Friday, July 30, 2010

Future lame headline: "Tebow Jockeys for QB Position"

As expected, Tim Tebow's contract got done before Denver's real training camp actually commences this weekend. Now comes the potentially annoying part of things. Once we get into the season, Tebow will likely either not play or see limited time in a specialty role of some sort. Between now and then there is lots of room for insane levels of over analysis about each day's workout and what it means. The answer is: nothing. Even preseason games, where there's almost no gameplanning, will mean very little unless Tebow looks completely befuddled out there. All rookie NFL QBs who eventually turned out to be solid pros have still taken their lumps, from Peyton Manning on down. They didn't all have "First Around the PTI on SportsNation" debating every move they make daily. I hope this next month doesn't go that way, but given Tebow's stature I suspect it will.

Peter King of Sports Illustrated is doing a daily "postcard" from whichever NFL camp he happens to be visiting, with the Cincinnati Bengals yesterday's team. As you'd expect most of it focuses on skill position guys and so forth, but one part of it is hilarious to me. (I'm not a Bengals fan.) According to King, Cincy coach Marvin Lewis is upset with Alabama's coaching staff. He feels they weren't honest enough in warning him that last year's first rounder Andre Smith might have a suspect work ethic. That's the same Andre Smith who appeared to have prepared for the predraft combine by eating a honeybaked ham per day and then left the event early without telling anyone. It's the same Andre Smith who became a punchline throughout the football world for his flopping manboobs after a shirtless run during a disastrous workout. To not have grasped that Smith was a major question mark when it came to work ethic required an astonishing level of naivete and incompetence that only the Bengals were able to provide. Lewis's complaint is ridiculous - if Nick Saban had hired a banner plane to fly around Cincinnati with a sign saying DON'T DRAFT ANDRE SMITH BECAUSE HE'S A FAT LAZY BUM the situation couldn't have been any more obvious. The Bengals simply chose to ignore that and much like when they ignored Odell Thurman's well known character issues and took him in round two it appears to have blown up in their face.

USF football is trying to move forward with Skip Holtz as their coach, but the recent past keeps returning to haunt the Bulls. An academic adviser claims she was dismissed on racial grounds and that the school is trying to cover up NCAA violations. The attorney for her case is the same one being used by former coach Jim Leavitt, so he's already been preparing to hit the school with anything damaging he can. Now he'll get the chance to take whatever embarrassing stuff he can scrape together before a pair of juries rather than just one, which might make USF more willing to look at the possibility of settling. It sure sounds like there's been some shady stuff going on around the USF program - I'll be curious to see how much eventually gets out.

On a normal day, a story about a guy calling 911 repeatedly to demand the return of the Winnipeg Jets to their home city after a decade and a half in Arizona would be the oddest thing I'd see online. (Drinking was involved? Stunning.) Thanks to WAFF in Huntsville's report on a break in and attempted assault, it wasn't. The interviews during this clip are very high on the unintentional comedy factor. Hope you have a good weekend - follow along on Twitter @heathradio for random news notes or observations during the weekend and I'll see you back here Monday.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Beebe is the Animal House guy: "ALL IS WELL!"

The Big 12 is having its media days right now, and has been dishing the PR spin that everything will be just great going forward as a ten team league. This morning Texas A&M made it clear again that the only reason they're still there is because of commissioner Dan Beebe's "I can get you 20 million a year, trust me" promise, and if he doesn't deliver they're bailing. Beebe reprimanded Tommy Tuberville for being honest that the conference isn't going to work longterm, but he can't do anything about this situation. Unless the Aggies get their money, the Big whatever remains a house of cards.

It mystifies me why Houston Nutt and Ole Miss are going to allow former Oregon QB Jeremiah Masoli to enroll and play for the Rebels this fall. Masoli is a proven multi time criminal offender, including burglary charges. Beyond that, he can only play for a year. With him, the Rebels might win seven games if they're lucky. There are four games on the schedule they should win with my dog Mader under center, so we're not talking about a huge season changer here. Why would you bring in a bad guy, slow any development of QBs you have for the future, and do it all a year after signing Jamar Hornsby blew up in your face?

Sports Illustrated has come up with their list of the 25 all time most hated sports teams. Selected as the baddest boys on the block: the 1986 football Miami Hurricanes. Not buying that, although they ticked off a lot of people with their "we're wearing camo because we're in a war" routine. Lots more people care about pro sports than college on a national level. Number one should have been one of the Cowboys squads, possibly the 86 Mets or the Reggie era Yankees. LeBron's Heat team has a great chance to move up that list really quickly though.

On the subject of LeBron, something very strange happened yesterday. ESPN Los Angeles posted a piece by Arash Markazi which followed James on his recent Vegas excursion as a nightclub party host for cash (because if there's one thing LeBron needs right now it's tacky public exposure). The piece, which portrays James as a self-centered guy with almost no thoughts beyond whatever makes him happy at any given moment, was inexplicably yanked from ESPN's site soon after it was posted. You can read it for yourself right here. The question is what led to the piece being pulled - was ESPN worried about hurting recent business partner LeBron's feelings? They deny that, of course, but other reporting from that night verifies the truth of what Markazi wrote. Markazi's a well respected former Sports Illustrated writer, so there's no reason to doubt his version of things unless some specific allegation is made that it's incorrect. This is why ESPN had no business being involved in Lebron's ego trip TV show. Even if there's an innocent explanation for what happened with the Markazi piece, it comes off looking sleazy.

