Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Guess I should have gone to Mark's more than once

Kirk Herbstreit's annual Herbie Awards are out, with a televised special this evening to further expand on some of them. (I'm assuming his ongoing love affair with Mark's US Prime in Gainesville as one of his top five favorite restaurants will not make the cut for that.) Kirk's extremely good at what he does, but there are always a few bones to pick with any list. Jim Tressel and Gene Chizik are on his list of candid coaches. Steve Spurrier is not. In what universe is Tressel considered more candid than Spurrier? Not this one. Also, Ole Miss is "undervalued" because they won't have much value. It's a good primer for the first week - just two more days before I'm covering Southern Miss and South Carolina and the season's underway.

Some people are making a big deal of the fact FSU still has 15 thousand seats available for its opener, the first game of the Jimbo Fisher era. I don't understand how they've been able to sell that many tickets in the first place. Most people have a three day weekend, and they have better things to do than spend it driving back and forth to Tallahassee for an obvious mismatch with Samford. Even if you are willing to consider going to that crapfest, it's not like you're worried about being able to get a ticket. Why pay full price when you know very well there will be tickets available on the street for five bucks? If Doak Campbell still has 15 thousand seats available for BYU in two weeks, which it won't, that's noteworthy. This is just people voting against a garbage game with their wallets.

There aren't many storylines in sports I haven't heard before at this point, but this is a new one to me. Could NFL agents be planning to steer their players away from signing with the Dolphins because they're tired of Drew Rosenhaus stealing their clients who go there? Maybe they're talking about it, but people say lots of stuff in a casual setting that doesn't get followed up on when things are for real. If this was happening with an agent in Nashville, that might be different. Not that many guys specifically want to go there. Tons of players want to be a part of the south Florida scene, and being in an income tax free state is a huge priority when they look at free agency. I don't see how agents are going to be able to steer a client away from the Dolphins if the team's telling the media or friends of the player that they have interest. Hard to buy the concept of a Rosenhaus related embargo being a problem for Miami.

There's still a lot of tension in the media business between those who are a part of old school media and those who have risen to relevance on the web. I don't know what in particular set Washington Post sports columnist Mike Wise off yesterday, but he decided to pitch a "the internet is ruining everything" tantrum by intentionally Tweeting out inaccurate news. Apparently this was supposed to show that no one "checks facts or sourcing", even though all followups attributed the "report" to Mike Wise. If Wise had published the same lie in the dead tree edition of the Post, that would have been credited to him as well. It's not hard to understand how modern media works. Whatever venue you're working in - print, broadcast, webpage or Twitter/Facebook - if you put your name on something and are considered a legit reporter, people will relay your information to others quickly. If Wise had started the "rumor" as random guy skinsfan777 on Twitter and then seen it treated as legit news, that might have shown something about the nature of modern media. All this inane stunt showed was that Mike Wise should be punished by his bosses and none of us should regard him as a credible reporter going forward.

There are some terms you should never use to describe yourself. "Edgy" is one of them - if you're a radio host calling yourself edgy and "in your face", it's more likely that you're just an annoying jerk. Such was the case for Marc Benarzyk, who was cut loose by ESPN 1040 in Tampa yesterday. His Twitter feed has been taken offline, but check the "edgy" content left in Google's cache of it. A list of the "top ten douches in sports" and lots of CAPITAL LETTERS FOR NO REASON - now that's edgy! When I heard this guy for the first time, he was ripping the idea of the Bucs taking Percy Harvin because he was a Gator receiver like "Renee" Caldwell. Aside from the incorrect talent assessment (who wants the rookie of the year anyway?) I was embarrassed for the guy that he was still doing schtick Jim Rome was getting punched for in 1995 fourteen years later. Normally I feel bad when a fellow radio host loses their gig. This guy never should have had one in the first place - good riddance.

Monday, August 30, 2010

It's finally game week

As I was watching some of the fifth year anniversary coverage of the Katrina disaster on the Gulf Coast, I was thinking about Danny Wuerffel. The former UF QB had seen not only his house but the Desire Street ministry school project he had worked so hard to build up destroyed by the floodwaters in New Orleans. I was filling in for Todd Wright on his "All Night" program on ESPN Radio Labor Day night and was able to get Danny to join me for what at that point was his first national interview. Somehow, even after a personal loss like that, Wuerffel was able to keep himself focused on the task at hand. David Whitley updates what Danny's done in the five years since the disaster, and it really is amazing. There are tons of good charities that could use your assistance, including others working to rebuild New Orleans, but Desire Street is one you can always feel good about helping.

ESPN went crazy with high school football coverage this weekend, something I've always opposed. There are high school coaches making six figures now, and Texas schools dropping sixty million dollars on stadiums. The level of commercialism creeping into what is supposed to be a high school extracurricular activity is insane, and getting worse. You may think the additional coverage is well worth it if it helps the schools out financially, right? According to the Sacramento Bee, the total money ESPN gave the two schools in the game it broadcast from there was three thousand dollars. They also demanded they use a certain sports drink's branded coolers and bottles on the sidelines. Think that even after production costs ESPN made a little more money on that broadcast than three grand? The attendance for the game might have been more if it wasn't on TV, so they may have cost the school money there as well. Remind me why is this supposed to be a good thing?

An admitted Ponzi schemer claims he's writing a book that will expose NCAA violations in the Miami football program. The 41 year old loser is stunned to learn that the college football playing kids twenty years younger than him weren't really his pals after they got their own money and didn't need his. (It'll be really tough on this tool when he finds out the Hooters waitresses didn't really think his jokes were all funny.) Assuming this guy can assemble enough crap on paper to call it a "book", it's doubtful any publisher will want to put out a manuscript from a confessed con artist without extensive documentation of its claims, a problem fellow felon Tim Donaghy ran into. My guess is he's not likely to have enough to make them happy. This guy may very well know about violations by members of the Hurricanes, but unless he's willing to talk to the NCAA without a check I doubt much comes of this.

The Seattle Times conducted a survey of roughly a quarter of the FCS level head coaches on a variety of issues. One question: which coach do you have the least regard for. Of those who answered, only one guy got multiple votes. You guessed it, it's Lane Kiffin. No one will feel any pity if someone runs the score up on Lane now that he's in charge of the Trojans, and my guess is at least one coach is going to do just that. There are some interesting restaurant suggestions from the coaches in there too in case you're a traveler.

No link on this, and it won't mean anything to those of you who read this outside of the Gainesville TV market, but I wanted to congratulate TV 20 on their hiring of Chris Price to be the sports director there. Price works harder and genuinely cares about doing his best work far more than that particular outlet deserves. They're very fortunate to have him. (Given the way their news director treats people, they're actually fortunate to have anyone.)

Friday, August 27, 2010

University of Non Compliance - oops

What's happening with North Carolina football as well as South Carolina's hotel situation should serve every college program as the ultimate reminder: do not attract the NCAA's attention. Even if the original situation doesn't prove to be a crisis, they'll inevitably look under enough rocks that something else turns up. Thanks to Marvin Austin tweeting about his glamorous South Beach lifestyle enough to make people ask questions, suddenly the Tar Heels are in the middle of a major academic scandal. Another lesson: just because players stay rather than leave for the draft, it's not always a good thing. As for Butch Davis, he's got a DL coach who's reportedly tied extremely closely to an agent that's been reported at the center of the South Beach mess and now a cheating tutor who also was paid by him to work with his son. How much more mud can his image get before it starts to leave a stain?

Georgia's got a problem on their hands today, thanks to Washaun Ealey's arrest on hit and run and driving with suspended license charges. Caleb King has shown little to indicate he's special or an every down back even though he's the projected starter, and now the Bulldogs aren't likely to have Ealey for their game with South Carolina. That will up the pressure on starting QB Aaron Murray, who'll be starting his first road game in college, to play at a high level because it will be easier for SC to take away the run. No way that's a good thing for Mark Richt and company.

