Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Go Gamecocks!

No regular blog post today, because it's 4:44 AM eastern and I just got done editing all the interview sound from game one of the College World Series. If South Carolina wins today, I can finally leave Omaha and go down to Kansas City Wednesday before catching my 9:23 AM Thursday flight. If they lose, I'll be at Rosenblatt Stadium from early Wednesday afternoon until around 2 am and then drive two and a half hours to KC's airport to catch that same flight. Did I mention I'd be doing that on my birthday? Words can not describe how much I would prefer the Gamecocks win this baseball game - which of course means they won't. Will post if and when I get time, but depending on what happens it might be Friday before things here get back to normal. Thanks for your patience.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Renting a house would have been cheaper

This is day nine for me in Omaha. I'm beginning to feel like Scott Bakula's character in Quantum Leap - circumstances out of my control dictate whether I can ever get home. He had "Ziggy" to make sense of his situation, while I have to try and do it on my own. Not sure what Ziggy would have calculated the chances of a relief pitcher who hadn't started all season and hadn't worked more than 3.1 innings in his career pitching a complete game during his first career start, but that's what happened. With South Carolina battling UCLA for the title tonight, I'm here for the duration. The consensus seems to be that the Bruins are the favorite, but who can possibly tell at this point? The Gamecock players are a good group of kids and Ray Tanner's a great guy. It'll be fun to see if they can bring the national title back to Columbia.

FIFA's World Cup continues to be an embarrassing fiasco when it comes to refereeing the games. The USA's final Cup game featured repeated, obvious stalling through faking of injuries by the Ghana squad, but that wasn't anywhere close to the biggest official related issue of the weekend. England got robbed of an incredibly obvious goal against Germany, and the mistake couldn't be corrected because FIFA opts not to use goal line technology which would show if the ball had crossed the goal line or not. This isn't comparable to baseball choosing not to expand replays beyond what they already are, something I agree with. The equivalent to this would be refusing to look at replay on the very occasional foul pole close call to check whether a ball was actually a home run. Between the bizarre issues with the ball for this World Cup and the huge problems with referees, FIFA should be ashamed of its performance.

The NCAA is looking to put an end to stunts like offering players a scholarship when they're 13, the way Lane Kiffin did with a QB from Delaware once he got to USC. Under a proposed rule, no formal offer could be made prior to July 1 before a kid's senior season in high school. There's no way this will keep schools from still doing it on a "wink wink" basis, but if it keeps kids from putting themselves in the kind of uncomfortable public spotlight Tamir Goodman did at Maryland, that would be a positive change.

If there turns out to be anything to the L.A. Times report that Showtime is considering giving Stephen A. Smith his own late night talk show, two things stand out for me. One is that there are literally hundreds of millions of Americans who have never hosted a late night TV show. Doing this would mean Showtime's intentionally seeking out one of the dozen or so who have done so and failed miserably. Maybe they never saw "Quite Frankly" - understandable, since no one else did either - but surely it appears on the man's resume. What would possibly lead anyone to think this guy needs another platform when he's been proven ratings death with everything he does? The other thing that stands out about this story is that whoever Smith's agent is, he must be absolutely incredible at his job.

Think you've heard every air travel horror story? How about an airline reacting to a girl having brought a 2 inch, caged pet turtle on board by refusing to let her fly unless the turtle was thrown away? Even doing something as basic as keeping the turtle long enough for the girl's father to show up was too much to ask of AirTran personnel in Atlanta. When did common sense become something to be avoided at all costs? It's hard to think of another business that has gone more out of its way to alienate customers than the airlines have.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

I'm going to be able to write quite an Omaha tour guide

Sometime today the insane match at Wimbledon between two tennis players few of us know anything about will finally come to a conclusion. It's in its third day and is tied at 59 all in the final set. Whoever wins will advance to the second round, where they will almost certainly be defeated because of how much they've used up in this match as well as the fact neither is an elite player right now. The mutual will to keep this battle going is something worth honoring though, and hopefully someone will do a better job of that than the Los Angeles Times. Actual headline: "Wimbledon match's enduring legacy will be its length". Gosh, you think? I was figuring it would be the sweet drop shot Nicolas Mahut hit in the third set.

The terrific website Football Outsiders has typically been focused on analyzing trends and statistics from the NFL. Now they've branched into college football as well, and have issued their first Top 25. Alabama at number one preseason will surprise no one, but Florida as the preseason number two probably will. Not sure I'm buying their rationale to explain the choice, but it's worth reading. Their numbers are savvy enough to have South Carolina at number 23, which is where they should be based on the returning talent and schedule. They won't be ranked in the polls because of doubts based on a horrible bowl performance and Steve Spurrier's criticism of starting QB Stephen Garcia, but F.O. doesn't care about emotional things. I'll be looking forward to see what they do with the new college website.

The NBA Draft is tonight, but the story that most interests me at the moment in the league is what's going on with the Lakers. Phil Jackson indicated yesterday he was leaning toward retiring as coach of the back to back champs. This would be despite the fact he dates owner Dr. Jerry Buss's daughter. At least part of the reason for Jackson's potential departure relates to the strong likelihood major cuts are coming across the board in the Laker budget. How is it possible that a franchise owner who's making money thinks it's a good idea to reduce the quality of his successful product? I don't expect owners to voluntarily lose big money to win, but I do think it's reasonable to expect them to be happy with making a profit if they're winning already.