Washington Nationals fans were extremely unhappy the other night when rookie phenom Stephen Strasburg was unable to make his scheduled start due to tightness in his arm. The last minute fill in was Miguel Batista, who was booed but went on to pitch five shutout innings and get the win. After the game, Batista sympathized with the fans by saying, "Imagine if you go to see Miss Universe, and you end up having Miss Iowa." The reigning Miss Iowa was not pleased to be portrayed as the disappointing consolation prize, and I can't argue with her since she's pretty much drop dead gorgeous. The best part of this story is that they've since settled the dispute - Batista sent Miss Iowa flowers and has been invited to serve as a judge at this year's Miss Iowa pageant. In the spirit of that agreement, I would just like to say Playboy playmates, SI swimsuit models, and the women of Hooters are all highly overrated. Oh, and really expensive steaks don't taste good either.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Maybe the bill got lost in the mail?

Sports Business Journal is doing a tremendous job of covering every angle of the ongoing College Football Agent Crisis. So far this week, they've turned up the fact North Carolina defensive tackle Marvin Austin worked out at a facility called Proactive Sports performance which often has trained clients of agent Gary Wichard (who has denied any involvement with Austin). Would be interesting to know who paid for Austin to do that, right? Remarkably the only person who would know that won't be available until late August. You'd think there might be billing information available to employees even when the owner's out of town, but there isn't in this case. Remarkably convenient for folks hoping this story will cool off, but it's not going away anytime soon.

Tim Tebow's expected to sign with Denver by the time the team brings veterans into camp over the weekend. I've heard some people including Fox Sports Radio's Ben Maller floating the idea that not signing on time would be greedy on Tebow's part and un-Christian of him. Not sure where they got the idea the Bible contains camp reporting dates, but to me it's pretty silly to argue a guy shouldn't get as much value as he can when it's his time to negotiate his salary. Tebow did sign one deal yesterday, becoming the new spokesman for Jockey undergarments. CNBC's Darren Rovell matches his public awareness numbers against Michael Jordan, who shills for Hanes. This is the first Tebow endorsement deal to push the envelope a bit - video games and Nike were natural tie-ins, but Tebow unleashing his inner Jim Palmer may not work for some fans.

I'm a member of the Football Writers Association of America, and I think they're about to make a poor decision. The current president indicated yesterday that the FWAA is strongly considering awarding its 2004 national title to Auburn in the wake of USC's NCAA penalties. This is just absurd. There's no way to justify declaring Auburn the champs over an Oklahoma team that finished the regular season ranked higher than them and thus had to play the tainted USC squad. Utah also went undefeated that season, and their Fiesta Bowl win was considerably more dominating than Auburn's 16-13 win over Virginia Tech. Who's to say the Utes weren't better than anyone but USC? The reality is there's no way to know, which is why you shouldn't try and retroactively pick champions more than half a decade after the season wrapped up. If the FWAA wants to strip USC of their championship that's fine, but no one should be "awarded" the trophy out of the trash.

There are very few female play by play voices on mens sports, which is part of the reason ESPN's Pam Ward stands out so much. Opinions on broadcasters always vary, but I have yet to meet anyone who enjoys her call of a game. She doesn't have a good flow to what she's saying and frequently struggles to pick up key details, understand rules questions, etc. There are plenty of mediocre male play by play announcers who do the same thing. None of them, however, are on the pages of the Washington Post asking "I wonder why no one has even bothered to at least talk to me about the possibility" of working NFL games. Pam, let me help you with that. For a network to discuss an announcer working an NFL game, they're looking for one of the better voices out there. You, Pam, are not one of those voices. There will likely be a female NFL play by play voice one day, but it will be someone who's much better at it than you are. Hope this helped you solve the puzzle.

Boise State wants to be considered a big time college football program. They're not coming off that way in a public spat between them and Idaho. BSU's president is aghast at the nerve of Idaho fans mocking the academic offerings at the Harvard of Boise, so he wants to stop playing road games against the Vandals. The gist of his argument is "Boo hoo, they made fun of us - they're a bunch of drunks anyway!" Instate rivalries don't just die off because someone's feelings are hurt by an article in a school paper. Time for Boise State's president to put on the big boy pants and grow up.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Some FSU traditions endure

I'm back in Columbia after a two day visit to the ACC's Kickoff event. It's their version of SEC Media Days, only with vastly better access to players and coaches than we could ever hope to have in Birmingham. Sunday night some fellow media types and I sat at the same table for dinner with Clemson coach Dabo Swinney and his wife. The closest the SEC will ever get to that is if someone happens to eat at Shula's at the same time as some big shot is in the same restaurant. A couple of quick thoughts:

1. Every year the voters in the media poll at the ACC event pretend it's a decade ago when they vote on where to put FSU. Yet again the Seminoles are overwhelming favorites in their division, despite having been thoroughly mediocre last year. Now that Jimbo's fully in charge, things may be better on offense. It's still a squad learning a completely different defensive scheme and facing good passing teams in Oklahoma and BYU in weeks two and three. Now they'll probably be doing it without expected starting linebacker Nigel Carr, thanks to his multiple arrests in the past week. None of this is saying FSU's back to me.

2. Virginia head coach Mike London is an impressive guy in person. I thought a lot of his background coming in, and he did not disappoint. If you didn't read the Washington Post story about London's work as a police officer prior to becoming a coach that I linked here last year, you should check it out now.

3. Randy Shannon has improved as an interview subject. He's still not the life of the party, but at least some personality is beginning to shine through after Shannon was robotic the last couple of years.

4. Butch Davis can tell as many kids as he wants that nothing's going happen as a result of the NCAA's agent investigation. Lane Kiffin did the same crap at USC. The reality is he doesn't know because he can't, which is why Davis shouldn't be making the claim in the first place.