FSU's decision to begin going after high schools for using the Seminoles name and imagery might make sense to an attorney in an office, but in the real world it's idiotic. The Seminoles have recruited players out of Bradenton Southeast High for years - they just noticed the helmet and name were the same? When Miami tried this crap with Umatilla High they looked petty and foolish, and maybe FSU realized too late the same was true for them. Now they're trying to work it out, which is simple to do. Southeast agrees they can't market their logo nationwide in competition with FSU (not that they were ever going to) - problem solved. My hourly rate's a lot cheaper than the attorneys.

Is there anything in sports lamer than self proclaimed "Super Fans"? Every team seems to have a couple of guys who've decided they're the next "Big Dawg" from Cleveland and dress up like clowns to try and make it happen. Meet "Boltman", the San Diego Chargers biggest fan. This guy tried to sell his getup for $75,000. Shockingly, no one took him up on the offer. That might be because any mascot gear is smelly and disgusting, and most people are smart enough not to want to wear it to games unless they're getting paid for it. The guy now is babbling something about "Boltman" protecting kids from "Stranger Danger". I'm pretty sure I know the first stranger I'd want them to stay away from. Have a good weekend and I'll see you back here Monday. Follow along on Twitter @heathradio for anything that catches my interest between now and then.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Who doesn't enjoy a nice fried beer once in a while?

A week from today I'll be at Williams-Brice stadium as South Carolina gets the college football season going by hosting Southern Miss. How many Gamecocks will miss it due to running afoul of NCAA rules is becoming a more unclear situation. Joe Person of the Columbia State has given us the first figures to chew on that may show players were charged a lower rate than what's available to the general public at an area hotel, although it's not clear from the story whether the rates he cites are per person or per room since some guys were splitting rooms. That's an NCAA violation if it happened, although not necessarily one that costs kids a game as opposed to being required to pay the difference. If, as Person reports, tight end Weslye Saunders is still living in the hotel after Steve Spurrier strongly encouraged all players to pay their bills and find somewhere else to live then you have to wonder if he's actually trying to get kicked off the team. This whole situation is incredibly frustrating to try and cover - hopefully we can get some hard facts on what the NCAA has found sooner rather than later.

The NCAA is busy with a lot of investigations right now, but the most fascinating interview from one could have been when they talked with David Reaves this week about goings on under Lane Kiffin at Tennessee. If you're Reaves and you know some things happened that weren't kosher under NCAA policies while you were in Knoxville, do you blow the whistle on your brother in law when he humiliated you? The guys who left with Lane won't tell the NCAA anything that hurts their continued employment, and the guys still in Tennessee can't afford to admit being involved in any way with NCAA messups. Only Reaves is positioned to be a truth teller should he choose to do so - wonder if he stayed with the "oh, the hostesses drove to South Carolina on their own" routine as an explanation or not.

The "Gee, you think?" headline of the year comes from the New York Times this morning: "Woods Admits Divorce Has Affected His Game". Yeah, maybe a little. Meanwhile, the former Mrs. Woods finally broke her silence in an interview with People magazine. I applaud the way she's handled things overall, because this could have easily become an even bigger circus had Elin decided she wanted to play the scorned woman card publicly and maximize her celeb status. Having said that, she maintains one part of the reason she did the interview is that she wants to put the word out she didn't hit Tiger. That may be legally accurate, but whether she hit him directly or hit the vehicle and caused him to wreck, the explanation given for smashing the vehicle's windows makes no sense. Regardless, now that the situation is resolved I just wonder what's going to happen the next time Tiger attempts to do anything with a woman as a single guy. He's got the right to bring home the entire Hooters staff with him if he so desires now, but you know the paparazzi will be killing each other to try and land that first shot of Tiger with someone.

The St. Petersburg Times reports Bucs safety Sabby Piscitelli is "upset over losing his starting job". Please let him be angry enough to demade a trade so that Tampa Bay can make it clear that no one wants him anywhere in the league. When Piscitelli was drafted some tried to compare him to John Lynch based on them both being white guys from the Pac-10, but Piscitelli has proven that's as far as the situation goes. If Tampa Bay ever needs to lose a game and commit personal fouls while doing so, they've got the right guy. Otherwise, Piscitelli should be extremely grateful he gets a paycheck from anyone to be involved with pro football and hush up.

Texas State Fair food: now featuring fried beer. Read it and weep, cardiologists.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Between the Buffs and the Bucs, this football season will be as fun for me as licking a belt sander

Colorado threw the Big 12 a curveball yesterday by announcing they'll stay in the conference for two years rather than head to the Pac-10 next season. This is all a financial thing for CU, as leaving the conference is going to be very tough on an already depleted athletics budget in Boulder. It's why they just signed up to lose, errr, play a one way game with Ohio State for 1.4 million next season. By waiting the full two year exit period, they'll save a lot of money. CU's hoping the Big 12 will eventually make concessions for easier financial exit terms to avoid having an 11 team lineup for just one season. The Pac-10 would have to wait another year to have their title game too, so this is good news for no one. I'd love to pretend it's going to matter which conference the Buffs are in, but they're going to get killed in either one until someone comes in to clean up after Dan Hawkins.

Notre Dame football's going to be good again, sooner than you think. As someone who's been a Fighting Irish football skeptic for pretty much my entire career, this is an unusual thing for me to say. Brian Kelly's a different kind of guy than the last few coaches who haven't worked out though, and he proved it again yesterday. Kelly acknowledged he has spoken with NBC about not having commercials disrupt the pace of his no-huddle offense. This is a guy who has a broader perspective on his responsibilities in South Bend than just running his offensive scheme, and he finds ways to succeed wherever he goes. I don't know if anyone can reduce the constant breaks in college football (some of the CBS ones feel like they last seven minutes), but if anyone can it's Kelly with NBC. I'm really looking forward to seeing what he can do with ND this season.

Last week it was announced that ESPN's Jenn Brown was going to do a year long stint as the public face of Icehouse beer. This isn't new ground at ESPN, as Chris Berman, Tom Jackson and Dan Patrick are among those who've done beer spots in the past. Yesterday, word came down that the network had reversed field and was refusing to let Brown do the campaign for Icehouse after all. The reason is apparently because of criticism from Sports Illustrated's media columnist that she's covering college football for the network as opposed to the NFL. Wouldn't want to give college kids the idea to start drinking alcohol, you know. Let's be real here: the only way a college guy is more likely to drink beer because of Jenn Brown would be if she handed him an Icehouse personally. (For that matter, if Jenn Brown was offering a college guy a jar of bat urine he would drink that if he thought it would give him a shot with her.) Otherwise, the kids that drink in college are going to drink regardless of who does the ads. They will base their buying decisions on price more often than taste, but they will never debate "do I start drinking to please the beauty from the ad". ESPN just featured an appearance by a beer's "most interesting man in the world" character on one of their shows. On their website, they offer a feature called "The Next Round" sponsored by a bourbon. Sitting around drinking and talking about sports is described in ESPN Radio ads for it as "what men do". Do college kids watch ESPN's afternoon shows, listen to ESPN Radio or visit their website? Since the answer's clearly yes, exactly how is pulling Jenn Brown from these ads sending any kind of message at all, other than that ESPN is still capable of mammoth hypocrisy?

Year one for Brett Favre and the Vikings went better than anyone could have imagined. He put up some of the very best numbers of his career, and they nearly went to the Super Bowl. Already there are signs this year may not go so smoothly. First it was Percy Harvin's massive migraine difficulties, and now Sidney Rice having hip surgery that will sideline him for half the season. Suddenly Favre is missing his best target from last year and has uncertainty with another outstanding weapon. He has a much more difficult early schedule this season, is a year older, and has supposedly not fully healed from his ankle problem. Bernard Berrian's a nice player, but he's not a number one receiver. By the time this season's over, I believe Favre will wish he really had retired.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Bad endings galore

Bobby Bowden's book is out today, and the former FSU coach is not being bashful in his promotional interviews. Bowden tells Sporting News that he was fired as the head coach, and that no one even came to say goodbye to him as he was cleaning out his office. T.K. Wetherell acknowledges the relationship between him and Bowden is no longer good. It can not be ignored that Bowden brought most of this on himself. He brought the program down with his refusal to hire a qualified OC instead of his son Jeff. When it became clear Bowden was putting his personal interests ahead of the program's, people began wondering if he was ever going to retire or if he genuinely believed the job was a lifetime appointment like a Supreme Court seat. It all culminated in the decision not to subject FSU to another year of meandering leadership rather than a plan moving forward, because Bowden refused to take the hints (statue, stained glass window, field naming) that the school was ready to move on. I hope for both sides this doesn't turn out like Tennessee and Johnny Majors, where the bitter former coach still is lobbing bombs at his old school on the airwaves periodically, but if this season isn't a big success in Tallahassee I wouldn't be surprised at all if Bobby has some zingers for them.

