Saturday, February 27, 2016

Questions, anyone?

You gotta love the NFL combine, guys in shorts and catsuits running 40s while scouts and other assorted geeks look on with comic intensity. It's what a cattle call would be if you measured the cattles' vertical leap, and also asked them questions designed to reveal the cattles' character -- but which actually say a lot more about the character of the questioners.

The whole deal is kind of like those scenes in "The Right Stuff" where prospective astronauts are subjected to all manner of bizarre tests while creepy doctors in white lab coats look on with utter soullessness.  That's especially true during the interview process, in which questions don't just come out of left field but some galaxy far, far beyond it.

Maybe you missed it, but a former NFL defensive end named Austen Lane agreed this week to reveal some of the stranger questions he was asked during his combine experience. Again, they reveal far more about the people asking the questions than the NFL hopefuls answering them.

One guy, for instance, asked Lane if he thought his mother was attractive. 

(Um, gee, dude, I don't know. Sounds like SOME-body's got mommy issues, though).

Another question: "I see you have dreads. You smoke weed, don't you?"

(Well, let's see. I'm black, I have dreads, so, yes, I must smoke dope. I guess that question explains the Trump sticker on your car).

Another question: "If you could kill someone and not get caught, would you?" And also, "If you had to murder someone, would you use a gun or a knife?"

(Wow. Two questions about killing people. Didn't I see you on a "Criminal Minds" episode?)

Now, I'm sure Lane was only thinking all that, which explains the use of italics. But wouldn't you have loved it if he'd actually responded to any of the aforementioned questions that way? And wouldn't you have loved to have seen the response from the scout asking the questions?

I'm sure his verdict would have been "Not ready for our league. Attitude issues."

Which, I don't know, I would find strange. It's the NFL. Don't you kinda want guys with attitude issues, at least to a certain extent?

One more dumb question.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Old school, taken to school

I revere Oscar Robertson. Greatest basketball player ever to come out of the basketball state, and don't even try to argue with me on that one. You'll lose.

But I find myself respectfully disagreeing with him right now.

I disagree with him because he went on "Mike&Mike" yesterday and said, essentially, that Steph Curry was nothin' special, that there have been great shooters before and there will be again. It was a refrain a lot of back-in-the-day greats regrettably succumb to, and its language is almost always the same.

So no real surprise when Oscar said this: "If I've got a guy who's great shooting the ball outside, don't you want to extend your defense out a little bit? I just don't think coaches today in basketball understand the game of basketball. They don't know anything about defenses. They don't know what people are doing on the court."

In other words: In my day, we'd have just guarded the guy better. 'Cause we guarded people in my day.

Far be it from me, an utter nobody, to dispute a Mt. Rushmore hoops legend on matters pertaining to  basketball. But I've heard this one many times before -- Old-School Joes were saying the same thing about Oscar, back in his day -- and it hardly ever carries water.

The notion that nobody plays defense in the NBA anymore, see, is as wrong as it is persistent. Part of that is the instinct to mythologize one's own glory days, and part of it is how sentiment about those days tends to fog the memory. I've watched archival clips of NBA playoff games from Oscar's era, and what always strikes me about them is how much more slowly the game was played than I remember. And how players who I could have sworn never missed a shot missed plenty, sometimes badly. And how the defense doesn't look terribly different than it does today -- especially on those occasions when Oscar or Jerry West or Elgin Baylor was putting up a 50-spot.

Great players will always get theirs, in other words. Curry's no different, except in the sense that he's taken what West or Oscar or some other legendary sniper did and lifted it to another level.

Extending your defense can occasionally work if you're talking about a great shooter with great range. But Curry is an extraordinary shooter with range that borders on the extraterrestrial. The man's loading up the second he steps across the timeline, and he regularly jacks up shots -- and buries them -- from 30 feet and beyond. And so suddenly, if you're extending your defense to take that away, you're compelled to cover almost half the floor with five players.

In the NBA,  it can't be done. You extend out to take Curry's shot away, he just goes around you. He does it all the time. And if he's going around you 25 to 30 feet from the basket, there are going to be huge expanses of open space he can exploit. And so you end up getting scored on anyway.

Yes, the man can be stopped. But only if he's having an off shooting night, and only if you focus your defense solely on him. But all that means is someone else nearly as skilled as Curry is going to have a huge night himself.

Extend your defense?

Might as well extend an invitation to your own funeral.

Sorry, Oscar.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Culture of denial. Apparently.

So, that sound you just heard?

Oh, it's nothing. Just the air going out of all the sanctimony coming from Knoxville, Tenn., these days.

It turned up on the national radar when Peyton Manning was mentioned in a Title IX lawsuit filed against the University of Tennessee, alleging that a culture of neglect had sprung up around its athletic programs in regard to sexual assault. Tennessee could have done itself credit had it played its hand deftly thereafter, but so far it's only strengthened the case of the complainants with some remarkably ham-handed public relations work.

To wit: That disastrous dog-and-pony show the other day, when UT trotted out all its athletic coaches to "defend" the school's athletic programs.  What could have gone a long way toward making Tennessee athletics look like it gave a damn instead came off as if it indeed didn't take this issue seriously -- except in the sense of exonerating itself.

Save for a few rote platitudes, the coaches seemed more defiant than genuinely concerned with looking into the charges against their programs. It was an appalling display, particularly for the female coaches. And it only got worse when the complainants added to the suit the testimony of sophomore wide receiver Drae Bowles, who alleges that football coach Butch Jones told him he'd "betrayed the team" by trying to help a woman who said she'd been assaulted by two football players.

Suddenly all that sanctimonious whinging about the honor of UT athletics looked even more pathetic than it already was.

I don't know if Bowles is telling the truth, although I'm trying to think of a scenario in which he'd lie. Jones, of course, firmly denies the allegation. But if he's lying -- and let's face it, he has every reason to -- Tennessee's next move is obvious: The school needs to fire him.

If it doesn't, it looks again as if it doesn't take these matters seriously. And the lawsuit gains even more traction than Tennessee's fumbling around has already afforded it.

Does that mean there's a lack of commitment to protecting women at Tennessee? Maybe. Does it mean there's less commitment there than at, say, Florida State, where a young woman's allegations of sexual assault against the school's star quarterback, Jameis Winston, was treated with a wink and a nod by the police and prosecutor's office, and with going-through-the-motions nonchalance by the university itself?


The ugly truth is, money talks in big-time college athletics, especially in the money sports. So it's doubtful Tennessee is any more cavalier about allegations that might damage the bottom line than any other Big Five school is. Tennessee's just the school in the crosshairs right now.

I wish that didn't sound so cynical.

But then, I wish there was a reason it shouldn't. 

Update: Tennessee just keeps digging.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

A poet? You know it.

Grand news now from the folks bringing you the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500 in May, or at least some of the folks binging you the 100th running:

You could be the Official Poet of the race!