Speaking of Lane, his unwillingness to do things correctly has led to him getting sued. Turns out NFL franchises aren't big on college teams hiring guys away who are already under contract - who could have guessed? Lane has not only succeeded in getting USC sued but also ticked off an NFL guy who's a prominent alum of the school. Great way to make an impression on the new AD, especially since Pat Haden is believed not to be a fan of Lane's way of doing things. The odds are pretty good that Jeff Fisher and the Titans would have allowed Kiffin's new OC to interview for the post had they been approached honestly prior to him being hired. No team would put up with this, though. Remember when Lane was committing all his bonehead mistakes at Tennessee, and we were being told it was part of some master PR plan? Think he wants to try that spin on this debacle?

Jacksonville finally sold their stadium name, which is the good news. It's too bad it's a bank I've never heard of that does not have offices in most of the country, but you take what you can get sometimes. It's the first positive PR thing the Jaguars have had for their longterm survival in the city in quite a while, and at least it's not a dot com or a goofy sounding beer tie in like Miami did.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Greetings from Greensboro

I'm at ACC football kickoff, their version of SEC Media Days. it's a vastly superior experience overall, providing great access to all the coaches and players. Unfortunately my hotel last night did not provide working access to the internet - hence, no regular blog post today. I'm driving home to Columbia once we wrap things up this evening, so there should be a fresh post up Tuesday. Thanks for your patience.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

He means pimp in the nicest possible way

Day one of SEC media days here in Birmingham will largely be remembered for the fact Nick Saban used the word pimp to refer to agents, but it was an unusually lively day at the Wynfrey Hotel. The typically blander than oatmeal commissioner Mike Slive took a jab at Lane Kiffin, referring to him only as Derek Dooley's "predecessor who returned to his western roots" and noting how glad he was to welcome Dooley to the SEC. Dan Mullen cracked back on Saban for questioning the effectiveness of the spread offense. For an event that normally features a lot of safe comments about being sound in the kicking game and so forth, it was a very unusual opening session. Today we get South Carolina, and all eyes will be on Steve Spurrier to keep the quips coming. (Hopefully the Wynfrey has finally got the internet going reliably as well, because day one on that front was a nightmare for everyone here.)

Also making their appearance today is Georgia. With a new defensive scheme and a redshirt freshman at quarterback, there was already going to be plenty to ask about before they became the latest school linked to a potential NCAA issue. A.J. Green is the guy the speculation is focused on, but he's maintaining he had nothing to do with the big agent bash down in South Beach. No idea whether other players are involved or not, but there are still plenty of rumors about multiple players and schools that haven't found their way into the public spotlight yet. There are lots of ideas on how to try and deal with the problem, but there's no getting around the obvious here. Coaches are receiving at least a million dollars, and frequently three or four times that much, to coach players. The players are receiving a dorm room, meals and the chance to get a degree (as long as it's not in a major that will force them to miss practice time or one that's challenging enough that they might become academically ineligible). They can't get any money as a reward for their efforts, no matter how well they do or how many people might want to give it to them. As long as that imbalance remains in place, some kids are going to decide to get theirs before the rules say they're allowed to do so.

Cheerleading may require athletic ability, but it's not a sport. That hasn't stopped some schools from trying to count it as one for Title IX purposes, but yesterday a judge shot that scheme down. It would be great if there was a womens sport equivalent to football so that it would be easier to maintain the balance required under the law without constantly cutting back on mens programs. There's not a a womens sport that does that, but schools can't be allowed to just make something that women do enjoy in large numbers into a sport.

One out of nowhere development yesterday came on the recruiting front. Florida picked up the nation's top rated outside linebacker - in the 2010 class. Chris Martin had signed with Cal, but is transferring to Gainesville without even taking part in a single practice as a Bear. I have no idea how good the kid will turn out to be, and his reasons for making the late switch sound like they were well thought out, but it's hard to understand a decision process getting screwed up enough that you wind up doing this.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The circus comes to town today

Another day, another college football big name linked to a possible agent issue. This time's it's Alabama's Marcel Dareus, who was voted to the coaches All-SEC first team announced earlier in the day, being linked to the big South Beach shindig. In response, Nick Saban offered a spectacularly inane suggestion on how to fix the problem: colleges should banish the NFL from their campuses. That would do nothing to reduce kids desires to go pro and make big money as soon as possible, but it would make it much more difficult for teams to accurately evaluate talent. As a result, guys who have no business going pro would be even more likely to do so thanks to getting their info from people with agendas flattering them or the Todd Mcshays of the world. Saban doesn't seem to get that the guys involved in the Reggie Bush fiasco weren't agents. They were wannabes who thought Bush could be their cash cow, but they weren't even registered with the NFLPA. How would banning NFL teams from getting game films have done anything to stop that or something similar happening in the future? Considering Saban hypes his NFL connections and ability to develop players for the pros all the time, this is a completely hypocritical thing for him to have said. That's not surprising, but it is annoying. We'll see what more Saban says about the situation this afternoon.

Everyone knew that USC was going to make a change at its AD spot, but the replacement for Mike Garrett will still surprise some people. Pat Haden, known to dislike Garrett's style of conducting business, gets the job beginning in August. We'll see how he handles the hiring and firing, but Haden is a respected college broadcaster and has a solid background. USC also has appointed a Vice President of compliance, believed to be the highest ranking person in that position at any school in the country. The university is planning to give back its copy of Reggie Bush's Heisman Trophy to the trust which presented it. Considering they still are keeping O.J.'s Heisman, it's safe to say the standard for Trojan legends is pretty low but Bush still fell short of it. For his part, Bush failed to turn up for a scheduled online chat with his remaining fans last night. Probably just a coincidence.