Many of the reasons college basketball's recruiting scene became a cesspool can be laid at the foot of one man. Sonny Vaccaro was the one who began the trend of funneling shoe money to coaches and then to AAU and travel team coaches without any regard for what kind of people they were. If they had influence with the potential "next Jordan", Vaccaro wanted them to have the kid in his company's shoes. Eventually Sonny worked his way through three different shoe companies, and he last turned up convincing Jeremy Tyler to leave high school after his junior season to turn pro overseas. Now there's a Chinese shoe company looking to break into the US basketball market, and guess who they're about to let flood the court scene with cash and gear again? This will not end well. Meanwhile, an Indianapolis media figure claims an investigation is underway involving the recruitment of star Kansas signee Josh Selby. Shockingly, Kentucky's name is linked to it. Hard to imagine there's much real danger for them on a kid Cal didn't even get though.

Would have loved to see the looks on their faces at the courthouse in Panama City yesterday when Tiger Woods and Elin roll in to finalize their divorce. Far as I can tell Tiger didn't hit the wet t-shirt contest at the Spinnaker later, but as this whole episode showed you never know. Maybe having this off his plate will finally free up Woods to begin getting his game in some kind of familiar shape again. Dan Wetzel of Yahoo had the line of the day yesterday when he tweeted that Elin's real revenge will be when she shows up as Rory McIlroy's date for the Ryder Cup.

Watch the car crash video from this link. That guy's alive, and after watching him vaporize that automobile I have no idea how.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Jay's girlfriend should stay in a locker room - he'll never find her there

Troubled times have officially arrived for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Josh Freeman is out for at least the rest of preseason with a broken bone in his thumb, meaning the second year guy is missing out on a lot of valuable prep time for his first full season as the starting QB. I was stunned to learn that only 30 thousand people even bothered to show up for Saturday's game with the Chiefs. Part of that is because preseason football is awful - seven turnovers and zero TDs in the dreadful Jets/Panthers game I was covering - but a crowd that small is making a statement. The franchise has seemingly done everything in its power to alienate their fans, and the bill for their previous poor decisions is coming due. Any chance of them getting people back on board by winning early just vanished with Freeman's injury.

Perhaps the single most loathed person in all of sports media found trouble over the weekend. Jay Mariotti, currently a columnist for Fanhouse and one of the panel clowns on ESPN's Around the Horn, was arrested for suspicion of felony domestic assault. The sports media world reacted to the news with shock - not that Mariotti was arrested but that he had a girlfriend. It is not a stretch to say Mariotti is despised by everyone he's come into contact with. He's an unpleasant person to deal with, but it's more than that. Mariotti's commentary has always been the definition of the phrase "all heat, no light" - fire everyone, unless they're the champs in which case they're the best ever. He refuses to go to the locker room and actually interview the people he rips, or face their response. It's completely unsurprising that a man who's scared of Ozzie Guillen might do something like this, but even a jerk like Jay Mariotti is entitled to defend himself before people judge him. Most people won't give him that consideration, because if it was another media figure in this spot he wouldn't do it for them either. I assume he'll be suspended from any of his public roles until this is resolved. If he's guilty, that'll likely be the last we ever see of him. Should that happen, good riddance.

The AP college football poll came out Saturday, with Boise State ranked ridiculously high at number three. That puts them ahead of Florida, meaning a majority of AP voters contend the Broncos would be favored on a neutral field in a game between the two. Look at the level of talent on the two teams and explain to me how that's possible. The answer, of course, is that it isn't possible. Florida would be a sizable favorite over the "teacher's pet" Broncos team anywhere away from BSU's blue turf. USC would probably be favored as well, even though they're really thin on depth right now. People in Los Angeles are actually floating scenarios where an undefeated USC wins the AP national title. These folks clearly haven't watched Lane Kiffin coach if they're worried about that right now.

Now that Lou Piniella has stepped down as manager of the Chicago Cubs, who will replace him? How's John Cusack grab you? Okay, that would only be in the movies although Cusack would have as good a chance as Piniella of getting something done with this Cubs team. I like Cusack's work, but this would be the least convincing casting since John Goodman as Babe Ruth.

For sustained rambling stupidity it's hard to top this column from Bob Raissman of the New York Daily News ripping Tony Dungy for having the nerve to criticize Rex Ryan for cursing up a storm on HBO's Hard Knocks program. Raissman's argument is based on the notion Dungy is a hypocrite for saying he wouldn't hire someone known for a blue streak like Ryan is when Dungy didn't see the context of the remarks. By that standard, Dungy can't say he'd rather not eat something without tasting it first. One bite's not enough as a sample either, he has to eat the whole thing to know whether it all tasted good or not. Whatever Raissman's point was in writing this, it's hard to imagine Dungy wound up on the wrong side of a rip job column for coming out against sustained public cursing bad enough that the curser's own mother criticized him for it. Who knew THAT was a controversial stance?

Friday, August 20, 2010

Based on Clemens legal strategy so far, he'll find a way to get the death penalty

So many things stand out about Roger Clemens being indicted yesterday. It's amazing that he managed to put himself in this position, because the only reason there were congressional hearings in the first place was because Clemens insisted on it. Once he got there he couldn't have looked worse, apparently having deluded himself into believing the congressmen would ask for his autograph and lob up some softball questions to help rehab his image. The thing that struck me most though was how unloved this guy is despite all his success. As annoying as Brett Favre has become, Packer fans still want to love him again one day. LeBron at least has Miami and some other non-Cleveland fans who didn't mind his ego trip. Even in Roger's heyday, I can't remember anyone really loving him. He wore out his welcome in Boston, was never embraced in Toronto despite winning Cy Youngs there, and always felt suspect as a Yankee. Houston fans seemed to like him I guess, but that was before all this. If he ever gets into Cooperstown, who's going to be there to cheer?

Glad to see everything is apparently going to be relatively alright for Percy Harvin after a scary moment yesterday when he was reported as having collapsed and been unresponsive on the Vikings practice field. Harvin had a shaky personal reputation when he came to UF, but in the time I covered the kid he was a pretty good guy. He's no angel, as the positive marijuana test at the combine proved, but he's the single most impressive offensive player physically I've ever covered on a regular basis. No one accelerates through cuts the way that guy can. For him to consistently struggle with migraines like this should emphasize just how brutal they are. There aren't too many people still with Minnesota who were there for the collapse and death of Korey Stringer, but I can't imagine what those unresponsive moments for Harvin yesterday were like for them.

While the NCAA investigation into the Great Agent Crisis of college football 2010 continues, Steve Spurrier said last night he believes it's close to being resolved for his player Weslye Saunders. Spurrier says he expects to know the status of Saunders before the season opener, which is currently two weeks away. Agent Jack Bechta wrote a piece about the issue for the National Football Post which indicates a committee is being formed to attempt to resolve the agent issue going forward by revamping the entire system. Whatever the answer they come up with is, colleges have to figure something out soon. With the abundance of ways for athletes to get caught now if they get anything extra, the problem will only get worse if it's set up the way it is.

