Thursday, November 16, 2017

Punishment phase

So now we arrive at the intersection of Discipline Avenue and the Expedience Expressway, and, man, is it a busy place. Wouldn't want to be Steve Alford or the rest of the folks out there at UCLA, trying to figure out which route to take.

The Blob, if it had to guess, would say the Bruins jump on the expressway.  Discipline is a more congested path, and frequently squeezed down to one uncomfortable lane that exacts a toll on everyone. And there are the financials to consider here, top-drawer college buckets being the straight-up corporate enterprise it is these days.

By now you've heard the saga of  UCLA freshmen DiAngelo Ball, Cody Riley and Jalen Hill, the three knuckleheads who got themselves pinched in China for shoplifting a pair of sunglasses. Given their status -- elite recruits at an elite college basketball factory -- it would have been a dumb thing to do in any circumstance. Doing it in a foreign country which once tried to run over college students with tanks made it dumb cubed.

The Three Knuckleheads could have gotten 10 years down a hole in China for what they did, but neither the United States nor China wanted to make an international incident out of it, particularly in the immediate wake of Our Only Available President's Asian tour. So OOAP called and the Chinese released them, and now it's on to a wholly different court for the Knuckleheads.

And now it gets interesting.

Now UCLA has to decide just how long to sit the three, who were all high-end recruits expected to contribute mightily to the corporation this year. As ESPN's Arash Markazi points out here, the school could suspend them for half a season, which means they wouldn't miss the conference schedule. Or it could suspend them for the season, in which case all three might bail and transfer elsewhere, since they'd have to sit out this season if they did, anyway.

And so: Discipline Ave vs. the Expedience Expressway.

Half a season would mean you've taken the latter, because suspending them for a lot of non-conference tilts against Whatsamatta U. and Directional Hyphen Tech is no skin off UCLA's NCAA Tournament hopes. You get 'em back for the conference, the Bruins win it or come close, and they're in the Dance.

A full season, however, and you greatly risk never seeing the Knuckleheads again. Which, if they can play (and apparently they can), would not be the blessing it seems to be on its face.

What to do, what to do.

The Blob?

The Blob would bypass both and tell the Three Knuckleheads to go with God to North Carolina or some other place that makes no pretense of being an institution of higher learning when it comes to basketball. But it's never been entirely rational when it comes to a kid getting arrested in a foreign country while representing his school.

Oh, the crosses we bear.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Back that thing up

Or, to put it another way: The Wheels On the Papa John's Bus Go Beep ... Beep ... Beep ...

Which is to say, it's always fun to watch clueless doofuses trip all over themselves backtracking, and there are few doofuses more clueless than John Schnatter and the boys at Papa John's Pizza. A couple of weeks ago Papa John himself came out and said the NFL's failure to quash its players' constitutional right to protest was hurting his business, a statement of such dubious provenance you wondered if someone fed it to him.

(Like, I don't know, maybe Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, who made a big ol' public display of kneeling with his players, then threatened to fire any of them who did it again.)

Anyway ... apparently Schnatter and his company have had a change of heart, after two weeks of being laughed at on social media -- partly because it apparently never occurred to Schnatter that his very public support for a hugely unpopular president might have more to do with the sales slippage than the NFL's failure to go all jackboots on the help.

At any rate, now Papa John's has come out with a mealy series of corporate tweets in which they avowed that, gosh, no, they weren't opposed to the American right to protest, and, gee, of course they stand with the players' stance against racial inequality. And they're really sorry if it came off otherwise.

Like that was supposed to fool anyone.

Truth is, Schnatter's original statements dovetail neatly with the hijacking of the protests, which is that they're about Disrespecting The Flag/The Troops/The Good Old USA. They clearly aren't, but the goal here is to obscure the real message. And that's the goal because the forces who've done the obscuring (most notably, Our Only Available President) don't believe the message is valid.

In their hearts of hearts, they simply don't believe it's a problem that police officers are shooting people of color in situations where they probably shouldn't be shooting them. They make excuses for it. They draw false equivalencies. They tell us white people get shot by the cops, too.

(Personally, the Blob thinks the explosion in concealed carry permits has led directly to some of this. In a lot of cases, police officers are drawing down on the citizenry in situations where they didn't used to simply because they don't know what they're rolling up on anymore. And so they're a lot jumpier and a lot more trigger happy. It's a theory.)

Anyway ... that's how the protests became something they aren't, which is disrespecting America/the flag/the troops.

Even though, in a lot of cases, those players kneeling are doing so with their heads bowed and their hands over their hearts.

Even though it was a Green Beret's idea that they kneel.

Even though many of them have family members in the military themselves.

But, you know, never mind that.

Prevailing wisdom

So you know what was significant about last night's marquee college buckets doubleheader, aside from the fact Grayson Allen was so busy raining threes on Michigan State's head he forgot to trip anyone?

What was significant was the pollsters got to say "Nyah-nyah, nyah-nyah-nyah."

The Blob has opined before how worthless early season polls are, because no one really knows nuttin' and teams on those November upper perches tend to slide downhill faster than the Jamaican bobsled team. Well, that didn't happen last night.

No. 1 Duke beat No. 2 Michigan State by about the margin you'd expect a No. 1 to beat a No. 2, 88-81. And No. 4 Kansas beat No. 7 Kentucky by about the margin you'd expect, also, 65-61.

Guess the pollsters showed us.