When no one will pay you to do something anymore, does that mean you're retired or unemployed? Tyrone Willingham likes the sound of choice number one better, and says he will not coach again. After the way things went for him with Washington, I could have told him that. Willingham got a raw deal at Notre Dame, where he was given only three years while every other coach before and since has fulfilled at least his original five year contract. That said, Willingham was an awful coach. He has one conference title out of eleven years in the Pac-10, and won just one of five bowl games. There was nothing in his resume that should have gotten him a job better than his initial head coaching gig with Stanford. The media made Willingham's reputation and helped him sustain it despite lots of evidence to the contrary, and they appear to still be cutting him huge slack on what went down over the past decade.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Still waiting for the big Zapped! remake

The Great Agent Scare of 2010 arrived in Gainesville yesterday, with Pat Forde of ESPN revealing UF was looking into allegations of Maurkice Pouncey having taken 100 thousand dollars from an agent during the weeks between the SEC Championship game and the Sugar Bowl. This didn't make sense to me, because Pouncey's a sharp guy. What would he be so eager to buy that he wouldn't be able to wait less than a month to line up the money legally as a likely first round pick? Especially with his brother still scheduled to play for Florida this season, why would he take that chance? It's being reported that the Pouncey family will deny anything of the sort today, and if Joe Schad's report for ESPN saying the claim was made in an anonymous letter sent from Canada is accurate then I see no reason not to believe them. The letter apparently contained photos of a supposed agent runner interacting with the Pounceys at awards shows. As someone who's been to the College Football Awards event at Disney for years, I can tell you that agents are everywhere. One guy would repeatedly follow players into the bathroom - either he had the weakest bladder ever, or he was trying to make a pitch while someone was taking care of business. I even had one approach me while I was on stage broadcasting and offer me money during a break to help him make connections with kids. Does this mean Florida's free and clear on any agent issues? Not necessarily, but I don't think this specific claim is going to be a problem going forward.

A website I've previously never encountered makes the claim Nebraska and South Carolina will be matching up in Atlanta's 2011 Chick-fil-a game to open their respective college football seasons. That would be Nebraska's first game as a Big Ten member, and while I'd be all for the two teams matching up I doubt the Huskers are willing to take the chance of playing their first game in a new conference against anyone with a pulse. The Gamecocks already have a game scheduled with East Carolina in Charlotte that day as well as games with Navy and Clemson out of conference that season. Hard to see what the benefit for them would be with a matchup against Big Red. Would love to see more Big Ten-SEC regular season matchups, but I don't believe this will be one.

The Tampa Bay Lightning finally appear to be on the right track for the first time since their Stanley Cup season. Yesterday's acquisition of Simon Gagne from Philadelphia is a terrific move. Gagne adds scoring punch and veteran savvy in the locker room, plus the deal shows that new ownership is willing to spend money. It's hard to imagine Gagne being willing to accept this deal and waive his no trade clause without Steve Yzerman being Tampa Bay's GM. It remains to be seen how Stevie Y will do in the job for the long term, but it's nice to finally be rooting for a team with credibility again.

All indications are that the one fight which holds the potential to genuinely excite boxing fans - Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather - will not be happening anytime soon. As usual, Mayweather is the one stalling to keep it from coming together. Unfortunately for all of us who want to see them match up, there's no way to but genuine pressure on either one to make it happen. Both are used to being able to dictate terms of their bouts, and they can with anyone else but each other. No sanctioning body has the clout to press them, and no one's likely to beat either one in the meantime so they can keep making money fighting lesser opponents. MMA is not my thing, but one thing fans of that sport know is that they will get chances to see interesting bouts. The heavyweight division is completely irrelevant to most fans these days, and the entire sport of boxing seems determined to go down the same path.

Inception is doing big numbers at the box office right now, with people raving about it being a complex and interesting piece of moviemaking. What does Hollywood have in mind as a possible followup? How's a remake of "Oh, God!" with Betty White standing in for George Burns as the deity sound? What do you mean, it sounds awful? This is BETTY WHITE we're talking about! The kids love her - have her say some dirty things and it'll be comedy gold!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Next up: Birmingham

I spent last week in Los Angeles and San Diego with my wife. We had a terrific time, and while I won't bore you with a full recap of the journey I did want to share a few thoughts...

The statues outside the Staples Center are hilarious. The one of Magic Johnson is so astoundingly bad as to defy belief. It not only looks nothing like him facially, it makes him appear to have been eighty years old. The ones of Oscar de la Hoya and Wayne Gretzky are better, but not terribly lifelike either. Only the one of legendary play by play man Chick Hearn really resembles the guy it's supposed to be.

Dodger Stadium is a great place to watch a baseball game. It was one of the final baseball stadiums on my "need to get to" list, and it was worth it. Didn't get a chance to see a Padres game at Petco Park, but was able to walk through the stadium. It's a nice venue, and I really like the way it fits in with the Gaslamp District around it. Very bummed they didn't have this Padres shirt in my size at the team store the day I was there.

Saw Pete Carroll speak in San Diego Thursday night. It hadn't hit me before, but watching him talk I realized that Carroll is what Jeremy Foley convinced himself he was hiring when he chose Ron Zook as Steve Spurrier's successor. Carroll described himself as being "a little ADD", and his high energy routine reminded me a lot of Zook had Zook been able to articulate a philosophy beyond "we're getting better". Still not sure how well Carroll's going to work out in Seattle, but he did better than people gave him credit for in his two previous NFL head coaching gigs.

