really want to do something about this, here's my suggestion: no more than one "internet" class credit will be accepted for any recruit. If they're so far behind academically that they need more than one of those to qualify, they'd be better off going to prep school/junior college or repeating classes at their high school than trying to do college level work while adapting to college life. Being a year or two older when they start their college careers won't hurt them a bit, especially on the off chance they actually want to take advantage of the opportunity to get an education rather than just stay eligible.

The food cops at the Center for Science in the Public Interest have issued their "Xtreme Eating Awards". This is the annual exercise where they break the shocking news that bacon cheeseburgers are still not healthy. Thanks for the update, guys! Would have never been able to figure that out without your help. What annoys me about this is it assumes people are eating fat laden high calorie foods not because they wanted to but because they're somehow oblivious to what they're doing. Would we be healthier if everyone ate skinless chicken and salads without dressing while drinking only water and juices with no sugar added? Yes, we would. People know that yet will continue to eat things which are bad for them at times, and no amount of scolding is going to change that. Maybe if the CSIPI actually told us something we didn't know, they might succeed in helping solve America's weight problem. Their powers will be useless against the upcoming onslaught of pizza consumption though, thanks to the exciting news we will now be able to get an NBA logo baked right into the center of our pies. Who among us hasn't dreamed of eating pizza with a Charlotte Bobcats logo on it?

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Apparently no one at NFL offices saw the DC storm this year

The NFL has made a horrible decision by putting the 2014 Super Bowl in New Jersey. That's where it will be played, not New York. The teams will land there and they will stay there. The media and the parties will be in New York. As someone who's covered Super Bowls in San Diego, Atlanta, Tampa and Jacksonville, I can tell you that's going to be a logistical nightmare. No one cares about the media's concerns though, and that's not why I'm so ticked off about this. The Super Bowl is supposed to be about determining who the best team in pro football is for that particular season. Cold weather teams can earn the benefit of having home field advantage in the conference playoffs if they win enough games, but the title game site is predetermined and has nothing to do with records. Why, therefore, should a team that builds itself for cold weather out of necessity - let's say a 9-7 Cleveland Browns team - have a distinct advantage against a warm weather team which might well have a better record? Thanks to likely evening temps in the teens or lower and a strong possibility of snowy conditions, they would if they reach this New Jersey game. If both participants are warm weather or dome teams, no one will have an advantage but both are likely to struggle mightily against the conditions. How's that any good for those of us who want to say a great game? Why should a fan of a team that might be making the Super Bowl for the first time in decades have to endure such conditions to see his team play their most important game ever? Sometimes the NFL does something stupid as a favor for an owner or a payoff for a stadium. Jacksonville getting Super Bowl 39 was like that - this makes that choice seem brilliant by comparison.

Hiring Steve Yzerman to be their GM is a huge move for the Tampa Bay Lightning. We'll see whether Stevie Y is as good a front office guy as he was a player, but he instantly gives the new ownership credibility that the last embarrassing mess never had a chance of securing. Yzerman would not leave his secure role with Detroit to come to a situation where he lacked confidence in the willingness of ownership to do things the right way. Having been with the most consistent hockey franchise of the past two decades, he's seen what it takes to succeed first hand. If he's convinced it'll be there at his disposal in Tampa, I am too.

I thought I had seen every ridiculous idea possible on how to cram fans into buildings and squeeze money out of them, but I should have never sold the folks who own Madison Square Garden short. They plan to build "sky bridges" five stories over the playing surface and charge fans big dollars to stand on them. Why anyone would want to pay to look down at people the size of ants who may go underneath them and be completely out of view, I have no idea. Think they'll have nets up to keep anyone from deciding to drop things onto the court or ice? Nothing about this plan seems like a good idea to me.

if you get into MMA as a career, you probably want to feel like a tough guy. Unfortunately for Jason Frank, his past is coming back to haunt him a little bit when it comes to that. The reason: Frank's previous gig was being the Green Mighty Morphin Power Ranger. Now he's trying to be an MMA fighter, but one of his opponents showed up dressed as a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle. My personal favorite part of the story is that Frank says he "just got kind of tired with the whole Hollywood thing" as a way of explaining his career switch. I'm sure producers were knocking down his door with offers.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Normally the court can't even unanimously agree on lunch time

Supreme Court rulings don't often come into play in the sports world, but the unanimous decision in yesterday's American Needle case against the league was important. Had the NFL won, they would have been able to be vastly more aggressive in the coming labor battle with the players union. Make no mistake, the owners still have the upper hand, but losing this case will make them much more likely to be willing to negotiate rather than overplay that hand. There's simply no reason for us to miss a second of football because billionaires and millionaires can't get their acts together. Hopefully this will prevent that from happening for the first time since 1987.

If you're reading this after 7 AM, we now know what Michigan's self proposed penalties for their NCAA violations case are. The real hearing isn't until August, so this is the school's bid to avoid anything worse than these penalties at that hearing. Don't expect them to offer anything too meaningful, because the NCAA hasn't hammered a program in years. Between this and USC, maybe that's finally going to change. It's worth noting that Rich Rodriguez may face penalties specific to him for the practice time violations both in Ann Arbor and potentially at West Virginia as well. Maybe instead of Michigan paying a high price, it eventually turns out to be Rodriguez who does. That would void his contract out, something I'm sure the school could cope with.

For some reason its being treated as big news that Tiger Woods is not a sure thing to be a part of the Ryder Cup team this year. At this point, what can be taken as a given with Tiger? We have no idea where his game will be in a few months, what his physical situation is, or even whether he would want to play. Beyond that, the last US team won the Cup without him. Tiger hasn't exactly been great in the Ryder Cups he has played in either - not disastrous, but certainly not irreplaceable. If you're Corey Pavin, why would you make any public indication that having Woods as a part of your team is a priority right now? if Tiger's playing well, of course he'll be offered a spot. If 80 percent of his drives are still missing the fairway, why would it be a good fit for either party?

LOST wrapped up Sunday, and Jack Bauer put down the torture tools for good on 24 last night. We'll see what the ratings are for that, but it probably won't be better than what LOST did. I wasn't a LOST viewer - haven't watched any episodic TV on a regular basis in over a decade. Despite that, I knew the basic story of the show and the names of the key characters. The end of the show was an official BIG DEAL EVENT, which is why it blew me away to see it didn't even beat Mr. Belvedere's final episode in the ratings. That list speaks volumes about how much more fractured our entertainment interests are as a society. Only four of the forty most watched series finales happened in the past decade, while mediocrities like Growing Pains and Who's the Boss? are in the top thirty. With the options available to us all now, even the best the networks can crank out isn't good enough to hold a big portion of the country's interest anymore.

People like having the last word, but it appears Mark Twain is going for the all time record. Volume one of the author's autobiography will come out this fall, with two more to follow. Apparently he's not pulling any punches but wanted to wait a hundred years after his death so none of his contemporaries knew what he had to say. My question is this: who that's currently alive is a big enough figure that they could write a book people would be interested in 100 years after their death? It's easy to focus on political figures, but I'm not sure a Woodrow Wilson "tell all" autobiography would be a hot ticket right now. Right now, Oprah's a giant but by then she'd be long since forgotten. I'm seriously trying to think of someone - Dalai Lama? Bill Gates? Anyone have an idea?