Got a chance to see Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers last night here in Omaha. I've seen the band several times, but this was the first show that wasn't in Gainesville. I appreciate how special those shows were even more now, because there wasn't anywhere close to the same feel in the audience that there was when TP & the HBs returned home. The new album Mojo is strong - bluesier than most of their stuff, but it plays well live. They did four tracks off the new album and the rest was mostly familiar hits with a couple of less well known catalog tunes mixed in. It's remarkable how well the band still brings it in concert considering they've been cranking out hits since the mid 70s - unlike the Stones, age has not diminished them as a live act. If they're in your neighborhood, you should check them out.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Five days and no end in sight

Another long night at Rosenblatt Stadium for me Tuesday, thanks to yet another major thunderstorm first delaying and then postponing the final four innings of Clemson Oklahoma to this afternoon. I can't emphasize enough how bizarre and unpredictable the weather situation has been here. The word is that we should have clear skies today, but there's no way of knowing if that's actually the case. South Carolina finished off Arizona State yesterday, meaning only one national seed remains in the final six and also that I'm here until at least Friday and quite possibly into next week.

FSU's Jimbo Fisher wants to "get a jump on the Gators and Hurricanes" by building an indoor practice facility. At the moment every SEC football school but Vanderbilt either has or is in the process of completing their own indoor facility. The absence of one doesn't seem to be hurting UF too badly, because most kids aren't that obsessed with where they'll practice if it rains during the recruiting process. If Fisher thinks that's going to be a big clincher argument for FSU, I think he'll be disappointed with the results.

Stephen Strasburg makes his fourth big league start today for the Washington Nationals. (It's against Kansas City, so he might throw a perfect game.) There's no question he's been brilliant thus far, with 32 strikeouts in 19.1 innings and a 1.86 ERA. Some people are now arguing for Strasburg to be an All-Star this season. Sorry, no sale. If the kid had begun the year with the team and had numbers like that, of course he's on the NL A-S squad. Even a month delay in bringing him up probably still gets him on if the production's the same. But a maximum of a half dozen terrific starts is not enough to give Strasburg that spot over someone else who's spent three months earning it.

I'd love to believe a Dutch paper's report that women are throwing themselves at Joran van der Sloot via love letters they're sending him in prison is untrue. It's probably completely legit though. This weird situation of women being so into these kind of guys has been around for decades now. LA's "Night Stalker" and Ted Bundy had plenty of females who wanted to be their brides too. I don't remember Aileen Wournos suddenly becoming any guy's dream bride when she was brought to justice - so why do some women dig these sickos so much? Are they the same ones who think vampires are super sexy?

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

I thought Florida had weird weather

Day two here in Omaha went quite a bit smoother than Sunday. Despite stormy conditions in the morning, all three of the games were played to get the College World Series back on schedule for now. Florida was the first team eliminated - here's the piece I wrote about that for fightingators.com - and South Carolina would be the next to go should they lose to Arizona State today. If that happens, I'll likely be home Thursday. Otherwise I'm probably here for the rest of the week. Today's weather looks rather bleak, although the current forecast has it magically clearing up around 4 PM. Meanwhile the Weather Channel just projected a 50 percent chance of a tornado in eastern Nebraska. At this point I'd be about as likely to believe a woman reading dead rabbit entrails to tell the Omaha weather as I would meteorologists, so who knows?

Stu Sternberg finally went public yesterday with what has been obvious since Tampa and St. Petersburg first competed for a team back in the 80s: downtown St. Petersburg can't support an MLB franchise. The St. Pete Times and the city council rammed the deal through to build a stadium despite having told by MLB there was no promise that would get them a team, while Tampa was intelligent enough to wait until they knew there was a reason to build it. St. Pete correctly guessed that having the stadium would eventually get them the team, but because the stadium was an ugly mid 80s rush job that was in a crappy part of town it was doomed to failure. Put a modern stadium (the kind with activities people enjoy going to even when there's no game, like in San Diego or Phoenix) in downtown Tampa on the waterfront, and the team will finally have a shot to draw fans. Only the folks responsible for the fiasco in St. Pete are still willing to pretend it can work there.

Another BCS bowl has lost its sponsor. The folks at Citi told ESPN they would walk away from the Rose Bowl rather than agree with the network's plan to force them into more spending more money during the regular season. When this happened with the Orange Bowl they were able to fill the spot quickly, so no leverage for a move away from the BCS was created. We'll see if ESPN has another sponsor ready to jump in or not.

Ohio State has lost a player who might not be a familiar name to college football fans yet, but his absence will affect the Buckeyes. Duron Carter is a talented guy on the field, but Cris Carter's son apparently doesn't have the same skills in a classroom. OSU needs more weapons to emerge in the passing game, and Carter was one of the guys they felt was most likely to do that. Maybe Carter will get his act together in junior college and return to Columbus, but that doesn't help Jim Tressel's team any for this season. Even when you do have superstar recruits they may add up to nothing, as was the case with Darrrell Scott. The onetime top player in the country is now happy to be getting a chance at USF when other programs had lost interest.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Out of gas

Sunday here at the College World series in Omaha was one of the longest days I have ever spent covering anything. A baseball game that was supposed to start at 2 Eastern dragged on past 11:30 thanks to repeated lengthy rain delays. At ten eastern the NCAA officially said "screw safety, we've got a TV contract", because the final three innings were played with obvious and repeated lightning and thunder as well as steady rain. I sat down to try and write the blog, and I just don't have the energy tonight. We're due back at Rosenblatt by 11 AM eastern for Clemson and Arizona State as part of a three game day. Should I have time to write something during the day I will, but it's more realistically going to be tomorrow.

Friday, June 18, 2010

New endorsement: "Ron Artest here for thorazine"

Boston had their chances at an NBA Championship, but it didn't work out. Too much one on one play from Paul Pierce, not enough making of shots by Ray Allen and no Kendrick Perkins got them in the end. Ron Artest thanking his psychiatrist during a rambling, incoherent response to a question about scoring on a night where Kobe struggled from the field will wind up being the thing I remember most from a poorly played overall series. Now we'll begin the nonstop free agency scrutiny - hopefully things will unfold quickly rather than dragging out for weeks on the top players.