Yes, that's right. The Arts, Culture & Youth Committee of the 100th Running Host Committee is sponsoring a poetry contest to determine the race's Official Poet, a practice that began in the 1920s when the race program included a poem. Poets are encouraged to submit an original poem by March 21, with the winner receiving a cash prize of $1,000 and two tickets to the race, plus the opportunity to read his or her poem at the track during the month of May.

Now, the Blob is usually an Iambic Pentameter This Zone, but for something like this, it's willing to make an exception. Already snatches of something that will never be confused with Robert Frost are percolating in its trash heap of a brain:

Stuck in traffic on race-day morn,
Wishing I had never been born.
Here's a guy in the Coke lot, and I know what he's thinking:
"It's 7 a.m. Time to start drinking."


Oh, Ray Harroun, oh, Ray Harroun,
Your Marmon Wasp doth make us swoon.
Partly because
It rode history's great tide,
Partly because
Of the carbon monoxide.


I miss the turbine.
I miss the Novi.
The Blue Crown Special,
And A.J.'s Coyo-tie.
But if I had my favorites
Among cars that are fine,
It's the ones I'm in front of
In this long bleeping line.

And, finally ...

That damn Coogan went loopety-loo,
Took out ol' A.J.
And Mario, too.
But for all his misfortune,
He could say without bias,
He never did crash
Like Danny Ongais.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016


So the best player in college basketball sat out the first five minutes of his team's game the other day, and that raised a question.

The question: Why punish Ben Simmons of LSU for not being what he isn't, and what even the coach who punished him knows he isn't?

Which is, of course, a "student-athlete."

Simmons is demonstrably not that. What he is, and what LSU coach Johnny Jones recruited him to be, is a sheer mercenary, brought to campus to bide his time for a year before going to the NBA. And if he could put butts in the seats and help LSU win some games (and fatten the bottom line) while he was doing that, so much the better.

Well, Simmons has held up his end, averaging 19.3 points, 12.0 rebounds and 5.1 assists for an LSU team that, despite him, likely will miss March Madness. Which means his value as a mercenary has been negligible.

I'm not saying that has anything to do with Jones benching him for an "academic issue" the other day. But you've gotta wonder.

You've also gotta wonder why "academic issues" are even an issue for someone like Simmons, who is no more a college student than I am. Yet he's compelled to go along with the charade -- and Jones, by benching him, was compelled to go along with it, too.

It's an absurd state of affairs brought on by the NBA's absurd rule that you have to be at least 19 to be eligible for the draft. But then, the whole business of college athletics is absurd these days. Witness the furor over Michigan football coach Jim Harbaugh deciding to use spring break as a business trip for his team, which got NCAA czar Mark Emmert all exercised.

I think I know why. Like Simmons missing class (or whatever he did), all Harbaugh's doing is acknowledging what everyone knows: That college football on Michigan's level really is a business, and the players are not "student-athletes" but employees. And that ruins the illusion Emmert and his fellow bureaucrats are especially desperate these days to preserve.

To coin a phrase: Busted.

Monday, February 22, 2016

A lap for the ages

I saw 2006, as the shadows lengthened and Denny Hamlin chased the freight train down Daytona's backstretch for the last time.

I saw May in Indianapolis and Sam Hornish Jr. too far back to reel in Marco Andretti, until he reeled him in. It was the suddenness of it that stole your breath: One second Hornish was hopelessly adrift as he chased Marco into turn three on the last lap of the Indianapolis 500, and then they were through turn four and he was eating up the ground between them in voracious gulps. And then ...

Well. Then he caught Marco, passed him less than 200 yards from the yard of brick, beat him by a nose.

Fast forward to late Sunday afternoon, and deja vu all over again.

With a lap to go Hamlin was fourth and moving to the outside line with Kevin Harvick, the Daytona equivalent of a last-second heave from midcourt. Coming off two he was getting a push from Harvick but still hopelessly adrift of the leaders, Matt Kenseth and Martin Truex.

And then ...

Well. Then you blinked, and suddenly -- before the freight train even reached turn three --  he was right there.  I don't know how he did it. Harvick pushing and skillful side-drafting by Hamlin, most likely. But, as with Hornish and Andretti, it looked like an optical illusion.

One second he was far too far back;.the next he was eating Kenseth alive with a huge run to the outside, and Kenseth was moving high to block. And then Hamlin was cranking the wheel and shooting the gap between Kenseth and Truex with the best Daytona move I've seen since Jeff Gordon going low to squeeze past Rusty Wallace back in 1999.

After that it was drag race, and Hamlin beat Truex by inches.

I've been watching Daytona 500s for a long time. That was the best finish I've ever seen.

It beats out by a nose Harvick edging Mark Martin on the last lap in 2007, and the fabled 1976 finish when Richard Petty and David Pearson crashed each other out coming off turn four on the last lap, and Pearson had the wherewithal to keep the clutch in and the motor running and limped under the checkers to win.

This was better. And if there was a throwback sense to it, it came partly from what Hamlin said when it was done.

Brand loyalty has always been a thing in NASCAR, but now there are so many brands the loyalty part weirdly gets lost sometimes. Not yesterday. Yesterday, Hamlin was calling it a win for Team Toyota, which had never won the Daytona 500 but dominated this running, finishing 1-2-3 and taking four of the first five spots.

Just another throwback moment on a day that rang with them.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Harmonic convergence

I'm taking the kid today.

I'm taking the kid even though, at 41, the kid is no kid anymore, and his identity is no longer indelibly tied to his father's. That will happen, 15 years after the father goes into the wall at Daytona and dies, leaving an entire American culture bereft of its Elvis. Time moves on. Someone else eventually wheels a stock car with that forward-leaning No. 3 on it. The kid grows up, becomes one of the leading voices of the sport his father once so thoroughly dominated, becomes, in the way of these things, his own man.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. is not his father. And so if he is beloved, 15 years after that black day at Daytona, it is no longer merely because he's the son of Dale Earnhardt, but because he is Dale Earnhardt Jr., whose equanimity has survived the crushing weight of expectation and come out whole on the other side.

In other words: He's a good and remarkably well-adjusted man. Despite everything.

And yet, today is as much about his old man as it is about him. It's about all those memories flooding back, 15 years along.

How gently that iconic black 3 car nosed into the wall two turns from the finish, and how cruelly deceptive that was. How frantic the track workers were when they reached the car and peered inside, he first sign that something was horribly amiss. The sight of the ambulance leaving the track at a walk, with the sirens off. And then the benediction from Darrell Waltrip that none of us realized immediately was a benediction.

"Hope Dale's OK," he said in the midst of celebrating his brother Michael's victory that day.

Which meant Waltrip already sort of knew Dale wasn't OK.

Wider America discovered something about NASCAR that day, and for days afterward those of us who'd been around it for awhile tried to explain it. NASCAR racing was more than just rednecks driving the wheels off loud, fast advertising billboards.  It was more than a sport, really. It was indeed a culture -- a certain way of looking at things in a changing nation that scared that culture not because there was reason to be scared, but because it wasn't what they were used to.