I'm fascinated by the lengths some people will go to avoid having to do things honestly. Take the genius described in this piece from the Smoking Gun, whose strategy is demanding "refunds" from various businesses for meals supposedly eaten there. He claims to them that the meals were ruined by inappropriate sex conversation from workers. We're talking about places like Chili's, yet this guy turned his efforts to bilk them into an Ocean's 11 style routine. If times are tight and you can't afford to go out, don't. If you can afford it and want to go out, pay. It's really not that complicated. Have a good weekend and I'll see you back here Monday. Follow me on twitter @heathradio for anything noteworthy that gets my attention between now and then.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Brett Favre says he may join the WAC now

The twists and turns of the college conference situation this year make the plot of Mad Men seem quite tame. As noted yesterday, BYU plans on leaving the Mountain West and going independent in football while placing its other teams in the WAC. The MWC has other ideas, and stole Nevada and Fresno State away from the WAC as a ploy to make it an undesirable landing spot for BYU. Nevada was sneaky enough to have avoided signing a previously reported five million dollar penalty clause for leaving the WAC, meaning they'll owe the conference nothing. Now word is that BYU may instead go to the WCC for their other sports, meaning Gonzaga would get an interesting new basketball rival and also that the MWC effort to destroy the WAC may have worked yet failed at the same time. More plot twists sure to follow today.

Yet again a group of schools is going to throw their regular college football uniforms aside for at least one game this season as part of a Nike stunt. Ten of them are doing it, including Alabama and Florida. I know Nike spends a bunch of money with these schools and in return they get great cooperation. It's what's given us Urban Meyer and Les Miles holding up BCS trophies in leather jackets and Ohio State in white helmets. Shouldn't there be a point where these schools say enough, though? I've talked to kids after games where they wore some of these "one game wonders", and frequently they've mentioned things like the helmet not feeling quite right or the uniform being a bit of a distraction while they got used to it. That's been after wins, too. Why do these coaches who micromanage every single other detail of their programs keep allowing their kids to be lab rats for uniform experiments when it could distract them enough to impact a game?

If the infamous "Florida hat" episode in Arkansas earlier this week wasn't enough to convince people outside SEC country that the football is taken a little too seriously down here, a ridiculous tale from Alabama should do the trick. A candidate for mayor of Bessemer thought it might help to let folks know Nick Saban has endorsed her candidacy. She decided a good way to go about sharing that news would be to photoshop herself into a picture next to Saban (in place of his wife). Why didn't she just pose for a shot with Saban, you ask? Because the next mayor there had apparently made the entire Saban endorsement up, with the campaign's latest claim being that he told her campaign manager's dad while golfing it was okay to use his name. Of course he did. The bigger question: why anyone weighing who the right person is to handle zoning issues and school budgets would care what non-Bessemer resident Saban "thought" of the situation.

While making my way around the web yesterday, I came across a report indicating KFC was test marketing a new menu item called the Skinwich. The sandwich was described as being made up of five pieces of fried chicken skin, bacon and cheese - with photos purporting to show the monstrosity. I'm happy to report this was an internet hoax, and a pretty well done one. The page I first saw the story on had bought it as legit, but once someone let me know about the link above (where the story originally appeared) it was easy to see that it was a put on. What's unfortunate is that serving up hideous gut bombs like this has become so common that it was completely believable someone might be experimenting with doing it. Would it surprise you if a KFC executive was at their headquarters right now asking why they hadn't already thought of this? Yeah, me neither.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Wish the MTN was on my cable system here today

Looks like the next domino to fall in the college conference realignment will be a school removing itself from conferences altogether in football. BYU is apparently going to go independent in football while the rest of its sports rejoin the WAC. The story was first mentioned as possible on Jeff Goodman of Fox's Twitter account and then fleshed out more thoroughly on Sports by Brooks before being reported as a done deal by Colorado State football's official Twitter feed, with a press conference reportedly coming tomorrow. BYU apparently envisions itself as the Notre Dame of the west after being ignored in the conference restructuring talks this summer. Not sure they have the national following in football to pull that off, but it will be interesting to see them try. My question is whether other schools in their area will still schedule BYU for games, because if the MWC says we won't play you then they're going to really have their work cut out for them finding 3-4 teams yearly from Big 12 country eastward to agree to a home and home in Provo.

The waiting game continues for schools with players tied into the NCAA's investigation of the Miami area party allegedly connected to an agent that came to light last month. Frustrated coaches have made pleas for more action to penalize agents for unscrupulous tactics, but an AP study shows the laws that are in place to deal with the problem are almost never used. Beyond that, states like Virginia don't even have a law on the books yet there've been no links to agent problems at their schools which have come to light. Short of a federal law with serious teeth and a commitment to enforcing it, there's little that can be done to keep this kind of scenario from happening again.

Nothing makes more clear how difficult a situation Tennessee is in as a result of Lane Kiffin's 14 month reign of error than the news the school has cancelled their two game series with North Carolina that was to begin next year. The reason is simple to understand: Tennessee doesn't think they can win six games with the schedule the way it's set up for 2011. In addition to the usual Florida/Georgia/Bama trio of tough games, LSU is a western division rotating opponent and Cincinnati is coming to Neyland. Having UNC there as well leaves almost no room for error against teams like South Carolina that are fully capable of beating UT in Knoxville next year. This schedule's also why Lane Kiffin made his PR ploy "proposal" to have USC face UT in the annual kickoff game at the Georgia Dome next season. Derek Dooley's got a couple of long years ahead of him.

A column from the Arizona Republic on Kurt Warner in retirement notes there are still plans for a movie of his life. According to Warner's wife Brenda, the actor she'd like to be cast to play Kurt is Denzel Washington. That would be a curious choice by the producers, because Denzel Washington is undersized at 6 feet tall to pass for Warner. I think he might be lefthanded too. Even if Denzel was offered the role, I assume he'd have concerns about being typecast as Kurt Warner after the film came out.

Oh yeah, Brett Favre's going to play again. This time three of his teammates had to leave camp and come down to Mississippi and put on a dog and pony show to satisfy his ego. Now that he's been able to blow off most of camp and once again been stroked about how wonderful he is, Favre will deign to show up and collect his 13 million dollars this year. Can't wait to see what hoops he'll have the Vikings jump through next year - maybe they'll be required to stage a commando style raid to destroy Jenn Sterger's computer hard drive and cel phone.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Burn the nonbelievers at the stake!

It's not very often that I devote this entire blog to just one subject, but today's one of those days. There's a story out of Arkansas which is nothing short of infuriating. A reporter was fired by a radio station for the egregious offense of wearing a cap with her alma mater's logo to cover a Bobby Petrino post scrimmage press conference.

Full disclosure here: the reporter in question, Renee Gork, is a friend of mine. That doesn't mean she's perfect - Renee acknowledged herself that wearing a Gators cap wasn't the right move and in retrospect she'd change it. It was raining and she was headed to the scrimmage so she grabbed a hat. Since she wasn't anticipating her attire being a discussion topic, it just didn't register that someone might take offense. Unfortunately, the Razorbacks coach did and commented on it at the presser. With that, insane Arkansas fans on the internet were off to the races in the quest to see who could send the most hateful email or tweet to Renee and her station. After a couple of days of their psychotic behavior, her radio station bowed down to the mob and canned her while promising to be "pro-Razorback".

The idea of an army of "love it or leave it" fans lining up behind the notorious perpetual job searcher Petrino would be amusing if it wasn't so pathetic. It's not like Renee was trying to make some kind of point by wearing the hat, and the question she asked wasn't anything controversial either. Despite that, once a man totally lacking loyalty to anything other than his personal interests makes a pissy remark about her wearing the logo of a team Arkansas isn't even playing this season a section of "fans" demands her head on a plate. Heaven forbid we let someone apologize or explain their actions these days - if you're not with us, you're against us. Which makes more sense - that a reporter was looking to tick off the person she's trying to cover, or that she happened to wear her alma mater's hat?

In so many ways this story symbolizes what I hate about the state of our country. I've mentioned before how troubling I find the current polarized political climate. The incredible range of options available to us all has led so many people to stop considering any views other than their own. If you want to get information only from your personal "Amen Corner", you can easily do it now. Regardless of which side of issues you're on, there is much to be gained from reading both the National Review and Mother Jones, the Los Angeles Times and the Wall Street Journal. If things have gotten to the point where the only people we're willing to hear comment even on something as minor as how a college football team's offensive line is doing are those who've professed their undying love to that team, we're in big trouble.