Monday, May 24, 2010

Bulls and chickens

Florida wound up winning the SEC baseball championship Friday night. Both games between them and South Carolina were tight, well played affairs. While either side would have liked to have won this series, the reality is both will judge their season by whether they're in Omaha next month. You don't have to win it, but when you're a national seed (as Florida will be and South Carolina also likely is) that's the standard you have to meet. Based on my firsthand look at both teams, I think there's an excellent chance they're both there.

Has any team had as radical a shift in their fortunes in one playoffs as the Orlando Magic without there being some obvious explanation like injuries? Two sweeps to start things, including three dominant wins in round two, and now likely to be swept themselves by a Boston team seeded lower than them. It's nothing short of bizarre how poorly they've played. These whole playoffs have been a giant letdown thus far - almost no one's shown any fight at all with the exception of the Hawks winning the last two (as the higher seeded squad) against Milwaukee and the Suns last night. Hopefully Boston and L.A. will give us a classic because nothing else can redeem this postseason.

Can't say that I've ever understood what the supposed thrill of bullfighting is. It's not like it's a fair fight - the picadors have already done so much damage to the animal that the matador has a huge advantage. Every now and then though, the bulls still pick up a moral victory since there are no outright wins for them. Over the weekend we saw the best performance by a bull since Jordan. Be warned - the picture at that link may be tough for you to look at. I'm glad the matador will apparently live, but put one on the board for El Toro.

If you're a fan of Chick-fil-A, as I am, you enjoy their chicken sandwich. They're breaking a new one out next week, a spicy version, and they're giving people a chance to try it free. in case you haven't heard about that, I figured I'd pass it along to you should you wish to sign up and try one. I'll probably stick with the original sandwich, but I'll at least give this one a try.

Friday, May 21, 2010

The Biggest Loser (in sports)

It's not often that someone reveals themselves to be utterly without redeeming qualities as a human being. Floyd Landis did that yesterday. If I knew a huge part of the reason I had achieved success in my chosen profession was massive cheating, I'd feel lousy. If caught, I might make some lame excuse but then I would slink away in shame. Landis did give ridiculous explanations for his positive test for absurdly elevated testosterone levels. ("I drank a couple of beers" was my favorite initial excuse he gave, edging out "I'm really manly, so I produce a lot of testosterone") Instead of slinking away though, he attacked everyone involved in the testing process. The whole world was out to get Floyd Landis, as he claimed in his book. He raised money for years for his legal fees to clear his name. And after all of that, he then has the gall to try and cast himself now after four years as the whistle blower, a noble truth teller who didn't want to cheat but was dragged into it by the corrupt cycling culture. Naturally he's accusing Lance Armstrong of being dirty, and even though he lacks any supporting evidence he expects people to believe the guy who's lied to everyone's face for years. It wouldn't shock me if Armstrong did cheat, but no one's ever been able to pin anything on the guy. I wouldn't believe Floyd Landis if he told me this was my blog, so I'm certainly not going to take his word for it. If you still don't get how loathsome Landis is, read the opening of Dan Wetzel's Yahoo! column on him. I hope someone will pursue him on fraud charges for his fundraising activities.

Arkansas basketball assistant coaching moves don't normally prompt reaction here, but it's noteworthy that John Pelphrey has hired Brett Nelson as a Razorbacks assistant. Nelson is completing his tour of Billy Donovan assistants, having started his career with Anthony Grant at VCU before joining Donnie Jones at Marshall. He was expected to be a part of the UCF staff under Jones, but apparently being back in the SEC was enough to prompt a change of plans. To be an SEC assistant seven years after your playing career wrapped up is a pretty impressive accomplishment. When I covered Nelson at UF, he never seemed to have the kind of personality that would lead observers to think he had coaching in his future. For guys as sharp as those three to hire him, he's got to be pretty good. I thought maybe he got the Marshall gig because of the obvious home state ties, but if so he clearly did enough to make a big time impression.

With word surfacing of a previously unknown way for the BCS to strip a team of its championship if the school is found guilty of major rules violations, there's suddenly speculation about what might happen with USC's 2004 title. Some are arguing, as Clay Travis does here, that Auburn should be declared BCS Champs for that season since they would be the lone remaining undefeated team. That was a terrific Tiger team, and had they gotten a shot at the title maybe they could have won it. (Although USC had beaten them soundly in Auburn the year before.) To say that Oklahoma, who did get the shot and was thumped 55-19 by the potentially now ineligible Trojans, should be penalized for having played them is absurd. If USC is stripped of its title, that should be the end of the story. The idea of taking the crystal football out of the trash and handling it to Auburn as "champs" six years later would be demeaning to that team and unfair to the Sooners as well. There's not going to be an AP revote based on what they've told the LA Times, and who knows if all the voters are even alive? Some things can't be fixed - what happened to Auburn in 2004 is one of them.

If you've watched sports on television or listened to the radio, you've doubtless come across advertisements for LifeLock. The spots feature the company's CEO giving out his social security number and basically daring any prospective identity thieves to do something with it. Well, the Phoenix New Times reports his identity has in fact been successfully stolen thirteen different times. But hey, other than that the service works really well! Have a great weekend and I'll see you back here Monday. Keep an eye on the twitter feed @heathradio for anything that's amusing and/or interesting between now and then.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Rich Rodriguez - still sharp as a bowling ball

College baseball has never been something I particularly enjoy, but tonight will be different. Florida visits South Carolina for the start of a three game set that will determine who the SEC Champs are. I've covered regionals, and when there's something on the line it adds a lot to the atmosphere. Both teams are sure regional hosts and likely national seeds, but there's still something about being able to celebrate a championship that will make it special even though there are bigger fish to fry down the line. South Carolina coach Ray Tanner says he can't remember ever being in a scenario like this before where one showdown series decides it all - should be fun.

It's not exactly a secret that pro athletes have access to lots of women. Every now and then someone comes along and chooses to be a little more specific about just how that happens. The latest to do that is Kansas City wide receiver Dwayne Bowe, who decided to share details with ESPN the Magazine about how Chiefs veterans "had it set up so there was a girl in every room" when the team went to San Diego his rookie year. I'm sure all the married guys on the team will be thrilled to see Bowe the next time he strolls into the locker room. Even if they didn't do anything wrong, every guy with any kind of serious relationship now has to deal with suspicion. What could possibly go through someone's mind that would make him think sharing this was a good idea?

Big Ten coaches want to have official football recruiting visits in the month of June. That's an idea that they tried to push before and got shot down, and Rich Rodriguez, PI has why all figured out...

“Maybe it didn’t pass because if you compare visiting way down south in June (to) Ann Arbor in June, they might rather be in Ann Arbor, right?”