NASCAR, though, made sense. Earnhardt -- blue collar, up from nothing, king of his world -- made sense. And so came the adulation, the outpouring of grief, the thousands of fans silently holding up three fingers on the third lap of every race the rest of the season.

Fifteen years along, some of them still do that. Fifteen years along, the engines will fire again today along pit road in Daytona, and spring will become real for some of us the way 65-degree days in February make it real, and here we go, here we go.

Fifteen years along, I'm taking the kid. Because you never know.

Harmonic convergence might actually be a thing.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

The rivalry. Re-imagined.

So maybe tonight's the night they reach back a little, the black-and-gold and the cream-and-crimson. Maybe the old ghosts come out: a spectral plastic chair skittering diagonally across the floor, or Matt Painter getting so worked up he falls off the bench like the Ghost of Gene Keady Past, or the Assembly Hall crowd baying for A.J. Hammons' blood the way it used to bay for Brian Cardinal's.

Heck. Maybe a Cardinal doppelganger will even crash over the scorer's table into the lap of a certain sportswriter doppelganger.

All those years I was privileged to watch Indiana and Purdue go at each other in the heyday of their regal coaches, Keady and Bob Knight, and that's my most vivid memory of it all. They were still letting the sportswriting riffraff sit courtside in those days, and so there I was, Assembly Hall in full sonic-boom mode, IU and Purdue battling it out in overtime ...

And, boom: All of a sudden 240 pounds of sweaty despised Boilermaker was crashing over the table into my chest.

"Oof!" I believe I said, as Cardinal flew into me.

He got up. I caught my breath. And then he turned to look at me as he headed back into the fray.

"You OK?" he said.

"Yeah," I gasped.

I always thought that was the most amazing thing, that in the middle of all the IU-Purdue chaos he'd turn  and show concern for the elderly. Someone must have raised him right.

And IU-Purdue?

Well, tonight we get to see if it's been raised right. Or re-raised, as the case may be.

The rivalry has often been a pale imitation of itself since Keady and Knight left the stage, and not just because there has been a distressing number of years since when not much was on the line when they played. Either one team was good and the other wasn't, or neither was all that good. Rarely has it been the clash of heavyweights it used to be.

Well. Not tonight.

Tonight Purdue comes in 21-6 and tied for fourth in the Big Ten, and Indiana comes in 21-6 and tied for first, and the Big Ten race will very much ride on the outcome. Both teams have players. Both teams have more than the usual motivation. Assembly Hall will howl like it hasn't for this one in years.

So how it will go?

I don't know. Both of these teams have been enigmas on occasion, but Purdue has been somewhat more of an enigma. When its bigs show up, it's as formidable as any team in the country. When they don't, it loses to Illinois. So it goes.

Indiana, meanwhile, is as formidable as any team in the country when Troy Williams shows up. He was invisible against Michigan State, and the Hoosiers got spanked. He was Victor Oladipo 2.0 against Nebraska, and they rolled. So it goes.

If I was a betting man, I'd bet Oladipo 2.0 shows up tonight. I'd bet Yogi Ferrell shakes off his recent funk. And I'd bet Indiana wins, but, just for old times' sake, the Hoosiers will have to go overtime to do it.

I do know one thing: No sportswriter will be hurt in the making of this instant classic, seeing as how they stash them well away from the combat zone these days. Although overtime in an 8:30 p.m. start might make a few sportswriters want to hurt themselves, given the whole deadline thing.

Here's hoping they'll have plenty to write about. Really fast, of course.

Friday, February 19, 2016

The fear factor

Saw a clip the other day of Arizona Diamondbacks pitchers and catchers getting their throwing in under a warm gray lid of Western sky, and just the sound -- that crisp pop-pop-pop of ball hitting leather -- was enough to send February run screaming.

As the Blob observed the other day, spring really is coming. And with it, speaking of pitchers and catchers, will come a different sort of angst for fans of the Chicago Cubs.

I've become aware of this over the winter as the Cubs racked up one free agency win after another, and my friends who are Cubs fans became more and more perplexed. The Cubs, beating the Cardinals to not one but two key pieces (John Lackey and Jason Heyward)? The Cubs landing Ben Zobrist? The Cubs, who were already a year ahead of schedule in 2015, making all the right moves?

That sound you hear is the rustle of brows furrowing all over Chicagoland and the Midwest.

"So does it make you nervous that things seem to be, you know, a little too perfect right now?" I've asked more than one Cubs fan this winter.

"Oh, God, yes," they've all answered.

Well. Far be it from me to allow a fan base that's seen so much heartache in these last 108 years to suffer more. And so, I present this, which hopefully assuages every Cubs fan's fear that things are going way too well to be trusted.

"Yeah, the Cubs have sticks upon sticks. But if certain things don't happen, the pitching could be a little thin," is the gist.

See there?

Now you've got something to worry about, Cub Nation. So there's nothin' to worry about.

You're welcome.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Nike just does it

I like Manny Pacquiao, a good man and the best pound-for-pound fighter in the last 20 years. And I'm not a particular fan of Nike, which has never made a shoe I could comfortably wear -- much less afford, seeing how they're outrageously overpriced.

Plus, they put the Oregon football team in so many bizarre unis the Ducks no longer have a traditional look. And I'm all about tradition when it comes to my college football.

All that said ...

I applaud Nike for handing Pacquiao his walking papers.

Whatever excuse you make for it -- and Pacquiao's cover is that he's a devout "Christian" -- you don't get up and publicly compare gay couples to animals. Not in polite society. It's never been right, and it's especially not right in 2016, when most of us long since decided that LGBT people were not evil freaks bent on destroying Western civilization, but human beings  trying to live their lives the way most of us do: decently and without trying to inflict needless pain on others.

This being the age of pushback, of course, no doubt Pacquiao will be held up now as martyr to political correctness by other like-minded "Christians." As a Christian myself, I've never gotten what using the Bible to justify hurting innocent people has to do with the teachings of Christ. But that's just me.

In any case, kudos to Nike, a private company which has a perfect right to hire or fire anyone it likes. And shame on Pacquiao, or at least his apologists, for passing off bigotry as religious conviction.

Although, Nike ... you really do need to settle on a look for those Ducks.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Identity crisis

I don't pretend to be qualified to psychoanalyze anyone, let alone someone far more accomplished in her field than I will ever be in mine. All I can do, listening to Ronda Rousey's searing soul-search with Ellen Degeneres the other day, is feel a profound sadness.

That's because, amid tears and the shocking admission that she had briefly thought about suicide after losing to Holly Holm last November, she uttered perhaps the saddest line any of us will ever hear: “I was sitting in the corner and I was like what am I anymore if I am not this?"

Meaning, of course, that she was no longer the invincible warrior woman that was her public image, and one she embraced wholeheartedly. Seldom is existence so single-minded and passionate as it is in the combat sports, and Rousey was the uber-example of that: So seemingly unbeatable that even she
bought into her own invincibility, to the extent that she was trash-talking the world's greatest pound-for-pound boxer, Floyd Mayweather, and hinting that she could take him out.