Monday, August 16, 2010

He also converted two Bengals at the two minute warning

Day one of game action for Tim Tebow went pretty well. There were some times he held the ball longer than he's going to be able to against starting caliber defenders, but overall it was a solid debut. Already one national columnist has called for Tebow to move ahead of Brady Quinn to the backup spot. You'll remember that Quinn was deemed worthy of being a first round pick because he has good physical measurables and had played in a pro style offense. That Quinn wasn't very impressive against any good college defense he played didn't bother the Todd McShays of the world at all. It's not like he was some bum like Tebow, who McShay has decreed clearly has no chance of succeeding as a pro. Kyle Orton's the definite Denver starter, but we will see Tebow contributing in some way this season.

If your appetite for embarrassing trials involving college basketball coaches wasn't met by the Rick Pitino fiasco a couple of weeks ago, you're in luck. Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy's defamation lawsuit against the cabdriver and a witness in his incident in Cincinnati goes to trial today. Kennedy is suing each man for just two dollars, saying that proves this is not about the money. Maybe so, but it also proves it's a really stupid thing to do. How Ole Miss hasn't leaned on Kennedy to let it go is beyond me. Just as the incident had faded from memory (along with the humiliating "the incident damaged our sex life" lawsuit filed by the coach's wife) he's going out of his way to bring it back into the spotlight?! Why would you do that?

Whenever Mark Cuban's name surfaces as a possible owner for a baseball franchise (most recently when he bid for the Texas Rangers) there are always articles and broadcaster comments asserting MLB wouldn't be comfortable with him as an owner. Frank and Jamie McCourt "buying" the Los Angeles Dodgers on the other hand? That was fine, despite the fact they were leveraged to the hilt. Now, thanks to their imminent divorce, the world knows the loathsome McCourts are bleeding the Dodgers franchise to the tune of 14 million a year for "rent" on the stadium the team's owned for years. The money goes into their pockets, of course, because the exorbitant salaries they've been paying themselves and their kids from the team pocketbook just aren't enough to sustain their lifestyle. Cuban is a legit billionaire who's proven to be a master at marketing his Dallas Mavericks. The idea he is less desirable as an owner than the McCourts is asinine, but given the supposed leadership of MLB it's completely unsurprising they would think that way.

It has occurred to the head of FIFA that perhaps the World Cup games would be more fun if someone actually won them. As a result, he says they are looking at doing away with draws in favor of a potential sudden death OT with a shootout to follow. This would definitely be progress, although getting the officiating selection process improved and goal line technology resolved are both necessary as well. For the World Cup to have become as huge as it is without any of that is amazing - imagine what it might be once there aren't as many obvious flaws.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Lou also predicts the Pope will be Catholic

Congratulations to Greg McGarity for getting the job as Georgia's AD. For Jeremy Foley to now compete directly against the guy who's been his right hand man at UF for eighteen years will be interesting to say the least. Even those of us who know and like McGarity don't really know what to expect here. Is he a full subscriber to the Foley creed of "What must be done eventually should be done immediately"? Does he share Foley's knack for finding young coaching talent? Some observers will speculate about what this may mean for Mark Richt. I'd be surprised if McGarity was looking to make a move there anytime soon, although it probably helps him in making any assessments to know what UF's post-Urban plan was should that come up again. At this point former key UF figures with ties to Foley's era are now in place around the SEC as UGA AD, football coaches at South Carolina and Mississippi State, and basketball coaches at Arkansas and Alabama. It's safe to say people are looking to copy the blueprint.

Reggie Bush reportedly called Pat Haden to apologize to the USC AD for the NCAA fiasco he basically caused. Haden says Bush told him "If I could give the Heisman back, I would." Well, what's stopping you Reggie? Is it the same thing that stopped you from paying off the wannabe agents when you decided not to actually live up to your agreement with them? Can't say I'm too impressed with more empty words from a guy who has yet to step up and take any real public accountability for his actions.

Former Oakland quarterback JaMarcus Russell now admits to being a user of codeine without a prescription, but in a terribly surprising development he has an alibi for everything. His first positive test was just because he didn't have a prescription from the team doctor. The other times Russell took codeine syrup without a prescription are old news - no way was he using the last couple of years! The codeine laced drink found in his room when the police raided his house? Totally not his. Hey, I know I believe him. Now I'll wait for the interview where Russell explains whose fault it was that he was out of shape and his performance totally disastrous whenever he went on the field for the Raiders.

Self confidence is a good thing. Like most positives, there is such a thing as too much of it. Miami Dolphins wide receiver Brandon Marshall's comment that he'll go play in the NBA next season if there's an NFL labor stoppage would be an example of that. It's this kind of thinking that has the owners well ahead of the players as they head toward the expected collective bargaining agreement skirmish. Marshall not only is delusional enough to think he can make an NBA team, he's also uninformed enough not to realize the NBA is expected to have a major labor dispute next season as well. Think guys like him are carefully planning for 2011 financially?

I'm going to spend the weekend looking to see if I can find a single story more predictable than this one from the South Bend Tribune. Lou Holtz thinks Notre Dame will be favored in every game this season? I'm stunned! After picking them to play for the national title last year and win at least ten the year before that I was sure he would downgrade expectations. Have a good weekend, follow along on Twitter @heathradio and I'll see you back here Monday.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

The fun never stops in Knoxville

Bryce Brown's father tells ESPN that the NCAA wants to meet with the former Volunteer running back to discuss his recruitment by Lane Kiffin's staff. I'm sure they're just trying to find out more info on those minor secondary violations though, since Lane assured everyone there was nothing for Tennessee to worry about. I know this will sound like crazy talk, but just on the chance there might have been something funky about the recruitment of a player who dragged his signing process out for weeks while a former cel phone dealer acting as his "advisor" tried to charge for recruiting updates perhaps Derek Dooley's decision to antagonize the Browns by refusing to release Bryce to any other schools wasn't the best idea. Meanwhile, former Vol NuKeese Richardson has moved from Hampton to a Kansas junior college where he's reuniting with one of his partners in the Great Prius Robbery attempt. Hopefully he'll keep tweeting about his pot use as well, because this guy is a strong contender for the biggest imbecile I've ever seen in college sports.

The list of people in broadcasting who have less credibility than Jim Gray at this point is a really short one. For some reason the same guy who was mocked for his insipid performance as personally selected interviewer for LeBron James during his informercial is now doing something for the Golf Channel. Gray reported US Ryder Cup captain Corey Pavin had told him he would select Tiger Woods for the team if he didn't automatically qualify. Pavin denied that, leading to the hilarious spectacle of Jim Gray trying to come off a tough guy by telling Pavin "You're going down!" That's right, the guy who asked LeBron about his fingernails rather than getting to the point is suddenly acting like someone from a bad '80s movie. We'll see how the PGA Championship goes today, but given Gray's increasingly desperate efforts to stay relevant in the sports world don't be shocked if he tries to start a "look at me" confrontation with Tiger on camera like he did with Pete Rose at the World Series.

The NASCAR Hall of Fame is not doing anywhere close to the business they expected in year one. It's a nice facility too, which only drives home what's been a recurring them with these kind of places. They always open with great attendance expectations and typically fail to come anywhere close to meeting them. Either the HOF will have to get more aggressive about its regional marketing and possibly trim its prices for locals to attract more repeat visits or it will eventually find itself in a major financial hole. The College Football Hall of Fame currently slated for Atlanta should be taking notes.

I'm fascinated by players in pro sports who think they have the right to demand a trade when things aren't to their liking, particularly when the guy doing it doesn't grasp that no one would want to trade for him. Jeff Francoeur thinks he's got some muscle to use on the New York Mets, with his agent saying he wants to play everyday. The fact he's been bad enough for his hometown team to dump him and now has failed miserably to put up numbers with a second team doesn't seem to have registered at all with him. MLB Trade Rumors does a terrific job of breaking down just how incredibly delusional and arrogant this is.