For now, anyway.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

A few brief thoughts on NFL Week 10

And now this week's edition of The NFL In So Many Words, the recurring migraine of a Blob feature of which the American Medical Association has said "Ouch! A recurring migraine!", and also "seven of eight doctors agree, recurring migraines kinda hurt":

1. The Cleveland Browns!

2. The New York Football Giants!

3. Speaking of, you know, recurring headaches.

4. And in other cranial news, the Colts have added Concussion Protocol to their 53-man roster.

5. Meanwhile, Tom Brady.

6. Is really this guy.

7. Hey, look! It's the Atlanta Falcons!

8. No, I don't know where they've been. Aruba, maybe.

9. The Packers. The Bears. It's an NFL trad....

10. Sorry. Nodded off for a second there.

Monday, November 13, 2017

And now, a brief NASCAR moment

In which two facts of interest will be passed along:

1. The fact that, yes, they're still racing. A public service announcement for the 99.7 percent of America who stopped paying attention back at the start of the NFL/college football season.

2. The additional fact that the Final Four headed to Homestead next week are Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick, Martin Truex Jr. and Brad Keselowski.

(No, Jimmie Johnson did not make it. I know. It seems like Jimmie Johnson wins every year. Well, he doesn't. Neither does Jeff Gordon. He's retired, in case you hadn't heard.)

So who will win?

Well, if there's any reverence for a storyline left in NASCAR, it will be Truex, who's won seven times this season, dominated the points and has the additional benefit of being an underdog, seeing how he's the only driver for something called Furniture Row Racing.

But since there isn't any reverence for a storyline left in NASCAR, Busch, who's won six times this year, will probably win. He's the best wheel man in the sport when he's right, and the guy the discerning observer would pick if he had to pick one guy to win one race. And if he doesn't win, Harvick probably will, seeing how he always seems to be up front when it matters, too.

So there you have it. You may now resume watching the Bears and the Packers, though God knows why.

Irish ... not rising

So, remember last week, when the Blob said this felt like a different Notre Dame team this time, that it looked and played like one of those old hit-you-in-the-ivories Lou Holtz teams that went around beating up on (as Holtz used to say) Scared To Death Of Rice and the University of Navy?

And remember when the Blob also said this?

(The Blob) could be wrong, of course. It has frequently been wrong about Notre Dame.

Yeah, well ... fooled again.

Frequently Wrong ran headlong into Wrong Again, Knucklehead, as unbeaten Miami got the Irish down there in Coral Gables and beat the gold paint off them, 41-8. In the Blob's defense, it was whipping not even Miami coach Mark Richt saw coming. Notre Dame certainly didn't see it coming. And it's a certainty the Blob didn't, easily fooled by Notre Dame as it so often is.

What it was not fooled by, in a way, was the notion that at some point in almost every season Brian Kelly's teams mysteriously fail to show up. Usually it's against a team that has no business beating the Irish but somehow manages to anyway. Last night it was against the team most people thought did have a decent chance to beat them -- but not in the manner in which it happened.

You could see Notre Dame losing to Miami. What you couldn't see was Miami trampling the Irish like they were William and Mary, or perhaps even some of William and Mary's lesser offspring.

And that, frankly, is on Kelly. You don't want to say the guy takes a week off every season, but it sure looks like he takes a week off every season. You can damn near set your watch by it.

At any rate, here's a fond farewell to Notre Dame's gauzy dreams of playing for a national championship a year after going 4-8. And probably to Georgia's, too, after the Bulldogs got laminated 40-17 by Auburn yesterday. That's two of last week's top four going down hard, while old reliables Clemson and Alabama kept chugging along.

Stay tuned. Things are about to get interesting.

Just, you know, not for Notre Dame.

Inauspicious start

So, did you hear the news?

Seabiscuit tripped over his own feet coming out of the gate and went withers-over-teakettle.

A.J. Foyt's engine didn't start when they said "Gentlemen, start your engines!", and he was reduced to calling it a "tub o' s***" again.

Jim Brown fumbled. Kareem airballed the skyhook. Jack Nicklaus hit a rainbow slice so bad it started in Augusta and landed in New Orleans.

All of that happened in Assembly Hall last night, where the Archie Miller Era unfolded with ... well, not the spirits of Quinn Buckner and Scott May rising again to crush any and all foes. No, that didn't happen. What happened was the Hoosiers came, they saw -- and Indiana State conquered.

By 21 points, Indiana State conquered (90-69). In BloomingtonIndiana State.

And Larry Bird didn't even play.

Instead, it was a guy you know -- Brenton Scott, from Northrop High School -- and a bunch of guys named Brandon (Murphy) and Qiydar (Davis) and Jordan (Barnes) who whipped up on the Hoosiers. Led  'em 54-33 at halftime. Held 'em to 46.7 percent shooting and 4-of-22 from the 3-point line. Harassed 'em into 19 turnovers, outrebounded 'em, outhustled 'em.

All while making 17 3s in 26 attempts themselves. That's 65.7 percent to you and me, kids.

Here's the thing about all that, though: None of it really means much.

It does not mean Indiana State is going straight to the Final Four, and it does not mean the Hoosiers are going straight back to Square One. (OK, so it probably does mean they're going back to Square One if "Square One" means running gassers until they drop at the next practice.) What it means, rather, is this is November.

Weird stuff happens in November, particularly when a new regime is settling in. Hoosier Nation likely will not want to hear that -- five will get you ten the domain name has been snapped up as we speak -- but it's true. And so slow your roll, folks.

The Blob's counsel is to keep the torches and pitchforks stowed. Because you know what?

It's November (early November). And it's a new day in Bloomington. Which means if Indiana had clonked Indiana State by 21 instead of the other way around, that wouldn't have meant a whole lot, either.