It was, of course, absurd on its face, but perhaps a window into how completely Rousey's image had become self-image. And then Holm utterly destroyed her in a matter of minutes -- Rousey told egeneres she was basically out on her feet from the moment Holm landed the first punch -- and suddenly she was no longer the woman who would hand Mayweather his lunch. Suddenly she was, well, nothing, at least in her own mind.

That, too, is absurd, and any number of people who care about her no doubt have been telling her that since that night. And they're right. She remains one of the greatest champions MMA has ever seen, and she remains an engaging and saleable public figure besides.

What she is not, and never was, is invincible. No one ever has been in the history of sport.

But when it seems so, losing becomes not just losing -- you fall, you rise and you turn the loss into fuel -- but something irreversible. When your entire identity is that you're unbeatable, and then you get beat, you can't go back to being unbeatable again. And there goes your identity.

And so: "What am I anymore if I am not this?"

The best answer is, "Someone who fell, got up and kicked Holly Holm's ass in the rematch."  Which is exactly what Rousey should do, and (it says here) likely will once she has regained her emotional footing.

See, she may not be the invincible warrior anymore, but she's still a warrior. And if a rematch with Holm carries an enormous psychological risk -- what happens if she loses again? -- it's also what she needs to do, because it's who she is.

What is she anymore, if not this?

Still this.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Spring has sprung

Drove to work this a.m. through the usual February backdrop of gray and white, the official colors of officially the most depressing month of the year, a swatch of monochrome blandness whose only redeeming virtue is the first hint, toward mid-month, of a twilight that lingers.

If February had a theme song, it would be a dial tone. Then again, it also has the Daytona 500, so at least there's hope.

The Blob has said many times it considers Daytona Sunday its first sign of spring, and maybe that's because it bursts into your living room in such vivid chunks of color and sound that you are jarred from your long winter's sleep. Look, there's Joey Logano! There's Kyle Busch, the little goober! There's Goober 2.0, Brad Keselowski, and Junior and J.J. and dour Kevin Harvick, and 43 garish, bellowing muscle cars that take you right back to summer sunlight glinting off chrome, and summer wind swirling through cranked-down windows.

One wrist on the wheel, one elbow in the breeze: It's the official driving position of summer, and by God it's almost here.

And so it was with more than some pleasure that I turned on my TV Sunday afternoon, and there was a kid named Chase Elliott wheeling around in the 24 car as if Jeff Gordon had never left. Gordon, of course, has left -- he was up in the booth with D.W. 'n' them -- but there was Elliott, as fresh-faced at 20 as Gordon ever was, resetting everything by sticking the 24 on the pole for Sunday's big race.

The 24 is Napa blue-and-yellow now, but aside from that, nothing's really changed. We're still gonna get gearhead heaven come Sunday, and the colors will come at us in those aforementioned eye-watering chunks, and you'll almost be able to see May and June and July waiting just offstage.

And then we'll all be reading about pitchers and catchers reporting to spring training, and, well, that'll seal it. All that gray and white will suddenly look played out and exhausted. February will no longer feel like the life sentence of months. If you close your eyes, you'll almost be able to see it plodding sullenly toward the exit.

See ya. Wouldn't wanna be ya.

Monday, February 15, 2016

The restless past

That was some grenade Shaun King of the New York Daily News lobbed into the middle of  Peyton Manning's sunset walk the other day. Grenades are always a nasty business, but when they come with a delayed fuse, that's when things get really bloody.

This one lay quietly beneath layers of polished image for 20 years before going off, and now everyone has formed ranks for that weary old standard, he said/she said. The "he," of course, being Manning, pure of word and unassailable of deed -- except, of course, for that one time he chose to dangle his, um, equipment in the face of a dedicated professional who was trying to treat a stress fracture in his foot.

(And, yes, yes, "allegedly." Although Manning's story that he was merely mooning a teammate, and Dr. Jamie Naughright simply got in the line of fire, is about a half-step above The Dog Ate My Homework on the believability scale. How do you moon someone when you're sitting on an examination table?)

In any case, the whole thing vanished down the memory hole in a hurry from the standpoint of the public, but not for Dr. Naughright. Because she dared to file a complaint, she got run out of  Knoxville and had her reputation smeared by the Mannings, who, in a ghost-written book, claimed she was a foul-mouthed harlot who slept around with some of the athletes she treated.

Maybe that isn't a bald-faced lie. But it's more than passing strange that not a single athlete Naughright treated -- and her standing as an eminent professional trainer brought her into contact with some pretty high-end athletes -- backed the Mannings' play. In fact, several swore out depositions that, in so many words, said what they wrote about Naughright was unfiltered BS. And the teammate Manning was allegedly mooning?

He refused to corroborate Manning's version -- a transgression, the player claims, that cost him his spot on the team. He also wrote Manning a letter urging him to man up and 'fess up.

So why is this relevant again now, after all this time?

It's not, except so much of it never got reported in the first place -- including Manning's being named in a lawsuit alleging that Tennessee fostered a hostile environment against women. Which at the very least would seem obvious if one of the school's leading lights dangled his naked genitals in the face of a female trainer and was allowed to pass it off as a mere "prank."

The other reason this is still relevant is because Manning is the public face, or certainly one of them, of the National Football League, which has its own issues with hostility toward women. It opened the door to that perception when it soft-pedaled Ray Rice punching out his fiancée in an elevator, and no amount of catch-up has been able to erase that -- particularly when one of the league's most prominent owners, Jerry Jones, goes on record praising the leadership skills of Greg Hardy, another woman-beating punk.

And so of course it's going to be a big deal when a Peyton Manning gets accused of sexually harassing a female employee of the university he was attending at the time, 20 years ago or not. Past acts, like time-release explosives, remain live no matter how many years go by if the principals choose to bury them quickly and deeply enough. And this one got buried in a hurry.

Look. I don't know if Naughright's version of events is the truth, or simply only part of it. The documents alluded to by King came from her attorneys, who were preparing a defamation suit against the Mannings. But it's pretty clear something happened, and Naughright regarded it as vile enough to risk professional ruin by filing a complaint. And the Mannings' version has been refuted by enough people to at the very least give any fair-minded person pause.

Past acts remain live. How much easier for Peyton Manning had he recognized this, if Naughright's version of events lies closer to the truth. How much easier to simply 'fess up to being a stupid college kid, and to take the hit to an image that was already being buffed to a mirrored sheen.

The image would have survived, given the man's immense good works in the years since. And we wouldn't be talking about this today, 20 years later.

Sunday, February 14, 2016


Remember last year, when the Blob opined that the NBA dunk contest had pretty much worn out its welcome? How we'd pretty much seen every dunk there was to be dunked, and it was time to consign the dunk contest to the dustbin of history?

Well. That was before Zach LaVine did this.

And Aaron Gordon did this.

Ill. That is just ... ill.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Amateur hour. Not.