The Weather Channel forecast for Ann Arbor six of the next nine days is for a high between 80 and 84 - the lowest high forecast is 73. The forecast high for Miami each of the next nine days is 85 degrees. Yes, Rich, clearly southern schools are scared that kids will fall in love with the 2-3 degree cooler temperatures if they visit in summer. And if recruits don't come when it's 26 degrees and snowing in January, they'll never hear about it. Honestly, it's like this guy tries to sound stupid sometimes.

The New York Post reports Floyd Mayweather is a huge fan of A-1 steak sauce, to the point that his entourage carries a bottle of it at all times in case a restaurant doesn't have it. The claim is made that he puts it on everything, including cereal, which sounds fairly repulsive. The paper ignores the obvious problem, which is that Mayweather orders his steaks well done. Going to a high end Vegas steak house and ordering your meat charred to a crisp is like having Elton John play Chopsticks on the piano. The A-1 thing also reminds me of one of Kwame Brown's embarrassing rookie foibles. He went to a French restaurant with a veteran Wizards teammate and was outraged to learn they didn't have French dressing. After that, Brown carried around a bottle of the dressing with him the rest of the year - one can only imagine what would have happened had Kwame been hungry for French toast.

Tennessee hopes they have their quarterback of the future in Tyler Bray. Lane Kiffin stole Bray away from San Diego State, and the true freshman is expected to begin this year as backup for Matt Simms, but will likely have a chance to play this fall. Hopefully for the Vols, his decisions as a quarterback on the field will be better than his decisions in personal body art. If there's a more embarrassing tattoo in college football this season, I fervently hope I will not see it.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Next game idea: Labville - instead of crops, players manufacture PEDs

The charges filed against Dr. Anthony Galea by the feds yesterday had been anticipated for some time. What will be interesting is seeing which athletes are involved in the case as PED and HGH users and which ones were only getting the apparently legitimate "platelet rich therapy" the doctor was known for. ESPN's website has a terrific breakdown of where Galea was and what his notes say he was giving patients. According to the complaint, at least three NFL players received HGH treatments from Galea. I'm no baseball apologist, but why is it that when NFL guys like Brian Cushing get caught in performance related drug scandals it's just shrugged off by the general public while the same thing in baseball is treated like a national crisis? If three MLB guys were linked to this, there would be more questions about why the league can't get the problem under control. If Roger Goodell was being interviewed today, somebody would probably ask him what he thinks LeBron's going to do.

I was sorry to see Washington win the NBA Draft Lottery last night. It's not that I have any particular gripe with the Wizards, but I really was hoping to see the New York papers react to Utah getting the top overall pick with the spot the Knicks dealt away and didn't protect in the event of a lottery win. Not having the ninth pick won't carry anything close to the same sting. Minnesota's point guard crazed GM getting the chance to select john Wall would have been amusing as well, but instead the Wizards will get a much needed quality player to build around. Wall seems like a slightly safer choice than Kwame Brown was after the last Wizards lottery win.

Big Ten meetings are underway in Chicago, and their commissioner Jim Delany seems to be doing his best to try and turn their expansion process into a replacement option for LOST fans who'll miss discussing convoluted theories about the meaning of it all once the final episode airs. Tuesday Delany refused to even acknowledge that one of the reasons for them to expand is to create a conference title game. Is there any scenario where the Big Ten adds even one team and does not create a title game? No, because that would be leaving millions on the table as well as missing out on a programming option to sell or air on the Big Ten network. Everyone knows this, yet Delany's ego won't let him concede the obvious. The guy loves being on center stage and portraying his conference as the epicenter of college football even though Florida has more national titles BY ITSELF in the past four years than the entire Big Ten does in the past forty.

If you're not on Facebook this will mean nothing to you, but ESPN has decided they need to get in on the Farmville craze. They're creating a college sports themed version of Farmville as a way to do that. Not sure what the annoying equivalent of "so and so's cow has gotten out of the yard" posts will be - "Bobby Petrino is trying to get your school's head coaching job", maybe? As for ESPNUville crops, I can think of a few possibilities that could be interesting if they want to base it on what people are actually growing.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Stuart Scott's next in line for his work on that David Blaine show

The ACC getting a TV contract which will pay their schools four million a year less than what SEC teams get doesn't seem like a huge accomplishment, but it actually is better than anticipated. Apparently Fox came in aggressively trying to convince the ACC to give them a weekly national game the way the SEC does CBS. Since there doesn't seem to be a special reason Fox would want to secure rights to the only automatic bid conference that has yet to see two members make the BCS in the same season, you have to assume they're just looking to get into regular season college football coverage somehow. That could be very big news for the Big 12 as they try and grow their revenue and keep teams from bolting for other conferences. It's hard to understand why Fox is suddenly making a move for college football now after completely failing to capitalize on their rights to the BCS for the four years they had it, but they seem to be doing so.

Part of the reason I was less than thrilled with Tampa Bay's acquisition of Kellen Winslow last season was the state of his knees. When you deal two picks, including a second rounder, for a guy you'd like to feel he's physically sound. Winslow has now undergone another knee operation, his fifth in the past six years. The surgery's being called minor, but there is no such thing as a minor fifth knee surgery. The Buccaneers overpaid to get Winslow in the first place, then gave him a gigantic contract unnecessarily. It's essential that he stay healthy if they're going to have any chance of getting value for their investment going forward.

I've been opposed to the NCAA's policies with regard to student athletes for years because they're both unfair and incredibly poorly thought out. Jeremy Bloom, the former Colorado wide receiver who was offered ski gear endorsements for his success as an Olympic caliber performer in that sport, was told he could not accept any of them or he would be ineligible. On the other hand, had he been offered a million dollar contract to play baseball he could have signed that with no problem and still played football. While Bloom was at Colorado, there was a controversy over players taping their feet and ankles in such a way that the sacred Nike swoosh was covered up. They were threatened with suspension for not fulfilling their role as human billboard, yet if those same players took a dime for saying they liked a certain brand of pizza they'd be ineligible. In the name of "amateurism" players were denied the chance to appear in movies despite being an acting major or review restaurants for the school paper despite being a journalism major, yet their images could appear in Pontiac ads with no problem (and no cash for them, of course). I encourage you to read this piece by Oregon tight end David Paulson, which raises hard and legitimate questions about why the NCAA does what it does on this subject and chronicles some of the problems he's seen it cause first hand. It's okay for Lane Kiffin to chase the money and walk out after one season on a player he signed for Tennessee, yet the kid's a bad guy if he wants to use his own name to begin building a business in college? Nice system you've got there, NCAA.