I mentioned yesterday that casting had begun on Redneck Riviera, the southern themed version of Jersey Shore. I sure hope that this guy put this together as his audition tape, because it's just depressing to think there's someone walking around who's like that every day.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

You're also welcome to name your own price for reading

Tiger Woods says he wants to play in the Ryder Cup and would accept a captain's selection if necessary. Imagine what it's going to be like for US captain Corey Pavin if he decides not to offer him one. If you don't do it and the guys you select instead don't succeed, you'll be criticized for not taking Tiger even though in his prime Woods wasn't anywhere nearly as dominating in the event as he was in tour play. Despite that, unless Woods shows significant improvement at some point between now and the event Pavin should say no. Tiger has not only struggled badly at times, but has appeared to lack desire to even be out on the course at some events. The us team can't be based on what guys were, it has to be based on what they are. Right now, Tiger's a trainwreck.

The man in charge of the SEC package for CBS is expressing concern that ratings for the conference may drop this season without Tim Tebow playing for Florida. To me, that's ridiculous. People watch the SEC game each week because it typically features highly ranked teams, great rivalries and competitive games. Maybe some people tuned into Arkansas at Florida last year because of Tebow at the beginning, but I guarantee viewership went up throughout the game as it became clear there was a serious upset threat brewing. If the SEC has games like last year's Auburn-Alabama battle each Saturday, the viewership's going to be fine. Speaking of those two teams, they've decided not to continue playing on the Friday after Thanksgiving once the two year contract ends this year. Does that mean we go back to LSU-Arkansas, or will someone else get a look?

FSU is really getting hit hard early in camp with injuries and stupidity. Two more players are gone for the season with ACL tears, including one of their better defensive tackle options in Moses McCray. The Seminoles are already down a sure starter on each side of the ball for the season and now a likely defensive starter as well. They haven't recruited well enough for the last few years to sustain an attrition rate like this, especially when Mark Stoops is putting in a new defensive scheme.

The Florida Panthers have come up with a pretty savvy idea on how to stimulate ticket sales in a fanbase that's not exactly fired up about their product. They're letting fans suggest what they're willing to pay for season ticket packages and then deciding whether to accept the offers or not. This may be the way of the future. If you're the Charlotte Bobcats and no one wants to buy your seats at full price, why not put some on EBay yourself and see what happens? As more and more fans realize the experience of watching the game at home has often become better than seeing it in person, ticket sales are going to continue to drop unless teams come up with reasons why you need to be there. This might be a way to slow the erosion in sales down - I'll be curious to see if it works.

I'm quite comfortable with the fact I've never seen a second of MTV's Jersey Shore. Making celebrities out of people for being imbeciles doesn't seem to be a positive trend to me. Unfortunately the ratings say otherwise, which means it's time for the inevitable ripoff shows to begin. What's another easily stereotyped group? That's right, it's time for the southern version of the show. The casting process has begun for Redneck Riviera. I'm sure it'll be Emmy level stuff.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Quick one today - early scrimmages not a favorite of mine

Yahoo sports contributes the latest info to the ongoing College Football Agent Panic, with a detailed report that says the NCAA is focused on the relationship between North Carolina defensive line coach John Blake and agent Gary Wichard's company. It certainly seems at minimum Wichard is caught in a lie, although there's nothing legally wrong with lying to a reporter. Also of interest is Yahoo's report that nine schools have been contacted in some way by the NCAA as past of this investigation, with East Carolina a new name and two more not mentioned. This has always been where most of the rumors around the investigation have focused, but Yahoo has put some actual meat into the rumor sandwich about Blake's relationship with Wichard. With three weeks before the season starts, we'll see soon if this ends up costing anyone the chance to play their opening game.

One of the sillier controversies I can think of in recent years is playing out at UCF. With coach George O'Leary's approval, an Orlando area magazine shot photos and video of a UCF MBA student posing in the football team's locker room. This would not be of any particular interest if the grad student wasn't also Playboy's Miss July for this year. Now the university is apologizing for allowing the photo shoot (which didn't feature nudity, but was suggestive) to happen. They shouldn't be. UCF getting attention for having a gorgeous female fan is not something to regret - look at how much mileage FSU's gotten out of Jenn Sterger. Playboy didn't shoot any photos in the locker room, and it's not like this situation's likely to come up again (unless UCF is suddenly a Playmate recruiting hotbed), so why should anybody get worked up about this?

The latest edition of Sports Illustrated features a "where are they now" them, and one of the guys they chose to update was former Florida guard Teddy Dupay. As always, it appears Dupay is still delusional about his possibilities for future success. At the moment Dupay's still head of a marijuana legalization movement/semi-pyramid scheme, but says he'd like to coach. The assault incident, the gambling investigation at UF, the current Cheech and Chong meet Amway persona - none of this says "future coach" to me. Hard to think of many people who've squandered more good will than Dupay.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Making Whoopi Goldberg coach like in that movie would have been a better idea

The easy thing to do in the wake of the New York Knicks astounding Friday announcement that they had rehired Isiah Thomas in a consultant role is to bash the move. Thomas was a disaster for the Knicks, getting them into salary cap hell while not coming anywhere close to winning and also embarrassing them off the court by losing a sexual harassment trial. Bringing him back into the fold makes as much sense from a PR standpoint as it would for BP to rehire their deposed CEO for a high powered role around Memorial Day. The Knicks are not my concern though. This is a disaster for college sports if it's allowed to proceed, and right now it will be. The NBA may step in and stop it, and hopefully that will happen. Otherwise the same NCAA that treats it as a crisis if a player is given a t-shirt on his visit to a school will be signing off on the idea it's fine for a coach to be able to recruit that same player by making promises about drafting him for the NBA. This idea will spread to other sports like wildfire too - how's New England Patriots "consultant" Urban Meyer sound? Listing every reason this is a terrible idea would take hours - there's no way it should be legal.

ESPN reported Friday that an NCAA letter of inquiry is likely coming to Knoxville in the near future, as the bill for the actions of Lane Kiffin's Tennessee staff in recruiting comes due. Kiffin is of course telling people they did nothing wrong and he's not concerned about the NCAA investigation- ask Seantrel Henderson about how reliable Lane's word proved on that subject at USC. The idea that Vol hostesses spontaneously headed to see a football game in South Carolina on a Friday night wearing cute dresses and holding signs for specific players without any encouragement and guidance from the coaching staff defies all common sense. That story may have initially attracted the interest, but there's plenty more for the NCAA to look into. Remember, UT "recruiting intern" Steve Rubio had a huge hand in UCF's NCAA troubles before heading to Knoxville. As if potential NCAA problems aren't bad enough, now Derek Dooley's squad has lost two key defensive linemen for the year before they got out of the first week of practice. Couple that with reports from the recruiting trail that Dooley's staff has taken a ton of early commitments from three star "good character" kids - the kind who take time to develop - and it's beginning to look like Vol fans will be waiting a long time to be relevant in the SEC again.

Big loss for FSU, as wide receiver Jarmon Fortson has been kicked off the team for what reportedly is multiple failed drug tests. Fortson had the potential to be by far the most dangerous weapon in the Seminoles passing game. This puts more pressure on Bert Reed to be a big time performer and keep out of trouble, neither of which he's proved particularly great at doing. Taiwan Easterling has a lot of work to do as well. For all the preseason hype FSU's been getting thanks to their supposed Heisman candidate QB Christian Ponder, this exposes a major issue for them in the receiving corps. Easterling is now the Seminoles only WR who actually caught a TD pass last season.

I'm not a NASCAR guy. I've covered some races, but in general it's still completely lost on me why fans passionately follow one driver over another. One exception, of course, has been Dale Earnhardt, Jr. That one I was able to put together - it's because people really love Amp energy drink. The New York Times sports magazine featured a terrific story on Junior over the weekend. Regardless of whether you're a fan of him or the sport, I suggest giving it a read. Dale Jr. comes across as a good guy who has no idea what else to do other than play the role life has assigned him, but you get the feeling he wishes he did.