Here's a tidy sum to trot out there, the next time you're compelled to believe the NCAA when it feels compelled to trot out the term "student-athlete" and all attendant fictions:


As in, "One hundred thirty-six thousand." As in "Dollars." As in "The business of major-college athletics is business, no matter how often the NCAA calls its unpaid labor 'student-athletes.'"

That $136,000 was what Michigan football coach Jim Harbaugh spent on recruiting in 2015, including flitting around the country in a private jet. It was an investment on which he got a lucrative return, netting UM the No. 4 recruiting class in the country.

And it wasn't by any stretch unusual. The spending of hundreds  of thousands of dollars and usage of private jets is pretty much SOP these days for the nation's premier football (and basketball) programs, the better to feed the maw of a corporate entity that rivals any on Wall Street, and has become virtually indistinguishable from the openly professional versions of sport.

And all with a workforce that essentially gets compensated by the barter system.

The NCAA has all kinds of rules and regulations prohibiting its unorganized labor from getting its mitts on a single dime of the billions that labor generates. It's an inherently unfair system, but it's also diabolically clever, because it's been put together in  such a way that paying its workforce in a conventional sense would likely bring about ruin for the entire system.

In other words, the system pits students in the revenue sports against those in the non-revenue sports by pleading poverty for all if it was forced to start paying wages for its labor. And it cleverly inserts class warfare into the process by suggesting that any play-for-pay would involve some "student-athletes" making far more than others.

I can't think of a more perfect example of divide and conquer.

Look. The Blob has made its position known before: Paying college athletes probably wouldn't be feasible, but if a coach or a booster or whoever wants to buy a kid a cheeseburger once in awhile, the NCAA shouldn't treat as a crime but simply a business expense. And if you're going to make a kid a billboard for Nike or adidas or Under Armour, that kid should damn well be compensated for that. And for every time you use his image to sell your product.

Instead, we've got a system so disdainful of the "student-athletes" who fuel it that in some instances -- the Big Ten, for instance -- they're compelled to use different basketballs depending on what apparel company the home team is in bed with. It's utterly ridiculous. Even the "student-athletes" know it.

“It’s definitely different,” Wisconsin's Nigel Hayes said of the Under Armour balls in use at Maryland, which apparently are so bad visiting teams practice with them for days just to get used to them. “Personally, we don’t like it too much. I don’t like the Under Armour ball whatsoever. But that’s the way this amateur sports league is set up. We’re supposed to be having fun, but all the money is in these basketballs that colleges play with. But it’s an amateur sport, we’re just here for fun. It’s not really that serious. So I guess any ball should be OK.

“Maybe we should have a universal ball like the NBA. You don’t go to the Clippers’ stadium and play with a Nike and then go to Golden State and play with a Rawlings. But in this amateur sport of college, where money isn’t the goal—it’s the student education and experience that you get—we play with a million different basketballs.”

I take it all back. Turns out our "student-athletes" really are learning a thing or two in college these days.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

A very small world

Spurs coach Gregg Popovich was so distraught he nearly sat out the night instead of coaching his team, and shed tears afterward. There was a pregame prayer in the New Orleans Pelicans locker room, and the P.A. announcer led a moment of silence out in the arena.

Clippers coach Doc Rivers said he was "sick to death." Nuggets coach Mike Malone said that, upon hearing the news, he coached angry the entire first half of his team's game.

We forget, sometimes, what an insular world professional sports is. We forget that it is, beyond being an exclusive club populated by people whose talents have made them rich, that it's also a brotherhood, a fraternity, a community bound as much by love as by the fierceness of its competition.

And so when the word came down last night that Thunder assistant coach Monty Williams' wife Ingrid had died after being struck head-on in a traffic accident, the community responded. It responded in New Orleans, where Williams was head coach for five years. It responded in San Antonio, where he played and started his coaching career under Popovich's wing. It responded in Los Angeles, where Rivers is a close friend, and in Denver, where Williams has another close friend in Malone.

The game is a thread, and the thread is unbreakable. It runs through even the fiercest of rivalries, through bad blood and grudges and personal conflict and the sometimes inexplicable issuing of pink slips, because everyone understands what it takes to get where they've all gotten, and what a frail and transitory thing the game, and the life of the game, can be.

The life of the game. Or life, period.

Sometimes we forget.

They never do, nor ever will.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Your quasi-political moment for today

And now a pause in the action as the Blob takes a brief semi-detour away from the make-believe world of sports into the make-believe world of politics ...

... where Bernie Sanders last night won big in New Hampshire, then demonstrated the lost art of using the glass.

Don't get caught watchin' the paint dry, Hillary.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Least Mode

His nickname was Beast Mode, because when they gave Marshawn Lynch the football he ran like a beast, a fearsome creature full of sound and fury who stomped through defenses as if intent on leaving permanent footprints in the earth.

The only thing he couldn't leave his mark on, it turns out, was the game's actuarials.

They are pitiless, those actuarials, and what they say is if you're a running back in professional football, you're going to have three, four, maybe five seasons to make your mark. After that, the clock starts ticking toward career's end. By the time you're 30, 31, 32, unless you're a very rare sort, the game has pretty much used you up.

This is the hard reality of the millennial NFL: It makes you rich and then it uses you up. And so Beast Mode, who clearly gets that as well as anyone, announced obliquely on Super Bowl Sunday -- he tweeted out a pair of empty cleats hanging on a wire -- that he was, well, hanging 'em up.

At 29.

Which is to say, right on time if you're a running back who understands the prevailing realities.

In doing this he follows another NFL star, Calvin Johnson, who's walking away at 30 unless the Detroit Lions can talk him out of it. They will not be the last to decide football beyond the big Three Oh is a futile race against diminishing returns. They are, to belabor a point, only the latest.

The game makes you rich and then uses you up. That's simply its nature. And so the only alternative, if you're Calvin Johnson or Marshawn Lynch or whoever's next to follow them down this road, is to achieve the former and then get out before the latter.

That lonely pair of cleats hanging on a wire?

You can make book on it now: They won't be lonely for long.

Monday, February 8, 2016

A few additional words, Cam-wise

You might have seen the photo. Or not. With Cam Newton, it's always what happens in the glare of the spotlight you see, and not what happens just beyond its blinding circle.

The photo is from last night, confetti cascading like bright shrapnel from the heavens, the Broncos' 24-10 victory in Super Bowl 50 just concluded. Peyton Manning and Cam Newton are together in the on-field crush. They are shaking hands. Newton is leaning in, smiling that glittering smile, clearly offering heartfelt congratulations in the midst of what was surely the most wrenching moment of his athletic life.

So, the man can display grace. And did. Against all the subsequent evidence.

That came later, on a podium, Newton back in the hot blinding spotlight, glowering into a thicket of microphones from beneath a dark hooded sweatshirt. This was the postgame, and he was in no mood for it. He answered a few questions, sort of. He answered a few more. Then, abruptly, he said he was finished and got up and left.

And, yes, that was graceless. Yes, that was not the way a newly-minted league MVP is supposed to handle these things, or even the way a grownup is supposed to handle these things.