Thanks to expansion mania, now everyone in the Texas state government apparently thinks they're some sort of power player in college athletics. How else can you explain a group of 26 legislators trying to throw their weight around to get Houston a spot in the Big 12? That would be the same program that plays its games in a 32 thousand seat stadium and would add not a single media market of any kind to the conference. Sure, guys, with a package like that to offer there's no way the conference could say no! Other legislators want a TCU program that sold out its first game in a quarter century last season to get a slot. Before all this crap dies down, someone going to try and put Odessa's Permian High in the conference.

Hank Haney may not have Tiger Woods as a pupil any longer, but that doesn't mean he's done working with top talent. He'll try and improve Rush Limbaugh's game for his next Golf Channel reality show. Apparently everything Rush hits goes left. Things didn't turn out so well for Ray Romano or Charles Barkley when they did this - without his Tiger status to lean on, Haney's reality show future may be in Rush's hands.

There are many reasons guys choose to enter the NBA Draft early. Some want to take care of their family. Others are simply tired of school. Most don't do it because they lost a bet. That's what a Tennessee freshman did, and like John Wall he now appears on the early entry list despite the fact he doesn't even play college basketball. What I think is absurd about this is that last year Mark Titus, the Ohio State walkon of Club Trillion fame, was told he had to remove his name by the NBA because he would be making a mockery of the draft. Apparently a Big Ten player who might have written something funny on the internet was too tough to deal with, but a guy being on the list as a joke is fine. Just how thin is that skin, David Stern?

I'm off to Omaha for the College World Series tomorrow. It's a pretty wide open field, although I'll be surprised if an experienced Arizona State team doesn't make a pretty strong splash on South Carolina's side. I'll be writing for fightingators.com where possible in addition to my daily shows for 107.5 the Game. Not sure what the circumstances will be with regards to internet access, so if it turns out that I miss blog days for whatever reason I apologize. One way or other, I will update the Twitter feed periodically @heathradio if you feel like following along.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Could we at least try making sense?

After Chip Brown of orangebloods.com cleaned everyone's clock on the Big 12 potential implosion story, others are trying to get into the action. The Lawrence Journal-World claims Jerry Jones wants the Big 12 to add his alma mater Arkansas and Notre Dame to form what the paper claims would be "the most compelling conference in the history of college football". That assertion alone tells you how stupid this is. No one is leaving the SEC, and Arkansas certainly wouldn't do so for a Big 12 that is almost guaranteed to fall apart within seven years. As for Notre Dame, if the Big Ten can't lure them with big money and the Big East can't despite all their other sports playing there, what would possibly sway them to the Big 12? Fortunately some people in Big 12 media are making sense, with the Oklahoman's Berry Tramel pointing out it will be almost impossible for a ten team Big 12 to fill the bowl slots it's contractually committed to.

Golf's US Open commences today, with the all Tiger all the time media drumbeat having cooled off as a result of his poor play since the Masters. Pebble Beach is expected to be both beautiful and tough as the golfers hit it this week. Even though it's at one of the most celebrated American courses, this year's event seems to have kind of snuck up on people. If you're looking for a golfer worth rooting for, Erik Compton's story is worth your time. I'll go with Dustin Johnson as my pick in a year that's seen a lot of younger players emerge.

Watching ESPN's 30 for 30 documentary June 17, 1994 last night was fascinating. It was like getting in a time machine to my first summer working at WRUF as a student sportscaster. That was the day of the infamous O.J. white Bronco slow speed chase, among so many other things. Marvin Harrison is nowhere near as much of a national figure as O.J. was, but he's likely a Hall of Famer. The Former Colts wide receiver continues to be linked to a 2008 shooting, and now there may be a noteworthy break in the case. Considering all the debate about what role character should play in Hall of Fame status prompted by O.J. and Lawrence Taylor, Harrison may wind up being the test case for future guys.

One of the things I have always loved about radio is the ability to pick up certain faraway stations at night. I know that we've reached the point where I can stream stations from all over the world on my laptop (and if I want to spend the money to get a better model, my cel phone as well). That's not the same as the fun of being in your car driving down the highway at night and being able to listen to an LSU game on 870 WWL out of New Orleans or an angry fan from Queens calling 660 WFAN in New York. For a lot of the 90s, if I was in my car at night on a weekday I would be tuned into 1510 WLAC out of Nashville for the nightly sports talk show hosted by Bob Bell and Bill King. Bell died this week at the age of 73. He was an unquestioned Tennessee fan who was very "old school" in his opinions, and King (now on Rivals Radio) was the younger guy who was really into football recruiting coverage before the internet took over that beat. It wasn't too similar to the show I do, but it was interesting to hear a Tennessee perspective with a caller base coming from all over the southeast. R.I.P., Mr. Bell.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

New Big 12 name: TeXas

I'll be heading to Omaha Saturday for my first ever visit to the College World Series. One of the biggest differences between working in Gainesville and Columbia is how much more interest there is in South Carolina baseball than there ever was in Florida. My station 107.5 the Game is sending two of us to cover the event, while neither of the Gainesville all sports stations are planning on doing shows there even though Florida's also in the field. Yesterday UF's first game got easier, as UCLA revealed their starting second baseman and number three hitter is out with a broken wrist suffered in the team's Super Regional victory celebration. Only three teams haven't lost a game in the tournament yet, and the Gamecocks and Gators are two of them. If that holds up, I could be in Omaha the rest of the month. This will be interesting.

Throughout the last week and a half it never seemed likely to me that Tom Izzo would leave Michigan State for the Cleveland Cavaliers. Yesterday he made it official that he wouldn't. Some will look at this and conclude Izzo was unsure about LeBron James returning to the Cavs so he stayed. Maybe Izzo has some idea on that topic, but I doubt it was a major factor. This is a guy who almost took the Hawks job a decade ago when they were awful - he believes in his own abilities enough to think he could be successful without James. In the end, Izzo realized MSU is where he belongs and had the good sense to stay there. Too many guys chase the cash rather than doing that.