Minor league baseball promotions are always good for a laugh or two, but the one coming up this weekend in Savannah isn't going for chuckles at all. A fan is going to get to set a guy on fire and then everyone will watch the human torch round the bases. What could possibly go wrong? I'd love to know how much insurance it took to get this thing approved.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Greg Kite will be so jealous when he hears about this play

The first college football coaches poll is officially out (AP is on the 21st.) and has Alabama at number one as expected. I was pleasantly surprised to see Florida and Texas at 3 and 4 ahead of Boise State. I suspect the media will have the Broncos higher, which is a joke because either of those teams would destroy them. Been a long time since the SEC had only two teams in the top 15 to start a season, but no one quite knows which ones of the Arkansas/Auburn/LSU/Georgia/South Carolina grouping will turn out to be special this season. The fact LSU is 16th and Ole Miss got a lot of votes also drives home just how many coaches vote on reputation rather than paying attention - the poll should have been abolished years ago.

John Curtis was a talented football walk on at Florida who suffered multiple ACL injuries during his time in Gainesville that kept him from getting a chance to really shine. He stood out to me immediately upon his arrival in 2004 as being a guy with enough ability to be an SEC player despite not being a signee. It's being reported that Curtis has apparently committed suicide at the age of 24. I only recall specifically interviewing Curtis once, but he seemed like a nice kid. It's really strange to think he's gone, and my condolences go out to his family and friends.

Two years ago Quinn Pitcock decided to put an end to his NFL career after just one season with Indianapolis. He announced his retirement despite having been a third round pick, and that was that until now. The former Buckeye has resurfaced after signing with Seattle and has an explanation for his two years away from the NFL: video game addiction. Depression was an issue as well, but Pitcock actually underwent treatment specifically for the video game addiction. Addiction issues are tough to understand for those of us who haven't dealt with them personally, but VIDEO GAMES? Get off the couch and do something else - you're cured. Sell the system if you're afraid of relapsing. There was plenty of talk about Tiger Woods and the legitimacy of sex addiction as a true disorder earlier this year. If this can be an "addiction" then no one should say another word questioning whether Tiger can play the addiction card to explain the Perkins waitress.

Not sure I remember the last time I went to a theater and saw a play, but now there's one for me to hope gets produced somewhere nearby. Someone has written a play called "Rambis", which features a character who views former Laker and current Minnesota Timberwolves head coach Kurt Rambis as "omnipresent and endowed with superhuman powers". When Rambis was with the Phoenix Suns he came as close to resembling Chewbacca as any human is likely to be able to do so, which is why it's hard to accept him as a sophisticated coach wearing a GQ wardrobe with the T-Wolves these days.

This weekend we get football back for the first time since the Super Bowl. Sure it's just the crappy preseason Hall of Fame game, but it's still football. Enjoy it and I'll see you back here Monday. Follow along on twitter at heathradio for any news or random observations between now and then.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Maybe they were trying to trick UK's lawyer into saying "It was 250 thousand"?

When did sports media decide there were no longer any standards at all for reporting if you're writing on the internet? Did I miss a meeting or something? I was surprised yesterday at Deadspin's A.J. Daulerio running a piece that trashes Brett Favre's personal character without any evidence to support the charges or even permission to make the allegation in the first place from their reluctant "source" Jenn Sterger. That was really bad but hey, what else would you expect from some crazy sports blog, right? How about the Chicago Sun-Times then, which inexplicably decided to include the idea Kentucky basketball had bought a player for 200 thousand dollars in the ninth paragraph of a story about his anticipated commitment without any proof at all. The story was first revised and later pulled off the web altogether, but The Big Lead has a screenshot of it for you to see for yourself how outrageously inappropriate this was. This is a major city newspaper alleging massive NCAA rule breaking, and the best they've got for support is "sources/rumors"?! That can't possibly happen, but it just did. What a disgrace.

Not many athletes who've been linked to PED use over the past decade have really meant that much to most of the public. Folks might have been surprised when Rafael Palmeiro got busted, but was there anyone really torn up inside about it? Lance Armstrong is different. People believe in the guy because his story is inspiring and it's legit. For so many whose lives have been impacted by cancer, he's special. Considering the cycling world may have been more aggressive about finding ways to cheat through science than any other sport, it's always been hard to believe that Armstrong never took part in any of those kinds of activities yet was able to beat everyone that did. With no positive tests though, to me Armstrong's got to be given the benefit of the doubt. The New York Times reports this morning that the government does not see it that way. The same agent who spent years working on bringing down Barry Bonds has now focused his energies on proving Armstrong was a PED user as well. I'm not sure I see why this is a particular investigative priority at the moment (as opposed to the BALCO case, where a lab was actively making illegal substances) but it clearly is. I suspect Lance has skeletons in his closet, but without a positive test (or an understandable, provable and believable explanation of how he's avoided having one while constantly being tested) it's going to be really hard to convince people he cheated.

Ole Miss head coach Houston Nutt has been justifiably ripped for his decision this week to allow Jeremiah Masoli to transfer in from Oregon and play QB for the Rebels this season despite his multiple arrests and lying to his coach (which got him booted out of Eugene). Nutt rolled the dice on ex-Gator DB Jamar Hornsby last season coming out of JUCO last year and received an embarrassing arrest in return for his trouble. In one of those weird quirks of timing that life serves up, Hornsby pled guilty to the charges yesterday and will serve half a year in prison as a result. We don't know how Masoli will do in Oxford, but if nothing else we know what coach is the frontrunner to pursue former UGA QB Zach Mettenberger when his JUCO season ends this winter. Stay classy, Houston.

If Nutt could sign former Tennessee quarterback Erik Ainge, I'm sure he would. Ainge's career with the New York Jets will be over the second he gets through with his stay in rehab for recreational drug use. Ainge was a talented player who had a rough middle part of his Vol career, with alcohol apparently playing a factor in him falling out of favor with the coaches. He had a steroid related issue with the Jets two years ago and now has moved on to other drugs. Not many guys sharp enough to be QBs have gone down this particular path - only Todd Marinovich and Quincy Carter sprung to mind for me in the past couple of decades as guys who snorted their way out of the league. Hopefully for Ainge he gets his life together, but it's hard to understand how someone can be foolish enough to waste his talent this way.

I can't remember a period of time where I've had less interest in the movies than the past couple of years. My wife just had a surgery that's had her laid up for a few days, so I went to rent some recent release DVDs for the two of us to watch together. It was hard finding any that seemed even semi-promising at the .99 cent per night rate - there's a reason we hadn't gone to see them in the first place. Hot Tub Time Machine was mediocre, although it had its moments. Couples Retreat was just plain bad. I'm 37 now, so I thought maybe it was just one of those "getting older" things. Turns out the reason I can't find any decent comedies anymore isn't that I'm too old as much as it is that I'm American. Overseas audiences don't get our humor, and it turns out that's who Hollywood's more concerned about liking films these days than people here in the States. Every once in a while they'll crank out a Will Ferrell flick, but generally if you like American comedies you're screwed. Yippee.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

At least Forbes didn't pick Manchester United

While Brett Favre appears determined to treat us all to another helping of his "will he or won't he" BS after all, another quarterback is showing how to retire the right way. Kurt Warner cracked a joke about returning in the wake of the morning's Favre "news", but made clear he's still done with pro football. The Washington Post reports he's going to be a part of Dancing with the Stars next season. While both QBs have a single championship, Warner went to three Super Bowls to Favre's two. Warner's career QB rating is seven points higher as well. Yet Warner stepped away from the game when he clearly could have chosen to continue, and did so with no lengthy period of drama. He was ready to call it a career, and he did. If Favre had shown one tenth as much class as Warner over the past half dozen years, he wouldn't be a joke right now.