And so the bashing began. And Newtonwas again a lightning rod for everything we think a professional athlete shouldn't be, especially one who so glories in his own promotion when things are going well.

Couple of things about that.

One, before Newton could congratulate Manning on what surely should be the sunset moment of an NFL legend, he had to wait until the legend finished hugging it out with one of his corporate sponsors. Speaking of promotion.

Two, as Cam sat there, the full weight of his failure pressing down, he was simultaneously hearing Chris Harris of the Broncos loudly gloating about shutting down the great Cam Newton. The NFL, in its great received wisdom, put the winning and losing players' podiums virtually cheek-by-jowl, with only a slender curtain to separate them. It's pretty obvious from watching the video -- here it is -- that's why Newton abruptly got up and walked out, not because the media kept asking him questions.

Now, then. Does that excuse it?

No, it does not. Part of the responsibility of being a megastar in this firmament is accepting with equanimity what happens when your star slips into eclipse. That doesn't mean you have to, or even should, fake contentment when the situation clearly doesn't call for it. I never saw Peyton Manning look anything but pissed when he lost. Both his demeanor and his responses were, in fact, different only in degree from Newton's.

And that was OK. More than OK. It spoke volumes about what a ferocious competitor he is.

The difference is, Manning never walked away from it. Then again, I don't ever recall hearing an opposing player loudly talking within earshot about how they intimidated him and how he was scared to get hit and on and on. So I can't say for sure how he would have reacted.

What I do know is this: He'd likely get much more the benefit of the doubt than Cam Newton's getting. For any number of reasons.

Some valid. Some not.

Super Bowl 50, re-booted

First of all, the halftime show wasn't terrible, all you Coldplay haters. It was better than the puppymonkeybaby, and Willem Dafoe re-enacting the Marilyn Monroe skirt-blowing-up scene from "The Seven Year Itch."

Some things you just can't un-see. Know what I mean?

Cam Newton, for instance, will never be able to un-see Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware repeatedly busting down the door to the pass pocket and doing unspeakable things to him, like forcing two fumbles, one of which was recovered in the end zone for a touchdown and the other of which put the Denver Broncos on the doorstep for the touchdown that sealed Super Bowl 50. Sometime this morning, no doubt, Newton peered out his window just to make sure Miller and Ware hadn't followed him home and were waiting for him to emerge so they could sack him again.

A few more observations:

* The Denver defense was so overwhelming it was apparent by halftime that A) Carolina was in deep trouble, and B) Von Miller was going to be your Supe 50 MVP. And it was apparent after three quarters that the Broncos wouldn't need to score another point, because by then Cam and Co. had absolutely no idea what to do.

Go ahead and slot the '16 Broncos' performance right next to the '75 Steelers, '86 Bears, '01 Ravens and '14 Seahawks as the most dominant defensive performances in Super Bowl history.

* Mismatch of the game: The Denver defensive backs vs. the Carolina wide receivers. The Panthers' wideouts simply couldn't get open, and when they did, they dropped it as often as they caught it. That set up everything else for the Broncos, because Newton had nowhere to throw the football as his pocket repeatedly crumbled around him. He couldn't even take off running because most of the time there was nowhere for him to go. Rarely will you see such a dynamic offense reduced to such utter helplessness.

* Egregiously awful call of the game: The Jerricho Cotchery catch that the officials ruled was no catch on account of the NFL imports its receiving rules from the Klingon home world. Nowhere else in the universe was Cotchery's reception not a reception. He caught it, had it in both hands as he went down and still had control of it when he hit the ground, which theoretically ended the play.

Well. Except in the NFL, of course. And perhaps Lieutenant Worf's hometown.

* Pointless speculation of the game arising from an egregiously awful call: The notion that Cotchery's 24-yard catch/no catch was the turning point of the game, on account of Miller stripped Newton on the next play and the Broncos fell on it in the end zone, giving them (on this day) an insurmountable 10-0 lead. Yeah, maybe. But even if it's ruled a catch and Newton gets stripped 24 yards upfield on the next play, the Broncos still win the game. The way this one was going, a 3-0 Denver lead was going to be insurmountable.

* Peyton Manning's legacy: He and Eli both have two Super Bowl titles now, which means the little goober can no longer one-up his big brother at Thanksgiving and Christmas.

* Manning's legacy, Part Two:  His career will never have as perfect a closing chapter as it does now, which is why the smart money is he'll decide to call it quits. On the other hand, Manning has never been predictable in this regard. By all accounts he loves the game as hopelessly as any man ever has, and so he might decide he can squeeze out a couple more seasons playing the way he plays now -- carefully and cerebrally, with an emphasis on avoiding the big mistake as opposed to making the big play. We shall see.

* Manning's legacy, Part Three: Or he'll go the Dallas Clark route and sign a one-day contract with the Colts so he can retire as a Colt. If he still wants to. Which he might not. Hard to read how he feels about Indianapolis and Jim Irsay these days.

* Manning's legacy, Part Four: In any case, if he decides to hang it up, he'll do so as the only man ever to win Super Bowls with two different teams, and as indisputably one of the top five quarterbacks of all time. So he's got that going for him.

Plus, he'll always have this.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

And now, The Prognostication

Super Bowl Sunday, boys and girls, and you know what that means: It's time for the Blob's official prediction(s), because everyone else is doing it so why shouldn't I?

("Because your predictions are always wrong and lame and not funny?" you're saying).

Well, that may be. But I've covered me some Super Bowls, sonny. I've seen some things. I know what I know, or at least what I think.

I think on this day, Peyton Manning will do some Peyton Manning things and Cam Newton will do some Cam Newton things, and these will involve football in some way, and also selling stuff in wondrous and humorous ways.

(Well, except for Helen Mirren lecturing drunk drivers in that Bud ad).

I think Greg Olsen will do Greg Olsen things but not necessarily Rob Gronkowski things, and, that, at some point, Peyton will look at Emmanuel Sanders and say "You go long,"

(Yeah, he will. Because apparently he threw a few accurate downfield rockets in practice this week, and that's how I think the Broncos will catch the Panthers D looking).

I think the halftime show will be Coldsore or Coldcream or something like that, and also Beyoncé. And even if Coldsore or Coldcream or whoever is completely awesome, everyone will still hate it.

(OK, so not everyone. But some people will. Some people always do, because they are haters and they hate everything).

I think Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware will do Von Miller things and DeMarcus Ware things, and that will cause Cam to do some un-Cam things, like get sacked at least once and throw at least one pick.

(Although it probably won't be a pick six. I don't think. Hell, I don't know).

I think, in the end, the Panthers win the game, 24-13, because I think everyone's talking up Denver's defense while forgetting how good Carolina's is, and so the Broncos will struggle more to score against the Carolina D slightly more than the Panthers will struggle against the Denver D. Cam will make at least a couple big plays to turn the game  but he'll have to make one fairly late because I think it will be tight into the fourth quarter.

Maybe. Or not. Hell, I don't know.