There was a level of disbelief among some people yesterday when the news came out that ESPN's Chris Berman was getting a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. James Cameron, Russell Crowe, John Cusack, Chris Berman... one of these things is not like the others. The only question I have is who's paying for the star, because that's how this deal works. It's not like someone in Hollywood just noticed Russell Crowe's had a bunch of big movies and thought it might be fun to give him a star. It's paid for, whether by a studio looking for publicity for a new film (Robin Hood, in Crowe's case), possibly a fan club or in some cases the "honoree" himself. That's why you can actually find former network sideline reporter Jim Gray on the Walk of Fame - he bought the spot. It's certainly not like they were debating who was the bigger star between him and Adam Sandler (Grownups, coming soon to a theater near you!). Now that we've established how this works, I'm just wondering who ponied up for Berman's star. Was it ESPN as part of his new contract? One of his multiple endorsement deals? Berman himself? The Eagles don't have a star, nor do Don Henley or Glenn Frey individually - is it possible someone thinks Berman wrote "Hotel California" since he quotes it incessantly?

We may be about to lose one of the best football programs on television. "NFL Matchup" is a half hour show that's aired on ESPN since 1984, and currently features analysts Merril Hoge and Ron Jaworski using NFL Films clips to make points about what teams are doing well or poorly. It's always been well done, but it bounces all over ESPN's schedule. Maybe that lack of a consistent time and place people expect to find the show is why it currently lacks a sponsor. According to Sports Illustrated's Peter King, without a new sponsor being found by ESPN it will be curtains for a quality show. Hopefully that won't happen, because there aren't enough "smart" options for football fans as it is.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Next question for Niekro: What's wrong with Tiger's neck?

Boston being up on Orlando after game one of the Eastern Conference Finals is a pleasant surprise for me as a Celtics fan. It's easy to get caught up in things like Boston's physical play against Dwight Howard after the first game of a series. That doesn't mean too much to me, because it's a refelection of tactics. Stan Van Gundy's guys won't shoot as poorly from the outside every game as they did Sunday, which will in turn make it more difficult to play Howard that way. The win is an interesting indicator of the Celtics mental toughness. They're composed in large part of members from the NBA Championship team two seasons ago, while Orlando shook their 2009 Finals losing team up by bringing in Vince Carter. Boston was able to rebound quickly from a challenging six game set with Cleveland and seize home court advantage, while the Magic had a laughably easy trip past Charlotte and Atlanta to reach this point. Carter's not known for mental toughness but played well Sunday in the loss, so maybe this won't be much of an issue going forward.

I never know what to make of columns that are written supposedly quoting anonymous players and coaches sharing thoughts on a sport. Some of them sound legit, but even those often sound like something I could have made up on my own. The New York Daily News published a very interesting one over the weekend, with a purported player blasting the NFL's drug testing program for being way too lenient on street drugs. If there's one thing that seems to be clear after the recent Cushing debacle it's that the NFL isn't real concerned about drug use unless you get caught repeatedly. This column sounds like a legitimate player gripe to me, but who can say for sure?

Hank Haney, former swing coach for Tiger Woods, has given a three part interview to the Golf Channel which is apparently his effort to polish up his reputation after parting ways with Woods. Among Hank's shocking revelations: he thinks the months away from golf in sex addiction therapy hurt Tiger's game. It's that attention to detail that makes Hank so good. Nothing gets by that guy. In other news, Haney thinks BP's oil spill could be a problem for the Gulf of Mexico. Haney also laments that Woods didn't call him very often. After you chose to do this interview I definitely wouldn't recommend waiting by the phone for any more calls, Hank.

I was mostly listening to music as I drove back from Tampa to Columbia yesterday. At one point though, I decided to see if anything interesting was going on with sports. I tuned in just in time to hear a national network show about to begin an interview with Phil Niekro. I'm not sure what was supposed to make the long retired Niekro a compelling guest at 5pm on a Sunday in mid-May, but I was willing to listen and see what they were going to ask the Hall of Fame pitcher. The first question, I kid you not, was about LeBron James and what Niekro thought would happen with him in free agency. And with that, it was back to the music. If you haven't heard "I Should've Known It", the first single off the new Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers CD, you should check it out. As for the LeBron stuff, surely the national media isn't going to spend all of the next six weeks being this stupid, right?

Friday, May 14, 2010

LeBron was one turnover away from a quadruple double - don't see that everyday

Boston finishing off Cleveland last night made me happy because I'm a Celtics fan, but the media barely noticed them advancing to the Eastern conference finals. Instead all the discussion was about LeBron James and whether he will leave Cleveland or not. If he does take off (and I seem to be one of the few people who still thinks he'll stay in the end), I hope it's to anywhere other than New York. The NYC media has been obsessed with the idea of James to the Knicks for years, and seems to have regarded the last couple of seasons primarily as inconvenient delays in his ascension to King of the City status. I'd enjoy seeing them start having to tout Chris Bosh as a world changer instead. With James done, maybe we can actually get ESPN and national NBA types to focus on the games rather than what might happen eventually in free agency. There are always going to be some people more worried about whether LeBron and Kobe will ever meet in the Finals than anything else though.

Ole Miss has agreed to host Boise State for their 2011 season opener. I wish they were going to play this year, but when they do Ole Miss will beat them. Do you know how many wins Boise State has against BCS conference programs on the road in their entire history? One - they beat Oregon two years ago in Eugene. It appears likely Boise State will be ranked third in the country when the season starts, with only Alabama and Ohio State ahead of them. That will be ridiculous if it does occur, but media people love this story for some reason. Utah's gone undefeated twice in the past six years and won BCS bowls in dominant fashion as opposed to on a trick play two point try in overtime. No one put them in the top five to start the next year, yet the cute little blue field team is about to do just that. The Broncos are good but a total fraud as a top ten team, and if they somehow get to the national title game by beating Virginia Tech in DC and Oregon State in Boise plus ten nobodies they will be destroyed.

We just got done with the controversy over AP having a revote for Brian Cushing's defensive rookie of the year award, but there's another big one brewing. Within the next couple of weeks we should finally get the word on what the NCAA has determined regarding USC football's violations during Pete Carroll's era. If they rule Reggie Bush was ineligible during the 2005 season, which he apparently was, there will be a movement to strip him of his Heisman Trophy. I'm fine with that - if he wasn't supposed to be playing, he obviously shouldn't have won the award - but I hope the Heisman isn't going to be awarded to second place vote getter Vince Young five years later. Beauty pageants need someone to be Miss Vidalia Onion and show up at events all year, so they have to elevate a backup if the winner doesn't work out. There's no need for that to happen with an award, and while Vince likely would have won the vote had Bush not been eligible it would be wrong to assume that for sure. Tell USC to give back Bush's statue, take him off the winners list, and move on.

If you've got a few million bucks burning a hole in your pocket, the Field of Dreams is for sale. It's pretty wild to think that substantial numbers of people are still going out of their way to travel to the set of a movie that was made before Law and Order came on the air. It's not like Kevin Costner or James Earl Jones will be hanging around for you to talk with. It's a reflection of how much the film touched people who watched it and thought about their relationships with their fathers. As for Law and Order, reports yesterday had it cancelled after twenty years on air. That may be true, although negotiations supposedly will continue. The producer wants at least one more season to set a record for most consecutive years of a scripted show airing. I don't see how that really applies to Law and Order when none of the current cast members were there for the first three seasons and all but two of them have been on the program less than three years. If NBC kept something called Friends on the air after the original cast left with six new people living in New York apartments and hanging out together, it wouldn't have been the same show. Why is L&O any different?