When you sign bad guys, more often than not you get what you deserve. Last season Washington was thrilled to bring in defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth. He's been labeled as an gifted but lazy player with major attitude issues ever since his high school days. Haynesworth also stepped on a helmetless player's head during a game, further demonstrating he's a bad guy. Now, a year into his megadeal with the Skins, Haynesworth is refusing to show up for a mandatory minicamp and wants to be traded. He doesn't like the team's new 3-4 scheme, not that he was in shape or playing well in last year's 4-3 either. With nine million more in guaranteed money alone owed to Haynesworth over the next two years, no one's going to give Washington anything of value for the guy. Every year, Redskins owner Daniel Snyder throws money at someone like this and usually gets burned. I'm delighted to see this turned out every bit as well for him as his Six Flags ownership did. Haynesworth's a turd. A rich one, but still a turd.

The Big 12 drama is over, but the bitter feelings linger on. Some Texas A&M people are livid that they voluntarily chose to allow Texas to become the conference's unquestioned central power when they could have gone to the SEC. One of them decided to send AD Bill Byrne an insulting email. Sports by Brooks has the results of that decision - a voicemail left by Byrne telling the fan he needs his ass kicked. Byrne must have been livid and made a poor choice to leave a message - no matter how ticked off you are, if you're a public figure you have to be savvy enough not to leave angry voicemails.

How whacked out do you have to be to think the search for Osama Bin Laden in Pakistan is a do it yourself job? A construction worker with a rap sheet from California decided to head overseas to take the Al Qaeda overlord down personally. I'm all for believing in yourself, but if the US military hasn't been able to get the guy I'd like a little better rationale why you will than "God is with me". Fortunately they caught this guy before he got himself killed - now someone needs to take away his Rambo DVDs.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Loved seeing Baylor talk about "preserving rivalries" as if anyone thinks of them that way

The Big 12 lives! Well, sort of anyway. It's now a ten team league with no conference championship game less than two weeks after it announced the game would be at the Jerry Jones palace for three years. (I'm sure he's thrilled with this news.) Apparently Texas came back at the Pac-10 with one last money grab and got turned down, so they decided being in a league with only one team consistently capable of competing with them now sounded like a better deal. Texas A&M had zero chance of being able to go to the SEC by itself once the Longhorns made their call, so expansion should take a break for everyone other than the Pac-11 adding Utah any minute now. That the schools involved here are eager to lock themselves in for a hastily negotiated eighteen year deal says a great deal about how scared the Kansas and Missouri programs were of their futures. Texas will be a bigger bully than ever in that conference, which is really saying something.

While conference musical chairs is mostly done for the summer, I don't believe for a second that the Big Ten is done attempting to make moves. Commissioner Jim Delany's ego is far too big to allow himself to have been upstaged by the Pac-10 and have his legacy defining move turn out to be only adding Nebraska as a result. Without the Big 12 meltdown artificially accelerating Delany's timetable he would have had all summer to be the story, but now people are tired of it. The Big East will be threatened at some point though, whether anything comes of it or not. Illinois has an interim president who seems to lack the desire for the conference to start chewing up anyone else's league right now. We'll see whether three others feel that way, because if they do than the story really is over for now.

Only in Tampa Bay does a coach who lost 67 percent of his games and had just one win in his four postseason games qualify for the Ring of Honor. Somehow, John McKay will be inducted this year. I understand no one could have won with the early incarnation of the Bucs, but this is ridiculous. McKay was 44-88-1 in his career. Letting Doug Williams get away may not have been directly his fault, but he clearly didn't do enough to convey the importance of resigning him to the owner. Couple that with abysmal drafting as well as poor relations with the fans and Mckay's resume in Tampa does not look too great. I just don't see how honoring the deceased McKay makes sense when there are numerous former players worthy of consideration who would be able to be there and enjoy it.

The new Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers CD Mojo is about to be released. If you want to check it out for yourself, the tracks have all been posted on ESPN's website for your listening pleasure. I like the new stuff - much more of a blues feel than we're used to from the band, but it sounds good. Hopefully I'll be able to catch the tour this year, because Petty always puts on a great show.

Monday, June 14, 2010

TWO open bottles of Crown? Not the extra effort coaches want, Frankie

Greetings from Myrtle Beach, where I spent the past two days covering Coastal Carolina and South Carolina in an NCAA baseball super regional. There's a ton of stuff to talk about from the weekend, including the increasingly likely possibility Texas A&M is joining the SEC, Boston being one win away from an NBA title, and the fact we may soon be free of hearing those irritating bee sounds at the World Cup. For guys like Frankie Hammond and Vince Young, it's a weekend they'd like back. Can't believe how much material there is right now, but thanks to lightning knocking out the internet at my hotel last night I couldn't do anything to write about it. Now that the internet's back, it's time to head back to Columbia and there isn't time to write a regular post. Back to the regular routine tomorrow.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Imagine if Garrett was in PR for BP

The NCAA completely nuked USC football yesterday. If the penalties assessed survive the inevitable appeal, it is the most devastating penalty I have seen dished out by the NCAA in at least 15 years and maybe more than that. Right now the Trojans have to hope they can keep the current kids there, because while I'm sure the seniors will stick around the juniors will have every coach in America calling them since they can transfer with no penalty and play right away. With a hard cap of 75 scholarships total plus max new scholarship athletes capped at 15 for each of the next three classes, and kid lost to transfer will be almost impossible to replace. To survive this debacle, Lane Kiffin's staff will have to be almost flawless in their evalutions of prospects and then be lucky enough for them to stay healthy. USC AD Mike Garrett has long been known as a dreadful manager with a huge ego, but now we also know he's dumb as a box of rocks. You're an AD whose football program got wrecked for years to come and will likely be stripped of both a BCS title and a Heisman, and your response is that it's "nothing but envy. They all wish they could be Trojans"?! How does this man still have a job for even one more day?