("'Hell, I don't know?' What kind of lame crap is that?" you're saying).


Saturday, February 6, 2016

Tale of the tape

I missed Super Bowl I.

I missed Max McGee fighting off a hangover with both sure hands to catch seven balls for two scores, and I missed Willie Wood's signature almost pick-six -- the play of the game, and one which he tragically no longer remembers. I missed Bart Starr and Len Dawson and Otis Taylor. I missed Boyd Dowler. I missed Donny Anderson KOing Fred "The Hammer" Williamson. I missed Fred Arbanas, Kansas City's one-eyed receiver, and Willie Lanier, and Buck Buchanan, and Ray Nitschke.

I missed Green Bay's 35-10 win because, at the moment it was happening, I was sitting on a piano bench trying not to be strangled by my tie. This was because our piano teacher, Mr. Burford, decided to schedule our annual  recital on the same Sunday afternoon as Super Bowl I. And so there we all sat, moms glowing with pride and dads trying to look as if halting renditions of Brahms were an acceptable substitute for ONLY THE BIGGEST FREAKING FOOTBALL GAME IN HISTORY.

So, I missed it. Which makes it all the more aggravating to learn that there's a man named Troy Haupt who has most of it on tape -- thanks to his father, who for some reason he could never name decided to tape the game. The problem is, most of us will never see it, on account of the NFL is run by a pack of cold-blooded hyenas, with all the vicious territorial instincts of same.

It seems  Haupt was willing to sell the tape to the NFL for $1 million, not an unreasonable figure when you consider it's the closest thing to an actual game tape that still exists, and the NFL, is, well, the NFL. In other words, it sits on a pile of money higher than Everest.

The NFL, however, only offered a Montgomery Burns-esque $30,000. Haupt, no dummy, all but laughed. And so the NFL said if he tried to sell it to anyone else, the league would fling lawyers at him until the end of time.

And so there you have it: A vital piece of football history held hostage by a bunch of soulless autocrats who value getting theirs more highly than posterity and the fans who made the league rich to begin with. Posterity should belong to those fans above anyone else, but no such high-minded principle apparently exists within the walls of Roger Goodell's mercenary kingdom.

I know what I think about that.

I think they should all have to spend tomorrow at a piano recital. Let them eat Brahms.

Quittin' time

I don't know if the handwriting is on the wall now for Rick Pitino. But it sure looks like someone just picked up the chalk.

That Louisville decided to self-impose a postseason ban before the NCAA even got its cumbersome investigative machinery in gear suggests that the allegations its basketball dorm was converted to a brothel have the weight of truth behind them. The whistle-blowing madam wasn't just whistling Dixie, apparently.

And so now the question becomes how long head coach Rick Pitino can survive, because he runs a program his own university just admitted is dirty. Best guess is he'll be forced to resign rather than be fired, because if you're the CEO of a corporate enterprise (and basketball on the level Louisville plays it is nothing but) you're the one who ultimately must be held accountable.

Is it possible Pitino's telling the truth about knowin' nothin' 'bout no sex parties?  Yes, it's possible, I suppose, in the way it's possible Donald Trump could eventually say something that halfway makes sense. In other words, it's a theory that has yet to be proven.

The Blob has recounted before its first-hand experience with Pitino and his nodding acquaintance with the truth, however, so it remains deeply skeptical at best that he didn't have some knowledge of what was going on right under his nose. As the Blob learned, Pitino's as good as they come at looking dead in the eye and lying to you.

If so, the truth will eventually out. And Pitino will be, too.

If he's not, then Louisville will have something else for which to discipline itself.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Racer, interrupted

So now comes news that Tony Stewart will miss his last Daytona 500 and who knows what else, and what you can say about that is relaxation ain't what it used to be. Stewart has always driven mechanized things fast for profit and driven them fast for fun, and now the latter has messed with the former one last time.

That he'd fracture a vertebra in his back hurling ATVs through the California dunes is dismaying but hardly surprising, because it's the kind of thing Stewart has always said he does for relaxation during his down time. But now the relaxation, at different times, has broken both his back and his spirit, the latter happening a year-and-a-half ago when his car struck and killed a young driver during in some nothing sprint-car race in upstate New York.

Fun is hell, in other words.

That's been especially true this offseason, during which Stewart had already made disagreeable news. He went into the stands to jaw at a heckler at the annual Chili Bowl sprint races, a confrontation eagerly caught on multiple cellphone videos. It was the sort of thing you might expect Johnny Manziel to do, except that Smoke is old enough to know better and Manziel, presumably, isn't.

But it was also vintage Smoke. And now that same vintage suggests we haven't seen the last of him in a Cup car. If at some point he can climb back in the seat without risking permanent damage to himself, he'll do it, because racers race. The same impulse that put him on that ATV out in the dunes will put him back in a stock car at, say, Indianapolis or Darlington or Bristol.

Racers race. It's why IndyCar lege Mel Kenyon was still wheeling midgets around the slick Memorial Coliseum floors at the age of 72, and it's why Stewart will likely be doing the same thing at the same age. Being Stewart, he'll probably also still be tottering off to get in hecklers' faces.

It's who he is. It's who he'll always be.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Ad fatigue

So, remember the best moment of the Super Bowl last year, when Nationwide ran that ad about the dead kid that made you want to slit your wrists?

Well, apparently we're going to get more of  kind of the same this year.

I guess there are worse things than Helen Mirren lecturing you to keep your drunk ass out of a car, because, well, it's Helen Mirren, and if I have to be lectured by someone, I'd pick her any time. But Mirren's ad for Budweiser, according to the above piece, is going to be more representative of this year's Super Bowl ads than not, which means another year of PSAs masquerading as ads and that sort of fun stuff.

Like the halftime show, which retreated to safe nostalgia acts after the infamous Janet Jackson wardrobe malfunction (which, as comedian Lewis Black points out, you only saw if you had your nose pressed against the TV screen, as it lasted all of a nanosecond), the heyday of the edgy Super Bowl ad has apparently passed. So there goes half the reason for inviting your friends over and throwing some brats on the grill.

And there goes all the reason for the multitudes who just show up for the food and drink, and couldn't even tell you who's playing. ("I'm for the orange team," they'll say. Or, "I like the cat team.")

Ah, well. I guess it's on to the prop bets. 

And now for the prop bets

Forget the glitter. Forget the glitz. Forget Cam Newton dancing the night away beneath a skyfall of radiant confetti, or Peyton Manning going out in a blaze of glory.

What America wants to know, as the countdown to Super Bowl 50 closes in on 72 hours, is this: Will there be an earthquake during the game?

I mean, it is San Francisco. And it has happened before (See: World Series, 1989).

And so the bad news is, the money's running toward "yes," and hang on, people. Cut to Archie Manning looking alarmed as the earth shudders. Cut to John Elway looking alarmed. Cut to Steph Curry wearing a personalized Carolina Panthers jersey, looking alarmed.