I'll be on the road this weekend visiting my family in Tampa. I don't anticipate that delaying Monday's blog but you never know. Anything I find interesting between now and then will be in the Twitter feed @heathradio . Hope you have a great weekend.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Traditional second anniversary gift is cotton. Who came up with this crap?

Houston Texans linebacker Brian Cushing will keep the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year award after all, the result of a bizarre voting process that saw a writer switch to vote FOR Cushing as a protest of the revote and others simply refuse to make a choice. Cushing has no business winning the award, but there wasn't a clear enough consensus around one player to get them past him into the top spot. Meanwhile, an off the record NFL GM revealed his team felt Cushing has been a chronic steroid user for years when they evaluated him for the draft. As noted Monday, this was one of the least surprising steroid suspensions in the history of team sports. That only makes it harder to understand why some writers decided to go out of their way to be obstinate and give Cushing the award anyway.

At SEC meetings in a few weeks, the conference intends to once again look at doing something about Mississippi State's fans incessantly clanging cowbells. There has been a rule against artificial noisemakers in the SEC since 1974, and MSU has simply ignored it or made minor efforts to pretend they were enforcing the rule. Now their spokesman maintains the cowbells should be considered a "great tradition" of the SEC. That's a load of crap. Either there's a rule, or there isn't. I don't particularly care which, but it's absurd that if MSU visits another school and their fans clang cowbells while the Bulldog offense is trying to call signals it's a violation while the MSU home fans can do the same to them in Starkville and it's acceptable. A fine won't do anything to stop this either. If the SEC wants a ban to have any teeth it has to be a 15 yard penalty for any disruptive clanging after one warning. If they're not willing to do that, then open it up and let everyone pass out whatever noisemaking crap their marketing department can get a sponsor for.

Control freak coaches irritate me. Mark Fox, Georgia's basketball coach, is severely restricting his players use of Twitter. They're only supposed to send tweets out about the team, according to Fox. If you can imagine such a thing, the players were sending messages “about themselves and just a bunch of nonsense.” That might have something to do with the fact they were using their personal Twitter accounts, and they're college students. That's what kids their age DO on Twitter. Athletes being allowed to interact with people and behave like normal kids? Can't have that! Hey coach Fox, I bet when the players use their personal cel phones they talk “about themselves and just a bunch of nonsense" too. You going to take those away next?

One thing Fox presumably will still find acceptable to tweet about is where teams stand in the rankings. A variety of college hoop gurus have issued their current preseason top 25s now that the early exits to the NBA have been resolved. Expectations for Florida are going to be radically different this season. Jeff Goodman of Fox has them as his tenth team, as does Gary Parrish of CBS Sports. Pat Forde, who covered the Oklahoma City first round for ESPN and thus saw their double OT loss to BYU, puts them a spot higher than that. All have Florida as the highest ranked SEC team. It all seems a bit much to me just yet. Maybe once I've seen the signing class actually contribute and know whether they got more help at point or not I'll start to think of UF as the kind of team that's a two or three seed, which is what that rating should indicate.

Today marks exactly two years since the start of regular Monday through Friday postings on this blog. This is post 464. It's been an interesting daily challenge to try and make sure I have some kind of content here that you'll hopefully find worthwhile. If the stats showed no one was reading, I would have probably discontinued it long ago (a suggestion my wife makes about twice a month when she's annoyed about me staying up late). Thanks to those of you who do choose to drop by and see what's on my mind.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Maybe Calipari can be hired to coach game six for Cleveland

The NBA Playoffs haven't had much to offer this year, with three sweeps in round two and no overtime games at all to this point. Last night was supposed to be different, as Cleveland and Boston played a critical game five of their series. Instead we saw Boston wreck the Cavs in a game that was never competitive in the second half. I'm a Celtics fan so the outcome was fine with me, but this raises some serious questions about LeBron James. He was terrible last night, and considering the expectations that come with being a two time MVP without a ring that's unacceptable. Game six in Boston will be a defining moment for LeBron's legacy. If he plays like he did in game three and loses he'll at least have that to fall back on. Put on another performance like this and the media in NYC will start dreaming of signing Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh instead.

When Phil Mickelson waxed ecstatic about Five Guys hamburgers at the TPC, I thought it was a little odd. There's been a great hamburger debate forever on the west coast, with In-N-Out and Fatburger the two contenders. I prefer Fatburger (and have Ice Cube on my side) , but In-N-Out seems to have more hype for whatever reason. Mickelson's comments about Five Guys being better than In-N-Out and how he had supposedly eaten there every day while he was in Jacksonville got pretty wide media exposure. To his credit, Stewart Cink exposed a key detail that Phil somehow left out. Mickelson owns the franchise rights to Five Guys in Orange County of California. Mickelson may genuinely love Five Guys, but he should have been saying "I like it so much I bought the company." Not acknowledging that is unethical on his part, and it means the next time Phil praises something you should assume he's got a financial reason for it even if it's not one of his sponsors.

How many people are there without obvious conflicts of interest who are qualified to serve as college football commentators for ESPN? I would say there are certainly enough to make Craig James expendable, which is why it's so baffling that they have no plans to change his role in any meaningful way. James is known to have badgered Texas Tech coaches demanding his son get more playing time. He forced the firing of Mike Leach through political connections and legal threats when the school's investigation had concluded no such action was needed. Once it became clear the public was largely on Leach's side of the argument, James hired a PR firm to leak videos and plant comments critical of Leach on blogs. That's just the verified stuff - lord only knows what else he may have done. James can no longer be trusted as a commentator because he clearly puts his personal agenda first. When he's praising a coach, is he doing so because his son may want to transfer there? Is a rip delivered because a coach praised Leach? How can ESPN cover the ongoing legal battle between Leach and Texas Tech fairly when reporting anything positive for the coach's side makes their own guy look bad? It's a needless conflict they're welcoming to keep an analyst who wasn't that well liked before this whole mess came to light - we're not talking Kirk Herbstreit here.

Sports Illustrated's website features a depressing story about sportsmanship on the high school level. A 50 year old track coach was able to get his team a championship by having the team that beat them's best pole vaulter's performance disqualified. What was her violation? She had a string friendship bracelet on her wrist, which apparently could be considered "jewelry". Since jewelry's not allowed, she was disqualified and the coach won. The article quotes the coach bragging that he "knows a lot of rules and regulations", but it doesn't have any quotes from the members of his team. I suspect they were embarassed and disappointed to "win" a championship not by being the best on the field of play but instead through their coach invoking a technicality irrelevant to the competition. That's how these kind of youth sports fiascos usually happen - the kids get it, but the grownups with misplaced priorities screw things up.