Thanks to the wonders of corporate naming, we've seen some ridiculous names slapped on buildings. Often it's proved to be embarrassing because the company was corrupt or went bankrupt (Enron Field, PSI net stadium, etc.) No one has had more of those kind of names than my hometown of Tampa. I saw Tampa Stadium renamed Houlihan's Stadium because the team's owners owned the chain, even though there wasn't a Houlihan's within 300 miles of Tampa. I've seen the Ice Palace, a cool name, be replaced by the St. Pete Times Forum. That confuses everyone, since the St Pete Times Forum is in Tampa and not St Pete. Now my city has outdone itself though, as the Ford Amphitheater becomes the 1-800-ASK-GARY Amphitheater. No other arena name can ever hope to be tackier - they can only play for a tie.

I suppose it could be worse for Tampa. They could have had BP as a featured sponsor for the arena. The company is supposed to be the presenter of a trophy to be given to the winner of the series between the Chicago pro baseball teams. The teams have decided to go ahead and downplay BP's involvement with the trophy. At this point there's nothing BP could possibly do to be held in lower regard by the public than they are, but having a trophy presentation drowned out by massive boos didn't seem like a winner either. I've never really understood this kind of deal anyway. Were White Sox fans going to buy more BP gas if they won the trophy? Before BP managed to make itself infamous, most people I know shopped for gas based on station location and/or what was cheapest. Now it does seem like they'll find somewhere else to go besides BP though.

I started writing the blog much later than usual this evening because I was co-hosting a midnight screening of "The A-Team" as part of a station promotion. The film is based on the Jane Austen novel of the same title, and it's about what you'd expect it to be. If you're looking for some action/adventure caper fun that's not going to even pretend to have a logical plot, you'll enjoy it. One thing that did surprise me was Rampage Jackson in the B.A. Baracus role once played by Mr. T. Not saying Hamlet is in his future, but he's remarkably good in this. Whether you're going to see that or doing something else with your weekend, I hope it's a good one and I'll see you back here Monday. Follow @heathradio on Twitter to keep up during the weekend.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

It used to be hard to find things to talk about in summer

This is setting up to be the wildest day for news developments on the college scene without a game involved that I can remember. The USC penalties are being announced, and it's almost an afterthought considering the ongoing collapse of the Big 12. Oh yeah, Chicago won the Stanley Cup, game four of Lakers/Celtics is tonight, and Tom Izzo's looking at Cleveland's head coaching job too. Other than that there's nothing going on.

I've been waiting for the NCAA to hammer somebody for violations and show they remain relevant. USC did everything possible to give them an excuse to do it, and today it becomes official that they have. The LA Times is reporting a two year bowl ban and the loss of over twenty scholarships. We still have to see how those numbers are spread out, but this will be devastating to the Trojan football program going forward. UCLA will be able to get much more of the L.A. talent than they had been to this point under Rick Neuheisel, and other programs will come in to take advantage as well. Juniors and seniors will be able to transfer out without penalty - how many of them will want to do that now? Hiring Lane Kiffin seemed idiotic at the time USC did it, and looks even more so now. Out of all the coaches they could have presented to the infractions committee, they chose to bring a guy in who was not only part of the staff that was involved in the violations but who became notorious for his own "screw the rules" attitude in Knoxville. USC waved the flag in front of the bull, and they deservedly got gored.

Nebraska to the Big Ten is barring a shocking development going to happen tomorrow, but the more important issue for the Big 12 is whether this has to be the end of the conference. Texas and Texas A&M will have a summit to discuss ways to keep the Big 12 together, with the conference's commissioner now claiming they don't really need a conference title game so it won't be a big deal to only have nine or ten members if the South division schools will just stay. That's a ridiculous argument - the conference was created so that there could be a title game in the first place, and the Big Nine isn't real catchy as a name. If Texas wants to keep the conference going, they can. Add in Utah to fill the Nebraska spot if you can, with BYU a second option since the Pac-10 apparently wants the Utes too along with Colorado if the Texas/Oklahoma schools don't come. (Colorado's going whether the south division schools do or not.) Move the Oklahoma schools to the north and bring in Memphis or TCU. It's not ideal, but if Texas and Oklahoma stay that wont matter. The Big 12 can be saved, the question is whether anyone but Kansas really wants it to.

Should they create the 16 team Big Pac, the conference would supposedly push to have two automatic BCS bids - one for each of its division champs instead of them playing a title game and one eliminating the other. There's not a chance the SEC will stand for that, nor should anyone else. If you create a giant conference, you have to deal with those consequences. As for the Big Ten, the first guess of what its divisions look like with only Nebraska added has Ohio State, Michigan and Penn State together in one while Nebraska would have Iowa, Northwestern, Illinois, Purdue and Wisconsin for competition. That's not a very well designed plan.

So far the SEC hasn't been involved in any of these discussions, but Andy Staples of SI reports the conference has had conversations with Texas A&M. Texas doesn't want to be in the SEC. It would mean tougher competition and they feel like their academics are superior to most of the SEC member schools. It's been assumed the whole time that everyone else in the Big 12 South will go where Texas goes if they can, but A&M isn't a great fit for the Pac-10 mindset. I doubt there's much of a serious possiblity the Aggies come to the SEC without Texas, but given the current state of affairs in the Big 12 anything's possible.

For five years the Los Angeles Dodgers paid a Russian physicist to watch their games on television and send positive energy to the team. Turns out it's a better idea to sign quality pitchers instead of a guy sending out "good feelings" from 3000 miles away. Who could have guessed?

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

I had as many baskets as Ray Allen last night - ugh

The conference expansion showdown continues, with the latest development an Omaha World-Herald report that Nebraska may join the Big Ten as soon as Friday. As with everything else on this topic, whether they're right remains to be seen. What I don't understand is why Texas, who supposedly doesn't want to switch conferences because they make tons of money and have very little competition in the Big 12, will leave if the Cornhuskers bail out. Add Utah to the conference to take Nebraska's place and you get the Salt Lake City TV market plus a football team that's won two BCS bowls and gone undefeated twice since 2004. Why would blowing up everything to go be a part of a 16 team conference be preferable to that?