Pepperdine University's Malibu campus is the most beautiful one in the country. The best anyone can hope to do is play for a tie, and I don't think anyone has the goods to even make that claim.

Delta Airlines approaches customer service the same way Rachel Phelps approached team building in Major League as head of the Cleveland Indians - the goal is to make things as unpleasant as possible. I took four flights on Delta week. Three of them were delayed by over an hour because of "paperwork" and a supposed problem with "the engine starting thing". Delta also managed to lose my bag going to L.A. despite charging me 23 dollars for the privilege of bringing it on the plane. I can't think of a single reason to fly Delta again if the price to do so is even close to competitive with another airline's.

Nothing like a potential NCAA agent scandal with a program you cover to welcome a guy back to work after vacation time. It was acknowledged late last week that the NCAA was looking at possible agent involvement with players at North Carolina, and now South Carolina tight end Weslye Saunders is in the spotlight too. What remains to be seen is how many other schools will have players also turn up on the NCAA's radar, because the buzz in the college football world is that there will be more. While no school wants to deal with this, any of them should be grateful if misbehavior comes to light before an ineligible player sees time in a game. Since one of the UNC players under scrutiny indicated on his Twitter account that the trip in question happened earlier in the summer, it may only be the players who deal with significant consequences here. Saunders is a talented kid who's been sporadic at best in his level of intensity and desire to play - I still remember reading a litany of complaints from him about having to play in cold as well as practice on thanksgiving last season. Losing him wouldn't be insignificant for the Gamecocks, but would not be a season wrecker by a long shot.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Last entry until July 19th - thanks for visiting

The LeBron James infomercial lived down to expectations. ESPN promised James would give his answer in the first ten minutes - he dragged it out until 27 minutes in and after multiple commercial breaks had aired. After the insufferable Jim Gray finally asked the only question anyone actually cared about the answer to, James went through with tearing the guts out of his hometown on national TV in favor of teaming up with buddies in Miami. His explanation for the choice made little sense, with him claiming Miami was the best chance for him to win - Chicago actually would have been, since the Heat now have to piecemeal an entire minimum salary team around three guys. James did not let Cleveland know his choice in advance, which boggles the mind. Choosing to leave is one thing, but for James to lack enough respect for a franchise that has catered to his every whim for seven years to even give them any advance notice ahead of you and me is incredible. That may be why Cavs owner Dan Gilbert issued a ridiculously over the top statement, vowing Cleveland would win a championship before "the self titled former King" does. Cleveland has everyone's sympathy, because they've just clinched the title of most miserable sports city for decades to come, but that's just idiotic for the owner to say. You couldn't win with James, nor could you sell any quality free agents on coming to town to join him, but you'll win it without him on the strength of Delonte West? Let's at least try to make some sense here. No one comes out of this whole LeBron free agency saga looking good except for ticket scalpers with good seats for Heat games.

David Lee has spent the past few years playing for a terrible team in a great city as a member of the New York Knicks, which makes him a perfect fit for life as a member of the Golden State Warriors. The team is acquiring him in a sign and trade as the Knicks try to sell fans that the chance to build around Amare Stoudamire is really what they're thrown away two whole seasons waiting for. I'm glad to see Lee get the 80 million dollar deal. He was a good guy to cover at UF, and has made himself an excellent player with very little help from the crack Knicks operation. Hopefully for him new ownership will make the Warriors less of a pit of misery once the sale of the team to someone is completed.

If you've listened to ESPN Radio's Sunday NFL show during the season the past few years, one of the voices you've heard as a host was Jeremy Green. He's former coach Dennis Green's son and, like Todd McShay, a member of the "Scouts Inc." branch of ESPN. It will be a major shocker if you hear him in any role like that again, because Green has been arrested and charged with possession of child pornography as well as narcotics and drug paraphernalia. How can people who are seemingly fully functioning adults have a sickness in their head like this? How many more do and are either not caught or have enough restraint and sanity not to act on it? I don't have kids, and stories like this and Steve Babik's arrest make me grateful I don't because it would make it mighty difficult to trust anyone at all to be around them.

One hazard of my line of work is that people confuse what you think will happen with being what you want to happen (when frequently you don't care one way or the other). I don't typically make a bunch of predictions on games a central part of my show like some hosts do, but it's inevitable that people want to know whether you think the home team's going to win or not. Most people can grasp that just because I might pick Alabama to beat South Carolina that doesn't mean I have a rooting interest in that outcome, but there are always a few who take it the wrong way and email or call to blast me for it. As such, I feel for Paul the Octopus. The creature correctly predicted the outcome of every German game in the World Cup, including their eventual semifinal loss to Spain. Naturally, some idiots think the octopus is to blame for the defeat and want to have him killed. After the Gamecocks lost to Vandy in week two of my first season covering them, a fan sent me a lengthy email blaming my supposed "negativity" (I had actually expected them to win, but I guess not by as much as this guy) for not just that defeat but losses that had happened as far back as 14 years earlier. If he could have had me turned into calamari, I'm sure the suggestion would have sounded good to him. Paul has picked Germany to win their consolation game, with Spain taking the overall title.

With remakes and sequels dominating the entertainment options coming out of Hollywood these days, there's one possibility for a rebirth that sounds pretty promising. Beavis and Butthead may resurface after more than a decade of no new episodes. Like WKRP in Cincinnati, you can't really see the original shows because of the music licensing issues although they were able to put out some that got cleared. At this point B & B would need to have moved beyond music video commentary, but there's no reason they can't be written for the 2010s and be hilarious. Hopefully this will happen.