Beauty is a subjective thing. That makes magazines attempting to rank women on their sexiness somewhat silly, but it's been a tradition for the a couple of decades now. Earlier Esquire selected Christina Hendricks, the sultry actress from Mad Men, as their top choice. Maxim, the magazine for men who don't like to read, has now weighed in. They don't even have Hendricks in their Hot 100. According to them, Katy Perry is the hottest woman in the world. Sorry, that's ridiculous. Perry is attractive but is highly unlikely to be the hottest woman on whatever block in Los Angeles she's on at any given moment. Choices like this may explain why Maxim has gone from a red hot title to having issues that are less than 100 pages long.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

And I thought the Rays dust mop Raymond was embarassing

Another day, another Tiger Woods drama. This one is the departure of his swing coach Hank Haney, who insists this was entirely his idea. Maybe so, but it's an idea that had occurred to a lot of other people well before last night. One of the rumored names for Woods to work with is Shaun O'Hair's coach Sean Foley, but who knows for sure about anything with him right now? One thing I would genuinely be stunned by is if he reunited with Butch Harmon. Harmon violated the first rule of Tiger Club - don't talk about Tiger Club. Humbling himself isn't Tiger's strong suit, and the idea of him saying "fix me" to the guy he walked away from just doesn't ring true.

Another day, another half baked "report" on conference expansion. This time it's my side of the sports media world to blame, as WHB radio in Kansas City goes with a blatantly inaccurate report that the Big Ten had offered slots to Nebraska, Missouri, Notre Dame and Rutgers. There will unfortunately be more of this kind of nonsense to follow, because everyone thinks they have "sources" even though the source may not have the slightest clue what they're talking about. That's how something that really happened, like Missouri discussing the revenue possibilities that they might have in the Big Ten, gets turned into "they've been offered a spot in the Big Ten". Some outlets will just guess and make stuff up too. I don't know which one of those apply here (maybe both) but until the Big Ten actually has a meeting and votes on things this kind of report should be viewed with extreme skepticism. Inviting new members to a conference is not done like you're calling a buddy to grab a pizza and come over to watch the game - there's a process.

Thanks to the Dallas Cowboys not paying attention to what they were putting on their website, the team's entire draft board has basically been released to the public. After the team posted video of Jerry Jones standing in front of the board on draft night, dedicated work from folks on the internet including Bob Strum of the Ticket in Dallas was able to put together the list for each round. Think the agent for Sean Lee, the linebacker Dallas took with pick 55, is pleased to know they had him rated the 14th best prospect in the draft? Navorro Bowman went late in the third round, yet Dallas had him as the 20th prospect in the draft. That kind of scouting might explain a few things about the Cowboys draft performance in recent years.

There are lots of meaningless games in sports, and I'm sure there are nights guys don't really want to be there even though they're paid handsomely to do so. Having said that, it doesn't seem to be unreasonable to expect a guy to remain awake for the entire game. That was a little much for Ken Griffey, Jr. though, as he left the Mariners dugout for the Seattle clubhouse in the fifth inning of a game last week and went to sleep. When it was time for him to pinch hit a couple of innings later, no one bothered to wake him up. Griffey's had a terrific career, but he's 40 and not doing much when he does play. If his interest level is this low, it's time to go ahead and retire so a player who actually cares enough to watch his teammates play can have the spot.

The return of soccer to my hometown of Tampa didn't seem a big enough deal to mention on the blog. The team is calling itself the Rowdies even though it's got a different official name for corporate purposes. The real Tampa Bay Rowdies, which I followed as a kid, have been gone for almost two decades. Those Rowdies never had anything like the new team's mascot though, which requires me to share this with you. I have no idea where Brooks found these remarkable photos, but I'm alternately grateful/depressed that he did.

Monday, May 10, 2010

The latest items in the Tiger Woods collection - coming soon to TJ Maxx

Wonder how nervous the folks at Nike are getting about Tiger Woods right now? After withdrawing from the Players Championship yesterday with an apparent bulging disk in his neck that's clearly affecting his performance, it's anyone's guess what happens next. Far it be from me to defend Tiger, but it's ridiculous for anyone to suggest that he's exaggerating this injury as a way to quit during his final round of the TPC or excuse his poor performance last week at Quail Hollow. Woods was hitting drives at the TPC that looked nothing like what we're used to seeing from him. I have no trouble believing he's legitimately hurting, and given his effort at the US Open on a torn ACL and damaged leg two years ago neither should anyone else. For Woods this year is more likely to get worse rather than better. All the tabloid nonsense and possible divorce aside, remember he also says he has a partially torn Achilles tendon. Couple that with whatever this is and it may be best for him to just step away and let his body heal while also continuing to work on his psyche. Getting back on the course probably felt for Tiger like it would be a return to normalcy, but these last two weeks couldn't have helped anything much.

Over the weekend the single least surprising performance enhancing drug related suspension in years came to light. Houston Texans linebacker Brian Cushing will miss the first four games of next season for failing a test last year. He was the defensive rookie of the year, an award he should now be stripped of as a result of this news. Cushing has been suspected of PED use since early in his college career, and I wonder if this is going to prompt further scrutiny of what was going on at USC when he was there. He's certainly not the only defender from that program who's had people suspicious of him the past few years.

This sounds like something the folks at the Onion would make up, but it's no joke. Someone not only hired Dave Bliss to coach basketball again, they made him the Dean of Students as well. A private high school in Texas feels the man who tried to cover up his cheating as head coach of Baylor by framing a murdered player as a drug dealer will make a great mentor for their kids. It absolutely boggles the mind that anyone could make this choice. What Bliss did was a disgrace to his profession. He has no business being involved with the game in any capacity, and especially not one that involves teaching young people anything.

Just in case you thought there was any chance that the "can Tim Tebow be an NFL QB?" hype might die down post draft, feel free to stop. Dueling newspaper columns in Denver yesterday urged the Broncos to trade starter Kyle Orton to make room for Tebow and/or Brady Quinn. I wouldn't trade Orton, but if the Broncos do I assume Quinn will be the top candidate for the starting job. Tebow needs time to learn the NFL way of doing things before he tries to play the main role under center. If they throw him out there right away it will likely turn out badly.

Friday, May 7, 2010

It's for the kids, even though it isn't

One of the more selfish things we've seen in college sports recently comes to a head today. College basketball players who should have until June 15 to make up their mind about whether to stay in the NBA draft or not according to league policy will instead have to decide today thanks to a new NCAA rule. The new time frame is supposed to help coaches, since they didn't want to have to wait to find out whether kids would come back to school. Instead of what they were expecting - that marginal kids wouldn't try and go pro with virtually no time to get info - coaches are seeing kids like Samardo Samuels bailing out because they haven't had time to learn how ridiculous their NBA hopes are. Maybe June 15 was too long, but lopping off five weeks of time for kids to learn about their potential was a pointless and unfair action. Hopefully the NCAA will move their deadline past Memorial Day so that fewer kids will get burned next year.