There's a new front runner for lamest excuse by a college athlete for an idiotic decision. Mississippi State's Dee Bost put his name in for the NBA Draft, despite having absolutely no chance of being selected. As a result people expected him to pull his name out before the NCAA imposed deadline of May 8, which he did not do. Now, a month later, Bost is trying to claim he didn't know the new NCAA rule applied to him and he should be allowed to keep playing for the Bulldogs next season. Bost had reporters asking him about his status because of the deadline. I'm sure Rick Stansbury and his staff weren't bashful about suggesting pulling out would be a fine idea. One of his teammates knew abut the rule and removed his name. Yet Bost would like the NCAA to believe he didn't quite grasp what all that was about. MSU is supporting his appeal, because it's clear there's absolutely nothing too shameless for that program to do if it will get them a player, but they know it's a farce. I hate to see kids make horrible choices, but Bost did and he has to own it now.

When the Atlanta ESPN Zone closed back in October of last year I wondered how much longer the other nine existing locations had on the clock. The answer turns out to have been nine months, as almost all of them will shut down with the exception of one at a Disney property. While the folks at the Atlanta location were great to deal with when I needed to do shows in their city, the ESPN Zone concept seemed flawed to me. it seemed they were more interested in being a Dave & Buster's "adult video arcade" than they were a sports bar. If they'd focused more on the sports aspect and giving fans the latest technology with access to special ESPN content as a reason for them to watch games there, it might have been a sustainable success. Giving customers the same thing they could watch at home on small sets in the dining room while charging twelve bucks for a Stuart Scott "boo-ya" burger really wasn't that exciting.

If there was going to be an ESPN Zone left in Washington DC, they'd probably be looking to capitalize on the excitement over Stephen Strasburg's arrival in the majors. Even before he struck out 14 Pirates in seven innings last night, doing so in two fewer pitches than anyone had used to strike out that many men in the history of the game, three DC area establishments had already put their own Strasburgers on the menu. One features two honey glazed burgers, jack cheese & fried onions for $11.37. I've heard of honey wheat buns and of some places using glazed doughnuts cut in half for buns as a stunt, but who puts honey on ground beef? That sounds horrible.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Wonder what it would have looked like if Tebow went to the Patriots?

The Glazer family was willing to spend money freely when they took over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. In the past two years, we've seen them move away from that trend, hiring an unprepared assistant as a head coach without even interviewing anyone else when they fired Jon Gruden and failing to sign any free agents of consequence. Whether they like it or not, the continuing questions about their financial status will only get louder after a British report that the family is now 1.6 billion dollars in debt and has borrowed 95 million against the Bucs franchise. It's one thing for a team to say it's building with young guys, but when you're not taking advantage of the opportunity provided by the absence of a salary cap to secure some of that talent for the long term the explanation doesn't hold up very well.

Bryce Harper, the supposed "LeBron of baseball", was chosen by the Washington Nationals in last night's draft with the first overall pick as had been anticipated. Maybe he'll turn out to be everything he's supposed to be and more, but i'm skeptical about the kid's attitude. Watching ESPN's piece on him by Rachel Nichols I learned that Harper aspires to hit .430. He wants to be a Hall of Famer. Harper wants lots of things, none of which ever involved a single team accomplishment of any kind. Considering this is the guy who bailed on high school two years early to go JUCO and head to the bigs as quickly as possible, I wonder if he has any appreciation for the value of a team at all. Now Harper's going to have insane amounts of money regardless of what happens. That's not likely to improve that mindset any. Maybe he's so talented nothing else matters, but I'm glad it's not my team that will be counting on that being the case.

When I was working in Jacksonville there were some people who insisted on wearing "Jagator" gear. I never understood what the need was to combine the two, since they were playing on different days in completely different leagues. No one questions your loyalty to one for also being a fan of the other. The whole thing just seemed pointless and odd. Now there's something that makes it seem comparatively reasonable: Broncogator.com. When I saw this I hoped it was a joke, but the guy seems to be serious. If people really want shirts and hats with a logo which appears to be an alligator that's been set on fire, that's their business I guess. I'm no trademark law attorney, but this seems dubious to me on that front as well.

The idea of paying for the privilege of being in the same building as celebrities holds zero appeal for me, but there are those who apparently get joy from it. If you want to spend big bucks to pretend there's a chance you might wind up chatting with Kim Kardashian, be my guest. What does amaze me is that there was someone who thought it would be a great idea to pay Michael Vick to "host" a party in south Florida. In the least surprising development since Brett Favre reconsidered his latest retirement talk, Vick took the money and then no-showed. Exactly why would anyone have wanted to "party" with a dog murdering moron who wasted his incredible physical gifts even if he'd showed up remains unclear.

The ongoing debate over the Arizona immigration law continues, with lots of different groups threatening economic boycotts. Call me crazy, but if a movement for the city of Los Angeles to refuse to spend money in Arizona didn't faze them I'm guessing Hall and Oates refusing to perform after a Diamondbacks game probably won't be the deal breaker either. The guys have every right to their political convictions, but when your main performing venues these days are state fairs and casinos it's pretty hard to take gestures like this too seriously. This does give me a reason to post a link to one of the goofier videos anyone did during the duo's 80s heyday though. If you can figure out what the hell is going on in the "Adult Education" clip, you're way ahead of me.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Meanwhile, the SEC sits back and laughs

The college conference expansion saga has officially come to a boil, and it's fascinating to see how the story has shifted. It was supposed to be the Big Ten who was in charge - they announced their plan to expand and made a big show of doing so. Would they get Notre Dame at last? Assuming not, how badly would they wreck other conferences? Jim Delany was dropping hints at coming into the south a few weeks ago, ridiculous as he sounded. Now it's the Pac-10 who's on the prowl, and Nebraska appears to be the program holding all the cards unless ND decides to jump in at the last minute. The Big 12 supposedly has given Nebraska and Missouri an "in or out" ultimatum, but if they don't have Big Ten offers yet they can't say. Is the Big 12 going to kick the Huskers out if they don't say they'll stay in the next couple of weeks? Not a chance in hell, because then they'd have to replace them if they want to continue having a conference title game. The question is whether Texas is willing to hang around and find out how the story turns out or not. If the Longhorns decide to take the Pac-10 offer rather than wait and see on Nebraska, the Big 12's toast and programs like Kansas are in a major jam. Meanwhile, the Big Ten that was so sure they were calling all the shots is worried about starting their own branded sports bar.