I will be going on vacation with my wife next week, heading out to California for our second anniversary. She has made it very clear she would prefer I not spend any of that time cranking out blog entries. As such, the next daily blog will appear Monday July 19th. Because I can't just ignore the internet for a week in favor of whatever's in the L.A. Times print edition, I will still be on Twitter periodically. Follow along at @heathradio should you be interested. Two days after I get back to work I'll be in Birmingham for SEC football media days - the summer has really flown by. Thanks for reading and I'll see you back here on the 19th.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Next ad campaign: Mother Theresa is kooky for Kraft!

As soon as USC hired Lane Kiffin as their head coach, it was a given that they'd have to start apologizing for things on a regular basis. Yesterday the "I'm sorry" letters went out to Florida, Alabama and other schools that were accused by the Trojan athletic department of improperly contacting freshman running back Dillon Baxter once USC was hammered by the NCAA. Imagine that, a Lane led program making false charges of rules violations. So if there was nothing to base the Baxter allegations on, why did USC make them? To try and divert attention from their disastrous news, of course, while also insinuating that lots of other programs were dirty as well. So what happened when the negative attention from the apologies began to register? Suddenly a story by an L.A. based reporter came out that USC wanted to play Tennessee in the Chick-Fil-a kickoff game in Atlanta and the Vols had refused. (USC's PR strategy: look, media, shiny things!) The implication, of course, is that Tennessee is scared to face the coach they despise. That would be the same coach who helped put them in the difficult personnel situation they're currently in, which will be even worse next year. Kiffin knew very well that UT's schedule was already full for that 2011 season, which is why the Vols booked the 2012 game instead when they signed up to play NC State in the C-F-A game WHILE HE WAS THEIR COACH. For him to act surprised UT wouldn't play the Trojans next season is disingenuous, but why would you ever expect anything else from Lane?

There's no point in me bashing LeBron James again today. Everyone's doing it, and no one's going to do a better job than Adrian Wojnarowski's scorching demolition of the self proclaimed King for Yahoo. Instead, I want to praise Kevin Durant. It's entirely possible that Durant will be a better player over the next half decade than LeBron - both are currently top five players in the league. Rather than complain about being in a low profile media market like Oklahoma City, Durant has embraced the fans and the town and been the cornerstone of his team's rise to relevance. Yesterday, rather than make a big production of his potential pending free agency or even holding a press conference, Durant signed a new deal with the Thunder for five seasons. The difference in approach as well as the level of class displayed versus what will be happening on ESPN tonight at nine couldn't have been any greater. For whatever it's worth, Newsday indicates LeBron's going to Miami and since they're owned by the same Dolan family as the Knicks maybe they know something.

What will fill Sportscenter hour after hour once LeBron speculation's no longer in the mix? Odds are pretty good it will be a blend of Brett Favre speculation and the Tim Tebow watch. Just this week alone we've seen:

1. Tebow continue to be the most purchased NFL jersey ever since his Bronco uni became available.
2. Tebow touted as the toughest player on the Broncos by the new Madden ratings, ahead of all his offensive linemen.
3. The debut of a website selling nine different Tebow themed t-shirts, including one featuring him decked out as The Dude from The Big Lebowski.

Next week will be the debut of the NCAA video game with him on the cover. As sick as people got of hearing about Tebow's exploits during his college career, they're about to get an even bigger dose as soon as he does anything good or bad in Broncos camp.

A National Academy of Sciences study makes the claim voters are more likely to support an incumbent if the college team they're a fan of is winning during the two weeks leading up to the election. Considering I live in a state where the incumbent US Senator is running against an unemployed guy who suggests selling action figures of himself would be a good way to spur economic growth and job development, I'm not sure what the Gamecocks do the week before the election is going to turn out to be too critical.

Thomas Jefferson is sort of an important guy in America's history, what with that whole writing the Declaration of Independence thing. He's considered to have been an intellectual giant of his time, and one of our greatest presidents. Can anyone explain why there's now a series of commercials depicting him as a macaroni and cheese obsessed twit looking to pick up chicks? Just because he mentioned a recipe in some notes from his time in office the guy's now a punchline?

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Brett Favre's got work to do to regain his title as biggest drama queen in sports

So LeBron James will tell the world which team he's going to allow to give him the max dollars as a free agent during an ESPN special at 9 PM Thursday night. Gosh golly, I know I'm sure excited about it. The guy's a terrific player, but I've lost a lot of respect for him in the past year. First there was his poorly handled exit from the playoffs last season, then this year's total failure to show up against the Celtics in the postseason. We've seen James and his high school buddies act out an entire season worth of Entourage this week with their drawn out meeting process being conducted in gym shorts. There's been the LeBron website relaunch, the Twitter feed launch, and now this crap. LeBron's fun to watch on the court, but this "pay attention to me" routine is the kind of lame shtick I expect from a high school kid who's going to put four hats on the table and then fake putting two on before throwing them away and putting on the real one. James has tried to give the impression he's a serious pro, but this is amateur hour all the way.

Andy Staples of posted a terrific piece yesterday chronicling the trip by a group of Miami area kids to a 7 on 7 football challenge, with informal recruiting drop ins at several schools as well. These are largely kids who are considered big time talents, yet some of them are already finding ways to blow their opportunity at playing college football. While visiting LSU's locker room, one player steals current Tiger Patrick Peterson's watch and another rips off a set of football cleats. Not only are they thieves, but they're stupid enough to not realize locker rooms have security cameras. Knowing the NCAA has spent the past decade making it more difficult for coaches to really get to know the kids they're recruiting (no text messages, limited phone calls, no spring evaluation by head coaches, etc) how can anyone be surprised when it turns out they landed a guy who's a complete turd? Not everyone does the schools the favor of letting them in on that before they ever sign.