Florida basketball released its nonconference schedule yesterday, and I love what Billy Donovan has done with it. Last year SEC commissioner Mike Slive challenged his schools to do better than serving their fans up garbage for the first two months of the season, and now Florida's not doing that anymore. Ideally more of the quality games like Ohio State would be in Gainesville, but having teams like Kansas State and Xavier on the schedule is miles better than what the defending national champions saw four years ago. Beyond that, while Florida will beat UNC-Wilmington at least it's a team with a pulse as opposed to the Florida A&M and Bethune Cookman squads that had no chance even if UF started its managers. South Carolina's also going to have some good games on their schedule when it comes out this week, including Michigan State and Ohio State. There's no reason this shouldn't have been the norm the last few years, but I'm glad the change has finally come.

Not sure why Forbes magazine has been sports list crazy on its website in recent months, but they seem to do a lot of them. When they rank the value of teams or the wealthiest athletes, that makes some sense to me even though there are usually arguments with the accuracy of their numbers. For Forbes to try and rank America's best sports fans was taking things a little too far. Don't believe me? Check out the eleventh best group of American sports fans - the supporters of the Montreal Canadiens. I know some people regard Canada as our 51st state, but perhaps the name CANADIENS might have indicated to Forbes that Montreal fans shouldn't be on this list? (Although that still makes more sense than Blackhawks fans being on there - assuming this list is based on anything before this past May.)

If there wasn't already enough reason to wonder whether Michigan was ready to rebound in year three under Rich Rodriguez, one of his seniors has raised serious questions about the team chemistry in the locker room. Senior cornerback Troy Woolfolk wasn't content just to say good things about quarterback Denard Robinson. He criticized last year's starter Tate Forcier for not being at enough offseason workouts and added...

"The only reason he's not really labeled as diseased is because of the way he was able to carry the team last year before we started losing. People still trust him a little bit, but he's starting to lose that."

Michigan opens up with a solid UConn squad. If they don't get everyone unified behind a leader on offense, they'll lose that game. Should that happen, Rodriguez will be highly unlikely to reach the kind of record it will take to save his job (especially if the NCAA hits them hard later this fall).

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Could our long national nightmare really be over?

I hope Brett Favre really is done, but no one can trust him at this point. If he goes a full year without football and doesn't make noises in the offseason about playing again, maybe we'll start to believe Favre's career is really over. If this is it, Minnesota will have no one but themselves to blame for being in a very tight spot at quarterback. The decision not to draft Jimmy Clausen or Colt McCoy seemed poor at the time, and really looks bad now. As for Favre, it's been a shame to see him become a punchline. The guy was a lot of fun to watch during his better days with the Packers. The never ending "will he retire" storyline that dominated his final half dozen years in the league washed away lots of that goodwill though. Favre became like Pete Rose - excellent players, but guys who dominated far more of the discussion of their sport than their on field performances justified. (No, angry Favre fan, I'm not comparing the pair's actions in any way - just the never ending discussion of them.)

Governments around the country are looking for ways to balance their budget, and more of them seem to be figuring out there's an obvious source sitting in plain sight that they aren't benefitting from. A California state senator is the latest to call for legalized sports betting in a state currently barred from having it. This is not a choice between whether it's good or bad for society to have sports betting. We have it, and we're going to have it. The question is whether governments can benefit financially from the activity while also trimming by one the list of things police have to deal with. How is it a bad thing for a guy to be able to put a hundred dollars on the Packers to win legally but perfectly fine for the guy to spend the same amount on lottery tickets? At least on the football game he has a 50-50 shot of winning. Sooner or later this is going to happen - the pro leagues don't like it, but the need for revenue is greater than threats of taking the Super Bowl away.

Normally GQ magazine is not the first place I'd turn to for sports insights, but they do have a moderately amusing piece this month about the eight stupidest things sports fans say. Not sure why they chose to name just eight, but I'll throw in two more to even things out at ten. All the variations of "we need to run more trick plays" that get brought up on coaches shows and at booster meetings would certainly qualify. My personal favorite is "we should trade our below average players and mid level prospects for someone else's All-Star". Thanks to dopes like the Memphis Grizzlies GM that does happen occasionally in real life, but it's not a viable strategy to plan around.

The Princeton Review's list of the nation's top party schools is out, with Georgia sitting in this year's number one spot. Considering their AD got caught for DUI with a pair of someone else's panties in his lap, it's safe to say there's a little partying going on in Athens. The best part of this is that it's going to drive Georgia president Michael Adams crazy. Ole Miss at five and Florida at seven were the only other SEC schools in the top ten - the conference is slipping. The only things I know about DePauw are that it's Dan Quayle's alma mater and it shows up on this list every year - I'll have to go by that campus someday.

Monday, August 2, 2010

For some reason I can't access need4snead.com anymore

While teams were signing first round draft picks all over the NFL this past weekend, the move I was most interested in barely registered on the radar. Tampa Bay released Ole Miss quarterback Jevan Snead, the guy who began last year being touted as a top five pick by supposed ESPN draft guru Todd McShay. I never bought into Snead as a future NFL star, but even I would have assumed he could make it to a training camp. It's too late for Snead, but hopefully some people learn lessons from this. For players it's simple: don't get caught up in what you're supposedly going to be at the expense of what you actually are. QBs who throw 20 picks in a college season have no business declaring for the draft early, no matter what some empty suit with good hair said about their potential on an episode of College Football Live before the season. For everyone else: don't believe in guys who are afraid of competing. Snead bailed on his Florida commitment because he was afraid of Tebow. He bolted from Texas because he was going to have to keep fighting for PT with Colt McCoy and wanted a guaranteed starting job at Ole Miss. After two years there showing talent but being wildly inconsistent, Snead went pro rather than fight to stay the starter in Oxford. Players looking for the easy way are generally losers, yet every recruiting season you see school fanbases panting after some of them. Stop.

It was really classy of the Miami Heat organization to handle their new found status as the hot ticket in Frontrunnerville, USA by firing their entire season ticket sales staff. They could have assigned those people other duties with the organization, things like making sure all those new season ticket customers are getting top notch service on gameday or handling the extra demands for merchandise sales and community involvement. Someone's going to have to be responsible for hand peeling the "King"'s grapes, too. This way saves Heat ownership a couple of million bucks though, so who cares whether you're screwing over people with families who did absolutely nothing wrong? Words can't do justice to how much I want this team to lose, which is too bad considering I like Udonis Haslem and Mike Miller a lot.

ESPN quietly let word out over the weekend that they wouldn't be disciplining reporter Arash Markazi for the way he reported the LeBron in Vegas piece the network killed last week after it appeared on its website for a few hours. Let's review the facts:

1. nothing Markazi wrote has been alleged to be inaccurate (in fact other non-ESPN reporting on the evening backs up details of his piece)
2. LeBron's people claim they had nothing to do with the story being yanked
3. ESPN maintains Markazi walked in with LeBron's crew and got access to LeBron's personal table at the club, but they somehow didn't know he was an ESPN reporter (which ESPN somehow is now aware of despite "fact" 2).
4. Now, despite the supposed journalistic transgression by Markazi, he faces no penalty for his actions.

When ESPN denies they pulled this piece because of pressure from James and his people, they are insulting everyone who hears them do so's intelligence. Remember the confiscating of any video footage from LeBron's camp last year that showed him getting dunked on? The "King" and his people believe he makes no errors, and when he does they demand the evidence be erased. ESPN should be ashamed of themselves for toadying up like this, but it's completely unsurprising that they have.

Reggie Bush still doesn't get it. He could have saved USC from a huge portion of the problems its football program faces, even after he chose to take money from agents while still in school. Once Bush and his family decided not to live up to their business agreements with the aspiring agents, it should have been obvious they would have to be paid back the money they'd put into the venture. Instead, Bush tried to ignore the problem and hope it would go away even after lawsuits and other actions had made it very clear it wouldn't. I can't say what percentage of Bush's horrible decision making gets credited to greed versus being stubborn and outright stupidity, but it was almost entirely his years of poor judgement that got the program hammered. Rather than take responsibility and apologize, in his first comments since the probation came down Bush says it "bothers me and it sucks" that the university is whitewashing all evidence of his existence from the school's football program. USC should sue Bush for every dime his selfishness cost them, but they won't because of what that would do to recruiting. That Bush thinks there's a chance on Earth he'll eventually be welcomed back only further illustrates how oblivious the guy is.