You can put money down on all of the above, which is what makes the Super Bowl the Super Bowl. There are prop bets for everything -- including, yes, whether or not there will be an earthquake (and the money really is running toward "yes.")  There are prop bets about how many times Archie Manning and John Elway will appear on camera (over or under 1.5 for Archie; over or under 2.5 for Elway). And, yes, if Steph Curry appears onscreen, there's a prop bet on what he'll be wearing (the personalized Panthers jersey is the leader in the clubhouse).

There are also the usual bets about the length of the National Anthem and the coin toss, and all manner of others. What color shoes will Beyoncé wear at halftime? How many times will the announcers use the word "dab"? How many wings will Buffalo Wild Wings sell?

(The over-under is 12 million. I say under unless I show up).

Will anyone mention Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders or Donald Trump? ("No" is the consensus. Although "Please, God, no" is rumored to be gaining ground). Will Left Shark make a halftime appearance? ("Yes," leads the betting; "Oh, HELL, yes" is closing in fast).

There's a prop bet for everyone and everything, in other words. About the only thing for which there isn't one, in fact,  is "Will the Blob come up with a few of its own?"

I'd advise you to put your money on "Oh, HELL, yes."

Presenting the Blob's very own prop bets ...

1. How many times will someone say "Well, that ad sucked"?

(Over-under is 5.2).

2. How many times will the Blob get into an argument with his sister about Cam Newton/Peyton Manning/the New Hampshire primary/the color of the sky?

(Over-under is 20.5).

3. How many times will someone say "Come on, Peyton, get up. Please get up"?

(Over-under is 4.7).

4. How often will the Blob say "I believe I'll have some more of that"?

(Over-under is 12).

And last but not least ...
5. How many times will everyone around the Blob say "Enough about Helen Mirren already"?

(Over-under is 12.3).


Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Your not-so-awesome Super Bowl moment for today

As he got older -- but not all that old -- he suffered from crippling headaches. He had trouble sleeping, and he'd become disoriented and forget things, and he started repeating himself as if he were 85 or 90 and not 60 or so.

So says Kim Bush, the longtime partner of Ken Stabler, who died last year of colon cancer. And who decided before he did to donate his brain to researchers who, surprise, surprise, found evidence of moderately severe CTE in his tissue.

And so it goes, and so it goes.

Enjoy the game.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Your awesome Super Bowl moment for today

And, no, it's not from Media Night. (Or Opening Night. Or whatever they were calling it).

It's from the good people of San Francisco, host of Super Bowl 50, who of course are thrilled beyond telling to be the host city for such a momentous occasion. They love them some Super Bowl in Frisco, yes, they do. They also apparently have an appreciation for fine art, or more specifically an appreciation for what it isn't.

Seems the NFL, in its continuing mission to promote the hell out of itself, decided it would be cool to plant a bunch of huge Super Bowl 50 sculptures around San Francisco. This of course has gotten the creative juices flowing among San Franciscans, who have merrily set about defacing them.

And, yes, just so you know: "Up R Bowel" is my favorite.

Welcome to Media ... Night

The best thing about the NFL turning Super Bowl Media Day into Super Bowl Media Night is that everyone got it over with a day early.

I've been to a couple of Media Days, and they are a contradiction in terms, because the media -- or media as we understand it -- has very little to do with it. Mostly it's about the guy from the Cartoon Network who shows up dressed as a superhero. Or about the guy from Telemundo who insists on conducting "interviews" via hand puppet. Or about that fringed getup Ines Sainz from TV Azteca was almost wearing one year.

Fun times, but hardly a "media opportunity" in the traditional sense. The keynote players all sit in little individual booths like spectators at the zoo, which in a sense they are. The Assembled Media gathers around like so many cattle, mooing at the appropriate times. The scoreboard clock starts at 60 minutes and ticks down to zero, at which time one team moves off and the other team takes their seats.

Sometimes you get something worth writing about. Mostly you just wind up writing about the freak show.

And so last night the big news was the fact Broncos defensive back Aqib Talib was wearing my house on his wrist, disguised as an $80,000, diamond-encrusted Rolex. It was Demaryius Thomas being asked about Coldplay, the Super Bowl halftime show, and Thomas responding "Who?" It was Cam Newton's Versace pants and Denver defensive guru Wade Phillips swiping Talib's gold chain and wearing it around his neck, and Peyton Manning getting the obligatory HGH question and saying the NFL's investigation will turn out to be a "big fat nothing."

So I guess that's that, and no one will ask him about it ever again this week.


I'll pause while considering that and other fairy tales, and think about maybe my all-time favorite Media Day moment. It happened in 2012, when the Giants and Patriots played in Indianapolis. And so here came Tom Brady and all the other Patriots to their little booths -- including, of course, Mister Laughs himself, Bill Belichick, good ol' Grumpy McHoodie.

Cut to some radio dweeb from somewhere asking Belichick a question while waving a red plastic tricorn hat in the air.

"Hey, Coach, will you put this on for me?" he said.

Grumpy McHoodie gave him his best Grumpy McHoodie stinkeye.

"Uh, no, I don't think I'm gonna do that," he rumbled.


Monday, February 1, 2016

Another one done?

So apparently Optimus Prime is not the only thing in the galaxy that can give Megatron pause.

Apparently the NFL can do a number him, too.

This upon the news that Megatron -- aka, all-universe wide receiver Calvin Johnson -- is apparently set on retirement, at the hardly geriatric age of 30. Nine seasons going across the middle in the NFL have left him with a bum ankle and various and sundry other old-man aches and pains, and so when the season was over, he reportedly went to Lions head coach Jim Caldwell and said, "That's it. I'm done."

It remains to be seen if he sticks to it, but if he does, he'll be the latest in a lengthening line of players who are leaving pro football at 30 or younger, deciding the game is no longer worth the candle. And although Johnson doesn't mention it as a determining factor, it would a shock if the growing link between playing in the NFL and developing serious brain damage didn't at least occur to him.

He is, after all, an intelligent man. And he plays a position as vulnerable to head trauma as any on the field. Like everyone else he reads the news, and like everyone else CTE is no news to him. It's hard to imagine all that brain damage being found inside the heads of dead football players hasn't registered with him.

Even if it's not a consideration in his decision to quit while he can still walk, it certainly has been for a number of players who've preceded him on this path, some of them quitting as young as 26. That's going to be the biggest impact of the discovery of CTE and the long-term ravaging of the brain that comes with playing football: The timeline for the average NFL career is about to change radically.

The Blob could be wrong about this -- its crystal ball is notoriously cloudy -- but its considered opinion is we're going to see fewer and fewer NFL players playing into their mid-30s and beyond from here on out. The Tom Bradys and Peyton Mannings of the world are going to become even more outliers than they already are; the norm may wind up being six or seven seasons and then out. Beyond that, after all, it's become increasingly obvious that playing professional football either shortens your life or destroys its quality.

Which means Jerry Glanville was right all those years ago, albeit accidentally. The NFL, he famously said, stands for Not For Long.

This wasn't how he meant it, of course. But it was never more true.