Over the weekend the St. Paul Pioneer-Press had an interesting claim in a writer's notes column. It said that star recruit Seantrel Henderson, the big offensive lineman who chose USC on signing day but waited a number of weeks to sign while hoping for more info on the Trojans potential NCAA probation, had evidence he had been given assurances by Lane Kiffin and his staff that USC would not be severely punished. Since they had, Henderson was prepared to present that as part of his case to get out of the Letter of Intent he signed with the school. Yesterday, USC announced it was releasing Henderson free and clear to go to any school he wanted to. What a remarkable coincidence. It appears Miami or Ohio State will benefit from Henderson's change of heart. I could care less where he goes, and we'll see once he gets there whether the kid can back up the hype or not. I do think it's hilarious that as soon as the word was out Henderson was about to expose Lane as a lying weasel the school suddenly was able to find a way to release him. Surely the word is starting to get around about Kiffin's tactics by now after Bryce Brown and now this - better get it in writing, kids.

JaMarcus Russell seemed to be a lock for the most embarrassing weekend moment for any sports figure after he was arrested for possession of codeine syrup. The whole thing's pretty pathetic, but in a weird way this may wind up helping Russell eventually get another shot at the NFL. If his horrid, disinterested performance with the Raiders in his three years there can be attributed to something other than sheer laziness, it makes easier for a team to convince itself and its fans that a "clean" Russell deserves another chance. On the other hand, former Seton Hall coach Bobby Gonzalez is about as toxic as it's possible to be thanks to his arrest for shoplifting a leather messenger bag from the Polo store at a mall. Keep in mind this is a guy who in the past three and a half months alone has been fired for cause from his job as head coach of the Pirates while also having multiple players arrested, other recruits fail to qualify, and suing his former employer. There wasn't much more he could do to damage his reputation short of accumulating a Dave Bliss style body count, yet he found a way. While I share the sentiment this bag is not worth 1400 dollars, there's no way to shrug an accusation like this off if you're that rare AD who would even consider hiring this jerk. Short of provable total innocence on his part, Gonzalez is done for good.

An English study makes the claim that listening to sports radio is just as risky as driving drunk. While I'm sure Damon Evans would love to say his problems were caused by listening to a Braves game or my friends Chuck and Chernoff on 680 the Fan in Atlanta, I'm afraid I'm not buying. Can sports discussion or an actual game be a distraction in the car? Sure, just like air drumming to your favorite song, a conversation with your buddy in the passenger seat, or Christie Brinkley racing you on the freeway. The difference is that should you have an issue concentrating while driving for whatever reason, you can always stop talking/turn the CD off/hang up the phone and resolve the problem. It's hard to turn off being hammered.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

At least they were Bulldog red, right?

When Georgia AD Damon Evans's DUI first came to light Thursday, I thought he might be able to survive the negative publicity if nothing else damaging came out and people had a three day weekend to cool off. Then came Friday afternoon's release of the police report, complete with details like Evans having the female passenger's panties sitting between his legs and his immortal quote "We go through life and we all drink and jump in a car". At that point it was clearly game over for Evans, the only question was how soon and at what price. The answer turns out to be Monday, for three months salary and a nearly earned 100 thousand dollar longevity bonus. As I assumed it would, UF associate AD Greg McGarity's name has already been floated for the Georgia AD job. McGarity has been brought up for Auburn and LSU in the past, and maybe this will prove to be his time. He's a good guy, but has had little opportunity to really show a public persona because Jeremy Foley is such a dominant figure on the UF and SEC landscape.

With the recent passing of John Wooden, I wondered who could ascend to the role of Grand Old Man of college basketball. Given Bobby Knight's abrasive nature, it's hard to imagine him as a revered senior statesman type of guy. Dean Smith, whose personality did seem a better fit, has been largely off the public stage since his retirement. I assumed it was his usual reticence to deal with the media, but it turns out Smith is apparently battling either Alzheimer's or other age related dementia. Both of my grandmothers have been affected by Alzheimer's, and it is a terrible feeling as a family member to see what it does to a loved one. I feel for Dean Smith's family that they have to witness his decline. It's a huge loss for the college hoops community that we've likely seen the last of him in any kind of public role.

On Friday, TMZ posted a story claiming the NCAA is looking hard at Kentucky basketball, with particular questions about two former players and two current ones dealing with agents. Four days later, neither they nor anyone else has done something to advance that story. Much as I'd like to dismiss this as silliness from a site that spends more time on what Lindsay Lohan had for lunch than sports, they clearly found something legit with their story on an Oklahoma basketball player receiving money from a financial planner in Tampa earlier this year. John Calipari got burned by agents giving Marcus Camby early benefits at UMass - could it be about to happen again? It's never going to be a dull moment in Lexington as long as he's there.

I mentioned previously that Football Outsiders does terrific work on the NFL and I'm looking forward to seeing their takes on college football. They've now posted a teaser preview from this year's guide, and fortunately it's of the SEC East race. Georgia, Tennessee and South Carolina all being between 19 and 23 can't realistically happen, but it does show each has some positives in the numbers to fall back on as well as some potential trouble spots.