While there's plenty of scrutiny about what the Big Ten will eventually decide to do with regards to expansion, there's considerably less conversation about the Pac-10. I don't believe they will expand, because the only schools that make sense to do so with are Colorado and Utah. Even if they add those schools, it's not a given that the added value for potential TV deals from having big interest in the Denver and Salt Lake City markets will be enough to make it worth the added expense of travel to face the new members in all sports. As a result, the Pac-10 may be coming up with a better plan of partnering with the Big 12 on better TV deals. The problem with this approach is that the Big 12 does not fully control its own fate - if Nebraska and Missouri bail, there may be a domino effect that puts Texas, A&M and the Oklahoma schools all in play for the SEC. Can't see the Pac-10 inviting Iowa State and Baylor to join in the aftermath of all that. Still, this is good news. A conference that has been stale and set in its ways is becoming creative, and that's a good thing.

At a competition to reach the NAIA golf nationals, one competitor knew he already had a spot thanks to his team having qualified. He was in a playoff with another player, with that guy needing to win to qualify for the national event. As a result, the guy with the secure spot intentionally drove his ball forty yards out of bounds and took a double bogey to lose and let the other player qualify. Some people, like this blogger from Yahoo, think that's terrific. I think they're being ridiculous. The guy who tanked it may have been well intentioned, but he took what would have been a great accomplishment for his opponent - making nationals - and rendered it nothing more than a gift. If he really wanted to give the hole away, he should have played it straight, missed a putt if necessary and then never said a word to acknowledge it. Doing it the way he did was counterproductive, and if I was the other guy I wouldn't have wanted to win if it had to come that way.

We have an answer on who's more powerful on the internet: college football fans or gearheads. College football takes it, as Lane Kiffin advances to the sweet 16 of Esquire Magazine's sexiest woman alive bracket. Next up for Lane is lovely ex-Florida soccer star Heather Mitts. She's amazingly good looking, but if Danica couldn't do it with her army of twitter followers then I supect Heather will not be able to slow the Lane Train's momentum. Voting opens Monday, so it's too early to get any answers on that front. I'll be busy with NASCAR today and Saturday at Darlington. Anything that's noteworthy will be on my Twitter account @heathradio. Have a great weekend and I'll see you back here on Monday.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Poor LT got "set up like a mutha" again

There are some times when people find trouble and the news stuns you. Lawrence Taylor is not one of those people, but the rape of a 15 year old being what he's accused of is a stunner. LT's life has alternated between stability and train wreck for decades, but his problems have typically always been about hurting himself rather than others. We'll see if these charges are true, but the initial reports are extremely disturbing. For some this will once again bring up the Hall of fame question. Sam Kouvaris, who holds the Jacksonville market's Hall of fame ballot, insisted that Taylor should not be voted in because of his off the field escapades. The NFL's rules say differently - the vote is supposed to be about what you do on the field and nothing more. The ultimate question would have been if something like OJ Simpson's situation had happened during the five years between retirement and when he was eligible to be voted in. Would the NFL have actually let the acquitted OJ go into the Hall? I doubt it.

Nothing's official yet, but it appears Zach Mettenberger's first game as a college quarterback could come in Athens after all. The former Georgia QB has reportedly been offered a scholarship by Louisville. The Cardinals will play at Georgia to start next season. It's always interesting to see how a new coach handles disciplinary measures and whether kids deserve second chances after criminal behavior. Under Bobby Petrino Louisville gave second chances to guys like dozen time arrestee Willie Williams if they had talent. Steve Kragthorpe tried to move away from that, but it got lost in the fact his tenure was a disaster from the start. It appears Charlie Strong may lean more to the Petrino approach.

Illinois head coach Ron Zook is one of a group of college coaches going overseas to see the troops. The appropriate radio/blogger thing to do here is make a wise guy comment about that, but it shouldn't be. This is a project that's been going on for the past three years, and all the coaches who come back seem to be at least a little changed by the experience. They aren't going to see the true horror of combat, but they will see guys dealing with its aftermath as well as the tedium of a difficult day to day existence even in the "safe" areas the coaches will travel. I'd think experiencing that would make a little harder to get too ticked off about a reporter's question or angry fan posts on a message board. Bravo for Zook and other coaches who are taking part in the trip.

A soldier returning home from a lengthy combat tour to surprise his NFL cheerleader wife is the kind of story local television loves. It seems hard to imagine how anyone could find a way to screw that up. Never underestimate the sheer pettiness or PR incompetence of the Washington Redskins though. They managed to not only turn the soldier's request for his hometown station, an ABC affiliate, to film his return into an exclusive for the NBC station in DC that the Redskins have a media partnership with but they also managed to threaten to fire his wife from her cheerleading spot if she talked to the NBC outlet. The Redskins have since apologized, which is par for the course for this deplorable organization under owner Daniel Snyder. There are worse people who own pro sports franchises, but the list is very short.

Politics is not something I typically mention on this blog, but one story is too ridiculous not to pass along. A group of twenty Republicans angry with Charlie Crist's decision to run as an independent rather than compete in their party's primary have requested he give them back the money they donated to his campaign. Seems reasonable enough, but then it turned out that 13 of the 20 haven't given Crist any money for his senate race. How does it occur to someone to send a letter demanding money you didn't give back? Wouldn't just having the seven people who did give write a letter have been more effective?

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

UGA couldn't handle the hype even when they were actually good

For the past four months, there have been rumors that John Calipari might be a candidate for an NBA job this summer. The speculation has largely revolved around the idea LeBron James wants Calipari to be his hand selected coach, much like what Kobe attempted to have with Coach K a few years ago. Now a new possibility has emerged, with Yahoo's Adrian Wojnarowski reporting that Calipari is interested in the open Chicago Bulls job. While Calipari does have the previous relationship with Derrick Rose which might make him appealing, I doubt the Bulls would make that move. I also don't think this is necessarily a job Calipari wants. That's because Wojnarowski, who's a very solid reporter, also notes in his story that sources say Calipari "hasn't connected" with Kentucky administrators. Gee, two days after a story with quotes from UK's president criticizing Cal's team's embarassing academic performance hits the paper suddenly he's "not connecting" with the administration. Warning shot, anyone? And just in case he does decide to bail, Calipari's now set up UK officials as the bad guys responsible for his departure. Whatever anyone may think of the man, he's definitely not dumb.

Can someone explain why so many media people are jumping on Georgia's bandwagon suddenly? Tony Barnhart has them second in the SEC East, Mark Schlabach of ESPN has them as his number 20 team coming out of spring, and now College Football News has them as division champs and the second BCS team from the SEC. This is a team with no experience at QB and possibly a true freshman as the backup. Other than A.J. Green, no receivers stand out. They lost their best defender in Rennie Curran and are completely revamping their defensive scheme. Why exactly would anyone anticipate this being a ten win (minimum likely needed for BCS at large spot) kind of team? Am I missing something?

The ongoing controversy over the Arizona immigration law will take to the court tonight in the NBA, with the Phoenix Suns wearing jerseys that say "Los Suns" for tonight's matchup with San Antonio. (Wouldn't it make more sense to say "Los Sols"?) While MLB and the NBA have taken public stances on the matter, the BCS hasn't yet. Since this year's championship game is slated to be played in Glendale, ESPN's Ivan Maisel asked BCS chairman Bill Hancock what their position was. Hancock said they were committed to the idea that everyone deserves an equal shot at prosperity.... no, just kidding. It's the BCS - as long as they're going to get paid they're fine with it and have no intention of rocking the boat.