The sports world spent the weekend paying tribute to legacy of John Wooden after the legendary UCLA coach died late Friday evening. There are tons of different stories out there to link to on this subject, but for a piece you might not have seen yet I'll go with this one from Esquire's "What I've Learned" series. Wooden was a giant, and the only person in college sports I can think of who can even possibly have a similar status would be Joe Paterno if he retired and continued to maintain a public presence. Bobby Bowden's too damaged from his last decade to play that role, and no one in college hoops makes sense for it. Dean Smith doesn't want the attention, Bobby Knight's too polarizing, and Mike Krzyzewski's too corporate. We will not see anyone like Wooden again.

We'll have an NBA Finals to enjoy now thanks to Boston taking down the Lakers last night. The Celtics can win game 6 or 7 in Staples if need be, but there was no way they were going to win them both even if they swept all three at home. Rajon Rondo's development continues to be astounding. This is a guy drafted 21st - a pick behind Renaldo Balkman (thanks again, Knicks!) - just four years ago. Now he's putting up triple doubles on the road in the Finals. I don't think Boston can take all three at home, but if the games are like last night's they'll be fun to watch.

It takes something pretty strange for me to have a reason to write about women's lacrosse, but the Chicago Tribune has details on something that qualifies. There's a prominent lacrosse official who is the longtime partner of the trainer for Maryland's team. The ACC has barred that official from working any of their games, since she's got an obvious bias to Maryland (complete with wearing team gear and traveling to their events with her partner). Despite that, the NCAA inexplicably let her work the Final Four of lacrosse even though Maryland was a participant. She didn't work a Terps game, but did go confer with the officials who were at halftime. How hard is it to avoid assigning any official with a dating relationship to a Final Four team to work the event? It's like the NCAA went out of their way to see how shady they could look.

There have been all kinds of theories floated about Barack Obama since his emergence on the national stage. His birthplace, his religion, and lots more has been called into question. If you have deep seated beliefs about any of those things, please feel free not to share them because politics isn't what we do here. The latest item raised about the president's background can not be ignored, however. There are now people who are truly convinced that Obama appears in the video for Tag Team's hit Whoomp (There It Is). The man's a Harvard Law grad, and some folks think he was wearing ear rings and a "Compton" hat in a 1993 music video. It's absolutely mind boggling.

Friday, June 4, 2010

No matter what crazy stuff happens, no one wants Iowa State

The Pac-10 may be about to make a play to really shake up the college athletics world by swallowing half of the Big 12. For the first time there appears to be some legitimacy to this report, as Colorado's AD confirmed it before backing away later yesterday. Chip Brown, the guy who wrote the original story, worked for the Dallas Morning News covering Texas before heading to the internet and radio. He's known as a solid reporter. The story indicates that six Big 12 schools would be invited to join the Pac-10, not that they will necessarily take it. Considering the Big 12 is still meeting in Kansas City (that commissioner speech today should be interesting) and the Pac-10 isn't yet, I suspect this was leaked by someone in Austin looking to prove a point in the boardroom. That doesn't mean it's what they want to happen. Texas and Colorado are pretty good cultural fits for the Pac-10. Texas A&M and Boone Pickens Tech (Ok State) on the other hand seem like a bad idea for them. Meanwhile, regardless of what anyone else is doing, Missouri continues to stalk the Big Ten like it's a tween girl who knows where Justin Beiber's staying.

It's not often that I praise Bud Selig, but he got things right yesterday. The unfortunate end to the perfect game that wasn't Wednesday night led to an outcry for it to be reversed, but he said no. It would have been a popular sentiment and the wrong thing to do unless they were planning on going back and reexamining tape of every questionable one hitter in baseball history. Now the call for expanded instant replay is in full swing, another idea I'm not crazy about. There's no way you can review balls and strikes, which is a huge part of the game. Replay can't deal with a ball hit to the outfield with runners on base that's a close call on whether it was caught. If it was inaccurately ruled a catch, how can we know whether a runner would have scored or not? If it was inaccurately ruled a hit, how can we know whether the guy on base could have tagged up and advanced? I'm all for correcting mistakes during the game where possible, but even with a challenge system I don't see that many places it's going to be possible.

One of the true icons of sports may be gone soon. Legendary UCLA coach John Wooden is reportedly in "grave condition" as of the time I'm writing this. At one point last night, the Washington Post had actually reported Wooden's death on its webpage. While there are factors that helped him to all those championship wins (including the structure of the tournament at the time and booster Sam Gilbert) no one questions that Wooden was a hugely important figure. He's been out of basketball as a coach for more than three decades, but has stayed active in the sport. This was my first year as a Wooden Award voter, and it means something to me to be involved in choosing an award named after a guy who has been as classy a figure as we have in sports throughout his life. Hopefully Wooden can recover fully.