NBC shoved Conan O'Brien out the door to bring back Jay Leno on the Tonight show under the premise he would immediately regain all those viewers O'Brien's humor was supposedly too hip for. Whoops - looks like the people who watched Jay at ten and realized just how lame he was have decided to stay away. Now Leno's numbers are notably worse than Conan's were - even more remarkable since Leno doesn't have himself for a lead in. Couldn't happen to a more deserving network or guy.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Call a cab - it's not that hard, even if you're drunk

It amazes me when successful people get DUIs. I understand how some 22 year old with six beers in him thinks he won't get pulled over between Archer Road/Five Points and his apartment so he doesn't want to deal with getting a cab. When you're in a six figure job that revolves around your personal credibility, you can't allow yourself to think that way. Georgia AD Damon Evans didn't pay attention to his own PSA, and after getting busted for a late night DUI with a 28 year old who's not his wife in the car with him Evans might lose his job as a result. Georgia has been extremely aggressive about increasing its penalties for players with alcohol issues, which makes Evans failure to drink responsibly even more mystifying. Losing a half million dollar job to save cab fare is pretty stupid - only the three day weekend might be capable of cooling the story down enough for Evans to survive. If the UGA gig opens, it will be fascinating to see who they target for the post.

USC football began its appeal to the NCAA of the penalties which have nuked the future of their program by leaking supposed inaccuracies in the report to the Rivals website which covers their program. A great deal of time was spent on the idea that running backs coach Todd McNair didn't actually know what was going on with Reggie Bush. They even claim the photo of him partying with the two wannabe agents might be faked somehow. So if that's their argument, why did USC fire McNair yesterday? Lane Kiffin clearly wanted to keep him as a part of the staff when he came in, he's supposedly been framed by the NCAA and is actually innocent as the day is long - so what's the problem?

It wasn't stunning news that former NFL and college head coach Don Coryell died at the age of 85 yesterday. It had been known for some time that he was ill. What does amaze me is that even with that knowledge voters still did not put him into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Coryell was a terrific offensive coach, one who was way ahead of his time with the design of his passing attack. Just because the Chargers never broke through and went to the Super Bowl under his coaching doesn't mean he wasn't a gigantic influence on the league. Those teams with Dan Fouts and company were a blast to watch. I'm sure eventually Coryell will be inducted in Canton - it's a shame that he won't be around to see it happen.

All the NBA free agent talk has been more heat than light to this point, but that doesn't mean nothing noteworthy's happening. The Nets put up a billboard featuring their new billionaire Russian owner and Jay-Z right across from New York's Madison Square Garden. James Dolan, the embarrassingly inept owner of the Knicks, reportedly called the 227 foot billboard "intimidating to my employees". So to review: Isaiah Thomas sexually harassing employees and explaining why it's ok for black men to call black women bitches, Stephon Marbury taking interns out to his truck for encounters, and wholesale use of the Knicks and Rangers dancers as a staff dating service - not intimidating. Billboard with rapper - intimidating. Glad we could clear that up. David Lee's the only good thing that organization has - hopefully they'll lose him too. Hope you enjoy your three day weekend. I'm certainly going to enjoy relaxing and catching up to my sleep. See you back here Tuesday.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Thank you Whit Merrifield

With the CWS finally over, I went to Kansas City's win over the White Sox last night. Kaufman Stadium is a terrific place to see a game. It's got fans who love the sport, the fountains are even cooler in person than they look on TV, and the between innings "entertainment" isn't incredibly loud and annoying like it is at some parks. Unfortunately everything there is focused on looking back at the good times rather than being competitive right now. They gave us a copy of game 5 of the 1985 World Series on DVD as we entered the stadium, and the team shop had more shirts of former Royals - George Brett, Bret Saberhagen, Bo Jackson, Willie Wilson and many more - than it did of anyone current other than Zack Greinke. There's no reason the Royals couldn't duplicate what's gone on in Tampa Bay, but they continue to draft players not based on ability but rather on signability. It's a shame - their fans deserve better. We ate beforehand at Oklahoma Joe's, which turns out to be able to back up its hype as a terrific barbecue establishment. KC is not likely to be your next vacation destination, but it's an underrated city. It does have one of the weirder airports you'll ever encounter, which is where I'll be early today making my way back to Columbia and some semblance of normalcy again.

NBA free agent mania commenced at midnight, and the best part of all of this is that I won't have to hear any more inane speculation about it soon. If, as has been claimed in New York, the Knicks top priority is signing Joe Johnson then the entire decision making structure of the organization should be fired immediately. Johnson is a useful player, but he's demonstrated beyond any doubt he is not the lead figure of a championship contending team. You don't tank seasons for two years to go after Joe Johnson. There are several free agents other than LeBron James who are genuine difference makers, but Johnson's not one of them.

Tommy Tuberville hasn't coached a game at Texas Tech yet, but he's already stirring people up with his comments about the Big 12 minus 2. The conference has been trying to convince people it's going to be just fine as a ten team league going forward, with a supposed "ten year commitment" letter being drawn up and schools like Iowa State signing it (as if anyone wanted them). Tuberville didn't mince words, saying the revenue and power disparity everyone else has with Texas and to a lesser extent Oklahoma and Texas A&M will eventually wreck the league. He's probably right, although it's hard to see what would cause the collapse right now. OU and TAMU had SEC opportunities but didn't pull the trigger. No one's really excited about adding any of the other seven teams, and Texas is happy as long as the new TV deals generate the revenue the Big 12 commissioner claimed they would.

I've been in a college baseball bubble, so I don't know if a disclosure from Sean Payton's new book that I read about a few days ago got any real attention or not. Most of the story focuses on the book's revelations about how the Saints won last season's Super Bowl, but a brief mention is given to Payton's interview with Al Davis for the Raiders head coaching job seven years ago. Their menu? McDonald's hamburgers and KFC cole slaw. If that's what Al thinks is the good stuff to break out for a potential head coach, what does he eat when he's not looking to make a positive impression? Asbestos on crackers? Ten slim Jims a day? No wonder the guy looks like he's been dead for ten years.