Got a chance to check out the NASCAR Hall of Fame yesterday in Charlotte. It was the first time I'd ever been to a single sport's Hall of Fame, since they tend to be located in out of the way locations. For the NASCAR hall to succeed, it needs to bring in casual fans as well as the diehards who would've come even if the museum was in Walla Walla, Washington. I think they've done as good a job of trying to balance reverence for the sport while still appealing to the non-fanatic as is possible. The venue opens next Tuesdsay, with the first induction on the 23rd. There are still some kinks to work out, but if you're in the area and interested I believe it will be worth your time and twenty dollars.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

This post, like the Orange Bowl, brought to you by nobody

The SEC is a terrific college football conference because of its depth - just about any game between bowl caliber teams is going to be really good. Someone should let CBS know, because they seem to believe it's a two team conference. The network begins its coverage with the third week of the season, and either Florida or Alabama are scheduled to be on the national broadcast every single week except for one. (With Appalachian State and Georgia State on their schedules that week, even CBS couldn't find a hook to sell those games nationally.) There's no question the teams who have played in the SEC title game the past two seasons and won three of the last four national titles deserve big time exposure, but it's hard to believe there's not a few other SEC showdowns more worthy of national attention than some of these games.

Something happened yesterday which could be extremely significant or could be pretty minor. FedEx is no longer going to be the title sponsor of the Orange Bowl. This is one of the most dedicated corporate sponsors of sports, and it's up to ESPN to find someone to replace them willing to spend more than 20 million per year until 2014. If they can line up a reliable corporation to do that then this only impacts the FedEx big time clients who won't get a trip to Miami as a yearly reward. Should they fail, it could be a sign that the sponsorship dollars that prop up the bowl system are beginning to dry up. That's not going to get us a playoff this year, but it's what will have to happen for there to be a real change. Until there's no way school presidents can ignore the extra revenue to be gained by creating a playoff, there's not going to be one.

I wish i was more into the NBA Playoffs than I am. Even with Boston beating Cleveland last night, it's still hard to get excited when we're talking about a string of seven game series with mostly predictable outcomes in the first two rounds. I wish they'd go back to just five games in the opening round, but that's not going to happen. With the whole thing largely dragging, my favorite playoff moment to this point didn't occur on the court. It was the publishing of these ridiculous Kobe Bryant pictures in the Los Angeles Times magazine. Sure I'm stuck with Rasheed Wallace on the Celtics, but at least he's not the core of the team. Laker fans have to root for this selfish, strange guy to make them happy by winning titles even though he personally is creepy. Better them than me.

It amazes me how many media types don't understand the NFL's draft process at all. A perfect example is this Baton Rouge Advocate a story lamenting Ciron Black's decision to return to LSU for his senior year because "it's clear Black cost himself millions". You see, Black went undrafted after his senior year, while the year before he had been projected as a first or second round pick. Therefore he would have made millions if he had only put his name in for the 2009 draft. That's brilliant reasoning as long as you ignore the fact that even projections made on draft day of where players will go are frequently off by multiple rounds (talk to Colt McCoy about that this year). When you're actually draft eligible, scouts break down every aspect of your game in a way they didn't previously. In the case of Black, the scouts concluded he lacked enough athleticism to be drafted when he ran a 5.5 40 yard dash at the combine and did poorly on every other test as well, including just 22 reps on the bench. Unless there's some reason to believe Black would have been more athletic a year earlier - and there's not - this is the way his story would have always played out. He's a guy who wasn't able to deal with athletic rushers consistently in college, and the NFL certainly doesn't think he can as a tackle on their level. As a project who can possibly convert to guard, he may get a shot in a camp. The idea he was ever a first rounder because of projections only makes sense if you think Jevan Snead really was ever legitimately the top QB in this year's draft.

Six weeks ago I was in Nashville covering the SEC Basketball Tournament. It's a great city to host events like that and a place I've always enjoyed visiting. As friends have moved there, I've heard nothing but great things about it as somewhere to live as well. It has been stunning to follow the devastation caused by the floods there the past two days. Streets I was walking or driving on in March are now under eight to ten feet of water, and these are places far from the Cumberland River. The Opryland Hotel is expected to be out of operation for months as a result of the flooding damae its sustained. All of the major sports venues have sustained significant damage as well. With the ongoing oil disaster in the gulf, the weekend car bomb attempt (and now the suspect's arrest) in NYC and the Virginia lacrosse murder, this is off the national media's radar for some reason. It shouldn't be. If you can spare anything, please visit because lots of people are going to need help.

Monday, May 3, 2010

I was sure Demarcus Cousins was going to med school

Kentucky basketball wanted to be relevant again at all costs, and hiring john Calipari got them there. Now it's time for the other part of the deal to begin coming into focus. Calipari's Wildcats compiled the program's worst GPA in over seven years and have the worst grades of any UK athletic program. Two freshmen were in the 1.6 range. This is what you get when you field a team of one and done guys who don't give a damn about their education or your university. What's even more amusing is that Calipari had bragged about his team's academic performance earlier in the season - maybe he thinks this is good.

It was cool to be at Quail Hollow covering Rory McIlroy putting on a show yesterday. The 20 year old shot a course record 62 on the way to winning his first PGA Tour event, and handled himself tremendously well afterward. He signed a ton of autographs for the fans, then came in and faced questions comparing him to Tiger Woods (in a good way) with humor and grace. Hopefully he'll be able to maintain the enthusiasm for the game and the experience around it going forward rather than losing it the way Woods indicates he did the past few years. I'm glad I got to see McIlroy's first win, but there will be plenty more to follow.

The weirdest story of the weekend was the former security director for the New Orleans Saints filing a suit against the team alleging he was pushed out because of refusing to cover up the theft of pills from the team's supply of the painkiller Vicodin. He names two "senior officials" as getting the drug improperly in his suit, with one of them reportedly being head coach Sean Payton. The team's linebacker coach is the other official, and he's the one accused of the theft while Payton supposedly didn't have a diagnosis meriting him receiving Vicodin. None of us on the outside can know the facts on this, but I find it hard to believe a former FBI agent made this all up out of the air. It does look like Payton's name was dragged into it to make the potential PR damage from a lawsuit bigger and thus possibly increase a settlement offer. The team says this is all untrue and that they'll defend themselves against it in court, but it has the potential to be a big distraction for the defending champs.

The totally unnecessary Nightmare on Elm Street remake made 32 million dollars at the box office this weekend, meaning there will probably be more useless sequels to it. The strip mining of Eighties classics for remakes is about to take a really bad turn if the reports about Real Genius being redone are accurate. There are some movies that are of their time and should not be messed with. That was definitely one of them. There's also talk of a Commando remake. Without Arnold, there is no Commando. I know there are people in Hollywood writing new scripts. is there some reason no one will actually read one of them?