One of the single worst guys I've covered in my career was R. Jay Soward. Jacksonville drafted him out of USC with their 2000 first round pick and he proceeded to not only be a failure on the field but also just in life in general. Soward spent the summer before his senior year working on a rap album rather than practice and then had huge issues with discipline and substance abuse as a Jaguar. At one point the team hired a driver to bring Soward to work because he was repeatedly oversleeping. Maybe he's changed, but the Twitter feed advocating his return to the league doesn't sell me on that. It's amusing reading a guy who's trying to use Twitter to campaign for a spot in the league like he's Betty White with Saturday Night Live.

Speaking of Twitter, you can follow me there @heathradio - after a recovery day from being on the road I'll be back into my usual routine this weekend. If there's anything worth passing along, it'll be there. Otherwise I'll see you back here Monday.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Joyce's next job will be with BP's spill cleanup team

As I was eating dinner with a friend last night, ESPN's bottom of the screen ticker notified us that Detroit's Armando Galarraga had thrown a perfect game only to be denied his historic achievement on a blown final out call. When the video ran a few minutes later, I was stunned. This was not a close call at all by MLB standards. Umpire Jim Joyce ruled he saw something happen which did not happen. I understand missing seeing something occur, but I've never gotten how officials see something happen when it didn't. Are they just guessing? Joyce, to his credit, not only acknowledged botching the call but clearly was torn up about it (as you can hear for yourself thanks to WXYT in Detroit). The natural reaction of many people is to want baseball to negate the "hit" and give Galarraga credit for the perfect game he earned. I appreciate the sentiment, but can't agree with that line of thought. What if the blown call had been in the fourth inning - just as obviously wrong, just not with a perfect game on the line yet? Would anyone expect MLB to erase that "hit"? If not, I don't see how you can endorse the idea of erasing this one.

Day two at the SEC meetings made little news, with John Calipari's four minutes he spent with us outside the elevators the highlight of the day. For a guy known for being smooth under all circumstances - go back and watch the "I'll kill you!" John Chaney incident again if you doubt this - Calipari seemed rattled by the scrutiny he and his program are under. He wouldn't comment on the New York Times reporting about point guard Eric Bledsoe's late academic surge to gain eligibility, and Bledsoe isn't talking either. The Bledsoe story as currently reported is not enough to severely damage Calipari or the program he's running. From talking to some Alabama media at the meetings, I can tell you they firmly believe the kid received considerable help getting over the academic hump (and we're not talking tutoring here). Whether that can be proven or not is the question.

When you're trying to make it in overseas basketball, you do what you have to to keep the money coming in. Former Gator Taurean Green has legitimately switched his loyalty to Georgia as a way to enhance his opportunities. No, not Florida's SEC rival - we're talking about the actual country of Georgia. Green's now a citizen. This kind of thing gets little attention now, but if Green shows up on the Georgian olympic team that's going to be more than a little odd.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

It's not the same here without Lane

I'm in Destin covering the SEC meetings for my radio station and fightingators.com. My longer form written stuff has to run there, but I can give some quick thoughts here:

1. Derek Dooley was much more media savvy than I anticipated based on what I'd heard out of Tennessee. He's also the only coach to blurt out "bullshit" during his time with us. Not sure, even after hearing him talk for twenty minutes, what exactly Dooley's core football beliefs are other than supposedly being similar to Saban's.

2. Urban Meyer does look much healthier than he did six months ago. We'll see if his efforts to disengage from football 24-7 make a difference in his health this season, but it's definitely helped in the short term.

3. Steve Spurrier is clearly going to continue to ride herd on Stephen Garcia anytime he has a microphone in his vicinity for the next three months. He openly wondered if "maybe this is the best Garcia can play", knowing full well it isn't. At this point if Garcia saved a woman from a burning building Spurrier would praise him but then point out that he hasn't handled success too well in the past. It's up to Garcia to make him change his stance.

4. If Mark Richt is on the hot seat, he didn't seem too anxious about it Tuesday. I don't think he is, but some here emphatically disagree with me.

5. Not too far down the road from Destin is Grayton Beach, home of the Red Bar. Went there with a group of fellow media types last night and had a very good meal. If you're in the area, it's a solid choice.

The coaches and ADs have their meeting today. We'll see what if anything noteworthy comes out of that.

Also meeting this week is the Big 12, with a considerably different vibe. Here everyone is enjoying the still pristine beach (the BP tar balls are on the way) and looking forward to finding out how much money their school will get Friday. In Kansas City, it's all about trying to convince everyone to stick together. Check out this quote from Texas AD DeLoss Dodds....

“We did not start this,” Dodds says. “If we need to finish it, we’ll finish it.”

With people talking like that, it sounds like they should make the meetings available as a pay per view. At minimum there should be some kind of WWE style theme music when schools like Nebraska or Missouri enter the room.

The Sporting News college football preview is out. To me this is the best of the "narrative" style magazines, with Phil Steele's the best for pure information with nothing resembling a paragraph anywhere in it. Having said that, TSN is completely out of their mind with their choice of Miami as the number four team in the country. To be number four, it's safe to say the Canes would need to have no worse than a two loss season. Here's their schedule - you tell me how that's going to happen with road games at Ohio State, Pittsburgh and Clemson in weeks 2 through 4 on the schedule plus the teams coming to them like VT, UNC and FSU.

The sports blog The Big Lead has been sold for a total in the "the low seven figures". I find that somewhat astounding, but congratulations to the site's founder. It'll be interesting to see how much he'll stay involved with the site, if at all, and how much the content shifts with someone from corporate calling the shots. I'm expecting an offer in the "low seven dollars" range for this site any minute now.

Just like yesterday, I'll be tweeting out anything noteworthy from SEC meetings when I get a chance. Follow along @heathradio should you be interested.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

The joys of travel

It was my intent to have a new blog post up today. The wireless internet (more specifically the lack of reliable access to it) at my Pensacola hotel has other ideas. I'm driving to Destin early this morning to cover the SEC meetings there. Fortunately for me, that means I'll be in a different hotel and business as ususal should resume tomorrow. Thanks for the patience - keep an eye on the Twitter feed @heathradio for updates on the day's activity.